Panarchists

The right to choose your government.

Dwight Johnson gives speech at Libertopia

Dwight at Libertopia 2010
[Dwight Johnson gave a speech at the recent Libertopia conference (libertopia.org), held October 15-17, in Hollywood, California. The text of his speech follows.]

Panarchy And Government By Contract

In July of 1860, a Belgian botanist by the name of Paul Emile de Puydt wrote an article in the Revue Trimestrielle, published in Brussels, and entitled “Panarchy”. In it he demonstrated the possibility of non-territorial governments existing side by side within the same territory, allowing each person to enjoy government in harmony with their own values. As such, it shares many characteristics with voluntaryism and personal secession.

Panarchy comes from the Greek words pan and arche, pan meaning “all”, arche meaning “rule”. In essence, the word means that all forms of government are acceptable, as long as they are freely chosen. Freedom of choice, and concomitantly, toleration for the choices others make, are the essential elements of panarchy. Entirely missing is the idea that there is one ideal form of government for all people. If there is such a thing as a perfect or ideal form of government, it could only be discovered over time in the free give and take that panarchy exemplifies.

One advantage of panarchy is that it does not directly challenge those who are attached to their current form of government. It only asks that they tolerate others who choose to dwell in their midst with a different form of government. I’ll go into this idea in more detail shortly.

The essence of panarchy is found in the esteemed Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident
, that all men are created equal
, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That to secure these rights
, governments are instituted among men
, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends
, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it
, and to institute new government
, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form
, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.


Let me step for a moment into the dark world of government as we know it.

Government as we know it is defined as a territorial monopoly of coercion. It is understood as putting into the hands of a select few, within an organization of human society, monopoly rights to create and enforce laws. Hence, all governments as they exist in the modern world are oligarchies, the rule of the “few”. These few, at least those in democratic governments, are elected by “the people” to act on their behalf for the betterment of civil society. They are supposed to be virtuous, to act only in the best interests of the many. Human nature being what it is, that is seldom the case. Governments tend, instead, to be feeding grounds for the elite, causing mayhem and disaster everywhere. So why don’t the people rise up and correct this situation?

Another way to put this question is: how is it possible for the few to control the many? It turns out to be rather easy. Government is about power. Power comes from money. Money comes from two sources: 1) taxes and other revenue, and 2) campaign contributions. The oligarchs make good use of both sources of money to make friends for themselves, friends who not only speak approvingly of government as a result, but will bring to grief anyone who dares to speak ill of government. Who does the oligarch have in his pocket? Government employees and their families; unions, especially those whose members are government employees; direct recipients of largess from government; the members of the media who love to snuggle up to power; the largest businesses, especially multi-nationals, who are able to influence the oligarchs to draft legislation favorable to them (think banking, big oil, big pharma, agribiz, and on, and on).


There are two classes of people with regard to government today. The first is made up of the oligarchs, the elite who run government and the large businesses and organizations that benefit so handsomely from their manipulation of government. I like to refer to the elite as the Lords of the Manor, LOM for short. And the rest of us? The rest of us are serfs. The LOM shout “terrorists!”, and we the serfs shake with fear, fists full of dollars thrust out to the LOMs to make the bad people go away. The elite make excellent use of every bogeyman to shake us down, telling us always that it is their job to protect us from the bad people. What they fail to remind us is that they usually created the bogeyman in the first place, using the funds we thought we had provided to protect us.

What is a serf? A serf is a kind of slave, someone who works for another involuntarily because of where they live. I am a serf. When I moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a few years ago, I was expected (forced, actually) to pay taxes to the township, the public school system, and the fire district. I wasn’t invited to, or asked to. As a resident of the township, I was expected to, no questions asked, or else. In return, I was provided services of various types from the town and the fire district, and I got to pay for the education of other people’s children. I also got to vote for members of the town council, and to vote on tax increases for the schools and fire district. Not once did anyone I voted for make it to town council. Not once did the vote for school and fire budgets go the way I desired. But, because we live there, we must work to pay the taxes. That is modern serfdom. Serfdom, as with every form of slavery, is an affront to human dignity; it cannot be allowed to stand.

