Three Visions of a Realist Utopia

I define realist utopias as models for the Great Society that are far greater than any system ever implemented before yet still realistically within our grasp. These are models that create a just constitutional basic structure for a society/polity that meets the necessary criterion for justice, as defined by neo-republican theory and Rawlsian political liberalism, while remaining entirely realistic in terms of feasibility or real-world applicability.

I want to talk about three viable realist utopian models. However, I should start by noting the essential characteristics of a just basic structure. Any realist utopian model will share these same essential characteristics, though the actual ways that these things are manifested and the mechanisms that guarantee them may be radically different. The basic structure will: (1) entail liberal democracy or a republican form of government, in which people have a say in the matters that affect their lives, (2) guard against the extremes of inequality so that concentrations of wealth cannot be used to exploit the less wealthy or to buy politicians, and (3) ensure that everyone has access to the necessities of life such as food, shelter, healthcare, etc.

Coronavirus Vaccine Policy in Australia

The desperate decision of the Morrison government in Australia to panic and secure an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is not just a case of "too little, too late", but also one of policy failure through continuing indifference. To give a summary of the current state of play, Australia is the only continent (apart from Antarctica) that has not implemented SARS-COV-2 vaccinations, leaving it far behind most advanced economies in distribution. It has, however, secured agreements for the production and supply of four different vaccines. Border workers, quarantine workers, some healthcare workers, and those who live and work in residential and aged care will receive priority Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. The majority of Australians will receive the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine instead.

The difference between the two is in their relative efficacy, their ability to reach a Herd Immunity Threshold (HIT), and price. To put simply, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines is the most effective (c95%) but also the most expensive, with US prices at $20 per dose. Oxford/AstraZeneca is estimated at 70% effectiveness, with US prices at $4 per dose. A significant cost issue of the former is a requirement that it is stored at temperatures between -80 and -60 °C until five days before vaccination when it can be stored at 2 to 8 °C. The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca has normal cold storage requirements. Part of the cost is that AstraZeneca's has a commitment to COVAX, a global initiative that aims to distribute low-cost vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

A Political Economy for Libertarian Socialism

"Libertarian socialism" is a political position that seeks to provide increasingly optimal levels of equality and freedom. In the Nolan chart (a predecessor appeared in The Floodgates of Anarchy) it fits the left-liberal or left side of the diamond. In the Political Compasss it fits in the bottom-left quadrant. In the Dixon chart (forthcoming) it is in the upper-right of the radius of possibility. No matter which chart is used, however, the position and relationship remain the same; inclusive, at the borders, with social democrats, democratic socialists, liberals, distributivists, syndicalists, anarcho-socialists, and anarcho-communists. It is diametrically opposed to the authoritarian right, the political perspective that concentrates power and wealth in the hands of the few instead of the many and enforces traditional aesthetic standards under the guise of "morality". It finds itself in favour of socialist and Marxist approaches that seek greater positive freedoms and equality but is equally opposed to the authoritarianism and loss of individual and civil liberties prevalent among such ideologies. Likewise, it supports the commitment to the negative freedoms espoused by libertarian-capitalists but abhors their excuses for corporatism and inequality.

This positional description is easily understood and well-known, but it requires further elaboration especially on where various trajectories meet and are potentially in conflict. What is the libertarian left's position on the state and government? What is the preferred decision-making process? Where does the freedom of one individual end and another's begin? What about externalities? How does one enhance positive freedoms without harming negative freedoms? Is the ethical system based on rigid principles or an evaluation of consequences? What are individual rights, anyway? Do they include destructive rights? Are there criteria for responsibility? What about non-sapient beings? How are rights and responsibilities enforced by threats both internal and external? What are the limits of free speech? What about defamation and libel? It is these sorts of questions that this essay applies some tentative grounding, based around the principles of our ten-point plan. One essential component that is unfortunately unusual in the Isocracy Network is our dedication to approaches that are positive and normative. If an approach doesn't work, we discard it, if it is unjust we seek alternatives. The world would be a better place if others did not cling so tight to ideological commitments that simply did not work, or applied social systems without consideration of just outcomes.

The Thai is Falling!

by Thai Tanic

Can there be any doubt that Vajiralongkorn, Phrabat Somdet Phra Vajira Klao Chao Yu Hua, King of Thailand, is the best ruler in the world? Despite this, sadly, many people in Thailand are arguing for reform of the monarchy. Some, infected by Western propaganda, have even argued for more democracy, civil and human rights, and even a republic. These arguments are anti-monarchy and therefore anti-Thai. Surely it cannot be denied that the rights and freedoms of every Thai citizen are granted by the sacred benevolence of the King?

Submission to the Threatened Species Strategy Consultation

Opening Statement
The Campaign for a National Memorial and Museum to Extinct and Endangered Australian Species was set up in the wake of the pronouncement on the 18th of February 2019 that the Bramble Cays melomys had been driven to extinction. This was the 100th species to be driven to extinction since European colonisation of Australia and the first Australian species to go extinct as a direct result of climate change, as its habitat, the Bramble Cays islands of the Torres Strait, had been overwhelmed by rising sea levels caused by global warming.

