IPFS Ernest Hancock

More About: Philosophy: Libertarianism

A Case for Anarchy

That there have been some, calling themselves "anarchists," who have engaged in violence on behalf of their political ambitions, is not to be denied. Nor can we overlook the provocateuring occasionally engaged in by undercover policemen operating under the guise of "anarchists" to justify harsh reprisals against political protests. But to condemn a philosophic viewpoint because a few wish to corrupt its meaning for their narrow advantage is no more justifiable than condemning Christianity because a man murders his family and defends his acts on the grounds "God told me to do it!"

Robert LeFevre is credited with the additions of many libertarians since the 50’s and is quoted as having said "an anarchist is anyone who believes in less government than you do." But an even better understanding of the concept can be derived from the Greek origins of the word (anarkhos) which meant "without a ruler." It is this definition of the word that members of the political power structure (i.e., your "rulers") do not want you to consider. Far better that you fear the hidden monsters and hobgoblins who are just waiting to bring terror and havoc to your lives should efforts to increase police powers or budgets fail.

It is amazing that, with all the powers and money conferred upon the state to "protect" us from such threats, they continue to occur with a regularity that seems to have increased with the size of government!

Those who condemn anarchy should engage in some quantitative analysis. In the twentieth century alone, governments managed to kill - through wars, genocides, and other deadly practices - some 200,000,000 men, women, and children. How many people were killed by anarchists during this period? Governments, not anarchists, have been the deadly "bomb-throwers" of human history!

Almost all of your daily behavior is an anarchistic expression. How you deal with your neighbors, coworkers, fellow customers in shopping malls or grocery stores, is often determined by subtle processes of negotiation and cooperation. Social pressures, unrelated to statutory enactments, influence our behavior on crowded freeways or grocery checkout lines. If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our careers would immediately come to an end. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives. And we are polite to fellow shoppers or our neighbor for reasons that have nothing to do with legal prescripts. What makes our dealings with others peaceful and respectful comes from within ourselves, not from beyond. For precisely the same reason, a society can be utterly destroyed by the corruption of such subjective influences, and no blizzard of legislative enactments or quadrupling of police forces will be able to avert the entropic outcome.

The study of complexity, or chaos, informs us of patterns of regularity that lie hidden in our world, but which spontaneously manifest themselves to generate the order that we like to pretend authorities have created for us. There is much to discover about the interplay of unseen forces that work, without conscious direction, to make our lives more productive and peaceful than even the best-intended autocrat can accomplish. As the disruptive histories of state planning and regulation reveal, efforts to impose order by fiat often produce disorder, a phenomenon whose explanation is to be found in the dynamical nature of complexity. In the words of Terry Pratchett:

"Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. Chaos always defeats order because it is better organized."

Political thinking, by contrast, presumes the supremacy of the systems (i.e., the state) and reduces individuals to the status of resources for the accomplishment of their ends. Such systems are grounded in the mass-minded conditioning and behavior that has produced the deadly wars, economic dislocations, genocides, and police-state oppressions that comprise the essence of political history.

[This article is a heavily edited version of an article by my friend Butler Shaffer who teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law near Los Angeles. I have condensed these thoughts to… “Freedom Good, Government Bad”]

Q: What's the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist?

A: About 6 to 7 years, if you're paying attention !!