It Just Doesn't Follow : Syston Government [MT116]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

A new idea has come to dominate thought about government -- the idea that the resources of the nation can be made to produce a far higher standard of living for the masses if only government is intelligent and energetic in giving the right directions to economic life
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Logic and Government

A friend who read my previous book, Nuteeriat, admitted he was impressed by it. But, he commented, it did contain a number of non-sequiturs.

He was right. And the reason why that book contained numerous suggestions which did not follow from what had gone previously was that the book was the product of what is here called Matrix Thinking.

Following a line of reasoning is, by definition, linear thinking. The present suite of articles is an attempt to bring out a different approach, whereby results are drawn out from the whole Matrix using any methods at all. These results can then be tested for applicability ('truth'?) by reasoning and logic, including completely linear logic, and compared with data from the real world to see how well it matches.

In this article we will plunge deep inside the Syston, and start to examine some of its specific elements -- its vital organs, as it were. The first of these is an organ which we will call its Government. For a country-syston like Australia, its Syston Government will coincide in many, but not all, respects with Australia's Federal Government in Canberra. In other systons, Government systels may have other names. In the human individual, this element is usually called the Mind or the Brain. In a business firm, the element may reside mostly in the Board of Directors, and in a voluntary organization, it may be represented in an Executive Committee.

Where the syston occupies a specific piece of land, as in a local authority, state, country, or empire, the term Government is normally used, and that is why I have used it in this sense here, as a familiar term which is easily grasped. But, as always, the sense is extended and generalized, to cover elements with a particular function which are active in systons of every sort.

The Power of Symbols

Many people find it easier to accept a concept if it can be represented by a symbol. In these articles, I will use an inverted triangle with two horizontal lines across it to represent a Government systel. And for convenience, I will place this symbol at the centre of the whole syston (Figure 116.1).

Fig. 116.1. A Government-systel symbol in its syston

Is the Government a Syston Itself?

An interesting question immediately arises as to whether a Government is itself a syston. Everyone will be familiar with times when a country's government seems to be careering along some independent path, perhaps obsessed with party politics, and seemingly oblivious to its alleged task of steering the country for its people. A measure of autonomy and self-continuity is, of course, a basic characteristic of a syston.

When looked at closely, however, the answer to this question seems to be "No". Defined as one of the vital components of a syston, a government cannot logically be a whole syston of itself, in its function as a government. What is perhaps a better description of the situation is to say that a government systel is in practice run by one or more systons, which change from time to time.

It is rather like the status of an incorporated company in business. Such a company has the legal status of a person, a person who can buy and sell goods and property, represent itself in court in suing and taking out writs, and so on. This 'person' has its own accepted signature (the 'common seal' of the company), it can die (be liquidated), and new ones can appear (be formed and registered).

In practice, however, no incorporated company, no corporate person, has enough consciousness to be able to sign its own cheques. This may not always be the case. But at the present, official corporate documents must still be signed and stamped by individual directors or officers of the company, acting under prescribed sets of rules as agents of the company-government systel.

Similarly, in a national or state government, political parties usually act as the enabling systons which actually run the government on a day-to-day basis, and of course these parties are themselves often corporate bodies which have a legal existence of their own.

A History of Governing

The situation just described for governments is typical of many countries throughout the world at the present day. But it is clearly by no means universal.

As we look round the world, we can see that the Absolute Monarch has more or less disappeared from the scene. The Supreme Dictator is still with us -- as currently in Iraq -- he (it always is 'he') is perhaps a less developed absolute monarch, without the respectability of sanction by usage and family inheritance. And we still have, if a diminishing number, some Presidents-for-Life.

Above this level are governments where some non-individual syston is holding on to power. These include governments controlled by the military, as in Burma, race- and sex-discriminatory governments as in parts of Africa and the Middle East, and one-party governments, as in China and, effectively, Indonesia.

Above these are the newer and more shaky democracies, as in the emerging former Soviet republics, through firmer-based but perhaps still vulnerable democracies such as Ecuador, right up to older Westminster-style governments as in Britain and Australia

Are these the peak of current development? No, they are not. There is a further, large, familiar form of government which is a complete step further on. It is that of the United States.

America, America

People who live in one of the Western democracies outside the United States just do not realize how fundamentally different the system of government is there compared to that in their own country. And in the US, the inhabitants, while proud of their system, often do not realize the fundamental differences either.

The US government system came into existence in a unique way. It can be said that it was 'scientifically' designed. The story is an interesting one, and to appreciate its force and implications, it is necessary first to know a bit about the 'spirit of the times' in the circumstances of its creation.

Nowadays we expect the laws and constitutions of a country to be put together by politicians and legal experts. Benjamin Franklin, often regarded as the Father of the US Constitution, did indeed act as a prominent figure in the new country's affairs, but of the different reasons for his fame during his own lifetime, the major one was his reputation as a scientist.

