The Path to A Future: The Landscape of the Path

Before we build our Path we should understand the nature of the landscape we intend to cross: the state of the world today. We need a clear view of reality, so we can determine the line our Path should take.

We live in a world that is still ravaged by many conflicts, and where the disparities between wasteful over-consumers and the desperately poor grow wider every year. For all our good intentions, we are not living within the bounds of the resources available to us; and the vast majority are not free to enjoy the passage of their lives in peace and security.

The good news is that we do not have to achieve the impossible to remedy our situation – we will not have to fix everything. We do have to change the way we organize our societies and the structure of our economies, and we have to change them pretty fundamentally. Along the way we are going to be challenged, distracted and tempted by our attachments to old ways of doing things. But making fundamental changes, and staying the course through difficult times, are the hallmarks of our greatest moments. Our ability to be flexible and resolute in the face of adversity are natural features of the human landscape, and therefore of you too.

The Path to a Future is all about finding a way from where we are today to a prosperous, sustainable and peaceful future. The Path will not remake the landscape as we find it, it must negotiate the landscape as it is; and that includes us as we are.

Some of the greatest barriers we will have to cross are our own assumptions about what is possible, about what others will do and about what we really think is important. To get started down The Path we’re going to have to open our own gates, step out and get a clear, fresh view of the landscape.

Take a walk with me and let’s have a look at the lay of the land. Using the analogy of a physical landscape, we can examine the contours of our cultural and emotional world. We can get some perspective on the challenges we face, and assess the most effective way through them.

Part 10 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to

Decision Density – Corruption Catalyst

The relationship between decision density and corruption provides the clue to reducing both.

Corruption is the pernicious rot that bedevils even the most “civilized” of our modern societies. At its worst it deprives millions of even the most basic dignity, but it always perverts the course of democratic will, our intentions, the peoples’ good. Far from being a compulsory attribute of life, corruption is the outcome of human tendencies that we can, indeed we must, intentionally construct our societies to minimize. After all, corruption is just another form of crime, and we do plenty to deter other criminal behaviour.

Corruption is the misappropriation of other peoples’ money, the perversion of standard processes and the manipulation of good intentions. Like all crime, it is dependent on two primary factors: the opportunity and the motive. Given that the motive is part of an internal process in the individuals who commit the crime (that’s the bit used to excuse it), structural solutions must focus on the opportunity (that’s the bit we can do something about). The opportunity for corruption stems from the confluence of two conditions:

  • the abstraction of the decision point from those affected,
  • a lack of oversight and transparency.

When decisions get condensed into a small group (such as Gaddafi’s family in Tripoli, the policy elite in Washington DC, the super-bankers in the City of London or NY) they become subject only to the oversight of others within that group. It is inevitable, even desirable, that some decisions affecting millions are taken centrally, but we should be cautious about any centralization of decision making on the understanding that this propensity for undersight exists. Oversight takes time and resources, and when decisions are clustered in a small group the likelihood that decision density will exceed oversight capacity is greatly increased.

A decision taken at a substantial distance from those affected is less likely to be questioned effectively. Even if the interested parties have the resources to review the decision, they cannot access the remote decision makers. And visa versa, if the decision maker is not subject to the effects of their decision, they inevitably care less about the impact.


Spreading decision making out to the lowest effective layer is the key to improving decision quality and reducing corruption. The absence of an integrated framework of distributed democratic power, that allows for the placement of decision making at the most effective level, is the most glaring hole in our current constructs for democracy; and we must remedy that if we are to make the progress we need to make on so many fronts. Those who are starting now to implement democratic systems for their societies should pay close attention to the critical importance of formally integrating distributed democracy, because just democratically electing a national president is likely to do very little to improve their condition.

Multi-layered representation is an important development for 21st century democracy, and it’s time we started to incorporate it into our thinking and our demands for our futures.

Money Flows

Hot money flows will not save the bankrupt status quo.

This week two news stories pointed to an issue that, wish it were otherwise, demonstrate the need for fundamental system change. The first story regards the fortune amassed by the Mubarak family during their rule of Egypt and the second concerns the massive scale of the corruption afflicting Indian society. Read the comments after the Indian article to get a real grasp of how this kind of corruption affects the core of a society down to the smallest neighbourhood, and this story that reveals the extent of the theft of public property in Egypt.

Where do these trillions of ‘hot’ currency go? They go into banks in the Western industrialized nations and their lackey tax havens – these three components form a coherent whole, interdependent on each other. This is colonialism by corruption, and the citizens of the beneficiary societies are as guilty of complicity today as they were 100 years ago. If you live in the West, don’t feel bad about it: you’re as much a victim as the citizens of the new ‘colonies’, because the same institutionalized theft is robbing your neighbourhood of resources just as much, through tax avoidance.

