For brevity, I’m going to invent an acronym: “AGG” for Area of Good Governance. An AGG is a jurisdiction which has acquired, or is in the process of acquiring, good governance. That is to say, a region of the world, in which the political state has been or is being dismantled. And in which that state has been, or is being, replaced by governance which maintains peace, defends the rights of civilized people, justly resolves disputes, and does no more.
Some may dismiss the ideas I put forward here as Utopian. To them, I say: No radical idea can be realized, until it has been communicated to those who stand to benefit from it. And no vision can be passed on to anyone, unless it has first been articulated. That is my purpose today; to offer, as best I can, my vision of how an AGG might be constructed.
The starting point
I don’t want to spend a lot of words on what a mess world politics is today. We all know that. Nor do I want to talk too much of the anger and disdain, which good people are more and more feeling for the political system and its ruling classes. Except to say that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump are, I think, signs of a growing dissatisfaction that goes far deeper than any day to day politics, and well beyond differences of “left” or “right.” Early signs of a resurgence of the human spirit after a period of recession, perhaps?
So, I’m going to start from a situation in which many, many people in an area are ready for a shift to a better kind of government. To government that is smaller, more honest, less wasteful, less violent and aggressive, more responsive, and far, far more respectful of us human beings. To government which works for us, not against us.
Furthermore, I’m going to assume that the will is there, and the way is clear, for action to reform government so that it becomes a nett benefit to good people, not a drain on us and a danger to us. How we get to that point is another matter; and a major one. But my focus today is on things we, the builders of the new way, might do once in a position to create good governance.
These ideas are radical. Inevitably, some of them won’t work; others may work in principle, but not on the scale that will be necessary. Yet others may aim to solve problems that don’t eventuate. What I’m trying to do here is give a feeling for the kind of actions that will be necessary to make an AGG work. Others may, and I hope will, come up with suggestions far better than mine. And for that reason, the details of what happens may differ substantially from what I say here. But the outline, I hope, will not.
Where might it happen first?
I expect that the pressures for change, of the kind we’re interested in, will become strongest first in Western democracies. Firstly, perhaps, in Europe, in places where both the European Union and national governments are becoming increasingly unpopular. And secondly, in regions of other countries – such as a state, or a group of neighbouring counties, in the USA – where many people have become fed up with the political system and with big government.
Therefore, I’m going to put forward my ideas in the context of Western democracy. And, in particular, in the context of a post Brexit England, perhaps including Wales too; an area which, I think, has as much potential to become an early AGG as anywhere in the world.
The start of the process
First, a general point. The changes we make must be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We must take care not to throw away the lessons of the past. So, it isn’t part of our task to raze potentially workable institutions to the ground in order to clear space for a brand new system. Rather, our task is to de-politicize governance, and to make it work as it should. This means that we must seek to preserve the best traditions, customs and institutions in each place. Our primary focus should be on re-purposing institutions to make them work for us.
Thus, at the outset, the institutions of an English AGG won’t be much different from today’s. There will still be elections to a parliament. There will still be courts, judges and juries. There will still be police, and even prisons. There will still, regrettably, be for a time a need for borders. The military won’t be reformed overnight, though they will be quickly withdrawn from all foreign conflicts. There will still be diplomats, although their jobs will be reduced in scope and scale. And even the monarchy will continue, albeit re-purposed.
Reforming the parliament
The place to start our reforms must be the parliament. We must reign in its excesses, and make it start working for good people, as it should have been doing all along.
In the case of England, the parliament currently governs a territory, and a population, larger than just England (and Wales). So here, as in other places where an AGG is smaller than the state from which it sprung, we must first split the parliament. So, it will say adieu to those members, who do not represent people in the region of the AGG. And it will cordially invite them to form AGGs in their own areas, if they wish. Further, the House of Lords, which in recent times has become no more than an echo chamber for establishment groupies, will be abolished.
