The next in a continuing series (most recently: The Transition to a Free Society).
Submitted by Free Radical
The Governance of a Free Society
That government is best which governs not at all. – Henry David Thoreau
Because the state is inherently antisocial, we make a distinction between government and governance. We distinguish, that is, between an overarching entity on the one hand and an underlying process on the other, answering Thoreau’s question by asserting that the next step “towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man” will be taken via the latter, i.e., via the self-organization that is but another term for the spontaneous order by which human society came to be in the first place and has evolved ever since, concomitantly evolving the rules necessary for its governance. And the fact is, all one really need do to know that this is true is to look around:
Those of us residing in the United States or any of the British Commonwealth countries live under an extremely sophisticated and subtle scheme of rules, very few of which were created by government. Since almost none of the rules that bring peace and order to our existence were created by government, little argument should be required to establish that government is not necessary to create such rules. On the contrary, it is precisely the rules that were created by government that tend to undermine peace and order.
If looking around does not suffice, of course, one can explore the matter in depth, mindful, however, that to whatever extent rational argument and empirical analysis fail to persuade, the fact remains that actual experimentation is prohibited. That is, the state does not allow free societies to be attempted for the simple reason that the state depends on the legalized theft of taxation for its existence. And simply put, a successful experiment in a free society would therefore threaten the state’s chokehold (for that is what it is) on humanity.
But as its chokehold is already being threatened (again, look around), we assert that the time is not far off when the state will be unable to prevent the necessary experimentation, including that which is based on the implementation of an actual social contract. For while “persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement between them to form society,” the fact is that no such contract exists, nor has it ever existed, at least not in the sense that any of us in the Western world would understand and accept in the way that we normally do. Thus is the question raised as to whether a legal contract – i.e., one based on “an exchange of promises for the breach of which the law will provide a remedy – might provide the means for genuine consent to prevail and thus for the process of civilization to unfold without the endless intervention of the state. That is, rooted in the negative golden rule, and thus the non-aggression principle, the question arises as to whether the signing of such a contract, being required of every would-be citizen, could adequately serve as the legal underpinning of a free society.
Before we examine an example thereof, however, let us first contemplate the events by which a genuine social contract might become possible.
As I concluded in my last submission, “as order returns within and among the [newly independent American] states, the devolution of power will be able to continue such that, in Tennyson’s words, Freedom slowly broadens down / From precedent to precedent, and genuinely free societies begin at long last to emerge.”
Understand, first of all, that the fifty American states are under the jurisdiction not only of their national government and their particular state governments but of their county governments, which are contiguous not only within each state but among them. That is, not only is the land mass of each state under the jurisdiction of one or another county; the entire land mass of the United States of America is under the jurisdiction one or another of 3,143 contiguous counties. Granted, all of these counties are denied home rule to one extent or another, both by their state governments and (far more perniciously) by their national government; but no matter, as each is institutionally capable of governing itself. Not just the fifty states, then, but their constituent counties could conceivably govern the entirety of the present United States of America.
Let us imagine, then, that as nonviolent protest leads to the secession of, say, California (which, with the whole world watching, Washington would be helpless to prevent), not only does Northern California subsequently secede from Southern California, but, say, Inyo County subsequently secedes from Southern California and is “taken private” by a group of investors (some, most, or all of whom are landowners within the county’s confines).
A countywide referendum having paved the way, the investors themselves begin by signing the following social contract, which is then offered to all (other) county residents for citizenship in the “Free Territory of Inyo”:
I, (name in full), hereby affirm my agreement that all human beings are endowed with certain absolute rights; that these rights are to life, liberty, and property; that all human beings should be equal under the law with respect to these rights; that individuals cooperate among themselves to secure them; and that they do so freely and of their own accord.
Therefore, as a mentally competent adult over the age of 18, I hereby agree to the terms of this contract for citizenship in the free society of __________ – on my own behalf as well as that of my minor dependents – consenting to be guided in my affairs by the Ethic of Reciprocity, which I state as follows: I will not do to any other citizens of __________ what I would not want them to do to me. Beyond so restricting my actions, it is agreed by my fellow members of the Free Territory of Inyo that I am free to conduct my affairs as I please, engaging in such activities with my fellow members as may be mutually agreed upon, either formally or informally.
Furthermore, insofar as I might accuse others members of violating my absolute rights or others might accuse me of violating theirs, I agree to conflict resolution under the auspices of a firm chosen by coin toss or similar means from a firm certified by the Association for Conflict Resolution. I also agree that should the parties enter into arbitration, the loser must pay the legal fees of both parties; that insofar as either party refuses arbitration, the protections afforded that party by his citizenship are forfeit; that the forfeiting party is thereby placed in a state of nature vis-à-vis the citizens of the Free Territory of Inyo, who are thereby entitled to take such actions as they deem necessary to protect themselves from the forfeiting party.
Lastly, it is understood by all citizens of the Free Territory of Inyo that I have the absolute right to cancel my citizenship, and to the rights so granted, at any time for any reason and that, should I in fact choose to do so, I will submit my cancellation so as to be available for examination and verification by the citizens of the Free Territory of Inyo.
Signed this _____ day of ___________, in the year ______ of the Common Era, as witnessed below by (name in full), who, as a citizen in good standing of ________, has signed a replica of this document, both of which are available for inspection and verification by any other citizen of _________.
Signature of witness _____________________________
And what of those county residents who didn’t want to become members of the Free Territory of Inyo? Their choices would be two: (1) they could continue to live there but without the legal protections of citizenship – i.e., as “resident aliens,” they would live in legal limbo, running the risks of doing so – or (2) they could move elsewhere. But insofar as virtually all Americans are aliens today – alienated, that is, by an empire over which they have no control and even less standing – the above choices are nowhere near as irksome than those they increasingly face, to say nothing of the choice: that of citizenship in a truly free society.
Needless to say, this is but an initial “thought experiment” at which many will of course scoff. But not as many as would have scoffed only a short time ago (a decade? a year? a month? a week? yesterday?). And, in any case, one has to begin somewhere, so why not with the above – i.e., with a “devolution revolution” in which one or another experiment in stateless society is attempted, succeeds, and takes root, crowding out the state to the point of its eradication and ultimately merging into a worldwide continuum of freedom? Stranger things have happened, after all, and surely stranger things will happen, as we will examine in my concluding submission.
But not yet, as we must first confront the fact that far from a continuum of freedom, the world remains embroiled in the interregnum of the state and the insecurity that is the daily fare of its security.
So to it we turn in my next submission: “Security in a Free Society.”