Pictured above: the concept of a fraternal nation with its initial location on the web.
A Proposal For A Modern Form Of National Sovereignty
Distributed Sovereignty for Web-Based Fraternal Nations
I am going to propose the adoption under US and International Law to establish a new form of sovereignty under the title of a “fraternal nation” that combines the currently used legal frameworks for domestic nations (Indian Tribes in the US), fraternal societies, and International organizations such as the Vatican. Through the legal framework of a fraternal nation, which would essentially be a cyber state without land (save perhaps a global HQ like Vatican City) made up of local chapters with their central hubs like unto small “Indian Reservations”, it could be possible to develop a more peaceful, self-sustaining, and pluralistic society.
I have used the term fraternal because a non-gender form is not available and as people are familiar with fraternal societies and orders making it much easier to visualize a "fraternal nation" on somewhat familiar ground. Moreover, there is a full body of law regarding fraternal societies in many countries around which the concept of a fraternal nation could be built. When I use the term fraternal, I mean it in a broad sense of “fraternity”, which is inclusive of all people.
According to the IRS:
To be exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(8), a fraternal beneficiary society, order, or association must meet the following requirements:
It must have a fraternal purpose. An organization has a fraternal purpose if membership is based on a common tie or the pursuit of a common object. The organization must also have a substantial program of fraternal activities
It must operate under the lodge system or for the exclusive benefit of the members of a fraternal organization itself operating under the lodge system. Operating under the lodge system requires, at a minimum, two active entities: (i) a parent organization; and (ii) a subordinate (called a lodge, branch, or the like) chartered by the parent and largely self-governing.
It must provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to the members of such society, order, or association or their dependents.
An organization that provides benefits to some, but not all, of its members may qualify for exemption so long as most of the members are eligible for benefits, and criteria for excluding certain members are reasonable.
Under legal precedent, this is what a fraternal society is, in essence (From the IRS handbook on fraternal societies):
“The court in National Union v. Marlow, 74 F. 775, 778-79 (8th Cir. 1896) summed up the nature of a fraternal beneficiary society as follows:
A fraternal beneficiary society ... would be one whose members have adopted the same, or a very similar calling, avocation, or profession, or who are working in union to accomplish some worthy object, and who for that reason have banded themselves together as an association or society to aid and assist one another, and to promote the common cause. The term “fraternal” can properly be applied to such an association for the reason that the pursuit of a common object, calling, or profession usually has a tendency to create a brotherly feeling among those who are thus engaged. It is a well-known fact that there are at the present time many voluntary or incorporated societies which are made up exclusively of persons who are engaged in the same avocation. As a general rule, such associations have been formed for the purpose of promoting the social, moral, and intellectual welfare of the members of such associations and their families, as well as for advancing their interests in other ways and in other respects.... Many of these associations make a practice of assisting their sick and disabled members, and of extending substantial aid to the families of deceased members. Their work is at the same time of a beneficial and fraternal character because they aim to improve the condition of a class of persons who are engaged in a common pursuit, and to unite them by a stronger bond of sympathy and interest.
In one case, the court found a common tie among members of an association based on their common ethnic background. It also found that members had a common goal to improve their social, moral, and intellectual welfare. See Hip Sing Ass’n, Inc. v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 1982-203. Likewise, persons who join together to promote a common interest, such as a particular method of fortune telling, can be said to have a common tie. See Rev. Rul. 77-258, 1977-2 C.B. 195. However, mere recitation of common ties in the governing instrument is not enough; there must be a common tie in fact among the members.”
There are range of common ties which constitute a fraternal bond, and allow for the formation of a fraternal society under US law. But the fraternal activities must be substantial, as the IRS states:
“Even if the members of an organization enjoy a common tie or goal, the organization does not serve a fraternal purpose unless its members engage in fraternal activities. The court in Philadelphia and Reading Relief Ass’n v. Comm’r, 4 B.T.A. 713 (1926) cited “rituals, ceremonial, and regalia” as evidence of a fraternal purpose. Social activities are another common element of fraternal organizations. A lodge’s performance of civic, benevolent, or charitable functions may serve to establish a fraternal purpose in lieu of regular meetings and rituals. But an organization whose fraternal features are so insubstantial as to make it indistinguishable from an ordinary insurance company does not qualify under IRC 501(c)(8). See GCM 34607 (Sept. 13, 1971).”
