by Fred Foldvary
In physics, a “unified field theory” is a comprehensive explanation of all I physical forces, including gravity; electromagnetism, and atomic quantities in space-time. The term originated with Albert Einstein, who sought a grand unified theory that would integrate relativity; electromagnetism, and quantum effects. A unified field theory remains a frontier of physics.
There have been few attempts at a unified field theory of social policy; There have been studies about a unified theory of human behavior, such as with game theory; But there has not been a unified theory of governmental policy. Here, then, are the outlines of a unified field theory of social policy.
The “fields” in social policy are the set of values people hold, and the power relationships that implement these values. Sociology is the study of human relationships, and political science is the study of human power. Economics is the study of utility; the importance of goods, happenings, and relationships. How can these be unified?
A grand unified theory of social science and policy has to begin with ethics. Human beings are moral creatures, as they purposefully choose actions which have intended consequences that can be good, evil, or neutral. There is an inherent ethical field among interacting human beings.
A unified theory of human action needs a universal ethic, and it exists as laid out by the philosopher John Locke, who recognized the supreme moral prescription that one ought not coercively harm another. The harm rule, grounded in human equality, has been recognized and described by philosophers such as the ancient Greeks, and it has been at the core of religious ethics such as the Ten Commandments, as in “thou shalt not steal.”
The universal ethic provides the moral rules for human relationships, the justification of governance, and the prescription for proper social policy; We also need economic theory in order to implement this natural moral law regarding wealth. A foundation of economics is the factors of production, the categories of inputs, the ultimate factors being land and labor. Moral equality implies that there be no slaves and no masters, thus each person is a self-owner, and properly owns his labor and wage. To the creator belongs the creation.
But self-ownership does not apply to natural resources, and so equality implies that all persons properly own the benefits from nature. As explained by the social philosopher and economist Henry George, economics tells us that in a free market, natural benefits have a market price as land rent. Rent is an implicit economic field that emanates from land and population, regardless of whether that rent is explicitly paid. The rent of land is enhanced by rentals due to the public works and civic services of communities, and that rental too belongs to the creators, either by contract or, in the absence of contracts, by the holders of land titles paying back the rental value received to the governmental agents of the ultimate providers, the citizens and residents.
Land rent payments include compensating society for dumping in land held in common. Rent and rental, along with user fees for specific services, thus provide the morally proper source of revenue for governance.
In physics, power is the rate at which work is performed. In physics, force is mass times acceleration. So too in society. Force is applied to a human mass to accelerate human action, meaning to change its direction and/or its velocity.
In society, work can be achieved either via voluntary action or by force. There is a field of power emanating from each human being, and when they are in groups, the individual powers of authority integrate into political power, the physical ability to exert force. Proper governmental power must implement the universal ethic by penalizing only coercive harm to others, not mere offenses. Non-harmful human action is thus not to be restricted and not to be taxed. The universal ethic prescribes a pure free market with true free trade.
The universal ethic provides the meaning of the market as an economy of purely voluntary action, and thus since the same ethic both determines the market and judges policy; the pure free market is inherently ethical, and any intervention into the market is morally evil. Free-market economic theory, particularly as developed by the Austrian and Geoclassical schools, also reveals that a pure free market maximizes the totality of human welfare, and so there is harmony between ethics and economics: policy that is morally evil is also economically damaging.
How, then, can we obtain morally proper governance with optimum policies? Here we apply the economic theory of public choice, whose chief theorist has been James Buchanan. A central concept in public choice is “rent seeking” or “transfer seeking,” meaning the seeking and taking of subsidies by powerful factions that dominate government. Transfer seeking happens because the benefits are concentrated in a few hands, while the social costs for each granted privilege are thinly spread among taxpayers, consumers, and voters. Transfer taking is a disease inherent in mass democracy; where thousands of voters are ignorant, as each vote counts for little, and the benefits of wise voting are mostly external to the voter.
In harmony with public choice theory political science provides the remedy for transfer seeking. The opposite of mass democracy is small-group voting, where the political body is divided into neighborhood cells, analogous to the human body. A citizen belongs to one cell and votes only within that cell for a council of representatives. That eliminates the demand for campaign funds that is inherent in mass democracy. A group of neighborhood councils elect representatives to the next higher level council, again a small- group vote. This bottom-up voting proceeds to the highest level legislature.
There will still be transfer seeking, but much less transfer granting, as higher level councils are monitored by the next lower levels, and as council members may be recalled and replaced at any time by the next lower level. Small-group cellular democracy divides the field of political power into small pieces that best reflect the values of local communities, but these values need to be constrained by the liberty prescribed by the universal ethic and implemented into a constitution. Thus is there a unified theory of ethics, public- choice economics and political science that provides the political structure that best and most sustainably implements the universal ethic in policy.
The analysis above demonstrates the ontology of a unified field theory of social policy: that it does exist. The moral imperative of the universal ethic is in harmony and mutually complements economics and governance. This unified social theory has not been recognized and studied, but then physics could not even imagine a unified field theory until rather recently. Thus there is hope that social science too will progress. When scholars understand and propagate a unified field theory of policy, opinion-influencing journalists will follow, and then the ideas will spread to the public and then to governance. Let us just hope that human conflicts do not tear civilization asunder until that day of enlightenment is achieved.