Panarchy, Not Anarchy, Is the Answer
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
It’s not unusual to see here on Strike The Root articles defending or promoting anarchy, particularly the anarcho-capitalist variety. Yay, team!
Anarcho-capitalism is a good answer--for anarcho-capitalists. Not so good for, say, communitarians, though; nor for liberals, conservatives, or even anarcho-other-than-capitalists.
It’s an answer, not the answer.
It’s not even a perfect answer for me, since my eyes start rolling whenever an-caps go on about religious notions such as “rights.” I’m not religious. However, I am quite religiously tolerant; so yeah, I could live pretty well in an an-cap community.
Anarchists like to think of themselves as avant-garde, and I suppose in the current political world we are, pretty much. But one old-fashioned notion that is often found among them, is that anarchism is the political philosophy for everyone. To paraphrase Churchill, “Anarchy is the worst form of government (or non-government) except all the others that have been tried.” There’s always that good old value judgment. Yay, team!
Panarchists, on the other hand, tend to refrain from making value judgments. It’s hard to see how they could, since “anything goes” in panarchy.
The Wikipedia definition of Panarchy shows multiple possible interpretations for it, but to me it means two particular things: 1) A panarchist believes in whatever political philosophy it pleases him to believe, and operates politically, only within that polity; 2) A panarchist rejects coercion of those outside his own polity.
A natural corollary of these two characteristics is that a panarchist is naturally reticent to criticize polities different from his own, in the same exact way a modern Catholic would be reticent to publicly, at least, condemn the Lutheran or Baptist religions, and vice-versa. It’s not polite. It also stirs up unnecessary conflict and aggression.
Of course coercion within a polity remains perfectly permissible--depending on the polity.
One other characteristic that is usually included with panarchism is that of extraterritoriality. In other words, people of different polities live all mixed up together, again similar to people of modern religions. I don’t find this entirely prescriptive of panarchy, though, since people can live where they please, and inevitably there will be concentrations of one polity or another. It’s just easier, living with one’s own kind. I described that notion long before I knew about “panarchy”, here. It might be though of as “fine-grained panarchy” (living in polities all mixed up) vs. “coarse-grained panarchy” (polities with some separation). I suspect coarse-grained panarchy will predominate at first, and later that things will become more fine-grained, particularly in the big cities.
Now, I have little doubt that anarcho-capitalism will gain tremendously large numbers of converts once people can see it operating in the open. I have lots of doubt, however, that it will convert everyone, or even just a majority.
If that is assumed to be a given, it seems to me that anyone who becomes an anarchist must simultaneously become a panarchist, since an anarchist rejects coercion. But there are a lot of anarchists apparently resistant to the idea of panarchism. They have turned into evangelists, as happens to many new converts, and can’t abide by the notion their solution doesn’t work for everyone. I suppose that without coercion left as a tool, their brilliant argumentation and passion is supposed to convert the ignorant and suspicious masses. Such notions are hard to take seriously. Isn’t it just easier to stop attacking others’ beliefs, relax, and become a panarchist? Not only easier, but also more productive, I’d argue.
Anyone can be a panarchist, but all anarchists must be--otherwise, they aren’t really anarchists. Perhaps someone can try to refute this statement--that is, explain how one can reject coercion without rejecting coercion. Or the alternative, explain how every person on Earth can be converted to anarcho-capitalism with no coercion.
Now, some like to make the somewhat semantic argument that a person of any polity automatically becomes an anarchist (what kind?) by dropping interpolity coercion from his set of approved tools, with everything else left unchanged. I don’t know if this semantic argument adds much to the discussion; after all, people remain capable of doing that (rejecting only interpolity coercion) no matter what you want to call them. Intrapolity coercion remains, remember. They can coerce each other to their heart’s content. Panarchy does not prescribe total elimination of coercion.
By the way, I have no delusions about interpolity coercion simply vanishing into thin air forever, with the advent of widespread panarchy. There is no panarchist utopia; humans ain’t got it in ‘em. There will always be “backsliding,” and particular polities will have to maintain a credible defensive posture. It’s something to shoot for, though. There is always room for improvement. I’ll bet a lot of conservatives and liberals (for example) are getting tired of bashing each other to no good end. Well, now they can stop.
If I may be permitted, Yay, panarchy!
Just to head off any misinterpretation, I am not suggesting that alternative polities are equally correct, equally fair or decent. I think anarcho-capitalism is superior to all others. It’s just that I’m unwilling to impose it.