What we see then, is that there is precedent and case law for fraternal societies, which, when combined with the case law regarding domestic nations, provides quite an adequate framework for the concepts of fraternal communities and fraternal nations. For instance, the fraternal community, which would allow fraternal nations to create intentional communities exclusively for their members and their families or guests, would be a form of fraternal benefit, providing housing that is affordable and even providing housing to members in need or for people being ministered to by the fraternal nation, such as refugees.
The fraternal communities would have the same status as an Indian Reservation, the fraternal nation would be established on the basis of criteria similar to a fraternal society and would have domestic nation status. Internationally, the fraternal nation would exist as a sort of an NGO with status akin to the Vatican and would be an association of all the “domestic nations” (i.e. its chapter organizations in each country) to which its members belonged. Pictured above is a street with a few houses, which could all be owned by a land trust, operated by the fraternal community, with a central lodge of common house and perhaps a market.
One ticklish aspect of this is the impact of such fraternal communities on the local tax base. There are various state laws on the matter of local real estate taxes and fraternal organizations, and, in general, these laws would be the basis of how fraternal communities or even lands and property owned by the fraternal nation’s SOCIETY would be taxed. As current property tax laws stand, I would urge a property tax model that is based on a principle that a person shall not be taxed in their necessity. In other words, property necessary for basic living and for charitable purposes would not be taxed, while property in excess of necessity would be taxed. The idea is that people should be able to have a freehold, both within or outside of a fraternal community, that is theirs free and clear, and is not taxed, while everything beyond a freehold is taxed.
As land ownership in many countries is such that most land is owned by a small minority of wealthy people who benefit from the work product of the whole community, removing small property holdings, or freeholds, from the tax rolls should not be as difficult as it seems. Property taxes are a regressive tax as they stand now, and they render the ownership of an outright freehold impossible.
Fraternal nations and their fraternal communities, in short, would likely have the same kind of property tax regulations and laws which apply currently to fraternal societies and charities, however, we should work toward property tax reform which enables people within and outside of fraternal communities to actually have a freehold and we should not be taxing property used for charity purposes. While removing such property from the tax rolls can cause budget re-alignments at the local level, we should argue that the use of such property for fraternal and benevolent purposes provides a social and economic good to the community that far outweighs the mere loss of tax revenue. It simply shifts social responsibility and public welfare toward free associations and away from politicians and bureaucrats.
By being part of fraternal nations, people could depoliticize much of their lives and, instead, choose by some form of freewill covenant association to connect socially, culturally, and economically with a national people which reflect their beliefs, values, and lifestyle. Most social needs and what we would broadly call the social safety net could be handled by fraternal nations in a way that is religiously and/or culturally sensitive. In such a scenario, the political state might, at most, provide a backup or re-insurance to assist in major disasters or if a fraternal nation failed. We might also see political states provide grants to fraternal nations within their borders to provide these services according to a broad common standard.
Fraternal Nations would not be inherited or forced upon anyone, and what landed autonomy they might enjoy for plots of land is so dispersed as to ensure that there will not be balkanization. In other words, people will mostly live and work among people of diverse national affiliations in the public marketplace.
The heart of the idea of a fraternal nation is an inherent right of people to shape and manage their society in a manner that is consistent with their own convictions, albeit within reasonable limits which prevent abuse, violence, or a denial of anyone’s basic human dignity and rights. It is for this reason that a neo-Nazi or a Salafist fraternal nation could never been chartered as both would necessarily seek to dominate and inflict violence upon their neighbors and would mistreat their members.