Franklin's standing in other fields has perhaps tended to obscure this fact. Nevertheless, in J.G. Crowther's Famous American Men of Science [Reference 6], Franklin's activities take up more of this review than those of any other scientist. Crowther states quite unequivocally that "Franklin was the most important scientist of the eighteenth century". In reviewing the whole scope of Franklin's work, Crowther says "he had the most advanced mind of the eighteenth century".

And yet if there is an outstanding feature of Franklin's personality, it is its breadth, with fingers in every pie. In contrast with the sober and socially inept bachelor Isaac Newton, who spent the greater part of his life running the Royal Mint in London, Franklin was a randy, mischievous person who combined great intellect with a love and enjoyment of life. In Proposition 105L, I have suggested that a genius in one area may have marked lacks in others -- I would have to admit that Franklin would be the exception to this. Perhaps he demonstrates Proposition 105J better!

Crowther traces how the attitudes of Franklin and his colleagues in designing the US Constitution were influenced by the basic contributions to science made in the previous century by Isaac Newton. Newton was, of course, a giant of the scientific world, with his basic propositions on gravity and light, and his development of the mathematical calculus. But from these very major advances came another, more incidental one

That advance was the realization that rules could be logically constructed for the organization and betterment of a country, as in the form of a constitution. This may seem very obvious, but in actual fact most changes to a country's jurisdiction are reactive, after the event. Newton had shown how an understanding of the basics of the physical universe (rather than the accumulation of rules-of-thumb) enabled a number of major practical advances to be designed and realized. It was a logical extension of this concept for Franklin and his colleagues to try and design a constitution 'from the ground up'.

This approach was in accord with the 'spirit of the times', not a Franklin innovation, and does demonstrate that the current sharp division between, say, science and politics, did not exist then. Voltaire was one of the first to popularise Newton's ideas; these ideas also fascinated dominant American political thinkers, such as John Adams. Crowther states that the "introduction into political philosophy of the attitudes of Newtonian scientific thought was due especially to John Locke [the philosopher]. The natural rights philosophy of the Declaration of Independence was acquired by Thomas Jefferson largely from Locke".

So an important point about the way the US Constitution was created is, that the design approach used was essentially pro-active rather than re-active. Once a given aim had been worked out, the attempt could be made to devise laws which would work towards achieving this aim. Instead of looking at the world as it existed, and forming laws to control abuses and maintain the operation of existing organizations, this technique allowed a different sort of world to be visualized, and steps taken to implement societal mechanisms to move towards such an 'improved' state.

The reader will have realized that what has just been discussed is, in fact, the nucleus of Matrix Thinking. The concept of pro-active laws has characterized United States society ever since Franklin's time; a modern example is that of the de-regulation of the air travel industry. In this, the US-syston concluded that such deregulation would be of benefit, and put in place laws to accomplish it. In contrast, other countries acted reactively, to bring in similar mechanisms, in order to try and keep up with the US. Another example can be found in anti-monopoly legislation.

Echoes of this section appear in many places in this suite of articles. But before passing on to a deeper probe into mechanisms of government, we can dwell briefly on a major result of Franklin's thinking as it affects the US today.

A Law to Limit Law

In the introduction to a modern reprint of John Taylor's 1818 agricultural classic Arator [Reference 22], editor M.E. Bradford describes how Taylor classed the federal Constitution as political law (as opposed to local, civil, and other law, which was "designed to restrain the citizen in his own community"). Instead, "the Constitution was basically a law to restrict the conduct of legislators and other public servants -- a law to limit law -- and therefore a means of preventing ... a recurrence of those abuses that had brought Americans to revolution in the first place".

The idea of limitations on what laws can be based, is one which does not figure in most parliamentary democracies outside the US. Another fundamental difference in the US is the 'separation of powers', where the President is the head of the Executive branch of government, responsible for all the government agencies actually implementing the laws, and is quite separate from the Legislature, which sets up the laws. In a country such as Australia, the Prime Minister oversees both the operation of government and the adoption and amendment of laws in the country's Parliament.

In Australia, government departments are run by Ministers, elected members of the ruling political party sitting in Parliament by virtue of their election. In the US, the equivalent to government departments are usually called Bureaus or Offices, and their heads, usually called Secretaries, are appointed directly by the President. The President is elected quite separately from the members of the Legislature, so both the President and the Secretaries need not be members of the majority political party in the Legislature, and often are not.

Another fundamental limitation in the US is that the elected President may not serve more than two terms -- eight years -- consecutively. After no more than eight years there must be a new President, and he or she will inevitably make their own choices of Secretaries. This obviously can result in changes in the Bureaus, and in examination of what the previous head did -- a limitation on entrenchment.

