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Why Anarchy Fails

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AJ Posted: Thu, Jul 2 2009 7:09 AM

Humans originated in a state of anarchy, that is, without centralized power. Monopolies on force eventually emerged and took on the structure of "states" of various types in order to legitimatize their monopolies in the eyes of the people, so that they could retain their monopoly powers.

Now a critic of anarchy would say, "Anarchy has failed before. In fact it has failed everywhere, all across the world, because there are no lasting anarchist societies today. So why would we expect anarchy to work now?"

It's tempting to counter this by bringing up Somalia, but that is a very weak case since it has only been around for a short while. It's a little better to counter with the fact that countries are in anarchy with respect to each other, but that argument is not nearly incisive or comprehensive enough. Even if we win that debate decisively, all we'll have to show for it is the weak assertion that "anarchy can work in certain cases."

We'll still not really have touched on the basic issue: "Why did individual anarchy fail before, and how can we assert that it will be different this time?" After all, in anarchy nothing can be decreed; in the end, the chips will fall where they may, as determined by consumer preferences on the market. The first time, those consumer preferences led to monopoly and statism. We cannot escape or wiggle around this objection. We must attack it head on.

Below is my attempt at taking this bull by the horns.

First a note on terminology: I use the word "anarchy" in its original meaning of "society without a leader," from the Greek "an-" (without) + "arkhos" (leader). "Anarchy" does NOT mean "without laws."

Also note that "anarcho-capitalism," "market anarchy," etc. are simply theories about how a society would most successfully organize itself under anarchy. Once we achieve anarchy we have no control over how society organizes itself. All we can do is educate, for example, that people should beware of monopolies on violence, and should embrace the free market - or show the same by example.


I now offer four major driving forces that stabilize society by moving it toward the "market anarchy" that AnCaps theorize would be the most stable and successful type of social structure.

Interconnectedness, Decentralization, Education, Advancement (IDEA)

I suggest that increases in these four forces are what can and will enable stable anarchy versus the failed anarchies of the past (which were only high in decentralization, but low in the other three).

That is,

Interconnectedness of individuals and institutions (economic relationships, contractual agreements, etc.)
Decentralization of power (the very definition of anarchy)
Education and enlightenment of the people (especially in political economy)
Advancement of economic prosperity and technology (in a word, civilization)

INTERCONNECTEDNESS of individuals and institutions is at the heart of many of the arguments for PDAs, private courts, etc. We can see that the more economically interconnected countries become, the less they tend to fight each other (hence the saying, "if goods don't cross borders, troops will"). The same is clearly true for private security and adjudication providers, who will have every incentive to cooperate rather than act violently. The underlying factor is how interconnected their interests are. If their interests we not so intertwined they would have much less reason to avoid open violence.

Factors raising the level of personal and institutional interconnectivity include:

  • Language: spoken, then written, followed by standardization and then the current push for English as a global language, not to mention economic advancement (see below) enabling education (see below again) and thereby increasing literacy rates. Now the Internet is vigorously boosting all of these language factors.
  • Contract law conventions: these have developed in common law over time - I'll leave the details to someone more knowledgeable
  • Market interactions and the (limited) recognition of the value of unhindered free exchange, especially after Adam Smith
  • Greater value of reputation: a result of the rise of free-market capitalism (and of course language)
  • Greater power of social sanctions, thanks to several of the above

DECENTRALIZATION of power is the very essence of anarchy: no leaders or rulers, no monopolies on force. This is both the goal and a means toward the goal, because if centralized power tends towards centralization ever more quickly, then increasingly decentralized power must for the same reason tend toward more and more suppression of centralization (monopolization). In other words, the more decentralized power is, the weaker the forces toward centralization tend to become. As I mentioned above, decentralization is the one factor that was higher back when humans originated. Thus it was anarchy, but without the other stabilizing forces.

EDUCATION levels (and human knowledge itself) are far far higher - despite the ill effects of the Dept. of Education - than they were back in ancient history when the most anarchies failed. Education is probably now our most important role; if enough people understood what we do, we'd have AnCap very soon indeed. Other than that, education contributes in important ways to many other factors mentioned here, such as entrepreneurship. We are now, more than at any other time in modern history, in a strong position to destroy the old paternalistic superstitions that we need States, divinely-inspire despots, or "genius leaders" to watch over us. This superstition is indeed deeply ingrained in our language and culture, but we can shake it out of people with a little common sense and clarification of the statist bias inherent in much of our language.

