The Sovereign Individual

The Sovereign Individual

Inspired by the book The Sovereign Individual written by authors James Dale Davidson and Lord William Reed-Mogg, this post looks at the history of mankind through the lens of violence and uses it as a way to create a map of the future.

The Evolution Of Economic Life

Since the dawn of human history, there have been three primary stages of economic life:

  1. Hunter-gather societies.
  2. Agricultural societies.
  3. Industrial societies.

According to James Dale Davidson and Lord William Reed-Mogg, the next stage of social organisation (which we are entering now) is information societies.

The Beginning Of The State’s Monopoly On Violence

Few people today are aware that centralized governments arose simply as a natural monopoly on violence.

During the age of hunter-gatherer societies, mankind lived a very basic life. Tribes roamed around in bands of 100 or so people living pretty much hand-to-mouth.

However, the eventual move to a settled agricultural society resulted in the emergence of private property (since no-one would be content growing crops only for someone else to come along and harvest what they had produced) and surplus (the ability to make excess produce).

Private property and surplus introduced the ability to steal which made investments in weaponry profitable. The result was theft ― much of it highly organised. This created the need for protection which in turn created the need for a protector. As a result, specific actors emerged as a protection service and ultimately attained a monopoly in violence.

Violence can be defined as coercion ― the ability to influence human behaviour using force of threat. For example, we pay taxes so we don’t go to jail. Unsurprisingly, history shows that monopolies on violence tend to abuse their monopolistic privileges on society.

To this day, this process continues to play out on different scales as a result of different technologies. In the words of Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself. It rhymes.” In modern society, the supreme specialist in violence over a given territory is what we know to be government.

The End Of The State’s Monopoly On Violence

Technology is creating a revolution in the exercise of power. The same way the printing press destroyed the Church’s monopoly on information, technology will destroy the government’s monopoly on violence.

As the authors of The Sovereign Individual put it:

“For the first time in history, information technology allows for the creation and protection of assets that lie entirely outside the realm of any individual government’s territorial monopoly on violence.”

In other words, the shift from an industrial society to an information society will increase the power of individuals and decrease the power of government.

There is no development that will contribute more dramatically to the rise of sovereignty than the cyber economy that completely transcends physical borders. As borders disappear, the concept of taxation, which is the foundation of governments, becomes increasingly fragile. The rise of the cyber economy ― an economy based on electronic goods and services ― will create The Sovereign Individual.

Encryption technology creates impenetrable defense and allows individuals to secure property that is immune to confiscation or coercion at near-zero cost. Cryptocurrencies will allow people to opt out of unfair tax regimes and overly inflationary regimes by enabling them to save and trade in alternative currencies, such as Bitcoin.

As a consequence, the future will see governments forced to compete for citizens and their income, charging no more than they are worth to the people who pay for them. Governments that charge too much ― via taxes ― will drive away their best citizens.

Competition between jurisdictions in providing public services will result in a similar outcome to that observed in other sectors of life ― improved “customer satisfaction.” In short, governments will be forced to give customers what they want.

The authors of The Sovereign Individual describe it like this:

“Governments will be obliged by the force of competition to set policies to appeal to those of their customers who make the greatest contributions to economic well-being, not to those who contribute little or whose economic contributions are negative.”

With the invention of the internet, individuals have the ability to work anywhere at anytime. As a result, the future will see citizens have the power to chose districts that most align with their own personal values, wants and needs. More simply, geographical location becomes increasingly less relevant in relation to earning income.

Citizens who thrive in the global society will identify themselves globally ― they will make political, social and economic choices based not on national identity, but on how those choices relate to themselves directly and to people like them around the world.


Agricultural society completely transformed the direction of humanity. Private property and surplus introduced the element of crime, which created the need for protection, which created the need for a protector, which ultimately gave rise to specialisation in violence.

Violence is a useful strategy for achieving desired outcomes ― specifically in influencing human behaviour. The logic of violence is determined by technology ― the cost of attack versus the cost of defense.

However, modern technology is creating a revolution in the exercise of power that will destroy the government’s monopoly on violence. The balance of powers will transition from government to citizens, allowing people to truly become sovereign individuals.