META: Democratic Agorism

Tony Hollick (
Sat, 13 Sep 97 21:41 BST-1

AGORA3.DOC This Discussion Document Revised 19 June 1997

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A Liberal Democratic Representative Open Society


In Classical Greece, the Agora was the public place where free
citizens met spontaneously to transact public business, to trade, and to
exchange news, views and information. Increasingly, our world is becoming
an Agora (or a series of interrelated Agoras across different
cross-sections of society)).

Liberals, individualists, democratic socialists, social democrats,
free-marketeers, classical liberals, conservatives, anarchists and others
of no party may all find some merit in these ideas. They outline entirely
feasible arrangements for an Open Society affording variety and freedom of
choice, as well as more nearly spontaneous orders in political services.
These would be social, but not statist. Democratic Agorism can operate in
whole or in part, and in any country.

Democratic Agorism is very practical (and eminently practicable). All
elements of each of the proposals are presently in use somewhere, and can
therefore be studied, evaluated, compared, criticised and discussed. The
purpose of Democratic Agorism is to make available the best opportunities
for citizens qua electors with differing preferences to choose, support
and benefit from representation and programmes which most nearly fulfil
their requirements and wishes. As well, people will enjoy increased
freedom to make their own arrangements for a better life with the funds
which are made available.

(These proposals should -- I hope! -- appeal to everyone, except
perhaps for those seeking power over other people, or those wanting a
highly-stratified 'verticalist' society where a few are rich beyond dreams of
avarice, whilst the many suffer from poverty and the denial of access to

American writer Jerry Pournelle in his essay 'The World As It
Could Be Made', in Dr. Robert Prehoda's "Your Next Fifty Years" [1980],
has pointed out that some people deliberately opt for poverty (for other
people), because they dislike seeing other people living as free,
independent, self-confident individuals).


How can we provide maximal individual freedom (both positive _and_
negative: freedom-to-act as well as freedom-from-coercion) to each and
every individual, so that we may live our lives more nearly as we wish?
And how do we enable ourselves to enjoy access to the widest range of

How can we ensure that -- in the rapidly-transforming world economy --
people can look forward to (and choose) a future human environment which
is worth having?

And how can we make sure that everyone has a real incentive to choose
the best systems providing opportunities for maximal economic growth?
Insofar as economic systems are 'Wertfrei' (value-free) abstract games, as
the economists tell us, people have the right to choose the most
favourable 'game', and to receive full payment for their consent to the
game's taking place. Too often, some neoconservatives and others take the
_particular_ game (and its income and property distributions) for
granted, as a -- somehow -- given 'background'. Not so. As Robert Nozick
points out, the better-off tend to be the descendants of the beneficiaries
of past injustices, while the less-well-off tend to be the descendants of
their predecessors' victims. Justly-due restitution is not
'confiscation', nor is it redistribution either.

The monopoly supply of "public" services by the state, which (in
democratic theory and principle at least) we as the electorate "hire" to
improve society by solving various problems for us -- and the consequent
disputes over which services are to be supplied, by whom, under whose
control, by which criteria, how and in what quantity, and at what cost --
is problematic.

One purpose of these proposals is to outline the possibilities and
advantages of simultaneously-available, pluralistic, more nearly
market-like arrangements, which will expand and enhance the range and
quality of social services. And this should happen in ways which are
consistent with the best features of representative democracy and the
better, more responsive forms of non-profit voluntary groups and
for-profit commercial enterprises. The implementation of these systems
can be realised gradually, and will be easier for people to put into
practice, and adjust to, than many proposed transitions to more fully free

Democratic Agorism owes much of its inspiration to the late Agorist
theoretician Robert LeFevre and to the late Karl Popper. To Robert
LeFevre it owes the insight that there is no basis for property rights
which does not entail the possible initiation of aggression to assert
those rights -- which aggression is morally forbidden to consistent
individualist anarchists, or indeed anyone morally or practically opposed
to the initiating of aggression.

I see no viable alternative to Milton Friedman's view, expressed in
"Capitalism and Freedom": "Just what constitutes property and what rights
the ownership of property confers are complex social creations rather than
self-evident propositions."

To Karl Popper is owed his analysis of the achievement of
intellectual, moral and practical advance by means of the Open Society of
free and democratic institutions. 'Democracy' to Popper means the ability
to change the governing order without violence; and -- to this end --
for people to be free to hypothesize, research, discuss and advance
proposals for improving the ways people live.

Any free society must ultimately depend on the broad assent of its
citizens, which can only be practically demonstrated by democratic
arrangememts. Even in an anarchy, people might prefer to have a vote on
the system they live within...

