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|  ''I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.''
 
|  ''I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.''
— [http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson Thomas Jefferson], 1810
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— [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson Thomas Jefferson], 1810
 
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Revision as of 14:06, 11 August 2008

The Metagovernment project invites all people to participate in governance as much or as little as they wish. It is the system which will perform the governance functions for any community of any size. It uses a scored, versioned website as the medium for legislation and bureaucracy under the principle of open source governance, employing a sophisticated community structure and/or scoring system to avoid potential downfalls of a completely open editable system.

Initially, Metagovernment and its derivative governments have no power and no authority. They gain these only as people and existing governments voluntarily decide to grant them power and authority. See further down for particulars on the transition to this form of government.

As this document develops, everything and anything may be changed. However, the basic principles in the next section are expected to remain predominantly the same and at some point will become partially protected against alteration.

Please see the Participate page for information on how to contribute to this project, and the FAQ for any questions you may have.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson, 1810

Basic principles

Discussion of the principles below should be conducted on the basic principles page.

Government of, by, and for the people

Anyone may contribute to any open source government. Significant efforts will be made to enfranchise those who are unable to contribute to a government. Efforts will include conducting regular public meetings and promoting dissemination of internet-access technologies (such as the OLPC project).

Openness in everything

All aspects of governance will be as open as possible, under the principle of radical transparency. All software and systems used to run governments will be open source software and systems.

Without consensus, there is no law

Unless consensus can be reached on how a law could address an issue, then there will be no law on that issue.

Consensus through synthesis

When opposing views are presented, preference is always given to synthesis rather than either conflict or compromise.

Disputed principles

The following principles have been proposed but disputed. See basic principles and Talk:Basic principles for the dispute.

Rating-based weighting

Contributions are weighted by a rating-based scoring system. All ratings are themselves weighted by the score of the person casting the rating. Generally, the more one is respected by respected people in a community, the more say one has in governance of that community.

Geographic distinctness within a global community

Everyone in the world is allowed to contribute to any government's website. However, people who reside in a geographic region have a much greater say on issues affecting their region than do others.

Types and levels of government

We define a community as any group of people who have a common interest or concern. We define a government as the organizing principle of a community.

Initially, this project will focus on creating governance systems for small communities, but the software will be designed to scale to any size. People may choose to use Metascore to operate any sort of governing body, not just political governments overseeing geographical regions. Additionally, existing governments may choose to migrate discreet functions or departments to open source governance. For example, there might be an open source government of a city's park system, and there may also be a government administering a single park, and there may be a "government" operating a gardening club associated with a single park. Eventually, every part of every government is expected to transition into an online community.

Please visit the levels of government page for a discussion of how open source governments should be organized. This discussion is also a question of how power is granted to governments; such as deciding which government has authority over a particular geography.

How open source governments work

Every government will be organized in the same general way and will operate on software called Metascore, currently in early development.

Below is one broad vision for Metascore. Please see the Metascore page for other developers' views. The software development is still in the early planning stages, so much of the below is tentative. If/when those developers begin to reach consensus on how to implement the software, the below sections will be updated to reflect that reality.

Resolutions and debate

Anyone can propose a resolution within a community, and for each resolution there is a debate. Each debate consists of posts by users, either in response directly to a resolution, or in response to other posts. Each post may be rated by any user as they please. Presentation of posts can be filtered by different factors, among them the rating they are given by the community. There is no limit on the number of resolutions for any particular issue, nor on the complexity or simplicity of a resolution.

How resolutions become laws

Each resolution is scored by users, if they wish to do so. Users may assign positive or negative scores to resolutions, and may assign synthesis scores (see below). A resolution remains law for as long as it can maintain a consensus score and is not contradicted by a law from a higher government (as decided by the courts of that higher government). In order to prevent overly-frequent transitions in laws, once a law attains a consensus score, the threshold for removing the consensus score is raised somewhat.

Synthesis scoring

In addition to scoring resolutions, users may also provide a synthesis resolution in relation to two or more other resolutions. The synthesis resolution can also be scored to reflect how effectively (in their opinion) the resolution synthesizes the other resolutions, providing a resolution which they feel addresses the conflicting concerns of the proponents of the other resolutions. In the consensus scoring, below, a synthesizing resolution effectively "steals" points from the resolutions that it synthesizes.

Consensus scoring

A consensus score is a formula consisting of the positive and negative scores assigned to a resolution, and any synthesis scores applied to or against that resolution. Each of these scores is weighted by each user casting the scores. The formula for determining the consensus score will be crafted such that a resolution which does not have significant support from the community will not become a law. To become a law, a resolution must have a significantly higher score for it than against it, and must not be significantly synthesized by another resolution.

