PostHeaderIcon Look Around

I have stumbled across a profound and thought-provoking academic essay, which effectively slays most common arguments that governments are necessary for a modern peaceful society to exist. A downloadable PDF, it is entitled, “The Obviousness of Anarchy,” by John Hasnas,  Associate Law Professor, Georgetown University, J.D., Ph.D, LL.M. Those familiar with my Montessori education background, will understand why my antenna went up when I read:

“The author wishes to thank … Annette Hasnas of the Montessori School of Northern Virginia for a real world illustration of how rules evolve in the absence of centralized authority.”

My reaction was, well of course, a Montessori classroom of 3 to 5-year-old children, is a perfect example of spontaneous order and a smoothly functioning laissez faire society. How had it not occurred to me before to use that analogy? I certainly shall develop it in the future.

The essay begins:

The Obviousness of Anarchy

by John Hasnas

“You see, but you do not observe.”

Sherlock Holmes to Dr. John Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia

I. Introduction

In this article, I have been asked to present an argument for anarchy. This is an absurdly easy thing to do. In fact, it is a task that can be discharged in two words–look around. However, because most of us, like Dr. Watson, see without observing the significance of what we see, some commentary is required.

Anarchy refers to a society without a central political authority. But it is also used to refer to disorder or chaos. This constitutes a textbook example of Orwellian newspeak in which assigning the same name to two different concepts effectively narrows the range of thought. For if lack of government is identified with the lack of order, no one will ask whether lack of government actually results in a lack of order. And this uninquisitive mental attitude is absolutely essential to the case for the state. For if people were ever to seriously question whether government actions are really productive of order, popular support for government would almost instantly collapse.

The identification of anarchy with disorder is not a trivial matter. The power of our conceptions to blind us to the facts of the world around us cannot be gainsaid. I myself have had the experience of eating lunch just outside Temple University’s law school in North Philadelphia with a brilliant law professor who was declaiming upon the absolute necessity of the state provision of police services. He did this just as one of Temple’s uniformed private armed guards passed by us escorting a female student to the Metro stop in this crime-ridden neighborhood that is vastly underserved by the Philadelphia police force.

A wise man once told me that the best way to prove that something is possible is to show that it exists. That is the strategy I shall adopt in this article. I intend to show that a stable, successful society without government can exist by showing that it has, and to a large extent, still does.

The way he casually unpacked the Orwellian corruption of the term ‘anarchy’ was masterful. I tend to get frustrated at the callous abuse of the English language, and am not as artful as he, at explaining how and why I am using a venerable word in its original sense.

II. Defining Terms and Limitations

I am presenting an argument for anarchy in the true sense of the term–that is, a society without government, not a society without governance. There is no such thing as a society without governance. A society with no mechanism for bringing order to human existence is oxymoronic; it is not “society” at all.

One way to bring order to society is to invest some people with the exclusive power to create and coercively enforce rules which all members of society must follow; that is, to create a government. Another way to bring order to society is allow people to follow rules that spontaneously evolve through human interaction with no guiding intelligence and may be enforced by diverse agencies. This article presents an argument for the latter approach; that is, for a spontaneously ordered rather than a centrally planned society.

In arguing for anarchy, I am arguing that a society without a central political authority is not only possible but desirable. That is all I am doing, however. I am not arguing for a society without coercion. I am not arguing for a society that abides by the libertarian non-aggression principle or any other principle of justice. I am not arguing for the morally ideal organization of society. I am not arguing for utopia. What constitutes ideal justice and the perfectly just society is a fascinating philosophical question, but it is one that is irrelevant to the current pursuit. I am arguing only that human beings can live together successfully and prosper in the absence of a centralized coercive authority. To make the case for anarchy, that is all that is required.

An additional limitation on my argument is that I do not address the question of national defense. There are two reasons for this. One is the logical one that a society without government is a society without nations. In this context, “national” defense is a meaningless concept. If you wish, you may see this as an assertion that an argument for anarchy is necessarily an argument for global anarchy. I prefer to see it merely as the recognition that human beings, not nations, need defense. The more significant reason, however, it that the I regard the problem of national defense as trivial for reasons I will expand upon subsequently.

