Anarchism is all around us

When will anarchism happen?

When its time, but it happens all the time if you pay attention to where you are.

Where does it happen?

Anarchists are everywhere. Consider Norman Yoffee’s rule, “if you can argue whether a society is a state or isn’t, then it isn’t.” On a basic level, we encounter anarchism every day– when we interact and voluntarily cooperate without the meddling of the State. Consider our almost daily involvement with the socialist mantra– to each according to their needs, and from each according to their abilities– have you ever volunteered, given someone a gift, a free favor, a free hand? Have you ever mutually cooperated with another person to do certain tasks because you or the other person were better equipped, mentally or physically by genes or practice/training, to do a certain task? We all experience anarchism, its everywhere.

Excepts from: The Obviousness of Anarchy by John Hasnas

…Anarchy refers to a society without a central political authority. But it is also used to refer to disorder or chaos. This constitutes a textbook example of Orwellian newspeak in which assigning the same name to two different concepts effectively narrows the range of thought. For if lack of government is identified with the lack of order, no one will ask whether lack of government actually results in a lack of order. And this uninquisitive mental attitude is absolutely essential to the case for the state. For if people were ever to seriously question whether government is really productive of order, popular support for government would almost instantly collapse.


The identification of anarchy with disorder is not a trivial matter. The power of our conceptions to blind us to the facts of the world around us cannot be gainsaid. I myself have had the experience of eating lunch just outside Temple University’s law school in North Philadelphia with a brilliant law professor who was declaiming upon the absolute necessity of the state provision of police services. He did this just as one of Temple’s uniformed private armed guards passed by escorting a female student to the Metro stop in this crime-ridden neighborhood that is vastly underserved by the Philadelphia police force.


A wise man once told me that the best way to prove that something is possible is to show that it exists. This is the strategy I shall adopt in this chapter. I intend to show that a stable, successful society without government can exist by showing that it has, and to a large extent, still does.


Defining Terms and Limitations


I am presenting an argument for anarchy in the true sense of the term; that is, a society without government, not a society without governance. There is no such thing as a society without governance. A society with no mechanism for bringing order to human existence is oxymoronic; it is not “society” at all.


One way to bring order to society is to invest some people with the exclusive power to create and coercively enforce rules which all members of society must follow; that is, to create a government. Another way to bring order to society is to allow people to follow rules that spontaneously evolve through human interaction with no guiding intelligence and may be enforced by diverse agencies. This chapter presents an argument for the latter approach; that is, for a spontaneously ordered rather than a centrally planned society.


In arguing for anarchy, I am arguing that a society without a central political authority is not only possible but desirable. That is all I am doing, however. I am not arguing for a society without coercion. I am not arguing for a society that abides by the libertarian non-aggression principle or any other principle of justice.


I am not arguing for the morally ideal organisation of society. I am not arguing for utopia. What constitutes ideal justice and the perfectly just society is a fascinating philosophical question, but it is one that is irrelevant to the current pursuit. I am arguing only that human beings can live together successfully and prosper in the absence of a centralised coercive authority. To make the case for anarchy, that is all that is required.


An additional limitation on my argument is that I do not address the question of national defense. There are two reasons for this. One is the logical one that a society without government is a society without nations. In this context, “national” defense is a meaningless concept. If you wish, you may see this as an assertion that an argument for anarchy is necessarily an argument for global anarchy. I prefer to see it merely as the recognition that human beings, not nations, need defense. The more significant reason, however, is that I regard the problem of national defense as trivial for reasons I will expand upon subsequently….


The Question


Whether government is necessary is not an abstract metaphysical question. It is an entirely practical question concerning the delivery of goods and services. The defenders of government argue that certain goods or services that are essential to human life in society can be supplied only by a government. Anarchists deny this. The question, then, is whether there are any essential goods or services that can be supplied only through the conscious actions of human beings invested with the power to enforce rules on all members of society.


