John Zube

Thoughts on Panarchy

(1965 - 2009)



This is a short collection of thoughts in which John Zube presents from different angles and reiterates in various ways the core meaning and practice of this very sensible proposal that is Panarchy. They represent unconventional insights that should assist many of us in overcoming current mental preconceptions that are the real stumbling blocks to any personal and social progress.



I am a revolutionary and a conservative, a liberal and a voluntary socialist, an anarchist and an authoritarian - in other words, a panarchist. - 1965


Panarchy, a social organization characterized by a variety of omnipresent (exterritorial) and autonomous (regarding their own affairs) protective associations, peacefully competing with each other for the allegiance of voluntary members, like most churches and sports club do now.


To everyone the God or Government of his dreams. - 19.4.82.


Panarchy is the most radical and the most tolerant political framework system, the only one with a chance to reconcile all ideologies, whether they take a left, or right or central position, simply because it leaves all of them alone, under self-management by their own volunteers, just like religious tolerance does. - 20.6.09.


Panarchy means exterritorial autonomy for all minorities on a voluntary basis.


Panarchy means: As many competing governments everywhere and at the same time but without territorial sovereignty, as are desired by voluntary members, with as many or as few powers as are claimed and representing all forms of government or no-government association as can find some voluntary support.


World-wide there would be competing governments A-Z, none with a fixed territory - apart from the land held privately by their voluntary members or by these associations e.g. for whatever living, work and administrative buildings they require. In their internal structure and function the competing governments would be as similar or diverse as their voluntary members would want them to be, varying e.g. from totalitarians to anarchists. Their only common features would be the following:

  1. A code of natural and individual human rights that is comprehensive but of which only individual secessionism and associationism need be universally respected, for their international relations. Otherwise, for their internal arrangements, the associations may deviate from such a code as much as they like. But they will have to respect such clearly expressed and published rights to the extent that they are claimed and acted upon by members of other associations.
  2. To assure respect for claimed and genuine rights, members of all competing governments would, at the same time, be members of local volunteer militias for the protection of human rights and of their international federations. But this militia would not attempt to protect mere claimed but not real “welfare rights” that some volunteers might wish to practise in their panarchies, at their own risk and expense. That would be their business or their internal anti-business or non-business activity, just like various religious charities and foundation activities are now.
  3. A network of various arbitration and international court arrangements would confederate these competing governments and non-governmental societies and communities to assure, as far as possible, a civilized juridical settlement of all disputes between the members of different panarchistic communities.

These three features for the interrelationship between the competing autonomous and exterritorial associations of volunteers would come close to the limited government or mini-government or meta-utopian ideal envisioned by many libertarians but would provide for competition and consumer choice in the political, social and economic sphere, providing each, within his own sphere, with the government or no-government of his dreams. Some of the competing governments may have their voluntary members not all over the world but only in some of the present nations. Some might concentrate in some neighborhoods, like some ethnic communities do now in many cities. Others might wish to live in their own “gated” private communities, as many people already do, even under very limited autonomy. But, if they traveled or settled elsewhere, they would or could take their personal laws with them, as their personal possessions and rights, not to be violated by others - but, at the same time, they could not force them upon others but must respect the different and self-chosen rights and arrangements of others than their own members, everywhere. For instance, if they are smokers and drinkers, they can do so privately, among themselves, but not practice their inclinations in a party of Muslims or in a group of Christian abstainers. On their private properties they must abide by their house-rules or leave. 21.9.82, 20.6.09.


Panarchy is no particular utopia but a framework for all voluntary and utopian attempts that can be undertake by volunteers at their expense and risk. But compare with it every other system, i.e. every exclusive, territorial system with compulsory membership, is utopian, does inevitably infringes genuine individual rights and liberties of many and leads to persecutions and mass murders! - We do have all too much and prolonged evidence for that. - Panarchy is no more utopian than any other innovation or reform is in the beginning, i.e. it does not exist anywhere yet, but it is the only practicable solution for men as diverse as they are or wish to be. It is no more utopian than the ideas of peace, justice and freedom are between human beings. Indeed, it would maximize the potential of all three, help in their realization more than any other method and in their preservation once they are achieved. It is much less utopian than all the current territorial statist attempts are e.g. in Vietnam, Israel or Australia, to achieve harmony, cooperation, uniformity and rapid advancement under central and territorial government direction and control, no matter whether it be democratic or dictatorial, based on 200 parties as in the Congo, 3 as in the USA or one as behind the Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain. Under the present territorial system not even any political party is the image of internal harmony. - n.d., & 20.6.09