Why is this tolerated? Well it’s not tolerated by those who can’t do anything about it, in Egypt and India; they are just in a state of powerless despair. It is tolerated by those of us who can do something about it, because we have been unwitting clients of the system. The availability and use of debt to finance our distracted acquiescence has been the magician’s move that has drawn our attention away from the true play that is being made. In this trick there is a fine balance that the magician must strike, wherein the audience feels like it is getting more than it deserves, without actually getting real benefits. Like any sidewalk hussler, when the opportunity comes along to really cream a willing punter, the escape requires all parties to feel sufficiently guilty that no one feels entitled to recompense. This where the citizenry of the West is: asleep at the table, engorged on the fake food served up by the chefs in the kitchen while they resell the real food out of the back door of the restaurant to their buddies on the black market.

What can be done about it? The complete reorganization of the banking system. Preferably a coordinated reorganization encompassing the US, the EU, the UK and Japan; but even a principled stand by one of those financial centers would put the cat amongst the pigeons enough to disrupt the system and lead to change over the medium term.

What are the consequences? Without the hot, secret money Western banks will not be able to generate the profits they do today, nor would they be able to support the same level of employment. The fall off in tax revenues and employment in the client states would have to be offset, requiring a fundamental reorganization of commercial and social infrastructure. The net effect on tax revenues to Western states might even be positive, as banks pay a smaller percentage of their profits in taxes than the individuals and corporations who use the banks to avoid tax would have to pay on their incomes if they were properly declared. Potential benefits to non-haven states would be massive improvements in social wellfair, but would only accrue if accompanied by a significant democratization of their political systems – that democratization would be much easier to achieve without banking system support for corruption.

When will this happen? When the balance of benefits to the citizens of the haven states falls below even. The citizens of those haven states have already assumed the burden of the 2008 bank bailouts, but they have accounted for that with debt, so the full reality of those costs have not yet been bourn. The “plan” is to meet those debts over the coming decade by leveraging the same financial colonialism and conjuring (the failures of which created the debts in the first place) so that the massive increase in the money supply (aka ‘printing money’) that was used to account for the debts can be matched to grown wealth. This plan relies on the perpetuation of the existing banking system, complete with inflows of hot, corrupt money from all over the world. This is why today’s Western leaders will connive, lie and obstruct as much as they think they need to to protect the status quo, because they do not know how to plan for or adjust to a fundamentally reorganized society – they are not evil, they are just clueless.

The troubles with the “plan” are already becoming obvious. First is that the wealth that is being created is being confined to very small slither of the populations of the haven states, and, in a superb irony, they are using the same financial corruption to avoid adding to the wealth of states they inhabit. Second is that the debts cannot be satisfied with the growth that is available, and must be supplemented by sucking more wealth out of compliant tax payers through ‘austerity measures’. Third, none of the first two plans is happening fast enough to stop the excess money causing inflation, further exacerbated by real increases in the costs of raw materials. These problems mean that the haven states will start, this year, to raise interest rates to combat inflation, and in so doing push the balance of benefits for their average citizen firmly into negative territory. 20% youth unemployment, rising basic living costs and a kleptocratic ruling elite are the perfect ingredients for a revolution – witness North Africa, January 2011.

In the next few years, as real social disruption develops in Western states, a serious debate will emerge around whether completely reorganizing our economic and social frameworks is actually any less disruptive that attempting to maintain the old status quo. If we desire a constructive process of change we need to start thinking now about how that reorganization can manifest positively – that’s the reason to read and contribute to alternative thinking like the Standards of LIFE.

We Know Better

Bottom up or top down, which way is best?

We know better than you. That’s the basic message we hear nowadays – from captains of industry, diplomats, politicians and humans with a claim on the mind of god. But the truth depends on where you’re standing and who’s saying it.

Are you a Monsanto executive talking about how to feed the world? Or are you a farmer talking about what works for your land?
Are you a Western diplomat talking about Middle East peace? Or are you a Middle East citizen talking about your community?
Are you a banker talking about sovereign debt? Or are you unemployed in a capitalist democracy?
Are you an executive responsible for 10,000 employees? Or are you one of those employees?
Are you a pontiff? Or a victim of rape?

Who knows better than you?

Well, you know that no one knows better than you, about you. It is an inevitable facet of being alive that we are the experts on our own experience. This leads us to develop a certain confidence about the veracity of our perspective that we bring unconsciously to our opinions about other things, things that are not actually our own, personal experience. This false confidence is why the useful development of our selves passes inevitably through humility. Humility is a process by which we learn to distinguish between we can really know, because it is our own experience, and what we are deducing, based on the combining of facts we have access to and our experience with similarities. Without an intentional effort to develop awareness and humility, we are mired in a thoughtscape of certitude that serves our perspective but does nothing for the common cause. In other words, no one need know better than you, so long as you are not making decisions for anyone else; if you are making decisions that affect others, it is supremely important that you understand who knows better than you.

So “who knows better” is defined by both access to facts and access to humility. Those with access to facts but without humility are subject to arrogance and self-deceit that depreciates the value and quality of their opinion. Today power is centered around a “top down” approach, whether that be in the form of major multi national corporations or the political elites of industrialized societies, that is substantially lacking in humility – as is demonstrably proven by the Wikileaks revelations. This need not be a bad thing, in and of itself, because many decisions made for the good of the majority are best made at a high level; but if humility is missing from the atmosphere that those decision are made in, the quality of those decisions becomes disastrously poor. And poor decisions made at the top, for vast constituencies, are potentially catastrophic for everyone – witness the quality of current decision making about climate change.

