Anarchist Philosopher Does Not Consent to be Governed!: Crispin Sartwell discusses Against the State: An introduction to anarchist political theory

"Growing up in D.C. will turn you into an anarchist," jokes Against the State: An introduction To Anarchist Political Theory author Crispin Sartwell. "I'm expecting the revolution to emerge from Wheaton (Maryland), high schoolers in the D.C. area who are embroiled in the bureaucracy of the American state." This five-and-a-half-minute-long interview was conducted by Nick Gillespie and shot and edited by Dan Hayes.

Widely published in both popular outlets and academic journals, Sartwell teaches at Dickinson College. For more information on him, go to his website.

To embed this interview at your website, go here.

For an audio podcast, go here.

And check out his October 30, 2008 appearance on the Reason.tv Talk Show, where he discussed anarchy, Darfur, and hip hop with the journalist Eli Lake and hosts Michael C. Moynihan and Nick Gillespie.

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  • jtuf||

    Good interview. Just one contention. It's true that the wars and genocides of the 20th century happened through state power. However, in the 19th century, lynchings happenned, because the state failed to defend Blacks, Catholics, and Jews. Anarchy does not address the question of how to catch a murderer.

  • ||

    Anarchy does not address the question of how to catch a murderer

    Private investigators. The state catches murderers, yeah. How are those DNA exonerations going? Prosecutors are after justice, right?

  • ||

    Okay. We'll just keep all the genocide then.

  • ||

    And the comments don't run on time!

  • darjen||

    jtuf,
    Are you saying that the state's failure to protect minorities an argument for state monopolization of police and justice?

    If you are, that's actually yet another argument against state "justice".

  • Egosumabbas||

    While philosophically correct, the main downfall of anarchism is that there's no guarantee that somebody (or a collective) won't strong arm a new state into place. I can only see two solutions--that an anarchist society spontaneously forms in the ashes of a collapsed state, or that it is formed where no state previously existed. Agorists are the only group that I'd read of so far that actually have a concrete plan for a stateless society that doesn't involve massive violence (contrast that to a communist plan).

    I'm willing to settle for a minarchist compromise in the meantime.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Private investigators.

    Paid for...family members, right? And what about the homeless guy, or the guy everybody hates?

  • Egosumabbas||

    "Paid for...family members, right? And what about the homeless guy, or the guy everybody hates?"

    Well, in those cases you'd have this guy to help you out. Arguably, that time period was as close as you'd get to an anarcho-capitalist society, according Hoppe anyway.

  • ||

    Do the police bother themselves much about the homeless guy even now?

    Pointing out the problems with anarchy is stupid, because nobody is claiming it is perfect. But that's what opponents of anarchism always do; nitpick at it as if anarchy has to be a perfect solution, while all other solutions don't. I can sit here and point out a zillion problems with states and goverment if I want, even tiny ones.

    It's really just a question of how you prioritize the various problems of various systems.

  • Rules to follow, pills to swal||

    and this is where it gets us?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I'm not nitpicking; I think anarchy is anarchy is anarchy, and anarchy means perpetual warfare. I am categorically opposed.

  • .||

    Thanks. Sartwell is a cool dude.

  • lipscomb||

    While I agree the state's power is to be blame for the wars, genocide, etc. of both the past and present - this offers no solutions - only raising more questions.

  • Right Wing Realist||

    Anarcho Capitalism dissolves into city states:

    http://www.paulbirch.net/AnarchoCapitalism2.html


    Also, anyone that keeps the same political philosophy that they had when they were 12 is "special".

  • Egosumabbas||

    @Angry Optimist

    There have been stable anarchist periods, for better or for worse. The longest lasting one being:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Ages
    And the most recent one being:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Old_West

  • The Angry Optimist||

    you call the Middle Ages stable and anarchistic? No offense, but...really?

  • Egosumabbas||

    @TAO

    I think people project a lot of negative feelings of the middle ages that aren't well-founded. It was actually a much more peaceful and stable period than the Renaissance/Reformation.

    During the Medieval Period, there wasn't a monopoly of justice, and most relationships were determined by contract rather than being backed by government force. Yes there was some slavery, but far less than during the Roman Empire.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    *ahem*, were that so, are you saying that we can state that The Crusades and The Hundred Years War were NOT the results of states?

  • Egosumabbas||

    To give a concrete example, during the medieval period you could go on a pilgrimage from one end of Europe to the other, and the only thing you'd have to watch out for is bandits. Students were well-known to travel itinerantly from one university to another.

    With the rise of nation-states, this was no longer possible because of national allegiances and state-ordained religions.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Nobody was forced to join the crusades, TAO.

    Also, the Hundred Years War was when the nation-state emerged as kings began to consolidate their rule.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Nobody was forced to join the crusades, TAO.

