All beings that exist must have ‘modes of existence.’
This is true for the lowest living things and for the highest.
We must all find some way of meeting our needs. We must all reproduce and have some means of caring for our offspring until they are capable of caring for themselves. If we can’t do this, we perish.
Most living beings must accept whatever realities of existence that nature gives them. The lowest living things on earth, for example, are called ‘cyanobacteria.’ (They used to be called ‘blue green algae;’ after it was realized that they are actually bacteria, their name was changed.) Cyanobacteria must find sunlight and bathe in it; the sunlight works with their chloroplasts (containing chlorophyll) to break down carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen, and break down water into hydrogen and oxygen, then recombine the carbon and hydrogen into carbohydrates, then release the oxygen into the air. They need to do this because the mitochondria in their bodies will then take the carbohydrates and turn them into usable energy that will allow their life processes to work and facilitate their reproduction. They need certain temperatures and conditions of moisture: they must find these conditions and get there. They organize their existence around very simple principles which were determined by nature. They have no self will or ability to alter the realities of their existence.
Other animals have slightly more discretion in the way they organize their existence. Mammals have complex brains that allow them to identify plentiful food supplies and move to them, identify good conditions for raising their young and move to them, and form relationships with others to help them fend off predators and meet their basic needs. But they have very little power to alter the realities of their existence compared to humans.
Humans alone can plan. We have a brain component no other earth animals have, called a ‘prefrontal cortex.’ Scientists can put electrodes into this part of the brain and monitor the electrical impulses that go through it when the subject is doing certain things. They have found that this part of the brain is responsible for the mental activities called ‘planning.’ Humans can plan. We can run through various complex scenarios in our minds. We can determine which behaviors will bring the optimal results before we act. We don’t have to use trial and error and learn everything ‘the hard way’ (when trials fail). We can do thought experiments in our minds to determine which behaviors will bring the optimal results. Then we can act. No other animals have been shown to have this same capability. None of them even have the brain component that is responsible for these complex behaviors. In this area, humans are unique.
Other living things must accept whatever role that nature has assigned to them. If this role no longer fits into the changing realities of nature, they go extinct. Humans alone can decide what kind of role we want to play in existence.
There are two things we can change about the realities of our existence.
If we understand all of the options for each of these two variables, and understand the way we can mix these options to come up with finished ‘societies,’ we can understand all of the options that we have for organizing our existence.
Part One introduced a visual aid that helps us understand the way different societies relate to each other. It is a chart I called the ‘Road Map of Possible Societies.’
Since there are two things we can change, we can lay out the options on a two dimensional chart, with each axis representing a different ‘thing we can change’ (or ‘variable’). A two dimensional chart is also often called a ‘map,’ so we can essentially create a map of options.
There is a certain place on this map where we are: we have a type of society based on a certain way of interacting with the land and a certain way of interacting with each other. (We interact with the land by dividing it into nations and accepting that each nation has sovereignty over the part of the world inside of its lines. We interact with each other in a hierarchical way: the governments of nations make the rules, granting certain rights to corporations and others who own parts of the world and dictating both the economic and social rules—down to their rights to have sex, the foods they can eat, and the medicines they can use—for the remainder of the people.)
This is just one point on the map.
There are infinite others.
The option we chose has certain disadvantages. Although many would be happy to present a list that is so long it is essentially endless, I think one example of a ‘disadvantage’ is enough to make the point that it makes sense for us to consider some other options: This society is unsustainable. It has inherent incentives that lead to violence and destruction that will destroy the world if it continues long enough. This type of society is going away. Either we will replace it with something that is sustainable or it will destroy us.
There are a great many points on the map that represent sustainable societies. Natural law societies are sustainable, provided there are no competing sovereign law societies: natural law societies lasted millions of years; the people in them lived in harmony with the land and had no ability to fight with each other on a scale that could do any permanent damage to world or the human race as a whole. But natural law societies have certain disadvantages that make them unacceptable as a practical replacement for the sovereign law societies that we have now. There are other societies that are both sustainable and do not have the problems of natural law societies. We have to pick some other society as an alternative to the one into which we were born. We can’t stay here. We must go somewhere else.
