Origins and Grounds for Group Decision-Making
Before we can correctly assess the process of group decision-making, we must first have an understanding of why group decision-making processes are necessary. In order to establish this necessity, we will look into the origins of contractual relations to property. We will start with personal possessions, barter, and credit, before moving on to personal property, as it relates to land and shared use of capital. This will inform us of our need to make decisions according to a common sphere of sovereignty, and will lay the foundation for group decision-making processes.
Evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists often suggest that the best way to understand human impulses is to understand their behavior as it existed before technological development. The argument goes something like this: People develop quickly in culture, but slowly biologically. That is, we can develop our ideas much quicker than our bodies evolve. In other words, humans developed physically—which includes our mental capacity— in the context of an environment very different from the one we live in today. This being so, people have the same genetic heritage as they did before they developed technology. Therefore, people’s most “natural” motivations and behaviors can best be understood in the context of life as a hunter-gatherer. We’d do best to acknowledge this in social contexts today.
Hunting and gathering people have no understanding of land-ownership. They operate on a sense of usufruct, wherein the land is shared. They do, however, have a sense of possession. While land cannot be owned, and while possessions are often pooled to be drawn from in common, the hunter-gatherer often retains the right to personal possessions as it relates to tools and clothing, which often take skill and effort to manufacture.
While hunter-gatherers have a strong sense of community and common welfare, there is still a sense of fairness. Hunter-gatherers will often seem to gift one another, but gifting is often a form of tacit contract, which transfers indebtedness. That is, the gift is often an unspoken system of credit. The community may demand a certain input as a whole at times, and may suggest that a certain amount of effort be spent toward communal ends, and its members may, likewise, demand favors from others as individuals. If someone is discovered to be a “free-rider,” taking much more than the amount they put in, they will be ridiculed. Robin Dunbar suggests, in his Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Human Language, that gossip provides an important role in early human societies, and may largely be the reason that language was found to be evolutionarily successful. Before people had money, they kept track of debts more loosely, and regulated exchanges by way of gossip, agreement, and status.
When horticulture began, and people started to really cultivate gardens, private possession of land began to make more sense. At this point, land was no longer separated, in a hard sense, from one’s skill and labor. Like tools and clothing, and unlike the immediately-available harvests of hunting and gathering societies, harvests from the new delayed-return societies took skill and labor. As one’s tools and clothing were considered personal possessions, this ethic was now extended to the land. For a long time, this created a sense of peace and prosperity, and allowed people to have their own sphere of influence. The long-term effects of privatizing the economic rent of the land— the surplus that some land offered over others—, however, was unconsidered. This allowed for the establishment of the first governments, and, later, of capitalism.
Before the establishment of governments, people in band and early tribal societies had a sense of autonomy coupled by a sense of necessary collaboration. Group decisions in these societies generally followed some loose form of consensus. The group existed as the harmony of individual interests. With the establishment of city-states, following the privatization of economic rent, however, class stratification began. This allowed decisions to be enforced onto others who did not agree. Group decision-making was no longer a matter of common consent, but a matter of domination.
Here we can culturally understand a movement in history that can be described as “The Fall” of humanity. Early societies made decisions together, had a sense of autonomy, and had a concern for the common good. This was distorted by some having a claim to economic rent, while others did not have such a claim. Gradually, decision-making drifted away from voluntary personal and group-decision making, to coercive decision-making on behalf of the elite. This shift involved egalitarian society gaining access to economic rent, and extracting slaves from other egalitarian societies. This established various families as majoritarian political classes over others in the minority. Later horticultural societies developed oligopoly, wherein the ratio of slaves to free families grows, and there became a graduated difference in class relations between those considered to be free. Lastly, in agricultural societies, monarchy was set into place, with a single family holding a claim of inheritance over the rest of the population.
Interestingly, we have shifted out of “The Fall,” and we are now beginning “The Rise.” Whereas “The Fall” can be characterized as the separation of decisions from actors, “The Rise” can be considered a return to our natural, instinctual, behaviors, and a reacceptance of autonomy and group responsibility. We are now beginning to step away from the dictatorship of monarchs, and have stepped out, firstly into constitutional monarchy and then into republican states. We will be studying some of these for our plans for the next step.