Successful leadership in a successful society brings together facts and humility, often in the position of a ‘public servant’: an acquirer of knowledge who acts on behalf of the greater citizenry to enable high quality, effective and empathic decision making. But even a public servant cannot be a knower of all things and there is bound to be tension between the goods of overlapping constituencies, and that is why we also have politicians. Politicians are supposed to take the informed knowledge and opinions of multiple public servants and fashion policy, meaning that they make the decisions arbitrating between competing ‘goods’. The entire decision making process in advanced and complex societies is substantially dependent on the quality of the public service that feeds information into the decision making process in the first place. That leads us to another very worrying development of the last few decades in many powerful democracies: the public service has, all too often, been co-opted by the private sector. Through a combination of devaluing the work of public servants and attempting to honour the unbridled right of every individual to seek the opportunities that reward them the most, we have corroded the boundaries between public and private service so much that there is now, in many countries, a revolving door between the two.

The best decisions would be taken by those informed by the best knowledge of the issue, steeped in humility and the pursuit of the greater good. Instead we have decisions taken by the supplicants of the rich and the powerful (privately funded politicians), informed by a public service that always has half an eye on the best interests of the private sector for whom they may wish to work in the near future. Humility is not even regarded as a quality worth having, and quite possibly it is seen as a weakness.

So who knows how to fix this?

It is helpful, and important, to recognize the multi-layered truth about decision making and the source of useful knowledge. It is unlikely that any one person is the exclusive holder of the truth, it is more likely that there are a few truths dependent on perspective, and that the best decisions will come from reconciling these to fashion a ‘best possible’ solution. The better version of decision making will incorporate this multi-layered reality in its foundation and structure, such that decisions are made at appropriately different layers for different issues. A decision making process that incorporates this reality will best serve the greater good in more cases than either a single top down or bottom up diktat. While today’s power structures are undoubtedly top heavily and need of radical adjustment, we would do well to consider this nature of the problem, and the best possible solutions before simply electing to turn the hat upside down again. (I say “again” because we have had revolutions before, inspired by a desire to turn the power structure upside down, but they quickly run aground on the rocks of practical realities, and revert to upside up in pretty short order.)

Thankfully, we are already fairly well equipped to make this transition because we have already adopted two important building blocks for better decision making: defining the multiple layers and establishing voting systems. Layers are geographically concentric segmentations of our lands; where continents contain countries, countries contain regions or states, and states contain counties or communities. All this is already practically implemented and established, albeit in need of a large dose of citizen choice in the form of self selection of association. Furthermore many places around the world already have voting systems set up in each of these constituencies, and many also have distinct layers of government at each level of constituency.

So what do we need to add or change?

Ironically, the biggest flaw in today’s democracies is that we have “bottom up” ways of electing politicians to our “top” layers of government. Inherited from our tribal, non-technological heritage we send local representatives up to regional, national and international decision making bodies; where they are quickly overwhelmed by the scope and size of the issues and the large interest groups formed specifically to operate successfully at that higher layer. The exception to this is the presidential model whereby an “executive” is voted for by all the members of the total constituency. However, keenly aware of the potential for corruption in an individual, we make that executive’s decision making power dependent on the support of the elected assembly of local politicians. This has been the “state of the art” structure for politics for over 200 years, and is often lauded for its incorporation of a “balance of power”, or system of “checks and balances”. In our modern world however, this structure is failing us, and fails to deliver the quality of decision making that we could have with a modernized structure that incorporates the advances in our technological capacities over the last two centuries. Modern communications and transport mean that now we can know about and vote for candidates over vast geographies – witness our existing presidential elections as an example of this in practice already.

Instead of a bottom up electoral system to generate top down government, a “layered” electoral structure, with a direct line between every citizen in that constituency and their representative for that layer of government, will yield better decision making by politicians specifically focussed on the issues best addressed at that layer of government. The citizens not only decide who makes decisions on their behalf, but also at which level or layer those decisions are best made. In a multi-layered democracy every citizen votes for a candidate from exactly the same slate of candidates as every other citizen in that same constituency. For instance, for a national assembly: every citizen in the nation votes for a candidate standing for election by all the citizens in the nation; the candidate is not going to the national assembly to represent a local district, they are going to the national assembly to make decisions about national affairs, and only national affairs. That same citizen votes for representatives in local and regional assemblies, who decide which issues are better decided at their level or promoted for decision by a higher layer.

Neither strictly “top down” nor “bottom up”, multi-layered representative democracy generates higher quality decisions by locating the decision making in the appropriate layer of government best able to “know best” (in the opinion of the citizenry) about that particular issue. In the end we know best and we need to structure our decision making bodies to allow us to define the best place for different decisions. We still need humility and quality public servants, but those will be easier to come by when we reform our political systems to disperse our power over appropriate constituencies.

