If religion is not the answer, and the State is not the answer, then what is?
Well, when a particular “answer” has proven so universally disastrous, the first place to look is the opposite of that answer.
If “no property rights” (communism) is disastrous, then “property rights” (free markets) are most likely to be beneficial.
If faith is disastrous, then science is most likely to be beneficial.
If superstition is disastrous, than reason and evidence are most likely to be beneficial.
If violence is disastrous, then peace and negotiation are most likely to be beneficial.
If the State is disastrous, then anarchism is most likely to be beneficial.
It is this last statement that tends to be the most challenging for people.
Many of us can accept a world without gods and devils, without heaven and hell, without original sin and imaginary redemption – but we cannot accept, or even imagine, a world without governments.
Many of us can picture a world with a minimum government – with a State concerned only with law courts, police and the military – but we cannot picture a world without a government at all.
A Christian can accept a world where 9,999 gods are ridiculous and false illusions, but that his God – the God of the Old Testament – is a true, real and living deity. A Christian remains an atheist with regards to almost every god, but becomes an utter theist with regards to his own deity. Getting rid of almost all gods is utterly sensible – getting rid of that one final God is utterly incomprehensible.
In the same way, Libertarians, Objectivists and other minarchists feel that getting rid of 99% of existing government functions is utterly moral – but getting rid of that last 1% is utterly immoral!
We do not accept these reservations in other areas of our lives, which is enough to make us suspicious of the true motives behind such statements. A woman who is beaten up only once a month lives 99.99% of her life violence-free, but we would not consider her beatings acceptable on that ground. It would be even more ridiculous to say that a woman should not be beaten every day, but that it would be utterly immoral to also suggest that she should not be beaten at all.
If I claim that it is moral to reduce State violence, can I claim that it is utterly immoral to eliminate such violence completely? Can I dedicate my life to reducing the incidence of cancer, but then claim that eliminating cancer completely would be utterly immoral? Can I reasonably set up a charity to reduce poverty, but then claim in my mission statement that the elimination of poverty would be a dire evil?
Of course not – I would be viewed as an irrational lunatic at best for making such statements.
Those who claim that a reduction of violence is a moral ideal, but who then also claim that the elimination of violence would be a moral evil, must at least recognize, if they wish to retain any credibility, that they are proposing an entirely foolish contradiction.
By “violence” here, I do not mean that anarchism will completely eliminate human violence – the violence that I am talking about here is the morally “justified” and institutionalized initiation of force that is the foundation of State power. (I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion here about the nature of the State, or the moral reasoning against the initiation of violence, since I have dealt with those topics at length in my podcasts, and in other books. Suffice to say that the State is by definition a group of individuals who claim the right to initiate the use of force against legally-disarmed citizens in a specific geographical region.)
Thus, I think it is reasonable for us to take the approach that if it were possible to run society without a government, this would be a massive net positive.
When we have governments, we inevitably get wars, politically motivated and unjust laws, the incarceration of nonviolent “criminals,” the over-printing of money and the resulting inflation, the enslavement of future generations through immoral deficits, the mis-education of the young, rampant vote buying, endless tax increases, arms sales around the world, unjust subsidies to specific industries, economic and practical inefficiencies of every conceivable kind, the creation of permanent underclasses through welfare and illegal immigration, vast increases in the power and violence of organized crime through restrictions on drugs, prostitution and gambling – the list of State crimes is virtually endless.
When we choose to justify governments, we inevitably choose to justify the crimes of those in power. Choosing government is also choosing war, genocide, enslavement, financial, moral and educational corruption, propaganda, the spread of violence and so on.
You can never get one without the other. Imagining otherwise is like imagining that you can choose to justify the Mafia without also justifying the violence that it uses to maintain its power. We may as well imagine that we can support the troops without simultaneously supporting the murders they commit.
Given the number of bloody and genocidal crimes that orbit the power of the State, surely we can at least be open to the possibility that society can be organized far more effectively and morally without such an evil power at its center. If it turns out that society can run without a State – even haltingly, even imperfectly – then surely we should accept such practical imperfections for the sake of avoiding such rampant and bottomless crimes against humanity. Surely, even if anarchy were proven to produce fewer and worse roads, we could accept some mildly inconvenient and bumpy rides for the sake of releasing billions of people from direct or indirect enslavement to their political masters.
To analogize this, imagine that someone in the 19th century proved that cotton would be 10% rougher if slavery were abolished. Would it be moral or reasonable for people to say, “Well, it is certainly true that slavery is a great evil, but I still prefer it to slightly less comfortable cotton!”?
No, we would view such monstrous selfishness as staggeringly corrupt. The moral hypocrisy of claiming to be against slavery, but refusing to actually oppose slavery for fear of even the mildest practical inconvenience, would be an ethical evil that would be hard to comprehend.
Thus, when people dismiss the possibility of anarchy out of hand by saying, “Oh, but how would roads be provided?” what they are really saying is that they support war, genocide, tax enslavement and the incarceration and rape of the innocent, because they themselves cannot imagine how roads might be provided in the absence of violence. “People should be murdered, raped and imprisoned because I am concerned that the roads I use might be slightly less convenient.” Can anyone look at the moral horror of this statement without feeling a bottomless and existential nausea?
Now, imagine that the reality of the situation is that roads will be provided far more efficiently and productively in a stateless society?
If that is the case, then the practical considerations turn out to be the complete opposite of the truth – that we are accepting murder, genocide and rape for the sake of bad roads, rather than good roads!
This kind of net loss provides the moral and rational core of the arguments in favor of a stateless society. While it is certainly true that some people will end up losing out under anarchy, it is the evil and corrupt who will lose the most, just as priests lose out in an atheistic society, much to the relief of children everywhere. The true reality of an anarchic society is that the moral goals of every reasonable human being – the alleviation of poverty, the provision of “public services,” the education of the young, the protection of children, the old and the infirm, will actually be created and provided in a positive, productive, gentle and moral manner.
The great lie of the statist society is that the helpless and dependent are protected, when in fact they are trapped and exploited.
The great lie of the statist society is that the ignorant are educated, when in fact they are made even more ignorant.
The great truth of the anarchic society is that the helpless are protected, the ignorant are educated, the sick are treated – and that roads are built, and are better.
To gain the beauty and virtue of anarchism, we sacrifice nothing but our illusions.
Surely, we should actually want to help people, rather than just pretend that we are doing so. Surely, we should not sacrifice the peace of the world to our fears of imperfect roads.