Personal, Common, and Collective Property and Exchange
It’s important to consider the origins of group decision-making, and its relationship to property. Before analyzing the various systems of decision-making, I want to nail down some of the basics of contract and possessory agreements.
People in hunter-gatherer societies had much less need for explicit contracts, because they lived in smaller numbers, had face-to-face exchanges, and could regulate conflict largely by way of gossip. They did, however, have a great use for agreements when it came to hunting and defense tactics, and in other areas where combined efforts translated to economies of scale. Nevertheless, people in agricultural and industrial societies have much more need for contracts, since people in these societies regularly interact as strangers, and fight over rights to the land. Contracts are a manner of distributing duties and responsibilities, and sorting out rights of possession and property.
If starting from a place of personal possession, as we have had with hunter-gatherers and early horticulturalists, contracts exist as a matter of collaboration. If one enters a contract, from a basis of autonomy, it is for the goal of common pursuit. This can be seen as individuals, all entitled to their own spear, getting together for a group hunt, and sharing in the spoils. However, in the case that personal property in land comes into the picture, contracts enter into the picture of compromise. Hunter-gatherers have no sense of personal property in land, because they do not practice horticulture, but horticultural societies have methods of divvying up rights to land. This tells us that the right to the use of the Earth is socially granted. Upon a foundation of individual possession, society forms, and out of society develops the practice of personal property. Free individuals form free societies, and free societies produce freer individuals, in a feedback loop.
Some of the earliest forms of established contract were social contracts. These can be seen as binding agreements which keep a group in operation. These can be tacitly or expressly accepted. A tacitly accepted social contract speaks to the sort we are used to under political states today. A tacitly accepted social contract does not exist due to wordy agreements, but because they are enforced by norms of the day. For instance, you never signed an agreement to abide by the United States Constitution, but, if you don’t do so, you will be detained, or possibly shot. This is so not because others signed the paper, but because their actions make it so. If you break a law, someone will turn you in, even though neither of you had a hand in its creation. An expressed social contract is more apparent when one signs up for a class and agrees to the syllabus, when one agrees to the bylaws of their church when they become a member, or when one agrees to join any organization with working rules of order. The more participatory and democratic an organization is, the more expressed the consent within it. If you sign something, or vocally agree to something, it is a form of expressed consent.
Money is a form of title-deed. This is often a title-deed to one’s labor or products. This bond is a title-deed representing a claim, as a matter of contract. It can originate in possession, as an IOU or privately-issued gold-certificate, or can be a matter of group-process. Matters of efficiency make money a social affair. Money has largely replaced the need for gossip in regulating exchanges, and has allowed for economic exchanges between strangers.
Title to land is also a matter of contract. There are many manners in which this title can be expressed. Society may issue land permanently, according to principles of freehold, or it may issue rights to land more temporarily, according to principles of leasehold. Freehold generally gives the owner absolute, unhindered, and perpetual control of land, without continual recompense. Leaseholds provide land to tenants on a basis of occupancy and use, often asking for continual payment of fees. Society may also manage common land according to social norms, with all sharing rights of access, or may entrust an agent to act on its behalf, as a trust. For instance, a social unit may establish a park, which is to be tended to by rangers on behalf of society as a whole. Any of these systems of contract may include clauses, such as easements, which protect the rights of those who do not hold title to, or are not in immediate possession of, the land, or liens which entitle previous owners to a return on land that is outside of their use. Leases and freeholds must be issued to a claimant. This claimant can take the form of an individual, a group, or an agent of an individual or group.
We now have a basis in which to suggest applications for group decision-making: When it comes to the allocation of land, and in shared projects, groups must find common grounds for understanding. However, when it comes to one’s own labor or products, decisions should be left to the individual, and their autonomy should be respected. However, it can also be expected that free individuals will unite for purposes of productive and distributive collaboration. Rights to the use of land are granted by society, and societies are established for matters of efficiency. This leaves various layers of decisions to be made, from the level of society as a whole, in the case of land; to smaller units of society, as matters of industrial collaboration; to the personal decisions of the individual.
