Introduction- Productivism and Constitutional Capitalism


(Travis) #1

Hello!

My name’s Travis and I’d like to join in on the conversation here on the Seasteading forums. I am a research engineer in the chemical industry with a background in chemical engineering, and in my spare time I’ve tried to reflect much on life, business, and politics. In the past year or so, I’ve come to a moral philosophy that I call productivism, which is that the goal of life and society is the production of wealth (essentially capitalism applied to personal life and politics, not just business). I put together a website at productivist.net where I have posted much of my beliefs and ideas regarding this philosophy.

Why am I interested in Seasteading? I’ve come to the conclusion (as I’m sure many of you have) that many of the bane’s of our current political system stem from the political structure. If the game of politics is not producing desirable results, then rather than playing the game, change the rules of the game. Experimenting with new forms of governments (which in my opinion means experimenting with new social contracts and constitutions), is one of our best bets for improving our political woes.

Here are just a few controversial ideas I’ve come to believe that I’d love to debate:
• Taxes are the best basis of suffrage.
• Sovereignty (property and political rights) should rest in the production of wealth. Rights are earned by being a productive member of society. This is why we recognize the sovereignty of adult human beings and not animals, or others forms of property. This also justifies the transition of a child from being sponsored (the parents or sponsors control the life of a child) to being sovereign (the child controls their own life).
• The fundamental role of government should be the recognition and enforcement of property rights. Laws constraining and utilizing property (sovereign human beings being self owned property), should be defined by these property owners, from which the taxes are derived.
• Egalitarianism is a fallacy. Entitlement to resources/property is not self evident just because you’re human. Rather you should be entitled to resources/property because you will be productive with them. This is the justification as to why individuals should own the wealth they produce (and not be redistributed).

These are the types of fundamental principles that I think individuals need to come to agree upon in order to then construct social contracts (constitution) that they will consent to and abide by. That’s why one of my primary goals is to draft as reasonable a constitution that as many people (capitalists, laborers, academics, parents, and even politicians) are willing to agree to, and live under a government governed by.

In a way I consider myself more a constitutional capitalist, rather than an anarcho capitalist, where I recognize the value of constitutions in containing the force of nature of tyranny. These constitutions serve as the social contracts that we as productive individuals consent to in order to establish the rule of law, and allow us to collaborate together in a productive manner. In a lot of ways, since I believe suffrage should stem from taxation, it’s not so unlike that of anarcho capitalists in that you pay for your sovereignty, rights, and protection.

Of course, if there are promising opportunities for producing wealth within the seasteading community, I’m more than willing to be a part!

Travis


#2

Welcome and good luck.


(Chad Elwartowski) #3

Welcome.

I do not disagree with most of what you say mainly on the basis that I would support seeing if your system could work on a seastead, which means it could succeed or fail. I am all for competing systems which is why I love seasteading.

You’re on the right track for most things, and I stand with you on the same side of the fence when it comes to what we currently have and what we would rather have.

The slight disagreement I would have is your statement of:

For any system to work, I believe people should build the system such that even if individuals have different ideals, the system still works. Communism works if everyone agrees with all of the ideals. But it breaks when they do not.

While I may agree with most of what you’re saying, not everyone will. And the system has to work in such a way that that is ok.

I had a similar thought when you bring up the idea of suffrage and taxes. I think I have concluded that the best government is about as close to a club membership as possible. You can have education programs, healthcare, social security, etc. if you pay your “dues”. And if you don’t want all that, then you just don’t pay in. You can even have different levels…gold, diamond, platinum, etc.

Your chemical engineering will certainly come in handy on seasteads. I will not move this thread in a tangent (as most introduction threads tend to do) but I would be very interested in your thoughts on Polyurea. Please respond in this thread:


(Travis) #4

Very glad to find like minded individuals.

I noticed the polyurea thread is closed, perhaps you can get it reopened? Coincidentally, I have a fair amount of polyurea/polyurethane experience (isocyanates, amines, polyols, catalysts, coatings, foams, testing, and formulation) as well as polymer chemistry in general and would be happy to comment.

