An Introduction to General Federalism
I have been asked by many to provide a synopsis of what General Federalism means, or to explain how it works and what it is all about. General Federalism is a set of means and methods for the management of society at large. Said another way, General Federalism is a set of means and methods for the operation of the social contract. Those means and methods are modeled on the scientific method as modified to application in law and economics. General Federalism is not itself a discipline or science but rather deals with facts of Law and Economics and does not concern itself with anything else.
General Federalism is a set of principles that aims to combine practical, tried and true methods of governance to direct democracy. While not an explicit principle or notion, General Federalism relies on the norm that empirical observation of fact is all that is needed to enact effective public policy and that neither religion nor political ideology are necessary or desirable in doing so. Explicitly, General Federalism is predicated on the fundamental axiom that serves to distinguish it from both religion and political ideology, or any other belief system; to wit, that a social contract predicated on empirical observation is fundamentally different than any belief system whose tenets derive otherwise. And that to the extent that empirical observation cannot inform the color of the instance, inaction is preferable to potentially harmful action.
The second question General Federalism addresses is by what mechanism can such a decision-making process be ensured? And since General Federalism normatively understands poor decisions as originating from belief systems, it propounds to reduce the role of a political or religious class in that decision-making, deferring to the consensus of the governed as the best possible arbiters of fact.
To complete the setup, General Federalism addresses the question of how to achieve this by seeking a pragmatic and workable means by which direct democracy can be rendered operational, competent, durable and responsible over time. In so doing, General Federalism specifies a social contract that is a general but federal system for executing a social contract which means that:
It is a system of finite yet unbounded physical jurisdiction; that is, a system whose physical and personal jurisdiction may extend through space and time infinitely by the voluntary accession of foreign sovereigns.
It is a system of subsidiarity in which subsidiary powers retain a measure of sovereignty not equaling or exceeding that of the federal power.
It is a system that promulgates and enforces law and equity, therefore, if for the one then for all uniformly.
And is thus a system predicated on a rigid adherence to the principle of rule of law.
Wherever empirically observed criteria can be established, it is a system that seeks to ensure the long-term sustainability of human progress by rendering the survey, extraction and refinement of matter and energy a representative process.
It is a system in which both the powers within government and the external powers that influence it are separated; to wit, it is a system that seeks to provide a rational balance of the needs of the few and the many (and thus contains both fundamental procedural as well as substantive law).
General Federalism proposes to achieve these aims by establishing the key federal principles referenced by an approximate modeling on the U.S. Constitution, and aims to blend that with direct democracy by extending the principle of judge and jury for which considerable experience in western law already exists. Thus General Federalism is grossly distinguished from a Madisonian or Hamiltonian Federalist scheme by its introduction of an Assembly (jury) of Citizens whose deliberations are governed and moderated by a “branch” of government (judge) who provides Assembly (jury) instruction; originates Bills, Orders and Rulings according to the role of the branch, and whose branches are significantly simplified by reducing their number to 24 persons each, all of whom are elected by direct suffrage and serve terms of 12 years each, divided into two classes for which staggered elections are held every 6 years.
General Federalism proposes three such branches that correspond in principle to those established in the founding of the United States; an executive, judicial and legislative branch. The legislative branch is distinguished from the U.S. Congress by separation into two houses, one which originates Bills for all matters of statute for which dependency does not extend beyond the public treasury, and the other for which Bills for all matters of statute for which dependency does not extend beyond a public trust for managing matter and energy.
The role of Assembly is rendered practicable by restricting the concept to the legislative branch, one Assembly for each house, and by further restricting their duty to passage or introduction of provisions of Bills by a 2/3 simple majority, constrained by the instructions provided by that house, and specifically excluding any power to pass or annul any item of greater scope than a single provision alone for each vote cast.
Each Assembly is drawn once every 12 months, for a period of total service of 2 years, for which the duty is a lawful obligation of the voting public, by the manner of dividing the general population into an Upper and Lower Tranche of Assembly persons, in proportion to population, by the proportion of 1 Assembly Member chosen for every 1,000 Citizens of a Lower Tranche, rotated through an Upper Tranche of 10,000 Citizens for each Class, and chosen by means of a random, double-blind selection process.
Peerage of Assembly Members is determined on account of geographic and cultural proximity, Upper and Lower Tranches defined accordingly and adjusted in accordance with a Census of the voting public, with each Member chosen to represent the Tranche furthest from their own. The Federation is obliged to compensate each Member chosen for the full period of service of 2 years, and to provide temporary relocation where appropriate during the first year of service to the geographic location corresponding to the given Tranche. No compensation is increased or diminished during the time of service and the respective houses may ensure re-integration of selected Members after service by appropriate legislation.
Under General Federalism, it is unlawful for any entity or natural person to lobby a selected Member if that lobbyist be an entity from any Tranche, or if that lobbyist be a natural person not belonging to the Tranche the Member represents. The crossing of a Member from their native Tranche to a most distant Tranche generalizes the representation to the extent appropriate for the subsidiarity level in question; crossing of Tranches is constrained to the personal jurisdiction of the subsidiary. The Assembly participates in the general interests of society and the local interests are represented via the political class by equal suffrage locally.
The Federation would supply a Federation Civil Corps to assist each Assembly in formulating provisions of Bills, or in decisions to reject or consider provisions, such that the decisions are rendered legally and technically competent and informed, and which will comply with fundamental law and Assembly instructions.
A Public Trust is a means of providing representation and participation in the survey, extraction and refinement of matter and energy without reliance on an ideological premise: the Public Trust is not owned by government or private interests, but is the Public Trust of the Federation whose beneficiaries are all Citizens of the Federation in equal interest with a house of the legislative branch acting as Fiduciary (and called the Fiduciary, the other house called Counsel). Once representation and participation is perfected, the concept of “ownership” is established and title is created as a “payment” to beneficiaries who may be reified as any collection or group of individuals or entities (such as corporations). In this sense, any receiver of title likewise becomes an “acting fiduciary” of the Public Trust.
To exclude the effects of the normative confirmation bias of political ideology (or any belief system) on the management of the Public Trust, a high barrier is established by Constitutional prohibition against rendering any decision regarding the Public Trust without a substantial, clear and convincing empirical basis. And as with all matters, all law and equity of the Federation shall stand or fall under the review of the Judicial Branch. Courts of the Federation would uniformly operate only where a party’s inference in a Court of the Federation shall not augment less the evidence submitted in support bears substantial probative force by the manner of procedures consistent with the scientific method. And Assembly instruction would universally include this constraint.
The development of General Federalism, and the attempt to find a realistic way to put a direct democracy into place, has been an ongoing work for some time. Recommendations and suggestions for change are welcomed. The current version of “A Constitution for a General Federation” is now out of date and will be updated soon. Check back for the latest version.
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.