BOOK REVIEW: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, by Gordon Anderson

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 11, 2010 - Pages 227-235

Gordon L. Anderson has written a brilliant book about how society should be organized to maximize life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He says that the American Constitution, Version 3.0, which built upon the foundations of Rome’s Twelve Tables (Version 2.0) and Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi (Version 1.0), has reached its limit. Brilliantly designed to organize a largely agrarian society, it cannot handle the systems introduced by the industrial and now information revolutions. Full of viruses and worms, it has become slow, has crashed several times and is heading for total collapse.

The analogy with computers is effective; already I, and others, refer to the book as “4.0.” The catchy title is not the main point; the analogy of government as an operating system allows the reader to objectify what government really is about. And this is essential. Government is not God-given and beyond comprehension, much less control. It’s an operating system in need of continual improvement. Dr. Anderson argues for an array of improvements based upon five “basic principles.”

The first is protection—that the purpose of government is to protect what we have inherited from another source. Life, liberty and the drive to happiness are not bestowed by governments; they are innately ours as human beings. We create governments to protect life, liberty and happiness from forces, whether human or natural, that would deprive us of them. Protection from natural dangers, belligerent nations and criminals is straightforward. What is not straightforward is protection from the government itself, which is composed of human beings not much different from ourselves. The passage of David Hume that Anderson cites is essential to the entire book:

In contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and balances, every man ought to be supposed a knave… [having] no other end… than private interest. (p. 15)

The people therefore must separate governmental functions, balance powers and build in checks against the accumulation of power, because sooner or later, every power that is not balanced by another will be utilized to advance the interests of its possessors. This is apparent in any ecology and is not a result of evil. The government that best disburses and decentralizes power will generate the society of the greatest life, liberty and happiness for its citizens.

The American system of checks and balances and separation of powers is nothing new, but Anderson has more to say. He notes that as important as the separation of powers within government is the separation of other human activities, specifically culture and commerce, from government. Separation of church and state by the Founders led to a “free market” for religion and thought and a general separation of culture from government. This separation protected the right of the citizen to think freely and worship God according to the dictates of the conscience, and the freedom of the citizen from theocratic rule. As a result, religion has flourished and American has produced a popular culture that has imprinted the globe.

Anderson points out that the third sector of society, economy or commerce, also should have been separated from government but was not. Thus the right of citizens to act for their own self-interest in a free market, with government disentangled from commercial interests, was not protected in Version 3.0.

Can government not just protect, but promote the general good? Anderson answers, only by encouraging healthy practices, protecting the ability to do good, and not promoting harm. Anderson believes people are happy when they can help each other, and so government can promote happiness by protecting private property, which is “necessary for people to help one another” (p. 34, citing Aristotle). Government “should not discourage” behaviors that abet happiness, such as “marriage or family” and should “not provide equal protection to social groups” in the name of creat­ing “artificially engineered communities… Community is most support­ive of human happiness when it is organized freely ‘from below’ rather than imposed ‘from above’ by the state. A government that tries to engineer a community prevents the good that natural communities can produce.” (pp. 36-37) States promote the good by not promoting harm. Promotion of harm includes sponsoring gambling, which deceives citizens and siphons income to a new bureaucracy, taxing wages, which damages the society’s economic competitiveness, fostering conflicts of interest by consolidating that which should be separated, and restricting transparency.

The gambling case is illustrative. He opposes government sponsored gambling and would permit gambling as a (highly-taxed) private enterprise. Gambling is a business that can provide pleasure but also have deleterious effects on human beings and society, so should be expensive in order to deter consumption. Taxation makes it more expensive, and by doing so the government can classify it as a sin (sin tax, like on tobacco and alcohol) and, at the same time, increase revenue (taxes). It is a sin, but society can tolerate it as a private practice. However, government sponsorship of gambling leads to ubiquitous promotion (“Hey, you never know”) that depicts gambling as virtuous. Thereby the government is promoting harm. It would be like the government manufacturing cigarettes and then promoting tobacco use.