I’ll start a new thread in politics in response and expanding to your point(s).


#6

Really??

No shit!!

Now you are tripping on something…


(bill mapezzi) #7

Ah, cmon… he said “should”. If my tribe kills three woolly mammoths with only a few scratches using sharpened wood poles and yours (including you) has recently been 80% decimated in the hunts trying to tackle them…then we look to hunt in your woods and are unopposed ( your tribe accepts our leadership as opposed to starvation), who’s woods are they now? Suppose later on down the road after a generation of prosperity your wounded (blinded and nearly trampled to death while losing his best hunters 20 years ago) warrior chief successfully launches a plot to take over “political control” by secretly instructing most of the women and children along with his sons not to eat at the next feast because his mate figured out how to poison the food. I come back late (I was sharpening some replacement poles) and my mate indicates to me what transpired. Should I develop a liking for tackling woolly mammoths, or side with Travis, and take my family away from the blind, evil. wannabee tyrant? Want to eat my food? Do what I say. Don’t need to eat? Fine, just don’t have your government tell me how to eat. Seems reasonable enough, I just can’t find the reasoning behind having a government at all. How did it all start? Could it have been invented by a group of ancient feminists as a vehicle to lie with impunity?


(Travis) #8

Decided to just reply in this thread rather than start a new one, since the following relates to the scope of the OP anyway as well as my objectives participating in these forums.

Regarding agreement of principles, I suppose my argument/premise is that people and capital will only enter into a society, and subsequently live together, if the incoming parties agree to some fundamental principles/rules outlined by an enforceable social contract (constitution). If the rules are unfavorable or uncertain, they simply won’t participate/invest. For those reasons, the challenge laid out before us (on these forums for example) is the debate and discovery of the rules/principles we do agree upon. The fact that you and I agree on some things comforts me already. The more agreement we reach regarding the rules of society, the more happy, productive, and collaborative we will be able to live together within such society (e.g. future seastead). The more ambiguous the rules, however, the more uncertain and tepid we will be in entering into such a society.

I just don’t think true communists will be willing to join a society where property rights are determined (and enforced) via capitalism. And capitalists would not be willing to join a society where their produce is redistributed among citizens. Could you find a set of rules to consolidate these two belief systems? If so, it probably would be far less efficient rather than creating a capitalist system for capitalists and a communist system for the communists and just keeping the societies segregated.

For example, how can you convince a capitalist to invest $10M in assets in a seastead if they don’t even know if they will have ownership of their investment on a seastead? How do they know that 5-10 years down the line, their investment will not be confiscated, nationalized, or simply shut down due to local or foreign intrusion?

If the argument is that it’s the capitalists problem to defend their property from such confiscation, are the people in that society/seastead really going to be comfortable having these wealthy capitalists ruling the society with their own private forces? What if the wealthy capitalist harms/wrongs someone within society who can’t possibly go to war with them (such as a laborer or entrepreneur)? They’d be screwed.

In contrast, in a civil society (with an enforced social contract/constitution), such a person can appeal to the government (which is established and held accountable by the constitution) for retribution or damages against the more resourced capitalist (and vice versa if the capitalist is wronged by laborers/entrepreneurs).

In defense of a capitalistic framework, establishing treaties and constitutions enforcing favorable property rights are critical to providing assurance to investors that their investment will provide returns (rather than losses, especially in the case of confiscation or ownerous regulation). This is true for capital investment, and it’s true for human investment. What’s in it for the person who gives up their current life and salary to venture to a seastead (I’m thinking of myself notably)? How do they know they will be fairly secure in their bodies and property? If they are paid in equity while working in a startup, what is enforcing their claim to the equity within the company? If the executives/capitalists running the company tell the employee to go screw themselves when the employee wants a dividend or payout when the business becomes successful, even if allowed by an agreed upon smart or paper contract, absent an enforced social contract/constitution, the employee is screwed. As such, absent these social contracts/constitutions, investment and participation will be hard to come by (i.e. how do I know investing in this new society is better than the one I’m currently invested in?)

