This question is about creating a world or society where people can try to advance their own idealogy. In the real world, people can become trapped in a society or country with cultural or political situations with which they do not agree. For example, a freedom minded may have wanted to leave Russia during the reign of communism, but would not be able to leave. The end of a lot of debate is "If you don't like it, leave." But the reality is, this is not always possible.

I am trying to create a world where you are free to move freely from one community to another. Vote with your feet.

If there were 100% political mobility, would that allow each person to compare ideologies/cultures and immediately relocate, would some political ideologies wither and die?

What I am hoping for is the mechanisms which would make this possible. The issues which would impede this.

An example would be a society built on the ideas of ships, boats and rafts loosely associated. Let's say one group of ships institutes strict communism. Each person in the group has 0 personal possessions. Everything is communally shared. there is a Great Leader who runs this group. But I can decide to leave this group at any time and join the 'Hippie' group. Again they are communal, but much more loosely organized and with a free democracy leadership where every person contributes. there could be a full on democracy where personal property is protected and each person is given full voting rights. A full contract society where any person is allowed to enter into any contract at any time. This would allow slavery for instance, as long as the person signed a contract without coersion. Any political or cultural ideas could be presented and people would be free to choose which group they wanted to belong to.

Each would have strengths (communism spreads the wealth, full liberty allows people to be their own boss) and each would have weaknesses (Communism tends to tyranny, full liberty tends to selfishness and greed)

Because I can take my ship or boat or raft and join any other group, I can decide (or vote) for any idea or create my own.

I am wondering if more people would seek safety in numbers or freedom or strict rules or isloation, etc.

I am also wondering what are the obstacles to such a plan (A contract society could bind a person to that group, therefore limiting their mobility freedom and the ability to vote, etc)

Thanks in advance for your ideas.

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    $\begingroup$ If you were going to leave a communist (or a capitalist but you were poor) culture where would you get your boat from? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A true communist society shouldn't have a Great Leader, in practice, most "Communist states" are more or less dictatorships led by a "benevolent" chairman or secretary. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Something like this appeared in the 1995 SF novel The Star Fraction by Ken McLeod. After a civil war, London is split into a number of micro-states with radically differing political systems and (theoretically) free movement between them. A similar idea appears with space habitats in the Glitter Band, in the Revelation Space novels by Alistair Reynolds. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Simples! Either a world in which there are no competing ideologies, or a world in which humans do not exist. Take your pick. $\endgroup$
    – RǢF
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB : Easy. The competing ideology who you contacted with your intention to join, will provide you with a free, one way ticket. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 15:45

13 Answers 13


While the idea is wonderful it definitely has holes. For a story your best bet is to just say 'this is how it is' like 1984(communist totalitarian), Fahrenheit 451, The Water Thief (Free market totalitarian), etc.

The first problem is of course you are putting all these different ideologies under the guise of a free market. People have the choice to move on, that means something is already impressed on each differing ideology. Many ideologies take away one form of choice or another in one way or another.

The second problem is of course, the more extreme any ideology is held, the less dissent is tolerated. On top of that the more extreme they believe, the more important it becomes for others to believe/live it to. So it will be spread, by force if necessary. There would also be the mind set of (I'll just move on) vs. (I'm right and I need to prove my point/Others shouldn't have to live like this). Being on boats that move would certainly help with an attitude to just move on, and that might be enough.

I almost forgot about personal relationships, they tie us together, making it harder to just move on, since some ideologies will be very insular, you leave, you are cut off from everyone you know...

My point being if everyone was reasonable enough to be that open to others changing their minds most serious conflict would easily be averted. So for a dystopian story it just is the way it is is your best bet.


The short answer is this would be situational, but the short answer is boring so lets dive right in.

would some political ideologies wither and die?

No, or at least it is unlikely, some of the crazier or lets go with 'less mainstream' ideas out there may die off but core concepts like freedom vs control and shared vs personal are pretty fundamental ideas that even if the cause (say communism) dies, the concept does not. While communism may die, the ideas behind it will remain and it will pop back up with a different name.

I am wondering if more people would seek safety in numbers or freedom or strict rules or isloation, etc

This is where it gets situational, and if the people truly have the freedom (and resources) to move, you will likely see a lot of movement.

Essentially it depends on the person and their experiences. If you were raised under a communist faction you may resent the control and move to a faction with more freedom as soon as you are able. Conversely if you grew up and experienced freedom leading to tragedy you may indeed want the control and organization of a communist group.

It will also depend on how well each faction is run and what stressors are on the system as a whole. Best explained with an example:

The region is in the middle of a major drought. The communist regime is better organized and planned ahead storing food stuffs and improving its water collection systems. Naturally people would flock to the group, and remain long term in appreciation for the system that saved them. The communist faction gets larger and larger and eventually the state organization becomes a mess due to sheer size. A corrupt leader takes charge with a group of autocrats and now the system gets repressive to maintain control. Now people flock to a faction that allows more freedom.

