Guess What? You’re an Anarchist


Well, maybe you’re not actually an anarchist, but I got your attention didn’t I? At any rate, it’s an interesting question: Do we ever get out of anarchy? It’s all too often in political discussions that the term ‘anarchy’ is demonized as being ridiculous, unrealistic or childish. The moment the term is introduced into discourse, opposition scoffs at the notion, considering the other side of the communication as little more than something to disregard.

Is this warranted? Is anarchy a childish term used by those who can’t cope with the fact that a world exists with rules and laws? Or, is it a constant state that we can never truly escape from?

First, if you’re so inclined, I would suggest you check out the following resources:

This podcast discussing the definition of anarchy.
And this paper written by Alfred G. Cuzán, titled “Do We Ever Really Get Out of Anarchy?”

Let’s begin by establishing something I would consider to be an observable truth: Anarchy is the natural state of life on Earth. If life were to start today from “0”, the natural state of things would be no state at all. Granted, one could make the argument that a state would be quickly established (or something resembling one) and that’s a fair assessment, however, it does not refute the initial point.

Having said that, and as according to the paper written by Cuzán, there are two types of anarchy: market anarchy and non-market anarchy (political anarchy). From there, political anarchies are of two types: hierarchical or plural. The more pluralist political anarchy is, the more closely it resembles market anarchy.

If you’re not inclined to read the paper written by Cuzán, I will summarize it (but really, it’s only 6 pages – nothing too intense to digest):

Governments only really replace one anarchy with another, by taking anarchy away from “subjects” and giving it to the state. When a government is established, anarchy is removed from members of society, leaving society to accept a third-party as the arbiter of their relationships and conflicts. In this scenario, the third party is the power, and that’s precisely to where the anarchy has shifted – the third party that holds power. This is evidenced in the countless times we see the higher authorities investigate themselves, and conclude that they have done nothing wrong.

If we are to accept this premise, we can then frame this topic as a matter of preference for those who favor liberty. One must choose: do they prefer a political, or a market anarchy? For, those holding government office are the actual practicing anarchists, and those who are not are citizens that prefer a shift away from a third-party holding said power, and rather that power belong to the “subjects” or “citizens.”

An argument can be made that the United States has a specific set of checks and balances to protect from the abuse of absolute power, however, the US government continues to grow, and as it does, the pluralist makeup of the United States government becomes more hierarchical with every growth of scope and size of government.

Given this, we have a choice: What is the preference of where power lies in the makeup of a society? According to this premise, anarchy doesn’t ever not exist, it’s only a matter of which arm of society is given the freedom to operate under anarchy. Those with a preference toward market anarchy or a pluralistic political anarchy will naturally be interested in removing a hierarchical political anarchy. In this situation, those favoring market anarchism and political anarchy (pluralist) face the same challenge. For, if we observe, those that favor a hierarchical political anarchy are in no way, shape, or form interested in moving in the direction being espoused by the market and pluralist political anarchists.

That is to say, minarchists will often demonize anarchist positions, claiming errors of individuals as faults of a larger group. One could argue that this is a failure in observation, as individuals are not representatives of the groups they are a part of in this instance, rather they are representations as individual actions. There are anarcho-capitalists and other stripes of anarchists that can have what many see as radical messages, but when facing an individual or group that favors hierarchical political anarchy, their positions are no different than an individual who supports pluralistic political anarchy or market anarchy. Either position (pluralistic political anarchy and market anarchy) seeks to erode the very foundation of what defines hierarchical political anarchy. Neither side has any marked advantage or disadvantage over the other. The minarchist advocating for gun rights or taking a position against universal healthcare is going to meet just as much resistance as an anarchist intent on abolishing public education or promoting the ideas of competition in the creation of law and its enforcement.

This makes both the advocates for a pluralistic political anarchy and advocates for market anarchy similar to minimalists in the field of design and engineering. If we understand that there is a very low probability of reaching pure “0” in terms of outside influence into individual governance given the size and function of modern society, we can then establish that the “name of the game” is to strategically move in the direction of desired governance. With design, a minimalist prefers less than the mean will prefer on average. Whatever the number of layers in design is entirely based upon the premise and situation surrounding any given design. In politics, pluralist political anarchists or market anarchists prefer less. Whichever number of layers they prefer in terms of governance is entirely based upon the premise, or situations surrounding any given society.

In understanding this information it becomes clear that the issue is not so much an issue of anarchist vs. minarchist at all, rather the issue is helping those involved in the liberty movement understand the differences between effective and destructive marketing and strategy. Minarchists and anarchists (as they are commonly referred to, political pluralist anarchists and market anarchists if we’re according to the terms set in this article) have both been guilty of faux pas when you consider the opposition. Those with a more radical approach play an important role, as they are working to shift the Overton window, the discussions they introduce are valuable. Those with a more moderate approach at marketing radical ideas also play an important role as they have an easier time at relating to a more moderate audience, which can be receptive to more radical ideas as the Overton window is shifted in time.

What can be observed as entirely useless to both mentioned groups (political pluralists/market anarchists) is the rejection of those who can be effective allies toward shared goals due to lacking what some would see as political purity. The larger issue is a lack of common sense, and lack of humility. The current political environment (especially with libertarians) is one that has little room for honest discussions, critical feedback, and diversity in strategy and ideas. It is not required to be completely philosophically pure, or to have perfect principles in order to help move in one direction and away of another. With the amount of challenges that face libertarians in general, it is far more beneficial to find similarities and compliments to one another in forming strategy than it is to isolate and insult based on individual preferences.

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Vinny Marshall

Vinny is a digital marketing and design professional, and an active voice in the Liberty Movement. A frequent contributor to Being Libertarian, owner and operator of Anarchothreads, co-Founder and frequent contributor of Think Liberty, and host of the Think Liberty Podcast.