Gradual Anarchism

You know something that I never really understood about the common stereotypes of anarchists is that everyone seems to think anarchists are violent.  This seems to me like claiming that all people who read Harry Potter are violent.  There are violent people who read Harry Potter.  Sure, there are violent people who are anarchists, probably because they’re looking for an excuse for their violence.  It’s just that the other anarchists aren’t up in their faces saying “don’t do that or we’re going to shoot you.”  That tendency has nothing to do with anarchism.  In truth, I would bet there are virtually zero violent anarchists, and there have never been very many at any point in history.  Anyone who thinks along the standard anarchist line, that the government exercises violent, coercive force and is inherently corrupt as a result, isn’t going to want to employ those exact methods.  The punks who just want to do whatever they want aren’t anarchists- they’re just criminals who want cheap redemption.

Real anarchists are depending upon the rise of individualism.  Even if nobody else does, they’ll continue to do their own thing, including paying taxes, dealing with bureaucracies, etc., whatever is necessary to survive in a corrupt environment.  However, when enough people start finding themselves, and start to feel the chafing of arbitrary power, we’ll find ourselves free soon enough along the very channels of corrupt power that has been such a problem so far.  Government is an adaptive entity, and it really has no choice but to deal with the objective reality set before it in the natures of its citizens.  If they’re weak, uneducated, and passive conformists then government has a freer hand to exploit them, their money, and the peoples of other countries with that money.  However, the converse is also true.  If the citizens are capable, intelligent, and rational, and value their freedoms then the government has little choice but to accommodate them.  Governments can change much faster than they would have you believe.  For example, the US government is structured to put the brakes on radical change, such as by having the senate serve six year terms, and having Supreme Court justices serve for life.  While this was a great design mechanism for smoothing out swings in popular opinion, if 90% of the country was committed to a personal philosophy of freedom and individualism the changes would become evident very quickly.  Even the most well-entrenched Supreme Court justice would blanch at the prospect of supporting an infringement on that national psyche’s doctrine.  In fact, 90% is massive overkill.  My point is that gradually growing the philosophy of anarchism is the only effective way to truly make society free.

My position on anarchism is quite mild.  Yes, anarchism is a great idea in the sense that an absence of mandatory, arbitrary government power is a good thing.  Yes, public order is not that difficult to create in a stateless society, in fact it’s probably far, far easier.  I suggest only one change from the current model of government, but it’s something of a doozy for those who haven’t thought along these lines before.  The Change: Participation in government must be completely and totally optional.  I need to clarify this point- I am not referring to (cue nasally voice) “oh, you don’t have to vote, that’s fine.”  No, I mean that if I decide not to participate that I pay no taxes, I get no services, and you have no moral authority to imprison or otherwise punish me if I disobey your laws.  You might choose to do so anyway, but then at least we’re clear that you are using hired men with guns to abduct me from my home against my will.

Let that soak in for a bit.  What if you could just choose to not be involved with a government?  A lot of people would continue as before, but then they chose it.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  Hey, after a few years maybe the government will have changed enough under its new optimizing influences that I might even rejoin it.  It’s certainly got a good basic blueprint- the Constitution and balanced powers and such.  Regarding those optimizing influences, if government participation is completely optional then I can withdraw from it and then go and create my own organization that fulfills some of the same functions, but of course, mine will do them better and cheaper or nobody will join me.  Maybe I’ll advertise the fact that my government has an extremely minimal set of laws that are clear and easy to understand.  Obviously the entire structure of my organization will be open for the public to peruse, or else why would anyone bother to trust me?  I could be asking them to agree that if they ever smoked pot, they’d agree to spend 20 years in in a rape gulag jail.  Who would want to join that?  More importantly, as owner of this government, I don’t want to have to build jails if there’s any way I can avoid it but still promise my customers law and order.  It’s in my interest to make participation as enjoyable and painless as possible, providing as many services as possible for as little cost as possible.  Apply this type of reasoning to every aspect of running a government and you’re approaching how awesomely powerful a solution The Change is.

