Anarchy, Government, and the State

Anarchy, Government, and the State

On the Ron Paul discussion forums, Sentient Void gives a succinct explanation of anarcho-capitalism and the difference between violent political rule under a centralized state and governance in civil society:

While the anarcho-capitalist and voluntaryist movement has certainly been growing *significantly* (at the extreme disdain of ‘left’ anarchists) – I don’t think we make certain *very* important distinctions clear enough.

I believe part of why many others have trouble grasping anarchy is because they are (including many anarchists, even) conflating ‘the State’, with ‘government’ or ‘governance’. There is an essence of ‘talking past each other’. 

Understand, all States are governments, but not all government (or ‘governance’) requires the State.

In an anarcho-capitalist (which is a tautology supported by theory as well as historical evidence) society, there would still be government. Government by your peers through social and commercial ostracism and acceptance. Government of social behavior, civility, disputes and justice by competing courts, defense/security agencies to ensure protection, and the recognition / respect of property rights. Government of businesses and the market through the free market, the price signal, profit & loss, competition, customer satisfaction, commercial ostracism (credit ratings, boycotting, reputation, etc), and supply and demand. Government of risk and socialization of that risk, through insurance agencies. Self-government through individuals’ pursuit of their *rational* self-interest, having themselves to bear the responsibility of their actions through the decentralized accountability systems arising out of the market to maintain it.

I could go on. Anarchism does not necessarily mean ‘no government’ so much as it means ‘no State’ or (etymologically speaking) ‘without ruler’. In a purely capitalist, free market society – you have no coercive authority over you. All commercial and social relationships are voluntary. Your employer is not your ruler (despite what so many ‘left’ anarchists like to claim), since you can leave your employer at any time and choose another employer who pays and/or treats you better, or choose to work for yourself, even.

Your typical ‘left’ anarchist heads are exploding at these words right now – but anarcho-capitalism is the only realistic, moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and still not just maintain civilization… but maximize prosperity, liberty and justice, above and beyond what any flavor of the State could ever come close to deliver.

For many anarchists, like many of us here – the conflation of ‘government’ and ‘the State’ is probably more semantic than anything. For many non-anarchists – it’s not semantic so much as different perceptions leading to problems in understanding – the issue of ‘talking past eachother’.

To the extent that I understand the real concept of ‘no government’ – then I completely agree with the critics in criticizing their perception of anarchy – because it’s true… with a complete rejection of all forms of ‘government’ in how I described it above – there certainly *would* be chaos and misery. 

The rejection of universally preferable behavior (such as engaging in theft, murder, rape, etc). The rejection of the price signal and laws of supply and demand. The rejection of any and all forms of voluntary authority as well as the rejection of all self-government, in that individuals reject acting in their own*rational* self-interest in the name of holding no restraint and acting purely on whim and animalistic tendency (while being able to force others to bear the cost) would certainly result in chaos and misery for many people.

Anarcho-capitalists do not advocate rejection of these things, nor do they think they would be rejected absent the State. Rather – justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized.

I think anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists could do a *much* better job of communicating this. Then people would not only be not talking past each other anymore – but others may be much more open to discussing such ideas.

This is a nice, short description of the problem. It is a shame that so few read Rothbard who covered this material and much, much more so often in his works.


Here is a quote from a cleric around the time the nation was founded:

“As reason tells us, all are born thus naturally equal, i.e., with an equal right to their persons, so also with an equal right to their preservation . . . and every man having a property in his own person, the labour of his body and the work of his hands are properly his own, to which no one has right but himself; it will therefore follow that when he removes anything out of the state that nature has provided and left it in, he has mixed his labour with it, and joined something to it that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. . . . Thus every man having a natural right to (or being proprietor of) his own person and his own actions and labour, which we call property, it certainly follows, that no man can have a right to the person or property of another: And if every man has a right to his person and property; he has also a right to defend them . . . and so has a right of punishing all insults upon his person and property.”
Rev. Elisha Williams

It would seem the good Reverend was a man who would have understood the non-aggression axiom. In fact, the Reverend sounds almost Rothbardian. Compare the quote with the following words of Rothbard from his book The Ethics of Liberty.

