January 11, 2023

The way ‘general welfare’ and ‘common defense’ decision making is done currently presents a specific form of moral hazard, in which political-bureaucratic providers are incentivized to increase risk exposure because they do not bear the costs, which are ultimately imposed upon, and to the detriment of, the tax-paying citizen as security consumer.

This kind of moral hazard is known as the principal-agent problem.  In this case, the political or bureaucratic agent can disregard or neglect with impunity the interests, priorities, and resource constraints of the principals they are supposed to be acting on behalf of: the tax-payer as principal.

This goes way beyond the problems of political representation mentioned earlier.

When tasked with making decisions about how to orchestrate and deliver the security and justice needs of their constituents, politicians must decide where to direct resources.  This involves putting personnel and resources in place to carry out these services so crucial for the ostensible maintenance of peace and prosperity.  Unfortunately, because of the nature of politics and bureaucracy, public officials are incapable of economizing resources.  By the nature of their position in society, divorced from profit and loss signals only available  through voluntary market exchanges, political-bureaucratic management of resources defeats the very purposes for which government offices were erected to perform.

John Locke surmised that leadership is essential in every society to a) settle disputes internally among its members and b) protect against hostile invasion from outsiders.  Therefore, some martial capacity remains imperative to even the most harmonious groups of people, and even more so amid cultures that do not respect civilizational first principles, i.e., people that do all they have agreed to do and refrain from encroaching on others, or the property held by another.

Everyone that has something of value (and I believe everyone does, no matter how much they possess) has a vested interest in its preservation.  In other words, every conscious member of society has an interest in law and order because everyone has property to protect and need assistance from their community to help secure it.  Self and social interest align when analyzed with reason.

I recognize also that achieving this “enlightened” long-term, low-time preference perspective may require significant effort to overcome the human tendencies toward myopic, ego-centric, and avarice-driven views.  This is another reason why warrior-scholar-citizens need to be “disciplined” through deliberate mindfulness, martial, and scientific disciplines.  For this purpose, the Japanese “sword-saint”, Miyamoto Musashi, advised to become “acquainted with every art” as well as knowing “the Ways of all professions”: The Way is in training, constant training.

Returning to Locke, property begins with the physical body and then expands out to the material objects they acquire either through 1) gifts, such as the support they receive from parents or caretakers, 2) by ‘mixing their labor’ with unowned raw materials found in the natural world, or 3), most commonly, by trading with others.

So, everyone has something of value worthy of protecting, and most people recognize the need for dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as reliable security services.  As much as human beings talk of altruism, selflessness, magnanimity, there remains the proclivity for some to foster ignorance, anger, and greed.

Therefore, politics is inevitable in all human societies and the administration of law and justice is typically assigned to governmental institutions that are under political control. The question, then, is how to “economize” the activity of politics, and the resources devoted toward those activities, so as to optimize the solutions for maximum human flourishing.