Dwight Johnson

The end of modern serfdom




A beautiful and down to earth presentation of the very sensible idea of Panarchy.



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?


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