What other political concepts are almost or fully synonymous with panarchy? - Competing governments, parallel institutions, voluntary associations, voluntaryism, political pluralism, minority autonomy, individualism, freedom - including the freedom not to be free or to choose voluntary slavery, freedom of action, tolerance to the utmost extent possible, decentralization - down to individual choice, individual sovereignty, experimental freedom in the social, economic and political sphere, freedom of contract, personal law, alternative institutions, exterritorial utopianism, intentional communities that are confined to the private property of their members, proprietary communities - as long as their area of operation is not as large that it could be classed as a monopolistic State territory, the old Turkish Millet system, the old system of independent Orders, the Capitulations between States guaranteeing autonomy and consular jurisdiction and personal laws for the own members within the territory of other States, the 'Laws of the Barbarians' as described by Edward Gibbons in chapter 38 of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Opting out, Withdrawing from the State, Ignoring the State, Individual Secessionism, leaving the State like one may leave a church, religious liberty or tolerance, dissent, non-conformism etc. - applied in the political, economic and social spheres, free 'internal migration', conscientious objection in all spheres of responsible activities, full autonomy for majorities and minorities to run their own affairs - and nothing else, laissez faire, laissez passer, as long and as far as they do, free enterprise even for State Socialists to run their own lives, individual initiative in all spheres of human endeavor.

I hold that it is the only societal form that is in accordance with human nature and that it does permit peaceful coexistence in the long run.


Catholics were once involved in despotism and a civil war against heretics and religious reformers and in wars against foreign non-believers. Why have these wars stopped? Because they adopted or were induced to adopt panarchism in the religious sphere. The most valuable aid to the human race that any church could give now, would be to successfully advocate the same kind of freedom and tolerance that was so successful in the religious sphere, in the social, economic and political sphere. Instead, they tend to repeat in these spheres the old mistake of supporting one or the other universal, exclusive, territorial claim. - 21/9/82.


Panarchy: a society composed out of many autonomous and exterritorial groups of volunteers which, due to this organizational form, do not have any imposed authorities, any true compulsion against members - because members joined voluntarily and remain free to secede. - 21/9/82.


De Puydt [the advocate and inventor of the word Panarchy] did not propose one universal territorial government interfering with all affairs, being, supposedly, omnipresent and omniscient (comparable to the pantheist concept of god - that every part of the world is part of one omnipresent and omnipotent god or that the world is god), but proposed, instead, any number of governments or communities for one and the same territory or for the whole world, as many as are desired by volunteers for themselves.


A panarchic society would do away with enforced unity, uniform rule of governments over whole territories and all their inhabitants, among whom are always many dissatisfied and involuntary victims. It would give full liberty of choice to the individual. A citizen would then have the right to ignore the state and to join another, as he can do now with regard to churches, while going on living and working wherever he does now. (Well, Protestants should not expect to be acceptable to the staff of a Catholic Church and vice versa. - Such “discrimination” should go on. - 20.6.09. ) The new associations would be on a voluntary and personal law basis, not on a territorial one. They would be exterritorially autonomous, that is, have even their own constitutions, legislation, administration and jurisdiction, if they want to. They would represent all shades of opinion and ideologies, have all kinds of constitutions, from extremely authoritarian ones to extremely libertarian ones, as long as they confine their activities to their own affairs and do not try to meddle with the affairs of other such communities. - Imagine e.g. the friction that would result between housewives - if they were foolish enough to try to settle territorially and by majority vote how and what all house-wives should cook, bake or otherwise prepare in food-stuffs, their rations for this, their clothing, their treatment of their children and how they should conduct their household otherwise. - I guess that not only some wrongful use of sharp tongues but also of sharp knives would occur between them. Just leaving them to run their own affairs independently, offering no more than well-meant advice, no compulsion at all, established a very extensive and prolonged peace among them. - 23.1.66, 21.9.82, 20.6.09.