To find out more about how all of this works visit

Love, religion and politics

The common theme in all religions of stature is that loving kindness is the true path to happiness for humankind.

Practicing loving kindness needs development and training in humans, and so all religions incorporate guidance to their adherents as to how to accomplish the discipline necessary to develop an enduring practice of loving kindness. To promulgate these behaviors there is an obvious progression, especially in societies dominated by a single religion, to incorporating that guidance into the rules and laws of that society.

The root problem with legislating the path to loving kindness is that it is an internal journey, accomplished by individual humans for themselves, and cannot be externally imposed. So the whole endeavor becomes a completely self-defeating strategy as the freedoms of the humans subjugated thusly are curtailed and replaced with intimidation and oppression – the opposite of loving kindness! Spiritual traditions can offer a path to happiness but they cannot force anyone down that path; faced with this reality religious governments invariably conclude that their only option for non-conforming people is to imprison, main or kill them, otherwise they lose the credibility of their attempt to legislate their path.

Compounding the error, spiritual “laws” do not provide good guidance on the practicalities of running a developed society with millions of citizens. Inevitably, religious societies bring in the services of commercial minds to accomplish those tasks. Thus is born the moralist-capitalist state, of which there are many examples today, not least of which include Iran, China and the USA. This is doubly ineffectual because the commercial interest is not the same as the social interest, and now you have moralists restraining freedom at the same time as you have commercialists restraining the growth of wealth (the commercial mind is concerned primarily with the concentration of wealth).

For humans to develop their innate faculties for loving kindness they must live in a free society that is run for the benefit of its citizens. If we are to give ourselves the government we deserve, we MUST take PERSONAL responsibility for our own path to loving kindness. This insight is incorporated in the Standards of LIFE, and determines the absolute requirement for secular government.

Social supremacy

The ascendancy of society in a post-evolutionary age.

Nowadays we like to talk about the supremacy of our constitution and the ascendancy of market forces. We like to think of ourselves as living under the rule of law and we tend to think of our good lives, or our bad lives, being the output of our economies. After all, the muscular development of our economies has brought us the fruits of development and our societies are held together by the rule of law, right? Well, true, up to a certain extent. But we are in danger of missing a crucial truth that underlies these facts: law and wealth have existed before.

Great wealth and strong legal systems have been features of human empires before now: Egyptian, Mayan, Roman, Mongol, Ottoman, Russian and British empires, to name but a few, all had strong legal systems and generated enormous wealth. The difference between what exists today and the history is not the mere existence of law and wealth, it is the manner and tone of their application. This is the first hint at what we might be missing in our perspective of the current times. The fact that we have laws and wealth is not the defining character of our times, it is the nature of our laws and our wealth that distinguishes us from our forebears.

What determines the nature and manner in which law is applied, or economic wealth is experienced? It is the culture and norms of the society within which they operate that shapes the form and function of law and wealth. To think of the value of our society as the crude existence of the rule of law and the freedom of markets is to miss a crucial element; the application of our rules of law and the operation of our free markets are critically dependent on our social standards to deliver the preferred outcomes. Our society is not shaped by law and wealth, our society shapes our law and wealth. If you are thinking some version of “Well duh! Of course!” at this moment, then dodge this: you are not the recipient of the benefits of this system, nor are you the victim of it, you are a critically important shaper, protector and developer of this system. The supreme determinant of the quality of our system is not our laws and economies, it is the social framework within which those operate; and we are all individually and collectively responsible for the nature of that framework.

Understanding the supremacy of our social constructs as the defining framework that determines the quality of the outputs from our other mechanisms is a crucial step toward delivering better outcomes. Only once we accept responsibility for our role in determining the nature and norms of our society can we expect our laws and our economy to deliver the outputs we seek. Our laws and our wealth cannot protect us from that which we fail to take responsibility for, they are dependent for their efficacy on us first.

So it is the nature and the character of the society within which we define our laws and economies that determines the results. We cannot expect that our laws will defend us from the flaws we establish in our basic social constructs. Laws against profiteering will not prevent profiteering in the delivery of services that we outsource to profiteers. Laws against the trade in substances that we desire will not prevent the trade in those substances. Laws against unequal treatment will not create equality. Only when we have taken responsibility for establishing our standards will the mechanisms deliver results – intention is everything.

A crucial understanding that evolves is that we are not a society made from laws and economics, we are an intentional society that creates laws and economies to serve our society. A constitution does not define our society, it reflects our society. Free markets do not create our society, they serve our society.

The challenge that this presents us is that of being responsible for shaping our society, our environment, our framework. As creatures evolved from millennia of being passive recipients of our environment, we are not yet used to having to take responsibility for creating it, we are more used to seeing ourselves as actors subservient to the scriptwriter. But humans are no longer the passive recipients of evolutionary constraints, we have become active participants in defining our evolution. This presents an huge increase in our responsibility, and one which we tend to neither accept nor enjoy; but fact is truth and we have no escape from this development.

