TheAnarchistAlternative.info | Pro-government teachers, preachers, beneficiaries, lawyers, journalists and employees all insist that the word “anarchist” means one who favors “chaos” and violence. That is a LIE. It is not just a lie, it is the opposite of the truth; for it is government that causes chaos and violence. So to help clear the confusion, let’s define these terms.
Government, as used on this web site, means an organization that governs those within its power. If you’re within reach of a government, it is taking some of the decisions that affect your destiny. There are possibly better ways to define government; but that will do for now.
Anarchism, in contrast, means “absence of a ruler”. It’s one of a series of words derived from Greek: “monarchy” is government by one person, “oligarchy” by a few persons, “plutarchy” by some rich persons, and so on. The prefix “an-” means a negation or opposite, and the suffix “-archy” means “rule”, hence “anarchy” means rule by no persons. An “anarchist” is one who believes society runs best when nobody rules or governs it; when each of its members makes 100% of the choices that affect his or her life and therefore none at all of those affecting anyone else’s.
Naturally, pro-government people hate that idea, because they would not be able to strut around ruling other people or live off their labor. So they do all they can to discredit anarchism. As above, they lie; they try to redefine the word, to scare people into supposing that it means “chaos”. On this web site, we’ll examine the true source of chaos and violence.
To compound the confusion, some people call themselves “anarchists” but openly destroy the property of, and call for controls over, the peaceful behavior of those they hate – so proving that they really favor government. So we have to recall the definition: a genuine anarchist doesn’t want to rule anyone, except himself. We love freedom – and not just for ourselves. We’re happy for everyone else to enjoy it too.
While a small portion of the violence and mayhem that infests society is caused by private criminals (in effect, miniature would-be governments) the overwhelming majority is caused by government. Every war in history, for example, was started and waged exclusively by governments.
It was therefore a stroke of evil genius to blame World War One, one of the most savage periods of bloodletting ever and the precursor of an even larger one twenty years after it ended, on a small group of “anarchists” in the Serbian capital of Sarajevo.
That enormous lie is still perpetrated in government-school textbooks and is responsible for many otherwise intelligent people closing their minds to the reasoning presented in places like this web site.
The fact is that WW-I was caused by all the governments of Europe – more or less equally – for no better reason than a wish to perpetuate their own several spheres of influence: Russia, Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Britain in no particular order. Those governments had set up interlocking alliances designed to start a major war if any one of them stepped across the borders of another.
The alliances worked; when the Austrian government sent troops into Serbia, an ally of the one in Russia, the latter “mobilized”; then so did the rest in sequence like dominos. The cause was the existence of the alliances and the absurd claims to power that they were meant to prolong; the small group which assassinated the Austrian Archduke and his wife wanted only that their homeland be freed of his government’s influence. They were not anarchist in any sense; they were Serbian Nationalists, and if their aim had been fulfilled they would no doubt have gladly taken part in the government of a newly-independent Serbia.
In our own history the Civil War slaughtered the greatest number of human beings – half a million, or one person in every sixty. After the event, government school textbooks and teachers still allege that it was fought to abolish slavery, and memorials in D.C. support that myth.
Myth it is, though; contemporary names for it were less dishonest. It was variously called the “War Between the States” and the “War of Northern Aggression”, though most accurately the “War of Southern Secession.” Certainly, there was nothing “civil” about that bloodbath and certainly, it did nothing for the abolition of slavery that would not have taken place anyway within a decade or two, for economic and other reasons; every other developed country on the Planet abolished slavery without any war, several of them long before Lincoln did it here at the point of a gun.
Secession was its cause, or even more accurately the stubborn refusal of the Northern state governments to “allow” the Southern ones to secede. To preserve that political power, half a million Americans died and some of the thousands of war memorials acknowledge the fact by saying they did so to “Preserve the Union.”
