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Libertarian socialist hippie hegemonists?!!?

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What problems would a culture have in trying to synthesize socialism, libertarianism and agressive peacekeeping through non-combat subversion? I'm trying to end up with a future society where the citizens have a basic minimal safety net, control of local laws and customs but freedom from oppression, free enterprse but vastly restricted corporate power, free speech but heavily regulated mass media (no demagogues), and taxes going to pay for basic defenses and certain projects, but all else (from roads to police) privately funded. I call this global society The Community. The Community believes in using technology to forge a bond between opposites. They also, having survived two episodes of near total human extinction in one century, have taken on the mandate of providing for the long term survival of the human race. Their primary means for doing so is technological superiority brought about by AI, nanotech, and a popular rebellion among youth transmitted via thought-sharing. (I posted a timeline about some of this some days ago).
Some general ideas about how this society works:
  • Direct Democracy
    • At the highest level, government is divided between elites called Pillars elected every 10 years, and AI that enables popular oversight and direct democracy
    • Population broken up into hundreds of districts (counties) worldwide
    • Citizens have dual citizenship: Community (global) citizenship, and citizenship within a district
    • Districts may reject who they choose, and expel who they choose (but must pay for resettlement)
    • Majority vote determines laws and mores within a district, as well as rights concerning district laws
    • Districts may have police but no military
    • Right to vote in Community affairs granted by military or volunteer service of 3 to 8 years; must also pass election-related civics test
    • Citizens have the right to move from any neighborhood
    • Districts rely on technology and basic resource grants, which are determined by population
    • Districts free to organize however they like so long they don't infringe on Community Law, which includes civil liberties
  • Federal Global Government Functions
    • Security (terrorism, intradistrict, interdistrict, external)
    • Minimal mandatory taxation of and basic resource grants to districts
    • Research
    • Intellectual property law enforcement (vital to controlling nanotech, nuclear fusion, cloning and AI development)
    • Dispute regulation between districts
    • Group and individual asylum (constitution has right to mobility clause, but no district must accept a group)
  • Private Enterprise
    • Economy has shifted away from manufacture to research and services, aided by automation, nanotech and AI
    • Districts grant companies (called combines) charter on a per district basis
    • Charters, by Community Law, automatically expire based on the industry (forcing combine to campaign for its continued existence)
    • Combines can be privately or district owned
    • To check power, no combine can own another
    • Regulation, rules and taxation up to each district
    • Community reserves right to form hypercombines for large scale projects such as colonization and defense (charter subject to periodic per district funding approval) as necessary for human survival
    • Wealthy elites are those who own patents on nanotech, keeping society in state of artificial scarcity / pre-nanotech revolution
  • People and society
    • Jobs: People are either independent contractors, work for districts or work for Community federal bureaucracy or hypercombine projects
    • Education: Basic digital literacy, schooling free; professional training costs
    • Law: Citizens must obey Community Law and district laws but can move; conflicts between district and Community law are often resolved by voluntary exile / asylum to another district for the individual or group
    • Mobility: Citizens have constitutional right to mobility. Community subsidizes global vaccuum train and shuttle networks encourage this, helping to dilute ethnic identity; some, however, may be too poor to exercise this right
    • Free accomodations per citizen are stark and minimal (often considered low status)
    • Many districts in the West rise and fall based on individual contractor talents; people are highly mobile between districts
    • Many districts in East still have strong traditional group ethic, with districts rising and falling on trading ability and organizational skills; district populations are highly static
  • Conflict
    • The Community's Common Culture movement has called for reinventing human society, in part by destroying identity artifacts such as the Pyramids at Giza or Great Wall of China (most people live in armored megacities, so don't care / aren't aware)
    • Unresolvable conflicts often result in strongly ethnic / nationalist cultures being assisted into expanding into space (gets them off earth, balkanizes them into space habitats, reduces / delays conflict)
    • Federal government is rumored to have covert peacekeepers who use volunteers to exchange thoughts, creating "viral peace" through shared perspective
    • Extreme cases of interdistrict conflict may call for The Community to evict both groups into space
    • Offworld colonies must either accept Community rule or agree to military spending caps and periodic inspections
    • The Community can and does act with force against rogue powers, nanotech / AI IP violators and militarizing colonies-- but often as a last resort, as the people must approve war
  • Misc.
    • Mass media, data networks privately owned but transmission infrastructure regulated by rules of each district; Community reserves right to censor material for security or IP protection purposes
    • Freedom of religion exists by Community Law, but religions may not use mass media
    • Combines may not use mass media (no mass advertising)

