Proposal for International Zones

I hope there will someday be an “International Social Contract” (ISC), based on Enlightenment principles, that allows people who enter into it to live in host countries around the world in a way that is respectful and beneficial to all parties. The goal would be to create explicit agreements that allow members of an ISC to move freely between “International Zones” (IZs) without inflaming right-wing groups or encouraging the abuse of local citizens or indigenous cultures.

I believe there would be economic, political and cultural advantages to local communities hosting an IZ, as long as participants willingly enter into social contracts that clearly define the rights, roles and expectations of all parties, and where those contracts are based on human rights, mutual aid, tolerance and peaceful progress.

Citizens and ethnic groups that are aboriginal to a host nation (Native American Tribes, etc.) could be respected as the perpetual stewards of their unique ethnic culture and natural resources. There could be portions of major cities, or other regions, that would be open to the internationalist to semi-autonomously inhabit, modify and conduct business within, while other areas would be reserved for the local citizens.

There could be special laws governing things like the status of children born through mixed relationships (i.e. citizen/non-citizen) and some agreement for fairly requesting that internationalist relocate, should the need arise — with respect for the property rights and safety of all parties. These IZs could also provide a safe haven for refugees without angering local populations — who may fear that a sudden influx of foreign refugees would threaten their citizen’s ability to pursue their preferred way of being.

Every internationalist could have a registered official nation of origin they could return to without restriction. Perhaps children would need to confirm their commitment to the social contract at some age of consent (18?). If they rejected the contract, there could be a provision for their safe return to the nation they are officially registered as belonging to. The child’s nation of origin would default to the parent’s nation of origin. If parents from two different nations had a child in an IZ, perhaps the child could elect their nation of origin or have dual citizenship.

All of this could be agreed to explicitly through an ISC that would be binding on the local governments and internationalists, even outside a particular host country (e.g. extradition agreements, economic treaties, etc.). I don’t suggest the IZs be allowed to raise an army to protect their interests. Instead they would rely on the countries that join the ISC and human rights protecting forces like the UN.

I’m not suggesting ethnocentric nationalism. I see this system running parallel to the normal naturalization process. I believe in ground-up, dynamic pluralism as an expression of individual rights. The special relationship indigenous cultures have to a particular geographic location should be allowed to be perpetuated if it is the will of the citizens and the institutions that legitimately represent them. If someone is naturalized, they should become an equal citizen that is allowed to peacefully pursue their preferred way of being individually and to vote on how the nation organizes to perpetuate or dismantle cultural norms (e.g. funding for arts and culture; preservation of monuments, festivals, holidays, religious and folk traditions).

Some Unorganized Related Notes:

Liminal Spaces

The United States is essentially a protean entity at the nexus point between cultures, markets and global population centers. Forgetting that may not only limit our potential, it may undermine the ethical principles that justify our existence — since we are a nation primarily comprised of immigrants. Why are we here?

After several decades of ‘Culture Wars’, it may be productive to shift our focus to strong protection for individual rights and the unique qualities of radical pluralism. Reinforcing everyone’s freedom to pursue their cultural preferences, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, should allow individuals to preserve their traditional ways of being while enabling the unique qualities of a liminal civilization to fully develop.

Just as ligaments and tendons connect flesh and bones, liminal cultures connect less flexible locations in time and space. We are the edges to the nodes, the protocol keepers, the synaptic gap, the neurotransmitters. We build and design systems that allow the nodes to exist as a single integrated whole — without dictating their content. Forcing the world to be all edges, all connective tissue and in-between spaces, is incoherent. It threatens to destroy our reason for being and limits the full expression of our human nature.

Historically, cultures in the in-between spaces have produced distinct information flows leading to wealth, beauty, novel ideas and novel artifacts.

The future of America may not only look like pickup trucks, bibles and apple pies. It may also have many of the qualities of Ancient Alexandria, Medieval Constantinople, Renaissance Venice, The Dutch Republic, Modernist Vienna and contemporary super-connectors like Cape Town, Mumbai and Hong Kong.

