In the early 1980’s a young man fresh out of college and working for the U.S. defense (nuclear weapons research) establishment in California began to reflect on his chosen career in a much broader way than he had imagined back in college. Partly inspired by the politics of his work, he began pondering what he felt was the failure of humanity to figure out a sensible and reasonably logical way to manage the social contract; to govern itself. He believed that all governments he knew of, in that time and throughout history, were failures by the standards he used. He was astonished and dismayed that we could build thermonuclear bombs but were like children when it came to managing society. Like Albert Einstein, he was concerned about the fate of humanity as a whole.
He began studying law and economics and one of his first conclusions was that building a just society would depend on universal jurisdiction. In other words, he believed the most just society was one in which there were no other sovereign, state actors with which the just society had to contend. There were many reasons for this belief, but it turned out to be a kind of feedback loop because, once he decided that, he also realized the enormous challenge a world government would be. This meant that not only would a better, more just society continue to be his goal, if it were to have global jurisdiction it must be something radically more sophisticated (his words) in its design than anything ever proposed for a government. So, the demands a world government placed on legal and economic theory were the same demands he placed on identifying the ideal social contract. Back in the late 90’s he began to suspect that a very privileged class of people around the globe were promoting the advancement of a world government by subversion, deceit and manipulation which they justified on the grounds that open acceptance and ratification of an explicit global constitution was “too hard”. Referred to by many as the New World Order, he decided to distinguish his work as an advocacy for a Final World Order; Finali Ordo Seclorum. Partly satire, he was simply pointing out that the multilateral, unaccountable, out of Rule of Law approach being applied now, like most everything before it, wouldn’t last long.
This development he saw as the same pattern of thinking in the social contract that has been with humanity from the beginnings of written history: there seems to be a never-ending cycle of ideological certainty about things inherently uncertain that leads humanity to continue to repeat its mistakes over and over again. Like religion (he was an atheist), he believed ideology was merely a tool for controlling people and that it really had little empirical or scientific basis as the social sciences simply did not lend themselves to that kind of confidence and certainty. He saw ideology in general as a scam and politicians as con artists bent on acquiring unlimited power. This was the first hint of literally dozens he would get as he progressed through these ideas that any solution to the social contract must be of a cleverly generalized form such that it does not rely on implicit religious, nationalistic, cultural, ethnic or ideological beliefs.
This man, the most humble person I’ve ever known, was not pretentious and not only avoided public attention, he shunned it. At his request, we’ve never publicly named him. But some years later he became the mentor and idol of his nephew, who took his ideas and developed them further. He is the creator of this website. I’ve written this introduction in hopes that the reader can better understand how this truly grand set of ideas in law and economics came about from a humble, brilliant and thoroughly sincere man. And the brilliance and originality of his ideas are clear when we look under the hood: there is really no trace of any dominant ideological, religious, cultural or national pattern of thinking. It is the most original work I’ve ever seen.
Vic Van Houten
General Federalism is a fully independent, grassroots movement to do nothing short than save humanity from itself. The primary motivation for this movement can be summarized by comments of people like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein who have said, in one form or another, that they doubt humanity will survive. Sadly, while technological innovation has progressed by leaps and bounds, our ability to manage human society remains in the dark ages and has seen little if any progress since the French Revolution and the American experiment that began in 1776. This movement attempts to sincerely address this failing without ideological, religious or nationalistic baggage. Unfortunately, as has been the case with a lot of issues surrounding the social contract, the actions of various ideologues and zealots has poisoned the well when it comes to thoughtful, impartial deliberation over the biggest and most serious conundrum to ever face humanity: how do we manage our own society in a fair, just and durable way? From buzz words like fascism, communism, marxism, capitalism, neo-liberalism, imperialism, world government and conspiracy, the most important conversation of our time is tainted from the start. Our movement seeks to change that by framing the discussion in a scientific and rational model grounded in an honest assessment of history. Its time to have an open, frank and very public discussion about how we, human beings, are going to co-exist and thrive together as a cooperative of billions.
