Amerika

An interview with Curtis Arthur Lloyd, the Founder of Civicism

Looking at any single factor, modernity appears to be doing quite well. We have conquered nature, beaten back disease, triumphed over want, and now live existences of better nutrition, longer duration, and more chances to seek physical and emotional pleasure than ever before. When you combine all the factors, like binding together twine, you see a different picture: a society that traded away its need for health in order to blindly pursue power, including but not limited to technology, which has ended up being a lonely place where people exist in isolation from each other, reality, and any sense that life is inherently and enduring good, beautiful, or headed someplace other than a mindless churning in which death is the final state.

For most, this seems inescapable, but some have found hope that it can be escaped not through a single idea, but through applying multiple methods simultaneously. Some of these will address the inner world, but others will seek to restrain and redirect the political, social, and economic systems in which we find ourselves that that they are at least not destructive, and ideally, would nurture the simultaneous development of our inner worlds, cultures, wisdom, and metaphysical perception. As part of this, people seek political systems which do not lend support directly to entropy as our present brew of liberal democracy, consumerism, and the total state insists on doing.

This sets up a new competition, like the quest for flight or the race into space, for the development of a new stable social, economic, and political system which can serve as our steward during this time of great transition. For many, this quest involves discovery of a hybrid system which is neither Left nor Right and therefore, not prone to the excesses (and inattentions) of either. This elusive “third way” comprises a secular holy grail of our time as people do their best to invent new methods of human self-governance which do not fall into the pitfalls of the old. One such system is Civicism, a distributism/libertarian hybrid invented by Curtis Arthur Lloyd.

He was good enough to take some time from his busy day to sit down for an interview, and we think you will enjoy his answers:

  1. Why is there a need for a third way? Including: what is wrong with Left and Right?

    This is a great question and one which is a core element of Civicism. Let’s look at how most people view politics. Many who have an interest in the spectrum of politics — from its practical application to its theories and ideologies — mostly begin their journey with a definition of “where they stand.” This is a natural element of human nature: self-definition and joining with likeminded people. Combining that behavior with ideology, you see people entering groups and then continuing their active interest in politics. From that, a person begins to see matters through the prism of organizations, parties, or movements.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with the above, nor is there anything “wrong” with Left and Right on their own merits. Ideologies are ideologies, and you’ll never separate them from politics. What we’re seeing now, and where ideologies become problematic, is when ideas dictate negative behavior. The prevalent and defining negative behavior controlling many political systems across the globe is an unwillingness to govern, to collaborate, or to act in the common good. This is especially vicelike in its grip throughout Western-style representative governments, where politics has become synonymous with government. It used to be that politics was a means to an end, but it has become an end in its own right.

    So, from the top of the pyramid, the government doesn’t govern, or it governs poorly. This negative behavior then infiltrates the parties or major groups, who then dig their trenches, and instead of moving backward from the brinkmanship mentality, they amplify their efforts. People are impacted by their environment, so the aforementioned who join with those who share similar ideas are then presented with two options: (1) follow the lead, or (2) become apathetic, cynical, or both and disengage themselves completely. A plurality do the former, and the latter is a tragedy of epidemic proportions, because the majority fall into this camp.

    Those who remain then carry their burning banners of Left and Right and fight, with politics as their end and the responsibilities of government fall to the wayside. This is what feeds cable news, “trending” content on social media, and the type who argue with relatives on Facebook. This leads to dangerous situations of growing civil strife, unstable political systems, and most importantly, a death of the common good. That’s what’s wrong with today’s Left and Right: not the ideologies themselves, but the people who brandish them.

  2. What is civicism?
    As with the first question, the root cause of bad government is (1) mindset/behavior, (2) apathy/disengagement, and (3) destructive radicalism toward the common good. Civicism is best defined by its Creed, “Unity is Freedom; Obstruction is Tyranny.” From that, Civicism is more than just a collection of principles designed for bringing people together behind the common good and providing solutions to issues we all face. To me, Civicism really revolves around unity (“Unity is Freedom”) and reform (to end obstructionism and bad governance “Obstruction is Tyranny”).

