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Anarchy Defined

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Brian LaSorsa Posted: Fri, Jul 9 2010 9:52 AM

What is anarchy to you?

I'll use a quotation by Emma Goldman to start.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

Finish the statement: "Anarchy is..." with your own beliefs.

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Mencken.

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I would disagree with your definition.

Anarchy is a system of social order with the greatest amount of competition possible in all areas of society while still preventing widespread bloodshed and chaos. Anarchy is the ultimate free market. Anarchy is a system under which a minimal property norm is agreed upon at the margins in which every individual within society, to the greatest extent possible, will be able to pursue their value preferences without interference, should these values be feeding the poor, accumulating wealth, building parks, worshipping god, enjoying their lives, or creating artwork. Anarchy is a system in which force is only used in order to defend property rights the validity of which cannot be challenged by a reasonable individual and a handful of exceptional circumstances. Anarchy is ultimate competition, anarchy is ultimate cooperation, anarchy is ultimate freedom.

"Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it." -Thus Spake Zarathustra
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Anarchy is ultimate competition, anarchy is ultimate cooperation, anarchy is ultimate freedom.

I like that last part. Does your definition of anarchy include laws that certain communities decided upon, or do you mean anarchy as in simply 'without a leader'?

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Mencken.

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Andrew, what you describe is anarcho-capitalism, not anarchy.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
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Travlyr replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 7:35 PM

Anarchy is rulerless.  In anarchy the strong control the weak.  Property rights are unprotected.

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Conza88 replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 9:11 PM

Anarchy means no rulers, that does not mean no rules.

wink

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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@Travlyr, you've contradicted yourself. A ruler is one who is strong, ruling over the weak. Anarchy cannot be both rulerless and the strong controlling the weak. Anarchy is "without a ruler" not "without a leader". Very big difference.

My preferred way of describing anarchy is "the absence of unrighteous dominion": http://truth.skylerjcollins.com/2010/03/absence-of-unrighteous-dominion.html

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wolfman replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 11:54 PM

Anarchy is an extreme position just as communism is. A doomed utopia which would meet the same ends communism did. However, anarchists & libertarians remind us sometimes how wrong things are in society.

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"Anarchy is an extreme position just as communism is. A doomed utopia which would meet the same ends communism did. However, anarchists & libertarians remind us sometimes how wrong things are in society."

Thanks for the clear explanation and refutation of anarchism based upon totally reasonable premises  :)

"Does your definition of anarchy include laws that certain communities decided upon, or do you mean anarchy as in simply 'without a leader'?"

Depends on whether or not this is directly equated in the property norm, if you gave me a precise example I could better answer your question. But actually I disagree with the "without a leader" part per se because I have no problem with leaders, I have problem with conquerors and  coercive rulers, I am a fairly firm believer in a type of Nietzchian natural elites, but following these individuals must be voluntary and subject directly to competitive forces. In this way I guess one could consider me something other than an anarchist but then all anarchists must not believe in a parental based family unit or the legitimacy of a group of individuals pronouncing a leader.

@Grayson

True, but in the context its obvious the OP wants a definition of a functional anarchic ideology. I don't see the point of having the first dozen posts say that anarchy is either "without rulers" or "chaos" and then have the OP have to come back and restate what he wants from us.

"Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it." -Thus Spake Zarathustra
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"Anarchism is not the reign of love, but the reign of justice. It does not signify the abolition of force, but the application of force to real invaders." (Benjamin Tucker)

Anarchy is the system in which no man owns another, but owns only himself.

Anarchy is order.

"No person is so grand or wise or perfect as to be the master of another person." ~ Karl Hess

"look, property is theft, right? Therefore theft is property. Therefore this ship is mine, OK?" ~Zaphod Beeblebrox

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Travlyr replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 10:18 AM

Anarchy from Etymology: 1530s, from M.L. anarchia, from Gk. anarkhia "lack of a leader," noun of state from anarkhos "rulerless," from an- "without" + arkhos "leader". 

Rulerless meaning no designated ruler or leader.  Everyone for themselves. 

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Bank Run replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 10:23 AM

Many folks define it as no rules.

I'm for defining it as no+rule.

I'm on the autarchy kick still; self+rule.

