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Forum Post: Cybersteading Occupations: A Strategy Proposal

Posted 12 years ago on Dec. 4, 2011, 3:57 p.m. EST by iktomi (2)
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Cybersteading Occupations: A Strategy Proposal By Iktomi

Table of Contents Introduction: Outline of background. Economic Dominance: How the state and corporation collude. Suicide of the Oligarchs: How a pyramidal structure destroys itself. The New Feudalism: What arises in a hollow state. Online Commonwealth: An alternative political model, and how different branches are involved. Resilient Communities: The benefits of local organization and global connection. Strategy Summary: The short version of protest and political strategies. Proposed Social Contract: A new social contract for such a model. Recommended Reading: Additional resources to read.

Introduction Political, religious, and economic institutions are human inventions, and as with all inventions, they are prone to eventual failure. Some institutional models have emerged above others due to adopting certain patterns. Since the Peace of Westphalia, the nation-state has emerged as the dominant model of polity in the world. The financial and economic system of these states has developed from the mercantilism of the colonial period, through the industrial age, and into the corporate socialism of the present. In the modern business ecosystem, the financial firm has become the apex predator. Like other predators, it seeks to protect its dominance of nation-states through legal, political, and militant means. The purpose of this essay is to detail an alternative strategy to the megacorporate-state structure.

Economic Dominance

Even the legal and political constraints against such economic dominance have become neutralized in many countries. Game theory and history demonstrate that large financial institutions hijack political power for their own gain. If a financial company fails, it merely relies upon its political allies (often bribed or often former members of its own board of executives) for assistance. The result is that the financial titans can take massive bailouts, and the taxpayers are left deeper in debt. Eventually, a financial institution may convince government officials to privatize various infrastructure and natural resources, selling them to the business for small amounts relative to the net worth of the asset. The afflicted smaller communities may attempt lawfare or a legal challenge, but the overwhelming power of a business and lack of transparency with co-opted legal and political structures can negate their efforts. During scarcities of resources and funds, austerity measures implemented by governments often harm communities in the form of reduced funding of vital infrastructure and social services. The austerity measures are often conducted at the advice of the financial firms, and firms may attempt to cut off commerce with the community unless their remaining assets are “privatized” (often to the firms exclusively). The result is those who once took state functions for granted are left weakened. The infrastructure necessary for healthy commerce degrades. The middle class, the vital backbone of a healthy economy, shrinks as the gap between the wealthy and the poor grows. Society, outside of a small group involved with the financial institutions and governments, is weakened. The firms can thus acquire assets with little loss, and gain income from doing so. Each financial firm maintains economic incentive to continue their business model, acquiring assets by means of debt entrapment, buying political influence, reducing the transparency of their market, and gaining government assets by a variety of means. There is also strong economic incentive on firms to have local governments pass laws discouraging competition by setting higher barriers to enter the market.



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[-] 1 points by RMD2theteeth (11) 12 years ago

Now THAT is some first class gobbledy-gook right there. I've heard more intelligible things gurgle out of a clogged pipe.

[-] 1 points by iktomi (2) 12 years ago

Online Commonwealth

A new paradigm may utilize new technologies to allow for global interconnectedness and coordination. A partially online polity, a distributed republic or virtual commonwealth, could span the world and allow for existing communities to join, rather than build infrastructure in a remote land or embark on sea-steading projects. The new paradigm would have a clear social contract, listing rights and responsibilities of all members. The organization could establish itself as a non-profit corporation, selling shares of itself for funding. Each shareholder thus becomes a citizen, able to vote and bound to the rights and principles of the social contract. The capital would then be used to rent or purchase land from existing nation-states, as well as expand the range of activities of the group. A protest strategy or even non-violently occupy foreclosed-on structures or dilapidated buildings, and set up enclaves of their community with in. The distributed republic or virtual commonwealth would require different levels of autonomy to allow for different subcultures. Some successful models provide a basis for the movement. The political system may be based upon direct cyber-democracy (such as Iceland) or semi-direct democracy (such as Switzerland).

Legislative The legislative branch may be a bicameral legislature, with one side being a conventional parliament or senate, and the other full of representatives of each “enclave” of the online polity, charged with voting according to the majority of citizens in the enclave (similarly to a Swiss canton). An Anglo-American style social contract or bill of rights would require less top-down legislation than other models, and allow local enclaves the freedom to find a viable system for them. All citizens should have the ability to propose legislation, and propose counter-proposals if they fail.