This radical form of pluralist society would correspond to the diversity among human beings and human endeavors, would solve the minority problem, would make it impossible to set up dictatorships (except with unanimous consent and then they would no longer be dictatorships!), would deprive people of the motive and the need for revolt, would rid us of most motive or excuse for any war, civil war, revolution or terrorist act, would e.g. do away with military and economic frontiers, would make compulsory taxes and conscription impossible, would create a stable and yet dynamic basis for internal and external peaceful coexistence and creative competition. - J.Z., 1966 - 2009


The members of one or the other of the various volunteer communities existing under panarchy could not be singled out as enemies to be murdered by mass extermination 'weapons'. There would be no enemy territory left to drop nuclear 'bombs' on. Without targets such destructive devices are obviously useless and no ideology would need their 'defensive' or aggressive power to realize or spread its system, i.e. the military 'need' for it, the war motive, would also disappear. These devices would become so obviously insane and dangerous in the eyes of most that a sufficient consensus could be obtained even for their unilateral destruction. - We should not forget that regarding chemical and biological warfare this agreement has already been largely reached between most governments and for nuclear “weapons” they do also aim at multilateral abolition. However, as territorial governments they cannot agree and trust each other in this respect. They have done away merely with some of the outdated and obviously superfluous nuclear “weapons”. - 1966, 1982, 20.6.2009. 1966, 1982, 20.6.2009.


Rightful revolutions with panarchy as their aim could lead to an easy and almost bloodless liberation from tyrannies and would put an end to further revolutions - because the one-man-revolution would become not only possible, but, instead, daily practice by at least some individuals. - 1966-1982, 20.6.09.


Under panarchy one or even several competing world federations on a voluntary basis, all panarchistically structured for peaceful coexistence, would become possible and would be established step by step through individual secession and affiliation. - 1966-1982.


In this political framework any kind of tolerant economic, social or political experiment could be undertaken, provided it can be undertaken only at the expense and risk of the voluntary participants. Consequently, economic, social and political progress could be expected to be similarly furthered as natural science was by the introduction of experiments and computer technology by experimental freedom in that sphere. - 1966-1982


Panarchy with regard to human rights means that everybody for his own life may claim as many or as few of them as he likes. He cannot impose obligations on others since all are subject only to their own choices, contracts, arrangements. For their own relationships among themselves, some volunteer groups might even attempt to reject the concept of rights and their applications altogether, as long as they can manage. That would be their problem. The only obligation such and other groups with voluntarily limited internal rights practice would have is: to respect these rights in others who do claim them and are correspondingly organized in their own protective association of volunteers. Thus human rights will generally regulate only the external affairs of panarchistic societies. (Until, perhaps only in the far future, a full agreement is reached on all individual rights and liberties. I think that it is an ethical obligation to work towards bringing about such a future, a.s.a.p., starting with the attempt to provide an ideal declaration of this kind, taking especially all private drafts of this kind into account.)

In short, panarchy with regard to human rights means that you may claim all or some or none for yourself but, anyhow, you have to respect them in the members of other autonomous communities.


Panarchy is the only system which would allow all minorities to apply majority or unanimous decisions to their own affairs. - n.d. & 20.6.09.


Panarchy would allow anarchists to live as anarchists, i.e. without a government, although they would be surrounded by archists preferring to live under one or the other form of government. In short it would permit tolerant anarchism and outlaw only intolerant or authoritarian or totalitarian anarchism. Anarchism and States would coexist but not in their presently envisioned and practiced forms. Both would have no exclusive whole territories any longer and both would have only voluntary followers. Both would be allowed to do everything or nothing within their own sphere and nothing whatsoever of an interventionist kind in the sphere of the other. Anti-monopolism is not a bad alternative word for it. - n.d.


Panarchy makes it possible to follow up on all worthwhile dreams and to disprove the chimerical ones at minimal cost. - 12.4.84.


Panarchy is the escape route for the big break-out from the prison of the territorial State that now holds all of us. - 12.4.84.


Panarchy means the consistent application of the notion of "internal affairs" to exterritorial bodies of volunteers. - 21.4.84. - It is a genuine system of “self-government”. All territorial governments are all too flawed imitations of self-government. - 20.6.09.



[Home] [Top]