Archive for the ‘About us’ category

About This Website: Part Two.

2 August, 2008

Welcome to Huxley’s Third Alternative!

Rather than having a hidden ideological agenda, as many websites and blogs do, we’ve decided to be somewhat old-fashioned, and be upfront with the key ideas behind this site (and its editorial position) in a two part series.

In part one, we looked at the underlying ideas behind this site, explained what we mean by ‘Huxley’s Third Alternative,’ and looked at three key philosophies behind it. In part two, we will make a list of a number of philosophical and political questions, then briefly explain where Huxley’s Third Alternative stands.

Neither Left Nor Right: Where We Stand

Part one of this series was rather abstract and philosophical. To simplify matters a little, we’ve decided to spell out, in 22 points, where ‘Huxley’s Third Alternative’ stands on a number of underlying social questions (these are the premises that we will base our analysis, and our policy solutions, on):

  1. Three forces of production: Traditionally, economics (both Marxist and neoliberal) has presented us with two forces of production: labour and capital. We recognise, however, that the third – and most important – force of production is natural resources. In fact, natural resources are the basis of all other material wealth, which is created by ‘adding value’ through labour and / or capital.
  2. Income from the ownership of the three forces of production: ‘Wages’ are to labour, as ‘interest’ is to capital, as ‘rents’ (or ‘economic rents’) are to natural resources.
  3. Co-existence of mutual aid and conflict in human nature: Conflict and mutual aid are both part of human nature. Contrary to popular belief, they are not mutually exclusive; mutual aid can take place between two or more persons in conflict. This having been said, mutual aid is a far more important force in evolution – in particular human evolution – than conflict.
  4. Augmentation of human nature by social circumstances: While conflict and mutual aid are both part of human nature, the form that they take is impacted by social, political, natural, cultural, and other circumstances. A given person’s nature is formed through childhood by adapting to the circumstances that they find themselves in, and this nature is, in turn, adapted as circumstances change.
  5. People are endowed with basic human rights: These should be protected through a Bill of Rights.
  6. Freedom where no harm is done: People should be free to live their lives as they see fit, without interference, so long as them doing so does no harm to others.
  7. Tolerance is a virtue: In general, a society where its citizens are free from discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual preference, religious, or ethnic identity.
  8. Genocide is always reprehensible.
  9. Three sectors of the economy: Traditionally, economic institutions have been divided between the ‘public sector’ (i.e. government), and the ‘private sector’ (corporations, individuals, private property, and markets). We recognise, however, that beyond the State and the private sector is a third sector of the economy. This third sector comprises of co-operatives, clubs, mutual societies, building societies, credit unions, communes, collectives, not-for-profit organisations, many religious institutions, trade unions, charities, LETS programmes, and other organisational forms. Such institutions are fundamentally different from both private and public sector institutions (for example, they neither seek to maximise profit, nor are all centrally controlled), yet are all too often systematically overlooked by both the left and right of politics and economics.
  10. Competitive markets, centralised States, and grassroots federation: Traditionally, economic debate has focused on whether industry is best organised via competition (between hierarchical, top-down corporations) within markets, or via hierarchical top-down government. We recognise, again, a third alternative: individuals voluntarily federating into third sector organisations, and said third sector organisations working, (or working together) to organsie industry.
  11. The third sector can fill much of the legislative role of centralised government: Governments have the power to delegate legislative power to democratic, member-owned third sector organisations with open membership. They should do so where practical.
  12. The third sector can fill much of the executive role of centralised government: Where a social service needs to be provided, it is better to do so by providing funding to democratic, member owned third-sector organisations than attempt to do so through a centralised government bureaucracy.
  13. The third sector can fill much of the role of the corporate sector: Many goods and services currently provided through corporations can, and should, ideally be provided via democratic, member owned third-sector organisations.
  14. Where governments must exist, make them as participatory as practical: This means proportional representation or – better still – delegate councils, and direct participation by delegates in government decision-making processes.
  15. Where markets exist, they should be competitive: Or, phrased differently, private monopolies are abhorrent. Private monopolies see people rewarded not for the fact that they have contributed to the wealth of a society because of the contribution of their labour or capital; instead, they are rewarded for the fact that they own a monopoly. Taxation, regulation, and socialisation should be employed to deal with monopolies.
  16. Natural resource rentals are particularly abhorrent: Private ownership of (finite) natural resources is a government sanctioned share in a monopoly. While people should be free to ‘own’ the additional value their labour or capital adds to natural resources, any income generated through the ownership of natural resources should be taxed. This taxed income should be used to offset or eliminate taxes on productive activities, and / or redistributed to the community.
  17. Consumer side critiques: Often, arguments about workers’ exploitation is done through looking at production. However, if we remember that workers earn incomes to supply themselves with goods and services, it becomes apparent that workers – as consumers – are exploited through paying too much (and thus working too much) to cover the cost of private monopolies, and privately owned natural resources.
  18. Four basic socioeconomic classes: Traditionally, socioeconomic classes have been divided into a ‘capitalist class’ and a ‘working class.’ We recognise that, in fact, there are four basic economic classes in the legitimate economy of modern, developed economies: a class who predominantly own natural resources (‘land-owners’); a class who predominantly own capital (‘capitalists’); a class who predominantly manage employees, capital and natural resources, often on behalf of others (‘managerialists’ or ‘co-ordinators’); and the working class schmoes at the bottom of the pile. Managerialists here include middle management, team-leaders, executives, fund mangers, accountants, lawyers, government bureaucrats, and others.
  19. Class conflict still exists in centralised states: In practice, centralised states do not eliminate class conflict at all, they simply remove the ‘capitalists’ and ‘land-owners’, and place more ‘managerialists’ in their stead.
  20. Socioeconomic classes are often hybridised in practice: In practice, many land-owners are also capitalists. Many managerialists own significant numbers of shares in the companies that employ them, but by no means all. In a multi-level corporation, many people may both be the ‘workers’ of those above them in hierarchy, and the ‘managers’ (i.e. managerialists) of those below. Many workers, while dependent on selling their labour, nonetheless are dependent on saved capital and land for their retirement.
  21. Hybridised class structure makes class conflict difficult: Which is partly why class conflict has become less prevalent in many western states.
  22. Reform: Unless a political system has become so dysfunctional that no reform is possible, social change should take place through education and reform. Where protest is used, protest should be nonviolent.

