First Principles For Human Interaction

Worldwide oppression is rising. The old dictatorship in North Korea is gaining new acceptance by other governments, harsh new dictatorships are rising in Venezuela, Turkey, and elsewhere. Americans are losing their freedoms to monolithic government agencies like Homeland Security and TSA. Human rights are now more important to think about than ever before.

I would like to try to lay out an ordering of what principles in order of priority should be followed by humans in order to reduce conflict and increase human quality of life. The rights higher on this list should trump the right below them.

  1. Just treatment. Every person should be able to expect that they will be treated fairly in accordance with the principles below. This includes the right to a fair trial. Governments need to provide competent police and courts.
  2. Life – every humans has a right to not be killed.
  3. Physical Freedom– no human should be enslaved.  This right includes the right not to be tortured or otherwise physically abused.
  4. Speech Freedom – you should be able to state or write your opinions without fear of state interference including the freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion.
  5. Freedom of Movement – if a person does not intend harm to others, they should be free to move to any nation they wish. I have skills tested and worked with hundreds of people worldwide and it is unjust that many of these good people are trapped under bad regimes.
  6. Safe and clean environment. Governments and companies cannot dump harsh chemicals into heavily populated areas or take actions that put others at risk without fair and full compensation.
  7. Public information. Voting records, tax records, criminal and civil court records, government contracts, etc should all be free and easy for the public to view. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. This will help prevent voter fraud like dead people voting, tax fraud or unfair taxation, hidden settlements, or government contracts going to people’s relatives.
  8. Free Trade. People should have a right to hire or fire who they please, work for whom they please (no non-competes), start businesses, work in any industry (no government issued licenses / monopolies restricting competition). People should be able to spend their money or not spend their money as they wish. Misbehaving companies and individuals should face harsh penalties though.
  9. Small and local government. Local governments are much more responsive to their constituents and small governments are easier to prevent from becoming oppressive. Most power in government should reside in the smallest possible units of government. Towns should have the most power, followed by regions with less authority (basically just to protect against abuse by towns), then nations (just preventing abuse by regions), then globally (just preventing abuse by nations).
  10. Pursuit of Happiness. People should be able to take up hobbies or marry or do anything else they wish that does not interfere with the rights above.
  11. Property Rights. Trademarks (brand names such as Coca Cola or Walt Disney) can be owned. Patents and copyright and trade secrets are built upon an avalanche of human genius and prior ideas, therefore allowed for ownership of these ideas enormously slows the growth of that avalanche. Ownership of these should either be disallowed entirely or strictly limited to a maximum of three years.


Published by

Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

2 thoughts on “First Principles For Human Interaction”

  1. Here are my thoughts, since you asked 😉

    Overall I think your ideas would make a generally good basis for society, with some caveats, and appear well-intentioned. I do think that your principles are oriented more towards economic issues than social issues and you trend a bit towards libertarianism in a way that would actually benefit companies and the wealthy over average people.

    I think there are some issues with these ideas being overly simplistic, which is understandable given you are drafting broad strokes, and there are some principles you lay out here which I think may inadvertently cause more trouble than they solve.

    I’ll take your points in order for ease of reference.

    1) This sounds great, fair treatment under the law is the basis for any legitimate system of government. The only issue I have here is that in order for this to function some of your later ideas would probably have to be adjusted.

    2) I don’t think anyone would say killing people is a good thing, but the simplicity of this statement washes over a few complex issues that are the basis of a lot of animosity in society today. For example, is a fetus a human for this purpose? How about a zygote? Can I kill someone in order to defend myself or my loved one? What if I am just defending my property? Can the government kill someone for breaking the law? Can the government kill someone to protect someone else?

    3. Slavery and torture are bad. Yes to this. Would you include prisoners who are forced to perform labor in this?

    4. Freedom of speech, always a good one.

    5. Freedom of movement, interesting, you’re getting into novel ground here. Personally I agree with this, but I think in order for it to be workable, and honestly for many of your points to actually be workable, you would need a governmental entity functioning at the global level with meaningful authority over all lower levels of government. Otherwise how are you going to force a wealthier part of the world to accept migrants from a poorer part of the world?