In the following section, we will analyze the various forms of group decision-making, before taking their positive tools and applying them to a comprehensive understanding of group decision-making which is more compatible with “The Rise” of humanity, and which better satisfies the needs of individuals and social groups.
The Evolution of Group Sovereignty and Decision-Making
Groups exist on many scales, and decisions have to be made on those scales. This endeavor has taken many forms in the past. We will be taking a quick evolutionary look at decision-making models from the past, before taking a look at some of the more recently practiced and proposed models of relation. We will be paying special attention to the tools involved in the decision-making processes, in order that we may apply them to a more comprehensive model in the next section.
We have discussed “The Fall,” but now it is time to analyze “The Rise.” “The Fall” was characterized by a loss in social power, accorded by the limited access, and private control, of economic rent. Societies with access to economic rent slowly acquired slaves and established themselves as a decision-making class. Power was lost firstly from all to the majority, and then from the majority to the minority. “The Rise,” likewise, has occurred gradually, and since it is more immediate, we may analyze the group decision-making processes in it more specifically. It will occur in a manner almost exactly opposite to that of “The Fall.” Rather than social power being lost from all to many to few to one, it will be won from one to few to many and then to all. For this reason, and starting with the pinnacle of “The Fall,” we recognize the simple monarchy, wherein a single individual is entrusted as a mandate, on society’s behalf.
Property has long had a relationship to the state. This is most highly understood when one looks at the nature of the simple monarchy of the agricultural era, wherein a patriarchal king claimed sovereignty over all people and possessions, seeing them all as his property. In simple monarchies, while it is true that the king’s power is reliant on common and tacitly accepted consent, what the king says goes. The king maintains the power to tax, demand a corvée, or to seize persons or property. Under a true monarchy, the king may listen to some of his subjects, especially those of more noble classes, but the decisions remains in his hands. He holds all of the power, and commands the economy.
Simple monarchies, because of their grounding in totalitarianism, were not very stable, and were prone to rebellion and transferal of kingship to victors in war. The Roman Empire learned this quite well toward the end of its days. It was at the end of the dominate period of the Roman Empire that feudalism began to show. Feudalism was characterized with economic manorialism. Feudal monarchies, unlike simple monarchies, extended a great amount of power to vassals, or lords, by way of fiefdoms. This practice was undertaken by kings in order that their power could be preserved. In order for someone to become a vassal, or a lord of a manner, they had to become indebted to the king for military service, and to defend the king against his enemies. In so doing, the vassal would gain the right of fiefdom, a title to land for his own management and possession, complete with serfs to work it. This decentralization of power allowed kings to preserve their power in a more general sense, though they greatly lost the right of micromanagement.
Feudal monarchies eventually empowered a powerful class of nobles, who eventually came to understand their common interests. Upon deciding that the king was infringing on their liberties, a group of nobles banded together, serving King John a document called the Magna Carta. This paved the way for constitutional monarchies, which later paved the way for parliamentary republics, especially characterized by times after The Glorious Revolution. Along with this transition, the shift in political power, and the black plague—which left property of the ruling class to be claimed by peasants—led to a society dominated by artisans and merchants, and a system that eventually developed into economic mercantilism.
Mercantile and constitutional monarchies eventually fell way to modern republics and to industrial capitalism. Monarchies are associated with feudalism and command economies, but republics are associated with capitalism and regulated markets. Many in capitalist republics are smallholders, having their own homes or businesses. Most, however, have changed from serfs to workers, though they have gained citizenship. The lords have become creditors, landlords, and capitalists, and compose the representative class. Modern republics are accompanied by constitutions and bills of rights, as was inspired by the Magna Carta, and by decentralization of power— as taken from feudalism—, which is referred to as federalism. Modern republics add into the mix the election of presidents and term-limitations. Power in a modern democratic republic is given to the majority, by way of electoral power. These are our historical tools of liberation, which must be retained and surpassed.
