The Canton Nation Game

This is an invitation to participate in a live action role-playing game. The purpose of the game is to design a new form of government, starting at the neighborhood level. Based on my book, If Not Democracy, it will develop a form of government without rulers (people who make moral decisions for other people) and without elections. Instead, there are three necessary components to the government: 1) the Oath, taken when one begins to participate; 2) selection by each participant of a “Canton”, an organization similar to a political party in that it represents the principles and values of the members; and 3) a Federation of members. 

I am looking for individuals with the time and energy to participate, and who are ready to be creative. Participants will learn a great deal about local government, about how to deal with other people, and something about themselves as individuals in human society. 

I use the term Canton Nation (CN) to describe the essential components of a form of government without rulers or elections.

In order to best explain how a Canton Nation government differs from others, let me begin by describing some of the characteristics common to other forms of government.

In a typical local government, you have a territory. That will also be true for a CN government. It is essential that the territory be clearly defined.

In a typical local government, you have elected officials. These elected officials make rules (legislate). They are responsible jointly for providing certain services provided to the people by the various departments (schools, fire protection, street paving, snow plowing, trash removal, etc.). To cover the costs of these services, they set and collect taxes from the inhabitants of the territory.

The biggest problem with this form of government is that, unlike businesses, it is impossible to know if you are getting good value for the money spent to provide those services. Perhaps more importantly, you may have serious misgivings about some of the services being provided, while having very little real control. Proponents of current forms of government bloviate constantly about the value of the right to vote, while the voters with this purported right generally take a pass, knowing how little actual value it has.

A Canton Nation government instead focuses squarely on one thing: maintaining and improving the physical environment of the territory. You have certainly heard the expression used when searching for a new home: location, location, location. The value of any home is greatly affected by the immediate neighbors. The purpose of the CN government is to simply make sure that the value of every property in a territory is protected. It does this without rulers, elections, or taxes. Sounds challenging, right?

The second organizing unit of the CN government is what I call the “Canton”. A Canton is similar to a political party in that its members share a set of principles and values. At the time you join a Federation, you must also choose a Canton. You sign contracts with each of these organizations. 

One of the things stipulated in the contract you sign with the Federation is what your membership fees will be. These fees are collected, not by the Federation directly, but by your chosen Canton. 

Each Canton chooses a representative to the Federation Council, the governing body of the territory. The Council first of all is responsible for composing and making changes to the Federation Contract which each new and renewing member signs. They are also responsible for overseeing the functioning of the government departments that provide whatever services the Council may agree to provide the Federation members. The way this is done in a CN Federation is, however, quite different from how it is done in your typical elected government. The Council must not only decide what services the members want, but they must also determine how the departments will be funded. Remember that the membership fees go to the Cantons, not directly to the Federation. Each member of the Council, representing their Canton, must allocate funds for projects as they see fit. 

We often hear, in reference to the US Federal Government, the term “balance of power”. What are the means of balancing the powers in the CN government? First of all, the contracts with the Federation and the Canton that members agree to are good for a single year. This provides a minimum amount of stability, to see that commitments made by the Council can be met. Since membership in a Canton is for a single year, the members have a great deal of influence on how their Canton provides funding for joint projects. If a Canton (or a Canton official) does something that displeases them, they choose (or create) another Canton, one that better represents their principles and values. The original Canton thereby loses clout in terms of members and their fees. Unlike in a two party system, your choice is not limited to “bad” and “worse”. All eyes, both externally and internally, are on the Canton leadership and their decisions. They must be concerned for the loyalty of their members. Those who are ambitious will look for opportunities to reveal internal corruption, or instances where leadership acts in bad faith, and possibly split the membership of the Canton in two, or lure members away to another existing Canton.

The final essential element of a Canton Nation government, and perhaps the most essential of the three, is the Oath

The Oath provides the starting point for a common law system. This legal system will provide the means to resolve as peacefully as possible all disputes within the territory.

Here you have the essential elements for a Canton Nation government. Sign up to play by sending an email to the [some email address here]. Include your name and some contact info.

For the purposes of the game, and to move things along quickly in its seminal period, the Federation and Canton contracts will last for a single month. Much of the work of the game will be in further developing the Federation Contract.