A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Masonic Government Applied to Society-at-Large

Think about that title for a moment. What if society-at-large had to live under a Masonic government? Yes; general society is probably too big, too chaotic, and just plain not ready for such a thing - but we can muse on the subject for entertainment and discussion purposes.

Though each Grand Jurisdiction has it own Code and/or Constitution, there are some common strands that can be found in each Grand Lodge and Lodge. Most Masons are already at least partially schooled in the executive powers and roles of Grand Masters and Lodge Masters, the legislative powers and roles of the Grand Lodges and members of each Lodge, and the judicial powers of all of the aforementioned. The dry subject of those powers and roles will not be presented here. Rather, let us concentrate on what happens after a resolution has been passed and becomes Masonic law or an approved decision. It is at that point in the process where we can see a huge difference in how Masonic government works when compared to the governments of society-at-large.

To see this difference, let us use a town in the United States as the sample civil government in the following scenario. Please bear in mind that towns have differing styles of government - such as mayor-council, council-mayor, administrator-council, etc - so this scenario may not fit all towns. In our scenario, the voters have just approved a referendum that calls for a new town park to be constructed. The council and mayor are now obligated to make this happen and they do so by first raising the millage rate on property taxes. After all, it costs money to build a park. They then put the town’s public works department on to the task of building the park. A few town employees, with their earth movers, toil away until the park is built and all of the town’s citizens are now able to enjoy the lovely new recreational site – even though only some of the citizen’s (property owners) paid for it and only a few of the citizen’s (public works employees) built it. In fact, when we look back at how people voted in the referendum, we find that the public works employees all voted against it (their work schedule was already overloaded) and many of the property owners did the same (they are tired of paying higher and higher taxes). Most of the citizens that voted for the new park had to neither pay for it nor actually build it.

Let us now turn to the town’s local Masonic Lodge to see how it handles a similar scenario. The Lodge members have just voted to remodel the Lodge’s dining hall. The floor needs new tiling, new paint is needed, and the curtains are in need of replacement. The project is going to cost a bit of money, so the Lodge also votes to raise the dues (taxes) for the upcoming year. The Master of the Lodge then appoints a work committee, made up of the very members that voted to remodel the hall. The committee toils away with paintbrushes and tile glue until a beautiful dining hall is ready to be used by all of the Lodge members. In this scenario, all of the members pay for the project and the very folks that wanted the remodeled hall actually do the work to make it a reality.

Those two scenarios clearly bring to light the vast difference between civil government and Masonic government. The first scenario shows that groups of people can direct other folks to spend money and exert effort, even though they have to do neither while still enjoying the fruits of someone else’s sacrifice. The Masonic scenario shows how, if the group wants something done, all must sacrifice to make it a reality.

If society-at-large had to live under the rules and regulations of Masonic government, it is probably a sure bet that fewer parks would be constructed.


Masonic Traveler said...

This is an interesting proposition.

I wonder if you could say that the lodge (and Grand Lodge) is a model of Libertarian Socialism (I love Wikipedia) as "libertarian socialists place their hopes in trade unions, workers' councils, municipalities, citizens' assemblies, and other non-bureaucratic, decentralized means of action".

In some respects, if free of abuse of power, this woudl probably be a good system, but it would also mean that you would need a greater degree of participation from the membership. A 10% participation would most likely lead to a oligarchy of "titled" leadership.

In your two scenarios, in the first you seem to make a distinction between the tax payers, and the non paying citizenry, when in fact both pay taxes int he community through sales, goods, and services.

I like the masonic version, and wish society (or our masonic society) would do more of it. Imagine the possibilities.

The Palmetto Bug said...

No, I don't think it is anywhere close to libertarian socialism. The Masonic model, at the Lodge level, is much closer to being a pure democracy - but with a monarch (the Master). I know it sounds odd that the two can co-exist but, of course, Masonic government has never been fully duplicated in any civil government and that is why the Masonic model sounds odd.