Individualism Rocks

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@Travlyr, where do you get that arkhos is leader? It's not, it's ruler. (It's leader insofar as a ruler leads, but should not imply that all leaders rule.) And as I stated, it's an important distinction. See here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=archon

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Michael replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 11:04 AM

Anarchy to me is the rule of law based upon the framework of mutual contract (or trust) and the concept of social norms which govern society. Basically, anarchy (if it is to exist) must have its bearing in the culture of the society.  The laws that would exist would be cutomary law based upon the voluntary submission to these rules and norms by the individuals in society. While this may seem like a silly dream, there is validity in its application (of course there are several problems with primarily being governed  by costumary law, of which is enforcement and potential for abuse among the enforcers within society).

Anarchy can only exist in a setting of pure voluntary associations. Some say that anarchy will have no rulers and directly it won't. However, anarchy can develop into a rule by an overpowering elite much like any system of governance. I'm not saying that anarchy is impossible, I am just saying their is no safegaurds against tyrranny that are absolutely certain.

Before people walk away  believing this is what I think, I am right now in the process of reexamination of all my beliefs and ideas. This is all I could come up with in the little time I had to think about anarchy and read up on it.

Also, here is another point of thought. Is anarcho capitalism really anarchy or a huge collection of little archies (or rulerships)? After all, the system of society proposed by anarcho capitalists does not take away the business rights to defend themselves (however, maybe someone could let me know if they can use violent coercion to enforce contractual agreements). With the ability to defend also comes the ability to attack. However, businesses won't choose to attack since that may cut into their profits but if attacking will be simple and easy without fear of repromanding, then the business may decide to engage in such behaivior. There are some claims to the use of voluntary security groups and courts but I see some flaws with them too. They may only decide to accept cases that will bring them higher profits and thus may ignore the person who is attacked in favor of defending someone else do to limited resources. This maybe an actual case where a government with the power to use force may be of use. Not saying they should have a monopoly on the use of force (which for a long time in the US it did not have) but that the laws should probably at the very least be uniform and a force of the government or individuals should be able to defend it with courts whose duty it is to rule on such cases(basically a critique of the subjectivity of customary law). Not saying that the liberal ideal will be successful, but just saying that the uncertainty of anarchy and liberalism leaves too many questions open for discussion for me to provide any affirmative for either.

Of course I would like to remind any naysayers to anarcho capitalism, that customary law is the primary form of governence in society anyway.  Most laws that are deemed unenforcable are those which society chooses not to follow (like the drug wars). Also the problem with laws is the potential for factional abuse and dependency on those laws (socialism is the primary example of this case althought there are smaller cases like an unjust law being followed merely because it is the law).  However, they do provide a uniform understanding of the rules of society, which without would lead to a form of arbitrary chaos. Also, there is a possiblity for syndicalism within anarcho capitalism which is prevelent when someone owns vasts quantities of property and thus is the prime writer of the laws.

Well there you have it. I hope that my explanation will at least spur on a little thinking. If it seems confusing keep in mind that I just confused myself so... enjoy :D

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend. -Bruce Lee
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MaikU replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 11:09 AM

What is anarchy to you?

It's a philosophy of how to achieve the free society.

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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Travlyr replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 11:44 AM

Anarchy: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=anarchy

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@Travlyr, you can persist in your err, as I have explained it to you, or correct yourself. Anarchy, as employed by anarchy-theorists, mean "without a ruler", not "without a leader". See my clarification above.

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Anarchy is lack of government. Anything in addition is a type of anarchy.

Freedom has always been the only route to progress.

Post Neo-Left Libertarian Manifesto (PNL lib)
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Anarchy simply means no ruler. That is its definition. 

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 6:29 AM

We are free to choose whatever meaning we want anarchy to mean for us.  That is what this post is about.  Finish the statement: "Anarchy is..." with your own beliefs.  People on this post are claiming that it means order.  That's fine with me.  I disagree but I don't call them out and claim that they are wrong. 

I don't define words; I look them up in the dictionary.  I find anarchy to be animalistic, barbaric, and a terrible state of being.  Anarchy means that property rights are not protected... that includes life itself.

Skyler, claiming that I err in my belief is innappropriate.  Your explaination and clairification fails the test of my dictionary.  But you are free to define it as "the absence of unrighteous dominion" if you wish.  I respectfully disagree.

Here is the exact defintion from the online etymology dictionary: " anarchy Look up 
anarchy at Dictionary.com

1530s, from M.L. anarchia, from Gk. anarkhia "lack of a leader," noun of state from anarkhos "rulerless," from an- "without" + arkhos "leader"
 
 
 
 
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>> I find anarchy to be animalistic, barbaric, and a terrible state of being

none of those things are in the defintition given by your online etymology dictionary....so....