Talk of being the hapless products of our environment, of being the vassals of something bigger, of being the lucky recipients of the fruits of external systems, are all abdications of our responsibility; albeit a responsibility we wondered into unintentionally. We cannot get out of our way and everything will be alright, we have surpassed the point of no return on the evolutionary path and now we have no choice but to take up the mantle and grow into our role. I’m not sure there ever was one, but now there is no such thing as a self-directed free market that will serve our needs; our needs can only be met through intentionally directed activity. We cannot be slaves to a constitution written two hundred years ago and founded in traditions even older than that; we must accept the responsibility to develop a constitutional framework that suits our times and the nature of our modern predicament. Much of the nonsense spouted in the name of politics today is mere cowardice and ignorance in the face of an inescapable need to face up to the reality that humankind is now a partner in evolution, and not just a product of it.

Abdication in the face of necessity is not a strategy, it is pure childish folly. If you’re young enough to be pretty sure of being alive in 2030 you’d be a fool to let the mirage of ancient fallacies deter you from action any longer. And if you’re old enough to be pretty sure that you won’t be alive in 2030 you’ll go down in history as the most selfish and ignorant generation of the entire human race, if you don’t come alive to your responsibilities now and stop hiding behind the skirts of dysfunctional democracy and the hollow promises of dysfunctional economics. You are the determinant of the nature of your society and your society is the determinant of the output of your laws and your economy – take up the mantle, wake up your heart and grasp the nettle that is our common responsibility to intend our future, not accept an impoverished alternative.

BIG problems need small solutions

Effective and successful human societies are based on trust, cooperation and contribution. The balance between trust and cooperation is the key to unlocking our contribution. The social structure must provide sufficient protection of and benefit for the individual, to balance the necessary curtailment of individual liberty in the public space within which cooperation happens.

If I was to tell you that to fix our biggest problems we need only do three things: protect individual rights, devolve political power down to our communities and guarantee everyone the bare necessities of a productive life. What would you say?

Would you say that those three things do not address climate change, immigration, food sovereignty, trade, Middle East peace or some other issue?
Would you say that these changes are impossible, or impractical?
Would you say that changing the structure is futile or irrelevant if we don’t change ourselves first?

You’d be mistaken, if you did. We are faced with a veritable bevy of very serious and very significant problems: climate change, poverty, war, nuclear proliferation, demographics, corruption, water shortages and food insecurity, to name but a few. In seeking solutions to address these problems we are easily aware that we need big changes, but we tend to slip into looking for one or two big solutions for each problem. This is our pitfall, it leads us to see solutions in competition with each other and it does not deliver results.

Big solutions to big problems are easy to describe, to capture in a soundbite and put in a manifesto, but they are not reality. The solution to hunger in Africa is not aid, the solution to climate change is not carbon sequestration nor is it a carbon tax nor any other “magic bullet”. The big news about all of the big solutions we need is that they are made up of thousands of millions of little solutions acting in concert.

The most radical principle we must adopt if we are to solve our problems is devolution: we must empower individuals, communities and affected populations of all sizes to develop the specific solutions that befit their situations. Poverty, food supply, peace and environmental balance will not be fixed from above by beneficent leaders (even if we had any). The problems are too complex and the appropriate solutions too varied by locale to be effectively articulated in a grand plan from above.

The only grand plan we need is to empower people to develop their own solutions.

Such a grand plan of devolution must build the framework that will enable a thousand million solutions. The framework requires first that we trust one another. Next we must harness the value of collective, effective and coordinated decision-making. Finally we must free ourselves to make our maximum contributions. Those are the reasons why we need a new constitution, effective democracy and universal services, and why only this approach will actually result in solutions to our big problems.

Effective and successful human societies are based on trust, cooperation and contribution. The balance between trust and cooperation is the key to unlocking our contribution. The social structure must provide sufficient protection of and benefit for the individual, to balance the necessary curtailment of individual liberty in the public space in which cooperation happens. A clearly defined set of rules that formally incorporates these protections and benefits is a necessary precursor to full-throated cooperation.

Cooperation is as simple and as complex as it looks. We cooperate personally with our family and friends, communally in our neighborhoods, regionally for our utilities, nationally for our standards and internationally for peace; and even that is only a thin slice of the total reality. The only reason to constitutionalize freedom is to enable cooperation, and that makes cooperation to constitutional corollary. We need to be able to describe and incorporate our framework for cooperation just as we describe and incorporate our freedoms and protections.

Constitutionalizing cooperation requires a rationalization of our social framework, contemporaneous with the incorporation of flexibility that acknowledges and accommodates the inevitable inaccuracy of a universal application of that rationalization. The model of multilayered representation ( reconciles the needs of rationalization and flexibility by providing for local variability and tempromorphism without threatening the structural integrity of the cooperation that it enables. By using anthropologia as its source, MLR’s structure is universally applicable, concurrent with its malleability to local circumstances.

