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Policy Decision Analysis & Constitutional Economics

Hector McNeill1

The domain of decision analysis has been extended by Ronald Howard into the realms of ethical decision analysis and this has important implications for constitutional economic policy-making.

At this point in the evolution of economics there is a profound dissatisfaction with macroeconomic policy outcomes. In particular, the inability of KMS policies to reign in the excesses of corporations and banks that created the current financial crisis is a major issue of concern. In this article I will describe how ethical decision analysis, within the context of constitutional economics, has a fundamental contributory role in providing economic, effective and efficient solutions. However, our concern in the Real Incomes Approach is to provide practical steps and procedures through which the quality of policy decision analysis can be improved so as to achieve economic productivity within a just system of compensation for each person’s contributions so as to achieve a positive systemic consistency.

The very notion of introducing ethical considerations into economic policy in a world that has seen widespread prejudice arising from unethical conduct by many companies, banks and politicians might appear to be “quaint” and unrealistic in an economic system that takes the "profit motive" and "shareholder value" as the whole justification for economic activities. The bad news for cynics, or those with a limited vision on the potential for humanity to fashion a better global society, is that, in reality, the economy can be more productive and sustainable through constitutional principles that avoid contention and decisions that create recrimination arising from the resulting discrimination and injustices associated with conventional policies. The crass insistence that, "There is no alternative" is simply not true and is motivated, as is becoming increasingly clear, by the individual interests of those who utter such banalities. Conventional macroeconomic policies are completely threadbare and governments are treading water while each pursues financialization strategies which undermine the real economy and creating conditions where the needed rises in productivity remain on indefinite hold.

Ronald Howard

The term "decision analysis" was coined by Ronald Howard2 and appeared in the 1960s in work by Ronald Howard and collaborators working at the Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, California, USA.
In the article "Policy Decision Analysis & the Real Incomes Approach" I explained that decision analysis is useful when policy makers need to address problems that are distinguished by their:

  • Uniqueness - each is one of a kind, perhaps similar to - but never identical with - previous situations
  • Importance - a significant portion of the government's or a sector's resources are in question
  • Uncertainty - many of the key factors that must be taken into account are imperfectly known
  • Long run implications - the country will be forced to live with the decision outcomes for many years, often beyond the lifetimes of the governments involved
  • Complex preferences - the task of incorporating the decision-maker's preferences based upon the time and risk preferences of the economic and social constituents assumes great importance

Decision analysis as described in 1968 by Matheson & Howard3 permits mathematical modelling of the decision, computational implementation of the model and quantitative evaluation of the various courses of action. It is tailor-made to address complex policy questions. It provides a transparent and logical framework within which decisions can be taken by helping ensure that all relevant factors are taken into account. This combination of considerations provides a vital aid to decisions by top management in large companies and governments in the allocation of public resources in local, regional and macroeconomies.

Within the domain of decision analysis, a decision is defined as an irrevocable allocation and use of resources to actions designed to implement the processes required to achieve a specific objective. This also means that if such a decision is later altered, additional resources will need to be allocated. As a result the analysis used to arrive at a decision is important.

In the field of policy-making, decision analysis helps reduce the current characterization of economic policy decisions as being no more than vast socio-economic "experimental actions" that undermine the dignity and due respect that should be afforded to citizens. The typical outcome is instability and sometimes havoc in the lives of some constituents leading to so-called "U-turns" by governments when they realize that decisions are wrong. The conclusion that a decision is wrong is often not measured in terms of the tort suffered by citizens or any consideration of possible compensation. It is usually assessed only in terms of the effect of the policy failure on the political party's likelihood of re-election.

Decisions taken in a moral vacuum are invariably of dubious value and instill even less confidence when they are taken in the closeted environments of the small minority factional political parties that characterize British politics. There is a need to open up the decision analysis process to the participation of the electorate in a way that avoids contention. There is, however, often some resistance. I know from experience that when one explains decision analysis the response can be the following sort of statement, "...this is all to too simplistic (or too complicated) and besides, this is what we do anyway!" Decision analysis requires a detailed consideration of the principal deterministic, informational and probabilistic issues and is a logical, simple and very transparent approach. However, in my own experience in applying this to practical issues for well over 30 years, it is simply not "what people are doing anyway." This is because much of the effort that goes into arriving at decisions in the economic policy domain is based on assertions and, quite often, disparate elements of economic theory as opposed to comprehensive models. There is an unfortunate habit of political parties or governments organizing studies that are biased, from their very outset, through the preparation of terms of reference4 that constrain the scope of a study so as to prevent the analysis of all issues relevant to a questions, thereby preventing the identification of the full range of feasible options. Quite often such studies are referred to as being "independent" in the sense that those undertaking the work are not of the government but, of course, they are paid by the government; impartiality is the main issue here. The benefits of applying decision analysis are significant and it is well worth the effort. However, the application of decision analysis in the policy sphere needs to be impartial in the sense of not being pre-conditioned by decision-maker preferences that aim to mask reality and useful alternative policy options from the public; here we enter the realms of ethical decision analysis.

