Friday, February 08, 2008

Human Rights Need Nomocracy

Much has been said, both good and bad, about democracy (the rule of the people – or the “mob,” depending on how one interprets the Greek root demo). A strict definition of “democracy” refers to direct rule of citizens who participate in every aspect of law-making. But the term has come to mean “representative” democracy, wherein citizens vote for officials to effect their intentions.
Those who disdain “democracy” usually prefer to call America a “republic” (a political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them). This is similar to, if not the same as, representative democracy.
But neither “democracy” nor “republic” best describes the appropriate governmental system for protecting human rights and promoting the proper focus of what a government should do and how limits must be placed upon majority decision-making via the ballot box.
The best term is “nomocracy,” or “rule of law.” This places the emphasis on the law, and not on the people or on the geographic separation of governmental power – neither of which can protect human rights if the rule of law can be abridged and diluted simply by popular vote or by one of a multiplicity of government entities imbued with the power to rewrite rational law.
Nomocracy would be of little worth to human rights, of course, without objective (reality-based) law to gird it. In fact, some Islamic “scholars” have recently co-opted the term to supplant “theocracy” and proclaimed that “divine law” IS nomocracy – to give alleged validation to their irrationality.
Objective nomocracy would need a system of principles and definitions to protect humans from legislative abrogation of their rights. I’m no law expert, but here is some of what’s needed.

Definitions:

“Right”: A moral principle defining and sanctioning a person’s freedom of action in a social context.
“Liberty”: The non-initiation of force or fraud.
“Government”: Official entity elected by citizens to create and uphold objective law, ensuring the liberty of its citizens by defending them from those who wish to initiate force or fraud, by prosecuting those accused of initiating force or fraud, and by sentencing those guilty of initiating force or fraud.

Principle:

Human beings have the capacity for rationality, and therefore have volition, making them capable of making choices in the running of their lives, thereby giving them a right to their own life and property, and allowing them complete hegemony over their mind, their thoughts, their actions and their property, as long as they, themselves, do not initiate (or attempt to initiate) the use of force or fraud while in action. Their right to the above cannot be abrogated by fellow citizens and, more important, by government itself, through regulation of lifestyle or business, through taxation, through licensing or fees or excises, or through any restrictions or takeover of private property. Eminent domain of property shall always reside in the private owner’s hands, barring objective judicial judgment of law-breaking on the owner’s part that requires monetary compensation to victims.

The above rights and principle are just a sampling of what will be needed for objective nomocracy, but they give an idea of the fundamental nature of what humans need from their government: a philosophically rational protection that clearly and objectively states what human rights are and how they are to be achieved – and the fact that government is about the rule of law and not the rule of people.

1 comment:

Rational Jenn said...

David--nice post! You should consider submitting this to the next Objectivist Blog Carnival.