Executive Executive power, at both a local and polity-wide level, may use the Swiss model of an executive council of several individuals with a ceremonial president. The task of the executive branch in a cyber-polity, at both local and polity-wide levels, would be necessary to ensure “foreign relations” with existing polities and institutions, ensuring infrastructure access, defense, legal matters, and the rights of their citizens are respected. Such a group could allow for mutual defense, closer economic ties, and faster access to resources outside the control of nation-states and large firms. Recommended individuals for the executive council and leadership of local enclaves would be a defense expert (likely of a military or law enforcement background), legal expert (knowledgeable about local and international law), cybersecurity or technical expert (to defend against online attack and ensure transparency and free information flow), media advisor (for public relations), infrastructure specialist (to ensure access to power, water, and transportation), and a medical official (to handle injuries and topics).

Judicial Legal issues may be dealt with internally, if no major offenses occurred. If outside laws are broken, the severity may determine which method of trial the accused faces. Non-violent offenses may be handled internally, but violent crimes and theft may result in “extradition” to existing legal structures and exile from the community. Trials should be kept transparent and opened, with all assumed innocent until proven guilty. All uniformed officials should be allowed to be recorded by sousveillance (privately held cameras and media) while on the job, so long as they are not directly interfering. By allowing for a transparent judicial system, the movement may gain greater legitimacy than other courts. The judicial system should also be wary of attempts to infiltrate the movement through “false flag” enclaves and operatives (and criminals seeking access to “havens” from local law), and establish a probationary period or system before formally accepting a potential new member. Secession and “exile” may be dealt with similarly.

Resilient Communities

Denial of access to infrastructure and supplies through embargos is still a viable method of attack for existing political powers. Power, food, water, and access to infrastructure may all be “embargoed.” Online communication may also be blocked, but cutting off nodes in the network. The solution is a resilient community, an enclave able to sustain much of its own needs. Food can be grown locally. Water could be pumped or collected from rainfall. Solar power, biofuels, or green energy may allow for greater self-sufficiency than dependence on oil and gas pipelines. Even manufacturing may be performed in-house, as automated production becomes cheaper and more competitive, especially as an alternative to sweatshop-made products.

Alternative online communication methods could be found, such as the “dark-net” projects and proxies around censorship. Media attacks are another issue, which is why public relations is a key aspect. New technologies, such as more affordable solar cells, desktop manufacturing, and vat-grown foods, may make such communities more viable in the future. Techno-tribalism (through online networking sites) may give way to techno-nationalism (due to like-minded people gathering together). The differences between a distributed nation and conventional nation are advantageous to many parties. While distributed communities lack the resources or incentive to embark on major military endeavors, they will require resources for defense, and allow a market for defense firms. A migration towards local credit unions from larger banks would become more viable, as online commerce becomes more common and allows for new economic opportunities while weakening opponents.

The distributed community would likely lack resources for a large prison population, and thus has little economic incentive to jail non-violent offenders. The distributed communities may be more environmentally sustainable and efficient than conventional nation states, but still would require energy infrastructure to be updated, creating new economic opportunities. The community would likely be more fiscally sustainable, especially if it allows for diversification into different currencies and assets. Cybersecurity would likely be a top priority for such a polity, as they would require secure online communication for many of their activities. Legal matters would also require legal advisors knowledgeable about local laws. These legal experts could defend against lawfare and legal attacks, ensuring the peaceful and continuing existence of the polity within the larger state. Online communication between doctors around the world would allow for citizens to consult with experts without having to see them in person. Even citizenship in a distributed polity would not be mutually exclusive with a nation state, so the hollow nation state may continue to exist, but solely to maintain infrastructure, provide external defense, and some social services. Such a society is a different model than the dysfunctional combination of nation-states and large corporations dominant today, but the political and economic factors can change rapidly. Simple economics and entropy ensure the eventual downfall of oligarchs. If the nation states and government-dependent corporations of today continue to leave the general public behind, the public will leave them behind eventually. This may be delayed for years, but all political and economic power is transient. Eventually, an opportunistic member of their own ranks may even break ranks, and side with a new paradigm. This has happened across history, from the French Revolution to the breakup of the Soviet Union to countless local elections. Human inventions, such as political and economic institutions, were created for human benefit. They are as fallible, as every invention is. Instead of engaging a game rigged to favor the status quo, change the rules. A paradigm shift may be coming in the future, so why not be ready for it? An online commonwealth of resilient communities provides common economic, legal, and technical assets spanning the globe. Regardless of if it ever comes to pass, it remains a possibility for the future.