    Plenty of people were forced to pay for it, including, you know, the Saracens.

    And aren't the Middle Ages actually marked as starting with the Frankish Empire and Charlemagne?

    I'd also just respectfully point out that IF the Middle Ages were "anarchistic", THEN the consequent rise of multiple empires during and after the Middle Ages (Frankish/Carolingian, France, England) is an argument against anarchy.

  • ||

    I agree with pretty much all his points...except the bit about anarchy. I guess I prefer minarchism, mostly because I think there are some ways in which the existence of a state makes people more free than without it.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I'd also just point out that the so-called "superstate", like the European Union is becoming, allows people to travel across borders without worries about passports or ID checks. Ditto with America, where the several states are sovereign (although America does not meet the definition because we all consider ourselves Americans on the international scene, not, say, Ohioans).

  • Max||

    I wanny be anarchy, but can't:

    http://maxborders.typepad.com/max_borders/2008/12/i-wanna-be-anarchy-but-i-cannot.html

  • Right Wing Realist||

    I have to admit, I have never seen this particular piece of libtardology before. "The dark ages were great, because they had anarchy". Beautiful.

    Anyone want to take a bet that if conditions in Somalia improve, the improvement will be correlated with the increased control of a state?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    RWR - no one said anything about them being great, did they now?

  • lukas||

  • ||

    I'm just seein' this at beddie-bye time, but I'm gonna git this book.

    What ethnicity is represented by "Sartwell"?
    I thought anarchists were either Russian or Irish.

    Peaceful Anarchist Ruthless

  • ||

    Yeah, Somalia and Darfur are good examples of the Utopia you get when you have no state. I guess somebody forgot to tell the people of Darfur to hire a "private detective" when the jinjaweed showed up. Somalia can't feed itself and a major source of income is piracy. Anarchy gets you a warlord, and the "freedom" to do what he tells you to do. The need for a state is well explained by the libertarian author Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy State and Utopia, one of the best books ever written on government.

  • hk||

    With a public sector army I'm not sure what exactly would change in Darfur.

    They don't have the resources to defend themselves. Your argument is not very good, considering IR is a system of anarchy.

  • Eric Sundwall||

    Except for a brief outline at the end of the book, Sartwell doesn't really digress into the ideological process of a stateless condition (and correctly so). Rather he takes most of the usual rationalizations and arguments for the state and gives them an excellent boot in the ass. Thus Rosseau's 'general will' is summarily demolished along with Hobbes religiosity for Leviathan.

    While Bentham's utility is given some due in the second part, it is by no means defendable. It's always nice to see Rawls bitch slapped and any adherence to a Hegelian state is surely laughable anymore. While he does address folks like Habermas in terms of modern theorists, one does wonder whether a broad enough survey of general theory has been approached. Likely he'll delve into Josiah Warren more in the follow-up effort than any similar reproach or affirmation of say, Rothbard.

    As a further footnote, his usage of the term 'atomic', rather than what is typically used as 'atomistic' is a question that should be asked somewhere. At least Reason salvaged their time with Sartwell with this piece from that rather horrid first effort with the fat bald guy crying about police in Philadelphia and the cool excuse into hip hop tripe.

  • Jesse Walker||

    "The dark ages were great, because they had anarchy". Beautiful.

    The Middle Ages were neither great nor anarchist. But they were characterized by a much more splintered and polycentric sort of sovereignty, and that had long-term benefits for European progress.

    Anyone want to take a bet that if conditions in Somalia improve, the improvement will be correlated with the increased control of a state?

    When they improved somewhat in the '90s, that was correlated with decreased state control. When they started degenerating again more recently, that was correlated with intervention by outside states. So that isn't a terrific example.

    I guess somebody forgot to tell the people of Darfur to hire a "private detective" when the jinjaweed showed up.

    Sudan is an even worse example, since it is not stateless and, in fact, has a very authoritarian state. Which, among other crappy policies, armed the Janjaweed.

  • hk||

    It is amazing the level of ignorance at this place. Many of these states were either worse off with fascist governments, or were clearly not anarchist.

  • hk||

    BTW I wasn't attacking you JW.

    Also I want to clarify that I do not believe in violence, I am a law-abiding citizen.

  • Greg N.||

    I couldn't help but notice Mancur Olson's name doesn't appear in the book. Kind of a big oversight, isn't it?

  • BlueBook||

    While I get most of what Sartwell is saying, I wouldn't be so pessimistic about the future. True, the state has been growing largely unchecked, and organized efforts to maintain civil and economic liberties seem to be having more failures than successes of late, but the rapid changes brought on by the advance of science and technology may just lead to a freer, stranger world than ever before. Or they may just lead to a race of super robots who decide to exterminate all human life. But at least in that case we wouldn't be around long to worry about it.