Having established the basis of trust and cooperation through the instrument of a constitution, the remaining ingredient is facilitating universal contribution. Anthropology reveals a natural human inclination to make contributions, once the threats to survival have been overcome. So the first step to enabling everyone to engage in developing and enacting the many small solutions we need to our big problems, is to do what we can to annul the distractions of personal survival. This requires a social commitment by all to the provision of the bare necessities of life to all. The reorientation of our societies toward more fundamentally democratic principles must be accompanied by a revisioning of the social contract to include not only the freedom and security of members but also their basic survival needs.

Universal services are the embodiment of the social contract and are delivered to all as a right of citizenship. As the foundation stone of our society it is right and proper that our tax revenues are used first to deliver these basic services. Beyond the manifestation of principle, the delivery of universal services fosters a cornucopia of opportunity for contribution from all. The cooperation built on trust will direct contributions to develop and implement the solutions to our biggest problems at the lowest marginal cost, because the revealed market for contributions values everything, however small, but only at its marginal value-added. Every service can find its place in a marketplace relieved of the competition of survival. Transaction volumes, wealth, efficiency, resilience and innovation are all increased dramatically. So are the opportunities for unique and enhancing contributions that can improve our standard of life, open gateways to personal growth and bring fun and joy into our existences. Plainly put, there are many more activities worth doing once your food and shelter are guaranteed for life.

So I say again that there are only three things we need to change to develop the solutions to our biggest problems: adopt a constitution protecting freedom, devolve political power and deliver universal services. Three things that, for different reasons in different countries, will be strongly resisted by the rich and the powerful elites; but their resistance does not for one moment tarnish the necessity or imperative.

The scale of the challenges we face and the universal implications of failing to address those challenges points us most assuredly at the vitality and importance of coordinated, cooperative contributions to meet those challenges. The universal adoption of a universal constitution and the provision of universal services do address our problems, they are practical (if not pragmatic), they are intertwined with the opportunity for personal growth and they are absolutely, unequivocally necessary for our survival.

Self association addresses key issues at their root causes

The fundamental challenge in the development of human society is to leverage peace for the benefit of all.

Self Association: the legal right of social groups to freely associate themselves within larger groups, as described in the Standards of LIFE for multilayer representation and variable law.

When we look around the world at places where there is conflict and violence, even war, we can distill the root causes into two basic struggles:

  • the right of self-determination
  • control over natural resources

In most ways these two struggles boil down the same issue: the rights of communities to govern themselves. Why is such a basically obvious matter the cause of so much strife? Because the monolithic structures of our outdated political systems have no framework or mechanisms within which local autonomy can be accommodated.

We live in a world where the predominant guiding principles of government have more in common with benevolent imperial dictatorship than with modern democracy. Our nationstates are based on borders defined by cartography more than geography and by control more than empowerment. Having created unnatural and artificial boundaries, it becomes necessary to invoke the appeal of false identities crudely fashioned from a mix of projected ideals, fostered fears and caricatured qualities in order to create any national unity or social cohesion. Because these nationalist identities are so invented, they actually represent no one and are fertile ground for those who would abuse power to satiate their personal foibles.

As rigid, brittle entities our nationstates feel threatened by unique or differentiated identities within their limits and are drawn to suppress their expression lest they lead to separatist intentions. Yet in the very act of suppressing separatism they encourage it by demonizing the separatists while they eviscerate the freedoms of the whole population. The direct negative consequences flowing from these retarded, legacy constructs include: border insecurity, terrorism, migration instability, environmental degradation, inefficient resource utilization and, most significantly, low quality of life for everyone.

Let’s look at these in turn to understand how they go wrong today and how allowing self association would result in better outcomes.

The current attachments of nationstates to cartographic definitions of their borders is only natural given that those borders are the primary defining characteristic of their identity. The result is a disproportionately muscular attention to border security and, in many cases, actual wars fought over the cartographic definition of the borderline. (Let’s call this “borderline insanity”: the maniacal attachment of ruling elites to remote survey points.)

Now imagine two neighbor nationstates that adopt MLR constitutions and you will see that the two large blocks of color on a flat map will be replaced by a multitude of tiny fragments covering the areas inhabited by both states — each fragment representing a community. The communities will freely self associate into regions and those regions into states. Initially a map that only showed the new states may well look very similar to the nationstates they replaced, but there will be one crucial difference. The borders between the states are now defined by the self association of the communities in those locations, and they are free to change their association from one region to another, and in so doing the border between the states changes by that one small fragment represented by that community. No international treaties required, no wars, no fuss and no one’s business save the citizens of that community.

Now imagine that scenario played out in your conflict area of choice: Israel/Palestine, Kosovo/Serbia, India/Pakistan, UK/Ireland or Russia/Chechnya?

The futility and frustration that spawns the cultures from which terrorism leaps out to thrust insane violence on the innocent are nurtured by the rigid nationstates’ incapacity to accommodate differentiated identities.

Freely associated communities would never harbor the decrepit mentality of terror and anyone disposed to such perspectives would be stifled at their emergence by the lack of shelter, succor and support.