ADVANCEMENT of economic prosperity and technology not only tends to strongly drive the above forces of interconnectedness and education, it also raises people's overall standard of living, reducing resource-based disputes and such. The retrogressions of statism, Keynesianism, and central banking notwithstanding, civilization is far more advanced now, and hence in a far better position to maintain anarchy for reasons too numerous to list. In some other threads, I noted that the development of privacy technologies and the Internet could blaze the most expedient path to microsecession. [Edit: Harry Felker notes the development of individual weaponry, which I think is a major key. "Right to bear arms" doesn't mean much when the strongest weapons are sticks and stones.]


Finally, as a clarifying thought exercise, imagine we're in a cyber-classroom centuries in the future, long after a stable anarchy has been achieved and society has reached levels of peace and prosperity unimaginable to us. We're listening to a biologist or historian taking about the history of statism. He takes a much simpler, more scientific/objective view of the issue than we do, saying,

"Well it's simple. Entities can be organized in either top-down or bottom-up structures.

"Top-down is clearly impractical for humans, because it is in human nature that power corrupts to the extent to which that power is absolute. It was only their lingering statist superstitions that kept the ancient humans from seeing this obvious truth, or knowing it yet dogmatically ignoring it in Orwellian doublethink fashion. If we consider other entities for which this is not the case, something like minarchy may well succeed in the long term, but human nature utterly precludes it. For humans, totalitarianism and/or collapse was the inevitable result of minarchy and all other statism.

"Having eliminated top-down organization categorically, we are left only with bottom-up. Now here is the key point: the way in which entities will organize bottom-up depends on their qualities and the conditions they face. For humans, that means their human nature and the tendencies they have developed/learned in their lives, coupled with their current circumstances (resource availability, etc.).

"Back in the Stone Age, people didn't learn much, and their circumstances were bleak, so bottom-up organization failed. Human nature does not change, but the other factors did, and pretty soon bottom-up organization became viable. As humans advanced, anarchy became more and more viable until its superiority was so overwhelmingly obvious that the old statist superstitions were finally abandoned and we truly began to reach for the stars.

"I know you're all baffled as to why this superstition was allowed to persist for so long, even after the scientific revolution. This is a more complicated matter, but it's illuminating to first note the parallels between statism and the flat-earthism we studied last week..."

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AJ:
Now a critic of anarchy would say, "Anarchy has failed before. In fact it has failed everywhere, all across the world, because there are no lasting anarchist societies today. So why would we expect anarchy to work now?"

My answer is individual weapons are better....

No one will nuke a land of people they are looking ot occupy, we saw how well that does not work....

 

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AJ replied on Thu, Jul 2 2009 7:58 AM

Ooh, you're right. Guns and such are a huge factor. Edited to mention that under "Advancement."

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Actually, every society, no matter its political organization, need some public consent, at least a pasive and tacit one. For example, in democracy, we should not get weapons and kill the president.

Check this

 

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Very nice, I will refer to this in future discussions.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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AJ:

"I know you're all baffled as to why this superstition was allowed to persist for so long, even after the scientific revolution. This is a more complicated matter, but it's illuminating to first note the parallels between statism and the flat-earthism we studied last week..."

I loved it!

Excellent Post!Big Smile

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Due to never being able to take away self ownership we always live in anarchy. The question you are asking is why does a people that always have the right of self determination choose to slave to the central powers that be. I can tell you why I don't take up arms right now against the state, because the state moves in gradual steps. If the state tried to become totalitarian in one step me and many others would take up arms. But when they pass a 1 cent tax on ammo, its not worth risking my life for. Let me further clarify and say that if I knew that everyone would stand with me against a 1 cent tax I would do it. So I guess the real problem is that coordinated individual action is hard without a centralized structure.

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DD5 replied on Mon, Jul 6 2009 11:46 AM

twistedbydsign99:

 But when they pass a 1 cent tax on ammo, its not worth risking my life for. Let me further clarify and say that if I knew that everyone would stand with me against a 1 cent tax I would do it. So I guess the real problem is that coordinated individual action is hard without a centralized structure.

 

You are right!  This is why "withdrawing support and the government tumbles" is easier said then done! 

What would happen if we tried to organize a peaceful revolution for example?  The state of course would not allow it.  It would smoke it out before it even got off the ground.

 

.

 

 

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DD5:
You are right!  This is why "withdrawing support and the government tumbles" is easier said then done! 

It is best done by example, bit by bit...

For example, I am awaiting tobacco seed, after I have my first couple of harvets, I will no longer need to purchase tobacco thus withdrawing support from the government...

I need a vehicle to get me to the other smokers, but the few I had reached out to had expressed interest....

