By Neil Lock
This is the fifth essay in a six-part re-formulation of my philosophical ideas. It covers, at a similar level to the previous essay, the fourth and fifth dimensions in my system, which in classical philosophy correspond to Politics, and to Economics and Aesthetics, respectively. I call these two the “We” dimensions. For the questions, which must be answered in these dimensions, are phrased in the first person plural. “How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all?” And “What are we here to do?”
Today, I’ll be looking to outline a new system of governance, to supersede the states and bad politics under which we all suffer today. I call it “just governance.” I will deliberately try not to map things out in too much Utopian detail. For I expect just governance to evolve organically, getting better as it goes. So, what I will try to do is merely lay down some guidelines, and give a flavour of how the system might work. This is also, I think, a good moment at which to issue a plea for feedback on my ideas; particularly from those who share my pro-freedom views, but have different expertises.
I’ll start with the outline diagram of the five dimensions, from the third essay in this set:
Figure 1 – Outline of Honest Common Sense 2.0
The fourth dimension: Organize
The fourth dimension is the one, at whose lower boundary the “I” of the first three dimensions shades into the “we” of the fourth and fifth. Its question is: “How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all?” It has four main processes: voluntary society, common-sense justice, upholding human rights, and maximizing freedom. The product of this dimension is what Jason Alexander calls Civilization. Or, to use Frank van Dun’s phrase, the convivial order. The two are the same.
Civilization, as a general term, is surprisingly hard to define. My own characterization of it is organizing community and social structures from the bottom up. As opposed to politics, which is organizing them from the top down. Politics seeks to impose on everyone a unity, in which all are expected to pull or be pulled in the same direction. Whereas civilization seeks to create among people a harmony, which allows every individual to play his or her own part; and to live in justice, enjoy human rights, and have maximum freedom. My candidate motto for the fourth dimension, indeed, is: Civilization is harmony.
Civilization in the fourth dimension arises out of the third, ethical dimension. As Ludwig von Mises has said: “Human civilization is… the outcome of the working of the innate qualities of man.” The Convivial Code, which encapsulates the morality of being human, is the “law of the land” for Civilization. Which, in its turn, provides a framework that establishes conditions under which our fifth dimension, Do, can flourish.
The social building blocks
Before I try to put forward any kind of Organization to achieve civilization, I’ll first review the social building blocks, which it must organize. I have diagrammed these as follows:
Figure 2 – The building blocks of the Organize dimension
All associations are, ultimately, formed from individuals. Thus, the individual is the fundamental unit of all communities and other social structures. And any association of people is characterized by two things. Internally, it has binding forces, which hold the people together. And externally, it has walls, which separate them from those outside.
The lowest level of association is the partnership. A partnership isn’t necessarily restricted to just two people; particularly if it is a business partnership. But the commonest kind of partnership is the two-person relationship. In such a partnership, the primary binding force is often love. But there are others, such as: a shared desire to have and bring up children, companionship, sharing of a load, comfort when you’re down, and sexual pleasure. As to walls, a partnership is a contract between its members. So, the walls of partnership are walls of contract.
The next level of community is family; or, much the same thing in the West today, household. The walls are the walls of a home, and the binding force is kinship.
Above these, I identify three kinds of association, with slightly different characteristics: the marketplace, the community and the society. There is a fourth kind, the commune, which is a hybrid of society and community. Individuals and families can take part in marketplaces, communities and societies.
Every individual has a marketplace, formed of those with whom the individual interacts in daily life. Your marketplace includes those with whom you deal regularly or occasionally. It contains your friends, workmates, business partners, clients and suppliers, those you serve and those who serve you. It contains the people you meet and talk to in the pub, or even on blogs. It contains people who live close to you, for example the other residents of flats in the same block as you, or people who live in the same street or neighbourhood. It often also includes your extended family. Here, the binding force of your marketplace is you. And the marketplace as a whole is the aggregate of all individuals’ marketplaces.
The walls of your marketplace, however, are subtler; they are walls of choice. Absent coercion, intimidation and fraud, you – like all others – have a free marketplace. You can choose whom you interact with. And where practical, you can seek to avoid dealing with those you don’t like. It is to allow this, that the Convivial Code must exclude any blanket provision against discrimination.
A community, on the other hand, is a group of people who have something in common. Binding forces might include shared culture, interests, political or religious views, birthplace, or place of residence. And the walls divide those, who have that thing in common, from those without it.
Some communities are voluntary, such as those who choose to play a particular game. Some are involuntary, such as those born in a particular geographical area. Some are a bit of both, such as those currently resident in or working in a particular village, town, city or country.
In contrast, a society is a group of people who choose to work together for a common aim; such as a musical ensemble, a football club or a business company. Each society has its own goals and purposes, and may in some sense be said to have a “will.” It usually has a constitution of some kind. It also has officers, and likely a committee or a board. The forces binding a society together are shared aims and objectives, and a shared sense of identity. In addition, the members of many societies are bound together by shared customs and interests. The walls of a society, on the other hand, separate members from non-members.
One kind of society, which has physical walls as well as walls of membership, is the commune. Communes allow members of a society to live alongside other members. An Oxford or Cambridge college is an example. Those of a particular religious persuasion may choose to form a commune, such as a monastery. Socialists can live in socialist communes, if they wish. And libertarians can live in libertarian communes, and libertines in libertine ones.
