|14A026 Panarchy is for Losers by Jim Davies, 7/17/2014
Imagine that New Hampshire residents were all to decide to dispense with government and to secede from the Union so as to form an anarchist enclave. It's one conceivable outcome of the Free State Project.
The immediate result would be an example of panarchy. A free society would co-exist with a neighboring statist society. In panarchist theory, they might trade with each other but would not interfere with their respective choices of social organization. If there were any stragglers in NH not happy with the new arrangement they could emigrate to one of the remaining 49, and if in the latter there were any unhappy with government they would be free to move to where there was none. As in all fairy tales, all would live happily ever after.
It's a fairy tale because panarchy's promoters fail to understand the nature of government; which is, of course, to govern everyone within its reach. The idea that one would let over a million people leave its jurisdiction upon demand is ludicrous. On rare occasions states have allowed division (eg Czechoslovakia did split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, for good historical reasons) and it's desirable that Ukraine and Iraq, for example, should partition shortly; we'll see whether either does. But generally, governments relinquish such tax farms only with the utmost reluctance.
It's particularly ridiculous to suppose the FedGov would do so, when it has already shown unmistakably that it will not, even when several states seceded in 1861. It was willing to kill one American in every sixty to as to preserve its grip over the whole set of states. The idea that it would sit idly by while a mere 0.5% of its subjects went free is plain foolish. It would, the very next day, invade with massive force and re-impose its sovereignty over survivors. That freedom experiment would be strangled at birth.
Panarchy is a fairy tale also if it is assumed that instead of gathering in one geographic place (NH), freedom-seekers gradually increase their numbers while staying home, until we are, say, half the US population; at which point and in some way we announce we will no longer be subject to FedGov rule and will neither accept its "benefits" nor pay its expenses. The panarchists in this case occupy every other house in every row. How feasible is that?
It's not. There is no practical way one can repudiate what government provides (roads, for an obvious example) nor refuse to pay what it demands. Even if there were a nationwide income-tax strike (not impossible) the response would be to replace it with VAT and there is no way to avoid that if anything is purchased. War would be waged on such dissidents, one by one - with neighbor betraying neighbor. The violence would be ubiquitous, in every neighborhood instead of in just one corner of New England.
Governments never let go... unless they are forced to. Or unless their employees walk out.
I think it possible that panarchy might work - and even morph into anarchy - if the shoe were on the other foot; that is, if a governed area were surrounded by free societies, outnumbered by them. That possibility I explored here. The problem is one of chicken and egg; I know of no way it could happen. The emancipation of several states has to begin with one, and as soon as one secedes, its residents will be squashed like a bug, as above. So again: panarchist theory is academic, a fairy tale.
Worse yet, its very idea is for losers.
Not only do panarchists fail to understand the nature of government, they also fail to understand the nature of human freedom. In essence it is that every person has the natural right to own and operate his or her own life. That's fundamental. Yet the panarchist premise is that some substantial portion of humanity will choose to be ruled by someone else! How absurd can one get? Now, it's quite true that, having long suffered under government rule some may be slow to throw it off when given the choice - but that is different, and temporary. Panarchists assume irrationally that it will be a permanent pick.
Neither of those failures would survive study of the first two Segments of TOLFA.
Lastly, having wrongly assumed that some people are out of reach to the liberty advocate, they give up the struggle and propose instead the compromise of co-existence (non-feasible though it is, as above.) They lack the courage of their alleged convictions. They are in effect giving up, saying that freedom is a nice ideal but cannot work in practice for everyone - and even "justify" their position by appeal to the fine libertarian virtue of tolerance. That is pathetic. They are losers. There is a perfectly sound process by which complete liberty is being accomplished, with success dependent only on a few simple and credible assumptions. The panarchist capitulation is not even needed.
This week Paul Bonneau wrote in praise of panarchism on Strike the Root, and is a good example of such losers. His position is not surprising, given that he also believes that humans do not have rights - and even says he doesn't want any! That is at least consistent - but it's to the shame of Strike the Root that its Editor allows that author publishing space. That site is, after all, dedicated to striking the root of evil, not to compromising with it.