    There’s nothing worse than a government that not only doesn’t do its job but spreads division as well. Simply, Civicism is a united front of likeminded ideologies against the common enemy of inefficient and divisive government. All great movements manage to bring together disparate groups for a common cause, and that’s what Civicism can do for many of us who hold political beliefs which are not currently represented at the national scale. So, truly, it’s a way to unify these groups but also allows us to enter the main political discourse. Ideologically, those points intermingle with the desire to make Civicism a creative fusion of overlapping ideologies to affect real change (any ideologies that can agree with “Unity is Freedom; Obstruction is Tyranny”).

    Furthermore, Civicism has led to a movement of people across the United States and around the globe (seen through Civicists.org) who believe that pragmatic solutions are required to (1) elevate the current political mindset to being results-oriented, (2) motivating and engaging citizens in a positively radical endeavor, and (3) combating worldwide trends by focusing on the common good. What motivated the creation of Civicism was a personal realization marked by a recognition of a desire for hope. I began as a Tea Party conservative during the Obama years, transitioned to something of a Rand Paul variant, and eventually, after the 2016 election had settled and I became shocked by the steep decline of political systems throughout the West, you could call me a progressive Tory.

    In short, I realized that government wasn’t the problem, it was bad government led by demagogues and mindless politickers. From that, I began to speak with more and more people across the spectrum. There was a widespread recognition that current affairs were unacceptable and required great thought matched by great action. On top of that, despite the prevailing cynicism and apathy, there were those who, above all, wanted hope. Hope in the late 2010s/early 2020s — who could imagine such a thing?

    So, that was the framework for the creation of Civicism: bringing together people from across the spectrum with (a) mutually-agreeable tenets, (b) a focus on positive, real change, and (c) a way to get involved outside the normal party apparatuses. Because, believe it or not, many who became disengaged from the mainstream political tempest still, deep down, want to make a difference. Civicism empowers that.

  3. What makes you think that it is a third way?

    Using the definition of Third Way as “neither left nor right,” that’s exactly what Civicism is. Attempting to pin Civicism on an ideological spectrum or an axis of sorts would be a futile attempt. It is reformist in its belief in strong and progressive reforms, traditionalist in its belief in modern meritocratic efficiency, individualist in its belief in personal liberty, socially-minded in its concern with the general welfare, civically-minded in its nationalism, localistic in its tiered-governance, and expansionist in its beliefs for tomorrow. In that way, it’s Third Way in that it is neither left-nor-right, but it offers a third option in our political world.

  4. What would daily life look like for someone in a civicist civilization?

    A Civicist’s utopia is one where a ladder is presented to every man and woman from their earliest days — a series of rungs by which a pursuit of fulfillment is unhindered by strife and protected from degradation of past progresses.

    Take, for instance, the college student. A day of classes we’d expect in modern universities would be present, but that student would not graduate into bondage. For, that student — who represents the future middle class — would not be beholden to a debtor’s fate, as their tuition would not be artificially inflated nor would their loans be held to be unforgivable while his uncle forecloses on his third house. That student could go on to either work lower-level retail, tramp off to die under a foreign sun, or find steady work, marry, raise children, and leave behind a legacy by which his children could better themselves. Civicists prefer the latter. The children would not be left to pick up the pieces. Or, the construction worker. His long hours would not be poured uselessly into profit margins for a multinational corporation he never meets. No, his decade’s worth of experience would be put to good use when he partners with his younger brother, who just graduated from college, to utilize new innovations in recyclable building materials being used in a new neighborhood being built near the old ghettos by the city government.

    Or, the civil servant who coordinates building projects between the city government and the regional authorities. He dreams of working in diplomacy, but his background and lack of a professional network would never allow it. Little does anyone else know that he’s read every book on the matter for years, and he feels he can test his way in. He utilizes civil service exams to meritocratically secure a position working on behalf of a new diplomatic mission.

    Years later, the civil servant urges his direct superior, the president of the country, to act in a crisis involving a wildfire which has hit the suburb of a major metropolitan area, which spans two cities in two countries. If it spreads inland, hundreds of thousands could be affected, and it’d be an international disaster. That’s when the two are relieved to see that some of the newer neighborhoods, some thirty years old at this point, don’t burn because of the materials used to build them. The progress made decades prior has now saved many lives. Such is the Civicist’s utopia: a dream of what our world could be, based on the realities of what it has been and could be again. A daily life in a Civicist civilization is one which builds on the last, where the nation is free, the government protects its citizens, and the people are unified in their common desire to protect that shared dream. One language, one culture, one united people, all enabled through the ladder presented to every person – provided they climb it.

  5. How would civicism handle questions like national identity, war/defense, natural disasters/ecocide, and international trade?

    There are fourteen tenets which expand on the Creed of “Unity is Freedom; Obstruction is Tyranny.” Each of them acts as ideological “markers,” if you will, and they provide guidance toward what principle could be best applied to a certain issue. Using the tenets, Civicism would handle each question as such:

    • National identity: Tenet #7 — “Promote public patriotism and belief in national greatness.”
    • War and defense: Tenet #8 (1/2) — “Better national interests through pragmatic means on the international stage.”
    • Natural disasters/ecocide: Tenet #11 — “Promote the end of disease through government-sponsored scientific research.” Tenet #12 — “Promote space exploration through uniting regional energy resources.”
    • International trade: Tenet #8 (2/2) — “And ensure economic security against rival nations.”

    In regard to the question of natural disasters and ecocide, while those tenets do not specifically relate to the topic, they demonstrate that Civicism is forward-looking and research-minded toward issues we face on this planet and is interested in what comes tomorrow – accomplished through encouraging governments to not be as utterly shortsighted as they are today.

  6. How do you think civicism is distinct from anarcho-capitalism and libertarian socialism?

    Civicism is distinct from both camps in several capacities. Firstly, Civicism recognizes that order and structure are inherently good and necessary for the success of any society, especially as the lack of both creates disunity and strife. Secondly, Civicism does not advocate capitalism for capitalism’s sake, for an economic system must also be meritocratic and be beneficial to the social well-being of its citizens — achieved through the protection of personal property rights, the protection of trades and skilled fields, and the free internal movement of capital (especially toward infrastructure and internal improvements). Finally, Civicism does not advocate the redistribution of wealth but a grounded economic system based on the principle of expanding the middle class.

  7. How would we transition from our current system to civicism?

    Though the beauty of Civicism is that it is compatible with existing Western-style governments, Civicists recognize that it is necessary to reform our governments to our principles, so that the virtues of Civicism may bear fruit. To achieve this transition would require a conscious effort from citizens determined to make a difference, and, in order to see that change brought to fruition, we must: publicly-fund elections to eliminate special interests and allow for lower-income people to run for office; enable effective leadership through ending legislative obstruction; ensure civil service reform to end bureaucratic corruption make the primary spoken language the official language of the nation; increase the importance of local government and make the legislature more accountable to the local populace; promote public patriotism and belief in national greatness; better national interests through pragmatic means on the international stage and ensure economic security against rival nations; promote the end of poverty through active job programs and reflexive state aid; allow for student debt forgiveness through forgiveness programs; promote the end of disease through government-sponsored scientific research; promote space exploration through uniting regional energy resources; end the suppression of ideas on social media; and reform the economy to promote meritocracy and the social well-being of citizens.

  8. Does civicism have any prior influences, like Communitarianism or Distributism?

    Civicism, as a movement, has a membership comprised of centrists, conservatives, nationalists, monarchists, independents, Christian conservatives, third positionists, and libertarians. Ideologically, one could cite several influences on Civicism, especially communitarianism, centrism, one-nation conservatism, pragmatism, meritocracy, and classical conservatism.