If we can find an option that we prefer, we will have identified two points on the map: the point that indicates where we are now and the point that indicates where we went to go. Having a map in front of us helps us to plan a route from ‘where we are’ to ‘where we want to go.’ As you will see, once we have identified another type of society, we can take various different roads to get from where we are to that other society.
Note. In the Road Map of Possible Societies, all options below the line marked ‘minimally sustainable societies here’ are very dangerous. We are at the extreme limit of the dangerous section, in the middle of the bottom line. The socratic societies are actually a long way from us, on the middle line of the chart, but the line that marks the danger zone is not very far away. If we understand this, we will understand that we only have to make fairly minor changes—as long as they are the proper changes—to get us out of the danger zone. Once we are there, we can decide on our final destination and decide which of the many roads will take us there.
Having a road map helps us see that there are many ways to get from one place to another. It also helps us understand how the ‘in between’ societies will look, which we might compare to the scenery we will see while on the road from one place to another. If we have a map, we can decide if we want to head strength to our final destination by the fastest possible route, or whether we may want to find a fairly rapid road that will take us out of the very dangerous areas to a place of safety where we can rest for a while and plan for the second leg, which will take us by a ‘scenic route’ to our final destination.
These are the advantages of having a map.
If we have a map, we can understand where we are and where we may want to go. We can work out the time it will take and make plans for the journey. We can figure out what we will need to have a comfortable and safe trip. We can work out waypoints and places to rest.
If we don’t have a map, we are likely to be overwhelmed by the idea of making societal change. What must be done, how much time will it take, what obstacles will we face along the way? We won’t know any of these things. Without this information, we are likely to be overwhelmed and confused. We can expect to be afraid: what will we encounter around the next bend? If we don’t have a map, we don’t know. If we do have a map, and some idea about the idea of making a transit from one kind of society to another, we will be able to plan our trip. We can anticipate problems and prepare for them. We will then be in a position to make informed choices about societal change.
A Look Ahead
The next book in this series, Reforming Societies (at ‘’) is about the specific steps that, if taken, will cause our societies to change in ways that cause an evolution to a society that can meet our needs. It explains how to get from the societies into which we were born to two different destinations. The first destination is a waypoint: it is the closest point to us in the ‘safety zone,’ or the closest society to the societies we have now that meets the minimum conditions needed for sustainability.
Minimum sustainability does NOT mean nondestructive. It just means that the rate of destruction will be such that the combined efforts of humans and nature will be able to counter it and prevent conditions here on earth from getting worse. The first step in the transition explained in Reforming Societies still has most of the structures we were used to. Since most of the structures are still there, most of the undesirable characteristics of the societies we have now will still exist. The most serious problems we face won’t be as bad, but they will still be there. The point of discussing societal change through the two step process is to make the trip seem less intimidating. All we have to do get to the next waypoint. If we can make good progress for the first few years, we will be essentially out of danger. Once we get out of danger, we can take our time. If people want to keep certain structures that are part of our current societies until we can find better structures to replace them, we will have this option. The second part of the journey will take us to whatever kind of society we think best meets the needs of the human race.
Part One Pointed out that the socratic leasehold ownership society is an example society. It is designed to illustrate a point: it is possible for humans to organize the realities of their existence in ways that align the interests of individuals with those of the human race as a whole. If we do this, we are all on the same team, all working for a common goal. Individuals can make their lives better doing things that move the human race toward a better future. If they are self interested and try to make their own lives better, their actions will improve the conditions of existence for the rest of us.
The example society is just that, however: an example. There are many different societies that align the interests of the various parties. Each of the options has different characteristics. Once we get to a place of safety, we can decide where we want to go from there. We may choose something very similar to the socratic society described in Part One, or we may choose some other society that has a different mixture of characteristics.
Before we can really plan a trip, we need to have some idea were we might go. We need to know what options are available. This book is designed to help you understand all of the options, so you can make an informed choice about where to go.