Note that the question is not whether the “market” can supply all necessary goods and services, at least not the market as it is usually defined by economists. Some anarchists argue that the free market can supply all necessary goods and services. But the case for anarchy does not require that one assert this claim, and I do not. Anarchy requires, and I argue, only that no essential good or service must be supplied though the conscious actions of the agents of a coercively maintained monopoly. Properly understood, the question is whether there are some essential goods and services that must be provided politically or whether all such goods and services can be provided by non-political means.


Many political theorists argue that there is a wide array of goods and services that must be provided by the state. In the present context, however, there is no need to consider whether the government must provide postal service, elementary schooling, or universal health insurance. The debate between anarchists and the supporters of a classical liberal, night watchman state concerns the core functions of government. The question thus resolves itself into whether these core functions can be supplied through non-political means.


The Answer, Rules of Law, Creation


…Those of us residing in the United States or any of the British Commonwealth countries live under an extremely sophisticated and subtle scheme of rules, very few of which were created by government. Since almost none of the rules that bring peace and order to our existence were created by government, little argument should be required to establish that government is not necessary to create such rules. On the contrary, it is precisely the rules that were created by government that tend to undermine peace and order.

The Anglo-American legal system is often referred to as a common law legal system. This is unfortunate, given the anachronistic contemporary understanding of the term “common law.” Currently, common law is associated with “judgemade” law. For most of the formative period of the common law, however, judges did not make the law, but merely presided over proceedings where disputes were resolved according to the accepted principles of customary law. Hence, describing the English common law as judge-made law is akin to describing the market as something created by economists.


English common law is, in fact, case-generated law; that is, law that spontaneously evolves from the settlement of actual disputes. Almost all of the law that provides the infrastructure of our contemporary society was created in this way. Tort law, which provides protection against personal injury; property law, which demarcates property rights; contract law, which provides the grounding for exchange; commercial law, which facilitates complex business transactions; and even criminal law, which punishes harmful behavior, all arose through this evolutionary process. It is true that most of our current law exists in the form of statutes. This is because much of the common law has been codified through legislation. But the fact that politicians recognised the wisdom of the common law by enacting it into statutes, hardly proves that government is necessary to create rules of law. Indeed, it proves precisely the opposite…


…Aristotle called man the rational animal, identifying human beings’ ability to reason as their essential defining characteristic. I think this is a mistake. I think man is the imaginative animal. Human beings undoubtedly have the ability to reason, but they also have the ability to imagine that the world is different than it is, and the latter is a far more powerful force. People root for the Chicago Cubs because they can imagine the Cubs winning the World Series, despite all evidence to the contrary. People regularly get married because they can imagine that they will change their obviously incompatible partner into the ideal husband or wife. People devote their time, effort, and money to political campaigns because they can imagine that if only Bill Clinton or Bob Dole or George W. Bush or John Kerry were elected, Washington, DC would be transformed into Camelot. And more significantly, people volunteer to fight wars because they can imagine themselves running through a field of machine-gun fire unscathed. Only the ability to imagine an afterlife for which they have absolutely no evidence can explain why human beings would strap explosives to themselves and blow themselves up in an effort to kill as many innocent people as possible.


Do you ever wonder why people believed in the divine right of kings, despite the fact that the monarchs of their time were patently not the type of individuals an all-knowing, all-good god would choose to reign over them? They believed in it because they were taught to believe in it and because they could imagine that it was so, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. We no longer believe in such silly things as the divine right of kings. We believe that government is necessary for an orderly peaceful society and that it can be made to function according to the rule of law. Webelieve this because we have been taught to believe it from infancy and because we can imagine that it is so, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.


One should never underestimate the power of abstract concepts to shape how human beings see the world. Once one accepts the idea that government is necessary for peace and order and that it can function objectively, one’s imagination will allow one to see the hand of government wherever there is law, police, and courts, and render the non-political provision of these services invisible. But if you lay aside this conceptual framework long enough to ask where these services originated and where, to a large extent, they still come from, the world assumes a different aspect. If you want the strongest argument for anarchy, simply remove your self-imposed blinders and look around.

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