Evolving a Feudal Stack of Sovereign Corporations

In Completing the Groundwork of a Hierarchy of Sovereign Corporations, I suggested that we have all long lived under the government of a stack of sovereign corporations, in each of which we each own an effectual single share; and that a transition to a feudal stack of such sovereign corporations could be effected if these shares were split into two classes of dividend paying shares: D for denizens and C for denizens who are also citizens [for more on the similarities and differences between D and C shares, please review that post].

What would happen if such D and C shares were issued, one of each class to each citizen?

Recall that D shares cannot be transferred between natural persons, but only between natural persons and their sovereign issuers. But C shares can be sold and bought ad libitum by the natural persons who own them. So, the first few months after the issue would see a massive transfer of C shares, with those who wanted cash and not their C shares selling to those who wanted C shares and had cash to spare. The details of this entirely voluntary transfer of ownership of the franchise to the more provident and prosperous members of society, and the structural consequences for public policy of the chance to earn dividends on shares of either type, are the subject of two essays I posted in 2013: The Metastasy of Wickedness, and A Modest Proposal: Enclose the Commons. [Those essays don’t comprehend the notion of the two different share classes I now discuss, but their analysis otherwise flows without ripple into this.]

This vast and peaceful and voluntary transfer of political power would result in the almost instant stratification of society into distinct classes:

  • Strangers, who hold no shares of any kind: these are people who were resident within the borders at the issue date who were not already citizens.
  • Denizens, who hold only one D share each: these are people who were citizens at the issue date, but who have sold their citizenship along with their C shares; they are likely to be poor.
  • Citizens, denizens who each hold at least one C share: these are people who were citizens at the issue date, who did not sell their citizenship, and who might have bought a few more C shares. They are likely to be middle class.
  • Aristoi, citizens who each hold lots of C shares: these are people who were citizens at the issue date, and who had lots of assets they wanted to exchange for the C shares that less prosperous denizens were offering to sell. They are likely to be upper class.

Of these the most notable is the appearance of a more or less stable aristocracy, who would thenceforth be both in control of public policy, and motivated to ensure its prudence, so as to maximize the net present value of the stream of dividends they – and the less prosperous citizens and denizens – would be able to expect from the shares they owned.

Then almost overnight every sovereign corporation in the stack would be run by an aristocracy paying close attention to the overall prosperity of the people.

Now, it must be understood that there is always an oligarchy. This is a problem only when the oligarchs are not virtuous: are not noble, sagacious, just, prudent. It is a problem, that is to say, only when the oligarchs are not aristoi. With the concentration of C shares, there would be two important structural differences from the oligarchy we now suffer.

First, the existence and power of the aristocracy would be ostended honestly, and straightforwardly. Everyone would know about it, and everyone would know that the aristocrats had got their C shares fair and square.

Second, while there are always bound to be some scoundrels and fools in the oligarchy, over time the set of oligarchs would be more and more likely to intersect more completely the set of aristoi – the “best, noblest, bravest, most virtuous” citizens. For, just as now – just as always – the oligarchy would be permeable at the bottom: oligarchs could by their own imprudence or ill fortune fall on hard times, and become mere denizens; while mere denizens could by their prudence, enterprise and good fortune gain great wealth and buy their way into the aristocracy. This would tend to make the oligarchy more and more aristocratic – more and more noble.

Despite this necessary flux in its membership, the aristocratic class would tend – as it always has – to remain rather stable across the generations.

Because they would all expire without value at his death, but could respire perpetually so long as they were owned by a living person, an aristo who owned many C shares would want to avoid their loss to his family at his death. So he would be inclined to transfer as many of them as he could while he yet lived to other, presumably younger family and friends, who could continue to own them until they in turn died or transferred them. Thus a family or clan could maintain ownership of many C shares across many generations, generating just the sort of dynasties that societies always generate in any case – whether openly and honestly, or not.

I would rather give my shares to my children or sell them to my business partners or brothers in arms than let them expire. Death being unpredictable, this constraint, and the preferences it generates, should disincline wealthy aristoi to miserliness. It should incline them rather to transfer their C shares generously and foresightfully to younger people whose loyalty and prudence they trust. This should keep the reins of power from being concentrated in only one pair of hands, or even in one set of families. It should also incline the aristocracy to reproduce their families; and should foster a familiar society in general; for men who are childless would rather give their C shares to their nephews, or the sons of their friends, than lose them altogether.

