Anarchy is not a pleasant word in our society. It has associations with violence and with people generally considered as outcasts. The Guy Fawkes mask — popularized by “V for Vendetta” and used by protesters at “Anonymous” rallies — has become a modern image of civil disobedience, but civil disobedience has more in common with anti-establishmentarianism than anarchy. Even worse, the lack of clear representation leaves anarchy often confused with chaos, despite having very few similarities. If anarchy is separate from these concepts, does it deserve its taboo, reviled status?
Anarchy is a subset of libertarianism, which is centered on a belief in individual freedom. Anarchy recieves the heat that it does because of its difference from the more popular branch of libertarianism, which is called minarchism.
Unlike minarchism, which puts faith in government as a protector of liberty, anarchy rejects the role of government completely. The big question is: is lack of government something to be afraid of?
For most of us, the existence and presence of government is something we assume. Some things we disagree with, but surely we would be much worse without it. Yet how do we judge? As thinking beings, we must analyze the why behind the what and to do so coherently, we need a better framework than our desires. Even if we wish to live by our desires, we would have to use that principle as our framework. We need a better moral argument to support policies and laws than “because I want to.”
Anarchy is the belief that no man is superior to any other; that no one should have the ability to take by force what is rightfully another’s. It takes from libertarianism the non-aggression principle, which states that the initiation of force is morally wrong. It concludes that government violates this principle by its nature and cannot be just.
Instead, anarchy advocates contractualism, which is exactly what a truly free market functions according to. To some, a free market in security and arbitration, i.e. justice, is unthinkable. But this is certainly not the way that chaos works or corrupt governments work, which often occur by might, and their existence and shortcomings cannot be used to discredit anarchy.
In examining specific policies, anarchy does not attempt to make any moral judgments beyond the non-aggression principle.
However, libertarianism as developed by the greats, such as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, makes minimal assumptions about human nature. It focuses on both political and economic aspects of freedom. Through their work, and the work of others, we can both understand and make judgments on the “justness” of government and government policy. No abstract “homo economicus” of pure logic, or Randian being of pure selfishness, is required to think about libertarianism or anarchy. It is not a theory for the intellectual, but for anyone who wants to think coherently about freedom. Without coercion, people behave according to the model of a free market; is anarchy actually unrealistic?
For an example of what anarchy might look like, consider the world. There exists no overarching government to unite it, and competing interests clash daily. Groups of groups organize without needing to be told, and despite many imperfections and being dominated by a lack of freedom among individual countries, interactions between them tend towards a free market. Surprisingly and contrary to the predictions of many, justice without a supreme body still functions better than chaos. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that laws are often subverted by special interests.
Things proclaimed as “for the good of the people” are rarely so, even if the intentions behind them could somehow be pure. Popular or government-sponsored economists assure us the measures they take are working, even as unemployment climbs and government spending and debt steadily increase. The ninety-nine year “experiment” of the Federal Reserve has failed even by its own metrics, yet refuses to admit defeat as it creates bubbles and recessions over and over. The role of government has been taken for granted for long enough; it needs to be examined for ourselves without its propaganda.