What Anarchy Is Not

By Kevin LeCureux

I am very sympathetic to the ideas of anarcho-capitalists. If you were to ask for a very brief description of my political views it would be, “Government is not necessary, but it’s inevitable.”

In discussing this with friends, I find that many balk at the idea of anarchism. Indeed, most libertarian-minded people, well-known and otherwise, do not go to the extent of anarchism. I think, though, that the hesitation is mostly semantic. Let me try to clarify what I mean by anarchism and (the lack of) government.

By government I mean an organized, political system whereby some individual or group makes a monopoly claim to the legitimate use of force. Where I think I differ from most people is I do not equate “government” with “governance” or “rule of law.”  

So here is my list of things anarchy is not.

Not Anarchists

Anarchy is not…

… lawlessness. Anarchist societies would still have laws, in the natural law sense that many scholars, such as Hayek, have discussed at length.

… a lack of governance; that is, an anarchist society still has institutions (note the important plurality) that limit or inform the behavior of people and communities.

… rule by the strongest – such a society is by definition not anarchist (i.e., without rulers), and anyone attempting to assert rule over others would be breaking the law and would become subject to the governance of the society at large.

… the natural state of humans.

This last point may be the most important. I believe anarchy is the polar opposite of the base tendencies of humans. An anarchist society would require that the vast majority of its citizens be highly virtuous, committed to all of the virtues as cataloged by Dierde McCloskey:

Love for fellow man that sees others as not only capable of making decisions for themselves, but intrinsically worthy of being afforded the right to make their own choices;

Faithfulness to the ideology of anarchy and absolute freedom;

Hope that future generations will be able to sustain the virtues that make anarchy possible;

Courage to stand against those who do stray from any of these virtues;

Seeking justice for others whose rights are violated, just as if your rights were violated;

Temperance (with a large dose of humility) to restrain from thinking that you can decide for others better than they can decide for themselves;

Prudence (again with humility) to understand that spontaneous order is better than any societal order you or another person can imagine.

Anarchy is not childish or violent. Indeed, it is possible only when most people think and act like mature adults.

Originally published at Preposterous Preponderance

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