It sounds like the ocean, smells like fresh mountain air, and tastes like the union of peanut butter and chocolate. ~Liberty Student

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AJ:

Ooh, you're right. Guns and such are a huge factor. Edited to mention that under "Advancement."

I would also like to note the other point I made....

People are generally worried about a full scale military invasion of the United States with all the bombs as stuff...

The US is the #1 in grain supply for the global market....

Conquest in spite of starvation is not logical...

(Not to mention that Bill Clinton sold the chinese our nuke capability to hit anywhere on Earth, so the only country we have to worry about is China) This is a little reminder to the Iran will nuke us crowd, Iran cannot fire a nuke at the United States, hell Korea can't either, with any hope of hitting, even if they had an ICBM....

It sounds like the ocean, smells like fresh mountain air, and tastes like the union of peanut butter and chocolate. ~Liberty Student

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I've also posted in other threads about this, and my theory revolves around a few points:

  • There were fewer incentives in previous eras. A man could have only so much: food, shelter and the means to satisfy a few other basic needs. The only thing that's left is tyrannical power over a given territory and population.
  • Technological advancement helps the market by providing fast and secure means of communication, as well as providing new means to satisfy higher needs.
  • In past times, the lack of economic advancement was a limiting factor. Consider the role stock markets play today. Without them, investing would be a riskier and less appealing.

All these factors, I think, used to limit the role of the market in society, thereby hampering its regulatory (in a sense) role.

I think it's very important to discuss such things, congrats for bringing this up.

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Great post AJ.  I'd like to read more about the transition from anarchy to statism - can you recommend any reading material?  I know Hoppe covers the transition from monarchy to democracy, but do you know anyone who covers the transition from anarchy to feudalism to monarchy?

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I. Ryan replied on Fri, Jul 10 2009 7:50 PM

Truth and Liberty:
Great post AJ.  I'd like to read more about the transition from anarchy to statism - can you recommend any reading material?  I know Hoppe covers the transition from monarchy to democracy, but do you know anyone who covers the transition from anarchy to feudalism to monarchy?

I second that request.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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Stranger replied on Fri, Jul 10 2009 8:12 PM

Truth and Liberty:

Great post AJ.  I'd like to read more about the transition from anarchy to statism - can you recommend any reading material?  I know Hoppe covers the transition from monarchy to democracy, but do you know anyone who covers the transition from anarchy to feudalism to monarchy?

Hoppe does.

The cycle goes like this. In the beginning there is self-defense. In order to improve their security humans enter into protection relationships with noblemen. Noblemen obtain a monopoly on this relationship and become kings. Kings abuse their monopoly until this monopoly is replaced with some form of common monopoly (a republic). Common monopoly becomes totally irrational and ruins the civilization unless the kingdom can be restored before all traces of the ancien régime have been destroyed. Collapsed civilization returns to self-defense and proto-monarchy (feudalism).

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AJ replied on Sat, Jul 11 2009 4:28 AM

Here's the relevant section. For the lazy folks, the italicized section is the most direct answer (bold and italics are mine).

Hoppe:

Now how does a State originate? While this is generally, and I think intentionally, confused, it should be made clear right from the outset that law and order, or protection of property, and State law, and State order, and State protection are not one and the same thing; they are not identical things. Just as property and social cooperation based on the division of labor are natural, so the human desire to have one's property protected against natural and social disasters, such as crime, is a completely natural desire. And in order to satisfy this desire, there is first and foremost self-protection. Precaution, insurance (individual or cooperative), vigilance, self-defense, and punishment.

And let there be absolutely no doubt as to the effectiveness of a protection system based on peoples willingness to defend themselves. This is how law and order was maintained for most of the time for most of mankind. In every village, even up to this day, law and order is basically maintained in this way. The American Wild West, which was not exactly "wild" as compared to the current situation, that's the way law and order was maintained, by people being willing to defend themselves.

Moreover, the division of labor will then naturally affect the production of security and protection services. The higher standards of living grow, the more people will, besides relying on self-defense measures, also want to partake in the advantages of the division of labor, and attach themselves for protection to a specializes protector, to providers of law and order, justice, and protection. And naturally, every person will look for this particular task to persons or institutions who have something to protect themselves — who have the means to assure effective protection and have a reputation as just and impartial judges. In every society of more than the most minimal degree of complexity, there will quickly emerge specific individuals, who on account of having property to defend, having a good reputation and so forth, will assume the role of judges and peacemakers and protectors. And again, every single village up to this day, every small community, and even the Wild West of course, illustrate the truth of this conclusion.

