Anarchy vs. Government – A Superfluous Debate

On the internet someone posted this video about anarchy:

And then of course, we have this expected and all-too-common exchange:

HS:  “If you like anarchy then you’ll love Somalia – it’s an anarchist paradise with absolutely no evil authoritarian regime or oppressive drug laws.”

GF:  “The comparison of Anarchy with Somalia is the most cliche [ignorant] anti-anarchist argument there is. Anarchy means no power hierarchies, whereas in Somalia there are several aspiring power hierarchies at war with each other. There is no Anarchy in Somalia – not as the term is to be properly understood; to denote an absence of rulers.”

Here is the solution to this silly argument:

If “properly understood anarchy” or “true anarchy” as the way you wish it to be defined can only exist in a very highly self-controlled society of moral individuals following the golden rule who will not succumb to the common darker natures of man, then with such a population of humans it is equally safe, secure, and peaceful to have a government.

For the same reasons that you criticize the abuses by and of government, that is, the general inability for man to behave totally peacefully towards his neighbors, we can also criticize a well-expected lawlessness of anarchy.

As you admit, the only way to prevent a bloody chaotic anarchy is if we have a society composed of the right type of individuals. The same is of course true, then, for a government.

The desire for power and to accrue power to oneself using any means possible comes from within individuals; the desire itself is not created by government.  The desire would still be there, within individuals in an anarchy, and individuals would follow that desire, unless the anarchist society were composed of perfect individuals – but in that case one could equally-well institute a perfect government.  Certain personality types or individuals wish to rule over others, and they will use whatever means necessary to do that.  Having a society with no one who wishes to rule means inventing a new ideal humanity for that purpose, which doesn’t exist.  Under that necessity we can invent an ideal humanity for a perfect government, and this is just as pointless since such a humanity for this doesn’t exist either.

And so there is no difference between the “ideal anarchy” and the “ideal government” – they are both wishful thinking requiring man to behave as perfect moral agents. Given that man doesn’t, a practical anarchy would reduce to serfdom and Monarchy or despotism, just as practical government reduces to corporatocracy.

However there is a difference; in a practical anarchy, the people have no power except for that of force, if they can muster force in the conditions which have been created and imposed on them by the more powerful (and in history we see such events leading to things like the Magna Carta), whereas if the people at least have a well-instituted government, change can come from peaceful means, resorting to the need of the people to use force only in the last analysis (which is why the people must maintain such an ability, even if never used…ideally never used).

Given that man is prone to desire for and abuse of power, and that the “ideal anarchist” philosophy rejects the use of force over others, then practically the ideal anarchist must fall in with a practical well-instituted government as such a society at least provides the means for peaceful solutions and resolutions to societal problems without the use of force, whereas the practical chaotic bloody anarchy will always require the use of force in the very first steps to create change.  An individual living in an anarchy can just as well inflict suffering on the entire rest of the population as an individual can in government; in the former case there is no recourse for the suffering except for that of shear brute force assuming that they can still muster such force, while in the latter case there is a peaceful recourse through law and the system of government, and only when these have become totally corrupt would the people resort to force, a well-instituted government having not infringed on the people’s ability to muster such force.

The point is, the argument that anarchy is the best system when and if we have a society composed of perfect moral agents is totally superfluous, because such a society could equally-well institute a government without risk of it abusing its powers.

We however do not live in an ideal world composed of perfect moral agents – we live practically.  Ideally we could have Plato’s Republic.  Ideally we could have Communism.  Ideally we could have the Invisible Hand of the Free Market.  Ideally we could have Anarchy.  Ideally we could have Democracy.  Ideally we could have Meritocracy.  Ideally we could even have Monarchy.

Practically, however, we need to restrain each other from the use of force, with the use of force.

The atrocities of the 20’th Century are of course disgusting and horrific; the scale here, however, was facilitated by technology, not by government;  Genghis Khan and many others for example committed atrocities on an unimaginable scale without such technology, and these cases relate to examples of practical lawless anarchy where individual power rules all.  If kings, tyrants, and despots had the technology of the 20th Century at their disposal, they would have used it too on an arbitrarily large scale.

And so, the “properly understood, ideal anarchy” reduces to wishful thinking under the proposition that all man behave as perfect moral agents.  If that were the case, the threat of use of force by government which the “ideal anarchist” objects to would not exist in the first place either.

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5 Responses to Anarchy vs. Government – A Superfluous Debate

  1. Thomas Homer says:

    Along these lines, I recently saw this James Madison quote:

    “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

  2. markstoval says:

    “If you like anarchy then you’ll love Somalia – it’s an anarchist paradise with absolutely no evil authoritarian regime or oppressive drug laws.”

    Somalia is a Failed State and not an anarchy. It is in a state of chaos brought about by the various governments that got involved in Somalia. It is now a war zone.

    If you want to claim that Somalia is a “poster boy”, then explain the anarchy of Ireland that lasted for 1,000 years that we can document and may have lasted for ten times that.

    See here: https://markstoval.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/1000-years-of-irish-anarchy/

    and here: https://markstoval.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/9000-years-of-anarchy-in-ireland/

  3. “explain the anarchy of Ireland”

    As I said, when you have the required population and it’s living in an environment will little resource pressure, sure, you can have any society you want. But it didn’t last when it met personalities who had a different way of going about things, which makes the point of the OP.

    That being said, what we have for rulers and leaders today is totally disgusting. Although our particular society would descend into total chaos and murder and fighting for top dog if government disappeared, it doesn’t mean that we have good government or good people in government. Just imagine someone saying “you need to pass the bill in order to read it”, and then consider that the person 3rd in line for the presidency of the US actually said that…about passing a bill she wanted through…that they wouldn’t let the opposition read. It’s mind boggling. I can barely wrap my head around the degree of disgusting, shitty, vomitous evil of that. I can’t believe that actually happened.

    Anyway, sure, absolutely, if you create or have the right citizenry population, then you can make any form of society work. Democracy could work if all voters were equally informed, intelligent, and meritorious…and so in practice it doesn’t really work for the people, but only for the Money; Meritocracy could work if all people recognized merit in the same way and could recognize merit in the first place…and so in practice it doesn’t really work because almost any two people will have opposite ideas of what is valuable and meritorious, and both of those people will be wrong, and they can simply be lied to about what is meritorious; Communism could work if people were totally selfless, unselfish, and were happy with whatever allotment they received…and so in practice it doesn’t work, except if you’re the leader or party high member.

    So, I see that anarchy is an attempt to reject all such corruptible systems. But for the same reasons that none of these systems work perfectly, neither would anarchy. There are also examples in the past of populations who successfully implemented some of these listed governmental systems. They all fail, as does anarchy, because it eventually became impossible to enforce the standards required due to changing internal and/or external conditions. A system of “properly understood anarchy” would itself require enforcement against internal changes of the minds of the population, and would need to enforce itself against infiltration by alternative mindsets from the outside.

  4. Murry says:

    Government only works if it is installed in an non-governing capacity fulfilling only necessary infrastructure & administrative tasks related to the running of the nation and then it is no longer called government but something else!
    In a true laissez faire society the participants are not governed and cannot be governed by an institution but by their inherent morality.
    The creation of any authoritarian body lends itself immediately to abuse, since it is quite rational to improve the quality of ones existence thus the attraction of any extra powers would inevitably result in corruption hence why there could be no rational reason for the creation of an authority of any sort in the first instance other than to institute some other form of society that is not anarchistic.
    The state-lessness of a laissez faire society also renders many of authoritarian deceptions redundant; (and unecessary) such as a debt society, an illogical economic system, restricted trade and corrupt legislation (as opposed to morality based rules) and would allow a fresh mindset to evolve that does not carry the mental bagagge that we have all been conditioned to accomodate.
    Overall in our highly programmed state, it is impossible to predict what would and what would not work. There are too many unknowns and variables to contemplate but many have speculated on this with sItes such as https://mises.org/ covering many if not all the philosophical aspects and implications of libertarianism.
    It seems quite logical that if the majority can gain access to information that clearly shows the potential of a diverse anarchistic society then the move towards a stateless society moves ever closer. Other proponants such as Larken Rose provide much to illucidate the potential benefits of such a society in lucid and simple fashion enabling information accesibility to many.
    I believe we would flourish in such conditions.

