Tag Archives: thought experiment

If We Were Starting Over….

Every couple of years, I include a favorite question on the take-home final I give my graduate students. It’s probably time to retire it, but before I do, I’m curious to see how my blog community might answer it.

Earth has been destroyed in World War III. You and a few thousand others—representing a cross-section of Earth’s races, cultures and religions—are the only survivors. You have escaped to an earthlike planet, and are preparing to create a government for the society you hope to establish. You want to establish a new system that will be stable and enduring, but also flexible enough to meet unforeseen challenges. You also want to avoid the errors of the Earth governments that preceded you. Your answer should include the choices you make and the reasons for those choices, including: The type/structure of government you would create; the powers it will have; the limits on those powers, and methods for ensuring that those limits are respected; how government officials and policies will be chosen; and the fundamental social and political values you intend to inculcate and protect.

Most students respond by creating a system similar to the American model, with “tweaks”–usually things like universal health care or a constitutional amendment to the effect that money doesn’t equal speech. But on occasion, I’ll get a truly creative response–sometimes radically libertarian, sometimes communitarian/socialist.

The little community that has emerged in the comment section to this blog is demonstrably thoughtful and knowledgable. I’d be very interested in your responses to this “thought experiment.”

If humanity was starting over, and you were the one who got to make the decisions, what decisions would you make? What would a just and effective government look like in your brave new world?