Transitioning to Feudal Democracy


Attribution: Wikimedia (Farmers in the delivery of their taxes to the landlords. Woodcut)

About a year ago, the post After Democracy was put up.  It put forth the idea of ‘feudal democracy’, in that in a resource constrained world, we might have to rigidly define both rights and responsibilities in order to have any semblance of democracy going forward.  The end line of that post was “A transition to ‘feudal democracy’ will be a pretty tricky business.”

How would such a transition happen, actually?  People in power aren’t going to give their privileges and power up easily, nor, will they most likely ask for further oversight.  Nor will most people, living lives of relative luxury (hot showers, food everywhere, clean water, readily available medical care, massive amounts of entertainment), sign up for more restrictions, or for more responsibilities and hard work.

The advent of fossil fuels led to some amazing technological inventions; telegraph, telephone, radio, television, incredibly cheap and fast travel, the Internet.   It also allowed the population to grow at an unsustainable rate.  At the same time, power could be more centralized, and therefore, fewer people could run herd over many more.

Sadly, it seems that to reset our governance structure would require an entire reboot of society, and perhaps at a lower population level as well.  Of course, this is where science fiction/post-apocalyptic/post-collapse fiction starts to come into play, and the list of possibilities is endless.

One difference in a rebooted society (say, of a more limited population, even 100 million worldwide) is that we would still retain most of the core science and technologies (electricity, basic medicine, navigation, radio, refrigeration), but their continued existence might be in doubt, due to system interdependence.   Also, there’s that pesky problem of 400+ nuclear reactor sites that need electricity to keep their waste pools cool.  So, if, and only if, some basics remain in place, we might be able to transition to such a more “feudal” democracy.


  • Is this too dark?  Could we get a ‘Bill of Responsibilities’ with a ‘Bill of Rights’, even in modern America?  Could this happen in a smaller country?
  • Is culture the barrier here?   A country like the US is just too big, and filled with too many cultures, it appears, for something like to get off the ground.  The US constitution was designed in an age where communication (and decision making) was slow, and people were generally self-sufficient.   The population of the US in 1790 was only 3.9 million!
  • As much as technological solutions are looked at with a dim eye here, what if a true replicator technology (Star Trek style) became available, and/or along with cheap space travel (not talking warp drive here, just off the planet)?  Would that give people enough room, both economically and literally, to experiment with such ideas?   Or relatively simple technologies to allow people to more easily live on the sea floors?

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