Join me in my country!

Here's what a country governed by denis will look like.

1. No flat democracy. Flat democracy is when two wolves and a sheep get to vote on what's for dinner. It leads to dysfunctional populist policies and totalitarian states. Hitler was voted into power. So were Putin and Ahmadinejad.

People don't know what's best for everyone. They can be manipulated at will and they won't ever know any better unless there's an external correction.

Just look at how long the income tax has persisted. Look at how bureaucracy worldwide has ballooned. People can't get elected unless they're good at lying and manipulating. If any improvement is to be done, it can only get done by a skillful politician who can do it not because of, but despite the public.

This is no way to govern a state.

For their own sake, power is not for the masses.

But even more importantly, power is not for the crackpots: Kim Jong-il, Stalin, Ceausescu. So where shall the power reside?

2. An enlightened, constitutional absolutism, until a better model is found. The initial constitution shall be short and shall consist mainly of the essential human rights the state is obliged to respect, lest it forfeit its legitimacy. In most respects though, I shall be free to organize, reorganize and partition the state as I see fit, in order to find the best working model. Models I shall try will include SD-2 (Structured Deep Democracy) and WikiLaws. Preferrably, I would like to come up with a dynamic system that leads to a stable, free and self-improving state without the need for central leadership. If this fails, I will look for a way to select central leadership through a better process than the current major systems (flat democracy or hereditary monarchy) provide. (A system like the one through which a Dalai Lama is chosen comes to mind.)

3. No income tax. No tarriffs. No customs. The income tax imposes costs of compliance which seriously impede economic activity. Tarrifs unnecessarily impede trade. No one should have to concern themselves with taxation when making economic decisions. Revenue collection must be neutral, straightforward and fair. If necessary, something akin to FairTax can be enacted, but it will not be necessary, because:

4. The state owns all land. Land cannot be purchased, only rented, by companies and individuals. The state lends all land through auction, collecting the proceeds as its revenue. The revenue that the state collects is its own and the state may do with it as it pleases, provided only it does not violate the constitution. The state is thus interested in pursuing policies that encourage economic activity, which in turn increases the value of land. The state is encouraged to take responsibility for land development and planning and is motivated to always do the right thing, long term, with respect to the land. Thus the power to solve problems is placed with the entity most able to solve them, and the entity is motivated to solve them.

5. Anyone can immigrate as long as they can rent a place. The state and the economy always benefits from economic immigration, so there is no need to restrict this. The only condition is that everyone who immigrates is able to provide themselves with the basic necessities.

6. Everyone must provide for themselves. The state is to be founded on formerly barren land, so all or almost all initial citizens are immigrants. Those who cannot provide themselves with basic necessities, or refuse to do so through honest means, are sent back to their country of origin.

7. High-quality education. The long-term well-being of the state depends entirely on the abilities of its citizens, so these must be nurtured and developed to the highest extent. This starts with top-notch elementary schools followed all the way through to universities. Elementary schools are free and well-financed. Subsequent levels of education are accessible to everyone on an investment stipend principle: the state or other investor finances the student in exchange for a share of her future paycheck. The share (interest rate) is larger for riskier investments (student might not be capable for his chosen path), smaller for less risky ones (student appears very capable).

8. Failed persons have status of pets. People who are not able to provide themselves with basic necessities, yet cannot be deported because their country of origin will not accept them, or because they were born within the state, are understood to have the same status as pets. They are a burden to society which someone needs to bear. If someone (friends or relatives) is willing to take care of such a person, they are free to do so. If no one is willing to take care of you, you are sent to an institution that houses people who cannot provide for themselves. This institution may or may not provide limited access to the outside depending on whether you present a threat to society.

It is understood that, if you are unable to provide for yourself, there are two options: you either have potential or you do not. If you have potential, someone should be willing to invest in you to help you become what you can. If no one is willing to make that investment, your case must be considered terminal, hence you get placed into an institution suitable for humanely sustaining your life at a reasonable cost to the state.

This is intended to be a reasonably acceptable yet glum prospect, to avoid a situation where people are encouraged to mooch off the state.

