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Why Anarchy Fails

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"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."

Correct. Just because someone commits an act of aggression does not automatically mean that they are part of a government.

Thus we can imagine a society in which aggression is committed that is still anarchical. Further, this aggression need not be limited to forms of aggression that the populous nearly universally believes to be immoral for the society to still be considered anarchical. Even if some of the aggression committed in the society is widely accepted by a lot of people as okay, the society can still possbily be anarchical, even though it is unlibertarian.

For example, imagine a protection agency considers victimless crimes such as smoking marijuana bad and thus violently prevent peaceful people from smoking marijuana. This aggressive behavior may be reminiscent of the state and we may be tempted to look at such an unlibertarian society and say that it cannot possibly be anarchical, but we would be in error.

This is because the defining characteristic of government is not that it commits aggression, or even that it commits legitimized aggression. Rather, the defining characteristic of government is that it commits a particular sort of legitimized aggression. Stephan Kinsella states these two particular forms of aggression as follows:

"States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression." ( http://www.lewrockwell.com/kinsella/kinsella15.html )

So the hypothetical protection agency that I mentioned previously, although unlibertarian because its acts of violently preventing peaceful people from having/smoking marijuana, would not be a government if:

1. It received its funding voluntarily, rather than through coercive taxation and
2. It did not violently outlaw competing protection agencies

Having said all of this, I agree with your last comment. I don't think anarchy will be achieved until people are for the most part libertarians.

Also, I will look into Bruce Benson's work. Thanks for the recommendation.

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"Correct. Just because someone commits an act of aggression does not automatically mean that they are part of a government."

Super, we're on the same page here PRA.

I basically wanted to make that point because the nature of replies is that I necessarily am going to reply more on things where we might not be in 100% agreement, but I want to make it clear that the things I'm not writing about here are the things I agree with, which is the vast majority of what you've written here.

"For example, imagine a protection agency considers victimless crimes such as smoking marijuana bad and thus violently prevent peaceful people from smoking marijuana."

How do you see it if the PA only enforces this on the people who have voluntarily chosen to allow the PA to enforce this? IOW, what if this PA was, oh, an Amish PA, and the PA only enforced the rule on those who had voluntarily contracted with that PA to enforce that rule? For me, that feels like it's violence (if they enforce it by some violent means, e.g. jail; interestingly, this is an unfortunate example, since the Amish's main force of enforcement of any of their rules is shunning, which is a wonderful example of non-violent enforcement), but not aggression, again depending on some details of how it is enforced and how deciding to no longer be part of that contract is handled.

In either case, let me stress: this doesn't change the point that this is still anarchy. This PA is not unilaterally asserting a monopoly on aggression.

"Having said all of this, I agree with your last comment. I don't think anarchy will be achieved until people are for the most part libertarians."

I try to make a distinction between "libertarians" and "non-aggressive people" that you may or may not be glossing over here: the former are those who are consciously non-aggressive because they think it is the best political philosophy, that is, they have some background in political theory; the latter are just folks who are generally non-aggressive for a variety of reasons. I think a world composed of the former would be better and more stable, but I think a world composed of the latter would be almost as good, and importantly, is far more achievable. I just don't believe that the world will ever be composed of peole who get and buy into libertarian theory, but I do think it's possible to get a world that is filled mostly with non-aggressive people. I claim that at their heart, the vast majority of people are non-aggressive: they don't run next door to shoot their neighbors and rape their wives not because they are afraid of the government, but because that simply isn't what they want to do. That would be good enough for me. Such a world would still be full of socialists, communists, and other folks who I think are choosing a less than optimal set of rules, but it would at least still be anarchic and thus leave plenty of room who truly wanted to live a libertarian life.

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"How do you see it if the PA only enforces this on the people who have voluntarily chosen to allow the PA to enforce this? .... For me, that feels like it's violence."

If the PA only enforces it only on people who have agreed to have it be enforced against them then I would say that is perfectly consistent with the non-aggression principle.