Government wants you to think you are a free person so you will continue to pay taxes without too much fuss. They want you to think, too, that you really don’t have any choice in the matter. Public schools are said to have failed, but they are wonderfully successful at what they are really intended for, which is to create obedient, patient, and not very well informed serfs. They work very hard to create young children who will grow up to be obedient lovers of government, good citizens who think that government is there to protect them, to do all manner of good things for them, and finally to pay them handsomely in their golden years (especially if they happen to work directly for government), making everything right. Government schools are the elite’s secret weapon. I’ll have more to say on this shortly.


Even government schools couldn’t hide everything from us. They had to let us read, for instance, the Declaration of Independence, which has this truly disturbing phrase: “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Of course, they never allow us to think too much about what “consent of the governed” actually means. If it comes up, it is put aside with the assurance that we give our consent by having the splendid right of electing our dear leaders. Even in college courses there might be a more historical view of the matter of consent, with discussion of the “social contract” and the various ways that consent can be implied in a democracy. What is never admitted in any government school, including colleges which get most of their money directly or indirectly from government, is that there is even the remotest possibility of giving explicit consent to government.

Explicit consent, however, is exactly what is called for to fix all that is wrong with government as we know it.

Tied to the issue of consent is the issue of individualism versus collectivism. Because a government operates without explicit consent, it is therefore a collectivist organization, a collectivization of serfs by an elite. Collectivists like to consider themselves morally superior to individualists because they are concerned with “others”. The problem with collectivism is that, in its very operation, by its very form, it must diminish the humanity of all people by failing to regard them as individuals with the right to choose. Individualists, on the contrary, because they regard all people as having the same unalienable rights, are able to do good for real people and not abstractions.

To exercise that explicit consent that honors every individual and destroys collectivism, I am proposing an implementation of panarchy that I call Government By Contract (GBC).


We are familiar with political parties. GBC parties are similar, but different. They are similar in that each party represents a certain set of values held (for the most part) by its members. With the current two party system, membership in a party can be full of compromise, as you believe in this value but not that party value. With GBC parties, if you cannot find a party that you can agree with at least 90%, go out and create a new one that reflects 99% of your values. Clearly this will result in a great many more that two parties.

Membership in the party is by contract. The contract refers to the party’s values as they exist at a certain time (probably referencing a separate document). The contract specifies that your membership will be for a stated period of time (one or two years perhaps) and that the party has certain responsibilities to you, the member, and vice versa.

Let’s speak specifically of a GBC party for a municipal government. The government will continue as it is now, but the party will be, because of your contract, your agent in all matters regarding your relationship to that government. No matter what the values of a particular GBC party, they all have three very important purposes.


The first purpose of the party with regard to the municipal government is to escrow your municipal taxes (usually property taxes). According to Tom Wood’s book “Nullification”, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Washington State have all proposed that they escrow federal withholding taxes. This same kind of mechanism should occur at every level of government, beginning with the municipal. This then should be the first purpose of every GBC party. You must get control of your taxes.

The second purpose of the party is to stop funding the government school system. As mentioned earlier, the main purpose of government schools is to indoctrinate your children to be meek, obedient serfs, and they are damned good at it. The party should, instead, either create its own school system, or return that part of the escrowed funds to the party members so they can afford to educate their children at home or in private schools.

The third purpose of the party should be an on-going attempt to right-size government. With party members again having control of how their taxes are spent, they will demand that government departments function with efficiency, providing real value for the money they spend. More importantly, the party will be able to determine which government departments are really worth funding at all. Over time it will become clear exactly how much government is really needed. Whether you and your party believe in big or small government, Government By Contract will make it possible to finally right-size government.

To review, the purposes of GBC Parties are:

Purpose # 1 Escrow taxes
Purpose # 2 De-fund government schools
Purpose # 3 Right-size government


How do the parties and the government interact?

Let me take you to Switzerland for a moment. Switzerland is highly regarded around the world as a free nation, with perhaps one of the most free “free market” economies in the world (and hence they are very prosperous).

[aside: one of the panarchists in our group, the one who maintains the panarchy.org website, lives in Saint Imier, Switzerland, where the current unemployment rate is under 3 percent.]