Protection is also possible without a State. This should be absolutely obvious, but in an age of statist obfuscation and confusion, it is increasingly necessary to emphasize this elementary and yet as we will see, very dangerous insight. The decisive step in diverting human history from its natural course — the original sin of mankind, so to speak — occurs with the monopolization of the provision of protection, defense, security, and order: the monopolization of these tasks by a single one of these initially numerous protectors at the exclusion of all others. A protection monopoly exists once a single agency or a single person can effectively insist that everyone on a given territory must exclusively come to him for justice and protection. That is, that no one can rely exclusively or solely on self-defense, or attach himself for protection to somebody else. Once this monopoly is reached, then funding of this protector is no longer entirely voluntary, but in part becomes compulsory.

And, as standard Austrian economics predicts, once there is no longer free entry into the business of property protection, or any other business for that matter, the price of protection will rise, and the quality of protection will fall. The monopolist will become increasingly less of a protector of our property, and increasingly more a protection racket, or even a systematic exploiter of property owners. He will become an aggressor against and a destroyer of the people and their property that he was initially supposed to protect.

Now what is easily described in abstract terms (monopoly) is in practice a painstaking and lengthy task. How can anyone get away with barring all other protectors from competition? And why would the people and especially the excluded other potential peacemakers and judges allow such a thing to happen, that one individual monopolizes this service? Now the answer regarding the original of the State is in detail very complicated, but in its general structure is very easy to recognize.

First, every state, that is every monopolistic protection agency, must begin, or can only originate on an extremely small territorial level, such as a village. It is practically inconceivable that a world State, or a protection monopoly encompassing the entire world population could come into existence from scratch.

The second thing we have to notice is that not just anyone can reach even reach a local protection monopoly. Rather, the local protection monopolists are initially members of the natural social elite. That is, they are initially accomplished and acknowledged members of society. They were also, before they reached the position of a monopolist, previously chosen voluntarily as protectors. Only as established and recognized elites, whose authority is essentially voluntary, is it possible for them to make this decisive step toward monopolization and get away with it.

That is to say, every initial local government or state originates in the form of personal or private lordships or of princely rule. No one would entrust just anyone with the maintenance of law, order, and justice, and in particular if this person or agency had a monopoly for this particular task. Instead, people would look for protection obviously from someone known, and known to be a knowledgeable person, and only such a person, a noble or an aristocrat, can possibly attain a monopoly position initially.

Historically, by the way, if one looks at modern or ancient history, States everywhere are basically first princely States, and only later do they become democratic States. And even though it is true that States must begin only locally and usually as princely States, it still took hundreds of years before anything resembling the modern State came into existence.

The Impossibility of Limited Government

Now, once the protection monopoly is in place, a logic of its own is set in motion. Every monopolist takes advantage of his position. The price of protection will go up, and more importantly, the content of the law, that is the product quality, will be altered to the advantage of the monopolist and at the expense of others. Justice will be perverted, and the protector becomes increasingly an exploiter and an expropriator. More specifically, as the result of the territorial monopolization of protection, two tendencies are generated. First, a tendency towards the extensification of exploitation, and second, a tendency towards the intensification of exploitation.

Originally local institutions, States have an inherent tendency, driven by self-interest, of wanting more income rather than less — toward territorial expansion. The more subjects a State protects — or rather exploits — the better it is. The competition between States — that is, territorial monopolists — is an eliminative competition: either I am the monopolist or you are the monopolist of ripping people off.

Moreover, with numerous States, people can easily move with their feet. However, a loss of population from the point of view of the State, is a bothersome problem. Hence, States almost automatically come into conflict with each other, and one way of solving this conflict, from a statist viewpoint, is territorial expansion: either by means of war or intermarriage, and sometimes by outright purchase. Ultimately, this tendency would come to a halt only with the establishment of a one-world single state.

The second tendency is the intensification of exploitation. Extensifying exploitation — ripping people off — of a State monopoly, implies in and of itself an intensification, because the smaller the number of competing states — that is, the larger the State territories become — the less are the opportunities of voting with one's feet. And under the scenario of a world State, wherever one goes, the tax and regulation structure is the same. That is, with the threat of immigration gone, monopolistic exploitation will naturally increase — that is to say, the price of protection will rise, and the quality will fall.

The bolded text implies to me that a strong disrust of elites would also help a society maintain a stable anarchy. From this view, advances in science may not be all good(?) I'll have to ponder this some more.

