The countries are a group of about 200 organizations which work against each other, and sometimes with each other, in an attempt to both prevent and exert crime. Let’s define crime, very roughly, as aggression against humans or against their property.
Humans are born with a sense of ‘home’, that is, a geographical area that is considered relatively safe from crime. Since there is a limited amount of geographical area on earth, and sometimes different people prefer the same specific area to use as their home, crime is sometimes used against other people in an attempt to establish one’s own safe home area. This is then what we call a border dispute, or a war.
People group together to establish home areas of different sizes, and these groups form bigger groups with bigger home areas, but the countries form a set of 200 such groups which together cover the whole planet, yet rarely overlap. When I use the phrase ‘the countries’, I mean not countries as a concept, but specifically this group of 200 countries that currently exists on Earth.
What makes the countries different from smaller areas they contain, like provinces, and larger areas they are contained in, like for instance the European Union is that most countries recognize most other countries as sovereign states, that is, they will not try to interact with each other if not through mutually beneficial trade.
For this reason, the borders between the countries are particularly important, and most border disputes are between two or more of them, rather than between, say, provinces. There are also country-level crimes (wars) between countries that are not border disputes, but rather monopoly disputes (oil is a prime example).
Where the sovereignty of countries is not complete, crimes can exist at a multi-country level. For instance during the cold war, blocks of countries were using crime against each other to each try to secure their own multi-country safe home area. Many countries have organized systems of internal power through which people can gain influence and property, the two of which in itself often lead to crime and retaliation within a country.
Let’s not start from the assumption that everything that happens on this planet happens in one of the countries. Let’s consider the countries as organizations that exist but that are metaphysically equivalent to any other form of organization between people. This leads us to observe that throughout our lives, we are likely to interact with some of the countries for three reasons:
- moral obligation: even though the countries are not by themselves morally significant entities, the fact that they exist and are recognized by people raises a moral obligation to recognize them as organizations with which we interact. Just like there is a moral obligation to pay money to shops when you take things from them.
- social obligation: the people we interact with will expect and want us to recognize the countries that they also recognize.
- causal consequence: if we don’t abide by the rules of countries with which we interact, then either the police or the army of that country will probably consider that a crime, and retaliate.
So in which ways do we interact with countries? There are also three ways for this:
- location: most countries agreed non-overlapping claims to geographical area with most other countries. In some cases, two countries claim a certain location as their safe home zone, and sometimes a country occupies part of another country, in which there is one occupied and one occupying country. There are only very few and small areas that are not claimed by any country (for instance tax free zones at airports and border crossings). This means that at any moment we are probably in the safe home zone of one country, and sometimes in more than one or in the occupied zone of a second country. Most countries publish rules of behaviour for humans who are located in their safe home zones, and we are encouraged by moral obligation, social obligation, and causal consequence, to follow those rules.
- habitual residence: when you reside for a significant time in the safe home zone of a country (more than about 60 days on end, or more than 180 days in a year, or whatever limit the country sets), then you are obliged to register with that country as a habitual resident. Unless you move around a lot, it’s hard to avoid being a habitual resident of at least one country. But it also often has useful benefits to be a habitual resident of at least one country. More about this later.
- nationality: most countries require you to register as a national of at least one country, even if you stay in their safe home zone for only one minute. But unlike with the habitual residence registration, they usually allow you to register with one of the other countries, especially if you only stay in their safe home zone for a short time. It’s usually not trivial to register as a national though, unless you are born in the country’s safe home zone, or at least one of your parents is a national of the country you’re registering with. Most people are only registered with one country, usually the country in whose safe home zone they were born. Although most countries will let you enter their safe home zone as long as you are registered as a national with at least one of the other countries, some countries may refuse to register you as a habitual resident unless you are also registered as a national of that same country. Most countries will allow you to stay in their safe home zone indefinitely if you’re registered as a national with them, provided you then also register as a habitual resident.
Once you are registered as a national of at least one country, and if you don’t stay in any one country’s safe home zone for extended periods of time, and don’t form a productive and localized part of the internal economy or commit any crime in any of their safe home zone, the countries usually leave you alone. You will have to deal with some paperwork and maybe pay some money each time you move from one country’s safe home zone to another one’s, but at least as you don’t overstay your welcome in any of them, and are registered as a national with at least one of them, none of the countries will probably oblige you to become a habitual resident with them.