  • nonPaulogist||

    This is the same dickweed who couldn't hold his own against a 3rd rate journalist in a debate. NO mention of Rothbard or the paleolibertarian anarchocapitalists at all. It's like the NYT and William Kristol or Fox news and Alan Combes. Reason is setting up a token anarchist to be a straw man and the preferred opposition.

  • ||

    Jesse, the Sudanese government does not exercise sovereignty. Initially the jinjaweed was armed by the Sudanese to regain control against various rebel groups but have now degenerated into what could best be described as independent bandit bands with no state affiliation. They make their living through theft and Sudan is a perfect example of the warlords you get with the loss of the state. In any case of course outside states are going to interfere with the power vacuum caused by anarchy, what else would be expected? Is the outside world going to ignore Somali piracy? If anarchy was in anyway a viable system it would have to deal with outside influences, including state influence.

  • nonPaulogist||

    Anarchy isn't a system, so it's meaningless to call it an nonviable one. Anarchy is the absence of a particular type of system, namely the state. You are making three huge assumptions:
    1. that society cannot have order without civil laws. Manners and customs also bring order.
    2. that laws always have to be enforced through violence or threat of violence. Credit ratings show that other means can work as well or better.
    3. that the violent enforcement of laws MUST be done by a monopoly state.
    There are plenty of historical examples that show all of these assumptions to be false.

  • ||

    Anarchy always fails eventually, but then again, so does the state. The fault lies not with anarchy or government, but with humanity. The truth is that we don't really know what a stateless world would look like anymore than the abolitionists knew what a slaveless world would look like. They just knew that slavery was evil and needed to be abolished. The state, like slavery, is an evil institution that needs to be abolished. That's all we need to know.

  • Right Wing Realist||

    I'll live under an "oppressive" state that protects my life, family, and property thank you very much. Libertards can debate the morality of the state during their vacations in Somalia.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    The state, like slavery, is an evil institution that needs to be abolished. That's all we need to know.

    That's religion and as ridiculous as it sounds.

  • ||

    The state will be the end of the human race.

    Thanks joe...you fucking murder.

  • ||

    Thanks joe...you fucking murder.

    Yeah that was supposed to be "murderer"...but "murder" seems to work also.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Jesse, the Sudanese government does not exercise sovereignty. Initially the jinjaweed was armed by the Sudanese to regain control against various rebel groups but have now degenerated into what could best be described as independent bandit bands with no state affiliation. They make their living through theft and Sudan is a perfect example of the warlords you get with the loss of the state.

    But no state is always capable of asserting its authority, and every state's attempts to assert its authority have unintended consequences. In the case of Sudan, those consequences were especially dire.

    In other words, there is a difference between poor government and no government. You can't argue that anarchy will produce a war zone by pointing to a war zone and defining it as anarchy.

    If anarchy was in anyway a viable system it would have to deal with outside influences, including state influence.

    Sure, but that's true of any political system. There are anarchies (or relative anarchies) that have done a pretty good job of this and there are anarchies that have done a pretty lousy one; the same is true of states. I mean, I wouldn't point to Eastern Europe's inability to stave off Nazi and then Communist conquest as proof that national defense is impossible.

  • ||

    Jesse, I'm not sure you can differentiate between anarchy and a poor state. When there is a power vacuum, whoever is most powerful will fill that void. I think it necessary to put a minimal, controlled state in the power position to simply be a placeholder such that no other warlord or group could exert power over the others of the society. Of course one could argue that the state inevitably becomes as bad as a warlord, as it grows and violates more and more of the rights it is supposed to protect. I still think it better than whoever can climb to the top fastest wins, though.

    As for use of "force", nonPaulogist mentions credit ratings or some such thing. This is force just as much as anything else, even if it is financial force rather than physical. It might be preferable, but it's still force. As for enforcing laws, how could that be done by any means other than a monopoly state? If done by private entities, what assurance would you have that any set code of laws is followed, since police are basically mercenaries?

  • ||

    Private investigators.

    Paid for...family members, right? And what about the homeless guy, or the guy everybody hates?


    Private food.

    Paid for ... by family members, right? And what about the homeless guy, or the guy everybody hates? Who will feed them?

    /sarcasm

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Food and retributive justice are two different things.

  • ||

    Prolefeed, you suggest that we simply replace state control over enforcement of rights with whoever has money? I suppose private investigation and protection would be much more of an industry if the police didn't have a monopoly over it, but it would simply be the same has hiring bodyguards or mercenaries. It would simply come down to who can hire the most guns, or "rights protection".

  • Jesse Walker||

    When there is a power vacuum, whoever is most powerful will fill that void.

