Peace Requires Anarchy

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Alfred G. Cuzan’s “Do We Ever Really Get Out Of Anarchy?”

Do We Ever Really Get Out Of Anarchy? is a seven page essay by Alfred G. Cuzan.

I had encountered the idea that there is anarchy within government and between governments before and even thought that I had managed to understand what this meant quite well. Nevertheless, after a single quick reading of Alfred Cuzan’s essay my understanding of what it means to say that we never get out of anarchy has been clarified substantially.

The essay also suggests that anarchy (“natural anarchy”) would be less violent than all forms of governments (“political anarchy”):

But if society with a pluralist political anarchy experiences less violence than societies with a hierarchical or “governed” government, isn’t it logical to inquire whether natural anarchy is less violent than political anarchy? Why should the relation between government and violence be curvilinear? Isn’t it possible that it is upward sloping all the way, so that government always produces more violence than the market?

That is my view, yes.

Of course, even if we are incorrect aggressive governments are still not justified. The ends don’t justify the means. “A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” A consistent libertarian must be an anarchist. Supporting aggressive violence is wrong, even if it is true that your support of aggressive violence results in a world with less aggressive violence than the world that would have resulted had you opposed all aggressive violence and embraced peace absolutely. I don’t see how anyone could possibly be able to prove that this is the case, but the point is that even if they could aggression still would not be justified. Support peace. Supporting aggression in the name of peace is nonsensical. As A. J. Muste put it, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

Special thanks to Conza for recommending this essay.

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“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” (2005)

Last night I watched the 2005 German film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.

The film portrays the life and death of student Sophie Scholl, a member of the non-violent resistance group the White Rose in Nazi Germany. On February 18, 1943 she brought a suitcase full of anti-war leaflets to the University of Munich and distributed them along the corridors between classes. A janitor noticed her and reported her, leading to her interrogation and conviction of high treason. Four days later, on February 22, 1943, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl was executed by guillotine.

I no doubt could write a long blog post about how peace, liberty, and anarchism are so much better than the violence, slavery, and statism that lead to the murder of Sophie Scholl for exercising her right to speak, but I will save you the time and just say that I highly recommend this film. Write it down so the next time you are looking for a movie to watch you will remember.


Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”

I was afraid to speak to any one for fear of speaking to the wrong one, and thereby falling into the hands of money-loving kidnappers.

Frederick_Douglass_Money-Loving_KidnappersThose are the words of Frederick Douglass recalling his state of mind upon his arrival to New York as a fugitive slave on Monday, September 3, 1838.

Yesterday I read Frederick Douglass’ 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave in one sitting starting around 10:00 pm. I did not intend to read it all at once (I meant to go to bed after reading the first chapter), but I got drawn into it and was not able to put it down until I finished reading about four hours after I started.

The book begins with an introduction by William Lloyd Garrison and a letter from Wendell Phillips. I had read some of each of their works previously and knew that they both were famous for their abolitionist writings and speeches. Upon finishing their introductions and beginning the first chapter of the book, I was thus surprised to find that Douglass’ writing style was more poetic and pleasing to read than either William Lloyd Garrison’s or Wendell Phillip’s writing.

The effect that this had on me as I read Douglass’ narrative of his life as a slave was powerful. Douglass describes how part of the strategy to keep slaves subdued was to make sure that they did not learn how to read or write. As Douglass tells the story of how he learned about this and set out in defiance to learn to read and write no matter the risk, the reader knows, by evidence of the current work that he or she is reading, that Douglass succeeded with flying colors. As I read his narrative I could not help but realize not only how truly remarkable it is that he succeeded at learning to read and write while being treated so inhumanely by all who enslaved him, but also how miraculous it is that he learned to write far better than most people who are brought up free and given access to means of education.

While some readers may use the rarity of Douglass’ case as an excuse to continue holding their belief that children need to be forced to learn to read, write, do math, etc, as many students uninterested in learning these things are forced to do in most schools, I for one see Douglass’ life story as yet another reason to adopt the unschooling philosophy that children have a natural desire to learn and should be free to learn what they want when they want, rather than be forced to learn a certain curriculum grade after grade that does not necessarily even interest them. Parents and educators should provide an environment conducive to learning and help children learn when they want help, but they should not try to force a child to learn something that he or she does not want to learn by imposing a curriculum on them and grading them.

Frederick Douglass’ narrative is inspirational, emotional, educational, and captivating. I highly recommend it.


Ideas For A “Government Explained” Sequel

Embedded below is Graham Wright’s YouTube video Government Explained.