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“enforcing ‘zones’ will only further create ill-feeling and endless dispute regarding real estate and it’s borders/expansion as the communities within and without seek to expand or counter the expansion of other communities around them”

I think this is a valid concern. There are two features of the idea that may help.

1. Everyone above an age of consent (18 seems about right) would need to confirm their commitment to the ISC, as it is written and managed at that time.

2. Members of the ISC would be able to freely move between IZs or back to their official nation of origin.

These features should work against people being born into a situation where they feel subordinated and trapped.

Another feature this discussion lead me to consider are “Virtual International Zones” where the zone borders are more virtual than physical, something like permanent resident or foreign worker status, but based on an explicit ISC.

“How can we ensure that protections afforded to communities do not preside and dictate over the protections of individuals within those communities?”

This concerns me too. The answer is, I don’t know! I like what I call “radical pluralism as an expression of individual rights”.

In the private sphere, people should have the right to choose to freely associate and self-identify with a group, ideology, religion or gender. However, they should not be allowed to infringe on the rights of others, including other’s right to form alternative groups and respectfully request participation in existing groups. Allowing everyone to form alternative groups helps to make it more ethical for groups to have rules for who is and is not allowed to participate in a private association. I think of this as similar to “The Freedom To Fork” in open source software.

Perhaps the reason why “The Freedom To Fork” has not been sufficient for preserving free association in societies that have found it necessary to adopt integration laws in the private sphere is because the COST OF FORKING IS OFTEN TOO HIGH. This makes it an unrealistic option for many marginalized people. The solution may be to make it easier and cheaper to fork. Maybe this could be accomplished with things like government grants, tax incentives and public-private partnerships, such as Social Impact Bonds.

Governments should probably compensate private citizens whenever they use their private property to promote a public good. This make things like taxation and eminent domain sometimes a legitimate thing for a government to do.

Once the cost of forking is under control, groups could be allowed to elect a special tax status for complying with integration laws in the private sphere. Businesses and associations not wishing to comply could register an official statement about why they are unable or unwilling to do so and they would not receive tax incentives. Business owners, customers, business partners, and potential employees could then INDIVIDUALLY CHOOSE to support minority interests by showing special preference for private groups that elect a special tax status. This could send a clear signal in the market about the intentions of private businesses and associations vs. minority interests and give individuals a personal sense of satisfaction when they make their own choices.

On the other hand, I think the public sphere has a special obligation to care for the needs of all citizens and to treat them as equals under the law. Therefor, the public sphere should be THROUGHLY integrated.

Compulsory integration of the private sphere (such as the Civil Rights Act*) may certainly be the right convention for the United States, however, enabling The Freedom to Fork may still be an excellent way to think about how to encourage pluralism in any situation in which there is enough disparity in access to resources that creating alternatives is unrealistic for those that are not being accommodated.

I see radical pluralism as very dynamic. Individuals are constantly choosing to form new groups and new ways of being or to merge, abandon or revitalize old groups and old ways of being. I think this reflects diversity as it actually is. Groups don’t need an official name, history or set of leaders to be legitimate in a pluralist system where they are an organic expression of individual rights.

I don’t like ethnocentric authoritarianism that leads to segregation, or generifying authoritarianism that abandons diversity based on the assumption that tolerance is impossible. If people, through individual choices, choose to live in distinct communities in ways that do not infringe on individual rights, then great — it helps us have a more distinct sense of being somewhere instead of just anywhere and probably satisfies lots of subtle human psychological needs. If people choose to erase differences through individual free choices in a way that does not infringe on individual rights, then great — it may make it easier to plan for a groups needs and reduce tensions based on real and perceived differences. The right choice depends on the situation and the individual.

I hope to take a free online course about International Human Rights later this year. Hopefully, I’ll learn more about how immigrants, refugees and International agreements are already working in practice.