On the other hand, there are also groups of people who agree to live in close proximity to each other, but do not constitute a society; for example, a gated community, or the residents of a block of flats. In these situations, there may be a society – such as a home-owners’ association – which acts on behalf of all the residents. But the residents, as a group, are merely a community, not a society.
The aggregate of all these individuals, families, marketplaces, communities and societies, when properly organized from the bottom up, constitutes Civilization.
The convivial community
Moreover, Civilization, when properly implemented, supports a community – the convivial community – of those who choose to behave up to the standards which are natural for human beings. What binds this community together is a shared willingness to behave convivially. And the walls of the community are the rules of behaviour, which I call the Convivial Code, and which I discussed in outline in the fourth essay in this set.
The convivial community is, indeed, the “great and natural community” identified by John Locke. And from which we human beings would have no need to separate, if it were not for the “corruption and viciousness of degenerate men.” (And degenerate women). However, this community is not, and never can be, a society. It has no president or chairman. It has no officials, no goals as a group, and no politics. And it is (or eventually will be), by its very nature, world-wide.
Community versus society
Many people, particularly those of a more conservative bent, seem to feel a strong attachment to something they call the community. When I probe as to what this may be, I find that what they have in mind is a political community. Further, it seems to be coterminous with, if not exactly the same as, a political state or nation. Others, when they talk about such a political unit, prefer to call it society. The more collectivist among them go so far as to dignify it with a capital S, and to place it up on a pedestal, like some deity.
But both these groups have one thing in common; their politics is top-down. For them, the state, the nation, society or community is all-important. It has the right to impose its agendas on people, and to tell them how to behave. And the individual human being, and his or her rights and freedoms, are of little or no importance in comparison.
Those who follow these views are, in my opinion, making a fundamental mistake. They are treating the people who happen to live in a particular geographical area as if they were a society. They are perpetuating the grave error that Jean-Jacques Rousseau made, when he posited that such a group of people has a “general will,” and can (and should) be constrained to become a unity.
As I discussed under the voluntary society principle in the third essay of this set, the people who live in a geographical area do not form a society. They are only a community. They cannot be supposed to have a “general will,” or a shared political or religious viewpoint, or common interests or culture. Nor can they be supposed to have signed up to some “social contract” in order to live in that area. This fiction seems to have been invented by Thomas Hobbes, with the idea that the people in an area have agreed with each other that they authorize and approve whatever the sovereign chooses to do.
All this becomes even more important, when you take into account the mass migrations from place to place over the last century and more. The populations in most countries today are far less homogeneous in viewpoints and interests than they were 100 years ago. Now this is not, in my view, a bad thing at all. I do understand the anxiety of those who feel that their own, native cultures have been and are being swamped. But to try to constrain everyone in a region within a single cultural model is to violate the rights of those so constrained. Moreover, it’s like trying to stop a train which left the station more than a century ago!
The voluntary society principle leads to the conclusion that the new forms of governance, which will replace the state, must allow to the governed a far greater diversity of cultural, social, political, economic and religious viewpoints than any state has ever done. And it totally blows away the rather vague, yet still contentious, idea that those on the political left call “social justice.” Absent a society, you can’t have social justice; only individual justice.
In the new world, “live and let live” must be the watchword. And the goal must be, not unity, but harmony.
Next, I’ll introduce what I call “just governance.” This is a future system of minimal governance, to enable people to live together in an environment of peace and tranquillity, common-sense justice, and maximum rights and freedom for every individual. The philosophical foundation of just governance is common-sense justice: Every individual deserves to be treated, over the long run, in the round and as far as practicable, as he or she treats others. This is one of the principles, which I discussed in the third essay of this set.
Put succinctly, just governance will be governance of convivial people, by convivial people, for convivial people. It will govern communities of individuals, in much the same way as referees govern football matches. It will also adjudicate as needed on the relationships between those individuals, the voluntary societies to which they belong, and other individuals and societies they interact with.
I’ll say at the outset that the ideas I express here will be grounded in an English common law point of view; because that’s what I know about. But I’m always open to suggestions for better ways of doing things, which may have been found by other cultures.
The primary aim of just governance will be to deliver common-sense justice. Just governance, however constituted, should always seek to deliver the form of justice, in which every individual is treated, over the long run, in the round and as far as practicable, as he or she treats others. The delivery of peace and tranquillity, while important, can be seen as merely an application of this kind of justice. For peaceful people deserve to live in peace. And those who do not cause nuisances to others, should not have to suffer nuisances.
Moreover, this justice must be the same for everyone. In common-sense justice, what matters is not who an individual is, but only what they do (and, on some occasions, their motives for doing it). It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter what colour someone’s skin is. It doesn’t matter where they were born. It doesn’t matter what religion they were brought up in. It doesn’t matter what their gender or their sexual preferences may be. All that matters are their actions and their intent towards others. Thus, under common-sense justice, everyone is “equal before the law.”
As John Locke put it: “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.” Preserving and enlarging freedom, for all those who by their conduct show that they deserve it, will be a key objective of just governance. Thus, the practical target of just governance will be to minimize injustice. It will strive to avoid gross or persistent treatment of individuals worse than they treat others.