In my town scenario, I specifically left out the raising of sale taxes. If the town had voted to raise the sales tax, then all of the citizens would have been sacrificing. As seen in real life, however, the non property tax payers will rarely agree to that option.

The Masonic version would be almost perfect but it cannot work in our current society. That is because of the many special interests. Due to the Fraternity's nature and its admission procedures, there are no - or few - special interest groups in Freemasonry. It is an Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (One for all, all for one) type of system.

Masonic Traveler said...

Interesting, I see your point. But if the Masonic model is applied to society, would every member need to apply for membership to said society?

The Palmetto Bug said...

I don't think the Masonic model can be applied to society. Society is currently too fragmented for such. The phrase, "be ye all of one mind," from the closing charge in my GJ would probably not play well in profane society.

Masonic Traveler said...

In the Masonic Model, I think (like the society itself) you can take it back the Utopian ideal that Bacon and Moore wrote about so many centuries ago. Which then presents itself with so many other problems when it tries to integrate with others. It becomes society that "your with" or "your against". Not necessarily in a negative way, but it definitely presents certain group absolutes.

The Millennial Freemason said...

It wouldn't work b/c we wouldn't be able to talk about Politics. ;)

In all seriousness, Masonry largely follows the Social Contract theory put forward by Locke and Rousseau (which strongly influenced the US Government). The Sovereign's (WM) power exists only through the General Will of the populace (Master Masons). While the WM can forward an agenda and his powers are "nigh absolute", this is merely rhetoric as it is the Brothers that must ultimately decide for the Lodge.

I would say that Masonry mirrors where it was made. The Lodge conducts business by Parliamentary means while the WM, similar to our President, can forward a policy by his own volition, will have to deal with an angry populace who may change things after a year.

In all, I think Masonic government is a product of its environment and shares more similarities rather than differences with society.


The Palmetto Bug said...

Traveler; Apparently no one else, other than one person who is not allowed to make comments on The Line for his own well-being, wants to discuss this interesting subject.

I tend to agree with your last comment. Being that Freemasonry is an exclusive society, it has a collective mind set - at least in some aspects of its business. The rest of society is not ready, and may never be ready, for such a concept.

Could you imagine the possibilities, however, if society-at-large was ready for Masonic government? A democratic monarchy, w/ a text book communist flavor, based on a belief in a Supreme Being would be something to behold. Can you believe that I just used those words together in the same sentence?!?!?

The Palmetto Bug said...

Oops! There IS another that is interested in this subject. Welcome to the conversation, Nick.

I agree with you in that there are many similarities between Masonic and civil governments. The big difference, as I tried to illustrate in the original post, lies with what happens after the political or legislative process.

The Millennial Freemason said...


Also, inherent in Social Contract theory is the idea of buy-in. The populace has concerns with how the law-making, law-enforcing parties are acting. So, when a populace disagrees with what occurs, the "bums" are thrown out of power.

What you are describing is perceived benefit versus actual benefit. Both the park and the updated Lodge improves all citizens in a way. The improvements to the Lodge give the brothers both a perceived benefit and an actual benefit. The park gives an actual benefit but does not address the perceived benefit. Parks raise property values which is directly related to lower crime rates, healthy populations, etc. What differs is that the city citizens don't see the long term actual benefits and see only the actual and perceived costs. What occurs is that the brothers are given buy-in by information; they see the costs and the benefits. Unless a city is able to show the benefits, the citizens will only see the costs and turn on their leaders.


The Palmetto Bug said...


I don't necessarily disagree with you, however, the real point of the original post was the sacrifice part. In the park scenario, only certain folks had to sacrifice to make it a reality - whether they wanted to or not. In the dining hall scenario, all of the group had to sacrifice - whether they wanted to or not.

mgc said...

Perhaps another issue is the quality of the project to be undertaken..
If those whom input is required see the validity of the project, wouldn't that increase its value?

Sometimes it pays to have a system such as you describe, but all stands or falls with its integrity. Therefor it will only work if one can agree upon its validity.