Sheepdog Nomocracy Part I : Autonomy

Code smell

A code smell, in programming, refers to a surface level bug which indicates a much bigger problem which resides much deeper in the code. For example, a code bug which causes a form to not submit to a database may result from a typo in the form (surface level problem) which has little impact on the project. OR it could be could result from using a wrong datatype for the index in the database table that the form submits too… and this error affects other tables, which affects other forms. In other words the, the failed form “smells” of a deeper, design level issue.

Certain segments of propertarianism which trend toward classism, and “right to rule” sentiments might present a “code smell” regarding the concept stack, meaning it might be a result of a deeper error than what can be seen on the surface.

I think the error stems from seeing property opposed to autonomy as the foundation for natural law.

Note: everything in propertarianism can still be correct in all forms, but an error such as the inversion of autonomy and property would result in propertarianism replicating some of the same errors of past civilizational systems.

I propose that autonomy, unimposed agency, which only exists on the individual level, presents a solution.

To attempt to illuminate the above thesis, we first need some definitions.

Individual and Agency

Humans are mobile creatures (not plants). Mobile creatures are able to seek out and/or manipulate the environment to afford asymmetrical benefits required to survive. This ability to move through and affect the environment we call Agency.

An individual exists as a single actor differentiated from a group. 

 Development of Agency

Humans, as a result of adaptation and evolution, have innate abilities. Innate abilities do not require formal instruction (not learned behavior), but rather emerge from exposure. Examples of innate abilities include walking and talking. Children at very young ages, with a scarcity of opportunity to “figure out” language, develop speech simply by being exposed to language. Developing humans(children) require exposure to developed humans (adults) to bring forth innate abilities. Once abilities are brought forth, the acquired agency can feedback into this development cycle to further cultivate agency (acquired ability).

Agency emerges out of interactions between the actor and environment first, then interactions between actors, then intentional interactions (with the environment and other actors) compared to other intentional interactions (learning, trial, and error).


Physical -> ability to move one’s body
Reactive -> ability to respond to stimulus (sense world and react)
Responsive -> ability to respond to stimulus within context (raise hands to protect the head)
Deliberate -> ability to effect the environment to a specific preconceived end.

Innate biological potential -> stimulus to activate development -> interaction to refine abilities ->deliberate cultivation of abilities.

This development spans the spectrum of survival strategies: Physical->Social->Informational.

This spectrum maps to three primary means which actors affect the world Force -> Sociability -> Information

…and the three modes of coercion Predation->Cooperation->Parasitism.

The total of group influence (the environment and other actors) we will call cultural commons (physical, social, moral, intellectual, aesthetic exposure) or collective intelligence.

An individual can only develop within a group. Individuals are cultural beings (necessity of the group), and historical beings (necessity of memory to retain learned-cultivated agency). Without the group, activation of an actor’s potential agency, even the slightest, does not occur.

Side notes:

  1. Hobbes – humans are animals without the leviathan – without the group(culture) the individual does not develop.
  2. Anarchists resist group creation to large scales which reduces the exponential benefits of collective action
  3. Libertarians wish to consume the commons oppose to create commons which are necessary for the development of the individual
  4. No – Rousseauian, Rothbardian concepts do not align with the above

The sociological definition of agency, defined as decidability (choice) beyond the influence of biological and social influence,  presumes the actor moves out of one stage to the next and thus can elevate beyond it. All three stages develop concurrently with dependencies between domains. Our intellect has dependencies on out biology (IQ). Our physical abilities require learning to refine to mastery. Our intellectual abilities depend on linguistics which emerges out of social interactions.  To say one can escape biological or social influence does not account for the interplay between each domain (Physical-social-intellectual). All content of thought find formation in historical (memory) and cultural contexts. Thus any act of agency exists as an expression of these influences in different configurations resulting from a cybernetic interplay between ones deliberate agency interacting with the influences. Any proclaimation of transcendence above these influence stands as only a more sophisicated expression of the interplay between agency and influence proclaimed to be “transcended” (see Part 3 of Tilting the World)

To presume one can escape biological or social influence (bias) falls for platonic thinking that internal, intellectual domains are superior and separate from physical & social(external) frames.