Now, we begin the reforms which will turn political government into good governance. First, we must dramatically increase the quality of the individuals in the parliament. Part of this will come through increasing their financial rewards significantly, as long as they do the work honestly, objectively and without bias; and have no conflicting interests.
But more importantly, we will test all the parliament’s members, as objectively as possible, for suitability for positions of power in an AGG. This will include both looking at their past conduct and voting records, and psychological tests. All those that agitated or voted for aggressive war, or supported policies designed to harm innocent people, or have psychopathic tendencies, or are too dishonest to be fit for power, will be removed from their positions, and suitable replacements elected.
Second, the parliament will withdraw the AGG from all international agreements, other than those for genuine free trade. Though it may, if necessary, establish mutual defence treaties with suitable parties, particularly with other AGGs if there are any yet. It will leave NATO. It will finally sever any remaining entanglements with what is left of the EU. And it will leave the United Nations, and ditch all its agendas, including Agenda 21 and the “humans are causing catastrophic climate change” fraud.
Third, it will repeal all the bad laws, with which it has saddled us over many decades. At the same time, it will manage the process of specifying and agreeing the rights the AGG will defend, and the obligations necessary to effect respect for those rights.
Having completed these tasks, I envisage that the parliament will be reformed into a quality control organization. At this point, the “sovereignty” that the political state has claimed over the territory of the AGG, and the extraordinary rights and immunities which that claim implies, will have ceased to exist. Thus the state itself will also have ceased to exist within the jurisdiction.
The parliament will no longer have any power to make legislation. It will, however, manage the process in the (very rare) event that a change to the code of rights and obligations might become necessary. But its main role will be to ensure that the other departments of governance, such as judges and police, both keep within their remits and do their jobs to the very highest standard. To this end, it will order and publish independent, objective reviews of governance.
A second level of quality control
Our AGG will need, I think, a second level of quality control, to minimize the chance of corruption taking hold in the parliament. In some places, a second parliamentary chamber may be able to take on this role; in others, an organization may need to be created from scratch.
But in those countries with monarchies, in which the monarchy is generally popular – and England is one – I think that the monarch (above and beyond the obvious ceremonial role) will be ideally placed to take on the job of quality controller of the quality controllers. He or she will commission, periodically or as needed, impartial audits of the parliament and of its work. Thus providing an answer to the age old question: Quis custodet custodes? Who guards the guardians?
Financing good governance
Observant readers may already have asked: “But how will good governance be paid for?”
One thing is clear. The imposition, by political fiat, of systems of taxation that are complex, unjust, redistributive, predatory and easily vitiated, must not be allowed to continue. Instead, what each individual pays for good governance must reflect the value of good governance to that individual. Reduced to economic terms, each individual’s contribution ought to be in direct proportion to his or her total wealth in the jurisdiction. As John Locke observed : “It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.”
Here’s a wild idea, which I think could be made to work. The AGG will retain one holdover from the state; a currency. And it will be mandatory to use that currency for all transactions within the AGG. To pay for the institutions which implement good governance – courts, police, the military, and the necessary support services – the AGG will be authorized to inflate that currency by a small, pre-agreed percentage each year. Or, perhaps, an equivalent amount in smaller steps. The money “created” by this will be the entire budget for governance.
In an AGG smaller than the state from which it sprang, this will require a currency split first. But this has been done successfully before – for example, with the Irish pound in the 1920s.
This approach, if properly calculated and quality controlled, seems to me to have several advantages. It’s fair to everyone. It can’t be used to redistribute wealth. It requires no bureaucrats and no form filling. And there’s no possibility of individuals being unable to pay their share.
Dismantling the state
The dismantling of the state apparatus of surveillance, predation, oppression and cronyism will, inevitably, cause some disruptions and dislocations. But it’s absolutely necessary in order to reduce, and in the end to eliminate, the burdens that the state imposes on good people.