The history of nations and governments has been little more for 5,000 years than a sad and bloody catalog of the wars they fought, and even the list of other US wars is too long to record here. Suffice it simply to note that on the feeble pretext that it has a charter to “defend” the United States, the Federal Government has plunged into one foreign war after another for over 100 years, not one of which posed the Union any credible threat whatever. There was no threat to the USA in 1916 from any of the warring governments of Europe, nor any again in 1941; and the threat from Japan in that year was woven out of whole cloth by F D Roosevelt for the express purpose of distracting public attention from his total failure to end the Depression – itself a disaster caused by government.
The US entry into Vietnam likewise deterred no credible threat from the peasants of the North, and the latest offensive war at this writing (but stay tuned) was upon Iraq on the pretext that its government had a few of the kinds of mass-destruction weaponry that America’s has been stockpiling for decades. So far, they have not been discovered.
The primary business of all governments is to wage war.
Sociology Professor R J Rummel made the surprising discovery that monstrous though it is, the violence of inter-government warfare has not been their most lethal activity. They have, throughout history, actually killed more of their “own” people who were NOT in uniform, than those who fought for or against them in military service.
Genocide is one well-known example, but Rummel found the slaughter has not been confined to groups identified by race alone. So he coined a new word: “Democide”; the murder of people supposedly under the protection of a government, either actively or by passive noninterference. “Rummel’s Law” is: “Power kills; and absolute power kills absolutely”.
His thesis is that the less accountable to its population that a government is (ie, the stronger or bigger) the more of that population it is likely to murder; and vice-versa. He has not extended that finding to the “origin of the graph” as it were; he has not concluded that therefore, zero democide will accompany only zero government. Though that is a step of logic we do take here, Rummel is a scientist and observer; and one employed by a government university to boot. He has nonetheless made a major contribution to our understanding of the source of lethal violence and deserves rich credit.
The word “chaos” means “disorder” or confusion. In society, it would mean that behavior is unpredictable; a person takes an action but the consequences of his doing so are unknown. The trains don’t run on time, vendors fail to respond rationally to offers (so disrupting the supply of vital goods and services), systems do not function as advertised and random violence goes unchecked by proper justice.
Such conditions rapidly destroy normal life, and sometimes follow natural or military disaster. A hurricane or tornado takes out electric power and throws houses across the streets. A bombing raid firestorms a city. An epidemic fever decimates a population. Normal life, if any remains, is disrupted. Such followed the violent 2003 replacement of one government by another in Baghdad, and that in Germany in 1945.
Looting frequently accompanies such chaos, for a while; though not for long. In Baghdad, some of the stolen merchandise was actually returned, as a matter of conscience! But pro-government advocates hold that if the restraints of laws and police control are relaxed, such chaos will take place on an everyday basis. So do they keep us in thrall.
This dark view of human nature is rooted in the Judeo-Christian myth that humans are evil by nature, and must always be restrained lest the evil erupts into chaos. The mystery of how some of those “evil” men transmute somehow into a set “good” enough to restrain, control and direct the remainder has never been explained! – but the myth served well enough, for millennia, to sustain priesthood and government alike in comfort.
Anarchists take the different view that while men are obviously capable of great evil, most especially when handed power over others, there is no such inherent evil bias. We observe that when allowed to follow their own will humans interact peacefully, each seeking his own happiness as he defines and perceives it. We note that in times of disaster there are hundreds of acts of spontaneous kindness, courtesy and mutual help for every violent one the sensation- seeking media report.
The page on “Free Markets” on this site says more; but here we note that voluntary interactions produce the very opposite of disorder. To an outsider the sight and sound of bidding on the floor of a stock exchange appears sheer chaos! – but at day’s end, thousands of voluntary transactions have been recorded, money has been made and lost, trends are being analysed and nobody was cheated. The same is true on Ebay, where millions transact and honesty is rewarded and dishonesty penalized – all without government interference.
Chaos, in contrast, is the normal consequence of government enterprise. Even in war, a field in which government is less inept than most, historians often observe that battles are won by the side that makes fewest mistakes; and in commerce, government intrusion distorts markets almost beyond their ability to function and the norm, not the exception, is for the outcome to be the very opposite of the purpose intended.
Example: since about 1840, grade schools have been almost fully under the control of government, with the stated aim of giving every American a good “education”. Yet today, 40% of government-school graduates cannot functionally read their own diplomas and few if any of them can think for themselves, about unfamiliar concepts such as this site expounds. Instead of being taught HOW to think, kids are taught WHAT to think; it is a 12-year camp for youth indoctrination. Yet in 1812, 95% of all children were able to read, write, and do arithmetic; a generation earlier, their parents had mastered the political philosophy in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” – a book almost impenetrable to High School seniors today.
Item: since 1900, government has taken relentlessly increasing control over the health-care industry, which was previouly delivering the best of then-known medical science. Today, it is not permitted to self-medicate; the cost of medication is driven high by government regulation of the pharmaceutical trade, and may then be doubled again by the laws to make us obtain a doctor’s prescription before it can be purchased. Good, low- cost care may have been the aim of all this chaos; the opposite resulted.
Item: since 1935, government almost monopolized retirement and sickness insurance, to give every American a decent old-age. The result has been to depress living standards among the elderly by a factor of more than two.
We could go on and on; as Libertarian Presidential Candidate Harry Browne wrote, “Government Doesn’t Work” – the outputs do not match the inputs, the stated aims. Such a mismatch is one good definition of “chaos.”
An anarchist society would be peaceful and harmonious because that is the natural way that rational humans like to live together and there would be no irrational government to disrupt them.
“Peace” is the absence of conflict, and since by definition anarchists seek to rule only their own lives, nobody elses’, peace is what would prevail.
“Harmony” refers to a happy blending of a variety of interests, and that too is precisely what would happen in a society in which every participant sought only his or her own wellbeing. The Free Markets page details more about how those interests are harmonized, but here let’s note the essential element in every inter- human transaction in an anarchist society: it is voluntary. If you think the school service is too expensive, don’t buy it. If you’re running a school and want more paying customers than you have, find out how to please more of those who might send you their children.
Instead of compulsion, by laws, every action is by invitation. The self- interest of the supplier is harmonized with the self- interest of the buyer, by the universal practice of voluntary exchange; again, no exchange is involuntary because no government exists to compel one.
We are all still quite familiar with such free market, voluntary transactions because in America there is still a huge number of them remaining; they form part of our everyday experience. Contrast a visit to a supermarket, competing for the favor of your business with its rival down the road, with one to a Post Office, where there is no incentive for anyone to care whether you shop there or not. We anarchists visualize a society in which all visits are like the former.
The question reasonably arises: What happens when someone is such an ideal society breaks the peace? – shoplifts, mugs, rapes, murders?
Note first that such a person is at that moment ceasing to be an anarchist, and trying to become a one-person government, at least in respect to his victim; he is trying to impose his will on someone else. That’s the exact opposite of anarchism.
But it may happen. If it does, such a society will need a justice system to restore the harmony.
There being no laws to stop them, it’s quite possible that in an anarchist society some people will choose to live in isolation. After acquiring some land they will build their own shelter, weave their own clothes, grow their own food, assemble their own automobiles, distill their own fuel – and Bourbon – without ever exchanging anything with anyone else.
Possible and unforbidden, yes of course; but not very likely. The enormous advantages of a division of labor, with the exchanges that it requires, will be so obvious as to attract almost everyone to seek their happiness by interacting with others. The resulting system we call a “market”, and since no external rules would control it, we call it “free”.
Let’s say you’re good at carpentry but unskilled at building web sites; I’m passable at the latter but terrible at the former so we make an agreement. You make me a bed, I’ll make you a web site. We draw up an agreement, get to work, and exchange the fruits of our labor. You get a web site, I get a bed. Both are happy. That’s called “barter”.
But suppose I already have a bed, and right now don’t want any product of your skills – but still you want a web site, to promote your woodworking business. I can still make you one, if we can agree that you pay me not in goods but with a medium of exchange, called “money”. Then we can still do the deal and finish happy.