The video was very successful. It received more views in the first week it was up (50,000+) than all of Graham’s 22 other videos combined received in the many months they have been up. As I write this, “Government Explained” has been up for almost two weeks and it is now approaching 150,000 views. Also, it has been mirrored several times, adding on at least another 20,000-30,000 views.

At first it was not clear to me why “Government Explained” was so popular. Many of Graham’s other videos are of top quality as well—some are even better, in my opinion. So why was this video so popular?

For one you could say that it appealed to a much larger audience. You don’t have to be an anarchist or even a libertarian to agree with or like the message in the video. Rather, “Government Explained” appeals to the most general notion that there is something flawed about the governments that rule over today’s societies. With so many people disappointed in “their” governments’ actions today, one can understand why this video spread so far.

What else can we say about why “Government Explained” was so successful? I would add that the video effectively communicated to the typical person who believes in government that which it is often so difficult for the anarchist to communicate. That is, it effectively communicated the anarchist’s view that governments are unjust, immoral, violent, and unnecessary institutions. As an anarchist I know that when I usually share this view with others, the initial reaction that I generally receive tells me that the person I am talking to thinks I am crazy. I typically have a whole list of objections spewed at me all at once.

My guess is that there are others, including people who are not anarchists, but nevertheless are opposed to some aspect of government, who also experience similar reactions whenever they attempt to explain their political views to others. My guess is that there are a lot of people like this who also have difficulty explaining to the person who thinks that government “solutions” for everything are great that cutting government out of the equation on those issues is the best thing to do.

I think it can be said, then, that one of the reasons that “Government Explained” became so popular likely is the fact that it does such a good job portraying government as the barbaric institution of violence that it is. This is not an easy thing to explain to someone who supports government involvement in nearly every aspect of peoples’ lives. Anyone reading this likely knows this from experience. Thus, my guess is that many people saw this video and understood that if so effectively communicated thus idea, and thus decided to share it.

So what can we learn from this and how can we apply this idea to other videos? I would like to propose a sequel video to “Government Explained,” but before doing so I will examine what exactly it was about the video that managed to achieve the feat of effectively communicate the fact that government is an unjust, immoral, violent, and unnecessary institution.

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Reply to Orygyn’s “Re: What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist”

Note: The following blog post is directed at someone who goes by the name “Orygyn” and his specific criticisms of a certain article. Consequently, it may not be worth it for anyone else to take the time to read it. In fact, I recommend that anyone other than “Orygyn” not read it for that reason. Any of my other posts and the works that I link to in them are better worth your time.

What I am replying to:

“Libertarians, he says, have been arguing against a straw man when they think that anarchists are looking to achieve an actual stateless society. Right off the bat, I have a huge issue with this.” You should have a huge problem with that. But, that’s not what Kinsella said.

Kinsella said, “Libertarian opponents of anarchy are attacking a straw man.” This means that those libertarians who are not anarchists, but rather support some sort of minimal state, are confused when they make their attacks that “‘anarchy won’t work.'” This is because libertarian anarchists are not arguing that anarchy “works,” (although I do believe that it would “work” in the sense that opponents use the term), but rather are just arguing that aggression is not justified and that states necessarily employ aggression. The libertarian non-anarchist’s objection is thus a straw man objection. Make sense?

Lastly, not that both Kinsella and I are indeed “looking to achieve an actual stateless society.” We both desire such a society. The difference in our views is that I am optimistic that one day in the future such free anarchist societies will eventually be common, whereas Kinsella is pessimistic, doubting that anarchists’ efforts will ever succeed. But, we both desire one. Again though, this is not what Kinsella said when he mentioned the straw man argument that self-identified non-anarchist libertarians often make (that anarchy won’t “work”).

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David Friedman On Medieval Iceland

David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman, is an economist and anarcho-capitalist.

In his 1979 essay Private Creation and Enforcement of Law: A Historical Case Friedman examines “the legal and political institutions of Iceland from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries.” These political institutions of medieval Iceland are of interest to the anarchist because, as the title of the essay suggests, they involve private enforcement and private creation of law. Once one understands how the service of law can be provided privately in a society without a government, then everything else seems to easily fall into place. (Note: Medieval Iceland was not quite anarchy, but the fact that creation and enforcement of law were provided privately means that an examination of medieval Iceland can be a good way of understanding how an anarchist society could potentially provide law.)

Upon completion of his examination, Friedman reaches the following conclusion:

Whatever the correct judgment on the Icelandic legal system, we do know one thing: it worked–sufficiently well to survive for over three hundred years. In order to work, it had to solve, within its own institutional structure, the problems implicit in a system of private enforcement. Those solutions may or may not be still applicable [to today’s societies], but they are certainly still of interest.

According to his Wikipedia page: “Friedman advocates an incrementalist approach to achieve anarcho-capitalism by gradual privatization of areas that government is involved in, ultimately privatizing law and order itself.” He offers how this gradual privatization might occur in the appendix of his essay:

The first step in applying the Icelandic system of private enforcement to a modern society would be to convert all criminal offenses into civil offenses, making the offender liable to pay an appropriate fine to the victim…. The second step would be to make the victim’s claim marketable, so that he could sell it to someone willing to catch and convict the offender…. Once these steps were taken, a body of professional “thief-takers” (as they were once called in England) would presumably develop and gradually replace our present governmental police forces.

Unlike some anarchists, I am optimistic that one day governments will be abolished and peace and anarchy will be achieved. Having said that, I would not be too surprised if 100, 200, 300 or more years from now, most societies are still ruled by coercive governments. So anarchy may be a long way off, but I am optimistic that one day the status quo will be that the vast majority of people will not consider government aggression acceptable. While it is possible that humans will go extinct before this stage in our social evolution I do not think it is very likely. Truth has a way of spreading, slowly but surely.

So having said this, what is the most likely way that a free society will be achieved? Perhaps it will be achieved by gradual privatization as Friedman advocates. Who knows? In any case, a necessary first step will be to spread the idea of anarchy far and wide to everyone.

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An American Experiment In Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West

The following is an excerpt from the 1978 essay An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West by Terry L. Anderson and P. J. Hill.

Perhaps an even more revealing example of anarcho-capitalism at work is found in the dissolution of the Boone County Company. When the eight members of the company fell into rival factions of 3 and 5, dissolution became imminent. Negotiations continued for some time until all the company property (note that none of the private property was divided) was divided between the two groups. When negotiations appeared at an impasse because of the indivisibility of units and differences in quality, prices were assigned to units and the groups resolved the issue by trade. However, a $75 claim of the majority group proved even harder to resolve. The claim resulted from the fact that a passenger who owned two mules and a horse and who had been traveling with the company chose to take his property and go with the minority. The disadvantaged majority demanded compensation. Unable to settle the dispute, arbitration came from a “private court” consisting of “3 disinterested men,” one chosen by each side and a third chosen by the two. Their decision follows.

“[W]e can see no just cause why the mess of 3men should pay anything to the mess of 5 men. It being… a mutual and simultaneous agreement to dissolve the original contract. The fact that Abbott joins in with the 3men does not alter in our opinion the matter of the case—for the dissolution being mutually agreed upon, all the parties stand in the same relation to each other which they did, before any contract was entered into. And Abbott might or not just as he chose unite with either party. If he chose to unite with neither party, then clearly neither could claim of the other. If he united with a foreign party then who could think of claiming anything of such a party.”61

The important point of this example is that when the Boone County Company could not renegotiate its initial contract the members did not resort to force, but chose private arbitration instead. The many companies which crossed the plains “were experiments in democracy and while some proved inadequate to meet all emergencies, the very ease with which the members could dissolve their bonds and form new associations without lawlessness and disorder proves the true democratic spirit among the American frontiersmen rather than the opposite.”62 Competition rather than coercion insured justice.

While the above evidence suggests that the wagon trains were guided by anarcho-capitalism, it should be noted that their unique characteristics may have contributed to the efficacy of the system. First, the demand for public goods was probably not as great as found in more permanent communities. If nothing else, the transient nature of these moving communities meant that schools, roads, and other goods which are publicly provided in our society were not needed, hence there was no demand for a government to form for this purpose. Secondly, the short term nature of the organization meant that there was not a very long time for groups to organize to use coercion. These were “governments” of necessity rather than ambition. Nonetheless, the wagon trains on the overland trails did provide protection and justice without a monopoly on coercion, did allow competition to produce rules, and did not result in the lawless, disorder generally associated with anarchy.

The entire essay is 19 pages. It provides historical examples of private law and private dispute resolution, among other things, in the American West from 1830 to 1900. It concludes:

“1) The West, although often dependent upon market peace keeping agencies, was, for the most part, orderly.”

“2) Different standards of justice did prevail and various preferences for rules were expressed through the market place.”

“3) Competition in defending and adjudicating rights does have beneficial effects.”

I found the essay thought-provoking and educational. I recommend it in its entirety to anyone interested in the possible workings of a free society.