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A Network of Autonomous Commonwealths

An update to the previous proposal, including new refinements and an attempt to address various criticisms leveled against the original version. This is open source, feel free to modify and expand.

How Best to Organize a Free New England/ Version 0.1

Author: Stephen DeVoy

A Network of Autonomous Commonwealths


New England has within it two strong political leanings, Socialism and Libertarianism1, often mistakenly referred to as "liberalism" and "republicanism." Any political entity encompassing all of New England must permit both of these tendencies to co-exist. I propose a new form of government fit for New England. This new form of government is intended to provide a framework where multiple autonomous commonwealths can interact freely while maintaining their right to organize themselves internally as their residents see fit (e.g. as socialist republics, libertarian republics, or anarchist societies).

Within the political entity, "New England", each major sub-entity, currently referred to as states, should be conceived as nodes in a network. The political entity "New England itself should be thought of as a network with a minimalist structure for administering this network. Each node should be legally autonomous, hold equal status with all other nodes, and be free to form economic and infrastructure relationships with other nodes in the network as mutually consenting nodes see fit. The network itself, hereafter referred to as "The Network of Autonomous Commonwealths2" (geographically coextensive with the current New England) should concern itself only with foreign policy, mutual defense, arbitration of conflicts between the nodes, the issuance of a currency, the guarantor of a bill of rights and representative of The Network of Autonomous Commonwealths within the U.N. and other international bodies.

The Network of Autonomous Commonwealths should remain strictly neutral in foreign policy, forming no permanent alliances with nations, and have no standing military. All persons living within the Network of Autonomous Commonwealths will enjoy equal rights. The only citizenship requirement for the Network of Autonomous Commonwealths should be residency within the Network. All residents of the Network of Autonomous Commonwealths should be responsible for her defense at times of war, which by definition as a neutral state can only be defensive. Therefore, while there is no standing military, all residents are considered to be combatants at times of war. This will encourage the Network to refrain from war, equally distribute the responsibility for defense and eliminate the need for a standing military.

Each node within the network will be referred to politically as a commonwealth. Each commonwealth, provided it respects and enforces the Bill of Rights (see above), will be free to organize itself internally as it sees fit and is free to extend the Bill of Rights as it sees fit. Therefore, commonwealths likely to embrace a libertarian philosophy, such as New Hampshire, will be free to implement a capitalist economic system. Commonwealths likely to embrace a socialist philosophy, such as Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut would be free to add additional rights such as the right to universal healthcare, free university education, shelter, food, etc. In order to pay for these services, such states would be free to form associations with other nodes (commonwealths) in the network, integrate their economies as they see fit, and share their resources as they see fit. The Network of Autonomous Commonwealths will neither hinder nor show preference for any such relationships constructed between its commonwealths.

In time, this model could be encouraged within the Maritime Provinces of Canada as well, as they are a natural part of the same geographical region as New England. An open invitation should be extended to those provinces to join the Network of Autonomous Commonwealths.

Is This A Nationalist Movement?

No, this is no more a nationalist movement than the European Union is a nationalist movement. There is nothing in this proposal that constitutes a nation state. The network is an association of commonwealths and each commonwealth may evolve into a network itself. Furthermore, since the proposal embraces the notion of secession as a basic right, any part of any commonwealth could apply the same formula and secede, declare itself a commonwealth and become a node in the Network of Autonomous Commonwealths. Furthermore, since the intent is to invite the Canadian Maritimes to join, the intent is create an entity greater than New England. There is no reason to assume that the network would not grow, in time, to include other commonwealths which are currently political entities belonging to other nation states or nation states in their own right. For example, it is not inconceivable that Quebec, Iceland or Greenland may choose to join. Additionally, there is no call to declare any language as the official language of the Network. The only purpose of the Network is to create a minimalist infrastructure where autonomous commonwealths can organize themselves, share resources and extend to their residents a common identity on the international stage. There is, however, not intent nor call for creating a nation.

What of Native Peoples Still Living Within The Network?

Since the intent is to allow secession, there is no prohibition against any portion of the Network seceding from the Network or seceding from a commonwealth. Membership in the Network is intended to be voluntary. Communities of Native Americans might choose to secede and/or form their own Network.

Is This Structure Hierarchical?

No, with regard to power relationships it is not hierarchical. Any community may choose to embed itself within a Commonwealth or become a Commonwealth in its own right. The choice of where to fit within the Network belongs to the community. Some might choose to embed themselves within a commonwealth in order to share directly in the resource allocation process, whatever form it might take, within the commonwealth. Others may choose to elevate themselves to commonwealth status for the purpose of instituting a unique form of internal structure or economy.

Is This Merely An Intellectual Exercise?

At the moment, it is an intellectual exercise just as the concept of an anarchist society, a libertarian society, or a socialist society are intellectual exercises in that none of these exist in their pure form. However, real political configurations often begin with intellectual exercises and then become realized when individuals believe that they are worth implementing. The United States of America, in its original form, is an example of a intellectual exercise realized by her founders. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was an example of an intellectual exercise realized by the Russian Revolution.

Is This Proposal Complete?

No, it is not complete. There is much more to add. We need to develop a Bill of Rights on the Network level which forms a baseline for members of the Network. We need to explore just how a commonwealth would derive its own specific form of social and economic organization from that original Bill of Rights. We need to formulate a protocol for inter-commonwealth relationships which does not require a Network-level powerbase (thus avoiding the danger of forming a nation).

Where To Go From Here

Interested individuals should participate in evolving these ideas, work out their own proposals and place them into the public in the same way as an open source project is placed into the public. Those more interested in building secessionist movements with political representation within the current systems should do so and declare secession as a component of their platform. Awareness that we can secede should be promoted by sharing these ideas with others. Moving forward is urgent for a successful secessionist movement would diminish the clout of the world's only superpower whose unique status has led it to run amok. For our own good, the good of the people of the world and for the good of the rest of the United States of America, we should secede.

1. Socialism and Libertarianism are identified in this paper because they are, at this point in time, dominant political philosophies within New England (though they are known by different names). There is no intent in this paper to exclude other ideological movements. For example, it is conceivable that, in time, other ideologies will replace these as dominant (e.g. Anarchism, Green, etc.). The intent is to create a framework where any commonwealth is free to choose its ideological system or economic system and yet remain a member of the framework.

2. Commonwealth: an association of self-governing autonomous states more or less loosely associated in a common allegiance