The task will take a while, and I want to be sure that the X units of money agreed in our contract on Day One will still be worth the same on Day Thirty when I finish. So we agree on a form of money that will hold its value. We will not carelessly settle upon pieces of paper, for example, issued by someone with the power to change their value at will.
In 1923 Germans had to spend their wages the same day they were paid, because the government of that time depreciated the value of money so fast that tomorrow, the wages would buy almost nothing. The same is still true today of all government paper “money” – the difference lies only in the rate of value loss.
In such a free market, therefore, participants will choose a form of money that has a value stable over a long period; never will it choose government money. That’s why today’s government paper is the subject of “legal tender” laws: those laws do not just allow their Federal Reserve Notes to be used in payment of all debts public and private, they compel them to be accepted! No wonder. Only an idiot would accept them in the absence of such compulsion.
So the principle of voluntary exchange, a bedrock of an anarchist society, would cause the choice of stable money. There might be several forms, but gold would almost certainly be the most popular. Its value has been stable for thousands of years; its supply is severely limited by nature; it is almost impossible to counterfeit, simple to identify, and a large value can be carried in a small weight and volume. Ideal for a free market.
Each member of a free, anarchist society will pursue his or her own happiness in his own way, and using his own skills. He will offer the products of those skills in voluntary exchange, first for money as above, then by spending it on the goods and services of his free choice. There being no laws or rules externally imposed, nobody will be compelled to spend his own money in any particular manner.
Being hungry to maximize happiness, each person will be greedy and acquisitive, and that motive will drive him or her to excel; to strive to please his customers to the maximum extent, so as to maximize his gain. He will find ways to work less hard for the same output – he will mechanize his work and use capital to do so, and will invent new ways to complete it. This innovation characterizes the best of American enterprise, during its brilliant development in the more-free Nineteenth Century as well as in the less-free more recent past. In an anarchist society, it would proceed at dazzling pace, for no laws would impede it.
In that way every member of society will become ever more prosperous, so that the entire society will have a rapidly advancing standard of living – not just of the material comforts which some pretend to despise, but in everything that money can buy including medical care and benevolence to the suffering. Precisely that is already happening all over the world: where we measure a greater degree of liberty, we also measure a higher standard of life – even of length of life. Freedom and prosperity always correlate. Absolute freedom (anarchism) will therefore maximize prosperity.
An anarchist society, a free market, would as stated have no laws externally imposed by some kind of government. That does not mean, however, that it would have no rules at all. How so?
Very simply, because there would be a time dimension to many exchanges – perhaps to most of them. My carpenter friend and I agree that I’ll build him a web site for two ounces of gold – but the key word there is “agree”. We make an agreement, a contract, before work begins. The agreement is strictly voluntary – either of us can walk away from it, before it is signed; but once signed, it becomes binding. Without that, I will not start work, for I judge the risk to be too high and will not throw away my labor; it is mine.
Such voluntary, explicit contracts form the referenced “rules”. Persons in an anarchist society would literally make up the rules as they go along; if the proposed terms of a contract are not agreeable to both parties, it is not made. If they are, it is.
In a small but very interesting way, the on-line auction service Ebay is providing right now an approximation to such a free market. Nobody need take part, but there are simple rules to follow if you do so choose. An important one of them is that you agree to report and be reported on, by those with whom you deal. If you buy something unsatisfactory – you find the vendor misrepresented the offered item – you record a negative experience and that record stays with him every time he tries to trade on Ebay. It’s a kind of ostracism. So everyone has a strong incentive to make money honestly – even those who have no personal moral code whatever – strictly from the motive of long-term self-interest!
So it would be in a free market, an anarchist society. For no other reason than greed and ambition, its members would keep their word; that is, far from being chaotic the society would be orderly! It remains to discuss how the rare exceptions to that would be handled, and so we consider the important subject of justice.
Shallow thinkers about government almost always suppose that even if it’s not needed for anything else, it must be retained to run a justice system; this naïve faith survives despite…
– its manifest failure to convict most of the guilty
– its manifest failure to avoid convicting any of the innocent and
– its manifest failure to compensate any of the victims.