Moreover, when such an ideal of common-sense justice is in place, I expect it to lead to a far better tone of life than we have today. For, if you want to be treated better by others, all you have to do is find a way to treat others better!
Why this kind of justice?
How did I arrive at my idea of common-sense justice? Now, the idea of justice is quite an elusive one. Different people often have quite different ideas of what it is. But the way I see things, there must be a close relation between how an individual treats others, and how that individual should be treated by others. So, those who do not treat others badly deserve not to be treated badly. For example, those who do not violently attack others deserve not to be violently attacked. Those who do not defraud others deserve not to be defrauded. And those, who do not unreasonably place obstacles in the way of others’ progress or the satisfaction of their desires, deserve not to have their own progress or desires unreasonably obstructed.
On the other hand, those that behave badly towards others in any of these ways can have no cause for complaint if others, in their turn, do correspondingly nasty things to them. And those that, with malice or gross irresponsibility, do wrongs to innocent people can expect not only to be made to compensate their victims in full, but to be punished in addition.
But justice has a positive side, too. Each individual, who treats others well, deserves to be treated equally well in return. Those who honestly earn prosperity, pleasures, thanks and appreciation should receive all the prosperity, pleasures, thanks and appreciation they have earned. And so, I arrive at my definition of justice.
Some of the same arguments can be used to validate this idea of common-sense justice, which I used earlier for the ethical equality principle. For example: If true justice is other than common-sense justice, then who deserves to be treated better than they treat others, and who worse? And is common-sense justice not the kind of justice, which people behind John Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” would be likely to pick ahead of any other?
The character of just governance
Just governance will be bottom-up and de-politicized. That is: First, it will focus on the individual, and on small communities. And second, it will not allow any political ideology or agenda to be imposed on any of the governed against their wills.
Just governance will never interfere in matters like religion, personal health, education or welfare, that are outside its remit. Moreover, it will not seek to control or to meddle with economic activity in any way. It will not interfere with any such activity, unless there is rights violation, fraud or actual harm being done to someone; or intention to violate rights, to defraud or to cause harm; or criminal negligence; or recklessness beyond the bounds of reason.
Furthermore, I am seeking to build flexibility into the system in several ways. First, while it must work initially in a defined geographical territory, I want it to be adaptable to a future non-territorial system, in which governance companies will compete for individual customers in the free market, as insurance companies do today. Second, I want it to be able to adapt as people move in or out of communities, or as tastes change. So, I envisage that, at need, communities or neighbourhoods will be able to amalgamate or split.
Third, I want it to work over a wide range of scales. Its de-centralized and networked nature should enable it to be scaled up to areas inhabited by hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people. Eventually, so I foresee, it can grow to become world-wide. But this will not be a “world government,” or anything like it. Its growth and its modus operandi will be bottom-up like the Internet, not top-down like the European Union or United Nations.
The judicial function
The primary institutions of just governance will be judicial, including impartial arbitration of disputes and assessment of externalities and risks. The major institution will be courts of just governance.
Where will the authority of just governance come from? Why should convivial people obey and uphold its judgements? The answer must be, that the decisions it makes must be accepted by very many convivial people. The common-sense nature of the justice principle will play a large part in this. But just governance must also operate in a way which is objective, thorough, impartial, and totally honest; and which ensures that everything it does, it does in good faith.
Furthermore, just governance must always place the burden of proof on the side demanding action from governance; and most of all, if they seek to restrict anyone’s rights or freedoms. It must always seek the truth of the matter, and weigh the evidence on both sides. It must always be objective, impartial and even-handed; and it must be quantitative where necessary. It must assure rights such as due process, a fair hearing, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It must keep meticulous records, and make them open to public inspection. And it must not allow its processes to be influenced by lies, hype or agendas of any kind. Indeed, the judicial function in just governance will not be so different from the best justice systems extant today. Except, of course, that just governance will be entirely free from all politics.
As far as detailed legal procedures are concerned, I see no reason why existing mechanisms should not continue to be used locally, as long as they are honest and consistent with the Convivial Code. Thus, for example, juries will continue to be used in places where they have traditionally been used.
As in today’s legal systems, I expect there will be a separation between two areas of justice. On the one hand, arbitration and restorative justice; that is, the resolution of disputes, and the calculation and ordering of restitution for wrongs. And on the other hand, criminal justice.
Arbitration and restorative justice
I expect that restorative justice in just governance will be similar to the equivalent in the best legal systems in place today; except that it will be totally non-politicized.
The need for restorative justice comes about because every adult individual must take personal responsibility for the foreseeable effects on others of his or her voluntary actions. It will enable those who have unjustly suffered objective, quantifiable wrongs to claim compensation from the perpetrators of the wrongs. Wrongs include, for example, physical injury, financial damage, unjust loss of reputation, or the harmful effects of rights violations, externalities or nuisances. Failure to act, where this failure causes damage to another, can be taken into account. This could include failure even to try to meet obligations, which have been voluntarily taken on.
The restorative justice system will cover, at least: Just resolution of disputes. Restitution for unjust wrongs, including those sustained as a result of disconviviality (today known as crime). And compensation for the effects of unavoidable nuisance. It will include resolution of contract disputes. It will judge, where necessary, disputes between individuals or societies, such as claims for harm suffered. It will judge cases such as libel and divorce, as needed. And it will adjudicate disputes between societies and their members.
