The future of a society can largely be predicted based upon the beliefs baked into its culture. As a culture changes so will the future. There is a saying, “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times”. A sustainable society would have to sustain good times without creating weak men and this means that the lessons learned during hard times must not be forgotten during good times. If mankind is to escape this cycle then it must remember the past and develop a culture that enshrines and protects principles that are beyond the power of law to change. The hard times we wish to avoid are tyranny, war, genocide, widespread poverty, famine and disease. We must understand what beliefs and behaviors create these outcomes and proactively create systems that avoid them. In many cases the reason the pattern of good times creating weak men and weak men creating hard times exists is because it can take generations for the cause to trigger the effect. Each new generation forgets the lessons learned from the past and the reasons traditions were established.
Over the past 15 years I have been searching for free market solutions to secure life, liberty, property, and justice for all. The result of this search is the realization that the solutions I am seeking cannot be gifted to a society that is not wise enough to adopt them. Without an understanding of the problems, a society cannot comprehend the solution.
In my search for solutions I concluded that a new system and theory of government is required. Anytime two or more people aim to work together they must agree upon the rules of their cooperation. I call this agreement a peace treaty, because absent a treaty the default is the law of the jungle where might makes right.
Some people want to eliminate the concept of government which they view as nothing more than organized crime. I admit that I used to fall into this camp. Historical and modern governments operate without the explicit consent of their populations, most of whom would reject the current powers that be if they could. Studies have shown that there is no correlation between government policy/laws and the degree of popularity or unpopularity of a proposed law. In effect, something other than “popular opinion” is driving government policies. That said, popular opinion can be equally dangerous, especially when we cultivate a society that defers thinking to others.
The challenge with creating a government is that it takes on a life of its own and is usually empowered with interpreting its own constitution. When legislative, executive, and judicial branches systematically interpret the constitution in favor of their own power in contradiction to the plain language of their constitution you know you have a serious problem. In the words of Lysander Spooner in The Constitution of No Authority, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” This quote from 1867 was written shortly after the American “Civil War”. I can only imagine what Spooner would think if he saw what modern governments think is “authorized” by their constitutions. One thing is for certain, the Constitution for the United States of America, is powerless to prevent widespread corruption.
What exactly went wrong with the constitution? In short, a constitution is only an idea held in the minds of people and when people become intentionally ignorant of the plain meaning and purpose of the constitution they defer instead to the power of personality and the rule of man instead of the rule of law. The rule of man becomes arbitrary, disconnected from the lessons of history, and ultimately ends in tyranny, genocide, poverty, death, and destruction. The rules set up to protect the few from the many and the many from the few are discarded at your own peril.
With that background we can see that for a society to be sustainable and prosperous the people themselves must adopt a strong belief in and support for systems that protect their liberty. In this article I will present a set of rules that if adopted by a society might be able to ensure their liberty. To be effective, these rules must be enshrined as “immutable” and beyond the power of government, judge, etc to change. The rules should be as objective and measurable as possible and self-evident when violated.
Before I lay out my proposed rules for government, I would like to acknowledge that nothing is perfect and that the pursuit of perfection is often the source of corruption, compromise, and eventually the complete undermining of principles. When every “situation” needs its own rule the result is tyranny of man. A proliferation of micro-rules is impossible for everyone to learn, follow, and enforce which in turn leads to the creation of an “expert class” which ultimately usurps the power of interpretation and is corrupted.
Why do we need government?
Governments enable a group of people to work together to make joint decisions. Every family, church, business, club, party, town, county, and state has some form of government. In this light, most governments are voluntary and non-violent. People come together, create their own rules of governance, and make decisions. In the event of disputes people can often agree on a process to resolve disputes or peacefully part ways.
Your body is a collection of cells and bacteria that are living together in peace and largely governed by your will. Evolving from single celled organisms to more complex multi-celled organisms requires specialization and governance. If every cell in your body aimed to be fully independent then they would quickly fall apart into a puddle of gue to be consumed by your own gut bacteria which would then starve and die. We come together because we are stronger together.
Limit the Number of Members in a Governed Group
Contrary to popular belief, size does matter. Only so much corruption can occur in a small community because the relative power (physical and informational) of each member of a community is greater. In very small communities everyone knows everyone else and corruption is difficult to hide and is obvious to all. Most people in the community are able to participate in a conversation and share common interests. In the event of a dispute, it is easy for community members to leave and join another community without moving very far. In small communities the leaders, their families, and their friends are all known by and live among the people the govern.
As a community grows in size, the individuals in the community lose power relative to the leaders. It doesn’t take too long before most people have no idea who runs their community or why. At a certain size the leaders have a social circle which is completely disconnected from the people they govern.
