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Government Proposal: Valuestan

October 26, 2009

This blog’s main focus is structural: the benefits to the world of letting A Thousand Nations Bloom.  I often get asked about the details of what particular new society I’d like to have on a seastead, and I usually avoid or try to avoid the question.  Homing in on a specific proposal can easily miss the experimental, we-don’t-know-the-answer attitude which is at the core of competitive government. And it has a tendency to engage people’s emotions and pull them into the policy muck of arguing about specific laws.

On the other hand, without any concrete examples, the whole idea becomes an untethered abstraction.  So perhaps it is time to start collecting high-level ideas for how to design a society – perhaps even form a Pattern Language for government.  I have my own ideas, but for now I’ll share one from my friend Rafe Furst, that he calls Valuestan.

Valuestan

“Having a nice life…Wish you were here!”

Principle 1: Values First (…recognize that there exist a set of  Shared Values which can be explicitly stated…)

Principle 2: Positive Incentives Before Laws (Where possible, formal positive incentives (economic, social and otherwise) will be used to shape individual action…)

Principle 3: Practical Wisdom (…it is the Responsibility of each Citizen to be a moral exemplar always and embody practical wisdom…)

Principle 4: Non-Human Agents (It is recognized by the State that there are non-human agents that exist in the world…)

You can read the whole proposal on his blog.

I agree with Principle 1 that a set of shared values is a good place to start, so that we know what the system is maximizing for.  And with Principle 3 that we need not just a system, but citizens who embody that system.  I’m not convinced that Principle 2’s “laws…should be used sparingly” works, though.

I like freedom, I don’t want the law to ban a lot of activities, and I prefer that it state general principles rather than specifics, so it is tempting to want there to be very little law.  Yet, a lot of the value of a legal system is predictability.  Making plans for the future, particularly for businesses, requires a legal system where decisions about potential future cases can be well-predicted.  This is traditionally done through a combination of detailed, voluminous law and the numerous precedents established in the course of enforcing that law.  From this standpoint, having a large number of laws is actually a good thing.

In addition to any comments on Rafe’s proposed system, I’d love feedback on whether y’all think it is useful to explore specific proposals and high-level design features for new societies.

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8 Comments
  1. Gary F. York permalink
    October 27, 2009 2:08 pm

    I think it would be very useful.

    First, with the “thousand nations” concept, you made the seasteading tent much larger and invited non-libertarians to join in and help make the prospect of forming communities on the sea a reality. By explicitly welcoming those who are interested in the problem of ‘governance’ or ‘meta-governance’ but who have little direct experience operating on the sea and little ability to contribute novel mechanisms for doing so, you further expand the tent.

    Second, there will hopefully come a time, let it be sooner than later, when the physical means have been well addressed and the big issue for most is “which group, if any, shall I join?” It would be very helpful if we have already determined the truly important questions to ask.

    G.

  2. Eelco Hoogendoorn permalink
    October 31, 2009 4:58 am

    “whether y’all think it is useful to explore specific proposals and high-level design features for new societies.”

    Id say so. As you say, meta-politics is kinda abstract; an utopia of utopia’s is less emotionally engaging than any single utopia; the latter make for good attention-grabbing flamewars. 🙂

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