Blockchain Faith


It’s here! “Blockchain Faith” was published by Eggseed Press in May, 2018. The book explains how the Three Promises, public ledgers and the value of reputation in social networks work together to provide a means for civic order capable of gradually displacing  top-down governance systems. In Blockchain Faith societies, no levers of power exist to fight over. Every member has the same social and political power. Everyone promises to keep their promises, put them in the ledger, and to ask no more for themselves than they promise to others.

Most important, we can begin building social promise networks without asking anyone for permission. All we need to make and use social promises is protected by basic human rights of free expression, association and belief.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll already have a good idea what the book is about. You will recognize many of the same themes and core ideas, and even a few essays are similar. But the book contains a lot of new and revised material. It’ll be worth your while to pick up a copy and thumb through it. It’s only $4.99 in electronic form, and it’s Creative Commons licensed so you can make and share copies for non-commercial use without paying a fee. It’s available lots of places online, for example:

Amazon; Barnes and Noble; Kobo; Powell’s Books; Alibris; Walmart.

You can order a print copy at any bookstore. If you can’t find a copy in your area, let me know.

On a personal note, I feel that the book is complete enough to publish and move on to what’s next.

So what’s next? Finishing the white paper already under development that describes a public ledger application for social promises, and then building a first instance of the application. Setting up certification programs through the uRULEu Institute for self-sovereign promisors, neutrals and application developers. Building up a Fellowship Program through the Institute to study and teach sociological, anthropological, economic, psychological and computer science aspects of self-governance through social promises. These activities will be group activities for which I must recruit colleagues and volunteers. As for myself, I am and will be writing fiction and non-fiction designed to expand understanding and acceptance of social order through social promises, in addition to practicing law. I am and will be recruiting like-minded authors to publish through Eggseed Press. Much fulfilling labor lies ahead.

Blockchain Faith is about improving the quality of our lives by building mutual trust to facilitate solutions to personal and social problems. It’s about building human connections for mutual benefit and human thriving. To stay tuned to my efforts, follow this blog. To join in, contact me!

-Jonny Stryder








Change Ahead


Spring is a time of change. Here in Southern California, flowers are blooming everywhere before the heat of summer arrives. The blooms are not always conspicuous next to all the freeways, cars, billboards and printed suburbs full of cookie-cutter streets and houses. The show is spectacular in a few places. After a little rain the Antelope Valley sprouts fields of orange poppies. The Mojave Desert has its flowers too, less showy but more varied, more fetching in pockets than in the vast expanse. Soon the heat will arrive, the blooms will wither and go to seed, and attention of the outgoing multitudes will turn coastwards and upwards to the mountains. And to baseball, that idlest of pastimes except for the math.

It’s been almost two years since I stopped posting here regularly to focus on finishing The Book That Was Once About Voluntary Law. Now it is about something else yet still social order by self sovereignty and social promises and blockchain ledgers. Writing it has changed my trajectory, or maybe my trajectory just changed and writing the book was part of that. Once it comes out in a month or so, I hope to contribute more to the successor blog, between serving the needs of my family, clients, friends, causes, projects and campaigns. Maybe all those services can be feeding energy to one another and resonant with life’s true purpose: leaving better things behind for the loved ones, and growing the circle of love ever larger and stronger. Fulfilling an honorable purpose brings joy. Easy or solitary it’s usually not.

I’ll be attending the California Libertarian Party’s annual convention the last weekend of April, speaking at Libertopia the first weekend of May, and attending  Voice and Exit later in May. If you will be at any of those events, please find me!

Future of Voluntary Law, Social Promises, Voluntary Law

A Promising Chaos


It is not in the least bit presumptuous to design a new legal system based in personal self-sovereignty and mutual benefit, for peacefully out-competing and thus, replacing all legal systems based in privilege and oppression.  There is no presumption being made about the future.  The future of a chaotic system is unpredictable, because the granularity of knowledge about the system’s present state is always coarser than the granularity of the differences that can lead to divergent outcomes.  In other words, we can never know perfectly where we are going, because we can never know perfectly where we are.  Certainly, human society is a chaotic system, full of uncertainty and tumult.  We can design the new legal system to fulfill all our design objectives given all factors we know of, but cannot know whether, or how, the design will be implemented.

