Voluntary Governance | Thrive Movement

Picture_6By Foster Gamble

I imagine a world where each being is free to act according to his or her inner guidance, provided there is no violation of any other’s person or property.

Association is voluntary, not coerced. Exchange is by choice, not force. There is no involuntary taxation (plunder), so there is no involuntary governance (tyranny). Money is a medium of exchange based on real value (sound currency) rather than arbitrary “fiat” decree (counterfeit and fraud). There are no wars of aggression (mass murder). A truly free market has led to prosperity beyond current imagining, where people have the time and the resources to follow their passions and to care for one another, as needed, voluntarily.


What if citizens were given a choice over the type of government they wanted? Or if they wanted a government at all? What if people were really to have a say in the decisions that determine the content and quality of their lives? Could we self-govern and create more resilient, peaceful, prosperous communities?

Today, involuntary governance is all that exists.  When you step back to look at what government really is, it basically comes down to a group of people who are granted more power than the rest of us.  They are able to make laws that we have to obey, they are able to charge us money in the form of taxes without our consent, they are able to put us in jail if we don’t go along with their self-proclaimed power, and they are able to go to war –with our money – without our approval.

It seems like voluntary governance is such a radical notion that it is common to reject it without really exploring it fully. We have chosen to examine our assumptions about government and are grateful that there are many great thinkers who have devoted their time and energy to exploring the problems and the solutions related to involuntary governance. People often say that government is necessary for protection. But governments have killed more of their own citizens and innocent civilians than any other institution in history – more than 200 million people in the 20th Century alone.  Would voluntary governance result in this kind of brutality and violence?  The fact that all current governments are involuntary – ranging from dictatorships to democracies – puts them at risk of being overthrown. Involuntary governments create state militaries not necessarily to protect the people, but to protect themselves. Are there more effective ways of optimizing our security, in a voluntary society?

dont_tread_on_meInvoluntary governments also require money to be funded, which is collected in the form of taxes. The people have no say in how taxes are spent but we are nonetheless required to pay them. Americans are terrified of the IRS. How is it that government can order us to fund their activities without us having a say in it? This economic dynamic doesn’t exist anywhere else. People in society make money by voluntarily selling goods and services or by receiving voluntary gifts. The government, on the other hand, collects money by force. Imagine if people had a say in where their taxes went. Would we be spending so much on the military? Would we have taxes at all? What if we only put funds toward services we wanted, and kept the rest of our money to support the businesses, inventions, educational opportunities and upkeep of our infrastructure that we valued? Could we create a more prosperous economy if involuntary governments didn’t collect a large portion of our income?

Making the transition to voluntary governance would obviously take a lot of work, but we believe it’s absolutely essential if what we are after are equal rights and true freedom – not as a philosophical ideal but as a reality.  As discussed in our Solutions Strategies article, Stage One of the transition will likely involve reforming current systems to make governments accountable while taking care of those most disenfranchised without increasing the government’s funding or power –  and at the same time empowering individuals and communities to organize on their own.  Some key areas to address to get the transition underway are election and campaign finance reform.

The good news is a lot of valuable thinking has already been done envisioning voluntary societies. (The Liberty Resource Tree at the bottom of this page is rich with decades of extraordinary ethical and practical thinking.)

Because such profound change cannot happen all at once, there are three overlapping stages of the solutions process: Stage One: Bringing integrity and healing to our current condition; Stage Two: limiting government control to the protection of individual rights and the commons; and Stage Three:  living solely by voluntary cooperation – rules, but no rulers.

This three-staged approach is a radical shift from most strategies. Rather than just trying to improve the status quo, it integrates traditional progressive, conservative, and liberty viewpoints, reconciling divisions that have long kept us separated.

Source: Thrive Movement


There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

– Henry David Thoreau

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