    But in the system proposed by anarchists, there isn't a power vaccum. Kropotkin defined anarchy as a society in which

    the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international, temporary or more or less permanent - for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs.

    So power isn't absent; it's diffused throughout the society. Now you can debate how likely it is that such a social vision will ever actually be enacted. But it obviously isn't a matter of simply creating a power vacuum and seeing what happens. The idea is to start with those voluntary institutions and extend them as far as they can go.

    As for the other debate, regarding the possibility of private law without territorial monopolies -- that actually has a pretty long history, and not always in an anarchist context.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Not to be impertinent, but I took "power vacuum" to mean that the lack of a State as a status will just lead to others gathering warriors and weapons and making themselves the State.

  • Logfile||

    Not to be impertinent, but I took "power vacuum" to mean that the lack of a State as a status will just lead to others gathering warriors and weapons and making themselves the State.

    This is what I see happening. It just seems likely to me that any country/place/land that did this would either a)be invaded or b)progress from local tribes into something resembling a state or a bunch of states after some large number of years.

  • ||

    It seems that such a setup could be possible, but as mentioned, it is debatable if it could ever be implemented. It seems that some ultimate power would have to set up such a system of diffuse power, and then cede its own power to the diffuse system. It is almost a chicken and egg scenario, where you need a State, or something acting like one, to create a stateless system.

  • Jesse Walker||

    It just seems likely to me that any country/place/land that did this would either a)be invaded or b)progress from local tribes into something resembling a state or a bunch of states after some large number of years.

    I think the evolution could go in either direction, and indeed has gone in both directions throughout history, with centralized power waxing and waning. Geography plays a big role too: Many of the most credible examples of anarchist communities existed in areas with strong natural defenses.

  • ||

    "In other words, there is a difference between poor government and no government. You can't argue that anarchy will produce a war zone by pointing to a war zone and defining it as anarchy. "

    OK, valid point and fair enough, but you can still argue that an absence of government should be producing the ideal conditions for anarchy to flourish.

    "voluntary associations.........needs."

    As Nozick brilliantly points out Utopian schemes usually need perfect people to work. Sure this could work if everybody was on the same page and a decent human being but reality is that someone at sometime would take advantage of the system. The voluntary sanitary system falls apart if even one person decides to dump their trash in the street rather than paying for the expense or donating volunteer hours to belong to an association. What then? Do you use force to remove this person from society? Do you force him to join a sanitary association against his wishes? Do you force him into an area where everybody throws their trash in the streets? And as soon as force is applied you are doing that is different from any other form of government?

  • geniusiknowit||

    Minarchism is masturbation.

    Most of you wouldn't know what to do with yourselves were there no one in charge of you. This is why there will always be a state.
    And the state, will naturally always seek to expand its size and scope. Trying to keep its power in check is a losing battle. It will proceed toward totality until some force(s), external or internal, causes it to collapse. And then it starts over again.

    The best one can do is to hasten the collapse, be prepared for it, and enjoy the temporary opportunity for liberty while you can.

  • geniusiknowit||

    The voluntary sanitary system falls apart if even one person decides to dump their trash in the street rather than paying for the expense or donating volunteer hours to belong to an association. What then? Do you use force to remove this person from society? Do you force him to join a sanitary association against his wishes? Do you force him into an area where everybody throws their trash in the streets? And as soon as force is applied you are doing that is different from any other form of government?

    I believe the idea is to refuse to associate with said person. Don't communicate with him. Don't transact with him. Don't assist him. The person may continue to act as he wishes, but without acceptance from his community, he will most likely find life far more difficult, and either change his ways, or leave to find another community. But unless this person is a danger to you, you don't attack or imprison him.

  • ||

    What an enlightening thread! A bunch of ignoramuses who have apparently never read a word of the very substantial literature on how various potential problems with a Stateless society might be worked out flapping their jaws furiously making what they apparently think are informed arguments against something they obviously don't understand.

    Remind me to come back here every day.

    JR

  • CLS||

    It is true that the absence of state law can sometimes lead to injustice, such as lynchings. It is equally true that the presences of state laaw seems to lead to injustice far more frequently. If we accept that the state kills and that private individuals kill then we would have to at least consider the raw number of deaths. And by that criteria we'd at least have to seriously consider that the existence of government is far more deadly than its absence.

  • Kevin Carson||

    As Jesse said, Somalia is a bad example. Anarchism doesn't mean just destroying the state without any advance warning (the Jericho scenario) and then seeing what fills the vacuum.

    Anarchism means supplanting the state with voluntary associations. Anarchists differ among themselves as to how gradually or rapidly this can/should be done, and as to the nature of the voluntary associations.

