Peace Requires Anarchy


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Stateless Societies: Ancient Ireland

By Joseph R. Peden

April, 1971 The Libertarian Forum [PDF]

Libertarians have often dreamed of escaping the tyranny of the State; some have sought to do so by seeking refuge in distant and uninhabited lands where they could live in solitary hermitage or in small communities held together by the principle of voluntary association and mutual aid. But historians know that such experiments seldom survive in peace for long; sooner or later the State finds and confronts them with its instinctive will to violence, its mania for coercion rather than persuasion, for compulsion rather than voluntarism. Such has been the fate of the Mormons and Mennonites, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Amish people, among others.

As exploited peoples all over the world are beginning to realize, their true enemy is always within their midst – the coercive violence of the State – and it must be fought constantly in the very heart of its dominions. Every libertarian must fight the State from where he is: in his home, his place of business, in the schools, community and the world at large. His task is to resist the State and to dismantle it by whatever means are at hand.

Historically, States do not dismantle willingly or easily. While they can disintegrate with startling speed, as in Russia in 1917 or France in 1968, almost always new States arise to take their place. The reason for this, I believe, is that men cannot bring themselves to believe in the practical feasibility of a society in which perfect liberty, security of life and property, and law and justice can be attained without the coercive violence of the State. Men have for so long been enslaved by the State that they cannot rid themselves of a Statist mentality. The myth of the State as a necessary part of social reality constitutes the greatest single obstacle to the achievement of a libertarian voluntarist society.

Yet the historian, if he but chooses to look and report his findings, knows that many societies have functioned successfully without the existence of the State, its coercive apparatus and monopoly of organized violence. It is my purpose here to present one example of such a society, one that existed for more than a thousand years of recorded history, terminated only by the massive military efforts of a more populous, wealthy and aggressive neighboring State. I will describe for you the millennial – long anarchic society of Celtic Ireland – destroyed after a six-century struggle against the English State in the wake of the military victories, confiscations and genocidal policies of successive English governments in the 17th century.

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The Machinery of Freedom | David D. Friedman

I just read The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it.

Perhaps the most important part of the book is Part III: Anarchy is Not Chaos (pages 58-84). In this section of the book Friedman illustrates and defends his system of anarcho-capitalism. He discusses private police, private courts, private law, and private national defense. He gives his reasons for supporting anarchy over limited government and explains how we might get to anarchy from our present society.

One important thing to point out is that in the book Friedman argues for libertarian positions from a utilitarian or consequentialist perspective, rather than from libertarian principle. He explains why he does this:

[O]ne reason to base my arguments on consequences rather than justice is that people have widely varying ideas about what is just but generally agree that making people happy and prosperous is a good thing. If I argue against heroin laws on the grounds that they violate the addicts’ rights, I will convince only other libertarians. If I argue that drug laws, by making drugs enormously more expensive, are the chief cause of drug-related crime, and that the poor quality control typical of an illegal market is the main source of drug-related deaths, I may convince even people who do not believe that drug addicts have rights.

A second reason to use practical rather than ethical arguments is that I know a great deal more about what works than about what is just. This is in part a matter of specialization; I have spent more time studying economics than moral philosophy. But I do not think that is all it is. One reason I have spent more time studying economics is that I think more is known about the consequences of institutions than about what is or is not just—that economics is a much better developed science than moral philosophy. [page 93]

As much as I would love to now write down my thoughts on many of the interesting things he said in the book, I would love to keep reading even more (Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State is next) (UPDATE: Here is my post on Casey’s book). Perhaps I will come back to this at some point in the future.

Before I get going, however, let me mention one of Friedman’s statements that I added to the Quotes page:

Why don’t we have libertarian anarchy? Why does government exist? The answer implicit in previous chapters is that government as a whole exists because most people believe it is necessary. [page 83]

And let me also mention one of his honorably honest, yet disappointing statements that I did not add to the Quotes page. Note that I am placing the above quote and the following quote together intentionally because they are very related:

What will I do if, when all other functions of our government have been abolished, I conclude that there is no effective way to defend against aggressive foreign governments save by national defense financed by taxes—financed, in other words, by money taken by force from the taxpayers?

