Max Tabarrok has an interesting new idea for governance, Interland:
Interland takes the intersection of the law codes of a large group of nations. This will produce a minimal reasonable set of laws which is highly resistant to lobbying and growth.
Anyone who wants to add a new agricultural subsidy, building height limit, or immigration restriction has to convince everyone in this group to add it before it passes in Interland. This makes the institutions of the country consistent and durable.
Durability is only good if the thing that’s lasting is also good. We have several reasons to expect this to be the case for Interland’s institutions. First, Interland will have a shorter list of statutes and regulations than any other country in its group. This isn’t unconditionally good, but since the mechanisms of democracy are likely to overproduce rules it’s the directionally correct adjustment. Even better is that all of the laws that Interland does have will be more universally supported than most of the laws in other nations, since they are by definition the set of laws that many nations agree on. As more countries are added to the intersection, Interland’s law code would be further distilled into human universals. Finally, Interland will be the freest nation on earth. Anything which is allowed by any member of the intersection will also be allowed in Interland.
Importantly, Interland’s constitution will be positively constructed. This means it will be a list of all of the things the government can do, and anything not listed is not within the government’s authority. This is in contrast to parts of the American constitution and Bill of Rights which define government authority by tracing the negative space that its authority cannot cross, but there was significant debate over which method was best during the drafting of the American constitution.
So what sorts of laws would Interland have? All nations share a lot of their basic criminal code. Murder, theft, and rape are all illegal in every country so they’d be illegal in Interland. Abortion, homosexuality, multi-family, and multi-use construction would not be illegal although many countries outlaw them. Nuclear power construction would be much easier thanks to the laws of France and South Korea, and almost all drugs would be legal or at least decriminalized.
…Interland’s taxation and spending would be minimal, mirroring nations like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Luxemburg. But by all accounts these nations have effective and comprehensive public services. Unfortunately in the eyes of some and thankfully for others, Interland would have a state police force, a public road network (although toll roads would be allowed), public parks, and libraries.
Read the whole thing for some discussion of other issues and limitations.
I think this is a compelling idea. Establishing a new country is difficult, of course, but the ideas of interland can be applied to already existing countries or sub-countries. A US state, for example, could declare itself an interland–Interland: New Mexico–and pledge to adopt only those laws that every other state has adopted. A country in the OECD or EU could declare itself an interland and so forth.
The code of Interland could also be useful in and of itself as a reference point. If we had an Interland database one could compare how close or far countries are to Intereland and in what respects they differ. Interland could be a virtual country and a model code–a country and code to which other countries can aspire to much like the Uniform Law Code.