  5. “In a true laissez faire society the participants are not governed and cannot be governed by an institution but by their inherent morality.”

    And since people do not possess and share a universal inherent morality, and people conclude entirely opposite things as to what is moral, and that sometimes what is accepted as moral must be ignored for the time being due to unforeseen circumstances, etc., then government is required.

    “The creation of any authoritarian body lends itself immediately to abuse”

    Since the body does not operate without the individual, then this assumes that the individual is them self prone to corruption, which contradicts the previous idea that individuals can govern themselves according to some inherent morality if there were even a universal one.

    “the attraction of any extra powers would inevitably result in corruption hence why there could be no rational reason for the creation of an authority of any sort in the first instance other than to institute some other form of society that is not anarchistic”

    This is why a government is instituted with laws to prevent its own overreach and abuse. Given your implicit, though unstated and ignored, acknowledgement that individuals are always prone to corruption, then there are any myriad of means for individuals to accrue power to themselves whether within an anarchy or a society with a government. In an anarchy, this ends with despotism and monarchism etc.; in civilization, it ends with the formulation of laws meant to prevent the excesses of individual ambition and to institute a social contract through which the masses of people may, for the most part, peaceably coexist. The cessation of the rule of law lends itself immediately to abuse.

    “The state-lessness of a laissez faire society also renders many of authoritarian deceptions redundant; (and unecessary) such as a debt society,”

    The debt-society is not dependent upon the state existing; this can be imposed by anyone.

    “an illogical economic system, restricted trade and corrupt legislation (as opposed to morality based rules)”

    There is no universal inherent morality.

    “and would allow a fresh mindset to evolve that does not carry the mental bagagge that we have all been conditioned to accomodate.”

    The cessation of the rule of law would lend itself immediately to abuse.

    “I believe we would flourish in such conditions.”

    Your premise is entirely predicated upon a totally undemonstrated, unexplained, and unidentified faith belief in a non-existent universal morality shared by all. You make the point of this OP for me: Only if you had the perfect citizens could you have a peaceful anarchy. Given that there is no universal morality, or, if there is, then very few humans have identified it and live by it, then an anarchy requiring such of people can not exist. Mass religion has been the historical means to institute a shared morality among a populace, which provides for a basic social contract through which people can relate to each other and operate, for the most part, peaceably. Of course such a thing is authoritarian in nature since it proclaims a universal morality that all should live by.

    In fact, it is authoritarian in itself to claim that there is an inherent universal morality that we all must live by, which contradicts your rejection of anything authoritarian. If there is an inherent universal morality that we all share and can one day discover and all agree to and live by, this doesn’t translate to government being out the picture since with the perfect citizenry established then any form of government and society can work. It might be very efficient to have a government in this case which regulates the requirements of this inherent universal morality, or in fact, this inherent universal morality may itself require the institution of an authoritarian government.

    For example, if the inherent universal morality of existence is that of a fundamental Meritocracy (and mathematically this is actually the case), then this “morality” can take on any number of forms equally well with or without government. The satisfaction of some form of meritocracy can take place in a despotism as well as some form in a futuristic society. The question is: What form do we wish to institute, given what we know today? 10,000 years ago people might decide that anarchic despotism is the best way to live by and demonstrate the inherent moral code of meritocracy, whereas today we might decide that a representative democracy which allows sufficient (but not unlimited) economic freedom is the way to go as it is thought to allow more people to freely develop and demonstrate merit. Tomorrow, the masses may decide that a government specifically designed to promote the development of personal merit among the populace is the way to go. Or, people might decide that merit is demonstrated by fighting the weather. Etc.

    Anyway, abuse of morality comes from the individual, and since it originates in the individual, then all such arguments against government based on the prospect of abuse can equally be applied to abuse of an anarchy.

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