It should also fulfill the social function of the old laws of primogeniture, minimizing conflict among heirs by an intentional pre-mortem transfer of assets.

[Excursus: Most reactionaries these days abhor voting, as being an act of ritual obeisance to the current liberal regime. Voting would not be a problem necessarily, however, were it to take place as a formal procedure of a political order that was essentially illiberal. And because hierarchy is implicit – is a foregone conclusion – in a corporate structure wherein some shareholders can amass many votes, and so form an aristocracy, corporations are essentially illiberal (even when they preach leftist or modernist bromides)(this is why the Left will always hate corporations as such, and seek to destroy them no matter how much progressive twaddle their marketing and HR departments spew forth).

I should note here also that while no formal procedure is needed in order for shareholders of a sufficiently small and intimate group of men to arrive at a consensual agreement about which one of them should lead them, and who therefore has their fealty, nevertheless some formal procedure or other is indeed needed in order for their consensual agreement and their fealty to be recorded and promulgated – to be, in a word, accurately remembered and published. Voting is one such formal procedure. It is, properly, a record of evaluations already freely owned and attested, rather than a way of coercing obedience.]

Understanding that there might be a great deal of variation between sovereign corporations, how would sovereign corporations generally want to set forth their by-laws in such a way as to optimize their moral → economic → financial performance within the stack? Let us then see how this might play out in practice, working from the bottom of the social hierarchy to the top.

Say there is a family of five, living in Chester. There are five votes in it altogether. They are cast by the head of the household, generally the father (whoever thinks that his wife has no political influence upon this vote is an idiot). He takes ownership on their behalf of the dividends accruing to the shares of his children, so long as they have not attained their majority. Once they do attain their majority, they take ownership of their own shares, vote them, and transfer their C shares ad libitum. But until they attain their majority, the C shares owned by the children are inalienable.

The family owns five shares of each class in Chester. They own five shares of each class also in Windsor County, in Vermont, and in the USA.

The C shareholders of Chester meet to elect a Town Council. These councilors will generally – although not necessarily – be the largest C shareholders in town, the local notables. But not necessarily. A particularly sagacious farmer or businessman, a wise scholar or discerning poet, or a sapient clergyman with only a single C share to each of their names might find themselves elected Councilor.

The Chester Council then meets in camera to elect from among themselves somehow or other a Squire – a sovereign. Again, the Squire need not himself be a large C shareholder. But in practice, he will usually be the one of the largest C shareholders in town – or a prominent member of the family that owns the most C shares among them. This creates an incentive for families to be large, and to stay close to each other (both emotionally and geographically), so as to have a better shot at controlling their destiny.

When the councilors elect their Squire, they vote him also their delegate up to the Windsor County Board of Supervisors. But this opens a vacancy on the Chester Council; so the council elects another C shareholder to fill it.

When the Squire is away on county business, someone is needed to run the Town in his stead – a vicar or viceroy. So when the Chester Council has elected their Squire, he appoints from among them a Mayor. The Mayor runs the town for the Squire, as it were his prime minister. Their relation is like that between a ship’s captain and her executive officer or first mate or first lieutenant. The captain makes the decisions and is the “king” of the ship; the XO carries out his orders, with wide variance in the latitude of his discretion, given the circumstances, his relation with the captain, the captain’s policies and preferences, the experience and sagacity of the XO, etc.

When the Squire is away representing Chester at the County Board, the Mayor runs things on his own recognizance, as the squire’s steward, and vice president of the Town Council.

So here’s the crucial step, by which the familiar integrity of the village community makes itself felt in the deliberations of its county, and then on up the political stack: when a squire goes to the county council, he votes all the C shares of the county that are owned by citizens of his village.

Notice that this step is not an innovation. Delegates to legislatures at every level of the political hierarchy already do exactly this.

A squire’s constituent subjects might by their sagacity and prudence have acquired many more C shares of the county than denizens of other villages. So a single wealthy village might exert outsize influence over a county. This, too, is what we already have; what we have always had, under every political order.

The Windsor County Board then elects one of its members their Count. The Count then governs and represents Windsor County at the Vermont Legislature, and votes all the C shares of Vermont owned by his constituent subjects; a Viscount runs Windsor County in his absence.