Additionally government makes massive, wholesale use of the authority of its courts wickedly and mendaciously to sustain and prolong its own power – hiding its devastation of personal liberties under the fiction that courts can “interpret” laws.
Usually all that’s called “law and order”; but as we’ve seen already on this site, “order” – peace and harmony – is not only not dependent on the existence of laws, it would be far more widely enjoyed with none.
It’s worth pausing to press this point; consider the extreme case of murder. We all agree that murder is the worst thing anyone can do. No anarchist will do it; to take another person’s life, except in self-defense or by his explicit request, is the ultimate expression of a determination to rule or govern that person, to take over every last remainder of his right to own and operate his own life. Surely, therefore, we need a law against murder?
No, we do not. Consider: that and every other law is a “thou shalt not” handed down by government, a third party to the terrible transaction. If the perp is caught and tried, he is held accountable to – the government! Not to the family of the victim! If convicted he is required not to recompense those victims but to endure punishment by that third party! There is a complete disconnect between the original act of aggression and its resolution by a government “justice” system, based on law and punishment. The victim walks away with a thank-you at best, the perp is left to rot in jail, the taxpayers are forced to feed him, the government people get a good feeling and all the lawyers, a good living. This is “justice”? – I don’t think so.
So there’s no useful purpose served by a law against murder. And if not against that act, nor is there need for one against any other evil action. Let’s now see how real justice would take place in an anarchist society.
Justice in a Free Society
“Justice” consists in righting a wrong, as far as is feasible. If the fundamental right of someone to make all decisions affecting his own life is violated, then there should be a process of restoration, of making good the damage. It has no other purpose. At once, therefore, we can see that punishment, in the sense of retribution, must play no part whatever.
Instead the aim of any proper justice system (we’ll now call it a justice industry, for so it will be) will be to cause an aggressor to recompense his victim, to make right what he first made wrong. He stole property? – then he will be made to repay it, plus the cost of his apprehension, plus interest. He caused physical damage? – then he will be made to pay all medical and other bills needed to heal the affected body parts. He cause mental distress? – then he will be made to give whatever compensation the Court considers just. He killed? – then likewise, he will be made to richly compensate the victim’s friends for the loss of his company. Only in that case (and in those of severe injury) is it clearly impossible to restore the victim himself to his former state.
The old absurdity of an “eye for an eye” will be consigned at long last to the ashcan of history; if that principle prevailed, the end result would be a world of blind people.
This proper, rational vision of real justice provokes questions – naturally, for through the government school system, the government- controlled higher education system, the government- licensed media, we have all been guided never to think “outside the box”. If this is your own first time, welcome to real justice! But let’s try to see some answers.
Who would Pay?
Not the taxpayer, obviously, for there wouldn’t be any! Rather, the justice industry – consisting of competing detectors, apprehenders, lawyers, arbitrators and executors – would be hired by the plaintiff, the one whose sovereignty over his life has suffered damage.That sounds expensive, until we realize that no law will exclude insurers from playing a part. Very likely, most members of a free society would take out an insurance policy to protect themselves against the slight possibility of becoming the victims of some form of aggression. Then, the insurer would pick up the case on his behalf, lay out any capital needed, and take a share of the damages awarded. Very likely, some policies would provide that the insurer would consider the circumstances and settle at once with the victim for an agreed figure, then go out to recover that cost, plus profits, from the perp.
In the case of an indigent and uninsured victim, such a third party might well intervene after the event – bidding, in effect, for the right to such damages as can be recovered.
What about Restraint?
Prisons as we know them today would disappear, for they are primarily about vengeance – which, as we saw above, has no proper part in true justice. Nonetheless, it’s possible that some aggressors will continue aggressing; as serial rapists for example. Must they be allowed to walk free, once they have compensated their first few victims?These will be rare cases, though real; and restraint may in those few cases be judged necessary for the protection of future victims. The restraint will be nothing like as barbaric as today’s prisons and might take the form of home confinement or electronic branding or monitoring. “Keeping him behind bars” would be a fate reserved only for the tiny number of violent incorrigibles – “Hannibal Lectors” – in society.