Fraternal Nations within a given political state would be likened unto domestic nations, with lands held in common by them under a distributed land trust being like unto reservations. The requirements to form a fraternal nation would be similar to the requirements to form a fraternal society. So then with the legal framework of domestic nations, tribal sovereignty over reservations, and fraternal societies, we have all the necessary elements for a new and more modern institution that would ensure a peaceful and pluralistic society and relieve cultural and political strife.
Quite simply, people could form and be part of a nation to their liking, thus removing an incessant source of conflict in a society where culture itself is governed by a central political authority and where winning control over that political authority becomes a matter of life and death for different cultural groups.
The modern micronational community is the first beginning of a rising desire in the part of individuals to shape a society and a culture and guard it as they see fit. The incredible diversity of micronations and their general ability to get along stems from the simple idea that what one micronation chooses as its cultural norms and standards is not imposed on anyone else. One can hardly get angry and worked up over how one micronation treats certain matters if there is no possibility you will be impacted by their policy. Through recognizing the internal sovereignty of fellow micronations, a broader and pluralistic consensus can be created that allows these diverse micronations to interact and cooperate in a range of matters.
Not only am I aware of the phenomenon of micronations, I have formed two, and I am friends with a number of micronationalists. A recent piece on Vice about micronations, which aired on HBO, included many names and people who are friends of mine or with whom I am familiar. The diversity of that group is inspirational, for we all count ourselves, well most of us, friends. And we all respect our differences while holding a common standard based on mutuality, respect, and tolerance and based on our common belief that people ought to be able to form their own nations to suit their own needs and convictions, within reasonable limits of human dignity and human rights.
The fact you must choose to associate with a micronation and cannot be forced to be part of one, and that you can choose to leave the micronation’s membership, means that there is not pressure to impose your ways on others.
Just as the modern nation-state was an evolution towards more people-powered self-government, the modern communications and transportation infrastructure, which is globally connected, allows for the addition of a new form of shared sovereignty, the fraternal nation. People can connect globally with any fraternal nation they like, or form their own.
Of course abuses will occur, but this is as much an argument against the nation-state as it is the fraternal nation. Nation-states which emerged really beginning in the 17th century have inflicted more genocide and war than all the empires, kingdoms, and other sovereignties combined up until that point. The nation-state is abused all the time. But as fraternal nations are based solely on free association, any abuse would be tempered by a loss of membership. Indeed, fraternal nations, as corporate entities (non-territorial or cyber states), would compete for members, and this pressure would tend to grant success to the ones managed wisely and failure to the ones not managed wisely.
Fraternal Nations would not replace nation-states. But much of the social, cultural, and economic authority of nation-states would devolve to these agencies of self-determination, albeit within a broader common standard based on respect for human dignity and human rights and the prevention of torts between individuals and between fraternal nations.
Fraternal Nations would no doubt be as diverse in form, structures, and size as political states. Some might be limited to a few families in an intentional community. Some might be as far flung as the Vatican with its hundreds of embassies and consulates all over the world. Some may even one day gain political autonomy or independence. Some political states may become fraternal nations. Some political states may retain territorial statehood for their state but may also develop a fraternal nation internationally that attracts members and establishes chapters around the world.
The path to fraternal nations in the US and Europe would appear to be to start with granting people legal protection to form fraternal communities on the same basis as they can form fraternal societies and for micronations to be legally classified as fraternal societies. From here the legal frameworks of domestic nation, reservations, and NGO’s along with the unique distributed sovereignty of the Vatican could be adapted to form fraternal nations with legal protections under international law.
According to a Christian organization, Global Research, there are “people groups:, which I would define as “nations of people”, in the world today. There could be more if people were able to intentionally form and choose the fraternal nation of their liking. Such an institution would be a peaceful outlet for their natural and healthy ambitions to have some form of national self-determination, and it would be in keeping with the UN's own commitment to and recognition of the right of popular sovereignty or national self-determination, without being a threat to existing political states.
The UN Charter in Chapter 1, Article 1, part 2 states that purpose of the UN Charter is: "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace."