In contrast to the method employed by the elites of the recent past, we think that continued dishonesty and deception about the world’s gravest problems is a disastrous course and will never result in a durable solution. The information age is making this proposition a losing one and many in government and in the halls of influence still don’t get it: the world is changing and secrecy and manipulation is no longer a viable strategy. Some of these “elites” have come to realize this and have come forward to engage this conversation. We’d like to invite you, the reader, to join. As we speak very powerful groups of individuals; government officials, bankers, lawyers, judges, celebrities and religious leaders are, terrified of having to come out in the open, trying to establish world governance and multilateral relations across the globe through unofficial mechanisms which we believe are disastrous and cannot be allowed to mature.
A General Federation is a legal and economic entity of bounded but infinite jurisdiction, meaning that it asserts jurisdiction wherever it is able to do so and forever seeks its maximal extent. It is a global scheme. In that regard, General Federalism is the first genuine attempt to address the major complications that such a proposal entails. This has been a key failure of similar proposals in the past that drastically underestimated the difficulty of such a proposal. Some of these proposals, such as the “disaggregated states” of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s fancy, if history is any guide, are prone to instability and a lack of durability and a viable alternative built upon openness is needed to fill any vacuum such proposals could fill.
The motive behind the ambit of jurisdiction is legal and economic but manifests in everyday life as the simple realization that human society can no longer be managed solely at the nation-state level anymore, something few want to admit but something we must address if civilization is to enjoy a long, thriving future.
General Federalism, as its name implies, is designed to be the most general form of government possible retaining the capacity to adequately govern. Generality is sought in order to make such a system as acceptable – as just – as possible to the broadest spectrum of adherents and followers of ideologies, religions, cultures, ethnicities, etc.
It has numerous clever innovations to deal with global governance issues, such as the margins of error encountered in voting events with very large numbers of participants, over accretion of power, incompatibility between nations, incompatibility between economies, durability (ability to withstand the test of time), war, despotism within and the list goes on.
General Federalism says that “democracy” as we understand that term today doesn’t work well, is unjust and will always ultimately fail. Let’s start with how the term “democracy” is understood.
Most people mean something like what we see here in the United States, however technically inaccurate that may be. They see:
1.) delegation by the voters of the authority of policy makers to govern
2.) the exercise of the powers to govern by the voters.
The second part is big and broad and includes the impact of special interests as well as the media and frequent elections.
General Federalism says that only a system that employs 1 and not 2 can work on a global scale. The key is in how power is delegated and revoked at the will of the voter. Compared to Madisonian Federalism (what I call the U.S. system), General Federalism has a much stronger and more deterministic mechanism for the voter’s ability to delegate and revoke political power.
But how do we know this? By a painfully honest and sincere assessment of what history actually tells us. You can read this short article to see what we mean.
General Federalism is marked by a uniquely strong and unequaled emphasis on Rule of Law and in the basic principles of a federalist system of governance (with all its attendant qualities; symmetry, state sovereignty, etc.). In its canonical form it consists of four branches of government. Its Constitution is partly based on the U.S. Constitution. Article 7 of the Constitution for a General Federation is the strongest civil rights protection (substantive law) document I am aware of. It traces its heritage to the U.S. Bill of Rights and additional Amendments, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. And it includes yet more original assertions of Individual rights.
General Federalism finally resolves the issue of economic justice once and for all by establishing an economic scheme that addresses the legitimate concerns of both free market advocates and advocates of planned economies while removing from that system the objections each has to the other. As far as I know, this has never been done before. The Council on Foreign Relations is supporting part of this proposal by support of a global “Public Trust”, which you can read about here.
