Peace Requires Anarchy

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Civil Disobedience

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

By Henry David Thoreau
[1849, original title: Resistance to Civil Government]

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe–“That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which the will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government–what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievious persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?–in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation on conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents on injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts–a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment, though it may be,

"Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
  As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
  O'er the grave where out hero was buried."

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others–as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders–serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as the rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few–as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men–serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be “clay,” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away,” but leave that office to his dust at least:

"I am too high born to be propertied,
 To be a second at control,
 Or useful serving-man and instrument
 To any sovereign state throughout the world."

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them in pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.

How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

From a letter to Christopher Tolkien [from his father J.R.R. Tolkien] 29 November 1943

[In the summer of 1943, Christopher, then aged eighteen, was called up into the Royal Air Force. When this letter was written, he was at a training camp in Manchester.]

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973)

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King George’s council, Winston and his gang’, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyocracy. Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. And at least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediævals were only too right in taking nolo efiscopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all that – after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world – is that it works and has worked only when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way. The quarrelsome, conceited Greeks managed to pull it off against Xerxes; but the abominable chemists and engineers have put such a power into Xerxes’ hands, and all ant-communities, that decent folk don’t seem to have a chance. We are all trying to do the Alexander-touch – and, as history teaches, that orientalized Alexander and all his generals. The poor boob fancied (or liked people to fancy) he was the son of Dionysus, and died of drink. The Greece that was worth saving from Persia perished anyway; and became a kind of Vichy-Hellas, or Fighting-Hellas (which did not fight), talking about Hellenic honour and culture and thriving on the sale of the early equivalent of dirty postcards. But the special horror of the present world is that the whole damned thing is in one bag. There is nowhere to fly to. Even the unlucky little Samoyedes, I suspect, have tinned food and the village loudspeaker telling Stalin’s bed-time stories about Democracy and the wicked Fascists who eat babies and steal sledge-dogs. There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.

Tolkien’s Cover Designs for the First Edition of The Lord of the Rings

Well, cheers and all that to you dearest son. We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us). But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water. Also we have still small swords to use. ‘I will not bow before the Iron Crown, nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.’ Have at the Ores, with winged words, hildenǣddran (war-adders), biting darts – but make sure of the mark, before shooting.

Source: The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien [PDF], p. 74

For further reading on J.R.R. Tolkien’s political views and the messages concerning political power present in his novel The Lord of the Rings, I recommend Alberto Mingardi’s short article Tolkien v. Power. I also recommend Jeff Riggenbach’s 17-minute podcast J.R.R. Tolkien as Libertarian.


A Wiretapping Double Standard: Machines vs. Animals

I don’t think that Nina Paley meant for this comic to be about wiretapping. However, the very first thing I thought of when I saw it was Ademo Freeman.

Ademo is in jail right now. He was charged with and convicted of three felony counts of wiretapping. What exactly did he do? He called three public officials to ask them about an incident in which school liaison officer Darren Murphy used excessive force against a 17-year-old student.  He recorded his phone calls with the officials without telling them that he was recording them. He then shared the brief conversations with the public out of concern for the lack of accountability in the assault incident by publishing the recordings on YouTube.

Ademo Freeman

So what does this have to do with the Mimi & Eunice comic?

Ademo’s caging is unjust. He had the right to record his conversations with the people he called—even without telling them that he was recording them—yet the State of New Hampshire’s bad laws said that he did not have such a right. While discussing Ademo’s case with friends and strangers I found that many people agreed that it was wrong to imprison Ademo. However, they believed this due to the fact that they did not think jail was a proportional punishment for the crime of recording someone with such positive intentions. In other words, even though they believed it was wrong to imprison Ademo in his case, they still believed that people do not have the right to record other people without first telling them that they are being recorded.

One line of reasoning that I thought of to persuade the friends and strangers I talked to that people actually do have the right to record their conversations with others without notifying them involves pointing out that people have the right to record their conversations with others using their brains without telling them. To put this claim in the context of Ademo’s case, it is clear that Ademo had the right to use his brain to remember what the three public officials said to him. Everyone who I talked to agreed with this view so I thought it was a good starting point for my argument, which I will make again here.