Roger Kaufman

Starting from the beginning

Before a policy comes into existence there will have been an awareness that there is a need to be addressed and whose identification provides the basis for policy conceptualization. Needs are identified as gaps in current provisions and in the form of desirable outcomes. Clearly once a gap, or need, is accurately identified, only then can a means or policy be sensibly designed by selecting the appropriate instruments that can help move the economy from the current to the desired state. In the article Micro-macro coherence I described Roger Kaufman's 5Organizational Elements Method that describes what organizations use, do, produce, and deliver and that the consequences contribute to a measurable value for our shared society.
Mother's Rule

The world we want to help create for tomorrow’s child

There will be no losses of life nor elimination or reduction of levels of well-being, survival, self-sufficiency, and quality of life from any source, including (but not limited to):
  • War and/or riot and/or terrorism
  • Unintended human-caused changes to the environment including permanent destruction of the environment and/or rendering it non-renewable
  • Murder, rape, or crimes of violence, robbery, or destruction to property
  • Substance abuse
  • Disease
  • Pollution
  • Starvation and/or malnutrition
  • Destructive behaviour, including child, partner, spouse, self, elder, and others
  • Discrimination based on irrelevant variable including colour, race, age, creed, gender, religion, wealth, national origin, or location
Poverty will not exist, and every woman and man will earn at least as much as it costs them to live unless they are progressing toward being self-sufficient and self-reliant. No adult will be under the care, custody or control of another person, agency, or substance. All adult citizens will be self-sufficient and self-reliant as minimally indicated by their consumption being equal to or less than their production.
I also emphasized that at the macro-societal level a global set of needs, referred to as "Mother's Rule" (see box on the right) or "Motherhood statements", should no longer be considered to be mere sweeteners for justifying some government decision on a policy but, rather, should become an imperative, a central objective, no longer something of collateral interest but something to which all microeconomic activities contribute. It is self-evident that such issues as climate stability, environment and considerations for the conservation of ecosystems are a fundamental part of what should be included in "Motherhood statements".

Ethical decision analysis

Besides developing a firm analytical methodology for decision analysis, Ronald Howard has advanced this work into the field of ethical decision analysis. I will use just one reference, a book written by Ronald Howard and Clinton Korver entitled "Ethics - {for the real world}" and a long subtitle "creating a personal code to guide decisions in work and life"6. In this particular book the topic is personal decisions "in life". However, the topic of this article is business, government and decisions made by the electorate on such things as economic policy. But since, in the end, these are all human decisions we are dealing with the knowledge and conscience of the decision-maker or decision-makers as individuals; Mother's Rule is hovering in the background, always.

Decisions by business leaders and politicians can affect millions of people as well as specific people with "minority" interests, sometimes in a negative fashion. Conducting an objective decision analysis in advance to assess how to act, and why, can help maintain ethical standards. This has nothing to do with moralizing or an out of control "Nanny state" imposing some restrictive dogma, but it is rather about understanding when a situation or proposed actions are becoming potentially prejudicial and ethically questionable and how to act appropriately, including seeking alternatives that avoid the compromise of important values.

As is usual, Howard has provided very specific elements for consideration which need to be weighed up analytically before arriving at a decision. The book points out that the dilemma to be resolved with each decision is the trade-off reached between considerations, by the decision-maker or decision-makers, of the implications of ethics, law and prudence associated with the likely outcome of the decision7. Clearly the deterministic, informational and probabilistic elements remain as the basic frame of reference or structure of the decision analysis model, but ethics adds an additional dimension to the shaping of "decision-maker preferences".