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With all the mini-governments, and the fact that they hold down the power of the only thing that can rival them (business), it sounds like mob rule. People could move into a district and effectively take it over; changing the laws to what they please. In your future scenario, is there a reason that even has be government (let alone hundreds)? Why not have everything privately run? Do property rights really hold up in this society if everything is at the whim of the masses that live near you? With taxes and regulations being completely different in every district, would it not be hard to run a business? Why do districts have legaslative power? Why keep businesses buying up each other? What if a criminal escapes from one district into another? What if one district criminalizes something that is legal everywhere else? Why should someone have to move is everyone around them arbitrarily decides they want to kick them out?

edit: And what real meaning does private ownership of the media have if it is so tightly controlled by the government?

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Daniel, 1000x thanks for the well considered questions!

Quote:
Original post by Daniel Miller
With all the mini-governments, and the fact that they hold down the power of the only thing that can rival them (business), it sounds like mob rule.


Yes, I think this is the essence of direct democracy (and why ancient philosophers like Plato warned so strongly against it).

The only real defense against this for an individual would be basic constitutional rights, which would, along with security, be the basic role of the federal government.

Quote:

People could move into a district and effectively take it over; changing the laws to what they please.


Technically, this is correct. It is the same problem the US faces, in that people from any state could decide to colonize any other state. However, nothing prevents those people from moving.

But in practice, districts get to set up their own rules for settlment. Some, like much of the former First World, have few or none. Some others have ethnic or religious requirements, but with the way I see the Common Culture revolution having taken place in youth, this is considered atavistic (and ultimate hurts relations, which hurts trade, the primary means of prosperity among the districts).

Quote:

In your future scenario, is there a reason that even has be government (let alone hundreds)?


The main purpose of the many district governments is to allow people to live the way they want. The goal of the federal government is to control the excesses of local governments in terms of abuse of minorities, and to act in the best interests of the human species.

Quote:

Why not have everything privately run?


A couple of reasons: First, chiefly because some processes, particularly those involving the social welfare or large scale projects like colonization, are inherently inefficient but should be done anyway (though the more libertarian citizens might disagree). The second is because of a desire to limit the ruinous influence of the corporate maximization ethic on peoples lives. The Community would have survived an era where most of the world's problems were the direct result of short term optimization strategies.

Finally, corporations get a bad rap in the storyline for using nanotech abusively (chaining to pheremone molecules to create brand addictions).

Quote:

Do property rights really hold up in this society if everything is at the whim of the masses that live near you?


I tried to address this a bit with the idea of rigorous IP enforcement. Most of what is valuable isn't what is owned, but what can be made.

Quote:

With taxes and regulations being completely different in every district, would it not be hard to run a business?


Yes, by intent. This society accepts the gross losses that result from not being able to achieve economies of scale in favor of curbing transnational power. The result is lots of mom & pop operations.

Keep in mind that nanotech has shifted the economy back to something that looks more like pre-Industrial Age village self-sufficiency. It's not uncommon for people to have personal fabricators with waterjet or laser cutters and nanotech assemblers to satisfy many of their needs. What keeps the economy flowing is intellectual property. People microcharge each other or barter for many goods; or buy goods from other districts they themselves are not good at making (it's not all up to AI, human skill is still required).


Quote:

Why do districts have legaslative power?


I'd say for the same reason that states or counties do, under the libertarian philosophy that the government that governs best is that which governs least.

Quote:

Why keep businesses buying up each other?


To prohibit massification. Under this system, corporations are not accorded the rights of individuals, as was done in American society. Corporations are instead more like what they were in the late 1800, entities created to solve a need. Nanotech and AI haven't liberated people from the need to obtain their daily bread, but it has destroyed the idea of the wage slave (sort of).

Quote:

What if a criminal escapes from one district into another?


That's the job of fed marshals, though districts are free to cooperate. But since this can be dicey in some areas, districts demand justice in principle but leave the time & expense up to the feds in practice.

Quote:

What if one district criminalizes something that is legal everywhere else?


If it doesn't violate the Community Constitution, then it's fine, even if it's offensive to everyone else. In practice, it would be futile due to the right to mobility and subsidized transit and basic survival amenities. If people, for instance, criminalized reading Tom Sawyer in one district, a person could move to another, more accepting community.

Quote:

Why should someone have to move is everyone around them arbitrarily decides they want to kick them out?


Unfortunately, while this would be an ugly side effect of some communities, there is nothing any more inherently immoral with this than with people being allowed to make up their own laws (such as no drinking on a Sunday). This would be a side effect of direct democracy.