Also, the government running gambling creates a government bureaucracy. If gambling is privatized, the government will not react if suddenly the society becomes virtuous and stops gambling and those businesses fail. But if gambling is run by and for the government, then the government will want to encourage people to gamble and try to prevent their becoming virtuous. And, let’s say a large religious movement against gambling arises. If gambling is a private enterprise, the government will protect the right of the religious bodies to speak out. But if government funding is affected, it will have a conflict of interest regarding the freedom of religion. This still obtains when gambling is a taxable private enterprise, but the government entanglement is less, and choosing the lesser evil is the purpose of policy. Dr. Anderson is not presenting his ideas as constituting a perfect union, just a more perfect union. In summary of the principle of protection, Anderson writes,

This requires not only the defense against invading armies, but also the elimination of all consolidations of political, economic, or information power that will allow those who hold such power to use it for personal gain at the expense of the citizens. (p. 42)

The second principle is subsidiarity, the rule that “functions which subordinate or local organizations perform effectively belong more properly to them than to a dominant central organization.” The idea is that more complex systems depend upon more simple systems; the “higher” depends on the “lower.” For example, human life depends upon the productivity of the natural world. The life of an individual depends upon the health of his or her organs and cells. So too the life of a town depends upon the health of its families; the life of the state upon the health of its towns, and the life of a nation upon the health of its states. “For reasons of selfishness, power, superstition, and ignor­ance,” Anderson writes, “shortcuts that ignore the principle of subsidi­arity are often attempted, with great human suffering as the result.” These shortcuts entail consolidation of power, taking control and responsibility for local affairs out of local hands. Because the higher authority will never possess adequate information or responsiveness, it will make “decisions or laws that… defy the laws that govern the entities upon which they depend.” The ultimate result is the collapse of the entire system. (p. 47)

The American Founders’ primary concern to was guard against “the consolidation of political power, [but]

consolidation can also occur in economic power with the tendency toward monopoly, in knowledge with the tendency toward orthodoxy and fundamentalism, and in the family with wife-beating, yelling, and intimidation. The principle of subsidiarity is the opposite of the principle of consolidation. It is associated with decentralization, pluralism, freedom, and personal responsibility.” (p. 48)

Anderson depicts a society with proper subsidiarity as a pyramid, which is the most stable of all structures. The base is large, consisting of productive families that can care for their own needs and offer a surplus to the level of greater complexity, the community, to manage the community’s public institutions. Likewise, healthy communities support healthy cities and states, which in turn perform functions appropriate to their jurisdiction. And in turn the state supports the nation and the nation the world. He reviews a transition of American society from a pyramid with a large number of farmers and local businesses supporting small state and federal governments, to an inverted pyramid with a small base of productive families, desiccated communities, inefficient cities and disempowered states stretched beyond limit to support a bloated federal government.

Anderson points out how this dynamic applies in culture and economy as well as in government. In commerce, “the principles of redistribution structured in a general law do not produce the creative and dynamic forces required for economic growth. Such laws tend to be grounded in envy or ideology rather than an understanding of human nature.” At the same time, commercial interests buy government support, or taxation policies reward governments to support monopolies. Although governments at times act to suppress monopoly, usually they abet monopolies. Anderson shows how the American business sector amassed power far beyond what the Founders envisioned, and used that power to force the government to establish unfair practices. He sees the same in the tendency to consolidate cultural authority, whether through religion or media: “The assumption of a limited economic pie that must be divided by a central authority is somewhat analogous to a… doctrine of truth controlled centrally. The first leads to economic poverty and the second to intellectual stagnation. (p. 76)

The third principle, separation of powers, follows from the first two. Anderson points out that primitive societies were unitary, with the powers of government, economy and culture possessed by a king. Medieval Europe separated the cultural authority (the church) from the state. Anderson calls for the third separation, that of the economy from both church and state through a new constitutional amendment separating the state from business, that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of commerce or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (p. 93) He does not see this as a melee of a laissez-faire economy with no rules. The proper role for government is that of a referee assuring fair play according to the rules, or a policeman to enforce traffic laws. He calls it “planning for competition.” (p. 104ff.) The important thing is that the referee does not benefit from the game’s outcome or the policeman from allowing some vehicles to break the rules. Thus the need to separate commerce from government.