Agency and Groups

Humans survive in groups. Groups are comprised of individuals. Individuals can not develop agency outside of a group. A group can not exist without individuals to constitute membership. Group action exists as the composite of individual agency aligned to a common goal. The more developed the agency of a group’s members the more agency the group obtains and thus increases the likelihood the group will achieve its goals.

The individual-group interplay forms a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

The group exists because of its individuals. The individual exists as an actor because of its group.

Agency and the Social Contract

Growing into an individual requires an enriched social environment for a human to activate, develop and refine agency. Societies, the amalgam of social commons, collective intelligence and culture provides this enriched environment. The individual, then, does incur a debt to the collective which can only be repaid via the contribution to these commons (intellectual, aesthetics, moral, cultural). The interdependence between individual and group stands as evidence of the social contract as a natural (not man-made) necessity.

Commons creation

For humans to cultivate intelligence one needs proper nutrition and health to remove undue inhibitions on a biological potential for intelligence. One also needs exposure to intelligence to bring forth this innate ability.

By retaining knowledge from past generations, stored in the form of culture, humans create a collective intelligence by which developing individuals can be exposed to, acquire from, and cultivate intelligence.

Social Commons (culture) creation stands as the means to provide the environment for intellectual abilities of the individual to develop. The same can be said for aesthetics and ethics. By creating and contributing to social, artistic, literary, informational commons we ensure future generations (our progeny) will have the required exposure needed to fully develop agency.

The group allows the individual to develop agency. Groups, comprised of a composite of individuals, require developed individuals to provide this culture. This then ensures the development of agency in future group members.

By inverting the group-individual relationship to this – the group exists for the development of the individual – ensures the most potential for development of agency and the strongest group. By creating and contributing to the group (commons creation) one maintains and enhances the group’s ability to develop agency in its future members.

Damages to the commons constitute an assault on each member now, and into the future (intergenerational imposition).

We create commons to ensure the future (survivability.) We ensure the future by creating a culture which cultivates agency in its members.

Elevating the individual above the group creates a positive feedback which increases cohesion & agency of the group and the individual simultaneously. 

This also means those who preserve, protect and cultivate social commons act in the same capacity as those who defend physical threats but they do so in social and informational domains. This means elevation of any one capacity (physical over social, informational and any other combination of privilege) works to weaken the group.

Militia/Military -> protection from physical threats, Rule of law-> protection from social (in-group) threats, Culture -> Protection from informational threats.

Critical theory – Post-moderism, in this context, stands as a contribution to informational commons which DAMAGES agency by undermining cultural, political and moral values which are conducive to the development of agency within the group.

Agency provides decidability, a means to measure value and damages, regarding social/cultural commons. 

Agency and Sub-group strategies

Organisms respond (action/application of agency) to stimulus (incentive) to achieve asymmetrical benefits (benefits outweighing acquisition costs.) We must do so to survive.

Based on the developmental stages of Agency, individuals will draw on types of Agency (physical-social-informational) in different ratios to acquire benefits.

One may use brute force (aggression-physical) to obtain a benefit.
Physical extraction of resources (cut down a tree, dig up ore)

One may use social means to obtain a benefit.
Negotiation and trade.

One may use informational means to obtain a benefit.
Knowledge of terrain to seek the lowest cost-benefit ratio, or develop a technique or design a machine to reduce costs

We may also use combinations of the above.
Offer to share extraction techniques (physical) with one who has a map of resources (informational) to negotiate a cooperative endeavor (social) for both parties to extract the resource at lower cost and higher benefit than in isolation.