Because of this possible instability, though, I imagine that one way districts would compete with each (for population, and thus resource grants) would be stability clauses built into their district laws.

Quote:

edit: And what real meaning does private ownership of the media have if it is so tightly controlled by the government?


Actually, this is really little different than today, except that there's a wild edge to it because there are so many districts. The only restrictions on broadcasting at the federal level are based on protecting intellectual property, security and against religious demogogery. So if you don't want to abide by a district's standards for decency or consumer protection or whatnot, you simply cut yourself off from a market. That's no different than today around the world.

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Technically, this is correct. It is the same problem the US faces, in that people from any state could decide to colonize any other state. However, nothing prevents those people from moving.

But in practice, districts get to set up their own rules for settlment. Some, like much of the former First World, have few or none. Some others have ethnic or religious requirements, but with the way I see the Common Culture revolution having taken place in youth, this is considered atavistic (and ultimate hurts relations, which hurts trade, the primary means of prosperity among the districts).


How big are these districts? You refered to them as counties (note the lack of an "r"). It is much easier to take over a county by influencing elections than taking over one of the, well, United States' states.

Quote:
The main purpose of the many district governments is to allow people to live the way they want. The goal of the federal government is to control the excesses of local governments in terms of abuse of minorities, and to act in the best interests of the human species.


Would the government allow people to live how they want, or would it enforce what the majority wants on the minority? Also, does the world collectively vote on who decides what the limitations are for every distrtict?

Quote:
A couple of reasons: First, chiefly because some processes, particularly those involving the social welfare or large scale projects like colonization, are inherently inefficient but should be done anyway (though the more libertarian citizens might disagree). The second is because of a desire to limit the ruinous influence of the corporate maximization ethic on peoples lives. The Community would have survived an era where most of the world's problems were the direct result of short term optimization strategies.

Finally, corporations get a bad rap in the storyline for using nanotech abusively (chaining to pheremone molecules to create brand addictions).


I guess if evil corporations were part of the story line, then you have to have it, but I'd say that should be changed! [grin]

Quote:
I'd say for the same reason that states or counties do, under the libertarian philosophy that the government that governs best is that which governs least.


Maybe it's just me, but a government without legaslative power governs less than a government with that power. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you.

Quote:
Yes, by intent. This society accepts the gross losses that result from not being able to achieve economies of scale in favor of curbing transnational power. The result is lots of mom & pop operations.

Keep in mind that nanotech has shifted the economy back to something that looks more like pre-Industrial Age village self-sufficiency. It's not uncommon for people to have personal fabricators with waterjet or laser cutters and nanotech assemblers to satisfy many of their needs. What keeps the economy flowing is intellectual property. People microcharge each other or barter for many goods; or buy goods from other districts they themselves are not good at making (it's not all up to AI, human skill is still required).


If people wouldn't need large business as much as they do now, I don't see the purpose in banning them. Unless people need their services, they will go on making their own things, regardless of whether the businesses existed.

Quote:
I tried to address this a bit with the idea of rigorous IP enforcement. Most of what is valuable isn't what is owned, but what can be made.


So IP laws would be federal? Would it be possible to change them?

Quote:
To prohibit massification. Under this system, corporations are not accorded the rights of individuals, as was done in American society. Corporations are instead more like what they were in the late 1800, entities created to solve a need. Nanotech and AI haven't liberated people from the need to obtain their daily bread, but it has destroyed the idea of the wage slave (sort of).


Could an owner(s) of a business own another business, and combine them to form one? I can't imagine why that would be banned, but it has the same effect.

Quote:
That's the job of fed marshals, though districts are free to cooperate. But since this can be dicey in some areas, districts demand justice in principle but leave the time & expense up to the feds in practice.


I wasn't clear. What if someone broke a law in one district, then fled to a district where it wasn't against the law? Would the feds enforce one district's laws over another? Also, what if a law was broken in one district from within another (against pricing laws, for example)?

Quote:
Actually, this is really little different than today, except that there's a wild edge to it because there are so many districts. The only restrictions on broadcasting at the federal level are based on protecting intellectual property, security and against religious demogogery. So if you don't want to abide by a district's standards for decency or consumer protection or whatnot, you simply cut yourself off from a market. That's no different than today around the world.


Ignoring the fairness of that, I would still need to know the size of each district.

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Original post by Daniel Miller
How big are these districts? You refered to them as counties (note the lack of an "r"). It is much easier to take over a county by influencing elections than taking over one of the, well, United States' states.