It is also clear that in addition to having the right to use his brain to remember what was said to him, Ademo had the right to share what the officials said to him with others. Note that there may be possible exceptions to this. For example, if one of the officials had said to Ademo, “I will agree to answer your question so long as you agree to never tell anybody what I say, nor write down what I say or make an audio-recording of what I say,” and if Ademo had replied, “Yes, I agree to not record you nor tell anyone what you say,” then it would certainly be arguable that Ademo would not have the right to record the person nor tell others what the person said. However, no such agreement occurred. Here I am only discussing the question of whether people have the right to record what others say to them in regular conversations in which nobody asks to keep certain information confidential.

Proceeding with the argument, even if Ademo had a great memory and focused very hard to make sure that he remembered every word that was said to him in each phone call, we would still all agree that he had the right to remember all of these details and to share all of these details of the conversations with other people. Ademo had the right to remember the tone of each person’s voice and whether they were speaking loudly or quietly, seriously or sarcastically. In short, there is no point at which we would say, “Oh! Ademo didn’t have the right to remember what the official said to him in that much detail.” Nor would we say, “Ademo did not have the right to tell others what the official said to him in that much detail.” Even if he remembered every word that was said verbatim and was a great voice actor and so was able to imitate the manner in which the words were spoken to him, we would still agree that he had every right to tell other people what was said to him in as much detail as he could remember.

Therefore, since it was not a crime for Ademo to record what was said to him using his brain no matter how much detail he recorded and since it would not have been a crime for him to share the information that he had recorded justly with others, then it seems abundantly clear that Ademo also had the right to use his recording machine to make it easier for himself to record the details that he justly could have recorded with his brain. And thus, Ademo also had the right to share the information that he recorded with his machine.

Note again that 100% of the information that he recorded with his recording machine he also could have been recorded using his brain only. Chances are he would have forgotten much of the information if he had relied on his brain only, but it’s not like there’s certain information that it is unjust to record. All of the information is justly-recordable. Therefore, Ademo had the right to use a recording machine as well as his brain to record the information from the conversation. Note that this recording machine could be anything from a piece of paper and a pencil to an elaborate electronic machine with a speaker that picks up air vibrations from sound waves.

The vast majority of people would agree that Ademo had the right to record the public officials with his brain. Further, they would agree that he had the right to share the information that he recorded using his brain with others. People don’t see anything unjust about wiretap copying when copy animals (brains) are doing the copying.

However, for some reason most people believe that Ademo did not have the right to record the public officials with the aid of a non-brain recording machine. Further, they believe that he would not have the right to share the information recorded using the non-brain recording aid. Why? Why do people see wiretap copying as unjust when copy machines are doing the copying but not when copy animals (brains) are doing the copying?

Again, the information that the machine records is the same information that the brain records. The machine just tends to remember the details better, unlike the brain which usually forgets most of the details unless it is focusing very hard. But this difference does not justify the different view of justice, because as was established previously there is no point at which we would say, “Ademo didn’t have the right to remember what the official said to him in that much detail.”

Nina Paley

So anyway, Nina Paley’s Copy Animals comic reminded me of this. I believe that the joke is supposed to be that in the middle frame Mimi is essentially saying, “Isn’t it human nature to copy things as well?” and then Eunice replies, “Of course not!” as if he thought it were bad for people to copy things (as Intellectual “Property” laws suggest). Yet then in the third frame Eunice’s comment quickly changes this interpretation of his meaning and we understand that he is a sane anti-IP cartoon character after all.

For me, however, Eunice’s middle comment reflected the common view in today’s society that recording and sharing information about what people say to you in conversations using copy machines is unjust while his third comment reflected the common view that recording the same information using copy animals (brains) is just. Why the double standard?

While wiretapping laws do not claim to protect so-called intellectual “property” (“protected” by copyright, patent, trademark and trade secret laws), or IP, I have found that my understanding of IP has greatly helped me to determine what rights people have in situations involving alleged rights to privacy and alleged rights to record. For more information on IP and to learn why it is not genuine property, check out, a website with some great information on the free culture movement—Nina Paley is an Artist in Residence there. I also recommend the Molinari Institute’s Anti-Copyright Resources page and patent attorney Stephan Kinsella’s blog Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, which contains numerous articles and invaluable resources on IP. The work that is mainly responsible for changing my view to a rejection of the concept of intellectual property is Stephan Kinsella’s monograph Against Intellectual Property. Lastly, Sheldon Richman’s article Patent Nonsense provides a great summary of both the consequentialist and rights-based arguments against intellectual property and thus serves as a good introduction to the subject for people new to the discussion.