  9. What does civicism offer that Europe of AD 1788 did not?

    Europe of 1788 was hampered by a coming century-and-a-half of nations discovering their true mettle. Revolutions provided some discovery and destruction alike, and we now have the benefit of looking backward once the dust has settled. Civicism offers what Europe of 1788 got right: national identity, effective and unobstructed leadership, pragmatic promotion of national interests on the international state, and governments focused on expansion and exploration. Conversely, Civicism recognizes the needs of the modern world and the best practices for good governance: elections free of special interests, effective local governments, the promotion of ending poverty and disease through jobs programs and research, space exploration, economic reforms, and stopping the suppression of free speech – especially on social media.

  10. What do you hope to achieve in order to make your vision into reality? How is that going so far?

    Civicism’s singular goal since its inception in early October has been to spur a conversation: a conversation between those who can agree to some provided common ground (seen through the Creed) and, from that, affect real change. Someone once pointed out to me that I use the term “affect change” in my correspondences, whereas the expression is “effect change,” and they asked me why. My answer to them was that change is already happening worldwide, and there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that where we as a collective American society, or the broader Western world for that matter, will stand in twenty years will be a product of the change that is already upon us.

    So, then, the question then becomes not “How do we make (or effect) change?” but “How will we steer (or affect) change?” And that’s the golden question to me. Civicism represents a collective movement to direct the ongoing trends in a positive way, one which will see a twenty-first Century that ultimate ends in a greater common good than when it started. It’ll take some upheaval and rebuilding if the collision course remains our destination, but the Civicist mission is to ensure that common men and women are given the opportunity to discuss matters in a civil and free way, to join together under the Civicist Creed and its principles, and to affect real change.

    So, what do I hope to achieve in order to make that vision a reality? The first step has been to flesh out Civicism through our book and podcast, thus enabling more people to understand and associate with the movement. The expansion of the general knowledge of Civicism, and its availability as a new option for those who are finished with party politics and bad governance, remains the ultimate goal. In short, the more people know about Civicism, the more we can do together. We recently convened the Second Civicist Committee, which is the deliberative body that oversees the trajectory of the movement and aids in its spread. The Committee will be focused on establishing Civicist chapters throughout the United States and the broader Commonwealth — chapters being organized by local Civicists who act as local advocates for Civicism in their city and municipality.

    Again, spreading the word is crucial, but we aim to match online popularity with real organization on the ground. As our online presence grows and we gain more chapters, future Committees will determine the best way for Civicism to manifest itself as an entity within the States (whether as a nonprofit, party, or something else). Eventually, Civicism will be a political force in its own right, but it starts here. With that, our efforts have been remarkable to witness thus far. Civicism started as a personal passion project, with my hope that others might join in the cause.

    What I’ve seen has been a great coalescing of steady, practical citizens who recognize that Civicism’s reason is radical, and they’re ready to make a difference. The community has grown, people have stepped up to help (such as with the expanded Committee), and I’m honored to have a role in it all. 2019 will be an exciting year for us, and 2020 being an election year may provide some opportunities. It’s been invigorating, and I cannot express my gratitude enough to my fellow Civicists for their willingness to be the change they want to see.

  11. If people are interested in learning more about Civicism and possibly participating, what should they do? Are there any prerequisite readings that they would enjoy?

    If a person is interested in learning more about Civicism, I’d invite them to visit Civicists.org. There, they can see links to our podcast, book, YouTube and all other social links, all of which provide a good foundation for understanding Civicism as a whole.

    Participation and getting involved is always welcome, as this is truly a collaborative movement. Joining us on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Discord are great ways to meet the community. If someone would like to aid us in an active role, feel free to message us on any platform, and we’d be glad to talk. We are also setting up Civicist chapters across the country, so there might be one nearby as well!

    There aren’t any prerequisite readings required in order to get involved, though “The Civicist Creed” book would give them a fuller picture. Some of my personal favorites are “The Prince” by Machiavelli for a pragmatic view on politics, “The Presidency of George Washington” by Forrest McDonald for insights on how citizens can have an enormous impact on their nation, and “Rules for Radicals” by Alinsky (despite his politics, even Buckley admitted he was an organizational genius) on the importance of a community’s role in affecting change.

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