    And the abolition of the state simply means abolishing any body that claims the right to initiate force. Voluntary associations can encompass the majority of society, and it's perfectly consistent with anarchist principle for them to exercise the right of defensive force in common in any case where defensive force would be legitimate for an individual acting alone. So the "hard case" examples of lynching and pollution don't seem to have a great deal of thought behind them.

  • ||

    It surprises that people would try to erroneously label Medieval Europe anarchist without at least mentioning the much better example of non-feudal medieval Iceland.

    There's also some evidence that that Harappan (Indus Valley) Civilization was anarchist, and by the technological standards of the 3rd century BC it truly would have been a utopia. It was a large and highly market-oriented culture characterized by trade (internal and external), advanced agricultural technology, well-developed public sanitation (better and earlier than Greece), a variety of urban industries and crafts and an overall low level of poverty and wealth disparity, but no evidence of organized warfare. Indeed only one of the cities even have walls: a coastal city that might have used them to defend against raids by Arabian pirates.

  • Jesse Walker||

    As Jesse said, Somalia is a bad example. Anarchism doesn't mean just destroying the state without any advance warning (the Jericho scenario) and then seeing what fills the vacuum.

    That said, over the course of the '90s a host of non-governmental institutions -- some familial, some religious, some market-based -- did emerge or broaden themselves to fill the void, and conditions in Somalia were improving considerably until the war on terror undermined the social balance. Lord knows the place had problems, and they were hardly an ideal example of anarchy, but by contemporary sub-Saharan standards they weren't in bad shape.

  • ||

    Government is absolutely necessary for one thing, resolving disputes. Markets cannot do this because resolving a dispute is fundamentally different from a trade. Resolving a dispute requires the use of force, trade does not. Resolving a dispute also requires knowing the laws in advance therefore there can only be one set of laws in a given area. Imagine a basketball game where each team makes up the rules as they go. Each side in the resolution of a dispute wants to win. In a serious dispute like murder each side will use as much force as possible to win. It becomes necessary to align yourself with as powerful a group as possible to protect yourself from being on the losing end of a dispute. That's the theory. The reality matches the theory in places like Somalia.

  • Thomas Van Wyk||

    "Government is absolutely necessary for one thing, resolving disputes. Markets cannot do this because resolving a dispute is fundamentally different from a trade."
    Yawn.

    That's been brought up so many times by people who don't understand stateless legal systems that it's vaguely funny (or tragic?) that people still bring it up. It's the same argument that Rand et al. have made, and the same bogeyman that has been destroyed repeatedly by the last few centuries of anarchist thinkers. In any case, "what-if" or speculative arguments about how a stateless legal order might handle dispute resolution usually fall on deaf ears with regard to the minarchist position on dispute resolution.

    Suffice it to say, the claim that a state monopoly on force is required for beneficial dispute resolution is, at best, more than a bit historically ignorant.

    I refer you a few posts up to Mr. Riggenbach's post.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Suffice it to say, the claim that a state monopoly on force is required for beneficial dispute resolution is, at best, more than a bit historically ignorant.

    I refer you a few posts up to Mr. Riggenbach's post.


    It would be more constructive to refer cr to the comment in which I linked to this.

  • ||

    After reading the paper on polycentric law Jesse linked there are still a few issues floating around in my head regarding law enforcement in an Stateless system.

    While the author argues that laws will be agreed upon by various jurisdictions similar to the way free banking would work, I'm not wholly convinced since the process is not sufficiently explained. I cannot quite see how any specific rule set would be agreed upon, or why any specific enforcer would be compelled to enforce it. I admit I am no scholar in the area, so instead of berating my comments for ignorance, perhaps one of the knowledgeable anarchist thinkers who posted earlier in the thread could answer this, or at least link information that could.

    If such a system of enforcement of a certain common set of laws could be derived, and it seems that it may be possible, there is also the question of where the laws come from and how they can be changed. Who would decide new laws to be added or old ones to be changed or removed?

    Finally, the only way I can see of a stateless system remaining stateless is to only use a form of financial or social ostracism as means of law enforcement. Any other proactive force, financial, social, or physical, would ultimately have to be backed by physical force. This physical force would require an enforcer, and these enforcers would seem to naturally grow in power and eventually become the state. In Jesse's linked article, this is exactly what seems to happen in England with the Kings.

    All interesting conversation, and the anarchist arguments are hardly falling on deaf ears with me. I am a minarchist because I believe that the market and people can attain nearly all their wants, needs, and desires without the use of government. The litmus test for the role of government should be "Is there any other way to do this better without government?" Anarchists would always say "yes". I'm not quite convinced that the answer is always "yes" yet, but I feel it could be. So for us less learned in the subject, how about less frustration and maybe giving some information?