Being a country’s habitual resident will oblige you (again, in the three ways, morally, socially and through causal consequence) to hand over about a quarter of your income to that country’s organization. Here ‘income’ is a bit hard to define, but let’s not discuss that here; the point is, being a country’s habitual resident costs a lot of money. But as I said before, most countries offer benefits in return. The main ones are:
- free or cheaper education
- free or cheaper health care
- free or cheaper right to stay in the country’s safe home zone indefinitely
- free or cheaper unemployment insurance
- free or cheaper disability insurance
- free or cheaper pension
- charity in your name (paying the above things also for people poorer than you)
Very poor people rely on the charity of other members of the country where they are habitually resident to pay for their costs. If they would not be members of any country, they might not be able to afford education or health care. But could someone who earns at least average income do without those, and organize them herself without going through any of the country for it?
Of course you would have to change safe home zones regularly, so as not to fall under any country’s obligation to register as a habitual resident. That can be easy though, often you only have to cross the border for a ‘visa run’ every few months. You would have to organize your own education, which probably means your children’s education. This can easily be done with a student loan and/or some savings. You can also save up your own pension if you’re disciplined enough not to spend it prematurely, and charity to people who are poorer than you is also easily organized.
Unemployment insurance is a strange concept about which I could write a whole separate post. Its very concept regards humans as employees rather than as autonomous agents. If you’re not disabled, then you can work. Maybe you will have to become a fisherman or a cleaner, but if you’re the slightest bit resourceful, you will not die from hunger as long as you are able to do valuable work.
That leaves health care insurance and disability insurance. You can get international cover for those while travelling away from your country of habitual residence (for instance http://www.healthcareinternational.com/ ) but I have yet to find an insurance that offers these without that requirement. More than a requirement, it is an assumption actually that, surely, you are registered as a habitually resident with at least one of the countries.
Many people are not registered as habitual residents with any of the countries, but then they probably also have no health care insurance anywhere. I am interested in setting up a private transnational insurance for nomads. Many people conduct their business online now, culture is becoming more globalized, and long-distance travel is becoming more and more affordable. This means that the countries are starting to lose their value proposition as providers of nationality registration and of habitual resident rights packages.
Of course we need government and law enforcement, but they can be organized on a local scale at various hierarchical levels. For instance if you live in Barcelona, the law is prescribed and enforced by the owners association (‘comunidad’) of your building, maybe a neighborhood watch, the city council, the autonomous region of Catalunya, the country whose safe home zone it lies in (Spain), and the European Union. This works well, and the country does not necessarily need to have a special status within this line-up.
If countries allow registered nationals of all other countries to enter their safe home zone temporarily (with a tourist visa), then they might as well allow in all humans. This means countries should extend tourist visas to humans who enter their safe home zone with for instance an identity card of a transnational republic. Within the euro zone, countries already stopped enforcing their border controls.
The reason people want to keep borders up is often because many of them feel unsafe around people who are different from them (a phenomenon known as xenophobia). We can use the word foreigner to describe someone who is not a national of the country whose safe zone she resides in. I myself for instance have been a foreigner for over 10 years now.
Many people suffer from xenophobia, and are afraid of foreigners in general. They experience the presence of a foreigner in their safe zone as an intrusion. The sense of intrusion makes them feel unsafe from crime, and they also often fear their property is unsafe from crime (ah, property…). In the end, the countries exist to make the inhabitants of their safe zones feel safe from crime. Personally, I think the concept of trying to lock down humans into geographical safe zones because of assumptions about regional crime levels is ripe for a good rethink.
It’s ironic that the countries have often established their existence using crime against human members of other countries, then tend to define their own rules by making deviation from them a crime for their citizens, and finally also stay in existence because the inhabitants of their safe zones fear crimes against what they consider their property.
But my main point is: Let me know if you know of any private personal insurance systems that do not require you to have a country of habitual residence. If we have that then we can found a Nomad Nation: a transnational republic that offers a voluntary social welfare system which allows you to live your life without relying on the countries.