The Road Map of Possible Societies
Figure 2.1.1, below, is the Road Map of Possible Societies. It has many components that are explained in the rest of the chapter
Qqq Road Map of Possible Societies
Different Interactions Between The Human Race And The Planet We Live On
Humans are physical being with physical needs. We eat food for energy; we have to eat on a regular basis to replenish our energy or we will die. Evolution has made tradeoffs and sacrificed certain capabilities to give us larger brains. One trade off involves our physical vulnerability: in most places, we are unable to survive without shelter of some kind and some kind of clothing. Most of the places we live are so cold, at least part of the year, that shelter alone is not enough: we also need some sort of fuel to burn to keep our body temperatures high enough to allow us to remain alive. We need certain physical items to remain alive.
The planet we live on provides the food, shelter, fuel, and other physical items we need. We have to ‘interact with’ the planet in some way to get these items so we can live.
There are two extreme ways we can interact with the world, and an infinite number of options between the extremes.
100% Ownablity Societies
One extreme way to interact with the world is to consider the planet to be a possession.
We can decide that the planet is totally ownable and that certain groups of people have come to own it. We can accept that ownership of planets is no more complicated than ownership of simple consumable items like apples: If you own, you own all rights without limit. This means that the owners of each part of the world have unlimited or sovereign rights to their parts of the planet: Everything it produces and contains belongs entirely to them, all rights to do anything on it—even walk on it—belong to them, and no one else now and forever in the future has any rights to have this part of the planet even remain in existence if this conflicts with the wishes of the currently-living owners.
It is possible to accept this premise and build societies around it. Since such societies would be built on the premise of sovereign or 100% ownability, we might call such societies ‘100% ownability societies.’ The idea of 100% ownability is an extreme way to interact with the planet. It has an extreme position on the chart. All societies on the extreme bottom line of the Road Map of Possible Societies (the ‘x’ axis) represent societies built on 100% ownability of the world. They correspond with the label ‘100% Ownablity Societies’ on the scale of ownability on the left side of the chart.
0% Ownability Societies
There is another extreme way to interact with the plane that is essentially the opposite of the above option: we can interact with the world as if we are vassals and servants to a planet that is our all-powerful master. We could consider the world to be above us all, the ultimate provider, a kind of a god that makes all the rules; our only role is to serve this god and try to guess the rules so we can obey them. We could decide that the world owns us, not the other way around, and we commit the ultimate offense against our master and god if we even claim that this magnificent world is ownable by mere humans.
It is possible to accept this premise and build societies around it. Since such societies would be built on the premise of total or 0% ownability, we might call such societies ‘0% ownability societies.’ All societies built on this method of interacting with the land are on the extreme top line of the chart. They correspond with the label 0% ownablity societies on the scale of ownability on the left side of the chart.
Partial Ownability Societies
We know that both extreme societies are possible, because both have existed in our history. If it is possible for societies to exist that are built on 0% ownability, and possible for societies to exist built on 100% ownability, logic tells us that it must also be possible to start with methods of land tenure that allow people to own certain rights, but not total rights, and build societies around these structures.
Book One went over one of these partial ownability societies, socratic leasehold ownership, built on the sale of a leasehold on certain properties structured so that the leasehold payment is exactly 20% of the price the buyer paid for the leasehold. You can find societies built on this kind of land tenure on the chart. The left scale indicates the different ‘price leasehold payment ratios’ that are possible. Go to 1:20% on this chart and you will see ‘socratic leasehold ownership societies here.’ All societies on this line are partial ownability societies. They allow people to buy and own certain rights to the land, but not total rights.
As we will see, it is possible to use various different leasehold ownership systems to create literally any kind of relationship with the land we want. We can use a kind of leasehold ownership called ‘sovereign law leasehold ownership’ which will create a system that makes 100% of rights to the land ownable and buyable, creating a system that is exactly like a sovereign law society, with the same incentives and same problems. It is also possible to create a kind of leasehold ownership called ‘natural law leasehold ownership’ that makes exactly 0% of rights to the land ownable and buyable. It is possible to create land tenure systems that allow people to buy and own virtually all rights to the land, but not total rights. Societies built on these land tenure systems are called ‘virtual sovereign law leasehold ownership societies.’
It is possible to create land tenure systems that allow people to buy and own such miniscule rights that, for practical purposes, they own no rights at all. I will call the leasehold ownership system that works like this a ‘virtual natural law leasehold ownership system’ and call societies built on it ‘virtual natural law societies.’ They will work so much like natural law societies that an observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but they are not true natural law societies as the degree of ownability will only be ‘extremely close to 0%,’ not ‘exactly 0%.’
As this book progresses, we will look at the entire range of possible land tenure systems. We will see that there are infinite options. Each option creates a different relationship between the human race and the planet earth. Each different relationship has different characteristics, creates different incentives, and affects the realities of life for the people in it various different ways.
The way we interact with the planet is ONE of the things we can change about the way our societies work. The other is the way we interact with each other.
Possible Social Realities
Humans are very fragile relative to other animals.
Most animal infants can stand, walk, follow their mothers, and escape danger within hours after birth. Infant humans can’t even focus our eyes for many days after birth; we can’t even control our fingers until several weeks after birth, and can’t function well enough to live on own for many years after birth. We don’t develop our full physical or mental potentials for decades.
We are helpless for a large percentage of our lives. We must depend on others for survival.
Although our mothers can provide a great deal of this support (as happens for other animals), the needs of infants and children are so great that most mothers would not be able to provide 100% of this support for the entire time it is required, at least not in ways that would allow enough offspring to be born and grow to maturity to keep the human population stable. People have to work together, with one person or group providing shelter, another person or group providing food, another providing fuel, another person or group organizing education so that children will have the skills needed to replace the adults.
We need some social framework to live in.
Again, there must be two extreme options for arranging this social framework, and an infinite number of options between these extremes.
One extreme option have some person or group with authority over everyone else. We might call these authority figures ‘rulers.’ In the extreme system, the rulers would make all decisions for the other people. In the extreme system, the rulers could make all rules, including the rules about how the people must spend their time, and the rulers would be able to punish violators any way they wanted for any infraction, no matter how minor. These societies would organize themselves around a two-class hierarchy, with rulers and followers, where rulers have 100% authority over followers.
We might call these societies ‘100% authoritarian control societies.’
The other extreme would not have any classes or hierarchy at all. People would make their own decisions. No one would have more authority than anyone else. The people would make all common decisions in meetings and elections. In the meetings in this extreme society, no one would have any more authority or right to speak and provide inputs than anyone else. In elections, no one would have any more of a vote than anyone else. This extreme system would not be any authoritarian bodies at all. We might call these societies ‘0% authoritarian control societies.’
Intermediate options would have some degree of authoritarian control between 0% and 100%.
To help us visualize the options, we may go back to the chart we started before and draw a line perpendicular to first line, and label it ‘degrees of authoritarian control.’ (On the Road Map of Possible Societies, this second line is horizontal.) We could put 0% at one end and 100% at the other. (On the Road Map of Possible Societies, 100% authoritarian control is on the left and 0% on the right.) We might then split the line into regular intervals and label the increments with numbers between these two extremes.
The Road Map of Possible Societies
Each point on the body of the chart represents a specific combination of two variables.
We would be able to find every possible combination of the two variables one exact place on the chart. For example, if we want to find a society with 50% of all possible rights to the world ownable and 50% authoritarian control, we could go to the line on the left side (inside scale) that indicates ‘Percent Ownability,’ and find 50%. We could then draw a line from the 50% mark to the end of the page. All options on this line have 50% ownability.
We could then go to the bottom line that indicates ‘Percent Authoritarian Control’ and find 50%. We could then draw a line upward through all of the options. All societies on this line have 50% authoritarian control.
There is only one society on the chart that combines the two different characteristics, with 50% ownability and 50% authoritarian control. This society is the one at the point where the two lines intersect each other.
The discussions that follow refer to the map many times. You may find it helpful to print a copy of the Road Map so you can refer to it without having to change the computer screen. I have put two printable PDF files of the Road Map in the references section of the possible societies website, one a large map that you can print on 11×17 (A3) paper, the other a smaller one that will print on 8.5×11 (letter size, or A4) paper.