  • ||

    After thinking a bit more about the ostracism way of enforcement, it feels like this stage of technology would create a ripe environment for this type of enforcement. The reason being that, like someone mentioned earlier, the use of credit rating-style agencies could be used to determine a sort of social credit score, which could be required for many types of social and financial transactions. Before things like the technology we have today, maintaining such a score, or having ready access to it woulds have been difficult or even impossible. Just some thoughts...

  • ||

    The Angry Optimist asked who would pay a private detective to investigate the murder of a homeless guy. One answer I've heard: murderers.

    The idea is to make the right to restitution for murder into a transferable right. The homeless guy could sell his right to a business that specializes in murder investigations. If he gets murdered, the company could then track down the killer and collect the restitution they are owed.

  • ||

    I feel for the Sartwells of the world. If they don't wish to accept the rule of law, and abide by rough social contracts, I propose Nonarchy Pods. They can be restricted to their property and do as they will.

    Problem solved!

  • Less Antman||

    @ Robbie

    Some quick and dirty responses to questions of yours in lieu of your reading ANARCHY AND THE LAW, edited by Edward Stringham, and THE ENTERPRISE OF LAW, by Bruce Bension, which offer very detailed discussion of these topics:

    Non-government law typically was the result of custom, prior dealings, and reasonable person standards, with an emphasis on restitution for harm to lives and property. There really WASN'T much legislation, nor prescribed damages, since that was determined by the juries and depended on the harm done. Still, there is nothing to prevent scholars and experts from preparing legal codes with specific rules and specified damages, and insurers choosing to adopt them and require them as conditions of insurance. Where useful, the market is certain to provide them, and without monopoly power, the codes will be reasonable and practical to encourage their adoption.

    As for enforcement, while I'm not a pacifist, I don't think the power of ostracism should be underestimated: a person denied access to the goods and services of society is suffering a tremendous, possible fatal, loss. Jurisdiction results from agreement between the parties (in practice, agreement between their insurers, whether insurance companies or mutual aid groups).

    What about violent criminals who refuse to submit to arbitration or to accept decisions that involve their confinement? They become outlaws (having literally chosen to be outside the protection of the law), with nobody obliged to protect THEIR life or property, and with modern communication making their chance of survival slim. They are the only ones stuck in a Hobbesian jungle facing a life that is nasty, brutish, and short.

  • ||

    I'll add those books to the list. I've thought about the ostracism leading to being an "outlaw", but that, in modern times, would require all parties to care whether or not others are outlaws. Unless it is a "crime" to deal with outlaws, I can still see there being a lot of people who don't care about another's prior crimes if it means making a sale. For ostracism to work, it would seem that society would have to unanimously (or close to it) ostracize that person.

  • ||

    This idea that "state power is growing", and that it can be measured primarily by how much the government spends, is problematic. As far as individual freedom and human prosperity are concerned; what stuff the state does is a more important issue that how much stuff the state does.

    For example, suppose a state repeals a law against consenting-adult sodomy, and spends the money they would have used to enforce it on building roads instead of cutting taxes. This would still be a gain for freedom and prosperity. In fact, it would be a gain for freedom and justice even if they spent the money on something obviously useless, like digging holes and filling them again.

    So a few hundred years ago, were humans in general, and Americans in particular more or less free than today? I would say that we are clearly more free today - both in terms of the coercion we are subject to and the options we have available to us.

    In the early US there were fewer annoying, minor, nit-picking-type regulations, and several outrageous injustices (slavery, unequal treatment of women, mandated racial segregation, gratuitous and irrational restrictions on sexual freedom, state-level restrictions on free speech, etc.) that have since been eliminated. The worst restriction on individual freedom that I can think of that has been added is probably the War on Drugs and the things that accompany it. Clearly this is less bad than the forms of tyranny that have been abolished.

    Also, some of the new government regulations that have been added over the past few hundred years are justified. For example, you can't dispose of waste material in a manner that is likely to cause an epidemic. On this point, I'm not eager to return to the policies that were in place prior to the Germ Theory of Disease.

  • hk||

    Incorrect, it is unlawful in any society to damage people's property. The roads and such would be someone's property.

    Private Courts, not zero courts.

  • Less Antman||

    @ Robbie

    A reasonable point, but unanimity isn't necessary for an outlaw to bear very heavy costs: just being denied credit and debit cards and checking accounts is quite a burden financially. Nonetheless, I did say I'm not a pacifist, nor are most market anarchists, and the classification of someone as a violent outlaw is bound to involve some forms of private enforcement more vigorous than ostracism. Reciprocity is critical here: people are given the protection of law only if they agree to its usage, and the person who rejects it has voluntarily placed himself outside the protection of law. That is why people consented in the handful of past anarchist societies for which decent evidence exists, and the outlaw problem was minimal.