Agency and the three forms of Coercion

Three forms of coercion Predation, Parasitism, Cooperation can be explained with reference to an alignment of agency between two (or more) actors.


Predation, seeking asymmetrical benefit from the other actor via force upon another, whereby the agency of two actors is aligned in opposition to each other to obtain or defend a benefit. Depending upon the ratio of agency between the two actors three outcomes are available.

Legend for below graphs:

  • O=offender
  • D=defender
  • A=actor
  • –> = applied agency as a vector
  • : = gained benefit.
  • | misaligned agency
  • Defender (D) applies force ->
  • Offender (O) applies force <-.

Equal agency -> stalemate.

  • ::D–><–O = 0 (agency cancels out, an extreme example would be both offender and defender dies during the conflict)

Disproportionate 1 -> flee.  Applies agency to gain/keep resource to later surrender the resource to avoid death.

  • <-:::D–><—-O = <-D, <-O::: = Offender wins or
  • :::D—><-O-> =  :::D–> , O->  = Successful defense

Disproportionate 2 -> Death. Apply all available agency to gain/keep resource.

  • ::::D—><—-O = <-O::::: = Loss of all agency (death) for D or
  • ::::D—-><–O = ::::D–> =  Loss of all agency (death) for O

In the above example, we use physical agency as the example, however social and informational agency could be used as well. In this case, the word “predation” begins to lose applicability.

An information war, by which an offender uses information about the defender to destroy the reputation and thus destroy any opportunity to cooperate (social agency) with others in the future.

Or coordinated social alliances (social agency) can be used to lock out another actor from access to resources or cooperation with others.

In this case, Predation stands as the orientation of agency between two parties in direct opposition to each other.


Parasitism, seeking asymmetrical benefit from the other actor via cheating (deception/freeloading), whereby one actor applies agency in misalignment or disproportion of the other actor, to seek benefit and avoid defense responses or boycott from the other actor. This t0o has three possible outcomes.


Apply less effort (application of agency) but in alignment with the other actor, but not to solicit boycott or retaliation -> freeloading,

P -> D ——> :::::: whereby benefits are distributed as P ::: and D :::

:::P-> versus :::D—–> = P (applies one unit of agency to acquire 3 units of benefit, D applies 4 units for 3 benefits)


P|-> D—->:::::: = :::P|->, :::D—-> (P applies 2 units of agency, one of which is a lie, to acquire 3 benefits, D applies 4 units to acquire 3 benefits)


P||> D—->:::: = ::::P||, D—-> (D relinquishes benefits to P to avoid threat)

Parasitism depends upon a number of preconditions.

  1. Cooperation or some form of agreement/alignment of agency must exist for the parasite to operate
  2. Do not illicit defensive or boycott responses from defender, which can be accomplished by drawing on sub-applications of agency
    • use informational means to hide disproportionate distribution of benefit or application of agency (lie)
    • use threat (informational) of violence (physical) to force alignment of agency between parties
    • use of force (physical) of others (social) to force alignment of agency between parties (for example use government regulations or laws to force behavior)

The parasite plays on the costs associated with each form of agency. Using informational agency, which has a lower cost than physical force, allows the parasite to offset costs from self to other while retaining the same benefit. Or social means (gossip, reputation, popularity) to offset costs to reap a benefit. (For example, a celebrity using their popularity as a replacement for expertise during advocacy to gain donations for a cause).

Parasitism exists then as the misalignment of the agency to seek disproportionate benefits from cooperative acts.


Cooperation, seek asymmetrical benefit from the circumstance via alignment of one’s agency to that of the other actor. In this case, agency, the means by which we seek and create benefit, combines as a force multiplier by which both parties benefit.

A1 –> A2–> :::::: = A1 –>:::, A2–>::: (Both apply 2 units of agency to obtain 3 benefits each)

A1 –> A2—–> ::::::::: = A1–> :::, A2—–> :::::: (A1 applies 2 units to aquire three, A2 applies 5 units to gain 6)

Cooperation exists as the alignment of agency by both actors to acquire mutual assymetrical benefits.