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 7:45 AM

If there are no rulers, then rules are useless.  Someone can take your life and there is nothing anyone can do about it.  That's barbaric.

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>>If there are no rulers, then rules are useless. 

that's not an argument;  who is the ruler of chess? can you play games of chess?

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 7:58 AM

In the game of chess, it is self ruled.  You each protect yourself from your opponent cheating the rules.  If you opponent cheats and you do not catch him at it, then he gains advantage. Which is exactly what happens in anarchy.  If you have a ruler, then you have backup and can enforce the rules.

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can you have 'backup' without the backup coming from a ruler ?

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 8:07 AM

Perhaps, but I don't know how it would be achieved.  Do you?

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I have a rough idea.

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/foranewlb.pdf    - chapter 12

http://libertyactivism.info/uploads/6/65/The_Market_for_Liberty_-_Morris_and_Linda_Tannehill.pdf

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 9:00 AM

Thanks for those links.

In Rothbard's case, if I read him right, he is arguing for private rulers.  Which are still rulers. 

In Tannehill's "The Market for Liberty",  I found a couple of quotes:

First quote, “The very word "government" means some men governing - ruling over others.” 

And I think this is inescapable.  I argue for rules based on property rights and I argue for a state to enforce those rights because I am often inadaquate at protecting myself from unscrupulous people.  I don't agree with a police force to regulate the rules, but for a sheriff to use force against anyone who violates the property rights of others to capture them and force them into restitution. 

And the sheriff would necessarily have to use force against some individuals or groups, and that is why the following quote fails:

“The society we propose is based on one fundamental principle:
No man or group of men-including any group of men calling them­
selves "the government"-is morally entitled to initiate (that is, to
start) the use of physical force, the threat of force, or any substitute
for force (such as fraud) against any other man or group of men.”
 

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>>And the sheriff would necessarily have to use force against some individuals or groups, and that is why the following quote fails:

you seem to have confused initiating force with defencive/restitutional force.

>> I argue for rules based on property rights and I argue for a state to enforce those rights because I am often inadaquate at protecting myself from unscrupulous people. 

perhaps you should take more time to read the works slowly and carefully. I can only say that your inadequecy at protecting yourself from unscrupulous people does not directly imply that you should become slave to a monopolist of justice. why not simply engage in division of labour, and just as you are often 'inadequate' at supplying yourself with fresh food (you are a brain scientist and have no green fingers, or even land to till) yet the solution is not to institute a monopoly over land and farming under the mere promise that the monopolist will supply you.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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z1235 replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 9:19 AM

nirgrahamUK:
can you have 'backup' without the backup coming from a ruler ?

I don't think a binary answer is realistic (possible). The stronger your backup, the more indistinguishable it becomes from your ruler. You can have your dog as backup, or your wife (with a gun), or three neighbors with guns, or pay three strangers with guns, or pay ten strangers with guns. The problem with this sliding scale is:

1. The weaker your backup, the higher your exposure to aggression (on your life and property) from more powerful agents. 

2. The stronger your backup, the larger the power (force) difference between you and them, hence the higher the incentive (likelihood) for your backup to become your ruler. 

Both ends on this sliding scale are detrimental to your liberty i.e. are exposing you to aggression (coercion), but everyone would prefer to be as left as possible on it (towards weakest necessary backup possible).

From this perspective, anarchy's viability is inversely proportional to the size of the (power, force) backup that is necessary for maintaining order. The more homogeneous the subjective valuations, societal norms, and convictions are within a community, the smaller the likelihood of conflicts and aggression among agents, which lowers the optimal size of backup everyone needs for a functioning society and brings that society closer to freedom. Explained this way, it seems that individual's lack of liberty stems from the difference between the valuations, norms, and convictions of that individual and those of the community (the market).

The larger the community (state), the lesser the homogeneity in valuations and norms, the higher the probability of conflict, the larger the size of backup needed for order, the higher the incentive (likelihood) for your backup to become your ruler. The smaller the community (state), the larger the homogeneity, the smaller the backup (power, force) needed for order, the smaller the power (force) difference between you and your backup, the lesser the incentive (likelihood) for your backup becoming your ruler. 

The above does not address possible incentive scenarios between communities (states) sporting vastly different (power, force) backups, which is a different bowl of wax altogether.