At least half of the present prison population has never harmed anyone. They merely broke some government law. And very few of the remainder are a true danger to the public. Abolition of this barbaric institution will enrich the human race.
Won’t Crime Become More Attractive?
“Crime”, defined as breaking a law, will not exist; for nor will laws. A wrong exists only when someone’s rights are violated – call that “aggression.”Such aggression will however be much less attractive, not more so. Reasons:
– A free-market, for-profit competitive detection industry will make it rare indeed for the perp to get away undetected. This proper, free-market justice industry will make him pay; pay his victim, that is, plus the cost of making him. The motive for “crime” is the perception of net gain; that perception will disappear fast.- A common if not universal part of any judgment will be that the facts of the misdeed will be recorded for all to see. The aggressor’s ability to do business in the future will therefore be impaired; his word will be less trustworthy. That is another heavy price to pay for his aggression. Reputations are quickly lost, slowly restored.
That last is why the risk of suffering any kind of aggression will be low, in an anarchist society. Perhaps it will never disappear altogether; no matter how high the probability of apprehension there may always be a few who will risk a lifetime of prosperity and good friends for the possibility of a huge gain from fraud. But it is inconceivable that an efficient, free market justice industry would allow such behavior to occur at more than a tiny fraction of the rate produced by today’s government “justice” monopoly.
Just as conventional thinkers jerk their knees to object that government is needed to administer justice, they may do likewise with respect to the defense of a free, anarchist society. And we can agree that there is little point in setting one up if, next morning, some foreign government or armed, domestic association of displaced former government employees marches in and takes control. How are they to be stopped?
Conventional thinking, again, says the answer is collectivization. The US Constitution provides that the new Federal Government shall “provide for the common defense” of the State Governments that set it up. One for all, and all for one; the mindless basis of socialism everywhere.
They are all wrong: the correct answer is that “society” as such, will not be defended at all. The individuals who make it up will, having experienced its rich benefits, use their own weapons to defend their own property. When they become aware that any group is out to take away their 100% control over their own lives, they will use the justice industry to stop it. Failing that (in the early days, the aggressor might bring massive force) then the shooting will start. Individuals will kill the agents of the aggressor, whenever encountered. Several aspects of this deserve note.
1. Knowing in advance that his uniformed agents will face a fully-armed population every member of which will kill them on sight, and with no defending “government” to surrender on their behalf, in all high probability he will simply not invade. He will go after a softer target instead; one that does have someone capable of surrendering, like the French in 1940.2. Aggressor governments are not always that smart, so one may invade regardless. If so, his agents will be mercilessly harassed until he takes the survivors away. This is close to the technique that drove the US Government out of Vietnam, and tied down Hitler’s armies in France and elsewhere, and which as I write is undermining the US occupation of Iraq (that’s not to say that the Baathist Iraqi saboteurs are worthy in any other way – simply that they are using smart tactics of resistance.)
3. While a foreign invasion to crush a newly free society is a real danger, that danger will be temporary. Reason: the great acceleration in technology that freedom will stimulate will render impotent the “massive force” assumed above.
Always, a war of intended conquest is waged after a careful cost-benefit analysis by the aggressor. The net benefits of invading a society of people entirely committed to peace and individual freedom, and without any government to pose any threat to any other government, will be strongly negative. The motivation will be simply missing.
One possible exception exists: a motive to invade and suppress an anarchist society may exist soon after its formation. That’s because all governments will (rightly!) feel very threatened by the possibility that their own populations will observe the new society and start throwing off their own oppressors in emulation. This is in fact precisely the meaning of the Statue of Liberty: “Liberty, Enlightening the World”. If only America were a land of liberty, its peacefulness and prosperity would have so attracted people over the whole world that by now, virtually the whole world would be free. Let’s hope we get it right the second time around.