When you say you feel like it's violence I only agree with you to the extent that the contractual agreement is not perfect.

For example, imagine that Bob says to Joe, "Hey Joe, I don't want you smoking marijuana." (Note: You can replace smoking marijuana with any other non-aggressive activity.)

Joe then replies, "Why should I do what you want?"

Bob says, "Well if you choose to smoke marijuana I am going to stop being friends with you."

Note that currently Bob is using nonviolent means (ostracism) to try to get Joe to not smoke marijuana. This is perfectly fine.

Joe says, "Okay fine, I'll agree to never smoke marijuana."

Bob says, "How will I know you'll keep your promise? Will you agree to give me your piano if you ever smoke marijuana?

Joe says, "Fine, if I ever smoke marijuana you can have my piano. Do you trust me now?"

Bob says, "Yes, I trust you. Thanks for not smoking marijuana, Joe."

Joe says, "You're welcome, Bob. Anything for you, friend."

So what sort of agreement took place here? You might say the fact that it was a spoken agreement rather than a written one means that there is no binding contractual agreement. To an extent I would agree with that, but I would also say that just because an agreement is written down and signed by all parties dose not necessarily mean that it is a perfectly binding agreement either. Basically, for me the legitimacy of a contractual agreement is never really absolute. Both parties must be fully informed and have really considered what they are agreeing to, in order for any force allowed in the agreement to really be considered legitimate force, rather than aggressive force. So let's see what happens next:

One day Joe decides to smoke some marijuana.

Bob says, "Joe! What are you doing!? You said you weren't going to smoke any marijuana!"

Joe says, "Oh, sorry Joe, I forgot."

Bob says, "That's no excuse, give me your piano."

Joe says, "No I want to keep my piano."

Bob says, "Well it's mine now; you agreed that I could have it if you ever smoked marijuana which you just did."

Now this dispute could be resolved peacefully either between themselves or by arbitration from a third party. It could also escalate into violence. Assuming it does escalate to violence, who is on the just side? Bob, Joe, or neither? (Neither would be if they are both guilty of aggression.)

So Bob uses force against Joe to take the piano. When you said, "For me, that feels like it's violence," I tend to agree with you for this situation. Yet, at the same time, Bob does have a point. The point is that Joe did agree that Bob could have his piano if he ever smoked marijuana, so assuming the contract was legitimate it would seem that Bob was the rightful owner of the piano and thus would be justified in taking the piano from Bob's possession.

This little story I just came up with is meant to be an example of a rather weak agreement. It's true that initially Joe said that if he ever smoked marijuana Bob could have his piano, but never were the details and implication of this agreement made explicit, so I would argue that the contract lacks a lot of legitimacy and thus Bob's use of force against Joe to take the piano is unjustified.

Bob never made sure that Joe understood that if forgot about the agreement and smoked marijuana then Bob would take the piano with force anyways. Bob never made sure that Joe understood that he didn't have an option to back out of the contract later. Perhaps Joe thought that he would later be able to say, "Hey Bob, I decided that I want to smoke marijuana. I no longer agree to give you my piano. You're free to stop being friends with me, as you initially said you would, if you really want." So you could even say that Joe did not believe that he was agreeing to have forced used against him to take the piano from him. In this sense, the agreement actually did not give any permission to Bob to use force against Joe to take his piano. Thus the "agreement" was really just Joe saying, "If I ever smoke marijuana, I'll give you my piano. But, if I decide not to give you my piano, then you have no right to forcibly take it from me. I'm just stating that I currently intend to give you my piano if I ever choose to smoke marijuana." It's not really even an agreement.

So this has been a long response (I don't even think it belongs on this thread; it's off topic), but hopefully you get my point. My point is that I agree with you that it is violence to the extent that the contract is not legitimate.