I expect that, as today, restitutions will usually be financial. Those without sufficient resources (money or assets) to pay may, alternatively, be subjected to an indenture.
Criminal or retributive justice, on the other hand, will subject the perpetrators of disconvivial acts not only to orders for restitution to the victims where appropriate, but also to penalties comparable to criminal punishments today. Disconvivial acts are violations of rights, or harmful or potentially harmful acts, that are done in bad faith, or are gross, persistently repeated, malicious, seriously negligent, or irresponsible beyond the bounds of reason.
Unlike today’s systems, I expect that these penalties will be reserved for cases in which the perpetrator, in addition to acting disconvivially, shows mens rea, the “guilty mind.” There must be bad faith; or intent to violate rights, cause harm or damage; or criminal negligence; or irresponsibility beyond the bounds of reason. Just governance will not accept any concept of strict liability. The old adage will always apply: “No punishment without guilt.”
Also, unlike today’s systems, there will be no arbitrary limits – in age, speed or anything else – which, if broken, trigger criminal penalties. It is the degree of bad faith, intent to harm, negligence or irresponsibility which must be assessed when considering whether criminal penalties should apply in a particular case.
As to the criminal penalties which may be imposed, I expect that these will almost never be of a financial nature. Nor will the punishments be physical, unless the crime is reckoned sufficiently heinous, or the perpetrator sufficiently dangerous to others, to justify imprisonment. And where it is necessary to withdraw a right (such as freedom of movement) as part of a criminal penalty, the withdrawal can only be temporary, for a stated period. Thus, there will be no death penalty.
Where imprisonment is not appropriate, then since it is the mind which has committed an offence against conviviality, it is the mind that should be punished. Thus, most criminal punishments are likely to be demeaning rather than debilitating; successors, maybe, to the stocks of Tudor England. They will be accompanied by publication of a formal statement of the crime, in order to allow those who so wish to choose to ostracize the criminal.
Another old adage which will apply is: “The punishment must always fit the crime.” And not just in terms of proportionality to the seriousness of the offence. The type of the punishment should be strongly influenced, or even determined, by the type of the offence! Thus, for example, those that promoted or supported “net zero” carbon dioxide emissions policies should be confined together in an enclave away from everyone else, and required to prove the long-term sustainability (or not) of an economy that uses no fossil fuels. Without subsidies or any other favours, of course!
Externalities and risk
Another aspect of the judicial function will be to make objective assessments of actual or alleged externalities (side effects), such as pollution or noise, which can cause damage to others. If appropriate, those that cause such externalities will be made to compensate the individuals and groups affected by the damage they caused, each in proportion to the amount of harm they suffer. This will require an impartial, rigorous, honest assessment of who is causing the damage, how much damage there is, and to whom the damage ensues. When the externality is sufficiently serious, this will result in compensation orders against the perpetrators, whether individuals or societies; and in favour of the victims, whether individuals or societies. And in extreme cases, it may lead to a ban on the activity causing the externality, if there is no good cost-benefit case for it.
Then there is risk. Some activities, such as driving cars or flying planes, cause an inherent and unavoidable degree of risk to others. There is always a question as to how far such a risk imposed on others is reasonable. One principle, which will be included in the Convivial Code, is that those wishing to cause risks to others must be required to have sufficient resources available (for example, through insurance) to be able to compensate those harmed, if damage does result from the risk.
But beyond this, the judicial function will be able to analyze and assess actual or alleged risks, in much the same way as for externalities. The analysis will be objective, impartial, honest, quantitative and rigorous, and will assess the cost and benefit effects on the individuals and groups on both sides of the risks. It will supply objective reasons for why the imposition of a particular risk in a particular circumstance is to be considered reasonable or unreasonable.
Thus, the objectivity and honesty of the processes which assess alleged externalities, and risks which may or may not be associated with them, will thwart malicious usage of such allegations as a tool for taking away others’ freedoms, as the green alarmists have done. And the burden of proof, of course, must always be on the party demanding restrictions on others.
Moreover, if there is suspicion that someone has caused unjust damage to others by subjecting them to a risk which that individual should have known was not reasonable to take, objective risk assessment can determine whether or not the individual should be charged with disconviviality, as well as having to make compensation for the damage caused.
Appeals and pardons
I envisage that there will be an appeal procedure, in the event of a party being aggrieved by a decision. But there will be no pre-chosen “final arbiter,” such as a “supreme court.” Instead, I expect there will be a limit on the number of times a decision can be taken to appeal. It will also be possible for the quality control function of just governance to order a review of a decision.
Just governance will not issue pardons without a good reason. The only way in which a pardon can be issued, will be through a court decision. Though a court will be able to lessen or set aside criminal punishments out of clemency, if the situation objectively warrants it.
Secondary aims and functions
I’ll move on now to the secondary aims of just governance. These are: upholding rights, and allowing maximum freedom for everyone. That freedom, of course, must be tempered by individual responsibility for the effects of willed actions on others. Under just governance, everyone will be held accountable for the foreseeable effects of their willed actions on others.