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replied on Mon, Jul 13 2009 1:44 PM

ROFL

"Despite progressive policies like the DoE, etc civilization is more literate and advanced than it ever has been by far."

THats funny

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GOPHER replied on Wed, Sep 30 2009 11:18 PM

I believe anarchy has potential but because of the way the human mind works it could never happen. Anarchy is simply, as was noted in the original post, no leaders. That's all, no one has more power than anyone else. This could work, we could still have police, judges, and all of those things but they way they do things would have to be strictly regulated by the people. My theory on how it could work is to let the people vote on anything. I say have 25 major laws in the country. Each state comes up with one and the people vote. Whichever 25 have the most votes are the laws. Also states can have their own laws. I also believe that if a judge or a police officer, or anybody that could possibly have enough power to abuse it, the people will vote to decide whether that person is prosecuted or not. I honestly believe it has potential to work if the human mind evolved and was able to deal with no people forcing them to do whatever they want. But unfortunately that's the way the human mind works, no matter what anyone may tell you.

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Samarami replied on Mon, Nov 23 2009 12:47 PM

[Now a critic of anarchy would say, "Anarchy has failed before. In fact it has failed everywhere, all across the world, because there are no lasting anarchist societies today. So why would we expect anarchy to work now?"]

Ah, but anarchy has NOT failed.  Mine.

I am a sovereign state.  My President maintains the rotation of the earth on its axis.  The laws by which I am governed can be placed upon two tablets of stone. 

I am an anarchist.

Samarami

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GOPHER:
I believe anarchy has potential but because of the way the human mind works it could never happen. Anarchy is simply, as was noted in the original post, no leaders.

No rulers, not no leaders :)

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Merlin replied on Thu, Dec 17 2009 2:06 AM

I believe Hoppe is partially right when talking about how we got from Anarchy to monarchy. But please note that for this to have happened at the very least in Summeria, India and China independently, it can only mean that the “natural aristocracy” will always carve a state from anarchy, and there is little point in working for anarchy.

 

I believe that Hoppe’s idea should be modified along the following lines:

 

In a small community (city), an arbitrator is so naturally talented and intelligent, that almost everyone decides to lay down their disputes before him. If it just so happens that his son is also the best guy around, a generation of citizen swill have been spend their whole life under the arbitration of a single family. The idea that there can actually be competition on arbitration becomes lost. Hence the state.

 

Note that this only happened because communities where isolated, and one couldn’t move form one to the other, for that would have shown that competing arbitrators can actually operate, and destroy the “natural” monopoly of the new monarchical family.

 

Although I’m not entirely satisfied with this explanation, and I’m working on an alternative theory involving conversion of human capital to capital proper which would explain, besides the state, the lack of human rights for women and children, caste systems, tribes, etc. For now the above stated is my theory of state emersion.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Sieben replied on Thu, Dec 17 2009 7:56 AM

Merlin:
Note that this only happened because communities where isolated, and one couldn’t move form one to the other, for that would have shown that competing arbitrators can actually operate, and destroy the “natural” monopoly of the new monarchical family.
Ancient iiiiicelaaand!

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Merlin replied on Thu, Dec 17 2009 8:16 AM

Snowflake:
Ancient iiiiicelaaand!

It is of course possible (actually quite probable) that no such father-and-son geniuses ever materialized, leaving the community in anarchy. I believe such was the case for native North Americans, Irish and Icelanders. But again, this explanation is not entirely satisfactory, just thet I’ve got.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Giant_Joe replied on Thu, Dec 17 2009 11:59 AM

Stranger:

Truth and Liberty:

Great post AJ.  I'd like to read more about the transition from anarchy to statism - can you recommend any reading material?  I know Hoppe covers the transition from monarchy to democracy, but do you know anyone who covers the transition from anarchy to feudalism to monarchy?

Hoppe does.

The cycle goes like this. In the beginning there is self-defense. In order to improve their security humans enter into protection relationships with noblemen. Noblemen obtain a monopoly on this relationship and become kings. Kings abuse their monopoly until this monopoly is replaced with some form of common monopoly (a republic). Common monopoly becomes totally irrational and ruins the civilization unless the kingdom can be restored before all traces of the ancien régime have been destroyed. Collapsed civilization returns to self-defense and proto-monarchy (feudalism).

Strange. This sort of reminds me of Mises' regression theorem for money.

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AJ replied on Fri, Dec 25 2009 3:06 PM

I. Ryan:

Truth and Liberty:
Great post AJ.  I'd like to read more about the transition from anarchy to statism - can you recommend any reading material?  I know Hoppe covers the transition from monarchy to democracy, but do you know anyone who covers the transition from anarchy to feudalism to monarchy?