The problem with Predation and Parasitism.

Predation and parasitism both act to reduce net agency across the group by misaligning or aligning agency in direct opposition to other actors. Predation and parasitism reduce agency by applying agency to impose upon the other actor.

Organisms seeking asymmetrical benefits required to survive will seek defensive, retaliatory, or restorative measures to prevent or restore losses. This too stands as an act to misalign or align agency in opposition to other actors. This reduces net agency across the group

A group stands as an alignment of actors within a population. Any misalignment or conflicts of agency reduce group cohesion and potential benefits for all within the group. This then feeds back from the group level to the individual as reduced capacity to develop agency within individuals. This creates a positive feedback working to weaken the group and individual simultaneously.

Predation and parasitism reduce the NET agency of the group, cooperation increases the NET benefit of the group by aligning agency of group members.


Actors free from imposition upon agency are autonomous. Although still restricted by natural and social means both of which one CANNOT transcend, to be free from impositions upon one’s agency from another actor stands as the best definition of autonomy.

Thus a society which exists as a productive, cooperative grouping of individual’s, who build cultural commons which supports the autonomy of individuals, incrementally increases agency at all levels.

So the statement made above (under Commons Creation):

Agency provides decidability, a means to measure value and damages, regarding social/cultural commons. 

Changes to:

Autonomy provides decidability, a means to measure value and damages, regarding social/cultural commons. 


Property exists in the behavior of humans regarding objects (tangible and intangible). Property and property rights result from an evolution of this behavior as follows.

Humans invest (apply agency) to acquire asymmetrical benefits. As we do so, we tend to defend objects which we have invested in. The ability to defend the object keeps the object in our possession. If you can keep it, it’s yours.

When humans agree not to take (by force or otherwise) the possessions of others, property emerges. Property exists as the agreement to not take each other’s things. This allows efforts normally afforded to the protection of possession, to be applied to other ends, such as acquiring more property. The recognition of another person’s property, however, does not insure that possessions will not be taken. It’s yours as long as we agree it is yours.

Property Rights
When property obtains insurance by a third party (if it was the first party, possessions do not elevate to the status of property – a third party, in this case, would be the state) property rights emerge, meaning one has a right (permission) to force the recognition of ownership upon others.

Property in toto defines property as anything which one would seek retaliation if imposed upon. As we explored above, situations which cause retaliation, from beginning to end, reduce the cohesion of the group and agency of the individual.

Property in toto affords commensurability in deciding resolution of conflicts by subsuming all conflicts under the context of property. We do this by expanding the definition of property from the level of possessed object to include things like social norms, culture, relationships…. anything which when imposed upon causes a retaliatory response.

This innovation here defines a specific set of human behavior (retaliation) as the definition as to when a 3rd party must be called upon to prevent retaliation spirals. Property in toto then allows us to identify predation and parasitism (impositions upon property in toto of others) and act to preserve, protect and restore such impositions.

Agency and Property

Property in toto does not afford us a clear demonstration of ownership. If I defend the home you built and live in – meaning I am behaving toward your home as if it were my property – does this constitute ownership?  If ownership rests in recognition alone, if I use social means to gather enough people together to agree that your home actually belongs to me, does this make it my property (an example of parasitism which has not been captured by property in toto – and the exact circumstance behind municipal taxes). I can, after all, hold a gun to your head and force your agreement that I own the home. In this case, a judge would have to decide who actually owns the home to decide if an imposition upon property has occurred. If this last example seems ridiculous, consider civil forfeiture and imminent domain.

Perfect reciprocity [all exchanges restricted to warrantied, fully informed, voluntary exchanges] should address this. However, this too requires a definition of ownership because what one exchanges must first be “owned”.

