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This idea is based on a problem that I see in real life, that a group of citizens who are... Oopsie... who I perceive as frustrated/utopian/uninformed want to try a really brilliant idea, and as it is a democracy if there is finally majority supporting it, then they are right.

In the most clear cut scenario the idea actually involves a combination of spending and taxation ideas that terribly mismatch, and not only I am prejudiced against such idea but it seems that basic mathematics says that the numbers do not add up. Sometimes the idea is more subtle, like basing the brilliant plan on some perceived harm from outsiders and hoping that closing the border for trade or for foreign investment would solve the problem. Or introducing some law because of some high ethical ground or patriotism, that after closer inspection looks like poorly veiled vested interests of some minor group.

The aim is:

1) To let some bad idea actually being tested on some area, instead of trying to introduce it on country level at start. Instead of heroic fights who would get the majority even an idea supported by minority would get some chances. As result after voters seeing the result, the politicians would not only no longer support it, but actually claim that they were against it from start.

2) To ask populist politicians to test their brilliant plan in such province (even if by all metric the plan even more or less work, they would have to prove themselves as administrators who have to make hard choices and not only as great speakers)

3) Actually from time to time a scorned idea may turn out to work quite well. So it would be just seen as working and introduced at central level

4) Under perfect scenario - if the regulation worked quite well, then actually local people would benefit from it sooner than the rest.

Would it be possible to implement such policy?

When thinking about it I found a few problems:

1) What if policy works locally but the cost are being transferred to the rest of country. Ex. Running a tax heaven. Or selling locally lots of unmonitored weapons, or drugs that sip to other provinces. Or polluting whole region.

2) What if such experiment works a bit better and effectively is a big version of walled community? Which works indeed a bit better than the rest of the country thanks to keeping some undesirables out.

3) Would it actually convince many people, if their pet idea failed? Maybe as I've heard concerning communism, the problem was not flawed idea but not trying hard enough and not keeping enough orthodoxy? Or just in case always good explanation that idea failed because of some impressively vast conspiracy?

4) What about people with varied brilliant ideas? Should maybe such province be divided in to a dozen of experiments?

(Or maybe such idea is not worth fuzz because it would neither provide a safety valve nor let worthy ideas being tested?)

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  • $\begingroup$ Arguably experiments are done on a per country basis now, since Earth is not unified. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 12 '16 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ What you describe is the explicit goal of the federation of states approach taken by the United States of America. We've been doing this for almost 250 years =) Where do you want to go from there? (I've played with some interesting philosophy to suggest that what we, as humans, have done over several thousand years, is an implementation of the very process you describe, only refined through the school of hard knocks, millennia after millennia.) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Dec 12 '16 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ They are called tax havens not tax heavens. This happens a lot. It was how gay marriage and recreational marijuana were established in the U.S., and going back further the path taken to legalize abortion. Consider Utah, founded as a Mormon utopia (although only accepted as a state with strict conditions). It was why the Puritans settled in the U.S. It is the lifeblood of the Cayman Islands. The Shaker communities were built on this model. Democracy got started this way. Tragedies would have been avoided if Communism had been rolled out this way instead of with huge nation-states at once. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Dec 12 '16 at 23:31
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In real life, no, the degree of coordination and agreement is just too high

The bane of any Utopian ideal is that it requires coordination and discipline to achieve the desired state. Even the statement of "sacrificing a territory/state/province" requires a high degree of agreement both by the greater country and the current occupant of the sacrificed area. One would need to get everyone in that area to agree to an experiment, then the terms of the experiment, how to keep costs internalized, how to abort the experiment should it go very very wrong, and the enforcement mechanisms to ensure the experiment actually tests the hypothesis. The list goes on forever.

While none of the experiments can be done explicitly, they can be done implicitly. Human history is a very long history of people finding an idea and wanting to try it out. The French did it with the French Revolution. The American's did it with their revolution. Russia did it with theirs. Some of these experiments are successful, others fail catastrophically. Darwin has his way with all these entities, both nations and the smallest town. We've seen that free-market capitalism is really great at outperforming command economies; witness the collapse of the USSR vs the USA.

As an implicit example, the people of the state of Kansas are trying their own experiment in fiscal conservationism by cutting incomes taxes and hoping that enough business will come in and enough wages will be made to pay for the required cuts in school services. So far it doesn't appear to be working out the way they hoped according to this review by the Chicago Tribune.