The “first, do no harm” principle does, however, mean that the state must be dismantled in an orderly fashion. And those that have misused power, or have profited from the state and its noxious activities, must be granted an opportunity to compensate their victims. It’s not out of kindness that we will allow this; for those that used the state for nefarious purposes have, by their conduct, forfeited all possible right to concern or compassion from good people. Rather, we will do it because – as always – the rights of the victims must come first.
To that end, the first step must be to establish the conditions for a prosperous economy. That is: A totally free market, with no unjust restrictions on business. A reasonably stable currency. Interest rates set by the market, rather than for the state’s benefit. Tariff barriers eliminated as far as possible. An impartial, objective system of law and justice. And an end to all political agendas.
Good governance can provide all these conditions. So, it will unleash for all good people the power of honest business. No-one will be left destitute, who is willing to develop their skills, and to work to provide goods or services for which others are voluntarily willing to pay. But for those too lazy or dishonest to do these things, what happens to them will be their own look out.
With a free market economy in place, the dismantling of the so called “public sector” can begin. First, the past conduct of all state employees will be reviewed, and any instances of misuse of power catalogued. This will apply to employees of both central and local government, as well as to the military.
Beyond this, state employees will be divided into three groups. First, those – such as judges, court officials, police and the military – whose jobs when properly done are core functions of governance, will be individually tested for their suitability for positions of power. These tests will be similar in kind to those used for members of the parliament. But the less the power of the position, the less stringent the tests will be. Depending on the results, these employees will either offered new contracts with our AGG, or sacked.
If, through this process, some core functions of good governance become understaffed, individuals may be promoted internally, or recruited from outside. Or individuals, who failed the test of suitability for the power they had, may be allowed back in at a lower level. In all cases, those taking on positions must pass tests appropriate to the level of power they will have.
There are also processes which, while not functions of good governance, will have to continue for the short term at least. The most obvious of these is border control. For it will be necessary to stop troublemakers from outside the AGG coming in and trying to de-stabilize it. And as to immigration, there will be many, many people wanting to flock into the AGG to enjoy the new freedom and prosperity. Thus, to avoid disruption, some kind of control is, regrettably, needed. There’s no totally fair way to decide who may come to live in an AGG and who may not. But some kind of points system would seem to be the least of several evils.
The second group are those employed directly or indirectly by the state, who supply services others are willing to pay for. These include people like teachers, doctors and nurses, and those who maintain roads or empty dustbins. These people will transfer their services to the free market. Where their work requires physical assets like schools, hospitals or power stations, that are currently owned by the state, they will continue to make use of them. However, I envisage that ownership of these resources will pass to the people in the AGG. For example, where a business such as a school is spun off from the public sector, individuals in the AGG might receive shares in those businesses.
Where a state organization – such as the BBC – has a function which is potentially commercially viable, but has been run in a dishonest, politicized way, it will be disbanded. Those responsible for the bad conduct will be sacked. The remaining employees will be allowed to transfer to the free market, in a similar way to teachers and others like them.
This is a complicated process, which will require much forethought and effort. It’s important that we mustn’t allow crony capitalists or oligarchs to seize riches they don’t deserve. And one particularly difficult aspect, I expect, will be transitional financing. The users of services like schools will need time to adjust to the new market. Thus it will be necessary to allow for a transition period, during which the financial burden is passed from taxpayers to users. However, this transition period must be kept as short as possible. If only because every penny taken in tax from an individual, that was not used for that individual’s benefit, must in due course be repaid. And the earlier the better.
The third group consists of those state employees that fail to supply either a core function of governance, or a service viable in a free market. This group will also include those responsible for bad conduct while in positions of power. These individuals will simply be sacked, and their pensions cancelled.
In parallel with all this, reviews will be conducted of all nominally private organizations, to which the state has been providing funding. All projects with political agendas will be terminated. All projects and contacts with politicized “non-governmental organizations” and “quangos” will be ended. And those at or near the top of these organizations will be reviewed, in the same way as equivalent state employees. Companies, that lobbied for subsidies or for laws to harm their competitors, will also be investigated, and their directors reviewed similarly.