9. Universal anti-infection testing. The state concerns itself with ailments that can be transmitted from one person to another and takes steps to minimize transmission of illness. All visitors and immigrants are routinely tested for a variety of transmitted diseases, including STDs. All citizens are tested in regular intervals or on return from trips abroad. The strategy for dealing with infections depends on person's status (citizen, foreigner), infection spreding mechanism (breathing, sexual, ...), etc.

Example: as long as HIV treatment is expensive and the infection non-curable, the state will not routinely pay for treatment (the person should be insured for the possibility or face consequences). However, the state will help prevent further infection by making it possible for potential sexual partners to easily and trustworthily share information about each other's recent HIV and STD test status before engaging in sexual activity.

10. The state will promote rationality. The state won't prohibit anyone from worshipping God, Allah or the Invisible Pink Unicorn. However, the state will ensure through its education system that children are well-informed about the existence of various religions, their various histories, policies and views, and why rational thinking is better suited to solving one's problems than mere belief.

11. Personal freedom. The state will not legislate on anyone's ability to do things that adversely affect no one else. Pornography, promiscuity, nudity, prostitution, gambling and drugs will all be permitted. What won't be permitted is violence and crime. People who resort to violence and crime because of their lifestyle choices will be considered for a possible investment deal to bring them back on a productive path, or else, internment in the humanitarian institution for housing people who cannot take care of themselves.

12. No revenge-based justice. The justice system shall focus in every case to find the solution that is best for everyone. People who have transgressed against the law and done things such as stealing, rape, murder, shall not be punished so as to exact revenge, but shall be prevented from repeating their offense in a way that will necessarily restrict their freedom, but attempting to preserve possibilities for them to still somehow make sense of their lives and do something good for themselves and society. A 21-year old woman who falls asleep behind the wheel and accidentally kills 6 teenagers doesn't need to go to prison for 48 years, regardless of what the parents of these children feel.

I have more ideas, but it's already 5:40 AM.

So, what do you think?

I only need 100.000 people who want to live in a state like this, to lend me an initial investment of about US$100.000 each. That's a pittance compared to the taxes your family and yourself will save over a lifetime. Then we can lobby the Australian people to sell us a bit of their land so we can start our country.

Sure, there's nothing there right now, but we don't need anything to begin with. Singapore sprouted in a matter of decades, and Israel started out as a desert. With the right economic system in place, a paradise can be made out of anything. All we need is a piece of land where no one will bother us, where we are reasonably safe, and where we have room to expand.

In 30 years, New York could be nothing compared to the metropolis we can build there.

Comments

Ron said…
I'm posting this comment because you asked me to.

There are so many problems with this I hardly know where to begin.

People don't know what's best for everyone.

It's actually much worse than that: it's not that people don't know, it's that there is no such thing as "what's best for everyone." Different people want different things and this inherently leads to conflict. Just because the wolves and the sheep don't get to vote doesn't make their conflict go away. Someone has to decide whether the sheep gets eaten or the wolves go hungry.

The state owns all land Does it also own all the buildings? If so, how is your system different from communism? And if not, what happens if I build a house and then someone outbids me at the next property tax auction?

Anyone can immigrate as long as they can rent a place. Any minimum requirements on what kind of place they have to be able to rent? Is it enough to be able to afford a tent? A cardboard box?

investment stipend principle How is this different from indentured servitude?

Failed persons have status of pets. Are you going to put "failed persons" to sleep if no one claims them after two weeks? What about orphans? And whatever happened to "the essential human rights the state is obliged to respect?" Do those essential human rights not apply to "failed persons"? And who decides when someone has failed?

A 21-year old woman who falls asleep behind the wheel and accidentally kills 6 teenagers doesn't need to go to prison for 48 years, regardless of what the parents of these children feel.

What if she fell asleep because she's working three jobs in order to pay her rent so sha can avoid being sent to the pet-house? What if this is the third time she's fallen asleep behind the wheel and killed someone?

It's not so easy to design a utopia. People's foibles keep getting in the way.
denis bider said…
I'm posting this comment because you asked me to.

Thanks, I appreciate that. At least someone responds. ;)


It's actually much worse than that: it's not that people don't know, it's that there is no such thing as "what's best for everyone." Different people want different things and this inherently leads to conflict. Just because the wolves and the sheep don't get to vote doesn't make their conflict go away. Someone has to decide whether the sheep gets eaten or the wolves go hungry.