What we strive for is the most optimal design, given what we know, without any presumption of destiny.  In that spirit of optimizing the design, we propose phrasing voluntary laws in accordance with their intended effect.  That is, as personal promises to accept a certain consequence “B” in the event one commits a certain act “A.” So for example “The penalty for a slap in the face shall be two counter-slaps” becomes, in promise-based law:”If I slap you in the face, I promise I will let you slap me back twice, unless my slap was justified by proportional self-defense.”  This is a silly example, of course, but illustrates the point:  voluntary laws are essentially socially directed, personally made promises to other society members.  For example, some voluntary laws are social promises to provide no less than a specified remedy for specified wrongs, subject to certain defenses.  Application of TROTWET ensures that voluntary laws are in fact social promises.  It is helpful to the people who must understand and implement their own laws, if the laws are phrased in a way that more naturally aligns with their ordinary meaning, and does not obviously implicate revolutionary consequences.

This is the thinking behind VLDA’s pivot to “social promises” and “social promise societies” as better terminology for engaging the general public.  “Voluntary law,” with its revolutionary overtones, will not be discarded, but reserved mainly for the smoky back rooms where the socially aware exchange ideas, such as places like this blog.  And perhaps for discussing reforms in state laws.

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Image credit to Robbi Robbins (Brilliant Hues)

Some Rights Reserved under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic


Future of Voluntary Law

Plans For A Voluntary Future


I’ve been away for a while, and starting to feel like I owe my cherished readers an explanation for the long pause in new posts.  All is well with me, and the pause does not indicate any waning of enthusiasm for the principles written about here for the past few years.  Besides the usual friffage of fascist toil and family life, I’ve been busier than usual with political activism.  That is a topic for another day.

There been no lassitude.  I’ve been busy finishing up my book, “An Introduction To Voluntary Law.”  I’ve reorganized it, written more than a dozen new chapters, and edited some of the chapters already posted here.  It’s coming together very nicely, and I hope will be ready for publishing early next year.  Finishing the book is not just an arbitrary goal.  It is a closing of the philosophical circle.  There is a vision, an analysis, a plan – quite a bit more than I’ve already published here.  My statement of introduction to a new type of law, and a new type of hope, is nearly complete.

Plans are in the works to set up a registered non-profit, to obtain funding for carrying the mission of the Voluntary Law Development Association to the next phase.  The new entity will be a non-profit, public benefit educational institute for development of voluntary law, for instruction and certification of voluntary law society members for various roles, and for empirical research in the science and practice of voluntary law.  Next year and beyond will be occupied with developing the resources, human and financial, for carrying out these missions.

The website will be revamped too.  With publication of the book, there will be less need to lay out the basic principles in detail on a website.  The site will evolve more towards a news hub for the few people interested in my personal thoughts and doings in the area of voluntary law.  While the purpose of will diminish, the amount of online content and instruction in voluntary law will increase, under the new educational institute.

Among the colleges of the new Institute, a College of Social Engineering will begin its founding project: configuring the network tools that will enable the world’s first online social promise society.  Every voluntary law is a social promise, and nothing more, and every social promise society will be a voluntary law society as I’ve been writing about here.  We won’t call social promises “laws,” because people have forgotten what law is, and the term confuses hearts and minds.  In the end, real and functioning social promise societies will teach people that social promises are the only laws worth following.  And that only laws worth following are actually “laws.”  A great deal of what people call the law today will be finally recognized and rejected as barbaric, destructive diktats.

All that explains the pause.  See you on the other side.

