The anarcho-capitalist or voluntaryist movement has been growing significantly over the last several years. There are many and varied reasons for that growth, and the anti-government speeches by Ron Paul during his nomination run were one of the many, many drivers of that growth. But I think we could do a better job of explaining anarchy.
One of the problems that gets in the way of many people understanding our position is that they confuse the ‘State’ with ‘governance’ or with ‘government’. As I have mentioned many times in the past, there is no one that I know of that wants total chaos. We all want there to be good ‘governance’. I want there to be a ‘government’ of individuals all cooperating with each other in a voluntary manner. There are many social clubs that have bylaws and methods of organizing their affairs in a voluntary way. All churches in this era are totally voluntary and yet have strict organizational principles. In other words, all nation-states are governments but not all government (or governance) is a state.
In a market anarchy there would be governance. The governance of the market anarchy would be by our peers though social and commercial ostracism and/or acceptance. Many people have written about societies that would be governed by competing courts and common law along with defense/security agencies and insurance agencies. These things would help us at the margin were the natural cooperative nature of man would break down and disputes arise, but mostly society arises by humans cooperating to make mutually beneficial trades that enrich our lives.
Of course business is governed by the customer satisfaction, supply and demand, the price signal, profit and loss, and the commercial ostracism of reputation, credit ratings, boycotts and so on. As individuals pursue their rational self interest in a free market there are costs for not being willing to abide by the prevailing group idea of how individuals should act. If you are unwilling to stand behind your product or service then the market can be brutal in punishing you for your lack of caring about your customers. In other words, there are many ways that a decentralized society can organize without a nation-state ramming its dictates down your throat.
Anarchism does not mean ‘no government’ but rather it means ‘no state’. The state is defined as that entity with the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given geographical region. In a purely free market capitalist society there would be no coersive authority ruling over you and all social and commercial relationships would be strictly voluntary. If you had an employer, he would not your ruler but only the other side of a mutually agreed upon bargain.
Voluntarism or market anarchy is the only moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and maintain our modern industrialized civilization. Not just maintain our society but to maximize liberty, justice, prosperity, and harmony far beyond what we have seen so far in any nation-state.
For most anarchists the conflation of ‘government’ and ‘the State’ is probably more semantic than anything and does not get in the way of our understanding each other, but for most non-anarchists this conflating of ‘the state’ with an ordered society can destroy any chance of understanding what we are saying to them. We end up talking past each other.
The mini-archists and statists are correct that there would be chaos if by ‘no state’ we mean no governance at all. But ‘no governance’ is almost impossible in human society. We even see society assert itself in one of the many failed-state situations like Somalia. The drive of man to make his life better by cooperation with others drives us to cooperate without the need for coercion. The rejection of the nation-state and its violent, brutal coercion does not mean the rejection of voluntary authority or self-governance, but rather the very opposite.
Voluntarists or market anarchists do not advocate rejection of voluntary, private governing rules, nor do we think they would be rejected absent the State. Justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized by mutual cooperation unhindered by the coersive interference of the nation-state and its parasite class. I think that we anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists could do a much better job of communicating that we advocate a well ordered, voluntary society and not some version of the movie ‘Mad Max’.
The ‘government’ we reject is the nation-State government that Proudhon railed against:
“To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
There is a large difference between the brutal, coersive state government that we all know and the voluntary governance that we wish ruled our society.