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You still won't reach a 100% majority for the entire country on any topic

Let's pick a real-world topic as an example: The legalization of marijuana

Suppose this is introduced into the community. Our example community will be Colorado, part of the United States. There have been many positive changes as a result of Colorado's pot legalization - crime rates have dropped, the state's economy has improved, medical research is booming - but also negative changes - more people are driving under the influence of drugs, more minors have access to drugs that are still illegal for them, and pot-related hospitalizations have increased by 82%.

Other states use Colorado as an example to support either claim - they use the pros to support legalization, or the cons to support keeping marijuana illegal.

These communities will clear up the facts, but opinions as to if the pros outweigh the cons will still differ to some degree. Rather than resolving the problems once and for all, this will make it more clear what the problems are. A change, but maybe not the one you desire.

No, I don't want to move, thank you.

So you solve the above problem. You divide the country into regions based on voting results to keep people happy - but, using America as a case study again - this will not work perfectly.

We have two major parties - democrats, who are more liberal, and republicans, who are more conservative. While there may be more democratic or republican states, you can always find a population of the opposite party in any one of them.

And yet they never move - democrats may stay in republican states and vote for what they want - and republicans may stay in democratic states and vote for what they want - but moving to a different state is a hassle.

Given the above information, you will never find a region that agrees enough on one topic to adopt consistent regional laws. Further dividing into towns, then districts, based purely on landslide opinions will make a country that is impossible to lead - and impossible to police.


Notes after reading other answers

Agreement is achieveable - Another answer suggests facilitating this government cannot work because people would not agree to the experiment. This is wrong for two reasons:

  1. The fact that people will disagree does not mean "no", it means some will say "no", and others "yes". Surely at least one region, town, state, province etc. you ask will say "yes" as is the case with any vote in real life - instead of "no" because people are disagreeable.
  2. Agreement can be determined at the country's Constitutional Convention - where it decides how to run things. Perhaps if this idea were introduced and the logistics were worked out then it could work from the start - rather than being a change in an existing nation, even though that is possible.
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You could argue that this is already happening in the US. The independence of the states allows them to try various different styles of government. But comparing the states based on state-level debt or GDP doesn't work. Because how good those numbers look depends on whether it's people with high or low per-capita income who are moving there. A bunch of selfish, xenophobic rich people can form a mini-state that looks great on paper.

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It s a dangerous slope. If everyone starts creating their sub region over any topic where they disagree, it s not long before you end up with a million of tiny tribes.

How do you maintain order in stuch an organisation?If each group lives in autarcy, the notion of country would collapse, technological advances would stop. If they don t live in autarcy, how do you handle conflicts between groups? You would need some kind of supervising group which makes sure that such thing don't happen. How do you handle disagreement within that supervising group?

A concrete example, in my region murder is legal. What happens if I murder someone from another region?

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Many separatist movements are driven by ideologies (although they generally tend towards National Socialism in real life), but the real issue is the parent nation isn't just going to let people walk away with valuable real estate, resources and taxable citizens just to test out an idea.

Most real world scenarios either end up with political scessesion movements which run around gumming up the works and generally demanding a bigger piece of cake from the remainder of the nation (i.e. Quebec in Canada), but can escalate to civil disobedience, armed insurgencies or even civil war. Most people agree that these are not desirable outcomes, but generally speaking, unless governments are going to go right to the mat (like the Siri Lankan government vs the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), insurgencies of this sort are difficult to extinguish, and can last decades or longer.

The best real world solution to date is a federal system much as envisioned by the American Founders, who conceived of "These United States" as a group of sovereign nations who collectively pooled resources to the Federal Government for a very limited and clearly defined set of duties. The "Enumerated Powers" doctrine: Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment (The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.) strictly limit the powers of the Federal Government, although this has been increasingly observed in the breach (particularly since the "New Deal").

In the Founder's conception, each individual State had the right and indeed duty to experiment with laws, customs and social and political institutions. Successful innovations would be adopted by other States in due course, or unsuccessful states would see their economies and even populations decline as people headed for "better" States (such as the population exodus from California today).

With a more limited role of the Federal Government, individual States could function much more like the Founders intended, and at least some states could evolve towards "utopian" systems, so long as these systems actually worked.

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