The principles I’ve proposed are an initial attempt at finding mutual agreement. However, the details are still a work in progress, and if you read my post Current Objectives and Open Challenges, this outlines some of the current difficulties that I hope to resolve in the near future, perhaps with the help from these forums and community. My current goal is settling these details and putting forth a draft of a constitution for future societies and seastead(s).


(Chad Elwartowski) #9

A post was split to a new topic: Using AI to come up with a better system of governance?


(Chad Elwartowski) #10

4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Using AI to come up with a better system of governance?


(Larry G) #11

I personally am not philosophically opposed to a test of the franchise. Skin in the game is important. The practical problem is that most such tests are designed to exclude rather than include on a merit base. If one must pay a poll tax, why it is nothing difficult to simply keep raising the poll tax until the majority of people cannot reach it, whether they are productive or not. If it is a literacy test, how many unproductive hours (only supportable by an elite) must one spend reading obscure medieval literature in order to pass it? Who gets to control what questions and answers are necessary to filter out the undesirables and pass the qualified voter?

Rights” are not, and cannot be earned. Rights are inherent, and individual or else nonsensical. Entitlements are a different matter. I have the right to my own person, not to the labor of others. No one can own me, just as I cannot own them. I have the right to my beliefs and my expression of my thoughts. These things don’t hurt anyone else. My actions are constrained to those which don’t impinge upon another person’s rights.

That which can be earned is a privilege, because it can be taken away when no longer actively being earned.

We don’t recognize adulthood because of “transition to productivity”, we recognize it as the basis of competency to contract with others: marriage, services, labor, property exchange. We don’t prohibit children from participating in society due to their lack of productivity, we protect children from exploitation by others prior to individual legal competence. Animals and other property cannot contract on their own behalf, as they do not have the capacity. Once you show me a non-human that can understand contracting with others, I will vote to recognize that entity as a sovereign person. Children are an investment- we develop them into full human beings as part of the human race being a “going concern” in business terms. Many economic activities are not intended to have an immediate productive return, they are developmental in nature. Same with children.

Also, a person who was productive all their life and retires to live on their stored capital does not lose their franchise or rights due to no longer being productive, that would be ridiculous, and they still have “skin in the game”. A person who inherits and lives off of stored surplus likewise does not fail to have rights and a stake in preserving society.

Egalitarianism doesn’t have to (and should not) apply to outcomes, but rather to restriction of opportunity. The law should not favor one individual or class over another. Government should not pick winners and losers. Nobody guarantees your success, but we shouldn’t be guaranteeing your failure, either.


(Larry G) #12

Civil Society” has a specific meaning, in that common law is the primary mechanism by which life is conducted, while Civil Law pertains to things like written Constitutions and statues. To have a productive discussion, it is useful to stick with the best-known terms.


(Travis) #13

I am glad to get your response and I have to apologize for being an amateur philosopher in using words that can have multiple interpretations. In my mind, I have come to certain definitions of words that make sense to me, but may not necessarily be mainstream definitions, so I will do my best to argue what I mean.

My current interpretation of taxation as the basis of suffrage is that you get voting power proportional to how much you pay in taxes. If you pay $10,000 in taxes, you get 10,000 votes (assuming 1 vote per dollar), if you pay $100,000 in taxes, you get 100,000 votes. Essentially anyone paying taxes gets to participate in voting (they’d only be excluded if they paid no taxes), but those who pay more, will get more voting power. However, there are significant technical difficulties with this that I’m trying to resolve such as: 1) assume an income tax: should you only get representation for the period you paid income tax? What if you pay a bunch of income tax one year, but none the next, should your suffrage change that drastically from year to year? Also, what about outside investors who don’t make income until down the road, but made a big investment upfront? Should they have no suffrage until they are profitable? 2) assume a wealth tax where all wealth is taxed a percentage every period (say using GAAP to appraise the value of wealth): should people who are productive, but have little wealth (say productive kids fresh out of college, and perhaps with debt) not have any suffrage? Would seem to under-represent laborers compared to the wealthy (I’ve tried resolving this problem by attempting to quantify people as a form of wealth based on their income, but that’s quite a rabbit-hole given people aren’t slaves to be bought and sold on the market, however you could use cost-basis, but not perfect) 3) assume a sales tax: is it the consumer who gets the suffrage (entity buying the good that’s taxed), or the producer (entity selling the good that’s taxed)? 4) what about entities/persons that receive government funding who then go on to pay taxes on that funding, should they still get suffrage, or should it be discounted somehow to prevent conflict of interest in voting for more funding?