There is usually more than one way to satisfy a person's desire. If the majority is left to satisfy its desires the way it pleases, it will do so in a way that pays no regard to minorities, and indeed without regard for the majority's own long-term benefit; the majority is incapable of considering the long term.

If a wise person is given the task of deciding, he or she can determine that the needs of persons A and B are not necessarily incompatible, and recommend solutions that solve both parties' problems rather than just the problems of one. Furthermore, this third person may be educated to take long-term effects of each possible action into account. Assuming the decision-maker is benevolent and capable, this is good.

Of course the best alternative is to find a dynamic decision-making process that resolves problems better than flat democracy without requiring a benevolent and capable decision-maker. This is why I suggest that designs such as SD-2 and WikiLaws need to be tested.


The state owns all land: Does it also own all the buildings?

If the state built the buildings, it owns them. If you built them, they're yours. Until your lease expires. Then you have to move them, if you built them with the expectation to move.

Another possible scenario is that the state takes care of all real-estate itself - perhaps a futuristic city made of building blocks, which would be necessary anyway to protect the inhabitants from the desert.

The purpose of it all is to create a design that will also work for colonies in space. How do you suppose people should live together in colonies in space? Do you think everyone will be able to own their own habitat module?

I think it's more likely the modules will be made available by the colony for its residents to use.


If so, how is your system different from communism?

It is radically different from communism. Do you think the only difference between communism and capitalism is land ownership? Boy, you are wrong.

You think you have freedom with land that you "own"? Then how come the government can come down and tell you what your land is suitable for (say farming or residence) and what it isn't suitable for (say a shopping center)? How come they can tear down your house if you don't get their authorization for building? How come they can restrict you from building e.g. more than 3 floors?

Because you don't really own your land, that's why. Land ownership is an illusion. No one really owns shit, we just pretend we do, but we still have to play according to rules written by entirely different people. And from the urban planning perspective, those rules are actually necessary and make sense.

I'm just making this explicit from the start, fair and square: you don't own the land.

You can own anything else, though.


And if not, what happens if I build a house and then someone outbids me at the next property tax auction?

Well, you knew when the next land auction was going to be when you signed up for it. If you want to build a house that's going to last 50 years, do it on property that can be leased for at least 50 years.

I think a city should be dynamic and should focus on the future, not dwell on the past, so I don't think it's wrong for things to get torn down and rebuilt now and then. Actually, that's what went on in New York before they started landmarking all of the buildings. Which is another way your land is not your own: you build a beautiful building on it that people like, and 20 years from now, they will deny you the right to raze it.


Anyone can immigrate as long as they can rent a place: Any minimum requirements on what kind of place they have to be able to rent? Is it enough to be able to afford a tent? A cardboard box?

They have to provide for their own basic needs without cheating, stealing or being a public nuisance. Begging counts as being a public nuisance.

A tent needs to be placed somewhere. If they can rent land to place a tent on, that's fine. They can't place a tent on a public square or a road, for example. They can place it on someone else's land if they have permission from the owner.


investment stipend principle: How is this different from indentured servitude?

It's different, as in, no part of the deal is the same. Indentured servitude means you are obligated to serve a certain employer for a certain number of years. What I am proposing is merely paying back a loan with interest, which is exactly what Harvard & co. already do, and what's being seriously (and I believe cleverly) proposed to finance the funding of students.

Sheesh, one would think you're against borrowing and lending money in the first place. So you think people should get everything quite literally for free, regardless how valuable and scarce the resource? How is that different from communism?

Come to Slovenia once and you'll see how bad the university system can get if everyone gets to study for free. The students don't respect the studying, and the professors don't respect the students. It's a waste of time for everyone.

You need to pay for the resources you consume in order to appreciate what you're consuming.


Failed persons have status of pets: Are you going to put "failed persons" to sleep if no one claims them after two weeks?

I would have no problem with that, but I have this feeling that the state is going to be unpopular internationally if I do so. ;) Therefore no 'humane putting to sleep'. Instead, we take care of such individuals by placing them in suitable homes where they can enjoy a simple life (I'm serious, they should enjoy it, but it should be simple), and where they can do no harm.