UPDATE 07/16/2015: I realize now that my argument above is not complete. The fact that someone allows someone else to mentally-record does not necessarily mean that they also allow them to electronically-record them. I elaborate in a comment below.

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There Is No Right to Education

I wrote this blog post in response to the views expressed in the article “Chicago teachers escalate toward historic strike” at the news website Waging Nonviolence. I have been subscribed to the weekly mailing list of the website since May 18, 2012 when I read the article “Thoreau’s gift that keeps on giving – even for gay marriage in Texas.” I disagreed with the article’s view on marriage (the government part of marriage, not the gay part—my view is that government marriage privileges should be abolished, as I explained in my comment on the article), yet I enjoyed the news story enough to sign up for the site’s mailing list. I am a big fan of civil disobedience and non-violent social change, so I could not resist. Since that first article I have found that I disagree with many of the views published on the website—including the view on government schools that will soon be discussed here—despite the fact that both the website and I put our principles of non-violence above all else.

My goal here is to appeal to your support of non-violence to persuade you to put in the mental effort to carefully think through the issues I am about to discuss to make sure that you are not accidentally supporting the violence that you oppose on principle. It is my sincere belief that by supporting more government you are supporting such violence, even when you are supporting government to try to advance the cause of the wonderfully charitable service of education. Let it be known that this is not an unimportant matter and that the position I am about to argue here is not to be brushed aside lightly, especially by those who value peace, non-violence, and voluntary consensual interactions between loving, caring people.


Everyone who considers themselves pro-peace who supports increasing taxes to pay teachers higher salaries or to higher more teachers ought to reconsider their view.

There are many people who believe in a “right to public education,” but what is this right and do people really have it?

Note that I fully agree that every child, whether rich or poor or whatever, deserves the opportunity to receive an education. But, this does not mean that people have a right to said education.

To see why, let’s imagine a small society of three people (A, B, and C) living on an isolated island. Person A wants to be educated and claims that she has a “right to public education.”

Imagine there is the following problem. Neither B nor C wants to teach A for free and A is completely broke so she has nothing to offer B or C to get either of them to teach her voluntarily. Also note that neither B nor C is willing to voluntarily give anything to the other to get the other to teach A voluntarily.

So how can A have her “right to public education” respected? There are two ways:

(1) She can force one of them (e.g. C) to educate her against their will, or

(2) She can force one of them (e.g. B) to pay the other person (C) so as to get the other person (C) to educate her voluntarily.

The first option is clearly a form of slavery. Person C is being forced to work for A against her will and therefore is being enslaved.

The second option is clearly theft. Person B is having her money taken from her and given to C without her consent.

Therefore, no consistent person can be opposed to slavery and theft while at the same time believe in such a “right to public education.”

Now you might say, “Wait a minute, isn’t there a third option? What about what we are doing now?”

The answer is that the current way of providing people with their “right to public education” is the second option. People are taxed; the money is given to teachers; the teachers educate people voluntarily.

You might object, this time probably with several reasons jumbled together: “Hold on, taxation isn’t theft. It’s true that when we tax someone we are taking their money and giving it to teachers, but we are doing this with the taxpayer’s consent so it is not theft. Taxation without consent may be theft, but we have a democratic government in which we are all given the equal right to vote and collectively decide how to spend a certain portion of our money on matters of public concern, such as education. Further, it’s not as though one group of people is being taxed while another is receiving the money. We all pay taxes and we all receive the benefits of public education, so nothing is being stolen from anybody.”

There are a few different arguments here. From experience I know that it is quite difficult for people to be persuaded that they are all flawed, probably due to their fear of what “anarchy” would be like.*

While I could take the time and effort to meticulously lay out several pages of counter-arguments here explaining why the above objections** do not succeed in justifying taxation, nor in proving the claim that taxation is not theft, I believe that I can accomplish nearly as much with far less effort by replying to the central theme of the objections.

The arguments that taxation represents a third way—distinct from the theft or extortion of option (2)—to have someone’s “right to public education” respected rely on the claim that representative governments, voting, or other democratic processes manage to introduce some sort of consent into the system making taxation something other than extortion. This is wrong. Remember, you personally may be fine with paying taxes, but this does not mean that everyone else has consented. You personally may enjoy your one-in-a-million voice in deciding how the government spends your money, but this does not mean that everyone else has consented to the process. To quote philosophy Professor Roderick Long:

It may be objected that in democratic countries, the government represents the will of the citizens; since the citizens are understood to consent to the government’s actions, those actions cannot count as “aggression” against the citizenry. Volenti non fit injuria.

The notion that voting counts in any meaningful sense as “consent” was subjected to devastating criticisms in the 19th century by the English classical liberal Herbert Spencer, in his essay The Right to Ignore the State, as well as by the American abolitionist Lysander Spooner, in his pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Both works are available online; those tempted to regard majority rule as a form of self-government are invited to consult them.

The above quote is from Roderick Long’s short yet inspiring article An Open Letter to the Peace Movement. The letter, written shortly before the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, addresses those in the peace movement, who although correct in their opposition to violence between nations, often fail to see that they support certain forms of violence within nations. I highly encourage everyone reading this (and all of your friends and family not reading this) to read his letter—now if you have three or four minutes and now if you don’t. It’s that good.

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Just Say “No”

This article was originally published by Gary Chartier on the Libertopia Underground, September 7th, 2012.


People who want to live in a society organized on the basis of peaceful, voluntary cooperation don’t want to be ruled by monopolists—by states. State authority is illegitimate, unnecessary, and dangerous.

But that obviously leaves open the question: what do we do now, while we’re still under the state’s rule, to make our lives more bearable and help to dismantle the state?

One answer, for a lot of people, is: vote. And that’s an answer about which I’m increasingly skeptical.

In The Conscience of an Anarchist, I talk about electoral politics as offering one avenue for positive social change. I’m not saying it can’t play that role. But I am saying there are good reasons to pursue alternatives.

Some people oppose voting because they think it’s immoral, as if the sheer act of voting placed an imprimatur on the political process or as if the voter were responsible for everything someone for whom she voted did in office. I think that’s silly. Voting can be a defensive act; the harmful results of decisions made by politicians can reasonably be treated as unaccepted, unwelcome side-effects of voters’ choices; and politicians have to be seen as responsible for their own actions. The problem with voting isn’t that it’s inherently wrong; no doubt, in principle, voting or even campaigning for office could be a reasonable defensive act.

But even if that’s true in principle, the reality is that there’s good reason not to vote.

Start out with the ineffectiveness of voting.

As we’ve seen in previous elections, governments can determine the outcomes of elections by eliminating some people from the voter rolls. And this means, in practical terms, that the victims of the drug war and other campaigns against victimless actions will be poorly positioned to influence electoral outcomes. The deck starts out stacked against anyone who wants to roll back state policies responsible for unjust imprisonment. The effect is similar to the one exerted when death penalty opponents are prevented from serving on juries; the full range of conscientious positions isn’t represented.

Campaign advertising is often deceptive and manipulative. Like other lies that don’t involve the fraudulent transfer of title, advertising ads shouldn’t be actionable at law, but that doesn’t mean they’re not harmful. Many voters depend on them, often to the exclusion of other sources of information, with the result that lies are persistently disseminated and electoral outcomes distorted.

Politicians themselves like, too, or cast their positions in ways likely to mislead the unwary. Consider candidate Barack Obama’s appeals to the peace vote, and his seeming opposition to the growth of the national security state. Politicians say what they think voters want to hear; but, once in office, they can be counted on to do whatever they think will boost their chances of reelection, help them raise money, and benefit their cronies.

And of course there’s the fact that votes often don’t count because elections can easily be stolen; just ask Coke Stevenson. That’s especially true now that hackable electronic voting devices are increasingly common. And counting errors can occur even when people act in good faith, too (thanks to Sam Hays for this point).

Gerrymandering decreases the likelihood that the outcome of a given election will be dependent on individual votes, and it’s been common as long as there have been electoral contests. But even in its absence, the likelihood that your vote will determine the outcome of a race is very small indeed when the number of relevant votes is large.

Suppose it does: what then? It’s clear that the outcome of a race may make little difference at all. Most politicians operate within fairly narrow ideological confines, and are most unlikely to do particularly radical things. The sorts of people who are likely to become successful politicians are unlikely to rock the boat—and are, indeed, likely to be unprincipled and ambitious. But even if a genuinely radical politician is elected, that doesn’t mean that radical changes will be enacted. After all, once in office, a politician becomes the target of enthusiastically rent-seeking elites and their cronies, who will be adept at influencing her or his actions to their benefit.

