On the Question of Voluntary Governance

In the short-term I’d like to see smaller, more decentralised nation-states that begin to codify the right of secession. Once that is codified, as it has been in more ancient legal codes such as Saxon law, the monopoly of violence which I think defines the state and from which many other monopolies (such as those defined by Benjamin Tucker) flow from can be more easily broken. I think this is best accomplished today simply because state’s cannot crush movements (localist, decentralist, secessionary, etc.) in an age of mass media and 24 hour news without some form of backlash. Already this can be seen in the increasing importance and significance of nationalist and regionalist movements throughout Europe. There is no possibility that the EU could seriously mount more than a political offensive against such movements who are increasing in power.

Similarly such movements can be seen in nascent forms in the Middle East, where despite significant monopolies on violence emerging from Syria, ISIS and al-Nusra, there still exist groups like the PKK and other decentralist Kurdish movements in Syria and Iraq as well as more tribal forms of governance which are maintaining peace the best they can in such situations.

This then comes to the heart of voluntary governance, as it really is only for non-aggressors as would be the case in establishing the rights to secession and private property. There will obviously be those who do aggress, but anyone who aggresses blatantly violates the spirit of any basic legal code and must therefore be removed and excluded. However under modern states such does not happen. Instead of exclusion, we have a pathetic criminal justice system that allows individuals to get away with many things, ranging from vandalism and assault to theft and general violence, and when they are finally “brought to justice”, they are placed within taxpayer-subsidised prisons with high rates of recidivism. Aggressors, instead of being treated as inimical to legality and governance, are instead given every opportunity and then some. And even if it comes to the point of a community or nation wanting to exclude them, we have the vagaries of international law and “human rights” which demands that one cannot be stateless and must therefore be provided for by the taxpayer via the state.

In looking interstitially at Feudal and Middle Age governance structures, there are forms of quasi-voluntaryism that have been developed. In early Saxon and common law governance was established by consent, and those who ignored such prevailing legal order were excluded from the benefits of collective action. Even in the most egregious crimes such as rape and murder, rather than imprisoning someone at the expense of the community, there were made to pay blood money and if they didn’t they lost the benefit of tribal structures which helped guarantee their safety. Such structures were also seen in a more voluntaryistic sense in Iceland and Ireland. Further, in city-states similar mechanisms were used by stopping those who did aggress against the community/city from going past the city walls, and excluding them from the everyday life they did not respect.

Overall, I don’t take the atomistic view that some libertarians do in assessing the right to secession. I can’t seriously imagine many people wanting to secede individually from every governance/political structure. Rather, through radical decentralisation I think more pluralistic arrangements develop, both at a tribal level and a community level with many overlapping jurisdictions that fundamentally allow for exclusion via mechanisms of trust and respect, as existed in Saxon, Brehon and Icelandic law and that exist in different forms today in internet marketplaces when assessing buyers and sellers. Fundamentally the nation-state could not exist as it does today as it could not easily externalise costs onto taxpayers of its own (as well as other) jurisdictions, and could not simply rely on the monopoly of violence in an age of scaleable technology, mass media and an increasing inability to tackle movements and structures which are able to circumvent its typical avenues of power.

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