Introduction to Panarchism

The very essence of democracy is the choice of the people, yet commonly citizens are left with little true agency in governmental affairs. Numerous world issues are the result of governments exercising power unjustly without their citizens' consent. Panarchism addresses the issue of citizen's choice to ensure governments do not abuse their power.

Panarchism: a political philosophy

Panarchism is a political philosophy which advocates one's right to voluntary association in the choice of one's own governance.

Most individuals did not choose their current government and many citizens disagree with some of the rules they are expected to obey. Panarchism means that a government, just like a church, should only have power over the individuals who choose to opt in.

This allows for multiple simultaneous governments in one state, where the citizens can select the system which best suits their needs and views.

Panarchism would give both responsibility and self-determination back to the citizen, while allowing the best governmental system(s) to prevail due to natural selection.

Panarchy: a conceptual term

Panarchy is a much more general term than panarchism, applying not just to political systems but to other abstract systems such as nature, society, technology, networks, et cetera.

A panarchy is a system in which interactions and associations are natural and dynamic; this constrasts against hierarchy, which is top-down and based on perceived inequality.

Panarchy is self-ordering, as opposed to hierarchy, which is externally-ordered, and also opposed to chaos, which has no order at all.

An ecosystem is a good example of panarchy. Panarchy allows associations to form and dissolve freely, often naturally converging towards an equilibrium.

A state which implements panarchism will thus also be a panarchy. This will mean citizens have the freedom to interact equally in society while governments are also kept in check by their citizens. Corruption in governments would be greatly reduced as individuals leave governments which fail their duties. Power would be distributed more evenly, rather than allowing the government to coerce citizens or the majority to coerce minority groups.

Vision for Panarchism

A Future of Panarchism

Individual Freedom

Panarchism would allow every individual to choose what aspects of their government they wish to support: their taxes1 become their vote in every societal issue. This will mean citizens have the freedom to interact equally in society while governments are also kept in check by their citizens as they get the final choice.

Only the individual can assess whether a government can posses the qualities of good governance. Ideals are very subjective and it is foundational to panarchism that every individual has the right to opt into their desired governance structure. Citizens simply join, just as with any club or worker's union, and pay the appropriate fees for running the governmental service.

Panarchism allows individuals to experiment: for example, someone can choose to live in socialism while their neighbour chooses to live in a participatory democracy. They would not need to move from their current locale to choose their governmental system, as governmental systems would no longer be territorially controlling of individuals. Without being given the opportunity to try different systems in this manner, nobody can really hope to find the "perfect system".

Governmental Regulation

Governments are organisations made to provide services to the people, as well as setting social standards known as laws. Unfortunately, the current top-down power structure of governments means they are often free to make choices that their citizens don't want (especially between elections, as in the case of modern representational democracies). In fact, power-hungry governments have been found to systematically abuse human rights for alterior motives such as profit or control.

No system change can fix power abuses, except fixing the balance of power so it is equal between the people. Governments should not have any power that their citizens do not give them. As with any other service provided by an organisation, governments will provide a better service if their "customers" can easily leave. Panarchism embodies this view because the government's power will become conditional, not absolute. As individuals leave corrupt governments, bad decisions and rules would be phased out of the overall system.

Governments would become political churches, only having jurisdiction over their congregations who had elected to become members. David M. Hart

Societal Balance

The proverb it takes all kinds to make a world summarises partly the viewpoint of a panarchist: it is a sign of societal maturity for tolerance to be the norm and for conflicts to be resolved by agreeing to disagree. Within a healthy paradigm of panarchic experimentation, agreeing upon the core concepts of self-ownership and tolerance, individuals of the entire poltical spectrum should be able to coexist peacefully. Every citizen can choose their own system without compromise, while also not imposing that view upon others.

Panarchism brings the successes of crowdfunding to important issues and enables all individuals to have equal choice. Power would be distributed more evenly, rather than allowing the majority to crush minority groups.

It doesn't mean that this society should not be organized and governed; it should be, but by democratic institutions, based on natural modes of association. Noam Chomsky

Panarchism Resources and Articles

This section will contain useful links, resources and articles relevant to panarchism. Please feel free to get in touch to contribute other resources.

Further Links


Towards the Future of Panarchism

There are a number of possible options to transition to panarchism, each of them equally valid and the tasks suited to different personality types. The main categories are:

Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages; it would be most beneficial if everyone could simultaneously contribute in all areas.

The Plan

Below are's plans to help achieve panarchism for all. These plans are new so any suggestions are certainly welcome!

  1. Public Education

    Education on the moral foundations and advantages of panarchism could be provided to the public to help raise awareness:
    • Complete the website, action plans and documentation.
    • Create The Panarchist Library to which shall be a continually-updated, distributed public library of panarchism, including various political and economic systems which can exist within panarchism.
    • Write an ebook and philosophy/ethics/political science classroom resources and release them for free, also under The Panarchist Library.
  2. Panarchist Society Software plans to create open source software, which will allow persons to log in and very easily specify their personal ideal governmental system. Individuals would be able to try panarchism in action and see how it works by example. This software would run on a large variety of operating systems and work on a distributed network, both online and offline. It will support interpersonal relations and transactions using multiple formats and currencies.

    This software could be used by micronations, microstates and other countries around the world, to allow them and their citizens to manage their governance. It could also function very well educationally, as it would demonstrate clearly how panarchism would function and its advantages. It could be embedded inside virtual environments and games as an example of panarchism without citizens having to actually commit to the system. Allowing individuals to define their own ideals would give them courage to succeed and strive towards a real implementation of panarchism.

What You Can Do

Please contact us to help contribute or donate to any of the above plans – or to simply network or ask any questions!


  1. While "tax" was used for ease of understanding, the word actually means a compulsory contribution to state revenue and thus does not technically apply to the opt-in service payments that would support governments in a panarchic paradigm.