The right to choose your government.

Why is Personal Secession (panarchy) better than Territorial Secession?

There is, once again, a great deal of talk in the US these days about secession. The US originated, after all, in a secessionist movement from England, and many states made secession a specific option when ratifying the US Constitution. Many southern states attempted to secede in the 1860s, though this effort failed. But with the inexorable rise of massive government, the call for the states to secede has risen again. The interesting question for me is, if secession comes about, will it be one or two states, or will it be a mass movement where the entire federal government under the US Constitution is ripped out to the studs?

As a panarchist, of course, my preference is “none of the above”. All the usual talk of secession is of territorial secession. The advantage of territorial secession is that you do end up with smaller government. The downsides, as I see them, are twofold.

The first downside of territorial secession, as opposed to personal secession (panarchy), is that, in the end, you still have a territorial monopoly of coercion, so, to a great extent, nothing substantial has changed. The real evil of government is that it represents an elite who exercise power over others who happen to live in that territory. Elections merely rotate the members of the elite, but never destroy the monopoly of power. The power is exercised on the inhabitants of the territory with or without their consent. Elections only legitimize the evil. Personal secession, on the other hand, gets rid of the evil by, once and for all, getting rid of the monopoly of power based on territory. That is a substantial good.

The second downside of territorial secession is moral. A successful secession comes about through the efforts of a segment of the population who desire it. This may be a majority, or a non-symmetrically powerful minority, but it is never unanimous. There will always be those who prefer the status quo. A successful territorial secession takes that from them, and that is wrong. Personal secession, in contrast, never forgets the individual person, and respects their right to differ from the majority.

Asserting the right to secede is good. Territorial secession in certain circumstances may certainly be better than the forceful suppression of the right to secede. But, all other things being equal, personal secession is far better in every way than territorial secession. Panarchy, by ending the territorial monopoly of coercion, ends the need for any future secession, personal or territorial.


2010/02/09 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hello all. I came across this idea by the links underneath an article entitled what libertarian are you. I am glad this is clarifying that panarchy is personal secession and not territorial which as the comment above stated, most definitely bring about war. The Revolutionary and Civil wars being the most clear indicators. One worked, while one didn’t. I don’t entirely agree with this, but understand its appeal. If alive during the ratification period of the U.S. constitution I would most certainly have been a federalist. I am a new federalist, neolibertarian, conservative. Any way you want to see it I lean center-right (of course make that more right then center). I’m glad this conversation is happening respectful of those who have reservations of change. Of course not the exact change Obama is forcing down our throats at the moment In my opinion. Keep up the education about this idea. Maybe one of these days I might join your camp. And there goes all hope of being President (ha ha, a person can dream right?)

    Comment by Respectful Patriot | 2010/04/06 | Reply

    • Thank you, Respectful. The article he refers to is here:, and the link was my ad for the Panarchy South Jersey site at the bottom of the page.

      Comment by Dwight | 2010/04/06 | Reply

      • Most definitely right. I hadn’t a clue what panarchy meant. So I was curious. I will keep this in my bookmarks. I am sort of collecting unusual ideas about government. Maybe one of these days I can put these ideas in a book. Oh the research! Oh well that is half the fun.

        Comment by Respectful Patriot | 2010/04/07

  2. Hi Dwight

    Also, because territorial secession involves changing the government in a region where some people want the old government, or a different government altogether, they will do everything in their power to prevent it. And this makes territorial secession IMPRACTICAL.

    People generally don’t want someone else’s government imposed on them involuntarily. Even libertarians don’t want to be subjected to the personal morality of other libertarians, packaged as “libertarian law,” and backed by force.

    Territorial secession is impractical because few people want to be subjected to the legally enforced moral and ethical codes of others. And subjecting others to one’s moral and ethical code is what territorial government entails.

    Comment by Adam Knott | 2010/02/18 | Reply

    • Adam,

      I’m not sure practicality is all that important. There have been successful violent secessions (e.g., the secession of the American Colonies from England) as well as successful non-violent secessions (e.g., India from the United Kingdom), though certainly far more unsuccessful attempts to secede. The successful ones were practical in that they were successful, though none was easy. But Adam, we are men of principle! We seek panarchy not because it is easy or practical but because it is right. And it is right for everyone because no one is the lesser if it succeeds (except perhaps the criminals who wish to maintain their control over others).

      You are quite right that no one wants someone else’s morality or ethics forced on them, yet this is exactly what both territorial secessionists and those who seek to preserve territorial monopoly wish to do. Panarchy is better than territorial monopolies, both those that exist, and those created new by territorial secession.

      Comment by Dwight Johnson | 2010/02/18 | Reply

    • I thought the “point” of panarchy was that participation in a government would be option. How then would moral and ethical codes be forced on the individual?

      Comment by Kristian Canler | 2010/07/28 | Reply

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