The Society of To-morrow: A Forecast of Its Political and Economic Organisation
Part II, Chapter VI
Subjection and Sovereignty of the Individual
We have seen that subjection of the weak by the strong is an inseparable consequence of the State of War, since only the stimulus of proprietary right can change the strong man's interest in his weaker competitors from that of a spoiler and destroyer to one of protection. Thanks to many moral and material advances, and a whole series of transitions, the servant, serf, or slave became his own proprietor. But, although freed from the domination of a master, he remained member of a community or nation, and consequently subject to the power erected by this community or nation for its better preservation from the risks of destruction or subjection, which are consequences of a State of War. This power was, for these purposes, invested with an unlimited right of disposition over the lives and goods of all members—a subjection effectively negativing the sovereignty of the individual. However seriously he might be declared sovereign master of himself, his goods and life, the individual was still controlled by a power invested with rights which took precedence of his own. Hence, emerging from bondage to become member of a reputedly free nation, he soon began to devise means of defence against abuse on the part of those who controlled this right. Agents, bearing his mandate, proved incapable of restraining that abuse. Then the nations rose against the proprietary oligarchies in the State, seized this right, and entrusted its exercise to officers of their own. But all in vain. Abuses reappeared, and not only in States maintaining the old system of an hereditary chief, who monopolises the sovereign powers of the oligarchy of which he is head. They appeared, also, in those States where the governmental right of unrestricted disposition over the life and property of citizens was entrusted to the direct agents of those citizens. The sole possible remedy—to curtail this subjection with its priority of claims over those of the sovereignty of the individual, is incompatible with a State of War. The abuse must continue with the continuance of that state, since the power charged with ensuring nations against unlimited risks must itself be invested with a correspondingly unlimited right of disposition over the lives and property of all citizens.
But the situation changes at once when we substitute a State of Peace for the State of War, and sanction the liberty of each State by the collective guarantee of the association. The coercive power of such a guarantee might not suffice to end all wars, but it must reduce risks of aggression within bounds assurable at a nominal premium. Nor could it, any longer, justify that absolute subjection of the sovereignty of the individual, which is inseparable from present conditions. A State of Peace would reduce this subjection to the single obligation of a minimum premium, payable on behalf of the collective assurance of the nations, and continually reducible until abolished by the extension of civilisation.
The sovereignty of the individual will—to conclude—be the basis of the political system of the future community. This sovereignty no longer belongs to the associated owners of a territory and its inhabitants, slave or subject; nor to an idealised entity inheriting from the political establishment of its predecessor, and invested with his unrestricted claims upon the life and property of the individual. It will belong to the individual himself, no more a subject but proper master and sovereign of his person, free to labour, to exchange the products of his labour; to lend, give, devise, do all things as his will directs him. He will dispose, as he pleases, of the forces and materials which minister to his physical, intellectual, and moral needs. But the very nature of certain of these needs—so essential is security to the human race—cannot be satisfied by individual action. Individual consumers of security must therefore associate to produce this service in an efficient and economical manner. Their association will treat, through agents and in market overt, with an undertaker—be it a "firm" or "company"—possessing the capital and knowledge necessary for the production of this service of assurance. Like any other system of insurance, that of individual life, liberty, and property, is subject to two conditions. The first condition is one of price; a premium must be paid, equal in amount to the costs of production plus a profit. The second condition is technical. The party ensured must submit to such obligations as are indispensable to producing the service assured. These conditions are matter for bargain between agents of the associated consumers and those of the company undertaking risks of the particular class, and a contract, terminable as it may suit the parties to agree, will embody the conditions when arranged.
Similar contracts will supply other naturally collective needs, such as communications, public health, &c. A small association in need of these services will make a direct contract with the undertakers of the service desired; large associations will contract through their elected representatives. In these several cases the individual exercises his sovereignty collectively, whether through representatives or by direct treaty. But he will minister to the majority of his needs by direct personal effort.
The duty of representatives (agents) is to conclude a contract, and the conclusion of that contract exhausts their mandate. They may, notwithstanding, be called upon to oversee the execution of such contracts, or to modify their terms should experience discover faults or lacunæ in their form, or should new facts involve some change in the conditions under which their mandatories live. Associated consumers of collective services may, also, find reason to execute a permanent delegation. But supervision of the clauses in a contract may be sufficiently guaranteed by the action of the public press, or other free association specifically formed for that purpose; or the clauses may not stand in need of modification. Official representatives of the consumers would be unnecessary in this case, and the nation can economise by dealing direct.
It appears probable that all naturally collective services will be produced by an association (company) having the usual business organisation and system. A manager will be charged with executing the decisions of the Board of Directors, or of the General Meetings, to which he will render public account for his actions. This will be the economic solution of the problems of establishing and maintaining the services of a State, when the collective guarantee of the nations assures a State of Peace.
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