“As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State “What does it matter to me?” the State may be given up for lost.”
Rousseau, The Social Contract
To determine the system most likely to support the community’s Purpose in allowing the achievement of the Individual Purpose by its members, we must first briefly determine what general societal conditions are productive of this outcome and which are not.
It is logical to suppose that a society and the concurrent political system that will support the achievement of the individual Purpose will promote the actions and attitudes identified thus far as being positive contributors to the achievement of the Purpose. This means that while it is a given that a societal structure and political system that supports the members’ survival and long-term welfare is essential, it is also preferable that it be structured to embrace the three elements of Community (Exclusivity, Affirmation, and Mutual Recognition). While simultaneously discouraging the negative forms of discrimination and encouraging the differentiation of individuals based on the qualitative elements of character, action, and individual capacity.
In theory, all forms of government and society from the tribal to the modern welfare state can fulfil these objectives. However, in practice, the nature of humanity is such that systems that lack strong restraints to the use and abuse of power are inevitably co-opted to benefit in groups to the wider community’s detriment. This degradation of the common good has been the historical experience of humanity under systems and societal structures as diverse as feudalism, communism, fascism, and the plutocratic movements that rule in much of the developing world. In each case, the system that was initially created for the mutual benefit of the community members has been subverted to benefit a smaller sub-community. Therefore, it is logical that the society that is ideally structured to support the community’s welfare will have traits that are resistant to the formation of faction and have strong limits and controls on the exercise of power.
Even if, hypothetically, society were composed of saints who always acted in accordance with the values expressed within this text, there would still be the need to restrain the exercise of power. The nature of the Purpose is that we are compelled to prioritise our friends’ and families’ welfare over that of others. This creates an impulse to exercise power in ways that may not always be in the wider community’s interests. This impulse is natural to all humans and fundamentally laudable in its inspiration; however, it must be constrained through the establishment and enforcement of penalties that are sufficiently severe to impede and disincentivise those who possess the ability to exercise governmental power from unduly exercising it to their own benefit.
This level of constraint on the use and abuse of power is only likely to be possible in a democratic and egalitarian society that has high levels of transparency and citizen engagement. A general proposal of how such a society could be structured will be discussed in the next few chapters. The most crucial element in this societal structure is the community itself, and that is what we will discuss first.
Citizenship, or formal membership of a community as we mean it here, is to be understood as an individual title which carries a sense of belonging or commitment to a particular polity. While, like with all words, its meaning is arbitrary, it undeniably carries with it a sense of mutual responsibility between members. It is also a legal term in the western world, denoting the possession of rights and duties of the possessor towards and from the polity. It is a central proposition of this work that, as communities exist to promote the community members’ survival and welfare, it is reasonable that mutual loyalty is required between them.
Citizenship should be realigned to support this mutual loyalty. Citizenship should be singular in that each individual who has citizenship of the community should renounce all other citizenships or incompatible group loyalties. The rationale for this is simple. If we are to hold that citizenship of a community is to require of us joint mutual protection and support, then we should wish to limit that support to those who we can be sure will support us in turn. How can we be sure of this support if an individual can pick and choose their loyalty depending on whichever benefits them most at the moment? By making citizenship singular and exclusive, we can increase the costs of disloyalty and better avoid split loyalties.
This conception of citizenship would, in addition to requiring the renunciation of all other national citizenship, by its nature, also require the renunciation of incompatible group memberships. By this, we mean civil, religious, or other groups that claim individual loyalty to the group in any way that is incompatible with the citizen’s duties to the community. Some examples of these groups could be the seventh day Adventists Church or other religious orders that require pacifism from their members, Islam which calls for loyalty to the Ummah or Islamic community, revolutionary or separatist organisations which call for the destruction of the community, etc.
To further emphasise citizenship’s essential nature as being one of communal responsibility, it is not enough to allow people to gain citizenship passively. Instead, it must be earnt through personal action and affirmation of both the duties and rights of citizenship. The best approach to this affirmation is to combine the acceptance of citizenship’s responsibilities with a period of service to the community. During this service, an individual would mix with other citizens, forming bonds outside their local area, and through their labour, help to defend and support their fellow citizens.