As peoples can and should be used to define people-groups, whether existing already or intentionally formed, it seems logical and fair to make a legal provision under domestic and international law for the expression of that self-determination. At present there are 193 member states of the UN, there are 195 declared states, and both the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority have non-member state observer status. Almost none of these states are predominately representative of a single nation of people, which means that almost none of the existing people-groups, nations, has actual and practical self-determination.
This legal framework would also finally put to rest the confusion between a political state and a nation of people. And within the U.N. itself, fraternal nations would have standing alongside political states, making it truly live up to its name, the United Nations, when, today, it is merely a gathering of political states which barely protects the inherent right of national self-determination which is as much an individual right as it is a collective right. One could see a much larger General Assembly of the Nations consisting all recognized “fraternal nations” number in excess of 12,000.
It is for this reason the organization of Upadaria, a Christian micronational project, will be based on a fraternal society and that we will first advocate for the establishment of a legal status for fraternal communities. In America, our “domestic nation” could be called The Upadarian Commonwealth of America. Our political aims would be limited to an effort to realize the establishment of fraternal nations under the laws of each political state and under international law, with a concurrent reform in political states that gives political representation to fraternal nations within their boundaries and of the U.N. which gives standing to fraternal nations alongside political states, especially for social, cultural, and economic matters and for upholding human dignity and human rights.
While fraternal nations may seem far-fetched to you, so too were our modern nation-states prior to the 17th century (See: Nation-State History And Origins in Wikipedia). What is more, both technology and the legal frameworks of domestic nations, reservations, fraternal societies, and non-territorial states such as the Vatican already exist and merely need to be adapted to a single framework of domestic and international law.
Finally, we own an inherent right to national self-determination, which means as much the right of the individual to choose their nation as it is the right of the nation to sociocultural, religious, and economic self-determination and political representation within the state. The fact we see more and more micronations rise all over the world through the power of the internet is the first evidence that people are organically gravitating toward the next modern evolution of the nation, away from a purely political and more or less coerced allegiance and toward intentionality and freewill covenant association.
I am not arguing for the dissolution of the political state, I am arguing for the formal and legal protection of the sociocultural, religious, and economic self-determination and political representation of fraternal nations within political states and within the UN.
The craving for such sovereignty of the people over their own immediate affairs within their own beliefs and convictions will only grow, and if the modern nation-state wants to remain relevant and survive, it must cooperate in and help to manage the emergence of fraternal nations in a manner that is peaceful and evolutionary. The alternative is that fed up people in our future, naturally craving such self-determination and mutual self-reliance, will resort to more disruptive means to pursue this craving.
It may take 50 years to achieve fraternal nationhood under domestic and international law, but it will come in some form, just as the nation-state came. The only question is, will existing institutions such as political states and the U.N., nurture and benefit from this development or will they resist and foment unrest and an upheaval which sweeps them aside in a rising tide of rage against the system?
Political power will devolve. It is not needed to manage sociocultural or many economic matters, and certainly not religious matters. It tends toward a one-side-fits-all and winner-takes-all scenario that breeds either upheaval or some form of tyranny of the majority over the minority. People are moving away from wanting the political state as their nanny, they are organically being drawn toward self-determination and mutual self-reliance outside of the control of political powers.
While gaining cooperation, recognition, and even protection from political states would be ideal, this does not mean such sovereignty is not organic. In other words, when a body of people form a national people, each person owns a God-given right to choose their own nationhood and each body of people within such a nation shares a collective right to self-determination, religious freedom, mutual economic self-reliance, and political representation. Such fraternal sovereignty, as we may call it, is organic: it derives from the free association of its members. While the political state can and should respect this and recognize this, such fraternal sovereignty should not be seen as GRANTED or originating in, or chartered by, the political state.
I propose a global movement which works together toward developing a legal framework for fraternal nations and which lobbies governments and the U.N. for recognition of these fraternal nations, extending protections for their inherent right of self-determination and for the right of each person to determine the nation of people they will be a part of in accordance with their own needs and convictions.