Developing A New View Of Political Legitimacy

When, or if, we move into the wooey world of democratic, internationalist, egalitarianism that could be the future, we will need to redevelop our concept of what gives legitimacy to the wielders of power.

Political legitimacy has historically been based on some pretty wacky and nefarious concepts. The original authority in society came from the individual who could outwit and/or out-murder the other folk in their community, a la Hobbes. Patrimonialism and gerontocracy (seniority) have also played overwhelming parts in the distribution of power throughout the history of society.

The authority of monarchs came from an all-knowing, superbeing, an overwhelming capacity for directing violence, and/or a freaky incest pact. In modern authoritarian societies ultimate power rests with a single individual, often bolstered by a single party of loyalists. And in constitutional democracies authority is legitimized through complex systems of elections, institutions, and appointments.

Every one of these systems is a more complex and legalistic vehicle for the subjugation of the majority of people by the empowered minority. These systems, where power is unresponsive to the needs and interests of the disenfranchised majority, have only ever changed hands between wealthy, powerful groups. Strength and ingenuity gave in to religion and tithe, which was overthrown by power and wealth with monarchy, which was overthrown by wealth and ingenuity by capitalists. Those who have been left out still need their day to come.

Fortunately, the legalism of capitalist power provides avenues for taking power through a mixture of complex, bureaucratic, legislative processes and public pressure through boycotts, strikes, protests, and direct action. So, when the power is distributed how should the wooey new order decide what political legitimacy entails?

I would argue for an internationally applied constitution guaranteeing that all people will be able to develop to their full (intellectual, physical, and communal) potential and defining a system whereby all people have access to the political process and are able to advocate for their interests and those of any community that has delegated their political representation onto that individual.

I argue for a scientifically engineered democratic electoral process which allows for well-informed voters to choose their leadership.

I argue, much like the founding fathers, that legitimacy should mean that power rests in a constitution, that the constitution should be amendable, and that communities should be able to delegate their representation through elections. However, I believe that the constitution should explicitly call for meeting the basic physiological and developmental needs of all people, it should call for environmental protections that protect a clean environment and encourage environmentally friendly agricultural and development practices, and it should ensure that political representatives are the pawns of their constituents, not the wealthy and powerful.

I think that the legitimacy of the constitution should rely upon regular referendums over whether people feel that the document is effectively producing equitable, just, and environmentally-friendly outcomes. The legitimacy of the representatives should rely upon votes from their constituents and external reviews of whether every member and faction of their constituency was having their needs met. Although this sounds like a herculean task, I think that the developments in communication technology and data-gathering, the freeing up of intellectual and physical labor from the automation of simple tasks, and improvements in energy production technologies would allow for society to perform tasks and create systems that might seem unreachable today.    

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