    6. A clean environment is great, and I think something that the government should be actively involved in defending. The wording you have chosen is specific and a little worrisome. You said companies and governments should be prohibited from polluting ‘heavily populated areas’ and that they shouldn’t be able to put others at risk without ‘fair compensation.’ Taken literally you seem to be saying that companies or governments can pollute at will in uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas, and that they can effectively pollute as they will as long as they are willing to pay whatever is ‘fair’ to the people they harm. Who decides what fair compensation is? What about pollution that doesn’t have an easily identifiable local victim, but has a broader negative impact on the environment as a whole, such as climate change? Also you would need a pretty substantial and powerful government to enforce this.

    7. I support freer access to information, especially regarding people seeking positions of authority. There are some things that I believe people should be able to keep private, such as medical records. And, depending on where you live, there is a potential problem with making voting records public. Say, for example, you live in a small homophobic town and you vote to legalize gay marriage, you could become a target of local retaliatory violence. I do think it would be reasonable to say that anyone who wants to hold public office should have to disclose their voting record, and I think tax records should likewise be public, especially for anyone in public office.

    8. No restriction on business. This one would require a book to respond to, in fact I think many books already exist on the subject. First off, no licensure… I know you think doctors are paid too well, and that is the worst thing ever, but most of us prefer knowing that our doctors are well trained and are comfortable with them being paid well to compensate for the amount of training that they undergo, and the stress of the profession. I would argue that inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system are a far larger cause of our insane spending than physician salary. Consider that the UK spends less on a per capita basis to cover their entire population with the National Health Service than the U.S. currently spends to cover about a third of the population with Medicare and Medicaid to some degree.

    Even the Koch brothers sponsored Mercatus analysis of Bernie Sanders ‘Medicare for All’ proposal found that under such a plan, if costs for everyone in the U.S. were comparable to current costs for Medicare recipients, then such a plan would save the U.S. two trillion dollars over 10 years. That’s not even creating a better system or adopting systems used in places in Europe, that’s just replacing private insurance with the already existing medicare. (The same report did note that costs could be higher if for some reason the cost per person is greater than the current average.)
    Personally, I would advocate for the U.S. adopting one of the more successful socialized healthcare systems used in the rest of the developed world. It’s nonsense to think that it couldn’t work here while it is literally the system used in every other developed country. And, without fail, those systems have proven to be cheaper with better over all results than what we have achieved in the U.S. which, if you actually care about social good and economic efficiencies and aren’t just a “business good, government bad” type should appeal to the economist in you as well.

    Removal of all licensure requirements would probably result in a decline in the cost of healthcare, but it would also result in the very wealthy being able to access top quality care, from the few boutique doctors who receive high quality training, while the vast majority of people receive AmazonCare or Wal-Care where you would receive whatever sort of treatment maximizes profitability for the company. Not to mention the very poor who would be receiving treatment from their neighbor who is pretty sure they know how to treat appendicitis.

    Second, business operating wherever and however they choose:
    If we have one global government that is ensuring that taxes, environmental protections, worker protections, etc… are the same in every region of the world, then sure, business should be able to operate wherever they choose, why not? Where we really run into problems is your next point of wanting small government.

    You express concerns over ‘government monopolies’ of industries, but fail to address the reality that, without governmental restriction, the inevitable result of unfettered capitalism is corporate monopoly. This is what was happening in the U.S. around the turn of the last century that was the inspiration for anti-trust law in the first place. A few super powerful companies have no trouble crushing any would be competitor through undercutting pricing, locking up supply, hiring off talented staff, etc… That’s not wild speculation, that is literally what was happening, and we still see it today, especially in companies like Amazon. Though we currently live in an era that generally favors large business so we haven’t seen a really big use of Anti-Trust law since the Microsoft action in the 90’s.

    You say ‘misbehaving companies should be punished’ but the only entity that could possibly do so would be a globally empowered government with meaningful authority.

