On this Technoprogressive blog, our motto is “Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All.”
Nice words, and I support the concepts wholeheartedly. But I want to examine the meaning of the last word: ‘All’. What or who is all?
I propose that the word all should be understood in this context to mean two different things: first, a lower-case all, referring to a set that contains every individual member of a group; and second, an upper-case All, meaning the group as a collective entity. A proper understanding of human society includes the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Obvious? Perhaps, to most of us. But not to everyone.
In a private online forum that I moderate, a member recently asserted that “involuntary wealth transfers, unless done to enforce reparation to the recipient for real damages done to them by the payer, are unethical and harmful/destructive to the payer.”
Fortunately, this libertarian dogma regarding taxation is far from universally accepted, even in the conservative United States, but especially in Europe and the rest of the world.
Taxation, in my view, is not a ‘necessary evil’ and should not be regarded as an accommodation we grudgingly make. On the contrary, taxation is a positive. When applied wisely, wealth redistribution results in positive-sum gains. This works at every level, from family to municipality to region to nation (and, someday, the whole world). It is a means of establishing and building community; indeed, it is the basis of any healthy, interdependent, civilized society.
The argument from the Right is that individuals form the basis of society and that the individual person is the proper building block from which to begin creating any model of human organization. But this position assumes that individuals came first and community later. It’s a flawed concept, one that is derived, apparently, from primitive Judeo-Christian writings. More than just errant, it’s a dangerous idea, because it works to oppose community and to retard social progress.
The truth is that human social organization is a natural occurrence, an intrinsic quality. It is not something that ever was imposed on us from outside. To take the individual human as a starting point for building a world-view or a political ideology is a mistake. Any healthy society starts with community. Families, small groups, and neighborhoods: these are the real building blocks. Our focus should be on how these communities can work together most successfully.