The function that upholds rights would correspond, in today’s terms, to a police force. I envisage that there will be people trained and paid to do this function; and they would do many of the things police today do. Such as check out incidents, investigate possible crimes, and bring perpetrators to justice for trial. But importantly, under the Convivial Code, such police cannot have any moral privileges over others. In particular, every adult will have the right to arrest anyone they reasonably suspect of a real wrongdoing, and bring them to justice. This is like the ancient English tradition of the “citizen’s arrest.” Thus, in just governance, everyone can be a part of the executive, if they wish and if they feel capable.
Except in clear emergency, just governance will be reactive rather than pro-active. It will never send out officials seeking things to meddle in. Instead, it will expect convivial individuals to be on the alert for things which are, or appear to be, real wrongdoings.
Other aspects of the upholding rights function would be the emergency services which today are often required, with or without police, at or after incidents. Such as paramedics, firefighters, ambulance drivers and emergency care specialists. Under the same heading, when they are required, would come dealing with disasters such as floods, and military defence against invaders, military aggressors and violent gangs. I envisage that volunteers would be trained and retained to take on such functions, should they become necessary.
As to allowing maximum freedom to all, the Convivial Code will contain, as far as possible, the known prohibitions against disconvivial behaviour. Anything not prohibited will be allowed, unless it violates others’ rights, or causes or is intended to cause unjust harm to others. As I have expressed it before: Except where countermanded by justice, the Convivial Code or respect for rights, every individual is free to choose and act as he or she wishes. And freedom of choice means freedom for every individual to make his or her own decisions.
Local and emergency rules
In just governance, there will be no sitting (or even standing) legislature. Any proposed variations to the Code will need to go through an exhaustive and public change control process. Comparable, perhaps, in difficulty with getting an amendment agreed to the US constitution. Furthermore, when the Code is updated, all parties to contracts must agree, if they wish to move to the new version; otherwise, they will stay with the old.
There will, however, be a need to make what I call “local rules.” These are sane, sensible, non-politicized conventions for the benefit of all users of the public space (that is, space open to all) in the local area. For example, rules of priority for traffic junctions. But local rules must be kept to a minimum. They must be clearly publicized and signed, and should not vary unreasonably between nearby locations. Any proposed new local rules must be submitted to a court for consideration. And any disputes over local rules will be heard by a court in the normal way.
There may also be a need to make temporary rules in the event of a clear emergency, such as a flood or an epidemic. The scope of such rules must be as limited as possible. And objective, rigorous risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses must be done on the effects of the rules, both positive and negative. Any such rule, that has not been rigorously justified within a very short period of its introduction, must be struck down. Further, all such rules must be regularly audited. And any rule that is shown to have failed to deliver the benefits promised from it, or is no longer delivering the benefits promised for it, must also be struck down.
I have described, above, the three major functions of just governance: delivering justice, upholding rights and maximizing freedom for all. But there are at least two supporting functions, in addition.
The first of these is quality control. This must maintain a constant ethical watch on the actions of governance as a whole, and of the individuals who constitute it. It could include psychological testing of those, such as judges and assessors, whose power if misused could lead to miscarriages of justice. Such testing might, for example, use a standard screening test for psychopathic characteristics. And the more powerful the individual or the post he or she is seeking to take, the more stringent would be the “pass mark”.
The quality control function must also assure that the functions of governance are being performed as they should be. If things are not being done up to standard, matters can be sent to a court for review. The quality control function will also be involved in the appeals procedure.
I envisage a quality mechanism, which I call Honesty Audits. These will assess the degree of honesty and good faith towards the people, which has been displayed by individuals with political power, or having been paid by government for work done. I envisage there will be two main types of Honesty Audit. The first will assess the levels of honesty and good faith in the ways in which individuals have used the powers entrusted to them. For example, if someone with power implemented a policy without first showing cost-benefit evidence that it would be beneficial to the people they were supposed to be serving, this would be serious bad faith. Substantial failings in honesty or good faith will result in dismissal. And, where extreme enough, in permanent exclusion from all posts in governance.
The second kind of Honesty Audit will assess how far the work individuals have done, for which they were paid with money from taxes or other imposts, was done in the interests and for the benefit of the people who paid those taxes or imposts. It will also assess how honestly the work was done. For example, if “scientists” were paid to do science, but instead biased their results to come out with a particular result desired by policymakers, this would be serious bad faith by both sides. Again, substantial failings in honesty or good faith will result in dismissal or permanent exclusion.
The second supporting function is co-ordination, as needed, with other areas of governance. What this requires will depend in the detail of how just governance is set up. But bearing in mind the need to be able to govern a wide area without there being a central point at which power can collect, and the need – for a time, at least – for just governance to co-exist with legacy states, I envisage some form of diplomatic function. This would maintain relations with, and negotiate as needed with, other governances on matters which affect both parties, such as the planning and development of proposed new infrastructure.
A possible structure for just governance
This section will be even more “subject to change during development” than earlier ones!
Just governance will be, by its nature, de-centralized. The communities, in which the governed will live, will be small enough to produce diverse “flavours” of community for people of different tastes. I have in mind a population range of a few tens of thousands up to perhaps a hundred thousand. Like Aristotle’s ideal community, the units will be big enough to be economically self-sufficient or “sustainable” in the free market, yet small enough that people can get to know each other fairly well. It’s interesting that today’s European micro-states and dependencies, like Gibraltar, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Andorra, all have populations in a range of 30,000 to 80,000, the kind of size I have in mind.
Economically, different communities will tend to specialize in different things. For example: agriculture, retail, finance, new technology, particular industries, or providing specialist services over a wide geographical area. So, there will be much trade, both between neighbouring communities and between those further apart.
Thus, just governance will be like a network, not a hierarchy. It will have no central point, at which political power can collect. And it will have no mechanisms to enable one interest group unjustly to override the interests of others.
Moreover, free movement will be the norm. Change of residence, while requiring agreement from those in the receiving neighbourhood, will be easy enough that dis-satisfied convivial people can choose to move to places more congenial to them. Visitors, who behave convivially, will be free to go anywhere in the public space they wish. And temporary, periodic and permanent migration will be controlled only at the lowest, neighbourhood, level.
The institutions and their functions
The institutions of just governance, too, will be built from the bottom up. I envisage that there may be, first, a local or neighbourhood community organization; then a second level of community organization, on the scale of a town or small city. On the few occasions on which a larger scale of agreement is necessary – for example, fighting a defensive war, or agreeing on what infrastructure is to be developed – this will be accomplished through alliances. These alliances may be ad-hoc and temporary, or longer-lasting. And in them, representatives of the different communities will work for the benefit of all they govern.
The institutions will be divided, I think, between those whose services must be local to a particular community, and those providing services on a wider geographical scale. Both may, perhaps, be implemented as non-profit companies. They will be project management and contracting organizations. I envisage that they will have few direct employees. Instead, they will source staff as needed from pools of suitably skilled and qualified individuals; who may either be independents, or work for skill-based companies.
On the wider scale, I expect the services to include: Judges and arbitrators. Detectives. Risk and cost-benefit assessors. Diplomats and negotiators. And quality auditors. The people who do these jobs will work, at different times, on behalf of different communities. Judges in particular, I expect, will travel from place to place, as they used to in the days of assizes. And quality auditors will most likely be senior individuals assigned from another branch of just governance (such as judges or assessors) to a particular community for a fixed term.
At the community level, I expect the services to include: Police (except detectives), firemen, paramedics and other first responders. Maintaining a capability for military defence. Making and administering local (and, at need, emergency) rules as required. Providing premises and support staff for courts of just governance. And maintaining pre-existing infrastructure in the public space, such as roads and footpaths.
I envisage that the neighbourhood of just governance (NJG) will probably be an ordinary society of people in a neighbourhood, who take an interest in just governance locally. Its main functions will be to conserve the special characteristics of the local area, and to assess possible changes to it; including assessing the suitability of potential incoming migrants.
I expect that the number of people who constitute a neighbourhood may be in the hundreds. While a neighbourhood will broadly coincide with the people who reside in a geographical area, the link need not be exact. And I expect it will be possible for NJGs to amalgamate via “friendly union,” or to split via “friendly secession,” as circumstances demand.
I imagine that interested people in the neighbourhood would meet regularly to discuss matters affecting their neighbourhood. Thus, they would make their decisions by a form of direct democracy. The NJG as an institution would probably be closer to an area residents’ association than anything else that exists today. The members of the NJG will probably choose representatives to take part in discussions at the next, community, level.
I envisage that the community of just governance (CJG) is likely to be a unit large enough to be economically viable in the free market. (This is not the same thing as being self-sufficient without outside trade; that would require a far larger unit.) I would expect its usual size to be in the tens of thousands. I expect that CJGs, too, could amalgamate or split as needed.
I would expect that the remit of a CJG will likely be closer to that of a town council than anything else today. It might well be headed by a mayor.
I would expect the CJG, first, to organize those functions of just governance which must be delivered at the local level, such as local military defence, and first response to incidents. Second, to make “local rules” which are appropriate to the area; and, in an emergency situation, to make rules for dealing with the emergency. Third, to maintain the local infrastructure. And fourth, to select those who will represent the CJG in any alliances or negotiations with other governances which might be necessary.
I envisage that there would probably be representatives from each NJG, who meet regularly to discuss community-level matters. Additionally, I expect there would be periodic meetings open to all community residents, something like a New England open town meeting.
At a wider level
The institution that I expect to deliver those services of just governance which can be managed and delivered from outside any particular CJG, I have dubbed the Society for Just Governance (SJG). I expect that an SJG may well be a non-profit company. The SJG will be the nearest equivalent in just governance to a government today. It will be a project management and contracting organization, using externally sourced skills, such as detectives, judges, diplomats and quality auditors, to do the work. It will compete with other SJGs in the free market.
At any time, an SJG will govern one or more CJGs. A CJG will be able to switch SJGs, subject to reasonable notice. In the future, individual NJGs, and ideally in the longer term even individual households, will be able to select which SJG they prefer; just as people today can pick their preferred supplier for their home contents insurance.
It is important to note that SJGs will not be territorial. In that sense, they will be like insurance companies, not like political states.
Preventing abuses of power
I have tried to design the system of just governance with the aim of preventing politics, in anything like today’s forms, from getting a foothold. The absence of a legislative, except for local and emergency rules at the community level, and on rare occasions maintenance of the Convivial Code, I see as key to this. Just as a football referee won’t last long if he tries to change the rules of the game, so those entrusted with power in just governance won’t last long if they try to go beyond their remit and change the rules.
Moreover, everyone will have an individual voice. For the neighbourhood level will operate on a basis of direct democracy. The community level will be run mainly by representatives from each of the neighbourhoods, but will also have periodic open town meetings. And SJGs, while the scope of their operations can be wide and may cover many communities, will have to compete for clients in the free market.
Any practical governance system will necessarily lead to some people having more power than others. Though in just governance, of course, any such differences must not contradict the ethical equality principle. Some of the most powerful individuals in just governance, I expect, will be the judges and arbitrators, followed by the CJG mayors and the risk assessors. If there is one role in the system which might concentrate power, though, it is the quality auditors. However, their power will be almost entirely negative. Their role is to identify problems, not to take action to solve them; that will be done by a court. And the kind of detail-oriented mind that enjoys such work is, I think, generally not compatible with the kind of mind that seeks power over others.
How to pay for just governance
Next, a thorny issue: How should just governance be paid for? John Locke answered: “it is fit everyone who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.” Out of his estate and his proportion, I think, are the operative phrases.
In my view, what an individual is expected to pay for just governance should be in proportion to the benefit he or she gets from it. I see the benefits provided by just governance – for example, protection of property – as in direct proportion to the individual’s total wealth. Thus, periodic payments should be in proportion to the individual’s total wealth at the time.
I did a back-of-an-envelope calculation, which suggested (based on UK figures for 2017) that just over 10 per cent of current government spending goes on core governance functions, such as courts, police and military defence. This gives a ball-park figure for the expected costs of just governance; though I would hope that, with de-politicization and suitably stringent auditing, those costs could be reduced further.
Of the remainder, those services which are necessary, but not part of core governance – such as welfare and pensions, health care, education and maintenance of pre-existing infrastructure in the public space – need to be de-politicized, with control over the services being passed to those who provide those services. And new, just and more flexible financial arrangements will have to be devised. Development of new infrastructure will also need to be reviewed; I would expect that, under just governance, most new infrastructure would be paid for by user fees, such as tolls.
As an important feature of the system of payment for just governance, there will be no “taxes” on incomes or on transactions. Nor will there be any re-distributory or confiscatory taxation.
Money and currency
Money, in some form, is vital to the functioning of any economy. And the broader the range of skills and interests among those taking part in an economy, the more vital money becomes. Yet, under today’s systems, to issue money is virtually everywhere a privilege reserved to the political state. Which the ruling classes use not only to enrich themselves, but also to create economic conditions (such as very low interest rates) that are favourable to their state.
Who should be able to issue money under just governance? It’s tempting to answer, anyone who wants to. But would this not lead to a cacophony of competing currencies, which could easily descend into chaos whenever an issuer fails, and their money becomes worthless?
Moreover, it occurs to me that a convenient way to finance just governance might be to allow a currency to be inflated by a fixed, small amount each month or year. Or, perhaps, something like the freigeld system which in the 1930s produced the so called “Miracle of Wörgl.” Or e-gold in the 1990s and 2000s. Properly set up, such systems could lead to payment for governance being in proportion to total wealth denominated in the currency.
I invite thoughts from those with greater skills in economics than I have. It is worth noting, as a postscript, that both the Wörgl experiment and e-gold were forcibly shut down by the respective states of Austria and the USA.
The fifth dimension: Do
The final dimension, Do, is where we get things done. Its processes are: first, the creativity which is natural to us. This creativity enables us to develop our skills, and to make ourselves useful to others. Second, the trade and exchange, which enable each of us to reap the economic benefits we deserve. And third, the enjoyment and appreciation of those benefits. Its results are: The realization of our potential, and the fulfilment of the good life, or what Aristotle called eudaimonia. The motto of this dimension was written by Jason Alexander; although he placed it in the fourth dimension rather than the fifth. That motto is: Realization Realized. Or, otherwise put, Making Made, or Fulfilment Fulfilled.
The single most important attribute of this dimension will be the free market, supported by just governance from the fourth dimension. In a truly free market, no-one is prevented from justly acquiring, or justly using, wealth. There are no arbitrary barriers or obstacles to the provision of goods or services. There are no arbitrary restrictions on what, or with whom, individuals may trade – or, indeed, not trade if they so choose. There are no tariffs on goods or services crossing arbitrary boundaries. And there are no taxes beyond what is strictly necessary to support the framework of just governance, which underlies the free market.
Further, there will be no rapacious state, aiming to take as much as possible from productive people and to turn it to its own purposes. Those that seek to use Franz Oppenheimer’s “political means” will be seen as the criminals they are, and people will shun them. Moreover, there will be no political agendas to suppress or depress the economy, or to favour some groups or individuals over others.
The future economy
The economic system will be “capitalism,” in the true sense of the word. That is, economic actors interacting with honesty and integrity in a world-wide free market. With property rights well protected, and the means of production owned by individuals and voluntary groups.
