Once the democratic commons had been enclosed, how could a feudal hierarchy of sovereign corporations be established? The thing need not be that difficult, in principle.
Consider first that you are already at once a denizen, participant and – provided you are not merely a stranger passing through – a member of a village or neighbourhood, of its county or city, of its province or state, and of its nation. All of us, throughout the world, live this way without a second thought. We each of us bear duties to and enjoy privileges under each of these sorts of sovereign entities. So has it been since the dawn of civilization.
Villages, counties, provinces and nations have furthermore been always ordered, and have always been legal agents. They have acted, owned property, engaged in commercial transactions (even if only so far as to collect taxes or fees and then pay their officers), negotiated agreements, granted benefices, levied penalties, and so forth. They have, i.e., been actual entities – i.e., entities that act – and for a thousand years at least have been treated as corporations (with the sole proprietorships of royal or lordly domains construed as ‘corporations sole’). They have been construed as corporations on account of the fact that they were understood to be real, albeit invisible, bodies.
[Excursus: Bodies are coordinate assemblages of actual entities – atoms, cells, men – their members. Bodies are not material. They are coordinations of matter; which is to say, that they are forms that matter has taken, and by which its motions are ordered. Atoms are the matter of molecular bodies, e.g., while molecules are the matter of cells, cells of men, men of corporations, and so forth. Being formal, bodies have then all, as the mediaeval lawyers had it of corporations, a mystical aspect. Bodies as such are intangible; when we touch or see them, it is only by way of an encounter with their material constituent members.
Bodies that can take actions distinct from the acts of their members are themselves actual. Rocks then are factual, and concrete, but are not actual. Humans and their societies are actual; their acts do not necessarily engage the complete cooperation of their members, as do the motions of rocks. Human bodies and societies admit of internal conflict and disagreement. This is why they have systems of internal communication.]
So, we already have plenty of experience living under the government of hierarchies of sovereign corporations.
What then if each such sovereign corporation were owned by its citizens? What if we each owned a share in our village or neighbourhood, a share in our county or city, a share in our state or province, and a share in our nation? In most places this is already the case, for many practical purposes. Each citizen effectually owns a single share in each sovereign corporation that governs him, at each level of the hierarchy. These shares are granted at birth or naturalization, cannot be transferred, and expire with their owners. They can be renounced or forfeited, but cannot be bought or sold. They confer both duties (as jury service, payment of taxes, and so forth) and privileges (as protection of the law, registry and protection of private property, enforcement of contracts, and so forth).
One thing they don’t do – with a few exceptions, like Saudi Arabia and Alaska – is pay dividends. But there is no reason why they could not.
Legal denizens – not strangers or visitors, but legal residents – who are not citizens have different interests in the sovereign corporations that govern them. They must pay the relevant taxes and obey the relevant laws; they enjoy some of the services funded by those taxes and enjoy the protection of the law, such as it is; but do not have the right to pass judgement on others as members of juries, to vote in elections, and so forth.
So, we have already two classes of people who are subjects of all the corporations sovereign where they reside: denizens who are citizens, and those who are not. Both are analogous to the customers of a corporation, while citizens are analogous to customers who are also shareholders.
How then do we evolve a feudal hierarchy, characterized and formed by familiar and friendly relations, without upending the present order in a violent revolution?
Simple: make the present de facto share ownership in each denizen’s governing sovereign corporations explicit, formal and de jure. For each sovereign corporation – each village or neighbourhood, each city or county, each province or state, and for the nation as a whole – make all denizens de jure shareholders of one class – call them D shares – and citizens de jure shareholders of another, called C shares. Denizens each own a D share, and citizens each own at least one C share to boot.
C and D shares are alike in most ways.
- Both earn portions of such dividends as may be – portions, i.e., of the distributed surplus of sovereign revenues over expenditures and investments. NB that there can be profits that are not distributed, but instead invested in capital goods like buildings, parks, vehicles, and the like.
- Both are entitled to the same dividend per share. Thus if the dividend on a C share is $1,500/quarter, so is the dividend on a D share.
- Both can be owned only by natural persons.
- Both classes expire at the deaths of their owners.
- Single shares of both are granted to denizens and citizens (or to their guardians, as need be) at birth, conditioned only an oath of loyalty to the sovereign corporation (implicit at birth, but made explicit and formal at their majority).
- No person can own more than (say) 10% of the shares outstanding in its class, of any sovereign corporation.
- Nor can one own shares of a given sovereign corporation unless one owns also shares of all the subsidiary corporations over which it is sovereign. One cannot own shares in the USA, e.g., except insofar as one also owns shares in, e.g., Vermont; one cannot own shares in Vermont except insofar as one also owns shares in, e.g., Windsor County; and one cannot own shares in Windsor County except insofar as one also owns shares in, e.g., Chester Township.
