No More Turf Wars?


Column by new Root Striker James Clayton.

Exclusive to STR

Every plot of land on the planet seems to be claimed by some state, except possibly for Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica and Bir Tawil along the border between Egypt and Sudan.

Different states may have their own political and legal systems, and most states also have their own currencies, but every state generally asserts ownership of all the territory within its geopolitical boundaries and claims sovereignty over the population within its territory.

I recently had a brief conversation about this matter with the Politics Editor of an online journal, which claims to represent a diverse range of opinions and ideas and is supposedly committed to producing bold, thought-provoking content. I was informed that “Collectives of people have erected borders and created states, and we've bought in to this system as a way of protection. We live in a democracy with a social contract, and the government protects us from a state of nature. If we give up these institutions then we end up back in an unsafe and uncertain state of nature. And, if you don't like the system you are living in then you could just move.”

Well, maybe. But I have to admit, I’m still not convinced that territorial states and restrictive geopolitical borders actually exist with everyone’s consent and for everyone’s benefit.

And we don’t always rely upon exclusive territoriality as an intergroup strategy. Various associations, organizations, federations, communities and clubs with diverse religious, educational, recreational, social, economic and political interests often live together in the same area, even in the same town or neighbourhood. Individual members of various groups may reside in different places, without any group being the sole occupant of a specific territory or attempting to have complete control over an entire geographic region.

Larger organized communities, including self-identified nations, do not necessarily need to be defined or delineated by restrictive geopolitical boundaries with contiguous properties, and do not need to have exclusive territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction. Any group, even with dispersed membership, can still presumably make its own decisions about organization, governance, leadership, management, representation, administration, legislation, regulation, enforcement, adjudication and negotiations, based on the preferences of the participants and with their voluntary consent.

Organized communities can coexist without imposing their decisions on people living in the same area who may choose to be members of different groups. Presumably it would be beneficial for communities and individuals if everyone could seek membership in the groups that matched their interests, without being obliged to join any group because they live in a specific area or being forced to move if they choose to belong to a different group. Any group could choose to limit, exclude or revoke membership, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that any person would have to relocate.

Organized groups and self-governing communities may also provide services but they do not need to have exclusive territorial control for the provision of services. Similar businesses and groups can coexist in any area without restrictive or coercive territorial monopolies. Any businesses or communities could choose to compete or collaborate with each other to attract new customers or members on the basis of the quality and price of the products or services that they are willing and able to provide. This could conceivably include protection, security, investigation, dispute resolution, insurance, health care, instruction, telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and different exchange systems.

Individual consumers would then potentially have more choices available from various producers and providers. Presumably we would not purchase from any business that offers poor quality goods and services, and we would not want to pay for products and services that we don’t want and don’t use. Any business or community could also refrain from selling or exchanging their goods and services.

The exchange of goods and services in any territory does not inevitably require a monetary monopoly, especially an imposed national currency that is systemically scarce. Presumably we would prefer to control the allocation of our own credit and be able to accept or refuse any form of payment. Buyers and sellers may want to use alternative methods and media of exchange, including barter, local trading systems, community currencies, commodity money, cryptocurrencies, and mutual credit clearing.   

Different exchange systems and currencies can operate concurrently in any location to facilitate trade, and producers and providers of similar goods and services can usually do business in any locality. We can already select from an ever-expanding array of goods and services from a variety of producers and providers, and we can even customize some of our purchases. We can also seek membership in different organizations and associations, and different groups and communities can coexist and live side by side in any geographical area without claiming exclusive territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction within sharply demarcated geopolitical borders. 

Decisions about group affiliation and the exchange or distribution of goods and services can be made without imposing one’s preferences on anyone else, without forcing anyone to move or preventing anyone from moving to another location, and without any coercive territorial monopolies, compulsory production, mandatory membership, or imposed political and monetary systems. Our political activities and economic choices do not require a consensus or majority rule within defined territories.

We are a social species because it is generally advantageous to be part of a group, just as there are benefits to be obtained from trading with one another. But our groups and communities don’t need to insist on exclusive use and control of entire territories and don’t need to aggressively obtain and maintain dominion over whole regions with restrictive boundaries.

We are also a fairly adaptable and inventive species. We can design new products and services and maybe we can even learn new patterns of thought and new behaviours. The way we organize into groups and the way we produce and exchange goods and services has changed over time and will most likely continue to change, and the direction of this transformation will presumably be determined by the way we think and the choices we make.

All of our choices and decisions are probably based on some measure of costs and benefits. Different exchange systems and various producers of goods and providers of services can operate concurrently, and diverse communities can coexist in any geographic area for the mutual benefit of all voluntary participants at their own risk and expense, without claiming exclusive territorial control.
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James Clayton's picture
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Paul's picture

Sounds like Panarchy to me. :-)