It is worthwhile for anyone living in a parliamentary democracy like Australia to look at news reports of the activities of this or that government minister, and of this or that instance of blunder or corruption in government, and ask whether such could occur in a separation-of-powers democracy. Often it could not -- just try it out a few times with real news items.

The American political system is admittedly most complex, with the three branches of government (the third being the Courts) not being completely separate, but instead operating at arm's length from each other, with well-defined and purposely-designed checks and limitations on their interaction. The US electoral system is also very complicated. From the MT viewpoint, this compexity is an asset -- it implies a high infocap content, which itself leads to a more stable and resilient syston.

These matters may figure in the second tier of MT articles, which may touch on Politics and Nationality. Here we will turn aside from the particular instance of the US government and its differences from others, and tackle the basic requirements of governments generally.

Four Fundamental Government Axioms

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, an axiom is "a proposition which is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it". In dealing with the topic of syston governments, I will present four axioms for their operation, axioms extracted from the Matrix without prior reasoning quoted. We can then, in the spirit of axioms, examine the consequences of their application and try and judge their validity in the real world

Axiom One. The only valid Tier One activities of Government are those designed to directly maintain threshold levels of health and safety within the syston.

Axiom Two. The only valid Tier Two activities of Government are those designed to directly raise the level of infocap within the syston.

Axiom Three. The only valid Tier Three activities of Government involve the minimum taxing of syston synenergy needed to carry out Tier One and Tier Two activities

Axiom Four. The synenergy taxation needed is at a minimum where government activities are moved into the narrowest possible syston government.

Elsewhere in this suite of articles, I may present the tests of these axioms for given scenarios in the form of questions -- for example, I will say, now we can 'Ask Question One'. The Four Questions are just the four axioms just given, presented in the form of questions:-

Question One. Is the activity designed to directly achieve a threshold level of health or safety in the syston?

Question Two. Is the activity designed to directly raise the level of infocap in the syston?

Question Three. Is the activity a minimum taxing of syston synenergy needed to carry out Tier One or Tier Two activities by the syston?

Question Four. Is the activity being organized in the narrowest possible syston government?

In practice, the technique for analyzing or designing a particular scenario will be, first to Ask Question One. If the answer is 'Yes', it defines the activity as a Tier One activity, and if Axiom One is valid, the activity can be reckoned as desirable for the good of the syston. The analysis stops there.

If the answer is 'No', then the next step is to Ask Question Two. A 'Yes' answer to Question Two again ends the examination, it gives a second-tier green light to the activity. If the answer is 'No', then the examination passes to Question Three, and so on.

If the examination passes down through all four questions with negative answers, then the implications of the Four Axioms, if these are valid, are that the activity is either not desirable for the syston, or is irrelevant or neutral.

Take it Slowly, Now . . .

In this suite of articles, I am making no attempt to logically justify these Axioms through reasoning. Instead, we will look at applying these axioms to many different situations, and seeing what the results look like. That will give some handle on the applicability or 'truth' of the Axioms in the real world.

But I will dwell for a little on the forms of words used in the Four Axioms and their Four Question counterparts. I have tried to formulate these as succinctly as possible, and so a little expansion of what I intended them to mean may not be out of place.

Axiom One. The only valid Tier One activities of Government are those designed to directly maintain threshold levels of health and safety within the syston.

This axiom means that the government of any syston has only one group of activities which rank with first importance, that is, taking precedence over all others. These are activities which are directly intended to maintain defined threshold or 'floor' conditions of health or safety for all members of the syston.

Note that the threshold levels each represent a defined minimum, and not, say, an optimum or 'best possible' level. While it may well be to a syston's long-term advantage to gradually raise its threshold levels, this axiom implies the need to set a threshold, not to change it.

Note also that the threshold level of a narrower syston must be equal to or higher than the equivalent threshold level of a wider syston which contains it. Within Australia, for example, the state of Victoria could not set a threshold for the control of contagious diseases which was lower than that set by the Australian Federal government, because Victoria is currently part of Australia. Logically (not legislatively) the minimum for a part could not less than that for the whole.

As an example, let us take some de-facto thresholds, those for nutrition. In Australia and in other developed countries, individual State Health Departments or their equivalents will strive to maintain nutritional standards in the food available to their populations. A federal government will also monitor this question, but logically cannot set standards higher than those in individual States.

Beyond national boundaries, another lower de-facto level applies. Most nation-systons would see it as an obligation to try and eliminate actual starvation through non-availability of food in other less fortunate countries -- this is the bottom line as far as the world-syston threshold is concerned.

Finally, note the use of the word 'directly'. It excludes actions which are one step removed, say setting minimum wage levels on the grounds that they will permit buying of sufficient good food, or minimum air fares on the grounds that they are needed for safe aircraft operation.