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my short answer z, is that you are still thinking in the statist/monopolist paradigm, that i would only have 1 provided of security and justice services. so that if i want to increase security, my agent gets ever more powerful and dangerous to me. this is moderated if he is in competition.

I don't have to buy all my milk from one store, in real life i routinely purchase milk from several different stores.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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z1235 replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 9:45 AM

Nir, looks like we're narrowed down our debate to the issue of whether or not power (force) can be treated as just another good and service in the market. My hang up is that it simply can not -- that power (force) markets inevitably converge towards territorial monopolies, nomenclature notwithstanding; a proposition for which I offered logical and empirical substantiation in the Gang Wars thread.

I will quote my unanswered evidence request from that thread here:

"I want examples of free (non-monopolist) markets in power (force) -- examples where two or more power (force) "service providers" (gangs, warlords, mercenaries, PDAs, states, etc.) co-exist and peacefully compete on the same territory, just like shoe providers often do."

The lack of this evidence is daunting. 

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Travlyr replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 9:52 AM

Where is the confusion?  The quote and my response are perfectly clear.  Restitutional force is not defense.  The quote made no mention of restitutional force.  The quote fails on those grounds.

My argument is for property rights.  Theft of property is the most serious crime against humanity... especially if it includes bodily harm or loss of life.  This is why I argue for property rights... including the right to life.  And it is why anarchy fails (no one to enforce the rules).  The only reference to entitlements, that I made, is that I cannot adaqutely protect myself or my property from theft by myself.  Protection from someone stealing my food from me is quite different than requesting the state to provide me with food.

The state should provide laws protecting my property, and the state should provide rulers (a sheriff) to capture those who violate the rights of others. 

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@z

What about the daunting evidence that countries can't co-exist peacefully?

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Travlyr:
This is why I argue for property rights... including the right to life.

This is not as clear cut as you may believe it to be.

Travlyr:
And it is why anarchy fails (no one to enforce the rules).

If you have someone enforcing rules without consent, you do not have property rights.  If you have someone enforcing rules with consent, that is anarchy.

Travlyr:
The state should provide laws protecting my property, and the state should provide rulers (a sheriff) to capture those who violate the rights of others.

The state can do all of those things, but to expect me to pay for the same state you want, is not freedom.  Maybe I want a different setup, different laws, different forms of protection.  It is my "right" to choose how I will defend myself and my property or to not defend it at all.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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And it is why anarchy fails (no one to enforce the rules).

I agree with that. If no one were there to enforce the rules, every single act of theft or agression would end in violence. Not that it's wrong to hurt someone if they invade or do something bad to your property or your family, but you know what I mean.

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Mencken.

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"I want examples of free (non-monopolist) markets in power (force) -- examples where two or more power (force) "service providers" (gangs, warlords, mercenaries, PDAs, states, etc.) co-exist and peacefully compete on the same territory, just like shoe providers often do."

are you aware the private security agents are plentifull? I don't know if you have nighlife in your town but you may have heard of 'bouncers'. As far as I know they do not have running battles to dominate entire areas of the city, they satisfy themselves by looking after the interests of their clients on their clients properties.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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"I agree with that. If no one were there to enforce the rules, every single act of theft or agression would end in violence. Not that it's wrong to hurt someone if they invade or do something bad to your property or your family, but you know what I mean."

How is that different from now? The only difference is the current police have a legal monopoly to use force. If I kill someone and if the cops actually do their job, they'll come knocking down my door, throw me in handcuffs and throw me in jail. Is that not an act of violence the cops just commited?

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>>Restitutional force is not defense.  The quote made no mention of restitutional force.  The quote fails on those grounds.

yes it is. whilst you are separated from your property by a villain you are in a state of invasion/attack, this automatically put you in the position of one who is on the defence of themselves and their property. restitution is an act of defence. restitution when concluded makes you whole. the attack on you concludes when your goods are returned to you.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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they satisfy themselves by looking after the interests of their clients on their clients properties.

Just curious, do you think the CIA would still be fighting in secret wars if it were a private company? Pretend two major security companies arise for the entire United States. They both represent 25 states, but the states are scattered; it's not like a east-west division. What would happen if Company I decided to bomb Russia? How would Russia know who to retaliate against considering the clients of Company II did nothing wrong, yet they're scattered amongst the clients of Company I?

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Mencken.

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