The inevitable – and highly intelligent – questions that arose in response to my last book “Everyday Anarchy” mostly centred on the question of how a stateless society could self-organise in practical terms.
Naturally, these sorts of questions are a fascinating and endless kind of intellectual delight. Much as Alice mused as she fell down the hole at the beginning of Lewis Carroll’s famous book, we intellectuals are tempted to design the future down to the last detail. We try to respond to every conceivable objection with yet another essay on how roads can be delivered in the absence of a government, or how international treaties can work in the absence of law courts, or how children can be protected in the absence of the police, or how national defence can be secured in the absence of a State army, and how the poor can receive an education in the absence of public schools, and how and why doctors will help the impoverished sick without being forced to, and so on.
I have always argued that these answers – though intellectually stimulating and enjoyably debatable – will never convince those who wish to avoid the morality and practicality of non-violent solutions to the problems of social organisation.
For instance, in my last book, as well as a recent video, I provided a proof for anarchy, which relied on the reality of non-contractual special-interest group relationships with up-and-coming politicians. A large number of people wrote to me in response, saying either that such special interest relationships did not exist – surely a laughable proposition, given the thirty thousand plus lobbyists registered in Washington DC alone – or that if I wanted anarchy, and democracy was a great proof of the practical functionality of anarchy, then surely I should be happy with democracy!
There seems to be no end to the foolish statements that can be uttered by those afraid of the truth. The truth, as Socrates gave his life to show, remains highly threatening to entrenched interests, and has a very personal and volatile effect on our immediate relationships.
In reality, it is not so much a stateless society that we fear, but rather a family-less and friendless society where we rock gently, hugging our useless truths to our chests; solitary, ostracised, alone, rejected, scorned, derided. The truth is a desert island, we fear, and so as evolutionarily social animals, we join our corrupt circles in mocking and attacking the truth, and resent those who tell the truth, for revealing the corruption that formerly was only visible unconsciously – which is to say, largely invisible.
It is important to understand up front that this book will contain truths that will likely be highly threatening to you – and certainly to those around you. The world, viewed philosophically, remains a series of slave camps, where citizens – tax livestock – labour under the chains of illusion in the service of their masters. As I talked about in my book, “Real-Time Relationships,” the predations of the rulers survive on the horizontal attacks of the slaves. Because we savage each other, we remain ruled by savages.
Thus, you may find that as you read this book, you experience a rising frustration and irritation with its contents – and possibly with me as well, if experience is any guide.
I certainly do sympathise with these emotions, and truly understand their cause, but I would strongly urge you to refrain from sending me angry e-mails – for your sake, not mine. It is, as you know, highly unjust to attack a truth teller for the discomfort he causes.
It is not my fault that you have been lied to your whole life.
Furthermore, the lies exist whether or not you hear the truth – from me, or from anyone else.
It is impossible for any single person – or group of people – to ever design or predict all the details of any society. In order for you to get the most out of this book, I will make a few suggestions which may be helpful.
First of all, if you approach this book with the idea that you’re going to find every possible gap in an argument, or nook and cranny where uncertainty may reside, then this book will be a complete waste of time, and will raise your blood pressure for absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
When Adam Smith formulated the arguments for the free market in the late eighteenth century, it was not considered a requirement that he predict the stock price of IBM in 1961. He began working with a number of observable and empirical principles, and proved them with rational arguments and well-known examples.
The validity of the “invisible hand” was not dependent upon Adam Smith predicting and describing in detail the invention of, say, the Internet. The methods that free men and women invent and use to solve social problems cannot reasonably be predicted in advance, and finding every conceivable fault with any and all such possible predictions is arguing against a mere theoretical possibility, which is both futile and ridiculous.
That having been said, it is still worth reviewing some possible solutions to social organisation that do not involve the monopolistic violence of the State. When Enlightenment thinkers attacked and undermined the exploitive illusions of religion, they were not able to provide a valid and scientific system of ethics to replace the mad moral commandments of historical superstition. It certainly is valuable to disprove existing “truths,” but if we do not come up with at least plausible alternatives, these falsehoods inevitably tend to morph and re-emerge in a different form. Thus did the death of religion give rise to totalitarianism – just another worship of an abstract and irrational moral absolute; the “State” rather than a “God.” The unjust aristocratic privileges of the minority that the Founding Fathers so railed against simply morphed into the unjust privileges of the majority in the form of “mob rule” democracy – which then morphed back into the unjust aristocratic privileges of the minority in the form of a political ruling class.
People and societies all need rules to live by, and if existing rules get knocked down, they simply rise again in another form if rational replacements are not provided. Exposing a lie simply breeds different lies, unless the truth is also advanced.
I have set myself a number of goals in the writing of this book that I wanted to mention up front, so you could understand the approach that I am taking – the strengths and weaknesses of what I am up to, as it were.
First, I promise to refrain from exhausting your patience by trying to come up with every conceivable solution to every conceivable problem. Not only would this end up being grindingly boring, but it would also indicate a strange kind of intellectual insecurity, and an unwillingness to give you the respect of accepting that you can very easily think for yourself about the solutions to the problems discussed in this book. My aim is to give you a framework for thinking about these issues, rather than have you sit passively as I explicate the widest variety of solutions to all conceivable problems. In other words, my purpose in this book is to teach you to be a mathematician, not show you how good a mathematician I am.
Teaching you how to solve problems is far more respectful than giving you solutions. I have always said that everyone is a genius, and everyone is a philosopher. You do not need me to spell out how a stateless society can work in every detail, but rather to give you a framework which you can use to work out your own answers, and satisfy yourself how well a truly free society will work.
When Francis Bacon was putting forward the scientific method in the sixteenth century, it was not necessary for him to solve every conceivable scientific problem in order to prove the value of his methodology. It certainly was useful for him to show how his methodology had solved a number of vexing problems, and that it pointed the way to answers in a number of other areas, but of course if Bacon had been able to solve every conceivable scientific problem that could ever possibly arise, there would be precious little need for his scientific method at all, since we would just consult his writings whenever we had a scientific problem that we could not solve.
In the same way, as a philosopher I am interested in teaching people how to think in a new way, rather than giving them explicit answers to every conceivable problem. My approach to rational and scientific ethics – Universally Preferable Behaviour (UPB) – is to provide people a framework for evaluating moral propositions, rather than to give them an utterly finalised system of ethics. If such a system of ethics ever could be developed – which seems highly unlikely, given the inevitably changing conditions of life, society, and technology – then no one would ever have to think about ethics ever again, and philosophy would fall into the abyss reserved for dead religions and defunct ideologies, interesting only as yet another example of a temporary historical illusion, like the worship of Zeus, Mussolini, or Paris Hilton.
The scientific method certainly did – and does – provide an objective methodology for gaining valid knowledge and understanding of the physical world, just as UPB provides an objective methodology for separating truth from falsehood when it comes to evaluating moral propositions, and the free market provides an objective methodology for determining value in the provision of goods and services, through the mechanism of price.
The value of the scientific method only truly becomes apparent when we abandon religious or superstitious revelation as a valid source of “truth.” We only refer to a compass when we become uncertain of our direction. We only begin to develop science when we start to doubt religion. We only begin to accept the validity of the free market when we doubt the ethics and practicality of coercive central planning. On a more personal level, we only begin to change our approach to relationships when we at last begin to suspect that we ourselves may be the source of our problems.
Much like a river, alternative tributaries only arise when the original flow is blocked. The development of new paradigms in thought is in general more provoked than plotted, and erupts from a rising exasperation with the falsehoods of existing “solutions.” This spike in emotion can sometimes arise with extraordinary rapidity, from a slow build to a sudden explosion – and it is my belief that this is where we are poised in the present when it comes to an examination of the use of violence in solving social problems.
As a vivid, living value, the nation-state as an object of worship and a source of practical and moral solutions is as dead as King Tutankhamen. No one truly believes any more that the State can solve the problems of poverty, of education, of war, of ill health, of security for the aged, and so on. Governments are now viewed with extraordinary suspicion and cynicism. It is true that many people still believe that the idea of government can somehow be rescued, but there is an extraordinary level of exasperation, frustration, and anxiety with our existing methods of solving social problems. When someone says that we need yet another government program to “solve” all the problems created or exacerbated by previous government programs, most people now view this approach as an eye-rolling non-answer.
Of course, we still hear a lot about government “solutions” in the media, academia, and the arts, but most people now understand – at least emotionally – that this bleating arises from special interest groups that are either threatened or protected by the State – the automatic reaction of “increase regulation!” When a problem arises, this demand no longer comes from the people, but rather from those parties that will benefit from increased regulation.
The rise of the Internet has also rocked the mainstream paradigm of “government as virtue.” In particular, the US-led invasion of Iraq has contributed to a final collapse in belief about the virtue of statist solutions to complex problems. It is easier to believe the lies of the past, since we were not there when they were told – it is harder to believe in the lies of the present, since we can see them unravelling before our very eyes.
Thus, our belief that the government can solve problems is collapsing on two fronts – first, we now understand that the government cannot solve problems – and second, and more importantly, we can see that the government is not giving up any of its control over the problems it so obviously cannot solve.
This last point is worth expanding upon, since it is so important, and so often overlooked.
If the government claims to take our money in order to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, but the government clearly does not solve the problem of poverty, but rather in fact tends to make it worse, what then do we begin to understand when the government continues to take our money?
If I take your money telling you that I will ship you an iPod, what realisation do you come to when I neither ship you the iPod nor return your money?
Surely you understand that I only promised you the iPod in order to steal your money.
In the same way, the government did not increase our taxes in order to solve the problem of poverty, but rather claimed that it wanted to solve the problem of poverty in order to increase our taxes. This is the only way to explain the basic fact that the problem of poverty has not been solved – and in fact is worse now – but the government continues to increase our taxes.