I second that request.

Here are some thoughts about how common law develops, from John Hasnas

In the absence of civil government, most people engage in productive activity in peaceful cooperation with their fellows. Some do not. A minority engages in predation, attempting to use violence to expropriate the labor or output of others. The existence of this predatory element renders insecure the persons and possessions of those engaged in production. Further, even among the productive portion of the population, disputes arise concerning broken agreements, questions of rightful possession, and actions that inadvertently result in personal injuries for which there is no antecedently established mechanism for resolution. In the state of nature, interpersonal conflicts that can lead to violence often arise.

What happens when they do? The existence of the predatory minority causes those engaged in productive activities to band together to institute measures for their collective security. Various methods of providing for mutual protection and for apprehending or discouraging aggressors are tried. Methods that do not provide adequate levels of security or that prove too costly are abandoned. More successful methods continue to be used. Eventually, methods that effectively discourage aggression while simultaneously minimizing the amount of retaliatory violence necessary to do so become institutionalized. Simultaneously, nonviolent alternatives for resolving interpersonal disputes among the productive members of the community are sought. Various methods are tried. Those that leave the parties unsatisfied and likely to resort again to violence are abandoned. Those that effectively resolve the disputes with the least disturbance to the peace of the community continue to be used and are accompanied by ever-increasing social pressure for disputants to employ them.

Over time, security arrangements and dispute settlement procedures that are well-enough adapted to social and material circumstances to reduce violence to generally acceptable levels become regularized. Members of the community learn what level of participation in or support for the security arrangements is required of them for the system to work and for them to receive its benefits. By rendering that level of participation or support, they come to feel entitled to the level of security the arrangements provide. After a time, they may come to speak in terms of their right to the protection of their persons and possessions against the type of depredation the security arrangements discourage, and eventually even of their rights to personal integrity and property. In addition, as the dispute settlement procedures resolve recurring forms of conflict in similar ways over time, knowledge of these resolutions becomes widely diffused and members of the community come to expect similar conflicts to be resolved in like manner. Accordingly, they alter their behavior toward other members of the community to conform to these expectations. In doing so, people begin to act in accordance with rules that identify when they must act in the interests of others (e.g., they may be required to use care to prevent their livestock from damaging their neighbors’ possessions) and when they may act exclusively in their own interests (e.g., they may be free to totally exclude their neighbors from using their possessions). To the extent that these incipient rules entitle individuals to act entirely in their own interests, individuals may come to speak in terms of their right to do so (e.g., of their right to the quiet enjoyment of their property).

In short, the inconveniences of the state of nature represent problems that human beings must overcome to lead happy and meaningful lives. In the absence of an established civil government to resolve these problems for them, human beings must do so for themselves. They do this not through coordinated collective action, but through a process of trial and error in which the members of the community address these problems in any number of ways, unsuccessful attempts to resolve them are discarded, and successful ones are repeated, copied by others, and eventually become widespread practices. As the members of the community conform their behavior to these practices, they begin to behave according to rules that specify the extent of their obligations to others, and, by implication, the extent to which they are free to act at their pleasure. Over time, these rules become invested with normative significance and the members of the community come to regard the ways in which the rules permit them to act at their pleasure as their rights. Thus, in the state of nature, rights evolve out of human beings’ efforts to address the inconveniences of that state. In the state of nature, rights are solved problems.

Discussion continues on pg. 127.

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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 11:36 AM

UPDATE: This recent essay delves deeper into the common-law argument against the State. It's the best article I've ever read on the how and why of anarchy, and it makes the anti-State argument seem soooo easy.

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Torsten replied on Thu, Feb 25 2010 1:30 PM

AJ:
Humans originated in a state of anarchy, that is, without centralized power. Monopolies on force eventually emerged and took on the structure of "states" of various types in order to legitimatize their monopolies in the eyes of the people, so that they could retain their monopoly powers.

No they didn't. There was already some dominion given to Adam, just that there wasn't another power ruling over him. That power was also centralized for there was only one. It is however interesting that Adam was given the mandate to rule over the earth and the animals.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

It doesn't say thou shalt rule over other people and tax them.

 

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Great post AJ. But I think you are mistaking cause and effect. Interconnectedness, decentralization, education and advancement are not enablers of anarchy, they are the consequence of it. Or, to be precise, the consequence of incrementally increasing liberty, the extreme of which is anarchy. It is because of market liberalism that the world is more interconnected and decentralized. It is market liberalism that allows us to be more educated and advanced. The four forces are the symptom, not the cause. But you seem to be suggesting that we need more education and advancement to create anarchy. That makes it appear like you want anarchy as a good in itself. To put it in another way, if we could create a fully interconnected, decentralized, educated and advanced society by tomorrow, what would be the point of anarchy?

