META NAME="description" CONTENT="Voluntarism is the use of or reliance on voluntary action to maintain an institution or to achieve an end. This simple concept in practice must recognize unequal power in social structures will affect the degree of freedom in our choices.">

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This collection of essays, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.


Voluntarism has been defined as: the use of or reliance on voluntary action to maintain an institution, carry out a policy, or achieve an end. There is a similar concept now called the harm principle stating: no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others. This concept of free will, where every action is done voluntarily, and the freedom to act along as another is not harmed are the basis of most libertarian philosophies.

As man is a social creature there must also be the freedom to associate with anyone else of one's choosing. Social groups are very important in human society. We grow up within a family, we form friendships, we are a member of a community or neighborhood, we join a church, we attend a school, and we work with others to produce goods and services for the benefit of others.

As these social structures grow in size, there will nearly always be an unequal distribution of power. In life, there will always be inequalities; I suspect that is the reason for the 10th commandment (do not covet your neighbor's goods) simply because there will always be someone with more stuff or with some stuff better than your stuff.

This distribution of power in these social structures becomes a problem. Unfortunately, a personality can change when given too much power or when lacking accountability on one's actions. The behavior has been simply described as: absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To counteract such misbehavior by those with too much power, there must be an opposing social group, simply because the will of many should be able to sway the will of only one.

Therefore employees must be able to form a group to present their concerns to top management, or else their working conditions will inevitably deteriorate. Citizens must be able to form a group to present their concerns to their political leaders when their actions, or the actions of whatever bureaucracy is involved in those policies, are counter to the well being of the populace.

Citizens must also be able to form a group to oppose the actions of business entities (banks or corporations) who are affecting the populace. In our new world order of multinational businesses, it is very difficult for those affected by those entities because the leaders are remote. Just as too much power corrupts within an organization, so does the inability to see those affected by one's actions. An example of this was observed was observed in the Milgram type experiments (a subject shocks another person when told to), where it is easier to shock another person who is not seen or heard.

Voluntarism defines a simple approach to communities of relative equality in resources. As inequalities arise, coercion can affect the choices available for one's free will, where those in power exert their influence over relevant social structures to their benefit rather than to the greater number affected.

Whenever I read about different libertarian philosophies, the mechanism for holding accountable those in position of power is never adequately explained. One possible approach is that sometimes referred to as libertarian socialism, where the power structures especially corporations are decentralized with the employees having much more power rather than being so limited in the current capitalist model. A just political system must avoid concentration of power, or it must have easily enforceable mechanisms on those in power.

Plus, discussions about libertarian structures and free market principles are often in the context of middle class America, where everyone has discretionary spending, so choices are available on private education, housing selection, and even private security (like a gated community). Since most societies form a pyramid with a few with wealth at the top and many having few resources at the bottom, the lower classes must count on their communities for support, such as public education drawing from a wider group of families and public services like fire and police protection serving multiple neighborhoods. The wealthy can avoid participation in larger social structures (or they are at their top in position or influence) whereas the poor are subject to the whims of those in charge of those social structures. The poor can make some voluntary choices in life but often they have less effective contribution as others are in control of the common resources.

The representative democracy is now held as the preferred political system around the world, where the people elect representatives to act in their place to make important decisions, with periodic elections to supposedly keep those elected accountable - or else a replacement will be found in the next election. Unfortunately, that model always results in the concentration of power among whatever political bodies are defined, often a parliament with a single leader. Those in office have a huge advantage over those trying to get in; in America the two party system maintains a relative uniform array of business friendly candidates. Other countries with a more vibrant process offer more choices in candidates and parties. In our current world order with global businesses, interference is just too easy to direct those representatives to act in the interest of those foreign or non-local entities rather for the benefit of the locals.

There is never enough discussion, for just about any social or political problem or about any proposed political system, on defining and implementing a mechanism for accountability on those in power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely - and the only apparent antidote is community action. Public demonstrations could bring about political change in the past but such popular change becomes ever more difficult as power continues to concentrate among a small global ruling class - rather like that described in the novel 1984.

created - March 2016
last change - 03/06/2016
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