Switzerland functions as a federation of cantons, which are smaller semi-independent territories. In general, a federation can be described as a government composed of subsidiary territorial units. Just as an example of how this works: Switzerland has national health care, but what that means there is that each canton is responsible for providing it for their own people, however they choose to do so.

The model for Government By Contract is similar in that the government would be a federation of subsidiary units, except that the subsidiary units that make up the government of a territory are non-territorial parties rather than territorial units. And money to pay for government services comes from the parties. The parties work in cooperation with one another to determine what services get provided, whether the services are provided by the government, by the parties, or by third parties, and who pays for what. It benefits a party to provide maximum benefit for minimum cost.

By contrast, in a democratic republic, elected officials benefit themselves by voting for expenditures for programs that will benefit (in the short term anyway) more and more of his constituents. As a result, government expenditures rise and never fall.


Most people have a general idea how much they pay a year in taxes. Almost no one can tell you what percentage of those taxes goes toward things they would actually want to pay for, and what percentage goes toward things they definitely do NOT want to pay for.

Having our taxes go to government thru the parties fixes that problem. When a person chooses a party, he is basically answering the question, “what services now provided by this government do I really want to pay for out of my hard-earned cash?”. Because that is what the party does. It pays for those parts of the government that its members feel strongly enough about to take money out of their pocket for.

When you start telling people that taxes are immoral, that it is just the government stealing from you, they usually look at you with an expression of utter shock and say something like, “but how would we be able to survive as a peaceful civilization without [blank]”, and fill in the blank with “police”, “roads”, or some other service they consider to be essential. And they are right to the extent that people would surely want to have some sort of police protection, and someone maintaining the streets. But it never occurs to them (so well did the government propagandize them), that such services could be provided by anything other than a government strong-arming its citizens.

But with a mandate from their members, a party can sit down with other parties and decide what services they will pay for, how they will be provided, and who will pay what. They can provide those services in a cost-effective way, providing real value. They can also get rid of those “services” that no one wants to pay for. And if some party has a service it considers absolutely necessary, but no other party is interested, its members will fund it and benefit from it, and everyone is happy.


Conclusion

Serfdom is slavery, and an affront to human dignity. If government’s just powers truly come from the consent of the governed, it is our right and our duty to assure that the means of providing explicit consent, and the withdrawing of consent, exists for every level of government, for every person.

You, wherever you live, if you believe in liberty, must do what you can to bring about government that is just because it functions only with your consent, and not without it.

Let us, therefore, create a new form of government, Government By Contract, that respects every person’s choice, and allows them to choose government that truly matches their own values in all things, without compromise.

Let’s work together to see it to completion, so that we are the last generation of human beings who know what it means to live as a serf.

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2010/11/14 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christians and the State

When Christians are approached by anarchists, or anyone who questions the validity of the State in any way, they usually go first to the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22:

15 Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.
16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.
17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.
20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
21 They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
22 When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away.

Is this justification for the State, or for taxes? Consider first that the Herodians were trying to entrap Jesus, asking a question in which either answer they expected he might respond with would cause him problems. If he answered that it is NOT lawful to pay the census tax, they could turn him in to the authorities. If he said that it IS lawful to pay the census tax, the crowds who considered him a prophet would turn against him. So he choose not to answer either way that they were expecting.

The answer he gave could be interpreted as an endorsement of property rights: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Many Christians, for some reason, want the answer he actually gave to in fact be a confirmation of the question in the positive: yes, it IS lawful to pay the census (or any other government) tax. But clearly, if he meant that, he would have said that, unless he simply did not want to have to deal with the issue on their terms and not his own. And so, the question goes unanswered by this particular passage.

Not getting a satisfactorily conclusive answer here, a Christian might then turn to the letter to the Romans, chapter 13:

1 Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.
2 Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.
3 For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it,
4 for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer.
5 Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience.
6 This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
7 Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Certainly this is clear enough! How could anyone argue with this!? On the face of it, it looks irrefutable, that is, until you check out a couple of other passages, such as this one from the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14:

32 Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets’ control,
33 since he is not the God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the holy ones,
34 women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
35 But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.

Well, perhaps women’s voices should not be heard in the churches, though few today would agree with this. We are told that passages like this are culturally conditioned, and not meant for all times and places.

And what about this passage from the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6?