The lobbying system, abetted by the concentration of power in one place, Washington DC, corrupts the referee. Lobbying also creates the illusion of bipartisanship, as special interests on the left and right help lawmakers construct “omnibus” bills that “reach across the aisle” with numerous riders tailored to special interests that lobby each party. Supposedly these represent consensus but in fact benefit those who have lobbies in Washington and leave out the interests of the majority of citizens in both parties, “The Forgotten Man.” (p. 112)

The fourth principle, transparency, stands against “attempts to limit official truth to knowledge approved by ruling powers,” whether religious or secular. Transparency in the use of public money and policy-making (which usually pertains to money) is vital to life, liberty and happiness. Anderson points to “the problem of agency” (p. 133): it is necessary that a complex society include agents, or representatives, “a person or group of people that acts on behalf of others.” The problem lies in how to hold agents account­able. Lack of accountability leads to corruption, “to selling the influence of an agent’s office for personal gain rather than using their power in accord­ance with the social purposes for which their office was created.” He points out that “corruption can be significantly reduced through transparency, even though it is more difficult to control corruption as power or wealth become more consolidated and farther removed from the principals, the citizens.” (p. 138f.)

The fifth principle is most surprising and challenging: the right to secede. “The Declaration of Independence,” Anderson points out, is a “declaration of secession. It asserts that a people have the right to leave and join govern­ments.” It is, therefore, “the ultimate check on the power of a government.” (p. 152) Therefore in the late 1780s the states joined the union only on the condition of their right to withdraw from it. This casts a politically incorrect light on the American Civil War. From this viewpoint, Lincoln used force to prevent secession. Anderson queries how Americans would feel if the UN tried to use force to prevent our secession from the UN. Arguments over slavery notwithstanding, Anderson points out significant other considerations of an economic and political nature that led to Lincoln’s prosecution of the war, all of which eviscerated subsidiarity and consolidated national power in the spheres of government, economy and culture. The nation enjoyed rampant economic growth for several decades after the war, but at a cost of freedom in the Fourteenth Amendment, which

has been used by the courts …to impose the will of the federal government over the states on numerous matters unrelated to slavery, from freeing corporations from state regulation to imposing official national morality on issues like abortion. The former represented collusion between government and the economy, and the latter represented collusion between the government and the cultural sphere. (p. 167)

Anderson addresses two obvious thoughts: what about slavery? and, what about the right to secede in relation to that most essential of voluntary relationships, marriage? As to the first, he finds fault on both sides, for while the South had slaves, “Northern financial policies encouraged rather than discouraged this practice.” (p. 170) The Founders dealt neither with slavery nor did they create guidelines for a process of secession. This reduced the paths available to avoid war, and secession would have been, in Anderson’s mind, the lesser of two evils compared with “a war that beats one party into submission by the other, and kills 630,000 citizens.” (p. 171) This was “like a husband beating a wife into submission,” which brings us to the topic of divorce. Anderson sees it as a last resort, preferable to violence. The solution presented by Version 4.0 is to create “higher standards of membership in the first place; e.g. a state that violates the rights of its citizens by owning slaves should not be allowed to join a true republic… just like not all young adults are adequately prepared to enter marriage.” (p. 172)

The principle of secession is the most difficult. Anderson’s basic points are that anything is better than war and that authentic relationships must be voluntary. He is a realist; he accedes to divorce being permissible in cases of spousal violence. With regard to the American Civil War, he doesn’t hypothesize how a just result could have obtained without resort to years of horrendous violence, but based on his arguments I would imagine it would involve a legitimate combination of authentic free market, careful law-making and cultural forces of moral persuasion, without withholding the option of secession guaranteed by the Constitution.

Regarding the state refraining from involvement in commerce, Anderson is stating that the government's suppressing monopoly happens rarely and its abetting monopoly by protecting industries or even nationalizing them is more often the case. He wants laws to protect a free market, just as laws protect the public from theocracy and government management of the private sector (or used to). The anti-establishment clause in the first amendment means that the state will not establish a religion. An anti-establishment commerce clause would mean that the state will not subsidize industries, i.e. “establish an industry.” To not prevent the free exercise thereof means that the state will not allow a large corporation to suppress small entrepreneurs unfairly. The book has numerous examples in which Anderson criticizes business practices, but his solution is not state intervention but is rather to separate government from business, not to get government more involved in running business. So the government would never intervene to save a business. Nor would it intervene to cripple a business. Nor would it run a business. It just makes sure all businesses are playing by the same rules and taxes fairly in order to maximize both government funding and the wealth of the society. 

To bring this home, I’ll give a personal example. Forty years ago, my father ran a “drive-in dairy.” His operation brought milk from the diary farm to his small plant to the drive-in customer, eliminating the wholesale and retail distribution networks. He could have undercut the price of milk charged in the supermarkets, attracted more business and expanded. But the government sets milk prices, and so suppressed the benefits of his entrepreneurial effort, to himself and to the public. This was due to the dairy lobby in collusion with the state legislature. 