OK… that is a novel approach. I like the distinction between government and governance. Removing the utopian libertarian philosophical questions certainly simplifies the question he is addressing, which is:

III. The Question

Whether government is necessary is not an abstract metaphysical question. It is an entirely practical question concerning the delivery of goods and services. The defenders of government argue that certain goods or services that are essential to human life in society can be supplied only by a government. Anarchists deny this. The question, then, is whether there are any essential goods or services that can be supplied only through the conscious actions of human beings invested with the power to enforce rules on all members of society.

Note that the question is not whether the “market” can supply all necessary goods and services, at least not the market as it is usually defined by economists. Some anarchists argue that the free market can supply all necessary goods and services. But the case for anarchy does not require that one assert this claim, and I do not. Anarchy requires, and I argue, only that no essential good or service must be supplied though the conscious actions of the agents of a coercively maintained monopoly. Properly understood, the question is whether there are some essential goods and services that must be provided politically or whether all such goods and services can be provided by non-political means.

Many political theorists argue that there is a wide array of goods and services that must be provided by the state. In the present context, however, there is no need to consider whether the government must provide postal service, elementary schooling, or universal health insurance. The debate between anarchists and the supporters of a classical liberal, night watchman state concerns the core functions of government. The question thus resolves itself into whether these core functions can be supplied through non-political means.

Hopefully that has whetted your appetite enough to want to go read his answers to the question. When Troy returns from his vacation, we have agreed to dial back coverage of the Incumbrepublocrat Kabuki Theater for awhile, and ponder how best to reboot America, after the impending collapse of the federation. While his vision seems to be breakup of the country into several regional republics, I prefer the concept of a laissez faire, stateless society, as suggested in this essay. We welcome your participation in our musings.  ◄Dave►

10 Responses to “Look Around”

  • I did wade through those 35 pages. Slog is probably a more accurate term. When he said “this is probably boring” my thought was right on. It actually did make me think … indeed we DON’T NEED a government.

    We have a totally worthless leader and congress.
    All would be lucky to hold down a job at $10 an hour.
    I can think of perhaps 5 that I would hire in a business

    My solution is to pay them at the rate of the highest paid enlisted man and give our military their congressional salaries.

    Make them punch a time clock and pay for their own living expenses, insurance and travel expenses. If they need help let it come out of their own pockets.

    Who ever heard of any employee getting to vote in their own salary raise?

    As far as a reboot?
    Not sure that can happen without a knock out of about half of the population. Preferably of those who can not yet tie their own shoelaces without someone doing it for them. 🙂

    • ◄Dave► says:

      Thanks for taking the trouble to read it, CT. For an academic treatise, I actually enjoyed the read; but then, it is a philosophical subject I am particularly interested in at the moment. If you came away with the opinion that he had made his case, and that we have been misled all our lives to believe that even if evil, government was a necessary one, then I reckon the slog was probably worth it. No? Perhaps after your clinical thinking mind has processed the revelation for a while, you will become inspired to delve deeper. Stefan Molyneux has some eminently readable e-books on the subject, available free on his website, which I have read and highly recommend.

      That said, if you now agree that it is unnecessary, I am curious why your “solution” for our “worthless” government would be to rearrange the politician’s paychecks, rather than just fire them outright and not bother to replace them? Without a government, we wouldn’t even have need for maintaining a military.

      As for the ‘reboot,’ the premise Troy and I are working from, is that the system is going to crash spectacularly. It is no longer a question of ‘if’ – but ‘when,’ which will be sooner rather than later. Who knows how many sheeple might die in the process; but with the ever-increasing Federal debt and contingent liabilities, our financial future is unsustainable. The moment the US Dollar is acknowledged as worthless, the oligarchs will lose all control over the sheeple you are referring to.

      Those who still can, will have to suck it up and start providing for themselves, or perish. Troy is musing about a government reboot out of necessity. I am going to be arguing for it to be allowed to die off permanently, and replaced with a stateless, laissez faire society, which has no rulers, tax collectors, or jackbooted authorities. Stick around; it should be a perfect opportunity to have some uncommon fun, doing some critical and clinical thinking. 😀 ◄Dave►

  • Why do I think the President and all of Congress should get a drop in salary?

    Well because my first choice would be to build a scaffold in the rose garden and public hang each one.
    I consider them traitors to the country.

    Since that is not likely to happen we are stuck with them.
    Like Donald Trump who continues to say you deport the illegals much to the weeping and wailing of those who want to keep them. It is actually a simple matter.

    1. You crack down on every person employing them. 1 year in jail, no early release.
    2. Stop all public aid, education and medical attention.