All subsidies for particular forms of transport, such as buses and trains, will be quickly phased out. Planned major construction projects, for example HS2, will be either sold off to private companies or cancelled. Subsidies for “renewable” energy, such as wind and solar power, will also be withdrawn. Some transitional help may be allowed to smooth the path back to cheaper and more reliable forms of energy, such as coal, gas and nuclear.
Other economically viable or potentially viable organizations, such as universities, will also have their funding withdrawn. And all support for projects or institutions outside the AGG’s jurisdiction will be terminated.
Lastly, all assets which the state has misused, such as spy cameras and catch-you-out speed cameras, will be removed, and either sold (if an appropriate use can be found) or scrapped. Similarly, for example, with computers used for spying on Internet access. Other state assets, such as buildings and land neither required by core functions of good governance nor to be transferred to spin-offs, will be put up for sale. Subdivided, where necessary.
Dealing with wrongdoers
The state, by its nature, attracts bad individuals into its ranks. Politics tends to attract psychopaths, because it offers them opportunities to force their agendas on to others; if not also to become rich. Jobs with power over others, and lack of personal accountability, can attract bullies and jobsworths. And lack of financial accountability spawns waste and function creep.
All this means that, beyond the quantifiable damage the state has caused to innocent people, it also harbours many that, in reality if not in “law,” are criminals. And worse; crony corporations, politicized academics, and other organizations and individuals close to the state, have also been able to commit, and get away with, damaging or criminal acts. Such as promoting agendas that harm good people, lobbying for laws to damage their competitors, or demanding subsidies.
Thus, there are two aspects to dealing with these wrongdoers. The first is restorative justice to their victims. Those, whose lives have been damaged by misconduct by the state or its cronies, by predatory or redistributive taxation, or by other bad policies, deserve compensation for what they suffered. We want our lives back! And the perpetrators must pay, each in proportion to the damage they caused. This will be a big programme; worth an essay in itself. So I won’t say more about it here.
The second aspect is retributive justice; punishing those wrongdoers that deserve it. What good governance can do to help this is to publish, and to index, accurate factual summaries of the injustices each of them has done. This will include acts such as intercepting the e-mails of innocent people, even if those acts may not necessarily have caused any quantifiable damage. All this will enable individuals to make their own decisions about how to treat each wrongdoer. In most cases, I expect that this, on its own, will provide sufficient punishment
I do, however, want to see one group singled out. That is, politicians that agitated for aggressive wars in places like Iraq or Syria. What they deserve is to be deported for justice at the hands of the people they aggressed against. I expect that an AGG, bearing in mind its commitment to peace and in the longer term to an entirely peaceful world, will always be open to requests for the extradition of such individuals to face trial.
Dealing with state debt
From the point of view of an AGG, the state (or what is left of it) is a criminal organization. All contracts with it are therefore, on principle, null and void. These include any expectations of future payments from it, and interest or repayments on its financial instruments. Thus our AGG has the right to repudiate all the state’s debts and, in effect, to wind it up as bankrupt both ethically and financially.
The “do no harm” principle, however, means that an AGG must not allow innocents to suffer unnecessarily. We don’t, for example, want to de-stabilize the banks, in which good people hold what little wealth the state has allowed them to amass and keep. Therefore the process of dealing with state debt must be an ordered one.
We must also not lose sight of those, particularly pensioners, who are expecting to receive from the state payments for which they have contributed in the past (and may well have paid many times over). These payments will continue, as if they were an advance repayment on the excess of the taxes they paid over the benefits they have received.
Good governance, as I said in the first part of this essay, is logically prior to any particular society. It provides a framework, in which people can form whatever societies they wish, and run them in their own ways. Thus in an AGG, I envisage, there will be a very large number of different societies.