Individual terror is a hazard of the human condition, “terrorism” is the progeny of unnatural social orders resulting from suppressed freedoms.

Centrally controlled, monolithic societies with rigid borders have a bipolar relationship with migration: they encourage it in good times and demonize it in hard times. Furthermore, the sublimation of community authority makes their migration policies crude at precisely the point where refined and nuanced practice is required.

When migration is managed by the communities that must accommodate it, it assumes the very human dimension that it autonomically has and which larger entities cannot provide. Migration is the movement of individuals between communities and it is at that level but it must be managed. When communities have authority over, and responsibility for, their own configuration migration is rendered moot at any higher level of social structure.

The control of resources, be it water, minerals, land or energy, is often the driving force behind conflicts between nationstates. The justification used is that the inclusion of these resources within the boundaries of that state will be of benefit to all their citizens.

The actual practice of resource management and exploitation at a macro state level reveals two fundamental flaws in the arguments proffered to support state control. Both of these flaws have their origins in the same characteristic: remote decision-making. The cost-benefit analyses computed by even the most well-intentioned remote actors are based on such poor data that the costs are underestimated and the benefits overestimated. With weak and/or selfish state actors the situation deteriorates further into environmental carnage that results only in the aggrandizement of corrupt central politicians and dealmakers.

The devolution of resource responsibility to democratic local communities results in much more accurate cost assessments and much greater disinclination toward environmental destruction. Local resource management also extracts much greater benefit from the resources at the same time that intercommunity trade, interaction and negotiation are stimulated because full value extraction from the resources requires trade. These trading relationships ensure that the benefits are more evenly and deeply integrated into the societies involved in exploiting the full value of the resource, with lower negative environmental impact.

Large-scale, remote, state actors making poor decisions based on poor data tend to underestimate the true costs of exploitation and so sell the resources at below optimal pricing, resulting in distorted markets where undervalued resources are used inefficiently, because of their low price.

Local ownership that insists on environmentally sound practices and understands the full cost of exploitation will price the resulting resources more accurately, leading to more efficient use. Additionally this fair resource exploitation removes any need to spend money (i.e. other resources) suppressing, repressing and corrupting local populations in the originating region who resist unfair exploitation and may even stimulate separatist ambitions, further exacerbating the cycle of inefficiency.

Quality of life
The fundamental challenge in the development of human society is to leverage peace for the benefit of all. Violence can deliver short-term benefits for the few and if that is only matched by peace, then there is a temptation to gamble on the outcome. Either way, if the benefits only accrue to the few the system is inherently unstable and destined to fail, at which point it is likely to be detrimental to all.

The nationstate is such a system, it subjugates the rights of self-determination in the name of resource control that invariably delivers benefits to the few. Peace is the period during which the few build up resource imbalances and war is the period during which resources are used to protect or enhance the imbalances.

To break out of this destructive cycle it is necessary to adopt social structures which allow for self-determination without social fragmentation. The principle of self association within a multilayered organizational structure that protects local rights while encouraging inter-social cooperation provides the framework for the development of human societies that can exploit the peace dividend for the greater good of all in an inherently sustainable way.

The devolution of the primary organizing structure to our fragmented communities, that then freely self associate into larger and larger social groupings is possible, natural and most likely to ensure our survival and prosperity.

If Barack Obama was a LIFE Supporter, his agenda would look like this…

The broad agenda is no different that that adopted by the Obama team: stabilize the economy, restore the rule of law and the balance of justice to the people.
To see how the policies and strategies below align with these goals, go to the bottom of this post.

The first thing he would do would be to establish five commissions, each tasked with the development of detailed implementation plans for major policy areas:

  • energy
  • BASE
  • taxes
  • democracy
  • digital identity

The Energy commission
This commission is tasked with the introduction of initial carbon loading taxes starting in January 2010. Commissioners with expertise in the mechanisms of fuel markets, efficiency and environmental impact will have only a few months to determine the initial fuels that will attract a carbon tax and the mechanism by which carbon load will be calculated.
However rudimentary the initial implementation is, it is important that this is started as soon as possible.
All revenues from the carbon tax will be dedicated to the development of renewable energy industries.

The BASE commission
Charged with the assessment costs for the provisioning of all BASE services to all citizens, starting on 1 January 2011. The first task for this commission will be to assess a Shelter Equivalent value that can be used in the housing acquisition program (see below). Mechanisms for the distribution of funds to cover the costs of BASE services are also part of this commission’s responsibilities.

The Tax commission
This commission is responsible for reforming the IRS to allow it to effectively provide income tax collection services on behalf of all constituencies starting on January 1, 2011. Part of this work will be assessing the costs associated with those elements of government that do not fall under the purview of BASE, and will therefore have to be funded from corporate or sales taxes. Using these assessments and the results of assessments by the BASE commission, they will be able to determine the required rates of taxation necessary to cover the existing government budget.

This commission will also be responsible for the establishment of processes by which the tax revenues allocated to BASE services are distributed to the lowest layer constituency appropriate for the delivery of the service.  In many, if not most, cases this will mean distribution to the States until lower layer constituencies are established in 2011 and later.