Introduction To Voluntary Law (Book), Public Interest Laws, Voluntary Law

Taxes and Funding For Social Causes


It may seem fantastic that one day there will be no penalty for failure to pay taxes other than loss of reputation.  Truly the idea does seem remote from reality.  Maybe you can be convinced that it is only a hair’s breadth away.

The conversion of taxes to reputational morality payments that are entirely voluntary is closer than it seems.  The modern version of investment financing for both charitable causes and business, that is, crowdfunding, has proved that social programs can be funded voluntarily.  Crowdfunding differs from conventional fundraising only by being online, in some respects.  But what a difference being online makes!  Any interested donor can keep tabs on the progress of the fundraising from practically anywhere in the world.  If the donor consents, the identity of the donor and the amount of the donation can also be published.  Fundraising drives can become a very explicitly public event.  The combination of receiving donations and publishing data about the donations is an excellent medium for cultivating reputations, so long as not corrupted by falsehood.

Promise making, a.k.a. personal adoption of law, is also a medium for growing reputation.  By promise making, each person supplies the yardstick by which their honor can fairly be measured.  The detailed shape of the yardstick already tells us a lot about the promisor’s expectations.  But it tells us nothing about the promisor’s performance relative to that yardstick.  Promise ledgers by themselves are necessary, but relatively empty of meaning.  The real juicy meat is the promisor’s record of performance against their own yardstick.  Information is publicly available from which a reliable assessment can be made of the extent to which promisors have fulfilled the promises they have made.  The point is, the activity of public promise making and public promise keeping is a medium for reliably indicating reputation.  The reputational information is like a credit score, but much more multi-dimensional.

Likewise, publicly advocating for certain social action, and then publicly donating money to the social causes you advocate or wish to support provides meaty reputational information.  It allows you to put your money where your mouth is; or not, as you please.  By your pattern of giving and not giving, you provide society with a profile of who you are, in the sense of what impels you to action.  When the crowdfunding is operated as an open or partially open online system, the same reputational services that collect and dispense promise keeping histories can provide similar information about donation histories.  That’s more meat on the bone.

When reputational information becomes meaty enough, it has a value by itself, largely non transferable.  The value is that of reciprocal action.  Think about it.  If you are a large donor to many causes over a long period of time, when you are soliciting money for the cause that employs you, you are more likely to find support.  Not only that, you will learn who reciprocates support, and you may use that information in deciding who to give to.  If you have a great reputation, you will receives lots of support, employ many people in your social cause, and earn a respectable living for yourself.  Having a great reputation in a network of donors is a very valuable asset, valuable in some ways beyond measure.  Not everyone will have the greatest reputations, but everyone will recognize the value of a good one.  Nearly everyone will put some energy into maintaining a donation profile that is respectable for their circumstances.  Most of those who don’t donate will be in some sort of need, and eligible for being supported as needy clients, to be rehabilitated into productive members of society if possible.  There may be a few Scrooges who just won’t understand, and will try to hide their true wealth and income to escape being considered overly selfish; but it is hard to see selfish attitudes lasting for long when the society depends heavily on giving, and most donations are transparent.

What has just been described in barest outline is an evenly rotating economy based on donating to social causes.  Every imaginable social cause can be funded this way: collective defense, including military defense; environmental protection; social justice; care of the poor, sick, orphaned and helpless; rehabilitation of criminals; a national weather service; scientific research and exploration, and so forth.  The list is endless.  This new economy will do everything useful that the current system of taxation does, and will do it better, with much less waste and corruption; it will do more than we know or can presently imagine, besides.  The social causes economy will resemble a traditional exchange economy, in which it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a social cause and a business concern.  After a time,  there will no longer be a meaningful distinction between causes and businesses.  Every cause will do some business, and every business will be involved in a cause.  In those future days, the accountants will glad that they no longer have to make difficult distinctions between tax-exempt donations and taxable income, both because there will no longer be any income tax, and because the new economy would have made those distinctions so difficult had income taxes managed to linger somehow.

