Why you should be an Anarchist
Most people think that the government that rules over them is more or less "corrupt", but still think that it has some sort of legitimate authority. This is a myth.
The moral illegitimacy of government
First, let me dispel the notion that there's any moral obligation to follow the law. There are 3 ways you can be morally obligated to do what someone else says (besides their commands being things you should've done anyway):
1. When handling someone else's property. While you might argue things like roads are the government's property, at best that would cover a tiny subset of laws. Most importantly, taxation itself can't be justified on this ground, because the earnings of your labor are *your* property, not the government's. Furthermore, said government property *exists because of* taxation, hence why we can't consider it "government property": you can't build something with someone else's money and then claim it's your property.
2. When in debt. But you are not in debt to the government. You might argue that they protect you from crime or build roads or whatever other benefits, but again, they fund all those things *with your money*, so it's not a favor; at best it's a transaction. You don't owe someone general obedience just because you made a transaction with them, even if we assume you consented to the "transaction".
3. If you gave your word voluntarily. This is the big one - opponents of anarchism often declare that a legitimate government rules with the "consent of the governed". Obviously none of us ever consented to this system but have been forced into it since birth, but these statists usually come equipped with some mental gymnastics I will shoot down.
- A common argument is that a *democratic* government is okay because the leaders are chosen by the people. The obvious problem with this argument is that it treats "the people" as a hive mind. In a group of 5 friends, can 4 of them decide that "the group" wants to go out to dinner and force the fifth to come with them? You need *unanimous* consent to impose a group decision, not just a majority, not even 99%. Likewise, you can't say "the people" chose a leader unless you mean *all* of them.
- People who are determined to defend government will often claim that even if a citizen of a democracy *doesn't* vote for the winning candidate, they somehow consent to be ruled by them anyway. They'll argue that by voting at all you agree to accept the outcome of the system. But of course, many people don't vote, and if you respond that you're one of these people, well then they'll tell you that *not* voting constitutes consent to be ruled by the winning candidate because you didn't use your vote to express nonconsent. Notice something fishy about this reasoning? It requires all three of:
1. If you vote for a politician, you consent to be ruled by them.
2. If you vote *against* the winning candidate, you consent to be ruled by them anyway by participating in the system.
3. If you don't vote, you consent to be ruled by the winning candidate by not voting against them.
So according to this argument, *any* course of action constitutes consent to be governed by the winning candidate. That's bunk; if nothing you can say or do is accepted as an expression of nonconsent, then the arrangement just isn't consensual. At least one of these things must be false. (Actually they are *all* false, as we will see later.)
- Another common one is "if you don't like it, leave", implying that you consent to be ruled by living within the government's territory. This argument is circular: it already assumes the government owns the area they claim to. I couldn't go to your house and say "You have to follow these rules, and if you don't like it, you can leave your house". I can only do that in *my* house.
Clearly, there is no legitimate basis for government authority and no moral obligation to follow the law. Yet if you break any of their "laws" or don't give them the money they say you "owe", armed enforcers come to take you away, and will escalate force if you resist. How is this any different from a Mafia gang who moves in and says, "You all consent, you have to give us half your income and do whatever we decide but we'll let you infleunce who our leader is every few years and build a couple of useful things with the money we steal from you"?
You might still think it's possible to have a benevolent government if the only laws they enforce are just prohibiting objectively immoral behavior such as murder. (Though note that this means it isn't a democracy. If your laws are solely determined by objective, universal principles, they can't simultaneously be determined by popular vote.) Certainly it would be legitimate for a group of people to use all the power at their disposal to stop murder. But *even if you erase all unjust laws*, there's still a massive difference between such a government and a conscientious vigilante, which I mentioned briefl above: funding.
Governments get their funding nonconsensually through taxes. Do you disagree with some of their actions or their methods or just think they're ineffective and someone else would be a better protector of justice if given the money? Too bad, better pay anyway or you'll be put in jail.
There's no way to come close to morally justifying this. No one would *ever* a defend a vigilante doing it and saying "it's everyone's duty to fund the enforcement of justice", no matter how effective or how uncontroversial the vigilante was. It's plain and simple extortion.
Practical concerns about anarchy
So that's it for the principle arguments. We've established that governments are crime syndicates who extort money from their victims and restrict their freedom while offering just enough token services to convince people that it's "for their good". Of course such principle-based arguments rarely enough to convince people to stop supporting government, because they are often driven by a "fear of the unknown" of anarchy. "I don't know how anarchy will work, therefore it won't work."
