Pragmatic Conventions For Dynamic Land Allocation In An Israeli Union

Jason Stone
6 min readJan 11, 2024

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When the Jews returned from the Egyptian captivity they found that the land once allocated to their ancestors was now allocated to others. Before reclaiming Israel they were told that in order to inhabit the land they were being given they would need to pursue justice as their highest priority. It seems useful to think of the Jewish story as a microcosm of the human story, a story that seems to often include disputes over land allocation. Perhaps the troubled history of the Jewish people recorded in and outside of the scriptures is in some ways a reflection of a failure to understand and carry out a just approach to the difficult problem of land allocation. It seems reasonable to acknowledge that the Canaanites who had settled on the land during the Egyptian captivity had some right to reside there and to pursue their own unique way of living. It also seems reasonable to acknowledge that Jews had a natural desire to return to the land of the ancestors and that there were practical ways to include them as residents even though some conflict over different preferences in style of living might sometimes occur. However, perhaps accommodating these two communities alone would not be sufficient for a durable arrangement. Over many generations even those born on the land may develop different lifestyle preferences and desire land allocations of their own. How many more Jacobs might humanity produce with communities that need access to resources in order to pursue the development of their own unique lifestyle and stories?

The Jewish story is one that includes both nomadic wandering, where the same land can easily be shared with several different communities that are nearly always on the move, and the quest for settled land allocations with permanent structures. Perhaps the key to just land allocation resides in a reasonable synthesis of these two approaches. Just as Issac, the father of Jacob, was spared execution by the appearance of a substitute sacrifice — perhaps living in harmony with one another doesn’t require sacrificing the pursuit of unique communities. It may instead require sacrificing some forms of permanent land allocation.

If we can not find a gentle way for cultures to ebb and flow between the universal and the parochial then perhaps violent ruptures may perennially threaten many of the benefits of both. The Tower of Babylon parable may encode ancient wisdom about the foolishness of attempting to hold a very generic arrangement in place through force. Perhaps El Elyon copes with unresolvable uncertainty through differentiation and exploration and our designs ought to reflect this wisdom.

When participants from a diverse collection of subcultures create rules in a single democratic system, they may tend to produce harm principle rules that focus on punishing actual harms to person and property in proportional, somewhat merciful ways while avoiding punishing for taboo behaviors that only weakly correlate with actual harm. This tendency may be due to participants seldom agreeing on ethnic or religious rules while still desiring to receive the benefits of a diverse coalition protecting their person and property based on somewhat neutral notions of harm. Many participants may only be willing to participate if these generic rules still allow them to form parochial communities with other voluntary members.

Although liberal democracies allow for private clubs and religious organizations, the benefits of parochial community may sometimes be difficult to obtain without large land allocations that are administered by those with a shared sense of a parochial style of living they wish to actualize. Existing styles of liberal democracy may not always allow for these types of land allocations and nations that are substantially focused on parochial cultures may not embrace liberal democracies to the same extent as places such as the United States — which seem focused on liberal styles of living that are intended to be universal. If we truly value the benefits of liberal democracies that are based on universal human rights and we would like to extend those benefits to as much of humanity as possible in a durable way, then we may need to imagine new forms of liberal democracy that are more appropriate for nations that host parochial cultures that desire land allocations. This alternative form of liberal democracy should allow for all citizens to participate in creating general harm principle rules, allow for voluntary members to form parochial substates, and allow all citizens to live and work throughout the union whatever substate (if any) they are a member of. Hopefully, participants would find that such an arrangement protects the nation from being subjugated by one parochial culture while also protecting it from universalist revolutions that seek to destroy all parochial cultures within it. This dynamic may tend to hold the overall arrangement in place in a durable way. By focusing on voluntary participation and practical exit for those who do not wish to participate, members of parochial substates may find that it’s easier to actualize a more ideal form of a parochial culture than might be possible if they were constantly having to coercive non-consensual participants, or guard against attacks from universalist revolutions or other parochial cultures. They may also find it helpful to have easy access to a population of non-member residents who are sympathetic to the parochial culture and who are willing to augment the substate’s workforce.

Here are some initial thoughts on a set of pragmatic conventions for forming a national union of voluntary substates. Perhaps an arrangement such as this could someday be part of a unified Israeli nation that includes substates that satisfy the needs of Jew, Muslims, and others.

  1. All citizens of the union could be allowed to run for union level offices and to vote in ways that determine the union agreement that sets limits on substate law, and controls the union courts and military resources throughout the union. Culturally appropriate tailoring of military units could be allowed in substates, however, all military units would be under the command of the entire union.
  2. The land could be divided into sectors of approximately equal size and a vote of the residents could determine which substate, if any, their sector is a part of.
  3. Longterm (e.g. 49 year) substate leases could be initiated, and sectors could join existing substate leases during elections that are held at regular intervals (e.g. every 7 years). Periodic elections could allow citizens to compare several options at events that resemble world fairs. Before voting takes place, a report could be issued that summarizes things like which sectors are likely to join a substate, which residents will be offered membership, and any major changes within a sector that joining may lead to.
  4. Substate members could be allowed to set their own rules for membership and to tailor the substate law within the boundaries of the union law in a way that applies to all member and non-member residents. Even though only members would be allowed to vote or hold office, the laws applying to non-member residents would be limited by the union agreement that all citizens shape. For instance, substate members could elect local common law judges who are subordinate to union level courts with judges that all union members elect. In addition to the general laws, substate members would be allowed to enter into voluntary agreements with one another (based on the union law’s definition of voluntary agreement). These voluntary agreements could allow for things like aristocracy, state churches, state schools, and separate laws and courts that only apply to voluntary members.
  5. A member could renounce their membership in a substate at any moment (e.g. during investigation, prosecution, or punishment) and have any remaining allegations against them prosecuted in the union’s general court system. Substates could be required to allow union counselors to inform their members of their options whenever they are being prosecuted or punished.
  6. All substates could be required to allow any member of the union to live and work within the substate. The union agreement might allow for special zoning laws that accommodate general residency and businesses in some areas while requiring other areas to be reserved for more limited purposes. Zoning laws for some areas might include things like nature reserves, or special architectural or infrastructure guidelines.
  7. If a lease of land with an approved landmark is lost then the substate could still be allowed to maintain control of the landmark and the right to assign it to the private association of their choice.
  8. Children could be required to explicitly asked if they accept substate membership at some age of consent.
  9. Residents of a sector could vote to abandon a lease at anytime, however, they may only be allowed to join a lease at the next periodic lease election (e.g. held every 7 years).
  10. Sectors that are not part of a lease would be under general union management and all residents would be allowed to vote on local matters and run for local office.
  11. To ensure that there are always sectors where all residents can vote on local matters and run for local office, the union might designate some sectors as unavailable for substate leases. Special incentives could also be offered to substates that adopt open membership (e.g. lower taxes and fees).

If these suggests are not useful in practice then perhaps they will at least inspire suggestions that are. Questions and comments are welcome!

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