About This Website: Part One.

29 July, 2008
One outcome everyone wants to avoid.

One outcome everyone wants to avoid.

Welcome to Huxley’s Third Alternative!

This is a website that doesn’t believe in hidden agendas. This is a website has been created to put a magnifying glass to current issues in our society. We are proud to say that we are not affiliated to any political party, nor are we owned or funded by any corporation. That having been said, the quest for truth is never an ideologically neutral thing (and who would tell you otherwise do so because of their ideology). Rather than having a hidden ideological agenda, as many websites and blogs do, we’ve decided to be somewhat old-fashioned, and be upfront with the key ideas behind this site (and its editorial position) in a two part series.

In part one, we’ll take a look at the underlying ideas of this site, explain what we mean by ‘Huxley’s Third Alternative,’ and quickly look at three key philosophies behind it. In part two, we will make a list of a number of current issues, philosophical questions, and other political debates, and briefly explain where Huxley’s Third Alternative stands.

Introducing our Philosophy

Think back to the last time that you had to make a choice about something. Two obvious choices that you could make would have rapidly become apparent to you. But, if you stood back for a minute, it is likely that you may have noticed that there was a third alternative that you could chose. And, truth be told, that third alternative probably made a lot of sense.

The same thing happens in the world of social issues, where there is an obvious ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ perspective. These, in turn, suggest either ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive’ solutions to our collective problems. But, if you dig a little deeper, you will find other ways of seeing the world, which lead to other alternative courses of action. Ours is a website dedicated to digging deeper.

Some might call this ‘third’ position politically “centrist,” others may call it “social libertarianism.” We prefer to see ourselves as putting forward an alternative analysis; one often left out of the ‘mainstream’ political debate, and therefore alternative solutions to social problems. In short, what we’re putting forward is ‘Huxley’s Third Alternative.’

What is Huxley’s Third Alternative?

The name of this website is a reference to the second edition preface of Aldous Huxley’s literary classic, “Brave New World,” where Huxley wrote:

If I were to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the utopian and the primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity – a possibility already actualised, to some extent, in a community of exiles and refugees from the Brave New World, living within the borders of the Reservation. In this community economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and co-operative. … a society composed of freely co-operating individuals devoted to the pursuit of sanity. Thus altered, Brave New World would have possess an artistic and … a philosophical completeness, which in its present form it evidently lacks.