The law, prudence & ethics

When taking decisions a company executive might consult economists and lawyers to steer a course between not doing something that contravenes the law resulting in fines and taking a decision that maximizes the economic outcome arising from the decision. If the legal environment is lax there is a temptation to simply maximize the economic outcome irrespective of the law with any fines becoming an irritant but managed by simply entering them in the accounts as a cost of doing business. The situation ends up as a simple cost-benefit analysis comparing the relative corporate benefits arising from legal compliance and contravening the law. This cynical approach no longer regards law as something to be observed.

As a result, the word prudence does not take on its more accepted significance as a careful moderation between law and ethics to find a lawful and ethical solution but rather the word becomes license to do what is in the interests of the decision-maker or his organization. Thus without effective law and regulations which are shaped to balance common sense transparency with an ethical motive of protecting society against prejudice, prudence simply becomes the expression of self interest with no particular consideration being given to either the law or society; prudence loses its meaning.

The cost of extra-constitutionalism

The current circumstances in many production and service sectors, including finance and the media, the "regulatory" agencies are largely heavily influenced or, indeed, managed by representatives of the sector being "regulated". This is also referred to as "light touch" regulation. These arrangements are essentially extra-constitutional in that the electorate has often not been involved in deciding on the question as to how different sectors should be regulated under the law. The electorate remains unprotected having to rely upon the ethical conduct of those regulated. However policy paradoxes undermine the ease with which ethical decisions can be made (See, The profit paradox, The monetary paradox and The fiscal paradox). This has led to serious abuse of the public as well as corporate customers and local authorities and, to a large extent, was the cause of the current financial and economic crisis.

Perspectives on unintended or intended discrimination & prejudice

People as individuals or representing companies or local authorities have certain expectations of what they considered to be "normal behaviour" which is activated by the awareness of the value of mutual regard sustained through reciprocity. This is generally considered to be a moral law of avoiding to do harm to others. This is generally referred to as the Golden Rule of treating others as one would wish to be treated, based upon reciprocity. This features as a commonly accepted basis for human conduct in all of the world's religions including agnostic and humanist movements. It would seem, therefore, to be an approach of universal appeal as a basis for harmonious relations and peaceful co-existence.

However, in general the expressions concerning the Golden Rule are short and unstructured, they reflect a notion of beneficial intent as a basis for guiding human interaction and relationships8. Such a notion opens up a vast array of possible interpretations on its application in any particular circumstance. What people consider acceptable treatment varies between individuals so without knowing the preferences of the other, one risks imposing one's own preferences. This becomes a problem when people who have decision making power operate without knowing, first of all, people's preferences. It is very possible indeed, quite common, for such people to impose conditions "for their perceived good" of others or in the political context “for the good of the nation” when such decisions are unwelcome or even considered to be harmful by the recipients. There is therefore under the operation of interpretations of the Golden Rule and the relative decision power status of people many opportunities for unintended or intended discrimination based on not permitting others participate in decisions and causing, as a result, prejudice in the name of augmenting benefits. This principle can only succeed if it is accompanied by a specific orientation towards individual preferences through an appropriate range of considerations designed to determine each individual's preferences so as to ensure actions are welcomed and beneficial.

According to Buchanan the ethic of constitutionalism is where the individual who is expressing preferences for social and economic conduct, together with others in society, adopts the moral law as a general rule for behaviour. This philosophical position forms the basis of constitutional economics. Buchanan believed that every constitution is created for at least several generations of citizens. Therefore, it must be able to balance the interests of the state, society, and each individual.

The state

One of the ever-present dangers within British governance is the possible confusion between the state, government, political parties and the individual. The state, in the constitutional sense, is the system of a community or territory considered as an organized group under a single governance. The actions of the state and the direction of social economic and cultural progress from a democratic standpoint is very much determined by the constitution, that is, a set of fundamental principles according to which the government operates9. It is largely concerned with describing the functions of governance and explaining the process of representation for the purposes of decision-making on questions of common interest. This includes how community representatives are selected to representation forums such as parliaments through elections, to define their responsibilities and scope of action in the establishment of norms, rules and legislation and with the formation of the a management groups and selection of a leader or head of state or equivalent. A constitution can be a single document to which amendments can be added over time or it can be a collection of separate documents, a body of law, consisting of documented principles, precedents and law. With experience and human learning the positive outlook is that constitutional provisions will be evolutionary in terms of the balance between the state, society and the individual.