    They will leave on their own. If they are caught simply ship them back over the border … forget a hearing. They either have papers or they don’t.

    Strip all politicians of their money and they will also leave.

    These guys are public servants and were/still are suppose to donate their time.

    I believe that when you behavior modify you strip the will of bad behavior by imposing a far worse outcome.

    Like the pedophile scenario I suggested.
    Like the death penalty … it works!
    For the loons who claim it does not work or is not a deterrent … what a crock … does it not occur to them these guys are no longer around to murder again and those watching would at least think twice or also be gone?

    Men during the depression worked their asses off when they could get work because if they did not they starved. As well did their families.

    I actually like a state or territory idea.
    That being said it is further my opinion that the moral and ethical decay will not allow any of this to work.

    Now if a total collapse happened and within a month a good part of the population is dead (and that would occur in a very short time) I could list the reasons but do not think it is necessary.

    Then a new beginning really could start.
    People would pull together and suddenly decide to help one another in order to survive.

    One of the things I ask these fool Millennials on the forums.
    Exactly what can you personally do in order to contribute to society?
    What is your education making you an expert at?
    The answers make it clear without mommy or daddy they would be dead in a week.

    We certainly have come a “long way baby” IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.

    My grandfather left home at 13 and went to Alaska to work in the gold fields before he came home to work as a lumber jack then helped build Friant Dam, had his own 50 acre ranch while at the same time started his own business as a cabinet maker until he died. My grandmother at 15 was cooking 3 times a day for that same crew.

    Those values rubbed off on all of their 5 kids and their kids which included me.

    If it hit the fan tomorrow “this family” would survive and have the knowledge and skill to start several successful service industries.

    Now frankly I do not spend a whole lot of time worried about the future. Until there is a problem on my porch NOW I lend it no effort. No point in wasting time where there are so many fun things to do. Like watching my garden grow, learning to smoke meat,and yes even knitting. Curiosity is my best friend and learning anything new is always the next step. Because of that I have become a jack of most trades and pretty much very well equipped at most … LOL

    After slogging through the article do I need the government for my life to work?
    Certainly not! However I had never put much thought to it until yesterday … lol
    Does the rest of the world? The big hurdle is at least they think they do.

    • ◄Dave► says:

      We have much in common, CT. My cattle ranch in the Sierra foothills above Bakersfield back in the ’90s, was a deliberate back to basics affair. We raised all our own food – garden, laying and frying chickens, rabbits, pigs, goats, and of course, cows. I butchered everything myself, and smoked a lot of pork. We heated with oak, which I cut and split myself. We kept a year’s supply of feed and staples on hand, and only made a trip to town about once a month to top it off. I often have referred to myself as a jack-of-all-trades, and master of many. 🙂

      I have fond memories of Millerton Lake, and those above it like Shaver. I lived in and around Fresno back in the ’70s, and fishing, boating, hunting, and Jeeping were my hobbies at the time, when I wasn’t poking holes in the sky with my antique airplane. Do you still live in that vicinity?

      BTW: My mother was an avid knitter, and even taught me how to do it. It was actually fun to do, when we were snowbound back before TV! 😀 ◄Dave►

  • It pays to be prepared no matter what. I am grateful for all of those things we learned long ago … because I am certain we will need them in the future.

    Yes born and raised in Fresno. We were in the mountains, Shaver and Bass Lake most of the summers. We camped out a lot back then. I loved it! The community camp sites where side by side with only large tarps or quilts between camp sites. One night I woke up and looked at the tree line (which was not far maybe 50 feet) and there was a magnificent bob cat just sitting watching the camp.

    I am a big cat fan. My favorite is the Snow leopard and its gorgeous fluffy tail with our Cougar coming in second. They (cougars) purrr … who can resist a purring cat?

    I remember a number of years back a sightseer walking in the woods and bumped into a cougar sitting in a clearing. It scared him so bad he scrambled up a near by tree and crawled out on a limb that was not very sturdy. The limb begin to bend. What a dumb ass. Doesn’t EVERYONE KNOW how well big cats can jump and climb?

    This cat just sat still where it was and watched. Probably thinking “WHAT A DUMB ASS”. Finally the treed guy decided to take action … he threw the only thing available at the cat … his car keys. The cat simply waited and watched this suspended, dangling kitty toy. Finally it got bored and moved on. It took this guy a while in sheer panic to find his keys and dash to the nearest rangers station to report the incident. My cousin a fire fighter said they laughed and laughed over this incident and many others that occurred with the “city slickers” on vacation.