    Can we guarantee it? No, but neither does our current system always punish murderers (unless they're dumb enough to participate in the theft of memorabilia in Las Vegas a few years later). We need to put the problem of violent outlaws in context. In the 20th century, there were between 8 and 9 million homicides worldwide. In that same period, there were 44 million soldiers killed, and 262 million noncombatants killed by governments. Professor Rummel of the University of Hawaii has done the most work on 20th century killings, and much data is summarized at http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM. So more than 97% of killings were in the name of government.

    The first step in dealing with violent psychopaths is to stop electing them. We fear the power of private individuals to do violence while we put people we've never met into positions that give them a legitimized monopoly on the use of aggressive violence and hand them WMDs. Then we wonder why we can't stop them from invading other countries, torturing people, strangling us with taxes and regulations, and gathering dossiers on everyone.

    Getting rid of the institutional arrangement that killed 306 million ought to be a higher priority than getting rid of those who killed 9 million. Anarchists believe that markets will better address the 9 million as well, but the case for anarchism doesn't have to rest on that point, merely on the benefit of eliminating the much greater danger resulting from centralized monopolies of violence.

    It's a fascinating topic, and I might suggest starting with the Stringham book, since it is a compendium of writings from various sources (including Benson), and a good starting point for deciding in which direction you want to go in reading (or if one book is all you can stand on the subject). You can also skip chapters you find tedious without it causing a difficulty in studying others.

    My case? Minarchy is the theory that free market capitalism is best protected by a socialist monopoly. Anarchy is the theory that free markets are best protected by free markets.

  • ||

    Yea, I'll check that book out. It is all definitely interesting, and I'm always up for new ideas on better ways to do the things that need to get done.

    I'm still pondering the question of where the laws come from in an anarchist system. The problem, I guess, isn't really how to enforce the laws, but who gets to make them. You could take the system you described above, with reciprocity and ostracism as the means of force, and use that for enforcement in a State based system as well. In fact, it could arguably be better than having police. The true issue seems to be not who does the enforcing, but what ends up getting enforced.

    As for killing done by States, I'm not sure that those numbers apply in this discussion. This is the result of having armed forces in your society of any kind, State controlled or not. If you argue against armed forces, then it would be hard to see your society lasting long against any outside invaders. Armed forces, even in an anarchy, have to be controlled by someone or some group, and that person or group could be irresponsible or aggressive with them. In modern times, this is even more of an issue, since who would control the WMD's and other military-grade weapons you speak of?

  • Less Antman||

    You're absolutely correct: the enforcement mechanisms we're discussing could also be utilized in a society that had granted a monopoly on legitimized aggression to a single group. But it wouldn't be as effective against the monopolists themselves, would it?

    I suspect you'll be far more open to how straightforward non-legislative law creation is once you've had a chance to read about the history of English customary and early common law, and of the international Law Merchant: most of today's laws were not created by politicians. The notion that politicians are uniquely qualified to create sensible laws is, to say the least, questionable.

    I didn't mean to sidetrack this discussion of law with a discussion of defense, but was only pointing out that the problem of violent outlaws is dwarfed by the problem of violence by government officials. I also don't want to insult anyone's intelligence with throwaway lines about how easy collective defense would be without government (it certainly isn't easy with government), but I imagine the defense of an America without a central government would combine small professional forces with a voluntary armed militia of tens of millions. Not that different from Switzerland today, which has managed to stay out of 200 years of European conflict, but with voluntary funding and participation. I addressed the topic of funding defense in a post at http://anarchywithoutbombs.com/2008/10/13/defense-without-taxes/ , which isn't remotely the last word, but might serve as a decent first word, and links to one of Roderick Long's many interesting articles on the defense topic.

    But I don't want to conflate the issue of law creation with the issue of collective defense, nor open up a new can of worms, as my leisure time for this interesting thread is pretty much up, and I've got to get back to work today. I hope I've added something useful to this thread, and please don't take my non-participation after this post as a lack of interest in continuing the discussion. Happy book reading.

  • Jesse Walker||

    voluntary funding and participation

    Doesn't Switzerland have conscription?

  • Niccolo||

    Angry Optimist,


    If you're so concerned about those fringe minorities that make up a grand total of .00000000000000000000000000001% of humanity, then certainly you could pay for their redistributive justice.


    In the meantime, I'm just not going to pay for the guy I hate, or the homeless guy - who possesses such the incentive to kill, anyways.

  • Niccolo||

    To everyone talking about Somalia,



    Shut up.

    You don't know what you're talking about, you have very little insight to the history and situation of Somalia, and characterizing it as some goofy proof that it shows people cannot form their own institutions for justice and societal governance popularly, only serves to further prove this.

    First, the Somali situation is not one isolated from external factors.

    Second, the Somali situation does possess great pockets of increase in wealth and general utility - see Peter D. Little's, Somalia: Economy without a state.


