How can multiple governments work?

People who are used to monopoly governments (which is to say, everyone) find it hard to imagine how there could be two or more governments operating in the same territory. Actually, that already happens in one sense. In Cherry Hill you have the township government responsible for some things, the Camden County government responsible for other things, and the same for the New Jersey and Federal governments. Each has its distinct responsibilities in the territory known as Cherry Hill.

But what about those things that the current government of Cherry Hill (henceforth referred to as “Government A”) is responsible for, such as township roads, the police and courts, etc. How could responsibility for those things be shared by multiple governments? The answer is simple accounting. Each department in the township has a budget that represents a certain percentage of the whole. Now, let’s say there are two governments in Cherry Hill, Government A and Government B. For each department that they both agree to fund (and to be served by), each supplies a percentage of the department’s budget. That percentage is based on the number of people each government represents at a certain point in time.

For the sake of order, a third party (perhaps a respected accounting firm) is chosen by both governments to be the recorder of membership for governments in Cherry Hill. This company we will refer to as the “Recorder”. Each head of household gets to choose which government they wish to be a member of during a 15-day period made up of their birthday and the 7 days before and after that day. Making the selection of membership dependent on the birthday of the head of household prevents sudden rushes of people in and out of governments. The Recorder records this information and notifies the person’s former government of the change.

Let’s further specify that the fiscal period for each budget ends on June 30, and the next begins on July 1. The budget amount for the new fiscal year being fixed on that day (July 1), the Recorder, knowing how many households each government represents, determines what each government owes to each department. It subsequently collects those funds from the part of each government that collects taxes from its members, and redistributes these funds to the jointly-funded departments.

What about township departments that one or the other government does not wish to fund or benefit from? It falls to that government which chooses to fund the department to satisfy its funding needs itself. As a result, it alone benefits from the services provided by that department.

Now what if, instead of just two governments, there are also governments C, D, and E? Each government determines during the budget process which departments it will be funding in the next fiscal year. Having made that determination, they notify the Recorder, and it is just a matter of accounting at that point.