The One, the Few, the Many, and the All

Three stages of government: the one, the few, and the many

Writing in 1775, Daniel Leonard, a prominent lawyer, eloquently encapsulated in a single sentence a breakdown of the then-existing basic forms of government: “[they] are monarchy, aristocracy and democracy… where the authority of the state is vested in one, a few, or the many.”[1] While the specific terminology may differ from language to language and from culture to culture,[2] and while hundreds of different embodiments of these basic systems have existed at different times and places, this one-few-many breakdown usefully demarcates political systems according to the politically empowered population.

The latter of these three forms, democracy, originated in theory at least as far back as the golden age of ancient Athens, Greece. But thousands of years elapsed before democracy, in practice, matured into the form of universal adult human suffrage that we would recognize today. Nonetheless, despite lag between theory and practice, advances in political philosophy serve the crucial role of setting forth a vision and framework for improvement in how societies function.

A fourth stage: government by the all

At this special moment in history, we are witnessing a revolution in philosophy and political science right before our eyes: as previously described in The Humane Herald, the zoocracy system of government extends the political franchise beyond the species barrier to include all forms of sentient life. Such an extension certainly feels, to us, at least as bold as the notion of democracy must have felt millennia ago. Yet, while enfranchisement of other animals is certainly “revolutionary” in the paradigm-shift sense, zoocracy is also simply “evolutionary” in that it represents the clear next step in a progression that can be readily observed in Leonard’s breakdown: from rule by the one, to the few, to the many—and, now, to the all.

Image courtesy of the Humane Party

Putting theory into practice

The zoocratic system, both in its theoretical conceptualization and its practical embodiment, has been in development by the Humane Party since 2010, and the HP’s future governing body, called the Humane National Committee (HNC), remains, as of the time of this writing, still a work-in-progress. But each day brings closer a comprehensive, practicable design for a fully functional political body in which all sentient beings, now known or ever hereafter encountered, will be represented as literal constituents who hold permanent, irrevocable political power.

In stepping-stone or connect-the-dots fashion, designing the HNC has necessitated development of intermediate philosophical and legal concepts along the way, including renovation of certain legal mechanisms, like guardian ad litem and proxy voting; development of a specialized oath; and express recognition of not only the personhood but also the peoplehood of other animals. More such intermediate steps may still be necessary before the HNC attains fully viable form. Yet, if we are to realize a world in which all of our fellow earthlings are protected from exploitation, abuse, captivity, mutilation, torture, slaughter, and faunacide, that work must be done.[3] Meanwhile, populating the seats of the HNC with ethical vegan abolitionists will also take time. But, again, everyone—meaning everyone—will be better off the sooner the HNC becomes fully operational.

Those who would like to be considered for one of the 144 seats on the Humane National Committee are encouraged to indicate their interest through the volunteer application form.

[1] “Letters Addressed to the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts Bay,” Massachusetts Gazette, Jan. 9, 1775. As was somewhat customary for such political writing of that time period, Leonard wrote this piece under a pseudonym (“Massachusettensis”). Leonard argued in favor of the colonies remaining part of the British Empire rather than asserting independence. While his “loyalist” cause did not carry the day (happily), Leonard’s writing remains noteworthy for its clarity.

[2] For example, modern writers might prefer “oligarchy” as the best category for government by the few, instead of Leonard’s choice of “aristocracy,” since aristocracy may be regarded as but one particular form of oligarchy.

[3] Note that, while the Humane National Committee fully embraces zoocracy, this body will only serve to govern the Humane Party itself. In this capacity, the HNC will serve to continue building an organization capable of winning elections, placing people into office, and passing legislation such as the Abolition Amendment.

~ Shelley Harrison