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Formalizing the Franchise

Image by Diana Moore

In solving the problems of mass democracy outlined in the previous post, there are two factors that I have to keep in mind: The originary equality of all language users, and the material differences resulting thereof. The solution must allow for differentiated forms of enfranchisement that reflects people’s varied ability and willingness to uphold the norms of the commons, but must also not utilize crude and low-resolution measures that bar any language user from even attempting at gaining franchise, like the segregationist policies of the US, the apartheid policy of South Africa, or the caste system of India. The solution must also work at every scale, i.e. from local to global contexts.

Therefore I present the Formalized + Differentiated Enfranchisement Model:

Figure 1: The Formalized + Differentiated Enfranchisement Model (including examples)

This model is intended to transpose the differentiated nature of the manifold commons found throughout the rest of society onto the government in a formalized manner. The model is shaped like an upside down pyramid to pedagogically illustrate that as you enfranchise yourself into one common, the more commons open up for you as plausible future enfranchisement opportunities, starting from the bottom. Figure 1 showcases some examples of commons that would likely be included, but is by no means exhaustive. The model need not only apply to the government, but could also work as a way of structuring (the public sphere of) society at large, which the above example could just as well reflect.

There are multiple ways of interpreting the model: You either have to earn enfranchisement in all the previous commons that lead up to the one you are interested in, or that there are multiple paths toward the same common. Whichever way a future Postliberal society deems most fitting, the model is meant to illustrate that access to a common is dependent on being enfranchised into some previous set of commons. It also illustrates a formal roadmap as to what sacrifices you have to make, and the responsibilities you have to carry to get there.

Say you wish to function as a formally recognized dispute arbiter; under the former way of interpreting the model your path will look like this:

Figure 2: Needing to earn the franchise into all previous commons

Under the latter way of interpreting the model your options may look something more like this:

Figure 3: Needing to earn franchise into only one of multiple plausible set of commons

This might at first glance seem like a laborious task, which will deter a lot of people from ever even trying to pursue that franchise. However, imagine what you have to do to become a judge in the court of law today: You need a law degree, which means you had to study law at a university. To enter university you need a high school diploma, which means you had to attend high school. And to attend high school, you had to complete your primary schooling. This all serves to demonstrate how it tacitly works already, and constructing society based on the model involves only adding complexity to the degree the Central Authority deems it necessary.

There is also the third option that you have to enfranchise yourself into all commons within a layer, in order to move to the next layer. I think this would make the model a little too rigid as it loses the ‘differentiated’ aspect of the model, where you run the risk of people enfranchising themselves into (too many) commons they do not care to in order to get to the ones they actually want. I therefore deem this a suboptimal use of the model, and will not focus on this plausible version of the model, exemplified by figure 4:

Figure 4: Layered (but undifferentiated) citizenship

Every common comes with its own formal inauguratory sacrifices and responsibilities (i.e. behavioural requirements and limitations) needed to align incentives and maintain the well being of the common, as well as punishments for not upholding the particular responsibilities. It should be clear by now that the more commons for which you earn the franchise, the more responsibilities you have to carry out; with the commons further up the hierarchy requiring greater sacrifice and heavier responsibility, as well as a higher magnitude of punishment, than those farther down the hierarchy. All of this is in return for enjoying the greater privilege they generate.

Each common in the model could additionally consist of its own subset of commons that you can either opt into, or alternatively must fully complete in order to fully be enfranchised into the common (furthering ones general progression):

Figure 5: Commons within commons

Moreover there could be some form of exclusivity between commons, where enfranchisement into one common might bar you from being enfranchised into one or more alternative commons:

Figure 6: Common exclusivity marked with bold

There is also the possibility of adding some form of “punishment” (and “redemption”) commons to the bottom of the model that one could be forced into for various reasons, like being so unable to carry responsibility in any commons such that you cannot earn an enfranchisement on your own at all (which will likely be the lot of many severely disabled people). Or even worse, people who have directly betrayed their commitment to the responsibilities of the common through either negligence or crime. It is also possible that a common might handle that internally through its own system of punishment (and redemption):

Figure 7: Punishment (and redemption) commons

I will just stress the importance that the formalization of commons does not necessarily need to look like the upside down pyramid model I propose it looks like, I just believe it is the most pedagogically clear way of illustrating the relation between individual commons, as well as their layeredness into a whole. However I have no doubt broadly that a Postliberal society will need to differentiate its commons and formalize the structure of enfranchisement, which it will have to mediate in some way; this visualization serving as a first bid on how that might look.

Figure 8 shows another way of visualizing it, more in the style of a flow chart or a ‘tech tree’ which you might see in a video game:

Figure 8: The relation between commons visualized as a branching structure

So how does the Formalized + Differentiated Enfranchisement Model solve the twofold problem of mass democracy?

Formalizing enfranchisement goes toward solving the problem of the Unable: the people who wish to enjoy a common but are not (yet) capable enough to maintain it, since it first of all creates an explicit declarative record of the sacrifices needed to be made, and the responsibilities needed to be upheld to ensure the continued productivity and survival of the common, which gatekeepers, curators, and aspiring entrants can reference. I.e. it solves the problem of a heuristic based approach to enfranchisement. Coupled with the differentiated commons, it more importantly breaks up the ‘pooling’ of people, dividing them into smaller ‘pools’, and filters the people who are demonstrably not capable of maintaining a common out, and finally ensures the continued well functioning of the common as it only allows people who are demonstrably capable of maintaining it to join.

Differentiating the commons similarly filters out the Uninterested: those who have no wish or interest in being enfranchised into a common, such that they only earn the franchise for commons that appeal to them; which means they are only willing to carry out the responsibilities, and make sacrifices, for commons that are relevant to them accordingly. That means that some people might be fine with only earning the franchise for some of the commons at the bottom, and leave it at that, which would be a valid way to live life. It also has the implication that you cannot create this ‘coalition’ of uninformed to then use as leverage, in order to force policy through in democratic contexts.

Other general advantages of adopting the model are in the ways it can functionally enhance the Central Authority’s ability to mediate and clarify its Imperatives; through the commons it formally creates or recognizes, the way it positions them in the hierarchy, the set of sacrifices and responsibilities deemed necessary for the individual common, and the privileges it is supposed to grant thereby. In the same stroke the effect is reciprocal. It allows the Central Authority to proactively shape the polity according to its needs and ideals, whilst also respecting the originary equality of all language users. Material differences that arise thereof are effectively narrated, as it strikes a clear and methodically appropriate balancing of interests; immunizing against possible resentment generated against either set of participants according to their relations.

Are there any disadvantages to this model? The way I see it, the commons will need proper curation to function, as one can imagine what happens if the sacrifices and responsibilities of a common remain static and unchanging: They might be less and less sufficient to maintain the common due to changing societal and technological contexts. This means there will have to be some form of delegated curation that makes sure that the sacrifices which have to be made, and responsibilities upheld, are continuously sufficient and appropriate for the individual common. In most cases this will likely be one of the tasks of the Disciplines, which you can imagine if we go back to the example of a Dispute Arbiter, where the Discipline of ‘law’ or ‘justice’ might be tasked with keeping this common ‘up to date’ on a meta level.

Nevertheless, this is preferable to how it often works now, where commons are curated only by the social norms of cultural convention (social norms and cultural conventions themselves being commons). As the forces of abstraction continue to excessively overtake (re)embedment (causing these cultural conventions to dissolve and social norms to go ignored), the tragedy of the commons sets in where they go unmaintained or are even directly preyed upon.

Either way, I think what I have proposed is a good first step toward thinking about how a Postliberal society can be structured, and while the commons I put in my model are merely examples, it might provide a fruitful endeavour to actually research and map concrete commons that exist, or ought to exist; what concrete sacrifices and responsibilities need to go into them; how to concretely structure their relation and layering, so as to overall provide a template that a Postliberal Central Authority can pick up and use in the future when circumstance permits it. This is like how (successful) home-owners associations or private neighbourhoods provide a model for other (aspiring) home-owners associations or neighbourhoods, or how one Discord server serves as a model for other Discord servers, now.

Ultimately however, only an actualized, implemented, version of the model will be able to serve as a template for others to copy. Implementing this model on a small scale, and gaining experience with what configurations work, is the best method to serve as a template for larger scale adoption. Which is why I need to encourage curators or maintainers of a set of commons (like a Discord server, but even better if in real life) to either directly use my framework to create models for how a set of commons should be setup, or to more simply map out commons that already exist — in how they interrelate and differ, and how they are layered.

And if not that, hopefully these two posts have at least provided you with new insight into the functions of commons and enfranchisement, and will allow you to successfully create, maintain, and curate productive commons yourself in the future; or allow you to recognize when an existing common is not being maintained properly, to which you can spearhead corrective measures (just as I am now with regard to the currently mismanaged common that is ‘government’ and society at large under mass democracy and Liberalism).

Figure 9 provides you with a blank slate of my framework, which you can use to experiment with in either creating a model for a set of commons relevant to you, or is helpful if you feel like trying your luck as to what a fully fledged society structured like this might look like:

Figure 9: Blank slate of the Formalized + Differentiated Enfranchisement Model

Written by SamgyeopsalChonsa, edited by Uberover


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