We need to stop outsourcing our virtues to governments.

For the best part of the past 300 years, the struggle of the people has been limiting the rights of the people who govern them.

Weirdly, since world war 2 - when the concept of the Nation State really took hold (it’s odd that something so central to world politics today is so recent - makes you wonder how strong the concept is, it hasn’t really stood the test of time yet, yet we throw our weight behind it freely) - anyway, since world war 2 in most developed nations there has been (from the outside looking in) a clamour to increase the rights of the state by signing away rights of the people, which is slowly increasing in developing nations.

I call the effect Outsourced Virtue.

Rights and duties don’t necessarily come in pairs but, the agency to exercise rights and the necessity to perform duties do come in pairs. Example, if a govt takes away the right to free speech, then the duty to vote in a sense goes away or is diluted.

I started thinking this through a while ago, I decided to write this post when I saw the recent clamour for politicians to ‘do something’ about climate change.
I’ll preempt some thoughts by saying that I do think climate change is real, I do think man-made climate change is a very real threat to civilization, and that global warming is an extremely clear trend.

Where I tend to disagree with people who think/believe the same things is on what to do about it.
I tend to be of the view that, if any action is taken in a top-down centralized manner, it is almost certain to be corrupted.

Money talks in different ways. In the top down scenario, the side with more money and influence tends to push their agenda forward, this is the constant complaint with regards to lobbying etc that we hear as a critique of capitalism, which is weird because the whole idea of capitalism is to reduce state interference, what this is is corporatism or cronyism.

In an alternate bottom up decentralized scenario, where there is no ‘person’ leading the action, there are too many people to corrupt, money talks in a different way. Here, the money that matters is the money that you refuse to part with unless a change is made.

Coming back to the climate change issue, I think the best way to vote on this issue is with my wallet, more specifically by not parting with money in my wallet.
Politicians will not be able to do good here, especially in the form of a super government, because every single one of the central decision makers are buyable.

So, why is this an outsourced virtue?
Let’s say caring about the impact you are having on the environment is a virtue.
By making this an issue of legislation for politicians to play around with, you outsource your virtue to a ‘collective’ virtue or make it the virtue of the state. The state is a conscience-less entity, it cannot hold consistent non-hypocritical virtue and is prone to corruption.

The other that making this a legislative issue does is, it removes the need for corporations to be virtuous or pseudo-virtuous.

Competition is the best way to be progressive, outsourcing our virtues removes the competitive spirit in the pursuit of virtue.

This goes beyond the issue of climate change.
In general, if a decision is taken one way in a centralized top down manner, it can also be reversed in the same fashion.

This isn’t about ‘signalling’ virtue, this is about voting with your wallet in a free market, or as free a market as exists.

The bottom up approach is harder to do, easier to get started with though, it saves you money and requires little to no extra expenditure on your part. It just needs to be organic.

Just some reflections that I thought I’d jot down.
I intend to follow this up later with another post.
Do leave your thoughts below.

Thank you for reading
Sainath