Paper little men holding hands

Anarchy is anti-society, they just don’t know it

We are going to go a bit philosophical this week.

I’d like to directly address some of the systematic issues I see in current society, which are further exacerbated in the digital asset space. These are very much my own opinions expressed and do not reflect the views of my publishers, editors, or the media platform.

The problem I see that seems to permeate so much of the world today, which drives this mass media and social media-fueled frenzy of general discontent against the establishment, is in its core, due to a general degradation in the public’s trust in those in power. Granted, having dealt with an extreme Twitter-happy president with less than the spotless ethical record, to one that is borderline senile in the course of just six short years is enough to give anyone disillusionment. But I believe the main reason why people seem to have a general distrust of authority in the recent decade (ever since the great financial crisis of 2008) is the fact that animosity has now moved on from just ‘banks’ or ‘media’ to the structure and systems of democracy themselves.

We know that governments aren’t perfect. Humankind has struggled for all of civilized history to develop a system that allows us to enjoy the maximum personal freedoms while also ensuring that we can coexist peacefully with ourselves in a collective society. In fact, if we go back to the roots of the word “Society,” it reads:

Society /səˈsʌɪɪti/ noun 1. the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

In the definition, the requirement that we live together in an ordered community is right there.

Now, here is where some loud minority1 of academics and (armchair) philosophers will chime in and support anarchy as a way to live together in an ordered way, but without the need for laws or law enforcement. They will argue, from a fundamental basis (much like how some early developers in Bitcoin argued that Bitcoin just couldn’t work because of a ‘mathematical proof’), that it is possible to achieve an orderly community without the need for a state or a government body to manage and enforce the laws.

Let’s address many of the common misconceptions and arguments that the anarchists put forward so that you, the reader, can be more informed to defend against these logical mental paradoxes which may be heard in the wild. Suppose we are going to start to rebuild society’s collective consciousness, trust, and goodwill, we will first have to fortify our own mental models and ethical foundations so that we can start to move forward in a positive way for the good of humankind.

So, with that, let’s start with the claims:

Argument #1

Anarchy is the hatred against the monopoly of power, manifested in a ‘state’ or governmental body, which has the sole ability to enforce and manage the legal system which guides community behaviors in society. Anarchists often align themselves with Libertarians and claim that they, like libertarians, are really just fighting for increased personal freedoms.

Of all the common arguments, this is the most devious one. Freedom is something that I remember I first touched upon in grade 11 philosophy class, and it is a slippery concept itself. There is no such thing as absolute freedom, contrary to what some people want you to believe. Unlike morality, there isn’t even a debate between the notion of objectivity vs. relativity in freedom. There is not enough freedom to go around for everyone. This is due to the fact that if you were free to do whatever you wished, then at some point or another, your wishes would conflict with someone else, and one of you is going to have to give up some freedom. For instance, in a trivial situation, if there was only one apple, and two people wanted to have it to eat, then one person would have to give it up, or perhaps, the two people would agree to share it as a compromise. Thus freedom is limited by scarcity.

But what about in a hypothetical post-scarcity world? Could we then potentially have ultimate personal freedoms? Well, we can point to the world of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek for a bit of insight here. Sure, humans in this world can have pretty much all they want, with replicators and holodecks providing all of your needs and wants. Still, even in this universe, there are things that you are not free to do because it involves imposing your will upon another living being. Like when the Romulans want to capture Cpt. Picard to make him answer to some crime they accuse him of. Once again, somebody’s freedom is going to be impinged upon, at the pleasure of another’s.

So the fundamental reason why anarchists argue that the removal of government or a mutually selected body whose job is to enforce laws is already flawed. Removing the enforcer of laws doesn’t make one more free. They simply like to pitch this as an argument to hide behind the libertarian ideology that promotes minimal government, claiming that if smaller, lean governments are better than large ones, then surely no government at all is best. This logic is deeply flawed and is similar to arguing that if eating less food is generally healthier than eating too much food, then eating no food at all is the healthiest.

Argument #2

Anarchists claim that they are not against laws per se, but they are against the monopoly of law enforcement run by the state. Instead, they advocate that the need for law enforcement can be solved using the free market, where you can hire ‘enforcement’ gangs, and mercenaries, just as quickly as we can hire lawyers. And we don’t need a centralized judicial system (which would require a government to administer), but we can also hire our judges and pay for courts directly.

To even suggest that the free market is a solution to law enforcement and lawmaking is ludicrous and demonstrates a complete lack of appreciation of what centralized legal systems have done for civilized society in the last 500 years. There would be many cases of perverse incentives if you were to allow the ‘buying’ of justice and have a free market for law enforcement and conflict resolution. In fact, we have to deal with its effects even in a state system. It is called corruption. We all know that capitalism and the free markets are a double-edged sword.

While on the one hand, it has provided for the highest level of growth and prosperity in raising the base standard of living in societies that practice it over the centuries. It is also guilty of turning people into greedy money chasing machines, sometimes sacrificing humanity or morality in the relentless pursuit of profits. But we also know that it is something that, if kept in check (namely, it is practiced under the close watch of law enforcement operating under a ruleset based on morality) then it can be a powerful force for progress and good. To this day, I have yet to hear a coherent argument from an anarchist about how to settle disputes if the legal system itself was up for sale. I don’t see justice being served if justice was ‘for profit.’ I only see a system where the rich get away with everything, and the poor can’t afford justice. Even among the rich, I don’t see how people would be able to agree on which court to use in the case of a dispute or which set of laws to subject themselves to. Allowing the mechanism of the law to be based on the free market would make the corruption problem even worse than it already is.

Argument #3

All the problems with trying to run an anarchist society would go away if we just went back to city-states instead of nations. Where each city has its own jurisdiction, and there is inter-city trade between them much like there is international trade today.

This is another far-out theory that seems to have no merit besides ‘sounding good’ on paper.

The fact that we have large cities today is not despite the nation-state system. It is precisely a result of nation-states that provide protection over swaths of farms and hinterland that allowed people to specialize in their trade and congregate into cities. 

To expect that the world can operate as an association of city-states ignores the fact that cities cannot support themselves without surrounding farms, fields, and oceans to produce food and mine resources. And those remote places would have no ability to run operations if they were constantly under threat of attack from mercenaries and raiders. Remember that all attempts at supporting a large civilization started from the need for those with the strength to band together and protect those that would produce food and supplies. Those bands eventually organized themselves into warlords, feudal lords, monarchies, and eventually nation-states. To think that nations are a bad idea is to forget that it is the natural evolution over thousands of years of other systems that didn’t work as well or were not as fair to as many people as democracy. Anarchists are usually found in a well-educated society from middle-class to upper-middle-class upbringing. If you ask me, it seems that the appeal of anarchy is really just manifested envy from a strata of the middle class, directed at the upper echelons of the society. I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the working class in feudal societies who would actively promote the removal of ‘state.’ To anyone living in a stable society, the ‘state’ is just another name for the ‘ruling power of the realm’ whether that power is a lord, a clan, a king, or a democratically elected senate.

/Jerry Chan

[1] It certainly seems that in this recent ‘woke’ age, being a minority means you are loud and MUST be listened to, and anyone who disputes you is a bigot.

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