In such a situation I would not try to abolish that last vestige of government. I do not like paying taxes, but I would rather pay them to Washington than to Moscow—the rates are lower. I would still regard the government as a criminal organization, but one which was, by a freak of fate, temporarily useful. [page 75]

In short, Friedman realizes most people support unjust government actions because they erroneously believe that those actions are necessary, yet he says that he would support unjust governments as well if he believed they were necessary.

How smart does he think he is? Isn’t it possible that he could be mistaken as well? Could he really be comfortable supporting certain evils in the name of necessity despite knowing that they may not actually be necessary? Apparently so. I think Rothbard was right: He doesn’t Hate the State.

To be fair to Friedman, he wrote The Machinery of Freedom a long time ago (“Most of this book was written between 1967 and 1973.” – page 3) and may quite possibly have a different view today.

Also, to be fair to 1970 Friedman, he’s almost certainly not nearly as bad in this regard as most of the people who support the state as a necessary evil. Specifically, I am sure that he would be far more careful in his analysis of the necessity of the state than the vast majority of other people. While most others would simply assume that the state is necessary, Friedman would only take such a position after putting a substantial amount of careful thought into the question. I have to give him credit for that.

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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.”


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Gustave de Molinari’s “The Production of Security”

In the words of Roderick Long, “The first explicit defender of Market Anarchism was the 19th-century economist and social theorist Gustave de Molinari.”

In his 1849 essay, translated as The Production of Security, Molinari made, in the words of Murray Rothbard, “the first presentation anywhere in human history of what is now called ‘anarcho-capitalism’ or ‘free market anarchism.'”

While it is true that there were anarchists before Molinari who were pro-market, such as “William Godwin in England, Josiah Warren in America, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France,” Roderick Long points out that “what Molinari pioneered, in 1849, was an explanation of how market mechanisms could replace the traditional ‘governmental’ function of the State – protection against aggressors…. Thus I don’t see anything properly describable as market-based anarchism (as opposed to merely market-friendly anarchism) prior to Molinari.”

It is worth noting that Molinari’s case against the state’s monopoly on security in The Production of Security is not so much a moral argument as it is an argument of economic efficiency.

As Rothbard writes, “In contrast to all previous individualistic and near-anarchistic thinkers, such as La Boetie, Hodgskin or the young Fichte, Molinari did not base the brunt of his argument on a moral opposition to the State. While an ardent individualist, Molinari grounded his argument on free-market, laissez-faire economics, and proceeded logically to ask the question: If the free market can and should supply all other goods and services, why not also the services of protection?”

In the following excerpt from his essay Molinari describes one of the main advantages of having a market for security (as opposed to a monopoly on security—what most people think of as “governments” today):

[The producers of security’] clientele will naturally be clustered around the center of their activities. They would nevertheless be unable to abuse this situation by dictating to the consumers. In the event of an abusive rise in the price of security, the consumers would always have the option of giving their patronage to a new entrepreneur, or to a neighboring entrepreneur.

This option the consumer retains of being able to buy security wherever he pleases brings about a constant emulation among all the producers, each producer striving to maintain or augment his clientele with the attraction of cheapness or of faster, more complete and better justice.

If, on the contrary, the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he pleases, you forthwith see open up a large profession dedicated to arbitrariness and bad management. Justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned, according to the power and influence of this or that class of consumers. The protectors engage in bitter struggles to wrest customers from one another. In a word, all the abuses inherent in monopoly [government] or in communism crop up [see the part of Molinari’s essay titled “Monopoly and Communism” for his definition of these terms].

Read Molinari’s full essay here.

Market Anarchism is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society.”