Funding

Resolutions must be self-funding. If a tax or other fundraising measure is needed to implement a resolution, it must be accounted for in the language of the resolution, and not forbidden by a higher level of government. There can be a minimalist central funding authority in each government to administer the accounting of the money, but the actual funding mechanism must be part of the resolution. There shall always be a bias against giving power to central funding authorities, and all such authorities shall exist at the whim of their associated governmental website.

Physical meetings

Each community's government will conduct periodic physical meetings, and everyone is invited to attend. Meetings must be held at least once each year, and may be more frequent. There is no defined goal for these meetings, only to present a venue for website members to interact personally. Virtual attendance will be allowed as well, and interaction between the physical meeting and the virtual attendees will be promoted. One early function of these meetings will be for people who are not computer savvy to be able to get assistance with participating in the open source government.

Preventing regression

Once open source governance has established control over a region, the use of force or threats of violence in order to establish control over others shall be strictly forbidden (excepting reasonable measures by police to enforce the law, reasonable measures by guardians to enforce discipline over children, and other such societally accepted small-scale uses of force). Efforts by any individual or group to gain control over others shall be met with symmetrical response by the people. Should a leader begin to emerge within an established open source government and be recognized as a threat by the local government's website or any higher government's website, it shall be the duty of every person to stop that leader by any means necessary. In no case is this meant to encourage violence. Violence shall be supported only as a last resort and only in the imminent threat of individuals or groups asserting power over others through the use of violence.

Language

Anyone may post in any language, though it is encouraged that all posts in a regional government be made in the predominant language of that region. A post in a language foreign to a region is unlikely to be scored well by that region's residents. The Metagovernment website will operate in English during its initial development. When Metascore is used to run the Metagovernment, a broader language choice may be accommodated.

Scoring system

This scoring system will be handled by open source software called Metascore, currently in early development. Note that the nature of scoring is still in question and the below is one vision. See the scoring system page for the discussion.

See also the previous section for more information on the context of the scoring system.

User score

Each user has an overall sum score, which starts with a base score and is modified by ratings of one's posts, ratings of one's self, one's ratings of others, and various weighting factors. A user who registers as an individual person (as opposed to an anonymous e-mail address) is granted a very large multiplier bonus. Validated registration will not be possible until guiding nonprofit organizations are created and funded.

Post score

Each message one posts is scored by readers of the post who wish to score it. Those scores are then weighted by the reader's own overall score, and the reader's score in that topic and region.

Community factor

Each user has a score factor for each community. Being a registered member of a community gives one a large bonus in that community. Each post one makes in a community gives one a small bonus in that community, weighted by ratings of one's posts in that community.

Ratings are static

Whenever anything is scored, all variables are calculated by their present values. A later change in a value does not affect that score. For example, if a reader with a low score rates a post, then later that reader accrues a much higher score; their rating of that post does not change with their own score. They can, however, re-rate a post, which would then override their previous rating.

Time deprecation

Each score degrades over time such that one tenth of the original score is subtracted each year, and after ten years, the score is removed entirely. The math for this subtraction will be constructed such that a diminishing score does not negatively impact a rating; only that it counts less and less as time progresses. Users may re-cast any score, which resets this deprecation.

Transition to open source government

Much of the transition to the Metagovernment is expected to evolve out of the development of this document, and cannot be accurately predicted. However, the below is a roadmap for how open source governance can institute itself through lawful use of existing institutions.

All open source governments begin only as communities decide to adopt them. If members of a community decide to use Metascore before the existing community has approved it, then things which are referred to as laws are not enforceable, and the open source government has no power to use force or collect taxes.

When Metascore implementations form within communities, they will periodically ask the existing government (or other authority) to cede power to the open source communities pertinent to their region. At such time as any government cedes power to the open source government, the laws of the various levels of open source government which affect the region governed by the ceding government become real and enforceable to the extent that they are not forbidden by a higher level of government which currently has established control of that area.

The first targets for transformation will be small communities, and the lowest forms of government. Communities around the world will be invited to form governmental websites based on the guidelines and systems provided by the Metagovernment. It is expected that over time, scored websites will be the universal form of government.

It is not expected that governments, particularly national governments, will cede authority in the near future. The intention of the Metagovernment and its associated websites is to gradually make a governance system so superior to the status quo — and so compellingly, unprecedentedly democratic — that the people will demand a change to this form of government. In states which claim to be built on democratic principles, the people there should be able to peacefully transform their government by using the mechanisms of that government. In less democratic states, the transition may take longer, but open source governments innately are protected from brutal force, as they do not have a single leader or a single physical presence.

Until such time as an open source government has the power to collect taxes or otherwise raise funds, users may be invited to donate to the nonprofit institutions which might act as the initial stewards of these governments. Any such initial nonprofit institutions are to be viewed as transient and goal-oriented. Each institution will incorporate into its bylaws a part of its associated website, referred to as a continuing resolution. That continuing resolution can amend the bylaws as necessary, and can also cease continuance. In the latter case, the institution is then required by its bylaws to dissolve itself.