"History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." ~ Edward Gibbon
A Method For Achieving Panarchy (Part 1)
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
I wrote up a recipe for achieving Panarchy, and posted it on a forum frequented by anarchists. It was intended as a focus for discussion more than an actual plan of events. This is a slight re-write, version 2.
*What is Panarchy?*
Panarchy is that condition, when people are affected by, and can only affect, those political institutions and structures in a political environment that they explicitly agree to be a part of. Panarchy is often compared with the separation of church and state, when people were no longer forced into churches they did not agree with, and could practice their own religion (if any) in peace. Of course, the separation is only political; all these people will still interact voluntarily with others via the market, just as people of different religions do today.
*Current Condition: The "One Size Fits All" Polity*
Currently, all people, regardless of their opinion, are forced into a single, homogenized, "one size fits all" polity (or political environment). Needless to say, this generates a lot of strife, as all are scrambling for that one great cudgel of power, to lord it over others, and to defend against others lording it over them. People become tired of fighting their neighbors all the time. Panarchy seeks to solve this problem, and to massively reduce this strife.
*A Secession of Polities*
The method to attain Panarchy envisioned here will be the creation and eventual secession of distinct polities from the "One Size Fits All" polity. For example, there may be a polity for "paleocons", a polity for "neocons", a polity for liberals, another for progressives, another for libertarian minarchists, one for anarcho-capitalists, and another for anarcho-syndicalists. It will be accomplished in stages: 1) Potentially-seceding polities; 2) Actually-seceding polities; 3) Seceded polities.
The first stage is for people to form polities within a given state, by creating an online list of members who have joined, and by providing an online description of the principles members of the polity will stand for. The members will come from the voting-age population in the state. Members will sign on to the notion of seceding from the "One Size Fits All" polity, exerting "reasonable" effort to make that happen, when the time for that stage comes. The list will contain names, addresses and any other identifier or contact information of the members thought necessary. During this stage, all members are still operating politically within the "One Size Fits All" polity; but they may also be participating in other efforts within their chosen polity to form the shadow institutions and structures that will be needed within it, when the secession starts. This may also include voting for provisional polity "governors", "representatives" and other such people.
When half the people in the voting age population of the state have joined potentially-seceding polities, we enter the second stage. In this stage, all these new polities will attempt to extract themselves from the "One Size Fits All" polity so that their members no longer have to be victims (and victimizers) of that polity. This effort may take many forms. Certainly, it will be largely done via efforts still within the structures and institutions of the "One Size Fits All" polity, and that effort should yield good results since we will have the backing of such a large part of the population. Naturally, all new polities will cooperate in this effort even if their political philosophies are completely different, because the payoff will be complete autonomy for themselves when it is accomplished. There will also be many examples of non-violent resistance and non-cooperation against the "One Size Fits All" polity. Finally, if the "One Size Fits All" polity decides to inject violence into the picture, those in the new polities will have to decide how they should respond. At this point we are transferring our political efforts into our new institutions, seeking escape from the taxes and control of the "One Size Fits All" polity.
*The "None of the Above" Polity*
There will be some people who have not joined any new polity, yet who also do not wish to be claimed by the "One Size Fits All" polity, as it will certainly attempt to do. These may want to form a "None of the Above" polity, whose sole function is to display the names of people who do not want to be associated with the "One Size Fits All" polity or any other polity. It will have no political program as its members will be diverse. This polity may actually be pretty popular as people park here, waiting to see what the other polities have to offer.
At some point, the "One Size Fits All" polity will give up coercive efforts to recapture the people who have left, and will either split itself into other polities, or become effectively the "One Size Fits Some" polity, or simply disappear. At that point, we have entered the "seceded polities" stage, and at least within that state, people are now associating politically only with those they are in rough agreement with. This will give rise to competition for new members between polities, as people watch and compare how things are working out in the different polities.
*Number and Size of Polities*
There should be a sweet spot, perhaps somewhere between 5 and 20 polities. Too few polities causes problems similar to the "One Size Fits All" polity, where none of the members are really satisfied. Too many, and it will cause unnecessary wasted effort of parallel institutions; however, one can imagine some institution-sharing efforts between polities that are at least in some respects similar, just as an efficiency measure. For example, those polities depending on tax revenue may share a tax-collecting institution though the taxes may be at different rates for each polity, or on different things. These shared institutions should be kept on a short leash, however, so as not to become too dominant in the political landscape. One other disadvantage of small polities is that they will be hard pressed to keep up a defensive posture against the stronger polities; so excessive fragmentation will naturally be discouraged.
Over time, other states will follow this model. Eventually the time will come that a majority of people are operating outside the "One Size Fits All" state polities, and will wish that also to be applied at the federal level. This should be accomplished in a similar fashion to the state level projects, but it is really too far into the future to speculate. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
The reception was not what I expected.
If you look at that and other threads in this Panarchy sub-forum, there is a lot of what appears to be simple misunderstanding about what Panarchy is. The religious analogy often mentioned in documents about Panarchy seems to go completely over their heads. Perhaps people so opposed to religion at all, are not going to relate well to such an analogy. Otherwise, I don’t see how Panarchy could be confusing--it’s a very basic idea--although some implementation details certainly would need careful consideration and creativity.
Another objection seems to be that to get to Panarchy will require everybody to be anarchists in the first place, or that achieving Panarchy would make statists into actual anarchists. This objection does make some sense, strangely; after all, a world starting out full of nothing but anarchists might end up looking like a Panarchy, since the primary factor is that people voluntarily organized themselves into differing structures. “Anarchy does not mean no rules, just no rulers.” When it is voluntary, it is not statism, is it? But the answer to this is that of course most of them are still statists, with a minor adjustment to their outlook. Most will still want elections, for example, to apply imposition in a way they prefer. It’s just that the imposition will be different and more limited than it currently is now with the “One Size Fits All” polity, done by state or national borders.
Still, the above objection does have certain amusing aspects. Are anarchists really objecting that statists have become more like anarchists? Is Panarchy just a marketing ploy to fool statists into being fundamentally anarchist? One could go down this rabbit hole forever . . . .
I think the main reason Panarchy does not seem to be well accepted among anarchists (at least with this sample), is the typical anarchist habit of over-thinking things. Or the odd but common desire to have human relations work like the laws of Physics. I suspect the average Joe will have less difficulty understanding the idea--what conservative would not prefer having only conservatives in office above him--and more willingness to accept it. As I mentioned before, <a href="http://strike-the-root.com/freedom-is-not-intellectual-pursuit">freedom is not an intellectual pursuit</a>. There is irony in the notion that the path to liberty might only be accessible to statists, and not so much to anarchists! Will anarchists be no help in achieving liberty?
I suspect they will be a help, particularly with setting the stage (getting people to question conventional wisdom, etc.) but that statists will do the heavy lifting when the revolution starts.