5 Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ,
6 not only when being watched, as currying favor, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
7 willingly serving the Lord and not human beings,
8 knowing that each will be requited from the Lord for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
9 Masters, act in the same way toward them, and stop bullying, knowing that both they and you have a Master in heaven and that with him there is no partiality.

If you get any people agreeing that women should be silent in church, you will get even fewer who would support slavery. So if slavery is no longer valid, what about the state? Is the passage from Romans also subject to a reinterpretation due to the passage of time and the changes in culture?

To answer this, let’s consider how Jesus himself dealt with issues of the state. We’ve already seen that he did not want to address the issue of taxes directly at the time he was challenged about them. But there is another instance in the Gospels that talks about taxes. In this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, Peter first answers on behalf of Jesus, then gets a deeper lesson from him.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?”
26 When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt.
27 But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”

Based on what he says here, it could be assumed that Jesus thought that he and his disciples (at least) should be exempt from paying the temple tax. He chooses to pay the tax so as not to “offend them”, and he also chooses to do it, not from what money they may have had on hand, but in an almost comical way. In what might be seen as a punishment for agreeing to pay the tax in the first place, he has Peter go fishing, and extract the coin needed to pay their tax from the mouth of the first fish he manages to catch. Yes, this is certainly a miracle, but if Jesus wanted to pay the tax without making his point with Peter, he could have easily and simply produced the coin in a more direct way.

Finally, throughout the Gospels, Jesus is referred to by the masses as the “Son of David”, the rightful heir to David’s throne and kingship. There were several occasions, in fact, where, when it seemed that the crowds were about to force the kingship on Jesus, he managed to slip away from them.

If Jesus had considered the State to be a useful organization in human society, and if he himself did not want to accept the kingship, could he not have put another in that role, with the roaring approval of the crowds? We often hear the expression “Church and State” and think that there is some meaningful symmetry between the two words, but is there? When Jesus establishes the Church on the shoulders of Saint Peter, he says that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. That sounds pretty important. But what does Jesus says about the State? There is certainly no grand saying like “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. On the few occasions when the subject even comes up, he seems to be evasive about it, not wanting to have to deal with it yet. When given the opportunity to become king (or king-maker), he avoids it. When given the opportunity to speak clearly about the value of taxes, he cleverly avoids a direct answer. Had he considered them of value, might he not have said something like this: “not to the Romans, but there will come a time…”, yet we have no guidance along those lines.

What we have instead is a sense that the state, like slavery, is something that we must put up with for now, but that the time will come when the evil institutions in human society will need to be dealt with, and that we will, at the appropriate time, find within ourselves the strength to do so.

2010/10/23 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What universal government school was meant to accomplish

In Chapter 16 of John Taylor Gatto’s book “The Underground History of American Public Education” (2nd Ed, 2000), he has this commentary on what public education was meant to be, by one of those who brought it about.

The most candid account of the changeover from old-style American free market schooling to the laboratory variety we have under the close eye of society’s managers is a book long out of print. But the author was famous enough in his day that a yearly lecture at Harvard is named after him, so with a bit of effort on your part, and perhaps a kind word to your local librarian, in due time you should be able to find a hair-raising account of the school transformation written by one of the insiders. The book in question bears the soporific title “Principles of Secondary Education”. Published in 1918 near the end of the great school revolution, Principles offers a unique account of the project written through the eyes of an important revolutionary. Any lingering doubts you may have about the purposes of government schooling should be put to rest by Alexander Inglis. The principal purpose of the vast enterprise was to place control of the new social and economic machinery out of reach of the mob.

Alexander Inglis, author of “Principles of Secondary Education”, was of Aldrich’s class. He wrote that the new schools were being expressly created to serve a command economy and command society, one in which the controlling coalition would be drawn from important institutional stakeholders in the future. According to Inglis, the first function of schooling is “adjustive”, establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority. This prepares the young to accept whatever management dictates when they are grown. Second is the “diagnostic” function. School determines each student’s “proper” social role, logging it mathematically on cumulative records to justify the next function, “sorting”. Individuals are to be trained only so far as their likely destination in the social machine, not one step beyond. “Conformity” is the fourth function. Kids are to be made alike, not from any passion for egalitarianism, but so future behavior will be predictable, in service to market and political research. Next is the “hygienic” function. This has nothing to do with individual health, only the health of the “race.” This is polite code for saying that school should accelerate Darwinian natural selection by tagging the unfit so clearly they drop from the reproduction sweepstakes. And last is the “propaedeutic” function, a fancy word meaning that a small fraction of kids will slowly be trained to take over management of the system, guardians of a population deliberately dumbed down and rendered childlike in order that government and economic life can be managed with a minimum of hassle. And there you have the formula: adjustment, diagnosis, sorting, conformity, racial hygiene, and continuity. This is the man for whom an honor lecture in education at Harvard is named. According to James Bryant Conant, another progressive aristocrat from whom I first learned of Inglis in a perfectly frightening book called “The Child, The Parent, and the State” (1949), the school transformation had been ordered by “certain industrialists and the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial process.”

Incredible! The words “control freak” come to mind.

2010/10/04 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monopoly Government Schools

I firmly believe that monopoly government education is an evil thing, and say so quite plainly on my Panarchy South Jersey website.

Some days ago I got this comment from a fellow by the name of Joseph Finlayson who visited the site. Here’s what he had to say.

Hi, I’m just a guy, a regular guy. Not too poor, not too rich and I’m just looking out for my own interests. If I went private with my kid’s education, it’d cost me a fortune – I don’t want to do it. So, while my kids are growing up, I’ll choose the government that gives public education. As soon as that’s up, I’ll switch governments and choose a more minarchistic one. Result = the government that provides public education will be cash starved, and either will not be able to provide public education – or will be forced to tax citizens at the prevailing market rate for their education.

To which I responded:

That is correct. “I’m just looking out for my own interests.” That’s fine. But you also want ME to be looking out for YOUR own interests, while I am, at the same time, just looking out for mine. Where is the justice here? Another example. Friends of mine have kids, and they want to send them to private schools. They are not rich either, but they will do whatever it takes. They pay the tuition for the private school, AND they pay for public school education, all at the same time. Is this fair?

But let’s move from justice to generosity. If we cared about other people, such as yourself, having a hard time (hypothetically) educating their own children out of what are often meager assets in the early years of their married life, shouldn’t we be generous and gladly pay our taxes for their benefit? This turns generosity on its head, because you cannot force someone to be generous. I myself contribute gladly to education by supporting the parochial schools here in South Jersey and elsewhere. And I would contribute more of what is now taken from me in the form of property taxes. Instead, the taxes are taken from me, whether I am willing or not. Is this any way for people to treat one another? I don’t think so.

My answer is that each family should do what it can to educate its children. Grandparents are great assets in the education of youngsters. And there are always very generous people who will contribute to schools so that no child is deprived of a good education. You just have to have a little more confidence in the inherent goodness of people.

Of course, as a panarchist, I would not deprive anyone of the right to send their kids to government schools. I merely insist they do so without forcing me to contribute to their school. Seems only right.

2010/08/19 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rules — Max Borders’ and mine

Max Borders gave a talk at the John Locke Institute about the need for rules, and provided his set of the three rules he thought essential with regard to panarchy. I agree with him entirely about the value of rules, and accept without question the value of the three he proposed. However, my list of rules is slightly longer (five). Here they are.

1. the dignity of the human person

Everything in society must relate correctly to real human beings, as they are. Government must exist to serve the human person, and not the other way around. Governments cannot sacrifice some persons for the benefit of others. Only human persons have natural rights. What rights exist for groups in society, including governments and parties, apply to them only because the human members of those groups bestow them temporarily on the group in question. We more and more are hearing the term “individual sovereignty”, and that is a wonderful thing. We spoke in the past of the sovereignty of states and nations, without always clearly understanding that sovereignty can exist for a state or nation only when it is bestowed freely upon it by the real human persons who comprise that state or nation, because governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and that consent must be freely and explicitly given, or it is not consent. The right to bestow one’s sovereignty on a state or nation includes the right of the individual to withdraw that right from the state or nation. This incorporates Max Borders’ first macro rule: the right to exit.

2. the right to life and property

The basis of a free, peaceful, and prosperous society is the fundamental recognition by its members of the twin rights to life and to property.

3. the right to defend life and property

There is a gentleman by the name of James A. Donald, the holder of the internet domain “jim.com”. That in itself is an amazing thing. His very simple website is an eclectic collection of documents and links that relate to “liberty”, what he modestly calls “James’s Liberty file collection”. One of his articles speaks of the right to defend our life and property. Understanding this natural human right puts so many things in proper perspective. First, it makes clear exactly what the second amendment is truly about: that each person is responsible, by nature and nature’s God, for the defense of his life and property, as well as that of his family and neighbors. When the second amendment was written, it was well understood that “militia” referred to every able-bodied man who had the ability to defend himself, his family, and his neighbors, because that was both his right and his responsibility.

This right also makes clear the proper role of police in society. Today police work for the oligarchs, the elite, the Lords of the Manor, and not for the serfs. This has become abundantly clear in recent years, with the militarization of local police which has progressed with alacrity, and as more and more incidents of police brutality against what William Grigg refers to as “mundanes” take place everywhere.

A corollary of the right to defend is that there is no right to do harm to another. This is Max Borders’ third macro rule: do no harm. If defending one’s life or property requires taking away the property, freedom, or even the life of the one who seeks to do you harm, this is not the equivalent of doing harm to another, assuming the defensive action is proportionate to the original harm done. Max Borders also makes clear that doing harm is not the same as failing to improve the situation of another person. Is it morally reprehensible to see another in need and fail to do what you can for that person? Of course. Does it then follow that the way you must come to the aid of that person is through government action? Absolutely not!

4. subsidiarity

Max Borders also includes subsidiarity as one of his mega rules (the second), and I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s how he puts it: legitimate functions of the state should be handled at the most local feasible level. Another way to express the principle of subsidiarity is that no higher level of society should perform a function that can be handled by a lower level of society. If a lower level requires assistance in performing some function, the higher level of society must be explicitly invited to provide assistance. This principle certainly precludes a higher level of society, let’s say a federal or national level of government, from forcing lower levels, such as states, to participate in functions that the lower levels could substantially accomplish themselves. We certainly have the newly-proposed national healthcare initiative to provide an example of a repudiation of the principle of subsidiarity. With the principle of subsidiarity, it always comes back to the individual human person as the proper locus of political action.

5. freedom of association

The right to freely associate with others is also fundamental to the proper working of society. Everyone generally agrees that they should have the right to freely associate with other persons, forming groups of like-minded people in order to carry out various purposes within a free society.

What sometimes becomes problematic is the flip side of the right of free association, which is this: that a group of people may, for any reason they wish, exclude a particular person from their group. This right was often used by governments in the past as the punishment of exile. It is likewise used by governments today whenever they put a person into jail or prison, forbidding that person to move freely. Rand Paul recently got into a pickle when he suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exceeds proper limits when it forces businesses not to refuse to do business with certain individuals based on race. What is missing from this discussion is whether it is the proper role of government at any level to enforce morality. If it is, then edicts of the Supreme Court become divine, and any contradiction of this position is blasphemy. Not taking the position that the Supreme Court is the voice of God, or that it is the proper role of government to enforce morality on others, Rand Paul took the proper position that the federal government was clearly right in insisting that government should not discriminate on race, but that it had no right to force the rest of society to do the same, however morally correct that position may be. Most people who do not worship government agree that the proper enforcers of morality, and this on the consciences of people only, are the various religious or ethical communities.

Freedom of association is what panarchy is: the right to be associated with government, or not, as we choose.

2010/08/19 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Max Borders steps up to the debate challenge.

Max Borders, you may recall, wrote the interesting series on the Thousand Nations website, describing panarchy without using the word. Well now he has stepped up to a challenge to debate innovations in governance on that site (and be sure to read the excellent comment by our own Adam Knott), only now he has planted himself firmly in the panarchist camp.

2010/02/24 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Words of encouragement from readers

Some interesting emails received recently at Panarchy South Jersey.

