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.
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.
Why, we ask, has Humanity and “civilized” society existed for so many hundreds of years wherein the management of that society; that is, governance, has advanced virtually none at all? Today we live in a world of abject government failure that, conspicuous as ever to those with eyes wide open, sits like an unchanging rock in the desert as technology and science whizz past it in a storm of rapid change. What is going on? Why has our ability to manage ourselves failed so miserably? The world is waking up and demanding the right to “take the Church back” and out of the hands of the “priests”; and it’s about time. Sadly, however, those progressive and enlightened hearts have little direction and really don’t have the background to achieve this. Many of them have been scientists and advocates of the scientific method. It is a refreshing contribution, but sadly one incomplete in the core understanding of law and economics needed for the task. The problem is monumental and nontrivial. For the first time in history, as far as I know, an analysis of this problem from a purely rational perspective has been undertaken with no allegiance to religion, ideology, ethnicity, nationalism or any other ‘ism’ (there are many out there who find it hard to believe that some may not “believe” ideology in the same way that the idea of atheism confuses some. But such people do in fact exist). The goal has been and still is; to manage ourselves with a system that actually works.
Key stumbling blocks to advancing the state of the art in the management of human society are
1.) The human fascination with ideology, much like the fascination with religion, is costing humanity enormously, and along with nationalism and other tricks, is used by those who have much to gain to assert and maintain their power. Ideology, religion, nationalism and similar constructs are a vital part of human culture, but there must be a separation between them and the State if success is ever to be achieved.
2.) Organic power structures must be managed, not allowed to run wild. This the core ingredient in the corrosion of Rule of Law. Any system that purports to operate under a representative scheme in Rule of Law that does not manage its organic power structure is not what it may appear to be. This is the big, ugly secret that has haunted humankind’s efforts to liberate the soul from the beginning all the way to the present. Ideological solutions don’t address this problem – and do not therefore constitute representative management – since they themselves merely appropriate those powers from a non-political class for themselves (i.e. Marxism). A completely new and original scheme for running an economy and ensuring that organic power is not concentrated too heavily amongst a minority is paramount. It must be based on representation, not ideology.
3.) With a more scientific, objective and durable organic power structure, a legal system truly based on Rule of Law becomes possible and it is time to begin thinking about what a system under genuine Rule of Law would look like. Fundamental law, while often ignored and even deliberately excluded from discussion, is key to this development.
4.) World governance is already here. In order for this scheme to work, it must become its substitute because opposing organic power structures will guarantee its instability over time. Most proposals for global governance lack the kind of propadeutical background in law and economics to provide a serious, workable and durable solution. This kind of “half-treatment” of the problem must end and serious, well-studied proposals put forth.
5.) The best way to expunge ideology from the management of society, which is, in reality, just another form of ignorance and superstition, is to weed it out by eliminating the political class itself. The only way to achieve that is by some form of direct democracy. Almost all proposals seen so far are of the kind supra which belie a fundamental lack of understanding of law and economics. I, for one, have read untold numbers of direct democracy proposals and can tell you that not one would come close to working and most of them could have been written by a 4 year-old on a drinking binge. We are not talking about “referendum” governments. We’re talking about full-blown direct democracy. A durable, well-studied and thought-out scheme for how Citizens can govern themselves needs to be taken seriously, examined and put forth to address this lacunae. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has proposed a plausible Federation of Citizens that is truly general, a General Federation, in the sense that it requires no political class to operate.
We can argue out of both sides of our mouths here because General Federalism is in fact, not a democracy at all. It is a system of duty. At the same time, it is 100% direct democracy. This contradiction comes from the fact that the concept is original and without an ideological framework. It is a system that includes a reinvention of economics that doesn’t truly resemble anything seen before or that even falls neatly on a spectrum. It is a scheme based on representative ownership of commercial assets, which is the primary mechanism by which the “organic power structure” is “democratized” under this system. But like Capitalism, profits and private property do exist. Like Marxism, it eliminates the issue of “capital accumulation” and the Triffin Dilemma by giving the Citizens a modestly increased degree of control over resources. Once again the Council on Foreign Relations is following our lead; unbelievably. They are introducing concepts of a “public trust” in global affairs, a key component of General Federalism.
General Federalism is flexible and can be implemented gradually. It need not be a “world government” and requires only one jurisdiction to accept. It can add States over time and, here’s the good part, one doesn’t even have to agree with all of it to get started. A Nation can accept the system with what is called a Codicil. General Federalism frames the political structure so that differing governments, cultures, religions, etc. can join this federation and gradually, over many decades, assimilate their system in the General Federalist system. There are strong structural incentives for them to do so, but it can take as long as one likes. The biggest challenge, of course, is the same one that has acted as the stranglehold on the advancement of law and economics for over 1000 years; the role of organic power structures. As some may know, it has been astutely argued that any regime that does not do the bidding of an “organic power structure” is “irresponsible” because it opens itself to revolution. A regime that follows the policy set by the organic power structure may be dictatorial, but it is responsible, the argument goes. Former President William Clinton’s favorite professor taught and wrote this many times. It is a well-known mantra. General Federalism is the first and only system I know of that addresses that problem directly and solves it. For the first time, a system that poses no threat to organic power structures but fully dilutes them at the same time has been proposed. It may sound like a contradiction, but it is not.
This is perhaps the singular, most important historical accomplishment of General Federalism.
This scheme is original and thick in law and economics, so it is not an easy read at first. Summaries of how this system works are needed and I’ll try to add them soon. In the meantime, the best summaries are still quite long, but here are two you can find at the top of this page:
Memorandum 26 is here:
And the CFR article on the Memorandum can be found here.
There are other articles on the site as well pertaining to the idea of “public trusts”.
General Federalism is an ongoing project, and is in effect a Request for Comments. All are invited to join the discussion.