- One can’t be a denizen of a sovereign corporation unless one owns a D share of it. Likewise, one can’t be a citizen unless one owns a C share.
- Only denizens of a sovereign corporation’s domains can own shares in it, of either sort; one can’t own shares in a sovereignty to whose government one is nowise subject, for that would engender a class of rootless, cosmopolitan absentee owners.
- Thus to own C shares of Chester, one would first have to be a denizen of Chester who, as such, owns a D share of it. Only D shareholders can be C shareholders.
- Thus if a man were to leave Chester to live in Troy, he’d have to sell all his shares in Chester, in Windsor County, and in Vermont back to them, and apply to purchase denizenship in Troy, in Rensselaer County, and in New York.
- Administratively, this needn’t be more complicated than our current changes of address.
- NB however that approval of an immigrant’s application for denizenship is not automatic.
But there are some crucial differences between the two share classes.
- D shares are inalienable – they cannot be transferred from one person to another, but only between a sovereign corporation and its denizens. They are as it were irrevocably proper to the life of the person to whom they were first issued, so long as he remains a denizen. D shares, i.e., are ineluctably per capita: each legal denizen owns one D share.
- But, remember, one must be a denizen to own a D share, and vice versa. So if one moves from Chester to Ludlow, one must surrender to Chester one’s D share thereof in hopes of eventually obtaining a D share of Ludlow.
- Sovereign corporations will want to be sure that immigrants are likely to add value before their candidacy for denizenship is approved. After all, every new D share dilutes the dividends that would otherwise accrue in future to the present denizens and citizens.
- So you would not want to move somewhere, ceteris paribus, until you were pretty sure you would be admitted as a denizen.
- NB also that D shares are not granted by sovereign corporations to otherwise satisfactory applicants for denizenship, but rather sold. Immigrants must buy in to a sovereign corporation in order to be denizen there. The price of a D share is determined by raising it until proceeds of D share sales stop rising (D shares of an improvident or unfortunate town might cost nothing).
- Emigration, then, is administratively easy and financially inexpensive; immigration is risky and expensive.
- This requirement would make moving a weightier decision than it already is. One would have to weigh the economic, financial and political condition of each corporation in the hierarchy at each location, their respective share prices, and the likelihood that one’s application for denizenship would meet with approval, in order to make a reasoned choice.
- This would tend to decrease the elasticity of the labor market, by reducing the volatility of labor mobility. On the other hand, it would promote more stable communities. That in turn would promote greater amounts of local investment.
- It would also erect a substantial barrier to permanent immigration. Foreigners could sojourn in a sovereign corporation for extended periods, provided they were current on the per diem toll for their visas. But until they had been approved to buy D shares and had paid for them, they could not enjoy any of the benefits of denizenship. The most desirable sovereignties would have the most costly D shares.
- C shares can be transferred (provided their owner has reached competent maturity).
- NB that because they can be transferred, C shares can be used as collateral. Not so for D shares; for, D shares being inalienable, that would be a species of usury, which is a type of slavery.
- C shares then also can be transferred to another in all sorts of ways. For example, I might transfer my C shares to my heirs now, while retaining a life interest in their dividends, or a portion thereof.
- Critically, C shares remain in force so long as their current owner lives, whether or not their original owner still does. D shares expire with their original owner.
- Most important of all: D shares cannot be voted, while each C share can be voted.
- D shares are shares of subjection to a community and her laws. C shares are shares of citizenship. Only citizens have de jure political power (de facto political power is, of course – always – dispersed throughout the community). Those who have transferred all their C shares to other persons do not enjoy the protections and benefits that go only to citizens; nor, likewise, do they bear the responsibilities that come only with citizenship (what those protections, benefits and obligations peculiar to citizenship might be could vary from one jurisdiction to another, although presumably they would always involve an obligation to levy some soldiers in event of a war, and to fund them).
[Excursus: there could be other classes of shares, and these could vary from one sovereign corporation to another. One that comes to mind is a special share class for military veterans – a V share, that confers additional dividends and votes, that cannot be transferred to another person, and that veterans can hold no matter where they reside. Additional V shares could be awarded for additional tours, for combat, for wounds suffered, for valor, or for promotions. An S share for those who have served as sovereigns is another possibility. Additional S shares could be awarded for years of service, for promotion, and so forth. The possibilities are endless.]
That is the full extent of the legal changes that would be needed to transform the political system now more or less in effect everywhere throughout the Eurosphere into a feudal familiar system.
How would this transformation occur, and what would it look like once it had? That is the subject of a future post