We are all beginning to understand – at least at an unconscious level – that the government lies to us about helping others in order to take our money.
If religion is not the answer, and the State is not the answer, then what is?
Well, when a particular “answer” has proven so universally disastrous, the first place to look is the opposite of that answer.
If “no property rights” (communism) is disastrous, then “property rights” (free markets) are most likely to be beneficial.
If faith is disastrous, then science is most likely to be beneficial.
If superstition is disastrous, than reason and evidence are most likely to be beneficial.
If violence is disastrous, then peace and negotiation are most likely to be beneficial.
If the State is disastrous, then anarchism is most likely to be beneficial.
It is this last statement that tends to be the most challenging for people.
Many of us can accept a world without gods and devils, without heaven and hell, without original sin and imaginary redemption – but we cannot accept, or even imagine, a world without governments. Many of us can picture a world with a minimum government – with a State concerned only with law courts, police and the military – but we cannot picture a world without a government at all.
A Christian can accept a world where nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine gods are ridiculous and false illusions, but that their God – the God of the Old Testament – is a true, real, and living deity. A Christian remains an atheist with regards to almost every god, but becomes an utter theist with regards to their own deity. Getting rid of almost all gods is utterly sensible – getting rid of that one final God is utterly incomprehensible.
In the same way, Libertarians, Objectivists, and other minarchists feel that getting rid of ninety-nine percent of existing government functions is utterly moral – but getting rid of that last one percent is utterly immoral!
We do not accept these reservations in other areas of our lives, which is enough to make us suspicious of the true motives behind such statements. A woman who is beaten up only once a month lives almost all of her life violence-free, but we would not consider her beatings acceptable on that ground. It would be even more ridiculous to say that a woman should not be beaten every day, but that it would be utterly immoral to also suggest that she should not be beaten at all. If I claim that it is moral to reduce State violence, can I claim that it is utterly immoral to eliminate such violence completely? Can I dedicate my life to reducing the incidence of cancer, but then claim that eliminating cancer completely would be utterly immoral? Can I reasonably set up a charity to reduce poverty, but then claim in my mission statement that the elimination of poverty would be a dire evil?
Of course not – I would be viewed as an irrational lunatic at best for making such statements.
Those who claim that a reduction of violence is a moral ideal, but who then also claim that the elimination of violence would be a moral evil, must at least recognise, if they wish to retain any credibility, that they are proposing an entirely foolish contradiction.
By “violence” here, I do not mean that anarchism will completely eliminate human violence – the violence that I am talking about here is the morally “justified” and institutionalised initiation of force that is the foundation of State power.
Thus, I think it is reasonable for us to take the approach that if it were possible to run society without a government, this would be a massive net positive.
When we have governments, we inevitably get wars, politically motivated and unjust laws, the incarceration of non-violent “criminals,” the over-printing of money and the resulting inflation, the enslavement of future generations through immoral deficits, the mis-education of the young, rampant vote buying, endless tax increases, arms sales around the world, unjust subsidies to specific industries, economic and practical inefficiencies of every conceivable kind, the creation of permanent under-classes through welfare and illegal immigration, vast increases in the power and violence of organised crime through restrictions on drugs, prostitution, and gambling – the list of State crimes is virtually endless.
When we choose to justify governments, we inevitably choose to justify the crimes of those in power. Choosing government is also choosing war, genocide, enslavement, financial, moral and educational corruption, propaganda, the spread of violence, and so on.
You can never get one without the other. Imagining otherwise is like imagining that you can choose to justify the Mafia without also justifying the violence that it uses to maintain its power. We may as well imagine that we can support the troops without simultaneously supporting the murders they commit.
Given the number of bloody and genocidal crimes that orbit the power of the State, surely we can at least be open to the possibility that society can be organised far more effectively and morally without such an evil power at its centre. If it turns out that society can run without a State – even haltingly, even imperfectly – then surely we should accept such practical imperfections for the sake of avoiding such rampant and bottomless crimes against humanity. Surely, even if anarchy were proven to produce fewer and worse roads, we could accept some mildly inconvenient and bumpy rides for the sake of releasing billions of people from direct or indirect enslavement to their political masters.
To analogise this, imagine that someone in the nineteenth century proved that cotton would be ten percent rougher if slavery were abolished. Would it be moral or reasonable for people to say, “Well, it is certainly true that slavery is a great evil, but I still prefer it to slightly less comfortable cotton!”?
No, we would view such monstrous selfishness as staggeringly corrupt. The moral hypocrisy of claiming to be against slavery, but refusing to actually oppose slavery for fear of even the mildest practical inconvenience, would be an ethical evil that would be hard to comprehend.
Thus, when people dismiss the possibility of anarchy out of hand by saying, “Oh, but how would roads be provided?” what they are really saying is that they support war, genocide, tax enslavement, and the incarceration and rape of the innocent, because they themselves cannot imagine how roads might be provided in the absence of violence. “People should be murdered, raped, and imprisoned because I am concerned that the roads I use might be slightly less convenient.” Can anyone look at the moral horror of this statement without feeling a bottomless and existential nausea? Now, imagine that the reality of the situation is that roads will be provided far more efficiently and productively in a stateless society?
If that is the case, then the practical considerations turn out to be the complete opposite of the truth – that we are accepting murder, genocide, and rape for the sake of bad roads, rather than good roads!
This kind of net loss provides the moral and rational core of the arguments in favour of a stateless society. While it is certainly true that some people will end up losing out under anarchy, it is the evil and corrupt who will lose the most, just as priests lose out in an atheistic society, much to the relief of children everywhere. The true reality of an anarchic society is that the moral goals of every reasonable human being – the alleviation of poverty, the provision of “public services,” the education of the young, the protection of children, the old and the infirm, will actually be created and provided in a positive, productive, gentle, and moral manner.
The great lie of the statist society is that the helpless and dependent are protected, when in fact they are trapped and exploited.
The great lie of the statist society is that the ignorant are educated, when in fact they are made even more ignorant.
The great truth of the anarchic society is that the helpless are protected, the ignorant are educated, the sick are treated – and that roads are built, and are better.
To gain the beauty and virtue of anarchism, we sacrifice nothing but our illusions.
Surely, we should actually want to help people, rather than just pretend that we are doing so.
Surely, we should not sacrifice the peace of the world to our fears of imperfect roads.
The Argument from Apocalypse
Of course, people do not say that we should not live in a free society because the roads might be imperfect. The endless argument against anarchism is the “Argument from Apocalypse” (AFA).
The AFA is not an argument at all, of course, but rather relies on rampant fear-mongering, and an argument from intimidation.
Basically, the argument goes something like this:
“We’re all gonna DIE!”
It would actually be nice if it were slightly more sophisticated than that, but the reality is that it is not.
The basic argument is that if we accept proposition “X,” civilised society will collapse, children will die in the streets, the old will end up eating each other, and the world will dissolve into an endless and apocalyptic war of all against all.
This is not an argument at all, since it relies on fear and intimidation. Darwin faced exactly the same “objections” when he first published his theory of evolution. “If we accept that we are descended from apes, everybody will abandon morality, society will collapse, war of all against all, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
Abolitionists faced the same argument when suggesting that slavery should be abolished; atheists face the same silly objections when disproving the existence of God; philosophers have been put to death for suggesting that ethics should be based on something other than superstition; scientists are accused of the same evils whenever some new development threatens people’s existing prejudices – it is all the most rampant nonsense, which survives only because of its endless effectiveness.
The AFA remains effective because of a basic logical fallacy which has doubtless been around since the dawn of speech: “Belief ‘X’ would result in immorality or destruction, and so only a fool or an evil man would advocate ‘X’.”
Since very few people wish to appear either foolish or evil, they tend to back down in the face of this argument, or take the imprudent path – which I have trod many a time – of attempting to disprove the AFA.
“Anarchism results in evil!” cometh the cry – and anarchists around the world endlessly respond with: “No it won’t!” – thus losing the argument before it even begins.
The only thing that is relevant in any intellectual argument is whether it is true or not. Refusing to examine the validity and consistency of a mathematical argument because you fear that accepting its conclusions will result in endless evil is simply surrendering to superstitious fear-mongering, and abandoning your rationality. Propositions cannot be evil – mathematics cannot be evil – statism cannot be evil – error cannot be evil – and the truth is not virtuous!
A proposition cannot strangle a baby; an argument cannot rape a nun, and a theory of anarchism cannot turn people into shrunken-headed zombies in hot pursuit of Will Smith.
A theory of anarchism can only be true or false, valid or invalid, logical or illogical. If someone deploys the AFA, it proves nothing except that he has no good arguments, and that the proposition in front of him is emotionally unsettling in some way. In other words, all that the AFA proves is intellectual idiocy and emotional immaturity. It is the philosophical equivalent of arguing against the proposition that “ice cream contains milk,” by saying, “I once had a dream that an ice cream monster was trying to eat me!” It is the kind of non sequitur we would expect from a very young child, which would only indicate an utter incomprehension of the proposed statement.
People who are threatened by ideas should at least have the honesty to say, “I am threatened by this idea,” rather than pretend that the idea is somehow objectively threatening to the human race as a whole. If I am afraid of short men, I should be honest about my fears and say, “I am afraid of short men,” rather than vehemently argue that short men will somehow destroy the world!
However, prejudice against anarchists – much like prejudice against atheists – is one of the last remaining acceptable bigotries in the world. We cannot judge any group negatively – except a group that relies on reason, evidence, and non-violence.
Thus, it will not do us any good to run screaming from the idea of a stateless society, imagining all kinds of demonic horrors. If we allow fear-mongering to not only inform, but rather define and direct our thinking, then we are left without the ability to think at all, but instead must sit clutching the skirts of those who tell us tall and terrifying tales.
We cannot judge the truth of an idea by our fears of its effect.