The constitutional regression

However, limiting the consideration of constitution to general principles of governance does not protect individual freedom against direct attacks or less obvious discrimination by those governing. Individual freedom can be suppressed by arbitrary political decisions taken and which ignore the preferences of some or all. There is, therefore, a need to build into constitutions additional principles specifically designed to defend individual freedom. Unfortunately, comprehensive constitutions covering both the principles of governance and including principles for the defence of individual freedom are also insufficient. Constitution cannot be set in stone in this way. How we elect MPs, how they legislate, or fail to legislate, on new as well as stealth legislation, constantly creates pressures eroding individual freedom. More significantly, political parties and politicians have gradually changed the practice of governance in terms of the exercise of their own powers. These subtle changes in practice have not involved changes in law or constitution based upon the approval of the electorate. These represent shifting sands in the hands of political parties traversing many generations so as to be imperceptible ending up as "normal practice" or as components of the British political tradition. The outcome has not been a constitutional evolution but rather a constitutional regression erodes the individual freedoms of the people of the country. There are also several instances of laws and regulations being ignored or proactively abused by governments. The principal institution established to defend individual freedom, the jury, has been subjected to a persistent pressure to reduce and eventually remove its role from legal provisions.


The benchmark of an evolving constitution is a state where command and control is less essential because people of their own volition tend towards the pursuit of their objectives without constraining the ability of others to do the same. As the English activist, Anne Hutchinson (born 1591) said:

"As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway."

As The emphasis on the individual in policy decision-making is completely counter-intuitive to those who operate within the United Kingdom's political domain where all operations are conducted within what is referred to as the majority principle. Any government act and Parliamentary vote is considered to represent the will of the people, that is, the majority. In reality political parties with a minority factional support of the electorate, usually with less that 25% of the electorate's vote, can act to impose their decisions "in the interests of the nation" on the majority who have not been consulted on their agreement with the likely outcomes. The view of almost any UK politician is that "you can't get people to agree on everything" so by implication it is a waste of time attempting to do so.

This intellectual void is, of course, very convenient for our minority factional political parties who can take advantage of the electoral system of first-past-the-post to lever their status from one of complete insignificance (total party membership in the UK is less than 1% of the electorate) into a complete power over government decisions
"Unless minorities are represented it is impossible to form a cohesive majority and the necessary unanimity to support uncontentious public choice...."
affecting 100% of the electorate and direct management of the public sector making up 40% of the economy and, extraordinarily, having complete management control over the macroeconomic policy. This is a precarious state of affairs.

Natural minorities

It is worth noting that James Buchanan, the constitutional economist and Ronald Howard, the decision analyst, concentrate on the significance of individuals in decision making. We are, after all, the natural units that take and act on decisions. The nature of exchanges in policy making and public forums involves talk expressed in terms of the actions and missions of "organizations", "corporations" and "governance" as if they were organic beings with a life of their own devoid of the inconvenient details of the interests of the individuals working within them or the people affected by their decisions and actions.

Charles Dickens, 1812-1870

As Charles Dickens observed in his work "A Tale of two Cities":

"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other."

The smallest element of a minority is of course the individual. Unless minorities are represented it is impossible to form a cohesive majority and the necessary unanimity to support uncontentious public choice. However, in this sense, the term minority does not necessarily refer to a religious or ethnic group. It can refer to any grouping of people with some common interest, be this the support for a common cause, participating in a sport or dedication to the development and implementation of findings in some knowledge domain ranging from scientific, business pursuits to art and music. Statisticians and economists and "marketing" people like to think in terms of "target groups" based on per capita incomes, age groups or even regional groupings by type of employment. Each of these subgroups is in fact a type of minority group. Indeed if one divides the British population into 10 age groups spanning the life stages10 from birth to death and then divide these groups according to their association with their families either as dependents or as those supporting the family, again into 10 income categories one ends up with 100 minority groups with distinct issues and interests. If one adds interests in different activities, intellectual, artistic, sport, religions, approaches top life, culture then this conservatively would add at least another 50 subsets. As a result the so-called majority begins to atomizes into a heterogeneous set of 5,000 natural minorities. If we proceed with this analysis we see that the UK population can then be divided into 5,000 minority groups of a theoretical average size of 12,800 people. The typical size of constituencies differs between parts of the UK. The Office for National Statistics gives the median total parliamentary electorate across constituencies of about 72,400 in England, 69,000 in Scotland, 66,800 in Northern Ireland and 56,800 in Wales. Therefore assuming that this form of minority definition is evenly distributed throughout the country it becomes evident that no constituency can represent a majority position on just about any issue.