We have now come to our current stage in history. While many of the systems I will be proposing from here on out have been put into practice on a smaller scale (as in intentional communities, cooperatives, and mutuals), or as elements of an otherwise contradictory system (as in some Scandinavian countries having elements of participatory or direct-democracy, but otherwise working as a republic), they have not yet set the pace necessary to be considered an era in themselves. The democratic era is yet to be established. We are in the age of republics. Nonetheless, we may trace the development of democratic thought and practice.
Continuing the Project
We have seen a general trend in the past since the era of simple monarchy, which can be characterized in many ways as “The Rise” of humanity. This general tendency is characterized with distribution of wealth and social power, the shifting from monarchy to republics, from command economies to state-regulated capitalism, from few to many. Likewise, the shift of capitalist republics to something new will transfer social power, economic and political, to all.
The first project I would like to bring attention to is called deliberative democracy. Deliberative democracy is characterized by public discussion related to political matters. In a deliberative democracy there is an emphasis on the free flow of information and the need for public forums. While there may still be a representative, or a decision may be left up to a majority, the emphasis on the matter is placed on the ability to make all major positions known. In this way, the representative or majority is at least informed of positions that hold a good deal of social weight, and must make decisions with these in mind.
Participatory democracy is the next form of democracy I would like to address. Participatory democracy, as the name suggests, strives to increase involvement in politics. Participatory democracy is a form of deliberative democracy that is often accompanied by a sense of localism, and bottom-up decision-making. In a participatory democracy, there will often be representatives— oftentimes organized into councils—, who are recallable according to public initiative. Units on the smaller scale will often be understood to empower the units on the larger scale, a sort of “bubbling up” of power. Participatory democracy is often accompanies by elements of direct-democracy, especially when it relates to constitutional or bylaw matters. A good example of participatory democracy can be found in the political economy of ParEcon (Participatory Economics), wherein a system of “nested councils” is present. In this system of nested councils, one elects council members locally, who may elect council members on a district level, who may elect council members on a more regional basis. Each level does its own electing, with electors electing electors, creating a hierarchy of public selection.
Direct-democracy, another specific form of participatory democracy, is accompanied by popular vote on all major issues, by way of initiative and referendum. In a direct-democracy, initiatives are set, which are limitations on the amount of support a motion must have before it can be put forward to the group. For instance— rather than allowing anyone to say whatever they want to during a meeting of 150 people— direct-democracy sets an initiative, which suggests that a motion must have popular support before it is presented to the group as a whole. This limitation of popular support will often take the form of a specific number, such as 10 members in good-standing, or a percentage, such as 5% of the membership, who have signed and support the initiative. This way, if an idea is not very good, it does not waste the time of the group. Once an initiative is met, a referendum (a formal ballot on the issue), is established and a vote is cast by the rest of the group. Direct-democracies may run according to supermajority or simple majority, or by some other method of voting. By and large, direct-democracies have general assemblies, wherein the group deliberates in person and casts its vote in person, though they are often accompanied by referendums sent by a board or secretary, and by a means of deliberation between meetings, such as an organizational bulletin. This is, for instance, how the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, operates.
Delegative democracy is a specific form of direct-democracy wherein one places trust in a delegate to carry out decisions. Delegates differ from “representatives” in that they are not allowed to vote against the will of their group. Rather than being a decision-maker, delegates are decision-takers, who must listen to those who are empowering them, and who are recallable. They often act as simple spokespeople, who may formally state a motion of the group, and deliberate with other delegates, usually staying in contact with their local group if deliberation may change one of their decisions (unless the group has empowered them to act according to their best judgment). Delegate democracy allows individuals to entrust their vote to an agent in the case they will be absent. It is often used on a regional scale as a method of making votes in assemblies more proportional, particularly when assemblies tend to be overloaded with the votes of locals, whose transportation costs are lower, and who have an easier time getting to a meeting. Delegation allows for lower transportation costs, and for proportional voting.
