Guest Column: The Canton Movement

Whenever a government becomes destructive…
by Dwight Johnson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. — from the Declaration of Independence

The following column is a compilation from Dwight Johnson’s Website, The Canton Movement ( I caught up with Dwight roughly a year and a half ago, finding his development of the idea of panarchy—freedom of choice in government—to be a simple and practical method for moving away from coercive government with minimal blood, sweat, and tears.

If done right, implementation can result in going to bed one night under our gangster government’s thumb and waking up the next morning a free person, with others, protected from the gangsters by a common, mutual defense agreement of the honest. IMHO panarchy and the cantonization process are the final piece of the puzzle for those who deny consent to gangster compulsory government—which we discussed in the guest column, Imagine There’s No Congress, by Jim Babka last week.

The Political Mess

Politicians are people who make friends for themselves with other people’s money. With money from taxpayers. With your money.

We are supposed to have governments of representational democracy. The truth is that politicians get themselves elected in a very tightly-controlled system that limits the viable parties to two. The electoral process ensures that someone will get elected to office, even if the electorate is not particularly happy with either candidate, increasingly voting for the lesser of two evils, or just not voting at all out of frustration.

Those who get elected are supposed to represent the people, but end up generally representing only themselves and various special interests. It is sufficient to get reelected to satisfy enough special interests to finance the next campaign, in which the candidate will then persuade a simple majority of enough voters still willing to endure the indignity of voting to vote for them.

The result is generally higher taxes, and, when taxes are insufficient, greater debt, pushing the financing of ever-growing programs into the future. We have gotten to the point where our children will inherit our debt and a form of government that will, at best, provide them the illusion of self-determination.

It would be cruel to paint such a dark picture if there were no hope. There is hope. It lies in the strength of the human person never giving up, never being satisfied with “good enough,” always looking for a way to make things better. You are here because you hope for something better. Let’s see if we can make that happen.

Nonpolitical Way Out: A New Thing Called “Cantons”

I’m going to introduce you to a new term, a new concept, called the “canton.” A canton is a voluntary organization of taxpayers that has one purpose: to take from politicians control of the expenditures of government. Let the politicians PROPOSE. Let the cantons DISPOSE.

Each canton is based on a certain ideology, a certain group of principles and values shared by its members. These values will determine, once the cantons together have wrested control of expenditures away from politicians, how the taxes of its members are spent.

Core Advantage of Cantons: Decentralization of Power

An Englishman of the 19th century, Lord Acton, made this famous statement: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In addition, power seeks to be ever more powerful. We have witnessed over the last two hundred years an ever-increasing consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

Cantons seek to reverse this trend. Cantons are about decentralizing power, redistributing it back to the people, who are, and have always been, the true source of power by means of the taxes they pay.

What is a Canton?

A canton (as defined here) is a voluntary organization based on an ideology, much like a political party, but differing from a political party in its purpose. While the purpose of a political party is to get a person of a certain ideology elected to office, the purpose of a canton is to gain control of government spending, taking that control from the politicians.

What Authorizes Us to Create Cantons?

Read the introduction from Thomas Jefferson above.

It is not the Declaration of Independence that authorizes cantons. It is human nature, and nature’s God, that does that. The Declaration describes those God-given rights. Self-determination is the right of every human person, because we are human.

The Audacity of Cantons

Cantons have one goal: to remove from politicians everywhere the power to control how government revenues are spent. This is an audacious goal, but clearly necessary, given all the evidence we have of the complete incompetence of governments to control spending.

How Would a Town with Cantons Operate?

Let’s create an imaginary town: West Haven. This town has eight cantons, one for each of the Eight Ideologies described on this site, with varying numbers of members. Each of these cantons has a list of principles and values based on their ideology. The canton advertises for members, and new members are drawn to one or the other canton because the canton has the same principles and values they have. Their canton, they know, will spend their taxes according to those values, or otherwise the canton will lose them next year, since membership in a canton is for a single year, and the member is free to choose another if either the canton does not live up to its promises, or the values of the member change.

When the local politicians propose certain programs, the leadership of the eight cantons get together and work out which programs will get paid for from the taxes of their members. Each canton supports certain programs but not others, though there are a few programs, generally things like courts or police, that are supported by all the cantons. There are always a few programs proposed by the politicians that get no traction from any of the cantons, and they simply die on the vine.

The result over time is that many functions of the local government have either gone away entirely, or have become much smaller. Some have even stopped being government functions, but have instead become private enterprises, operating in the marketplace.

With money left over when all government expenditures for the year have been paid for, the cantons will redistribute the remainder back to the community. Each canton determines how it will redistribute. Some just send all of it back to its members proportionately. Others send some part to various nonprofits of their choosing.

Wonder of wonders! There has even been a DECREASE in local taxes! No one could remember that happening before.

The special interest groups are not happy, but they survive, perhaps a little less well off. The government is trimmed down to its essentials, what is called “right-sizing.” And more and more money is pushed back into the productive economy, creating jobs and overall prosperity. West Haven has become a very happy town. All because the people worked together to take back control of government expenditures from the politicians.

The Plan

Goals of Canton Movement

  1. Create cantons that represent every member of American society, the full spectrum of ideologies, at every level of government.
  2. Put the cantons in charge of distributing all government income.
  3. Reduce debt at every level of government so as not to burden future generations.
  4. Reduce the size of government down to the essential (“right-sizing”), so that more resources are available to the productive economy, producing jobs and prosperity.

Here is what YOU can do:

  1. Become a member of the Canton Movement by purchasing a membership.
  2. Look over the Eight Political Ideologies, and decide which best matches what you believe in.
  3. Encourage others to do steps 1 and 2.

Here is what can happen next:

  1. When enough people join a particular virtual canton, leadership will emerge from the members.
  2. Actual canton organizations will be developed at every level of government: municipal, county, state, and national.
  3. SunFLOWerAs the size and political strength of the cantons grow, they will work together to accomplish the one goal of cantons: to remove from politicians everywhere the power to control how government revenues are spent.

My sense is that Johnson et al and the canton movement are in the early stages. This is a ‘learn by doing’ movement, and the CantonMovement site provides a virtual reality tool to prepare us for moving to the real thing as soon as possible. The purist may say he doesn’t want to be a member of a canton at all, just be left alone; the system accommodates such ‘free riders.’ The genius of carving up the coercive government monopoly is you the individual take ultimate control of the ‘skin’ you put into your game. You get the government you want.

On the state level and federal level, the retained-wealth benefits are GINORMOUS as citizens see the huge advantage of free markets. Gangster Government withers on the vine… quickly. (My idea of a Universal Nonaggression Protocol (UNP) will come along—someone(s) will write it—to mediate the cooperative relationships among the cantons.) — bw

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