Dog whistle politics

One of the symptoms of the reality of natural minorities has been the development of what politician's call "Dog whistle politics" whereby political parties make a series of sometimes contradictory proposals in order to please some specific identified sub-group or natural minority so as to gather tiny percentage increments in support to push them over the critical "majority" position of gaining around 24-25% of the electorate's support in an election. This process ends up with dog-whistle policies which as a package contains contradictory components which in practice and can never reflect the "will of the people" or the support of the majority. This can never justify government claims to represent the nation; they simply do not. The question becomes, how can such government ever presume to develop economic policies that provide a general support to the whole population to achieve a state of positive systemic consistency? (See, Positive systemic consistency) This is not possible because they are looking to their core voters, a specific minority, for continued support and are constrained by their own party membership, an even smaller minority, who remain committed to policies that are at variance with the majority.

Economic policies becoming sedition factor

Portugal recently entered dangerous political waters. For the first time since the creation of Europe’s monetary union, a member state attempted to take the explicit step of forbidding eurosceptic parties from taking office on the grounds of national interest. Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal’s constitutional president, refused to appoint a Left-wing coalition government even though it secured an absolute majority in the Portuguese parliament and won a mandate to oppose the austerity regime bequeathed by the EU-IMF Troika. He deemed it too risky to let the Left Bloc or the Communists come close to power, insisting that conservatives should soldier on as a minority in order to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets. The experience of Cyprus and Greece in a process of uncompromising attitudes of creditors to populations (electorates) who never gave approval of for the excesses of politicians under the advice from private banks and financial advisors, including members of the Troika, point up a heavily flawed system with inadequate public oversight.

An obvious example of corruption of stated purpose and abuse of power can be observed in the recent election "victory" of the Conservative party in Britain. Much of the stated promise during the election was that the Conservatives would "find savings" with which to help pay off the deficit. It was also stated that so-called tax credits for the working poor would not be reduced or removed. On coming into power, which under the UK's first-past-the-post electoral system enables an insignificant private group with a membership of less than 0.5% of the electorate can lever itself into a position of absolute voting power on the basis of having receiving support from just 24% of the electorate. This minority faction has predictably not "found" the stated savings and it is running into trouble funding the NHS where other unwarranted promises of availability of funds were made during the election and, in the end, contrary to the promise, the government has already attempted to reduce and/or remove tax credits for the working poor without any consideration of transitional arrangements. This approach to policy is somewhat reminiscent of the approach adopted by some irresponsible consultants who "advised" Russia and several central European countries, post-1992, on the "short sharp" changes necessary to "revive" these economies. The mass sacking and unemployment as well as untold human misery created, including countless suicides, are not really dwelt upon in business school case studies, in spite of the fact that in some Hungarian villages people, since that time, have been without work.

DABs-Decision analysis briefs

The levels of corruption of information on facts are often only perceived to be "incompetence"" and politicians can blame "external factors" when their schemes fail. However, for the public and the necessity of creating a process of transparent public choice there is a need to augment the role of ethical decision analysis. This simple means that in order for a society to select the best options to address some common need all of the options need to be exposed. It is somewhat foolish to try and undertake this exercise based on the options put up by our tiny minority factional political parties who do not possess the necessary intellectual critical mass to undertake such an exercise. All pre-election proposals should be accompanied by a decision analysis brief (DAB) whose content and objectivity needs to be vetted by decision analysts who are independent of all the political parties11. It is self-evident that under such circumstances promises of "finding savings" would need to be accompanies by a demonstration of where they would come from. In terms of reducing government outlays DABs could contain relative and differential impacts of policies across the constituencies. No government should be permitted to introduce any legislation or Acts on a whim (especially the minority factional governments that we have) in an extra-constitutional attempt to impose their dogma of the remaining majority (exceeding 75% of the electorate).

DABs can help eliminate the unacceptable contention and stress generated by dog-whistle politics and policies and help "base power on truth" through a transparent scrutiny by the public enabling a more rational and informed public choice. As William James noted, "The truth is what happens". DABs, in being exposed to open scrutiny, must state the facts as they are without partisan colouring in order to lay out the policy options and the likelihood of the relative success of policy impacts as "the truth to come". People must to informed as to what is likely to happen, on a informed and logical basis, as a first step in beginning to reverse the lack of confidence and trust in the political system.
The majority principle & preferences

In political decision-making, the majority principle, under the management of political parties, causes the preference of the larger proportion of voters to prevail over the preference of the remaining smaller proportion. This does not work very well and it even fails to detect what the preferences of the electorate are12. However, the irrationality of the majority principle can be explained without having to review the state of affairs of British politics. If, for example, we consider two people with different preferences there is no justification for favouring one person's preference over the other, especially if implementing either would not affect the other. Each individual is entirely justified in expecting to remain free from any imposition of the other's preference.

If this pair is increased to a hundred people and ninety-nine have a preference for the action of one of the original pair, the majority principle would result in the preference of the remaining individual being completely discounted. Nothing has happened to the fundamental validity of that single person's preference nor, indeed, has anything happened to alter the expectation of that individual to be able to uphold that personal preference. There is no intrinsic logic to discourage this individual to drop their preference unless what they desire might harm others.

It is not unusual for majority decisions to be taken and, through law, imposed on and to harm people by preventing them from following their own preferences. In the rough and tumble of modern politics, the majority principle ends up imposing decisions on people who have other fully justifiable and sometimes more rational preferences and expectations. Although these groups are often a minority, under the British voting system applying the majority principle the reverse is true. A government with the support of just 19% of the electorate, imposes decisions on the majority. Few amongst this majority ever supported these policies. In terms of social coherence the majority principle can be seen to be both illogical and destructive because it is so contentious.

The minority principle

Issues that gain unanimity or a majority support amongst all natural minorities will first and foremost be common human values and expectations. Roger Kaufman has identified a range of conditions under his "Mother's rule" upon which most can agree, by that I mean that all individuals can agree, that is, the majority. This is because such "values" transcend the boundaries of minority interests because they refer to a common human expectations based on human needs that through the human conscience establish a broad empathy with natural human desires or the suffering of others under certain situations which, in general, people would rather avoid. Many dire situations arise from extra-constitutional arrangements for the regulation of economic activities and are a often the outcome for some "minorities" arising from the impacts of conventional macroeconomic policies.

The organization of democracy needs to be participatory so that such minorities can share matters of concern and where there is a need for a broader consensus in order amass sufficient support for decisions to address the concern. Society therefore should be able to express, communicate and disseminate their concerns so that others may become aware of them and gain an appreciation of them so as to assess their significance not in terms of initial personal reaction only, but also in terms of understanding the need and seeking ways and means to solve issues giving rise to the concern. Quite often, a concern raised by a natural minority member can, on further examination, prove to be something of potential concern to others but which has not been generally recognized. Quite often minority concerns are in fact of great interest to the majority; there is invariably a mutual interest in resolving concerns. The contentious political party environment in the United Kingdom pays lip service to the common good while working to move the interests of one minority ahead of the interests of another through un-ashamedly and somewhat brazen dog-whistle tactics in an attempt to gain a minority of overall electorate support to gain absolute power. This can never result in governance being guided by a Parliament or government that represents the will of the people, there being no mandate from the majority. Needless to say, economic policies imposed by such governments, as the current state of affairs provides ample examples, will be structurally deficient as a result of lack of balance between objectives in terms of impacts on constituents. And so the contention and arguments continue as an unedifying and pitiful example of a deficient political culture where its participants' priorities, motivations and modes of operation are incapable of acknowledging and resolving the real challenges that face the nation. This includes the inability to acknowledge and therefore resolve, arguably, the most pressing issue of our time, that of getting the real economy operating in a way that secures a positive systemic consistency, that is, where all benefit from a course of action as opposed the some more powerful factional minorities.

This can never be achieved by relying on the good will of a "representative" who is intellectually-shackled to some political party whose default ability to gain control of government relies on the unacceptable UK electoral system of first-past-the-post that only strengthens the power of minority factions. On the other hand the so-called proportional representation is not the answer because it only maintains the power of coalitions of factional political parties. The challenge is a more profound one of ensuring that the electorate gains a comprehensive and reflective representation as opposed to refining the electability mechanisms for minority factional self-interested political parties. For example the last UK coalition government would have been a natural result of a proportional vote and each side had to abandon 60% of their election pledges in order to agreed to work together and then went ahead introducing legislation which did not even feature in either of their election pledges. UK politicians do demonstrate, in spite of their humble expressions to the contrary to be unacceptably cavalier with the lives of constituents through openly dirigiste actions.