    9. You want small government. Government is inefficient, tax is theft, etc… Nobody likes paying taxes, and no one likes inefficient use of their tax dollars. The problem with your ‘local government first’ plan is that it would be woefully unable to cope with the sort of globalization you advocate for in most other areas of life. And completely unable to enforce your rules regarding free travel, protecting the environment, etc…

    “Oh, your city government would like to pass a tax on our company, well I guess we’ll be taking our company elsewhere.” – Jeff Bezos to the city of Seattle, 2018. If local governments are setting most of the rules, the result is a race to the bottom, where the municipality willing to be treated the poorest will be the one where the jobs go.

    Only a global level government with meaningful authority can equally enforce rules upon all companies in all regions.

    10. Pursuit of happiness, I support this. The only problem I can think of here is potential vagueness. What if my hobby is producing high powered assault weapons and explosives and stocking them in my bunker for the inevitable race war? Are we cool with that as long as I’m not using them?

    11. Patent law is certainly problematic, and it is currently employed by a lot of large companies as a bludgeon to maintain their market share. That should change, Apple shouldn’t be able to sue Samsung for a billion dollars because they claim they invented buttons that are square with rounded corners, that is stupid.

    There is another side to this issue however, which is the reason patent law was created in the first place, which is that, if we don’t protect creators rights to something, then larger established companies will simply take the idea. Copyright especially I’m confused why you included in this list. Say I write a book, and I start to sell it and it’s really popular and doing well. Amazon notices the book is doing well, so they start publishing it themselves cheaper and keeping all the money, because I don’t have a copyright that’s perfectly legal, just like anyone can go publish the bible or the ABC’s.

    Same idea with patents, Robert Kearns invents the intermittent windshield wiper, he patents his product, starts a company to start producing the device Ford, Chrysler, and others immediately steal the technology and start producing it themselves. Without patent protections he would have been out of luck. Hey, you created something that everyone has in their cars now and use regularly, too bad you get nothing out of it, you should have thought of that before deciding to not be a giant car company when you invented that.

    The point being, no patent protection would likely be more damaging to any business creating new products, than the current system that does encourage patent trolls.

    Anyway, good list, I think we differ on how ‘good’ we think private business is in society and how ‘bad’ government is, but at the very least I would definitely agree that you have identified many problematic issues that, if well addressed, would improve the lot of life for just about everyone.

  2. Epic reply! I love it, thank you! 🙂

    I agree with you that my ideas here are super broad; these are meant to be guiding principles rather than a comprehensive plan. I would hope that a comprehensive system of government could be built upon this, but that would take hundreds or thousands of pages. I am hoping to keep these simple enough so they could be taught in school like I was taught the 10 commandments lol.

    For item 2) Life – I agree that I did not resolve what is defined by life or when a life can be justly taken. I think that those issues would be more of the details to be solved later such as whether abortion is murder or just doing something to your own tissue, and whether someone has a duty to retreat or not in life threatening situations. I intend this more to be targeted at regimes like Saudi Arabia where the government murdered a dissenting citizen without a trial in Turkey. I think that item 1 (just treatment) combined with 2 (right to life) makes it clear government should not take lives without a thorough and fair process.

    Item 3) Physical freedom… Yes, prisoners should not be forced to work. They can be incentivized though through pay or privileges.

    5) Freedom of movement… yes, this would require a global government with some power to allow migration. I think that towns should have the most power, followed by regions with less, nations with far less, and a global government only with police / court power and nothing else.

    6) Safe and clean environment… I will need to think of better wording here. I don’t think sparsely populated areas should be used as dumping grounds without great thought… I am okay with using a certain mountain in Nevada for nuclear waste storage, but I don’t think we should have thousands of nuclear storage sites all over rural areas for example. Fair compensation I don’t have a specific mechanism for it yet…. this is a tough area. I do think oil and coal should be used as energy sources, but I think their pricing should include all externalities such as climate change. So gas for example might have a $30 per gallon tax to take into account the environmental cleanup costs.