Before I answer, I want to point out that the definition of "work" here is unclear and arbitrary. Would you say the system we currently have "works"? It doesn't seem like it to me. Our government imprisons a huge proportion of our people many for things that shouldn't even be crimes, like smoking a leaf that politicians don't like. Innocent people are regularly beaten and even killed by police, and I think 2020 made us all conscious of that. What about this arrangement counts as "working"? And if you agree that the current system doesn't "work", then you can hardly reject an alternative because it might "not work" - you would have to show that the alternative would not-work *worse* than the current system.
Missing comparison fallacy
So to return to the question "how would anarchy work?": there isn't just one correct answer. Anarchy allows for a wide range of social systems to exist and coexist within it. In fact, since anarchic social arrangements must be formed through voluntary association, no one can preordain that it would work a certain way, we can only point out options and declare our intention to participate in our preferred social arrangements. In this article I'll be offering one possible vision of anarchy selected because I think a typical person would find it the easiest to accept, because it constitutes the least radical revision of how we currently live: anarcho-capitalism. (If you have more socialist leanings, many anarchists do too and anarchic socialism or communism are also a thing!)
Abolishing the state means abolishing police as we know them, and while police are awful, the job that they theoretically do - protecting people from violent criminals - is an important one.
Protection can be provided as a market service the way most things already are: if you want someone to protect you or find the person who robbed you, you pay for that valuable service. In fact firms that provide this service already exist, but they haven't been allowed to really compete with state police because you're forced to pay for the state police regardless, meaning there's no competition allowed. Getting rid of the government monopoly on this business would have multiple benefits:
- *More options*. If protection were a market service like any other, there would be many different providers, just like there are many different companies offering every other type of good and service. If you think one protection agency is ineffective or you disagree with some of their methods, you can employ a different one, or none of them, or try to go into business as one yourself. You take charge of your own life. With a government, we're all forced to patronize the same provider.
- *Incentive to provide better service*. Since each market firm offering protection services can only stay in business by being voluntarily employed instead of forcefully extracting taxes, they'd have to make people *want* to employ them. That means anyone who tries to enforce bizarre laws that nobody wants enforced or use cruel and disproportionate punishments on the criminals they catch would be likely to go out of business even without anyone fighting them. Similarly, they would have to keep their prices low or all their customers would patronize a different firm instead.
Police, on the other hand, don't have any good incentive to provide quality protection to the people because the people don't directly choose whether they get paid or fired. When police abuse their power and hurt innocent people (as again we're all well familiar with after 2020), the only mechanism to hold them accountable is through government courts... which are part of the same monopoly that employs the police. There are even explicit legal protections for abusive police such as qualified immunity which effectively means that even when police are found to have done wrong, it's usually not the abusive police themselves who are punished, but the taxpayers.
A common objection to anarcho-capitalist protection firms is that since there'd be more than one firm with no coordinating authority, they would fight each other. But in fact such firms have a very strong incentive to solve disputes peacefully: violence in expensive! If you clash violently with another protection firm, your employees are going to die, and that's assuming they don't just quit working for you on the spot - why would they work for you if you're sending them to their death? Even if you somehow don't lose employees and wipe out the opposing firm, you'll lose customers because most people would rather patronize someone who's going to try harder to solve disputes peacefully.
You don't see the flip side of this much with government police because they're a monopoly, but you do see it a lot with government *military*: the decision to go to war is made by politicians, who don't pay the cost of the death they cause. Through war, politicians can kill thousands of people and get off scott-free. That could never happen in anarchy!
Maybe you think we need some form of wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor, which is currently provided by government, and doesn't have an obvious way to be provided as a market service, since the people who must pay for it are not the people who benefit from it... or are they?
There is a solution even in an anarcho-capitalist society: mutual obligation. Anarchists can (and historically have!) formed mutual aid assocations that are essentially a voluntary agreement to provide aid to the least fortunate among them in return for the possibility of them eventually being that least fortunate. What I'm describing is really just like taxation (where benefits to the poor is the only thing it's used to pay for) except that people can choose not to participate in these arrangements (and then not be eligible to receive the benefits themselves when they are in need). The number of people who are concerned about abolishing govenrment welfare indicates that many people would participate in such arrangements voluntarily.