The essential elements of Demopcratic Agorism are modular and synergistic:

They include:

[A] A contractually-based day-by-day electoral system - Vectored Politics
[B] Full-Liability Personal Indemnity Insurance, enabling full restitution.
[C] Personal Radio Alarms: for event-driven and customer-driven policing
[D] A Restitutive Legal System, with online 'courts' and arbitration.
[E] Good Basic Income Provision for all -- independent incomes for all.
[F] Networked information services and library facilities
[G] National Health Insurance chargecard and online diagnostic facilities
[H] Online education and skills-development facilities
[I] Tradenet buy/sell/swap/finance/work transaction services
[J] Packaged 'political' services provided via elected representatives

It has been estimated (David Friedman's Law, in his 'The Machinery of
Freedom', 2nd edition) that state services typically produce about one half
the value to consumers of voluntary (non-profit or for-profit) provision, at
up to twice the cost. He also espouses Robert LeFevre's Agorist ideas:

"My own preference is for the sort of economic institutions which
have been named, I think by Robert LeFevre, agoric. Under agoric
institutions almost everyone is self-employed. Instead of corporations,
there are large groups of entrepreneurs related by trade, not by
authority. Each sells, not his time, but what his time produces. As a
freelance writer (one of my occupations), I am part of an agoric economic
order." [1st ed. p. 199, [1973] and [1978]].

A two- to four-fold misallocation rate may be an over-estimate;
still, the costs of misallocated resources, conflict, inflation, excessive
regulation, waste, bureaucracy, maltreatment and lost opportunities are
not always amenable to precise estimation, but they have certainly lowered
living standards for most people. The problem to be solved is that of
making funds available for different purposes for people to make good use
of, by their own lights, with the fullest possible informed consent of
those participating in generating the funds..


Rather than having periodic general elections, with very limited
choice as to candidates, each elector is at any time free to choose any
person of his or her preference (who must of course be willing so to act),
to be his or her elected representative, always on a revokeable basis.
Each day is a possible 'Election Day' for each elector and each

Representatives can then delegate their work-load as they see fit, to
those they have confidence in. In this age of easy communications, there
need be no restriction on the total number of elected representatives
meeting in Assembly by means of electronic and tele- conferencing. The
emphasis shifts from 'winners and losers' to 'market shares.'

The relationship between elector and representative is a standard
civil-law contractual one (offer -> acceptance -> performance (->
payment)). Representatives may form mutual-interest groups, which might
in some respects approximate the present political coalitions. New
patterns of support will emerge. They will not be beholden to political
parties. Elections will cease to be periodic all-or-nothing affairs, and
will reflect and accommodate gradual shifts in opinion and support, as
electors change and develop their preferences between representatives -
and their policies - over time.

(A variant of modern public-key/private-key security cryptosystems
can easily be arranged, to ensure a secret ballot for those preferring
such an arrangement. It should be pointed out that most of the present
'secret-ballot' electoral systems are only as 'secret' as the authorities
running them want them to be).

The legislative functions of the elected assembly will be carried out
by means of the representatives voting on measures, each casting that
number of votes corresponding to the sum of contracting electors they
represent at the time of the vote. Public laws would require the assent
of a real majority -- preferably at least 50% of the electorate's votes
(after subtracting 'votes-against' from 'votes-for'). I expect this to
result in many fewer -- and clearer -- statute laws.

It should be worthwhile to introduce 'sunset' review provisions for
existing legislation, (as distinct from the body of civil law), so that
pre-existing legislation (much of which is dated, inappropriate, corrupt
in origin, harmful or poorly-thought-out) will be subject to review and
re-enactment or repeal.

A Written Constitution, setting out the basic principles of universal
human rights -- to facilitate formal and legal enforceability of those
rights by means of accessible _trial by jury_ -- is both educational and
advantageous for liberty, with entrenching clauses barring attacks on key
individual rights and liberties, and forbidding cruel or unusual
punishments, and so on. Every country in the world _nominally_
subscribes to these principles already, in the 1947 Universal Declaration
of Human Rights:

It is usually easier to convince people (and governments) that they
should observe what they've already actually assented to.

Representatives may go on to appoint an Executive to deal with
defence matters, external affairs and so on. There may also be a second
(non-spending) oversight and revision chamber, or Senate, with
representatives especially chosen for their wisdom, knowledge, character,
standing and so on - as electors and their representatives may wish.

For the honest and ethical political representatives, there are many
advantages to be had from Democratic Agorism, and few disadvantages. Each
can work to build up their electoral constituency ('market share'), and to
offer the most attractive and worthwhile programmes, to ensure ongoing
support and revenue. Each can look forward to promoting their preferred
objectives. Each can have some security from the domination of party,
leader or faction. Every shade of opinion can be proportionally

For the elector, the available opportunities will be very considerably
improved over the present unresponsive legislatures and government
monopolies. There will be a whole new series of market-places, offering
packaged choices of services with strong incentives to be efficient and
attractive. Programmes compete for electoral support on a basis which
facilitated comparison for quality and value over time. The existence of
a variety of simultaneously available alternatives will considerably
enhance individual freedoms and reduce social conflicts arising from
monopoly provision.

It should be noted that Democratic agorism can be built up gradually
(or even covertly, or clandestinely) in non-democratic societies, so as to
supplant and replace undemocratic systems by more representative - hence
more legitimate - fully democratic ones.

And Democratic Agorism provides very useful 'benchmarks' against which
any existing social arrangements and situations may be appraised. "What
would be happening in this situation within the parameters of Democratic


The maintenance and furtherance of individual liberties, and the
prevention of criminal acts (violence, coercion, malicious damage and the
deliberate infliction of harm), and provision of full compensation or
restitution for anyone who has suffered loss or injury, are the moral and
logical functions of a rational and humane justice system which is founded
on principles of delegated self-defence and equality of protection within
the Rule of Law.

Most people who have suffered from crime would rather receive full and
prompt compensation, than only the remote and uncertain possibility that
the actual malefactor might be caught and perhaps punished. In the past,
the problem has been that offenders have been unable to compensate their
victims adequately. It is time to return the protection of the law from
the abstraction of "state" to the reality of persons.

Consequently, if each person and association is required to hold
public liability insurance (reinsured for complete reliability), full
compensation could always be made available to recompense anyone who has
suffered loss or who has been harmed. An arrangement similar to the Motor
Agents Bureau Agreement in the UK would also operate, to ensure
compensation from a 'pooled' fund under all circumstances (i.e. if the
offender cannot be immediately found).

This insurance would be very inexpensive for people who do not harm
other people.

(Further, if each citizen is offered or provided with a miniaturized
radio emergency alarm, preset to transmit a uniquely-coded personalized alarm
signal which could be triangulated for exact source position location and
identification, then rapid-response medical, legal, police and rescue
services could be made immediately available on demand. This would also help
greatly to deter malefactors, improve peoples' sense of safety, reduce the
costs of crime, and assist the prompt arrest of the actual offenders).

The basic principles and procedures of English Common Law _can_
(among other systems of law) provide a basis for sensible adjudication
services, provided that there are much better administrative arrangements
to assure the ready availability of arbitration in civil courts at _no
cost_ to the participants.

However, as Hayek and others have pointed out, the English Common
Law needs extensive revision to correct the unfortunate results of judges
over the centuries having been drawn from a social class made up of
creditors rather than debtors, landlords rather than tenants, masters
rather than servants, vendors rather than customers. It might be added,
that there has been a warping of the law caused by the ascendancy in the
courts of those with deep pockets and the option of patience resulting in
case-by-case decisions.

In a restitutive paradigm, the costs of crime would be more accurately
appraised and obvious; insurers and others would have incentives to
restrain the incidence of - and thus reduce the costs of - infractions.

Personal security and property protection costs, including national
defence provision, can be funded by a 'ring-fenced' pro-rata tax on all
personal property and wealth owned, so that protection can be more nearly
fairly priced according to the worth of the holdings which are being
protected. In the UK this might approximate 1% of the value of all
property holdings per annum. Policing services may be pluralistic --
those performing policing functions should have no special privileges.


Modern governments take up to 50% of GDP in costs and taxes. These
government revenues will be redistributed in equal shares to all electors
(a 'social dividend' or 'Basic Income'); and a share therof could be
redirected by them to their representatives as their electors wish.
Representatives will thus receive funds in direct proportion to the
numbers of electors supporting them, enabling them to finance the
programmes they undertake to provide for their electors and others.

Or the elector may elect to receive the funds intact.

Each elector will likely choose the representative whose range of
programmes and legislative stance best meets their preferences for
representation, and for possible provision of personal social services
(health, education, additional income etc.: the present "public"
services). To ease the transition, and to allow reconsideration and
amendment as and if problems are found, the funds may be transferred from
government to electors gradually, over - say - a three-year period.

Representatives may offer various mixes of "local" and "national"
services. Some representatives will offer services directed more to
helping the disadvantaged, while others would be directed more towards
enhancing the life-chances of the elector.