I will say that I think it's quite possible that force used by Person A against Person B to prevent B from smoking marijuana can be perfectly legitimate and justified and moral. It's just that the agreement between A and B in which B initially gave A permission to use force against B to prevent B from smoking marijuana would have to be perfectly legitimate. As I said before, in order to be legitimate, both A and B have to be fully informed about what they are agreeing to. They have to fully understand the consequences and implications.

An off-hand, "Sure, I agree to that" is far too weak and wouldn't give anyone permission, in my view, to commit acts that would be aggression in the absence of such an agreement. Also, the greater the act of aggression would be in the absence of an agreement, the higher the requirements are for the contract  in order for it to be legitimate.

Basically, because of this grey area about how legitimate a contract is, I always caution on the side of not committing aggression. In fact, it may not even be necessary to enforce contractual agreements with force. Mere ostracism can be very powerful. In a great (recommended) lecture by Peter Leeson ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5PbLLBfiM8 ) I remember Leeson saying how a substantial amount of international trade (1/5 of world economic activity maybe? I forget exactly) in the world today occurs in the absence of government enforced contractual agreements. The fact that they make several agreements of each other means that they always have potential for a lot of profits in the future. The mere threat of being ostracized if you ever break your agreement is thus enough to keep these companies to their agreements in the absence of any threats of force backing up the contracts. And these are contracts dealing with millions and billions of dollars!

Thus, while I just spent a considerable amount of writing considering the philosophical and moral case--if someone agrees to have force used against them, is it legitimate/moral to use force against them?--in real life we may never need to encounter this philosophical issue. Thus, whether or not you consider the PA's use of force against the marijuana user who agreed not to use marijuana aggressive or not may not matter. I think you could take either position depending on the strength of the contractual agreement. But, again, there's not much of a need to debate this seeing as contracts can just be enforced peacefully. If there is a dispute about the contract later (e.g. the marijuana user claims that the PA is wrong to forcibly prevent him from smoking marijuana) then even if the PA thinks that it is in the right, violently going to war against this marijuana user to prevent him from using marijuana is costly, so chances are peaceful arbitration will be used to settle the dispute anyways.

Sorry for the long response (I tend to do this often :-( ), and this is off topic, so I don't know if we should continue discussing it here. If you want to reply to me on it elsewhere, I have posted a copy of this post on my blog, so you can reply there if you want and I will read it and try to respond. Here is the post: http://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/rant-reply-to-alternatives-considered-on-mises-forum/
 

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jodiphour replied on Fri, Jul 6 2012 10:37 PM

Anarchy doesn't work simply because force exists. When humans give up their tendency to exploit each other, then anarchy will be successful.

However, one might make a similar statement about states. States simply don't work because people want to be free. 

Conflict gives rise to states which ultimately crumble into anarchy as they decay at which time conflict gives rise to new states. It's just the way it is.

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jodiphour, what do you mean by "doesn't work"?

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Specifically I would like to dispute your claim that anarchy doesn't work, but I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "doesn't work" so it's possible that we are actually in agreement already.

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cab21 replied on Fri, Jul 6 2012 11:48 PM

i think if joe agrees to that bob owns the piano if joe smokes, and joe smokes, then joe is initiating voilence if he tries to stop bob from access to his property. bob is now the owner, joe interfering with bob ownership is agression. it's this whole thing about trying to weasle out of contracts and agreements that can play a part in making things not work. if people lose, then offer exuses about how they don't want to honer contracts, then where is society? responsibility ought to mean reasponsibility. now bob might let joe keep the piano and just choose it's not worth the hassle and fight, but it's joe that makes it a fight and doe's not respect agreements. word need to be word, paper or oral, honesty and responsibility for consequences are needed for order. how much does bob need to babysit joe?let it be a good lesson for joe on how to make agreements in the future if joe is not happy with the consequences, but don't call bob violent or agressive for wanting what he thought was mutualy agreed to . just as nonagression is good, not trying to weasle out is also good.

we need trust or things break down.

bob and joe can be friends and work out conditions to return the piano, if that would break them it does not seem a great relationship to begin with.