I must also point out that government at least in America, despite the existence of welfare programs, actually drastically worsens the situation of the poor, for example through the concept of *authorization to work*. Needless to say the least fortunate people in this country are those who don't have such authorization! Heck, my ex was bit by it due to having his social security card stolen and the government making it hard to get a replacement. He was about to get hired but the government literally said it's illegal for him to work, illegal for poor people to earn money. And if you need it to be even more blatant, are you aware that in many US cities it's actually illegal to feed homeless people?!?
Holy shit, why would anyone who cares about poor people support this system?
Government also makes us all poorer through the general inefficiency of central planning and through its massive spending on things that don't help us, such as prisons, wars and the subsidies and privileges given to already powerful corporations.
Forms of punishment and their pros and cons
But back to anarchy. As far as protection services for the poor in particular (a common objection is that market-based protection services don't work because the poor can't afford them), there's a simple answer: a contingency fee paid with the restitution.
If a criminal hurts a poor person, the poor person wouldn't need to have money left to hire a protection agency to get it back; if I were a protection firm CEO I'd offer to catch the criminal, make them perform restitution, and take the cost of my services out of that and give the remainder to the victim. Especially since justice in an anarchist society would be restorative rather than punitive, we'd favor restitution or penal labor over imprisonment, so the victim and I could both *profit* from the event.
Another common objection to anarcho-capitalism is that without government, infrastructure such as roads would not be built or maintained. ("what about the roads?" is so common that it's a meme in anarcho-capitalist circles.)
The funny part of this argument is that roads have actually been built by private businesses in the past. Some ways to do it include toll gates and threshold-pledge systems:
In fact, removing public funding for roads could even help even out wealth inequality! Whereas government distributes the cost on everyone through taxation, in anarcho-capitalism rich investors and businesses would have an incentive to pay the brunt of the cost of roads that affect them because they *need* them more than average people. For example, if people's ability to access your business depends on a road, you'll want to keep that road in good repair.
It could be argued that the biggest benefit of all of anarchy is that governments are responsible for every war and large-scale atrocity in history. Without political monopolies on power, massive war machines that are only possible because of taxation, and the poison of national identity, there would be no wars anything like what governments commit. Even if an anarchist protection agency was corrupt, they wouldn't kill *millions* of people and ruin millions more. Economic incentives don't involve such wars because, as I've pointed out, violence is expensive when you aren't a government.
Some people after hearing that argument try to frame it as a *bad* thing about anarchy: well sometimes you need military might, an anarchist society would be easily conquered by a government.
I find it bizarre that anyone who's ever seen a map can make this argument. *Most countries* don't have the military might to resist an invasion by a country like the US. And yet they stay sovereign. That's because war requires one more thing: an *incentive* to invade.
And in fact the incentive for a government to invade an otherwise thriving anarchy is even weaker than the incentive to invade small countries. They would know that even if they won, every citizen in the former anarchy is going to be a criminal, breaking unjust laws at every turn and undermining the state in all sorts of ways. The probability of rebellion, guerilla tactics, assassination of leaders, etc, would be astronomically high. Conquering an anarchist society would be more much trouble than its worth for a government.
Finally, if a foreign government really did wage war on an anarchy, the anarchists would have some advantages:
- *No civilian disarmament laws.* Anarchist civilians would be very likely to be armed and willing to defend their homes from the invader.
- *No single point of failure.* They're not affected by taking out a few important individuals the way a government is.
- *No misalignment of incentives.* On the country's side, the people are being taxed and possibly drafted for a war they don't have a personal stake in, and as soon as popular support falls under 50% (assuming a democracy), the government has to pull out. Whereas the anarchists are defending their homes and very much *do* have a personal stake in this. All those different protection firms would have every reason to work together to fight the enemy that threatens to put them *all* out of business.
- The biggest advantage of all: *First strike.* The government's goal isn't to wipe out the anarchy, so they can't just march in and shoot everyone. Presumably their goal is to disarm the anarchists so subjugation becomes possible. But this situation where only one side is unable to shoot someone from the opposing side on sight basically guarantees that the anarchists will have first strike in every confrontation.
I'd refer you to more anarchist reading if you're not fully convinced:
More pragmatic downsides of government
An excellent PDF on anarchism by Roderick Long; focuses more on the practical concerns
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