The smallest community is the family unit, followed by extended family, then your local church/tribe, and ultimately a collection of local tribes. It is important to maintain maximum structural integrity at each community level. For example, a healthy family depends upon having healthy individuals that are each cooperating to support and defend their family. Larger and stronger family units are able to act as a unit to exert influence over the extended family. Large extended families with sufficient cohesion and cooperation can exert influence over their church/tribe. Strong tribes can negotiate as peers to form a state. Strong states can negotiate as peers in a federation.
At each level of community it is important to maintain a maximum power ratio between the “part” and the “whole”. A society without families, churches, tribes, and states where everyone is “equal” before a world government has a 1 to 8 billion power ratio. This centralizes power and makes the average person a statistic in the eyes of the ruling class.
Dunbar’s number is derived from a study on the maximum number of relationships a person can maintain which amounts to about 150. This limit is derived from biology. I’m going to call this your tribe and this should represent the average size of the smallest unit of government outside the family. Based upon this target, we get to my first proposed rule of governance:
No governing body should exceed 300 members
When a governing body reaches 300 members the constitution / social contract should demand that a “cell division” occur creating two or more groups of 150 members or less. If society allows any governing body to exceed 300 members this size then a power imbalance will evolve that forces all tribes to grow and centralize until you ultimately end up with one tribe with 8 billion people.
Tribes can become the new “individual” at the next layer of governance. A group of up to 300 tribes can form a Federation. The maximum size of a Federation would be 90,000 people. A group of up to 300 Federations could join together to create United Federations of 27 million people. These United Federations would be like modern countries and there would be about 300 of them for a total of 8.1 billion individuals.
It is important to understand that there is a massive difference between my proposed structure and the structure of towns, counties, states, and the United States federal government. In my structure the individual people would only ever get to directly participate in the governance of their “church/tribe”. Their church/tribe would then get one equal voice with other church/tribes in the local town. All of the towns would get an equal voice in the governance of their county. All counties would get an equal voice in the governance of their state. All states would get an equal voice in the governance of the United States.
Higher level governance bodies should have no authority over members of lower-level governments.
In the context of the United States, this means that the Federal Government can tax the States, but not the people in the states. It is up to each State to determine how to collect “taxes” from the counties. Furthermore, counties should have no power over the people in the towns. Instead counties should only collect “taxes” from towns and it is up to each town to determine how it will raise the money to pay their collective tax to the county.
The Right to secede be held as Fundamental
No individual, tribe, town, county, state, or federal government should have the power to compel membership nor prevent a member from leaving. If the southern states wish to leave the union and form their own federal government then they should be free to do so. If a family wishes to leave a church and join another it should be free to do so (assuming another church will have them).
It is the Right to Succeed which maintains the power between the individual and the group. Each group needs members or it gets weaker and each individual needs a group because no man is an island. When the individuals can join/leave groups there is a balance of power. When individuals are forced into a group or prevented from leaving there is tyranny and unbalanced power.
Case study: Virginia Second Amendment Dispute
Virginia has large population centers around DC and Richmond which are strongly in favor of disarming the individuals to decrease individual power relative to state power. The current structure of Virginia’s government allows this majority to attempt to pass and enforce rules that would make guns illegal (contrary to Virginia’s constitution). In response 90% of the individual counties in Virginia passed resolutions declaring their intent to uphold the constitution.
If Virginia was governed on the basis of 1 county 1 vote, then there would be no gun control in Virginia. Furthermore, if Northern Virginia and Richmond felt strongly enough, they could Succeed and form Gunfree Virginia which would consist of all counties which decided to ban guns. Gunfree Virginia would have no authority over the individuals in the Gunfree counties, it would only have the power to kick out towns that refused to pass a gun ban. Likewise, the towns would have no power over individuals, it would only have the power to kick out tribes/churches that refused to pass a gun ban on their members.
The end result would be everyone living in a small local community which directly supports the kinds of laws that a community wants. Those that disagree with that local community can move to one of the many other communities that think like they do or can accept the rules and stay where they are.
The power of limiting the size of each governmental body is clear checks and balances that force individuals (whether people or sub-units) to effect change locally. No individual vote by individuals would occur at a “national” level and no “national laws” could regulate or tax individuals.
A culture that can adopt the principle of keeping the maximum number of “individuals” in a governed group under 300 is a culture that can prevent tyranny and corruption from taking root.
Stay tuned for follow on posts that outline additional rules a sustainable society could adopt to prevent the good times from creating weak/ignorant men and weak/ignorant men from creating hard times.