Sport vouchers

Classical republicanism is build on a few basic concepts, on of these concepts is vita activa [1]. Vita activa is Latin for active life, but what is active life in a classical republican sense? First of all for classical republicans an active citizen is someone who is active in the public domain. Second an active works together with others to further the common good (res publica).

For centuries small city states with only a few thousand citizens, have been the ideal of classical republicans. Because of its limited size, a city-state would allow all its citizens to participate in politics. In larger political structures ( such as nation states or empires) its more difficult for individual citizens to participate in the political system. We see that in larger political structures a shift from self-governance to bureaucracy.

Since a return to small city states seems to unlikely in the modern world [2], classical republicans face the question whether we have a way to pursue the vita activa even in larger political structures. We believe that there is a way.

Voluntary associations are essentially miniature republics. Voluntary associations differ from other organizations in that VAs are run by their members: the members of the association appoint its board and can dismiss them. Even more importantly, in most voluntary associations activities are organized by their members. Voluntary associations are established to serve a certain purpose. It is this purpose that unites the members, as they usually join the VA because the support this cause. For these reasons voluntary associations are a good occasion for people to pursue the vita activa, and really active citizens can be active in multiple associations.

Citizens who are active in public life, are essential for the survival of a free and democratic society. Private citizens with experience in voluntary associations form a counter-force against career bureaucrats. Also publicly active citizens will be more interested in public affairs. Apathy is lethal for any free and democratic society.

If we want to promote active citizenship, we should stimulate people to join voluntary associations. But that is easily said. The difficult question is how we can stimulate people to join VAs? It is important that people should be familiar with voluntary associations from a very young age. It seems to be a hard task to seduce children to join a VA.

In order to stimulate children to join voluntary associations we propose the introduction of sport vouchers. A substantial portion of all voluntary associations are sport clubs. Most people who join a sport club do that in first place because they want to practice some sport (it’s hard to play football or hockey alone), while being a member of a VA is only of secondary importance. That is, however, no big deal, because once they are a member, they might become more enthusiast about being in a VA.

How will sport vouchers work? The idea is that all children will be able to join a sport club, regardless of their parent’s ability to pay membership fees. Instead the government will pay the fees for youth members. Our system has two important features: first children will be free to decide which sport they will do and at which club, and secondly the government will pay the fees to the sport associations directly rather than to the parents. The latter rule is meant to prevent parents from embezzling this money. Consequently signing up your child for a sport club will be free. Important to ad, is in our proposal the government will not only cover youth membership fees, but also the purchase of personal equipment (hockey sticks, shoes, clothing and so on).

It is essential that children are free to choose the sport they like most, because coercion to do a particular sport will have an adverse effect. How would children now what sport they will like most? One suggestion is to organize regular “sport fairs” at which children can try different sports.

Due to our commitment to secularism, we propose that only secular sport clubs (i.e. clubs which are not based on a certain religion) can participate in this program. Also clubs which discriminate against certain groups of people, will be excluded from the program.

[1] Other concepts are self-government, mixed government, the separation of the public and private domain.

[2] Space settlements could, however, cause a revival of classic city states.

An alternative for hunting

Due to our commitment to animal welfare, we oppose recreational hunting, e.g. the killing of wild animals for mere fun. In this post we advocate an animal-friendly alternative for those who like to hunt: sporting clays.

Sporting clays is a type of clay pigeon shooting. A clay pigeon is an object made of, not surprisingly, clay. In clay pigeon shooting a clay pigeon is launched into the air by a machine (called “trap”), and then shooters will attempt to hit the clay projectile. In most disciplines of clay pigeon shooting, the shooters stay at one place. Though most projectiles are intended to “fly” through the air, there are projectiles which are designed over the ground, known as “rabbits”.

With sporting clays several traps are spread over a terrain, usually a natural landscape. Shooters will walk around the terrain, and meanwhile clay pigeons are launched. In order to simulate real hunting experience as much as possible, the shooters will not know in advance when and from which trap a projectile will be launched or what type of projectile will be used. Consequently targets are launched at different angles, speeds and distances.

For safety reasons sporting clays ranges in space settlements will be enclosed, and access will be controlled. Only so many people can use the range simultaneously, otherwise there is a too great risk at accidents. Further shooters are not required to bring their own guns, they will able to rent guns at the range. Alternatively they can use laser guns.

Garden cities and forest gardens

In Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902), we can read his proposal to surround a 1,000-acre town of 30,000 residents with 5,000 acres of farm land. Since in space industry and agriculture will mainly be located outside space settlements, we could look for alternative uses for this land.

Howard pays little attention to recreation in his book. Though his design includes a central park, his garden city plan does not reserve land for sports such as field hockey and ultimate. Because sport does positively affect human wellbeing, we propose to reserve some of the land originally reserved for farms to sport fields.

In chapter 10 of his book The High Frontier (1976) O’Neill suggests that space settlements are ideal locations for gardening. Our suggestion would to combine “O’Neill” and “Howard” by reserving a substantial portion of the “farm” land for allotment gardens. These are gardens assigned for individual, non-commercial gardening.

O’Neill also advocate the concept of polyculture in his book. Polyculture is the practice of growing of multiple types of crop in the same plot of land. It’s the opposite of monoculture, which dominates modern agriculture. Scientific studies have shown that polyculture is preferable to monoculture.

There are several types of polyculture, one particular interesting concept are forest gardens. The practice of forest gardening is an ancient one, but Robert Hart has formalized it in his seven-layer outline. The first layer consists of mature fruit and nut trees, which (of course) will provide fruit and nuts. The second layer consists of smaller trees, while the third layer contains fruit bushes (currants and berries). Then the fourth layer are perennial vegetables and herbs. The fifth layer are root vegetables, the sixth are edible plants which grow horizontally. The final layer consists of vines and climbing plants.

Forest gardens is considered as a low maintenance type of gardening, and hence suitable for allotment gardens. Most people with allotment gardens, work there in their spare time. An additional benefit is that forest gardens contribute to food security by providing a wide variety of food. Potentially forest gardens could be established on rooftops.

Forest gardening is a type of agroforesty, the combination of agriculture and forestry in one system. Agroforestry does not need to limited to non-commercial allotment gardens, the utilization of non-timber forest products in forest farms can make forests management commercially interesting. We propose that forest farms should be leased to private parties, on the condition that these forests will be open to the public (see also our post on Allemansrätten).