This brings us lastly the consensus-based decision-making. Consensus-based decisions are characterized by “general agreement.” Some suggest that this is different from unanimity in that differences in enthusiasm are allowed. The most fundamental aspect of consensus is the right to “block.” If someone doesn’t like an idea, and they have a principled objection to it, they are allowed to hinder the progress of the group. However, if their objection is non-principled, or they feel they should not hinder the group, they have the right to “stand aside,” meaning they will not block the progress of the group, but neither do they have interest in participating. It is important to remember that consensus generally is not used to restrict the actions of individuals, and so a block does not keep an individual from pursuing their proposed ends on their own scale. It just ensures that money from common accounts, the resources of a common organization, or the name of an organization to which they are associated, will not be used against the favor of any member in good-standing. Consensus protects the minority without restricting the majority.
We have now traversed the major forms of democracy. Other forms of democracy include demarchy, wherein representatives are selected according to lottery, similar to a jury; dotmocracy, wherein one can vote with levels of enthusiasm (or block, if consensus is used); opinion points, wherein one is given a select number of points that can be used positively or negatively (as the rules dictate) in favor or against a number of options; sociocracy, which I understand to be a nested council system largely promoting consent; and wise democracy, wherein decisions are made apparent through dialogue. These will not be explored as nearly in depth, though I do encourage research into these.
I believe it is important to mention that all forms of democracy work best according to principles of subsidiarity and sphere-sovereignty. In other words, they work best if decisions work from the bottom upward, by institutions capable of efficiently and effectively acting on the most immediate scale, and if the rights of smaller units are respected. In other words, democracy works best when personal and concurrent property is respected and not infringed upon, and when decisions are made from the bottom-upward, according to the level of those most immediately affected.
To conclude this section, I’d like to point out that as republics accompanied the rise of capitalism, widespread democracy will be accompanied by economic geo-mutualism and will be housed under an umbrella of panarchy. The tendency of history has been that when economic decisions are decentralized political decisions are decentralized. This has been true from shifting of command-economy monarchism, to feudalist manorialism, to constitutional-monarchist mercantilism, to democratic-republican capitalism. It will also be true of the shift from representative and majoritarian democracy to consensus-democracy. The next phase in history will be one toward geo-mutualist panarchism, a free market of competing and freely associating confederal democracies. Such a society will lease land at the price of economic rent, will establish trusts for ecological preservation, and will issue credit at cost.
Organizing the Toolbox
It is now time to pick out the tools of the approaches mentioned above. The tools are 11 in number:
- First, we have subsidiarity. The first step toward subsidiarity was in the development of feudalism, wherein the king assigned vassals (or lords) fiefdoms (or land-titles at lien). Subsidiarity will be kept as a growing principle as we continue. Like those tools to follow, it will be retained in our model at the end.
- Second, we have constitutions and bills of rights, which protect the interests of constituents. This is derived from the Magna Carta, as was served to King John. At that time it was used to protect the rights of nobles, but today constitutions protect (to the degree they are acknowledged by the state) the rights of common citizens.
- Third, we have elections. Elections accompanied the development of parliamentary monarchies, and ended the royal right of inheritance for the head of government (but not the head of state, the monarch).
- Fourth, we have limited-terms of office, which accompanied the establishment of democratic-republics. This keeps a certain family, for the most part, from gaining too much political power, and socializes, to some degree, political power.
- Fifth, we have deliberation. Deliberation, as promoted in deliberative democracy, establishes a widespread knowledge of important positions to be taken into account, increasing the level of informed consent backing one’s vote.
- Sixth, we have participation. Participation, as promoted by participatory democracy, promotes decision-making from the bottom upward.
- Seventh, we have the recall, which is also promoted by participatory democracy. The recall allows for the ease of impeaching mandates, ensuring that they are responsive to those who elected them.
- Eighth, we have the initiative, as promoted in direct-democracy, which ensures the quality of motions put forward to constituents to vote on.
- Ninth, we have the referendum. The referendum, as used in direct-democracy, allows all constituents to vote directly, without representation, on large issues relating to the organizations in which they participate.
- Tenth, there is delegation, as promoted by delegative democracy, in which may empower others to vote on their behalf, with absolute right of recall.
- Eleventh, and lastly, we have the block, which is a tool promoted in consensus-democracy. The block allows one to hinder the group from using collective resources, such as a commonly-used organization name, one’s share or claim to the treasury, or possessions/property of the group.
These are the most important tools in building and sustaining democratic organizations.
Envisioning Proper Spheres of Sovereignty
Horticultural people, upon giving perpetual rights to property in an inter-societal system of freehold, created a great disservice to societies to come. They created a monster which continued to grow until the agricultural period and the foundation of monarchical command-economies, a trend empowered by the private collection of economic rent. This has been curtailed only in industrial societies, largely due to the use of fossil fuels and the division of labor needed for technological innovation and management of the means of production and distribution, and in movements toward post-industrialism, such as in the availability of digital space, which is rent-free, and the networks of distribution which make shipping relatively cheap.
Political and economic change goes hand-in-hand. As demonstrated before, monarchist command economies developed into parliamentary mercantilism, which developed into republican capitalism. Likewise, if we are envisioning a new political system, or a new way of making decisions, we must also understand a new property arrangement and system of economy. The trend thus far has been that nobles demanded rights by way of the Magna Carta, that aristocrats demanded rights in parliament, that capitalists demanded rights in constitutional republics. So it will be that workers will demand rights in industry, that tenants will demand land, that participants will demand influence in decisions and their own spheres of sovereignty in the society to come.
The best representation of a free and democratic society can be found in geo-mutualist panarchism. Geo-mutualist panarchism assumes that rights to land are positive, and that no one has the right to restrict others from using land that is on the margin of production, or to claim rent-bearing land privately. Land is to be leased and protected by, and for the benefit of, society. Rights to labor, however, are negative, and no one has a right to dictate to another person the value or direction of their labor. A system such as geo-mutualism harkens back to the idea that possession (products of skill and effort) begins with the individual and that society forms out of free and voluntary combination for common ends, but that property (right to land) is a right granted and protected by society for the sake of the individual (and, thus, itself, in a feedback loop). Rather than a system of private freehold, as has created the problem, geo-mutualism is a system of personal leasehold. Rather than a system of serfdom and corvée, geo-mutualism is a system of free labor markets and equal access to land.
Geo-mutualist panarchism establishes proper spheres of sovereignty by ensuring that everyone has land to work, and shares in its surplus value; and by ensuring that workers are free to command their labor as they see fit. This allows people to work as independent artisans or as free contractors, or to combine their interests for mutual benefit as co-workers in a cooperative or mutual association (interest free loans from the mutual bank will prevent them from establishing themselves as full time employers, as others will have access to capital with which to employ themselves), or in confederations and networks of associations. Likewise, leaseholds can be held concurrently, personally, or in common trust.
Geo-mutualist panarchism is the realization that a) conflict over land creates a natural monopoly in relation to its distribution, b) exclusive legal tender is necessary for common-law dispute-resolution (courts cannot order restitution for harm done to person, possession, or property if a commonly accepted currency is not established), and c) that there has to be an expressed contract of non-aggression and fair regard toward the sovereignty of others’ spheres of concern.
A geo-mutualist panarchist confederation would function in the following way: Firstly, a treatise of non-aggression and fair-regard would be signed by all constituents. Secondly, decisions within the confederation would be made according to the 11 aforementioned tools. Thirdly, land would be allocated according to leasehold, with the total economic rent being equal to a perpetual lien on the land, and to be distributed equally to society, with right of necessary easements. Fourthly, conflicts would be sorted out according to common-law principles, without consideration of crime, but instead in consideration of infringement on persons or rightfully-earned possessions or property. In other words, behaviors of individuals or between consenting adults will not be restricted, unless they infringe on another person’s rights.
A geo-mutualist confederation would find unanimity as consensus rose to the top, practicing and mutually enforcing monocentric law (which takes the form of a simple agreement of non-aggression and fair-regard) on the highest of scales, but would allow for a great amount of diversity, and the practice of polycentric law on the lower scales. The smaller units of the confederation will find a great deal of autonomy, the ability to practice their cultural traditions, will make their own economic decisions, and will create their own contracts. The right of property (by way of leasehold) will protect the claim to sphere sovereignty and the practice of subsidiarity. By providing interest-free loans, and charging indemnity equal to the rent of land, a geo-mutual bank prevents industrial projects from becoming strongly hierarchical, and thus keeps them democratic in nature.
Projects within the geo-mutualist panarchist confederation will bubble from the ground up. Smaller units will gain consensus in their sphere of sovereignty, which will pass for an initiative to be put as a motion in a referendum toward larger units in the confederation, and so on and so forth. Committees may be established for the sake of deliberation of interested parties who decide not to stand aside, or to manage an ongoing project. Upon the passing of a motion, decisions are to be carried out directly by those who made them, or delegated to executives who volunteer or are paid out of a common fund to carry them out. The smaller units of the confederation will interact as relevant departments of the confederation, or more loosely in market scenarios, involving prices and voluntary exchanges, or developing various forms of cooperation among them. The mutual bank will issue credit according to industry (perhaps allowing for many sub-models of decision-making within one industry), which will issue it according to department, and department according to firm (with many possible sub-entities between them), in a system of nested credit-clearing networks. In emergency scenarios, the bank may be empowered to issue fiat currency, and to charge a demurrage equal to the deflation of everyone’s account (due to the inflation of the money supply). This would be particularly necessary in times of war or natural disaster. In such a case, society is demanded, according to the principle of fair regard, to provide the means of safety. It may, however, be demanded back from the recipient, in part or in full, by those who paid the original demurrage, depending on the scenario.
Imagine for a moment that you are a member of this society. One can have the capital needed to form a successful business or profession by joining a professional guild, as an individual, or a business association, as a member-organization, and receiving an interest-free loan from its credit union. Your professional or business association will be confederated with all of the other associations for the sake of sharing a common access to a system of credit, land-title, and jurisprudence through the geo-mutual panarchist confederation. You have a right to bid on any piece of land currently up for lease, and an interest-free loan equal to your credit worthiness to entitle you to this land. Should you decide to dedicate your life to labor, perhaps you can build your credit worthiness to shake the competition and to maintain the best land, keeping much yield for yourself, and creating much rent for society to share in. Should you decide to live more relaxed, laboring enough just to get by comfortably, without concern of luxury or status, you may decide to live on land with little or no rent to pay, perhaps receiving a large dividend representing the rent from the forfeited land (but losing out in the high yields from extra effort). More than likely, as a young person, you will tend to live toward marginal land, using your dividends to invest in productive property and possessions of worth. You may take out a loan for physical and/or mental capital (a degree), to gain experience or certification. This loan can be taken out on behalf of oneself, as a personal loan, or it can be taken out as a cooperative or mutual, as a concurrent loan. As you gain more wealth you will invest more in your future, by way of buying bonds, investing in insurance, and the like. In each sphere of your life, you will be sovereign. You will be sovereign over your geo-mutualist bank, your home, your school, your guild or cooperative, and your mutual associations, and you will be sovereign of yourself, able to make whatever exchanges you wish.
Geo-mutualism allows for the sphere sovereignty that must accompany decentralized decisions, and for the sharing of power and common circles of influence that are necessary to a healthy democracy. As regulated markets accompanied representative democracies, free markets will accompany direct-democracies. Organizations will base decisions internally on consensus, sponsoring other forms of decisions as they are found to be necessary, and will trade between one another according to voluntary exchange. Property will be granted by society in leasehold, and possession will be granted to society in the establishment of industry and programs for mutual assurance of well-being, which naturally arise from deliberation and the development of consensus.
 It’s important to note that these terms, “The Rise” and “Fall,” are not to be taken as strictly linear progressions. As the old phrase goes, “For every step forward, there is one step backward.” This is the nature of progress in a general sense. “The Rise” does not discount the appearance of fascism and state-socialism during its time. While “The Fall” was a general tendency toward the centralization of power, this does not discount the fact that there were positive experiments in social power, as was in practice in some eras of the Roman Republic, which existed between eras of kingship and empire, or the shared decisions that existed in many medieval communes. These constitute the corollary, “Two steps backward, for every one step forward.” These terms, “Rise” and “Fall” refer to a general, and not a specific, trend in history. They are not meant to be read in a manner unconditional, but in a broad sense.
 See the work of Bruce Benson, who points out that criminal law was a development of state oppression on behalf of Norman conquerors, and a terrible departure from the common law of the Anglo-Saxons.