How this could work in practice is that upon reaching legal majority, a child of a citizen or a resident could opt to affirm their citizenship. They would formally renounce all other citizenships and greater loyalties outside of the community and legally accept the responsibilities of the citizen. They would then complete a period of national or community service. This service would ideally be both civil and military, preparing and educating the citizen to perform their duties to the polity actively. Upon completing this service, the individual would receive their formal citizenship and be held to possess full civil and political rights. These rights should include the right to work in all professional fields, work in the civil service, hold political office, vote, serve in the military, act as a magistrate, possess weapons, and any other rights that seem proper to be restricted to citizens alone.
All those who choose not to affirm their citizenship would remain ‘national residents’, retaining the right for themselves and their children to remain in the nation permanently and having the right to own property, work in all non-restricted fields, and live wherever they please. National residents would occupy a secondary position in society due to their choice in not affirming and bearing the duties of citizenship.
This differentiation is based on character and action, and through the active process of socialisation inherent in communal service such a societal structure, if properly implemented, would foster in the citizen a personal commitment and engagement with ‘the good’ of the wider community. This communal engagement is the essential foundation of all the other structures that are needed to allow for a genuinely democratic, egalitarian, and transparent society required to ensure that governance in the interest of the community persists in the long-term.
The form of governance that would seem to offer the best chance for this outcome is democracy. This is due to the typically greater engagement and association with the government of the average citizen compared to that of other systems. Of course, there is a multitude of so-called democratic systems extant. As such, we must begin our discussion on governance by defining what we mean by democracy. Democracy, as discussed here, means a ‘system whereby all citizens exert direct power and influence over the government of their community’.
The implementation of real democracy, as defined here, has proven to be difficult historically. With a broad franchise (direct democracy), it is difficult and burdensome for the electors to gain sufficient reliable information to be across each issue they are called to determine. This burden leads inexorably to either poor quality decisions or low engagement, both of which serve to discredit direct democracy. At the same time, a democracy where the franchise is heavily limited tends to become aristocratic or oligarchic due to the concentration of power. Various methods have been attempted to resolve these issues. These attempts range from the Swiss federation system to the British and Commonwealth Parliamentary systems and the American influenced Republican model popular in the Americas.
The problem with all these systems is that they either place on the citizen, as in the Swiss model, the requirement to judge on issues that they lack sufficient information to evaluate correctly, or they place the citizen in the position of selecting candidates to (at least nominally) represent them. The direct model is slow and burdensome to the citizen, requiring those who wish to judge matters well the investment significant of time and effort to gather the appropriate information (some of which may not be available to the general public). While, on the other hand, in representative democracies, the representatives have (at least theoretically) time and opportunity to investigate and inform themselves on the subject they are examining. While due to sweeping powers being vested with the parliament, they can move more swiftly when required.
While these two systems are sitting somewhat on the extreme ends of the democratic systems that exist, they suit our Purpose in demonstrating the flaws in both the direct and representative forms of democracy. What is then desirable is a form of democratic governance which combines both the citizen engagement and involvement of the direct form with the speed and ability to fully inform those who must judge which is the strength of the representative form. To fully enunciate such a system would require more time and space than this current work would allow, so we will limit ourselves to the broadest of strokes.
A possible system that meets this need is to couple a parliament of elected representatives with a limited form of direct democracy. Under this hybridised system, the parliament would, as it currently does in British-influenced nations, retain its position as the primary chamber for the proposition and debate of legislation dealing with law, national policy, and financial administration. However, they would be denied the power to legislate or enact these acts on their own authority.
The figurative second chamber could consist of citizens chosen by lot from each electorate or district to review the proposed legislation and either pass or reject it. A simple method for selecting the citizens called to this function exists in the jury duty system where all citizens are placed in a pool for call-up, and once called, are removed from the pool for a set period of time. With modern technology, it would be possible to allow for councils of say one hundred to be called in each district or electorate to consider each piece of legislation passed by the parliament. Each of these councils, meeting either as a single group or in small local groupings in their respective districts, could then as a single national council hear presentations from members of the parliament who wish to speak in support or opposition to the proposed act before giving or withholding their consent.