As far as I can see, the only way to embrace this natural complexity of ranges of points of view of constituents is to face up to this reality. We need to embrace this complexity by concentrating on principles of conscience with respect to common expectations of what constitutes an acceptable basis for existence.

There remains a need to address this yawning and troubling gap and resulting deficit in the degree of "representation" provided by the British political process to the people of the country. Indeed with the general decadence in the status of politicians and faltering faith in macroeconomic policies in Britain, this has become an imperative. In 2007 I completed an analysis of the constraints on individual freedom arising from the actions of political parties. I identified no less than 49 specific constraints. A considerable amount of these constraints arise from the system that operates under the majority principle which paradoxically creates the formation of powerful factional minority governments. The manipulative power of these tiny groups gain from funding and media support controlled by yet other minority factions. The solution I proposed was to replace the majority principle by the minority principle as a constitutional provision. This principle can only succeed if it is accompanied by a specific orientation towards individual preferences through an appropriate range of considerations designed to determine each individual's preferences so as to ensure actions are welcomed and beneficial. By creating a constitutional principle placing the individual at the centre of concern and orientation the focus is at the lowest possible level of minority consideration; this is the minority principle. The minority principle, centred on the single person, is the opposite of the majority principle. As a constitutional principle the minority principle should ensure that due consideration for others is upheld in the activities of the general election, of legislation, the application of the law and in appeals. Thus all other actions, social behaviour, group action and legislation can then be judged from the standpoint of the degree to which they uphold the minority principle and reflect individual preferences.

The minority principle can be described as a set of inalienable considerations to be afforded to each person. Thus each person should be provided with the opportunity to make his or her feelings and preferences known. It is incumbent upon others to receive and consider these in a sympathetic and reflective mode. All should take into account the wishes of others especially before taking any action which could, or will, affect them. If an action is likely to affect others then those who might be affected should be informed. This will provide them with the opportunity to accept or reject that any such action should proceed. In the same vein, all individuals should be free to refuse to be subjected to requirements arising from any proposition to be imposed by others and having been subject to their separate open, or secret deliberations. All individuals should be free to refuse to be subjected to requirements of any state imposed by others having been subject to their separate open, or secret, agreement and advanced as a fait accompli. The reader might note that this general description of the minority principle is an formalization embodying the definition of individual freedom set out at the beginning of this book. The minority principle thereby upholds the right of all to equal consideration but additionally it defends individuals from prejudice and discrimination. Thus decisions taken in Parliament, by implementing agencies and in courts of law for example, and which are discriminatory, are those which directly affect someone but which were implemented without taking into account the preferences of that person or without their prior knowledge. Any decision and action, which has not taken account the individual preferences of anyone affected by decisions, constitutes an act of discrimination at two levels. One is the decision makers have not bothered to find out what the real preferences of all are and in a modern society all, the electorate, is clearly identifiable. The second is that the action contravenes the personal preferences of a group and have therefore created a state of discrimination and, therefore, possibly prejudice.

Formalized content

In order to apply the minority principle constitutionally it is necessary to qualify the requirement of "equal treatment" by the associated imperative of "an equal consideration" of, and the unimpeded provision of the opportunity of each to express their preferences on any matter and thereby shape the formulation and likelihood of receiving appropriate responses.

Principles, degrees of freedom & action

The term "principle" is employed in the context of constitutional discussion to signify a guide to action. Principles are generic in the sense that they can be applied to a range of situations. They are used to avoid having to fill legislative documents with detailed explanations of how they should be applied to every imaginable situation. Experience shows that trying to legislate even at a general level ends up with unexpected effects as well as misapplications of the law. On the other hand, the applications of principles rely upon the good sense of people by providing a degree of freedom in interpretation as to how they are applied. Where doubts arise the issue would normally be resolved by a judge and sometimes trial by jury and according to the law.

Guidelines on issues of known past abuse

There are situations, however, where providing too much discretion on the application of a principle exposes it to intentionally perverse interpretations including the presumption that a certain principle does not apply in a specific circumstance. A common tactic to avoid applying a principle to a specific situation is to refer to legislation and state that since the law does not refer, it is "silent", to the situation under consideration, then the principle does not apply. This can be used as a basis to deny justice. Therefore in those areas where abuse is known to have occurred in the past, indeed, which might be one of the reasons for introducing a principle, there is a need to spell out application guidelines for those areas.