I believe that's better than having them roam the streets, rob stores, shoot people and steal cars.


What about orphans?

Orphans may have potential that it would be sad to waste. Put them in a boarding school and give them every opportunity to make themselves into as much as they can. There shouldn't be so many orphans that the state cannot afford this. It does pay back in the long term - they have to eventually rent a place to live, and so they will pay back the state's investment.

If they want to move somewhere else, fine. The intention is to make a state that is appealing for people to live in. If they don't like it, that's sad for the state, but the state can't force anyone to stay. And if then they want to come back, they can. That is another way how it's going to be different from communism.


And whatever happened to "the essential human rights the state is obliged to respect?" Do those essential human rights not apply to "failed persons"?

Some do, some do not. How about criminals everywhere else? Don't human rights apply to criminals in the United States?

Say, how about the freedom to leave the prison and go home? Why don't prisoners have this right? Is it bad that they do not have it?


And who decides when someone has failed?

They do, through a thoroughly objective test: whether or not they are able to provide for themselves without cheating, stealing, or being a public nuisance. It's pretty simple, really. And keep in mind, even if you fall that far, anyone can still rescue you through adoption. ;)


"A 21-year old woman who falls asleep behind the wheel and accidentally kills 6 teenagers doesn't need to go to prison for 48 years, regardless of what the parents of these children feel." -- What if she fell asleep because she's working three jobs in order to pay her rent so sha can avoid being sent to the pet-house? What if this is the third time she's fallen asleep behind the wheel and killed someone?
She didn't. She worked as a stripper while studying at university. She fell asleep because she had been partying for the past 24 hours. The fact that she also smoked a bit of dope several hours before driving meant that she went to prison for 48 years. That happened 5 years ago in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately the fact that I asked you to comment is reflected in the lack of depth or effort in your response. Perhaps you think you wrecked my ideas, but the fact is that a lot more thought went into coming up with them than you invested into trying to understand them. Hence, you hardly even scratched any surface.

I believe my ideas are quite well thought out and will require a greater effort to be seriously challenged.
boris kolar said…
Denis, your country looks like a good idea to me. I hope your ideas will be tested, if not in reality, at least in massive multiplayer online game :) (I think it would be worth spending a few billions to create a game that will test efficiency of different society options, including hypothetical situations like imminent crash of a comet, or alien invasion).

Still, a few comments:

- your country is based on land (country with borders...), which is a very traditional concept. an interesting extension would be a country without borders (so one could be a virtual citizen, bound by the laws and privileges of his or hers own country, regardless of location). of course, that would require a concept more general than country (a country of countries, all countries providing same basic rights and obligations, while one could choose the set of laws and obligations). any ideas in that direction?

- one possible generalization is that nobody owns anything (like land in your example). yet, the same experience as "ownership" is achieved via "goverment signature". so, unsigned property doesn't belong to anyone and can be taken away from you by anyone (including goverment). if you want genuine "ownership experience", you have to pay ownership insurance (which is a goverment signature). ownership insurance is basically a tax in a form of goverment service (essentially, you "rent" ownership "rights" from goverment). one is also free to posses unsigned property or provide unsigned services, but the goverment will not interfere in any ownership dispute of unsigned property. one great side effect is that the cost of ownership is proportional to the value of owned object. property therefore implicitly looses its value over time, so continous creativity is required to sustain a luxurious lifestyle. also, contracts are not enforced, unless they are insured by the goverment. prices for goverment services are automatically regulated by the fact, that you can legally do business on a "black market", where no property exchange is protected by the goverment.

- what about copyright and patents? these rights are not as obvious as human and ownership rights. i believe those rights and obligations should be strictly on voluntary basis (different citizens can choose different sets of laws, for example those who are not subject to patent laws will be unable to obtain ownership signatures for anything patented; i need more thinking about this to come up with a clear solution, but basically a set of laws you choose would always be a tradeoff).