And even if a politician doesn’t bend to the will of any of these various interest groups, there’s the obvious fact that individual politicians have considerable difficulty accomplishing things. A legislator is only one member of a sizeable group, many of whose members will be largely uninterested in basing decisions on principles, especially defensible ones, so the odds that a continuingly principled radical legislator will be able to make substantive change happen are very low. The odds that an elected executive will be a principled radical are even lower, given that more people have to be satisfied to ensure that a successful campaign for governor or president is managed and funded, and more principles will often have to be sacrificed to win a campaign for executive office. But, again, once in office, a radical executive would have no choice but to work with a legislature that was unlikely to be radical at all.

A further problem: a genuine radical, someone who really cared about making the world a better place, might find the temptation to use power, not to liberate people, but to control and manage them, almost irresistible. Even in the absence of effective manipulation by special interests, the desire to change the world by force could corrupt an initially principled politician.

In short, therefore, there is little reason to believe that voting will effectively lead to the actual enactment of policies that enhance freedom and justice. We may sometimes, rarely, see, ex post, that it did; but as a general ex ante policy, it’s safe to assume it won’t. Emma Goldman was surely right: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

Even if you have doubts about the effectiveness of voting, there will be good reason to avoid it.

Doing so can be a useful means of protest—an expression of one’s disgust at the limited options, the deceit, the hypocrisy of campaigns and the aggression and manipulation, the theft and murder, of governing. And it can give one a great opportunity to highlight the awfulness of the state. Imagine people’s reactions when they see you wearing a sticker that says, “I’ve avoided voting. Have you?”

It’s especially useful to avoid voting because of the rush of team spirit that accompanies every election campaign. If you’re going to vote for a politician, you should at least hold your nose. But otherwise sane and sensible people fall victim to charisma and breathe in the seductive pheromones of murderers and thugs. They announce, without a second thought, that their candidate is wise and good and heroic. They cheer for their team’s inanities, and dramatically exaggerate the good any rational person could expect an election might accomplish. If you want to avoid being caught up in mass hysteria, stay away from the ballot box.

Electoral democracy helps to convince ordinary people that they are the state’s masters rather than its subjects. It conceals factional disputes within the power elite and frames them as popular contests in which the people’s will is done. It deceives people into supposing that they really have consented to the state’s dictates, and prompts them to dismiss critics of the status quo with shibboleths like, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” Refusing to vote helps to reveal the fact that the emperor has no clothes.

Just say “no.” This year, vote for nobody.


Dispelling the Myth of Violent Chaos with the Truth of the Free Market

One of the most common objections people make regarding a free market anarchist society is that such a society would be violent, chaotic and lawless. As economist Bryan Caplan writes in his Anarchist Theory FAQ, “The most common criticism, shared by the entire range of critics, is basically that anarchism would swiftly degenerate into a chaotic Hobbesian war of all-against-all.”

Economist Robert Murphy, in his article But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over? writes, “On two separate occasions in the last couple of weeks, people have asked me a familiar question:  ‘In a system of “anarcho-capitalism” or the free-market order, wouldn’t society degenerate into constant battles between private warlords?'”

Caplan and Murphy are two people among many market anarchists who have attempted to dispel this myth. Unfortunately, most people remain apathetic and thus go on believing that monopoly governments are “good” and “necessary” institutions despite the countless evils that each and every one of them have been responsible for throughout history. Most people imagine that there is no alternative to government that can be peaceful, orderly, and just. They falsely presume that Society Without a State must be violent and chaotic when in reality observation of The Anatomy of the State reveals that this is the nature of societies ruled by governments, not the nature of societies with voluntary, consensual (and thus necessarily anarchical) social orders.

Unfortunately, most people don’t care enough about peace, justice, and prosperity to bother doing a little reading and thinking, to bother paying attention to the thinkers before them who have already shown the myths to be false, beginning with Gustave de Molinari who first described in 1849 how market mechanisms could lead to the production of “governmental” services of security and justice in a free society and continuing ever since with people like Robert Murphy who continue to show today how The Market for Security is an efficient, just and realistic alternative to the coercive monopolistic governments that necessarily violate peoples’ rights rather than secure them.

If only people cared, the world would be a far better place. As abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said in 1831, “The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead.”