Sorry to be cagey, but this really depends on the region. Some districts are as small as a few city blocks, many larger than several US states combined. Smaller districts would very much be subject what you're talking about if they don't have residency safeguards. But each district, like modern countries, gets to set its own residency standards.

As with America, though, the Common Culture movement strives to create a notion of world citizens. Just as Rhode Island could be flooded with Californians or Texans, a block sized district with no residency requirements could experience rapid gentrification or some other mechanism that expels the population. But the sentiment would be that it's still the same people moving in (i.e., Americans would still be moving into Rhode Island).


Quote:

Would the government allow people to live how they want, or would it enforce what the majority wants on the minority?


Enforcement of norms and laws is up to the police force of each district. The feds only get involved in cases of violations of federal laws, civil liberties violations, security and terrorism, and interdistrict disputes.

Quote:

Also, does the world collectively vote on who decides what the limitations are for every distrtict?


If you're talking about what the federal laws are, yes, this is a 3/4 super-majority issue to change the Community Constitution, initiated by individual petition and referendum (very hard to do, but possible).

Quote:
I guess if evil corporations were part of the story line, then you have to have it, but I'd say that should be changed! [grin]


Actually, I'm trying to have my cake & eat it to, here. [smile] The Community philosophy is saying that there's nothing wrong with free enterprise, in fact it's to be encouraged. But free enterprise is not uncoupled and independent from the needs of the community it serves. It's a blend of the shareholder/stakeholder philosophy. You don't just get to do something because it's profitable.

Quote:

Maybe it's just me, but a government without legaslative power governs less than a government with that power. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you.


Here I meant more that The Community takes a light, hands off approach as long as basic needs are met, civil liberties respected and the human race is secure. Then how people want to live is up to them.

Quote:

If people wouldn't need large business as much as they do now, I don't see the purpose in banning them. Unless people need their services, they will go on making their own things, regardless of whether the businesses existed.


Even with nanotech you can still achieve economies of scale, this isn't to say that they don't need them for anything (power, mining, colonization, habitat development, etc. are good examples). But the consumer economy has largely collapsed, the "make 6k Micky Mouse watches because you can" economy, in a world of templates and fabricators, is dying or gone. It's like internet tools and shareware, but backed with strong IP enforcement (like DCMA enforcement x1000).

So the danger of having megacorps is still there, and this The Community regards as a fundamental threat to long term human survival (climate change, pollution, resource depletion and exploitation being their fundamental arguing points, with detractors arguing that governments were more responsible than corporations).


Quote:

So IP laws would be federal?


Yes (built into the constitution under private property laws).

Quote:

Would it be possible to change them?


Yes, through petition and referendum (direct democracy movement again).


Quote:

Could an owner(s) of a business own another business, and combine them to form one? I can't imagine why that would be banned, but it has the same effect.


Actually, you can still potentially have a Rupert Murdoch, yes. But he would have to wade through a thicket of thousands of different districts to conduct business. The inefficiency is built in such that in some industries (entertainment, for instance) it would be possible, but in many others the cost of per-district compliance would ruin the profit margin. This forces duplication, which The Community (in socialist fashion?) believes is good as it provides more outlets for productivity and diversity.

Of course, the argument against it is that it wastes resources. In areas where this is critical (such as power or colonization, deemed essential by The Community to reduce conflict and preserve the speices), hypercombines (regulated megacorps) have charters to act.


Quote:

I wasn't clear. What if someone broke a law in one district, then fled to a district where it wasn't against the law? Would the feds enforce one district's laws over another? Also, what if a law was broken in one district from within another (against pricing laws, for example)?


Let's say reading Huckleberry Fin is illegal in Jubilee (an amalgam of southern fundamentalist American states). If you read it in Chung Kuo, Jubilee can't do anything, even if you're a citizen of Jubilee. If you read it on the vacc train from Chung Kuo to Jubilee, Jubilee still can't do anything (you're on federal property). But if you step out of the platform, you're suddenly subject to Jubilee's laws. (Of course, this is in principle-- the actual day to day experiences would be much more messy, with thousands of court cases system-wide up for judicial human-AI review at any one time).

The feds don't inforce one district's law over any another. They do intervene in cases where a person flees form one district to another and the other district fails to extradite the offending party (extradition is automatic, although compliance in practice is not always perfect).

In cases where laws are broken between districts, districts are expected to cooperate to resolve them. The feds have levels of mediation, and if this fails, the conflict will step up to judicial review and eventually enforcement.

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