Anderson’s proposed amendment would forbid it. In the case of a drive-in dairy, the public can have cheaper, fresher milk. This is how wealth—and happiness—is created. With the money people save on milk, they can buy other products from other businesses. Who loses? The losers seem to be the lobbies and government offices, which do not produce wealth. The proper role of government is to protect the public by certifying health and quality standards. And Anderson points out with that proper taxation, which he believes to be sales taxes, the government benefits when businesses prosper.

Thus, Anderson sets forth his five principles of a healthy society that exists in order to maximize its citizens’ life, liberty and ability to pursue hap­piness. From here he moves into “implementation” of these principles, the steps he recommends to redress current social problems. I will not get into details here because I do not want to “give away the ending.” I will mention that he deals with subjects such as the method of selecting the members of the two houses of Congress, the elimination of, and addition of, amendments to the Constitution, the role of lobbies and the role of the Supreme Court. He pays a good deal of attention to taxation (“funding government”), and how to maximize human incentive, reduce corruption, increase efficient use of funds, reduce tax evasion, and the like. Taxation is the government’s first line of control over its citizens, and Anderson wisely calls for change “one piece of legislation at a time.” (p. 242) He applies his five principles to the problem of welfare, the social need to take care of those who cannot care for themselves, as it relates to health costs, insurance, Medicare and Social Security.

While tending to take conservative positions, Anderson has plenty of criticisms aimed at the world of commerce, finance, businesses, industry and banking. As we see from the case of my father and a million others, business leaders are just as adept as politicians or cultural or religious icons at consolidating power, concealing corruption and abusing trust. The principle of subsidiarity applies to everyone. On various grounds, Anderson criticizes Reagan, a conservative, and lauds Jefferson, usually seen as a friend of liberals, while ignoring John Adams and excoriating Hamilton. This book should not be seen as conservative advocacy. It is a rare piece of work in that the author identifies principles that transcend left and right. In the name of these principles, he voices constructive criticism of both left and right, identifying where individuals and groups on both sides damage the citizen’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Dr. Anderson makes no reference to Unification Thought or any of its authors, but the five principles can be seen as reflective of concepts important to it: the unique and eternal value of the person as a child of God, the principle of direct give and take action, the body analogy, the role of the media to insure and aid transparency, and—above all—personal respon­si­bility in which even God cannot intervene (and if God cannot inter­vene, how can the state?) as a necessary correlate to personal freedom. The right to secede is a tough case to make in the case of the Civil War (although we cheer for it in the case of the American Revolution), but his solution of raising the standards required for membership is an application of the Unificationist principle of the growing period.

The book includes “Questions for Review and Reflection” at the end of each chapter and some helpful illustrations. I would have appreciated a list of the amendments to the Constitution, or at least a citation of those amend­ments that he directly discusses. I would also recommend a proofing by a non-specialist to ferret out unfamiliar but important terms, such as rent-seeking behavior, to catch some apparent word-choice errors and to smooth out syntax. I was disappointed with Dr. Anderson’s assertion (p. 123) that “we are well aware” of conflicts between science and religion, when recent scholarship by Rodney Stark (For the Glory of God, 2003) presents serious challenges to that hypothesis.

Overall, I think this is an important book, a must-read for American citi­zens, especially those in government. It is straight-forward, well-documented and logical. Anderson works from foundational principles, principles ground­ed in natural law, common sense and the highest estimate of human dignity and potential, and builds upon the foundation of thinkers such as Aristotle, Jefferson, Hume and Kant.

Let me add another group for whom this book is a must-read: Unificationists interested in being good citizens and those aspiring to leader­ship, whether in the church, economic or governmental sphere. Anderson’s principles speak to us. There will be many who disagree with his conclusions and some who disagree with his founding principles. It is good to bring disagreements out into the open. Anderson presents arguments based on principles, and if they give rise to conclusions with which people disagree, then he deserves arguments based on principles in return. I think such an exchange would be stimulating and highly valuable. I believe that the Unification Church has not given adequate disciplined thought to social policy. This is understandable because its mission has to do with bringing people into a new relationship with God. But we nevertheless are social creatures living in history, and we need to make choices about government and economics while we are on the way to the ideal world. Knowing the Divine Principle theology does not provide instant illumination regarding social policy. We need thinkers such as Dr. Anderson to advance that conversation.

—Tyler Hendricks