This ebb and flow is what you would see, and it would be more complex in a realistic system as there would be more than two factions vying for control.

So pay attention to these ideas.

  1. The experiences of the person
  2. The state of the world at large (system and stressors)
  3. Quality of the organization and its leadership
  4. Competition between the factions

As a side note the Divergent series may give you a few ideas. Its not quite as open ended as the system you are describing but it is in the same vein.


Concerning the 100% political mobility, it would not at all be easy. It is one thing to be to pack your things and leave, but there will be many things to stop you.


If you were to simply leave your old ideology, everybody you grew up with and know will be left behind, this includes your parents, as well as possibly your spouse and children. You may reason that you can simply take your spouse with you, but they have their own relations to break. Would this new ideology really be worth breaking all these ties? Unless your character has incredibly bad family issues, this would be a large factor.

As such, you would then probably need to change the social structure of your world so that such relationships are not weighted so heavily by someone seeking to change state.


In certain ideologies, you may owe your services to the state, such as conscription. Any attempts to simply leave your state may result in the army declaring you a coward and a traitor, and they may then attempt to imprison you. In a more capitalist state, you may be bound by taxes, or some sort of financial contract to the government, such as a loan, and attempting to leave the state may be a legal reason for them to detain you.

As such, your states will then need to not legally bind their citizens, but that would bring up a large number of problems, as if their citizens are not bound to contribute to the state, the state will probably wither. One way to deal with it however, may be a simple severance the state may accept, where one seeking to leave may choose to pay a sum of money to the state to be able to leave hassle free.


Iain M. Banks' Culture series has some of this, and you may find it useful as inspiration. The Culture is one enormously powerful spacefaring civilisation, and it encourages people to do and believe as they wish (with exceptions like murder). There are fringe cultures like the Zetetic Elench, who believe in exploration and acquisition, and the ultra-pacifist Peace Faction.

The Culture is generally non-interventionist with other civilisations, but sometimes does take action when it finds some civilisation particularly abhorrent. The Player of Games, for instance, deals with an imperial civilisation rooted in abuse of its lower-caste members, and Excession involves a civilisation named the Affront who take great pleasure in cruelty.

So this is not a perfect answer; there is not complete freedom for competing ideologies. However, within the Culture there is a great deal of freedom, and you may find it useful.

Ways this freedom of ideology is accomplished:

  • No real scarcity (reduces the need for conflict)
  • Augmented humans have very little weakness, other than emotional - age, disease, etc.
  • A permissive atmosphere where conflict is discouraged
  • Limits imposed at the outer edge of "acceptable" behaviour, but a very wide definition of that

The lack of desperation seems to really enable freedom in this sense.


This is a largely utopian setting, which would not work in “normal” conditions.

I see two ways to make it work short-term: 1) have 100% physical mobility; 2) do not require physical mobility/proximity as a qualifying factor for affiliation.

  1. 100% physical mobility: Means that there is no (or there is negligible) cost associated with physical mobility. To leave communist Russia, for example, you need to somehow convert your immobile (or expensively mobile) property to the type of currency you can use to establish yourself somehow in the faraway land you are going to. This is a difficult task (and far more difficult than actually getting a green light to leave the country). Suppose you do not need to do any of that, this would imply that property is acquired easily enough that you can just abandon it or that property is outright nonexistent, one other alternative is that any property a person can acquire is easily mobile. Besides that, you would need some mechanic to actually provide mobility to the person itself. Ease of converting property to currency is heavily dependent on ideology, so it is irrelevant, since a prohibitive ideology would easily break the 100% political mobility rule. This also poses a facility for expansive and militaristic ideologies to use force effectively, allowing to use 100% physical mobility to invade anything they could think of. Then their victims would have to either resist (which also would encourage development of prohibitive ideologies) or use 100% physical mobility to run away (perpetually). The latter could be possible either without physical property or with easily mobile physical property.

  2. Physical mobility not required. Community members do not require physical proximity in order to pursue projects together. Effectively this would be a no-man's-land inhabited by individual-as-a-sovereign-state entities who choose their affiliations. This kind of setting requires enough technologies to establish self-sufficient existence for a lone individual and enough communication infrastructure to keep contact with other members of your chosen community. With the tendency of ideologies to develop rivalry between each other, this would require each individual to develop significant skills in intelligence (gathering intelligence, obscuring intelligence about oneself, diversion) and also would very efficiently force people to choose an active ideological position. Depending on the nature of your species, they could also have a very hard time providing social securities to each other, effectively narrowing social living down into business-like relationships.

