Saturday, 14 August 2010

What is Anarchy?

Anarchy is absence of government. Government is a territorial monopolist of law. Anarchy is therefore a free market in the production of law.

The term anarchy literally means “no rulers”. The relationship between rulers and the people they rule over is a master-slave relationship. Anarchy, then, can also be interpreted as “no slavery”.

Absence of rulers does not mean absence of rules. Rules – laws specifying property ownership – are necessary for society to function, and they can be voluntarily agreed to. The usefulness of rules creates market demand for them, as with any other good. Entrepreneurs will therefore strive to meet that demand, by establishing courts and employing judges to resolve disputes.

Driven by the profit motive, the laws produced under a free market arrangement will reflect the customs of society and the views of consumers about justice. As always under a free market arrangement, the laws will be high quality, produced efficiently and for a low price. There will also be diversity of courts available for consumers to choose from, perhaps using different legal codes.

All legal systems specify rules for property ownership. They determine who the “rightful” owner of any given property is. In the event of a dispute, a court must determine if a violation of property boundaries has taken place, and then specify a resolution. If necessary, courts will employ law enforcement to see that justice is administered.  Conflicts between courts will be resolved by using a voluntarily agreed-upon third court.

An anarchist, qua anarchist, is not concerned with the content of law; only with the arrangements under which law is provided. Under an anarchic arrangement, each individual can choose the set of laws he would like to live by. No one is bound to any set of rulers, based on his territorial location, nationality, or anything else. No one is a slave.


  1. Without a government the milatary would work for the highest bidder. You get a small group of rich people employing the military until funds run out. They will then start forcing the rest of the people to pay taxes. You would simply get a tiranny.

    People would be without medical care, education, law, police, fire department. You would expect the market to fill in all these places? The market hasn't done anything for the one billion people starving or for ecological destruction because it's not profitable. Why would those functions be any different?

    You would get a situation were the poor simply have no option to climb out of their situation. They can't afford education, they have no legal protection, they can't afford police or military protection. You expect the poor just to die? Evolution of the fittest? This type of mentality can only end in mass war.

    The market is not the cause of rising prosperity, technological and scientific development is. The market is actual the major cause of crime: through profit made out of drugs, alcohol, weapons, through gaps between rich and poor. The market is the major cause of war: through profit made out of weaponry and reconstruction, because of the need to secure resources. It is the cause of ecological destruction: because of it's need to ever increase consumption, because of it's tendicy to exploit. It's the major cause of poverty and starvation: through exploitation, a small minority owning the resources, economies being helped by instable countries.

    None of the major problems in the world the market is solving, all of those problems are caused by the market.

    1. How are you defining 'the market'? A society based on voluntary exchanges?

      Are you saying that medicine, education, law, police and fire departments can only be provided by groups of individuals that can legally use threats of violence to secure funding? Logic and history suggest otherwise.

      The problems you point to are all classic symptoms of statism and central planning of economies. The free market has not solved these problems because we don't have free markets.

  2. If A has a bag of heroin and B is addicted to heroin, so A trades the bag with B for sex, how is this voluntary exchange? How is this freedom? How is this making the world better? How is this kind of gross, sad waste of life, this selfish, irresponsible practice being caused by statism?

    In fact it is caused by people only thinking about their own interest. You have a whole world of people working against each other, competing with each other. A livable world is instead created by uniting people. So that everybody knows they are one family living on one highly interconnected planet.

    A society can't rely on trade as its sole mechanism for organisation. It needs justice, equality, unity, people working together. It used to work, when people thought they were superiour to other people because they had god on their side. When people thought the world was flat, or even had no concept for the world at all. When a man could dig up gold and could trade it as if it was his own, because the other person didn't know where he got the gold from. Science has changed our understanding of the earth and its inhabitants in such a way that war and trade, will be replaced by unity and managing the earth as if it were a business.

    Anyway, eager to hear from you. Things will get clearer as we go along.

