February 13, 2017

Ethical Code: The Exit Principle

Joe McKinney

Joe McKinney

Ethical Code: The Exit Principle

How has the world improved so radically, yet appears stagnant? Governance has not kept pace with radical progress in our standards of living. The disparity between governance and technology has left us unsatisfied. We know a better world is possible, but are unable to achieve it with conventional politics.

Reduction in absolute poverty

Improvement is created by choice and experimentation. It has lifted billions out of absolute poverty and increased the days in our lives. But modern government does not lend to that same choice and experimentation.

The problem is simple: It’s hard to leave your government. It’s easy to buy a different brand of bread. If enough people stop buying that brand, it must change or cease to exist. That is not true with modern states. By default, you are stuck with one brand of government so geographically large that it would be incredibly costly to leave it. Consequently, governments feel no need to compete or change. Even in democratic countries, the masses compete for the same widespread monopoly, not for multiple options. The winner takes all. As a result, innovation, quality governance, and justice decline.

Startup societies increase experimentation and choice by lowering the cost of exiting a government. While there is still a monopoly of government, startup societies are so small that the cost of exit is drastically reduced. One can simply vote with their feet. With more options, citizens can sample many governments ranging from communitarian to individualistic, from traditional to unorthodox, or from industrial to rural, Ect.

Like most startups, most startup societies will fail. But that is a feature, not a bug. Their failures are localized and serve as lessons for better governance. In contrast, when failures occur in traditional, large states, problems are often unaddressed.

However, as startup societies grow, the importance of legitimate conduct grows with it. Since startup societies derive their legitimacy from bettering citizens’ lives, it it paramount to develop rules to dissociate from malevolent, destructive startup societies.

The point of the following criteria is not to support or disavow any ideology. Experimentation is the force behind startup societies, so no positive obligation will be made. This is only a list of malevolent actions that will preclude it from association with the Startup Societies Foundation and its network. It not a political philosophy that determines just forms of governance. It is merely bare bones rules from which other philosophies may be attempted. There may be startup societies that avoid all the below criteria, but are still unjust or badly run.

Principle of Exit

If startup societies allow ease of exit and competition, a bad political philosophy/practice can be easily overcome. Citizens can simply leave. This either puts competitive pressure on the startup society to improve, or end it all together. However, if exit is not reasonably possible, bad startup societies can tyrannize and impoverish its citizens. Our basic principle behind our criteria is:

"Startup societies must not unduly increase the cost of exit and prevent experimentation and improvement."

From this principle, we derive a criteria for dissociation.

1) No Democide

Cambodian Killing Fields

In the last century,  there were 262 million victims of democide. Besides obviously making exiting impossible for its victims, democide is the most evil acts perpetrated in history. No practitioners are legitimate. The international community will justly condemn startup societies and prevent their existence. Due to international pressure, the supply of startup societies will decrease and increase the cost of exit.

2) No arbitrary law


Startup societies must have consistent laws that must are publically known. A citizen should know the laws practiced in the startup society and not have them arbitrarily changed. Of course there must be methods to change laws, but they must have a consistent and known process. If laws constantly change and are unknown to the public, it raises the cost exit because citizens cannot be sure if a startup society will simply change governance when they arrive.

3) No impossible cost to exit

Escaping the Berlin Wall

Exiting allows startup societies to self regulate and punish bad actors. Raising the cost of exit prevents such regulation and must be avoided. As a result, startup societies cannot burden citizens with impossible costs to exiting, such as forfeiting their wealth, liberty, or lives.

4) No surveillance for blackmail


Surveillance may or may not be necessary to governing. Regardless, surveillance to  blackmail and prevent citizens from leaving is contrary to the Principle of Exit. If surveillance is exists, it should used for monitoring potentially bad actors, not for keeping citizens trapped.

5) No psychological control without freedom of speech


Psychological coding is constantly used in governance and culture. It is even benignly used by behavioral economists to reduce energy consumption via psychological  “nudges”. However, if citizens are not simultaneously given freedom of speech, psychological manipulation can enslave its people.  For instance, Jonestown used the both psychological manipulation and suppression of free speech to convince citizens that leaving would result in bodily, financial, and even spiritual destruction.

6) No torture


Torture is patently immoral. It also roundly dismissed by the international community. If any startup societies practice it, they will justly condemn startup societies and prevent their creation.

7) No ignoring sovereignty 


If a startup society follows this criteria, and wish to join the Startup Societies Foundation network, they must acknowledge the sovereignty of others. Acknowledging a startup society’s sovereignty does not mean support for their ideology of governance, but it is mere recognition of their legal status in the international community. In order for startup societies to flourish, they must be respected by international law to be given a semblance of autonomy. Refusing to recognize other startup societies hampers the sovereignty of all, reducing the supply of startup societies and increasing the cost of exit.

8) No fraud

Galt's Gulch Chile scammed investors

Defrauding startup societies investors is unacceptable and delegitimizes the whole movement. Investors will become fearful of investing and the supply of startup societies will be reduced.

9) No red market economy

Port Royal Pirate Colony

A red market economy is an economic system based on piracy, assassinations, sex trafficking, and involuntary organ harvesting. Such an economy certainly increases cost of exit for victims. Moreover, such activities are widely discredited by the international community. A startup society that permits such activities delegitimize startup societies and could cause an international backlash.

10) No aggressive military action


Of course startup societies, like any sovereign entity, have the right to self defense. However, aggressive, unprovoked military action, especially for the purpose of gaining new territory, is intolerable. Such expansion and bellicosity increase the cost of exit for citizens of the victim state and cause a backlash from the international community.

The Canvas

Ethics  are notoriously difficult, but one can create a groundwork to practice new political philosophies. The Principle of Exit is and its criteria are not  moral systems or even a complete set of rules. It is a proposed guideline the Startup Societies Foundation finds necessary to create new systems. We hope the Principle of Exit can serve as a canvas from which startup societies may paint a bright and just future.


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