  • $\begingroup$ The 100% mobility was the idea. If I could load my boat and leave, a truly repressive regime would be more difficult. My thinking is evolving to the idea that to be truly repressive requires that you prevent people from leaving. But true capitalism or true democracy (or republics) have a much different problem. If I don not have wealth or resources (scarce in a water world), I need the state to be strong. Would people lock themselves in? $\endgroup$
    – iLWR
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @user2622762 Remember that 100% mobility needs to be cost-free. With an associated cost, there will be people more mobile than you, at which point you rely on their goodwill. Otherwise who is stopping them from outrunning you and taking you over? The problem with life (mobility included) is that it is deeply material, so a strong state will be defined by its material prosperity. A non-repressive state would rely on the goodwill of its citizens (to support this state, contribute to the common good) and neighbouring states. Repressive states would use 100% mobility to push repressions outside. $\endgroup$
    – Nomenator
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 21:13

There are a few problems I see with what you're proposing:

1. Loyalty. When you get born into a group, chances are strong you're going to stay there. Your family is there, your friends are there, and if you were raised there it's probably the only life you know. The only way you'd even consider leaving is if you were somehow educated about all the other available groups and the pros/cons of living there, which leads me to

2. Competition. If you're the leader of a group, and you have the choice of indoctrinating a new generation of workers or teaching everyone about how much better it is to go somewhere else, you're probably going to choose the former. I find it hard to believe that these various factions wouldn't be constantly working to keep all their citizens loyal by any means possible, which again leads me to

3. War. These different groups probably won't live in peace. There will be wars, people will die, and that means that anyone who thinks about joining another group is a potential traitor. At this point, your system will have most certainly broken down, because no one will be allowed to freely leave.

The only solution I can see to this is that either this is an enlightened society that has transcended human pettiness, and everyone is fully willing to live or die by the whims of others, or there is some central power that makes sure everything stays peaceful. I'd go with this latter option, as it solves most of the problems while retaining human nature. Plus, the central power doesn't even have to be present in the story: for example, everyone could be religious, and fear the wrath of a god if they try to coerce people into staying in their group. On the other hand, you could have something like the Roman Empire, which, as I recall, allowed a large number of religions to flourish under its rule so long as everyone paid their taxes and didn't cause too much trouble.


As one of the answer mentioned: 100% mobility is an utopia. States will want to control the population like they do today with border control and citizenship. Living in a country gives privileges like social security, right to vote, education but it also come with responsibilities: paying taxes, military duties (in some places). Every country where there are nomads, the states try to settle them, sometimes by force. In that particular case it's mostly a taxation issue. People that are always on the move irritate the local populations and the governments of these states.

One solution would be to have an integrated confederacy of states like the European Union made of countries that share the same values and are pretty similar from an ideological point of view. But the EU still does not have 100% mobility yet.

  • $\begingroup$ Cool, I was referenced! Also, I unwittingly wrote a utopia without even knowing it, but on further inspection it does seem to be quite the utopia to be able be 100% politically mobile $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link. Yes 100% mobility is a freedom. and 100% freedom implies the ability to get up and move. This would reduce the traditional state "locking". If I can leave when I want, how can a state control me to stop me from moving. Would the initial ideas be incentive based? - LWR $\endgroup$
    – iLWR
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:12

The virtual world of the Internet might be supportive of competing ideologies. Some premises that might help this:

  • Net neutrality: i.e. network operators agree to transmit any bytes, irrespective of their content and the meaning of that content.
  • People are not dependent for their survival on the Internet and on being a member of a community.
  • (Partial) anonymity" i.e. one can be a member of several groups without membership of and behaviour in one group affecting one's membership of another group.

Are these required for a physical world? In what form?

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I have thought a lot about Net Neutrality in this context. In a 100% free world, I can sign a contract with a provider. Nothing would stop that same provider from providing the same service to someone else cheaper. Or a better service for the same price. In a scarcity based world, gougers would eb prominent. If you are starving and I have food, what is the right price? Thanks for the input. - LWR $\endgroup$
    – iLWR
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:15

If there were 100% political mobility, would that allow each person to compare ideologies/cultures and immediately relocate, would some political ideologies wither and die?

Theoretically, anything is possible.

However, the 100% political mobility conditional eliminates most political ideologies from the discussion. In turn this should also eliminate the ideologies that stemmed from the repressions and shortcomings of said eliminated ideologies. Simply stated: an effect must have a cause.

Therefore this discussion is limited to an early nomadic political ideology that, I assume, allowed individuals to leave on their own accord. But allowing an individual to leave on their own accord only accounts for half of the 100% political mobility. Assuming the nomadic societal structure consisted of an alpha-male/female and non alpha-males/females, then when threatened by non alpha-males/females, the alpha-male/female would impose their dominance, remove the threat, or be replaced by the threat.