I found a couple options that look good:

Maybe there could be a way for anyone in the world to participate in a web community that creates recommendations for things like:

1. Which rights should be unconditional, even when dealing with the worst possible tyrant? (e.g. No torture, No genocide, No mutilation, No rape, Universal Emergency Health Care)

2. Which rights should be guaranteed only under certain conditions? For instance: only when there are sustainable, peaceful pathways to improvements — as opposed to engaging in bloody war for the sake of temporary improvements and then suddenly collapsing into what could be an even worse situation (e.g. Guaranteed Basic Income, Universal Secondary Education, Universal Non-emergency Health Care).

3. How should these rights be promoted and perpetuated?

Participants could also share opinions about Human Rights abuses in the news and the reactions of official Human Rights regulators, with cross references to the official law. This could create an excellent resource for making recommendations to governing bodies.

It could also help local communities understand how their members, and members of similar communities, feel about basic rights.

I think there is power in a distributed, radically inclusive consensus building process, even when recommendations are not binding law. Maybe the system could be based on something like “Liquid Democracy”.

Thanks to the entire IEET community. I’ve learned a lot by reading posts and comments over the last several years.

All the best!

* P.S. I was attempting to outline a way to think about pluralism, the private sphere, and integration in a very general way. I AM NOT PRO-SEGREGATION!!! I like the Civil Rights Act and think that it can help to deescalate some conflicts by taking some decisions out of the hands of the citizens. I also acknowledge that it respects the fact that minorities often have a more difficult time achieving an acceptable quality of life.

The point I’m trying to make is that it will be important to support and encourage pluralism in IZs and we’ll need to settle on laws that balance private property rights, right to free association, and respect for the needs of all citizens. Existing EU integration laws and The Civil Rights Act would certainly be important templates.

— — -

One more thought on how to help reduce potential violence between groups. I posted this as part of a comment on the End Of Nation States post.

Part of respect for pluralism as an expression of individual rights is the idea of sexual autonomy. There should be an explicit agreement that individuals be allowed to reject a romantic partner for any reason (e.g. religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender) without forfeiting their individual rights. Likewise, there should be an explicit agreement that individuals be allowed to respectfully suggest a romantic relationship without forfeiting their individual rights. If two people choose one another, they should be allowed to be together, whatever the combination.

I know this is a touchy subject, but anger and violence are naturally associated with sexuality in human beings. Having an explicit ISC that deals with these issues may be key to making it work.

— —

A few more thoughts:

1. It may be nice to explicitly state that the ISC is based on Enlightenment principles and for the purpose of mutually beneficial cooperation (1) by naming the entity something like the “Enlightened Commons” or the “Enlightened Common Zones”. Participants could be called things like “Internationalists”, “Commoners”, “Mutualists”, “Enlightened Commoners”, or “Enlightened Mutualists” (2).

Whatever names may be decided on, they should be chosen such that the names discourage the creation of a form of chauvinism amongst those living in IZs, which could lead to conflicts involving domestic, right-wing groups.

2. Some compromise would need to be made on a police force. I suggest that local police forces be augmented with a special police force that works throughout the IZs while remaining dependent on the host nations. Perhaps some explicit mix could be stated in the ISC — 33% Commoners, 66% Local.

3. There would need to be a clear rule about how real estate is reclaimed by a host nation, should the need arise. I don’t know much about property law, perhaps there should be so many years of warning before a host state takes over real estate that has been developed in an IZ. Five or ten years may give reasonable warning. The property should be purchased based on something like “fair market value”. If a host state attempts to acquire real estate without proper notice then penalties should apply. For instance 5% above market value for every year less than the agreed upon warning.

I hope these ideas will inspire even better ones!

P.S. I wonder where the first off-planet Enlightened Commons Zone will be?


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I had some additional thoughts on “The Freedom To Fork” concept tonight. Perhaps it is important to provide for temporary injunctions against a private groups right to discriminate in circumstances where an individual that is being discriminated against may suffer significant harm. Injunctions such as these may last until a suitable alternative, or “Fork”, can be created.

There may also be some obligation, or incentivized option, for those who provide an exclusive good, service or free association to give basic guidance to those wishing to fork an alternative. This could be provided in the form of pubic documentation about the goods and services they provide and an outline of their business practices and partnerships.

Government programs and incentives that enable low cost forking should only be made available for “forks” that adopt the most inclusive version of integration policies.

All the best!

— — —

Here is a more thorough treatment of Sexual Autonomy.

Sexual Autonomy

1. The right to issue a sexual/romantic invitation in legal ways.

2. The right to reject a sexual/romantic invitation in legal ways.

3. The right to be with consensual partners, whatever the combination — including homosexual couples or couples with differences in ethnicity, religion, socio-economics, or nationality — as long as both are above or bellow the legal age of consent.

4. The right to protest a law regulating marriage, romantic partnerships, or sexual acts in ways that do not cause significant harm and that only include consensual partners.

5. The right to engage in autoeroticism in ways that do not include unwilling participants or damage other’s property.

Free Associations may wish to accommodate relationships that include the non-member partners of members by offering activities that include non-members, however, there may not always be a legal or ethical obligation to include a non-member in all activities and rituals. (e.g. A Native American/Non-Native American couple where the Non-Native is not included in all tribal rituals but the couple is still allowed to participate in most tribal events). If a Free Association includes a mating ritual, non-members should be allowed to request and accept romantic relationships (See 1) in conventional ways, even if they are not permitted to participate in the mating ritual.

Sexual Autonomy means that we are allowed to have preferences, but we are only allowed to realize those preferences with consensual partners. If someone can not find a consensual partner that meets their preferences, they can either change their preferences or be alone. For instance, if someone only wishes to date and marry within their ethnic or religious community they are permitted to do so, but only with consensual partners. If they can not find a consensual partner, then they may remain alone or change their preferences until they find a consensual partner.

Historically, many people have not had the right to sexual autonomy. I propose that sexual autonomy is a significant liberal advance and is a substantial freedom worth wanting.

Criticism and comments are welcome! I think this is an important, difficult subject.

— — -

Some Principles For Justifying Additional Regulations On Private Property Used In Organizations

Since we would need to come up with strategies for accommodating very diverse populations, I’ve made a list of ways to justify special regulations of private property when used in businesses or free associations of some kinds.

1. The government can be designed to provide an advanced infrastructure to enable organizations. Those who use the infrastructure would be required to follow additional regulations on their private property. Note, people may figure out how to create organizations that don’t use the infrastructure and they may not wish to follow addition regulations.

2. The harm principle states that the government can regulate an activity if it is likely to cause someone else a significant harm. It could be argued that if Public Accommodations and Public Transportation are not fully integrated, and marginalized people are not realistically able to create alternatives, then a substantial harm is highly likely to occur. Note, if full integration is not required by the law, then people may attempt to address this with emergency injunctions against exclusion when there are not suitable alternative organizations available.

3. When private property is used in an organization it has a much more substantial impact on the general community. Even if the probability of a serious direct harm occurring isn’t very high, it still impacts the general quality of the community, or the “common good”. Thus, the government should create a third category of property (“organization-use”?) that additional regulation may apply to, in order to pursue the common good. Note, impressions of the common good are often changing and subjective. Perhaps these types of regulations should only be applied through public referendums. It may be useful for these regulations to contain sunset clauses that bring them back up for voting periodically in order to gauge the current public conception of the common good. Maybe the duration of the sunset clause could be based on how close the public is to reaching a consensus.

4. If some uses of private property should only be subjected to additional regulations when there is voluntary consent (e.g. religious organizations, private clubs, small family businesses), perhaps the government could provide tax incentives for conforming to regulations that are in pursuit of the common good.

I think some combination of these principles can help us create an ethical, diverse society that is responsive to shifting perceptions of what constitutes the common good. The US Civil Rights Act and the EU laws on integration should also serve as excellent guides. Let me know if you can think of any other principles that we should consider!

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