The Democracy commission
This commission is tasked with reform of the electoral process for federal assemblies (Senate & House) effective 2013, and developing the processes and frameworks that will allow for the development of multilayer representation starting at the community level. Included in the remit for this commission will be the establishment of boundary commission standards and the development of a framework for the election of a world assembly.

The xID commission
Responsible for developing the standards for a xID digital identity system that will be introduced at the beginning of 2012.  Experts in technology infrastructure, digital security and constitutional matters will develop technical, operational and legal standards for the system in compliance with the standards for distributed storage and privacy defined in the xID specification.


  • In addition to the establishment of these commissions, during the first 90 days an independent central bank will be created charged with responsibility for the management of the currency and the regulation of banking system.
  • Also in the first three months, the Guantánamo prison and all CIA black sites will be closed and any prisoners deemed to be an ongoing threat to the country brought back to the USA to be tried in courts.
  • Military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan will start a rapid draw down with the target of returning to a small number of defensible bases within 12 months.
  • Last but not least, draft a constitutional amendment protecting personal freedom of choice in personal space, targeted for ratification in 2011.

Housing acquisition program
As soon as the independent central bank is established and the BASE commission has derived a Shelter Equivalent value (effectively a replacement value for a standardized housing unit), it will be possible for any citizen to sell their primary residence to the public for a payment equal to the Shelter Equivalent. The citizen will retain a 20 year, inheritable, occupancy right to the property but ownership will belong to the community/public. Until BASE services are fully introduced, the tenant will be responsible for the payment of utilities and the costs of maintenance, failure to pay these costs can result in termination of occupancy.
Any mortgage lender will have to surrender their interest in the property in return for the Shelter Equivalent payment.
This program will be in effect until 2011, or the start of BASE services.

Federal legal review
The Justice Department will review all federal laws and rescind any laws on the books that contravene the proposed amendment regarding personal freedom.
The Justice Department will establish a review process for the case-by-case review of the sentencing of all people currently held in custody, or subject to parole restrictions, based solely on convictions under laws that are now to be rescinded.


  • BASE services will be started early for all veterans. Meaning that veterans will have free access to all public services, including housing, sustenance, healthcare, transport, education, information and legal services.
  • Carbon taxes start.
  • Cessation of all non-defensive missions by military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Future military activity will only be engaged in the support of efforts initiated and led by domestic governments that have been democratically elected by their people.
  • Establish regional healthcare authorities tasked with the funding of regional healthcare facilities and practitioners starting 2011 


  • New tax regime starts along with the implementation of BASE services for all residents.
  • Draft constitutional amendments, resulting from the work of the Democracy Commission, presented for the establishment of multilayer representation, variable law, proportional representation elections and the new standards for suffrage, targeted for ratification in 2013.


  • First xID systems online.
  • First world assembly election campaign starts.

At the end of 2012 there will be another presidential election which will provide the people an opportunity for a referendum on the changes made to-date, as well as the proposed constitutional amendments to change the representation and election systems in 2013.
By the beginning of 2013 there will have been elections for all federally elected positions since the announcement of the agenda. This provides for representation that expresses the people’s desires regarding the enactment of the chnages proposed.

Policy Alignment

Economic stablity

  1. Containing the collapse of the housing bubble using the housing acquisition program will stabilize communities by keeping people in their homes and liberating income from debt service that will then be redirected into spending that will stimulate the economy.
  2. Establishing a clear path to a balanced budget, through BASE and tax reform that tackles the social security debts and ties expenditure to revenues, as well as the formation of an independent central bank will restore domestic and global confidence in the economy and our currency, allowing us to borrow credibly should the need arise.
  3. Removing the burdens for pensions and healthcare from industry, by introducing BASE services, will allow for a restructuring of primary manufacturing instead of widespread bankruptcies.
  4. Proper pricing of fuels, through the inclusion of carbon loading, will allow the market to move into the appropriate alternative energy options and will create a fund that can be used for transport infrastructure improvements and the retooling of manufacturing to produce “green” products.

Restoring the rule of law

  1. The introduction of an constitutional amendment to protect personal freedom will do much to restore the public confidence in the rule of law and liberate the judiciary from being confused with the moral police.
    1. Repeal of laws that intrude on personal freedom will free up resources in the judicial, enforcement and detention systems
  2. Restoration of the principles of human dignity and the pursuit of peace will allow us to again champion the rule of law at home and abroad
  3. The establishment of a path to Variable Law will add credibility to the rule of law in our large and complex society

Restoring social justice

  1. Placing the most basic welfare of all citizens at the heart of government endeavor restores the rightful balance that will allow our great economy to flourish once more
  2. Creating the infrastructures for healthcare, education, transport and information will create the opportunity for many to succeed using their own talents, ingenuity and drive
  3. Bringing democratic power back to the communities through reform of our democracy will restore the natural balance between us at the same time that it gives us the ability to take responsibility for ourselves
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