    Honestly it is lucky there are not more tragic incidents from man trying to destroy himself out of dead dumbness. ROFL 🙂

    • ◄Dave► says:

      Cool anecdote, CT. I frequently encountered bobcats and on rare occasion observed a cougar on my ranch. Magnificent creatures, although I did eventually have to shoot one large bobcat that had taken to preying on my house and barn cats.

      Funny, now when I think of Shaver Lake, what instantly pops into my mind is cinnamon pull-apart bread. In the ’70s there was a bakery/coffee shop that I always stopped at on the way into the mountains, and the last stop on the way back out, to buy a loaf or two of their bread, right out of the oven. Is it still there? 🙂 ◄Dave►

      • Oh so sad you had to shoot a bob cat. But a big cat like that can do a lot of damage.

        I have not been to Shaver in years though we still have friends who have a home there. So I do not know of a bakery there however no doubt it is no longer there. I would think the owners would be retiring age by now … lol
        Bakery business is not the easiest. My cousin owned a bakery in Pismo for 17 years. She finally got tired of working 6 days a week and getting up a 3 am to have baked goods to sell by opening time

        Anyway usually when we all get together it is here since I have the room available for everyone. Family tradition has always been we get together at Grandma’s house. My daughter is also Grandma now too but still it is here.

        My daughter lives in Coarsegold they now have 5 acres on top of a mountain that over looks the valley. One night their cat who was laying by the glass slider puffed up 3 times his size and dashed under the bed in another room.

        Everyone looked outside trying to figure out what scared him so bad. In the morning they found Cougar tracks in the wet flower beds by the front door. Mid size cat … probably a curious yearling.

        My friend Nikki had a big cat rescue with a license to care for Florida Cougar in Wisconsin.

        She rescued a tiny cougar. She bottle fed him and he was so cute … as he was growing up she would carry him in a pack on her chest. He thought she was mommy. She would call me late at night and I could hear him purr as we chatted. It was so cool. She had a beautiful Canadian Lynx and Servile as house pets. Those cats ruled her big male Doberman and they all got along. Cuzco the baby cougar went to school demonstrations with her. Can you imaging being in grade school and being able to pet a Lynx, Serval or baby cougar?

        She sent me video of one of these school outings and It was so cool.

        • ◄Dave► says:

          Yeah, it was sad, although I was in no mood to be sentimental at the time. We had already lost several cats, which I had presumed was attributable to the ubiquitous coyotes thereabouts. Late one evening there was a blood curdling scream from a cat just outside. Like most folks living at the end of dirt roads 30 mi. from town, I kept a loaded varmint rifle right by the door. I grabbed a flashlight and the rifle and ran outside to see what was up. There, just a few feet from my door, lay my favorite mama cat in her death throws, with her head split open.

          Looking around with the flashlight for a coyote, I spotted the large bobcat crouched down watching us from about 50 yards up the hill behind the house. It must have thought it was hidden and invisible; because it just stayed perfectly still while I adjusted the flashlight along side the rifle stock, aimed between the glowing eyes, and shot it just under the chin. Unlike my mama cat, at least it did not suffer; because it just dropped dead without a twitch.

          I always thought of the Shaver business as more of a diner/coffee shop, with the limited bakery goods as a sideline. At the time, it had no local competition in either business, so it could easily have been sold and still exist. I may have once known your cousin. Did she sell it about 20 years ago? If so, was she single at the time and eventually seriously dating a County Sheriff Sergeant? If so, I used to play darts with her at the Pismo Moose Lodge back at that time. 🙂 ◄Dave►

        • Oh my that is really sad. Nice shot!
          My pets are like family members.

          I would think coyote too.
          The wild cats are pretty elusive and attacking other cats would not have crossed my mind.
          Chickens or rabbits yes.

          I may have once known your cousin. Did she sell it about 20 years ago? If so, was she single at the time and eventually seriously dating a County Sheriff Sergeant?

          She sold about 7 years ago and was with a psychiatrist at that time. One of those cheating back stories (him not her) … lol

          • ◄Dave► says:

            Yeah, it sort of seems cannibalistic; but the tracks were there in the morning, and the attrition in my mouse patrol ceased afterward. 🙂

            Ah… not her then… ◄Dave►

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