The truly beautiful piece of this solution is that a “democracy” is where everyone gets to choose what they want.  The government’s sick perversion of this idea is that, rather than choosing what you want, you get a vote which is part of a mass decision-making process.  And whatever decision is reached by the masses, stands, irrespective of whether you like it.  Can you imagine if this same logic applied to other areas in your life?  “What am I going to have for lunch?”  The vote says the nation wants to buy hamburgers.  Therefore, you must have a hamburger along with everyone else.  It’s insanity.  If you wanted a hamburger you could just go out and buy one.  Or if you would prefer a sandwich or salad or anything else you can just go get that instead.  However, if you want something too esoteric then you’re going to have to work pretty hard to find or acquire it because nobody is going to be selling. it.  However if you think this exotic dish will appeal to a lot of people you can start your own company and sell it yourself.  Afterwards if lots of people do like it, then they can just go get it- from you.  Why we think freedom is great for insignificant decisions like what we’re going to have for lunch, but when we get to the really important decisions it’s vital that we be slaves is just beyond me.  Well not really- the obvious answer is that there’s not that much cost-benefit ratio in controlling what you have for lunch, but in taking half your income to buy weapons there is a massive niche.  The beauty of freeing people from their mandatory government participation is that they can be free in the ways they want to be free, and constrained in the ways they want to be constrained.  I guarantee that there will be at least one government (if that’s what you call it) for every significant niche.  Rather than voting into a massive pool, you vote with your feet and join wherever you like.  And if at any time that government displeases you or screws you over, you just leave and join somewhere else.

We are approaching the conception of a Dispute Resolution Organization, but we’re not quite there yet.  These governments will necessarily need to cooperate because of the nature of their environment.  Their customers/citizens might be dispersed throughout a certain area.  Although I can imagine a DRO basically owning an entire city and everyone in it belonging to that DRO.  That model could definitely work.  Perhaps that’s the future of communism, where everyone’s needs are taken care of by producing to the extent of their ability.  Anyone who wants to join that city can do so.  I suspect that there would be a severe shortage of high-capability individuals, but maybe there’s a solution to that problem that our future communist DRO will find.  Anyway, in the event of an incident involving individuals from different DRO’s, the organizations would represent their customers.

Let’s say somebody is accusing someone else of theft.  Obviously both DRO’s want to have conclusive evidence that their resolution is just, one way or the other.  They don’t want to let a guilty person go unpunished, and they really don’t want to punish someone who’s innocent.  Let’s say they conclude he’s guilty and the DRO’s make an agreement.  The thief’s DRO will fine him the value of the TV plus damages and legal fees, as per his contract to pay fines if he is found guilty of a crime, and give it to the victim’s DRO, who will then give the victim the value of their TV plus pain and suffering damages or whatnot.  If the thief is unable to pay these fines, then their DRO will cover the damages in the form of a loan and give the thief an honest chance to earn it back.  If the thief is a serious repeat offender for crimes more serious than just petty theft, the DRO will probably terminate service because it’s cheaper to have model citizen customers, and he’s not helping the DRO or anyone else.  Of course now you’re probably asking why the thief should care that his service has been terminated, since now he can steal whatever he wants and no DRO is going to punish him.  Well, he has the slight problem that if he was to be murdered then nobody would look into his death, except maybe DRO’s interested in finding out if one of their customers did the killing, or possibly some charity organizations.  He has no representation for wrongs against him, and no services provided by DRO’s.  However, more seriously, businesses have absolutely no incentive to trust him, and simply won’t do business with him, or they might charge more to compensate for the risk of dealing with him.  He might find it impossible to find somewhere to live, buy food, or get a job.  However DRO’s would have great incentive to pick up people like him, even though they’re a bit riskier than longtime customers, and might have to pay a little more for equivalent services, they get exactly the sort of basic representation and credibility they need.  Also, a DRO  would presumably  be designed to deal with new customers, providing the right incentive structure to make it more advantageous to be honest and forthright, while at the same time being enjoyable and providing valuable services

I have yet to meet someone in person who has conceived of the possibility that government participation doesn’t necessarily have to be mandatory.  If the topic shows up, usually I am met with either apathy or a “but you have to vote” mentality.  The latter group is especially annoying because their response clearly indicates they totally misunderstood my argument, and they can’t even visualize the idea of not being a part of a government.  Clearly you don’t have to vote, and though it’s probably a good idea, that’s not what I’m talking about anyway!  Give the people the option of choosing their government, or creating one that suits their needs, rather than merely giving them a vote to move a colossal mass of humanity just that fraction of an inch.


One Response to “Gradual Anarchism”

  1. Yvette Says:

    Great argument, it would be lovely if government worked that way…and so true about the negative image of anarchists. I’ve met some very nasty FORUM anarchists but as of yet no other anarchists offline, but I get the idea that those “forum” anarchists are the kind of “punks” who dress like their friends and break and steal things and use anarchism as an excuse, and thus give anarchists a very bad name.

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