In the UK at present (1996), under these arrangements, around seven
thousand UK pounds per elector per annum is available from an equal-shares
reapportionment of total tax revenues, and their return to the elector,
with another fifteen hundred UK pounds available for each child. This
should be more than sufficient to cover the great majority of electors'
situations. It would provide a family income of seventeen thousand UK
pounds per annum for a mother, father and two children, before any
additional income is earned. This amount should also constitute the
Personal Income Tax Allowance.

A flat-rate yearly risk-sharing national medical-expenses insurance
premium of around four hundred UK pounds should be sufficient to cover all
medical expenses (including disability and geriatric care expenses), by
funding a risk-sharing Universal Health Insurance chargecard for each
citizen, which is used to settle voluntary-sector bona fide treatment
charges for bona fide illnesses (thus enabling funds to 'follow the


Each elector's household will be provided with an easy-to-use on-line
communications keyboard/terminal connecting to their TV set (or as they
wish), to enable access to a wide variety of services and facilities.
Network connections will be via the public telephone system (PSTN) at no
charge, or via a national hard-wired or fibre-optical data highway, with
data-radio facilities provided where there is no existing wired
connection. (Handicapped people unable to use the equipment properly can
of course be helped to do so, by their friends and relatives,
representatives, healthcare professionals and volunteers, neighbours and
others). Voice input is now readily available for those preferring it.

Network services will include:- electronic mail; news; selecting and
appointing democratic representatives; conflict investigation, resolution
and legal ajudication services and arbitration facilities; travel
facilities; medical diagnosis and treatment outcome information services;
educational facilities; employment and trading opportunities; consumer
information and advice; housing opportunities; library and information
resources; social events and community facilities; financial services; and
many other resources.


It is now technically and economically possible to provide each and
every citizen with a uniquely coded personal miniature radio 'panic'
alarm. When activated _by the citizen_ in an emergency situation, the
unit transmits a coded signal which identifies the citizen and their
location, and summons immediate assistance to those GPS coordinates. This
can be medical, policing, fire brigade or other disaster ssistance. The
signal can be instantly triangulated to pinpoint its source, and Global
Positioning Coordinates provided, so that emergency rescue service
can be provided by the fastest available route. This would substantially
reduce the incidence of crime, and reduce its cost to individuals.


The sought-for advantages of the systems proposed here include:

[ 1] Improved responsiveness & responsibility of those elected or appointed
[ 2] Reduced deficit spending, less inflationary money-printing & borrowing
[ 3] Funds go to those programmes which those paying actually approve of
[ 4] Reduced forward commitment of future revenue resources
[ 5] Channelling of chosen kinds of help to those chosen to be helped
[ 6] Social acquisitions by persons and groups rather than nationalisation
[ 7] More variety, better value-for-money, less "red-tape", wasted resources
[ 8] New employment opportunities and service industries
[ 9] Better allocations as between local and national services
[10] Incremental change rather than "U-turns", with better adaptation
[11] More nearly market-like, with multiple simultaneous choices
[12] Smaller, less monolithic administrative bureaucracies
[13] Better opportunities for involvement for those wanting to participate
[14] Less bitter rivalry when all "sides" can win; not a zero-sum situation
[15] Maybe a political currency for spending in the political marketplace
[16] Resolution of Kenneth Arrow's voting Impossibility Theorem
[17] Resolution of Condorcet's voting Paradox
[18] Encouragement of individualism & responsible voluntaryist co-operation
[19] Encouragement of new thinking in policy formulation and presentation.


From longer-term free-society perspectives, these ideas offer good
prospects for building up a broad range of free and independent groups and
social institutions providing personal and welfare services, each largely
funded by its own supporters. Representatives would progress by
fulfilling their electors' requirements. The struggle for political
advantage or domination would be replaced by more constructive activity
more nearly voluntarily-based. Rather than the usual futile or
domineering zero-sum and negative-sum political struggles, just about
everyone could win.

There would be more participation in worthwhile ongoing activities,
and better understanding of the virtues and advantages of a more fully
free society. Representatives would be more accountable, and electors
would have incentives to be responsible. The redistributive elements of
revenue-sharing and apportionment would become more obvious and more
nearly subject to rational and humane considerations. Poorer people
frequently bear a disproportionate burden of 'social costs.'

( This presentation is an outline of some ideas for a more fully free
liberal and democratic free society; it may also help provide a better
understanding of freely-chosen plural social welfare provision. Written
comment is always welcome. -TH 19 June [1977] ).

All Best Wishes

Tony Hollick -

WWW Home page

PS: I've spoken with the Office of the Canadian Prime Minister asking
for my admittance to Canada for political asylum purposes, and we
have agreed that I will visit the canadian High Commission in London,
England next week. I will then formally apply for political refugee
status and be evaluated on UN Convention parameters..

Is this a NATO 'first'? >:-}

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