One of the greatest challenges to political philosophers throughout history has been in how to frame the relationship between government and the various factions of interests within the society it presumes to govern. At the top of the list of faction is that which has historically been seen as the 800 pound gorilla: oligarchy. Former U.S. President William Clinton’s mentor and college professor taught that governments that appeal first and foremost to oligarchy are in fact the only responsible forms of governance; regardless of ideology or method. So, even if totalitarian, a government that allies itself with oligarchy is, by definition, responsible. And this has been the standard, traditional view, albeit one less discussed publicly, followed by the so-called “ruling elite” for centuries. Why? The actual reason is that oligarchs controlled economies and thus controlled societies, so they advanced this theory and put it into practice because … they could. On the other hand, the reason put forth publicly is fairly straightforward and, at first blush, seemingly reasonable: Any government that defies or counters in its policies and acts the underlying, core, organic social power structure is inviting its own overthrow – peaceful or otherwise – by the oligarchy it ignores or otherwise “relegates” to a status of equal standing under law and equity. This, in turn, makes for an unstable system of governance.
We don’t entirely disagree. The problem with this view however, is that it ignores the very real assumption one makes of a certain threshold of organic power existing in definable groups within society sufficient to identify an oligarchy in the first place. In other words, it assumes that society must always be organized around this organic power structure that exists “in the wild”. But can such a structure be superseded? Can it be done without violent revolution (the key question Vladimir Lenin dealt with)? If it were, could a social framework be proffered in its stead that would not defy every natural inkling of humanity?
These questions are so key to understanding the fundamental reasons why our execution of the social contract is so developmentally stunted that we cannot understate its significance. It is failure to answer these questions that leaves us in the dark ages on the social contract.
Vladimir Lenin is one of the few who, in realized historical terms, addressed these questions (or some of them). His answer was wrong but sadly prefigured what is going to happen if something prudent isn’t done. Let me explain. Oligarchy seeks its own. Given sufficient time it will nurture and mature its own destruction as its program becomes intolerable to the majority. As governments make or maintain their alignment with the oligarchy its policies and the economic realities it fosters become increasingly oppressive. The utlimate end is that the majority will “get off the grid” and the whole house will come down. Even without violent revolution, the system will collapse when living “off grid” becomes more tolerable than living in a sufficiently oppressive grid. And oligarchy can’t help itself. It will guarantee that this grid will eventually become intolerable. No amount of brainwashing, social engineering or technology will prevent this outcome … at least in an ultimate sense.
Other forms of faction include nationalism, ideology, religion, etc. If General Federalism can be called an ideology then it is the most sophisticated one that can exist, by definition, because it is general. In other words, it seeks to ensure durability partly through a generality that elevates itself above all factions while simultaneously retaining the specific attributes necessary to govern. That is the twenty million dollar riddle General Federalism attempts to solve (and you’ll need to read the links here to see how). This is the most frustrating part of the current situation: the very objections most have to world government hinge on the presumed impracticality of implementation, the very thing General Federalism, unlike any other scheme, solves. It would be easier to garner the political will and capacity to create a General Federation than it was to create the European Union. And a General Federation would work far, far better.
The best, most general solution to the problem of oligarchy is to sell General Federalism to those that make up the oligarchy (and everyone else) as the only rational, sane alternative to an ultimate, total meltdown of humanity and civilization itself if progress is not realized.
General Federalism is an ongoing project, and is in effect a Request for Comments, which is one of the key hallmarks of this approach: it is open, transparent, diverse and seeks the broadest input from all the people of the world. All are invited to join the discussion.
For those of you interested, here’s a bulletized breakdown of why we advocate global rule of law AND how General Federalism works.
You can also search the site and read more in the links if you’re interested.
My discussion of the Public Trust under General Federalism can be found below.
This Constitution is a must read to truly understand General Federalism (volunteers, if you are a lawyer and think you can recast this Constitution in a more readable form please email me at email@example.com):
Memorandum 26 is here:
And the CFR article on the Memorandum can be found here.