"They all look upon progressing material improvement as upon a self-acting process." - Ludwig von Mises
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Lyle replied on Sun, Jan 23 2011 10:58 PM

AnCap as a failure is manifest in the State (ie. mankind's failure to rise to the occassion).

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AJ, you are a man after my own heart. I having nothing to add (yet) except for this short discussion about empirical evidence:

Throughout its history, humanity has permanently displayed a physical condition classified in ordinary language as “illness” or “disease.” There has always been what Hume would call a “constant conjunction” between human life and illness.

The Hobbesian hypothesis that illness is a necessary condition of the survival of the human species has strong empirical support. It has never been falsified.

Throughout its history, humanity has permanently displayed a social condition classified in ordinary language as “the state” or “government.” There has always been what Hume would call a “constant conjunction” between human society and government.

The Hobbesian hypothesis that government is a necessary condition of social life has strong empirical support. It has never been falsified.

Arguments in favor of the prevention or eradication of disease are evidently misguided and may be dangerous. They are often put forward by naïve persons with little understanding of reality.

Arguments in favor of fostering society’s capacity to evolve anarchic orders and live with less or no government are evidently misguided and may be dangerous. They are often put forward by naïve persons with little understanding of reality.

-Anthony de Jasay

"I cannot prove, but am prepared to affirm, that if you take care of clarity in reasoning, most good causes will take care of themselves, while some bad ones are taken care of as a matter of course." -Anthony de Jasay

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AJ replied on Mon, Jan 31 2011 6:44 AM

EmperorNero:

Great post AJ. But I think you are mistaking cause and effect. Interconnectedness, decentralization, education and advancement are not enablers of anarchy, they are the consequence of it. Or, to be precise, the consequence of incrementally increasing liberty, the extreme of which is anarchy. It is because of market liberalism that the world is more interconnected and decentralized. It is market liberalism that allows us to be more educated and advanced. The four forces are the symptom, not the cause. But you seem to be suggesting that we need more education and advancement to create anarchy. That makes it appear like you want anarchy as a good in itself. To put it in another way, if we could create a fully interconnected, decentralized, educated and advanced society by tomorrow, what would be the point of anarchy?

I think the I.D.E.A. factors mentioned in the OP are both enablers and consequences, so there is a snowball effect in their interplay. That is one reason I am fairly optimistic. 

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It's kind of funny to see people discussing the origins of civilization w/o one reference to anthropology, anthropological theory, or existing (eithe rpast or present) indigenous societies... except one to Iceland, which was clearly not an anarchy if you've actually researched it (and if you can still twist your mind into it being one, it is a very poor example of one).

 

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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History is written by the victors. I seem to recall all the great centers of knowledge being burned to the ground in the past, so what great text of anthropology should we be refering to? I need answers from on high stat!

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Merlin:

I too must take offense here.

Economies of scale do not exist. Never have, never will. It’s a statist construct to justify license-and-tariff-made monopolies. Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantages and Mises’ theory of the impossibility of socialist calculation are all the proof one needs.

 

But I concede that if economies of scale existed, states would be unavoidable. Actually a single world government of untold repression would be unavoidable, hence minarchism too would be a pipe dream.  

 

So; why do we have firms, if not becomes it makes certain things easier to do in a specific size of organization? 

I've never seen everyone flat out deny the concept of economies of scale, to be honest. Nor do I see any reason to it. If you say that 'economies of scale' implies 'world government', than it seems you are attacking a straw man. 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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Merlin replied on Wed, Feb 2 2011 3:45 AM

So; why do we have firms, if not becomes it makes certain things easier to do in a specific size of organization? 

Because there are few entrepreneurs and many workers, i.e. there are many people who want a lump sum now without having to wait for the product they make to be sold than there are entrepreneurs. It is my impression that firms exist due to time preferences, not at all economies of scale.  The very fact that one can find many ‘joint-ventures’ in the world today, where many firms pool capital into one operation, or syndicated loans where many banks pool funds into one projects, or co-insurance, where many insurers insure the same risk, is proof enough that technically what one firm can do, many smaller firms can do also. Markets work better than firms.

Nor do I see any reason to it. If you say that 'economies of scale' implies 'world government', than it seems you are attacking a straw man. 

