First of all, the words anarchy and minarchy come from the Greek words “an-” (meaning without), “arkhos” (meaning rule, chief or ruler) and the Latin prefix “min-” (meaning small). Thus, anarchy is a society or nation with no rules (i.e. government-sanctioned law), rulers or a ruling class, whereas minarchy is one with a minimal amount of rules, rulers and a ruling class. Care must be taken not to confuse minarchy with monarchy! Also, instead of the term anarchy, it may be more apt to use the word voluntaryism, which describes a stateless society where all human interactions are voluntary and where no central authority exists to make or enforce laws.
Can we set up a society where every interaction is voluntary? That is the goal of anarchy or voluntaryism.
Anarchy ≠ Chaos
Before we begin, it’s important to address a common misconception, that anarchy = chaos. Anarchy does not equal chaos! You can still have organization, cooperation, harmony and trust in a society where there is no central authority. It is up to the individual members to act in such a way to create that society. You can even have hierarchy in a voluntary society, where members voluntarily choose to structure an organization like that (e.g. for purposes of speed, coherence and efficiency). However, such hierarchy would never be forced on anyone, because the organizations containing it would be voluntary associations.
Likewise, it’s important to stress that anarchy does not mean utopia either. It’s naive to think that everyone will just magically get along and there will be no criminals or evil if we just remove government. However, as I will get to later, the point is about humanity evolving in terms of responsibility so that we can face these problems in a different way.
The Pros of Minarchism: Arguments For a Small, Limited Government
Many people who become anarchists or voluntaryists first become minarchists, because the idea of imagining the abolition of all government in a single step is very daunting for most. Minarchists believe that we can’t do away with government altogether, because it’s necessary and fulfills too many vital, essential roles that would be difficult or impossible to otherwise fulfill. These are the top reasons and justifications usually proposed for minarchy:
– Need for a central register in society (e.g. to be the one “official” list of titles to property, which plays a key part in dispute resolution);
– Need for central planning and centralized authority for good organization;
– Need to have some mechanism to control and offset other power gangs in society, such as the Mafia and the Corporatocracy;
– Criminal justice (i.e. catching criminals, providing the arena and the judge for trials of suspects); and
– Health safety protection (e.g. forcing quarantine in case of an outbreak).
Some people also advance the claim that government (and governmentally-approved corporate structures) are the reason that Western nations evolved faster than other nations. In this entertaining debate at Anarchapulco, Mark Skousen makes the points that we need minarchy to force a criminal suspect to actually come to the courtroom and stand trial, to ensure quarantine in emergency situations, and to enforce eminent domain (the right government takes upon itself to be able to force buy anyone’s property for national and municipal organizational purposes).
The Cons of Minarchy: Arguments Against a Small, Limited Government
His opponent, Larken Rose, vehemently denies that minarchy is a good idea. He points out the following reasons why:
– Minarchists advocate the “arch” or the existence of a ruling class. All monarchists are statists. They still believe in external authority. They still advocate some kind of government; they just think or want that such a government only do what they want it to do;
– Who decides what the “minimum” amount of power is that a government is allowed to wield? It will always be arbitrary;
– The constitutional limits written down to supposedly restrain minarchy governments don’t work. No one pays attention to the limits, and it’s ultimately not possible to enforce them;
– A constitution almost always provides for its own amendment, so anyone can “legally” and “constitutionally” change the entire constitution piece by piece. Look at how the Weimar Republic “legally” gave Hitler massive power and became the totalitarian state of Nazi Germany;
– Practically speaking, has minarchism ever done what it was promised to do? Like communism, it may be good in theory, but has a government EVER existed that only protected individual rights and never grew larger or out-of-control? Look at the US experiment: it was based on the theory of limited government, but has now grown to become the biggest empire in the history of the world (far more tyrannical than King George ever was), engaging in routine tyranny such as mass surveillance, theft via mandatory and excessive taxation, torture, assassination, foreign intervention and continuous imperialistic war around the world;
– Morally speaking, it’s fundamentally wrong (and impossible) to delegate rights you don’t have. How can a government claim any moral right to do what people cannot morally do? Where did government get its supposed right to steal, punish, imprison and kill, when it’s only made up of people, and no single person has that right himself or herself? Why does “government” suddenly have magical and extraordinary moral rights?
But We “Need” Government … Don’t We?