We have previously petitioned Parliament for a National Memorial and Museum to Extinct and Endangered Australian Species to be established in Canberra, where it would complement places such as the National Museum of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and Reconciliation Place, in enabling us to remember the losses of the past, reflect on the present crisis, and resolve to grow a better future in which no more of our endangered species become extinct. In order to ensure the ongoing commitment of the Australian government to the cause of preventing further extinctions, we have also petitioned that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (The EPBC Act) be amended so that whenever a new species is declared critically endangered or extinct, the Minister responsible for administering the Act is required to commission, fund and personally open a new exhibit in the Memorial.

Post-Truth Politics and Conspiracy Prejudices


A number of commentators have argued that we are in a "post-truth" world [1], where there is a "circuitous slippage between facts or alt-facts, knowledge, opinion, belief, and truth" [2], that has led to a politicisation of the validity of scientific knowledge. Of course, science and politics have never been entirely separate, as science is often organised, funded, and institutionalised through public policy. Whilst political culture has historically been dominated by normative matters of civil rights and law, political economy, and economic policy, there is an increasing component of "post-truth politics". This sort of politics engages in appeal to emotion, talking-points, short news cycles etc., the strength of which is sufficiently relevant that the Oxford dictionary chose "post-truth" as "word of the year" in 2016 [3], which also occurred in Germany with the word "Postfaktisch" by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) [4]. A post-truth environment has a profound importance for the survival of democratic governance, public representation, policies, and consequences.

Classical Neoliberalism and Market Socialism: A Comparison


Classical neoliberalism resembles market socialism in many ways. It, of course, is not socialist but the basic structure that it recommends is effectively analogous to market socialism in many ways. I find it interesting that two very different political philosophies could end up recommending such functionally isomorphic basic structures. To prove this point, I will need to outline the basic structure of a just polity as proposed by each philosophy.

Classical Neoliberalism & Its Basic Structure

The classical neoliberal model contains several key components: (1) anti-trust laws and government regulation of corporations in order to encourage socially acceptable behaviors, (2) a land value tax, (3) a minimum income guarantee, and (4) universal healthcare. These are the key components of what a classical neoliberal polity would look like if the old-school neoliberals were allowed to design a State from scratch. Of course, so-called "neoliberal" politicians have failed to provide us with a genuinely neoliberal polity in the real world.
The classical neoliberals, if designing a system from scratch, would opt for a land value tax, but they are not strong advocates of land value tax in practice. F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman could both agree that a land value tax is the "least bad tax." However, all taxes entail injustice in their estimation. In their estimation, the cost of switching from our current tax system to the geo-libertarian alternative is likely not worth it.

Remembering History, Changing the Present

A statue or plaque commemorates and honours a person's work, and the ideals that the person represents. Of course, no person is perfect and the ideals and the reason for the statue have to be put into a continuum and the reason for the installation. It is certainly part of history, but it is designed to promote and advocate the ideals that they the statue or plaque was installed for. It is the first part of this sense that some critics of the recent removal of of such honourifics claim to object to. The reality is that every society add and removes people from their honour roll, and often this involves a recollection of their history, rather than erasing it. As the American History Association (AHA) has stated to remove a monument "is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history." As long as the are recalled, of course. Shelley reminds us that monuments to the most powerful of humans will eventually be just a "colossal Wreck" surrounded by desert sand.

Intellectual Property - Pushing back at the abuse

Intellectual Property was - maybe - how investors be motivated to invest, and then protect their investment. But, if this was ever the case, intellectual property (IP), is much more an excuse for corporations to flex their muscles and intrude into our lives. Property rights should empower us as individuals if they are worth having at all, but corporations are building fences inside our private lives. While I don't want to overstate it, Pirate Party Australia has policies that challenge these trends, and quite apart from whether you vote for us, we try to build up awareness about it both generally and politically.

Patents

Patents are a license to be the sole manufacturer - or licensee - of an invention. Transfer of ownership has meant the price of epipens - used to treat allergic reactions - skyrocketed. They were first developed for the US military so soldiers could administer nerve gas antidotes, but somewhere along the way owners were able to dramatically increase the price. Notionally there were improvements, but it seems the profits were still extreme and the increases difficult to justify - perhaps you could have retained a cheaper basic version.

For all the criticisms of the US military, they gave us the internet and one set of GPS satellites, without charge. For sure, a lot of money is wasted in the US military. But, somehow, this innovation was lost in the morass of private contracts and IP sales within private industry.

Australia's Forward Defence Pandemic Strategy

Government's role is not to get out of the way of business but to look after the needs all the people they represent. Australia's response to the COVID-19 crisis has been hamstrung by the balancing act between business and community needs governments have had to deal with.

Increasing population growth, rapid urbanisation, climate change, industrial farming practices both on the land and in the ocean have dramatically increase the possibility of organisms crossing the animal-human barrier. COVID-19 isn't a one in a hundred-year pandemic, it is a harbinger of what is the come unless radical changes are made to the way we create wealth and redistribute it. In the interim it is critical Australia develops a forward defence pandemic strategy in order to deal with the possibility of a wave of pandemics that will have far more devastating consequences and SARS, MERS and COVID-19. Less than 700 years ago over 50% of the world's population perished as a result of the plague.

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