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The goal of the Metagovernment project is to make the governance of any community as accessible as a free software project. No one is required to participate, but everyone is allowed to participate, just as software developers can contribute to open source projects and editors can contribute to Wikipedia.

This form of governance, called open source governance, does not entail voting or majority-rule. Instead, people may help govern any community as much or as little as they wish by creating, discussing, and supporting resolutions. User input is weighed by other users through a scoring system and brought to the attention of other participants interested in that input. Please explore this site for a deeper understanding of the mechanics of this system.

The Metagovernment project governs and develops Metascore, the software to aid and manage community-based open source governance systems. It is a global project in the startup phase, and we encourage you to participate.

Basic principles

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Discussion of the principles below should be conducted on the basic principles page.

Please go to Talk:Basic principles to discuss the content of this page. Please do not change this page without first discussing.

The basic principles of the Metagovernment project are as listed below.

This project upholds basic principles consistent with those developed in the free and open source software and direct democracy movements.

Common principles

The following two principles are generally held by every group and person participating in this community.

  • Government of, by, and for all the people – Anyone may contribute to any collaborative governance structure.
  • Openness in everything – All aspects of governance will be as open as possible, under the principle of radical transparency. All software and systems used to run administrations will be free, open source software and systems.

Suggested principles

The following two principles are held by some groups, and are suggested as mechanisms to make collaborative governance more sustainable in the long-term.

  • Without consensus, there is no law – Unless consensus can be reached on how a policy could address an issue, then there will be no policy on that issue.
  • Consensus through synthesis – When opposing views are presented, preference is always given to synthesis rather than either conflict or compromise.

How it works

See the scoring system page for more detail.

Metascore is intended to act as the replacement for the governance system of any community which currently relies on representative democracy for governance.

Within any community, any person may propose a new policy, comment on an existing or proposed policy, or comment on other people's comments. Everyone is then invited to apply tags and scores to each proposal and each comment, which are then raised in prominence if they accrue higher scores.

Users are also invited to apply synthesis scores to proposals, which are a numerical statement of how well they believe a particular proposal synthesizes two or more other competing proposals. Synthesis scores allow a proposal to "steal" points from the proposals it synthesizes.

If a proposal attains a very high score (many positive scores and very few negative scores), it will be considered to have attained a consensus and then will become a policy of the community. If a community is not able to achieve a consensus on a proposal, they are encouraged to come up with a synthesis which will being about a consensus. If that fails, the proposal may fall down to a smaller sub-community where it can achieve consensus. That smaller community may then work further on the proposal until they find a way to make it acceptable to the larger community.

Transition

At first, we intend for Metascore to be used in very small communities such as clubs, interest groups, and other small or newly-formed organizations. From these small communities, we intend to get a better idea of how the process works in the real world. We will then adapt the software accordingly to enable it to scale to larger and larger communities.

At that point, we expect that Metascore will become an attractive governance mechanism for larger communities. Members of those communities may set up an instance of Metascore ad hoc, without formal approval from the larger community. As more members of that community begin to use that instance of Metascore, they will eventually invite the entire community to switch its formal governance mechanism over to the Metascore instance. In this way, any community, from a small club to a large government can transition to open source governance.

When any ruling body cedes power to the Metascore instance, the policies of the various levels of open source administration which affect the jurisdiction of the ceding government become real and enforceable, to the extent that they are not forbidden by a higher level of government which currently has established control of that area.

We do not expect governments, particularly national governments, to cede their authority in the near future. The intention of the Metagovernment and its associated communities is to gradually make a governance system so superior to the status quo — and so compellingly, unprecedentedly democratic — that the people will demand a change to this form of government. In states which claim to be built on democratic principles, the people should be able to peacefully transform their government through the mechanisms of that government. In less democratic states, the transition may take longer, but open source governments innately are protected from brutal force, as they do not have a single leader or a single physical presence.

Until an open source government has the power to collect taxes or otherwise raise funds, members may be invited to act under the principles of adhocracy or perhaps to donate to possible nonprofit institutions which might act as the initial stewards of these governments. Any such initial nonprofit institutions should be viewed as transient and goal-oriented, to be dissolved once their goals are accomplished.

How you can help

The Metascore software is still in the development stage. However, you can help right now by following any of the suggestions on the participate page.

If you would like to be actively involved in the development of Metascore and the Metagovernment project, please visit the startup page for information on how to join. If you join the list server, be sure to familiarize yourself with the list server archive before jumping in with questions and suggestions.