integrated earth

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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