Arguments for or against the existence of gods are not validated by our fears of – or desires for – a godless universe. We cannot oppose a theory of gravity by saying that it is unpleasant to fall down stairs; neither can we oppose a new theory by demanding prior historical examples. The entire point of a new theory is that it is unprecedented; the first man to invent a jet aircraft could scarcely submit examples of jet aircraft flying in the past.
Another common objection to anarchic theories is that they are not embraced or validated by professional intellectuals, philosophers, and academics.
This is very true, and, as I explained in great detail in my book, “Everyday Anarchy,” I think we can view this as a positive, rather than a negative.
Still, is it reasonable for me to ask you to reject the near-universal consensus of highly intelligent people – professors, pundits, columnists, academics, and so on – simply because they happen to disagree with or ignore the propositions that I am putting forward here? Surely we have all heard of a number of scam artists – particularly on the Internet – who sell snake oil solutions to genuine ailments, preying upon the weak, the desperate, and the gullible. Is it reasonable to ask everyone to completely abandon respect for scholarship and professionalism, to turf experts for the sake of their own preferred opinions? Is this not our fear of what the Internet will do to social consensus? Can we not find on the Wild West of the Web articles claiming that smoking is good for you, that space aliens were responsible for 9/11, that exercise is dangerous, and eating fat will make you lose weight?
How can we be sure that a theory of anarchism is not just another one of these crackpot ideas that rails against the universal consensus of experts in the field, attempting to dislodge sober scholarship with wild-eyed speculation? Perhaps this book is just a form of elaborate trickery, a playing out of some wretched and buried psychological trauma, designed to separate you from your friends and family by infecting you with strange and illicit ideas – and taking your money to boot, since Freedomain Radio relies on voluntary donations!
Of course, these are all excellent questions to ask, and I for one would be highly unlikely to pit my own judgement against that of, say, my doctor or my accountant. One of the main reasons that we need specialists is because enormous swaths of human knowledge remain buried under entirely counter-intuitive paradigms. Who would have thought that making your gums bleed – at least at first – with floss would lead to oral health? Exercise often feels bad, and eating pie always feels very good, and so we need experts to remind us of the long-term effects of such activities, compared to the short-term incentives and disincentives. We prefer to spend money in the moment rather than save it for a rainy day; a surgeon might make us feel very unwell in order to prevent or cure an illness that we may not have even felt yet; a friend might strive to impress upon us the emotional problems of a highly attractive sexual partner; and the dark satisfactions of discharging anger towards a spouse in the present might create for us a very unpleasant future indeed.
In all these areas, we rely on the objectivity and expertise of those around us, who possess the training and knowledge to steer us against our immediate desires, or who are not subject to our own immediate desires – as in the case of our friends – and so can often see things more clearly.
What about the famous idea that deep study tends to lead to moderation? A little learning is a dangerous thing, it is often said – and with good reason. If we are ignorant of the effects of early childhood experiences and the long-term effects on the psychology of the personality, it is far easier to look at criminals as simply “bad guys.” If we are ignorant of the basic truth that history is almost always a tale told by those in power in order to justify and support their own “virtue,” then we shall inevitably be genuinely shocked when we come across the long-lost truths of the vanquished, or the foreign – or the dead.
Thus, should we not look for moderation in our responses to complex questions? The problem of health is complex, requiring a wide variety of inputs from nutritionists, physical trainers, doctors, psychologists, and so on – most of whom will counsel a form of Aristotelian moderation. Too little exercise leads to brittle bones and flab; too much exercise leads to injury. Too little food leads to a lack of energy; too much food leads to excess weight. An over-focus on the desires and needs of others leads to co-dependency; too little focus leads to selfish narcissism. Parents must often attempt to strike a balance between discipline and indulgence; the needs of the many must be balanced with the needs of the few, even in just the business arena; the sacrifice of our own short-term happiness for the sake of the longer-term happiness of another we love is all part and parcel of having a wise, flourishing, and positive set of personal and professional relationships.
Given all this complexity, does the answer of “just get rid of the government!” not strike us as overly simplistic? My mother used to talk about three spheres within society – business, government, and labour – and the need to find a balance between them. “The endless challenge in society is finding a way to stimulate business growth – but not at the expense of labour – so that there is enough tax revenue for government to provide effective social services.”
This kind of juggling act strikes us as eminently mature in many ways, and recognises that, just as there is good and bad in every individual, so there is good and bad in every group. You can find bad and corrupt people in the realm of politics, labour, and business, if you want – but stretching this basic reality into an outright condemnation of any group seems explicitly prejudicial. A man who has been robbed by a Chinese acrobat would scarcely be justified in demanding that the world be utterly rid of Chinese acrobats. One swallow does not a summer make; nor do bad politicians invalidate the value of government as a whole.
Furthermore, isn’t it rather childish to suggest that we rid ourselves of an institution that is so open and responsive to our feedback? We live in a democracy, for heaven’s sake – why throw the baby out with the bathwater, when we can get involved and change the system? If we do not like a particular company’s business practices, we do not have to throw out “capitalism” as a whole – we can inform others about their odious practices, organise boycotts, and so on. Surely the communicative power of the Internet has removed significant barriers to freedom of self-expression and the exchange of information, to the point where we no longer need to sit back when an institution fails to serve us, but rather we can very quickly and effectively work to bring about change in our political system. It also seems very alarming for us to take the enormous risk of getting rid of a government. Such a radical step has never been taken before as part of a conscious philosophical program. Governments have collapsed, of course – and we can only look at the example of Somalia to see the infighting and warlords that can arise from such a situation – and governments have been taken over, either internally or externally – but there is no example in history of consciously dismantling a State without any goal of replacing it. Does it seem sensible to go directly against the entire collective history of our species, and throw out an essential human institution that has been around as long as we have? Other radical “re-organisations” of human society have resulted in endless slaughter, chaos, war, and the staggering disorientation of children raised without families, of rampant polygamy, communal “ownership”, and so on. It does seem to be a particular curse of our species that every generation or two, some new idea comes along which aims to overthrow the entire history of human interaction, and replace the controlled hurly-burly of a State-managed free market with something like fascism, socialism, or communism. Then, some other wild-eyed rebel comes along and decries that, “family is dictatorship,” and attempts to undermine and destroy that most essential component of social life, the nuclear family. Then someone else comes along and says, “Property is theft!” and the cycle just seems to start all over again.
The basics of human society – of human life itself – seem to be that families are good, that private property is important, that the greed of the free market cannot provide all possible goods and services, that some form of centralised regulation and law-making seems to be essential, that there is good and bad in everyone, but there are some very good people, and some very bad people, and that the good people need a government to protect them from the bad people.
I confess that it must be quite exasperating for people to hear some of the basics that are so commonly accepted as truths opened up once more for a new examination. Perhaps it feels somewhat akin to a biologist being lectured to by a creationist during a long intercontinental flight, or a maths teacher being cornered by a hyper-intense student strung out on caffeine who insists that numbers are just an illusion, man!
Scientists do not continually reopen the basic methodology of the scientific method; economists are not continually overturning the essentials of their own profession – that human desires are limitless, but all resources are limited – and doctors do not continually debate the value of the Hippocratic Oath.
Surely, we can say, some basic aspects of human life can be accepted as given, so that we can have a firm foundation to build our edifices of thought upon. There are certain kinds of philosophers who will continually reopen the question of metaphysics and epistemology, and demand to know how we know that we are not living in the dream of an existential demon, and that everything is a managed illusion, and that we may in fact be a brain in a tank in a form of Matrix! These sorts of “thinkers” do bring up intellectually stimulating questions, to be sure, but there are very few of us who do not inevitably shrug our shoulders after failing to penetrate this veil of ignorance, and shake off the burden of these unanswerable questions, certain that we still have a life to live in the real world, and that to sit and forever ponder these unanswerable questions would be to sink into a form of hyper-intellectual coma.
Finally, let us suppose that it would be a good thing to get rid of the government – well, it might also be nice if we could fly, breathe underwater, and sneeze gold! An essential component of rational prioritisation is to recognise and separate the possible from the impossible. It may indeed be the case that we live in the dream of a demon, but so what? What possible difference could it make to our daily life if this were, or were not, the case? If it is utterly impossible to get rid of the government – at least in our own lifetime – then isn’t it just a kind of narcissistic self-indulgence to continue to play around with the idea as if it ever could be implemented? We could also theorise that spending a solid week in zero gravity could be an excellent cure for lung cancer, but that would scarcely help the people suffering in our own lifetime. Surely, those of us with the intellectual abilities to traverse such endless abstractions should use our abilities for a more tangible and immediate good, rather than perform the intellectual equivalent of inventing the inner workings of Klingon biology.
We certainly do have the right to be sceptical about those who take their intellectual powers and run off in hot pursuit of the impossible – what could possibly be their motivation? Why would anyone want to get involved in a series of ideas that can never be achieved, that are alienating and frustrating to discuss, that eject these thinkers from anywhere close to the mainstream of social thought – and which create endless awkward silences at dinner parties, sweaty-palmed avoidances in one’s early dating life, endless impossibilities in educational environments, teeth-grinding frustration when reading the newspaper or watching a film, a reputation for eccentric and strangely intense thinking patterns, habitual eye-rolling from friends, a suspicious intellectual monomania that people kind of have to steer around if they wish to avoid “setting you off” – and, last but not least, some fairly endless challenges when it comes to raising your children, and filling them full of ideas that will doubtless set them approximately one solar system’s league away from their peers.
It seems like an entirely generous estimate to imagine that more than one in one hundred people will ever be interested in learning more about anarchism – and perhaps one out of a thousand will avidly pursue the course of thought and become full-fledged anarchists. What are the odds that these incredibly rare creatures will just happen to be scattered around the budding anarchist’s social, familial, and educational spheres?