This method would offer the benefits of both representative democracy and direct democracy. The parliament would retain its restraining power through control over what legislation is drafted and submitted to the citizen councils for assent. The average citizen would gain the power that has always been promised but never delivered in modern democracies—the power to rule themselves. Each citizen could expect to be called to consider (based on average parliamentary legalisation rates) one act every 3-5 years at both the national and state/provincial levels. As this draw would be random both in timing and in the members’ composition, it would be highly likely to foster a greater sense of ownership and engagement with the governmental system and the nation as a whole amongst the citizens. As the citizens would hold the decision-making power by lot, they would possess the power to prevent the erosion of their liberties and prevent the abuse of power by any group.
A by-product of this citizen-determined government would be a realignment of the laws and legal system to better align with the citizens’ expectations. This realignment would depend on the times and composition of the citizens, so we will not discuss it further here. However, due to the legal systems’ opacity, there are some general reforms necessary to support the community’s Purpose.
The legal systems in at least the English-speaking common law nations pay lip service to transparency and openness. However, if you take the time to look past the appearances, you will quickly discover that much of what presents as transparency and openness is merely a façade. The judiciary continues to be selected from the insiders of the legal profession. Their decisions are generally obscured (at least partly) from the public, and furthermore, they are secure from review and disapprobation by the separation of powers and contempt of court laws.
As with the discussions of governance in the previous chapters, there is insufficient space in this work to explore the benefits and disadvantages of the legal system in even a single country. As such, we will limit ourselves to several broad observations and general proposals that seem to offer the promise of benefiting those of us who seek to find the best path to achieving our Individual Purpose. First, it is logical to consider why the legal system exists or why it should exist.
The legal system exists as a method of judging offences against the community of which it belongs. If, as we have discussed, the community exists to support the achievement of the individual Purpose by the families and individuals which form it, and the government of a community exists to facilitate this communal welfare through administrative actions, it follows that the legal system exists or at least should exist to ensure that citizens of the community can resolve their disputes with each other in a fair, consistent, and impartial manner.
In essence, all legal disputes are between individuals, whether they be civil or criminal. In both criminal and civil cases, one party is accused of acting in a way contrary to the general standards held by a particular society. In both cases, the law should seek to provide in a consistent, transparent, and impartial manner a judgement that serves the interests of the community as a whole.
This method is different from seeking to provide justice that changes depending on the individual. Consider the case of murder. To do justice to the victim is impossible as no one can give them their life back. To do justice to the victim’s family as is commonly called for would result in the perpetrator’s death. However, invariably this justice as it is decried as unjust to those on the other side.
The perpetrator’s defenders will often state that the offender made a mistake, acted without intent to kill, or could be rehabilitated. They point to those who have been spared and have changed. Furthermore, let’s consider the offender’s family. It is arguable that in providing justice to the family of the murdered, we necessarily do an injustice to the perpetrator’s family. Denying a parent their child, a child, their father, or a lover.
Instead, if we focus on the welfare of the whole community, it is simplified. We only need to ask what sentence will be most likely to promote the interests of the community. Suppose it was beneficial that murderers be allowed to murder without repercussion. In that case, no penalty would need to be applied. If, however, murder is not advantageous to the social good (which it is not), then a penalty that on balance is likely to make murder less common should be applied.
Whatever the outcome, it is vital that the outcome be consistent, transparent, and fair, i.e. the penalty for any given crime of similar severity should be the same with no significant variation between judge, location, and defendant.
To ensure that this consistency is achieved, the courts must be transparent and accountable to the citizens. This statement does not suggest that the judges should be exposed to pressure to rule one way or the other on any specific case. Merely, that judges’ decisions and sentences be available in the specific and aggregate to the public and that judges be exposed to periodic review and removal by the citizens in the areas they preside.
This transparency and general accountability would help ensure that judicial officers’ decisions would become or at least be seen to be consistent with the expectations of the residents in their area, and through the comparability of judgements, help to ensure greater consistency in outcome throughout jurisdictions. We will finish our introductory discussion of the community by talking of work and its role in achieving the Purpose.