The novel itself spells out the dystopian future – the “Brave New World” – that would be created if we didn’t listen to his warning. A future of rigid class hierarchies, of Fordism being worshipped, of science being turned over for the eternal quest for more consumption and eternal youth, of Soma pills and synthetic music, and of people feeling outraged about being in a room not synthetically scented. It’s a dystopian future that has increasingly come to resemble a satire of contemporary Australia. We think that Huxley showed a tremendous amount of foresight in his work.

His third alternative ties together a number of philosophies that fall outside the traditional cannon of ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ thought. Because of this, some of the terms – “economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian,” “politics Kropotkinesque,” and “co-operative” – have meanings that aren’t generally taught in schools and universities (although they should be). Because of this, we’ll spend a brief moment explaining what these terms all mean.

Henry George

The line “economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian,” is a reference to the 19th Century economist Henry George (whose best known work is “Progress and Poverty”). It was George who argued that the land and the natural resources that spring from the land were not created by human labour or capital, and should be the common property of the whole community. A small section of society should not be allowed to draw income from a finite natural resource monopoly.

George advocated fixing this problem by taxing the income generated from owning natural resources. Where natural resources have been mixed with human labour or capital, the part of its value created from the natural resources should be taxed, while the value added by labour and capital should not be taxed. For example, with a block of land, the underlying land should be taxed, while the buildings and other improvements should not be. In turn, these taxes should either be redistributed equitably through the community, or be used to offset other taxes on productive labour and investment.

George also disdained other forms of privately owned monopolies, and advocated taxation, socialisation, or regulation (as appropriate) as means of dealing with them. Where a monopoly is the product of Government sanctioning (for example, copyrights and patents), these State sanctions should ideally be dismantled.

Peter Kropotkin

By “politics Kropotkinesque,” Huxley was talking about a philosopher named Peter Kropotkin, whose main book was called “Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution”. Kropotkin rejected Charles Darwin’s view that conflict and ‘survival of the fittest’ was the most important thing driving evolution, by showing that in nature ‘mutual aid’ is far more important than ‘conflict’ in helping a species survive (and that the species that practice mutual aid are the most likely to succeed). In turn, because humans are a part of nature, ‘mutual aid’ is far more important to human nature than conflict. ‘Mutual aid’ and ‘conflict’ are, in turn, shaped by the social, political, and economic environment that people find themselves in.

Co-operatives

Finally, while “co-operative” is an everyday word, it has a very particular meaning here. It refers to the idea that a particular form of organisation – the co-operative society – is a more effective of organising industry than through corporations or government. Advocates of this view include Robert Owen, the Rochdale Pioneers, Beatrice Webb, G.D.H. Cole, and Charles Gide.

Co-operative societies, at their most basic, are a form of non-profit organisation that are democratically owned and controlled by the people who ‘use’ it. These people may be the people that work in the co-operative (a ‘workers co-operative’), supply its produce (a ‘producers co-operative’ or ‘agricultural co-operative’), or the people who use the products and services of the co-operative (a ‘consumers co-operative’).

This support of “co-operatives” is linked to another school of thought (advocated by Alexis deTocqueville, Robert Putnam, and Mark Lyons), which is based on the idea that, beyond governments and corporations, modern developed economies have a whole host of different types of organisations – known as ‘third sector’ organisations – that can provide people with goods and services. Aside from various kinds of co-operatives, we find that clubs, mutual societies, clubs, collectives, non-profit organisations, associations, churches, LETS programmes, and trade unions are all ‘third sector’ organisations. These organisations are not only important for building and maintaining bonds of mutual aid in a community and keeping democracy alive, but provide us with workable, real-world alternatives to organising industry and governance in a community.

Putting it Together: Huxley’s Third Alternative

Taken as a whole, you have another ways of seeing the world, and leads us towards other alternative courses of action. This blog is dedicated to applying this view of the world to contemporary social issues, and suggesting those alternative courses of action its logic suggest. And, truth be told, we think that Huxley’s third alternative makes a lot of sense.

In part two, we will make a list of a number of current issues, philosophical questions, and other political debates, and briefly explain where Huxley’s Third Alternative stands on these questions.