It starts with the individual. Each individual has their own personal pursuit of happiness, whatever that may be. They also have their own free will – they have the ability to choose their path. They will make mistakes and poor choices, but that’s generally how they will navigate through life. They will value their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness – and property interests as well.
Now the tension will come in when the individual assumes that another person will have the same desires. We operate in a world of limited resources, whether it’s limited time or financial or emotional resources. Within those limited resources, you and I are now working to optimize our pursuit of happiness, but there is inevitably going to be a conflict. Then, enter a third person. If there’s a third person now, and I’m pursuing my happiness and so are you and we’re entering into this conflict over our limited and shared resources, you and I are going to form a coalition against the third person. We’re going to say, “Let’s optimize our collective happiness as long as it’s more than this person.” So there’s this inherent tension and conflict between the limited resources, the coalition, and the pursuit of happiness. However, we’re going to get better individual happiness if we collectively pursue a joint happiness.
So how do we navigate between the tension?
We are going to create systems to optimize these limited resources to get our collective happiness and to optimize our individual happiness if we create reliable systems. Well, they’re not going to be perfect because they cannot be perfect, but we can create a feedback loop to see how we’re doing – are the systems giving us the outcomes we want to have? It’s important because with our limited resources we don’t want to overinvest or underinvest – we want to make sure we have the balance right. Along the way, with our imperfect systems, our fallibility, our tension, and our limited resources, enters the imposer. The imposer might be an addition to the group we have, we might bring an external imposer, or we might create an imposer within our ranks to say, “We need to steward these resources carefully; we need to have someone put those boundary conditions to say what’s acceptable and what is not.” We are going to impose duties upon each other.
It all falls apart and it all just reverts to the inherent conflict in the absence of justice. If I’m not just with you, if we’re not just with each other, if we have this perceived lack of fairness or lack of trust or respect, we will revert back to our individual pursuit of happiness and neglect the collective good.
Fiona Lawton walks through the sixteen design laws of the Proposition in an easy-to-follow way in the video below.