Later we will look at other, perhaps more subtle, instances of step-removed actions and their implications.

Axiom Two. The only valid Tier Two activities of Government are those designed to directly raise the level of infocap within the syston.

The second axiom is concerned with what we will refer to loosely as 'the good' of the syston (elsewhere we may try and work out what this tag really means). It suggests that the syston will operate better, more successfully, the greater the amount of infocap it contains, and that should be the second-priority concern of the syston government.

Because infocap includes such a diverse spread of things figuring in society, it is important to note that this Axiom does not single out any particular form. It says that increase in any form of infocap will benefit the syston. Obviously it will include education, public works, and especially formal research, but will also include less obvious things such as entertainment and encouraging its systels to visit out-syston, as in overseas tourism.

When this Axiom is presented in the form of its corresponding Question, it can provide an answer to some of the things people argue about. As an example, consider the competing claims of the 'public utility' and the 'commercial business' camps in the matter of electricity supply.

When Question Two is asked about this matter, it gives an answer which most would view as reasonable. That answer is, it is justified for government to be involved in setting-up a new electricity supply to service its own syston, because that action increases its infocap content. It is not justified for a government to continue to maintain involvement in electricity supply when private business is ready and able to act competitively in this. However, even when the latter situation is attained, it is still justified for the government to fund research into improved electricity supply techniques, whether or not 'the government' will benefit financially from the research.

A local example concerns an endowment land grant which the WA Government was making to a new private university which was being set up. Existing public universities in the State made a great outcry about the 'fairness' of this -- saying it was "unjustified to spend public funds on a private institution". Ask Question Two, and the justification is apparent.

Axiom Three. The only valid Tier Three activities of Government involve the minimum taxing of syston synenergy needed to carry out Tier One and Tier Two activities.

This Axiom says that the wherewithal to operate the first two tiers of government activity is to be drawn from 'taxing' syston synenergy, and that this taxing is to be kept at the minimum feasible level.

In this Axiom, 'taxing' means both conventional taxation mechanisms and other measures which have the same effect. The actual mechanisms will obviously vary with the nature of the syston. With a Parents & Citizens Association, for example, the 'taxing' may be a contribution of labour or thought to the fund-raising school fete.

An important distinction here from the previous Axiom is the use of 'synenergy' rather than 'infocap'. It implies that activities are to be taxed, rather than assets. The implications of this point are very considerable.

The requirement that taxing be at a minimum stems from Axiom Two, in that excessive taxing reduces possible infocap content gains. Axiom Two also gives the grounds for the synenergy/ infocap distinction, in that asset taxation directly reduces infocap itself, while taxing its movement need not.

Axiom Four. The synenergy taxation needed is at a minimum where government activities are moved into the narrowest possible syston government.

The implications of this Axiom are that de-centralized government activities will be more efficient in overall syston benefit terms than will centralized ones. As an example, schools run by local authorities will be more efficient than a single centralized State system -- provided that the local councils have sufficient infocap resources to maintain the schools.

On the other hand, testing of new car drivers for proficiency might well be an activity under the oversight of a central government, because Asking Question One about this activity would give a 'Yes'. Of course, this response does not preclude the central government from contracting-out actual testing while still overseeing standards, nor would it preclude local authorities from offering their own Advanced Driving course, in an effort to have a higher local Threshold.

There is an echo here of Proposition 110E, which suggests the advantages of contracting out syston functions. The essence of the reasoning here is that infocap resources are better shared, since infocap is not necessarily conserved, which means that using these resources does not necessarily use them up -- the same idea can be used time and time again. Against this is the requirement for infocap to aggregate or clump, in order to permit infocap breeding and maintain syston skins.

All this has obvious economic implications, and in the current suite of articles, economics hardly figures at all. A proper venture into the steaming morass of economics will have to wait until the second tier of MT articles.

The Matrix Jostle

Readers will be able to see that the Four Axioms developed here give a handle to looking at all sorts of competing systons, jostling together in the Matrix. For example, if different political parties are considered, the differences between them may come down to different emphases on the various Axioms -- one may stress Axiom One to the exclusion of Axiom Two, another the converse. A third may sit like a spider with a good balance between the pulls of the different Axioms. There is further detail in this area in MT125, on Matrix Geography.

Another area which is avoided in this suite of articles is the matter of rights and wrongs -- what is fair and what is not. That is tackled in MT122. Here we will leave Governments, but in MT117 will look at other important types of systel active in the systons.

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(Full list of references at MTRefs)

[6]. J G Crowther. Famous American Men of Science, Vol. 1. Penguin, UK, 1944.
[22]. John Taylor. Arator: being a series of agricultural essays, practical and political (1818). Liberty Classics, Indianapolis, 1977.

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