    1. See my 2nd post to Ben where I explain what a voluntary exchange is. So long as it's consentual, it doesn't matter what is being exchanged. It is always wrong for some third party to use coercion to prevent that voluntary exchange taking place. A and B would have their freedom restricted if they were prevented from making their voluntary exchange by some third party using coercion.

      Statism has OBVIOUSLY created the situation where such seedy exchanges as heroin-for-sex are made today. Heroin and prostitution are both illegal! The state uses coercion to prevent these activities, which pushes them underground. Why do you think direct exchanges such as paracetamol-for-a-massage never happen? Or coffee-for-a-haircut?

  3. On a political level we would adopt an anarchist organisation, yet all the businesses would remain hierarchical?

    1. People can enter into any kind of voluntary relationship they please in a society of libertarian anarchy, so I imagine some types of firm would be hierarchical, others would be less hierarchical or not hierarchical at all. I expect we'd see more experimentation and a tendency towards less hierarchical organisational structures in a free market, relative to today's corporatist markets. Whatever people want to do. Whatever works best.

  4. In a true free market, the richest people would control the military, right? To me, that's going back to feudalism.

    We didn't have the French revolution for nothing. Instead of the ownership class controlling the military, a government was invented that answered to the people, and a military that answered to it.

    I agree with the voluntarist theory, but the military, the ultimate power, can't be up for the highest bidder, it must be under the control of the people.

  5. @Wouter,

    "I agree with the voluntarist theory, but the military, the ultimate power, can't be up for the highest bidder, it must be under the control of the people."

    Just like they are now, right?

    Do not mistake yourself. The military in the US (I assume you are an US-citizen) is subject to the richest people in the nation. They do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of what the people wish.

    You are almost right, though. People with more money will be able to pay for military-trained people to accomplish whatever goal they have in mind. Only that, in US today, they do not pay for it! All the rest of the people, which probably do not endorse what the military-power is doing, are paying to have it done for the rich to accomplish their goals.

    You are trying very hard not to see what is happening in front of your eyes.

    In a Free Market anarchy, the riches will have to spend from their own pocket to support the army. And that is a difficult thing to maintain in the long run.

    Surely, though, a Free Market anarchy is not something to raise already ready. It is something we accomplish through small steps. The first step is shrinking government to the size it sustains enough military power to prevent people to control other people inside some territory. When the government is so minimal as to provide only that, the next step is to introduce competition in this endeavor, such as that every person is free to live in any land they want, provided that they own it, or have an agreement with their rightful owner.

    So, if Free Market anarchy would be established tomorrow, a lot of struggle for power is foreseeable (since power-hungry people rule our world). But if we take small steps toward it, it will just fit.

  6. Great ideas in theory, but we have yet to see them in practice. The Libertarian utopian anarchist vision seems almost as ridiculous when taken to extremes as the welfare-statist version does. I'm a huge fan of liberty but for now I'm on the side of minarchism. People aren't gonna just agree to get along or yield to the decision of some arbitrary, non-government court. Things are the way they are for a reason. All land was conquered in one way or the other, then societies were established on that land. Who does land belong to? Whoever can hold it, in the final analysis. Did North America belong to Native Americans? Does it belong to the US now? At the end of the day, it kind of is a big game of "king of the hill." If people agree to respect property rights, then all is fine and well; what happens when someone doesn't agree to that? Force picks up where reason leaves off. The government has the monopoly on retributive force. Otherwise, who's to say why one security force is any more just or valid than any other? Although on the flipside, private security firms like Blackwater or Executive Outcomes often get things done where government (UN) forces don't. I am relatively new to my study of AnCap and Aus. Econ, so maybe many of these issues will be explained with further study of Rothbard, Von Mises, etc., but for now, it seems to stretch these ideas too far just gets to the point of fantasy. A bunch of people were living out in the woods. They figure out that specialization of labor makes life better. Someone gets tasked with defending the fort, while others hunt, cook and make clothing. That person tasked with defending the court is now "the military."