That income taxes will not linger forever like every other government program seems fantastic, but again, it is only a hair’s breadth away.  Only two things need to happen: first, the applicable legislature or voting public need to start gradually defunding programs, and requiring the applicable revenue agency to replace the funds from income taxes with financing obtained from  voluntarily crowdfunded programs.  Tax payers could easily be motivated to donate by granting dollar-for-dollar tax credits for every donation.  The revenue agency would not need to manage the technical aspects of crowd funding.  Crowdfunding might be managed instead by a community made up of professional crowdfunding system operators, and the users of the crowdfunding system, just as it is today.  All the revenue agency has to do is keep an eye on things, keep ledgers and statistics, and report back to the legislature.  After enough time, political activism, and rejiggering by the crowdfunded recipients, everything will be funded voluntarily, and income taxes will cease to exist.

The path is clear.  It will not be politically easy, but mainly because it is natural to fear the unknown, and we can’t know exactly where the path will lead.  Some sacred oxen will be gored, and everybody who now depends on the income tax system for income will have to find an alternative source of support.  That is of course part of the beauty of this path: as the demand for labor in the tax system decreases, it will be offset quite closely by demand in the crowdfunding sector, and in all the new and revived sectors that the crowdfunding sector will motivate.  Yet another benefit is that the social information that can be gleaned from the income tax system will not be lost, but it will be transformed into something more just and dignified.  More will be discoverable from the crowdfunding system about who is up to what, and for what purpose, that was ever possible from the income tax system.

Wherever the path of voluntary law leads, we can be certain there will be no income taxes there.  Voluntary society will see to that.  Voluntary law must require it; income taxes and all other forms of coercion are not a rational option within the bounds of the voluntary law.  All taxes will be replaced, inasmuch as serving some useful function, with voluntary crowdfunding.

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Photo by HM Revenue and Customs

Introduction To Voluntary Law (Book), Public Interest Laws

Justice for the Poor


Being founded in the ultimate egalitarian principle of personal self-sovereignty, voluntary law is better able to correct systematic imbalances and prevent injustice to the poor than any system of law or government based in privileges of property, or elite political status.   When the rich oppress the poor, voluntary law provides a sort of built-in remedy for the oppressed, as can be seen by analyzing the interests of the actors involved.  All oppression by the rich must be rooted in their property claims.  To resist oppression based in socially dysfunctional assertion of property rights, the poor have two useful tools.  First, the poor can bring claims seeking payment from the property of the wealthy.  The wealthier the defendant and the larger the potential award, the better the contingent-fee advocacy that can be hired.  Second, the poor can adopt laws that do not recognize the property claims of the wealthy or that provide superior property rights in cases where the poor hold the weaker property law.

For example, application of TROTWET to real property tends to create incentives for homesteading on fallow land that is not being diligently defended, as discussed previously in connection with property laws.  Large holders of unused land will have to recruit and reward a small army of defenders.  In the absence of a social utility enlivened by a moral purpose, the mere holding of empty land will in most cases not be worth the effort.  People will tend to claim parcels they actively use and patrol, or intend to use in the near future.  Exceptions to these limits might include nature preserves that are defended by environmentalists, who use the land lightly (e.g., for quiet recreation and observation of nature) and who are motivated by righteous zeal for environmental preservation.  The state would not be available to tax the poor and use the tax revenues to enforce the property claims of the wealthy.  The wealthy would have to enforce their own property claims, and the cost of doing so would tend to create a wealth equalizing effect by requiring them to employ the poor on mutually acceptable terms.  The poor would have no reason to hire themselves out for the defense of wealthy land claimants, unless the benefits of doing so outweighed the benefits of defending their own property claims.  It is not hard to see how such a legal regime would tend to lead to joint defense pacts on relatively egalitarian terms, to the extent that defense is needed at all.

Widespread adoption of voluntary law would place the poor in the strongest possible individual negotiating position with respect to wealthy property owners seeking to hire them for defending the owner’s property claims or for exploiting those claims to earn income.  Under voluntary law, there can be no imprisonment or other punishment inflicted on the poor except that which is permitted by the weakest law as between the law of a poor defendant and a wealthy claimant.  Moreover, whatever the sentence, its execution will have to be paid for by the wealthy claimant.