Statistically, anarchism is a sure-fire recipe for social and familial isolation. After the virus of anarchism infects you, the possibility of infecting others remains very low – thus, you must either retreat to some sort of mental cave, or live a psychologically-perilous form of double life, biting your tongue, and averting your eyes whenever the topic of politics, economics, or the State comes up. Given all these dire social consequences – combined with the fact that anarchism will never be implemented in our lifetime – how can we possibly understand the pursuit and acceptance of these wild ideas as anything other than a kind of intellectual shell around a hyper-tender personality, designed to alienate, frustrate, and drive people away, perhaps as a result of a tortuous history of parental rejection?
Other than a strange and perverse kind of emotional masochism, what could conceivably motivate someone to take such a mad, vain, futile, and unachievable intellectual course?
Surely, even if anarchism is sane, anarchists are not.
It is certainly true that there are many strange people in this world who believe many strange things – and that some of those strange people believe in anarchism. Stalin was both an evil sociopath and an atheist; Hitler was a murderous racist who also knew how to tie his shoes – this does not tell us anything about atheists or people who know how to tie their shoes as a whole.
A Merely Personal Confession
I can say for myself – and I only mean this for myself – that although the truth often does press down like the weight of a cathedral on my sometimes-sloping shoulders, and though it does lower a dark and rippled glass between myself and the companions and family of my youth, and though it startles and scatters shocked glances in the faces of those around me, and although it renders the present unstable and the future uncertain – even with all that the truth demands and imposes upon me, I would not let you tear it from my heart with any power at your command.
The truth was not something that I set out to pursue. I dabbled in ideas when I was a child, just as I dabbled in playing certain instruments and painting in watercolour – never once dreaming that it would be anything other than a mildly diverting hobby. Looking back on it now, many decades later, it reminds me of one of those horror stories which depicts the disastrous consequences that result from “delving too deep” into the earth. Some sort of unholy beast arises from the depths and lays waste to the surface world – a beast that has lain dormant for hundreds or thousands of years is suddenly disturbed, and awakes with a sky-splitting roar, and a savage and unquenchable hunger for destruction.
During that shock of initial eruption, when the ideas that we started out merely playing with suddenly seem to take on a life of their own, like the escalating spells of Mickey Mouse, we do recoil in horror and leap back as if laser-scoped by a trigger-happy sniper, but we quickly learn the lesson of all horror stories, which is that the monsters are never outside our head.
The truth is an angry, demanding, and liberating coach, who drags us kicking and screaming up a sharp and broken mountainside, and then sets us down gently to marvel in breathless wonder at the most beautiful view that can ever be conceived. As our complaints roll emptily down to disappear into the fogs of our past, in a bare ripple of white smoke, our eyes stream with tears in mute gratitude at what we have been able to behold.
Such happy and driven fools often look quite mad to those around them. The truth is a drug that renders the motives of those who pursue it incomprehensible and strangely disturbing to everyone else. The ferocity of truth’s beauty is utterly beyond addictive; there is a passion and almost desperation to regain and re-enter the perfection of consistent reason, and the beauty of the clicking match-up between thought and observation. It keeps us awake even when we are exhausted; it strikes us with fits of passion even when we must be both silent and still; it obscures mere faces and opens up real minds; it peels away all the petty shallowness of the world and reveals all the glories and horrors of true depth.
And that makes it all worth it. The pursuit of truth only seems like masochism to those who have not tasted its joys. If your personal pleasures tend to centre around social acceptance, then you unconsciously know – or perhaps consciously – that the pursuit of philosophical truth and wisdom will strip away that which gives you the most happiness in the moment. In a very real sense, you are huddling at the oasis of small-minded social pleasures, and cannot see beyond the desert that surrounds you, to a wider and greater world.
Unfortunately, there are very few philosophers who will help you to let go of this illusion. Most philosophers will talk endlessly about the beauty of the world beyond the desert, but will not confidently lead people away from the oasis they cling to. “You really should come with me,” they say, “because this oasis is pretty bad, you know, and there is this wonderful world beyond the desert that we should all go to!” And they tug at everyone’s trousers and endlessly cajole everyone to start marching across the desert to this wonderful new world – which baffles and irritates everyone in sight.
“If this new world is so wonderful, and it is supposed to set you so free, then why does the sum total of your freedom appear to be nothing more than your endless insistence that we all follow you out into the desert? If our world is actually so small, petty and unsatisfying, then why do you spend your time here, rather than in this new world that gives you such endless pleasure and freedom? Because we must tell you directly that it appears to us that you are also afraid of this desert, and you do not wish to cross it alone, and so you are desperate to find people who will come with you, because you do not in fact believe in this wonderful new world of happiness and freedom. If you had cancer, and you had discovered a cure for it, you would not refrain from taking that cure until you had convinced everyone else with cancer to take it. Rather, you would take the cure, and document everything with as much detail as possible, so that you could better make the case to others that they should take your cure. But, this is not what you are doing. You say that you have a cure for unhappiness called “wisdom,” but this “cure” seems to require that everyone else take it at the same time. You do not appear to be willing to lead by example, but instead seem to be enslaved by a compulsive need to get everyone else to take this red pill at the same time that you do. Your pursuit of wisdom has clearly not given you the freedom, happiness, and peace of mind that you claim it does – that you portray as a benefit in order to sell it to others. The world is full of people who will try to sell you ‘cures’ that they will not take themselves, and there is no good reason to believe that your claim that philosophical wisdom leads to happiness is any different!”
This basic paradox enslaves everyone at the oasis. The anarchist or philosopher, it turns out, is only tortured by his vision of the world beyond the desert – and in fact is only reinforcing everyone’s belief in the necessity of social conformity for the achievement and maintenance of happiness. In this way, the philosopher is actually turning everyone against the pursuit of wisdom, for the sake of his own social anxieties. He is actually portraying philosophy as that which tortures you with a vision that you cannot achieve, but that you must continually harass others to pursue.
Finally, since the philosopher seems utterly unable to even perceive this basic paradox – let alone solve it – how much credibility are those around him going to grant his ability to perceive, pursue, and capture the truth? If I claim to be a wonderful mathematician, and go on and on about the glories of exploring numbers, but all that anyone ever sees is my continual frustration at the fact that no one else seems to be very interested in maths – and my complete inability to balance my chequebook, or even notice that it doesn’t add up – then will I not be perceived as a kind of arrant fool, motivated by heaven knows what?
The “desert” metaphor is somewhat limited, since when we leave the oasis and cross the desert, we pass completely out of view. However, when we pursue the truth from our love of truth, and shrug off those who do not wish to join us, we do arise as a beacon in our social world, a sort of lighthouse that can help guide the few who are capable of being seized by such a love of truth that they are willing to give up the immediate creature and social comforts of living in a world of lies.
Those of us who cross the desert first can be deemed the most courageous in a way, but I must confess that in fact my journey felt less like a fish who braves leaving the water for the shore than a fish that is caught by the hook of philosophy and yanked unceremoniously from the depths. The future pulled me forward – against my will at times – and it was with great regret that I left almost everyone behind. I was not convinced of the glories of the world beyond the desert, but rather feared that the desert would go on forever, and that actually I might go mad. Fortunately to say the least, this did not happen, and I did discover the world beyond the desert, and all the beauties and truths that it contains. By the time that my particular journey had slowed to at least a walking pace, I felt very little desire to go back to the oasis and try and get my former companions to join me in this new world. Once we have made the wrenching transition from ignorance to wisdom, we genuinely understand and appreciate the difficulty of the process, and would no more imagine dragging our former companions across this desert than we would choose a random person on the street to join us in an ascent of Everest.
At the end of my last book, I talked about a small village inhabited by those of us who have made it across this desert. I believe that it is our job, if we choose it, to make this little village as hospitable and inviting as possible for those few hardy, thirsty souls that we can see struggling out of the shimmering heat of the sand dunes. Creating a place where truth is welcome is the first goal for us pioneers. We know that we cannot return to the half life that we had before; we know that it would be selfish to continue on and on in the path of wisdom without creating some markers and resting places for those who are following us; and we know that the incredible advances in communication technology have for the first time in history allowed the path across the desert to be mapped and visible.
Never before has it been so relatively inviting to pursue the path of truth and wisdom. The destination is no longer the Socratic cup of hemlock, or Nietzsche’s madness, or Rand’s later cultishness, or the dry death of academic conformity – but rather a gathering place – a forum, I would say – where we can exchange ideas and experiences, and support each other, and learn how to best defend ourselves against those who would do us harm, and build our new homes – virtual though they may be for many – in the company of others, rather than alone, which has so often been the case in the past.
As we make our new homes more comfortable and inviting, we will in fact begin to draw more and more people across the desert, because they will see that there is a destination that can be achieved, and they will get more than a glimpse of the life that can be lived beyond lies. No sailor can navigate by the stars if the night is overcast – or if only one star is visible. As more and more stars wink into view, the navigation becomes easier and easier.
If you are tempted to pursue the freedom of truth and wisdom – or, to be more accurate, if the skyhook of truth and wisdom snatches you into some unsuspected stratosphere – then the choice has to some degree been made for you. To hang suspended between the worlds of conformity and wisdom is to live in a kind of null zone, where you gain neither the satisfactions of conformity nor the joys of wisdom.
It can be truly hard to leave those behind who cannot or will not join you on this journey, and the only consolation that I have been able to offer myself – and which I offer to you now – is that there could be nothing better to do with our lives than to create a world where we do not have to choose between wisdom and companions, between virtue and society – where a unity with truth will not mean a disunity with those around us.
A Few Principles
Rather than repeat them every time I make an argument, I wanted to put a few principles out up front, before we begin.