It will soon become clear to everyone that this true capitalism is in no way related to the kind of pseudo “capitalism,” against which those on the political left today complain so stridently. For unjust extraction of riches from others – for example by mis-treating people and violating their rights, lobbying governments for gain or to harm competitors, or taking money paid for governance to do things that don’t bring commensurate benefit to those who paid – will no longer be tolerated under just governance.
A key feature of the system will be common-sense justice in the economic sphere. This I characterized, in the original Honest Common Sense, as a principle just one word different from a famous dictum, coined by Louis Blanc and popularized by Karl Marx. My version is: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his deserts.” Otherwise put, the more you put in, the more you deserve to get out. The way to get more of what you want, the way to get treated better by others, is to treat others better!
I expect that there will be a very diverse mix of economic actors. While there will still be some large companies, the political privileges that protected them from smaller competitors will have been taken away. I expect many new, small, nimble companies to arise. The one-person business, far from being discouraged or all but banned as is the case today, will become a new normal for people who like to be independent. Indeed, many people who play important roles in just governance – even judges – will be independents. And older forms of business, such as the family business, the partnership and the co-operative, I expect to gain new leases of life.
As to energy: Abundant, affordable, reliable energy is a necessity in a productive technological economy. Energy resources, along with other natural resources, will continue to be used; but they will be used wisely. Unlike today, there will be no political constraints on how much, or what kind of, resources will be used. Instead, the checks and balances naturally built into the free market will give incentives to look for new resources, and new stockpiles of existing resources, before there is any danger of supplies running out. My best guess is that nuclear energy will play a major part, along for many decades at least with oil and gas; and that, in the longer term, fuels with high energy density (as needed to power transport, for example) will be created synthetically. Solar power will be used mainly for off-grid applications, and large-scale wind power will be a thing of the past.
As to finance: Banks and financial institutions will have ceased to gamble recklessly with other people’s money. While always on the look-out for opportunity, they will revert to the kind of honest, careful dealing which enabled them to grow in the past. And the currencies used in different places will, once again, be backed by a physical store of real value. Perhaps by precious metals, or perhaps by suitably chosen baskets of commodities. So, the financial system and the world-wide economy will be less prone to sudden swings, booms and busts.
Enterprises previously controlled or largely funded by the state will have been hived off into independent economic units. I do not mean anything along the lines of the botched UK “privatizations” of the 1990s, which simply transferred power from grasping bureaucrats to “money men” just as greedy. I envisage that the people who actually provide the services will take control over, and responsibility for, the provision of those services. Doctors, for example, may well revert to the old partnership model. And teachers may become directors and employees of local education companies.
I expect working patterns in the new world to be far more flexible than today. In particular, the “job for life” will become very rare. People will be need to be more open to learning new skills, and I expect a new adult education market to arise to meet this need. Far more jobs will be oriented around projects, lasting a few days, weeks or months, and far less around continuous processes. Many people will work less hours, but will use them more intensely. Working from home will become commonplace, though the current over-emphasis on it, I think, will prove to have been a passing fad once COVID has been beaten. And automation and artificial intelligence will prove to have been beneficial in the longer term – though there will have been some teething troubles!
As to welfare, I envisage a sustainable system, which can help those who are poor through no fault of their own, while allowing everyone to get on with their lives in their own way. I think it will have four main components. The first is savings. People must be able to build up a reserve for their old age, or for a rainy day. The second is insurance. This works best for those risks, such as serious accident or disability, which have a low chance of happening, but major negative effects if they do happen. Third comes the implementation of systems of mutual aid; perhaps through re-vitalization of friendly societies, or creation of modern versions of them. Fourth is a revival of civil society, in which people look out for their neighbours, and in which there is personal contact between helpers and helped. And as a final backstop, particularly in cases of unexpected emergency, there is always voluntary charity.
I’ll end this section with a, maybe a tad extravagant, vision of the future economy, which I wrote almost 20 years ago. “Picture, if you will, a rolling, grassy plain. And, standing on that plain, many human beings. A few hundred, or a thousand, should suffice. Imagine if each of those people, on that rolling plain, takes in light, and gives out light in return. If each of them gives out less light than he or she receives, the economy – the candle, if you like – sputters and dies. But if each individual gives out as much as he or she receives or more, the candle burns. And continues to burn, brighter and brighter. Just imagine, every one of those human beings on that rolling plain, happy, smiling and bathed in light!”
Life under just governance: a rhyme
Last for today, I’ll offer a ditty on what life might be like under just governance. It is modelled after the playground song “No more Latin, no more French.”
In a few years, how will things be,
When states are gone, and we’re all free?
And Peter, Peta, Paula, Paul,
Are governed justly, one and all?
No more borders, no more wars,
No more scheming behind closed doors.
No more lies or propaganda,
No more “justice” without candour.
No more politician prats,
No more bossy bureaucrats.
No more weasel words from moanies,
No more cushy jobs for cronies.
No more marxists, no more greens,
We all know that they’re has-beens.
No more fascists, no more tories,
We won’t listen to their stories.
No more barriers in the way
Of those who want to earn good pay.
No more taking of our wealth,
Whether obvious or by stealth.
No more cameras all about,
Spying on us to catch us out.
No more tracking of our bytes,
No more trampling on our rights.
No more bad or unjust laws,
No more stops without good cause.
When politics is gone, and we
Are governed justly, we’ll be free.