Pyramidal distributions of power guarantee social and economic injustice. To maintain sufficient support from the working class, the aristocrats will establish affinities between themselves and the working class. These affinities create the illusion of shared incentives, enabling the aristocrats to recruit for and justify the actions of the military and police that enforce state power. Identification with the aristocratic affinities divides the working class against itself, limiting its ability to act collectively. Horizontal distributions of power prevent the rise of aristocrats and therefore the motivation for stoking division.

The history of class exploitation, colonialism, and racial oppression demonstrates the theory. Medieval Christian lords pointed to shared religion as their source of authority, enabling exploitation of Jewish people and warfare against Muslim empires. British colonizers fomented rivalries in Africa to cultivate economic relationships and eliminate competition. With the unifying identity of “whiteness,” some Americans abuse people of color as a means of sharing in the superiority of the elite who exploit all of them.

When aristocrats promulgate affinities, they create a hierarchy of moral status. The preferred group, always significantly overlapping with the aristocracy, enjoys the full status of moral personhood. They have legally recognized rights and freedoms largely defended by the authority of the state. As one deviates from signifiers of the preferred group, one loses moral status. Legally recognized rights are not defended by the state and may be retracted, enabling any economic success to be plundered by the preferred affinity or the state itself. Public policy defines ways to control and contain marginalized groups, denying them agency. While the preferred affinity group, especially the aristocrats, may enjoy prosperity, the marginalized groups never enjoy the equivalent security.

Social and economic disparity raise significant obstacles to the cultivation of agency. Compounded traumas of poverty, incarceration, and illness impose significant economic, social, and personal costs. Some options may be significantly more costly for a member of a marginalized group, and some may be entirely unavailable. Anything they build remains vulnerable to the preferred affinity group’s plunder. While some individuals can overcome structural disadvantage, those who fail represent a failure of society to uphold the moral obligation toward them. By inhibiting and denouncing the agency of marginalized group members, the aristocrats who organize society become culpable for that immorality.

Since horizontal distributions of power remove any incentive to align affinity groups with social value, these specific harms to agency cannot arise. Self-governing communities could embrace promulgation of affinity groups to strengthen inter-community networks and facilitate research into history and migration. In that context affinity collapses into a curiosity or historical accident rather than a signifier of moral status. Without the horizon, aristocrats weaponize affinity to establish and maintain the hierarchy that benefits them at the expense of everyone else. As such, only horizontal distribution of power enables a moral forms of governance. All governance under a pyramid at best has immoral features.

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