Politicized Universities: A Step Back from Panarchic Character

The conclusion indicated by the title, that politicized universities are anti-panarchic and what this means, can’t be grasped without first explaining panarchy, it not being a widely-known concept.

Panarchy refers to a form of governance in which every person has the freedom to choose his own form of government without changing their locale. A government is not necessarily non-territorial in this concept; it is territorial only if its adherents or members make it territorial by accumulating properties that join one another to create borders.

It is impossible to know in advance the results in institutions and laws of being free to sign on to a government of one’s choice. Panarchy means that governments and possible borders are shaped by competition; but because there is this competition, which involves a person’s freedom of exit and entry, the prediction is that governance will be of higher and improving quality. We may not know the outcomes, but the theory posits that governance produced by free markets in governance will satisfy people’s wants to a higher degree than governments that impose themselves on captive citizens.

It could be possible for one government to be theocratic and legitimate for its willing members, while having a law for its members only that forbade images of its prophet or its God; and it could have a place of worship next to another non-theocratic government in which producing cartoons of a prophet or a God was legal. A libertarian might say that the theocratic law is illegal under libertarian law; a panarchist would not say this. One can imagine many situations by which frictions would arise, however, and this side-by-side solution might give way to putting physical distance between the two churches and governments. However, the members of each government might still be governed by two conflicting laws.

At present, we have a degree of panarchy, worldwide and local. One may choose a state to live under. There are 193 states in the world to choose from, although free entry and exit are restricted. Within some of these countries, one may choose individual states. The U.S. has 50 of these. Within each state, one may choose numerous subdivisions of local government. Viewing the world as one large territory, it contains numerous governments that, to an extent, are subject to competitive forces. The current solution to panarchy involves borders that demarcate countries, but freedom to enter and exit these countries, or to choose one’s government, is highly restricted. Within a given country, the national government is fixed over that territory, its laws reaching everyone in any locality. Panarchy would mean, for example, that you might live under a minimal low-tax government while your neighbor lived under a maximal high-tax government.

The outcomes of freedom to choose governments, not necessarily territorial, are unknown; and their dynamic aspects are unknown. We expect quality to improve. We expect people to gravitate to governments that better satisfy their wants. Competition produces such results in free markets, and we expect the same in producing government as in producing pizzas.

It has been possible in America to choose the religion one wants without the places of worship being territorial. A religion, call it Q, didn’t have to locate all its churches in Rhode Island, while another, call it P, located only in Massachusetts. Non-believers, call them A, didn’t have to go to New York City. The solution to different religions living side by side has been panarchic in character.

Universities have been similar in panarchic character, in that a wide range of different kinds, located in different places, have emerged. A given city might accommodate many kinds of schools. By panarchic character, we mean a situation of free choice of an institution regardless of one’s locale. Even public state universities have allowed this, although often charging differential prices for non-residents of the state. Panarchic character extends the concept of panarchy in government to free choice of institutions in other respects, like religion and education.

Within universities, there has always been a certain degree of curriculum, educational character, religion and politics that’s peculiar to that institution. Within many universities, however, many different points of view have historically been typical; and academic freedom reinforced that outcome. This wide range within a given space or locale had panarchic character.

American universities are now undergoing more politicization. A majority of Americans think this is wrong. Politicization means that the university becomes dominated by a single political agenda and education is compromised. The panarchic character, which was consistent with freedom to speak and teach, thereby providing internal competition of courses, curricula and ideas, is reduced in favor of a monopolistic menu of indoctrination of ideas. Politicized universities are a step back from what was a reasonably panarchic system within a given university’s space. Furthermore, as more and more universities are politicized, prospective students have fewer to choose from that are not politicized. The inter-university market is undermined, just as the infra-university market for ideas is undermined.


9:38 am on January 13, 2019