This article was published in the Autumn 1997 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
Natural Government versus Artificial Government


by Jack W. Coxe

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The fact that people naturally resist the offensive actions of each other, generates a natural motive to cooperate. If I try to punch you in the nose, you will most likely resist. I foresee the likelihood of your resistance, and your resistance would most likely be an obstacle to whatever I am trying to do. Therefore, in order to avoid having to deal with your resistance, I have a natural reason to refrain from punching you in the nose.

And so to avoid the obstacle posed by our resistance to each other's offensive action, is a natural reason for people to cooperate. We naturally seek to avoid offending each other, and the only way to avoid offensive action is to cooperate.

Yet, some people might happen to be bullies, seeming to be able to overpower the resistance of most other people, and therefore not worrying about it. And so, in effort to defend ourselves against bullies, we might desire to band together to overpower the bullies. And, in keeping with our natural desire to cooperate, we might organize some form of government in effort to provide readily available defense against bullies; to define bullies; to enable us to know which kinds of actions are acceptable and which are not; to enable us to thereby predict to a degree how each other might act or react; and thereby to enable a somewhat defined space of free action for each other.

This is the appeal of government, which is in effect our agreed-on procedure for the use of coercion. But there is a trap. In order to explain it, I will define some terms.

If the prevailing agreement in a society recognizes the occupant of a certain position as having the authority to use coercion, then I will refer to that position as a position of power. If options exist within a society such that a person might deliberately become an occupant of a position of power, or apply pressure to the occupant of a position of power, I will refer to that position of power as a controllable position of power. If the occupants of positions of power enact laws which people might deliberately use to cause other people to act in ways that they might not otherwise act, then I will refer to those laws as manipulatable procedures for the use of coercion. Any system which involves controllable positions of power and manipulatable procedures for the use of coercion, is an artificial government. The principle of natural government will be explained in this article.

The key words in the above paragraph—controllable and manipulatable—are words which automatically divide society into opposing factions. If one person deliberately coerces another by controlling or manipulating the agreed-on procedures to coerce, then obviously other people are thereby coerced. Therefore, every person, depending on the power-struggling options available to that person, might be able to make his estimate of personal gains by making use of the agreed-on procedures for coercion. And every person is vulnerable to being thereby coerced.

Therefore, every person has reason to, in some degree, struggle with other people who are trying to coerce him. This is the power struggle. Methods of struggling for power include among other things, campaigns for election, lobbies, pressure groups, law suits, knowing the law, and simply abiding by the law in order to minimize the aggressive interference of those who make and enforce the laws.

Many people—maybe most people—might prefer not to struggle for power. But if procedures for coercion are manipulatable, then being vulnerable to legal coercion is an unavoidable fact of life. Many or maybe most people might not even realize that many things that they routinely do are power-struggling efforts to manipulate the coerciveness of law.

When people compete or conflict with each other, the most energetic, resourceful, and dedicated people are likely to emerge successful at the expense of others. Similar to a sports contest, power struggles breed skillful strugglers who thereby gain more power to coerce while others lose. As that happens, the stakes get higher, since the threat of coercion increases in people’s lives. And when the stakes get higher, people have reason to sacrifice a little more of their reluctance to struggle for power.

Thus, the power struggle escalates. Some people resort to more extreme methods of struggling for power. People who would prefer to be law-abiding citizens, might feel compelled to bend the law or violate laws in ways that seem minor. Deceit, demonstrations, riots, blackmail, and conspiracy become more attractive options for some of the more dedicated power-strugglers.

No matter what the reason might be for a person to struggle for power, the motives logically deduced in the above paragraphs apply. While some people might struggle for power strictly for their own personal gain, others might struggle for the sake of ideals that they honestly believe in—such as helping poor or disadvantaged people, protecting our environment, or taking power away from their estimate of evil power-strugglers. Thus, power-struggling can be made to appear as very honorable, benevolent, and noble, as well as selfish, arrogant, inconsiderate, and all-around evil.

The whole point is that power struggles are enabled and motivated by the agreed-on existence of controllable positions of power, and manipulatable procedures for the deliberate use of coercion. This man-made motive to struggle for power thereby persists in opposition to our natural motive to cooperate. Our natural motive to cooperate slows down the escalation of the power struggle, blurs the distinction between true agreement and coerced agreement, and deceives many into assuming the necessity of deliberately manipulatable government coercion.

The purpose of our agreement on controllable positions of power, was to overpower bullies. But the effect was to enable bullies to become more sophisticated and establish themselves, and to think of themselves, as law-abiding citizens. All they had to do was become skillful at controlling or pressuring positions of power and manipulating the agreed-on procedures to coerce. And so that is the trap—controllable, manipulatable procedures for coercion defeat their own purpose and end up institutionalizing coercive bullies.

But logically, there is a simple way to avoid the trap. All we need to do is remain true to our natural inclination to resist offensive action. To overpower bullies, we can band together. But there is no reason why we must agree on controllable positions of power, or manipulatable procedures to coerce.

We could remove control from positions of power by selecting arbiters completely at random, for each individual case of offense. And we could remove all manipulability of coercive procedures by refraining from imposing any kind of man-made limits on the decision-making authority of the arbiters.

The seemingly unlimited authority for randomly chosen arbiters will probably at first appear very dangerous to anyone who understands the idea of a limited constitutional republic. But if you continue to follow the logic, you might discover that in a "random arbiter system," the natural circumstances of man on earth provide infinitely greater, more accurate, and incorruptible limits on everyone’s authority to coerce—including arbiters and police—than any deliberately arranged limit that man could devise.

The key to understanding a random arbiter system is to realize that arbitration would NOT be considered the source of justice, nor would it be considered of any value at all except in cases where the offender seems so obviously wrong that it is worth gambling that almost any randomly chosen arbiter would sympathize with the person who called for arbitration. Random arbitration would be considered a very reluctant last resort. The source of true justice and fairness would be everyone’s reason to avoid being called for arbitration; and the only way to avoid it would be to avoid offending anyone in any way—thereby avoiding giving anyone reason to call for arbitration. "Agree with thine adversary quickly," and thereby avoid uncontrollable coercive arbitration.

Please imagine a random arbiter system. It might work something like this:

Any person—no matter what status, race, gender, faith, age—anyone, no matter who, could call for random arbitration for any reason—any reason whatsoever. No one would be immune to the possibility of being called for arbitration—not even the police or the arbiters themselves. Note that any effort to establish qualifications of any kind would constitute a manipulatable procedure for the deliberate use of coercion. And so to avoid that trap, there must be no option for anyone to impose any kind of qualifications on who can call or be called for arbitration, or for what reason.

Whenever someone calls for arbitration between himself and an adversary, the prevailing agreement would be that he and his adversary would be coercively compelled to submit to arbitration. Anyone could then act as a policeman by exercising this authority to coerce. But if anyone alleges that a policeman abused this authority, then anyone could call for another random arbitration to deal with this alleged abuse. This way, in order to avoid giving anyone reason to call them for arbitration, everyone would have every reason to act as absolutely reasonable as they knew how, while exercising police authority.

If at any time before, during, or after the arbitration, the adversaries succeed in arriving at their own mutual agreement of any kind, then the case would be closed, the arbiters would go home, and any decision they might have made would no longer be binding. This preserves the purpose of the system—to motivate true voluntary agreement—and not to enthrone anyone with coercive power.

There would be an agreed-on procedure for selecting at random a panel of arbiters. I like the number 7, and so I suggest 7 randomly chosen arbiters. There must be no screening of any kind, since such screening would fall in the manipulation trap. Someone would have to supervise the random selection. But anyone could observe and verify the total randomness of the selection.

Once selected, the arbiters could conduct their case in whatever way they choose, seek advice from anyone they choose, and make any decision they choose. There might need to be a time limit, so that the case doesn’t go on forever. I suggest 7 days. There would also have to be some kind of incontestable limit on the number of people subject to a particular panel of random arbiters, and the decision of the arbiters would have to be limited to an incontestable period of time. Otherwise, a panel of arbiters could defeat the system by declaring laws applicable to everyone indefinitely. I suggest that a panel of arbiters could make a decision affecting a maximum of 50 people of their own choosing, for a time period of 6 months.

It would be clearly understood by everyone that after the arbiters have finished their case, they will no longer be arbiters. And most important, if anyone suspects that the arbiters in any way abused their authority while they were arbiters, then anyone could call for a new arbitration, randomly selecting 7 new arbiters, to investigate and settle the allegation that the former arbiters abused their temporary authority. This preserves the principle that no one—not even the arbiters while they are arbiters—can escape the natural need to avoid offending anyone else.

There would be no instructions from a judge, no rules of precedent, no laws of any kind to place any man-made limits on the decision of the arbiters. But the natural limits imposed by our natural need to avoid offending anyone, would compel the arbiters, for their own protection, to truly seek whatever advice they need, to make a decision that no one could reasonably construe to be an abuse of their authority.

If you tried to bribe the arbiters, the arbiters having unlimited man-made authority could penalize you. Legally, the arbiters could not only take your bribe, but could take every penny you own and lock you up in prison. But in practice, the arbiters would have every reason to be as careful as they could, to make sure that whatever they did, did not induce someone to allege that they abused their power. They would therefore have reason to expose your attempted bribe, and impose some reasonable penalty on you.

By refraining from making any man-made limits on the authority of the arbiters, the following goals are accomplished:

• No person, no matter how intimidating, would be able to pressure the arbiters in any way, since the arbiters would have unlimited legal authority to penalize any such attempt to pressure. This avoids the trap of the arbiters being in a controllable position of power.

• No lawmaker could pressure or control the arbiters by placing any legal limits on their authority. This avoids the trap of either the arbiters or the lawmakers being in controllable positions of power.

• There would be no laws or rules of precedent for lawyers to manipulate, thereby avoiding the trap of manipulatable procedures to coerce.

• The arbiters would be motivated to freely and honestly seek the most universally agreeable decision possible, thereby preserving our natural need to cooperate with true agreement.

The effect of this system would be that the option to call for coercive arbitration would be completely uncontrollable. The outcome of a call for arbitration would be only as predictable as we can predict what a random selection of people would think to be reasonable, just, and fair. The motive, therefore, would be for everyone to make sincere efforts to communicate and agree on what is reasonable, just, and fair. This motive, completely compatible with our natural motive to cooperate, and completely compatible with our highest aspirations, would not be countered by any man-made motive to struggle for power, since the option to seek power would not exist. This singleness of our motive—our natural motive to cooperate—would enable progress towards harmonious life, without coercion, and without wasting energy and resources on power struggles.

No one can say for sure exactly what agreements people might make concerning such issues as homelessness, environmental protection, poverty, discrimination, and so on. But if you can imagine yourself in a system where the only alternative to honest, genuine, sincere agreement with all adversaries would be to endure coercive arbitration by uncontrollable arbiters, then the many good ideas that you might have had from time to time might seem much more realistic. Instead of having to enter politics as a power-struggler, all you would have to do is show the value of your ideas to people who are in the same boat as you—seeking true agreement in order to avoid uncontrollable arbitration. And you would most likely be much more willing to consider the ideas of other people. This is NATURAL GOVERNMENT—our true seeking of true agreement in order to avoid the naturally imposed resistance to all offensive action.

In summary, the existence of controllable positions of power and manipulatable procedures for the use of coercion, motivate people to oppose each other in power struggles. No matter how benevolent a power-struggler might be, any participation in the power struggle further fuels it. Power struggles counter our natural motive to cooperate. As the power struggle escalates, the stakes get higher, and people sacrifice more of their natural scruples. Honesty becomes a handicap in the power struggle, and almost everyone gets drawn into it, knowingly or unknowingly, in varying degrees.

The solution is to build an agreement to remove all controllability and manipulability from the option to coerce, thereby allowing natural government—our natural need to quickly agree with all adversaries—to take over and motivate all cooperation. This can be done by establishing the option for anyone to call for coercive arbitration for any reason, and then selecting the arbiters completely at random and refraining from trying to counterfeit our natural limits on the authority of the randomly selected arbiters.

Being completely uncontrollable, the option to call for random arbitration would be useless except in obvious self-defense. Everyone, including arbiters and policemen, would be faced with the perpetual choice: either agree quickly with all adversaries, or risk becoming subject to the coercive arbitration of uncontrollable arbiters. This single unopposed motive would induce us to make whatever cooperative agreements are needed to enable us to live together without offending each other.

Before we could agree on a random arbiter system, many practical details would have to be worked out. I hope this article might start some debate on the principle and application of a random arbiter system. D

[A note from Rich Hammer: Jack Coxe responded to my request for a biographic sketch with the following paragraphs. Finding it all to be of interest, I include it, and invite our other writers to tell more of themselves in their biographic sketches.]

I am 51 years old, born in Salt Lake City, raised mostly in Sacramento, and now live near Ione, California. I majored in government, and minored in economics at Sacramento State College and have a BA degree. I have forgotten most of what I learned in school. I read very slow and therefore very little and have below average general knowledge. I spend most of my spare time reasoning and figuring things out. As I said, the ideas in this article stand by themselves for whatever they are worth, and I as a person would rather not be thought of as their author.

I have a wife, a son 22, and a daughter 20. I work mostly alone as a cement contractor, having taken over my dad's business.

I never smoked, never drank, don't like coffee and don't eat meat. I was raised as a Christian Scientist, and although I never joined the church organization, I still consider myself in agreement with what I understand Christian Science to be. I believe all religions boil down to the same thing. I have never been in trouble with the law, except for some minor traffic violations.

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