First and foremost, although I am an anarchist, I am not a utopian. There is no social system which will utterly eliminate evil. In a stateless society, there will still be rape, theft, murder, and abuse. To be fair, just, and reasonable, we must compare a stateless society not to some standard of otherworldly perfection, but rather to the world as it already is. The moral argument for a stateless society includes the reality that it will eliminate a large amount of institutionalised violence and abuse, not that it will result in a perfectly peaceful world, which of course is impossible. Anarchy can be viewed as a cure for cancer and heart disease, not a prescription for endlessly perfect health. It would be unreasonable to oppose a cure for cancer because such a cure did not eliminate all other possible diseases – in the same way, we cannot reasonably oppose a stateless society because some people are bad, and a free society will not make them good.
Secondly, I am not proposing any Manichaean view of human nature in this book. I do not believe that human beings are either innately good, or innately evil. I take a very conservative and majority view, which is that human beings respond to incentives, which also happens to be the basis for the discipline of economics. Human beings are not innately corrupt, but they will inevitably be corrupted by power. Most people will respond to situations and circumstances in a way that maximises their advantage, not explicitly at the expense of others, though that can happen of course, but we are biological as well as moral beings, and there are very few people who will sacrifice the safety and security of their family in order to follow some abstract moral principle. When human beings are forced to choose between virtue and necessity, they will in general choose necessity, and will then rework their definition of virtue to justify their own actions.
That having been said, it seems very clear that human beings are driven to a very large and deep degree by virtue. A person can almost never be convinced to do what they define as evil – but if that evil can be redefined as a good, people will almost inevitably praise or perform it. Very few people would agree to murder for payment – but very few people will condemn soldiers as murderers.
Very few people would openly say that they oppose rape, but support the rapists – however, when the same moral equation is redefined as a good, just about everyone says that they oppose the war, but support the troops.
This is one of the lessons that I explicitly take from our existing ruling class, which is that the power of propaganda to redefine evil as good is a fundamental mechanism for controlling people and making them do what you want. Before any government can truly expand, it first needs to take control of the money supply in order to bribe citizens, and the educational system in order to indoctrinate children. A large percentage of the army’s communications budget is dedicated to propaganda, and I assume that these people know more than a little about how to best spend money to control the minds of others.
Thus, I do understand that the reason that the debate about a stateless society is so volatile and aggressive is because anarchists are fundamentally attempting to reclaim the definition of virtue in society – and since society as a collective is largely defined by generally-accepted definitions of virtue, the anarchist approach to ethics is an attempt to fundamentally rewrite society as a whole.
Prior attempts to do this have almost always resulted in disaster, because they have always relied on gaining control of the government and using its power to impose some new version of ethics on a disarmed citizenry. The anarchist approach is particularly unsettling because we say that initiating violence to solve social problems is a great evil – perhaps the greatest evil – and so we steadfastly reject and refuse political solutions.
In the current world of governments, not only is political violence used to solve ethical problems, but also the use of such violence is itself considered virtuous and wise. Thus anarchists are entirely above the existing debate, because we are not trying to grab the gun and point it in the direction that we approve of, but rather are pointing out that violence cannot be used to achieve a positive good within society. Thus not only are existing solutions immoral, but the entire methodology for solving problems is based on a moral evil – the initiation of the use of force.
This is a fundamental rewrite of society, and people are right to be concerned and sceptical about the anarchist approach. It is the most fundamental transition that can be imagined – it is the difference between asking how slaves can be treated better, and stating that slavery is an irredeemable moral evil. It is the difference between asking what transgressions children should be beaten for, and stating that beating children is always and forever immoral.
Using the past to justify the future
An objection to anarchism that I hear fairly often is that human beings are not so constituted as to be able to productively and intelligently rule themselves.
This objection rests on such a fundamental error that it is worth dealing with up front, since it will show up time and again in the upcoming arguments for anarchism.
We can all understand that it would be completely irrational to say that slaves cannot be freed, because they lack initiative and education. We all perfectly understand that slaves are barred from education, and punished for taking initiative. It is like saying that a totalitarian economy cannot be privatised because all of the workers are lazy – it is clear that this “laziness” actually arises out of a totalitarian economy, rather than any innate habits of the workers. Nutritionists might as well say that fat people cannot lose weight, because they are fat. The entire purpose of an expert is to help undo the habits that ignorance and a lack of opportunity has bred, and substitute more rational and positive behaviours in their place.
It is certainly true that people who come out of a statist educational system tend to be functionally retarded in many ways – they do not understand law, they do not understand politics, they do not understand economics, they do not understand philosophy, they have very likely never taken a course in logic – or even been offered one – they do not understand the scientific method, and they fundamentally do not know how to think or debate from first principles.
These are just the natural and disgusting results of the existing system – to say that people cannot be free because they lack the habits that freedom would have inculcated is a completely circular argument – it is like saying that newborn chicks of geese that have had their wings clipped can never fly, or that the daughter of a Chinese woman who suffered through foot binding will be born with bound feet.
Rejecting the virtues of the future for the sake of the evils of the past creates a closed-loop system that we can never escape. When anarchism comes to pass, there will doubtless be challenging and wrenching transitions for many people – but so what? This is actually an argument for anarchism, rather than against it. The harder that it is to transition out of a violent statist society, the more it is necessary to do so, and to prevent it from ever re-emerging again. We do not say that heroin is less dangerous because it is so hard to quit, or so addictive – this is a central reason why heroin should not be taken in the first place! Constantly increasing our dosage of heroin because it is hard to quit would scarcely be a rational response to the problem of deadly addiction. The harder it is to quit, the more we should try to quit it, and the more we should strive to avoid re-addiction.
You are not the only kind person on the planet
Another point that I would like to make up front is that there always seems to be a strange disconnect or isolation in people’s concerns about the helpless and dependent in society.
For instance, whenever I talk about getting rid of public schools, the response inevitably comes back – automatically, it would seem, just like any other good propaganda – that it would be terrible, because poor children would not be educated.
There is a strange kind of unthinking narcissism in this response, which always irritates me, much though I understand it. First of all, it is rather insulting to be told that you are trying to design a system which would deny education to poor children. To be placed into the general category of “yuppie capitalist scum” is never particularly ennobling.
A person will raise this objection with an absolutely straight face, as if they are the only person in the world who cares about the education of poor children. I know that this is the result of pure indoctrination, because it is so illogical.
If we accept the premise that very few people care about the education of the poor, then we should be utterly opposed to majority-rule democracy, for the obvious reason that if only a tiny minority of people care about the education of the poor, then there will never be enough of them to influence a democracy, and thus the poor will never be educated.
However, those who approve of democracy and accept that democracy will provide the poor with education inevitably accept that a significant majority of people care enough about the poor to agitate for a political solution, and pay the taxes that fund public education.
Thus, any democrat who cares about the poor automatically accepts the reality that a significant majority of people are both willing and able to help fund the education of the poor.
If people are willing to agitate for and pay the taxes to support a State-run solution to the problem of education, then the State solution is a mere reflection of their desires and willingness to sacrifice their own self-interest for the sake of educating the poor.
If I pay for a cure for an ailment that I have, and I find out that that cure actually makes me worse, do I give up on trying to find a cure? Of course not. It was my desire to find a cure that drove me to the false solution in the first place – when I accept that the solution is false, I am then free to pursue another solution.
The democratic “solution” to the problem of educating the poor is the existence of public schools – if we get rid of that solution, then the majority’s desire to help educate the poor will simply take on another form – and a far more effective form, that much is guaranteed.
“Ah,” say the democrats, “but without being forced to pay for public schools, no one will surrender the money to voluntarily fund the education of poor children.”
Well, this is only an admission that democracy is a complete and total lie – that public schools do not represent the will of the majority, but rather the whims of a violent minority. Thus votes do not matter at all, and are not counted, and do not influence public policy in the least, and thus we should get rid of this ridiculous overhead of democracy and get right back to a good old Platonic system of minority dictatorship.
This proposal, of course, is greeted with outright horror, and protestations that democracy must be kept because it is the best system, because public policy does reflect the will of the majority. In which case we need have no fear that the poor will not be educated in a free society, since the majority of people very much want that to happen anyway.
Exactly the same argument applies to a large number of other statist “solutions” to existing problems, such as:
- Old-age pensions.
- Unemployment insurance.
- Health care for the impoverished.
- Welfare, etcetera.
If these State programs represent the desires and will of the majority, then removing the government will not remove the reality of this kind of charity, since government policies reflect the majority’s existing desire to help these people.
If these programs do not represent the desires and will of the majority, then democracy is a complete lie, and we should stop interfering with our leader’s universal benevolence with our distracting and wasteful “voting.”
We will get into this in more detail as we go forward, but I wanted to put the argument out up front, just to address the ridiculous objection that removing a democratic State also removes the benevolence that drives its policies.
A fundamental anarchic argument is that a democratic State uses the genuine benevolence of the majority to expand its own power, and exacerbates poverty, ignorance, and sickness in order to justify and continue the expansion of that power.
This is not the first time that the benevolence of good people has been used to control them. We only need to think of the example of organised religion to understand that… One final point, and then we shall begin really rolling up our sleeves and having some fun figuring out how a free society can truly work.
Although the ideas of anarchy can be alarming, it is important to remember that anarchy is not an untried and untested system. As I talked about in my last book, anarchy is the foundation of how we organise our own personal lives, and it is also the root of how the government manages to survive, at least for as long as it does, despite its corrupt and evil nature.
Prior approaches to re-writing social ethics failed because they did not evolve out of what works in our personal lives. We fully accept that theories of physics cannot contradict that which is directly observable within our own lives; that which describes a falling planet cannot contradict our direct perception of a falling brick.
Indeed, since we would so strenuously resist the incursion of State power into our own personal and practical “anarchy,” it can be easier to understand how statism is a violent and artificial solution, not anarchy.
If we look at something like communism, we can see that it represented a radical reversal of what actually works in our own personal lives. We retain and trade property constantly in our own lives. Stripping us of the right to own and trade property is an entirely artificial “oppositional solution,” which is why it had to be imposed through endless violence, murder, and imprisonment.