The usual knee-jerk response from people is that we “need” government and we can’t possibly do away with it completely. But does this stand up to closer scrutiny? Do we really need government to perform all the functions it currently does, or could we open a market for various businesses to compete? For example, could we have a free market for garbage collection? Utilities? Road-building? Dispute resolution? In all cases, there’s no logical reason why we couldn’t allow private businesses to perform these functions and services. Sure, it some cases it’s easier to have competing business (utilities) than others where central planning makes it more efficient (road-building), but couldn’t people find a fair way to get together and pay for these voluntarily in groups, neighborhoods and associations? Anarchists such as Stefan Molyneux have developed the idea of a free market of DROs (Dispute Resolution Organizations) who function as private defense agencies and arbitrators, and whom people employ when they go into contract with each other as a trusted 3rd party. Indeed, big corporations such as PayPal, eBay and Visa already have such private arbitrators anyway, preferring to use them than governmental courts.
Without Government, Who Would Protect Us From Evil?
As stated above, anarchy does not mean an automatic utopia. From a voluntaryist point of view, removing government is a great step towards freedom, but many will be scared of the idea. “Who will protect us from evil?” they ask. The answer is, quite simply, that we all have to face it regardless of the existence of government or not. There will still be people and groups trying to trick, steal from and control others. Anarchy can’t protect against all evil. Nothing can. We have government right now, and such conniving people and groups still exist! The big problem is that all too often government becomes the vehicle for such evil rather than a protector against it. As Plato said, when the authoritarian comes on the scene, he appeals to people’s fears and base needs for safety and security. At first, he’s a savior and a protector; later, he’s a tyrant.
When you create a center of power, you create an incentive and invitation for dark forces to seize control of that center of power – then they can magnify and “force multiply” (to use a military term) their dark agenda. Has there ever been a governmental situation where this did not happen? As I discussed in the article The Top 3 Reasons Why the System Keeps Perpetuating Itself, you can use the analogy of the ring of power from the Lord of the Rings. Creating a ring of power (a metaphor for a ruling class, a government and a belief in authority) is dangerous in and of itself, because you are creating an artificial construct which you can never guarantee will be always used for good. We all know the famous phrase that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s no way around it!
We all know that politicians are puppets of a darker force. Put simply, the dark force behind government uses government to carry out its plans. What we see in practice, time and time again, is that government ends up enabling the very thing it was supposedly created to stop or protect against! So many insiders have told us this is exactly how the game works. For example, remember the story of Smedley Butler, who exposed how corporations try to win over the centralized coercive power of government to sanction their crimes, and wrote how he regretted becoming a “high class muscle man” for the corporatocracy.
Who will guard the guards or guardians? It’s a problem as old as time itself. A quote from the ancient Roman author Juvenal.
Government has shown itself to be a vehicle for an astonishing amount of evil. Government is an idea – nothing more – yet the practical implementation of this idea has caused untold death and destruction. The term democide was (according to Wikipedia) “revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel (1932–2014) as ‘the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder’”. In other words, democide means death by government. Democide was the leading cause of non-natural death in the 20th century, responsible for around 262 million victims according to Rummel, including genocides like Stalin’s Great Purges, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the deaths from the colonial policy in the Congo Free State. Yes, communist and fascist governments may be a worse flavor of evil, but so-called liberal democracies like the UK and US have been drenched in blood for centuries now.
Can the Free Market “Guard the Guardians” Better?
Of course, there is no guarantee that anarchy will stop all evil, but perhaps the free market can do a better job than a minarchist system. First off, people so inclined would be happy to take charge of their own defense (by owning and using guns, by taking self-defense courses, etc.). But the defense of your person, your property and your family could also be outsourced to a private group or organization that you trusted. One idea is that, in a free market, DROs could just be like private defense agencies who are vying for your business. The first thing they would have to do would be to convince you that they aren’t a threat themselves and that they are not going to try to seize power over everyone. They would have to have grand guarantees and promises (e.g. Molyneux suggests something like they have to give all their money to charity and close down business if they are caught lying). They would be subject to the scrutiny of the market. If they were found to have deceived people, their business would suffer. People would have the choice to use or not use them.
It has been pointed out that the weakness of libertarianism as a philosophy is that is strong on big bullies (centralized government) but weak on small bullies (local gangs, abusive parents/spouses, etc.). For instance, how would a voluntary society deal with domestic abuse within a family? One answer is that DROs could be called just as cops are now, and while they wouldn’t have the “legal authority” to attack or imprison the abuser (because there would be no such thing as legal authority in an anarchist society), they could certainly use force in self-defense just as any other person would, regardless of if they have a badge and uniform or not. People would have to participate more in forming local groups to resolve conflict and achieve justice for victims. While this may sound scary to some, remember this: as much as government may help some victims of abuse, government also shields and covers up the perpetrators of massive abuse (a great example is how government members participate in pedophilia at the highest levels all across the world).