Yet another tool in the arsenal of equality is the rule against forced recognition of corporate or other collective entities.  This will make it harder for collectives to amass wealth to the disadvantage of individuals who do not recognize the legitimacy of the collective.  For example, when mass movements of the poor choose to occupy corporate properties, the poor can select the laws that they will adopt for their own defense.  Lobbying and influence peddling will have to be directed to its only proper outlet: the victims of the property claims that would be asserted.  There are no legislators or entrenched judiciaries to buy off.

When the poor oppress the poor, monetary damages to motivate justice may be less effective particularly in cases where the poor defendant lacks any reasonable capacity for earning income.  Statist systems fail particularly badly at this problem.  A poor criminal can be imprisoned, but this costs taxpayer money and does nothing to restore the harm done.  Meanwhile the imprisoned criminal receives often receives informal education in prison about how to survive as a criminal, and little or no instruction that enables prospering as a productive citizen.

Restitutionary justice will provide a better solution, by creating an economic incentive for reformation of the offender by a third party reformer.  The reformer contracts with the convicted defendant and with the injured victim.  The defendant agrees to work for the reformer in exchange for whatever terms can be agreed upon, with a portion of the defendant’s earnings paid to the victim. Once the debt has been repaid, the defendant has been rehabilitated.  Both the defendant and the one who rehabilitates earn honor for themselves, and are positioned to take advantage of future opportunities.

In voluntary law societies, there will be greater incentives for private aid to the unfortunate.  Those who give generously and successfully — meaning with gifts that do not make the recipient dependent, but that tend to lift them out out poverty into a self-sufficient state — will earn stellar reputations.  The reputation earned will provide very real economic repayment for the time, effort, and expense of helping others.  To name just a few benefits, the most effective charitable organizations will have the nature of an educational institute, which earns social power and prestige through its alumni.  To reap these dividends of prestige and social power, charitable groups and individuals will compete for opportunities to serve needy clients of all types.  Merely slothful people would make poor clients and would be less sought after.  Yet, where there is sufficient demand for poor clients, many of  those who by making themselves poor seek to live off the labor of others might be reformed, and taught the much more fulfilling rewards of a good reputation.  In voluntary society, private charity will operate without coercion or fear of unwanted liability for conduct or misfortunes of the unfortunate.  TROTWET will protect the well meaning and reasonable people on both sides of interactions between the poor and  those who would serve them.

Stateless social security can be provided by mutual aid societies, which can be ad hoc informal organizations, or more formally organized.  A self-perpetuating society nurtures both its young and its old; nurturing is a natural human trait that does not need to be enforced by a state.  Unhindered by state meddling, mutual aid societies can operate more efficiently and strike a fairer balance between the needs of the young, old, and sick and the working middle that sustains those weaker members.  Under voluntary law, this natural human impulse for nurturing and social structure is reinforced by the personal promises of those who join mutual aid compacts, making the fulfillment of their mutual promises a matter of personal honor and reputation.  We can be sure that every single infant who ever survived to adulthood was the beneficiary of at least one, and often several, mutual aid societies on the path to survival.  So too, we can be sure that a free people experiencing need will form mutual aid compacts to meet that need.  When doing so under an “empire” of voluntary law, we can see mutual aid societies that (unlike tribes and nations) will not seek to make war on competing societies, because of the mutual promises made from within each competing group to the greater host of humanity without.

Societies based in personal sovereignty will provide vastly more economic equality than is possible when sovereignty is based on claims over land or other natural resources.  Every person has only one inviolable dominion: their own person.  All other property arises from their own conscience and promises.  In such a society, durable poverty does not exist for any economically capable person, only temporary shortages of goods and services demanded.

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Photo credit to Alex Proimos
Some Rights Reserved under Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic