The right to choose your government.

Personal Legislators — A Panarchy Proposal

What I am about to propose here is not technically panarchy, but a move towards panarchy. It is an attempt to move toward personal government, while at the same time attempting to address some of the inadequacies of legislatures everywhere, with specific regard to the legislatures of the US state and federal governments.

Every legislature, at least those generally referred to as the “lower” house or chamber, such as the US House of Representatives, is comprised of members from districts. Each district has an election, from which emerges one winner. Once elected, they tend to ignore the people who elected them, or so it often seems, being much more responsive to lobbyists of special interests. Part of this comes from the fact that they often wish to get reelected, which costs lots of money, which is where the lobbyists and their deep-pocketed supporters come in. Clout in such a legislature generally comes largely from seniority. As for your having any clout with the legislator from your district, that generally is limited to calling or writing him, perhaps with a threat of voting for someone else next time. You will certainly get a polite letter back, clearly boilerplate, with his opposing view, and why it is ever-so-much better than yours, and that’s the end of that. Your preferred candidate may have been one of those who lost in the election. But even if your guy won, he may only represent your views and values to a limited degree. Very likely, however, there is a legislator from another district with whom you share a great many more values.

Wouldn’t it be great then to make their legislator, the one you really agree with, YOUR legislator, your PERSONAL legislator. This is what I am suggesting. In addition to the election by district, we should also have a second election for each legislature, where you choose your personal legislator, the one that really represents what you think. You could make your choice known at any time (many methods would work here, so I won’t go into that now). Then, on a certain day each year, the votes are tallied so that each legislator finds out how many people have chosen him as their personal legislator. What good is this, you ask? The real value comes in this: that each legislator who gets at least one percent of the total votes cast in this second election, gets to determine how that percentage of the budget for the year is spent on various programs. So, not only do they vote up or down on each bill brought before the legislature, but they work with other supporters of bills, allocating funds according to their values, as well as the values of those citizens who voted for them in the second election. Since each such personal legislator must have at least one percent of the votes from the second election, there can be at most one hundred such legislators in any particular legislature. These super legislators, by virtue of the value they have in the eyes of the electorate, are excused from the next cycle of elections, assuming that they retain that percentage in the final year of their term. One thing this does is make them less dependent on constantly raising money for elections, which means they can be less beholden to the lobbyists and special interests, and far more beholden to the people whose vote for them can change at any moment. Unlike those facing election in their districts (because they did not get or keep at least one percent of the votes), they are not concerned with merely winning a plurality of votes. Rather, they are always looking to get a greater share of those votes, thus raising their own prestige and power in the legislature. But to do this, they must provide something that government has been woefully poor at providing thus far: value. Yes, they get to spend the taxpayers money. But they will not keep the votes that allow them to do that unless the electorate sees results from the programs they support.

One last thing. If the legislator manages to not spend the entire amount allotted to him in a given year, he may refund 50% of what is left over back to those who had voted for him (as of the cutoff date), giving them one more reason to be happy they chose him as their personal legislator!

All right, my fellow panarchists! I’ve laid this out for you. Now its your turn. Let’s get some comments submitted here, especially if you see some weaknesses in this proposal.

2010/01/28 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Panarchist in the American Southwest: John Paul Mitchell

You never know what will pop up on your Google alert “panarchy” radar.
This morning the surprise comes from the blog of John Paul Mitchell called “Freedom Arizona”. Here’s what his “About” page says about him:

He’s a Doctorate student at the University of Sedona, possesses a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling Psychology, and [is] the author of the book, No More Taxes. He’s also the founder and lead instructor for LuminaryLife, a company that offers life-enhancing products and services.

Apparently, he was also running for governor of that great state, but no longer. In his blog entry “Dear Arizona”, dated 1/12/2010, he explains it this way:

I shall withdraw myself from functioning in the government driven system of fiscal slavery, upholding the essence of the voluntaryism and panarchy philosophies in my daily life.

So, little did we know that a fellow warrior (if one may call a non-violent person struggling to see panarchy realized in the political realm a warrior), yes, that one of our own was running for governor of Arizona.

Here’s to you, John Paul Mitchell: may we all see panarchy in our times!

2010/01/14 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Knott to present papers at Prague Conference on Political Economy.

Our own Adam Knott will be presenting two papers at the Prague Conference on Political Economy, March 19-21, 2010.

The first paper is entitled “The Practice of Panarchism”. About this paper, Adam says,

“In this paper, I will first review a remarkable panarchist essay written this year by Max Borders. Then, building upon this essay, and upon my previous writings on panarchism, I will put forth my ideas on how the beginnings of panarchist society can emerge in our lifetime.”

The second paper, entitled “Ludwig von Mises and the Rational Basis for a Science of Ethics”, has this description:

“It has been claimed that Ludwig von Mises gave up the idea of a rational foundation of ethics. While this claim is true when ethics is considered a discipline that tries to provide a systematic rational for a specific set of values, this claim is not true when ethics is considered a science that studies human actions of an ethical nature; actions such as helping someone, lying to someone, coercing someone, etc. Mises, in laying the foundation of a general science of human action (praxeology), laid the foundation of a science that studies not only “economic” action–action related to market transactions–but a science that studies all forms of action, including “ethical” actions–those actions directly aimed toward another person.”

For further information:
Prague Conference on Political Economy

2009/12/22 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The end of modern serfdom

[This article originally appeared on Panarchy South Jersey]

What is a serf? A serf is a kind of slave, someone who works for another involuntarily. I am a serf. When I moved to Cherry Hill 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 any one I voted for make it to town council. Not once did the vote for school and fire budgets go the way I desired. I’m not alone in this situation. In the last election for town council, four Democrats were elected, and zero Republicans. This has been the way elections go here, at least since I arrived in this town. But the elections are rather close. The highest vote-getter among the Democrats got 10,597, while among the Republicans the highest count was 9,506, a difference of only 1,091, or just over 10%. That means that nearly half those people who bothered to vote in that election have no one representing them on the council, and haven’t for many years. We are without a voice there. But, because we live here, we must work to pay the taxes. That is modern serfdom. For most of my fellow serfs, life here is not odious. But we are still serfs. For a person raised on the idea that we Americans are a free people, the realization that I am really a serf chafes a bit.

There is a solution to this sad situation, one that would be not terribly disruptive to my fellow serfs, but would lift the stigma of serfdom from my own neck, and from the necks of those who feel equally unfree by our state in life.

Just in the last year I came across the concept called panarchy. Panarchy is not a form of government, but a philosophy that changes the way we look at the role of government in society. Governments everywhere in the world today are basically the same. They are monolithic and monopolistic. While they may have two or more active political parties involved, they are still territorial monopolies that claim jurisdiction over all people within their territories. Decisions made by congresses, executives, and bureaucrats in these governments are unary, that is, they always involve imposing a single way of doing things on all the inhabitants of the territory. If I disagree with any of these decisions, I can complain, and I can threaten to vote for someone who agrees with me (and a lot of good these two things have done me). If I really disagree, I can skip town or leave the country. What I cannot do is remain in the place where I am and redirect my taxes away from that which I disgree with, and place them with people who would use them to do something far closer to what I actually want done with them. The more I think of this situation, the more absurd it seems to me.

I don’t want to stop paying taxes. I want to be able to direct my taxes to groups that will do with them things I personally agree with. Don’t you?

Now you may be among the 10,597 people in this town that are more or less happy with how your taxes are being spent. But perhaps you are among the 9,506 who, like me, are more than a little unhappy about how some of your taxes are being spent.

I think it is time that we unhappy serfs figure out how to become more happy. I think it is time for the unhappy serfs to develop a new way for taxes to be gathered and dispersed, so that every serf has a government they can believe in, no matter where they live. In fact, I think that we clever if unhappy serfs can actually find a way to disconnect the fact of where we live from the deterministic distribution of our taxes, eventually leading to the breaking of the final shackle of serfdomhood.

Who is with me?

2009/12/10 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I am, and am not, an Individualist

I am an individualist in a certain sense. I believe completely in the dignity of every individual human person. I believe in the right of every human person to self-determination, the ability to make the important decisions in life that effect them. I believe in the right of each person to choose their religion, or choose to have no religion. I believe in the right of each person to choose their government at every level of society, or to choose to be represented by no government at all (if they are able to suffer the consequences). I believe that the human right of sovereignty resides first in the human person, and only then may come to exist in all social groups to which they belong, which have sovereignty solely in reference to that of the humans by which they are comprised.

I am an individualist (in the first sense) and not a collectivist, because no group of persons has rights that may alienate my human rights from me. This is not to say that I may not default on certain rights by my actions. Any time I act in violation of the rights of another, I lose my rights in proportion to the harm that my actions cause. If I take the life of another in any circumstance other than self-defense, I forfeit my own right to live. If I take or damage that which is owned by another, to that extent I forfeit the right of ownership without penalty. But beyond this, no person or group of people has any right over me.

I am not an individualist (in the second sense) that I am entirely independent of other human beings, because, as a human being, I am by nature social. Society, that group of people with whom I interact in some way or another, obliges me in ways both negative and positive.

Negatively, as a member of society it is understood that my doing harm to another’s person or property will not be tolerated by society without consequences to myself. What I have taken from another, society has the right to force me to return or make good on, and I have the right, as a member of society, to expect the same justice for any loses I suffer at the hands of another. Negative obligations are dealt with by laws that recognize human rights to life and property, but which are restrained from imposing penalties for any human activity that does no harm to another.

On the positive side, society has every right to expect of its members some level of empathy for others. Yet these expectations cannot be enforced by laws and sanctions, because these obligations are moral and not legal.

As a child, I was entirely dependent on others for my very survival, and, if I live long enough, it is quite likely that I will once again be entirely dependent on the good will of others for my continued survival. For some, their condition of weakness may require life-long attention to their physical needs by others. Individualists, in the sense of one who does not acknowledge any moral obligations as a member of society, refuse to accept moral obligations as such. But as one who is not an individualist in this sense, and as a member of human society, I recognize that I am morally obliged to have an empathetic response to the needs of others.

To collectivists, it seems right that all persons who are strong should be legally as well as morally obliged to contribute in some way to the care of the weak. Individualists (as opposed to collectivists), on the other hand, recognize that human weakness does not only include physical weakness, but moral weakness as well, and that a certain level of tolerance of moral weakness is called for, since force is not useful in encouraging a morally weak person to develop empathy for others. Collectivism as such is contrary to human nature, since it tries to enforce by legal means obligations that are moral. They take the view that humans can be forced (in fact, should be forced) to do the right thing morally. This is a simplistic approach to human society, and counter-productive. Moral obligations exist, but forcing people to do the morally right thing, while superficially having the appearance of doing good, does harm instead. Using force against people who do harm to others is consistent with human nature, and is therefore helpful. Using force on people to get them to do the “right thing” is to assume a right that is not consistent with human nature, and is therefore destructive.

Panarchy is the right of each person to choose their own government. By creating, as it were, a free market in government, we will move closer and closer to a society where legal rights relate to human rights, and moral obligations are not subject to coercion.

2009/11/01 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Towards Youtopia.

Adam Knott brought to my attention a fascinating article that echoes the idea of non-territorial governments. The article is especially interesting in that it seems to have come about entirely independently of any contact with the idea or arguments of panarchy. I added a comment to the article, introducing the author to some of the ideas and sites relating to panarchy.

2009/11/01 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Intelligent questions raised about panarchy

I recently received a comment at Panarchy South Jersey.

Panarchy sounds great, but there are certain areas that I don’t really understand how it would work… How would real estate be controlled if there is not overarching government to mediate property claims? Whats to prevent a single government from turning its weapons against it’s non-territorial neighbors and becoming a territorial monopoly again? What system is there to ensure that each of the non-territorial states actually allows people to freely enter and leave it? In other words… who watches the watchmen? I can easily imagine this system acting simply to enable thugs to form their own little feudal states. Or are citizens going to have to huddle for protection being that there is no overarching Law and Order away from the courts of their chosen government? Don’t misunderstand, I am a big fan of the idea of Panarchy. These are simply questions that I can imagine others would ask me as well if I were to pitch the idea. If I can’t answer them, then there is no way I’ll be able to advance the cause of Panarchy… Thanks.  Aneiren

To which I gladly respond:


Thank you for your intelligent questions about panarchy. I’ll do my best to respond to them. All the questions you raised are the questions of a timid person, someone who is afraid of the world, looking for an overarching government to take care of them and keep them safe. On the contrary, your description of thugs and feudal states is more in line with how I see our current condition. Government today is a monopoly of force, not for the protection of the individual, but for their exploitation. I do not see government as being on my side, protecting me, looking out for my interests. I see it as a group of thugs, exercising power over me, for their sole advantage. We pride ourselves as having a government of, by, and for the people, but this is the rhetoric of the elite. Instead, we are a people with governments of, by, and for the elites who manage to get themselves elected into that elite. Once in power, they do with us what they want. For the ‘gift’ of our right to vote, all they ask of us is complete obedience and every dollar of taxes they can extract from us. Panarchy is not for the timid, which is why there are so few of us. It will take strength to stand up, without violence, to all the vested interests that work hand in hand with government to keep their monopoly power alive.

If you had carefully read the articles on this site you would have seen that my proposal is not that radical. I am talking about non-territorial governments that largely *cooperate* with one another. My vision for Government A and Government B, for example, is one where only the schools are handled separately by the two governments. All other government services, including the municipal courts and police, are funded and operated jointly. Others might choose to create governments that prefer to do more things on their own, but that is not what I am proposing with Government B. My vision of panarchy involves a great deal of cooperation as well as radical freedom to choose for oneself. I do not believe these two things are necessarily at odds.

2009/10/18 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Pope: a budding panarchist?

Benedict XVI recently published an encyclical (a teaching document) specifically about social issues. In it he reaffirms the teachings of previous popes over more that one hundred years. One of the foundations of Catholic social teaching is

the principle of subsidiarity, an expression of inalienable human freedom. Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.

[Caritas in Veritate, Section 57, all emphasis mine]

A litte further on he makes a most remarkable and, as far as I can tell, an entirely novel (for the popes) suggestion:

A more devolved and organic system of social solidarity, less bureaucratic but no less coordinated, would make it possible to harness much dormant energy, for the benefit of solidarity between peoples. One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.

[Section 60, emphasis mine]

Panarchy is about voting with your taxes, about deciding, as a free human being, how to allocate all of your taxes so that the government will do with them the good that you intend, and not the evil that you despise. I, for one, am very happy to see the Pope encouraging the very core idea of panarchy.

2009/08/11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Freedom of Religion and Government

I added an article to Panarchy South Jersey entitled “The Limits of Freedom of Religion in a World of Monopoly Governments“. Here is a taste of it:

If you are a truly free person, a person of integrity, how can you abide the fact that the government, in your name and with the resources you provide it, does things that you find reprehensible and repugnant? If a government can do this to you, do you really have freedom of religion?

2009/07/18 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To the Monopolists of All Parties

An email from Christian Butterbach reminded me of this fantastic article on Non-Territorial Governance (aka, Panarchy) by Richard C. B. Johnsson.

2009/07/13 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment