It’s fun to ponder on what the ideal government would look like. When you take into account human nature and the physical situation our world is in, and try to make something that is more moral and just, it sometimes help you see to what direction our own country should go.
Lysander Spooner is one of those radicals who wasn’t paid much attention in his day. He nevertheless had some neat ideas that I can’t completely disregard. Among them, my favorite is the idea of consent. Governments should not suppose they have the consent of the governed, but should seek to explicitly obtain such consent. When a child turns 18, they should be given the same citizenship tests we give to immigrants, and required to take the same oath.
People who choose to live among us but do not choose to subject themselves to the government would be treated the same way we treat foreign nationals. As long as they obey the rules, they get to participate fully, except in matters of government. If they disobey the rules, the suffer the same consequences, which they have no say in determining since they are not part of the government. If they don’t like that, they can choose to live somewhere else.
I would like to see some mechanism for changing the government of the land. The only sane thing I can think of is giving the landowners a say in what government is in force on their land. As such, there is a sort of superior government that governs only who owns what property and what government is in force on that property, and several governments depending on the land.
In that vein, I don’t see why we can’t have a different government for every county in our country. Each county would span a population of up to a million people or a few square miles. These counties can choose to participate in a larger government that determines common law among the counties, via representatives elected by the counties (and not necessarily by the people in the counties.) If groups of counties become dissatisfied with this broader government, then they can choose to organize themselves in a new federation.
Counties would administer their territory through a system whereby groups of ten families would send 1 representative, and groups of 100 would send 3. These “villages” would be almost completely autonomous. Although they would probably be required to sustain a certain minimum law, they wouldn’t have many restrictions beyond that. Any crimes committed in their area would be handled by their judge. Serious crimes would be handled at the county level, in much a similar way as we have it now.
The system we live under today gives more than enough power to our federal and state governments. It’s simply absurd. It removes almost all the responsibility that citizens in our country have, and puts responsibility on our capitols. There is no effective way to fight this. If we allowed our counties to secede from the states, and form new states, I am sure the problem would be solved rather rapidly. It would not cross the mind of a state government to offend any county. Likewise, if we allowed our states to secede and form their own federal governments, we would eliminate any potential for the federal government to abuse any state or small group of states.
Such a system is clearly radical! I can’t imagine a path of small changes that would move us from where we are to this system, short of a complete, systemic collapse. (Such a collapse is possible in my lifetime.) Maybe Spooner’s idea of a true consent will catch on, and we’ll start to move towards such a system.