09 July 2009

Hierarchy of security needs

Mencius Moldbug's latest has a real gem where he talks about the political needs of a society as a hierarchy of needs parallel to Maslow's psychological hierarchy of needs.
there are four levels of sovereign security. These are peace, order, law, and freedom. Once you have each one, you can work on the next. But it makes no sense to speak of order without peace, law without order, or freedom without law.

His claim is an essential tool for understand how I can whinge about ID cards and yet make allowances for brutal policing in China or Iran.

To analyse the reasons behind the hierarchy, the first need is peace, and the second order. Order is valuable, but if an enemy is present, the inhabitants must use violence against the enemy. If inhabitants are using violence, you do not have order. Therefore, peace must come before order.

If you have peace, you can then impose order, and stop inhabitants using violence within the realm. We also desire law, meaning that by following some published laws, I can be assured I will not be the subject of violence from or approved by the state. But if violence is not controlled between inhabitants, then safety from the state is of little value. The state has to first reduce violence between inhabitants to a low level before we can get benefit from the state following law.

Once we have law, there is then value in freedom. Freedom means that the state will not restrain me from doing things I want to do, to the greatest extent practical. I cannot have any freedom if I do not know what the state will and will not punish, so law is a prerequisite to freedom.

Therefore, the hierarchy is : peace, order, law, freedom.

I want to live under a good government, and a good government is one which will provide freedom. But I cannot have freedom unless there is law, there cannot be law unless there is order, and there cannot be order unless there is peace.

We have order where I live, and mostly we have law. I would like more freedom than we actually have, and I think it is entirely practical to allow more freedom without compromising the more basic social needs of order and law.

In China, there is order and they are working on law. There is much less freedom than in Britain even under New Labour, but allowing freedom to political rivals is almost sure to wipe out law and severely reduce order. We can see that order has broken down in part of China just recently.

The hierarchy of needs also explains some of my differences with Mencius. We could do with a little more order and law around here, but we have enough to support freedom. Mencius gives the impression that in his area, at least, order has broken down. Now, I don't live in the leafy, peaceful suburb where my mother went to school, my grandfather used to play bowls, and I used to play in the park when I visited, and where the Shine My Nine gang now kills those who encroach on its women. But then, I live in Luton, which isn't exactly cut off from the problems of the rest of Britain. And yet in my view we have at least the necessary minimum of order. I would like more, but I don't think we have to abandon law and freedom to get it.

(Is it not possible to have order without the state, some will ask? I think not, though that's another discussion).


1 comment:

John B said...

Not sure if it makes much difference, but the boy linked was killed *by a honey trap sting*, not *for encroaching on the gang's women*.