The key to the theory of liberty is the establishment of the rights of private property, for each individual’s justified sphere of free action can only be set forth if his rights of property are analyzed and established. “Crime” can then be defined and properly analyzed as a violent invasion or aggression against the just property of another individual (including his property in his own person). The positive theory of liberty then becomes an analysis of what can be considered property rights, and therefore what can be considered crimes. Various difficult but vitally important problems can then be dissected, including the rights of children, the proper theory of contracts as transfers of property titles, the thorny questions of enforcement and punishment, and many others. Since questions of property and crime are essentially legal questions, our theory of liberty necessarily sets forth an ethical theory of what law concretely should be. In short, as a natural-law theory should properly do, it sets forth a normative theory of law—in our case, a theory of “libertarian law.” While the book establishes the general outlines of a system of libertarian law, however, it is only an outline, a prolegomenon to what I hope will be a fully developed libertarian law code of the future. Hopefully, libertarian jurists and legal theorists will arise to hammer out the system of libertarian law in detail, for such a law code will be necessary to the truly successful functioning of what we may hope will be the libertarian society of the future.

The idea of our “natural rights” being the right to not be a victim of aggression is as old as mankind. The notion has been revived over and over. When will we all come to believe in non-aggression?


The Cato Crime …

Lew Rockwell writes:

David Gordon calls to say that since the court filings in the Koch Bros. v. Cato and Ed Crane lawsuit admit that Murray Rothbard was an original stockholder of the Cato Institute, which was his idea and his name, but pass over what happened to his shares (they were illegally taken from him before he was purged), the shares – still his property – would have passed, with the rest of his estate, to his widow Joey, and then to my control. So do I own stock in the Cato Institute?

Robert Wenzel responds:

I spoke to David Gordon last night and David made clear to me that the only reason Murray did not fight on in his battle against Ed Crane and Charles Koch is that he did not have proof of his ownership, since Charles Koch held the stock and the shareholder agreement. The agreement that is now a public document, decades later, because of the Koch brothers lawsuit against Ed Crane and the widow of Bill Niskanen, proves that Murray was an original shareholder.

What is most significant, is that according to David, Murray never signed his certificate over to Cato or Koch. Since the current Koch brothers lawsuit is all about turning a certificate over, the Koch brothers obviously understand that the turning over of a certificate is important.Since Murray didn’t sign his and he left his entire estate to his wife and his wife left Lew Rockwell as the executor upon her death, in a logic endorsed by the Koch brothers (via the lawsuit), Lew has a strong argument that because the Rothbard certificate has not been endorsed over to Cato, Lew represents those certificates in the goings on at Cato.Lew probably has more important things to do, but somewhere Murray is having a good laugh.

It has been an open secret for years that Murray Rothbard was purged from his creation the CATO Institute for being too “radical”. It has been an open secret that Rothbard had his shares stolen from him and he had no recourse to make the matter right. It would be a great laugh if this latest dust-up at CATO restored Rothbard’s property to his estate!

More importantly, it would be a very good thing to see the Koch bothers control of CATO end. Freedom and liberty are too important to see the continued crippling of this think tank due to their regressive control.

a short word on democracy

“Democratic” decision making is a means for finding and implementing the will of the majority; it has no other function. It serves, not to encourage diversity, but to prevent it.

David Friedman

In the modern western world we have seen the people come to the conclusion that somehow “democracy” would lead to heaven on earth. Somehow democracy would lead to peace and prosperity. Somehow democracy would guarantee justice and fairness to all.

How did the masses come to believe this load of codswallop? What is the “free” government schooling? Was it the propaganda arm of the government that we call the “Main Stream Media”? Have the people become so uneducated about history that they have no concept of the tyranny of the majority? If the majority is the ruler what is to stop it from expropriating the minority? What is to stop it from enforcing the majority’s religion? what about its language or culture?

” … The great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth; one, the above way of production and exchange, he called the “economic means.” The other way is simpler in that it does not require productivity; it is the way of seizure of another’s goods or services by the use of force and violence. This is the method of one-sided confiscation, of theft of the property of others. This is the method which Oppenheimer termed “the political means” to wealth. …” (Rothbard)

If the majority gets to decide who to steal from, will they steal from themselves or the minorities? More to the point, how is man ever to learn to live in peace and prosperity as long as the majority is ruling via theft, raw force, and tyranny? When do individuals get to live life without being coerced?

I think Hans-Herman Hoppe said it best:

Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.

Democracy is the “god” of the masses. It has led to wars, tyranny, oppression, reduced national productivity, massive public theft, and a host of other evils. Perhaps it is time to take a hard look at our present system and ask ourselves, “how is this working out for us?”.