Strategy Summary

The conventional game of politics and economics is rigged to favor the status quo. An effective protest may be more than revolution, but evolution. The online polity, outside the status quo, has benefits over it. Decision times are faster, the legal system is transparent, and it is economically structured to benefit, rather than plunder, its citizens. Given the impressive logistics network behind the Occupy protests, setting up camps and occupying foreclosed on structures seems a logical next step. The strategy may be maximized if several structures are occupied at once, spreading the number of police present out. A central camp serves as a beacon for attention, while distributed camps are harder to completely dislodge (as well as being able to relocate in a hurry). Should the Occupy movement seek to form a cyber-polity, these small camps (presumably around the world) could easily serve as the basis for a new paradigm. The movement could gain additional legitimacy and “staying power” through such dispersion, and a myriad of new strategies could be applied by each small enclave or camp. The nation states have compromised their founding principles for short term interest, and even if the Occupy movement fails, it may still be adopted in the future, with adjustments made. The process of “cybersteading” may be a new paradigm for the future, encouraging existing nation-states to compete for citizens by other means than tyranny. Given the versatility shown by the Occupy movement, this may be a useful tactic to employ.

[-] 1 points by iktomi (2) 12 years ago

Proposed Social Contract Rights and Responsibilities for a Distributed Republic:

  1. The citizens of the DR are guaranteed the following:

(i) The right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas.

(ii) The right to vote in all elections.

(iii) The right to peaceful assembly and association.

(iv) The right to privacy within one’s residence, and one’s person and personal effects must not be seized or inspected without probable cause.

(v) The right to be treated equally by the law regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnic background, religion, and political beliefs.

(vi) The right of the people to self-defence, including lethal force when reasonable, is permitted.

(vii) The right to the possession of personal weapons, including firearms.

(viii) The right to habeas corpus, speedy and public trial, impartial jury, legal counsel, and to face accusers. Accused shall be considered innocent until proven guilty. Cruel and unusual punishments and excessive bail are prohibited.

(ix) The right to seek legal redress for grievances.

(x) The right to just compensation for assets compulsorily acquired by the Distributed Republic.

(xi) The right to personal freedom of religion. Religious practices that violate the personal rights of other people are prohibited. No religious test shall be used for qualification of any public office.

(xii) The right to freedom of sexual preference.

(xiii) The right to bodily privacy. The unnecessary alteration of a person’s body without that person’s consent is prohibited. No law can be made that restricts a person’s reproductive rights.

(xiv) The right to consume intoxicating beverages and narcotic substances in private. A person shall lose their freedom of consumption if other people are seriously harmed in the process of exercising that freedom.

  1. The citizens of the Distributed Republic shall have the following obligations:

(i) To be responsible for the consequences for exercising their rights with respect to local political laws, even if those laws abridge above rights.

(ii) To be legally accountable if their activities directly inhibit the rights or life of other people. If found guilty, the accused must justly compensate the victim according to law.

(iii) To learn to defend themselves and their local associations from political, legal, economic, militant, and online attack when necessary.

(iv) To make reasonable efforts to minimise the impact of themselves and their local associations on their environment.

(v) To make reasonable efforts to assist fellow citizens of the Distributed Republic in the event of emergency or discrimination.

Recommended Reading

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu: A classic of strategic thinking.

“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli: How governments consolidate power, and how order can be kept.

“The Transparent Society” by David Brin: How “sousveillance” (recording government officials from below) can be used to prevent Orwellian surveillance.

“Brave New War” by John Robb: Successful tactics of decentralized groups against centralized groups, written by a former Air Force officer and technology expert.

Global Guerrillas blog (http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/) by John Robb: Same author as “Brave New War,” musing on recent events and establishment of resilient communities.

“Snow Crash” and “Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson: The inspiration for online polities, and good stories.