- i was thinking about extending voting idea further: one could use PageRank voting scheme for every possible correlation. one could, for example vote that "good leadership" correlation with "denis bider" is 5, while "good leadership" correlation with "george bush" is -3. here, a positive number represents a positive correlation, zero no correlation, and negative number for negative correlation. most people will agree that correlation between "good quality" and "bad quality" is negative, say -5. so, the political leader would be simply a person that is most correlated with "good political leadership". similarly, the one receiving the most from goverment culture sponsorship budget will be the one with highest correlation with "good art", for example. authors would be motivated to spread educational resources for free, since people would vote that a certain proportion of state budget for education should be given to the one with highest "good educational resource" correlation. or one could vote for political leader in abstract sense, for example by assigning corrlation between "supports abortion" and "good political leadership".

- maybe immigration problem could be solved by charging for citizenship (like a single payment of $100000 for unlimited time citizenship). that would keep social bottom out. even better, the country could require $100000 of collected "taxes" (hmm, "ownership right leases"). that would prevent dishonest people to buy citizenship with their dirty money.

- WikiLaws may not be flexible enough in some cases. for example, when the country needs economic reforms, it will be impossible to obtain 80% majority for any change, because very few changes are positive for 80% of people. the reverse would be sometimes more appropriate: a reform leader will enact decisions as he or she sees fit, unless 80% of population oppose. we have that inflexibility problem with reforms right now in slovenia, because no group of people that obtained privileges in the past is willing to let them go (and the goverment is apparently weaker than most of these interest groups). the result is a set of merely cosmetic changes despite the fact that most people agree something more radical is needed.
denis bider said…
I think it would be worth spending a few billions to create a game that will test efficiency of different society options, including hypothetical situations like imminent crash of a comet, or alien invasion.

For a few billion, it would be possible to test things for real. :) But not the catastrophe simulation scenarios, of course.

The problem with simulations is that people don't behave quite like what they would behave otherwise. Try going to an online Poker site and play poker for play money; then play it again for real money. You get two games with completely different competitors.

Any kind of testing is welcome, but I think the best kind of test is for real.


your country is based on land (country with borders...), which is a very traditional concept. an interesting extension would be a country without borders (so one could be a virtual citizen, bound by the laws and privileges of his or hers own country, regardless of location).

I have thought of that, but the point of a state is that it can judiciously exercise force, and being able to keep an international state would mean being able to enforce your laws in all the countries of the world. This would require you to possess the power of a comic-book villain of sorts, or else, to posses the agreement of all the world's people.

But the very reason I want to create my own state is because so many people in the world are not open to my ideas. Perhaps these people will become open after it can be demonstrated that the ideas work in practice, but until then the project needs to be carried out with willing people in its own separate place.


so, unsigned property doesn't belong to anyone and can be taken away from you by anyone (including goverment). if you want genuine "ownership experience", you have to pay ownership insurance (which is a goverment signature).

That sounds like an interesting concept, but it seems like it would require some non-existent technology to be practicable. Suppose you want to make it illegal for your maid to run away with your silver cutlery. How do you sign each of those items, and how does she check which of those items are signed? It sounds like you would require an awful lot of RFIDs for each and every item, but not only that, but also for each individual piece of each individual item. I.e. you not only need to sign the car, but also each bolt and each tire, because even if the car is signed, anyone can still take away your unsigned bolts and tires.


i was thinking about extending voting idea further: one could use PageRank voting scheme for every possible correlation.

Perhaps. I'd want to see a paper that considers all angles and how it affects the voting process in order to gain a deeper understanding of its different impacts. Some complexities are beneficial, but some complexities are unnecessary, and it's important to distinguish between them.


maybe immigration problem could be solved by charging for citizenship (like a single payment of $100000 for unlimited time citizenship). that would keep social bottom out.

Certainly, but the problem is what to do after 30 years when people have already been born in the country, and some of those people are bums. One does have to take responsibility for people born in one's country.


WikiLaws may not be flexible enough in some cases. for example, when the country needs economic reforms, it will be impossible to obtain 80% majority for any change, because very few changes are positive for 80% of people.

I agree, this may be a problem - that's why I think SD-2 might have a greater likelihood of success.

Still, directors elected according to SD-2 could choose WikiLaws as the everyday government process, and resort to imposing external laws only when WikiLaws doesn't yield an effective response to an emergent situation.

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