There are individuals in all organizations such as political parties, central and local government and other agencies, who abuse their discretion by resisting controls on their desire and ability to impose their personal preferences on others. Such abuse of authority occurs in the form of prejudicial prevarication and prejudicial enforcements. Such perpetrators have developed bad, anti-social and unchecked habits. It is always wise to remain vigilant in those specific areas where such past abuse has been commonplace. Vigilance should not be applied just to checking to see if the past forms of abuse continue. When certain people in authority have succeeded in acting above the law in the past such mentalities prevail. In spite of what is written into law such people are likely to think up alternative and sometimes more imaginative abuses of authority, or breaches of the law, to continue to get their way; these need to be detected.

Guidelines for the tribunals

In constitution, interpretation is all. Therefore it is essential for those who are required to apply the minority principle, that is community representatives in Parliament, the government executive and the judiciary, have written guidelines on the intent and basis for application of the minority principle as a constitutional component. These need to be as unambiguous as possible. I have produced a statement of the minority principle guidelines written in the style of an existing and enforceable set of guidelines as opposed to a conditional proposition suggesting what might or might not be considered to be beneficial. I should emphasize that these guidelines are designed to rid the British political scene of the more than 49 offensive procedures and actions which commonly constrain freedom by preventing the due consideration of individual preferences identified in the book published in 2007.

In spite of having completed this work in 2007, within just seven years much has happened to destabilize communities including economic chaos and acts of terrorism and warfare, all of which are exacerbated by poor decisions taken on the basis of the Majority principle. I am therefore reviewing the detailed Minority Principle proposition with the intent of posting it is full on this site.

1 Hector McNeill is the director of SEEL - Systems Engineering Economics Lab.
2 Ronald A. Howard has been Professor in the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems (now the Department of Management Science and Engineering) in the School of Engineering of Stanford University since 1965. He earned his Sc.D. in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1958. He was Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Associate Professor of Industrial Management, and Associate Director of the Operations Research Center at MIT. He is one of the founders of the decision analysis discipline. His books on probabilistic modelling, decision analysis, dynamic programming, and Markov processes serve as major references for courses and research in these fields. His experience includes dozens of decision analysis projects that range over virtually all fields of application, from investment planning to research strategy, and from hurricane seeding to nuclear waste isolation. In 1986 he received the Operations Research Society of America's Frank P. Ramsey Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Decision Analysis. In 1998 he received from INFORMS the first award for the Teaching of Operations Research/Management Science Practice.
3 Matheson, J.E., & Howard, R.A., "An Introduction to Decision Analysis", Decsion Analysis Group, Stanford Research Institute, 1968.
4 Terms of Reference is a statement that specifies the scope and content of a review , study or project including those matters that are excluded from the area of interest of the activities covered by the Terms of Reference.
5 Roger Kaufman was born in Washington D.C. Kaufman's professional work has covered many different industries focusing on human factors, training, and research. Concurrently with most of this work, Kaufman was a professor at Florida State University (FSU), from 1975–2003, In August, 2004, he became Distinguished Research Professor at Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON) in Sonora, Mexico. He was co-founder of what is now the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).
6 Howard, R.A., & Korber, C.D., "Ethics - {[for the real world}, 212 pp.,  Harvard Business Press, 2008: ISBN 978-1-4221-2106-1
7 This book goes into a lot more issues of importance but, for the purposes of this article, these elements are sufficient to explain several points I wish to emphasize.
8 The Golden Rule. Golden rule of inter-personal reciprocity is expressed in many different ways in most religions including, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Confucian as well as humanist teaching. In broad political terms it carries the message of non-imposition based upon free inter-personal as opposed to normalized and majority-based reciprocity.
9 McNeill, H.W., "The Briton's Quest for Freedom-Our unfinished journey...", Chapter 1, "The Issue, Signs & Approach", "Freedom, governance & the political system" pp: 1-19, 418pp, HPC, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-907833-01-7
10 Life stages: McNeill, H.W., "Life Stages", Project DELTA, ITTTF, Brussels 1985
11 McNeill, H.W., "The Briton's Quest for Freedom-Our unfinished journey...", Chapter 26, "Parliament", "Decision analysis brief" pp: 273-287, Chapter 27, "House of Lords", pp:289-296, 418pp, HPC, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-907833-01-7
12 McNeill, H. W., "The Briton's Quest for Freedom - Our unfinished journey...", Chapter 22, "Knowledge & Real Preferences", pages 229-246, 418 pp., HPC, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-907833-01-7.

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