In the same way, when we look at something like religion, we can see that it represents a radical reversal of what we actually believe to be true in our own personal lives. Children do not need threats, bribes, and propaganda to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, that gravity works, and concrete is hard on the knees. They do not need to be bullied in order to learn language, or grow physically and mentally, or ask endless questions and explore their environment.
However, to believe that some ancient and fantastical Jewish zombie died for their “sins,” and that they are trailed and judged by an omnipresent and invisible ghost, and that they need to eat and drink symbolic flesh and blood to commune with some universal and incorporeal mind – well, that takes an enormous amount of propaganda, bribery, and bullying. Religion is an entirely artificial “oppositional solution” to the question of existence and ethics. It must be repetitively and aggressively inflicted on children, because it scarcely comes naturally to them at all.
Anarchy, however, does not fall into this category.
For instance, when you face a problem at work, I can’t imagine that you ever sit your team down and say:
“I’ve come up with the perfect solution to our problem – what we’re going to do, see, is pick two of us, give them guns, and then those two are going to force the rest of us to do whatever they want for the next few years, and then we are going to perhaps pick two other people who will get those guns, and then they’ll be able to force us to do whatever they want us to do for the next few years, and then we’ll start all over again…”
I have yet to see a business book with anything close to the title of: “Creating A Violent Internal Monopoly To Solve Your Customer Service Woes!”
In the same way, if you face problems in your relationship, you may go to a marriage counsellor, but I have never heard of any couple going to the Mafia, and saying: “We can’t quite agree on how we should be spending our money, so we’re going to buy you guys a bunch of guns and bombs, and we want you to tell us what to do, and if we disobey your orders, we want you to kidnap us and throw us in some dank and horrible cell, where we can only hope to be raped by other people!”
If you are looking for a job, I do not imagine that you will kidnap someone and force him to hire you. If you want a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, I cannot believe that you will chloroform and kidnap someone you are attracted to, like the protagonist in John Fowles’s “The Collector.”
If you are having trouble parenting, it does not seem at all likely that you will hire someone to kidnap you if you parent in a way that he disagrees with for some reason.
This list can of course go on and on, but the basic reality is that we never look for statist solutions to problems that we face in our own lives. We never create a localised monopoly, arm it, and give it the right to take half our income at gunpoint, and then force us to obey its whims.
Statism and Isolation
There is something about statism, some aspect of it, which profoundly isolates us from our fellow citizens. We turn from animated problem-solvers to mindless defenders of the status quo. As an example, I offer up the inevitable response I receive when I provide an anarchic solution to an existing State function. When I say that theoretical entities called Dispute Resolution Organisations (DROs) could enforce contracts and protect property, the immediate response is that these DROs will inevitably evolve into a single monopoly that will end up recreating the State that they were supposed to replace.
Or, when I talk about private roads, I inevitably hear the argument that someone could just build a road in a ring around your land and charge you a million dollars every time you wanted to cross it.
Or, when I talk about private defence agencies that can be used to protect a geographical region from invasion, I am promptly informed that those private agencies will simply turn their guns on their subscribers, take them over, and create a new State.
Or, when I discuss the power of economic ostracism as a tool for maintaining order and conformity to basic social and economic rules, I am immediately told that people will be “marked for exclusion” unless they pay hefty bribes to whatever agencies control such information.
It is the same story, over and over – an anarchic solution is provided, and an immediate “disaster scenario” is put forward without thought, without reflection, and without curiosity.
Of course, I am not bothered by the fact that people are critical of a new and volatile theory – I think that is an essential process for any new idea.
What does concern me is the fundamental lack of reciprocity in the minds of the people who thoughtlessly reject creative solutions to trenchant problems.
I don’t mean reciprocity with regards to me – though that is surely lacking as well – but rather with regards to any form of authority or influence in general.
For instance, if people in a geographical region want to contract with an agency or group of agencies for the sake of collective defence, what is the greatest fear that will be first and foremost in their minds?
Naturally, it will be that some defence agency will take their money, buy a bunch of weapons, and promptly enslave them.
How does a free society solve this problem? Well, if there is a market need or demand for collective defence, a number of firms will vie for the business, since it will be so lucrative in the long term. The economic efficiency of having a majority of subscribers would drive the price of such defence down – however, the more people that you enrol in such a contract, the greater everyone’s fear will be that this defence agency will attempt to become a government of some kind.
Thus no entrepreneur will be able to sell this service in the most economically efficient manner if they do not directly and credibly address the fear that they will attempt to create a new government. We are so used to being on the one-sided receiving end of dictatorial edicts from those in power – whether they are parents, teachers, or government officials, that the very idea that someone is going to have to woo our trust is almost incomprehensible. “If I am afraid of something that someone wants to sell me, then it is up to that person to calm my fears if he wants my business” – this is so far from our existing ways of dealing with statist authority that we might as well be inventing a new planet.
It is so important to understand that when we are talking about a free society – and I will tell you later how this habit is so essential for your happiness even if anarchism never comes to pass – we are essentially talking about two sides of a negotiation table.
When it comes to government as it is – and all that government ever could be – we are never really talking about two sides of the table. You get a letter in the mail informing you that your property taxes are going to increase five percent – there is no negotiation; no one offers you an alternative; your opinion is not consulted beforehand, and your approval is not required afterwards, because if you do not pay the increased tax, you will, after a fairly lengthy sequence of letters and phone calls, end up without a house.
It is certainly true that your local cable company may also send you a notice that they’re going to increase their charges by five percent, but that is still a negotiation! You can switch to satellite, or give up on cable and rent DVDs of films or television shows, or reduce some of the extra features that you have, or just decide to get rid of your television and read and talk instead.
None of these options are available with the government – with the government, you either pay them, give up your house, go to jail, or move to some other country, where the exact same process will start all over again.
Can you imagine getting this letter from your cable company?
- Dear Valued Customer,
- Your cable bill is now increasing five percent per month. You cannot cancel your cable. Ever. You cannot reduce your bill in any way. If you turn off your cable, your bill will remain exactly the same. If you rip your cable out of the wall, your bill will remain exactly the same, with the exception that we will charge you for the damage. Your children will be unable to cancel your cable contract.
- Also, please note that we will be reducing our delivery of channels by approximately one every month. As we deliver fewer channels, you can anticipate that your bill will sharply increase.
- If you do not pay your bill on time, the ownership of your house will revert to us, and we will lock you in an undisclosed location, where you will be forced to do technical support, and where we will be unable to protect you from assault and rape.
- If you attempt to defend yourself when we come to take your house, we are fully authorised to gun you down.
- The Statist Cable Company
We would consider this kind of letter to be utterly criminal – and we would be outraged at the dictatorial one-sidedness of the letter, as well as the threats of violence it contained.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of communication that we get from our governments all the time – and in many ways, it is not unrelated to the kind of non-negotiated dictums that we received from our teachers when we were children.
Thus, when a philosopher of anarchy proposes private solutions to public services, we automatically and almost unconsciously feel that we are back on the receiving end of one-sided dictatorial commandments, and fear this multiplicity of small “quasi-governments,” and imagine that instead of receiving a few such ugly letters a year, we shall get perhaps dozens per month.
However, if you do not understand that anarchism is always and forever a two-sided negotiation, then you will remain forever untempted by its rational and empirical pleasures, and continue to confuse coercion with voluntarism, which is about the most fundamental error that can be made in moral understanding.
If you feel the need for collective defence, but you are afraid that whoever you contract with for such defence will end up ruling over you, you can just sit back, put your feet up on the desk, clasp your hands behind your head, and just see who comes along with an offer that satisfies you.
Once you grasp this fundamental shift in thinking – in understanding – then you can “flip over” to the other side of the table and use your real creative mojo to start solving the problem.
In this way, you can ask yourself, “If I really wanted to sell collective defence services to a group, how could I best address and alleviate their fears that I would turn into some kind of local dictator?”
What do you think? If you could personally make ten million dollars a year by solving this problem, what would you come up with? How would you address and alleviate people’s fears that you would take their money, go buy an army, and rule over them?
There are as many creative and productive answers as there are people interested in the problem – here’s one that occurs to me, just off the top of my head…
I would deposit five million dollars in a third-party bank account, and offer it as free payment to anyone who could prove that I was not fulfilling my contract with my customers to the letter. I would publish my accounts and inventory as widely as possible, and give free access to anyone who wanted to come by and inspect my business and its holdings.
In this way, people could rest assured that I was not amassing some secret army of black helicopters and men in robot suits.
“Ah,” you may say, “but what if no one wanted to come forward and perform these kinds of inspections?”
Again, that is easy to solve. I would just pay an organisation one million dollars a year to audit my business – and promise them that if they ever found me accumulating any kind of secret army or weaponry, then I would then pay them the five million dollars in the third party bank account. In this way, external audits would be certain to be performed, and those auditors would have every incentive to turn over every filing cabinet in search of a miniature robot army.
“Ah,” you may say, “but what if you were secretly paying this auditing organisation two million dollars a year to only pretend to audit your business?”
Well, here we are starting to get into some very strange economic territory, which would be utterly unsustainable in a free market, because my company would then be out five million dollars up front, be paying one million dollars for an auditing company, and then a further two million dollars to produce fake audits – such a company would never be able to offer competitive rates relative to a company that operated on the up and up.
But even if this were possible, it would still be an easy problem to solve, by simply paying five companies to perform audits if necessary – paying five million dollars a year out of a profit of ten million dollars a year still leaves you five million dollars ahead!
“Ah, but what if..?”
We all know that this game can go on for forever and a day – the mindset that I strongly urge you to try and get yourself into, however, is that you do not have to contract with anyone who is not willing to satisfy your desires!
What happens if no entrepreneur is able to offer you a deal that successfully calms your fears?
Why, then you do not have to take any deal at all.
“Ah,” you may then say, “but then I am leaving myself open to the risk of foreign invasion!”
