Dwight Writes


Non-territorial, free-market government

It's time. We need a new national constitution.

It's not that the one we have hasn't served us well. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the men who wrote it and for all who said yes to it. It was, in its time, breathtakingly bold. But more importantly, it expressed where we the people were at that time. We were past the time of absolute, hereditary monarchs. We were ready for a federal government, limited in size and scope, with a balance of powers.

It has moved us forward for over two hundred years, never breaking entirely, but heavily patched, and honored, for the most part, in the breach. The biggest problem has been that the states failed to interpret the document themselves, but allowed the federal government's judiciary branch to provide that function, effectively making the government interpreter of its own constitutive document, like parents who allow one of their children to determine the nature of the relationships within the family. The effect of this lapse was to allow the three branches of government to conspire with one another in a well-orchestrated assimilation of power, at the expense of the states and their people. Thus have the three branches worked assiduously to aggrandize their power, each supporting the other two in this quest.

Many say we must get back to the way things were meant to be, with a limited federal government. That would be wonderful, except that it is quite likely impossible, given the current strength that the federal government holds.

But more to the point, my point being that we need not to return to the constitution but to replace it, is that we the people have changed too much. The old constitution was written for a different kind of people, in a very different time.

For we were once a people substantially united by a common morality, which could be rather easily expressed in a common law that was acceptable to the vast majority of citizens. Clearly we are not that people any more. We are divided deeply by strongly-held differences in morality, and hence, in what the positive law of our nation and states should be.

Is there any doubt as to how deeply we are divided on moral issues? Consider, just for starters, how deeply we are divided on abortion, physician-assisted suicide, the definition of marriage, and fetal stem cell research. Does anyone really think that we will come to a consensus on any of these issues anytime in the near future?

There is an historical parallel to all this change. It occurred in the sixteenth century, with the rise of reformers. I am speaking of Hus, Luther, Calvin, and the many who followed them. Prior to their time, there was substantial agreement on theological and ecclesial issues. Luther originally had in mind a reformation of the Catholic Church (at the time it was "The Church"; there was no other). But eventually the idea of reformation turned into division, and the one visible Church was no more. It is not my intent to judge these events, but to merely describe them and their aftermath. At first, harsh political measures were used by every side to deal with the developing events. Then, concessions were made. Cujus regio, eius religio: the religion of the ruler was the religion of the state. Tolerance of other religious denominations within a single state came slowly but inexorably. One of the features of our current constitution excluded the possibility of a "national" religion, though the states were each allowed freedom in this issue, at least originally.

Where has all this led? We now live at a time where the rights to choose one's religion and to practice it freely is no concern of government at any level. Religious institutions have become non-territorial. Put another way, we have free-market religion. Freedom of religion is an established right.

Which brings me back to the state of our fragmented morality. When people of the distant future look back on our near future, what will they see? We presently have the equivalent of "cujus regio, eius religio", one established morality and law for each nation, but clearly we no longer share one morality, and the "laws of the land" chafe at us. Will the "culture wars", the battles we now have over moral issues, become real wars? Or will we learn from the past and move more swiftly to a non-territorial form of government based on our divided morality? I, for one, hope that we can learn from our past. Which is why I say that we need a completely new national constitution, a new skin for our new wine.

To give some structure to this idea, and to demonstrate how it coincides with the new people we have become, let me speculate about what a non-territorial form of government would look like. Let us assume for the sake of this argument that we start with a federal system very much as it is now. We will have to deal not only with the eventual state of a non-territorial government, but the transition to it.

Currently, our federal government is supplied with the necessary funds to operate primarily by personal and corporate income taxes. For the purpose of continuity, we will establish the much-maligned agent of grief, the Internal Revenue Service, as an on-going business. I will come back in a moment to who will own and operate it. For now, as Douglas Adams said, Do Not Panic.
Tax forms will continue to go out for the next ten years (less if all parties involved agree) just as they have in the past. But, in addition to our calculations of how much money we legally owe the government (morally owe; that's another question), we will also select the non-territorial government (NTG) to which this money will go. Initially there will be just two, the Red Government (Republicans) and the Blue Government (Democrats). Having chosen our affiliation on our tax form, we will be able to vote in the next annual election for the leaders of the NTGs (Red and Blue) for our municipality. The winner of these elections will gather and vote for the leaders of the county NTGs. The county winners gather to vote for leaders of the state NTGs, and those winners choose the leaders of the respective national NTGs. Although it will eventually seem likely that governments at every level will be non-territorial, for the purposes of this thought-experiment I will talk only about the national level.

Each NTG will determine how they want to function internally. Some may choose to give the leadership of their government more power, some less. Each NTG will have a judiciary branch which will both write positive law and interpret it. (What is to keep them from misbehaving!? I'll get to that shortly. Do Not Panic.) The leadership of the NTG will have at their disposal all the funds collected by the IRS from the people and companies who selected them on their tax forms. Those who fail to choose will be ineligible to vote in the municipal elections for any NTG, and their taxes will be assigned evenly to each NTG. The NTGs will have a set of laws corresponding to the moral beliefs of their constituants. Each constituant will be subject to the laws of their NTG, except in cases where they murder or severely disable another, in which case they are subject to the laws of the victim.

What makes it possible for this to work is the ability of each person to choose. Once a year, each person checks a box on their tax form to choose their government for the coming year. This is free-market government. Of the people, by the people, for the people, for real. No longer will we be captive to the political game, where our only real choice is to replace Tweedledee with Tweedledum. Now, if we choose Tweedledum, he knows that if he fails to make us happy, we will take away what matters most to him: the power he gets from spending our money.

Another vital piece of the puzzle: each year the IRS must accept up to two new NTG applications. Thus, if the people who originally supported the Red government for their stand on abortion, but who despise it for its stand on the death penalty or its propensity to attack other nations will split off and found the Purple government.

The question then arises: how do these various governments manage the truly common needs of the nation? They do this by consensus, by working together on the projects they truly agree on and are willing to fund. The Department of Defense, subsequently turned into a corporation called American Security, Inc., will be managed by the stockholders (the Red and Blue and ??? NTGs) who will govern it in proportion to the percentage of ownership they are willing to assume and able to afford. The same goes for the IRS and every other department of the federal government.

I have described a form of government totally foreign to us, yet not without precedent. Accomplishing such a transition and making it work will require great effort and deep thought. But I cannot help but feel certain that such a transition from our current monolithic, monopolistic forms of government must eventually give way to a free-market form of non-territorial government where the government follows the person, not the other way around. The only question as I see it is: when?