Figuring out the details is a work-in-progress but I think there’s promise in the principle. I believe the principle of productivity is important here, where practically, only those who are productive (or were productive in the past to accumulate wealth in the present) can be taxed. One of the beauties here (at least how I see it), is that you will only be able to pay taxes once you start becoming productive, so it’s just a natural derivation that sovereignty/suffrage would stem from being productive.

The following is semantic abstractland so don’t take what I say too seriously if it gets annoying. I suppose I use the term “rights” because the term “property rights” is used readily and not “property privileges”. I would use the term “property privileges” (assuming your definition of privileges), but that’s just not a commonly used term. I don’t really like the definition of rights as things that can’t be taken away. I think anything can be taken away by the government (or criminals or nature for that matter), including your body and property. However, I understand there is the concept of natural rights, which the argument is that rights are bestowed by nature (or God) and these can’t be taken away. However, given the government can imprison or kill you if so inclined, I find this a hard definition to accept. I personally prefer the definition of rights as the things granted by a social contract (constitution). The constitution establishes the government which is chartered to protect the rights outlined in the constitution. Perhaps a communist constitution may have completely different rights from an egalitarian constitution, or from a capitalist/productivist constitution, or from a hedonistic/utilitarian constitution. I’m just trying to argue what should be the rights for a constitution composed of individuals who produce wealth. It’s probably not a very great deal for individuals who don’t and won’t produce wealth.

The idea that voting rights and property rights are determined by the competency to contract is a reasonable interpretation. However, I would argue that without being productive, what do you have/own to contract with? A productive individual can contract their labor, which allows them to build wealth, with which they can further contract. Perhaps it is productivity that enables the competency to contract?

I’m not a father, but would like to be someday, so take what I say on parenting with a grain of salt. My evil, engineering, non-romantic interpretation is that I see people as productive machines. The goal of parents (if you ascribe to productivism) is to raise children into productive members of society, similar to an entrepreneur raising a business. However, unlike a business where you can sell it to a buyer, children achieve sovereignty (self-ownership) through their ability to be productive in society. (of course back in the old days, parents did sell their children and own their labor). I can’t argue for slavery, but definitely parents/sponsors should have a significant measure of control/responsibility in upbringing children to be compatible with society.

Regarding retirement, I agree that the productivist would not believe in retiring (i.e. consuming the wealth that they produced). This isn’t so unreasonable to swallow, there are many individuals who never retire (still make more than they consume) until they are close to death (e.g. probably most millionaires and billionares). Even the ones who don’t actively labor, they at least invest their wealth so they are making more than they consume. I argue a productivist would pass on their wealth (refer to Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth for some interesting points regarding philanthropy) or transform their wealth for future use (such as spending their wealth raising a family) rather than consuming it before death. I’m not an old man, but I know many get bored once they retire (I suspect my father would be if/when he does retire).

Now, whether or not the government should then seize the property of unproductive individuals is definitely contentious and I don’t have the exact answer. Unless you believe eminent domain is universally always bad, you must at least give in somewhat to this possibility. Perhaps if people knew that their future wealth would be taken from them once retiring, they may end up being less productive overall (e.g. don’t work as hard), so on the net, society may suffer from confiscation. This is a probable dark side of productivism. A libertarian would probably argue that the Europeans colonizing America was ultimately wrong, while a productivist would argue it was ultimately right, since the Europeans could be far more productive with the land and resources than the native Americans. Is the woodsman trespassing on the bear’s territory in the right or wrong to kill the bear when it attacks him? Is the bear sovereign? Is the native American sovereign? Productivism would argue that if the native American could be a productive member of society (i.e. they produce wealth), then yes; otherwise, no.