    Third, it's barely been two decades since the collapse of Siyaad Barre's regime, it's barely been a decade since the intervention of the US and the UN that further served to fund and feed Somali factionalists like the ex-president/warlord of warlords backed by the US and Ethiopia - recently stepped down - Abdullahi Yusuf. How you can possibly expect Somalia to emerge to the level of western standards of living within that time - despite all the interventions of foreign powers - is quite a remarkable sign of inability to look at the facts rationally.


    Fourth, this is not a "Jericho" example. In all honesty, if the government were to just disappear tomorrow, it may result in brief - very brief - reordering, but it would be no worse than society under a state. This is certainly true for Somalia, as the Baare regime was extraordinarily brutal and exploitative of the Somali people. A brutality that was never matched by even the worst of the warlords in pre-ICU Somalia.

  • Less Antman||

    @ Jesse

    > Doesn't Switzerland have conscription?

    Yes That's why I said I thought it would be not that different from Switzerland, "BUT with voluntary funding and participation." I was specifically trying to clarify this would be the one significant difference. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

  • ||

    If you're so concerned about those fringe minorities that make up a grand total of .00000000000000000000000000001% of humanity, then certainly you could pay for their redistributive justice.

    I wonder how much it costs to get justice for a trillionth of a person.

    (Although, with that number of "0"s and then a percent sign, the quote actually signifies less that that.)

  • Jesse Walker||

    Sorry, Less. I misunderstood the sentence.

  • nonPaulogist||

    BG wrote:
    "suppose a state repeals a law against consenting-adult sodomy, and spends the money they would have used to enforce it on building roads instead of cutting taxes. This would still be a gain for freedom and prosperity."

    Not if the road right of ways were acquired through Immanent Domain. If you were the person getting your land stolen and you weren't into butt sex, that might not be a good trade-off.

  • ||

    Not if the road right of ways were acquired through Immanent Domain. If you were the person getting your land stolen and you weren't into butt sex, that might not be a good trade-off.

    I'll assume you meant "Eminent Domain".

    I would argue that Eminent Domain is a more justifiable than anti-sodomy laws. Although a person who doesn't wish to engage in a certain act might place a low value on the freedom to do so, we should take into consideration the freedom and prosperity of everyone in the society (not just one non-sodomy-enjoying landowner who lives in an inconvenient spot) when making such comparisons.

    1 - A person subject to Eminent Domain is losing property at a particular location, but receiving compensation. That person has the option of using that compensation to buy a similar house in same area; and thus getting the same benefits in the long run that he or she would have received from keeping the original house. By contrast, the harm imposed by anti-sodomy laws on people who enjoy sodomy persists as long as the law remains - they are deprived of the freedom to have fully satisfying sex lives.

    2 - Roads and other infrastructure are necessary to have a prosperous modern society. While I am open to ideas of how adequate infrastructure could be built without involuntary transfer of location ownership, I think such transfer is necessary in some cases. The existence of infrastructure has a net benefit even to those who had to move due to an Eminent Domain seizure. By contrast, prohibiting consenting adult anal sex is not necessary for any rational purpose.

  • hk||

    1. Incorrect, central planners create negative externalities, and you are not a Libertarian if you support this, imo.

    2. Private roads are among the easiest things to build, we have private sidewalks already. People will have tolls or barcodes.

  • hk||

    Oh yeah public goods don't ELIMINATE the price of something.

    They just shift the management of said goods to the central planners, and this makes our lives more expensive.

  • hk||

    Also this "net benefit" is complete bullshit. The management of said roads is extremely costly and thousands of people die.

    Statist.

  • ||

    Thomas Van Wyk wrote,

    "Suffice it to say, the claim that a state monopoly on force is required for beneficial dispute resolution is, at best, more than a bit historically ignorant."

    2 questions: 1-Briefly summarize how a murder dispute would be resolved in an anarchy. If you refer me to another site I'll assume you don't know. 2-Name the current, most successful anarchy. Please don't tell me about medieval iceland.

  • hk||

    It is called foreign policy, which is complete anarchy.

    You are welcome.

    Briefly explain to me why people engage in charity, since it has no beneficial purpose to them? That's what I thought.

    Private courts =/= Zero courts.

  • hk||

    Legitimacy and credit ratings, is what allows private courts to engage in force.

    It is not perfect at all but better than the public court system.

    Keep in my no one should ever want to overthrow our current government, we are talking about a brand new and fictional land.

  • hk||

    James Madison in the Federalist papers addressed factionalism very well.

    You eliminate factions, or decrease their power by having competition essentially. There are so many factions in the world that they each serve as a natural check and balance on each other powers.

    This is why foreign policy is pure anarchy too.

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