In the example above regarding imminent domain, the property ceases to be owned by the person because of a change in recognition from the state (property right relinquished). The recourse then, from the original “owner”, would be to defend the home via force (reduces the home to the status of a possession), which surely could not be successful against the state and thus the owner looses possession of the home.

This reduces property ownership to a show of force. The idea that property reduces to a show of force obtains cohesion in regards to demonstrability. In all observable forms property rests in recognition (social agency) and possessions reduce to defense (physical agency). There exists nothing false in these observations. However the above does not accord with natural law (acts which inspire retaliation).

Property ownership reduced to a display of force does not escape the natural consequences of inspiring retaliation in those who have been imposed upon. In other words, people remember and if they could they would retaliate. These individuals exist in groups and groups remember over generations (collective intelligence), resentments build and conflicts eventually rise again. Third parties see the imposition which chills trust and inspires defense reducing cooperation. This means, and history affirms, that force may grant one the ability to take and keep a possession, but does not insulate from the consequences of imposing on the autonomy of others. As individuals, we may not see those results, but our progeny will eventually pay for it.

This affirms that Natural Law does not find footing in property but rather in autonomy.

Agency exists as the ability to effect the word. We find evidence of agency by the effects of agency in the world. When one moves their body, we witness agency (at the base level). When one breaks a rock to make a tool, the broken rock and witnessing the use of the tool stands as evidence of agency. Agency can be extended (tool making), replicated (machinery), and expressed (literature, speech, art etc).

Property in toto, (that which an organism defends) can be explained in terms of agency. Property in toto represents one form of agency, this being the output or manifestation of agency.

When we say possession stands as that which one is able to defend, agency makes defense possible. Agency applied to a resource in an attempt to seek future benefit exists as the investment into that resource. This investment creates the incentive to defend the object. The greater the investment, the greater the incentive to defend. But the motivation for investment in a resource ultimately stands as an act to preserve (stay alive) or extend one’s agency.

Property in toto implicitly refers to acts of agency. The investment of our agency into items provide the incentive to defend the object -> Possession. When a group agrees (social agency) NOT to take a resource which another has invested into (for future benefit), members align their agency toward preservation of investments-> Property. When group-force demands recognition of property, ensuring restoration of impositions, stands as the group aligning agency with that of those who have invested their agency into the resource (social agency mixed with physical agency [protection] according to intellectual agency – the concept of property or law).

Possession -> individual investment of agency (including physical defense)

Property -> alignment of agency of others with said investment of agency (use of social agency to reduce physical defense)

Property rights -> alignment of agency of others in defense of said investment of agency (informational innovation (intellect) to ensure social alignment regarding ownership which nearly eliminates the need for physical defense)

Property in toto provides a means of measuring agency as it refers to the output of agency.

Agency in Time

Potential – > Innate ability

Agency -> Developed ability

Possessions -> Applied agency, including violence to defend (physical agency)

Property -> Applied agency, with the addition of social agency, applied to reduce the need for defense by recognition of ownership of the results of agency by others. (reduce physical agency needed for defense by increasing social agency through recognition of investment)

Property rights -> Applied agency, with the addition of social agency as a means of extending the ability to defend property. (Increase defense of possession by creating a standard (intellectual agency) to decide the application of violence (social agency mixed with physical agency) to ensure recognition (social agency) of possessions with the minimal likelihood of failure (eliminate the need for physical defense).

Agency in the past = property -> agency in the present = ability, agency in the future = opportunity.

Natural Law defined by autonomy, ensures maximum opportunity for the group by eliminating imposition on the autonomy of the individual members (autonomy in all forms – property, ability [including awareness/information])… this is why the west is best – it maximizes agency and opportunity by insuring individual autonomy.

Agency and Natural Law

Natural Law – no impositions on the property in toto of another, limiting all interactions to warrantied, fully informed, voluntary exchanges, limited to productive externalities, can also be explained in reference to agency.