    7) Public information. I would say even medical records should be public… imagine the enormous gains science would have by having access to this sort of data. Also, once you see that everyone else has embarrassing issues, your issue becomes much less sensitive. You may even be proactively invited to join support groups and that sort of thing. As for voting records, I can see how a small town resident might face retaliation for voting for Hillary or something… I think this negative though is overwhelmed by the positive of guaranteeing elections have no fraud.

    8) Free trade. I definitely am not suggesting no restrictions on business… I am a big fan of very harsh penalties for misbehaving companies and individuals. As for licensure, I would recommend reading this – Everyone always loves to blame health insurance (companies, medicare, etc) for the fact that our health system is so vastly overpriced… but remember insurance is more of an overhead item. In our country, it is limited by law to account for no more than 20% including overhead and profits by the ACA. It is the actual cost for the actual services that costs so much. 23% from prescription drugs (which eliminating patents would fix), 22% from doctors (which eliminating licensure would fix), 20% to office and clinic visits, 16% to hospitals (which free trade allowing new business models would fix) …

    As for healthcare itself… I am open to the idea of including the right to healthcare as a basic human right would trump the pure free trade principle above. I think children and poor people should get treated. A single payer could take care of this. The problem with a single payer though is that innovative better treatments would take a very long time to get approved, and bureaucracy will limit access to certain types of treatments. I also think we overtreat our elderly… it’s not worth spending $5m to do aggressive cancer treatments on an 85 year old with heart disease for an extreme example. I would rather do a lifetime credit system… every person gets $2m in government sponsored credit when they are born and when this runs out they need to either pay themselves or have charitable support. They can spend this how they wish… could be on silly essential oils or could be on cancer treatment. Whatever they believe will work best. This removes the barriers new treatments would face.

    I agree removing licensure requirements would result in Amazon-Care and Wal-Care… but I disagree that the quality of treatment here would be poor. I have the money to shop at Bloomingdales or Nordstrom’s or Whole Foods, but I don’t because the quality at Amazon is close to the same as those stores and the value is far higher. I think allowing healthcare to benefit from scale would result in far better outcomes from patients… gains from specialization and trade are exponential across the rest of our society, why not here too? I am pretty sure that most business owners I know could organize much more efficient healthcare structures than the one we are stuck with now… we are just blocked from doing so by protectionist licensing and other regulations.

    I am not opposed to Anti-Trust laws as I think that those actually support free trade. It is not free trade when one business cuts off access to the market from others artificially. I guess this might expand my proposed scope of the global government… which is much more dangerous than a big business in my opinion. I need to think more here.

    9) You are right that the global government would need power to enforce equal basic laws as well as anti-trust laws as well as the freedom of movement laws. What I propose is that we determine what are the minimum absolutely necessary powers for the global government to have to do so, and how do we prevent them from slowly creeping and taking more power than granted like our federal government has?

    11) Patents and copyright. You raise very good points. My thought here has been that the net negative (drug companies patenting basic chemicals or even genes with small variations and limiting new research) outweighs the net positive (Kearns inventing a better windshield wiper and having Ford steal it). I think that there could be a good balance with something like a 7 year limit on patents, but the problem is that people will just lobby the legislature to keep expanding this over and over again. Disney still owns the copyright on Mickey Mouse over a hundred years later… this is ridiculous. I think limiting patents to 7 years gives patent owners plenty of time to get a head start in the market without artificially stopping competition and 20 years is plenty of time for an author to monetize her work. I don’t see how you stop special interests from pushing through expansions though. I also don’t clearly see how to prevent abusive patents like Amazon’s one click ordering. Perhaps you could fix patent law by saying that if you obtain a patent that is later shown to be invalid or abusive, you are on the hook for damages caused to the market?

    I tried to go into more details on all of the above in this post – for how I would systematically organize government. Thoughts?

    Thank you for the very thoughtful and detailed reply, it is really helping me rethink through my value system! I will be making changes to this based on our discussion after I process it some more.

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