Again we are left with the awkward realization: government commits and encourages more evil than it stops, or to put it more accurately, the concept and creation of government allow evil and evildoers to amplify their influence and control people more than if government simply did not exist.
Government Creates and Protects Mafia and Corporate Monopolies
Even if you ignore the egregious evils of governmental democide, which some may try to explain away by saying it’s government gone bad, the fact remains that government itself often protects the “bad guys” rather than the “good guys”. By having the power to make law for an entire area, government can create monopolies (e.g. money issuance) and black markets (e.g. prohibition on alcohol). The international banking cartel led by the Rothschilds has prospered mostly because the government has given away its own power to create currency, and has made it legal and mandatory for everyone to accept fiat currency or paper money. Without that governmental decree, the banksters would face more serious competition in the forms of alternative currencies, and people would have more options against them. This is a classic case where government serves and encourages evil rather than protects us from it.
Government itself is a monopoly. It can be defined as the organization within a given geographical area that claims the sole right to rule and the sole right to initiate violence against others who do not obey its decrees. It sets itself up as the sole authority. Once you have a monopoly, you remove the power of the free market and competition. The end user or consumer no longer has options. New World Order conspirator John D. Rockefeller once said, “Competition is a sin”. As a monopoly, government removes itself from the normal pressures that companies face in an economic environment where companies have to perform well or else risk going out of business – and therefore has no real incentive to do its job properly.
When an organization gains a monopoly, it shields itself from ostracism – a great tool of anarchy. Ostracism is the technique by which citizens in a free and voluntary society can make their preferences known, and a kind of way that they “vote” by who they associate with, what products they buy and with whom they do business. Collectively, it forms a network of economic checks and balances which are far better than anything the Constitution could ever protect against (and after all, the US Constitution is just “a goddamn piece of paper”
in the eyes of tyrants).
Government is not a servant; that’s the lie fed to us. Government is a violent master. Government is first and foremost violence, and secondarily an organizational tool. The above quote is attributed to first US president George Washington.
Removing the Belief in Authority and Taking Responsibility
True anarchy or true voluntaryism takes place first inside your mind, not in the outside world. It all comes down to the belief in authority, to the notion that we have to have a ruling class, or that any ruler can be legitimate in a world where we are all born equal. A careful analysis shows that government cannot justify its political authority, no matter whether you use the arguments of social contract, implicit consent, explicit consent or consequentialism. All of these arguments can be overturned with logic to show that government is simply force masquerading in a variety of disguises such as consent, duty or so-called benevolent dictatorship (an oxymoron). Believing out of fear that we have to have government (no matter what) is a symptom of mind control.
True anarchy is not chaos or disorder, but rather removing the belief in authority, and keeping the rest. It’s overturning the idea that politicians and government get an exemption from morality. There is no need to do away with organization and cooperation; there is a need to do away with the initiation of violence.
Underneath it all, there is a general tendency in some people to be lazy and scared. We want a final arbiter or decider because we don’t want to have to work out things ourselves. Yes, it can be tricky, complicated and difficult to resolve disputes and conflicts, especially when they go into grey ares. It takes responsibility, effort and skill in dispute resolution. But can we justify outsourcing this just because we don’t feel like being more responsible? Or putting out too much effort? Or because we imagine we don’t have the skills and we don’t want to push ourselves to develop them? Can we really justify creating this fictitious seat of power, this morality-free zone, just because we feel too uncomfortable trying to work these things out ourselves? My answer is that we cannot justify it, nor can we even possibly outsource it, for every government necessarily has within it the seed of power, corruption and violence; otherwise, without the power to coerce, it would not be government.
Conclusion: Trust Our Cooperative Tendencies
In closely comparing anarchy and minarchy, it is difficult to justify the minarchist position. When you put them under the microscope, government and political authority are not legitimate; they are force. The terms limited government and government by consent are oxymorons, because there are no good examples in the real world of a government that stays limited forever, and a government never really has the consent of all its citizens, most of whom are simply born into an existing system of coercion by coincidence of birth (and taught through indoctrination to never question it).
The stateless society trusts the inherent tendency among humans (and Nature) to cooperate. Yes, there is competition in life, but the greater part is cooperation, symbiosis, trust and harmony. It is possible to find win/win solutions that don’t require the need for an outside authority, and to take that model and apply it to a whole society. To continue to believe in authority is to create a game where you may win or you may lose; it’s creating a throne or seat of power which “bad guys” can overtake. It’s well nigh time for humanity to grapple with the question of anarchy vs minarchy, to move beyond the fears which are holding us back from creating a more free society.