 Assuming economies of scale ‘all the way up’ does lead one to world government. If a country of 300 millions incurs lower marginal costs in operating than one of 2 millions, than in the long run the smaller one will go bust and the bigger ones will ‘acquire’ them. Marginal costs could me minimized only in a world government. That the experience of Europe, the US and Japan vis a vis that of Switzerland, the UAE, Monaco, Lichtenstein, San Marino et al disproves economies of scale, at the very least in government, I believe need no further elucidation.  

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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  • Economies of scale do not exist. Never have, never will.

Eh, I'd be careful with that.  Large production lines can plan out how to use resources and machinery to make a certain product.  It's the whole idea of the assembly line.  High volume sales with low margins.  The problem is that the larger the production line, usually the more and more uncertainty exists throughout time regarding everything from cost of resources and labor, to the demand actually present in the future at the point of sale.

Of course this means that at a certain point, you have a DIS-economy of scale, where your organization is too slow to respond to changes in market demand, and since your margins are already tight, there's not much room for error.  Smaller, more agile companies who don't have as much capital invested in static production will pick up the slack.  This is the acting force against the "natural monopoly", and is the precise reason that Standard Oil fell from having a 90% profit share at the hieght of it's "monopoly", to 60% by the time the anti-trust legislation aimed at breaking said "monopoly" came around.  The market had already destroyed it.

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Merlin replied on Wed, Feb 2 2011 8:36 AM

I feel I must qualify my point than. Technically speaking economies of scale could exist, yet what I fail to se is how does this technical point translate into aggregation of competitors. To take my examples again, many services that technically require a huge amount of capital, are actually provided by temporary (or indeed informal) associations of multiple firms, otherwise in competition. Note that this is a very different structure form a large firm owned by stockholders, in that such a structure allow for an internal market to a degree which a single firm could never.

 Thus, ‘economies of scale’ do not translate into aggregation, and this is my point. The number of firms is only limited by the number of ‘entrepreneurs’ (defined by time preferences) and, of course, by artificial restriction as tariffs, licensing requirements, IP rights and so on.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Here is a good intro lecture on Max Weber, a man I am starting to really enjoy reading.  He is like a proto Meger/Mises who focuses on sociology

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNC3Ur2Uc6A

of particular concern to this thread would be what the lecture says about capitalism in florence vs england

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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"I know you're all baffled as to why this superstition was allowed to persist for so long, even after the scientific revolution. This is a more complicated matter, but it's illuminating to first note the parallels between statism and the flat-earthism we studied last week..."

It's also illuminating to note the comparisons to personal slavery. I just read Frederick Douglass' autobiography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave" a couple days ago and I am still perplexed that slavery existed for many centuries before it was finally abolished. Assuming humanity eventually achieves anarchy at some point in the future, my guess is that they will look back at statism as we look back at personal slavery today. They will ask in disbelief, "Why in the world did people think that governments were moral or good?" as we ask in disbelief, "How in the world did people think that slavery was moral or good?"

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Bruce  Benson's "The Enterprise of Law" has a lot of great history and a great bibliography for more reading.

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I'm hopeful as you are that these factors could help change the fate of anarchy, but I personally think that the best solution is the promotion of non-aggression.

First of all, non-aggression is incompatible with the state (I'm not going to repeat the argument here; I'm not even sure if that is a controversial thing to say within libertarian circles, since it is simple to see that unilaterally imposing rules on someone is a violation of the NAP, and that states do that simply by virtue of where your mother happend to be when you were born), so I think it follows that the more people there are that are non-aggressive (either because they believe in the NAP, or because they just aren't aggressive people to begin with, or because they have made an economic trade in which they have chosen to give up aggression in return for not being dealt with aggressively in return, it doesn't really matter for this purpose), the more that anarchy can survive.

In the cast that most people are not aggressive, I think it follows fairly easily that anarchy will be stable, as the non-aggressors can defend themselves from the minority of aggressors without in turn using aggression *on each other* (which is the basic argument for minarchism as far as I can tell: we have to defend ourselves from the aggressors, something magic happens in the argument, and voila', it is ok to agress against each other as a means to try to defend ourselves from the aggressors).

Anarchy by itself does not have to be libertarian, not if anarchy is described as the absence of anyone/group unilaterally asserting a monopoly on the initiation of force in a given geographical region. A network of assassins could exist in anarchy: they are not asserting a monopoly on the initiation of force, but they are certainly initiating force.

To me, that's not good enough. So for me, it's libertarianism first, and that leads to anarchy - and a stable anarchy at that - rather than anarchy first, and a hope that that leads to libertarianism.

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