This same pattern is replicated again. The Vermont Legislature elects one of its own their Duke. The presence of the Duke renders the State a Duchy. The Duke then governs his fellow C shareholders in the Duchy, and votes their C shares of the nation in the US Senate; a Governor runs the State as his Executive Officer.

The US Senate elects one of its own their King, rendering the nation a Kingdom; and he in turn governs and represents his Kingdom and votes the C shares of the Empire owned by his constituent subjects in the Imperial Parliament (his Executive Officer, the President, runs the USA in his absence), who likewise elect one of their own as Emperor or High King.

The formal procedures by which a given council elects a sovereign may vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. They need not be formal at all.

Sovereigns can be removed peacefully under this system. They can be voted down. But this is extremely unlikely to happen except in the case of widespread moral failure in them or among their familiar allies, who voted them into office, that results in business reversals or other problems which force them to sell their C shares. Depending on the morality and stability and prosperity of a polity, its officers are likely to remain in office for a long time, and also to pass their sovereignty down to their heirs.

There is no reason why election to sovereignty need be for any particular term – why it might not reiterate even annually, or only at the death or incapacity of the sovereign, or of his heirs. But, it is a waste of time and money to fix what isn’t broken: if things are going along well enough, a change in leadership is not called for. If things are not going well, perhaps it is; and the corporate structure makes such a change possible without resort to war.

Hostile takeovers are possible. But only from within. You can’t own shares of a corporate government that does not govern you. Secession, too, is possible at every level of the stack. Rensselaer County might switch allegiance from New York to Vermont – or, more likely, Upstate might sever ties to NYC. But such things are beyond the scope of this essay.

What about the sacred aspect of all this? There is no reason why election to a high office might not be sealed with holy rites, as of anointing, coronation, weighty oaths, and the like. There is no reason that the CEO’s duty to his constituent shareholders cannot be construed by all and sundry as sacred. Societies do better when they order themselves explicitly under, and toward, the Logos of Heaven, which is the Truth about Reality. Citizens and aristoi are therefore likely to agree upon a common cult that approximates the proper worship of the Most High, and that then consecrates the various sovereign offices, girding and protecting them, aye and bounding and correcting them, too, with dreadful authority. There is, in particular, good reason to think that sovereigns of such corporations would be subject to ecclesial authority – or wield it. The king could be high priest, and has often been. But this would be to make him answerable to the Episcopal College as well as to the House of Lords.

Nor need the formal aspects of such a set up vitiate the moral and emotional bonds of fealty characteristic of feudal orders. Upon election of a sovereign, his immediate electors could swear an oath of fealty to him on behalf of their own electors, in his capacity as the occupant of his sovereign office. One swears fealty to the sovereign qua sovereign, and not qua man. Yet there would inescapably be a personal and friendly, and indeed fraternal aspect to that fealty; the sovereign must after all be first a man, so that his manhood is caught up in and transmuted by his accession to sovereignty. And so one elects a man sovereign first on account of the man one knows him to be, and admires. The sovereign of a domain is somehow or other chosen and elected by his colleagues as best and fittest of them all; then is he dubbed, anointed, crowned, and avowed their leader.

NB that the sovereign might seldom be the wealthiest man of his domains. He would nevertheless usually be among very rich, as having acceded to his high office in virtue of his influence – familiar, friendly, or just proprietary – over a large number of C shares of all the governments to which he was subject.

Such a society would be familiar. It would be organic. It would be subsidiaritan. It could be sacred, and would do better if so. It would be inegalitarian; yet it would be magnanimous, would tend to govern well, due to the feedback circuits of dividends generated by corporate success at every level. The prospect of dividends would align the interest of all three classes in the promotion of the general welfare and the common good.

Finally, it would approximate to the robustly stable Polybian ideal, for at every level of the stack, all three classes of subjects – denizens, citizens, and aristoi – would have influence in government. Even denizens would have informal influence, as being (at the very least) able to emigrate from improvident sovereignties – especially the most excellent among them, upon whose labors the prosperity of any realm ever depends.

None of this, of course, is to say that the enclosure of the present commons of government would solve all our problems. It is not a panacea. There is no such thing.

7 thoughts on “Evolving a Feudal Stack of Sovereign Corporations

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