Notes Book

Anarchy is not Chaos

Anarchy is a word loaded with negative connotations. It conjures up images of unkempt bomb-throwing fanatics intent on destroying civilization, as we know it.

Does the word deserve its bad reputation, or is it simply the victim of centuries of statist propaganda?

Violent protesters at the recent international trade conference in Florida were denounced as anarchist. If these people were really anarchists, devoted to the elimination of government, then they were certainly going about it the wrong way. Initiating force against the government only convinces people that the government is justified in defending itself with the use of a greater force, and thus increased the size and authority of government. I think these “anarchist” protestors were merely another group of statists bent on using the state for their own purposes.

Government is an organization that forcibly maintains a monopoly on the use of force within a geographical area. If that sounds like a questionable and circular definition, then it is a definition that accurately describes government. The philosophy of government is based on circular definition, oxymoron, and contradiction in terms. There is no reasonable and logical justification for one person having the right to initiate force while another does not.

A conservative is a person who believes in small government. Most people think conservative policies lead to stability and order. An anarchist believes in eliminating government. Most people view anarchy as a state of dangerous chaos. If small government represents stability and order, then smaller government should represent more stability and more order, and no government should represent the most possible stability and order.

It is true that when governments collapse, there is often a period of greater social disruption. That is not caused by the lack of government, but by the fact that government existed and then collapsed. Governments do perform vital services, and when those services are removed, there is hardship. But those services that are performed by government could be performed by the private sector. There have been instances of societies that were stable for long periods of time without anything we would recognize as a government.

If a non-governmental organization is performing services and then stops providing services, there will also be a period of chaos. That does not mean that the alternative to non-governmental organizations is chaos. It simply means that it takes time to reorganize any social system after a breakdown. But since non-governmental organizations typically are much smaller than governments, if one of them ceases to function, the loss of social organization is much less severe.

It is actually centralized control that creates chaos. Look that the social disruption caused by the decisions of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. The mistakes of central planners can have huge consequences. The mistakes of private citizens are relatively limited in scope and much more easily corrected and prevented. Governments killed and wounded hundreds of millions in the last century, forcibly separated a whole lot of family members, and destroyed whole cities. Could anarchy be worse?

Smaller, more local, and less coercive social units are needed to form a stable society. The smaller the government and all the social institutions in a society, the more stable and efficient the society will be.

We cannot hope to eliminate human stupidity and violent behavior in the near future, but we could do a lot to minimize the negative effects. To avoid the chaos commonly associated with the collapse of government, and power struggles within a government, we need to shrink the government gradually so that other, non-coercive organizations can start providing the services that government now provides.

If government continues to grow, it will eventually collapse, and there will be a period of chaos while society is reorganized. If we find it is politically impossible to shrink government through the ballot box, it is prudent to have plans for minimizing the damage and reorganizing on a more rational basis when the inevitable social collapse occurs.