Natural Law eliminates predatory and parasitic behavior by giving a means to decide the application of violence to force people to cooperate in perfect reciprocity.

Predatory and parasitic behavior exists as the misalignment or alignment of agency in opposition to others. This, when combined with the notion that property exists as the extension/expression of agency, defines perfect reciprocity as the alignment of agency among actors within all exchanges. Ensuring alignment of agency for all relevant parties eliminates any chance of future retaliation.

Payment for property restores the seller’s invested agency by exchange for some other benefit. The buyer demonstrates alignment of agency with the seller by recognizing and restoring this investment which the seller gives up during the exchange.

Perfect reciprocity ensures no one has imposed upon the agency of another; that exchanges preserve autonomy for all involved (no impositions on agency defines autonomy.)

Natural law can be stated as no impositions on the autonomy, in all forms (property in toto, physical restrictions, consent/will, awareness) of another such that it does not produce incentives to pit actors against each other in the future.

Natural Law protects, extends, and cultivates agency within the group by ensuring autonomy.

From Joel Davis – Agency, Ethics, Aesthetics

Aesthetics (Resonance with Value) –> Virtue (Definition of Value) –> Consequences (Manifestation of Value)


Autonomy (Means of Manifesting Values) –> Property (Manifested Values) –> Altruism (Manifestation of Common Values) –> Sovereignty (Manifested Common Values)

How Law is not a compromise of Autonomy.

If I were to be sovereign (not under the will of any other) and implement a law by which I will follow (enfranchise to a sovereign league), I must compromise my sovereignty to do so. This means a sovereign, who holds a monopoly on force, must be willing to submit a larger force (the league of sovereigns), and therefore not hold a monopoly on force any longer. This notion leads to the definition of Liberty-freedom, the benefits one enjoys as a sovereign, to be possible only as granting of permission by a sovereign ruler…. and to follow the rule of law means a loss of force which ensures sovereignty, and thus a compromise.

To be held under the rule of law, as a true sovereign, really is not possible. You are either sovereign and the law extends from your power, or you are beholden to a stronger force that can enforce the law upon you, and thus you are not sovereign.

These contradictions do not rise when you consider autonomy to be the footing for Natural Law. Rule of law does not PREVENT anyone from acting unlawfully. The law only becomes applicable after an act which breaks the law has occurred. In short, you are free to break the law, but not free from the consequences of the law. This means autonomy under rule of law does not exist as a compromise upon autonomy.

This notion provides a new unit of measure in creating law. A law must only address the actions of an individual. Preemptive laws which stop a person from a particular behavior constitutes an imposition on the autonomy of the person. This imposition would then inspire retaliation and rebellion against those who enforce the law.

Natural Law based on autonomy provides decidability in creating laws.

Law, then, emerges out of Nature, not the sovereign. The sovereign, regardless of a monopoly on force, remains beholden to the consequences of natural law. That being, acts which impose upon the autonomy of the individual, results in intergenerational resentments and eventual retaliation.

Sovereignty exists as a necessity to implement human laws which accord to natural law. The law extends from Nature (an organism’s tendency to resist and retaliate against impositions on autonomy). The sovereign does not transcend this natural tendency although a sovereign may resist it due to his monopoly on force, he will always pay the price for impositions on autonomy in some form or another. The sovereign remains under Natural Law based on autonomy.

Natural Law based on autonomy provides limitations to rule


Autonomy exists when an actor does not have any imposition upon their agency
Agency provides the footing for property-in-toto and provides stronger reasoning for extended definitions of property
Agency provides a measure for commons (that which provides the enriched environment to develop agency in individuals)
Natural Law based on agency becomes – No impositions on the autonomy of another in all forms (all expressions of agency)
Natural Law based on agency provides commensurability and defined limits to rule of law and provides demarcation between Rule by Law (law extending from sovereigns) and Rule of Law (law extending from nature)

Up next, Part 2 -> Birthing Society, two comparable case studies.

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