Each individual will be a member of many societies. People within a particular society will interact according to the constitution of that society. Interactions between societies, and between individuals from different societies, will be governed by the obligations of civilized people towards others of their kind, including the obligation to respect their rights. And these are precisely the rules our AGG has been granted the authority to uphold.
Further, these societies will be of many different types. Voluntary societies and business companies, of course, will continue to operate as they do today. But new types of society will evolve, too; and old ones will be revived.
For example, societies will be formed to take on specific projects, such as to build a new road, a new nuclear power station or a new runway at Heathrow Airport. Another example is a private welfare system. I envisage this as having three main components; insurance, mutual aid and savings. Some will prefer insurance to mutual aid, or vice versa; though in general, insurance works better against low probability catastrophes, and mutual aid against less serious but more likely contingencies. In the absence of a predatory state, saving will be far easier than it is today. And non-politicized charity will always be available as a backstop.
There will also be societies of people who share a cultural bond. For example, societies to celebrate English (or Welsh) culture and tradition, or some particular aspects of a culture. Other societies will also allow those, who find it important to restrict their close cohorts to – for example – a particular nationality, or racial group, or religion, to do so without impacting anyone else. While the rest of us can simply join whatever societies we like and will have us. We won’t be concerned about the race, religion or geographical origin of their members.
No-one will be compelled to join any particular society. This, indeed, is a basic human right. And specifically, those to whom politics is anathema will be free to stay out of societies run by or for the politicized. On the other hand, those who so wish can form societies based around political ideologies. For example, those with green leanings can buy a forest, and hug its trees. Those who like socialism can make societies based on socialist ideals. And lovers of big government can live in communes ruled over and watched over by their very own Big Brother.
But in an AGG, no political society has any right to force any ideology on anyone else. Nor will the capitalists up the road be able to force others to practice capitalism. Thus, no-one will be compelled to live under an ideology they don’t like. Although, of course, all societies will have to be economically self sufficient. This, I expect, will go a long way towards removing the causes of the injustices and conflicts so prevalent in political societies today.
The longer term
As I look further ahead, my “crystal ball” becomes increasingly opaque. But because of the great benefits it can bring to all good people, I think the AGG or a similar idea – Utopian though it may seem to some – has a decent chance. And as AGGs take over more and more of the world, increasingly we will find the borders, the weapons and the militias to be unnecessary. Even before that, I expect, AGGs will be working together cordially, for example to deal with problems in which pollution crosses AGG boundaries.
There may, of course, be setbacks on the way. For example, it’s not inconceivable that some rogue state might try to attack one or more AGGs. Another risk is of a displaced political class trying to restore their state. A third possibility is corruption within the AGG, or among the quality controllers. All these are issues to be addressed.
Given my age, I may not live to see it; but I’m confident that we human beings can make it through to a better world. A world in which there are no political states, no politicians, no political agendas, no political borders, no bad laws, no predatory or redistributory taxes, no oppressions and no wars. In which the free market, personal freedom for all, good governance and objective justice are the norms. In which the rights of those, who do not violate others’ rights, are not violated. And in which all governance everywhere, if it fails to keep strictly within its remit, will lose its custom and be superseded by better governance.
To sum up
I’ll end with what I hope you’ll find an amusing little ditty. It’s based on the end of term school playground song, “No more Latin, no more French.” For the avoidance of doubt, I’ll say again that “AGG” stands for Area of Good Governance.
In a few years, how will things be,
When England is an AGG?
No more taxes, no more wars,
No more scheming behind closed doors.
No more lies or propaganda,
No more “justice” without candour.
No more politician prats,
No more bossy bureaucrats.
No more weasel words from moanies,
No more cushy jobs for cronies.
No more barriers in the way
Of those who want to earn good pay.
No more stealing of earned wealth,
Whether obvious or by stealth.
No more cameras all about,
Spying on us to catch us out.
No more tracking of our bytes,
No more trampling on our rights.
No more stops without good cause,
No more bad, politicized laws.
When England is an AGG,
Then all its people will be free.
 Second Treatise of Government, §140.