Well, that is very true, but clearly, if you reject all offers from entrepreneurs who want to protect you, because you feel that their protection carries too much risk, then clearly you prefer the risk of invasion to the risk of protection.
With that in mind, you may well choose one entrepreneur’s scheme – not because it is risk-free, but rather because it is less risky than the risk of invasion.
If you wish to be presented with a risk-free choice, then unfortunately you wish to be presented with a different kind of universe than the one we inhabit, since risk is an inevitable and natural part of life.
With that in mind, let us turn to one of the first great objections to the idea of a stateless society, which is collective defence, to provide an example of the methodologies we will use in this book.
Collective Defence: An Example of Methodology
Ideally, invasions should be prevented rather than repelled, just as illnesses should be prevented rather than cured.
The strongest conceivable case for anarchism is that a stateless society would by its very nature prevent invasion, rather than merely possess the ability to violently repel it.
So first, before we figure out how to repel an invasion, let us look at what an invasion is actually designed to achieve.
Let us imagine a land where there are two farms, owned by Bob and Jim respectively. Bob is a rapacious and nasty fellow, who wishes to expand his farm and make more money.
To the east of Bob is Jim’s farm, which is tidy, efficient, and productive, with a wide variety of cows, chickens, and neatly-planted fields.
To the west of Bob is an untamed wilderness full of bears, wolves, coyotes, mosquitoes, swamps, and all other sorts of unpleasant and dangerous things.
From the standpoint of mere practical considerations, how can Bob most efficiently expand his farm and increase his income?
Surely it would be to invest in a few guns, head east, and take over Jim’s farm. For a very small investment, Bob ends up with a functioning and productive farm, ready to provide him with milk, eggs, and crops.
On the other hand, Bob could choose to go west, into the untamed wilderness, and try to cull a number of dangerous predators, drain the swamps, hack down, and uproot all the embedded trees and bushes. After a year or two of backbreaking labour, he may have carved out a few additional acres for himself – an investment that would scarcely seem worth it.
If Bob wants to expand, and cares little about ethics, he will “invade” Jim’s farm and take it over, because he will be taking command of an already-existing system of exploitation and production. Thus, we can see that the act of invading a neighbouring territory is primarily motivated by the desire to take over an existing productive system. If that productive system is not in place, then the motivation for invasion evaporates. A car thief will never “steal” a rusted old jalopy that is sitting up on bricks in an abandoned lot, but rather will attempt to steal a car that is in good condition. This analysis of the costs and benefits of invasion is essential to understanding how a stateless society actually works to prevent invasion, rather than merely repel it.
When one country invades another country, the primary goal is to take over the existing system of government, and thus collect the taxes from the existing citizens. In the same way that Bob will only invade Jim’s farm in order to take over his domesticated animals, one government will only invade another country in order to take over the government of that country, and so become the new tax-collector. If no tax-collection system is in place, then there is no productive resource for the invading country to take over.
Furthermore, to take a silly example, we can easily understand that Bob will only invade Jim’s farm if he knows that Jim’s cows and chickens are not armed and dangerous. To adjust the metaphor a little closer to reality, imagine that Jim has a number of workers on his farm who are all ex-military, well-armed, and will fight to the death to protect that farm. The disincentive for invasion thus becomes considerably stronger.
In the same way, domestic governments generally keep their citizens relatively disarmed, in order to more effectively tax them, just as farmers clip the wings of their geese and chickens in order to more efficiently collect their eggs and meat.
Thus the cost-benefit analysis of invasion only comes out on the plus side if the benefits are clear and easy to attain – an existing tax-collection system – and if the costs of invasion are relatively small – a largely disarmed citizenry.
In a very real sense, therefore, a stateless society cannot be invaded, because there is really nothing to invade. There are no government buildings to inhabit, no existing government to displace, no tax-collection system in place to take over and profit from – and, furthermore, there is no clear certainty about the degree of armaments that each citizen possesses (don’t worry, we will get into gun control later).
An invading country can be very certain that, if it breaks through another government’s military defences, it will then not face any significant resistance from the existing citizenry. A statist society can be considered akin to an egg – if you break through the shell, there is no second line of defence inside. Invading governments are well aware of the existing laws against the proliferation of weapons in the country they are invading – thus they are guaranteed to be facing a virtually disarmed citizenry, as long as they can break through the military defences.
Let us imagine that France becomes a stateless society, but that Germany and Poland do not. Let us go with the cliché and imagine that Germany has a strong desire to expand militarily. The German leader then looks at a map, and tries to figure out whether he should go east into Poland, or west into France.
If he goes east into Poland, then he will, if he can break through the Polish military defences, be able to feast upon the existing tax base, and face an almost completely disarmed citizenry. He will be able to use the existing Polish tax-collectors and tax-collection system to enrich his own government, because the Poles are already controlled and “domesticated,” so to speak.
In other words, he only has one enemy to overcome and destroy, which is the Polish government’s military. If he can overcome that single line of defence, he gains control over billions of dollars of existing tax revenues every single year – and a ready-made army and its equipment.
On the other hand, if he thinks of going west into France, he faces some daunting obstacles indeed.
There are no particular laws about the domestic ownership of weapons in a stateless society, so he has no idea whatsoever which citizens have which weapons, and he certainly cannot count on having a legally-disarmed citizenry to prey on after defeating a single army.
Secondly, let us say that his army rolls across the border into France – what is their objective? If France still had a government, then clearly his goal would be to take Paris, displace the existing government, and take over the existing tax-collection system. However, where is his army supposed to go once it crosses the border? There is no capital in a stateless society, no seat of government, no existing system of tax-collection and citizen control, no centralised authority that can be seized and taken over. In the above example of the two farms and the wilderness, this is the equivalent not of Bob taking over Jim’s farm, but rather of Bob heading into the wilderness and facing coyotes, bears, swamps, and mosquitoes – there is no single enemy, no existing resources to take over, and nothing in particular to “seize.”
But let us say that the German leadership is completely retarded, and decides to head west into France anyway – and let us also suppose, to make the case as strong as possible, that everyone in France has decided to forego any kind of collective self-defence. What is the German army going to do in France? Are they going to go door to door, knocking on people’s houses, and demanding their silverware? Even if this were possible, and actually achieved, all that would happen is that the silverware would be shipped back to Germany, thus putting German silverware manufacturers out of business. When German manufacturers go out of business, they lay people off, thus destroying tax revenue for the German government.
The German army cannot reasonably ship French houses to Germany – perhaps they will seize French cars and French electronics and ship them to Germany instead.
And what is the German government supposed to do with thousands of French cars and iPods? Are they supposed to sell these objects to their own citizens at vastly reduced prices? I imagine that certain German citizens would be relatively happy with that, but again, all that would happen is that German manufacturers of cars and electronics would be put out of business, thus again sharply reducing the German government’s tax income, resulting in a net loss.
Furthermore, by destroying domestic industries for the sake of a one-time transfer of French goods, the German government would be crippling its own future income, since domestic manufacturing represents a permanent source of tax revenue – this would be a perfect example of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
Well, perhaps what the German government could do is seize French citizens and ship them to Germany as slave labour. What would be the result of that?
Unfortunately, this would not work either, at least not for long, because slave labour cannot be taxed, and slave labour would displace existing German labour, which is taxable. Thus again the German government would be permanently reducing its own income, which it would not do.
Another reason that Germany might invade another country would be to seize control of the wealth of the government – the ability to print money, and the ownership of a large amount of physical assets, such as buildings, cars, gold, manufacturing plants, and so on.
However, nothing remains unowned in a stateless society, except that which has no value, or cannot be owned, such as the open air. There are no “public assets” to seize, and there are no state-owned printing presses which can be used to create currency, and thus transfer capital to Germany. There are no endless vaults of government gold to rob, no single aggregation of military assets to seize. Furthermore, if we go up to a thief and say to him, “Do you want to rob a house?” what is his first question likely to be?
“Hell I don’t know – what’s in it?”
A thief will always want to know the benefits of robbing a house – he is fully aware of the risks and costs, of course, and must weigh them against the rewards. He will never scale up the outside of some public housing welfare tenement in order to snag an old television and a tape deck. The more knowledgeable he is of the value of a home’s contents, the better he is able to assess the value of breaking into it.
The German leadership, when deciding which country to invade, will know down to almost the last dollar the tax revenues being collected by the Polish government, as well as the value of the public assets they will seize if they invade. The “pay-off” can be very easily assessed.
On the other hand, if they look west, into the French stateless society, how will they know what they are actually going to get? There are no published figures for the net wealth of the society as a whole, there is no tax revenue to collect, and there are no public assets which can be easily valued ahead of time. There is no way to judge the cost effectiveness of the invasion.
Invading a statist society is like grabbing the cages of a large number of trapped chickens – you get all of the eggs in perpetuity. Invading a stateless society is like taking a sprint at a flock of seagulls – all they do is scatter, and you get nothing, except perhaps some crap on your forehead.
Thus it is completely impossible that the German leadership would think it a good idea to head west into France rather than east into Poland.
We could leave the case here, and be perfectly satisfied in our responses, but I am always willing to go the extra mile and accept the worst conceivable case.
Let us say that some mad German who was beaten with bagfuls of French textbooks when he was a child ends up running the government, and cares nothing at all about the costs and benefits of invading France, but rather just wishes to take it over in order to – I don’t know, burn all the textbooks or something like that.
We will get into the nature and content of private agencies in the next chapter, but let us just say that there are a number of these private defence agencies that are paid to defend France against just such an invading madman.
Well, if I were setting up some sort of private military defence agency, the first thing I would do is try to figure out how I could most effectively protect my subscribers, for the least possible cost. The first thing that I would note is that nuclear weapons have been the single most effective deterrent to invasion that has ever been invented. Not one single nuclear power has ever been invaded, or threatened with invasion – and so, in a very real sense, there is no bigger “bang for the buck” in terms of defence than a few well-placed nuclear weapons.