SALUTE! I couldnt agree more on everything I have read thus far. Im at work and cant read everything at the moment but will when at lunch as well from home – from what I see so far, EXCELLENT! [Tony Watson]

Great website about Panarchy. FYI, INalienable rights are provided by man (aka civil rights) – UNalienable rights are provided by our Creator. “When the founders of our country began to suffer from injustices perpetrated by their own rulers in England, they stood up and declared their independence, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And more than this, they turned away from familiar forms of government and established their own, knowing that, as human beings, they had that INALIENABLE right. Government, after all, gets its right to govern by the consent of the people.” Obviously we want the latter. [Shari Peterson]

I did some research on Shari’s contention that there is a genuine difference in meaning between “inalienable” and “unalienable”, but I could not find anything definitive or authoritative to back it up. Black’s Law Dictionary has entries for both terms, and does reference a case where “inalienable” would mean a right that could not be alienated without that person’s consent, yet at the same time equates the words. Jefferson’s early versions of the Declaration of Independence, where this word appears, used “inalienable”, but the final published version used “unalienable”. Anyone want to weigh in on this esoteric point? As Shari says, we surely insist that this right to choose cannot be taken from us, though that is exactly what has happened.

2010/02/24 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Isaiah speaks of panarchy

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
[Isaiah 58:6 RSV]

Throughout scripture one comes across ideas like these from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. “Free the prisoners.” But surely they are not talking about convicted criminals, those who kill and steal. No, these frequent exhortations to free the prisoners refer to those in bondage to unjust governments. I will not say that this is all that these exhortations refer to, because there are many ways that a person may be oppressed and bound. But clearly they also, and perhaps most of all, refer to systems of government, even republics, which do not properly recognize the fullness of freedom that belongs to each and every human being. Panarchy, by seeking to make government personal and not territorial, breaks the yoke, frees the oppressed, looses the bonds of monopolistic governments everywhere.

2010/02/19 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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 | 6 Comments

Personal Legislators — a clarification

I hope to clarify here my intentions in writing my previous blog entry.

My first point was to show how far all legislatures are today from panarchy. The proposal, as I said, was not panarchy, but perhaps something in between what we have now and what we all should have.

Current legislatures are territorial at their root. My proposal was to keep the current territorial elections simply to limit the pool of candidates, and to have a second ongoing election by each person for their Personal Legislator, thus adding the non-territorial aspect, to a degree. By ongoing, I mean that each person could change their Personal Legislator at any time. In the US we currently have three businesses called credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), which basically maintain the same database of every person in America who has a credit card or mortgage. By sending them identifying information about yourself, you are able to obtain from them credit reports, basically all the information they maintain on you regarding your credit-worthiness. Having already identified the vast majority of voters in the US, and having a method for identifying each person, they could easily work jointly or in turn to process the second vote, allowing each of the people in their database to choose a Personal Legislator. Certainly the means could be made electronic, so that the voting could be done anytime, anywhere, by texting or email or whatever. The day-by-day changes of Personal Legislator tallies (the identities of voters would be as secret as any secret ballot) could be used to give the legislators real time (almost) feedback from their constituency, while the annual tally on a certain day would determine each Personal Legislator’s number for the coming year as regards their control of the budget.

In the current system, legislators use two elements in their calculus for determining how to vote. The first is, how will this vote effect my ability to raise cash for my next election. The second is, how will this vote effect my ability to get a majority of votes in my next election. As a Personal Legislator, they do not need to worry about their next election, either in raising cash for it (making them less dependent on lobbyists), or in gaining a simple majority of votes from their home districts. Rather, they are most intent on pleasing those who have made them their Personal Legislator, and on getting even more people to do so. This change is therefore in the direction of panarchy in that it is non-territorial (to a degree) and more attuned to actual people than to special interests.

How is my proposal NOT panarchy. It is not panarchy because the legislature is still part of a territorial monopoly of coercion, even though on a certain level there is more personal choice involved in the process. The government is still one-per-territory, and it still feels entitled to tax. This is a long way from the free market in governments that panarchy represents.

So, why did I present this proposal? My intention was mostly to educate the casual visitor to this site, to help them understand from an example the impact that non-territoriality could have on the political process. We will have real panarchy in government some day, because more and more people will demand their freedom from serfdom (slavery by virtue of where we live; our current status vis-a-vis government). A system of Personal Legislators will probably not be the way it eventually happens, though it would certainly be a move in the right direction.

2010/01/31 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment