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EDITORIAL, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
In Support of Competing Micro-States or “Startup Societies”
By Joe Jarvis - March 12, 2017

There are many types of mixed drinks, dirty martinis being one of them. I love dirty martinis, but I don’t want them to be the only drink out there! Without trying all the other cocktails, how could I possibly know if dirty martinis are the best?

And when I’m on the beach in the sun, I want a Pina Colada! There are different drinks for different moods and occasions.

Likewise, places with vastly different histories, cultures, and geography have different needs when it comes to governance.

Maybe people never will settle on the best drink, or best government. Startup societies make that possibility perfectly fine. Diversity in beverages and governments is a good thing.

But it only makes a difference if we are free to choose.

The only just government is one by unanimous consent. When someone no longer consents to the group’s wishes, they must be free to go their own way. In this sense, a government could be as small as an individual.

When a government is larger than an individual, it must be voluntary, so that every individual who belongs to the government has agreed to join, and is free to leave. Individuals may value the group to the point of submitting to a particular resolution they disagree with, in order to gain other benefits from the group.

If I value the company of my friends, and they want to go to a wine bar that does not serve martinis, I could voluntarily suppress my love for martinis in favor of spending time with friends. But the option is still there to go it alone, if my love for martinis trumps my desire to spend time with friends.

Startup Societies

Startup Societies come into existence to improve government. In order for there to be a market for a new society to start up something must have been wrong, and therefore you can surmise that the new society seeks to improve upon the old system, or replace it entirely.

Perhaps a particular area has unique interests that need to be accommodated, or maybe a geographic location is not represented by a larger government. Those scenarios are ripe for a startup society, which offers a new system of government. But there is nothing inherently libertarian or freedom oriented about the new governing structure of a startup society.

Say, for instance, people of an area are in danger because of roving criminals. If the people of one village elevate their mayor to King in exchange for protection, that would be a startup society. The structure of governance changes in order to serve some purpose. They ceded their freedom in order to become safer, because the previous form of government failed to accommodate that need.

The major benefits of some separatist movements is still stability and peace, such as Somaliland. It is the most safe and stable region of Somalia which has its own government, currency, and militia. And perhaps it is a free land in contrast to the rest of Somalia, but not compared to the entire world. The point of Somaliland is to create an area where one can live their life and not be murdered or extorted, not to see how free of a society can be created.

Of course many startup societies today are more about technology and innovation than safety. But it does not take libertarianism to promote, say,  government based on the blockchain, or a system run by artificial intelligence.

Individual Freedom

There are a number of freedom oriented societies attempting to start up, or secede from a larger government. Examples would be New Hampshire independence, and Liberstad which each seek to make a society as free as possible. This starts with the ideology that a free society will improve life for inhabitants, based on the philosophy that freedom is a moral imperative.

These are generally based on the non-aggression principle: the only wrong is to initiate conflict. Otherwise, everything should be legal.

There are varying degrees of how far freedom oriented micro-states would take this tenet. For instance, many still believe in private property, and thus would still have rules that participants must follow, which is legitimate because the inhabitants agree to the rules before moving there.

Rhode Island is a classic example of a free startup society, where Roger Williams fled Massachusetts to avoid persecution for his beliefs. With the Native Americans, he started a society based on freedom of speech.

Another success story is the 13 original colonies of the United States, which successfully seceded from England hoping to create a more free society. And in many ways, for some time, they did create a more free society.

Competing Micro-States of Difference Philosophies Can Coexist

Some people criticize startup societies for being idealistic and unrealistic. But Startup Societies have succeeded. Of course you could still level the criticism that their initial success was diluted and eventually destroyed when they outgrew their startup phase and fell into old methods of rule.

But still, they started with something new, and that ideology certainly left its mark for years to come. This is another lesson, that everything requires attention and vigilance to preserve the best practices, and eliminate the detriments. The more options there are, the easier it is to preserve freedom.

According to Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” the political disunity of Europe is what made it a comparatively free society versus the top down control historically exerted in places like China and Russia. Societies had to compete with each other in Europe, or be out-competed or destroyed at the hands of their technologically or philosophically superior neighbor states.

As the idea of startup societies spreads, we will live in a worldwide melting pot of experimental government which will continuously lead us to a better place through competition to attract inhabitants by forming the best government.

And they wouldn’t all have to be freedom oriented. Pick you favorite things about government. What are they? Focus a startup society on those things. Did it work? Why or why not? Replicate what worked, and trash what didn’t.

That is the point. For some it is about ideology and idealism, for others it is about practicality and pragmatism. And that is fine! As long as no one can force us into their group.

I support those experiments, and not necessarily the actions or ideologies of those social scientists.

Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage, and we the players. I say, all the world is a lab, and we the experiments. It is high time we advance the science of governance.

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Posted in EDITORIAL, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
  • Alan

    “In this sense, a government could be as small as an individual.”
    Yes, that’s the ideal, the founders of the US tried to enshrine this concept in the US constitution. It’s small limited government with a maximum emphasis on individual liberty.

  • The only just government is one by unanimous consent. When someone no longer consents to the group’s wishes, they must be free to go their own way. In this sense, a government could be as small as an individual.

    When a government is larger than an individual, it must be voluntary, so that every individual who belongs to the government has agreed to join, and is free to leave. 

    Aaahhhh. Sweet anticipation of my soon-to-be-released book:
    The Bare Minimum
    A new form of Governance*
    Based on the Non Aggression Principle

    No need to wait. Preview here:
    bit.ly/The-Bare-Minimum

    • georgesilver

      “The only just government is one by unanimous consent”
      Good luck with that ideal. History teaches us otherwise. Instead of trying to change ‘governments’ (impossible) why not change your attitude and actions towards those in power (governments).

    • Congrats on the book Dennis, we will check it out!

  • georgesilver

    This ideal is actually sane but laughable. History, dear boy, teaches you that Nirvana is just unobtainable by mere mortals.
    It’s pointless wishing or hoping for a different system in governments. They are what they are and will always go through the same cycles.
    The only way is to be an individual and move with the stream to your own benefit.

    • I agree. Part of the cycle, as history has shown, involves startup societies which secede and form better societies. They then fall into disrepair, which opens the door for the same cycle, only every time, it gets better.

  • Doc

    If you start up any form of governance based on a territorial monopoly, i.e. one rule for all, then you have already missed the point. Force and intolerance is built into the startup.

    Why not start up non-territorial societies? Are any of these startups doing that?

    • That is a good point, essentially an insurance company that does not serve customers of any one particular area could be considered a form of government if it was comprehensive enough. However do you disagree with private property? I have a territorial monopoly on my own land, and can therefore make rules for visitors, which if they don’t want to follow, they can choose not to visit.

      • Doc

        Well, first of all, we don’t have to pretend that non-territorial govenance is a desktop product. That is in fact the most common way of organizing governance in the past, all over the world. The laws followed the person, not the territory. This was done in different ways, so worth finding out more about it. The territorial governance is the anomaly.

        Readings:
        Panarchy: Political Theories of Non-Territorial States
        https://www.amazon.com/Panarchy-Political-Theories-Non-Territorial-Routledge/dp/1138884847
        To the monopolists of all parties
        https://www.panarchy.org/johnsson/aterritorialism.2005.html

        Secondly, you raise an important issue about land property. Private property in other stuff is straightforward, but land is indeed different.

        I personally think that land property is misunderstood, and this misunderstanding often comes from libertarians of particularly the US kind. They tend to view private land property as something completely exclusive, so you even have a right to kill someone that set foot on this property. However, that isn’t the way land property is treated everywhere in the world today, nor in the past. So there are non-exclusive ways as well worth learning from.

        The Startup Societies you are referring to seems to be of the territorial kind. If so, I’m out.

  • People have a lot of desires/utilities, and some are naturally higher priorities than others. The desire for protection from physical harm by other human beings is, perhaps, the high priority desire that leads to the most conflicts – often causing state sponsored harm of various human beings. Corrupt grifters and con artists, including state sponsore ones, can manipulate this desire by falsely pinning blame on other groups, exaggerating threats, etc. Others become suspicious and blame their neighbors for downplaying threats. One would expect that after so many centuries of literate civilization we might have converged on a policy of “first do no harm” that prohibited hurting people except in cases of clear self-defense. Unfortunately, we are further away from that than ever before. In the United States, almost our entire discretionary budget, over $1 trillion/year and quickly rising, is devoted to the “Security”/”Defense” industry, and a big chunk of that is focused on raining explosive devices out of the sky on ever larger portions of the planet. All adult working citizens in the US must pay taxes or go to jail, and ever larger portion of our tax money goes to destroying misc. people and property all around the globe. We buy many bombs and missiles per hour. And our leaders are committed to a) telling blatant lies about those polices, and b) making it a major, potentially capital crime, for insiders to share what they know of the actual truth of these matters.

    • LawrenceNeal

      “first do no harm” that prohibited hurting people except in cases of clear self-defense. Try telling that to the police.

      • I’m not sure which angle you wish to emphasize.

        There is a connection between increasing militarization of local police and increasing number of homicides by police. Shoot first, ask questions later, may be one factor driving an overall trend towards lower fatality rates among police. But other nations with relatively unarmed police have both lower crime rates and lower police fatality rates. Or maybe the topic is about civilian gun use and resultant interactions with the police? And…questions of law or quetions of police behavior?

  • Licia

    HINTS FOR SENSIBLE, MODERATE, AND RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND PARTY HOSTING: “dividi et impera” is not in our best interest.

  • highlanderjuan

    Interesting. I have thought in recent years that the Native American tribal cultures were the best voluntary system for human. Membership is voluntary. There is no great leader – tribal chiefs are the wise counsels. Tribal decisions are made as a result of consensus. Everyone helps out when things go bad. Individuals are supported in their own efforts to be the best they can be.

    But, sadly, then along came the well organized and treasonous white man, and all that peace went to hell.

    BTW, Palestine was similarly a voluntary and quite workable societal mix of Muslims, Jews, and Christians for hundreds of years, but then along came the invading Khazarian zionists with the same disastrous results on the native peoples as happened in the United States.

  • r2bzjudge

    “But it only makes a difference if we are free to choose.”

    The problem with the the choice though, is that once it is made, there isn’t a choice to undo. In Venezuela there is no choice allowed to change the government from the one Chavez formed and Maduro inherited for his benefit.

    The Troika in the EU wants no choice for member countries to go their separate ways.
    The Troika itself was not even elected.

    It is claimed that our government has interfered in over 60 elections since WW2.
    Free to choose, as long as it is the right choice for those in power.

  • LawrenceNeal

    The only problem is, that ‘governments’ are loath to let go of any of their tax slaves, and land for them to try something different.

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