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Torsten replied on Sat, Jul 7 2012 8:12 AM

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).

One should add that except for feudalism, which is for most of the part a vertical relationship, there were other forms of social/political organisation in the middle ages as well (guilds, "Genossenschaften"), which were more horizontal. 
Political theories of the middle age - Gierke, Otto Friedrich von, 1841-1921

If something like that can be revived, I don't know. But I think one can learn very many things from this, which will become quite useful in the future. 

 

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AJ replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 4:51 AM

This outstanding article on LewRockwell.com explains how technology and social organization can and will alter  each of the IDEA aspects. A brief article and a must-read! http://lewrockwell.com/orig13/matson-k1.1.1.html

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Torsten replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 4:24 AM

What's anarchy, would that even exist as a norm, even when there was no government? Assume two people being on a small island, would there be no rules sorted between them? I think there would.

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You should post this on voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com

 

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.org

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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:57 PM
I'm working from a smartphone these days, but anything I post may be freely reposted anywhere with or without attribution and without permission. The same goes for any edited or derivative works, etc.
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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

I assert reputation is already highly valued.  The manifestation of it in the present legal system is status or condition of a man in relation to his rank among society.  Most statuatory penalties lowers the status of ones citizenship estate justifying the imposition or penalties or santions.  The present legal system extensively relies on reputation in this light.  In addition to legal uses of reputation credit reports, medical histories, driving records, code violation histories, google search histories, and all other manner of reputation indicators, both public and private, are in wide use.

I would also assert the extensive use of "in rem" proceedings is an extraordinary social sanction as the very definition of the admiralty jurisdiction includes a jurisdiction outside a country such as a jurisdiction a free and independent people are not ordinarily subject to.  I would further assert changing the status of an estate without regard to the ownership of said estate or the owners rights in the estate is a great power of social sanction.

I personally do not view the present legal mechanisms to value reputation or exercise power of social sanctions as objectionable per se but I do consider the lack of full and honest disclosure of these legal mechanisms highly objectionable.

Point being .... transparency might be a worthy addition to your enumerations.

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AJ replied on Tue, Sep 17 2013 2:42 AM
Does the forum work again?! Testing...
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Not only does it work, the same user names and passwords work.

My humble blog

It's easy to refute an argument if you first misrepresent it. William Keizer

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So they do....weird.

apiarius delendus est, ursus esuriens continendus est
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Bill replied on Fri, Oct 11 2013 8:34 PM

Anarchy fails because it's not organized. Anarchists just want to be left alone and not governed by others. When a group comes in looking to loot and pillage be it a street gang warlord or government. Anarchist are taken over. Even if they out number their foe they can't win without becoming one of them.

I'll give you an example. I've deer hunted the same 10 thousand acres since I was a kid. Back then the same timber companies owned the land. They'd charge a fee to free range cattle but there were no posted signs and no gates just cattle guards. Now they lease the land to hunting clubs. There's about 10 different "clubs" on the same land. I just quit my 4th club. They're all the same just a bunch of guys from somewhere else making up a bunch of rules for someone else to follow.

I believe the world is full of anarchists they may be imprisoned by their governments but they never fail unless they become one of them

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Bill replied on Sat, Oct 12 2013 8:20 PM

Conflict gives rise to states which ultimately crumble into anarchy as they decay at which time conflict gives rise to new states. It's just the way it is

 

I'd say rise to anarchy and crumble into states. Unless violence and coercion is something you rise to.

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AJ replied on Mon, Oct 21 2013 5:19 AM

Bill:
Anarchists just want to be left alone and not governed by others.

You can have governance without government. You will always be subject to the preferences of others if you want to enjoy the benefits of society and the division of labor, but that doesn't mean there needs to be centralized control magnifying and distorting those preferences to outlandish degrees. 

See: http://mises.org/journals/scholar/hasnas.pdf

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