Thus, the only true political ideologies with 100% political mobility, are the ideologies that exist in an individual's thoughts.

I typed this on my iPhone, it took so long.

  • $\begingroup$ By 100% mobility, I'm trying to make state initiated locking impossible. This would not eliminate individual initiated locking. 100% freedom would include (practically require) the freedom to enter into contracts that allow me to lock myself, or commit myself to a state or person. An idea similar to indentured slaves. Thanks for your input. $\endgroup$
    – iLWR
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:10

I was thinking about future technology, transhumanism, utopianism, and I came up with something like this. The idea isn't 100% formed, it has some inconsistent or at least incomplete parts, but...

It won't be a competition between familiar ideologies. It requires a world in which most past and present cultures and politics are unworkable or irrelevant.

Post-scarcity economics. Humans aren't needed for labor anymore. Thus, humans don't depend on other humans for anything other than companionship.

In the absence of economic drives, there will be greater political engagement, as by elimination, politics become the main thing limiting people from achieving their preferred lifestyles.

Post-scarcity firepower. There's no safety in numbers. A small revolutionary force could easily wipe out a government. And warfare between civilizations may not even be possible.

With this technology level, centralized states are unnecessary.

Sousveillance. This is a world where privacy is alien. It would be as unnatural to them as having a flagman walk in front of every car is to us.

It's questionable whether democracy could function under these circumstances. But I already established that repressive governments were impossible.

The combination of sousveillance and unlimited firepower means you can kill anyone at will, but only if you give no warning. Any threat gives your target - or someone else who sympathizes - the chance to fire first. Thus, you can kill people, but you can't make them obey with force. And with no scarcity, you can't pay anyone to do what you want.

With everyone knowing everything about everyone around them, nobody able to force others to to what they want, and anyone able to destroy anything, the only way anyone can survive is for people to voluntarily associate only with like-minded people.

I assumed immortality had been achieved. This is a world where the only likely cause of death is violence, and even that is now rare.

With extreme 'tyranny of the majority' (try 'unanimity') being the predominant form of organization, I expect/hope that most societies wouldn't allow reproduction anymore. With being able to live in the context you choose being critical to everyone's survival and being widely considered a basic right, birth into societies like these would be cruel and disruptive.

It should be evident that these people aren't exactly human anymore.

What cultures and ideologies can exist at all?

Cultures highly aggressive toward outsiders would likely have destroyed each other long ago. High internal aggression can't have survived either.

Competitive cultures probably won't survive. There's little left to compete over and little means to compete with.

Hypocritical cultures won't survive. The tech level doesn't permit practices like trying to control how other people see you.

The big question is what anyone does in this world...


Please don't get me wrong, but this sounds like a setting for a video game.

What I see as a problem here is that it looks to me that no one here knows what ideology really is (don’t want to offend anyone). So, ideology is to put it in several words, the way someone is imagining our reality. It is a set of scenes which are placed around us arranging (at best) every aspect of our life. It goes much deeper than politics or economy.

Philosopher Michael Foucault had a term "field of discourses" (sorry if the translation is poor; I am not a native English speaker) field of discourses represents the set of values and "truths" which are given to us and which we accept.

Ideology, or field of discourses, forms part of our identity. Identity makes sense only if there are "others" against which we form "us".

Now we approach to the first problem: how do you know that the other group will accept you?

An educated guess is that they wouldn’t, because you are not "one of them", because they have some "ancient" roots, some heritage etc. Of course all those reasons do not make sense, but that’s one of the things that ideology does: it acts like glue for a people under its influence.

Second, like grimmsdottir said, ideology by itself is hardly a reason to leave your boat; especially more than once, because it is really hard to leave you whole life behind.

And also keep this in mind: no ideology is better or worse than another it is only a problem of implemetation. I see that many people here are making jokes and/or criticize comunisam, but it is not by far as bad as people sometimes represent it.


I am wondering if more people would seek safety in numbers or freedom or strict rules or isloation, etc

I would like to answer this one point: People always tend to live in groups. There is safety in groups, but much more importantly: Groups offer chances for mating. Most people seem to have a strong desire to do so :-) So you will always end up with group forming. There will be isolated individuals, but most of those will not be isolated all of the time, and they will always be a minority. An other reason for group building is specialization. While mospt people can learn to achieve most everyday tasks by themselves, there are some tasks which strictly require specialization. Think of dentists, for example.


Inter-group conflict

A limiting factor is the ability of one ideology/group to simply force its will upon others. Many ideologies can prevent competing ideologies from succeeding by taking their resources and subjugating or killing their people. It is "competing ideologies" in some sense, but that's not competition in an ideological way.

Unless you have some overpowering entity that is able to prevent a strong group from attacking others, you won't really get the environment you want; and if you have such an entity, then what is the ideology of that supreme power?


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