If we assume that a million subscribers are willing to pay for a few nuclear weapons as a deterrent to invasion, and that those nuclear weapons cost about thirty million dollars to purchase and maintain every year, then we are talking about thirty million dollar a year per subscriber – or less than a dime a day.
The defence agencies only make money if an invasion does not occur, just as health insurance companies only make money when you are not sick, but rather well. Thus the question that I would be most keen to answer if I were running a defence agency is: “How can I best prevent an invasion?”
Let us assume that the French stateless society is a beacon of liberation in a sea of aggressive and statist nations. The French defence agencies would work day and night to ensure that the costs of invasion were as high as possible, and the benefits as low as possible. Were I running one of these agencies, I would think of solutions along the lines of the following…
If I were concerned that my subscribers might be robbed by an invading army, I would offer reduced rates to those willing to allow their electronic money to be secured so that it could not be spent without their own thumb print, or something like that.
Similarly, I might offer reduced defence rates to manufacturers that would be willing to allow a small GPS device to be installed in the guts of their machinery, so that if it was removed to another country, it would no longer work. This device could also be included in cars and other items of value, so that they would either have to be used in France, or they could not be used at all.
Given that the control of bridges is a primary military objective, in order to facilitate the movement of troops and vehicles, I would also encourage the installation of particular devices in domestic cars and trucks, which would automatically keep access to bridges open. Thus invading armies would find their access to these bridges much harder, which would again slow down the speed of their invasion. Furthermore, if invasion seemed imminent, I would arm and train as many citizens as possible. Any invading army would face a quite different challenge in a stateless society. If Germany invades Poland, how many citizens would risk their lives fighting against just another government? Whether a Polish leader taxes you, or a German one, makes relatively little difference – which is why your average citizen does not care much about who runs the local Mafia. Citizens of a stateless society, however, would be resisting an attempt to inflict taxation and a government upon them, and so would be far more willing to fight the kind of endlessly-draining insurgencies that we see so often in the annals of occupation.
These are just a few admittedly off-the-cuff ideas, but it is relatively easy to see how the benefits of invading France could be significantly diminished or even eliminated, while the costs of invading France could be significantly increased or made prohibitive.
The objection could be raised that some lunatic group could simply detonate a nuclear bomb somewhere inside France, for some insane or nefarious motive – but that is not an argument against private defence agencies, and for a statist society, but rather quite the reverse.
The “nuclear madman” argument is not solved by the existence of a government, since no government can protect against this eventuality – however, a free society would be far less likely to be the target of such an attack, since it would have a defensive military policy only, and not an aggressive and interventionist foreign policy, and thus would be infinitely less likely to provoke such a mad and genocidal retaliation. Switzerland, for instance, faces no real danger of having aeroplanes flown into buildings.
It is my belief that over time, the need for these proactive and defensive strategies would diminish, since the only thing that would really ever be needed is a few nuclear weapons as a deterrent – and even the need for these would diminish over time, since either the world itself would become stateless, thus eliminating the danger of war, or the statist societies would continue to attack each other only, for the reasons mentioned above, and the need to continually defend a stateless society would diminish.
Finally, let’s look at some of the illusions that we have about statist “protection” in history, as a demonstration of how we can critically evaluate an example of a statist function.
Statist National "Defence": A Critical Example
Briefly put, “national defence” is the need for a government to protect citizens from aggression by other governments.
This is an interesting paradox, even beyond the obvious one of using a “government” to protect us from “governments.” If you were able to run a magic survey throughout history, which government do you think people would be most frightened of and enslaved by? Would it be (a), their local State or Lord, or (b), some State or Lord in some other country? What about ancient Rome – would it be the local rulers, who forced young Romans into military service for twenty years or more, or the Carthaginians? What about England in the Middle Ages? Were the peasants more alarmed by the crushing taxation and strangling mobility restrictions imposed by their local Lord, or was the King of France their primary concern? Let us stop in Russia during the eighteenth century, and ask the serfs: “Are you more frightened of the Tsar’s soldiers, or the German Kaiser?” Let us go to a US citizen of today, and demand to know: “Are you more frightened of foreign invaders taking over Washington, or of the fact that if you don’t pay half your income in taxes, your own government will throw you in jail?”
Of course, we have to look at the Second World War, which has had more propaganda thrown at it than any other single conflict. Didn’t the British government save the country from Germany? That is an interesting question. The British government got into World War One, helped impose the brutal Treaty of Versailles, then contributed to the boom-and-bust cycle of the 1920s, which destroyed the German middle class and aided Hitler’s rise to power. During the 1930s, the British government supported the growing aggression of Hitler through subsidies, loans, and mealy-mouthed appeasement. Then, when everything had failed, it threw the bodies of thousands of young men at the German air force in the Battle of Britain. Finally, it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands more British citizens by defending Africa and invading France, rather than let Nazism collapse on its own – as it was bound to do, just as every tyranny has done throughout history. Can it really be said, then, that the British government protected its citizens throughout the first half of the twentieth century? Millions killed, families shattered, the economy destroyed, half of Europe lost to Stalin, and China to Mao… Can we consider that a great success? I think not. Only States win wars – never citizens.
The fact of the matter is that we do not face threats to our lives and property from foreign governments, but rather from our own. The State will tell us that it must exist, at the very least, to protect us from foreign governments, but that is morally equivalent to the local Mafia don telling us that we have to pay him fifty percent of our income so that he can protect us from the Mafia in Paraguay. Are we given the choice to buy a gun and defend ourselves? Of course not. Who endangers us more – the local Mafia guy, or some guy in Paraguay we have never met that our local Mafia guy says just might want a piece of us? I know which chance I would take.
There is a tried-and-true method for resisting foreign occupation which does not require any government – which we can see being played out in our daily news. During the recent invasion, the US completely destroyed the Iraqi government, and now has total control over the people and infrastructure. And what is happening? They are being attacked and harried until they will just have to get out of the country – just as they had to do in Korea and Vietnam, and just as the USSR had to do in Afghanistan. The Iraqi insurgents do not have a government at all – any more than the Afghani fighters did in the 1980s.
Let’s look at the Iraqi conflict in a slightly different light. America was attacked on 9/11 because the American government had troops in Saudi Arabia, and because it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis through the Iraqi bombing campaign of the 1990s. Given that the US government provoked the attacks, how well were the innocent victims of 9/11 protected by their government? Even if we do not count the physical casualties of the war, given the massive national debt being run up to pay for the Iraq war, how well is the property of American citizens being protected? How much power would the President have to wage war if he did not have the power to steal almost half the wealth of the entire country? The government does not need taxes in order to wage war; it wages war because it already has the power of taxation – and it uses the war to raise taxes, either on the current citizens through increases and inflation, or on future citizens through deficits.
This simple fact helps explain why there were almost no wars in Western Europe from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to the start of World War One in 1914. This was largely because governments could not afford wars – but then they all got their very own Central Banks and were able to pave the bloody path to the Great War with printed money and deficit financing. World War One resulted from an increase in State power – and in turn swelled State power, and set the stage for the next war. Thus, the idea that we need to give governments the power to tax us in order to protect us is ludicrous – because it is taxation that gives governments the power to wage war.
For pacifist countries, this “war” may be a war on poverty, or illiteracy, or drugs, or for universal health care, or whatever. It does not matter. The moment a government takes the power – and moral “right” – to forcibly take money from citizens, the stage is set for the ever-growing power of the State.
The question then arises – how does a citizen keep his property and person safe? The first answer that I would give is another question, which is:
Which sector does more to protect you and your property - the public or the private?
Let’s look at the security mechanisms the private sector has introduced in just the past few decades:
- ATMs/credit cards (less need to carry cash).
- Mobile phones (can always call for help).
- Call display (virtually eliminates harassing phone calls).
- Sophisticated home security systems.
- ID tracking tags.
- Credit card numeric security.
- Pepper spray.
- Security cameras.
- Anti-shoplifting devices.
- Secure online transactions.
- And much more…
What has the public sector done? Well, they shoot harmless drug users and seize their property. They will shoot you too, if you don’t pay the massive tax increases they demand. The police are virtually useless in property crimes – and many violent criminals are turned loose because the courts are too slow, or are put in “house arrest” because the prisons are too full of non-violent offenders.
So, who has most helped you secure your person and property over the past few decades? Your government, or your friendly local entrepreneurs? Those who have stepped in to protect you, or those who have doubled your taxes while letting criminals walk free? Have capitalist companies enraged foreigners to the point of terrorism? Of course not – the 9/11 terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre (to protest the financing of the US government), the Pentagon, and the White House. They didn’t go for a Ford motor plant or a Apple store – and why would they? No one kills for iPhones. They kill to protest military power, which rests on public financing.
In summation, then, it makes about as much sense to rely on governments for security as it does to rely on the Mafia for “protection.” The Mafia is really just protecting you from itself, as are all governments. Any person who comes up to you and says: “I need to threaten your person and steal your property in order to protect your person and property,” is obviously either deranged, or not particularly interested, to say the least, in protecting your person and property. As long as we keep falling for the same old lies, we will forever be robbed blind for the sake of our supposed property rights, and sent to wage war against internal or external “enemies” so that those in power can further pick the pockets of those we leave behind.
- I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion here about the nature of the State, or the moral reasoning against the initiation of violence, since I have dealt with those topics at length in my podcasts, and in other books. Suffice to say that the State is by definition a group of individuals who claim the right to initiate the use of force against legally disarmed citizens in a specific geographical region.
- In fact, until I accept that my first “cure” actually makes me worse, I will continue to waste my time and resources.
- Naturally, any system can be hacked, and people can be kidnapped along with their money, but the purpose here is not to prevent all possible workarounds, but rather to simply reduce the material benefits of invading France.