What is panarchy?

PANARCHY (pan-archy: many chiefs; multi-government) is a system of competing, co-existing governments which conduct their operations within the same geographical territories without making any claims to those territories, and whose only powers derive from the consent of those they govern, i.e., those who voluntarily agree to submit to a particular government. These voluntary governments are constituted and operate on the basis of contractual personal law rather than the coercive territorial law of the Nation-State.

David Taylor (1989), For Panarchy

This page features a series of passages describing the political philosophy of panarchism. It is my conjecture that a political-economic system resembling somewhat of panarchy is degenerate, robust, and ultimately supremely evolvable – as will be the topic of future discussion on this blog.

Panarchism is a political philosophy emphasizing each individual’s right to freely join and leave the jurisdiction of any governments they choose, without being forced to move from their current locale. The word “panarchy” was invented and the concept proposed by a Belgian political economist, Paul Émile de Puydt in an article called “Panarchy” published in 1860. The word “panarchy” has since taken on additional, separate meanings, with the word “panarchism” referring to the original definition by de Puydt.

De Puydt, a proponent of laissez-faire economics, wrote that “governmental competition” would allow “as many regularly competing governments as have ever been conceived and will ever be invented” to exist simultaneously and detailed how such a system would be implemented. As David M. Hart writes: “Governments would become political churches, only having jurisdiction over their congregations who had elected to become members.”

In his 1860 article “Panarchy” de Puydt, who also expressed support for laissez-faire economics, applied the concept to the individual’s right to choose any form of government without being forced to move from their current locale. This is sometimes described as “extra-territorial” (or “exterritorial”) since governments often would serve non-contiguous parcels of land. De Puydt (1860) wrote:

“The truth is that there is not enough of the right kind of freedom, the fundamental freedom to choose to be free or not to be free, according to one’s preference….Thus I demand, for each and every member of human society, freedom of association according to inclination and of activity according to aptitude. In other words, the absolute right to choose the political surroundings in which to live, and to ask for nothing else.”

De Puydt described how such a system would be administered:

“In each community a new office is opened, a “Bureau of Political Membership”. This office would send every responsible citizen a declaration form to fill in, just as for the income tax or dog registration: Question: What form of government would you desire? Quite freely you would answer, monarchy, or democracy, or any other… and once registered, unless you withdrew your declaration, respecting the legal forms and delays, you would thereby become either a royal subject or citizen of the republic. Thereafter you are in no way involved with anyone else’s government—no more than a Prussian subject is with Belgian authorities.”

De Puydt’s definition of panarchy was expanded into a political philosophy of panarchism. It has been embraced by some socialist, anarchist and libertarian-leaning individuals, including some of those promoting secession from existing states and those advocating creation of new micronations, including especially Max Nettlau (Panarchy, A Forgotten Idea of 1860, 1909) and John Zube (The Gospel of Panarchy, 1986).

Two similar ideas are “Functional Overlapping Competing Jurisdictions” (FOCJ) advocated by Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Reiner Eichenberger and “multigovernment” advocated by Le Grand E. Day and others.

(Taken from panarchy.org)

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