Alliance of Austin Agorists first networking party: An interview/Q&A with Charles W. Johnson. Due to some technical difficulties we were only able to capture three out of the ten questions that were actually conducted that night.
On the popular anarchist facebook page Anarchist Memes, an admin decided to exercise his private property rights in vocalizing his opinion that in a stateless society, unpopular opinions will not be dealt with peacefully.
“You think anarchism means we should all have some sort of right to say whatever you feel like?
So let me get this straight, people think that in a stateless society, everyone is going to allow others be a massive asshole whenever they talk? Without the police to uphold liberal ideas such as freedom to be bigot, I doubt people would tolerate intolerance with mere simple verbal disagreement.
Without state protection, oppression (from bigotry to patriarchy to capitalism) wouldn’t thrive as much as it does now. That’s sort of the point of the anti-state position of anarchism. “
In this short space, Anarchist Memes has shown us clearly why property rights are a necessity: So that individuals have a certain sphere of autonomy in which they can be themselves in any manner they desire. It is this communist’s dream that one day, anyone the commune deems as a threat can be easily shut up by whatever natural forces we allow to wreak havoc on the “bigots,” who are of course never themselves humans or victims of abuse.
To this style of anarchist, the brutality of the state lies in the protection of property rights, rather than the absolute and total destruction of them. As a left-libertarian, I wish to smash the state in order to free the individual. Soon, these communist anarchists imagine we shall be rid of the state, and that is when we can take care of the true dissidents. Anarchism to them is not freedom or liberation, it is punishment of thought and speech criminals.
Property rights are ultimately the tool of individualists, though. To the anarchists who seem to believe in the divinity of the will of society, the concerns of the individual mean nothing if they do not approve. All thought must be bureaucratically investigated, and then a glorious calculus shall be applied to determine how much less you now “need” as a result of your views. Perhaps it is your free time, your car, your house, your life. In the case of the commune the property rights of bigots, I am on the side of the latter as an individualist. I say this not in defense of bigots, but in defense of myself and in defense of any minority who sees their equal freedom receding. Property rights are an enforcement of equality and autonomy. The society run purely on social capital is a danger not only to bigots but to all who wish to be free.
Welcome to my 6th review! Time to begin.
C4SS Fellow, Jason Lee Byas, joins the podcast team of Rachel, Eamon, and Mark of the The El Paso Liberty Hour. They discuss Market Anarchy, the Center for a Stateless Society and the Anarchist movement within Libertarianism.
Review number five is upon us! Let’s begin.
We end with the third and fourth games of the now ended World Chess Championship:
C4SS Senior Fellow and Lysander Spooner Research Scholar, Nathan Goodman, took part in and represented C4SS on the Salt Lake City, Utah, Trans-Pacific Partnership Welcoming Committee coalition and protest.
Salt Lake City, UT November 19, 2013
Delegations from twelve national governments are meeting this week at Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement shrouded in secrecy designed to benefit multinational corporations. Activists and concerned citizens are planning actions throughout Salt Lake City to educate the public about the trade agreement and to protest the negotiations.
Citizens, journalists, activists and even members of Congress have been denied access to the agreement’s text, while representatives from multinational corporations have played a key role in the drafting process. This utter lack of transparency continues into the Salt Lake meetings, that were not disclosed to the public until very recently, and which journalists and community members will not be allowed to attend.
In spite of this short notice, the community has mobilized the TPP Welcoming Committee. On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., these activists will hold an action at the Bureau of Land Management offices at 440 W. 200 S., to protest the selling off of our public lands to corporate interests. From there, they will march to a larger protest at Grand America Hotel, where organizers will speak out about the major problems of this trade pact and comment on actions that need to occur to halt this agreement which, if passed, will have pervasive negative effects on citizens of all signatory countries. On Tuesday night at 6 p.m., the TPP Welcoming Committee will hold a teach-in at the Utah Pride Center, 255 E. 400 S., to explain the impact the treaty will have on medical access, internet freedom, climate justice, labor rights and many other important issues. This will be followed by a creative nighttime light action at 8 p.m. outside Grand America Hotel, pulling the TPP out of the shadows and into public scrutiny.
Organizations like WikiLeaks have been able to obtain and release to the public only a small portion of the provisions of this secret agreement. They have exposed that the agreement expands copyright and patent monopolies, with alarming consequences. It enables pharmaceutical companies, for example, to use patents to substantially increase the costs of many drugs and therefore deprive people around the world of lifesaving medicine. The current draft of the agreement contains many of the same copyright provisions and controversial internet censorship powers previously contained in the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, overwhelmingly opposed by the U.S. populace.
In addition, the TPP would create international tribunals in which corporations could sue governments to overturn sovereign laws and extract vital resources from taxpayers and communities. These courts, completely outside U.S. jurisdiction, would expand corporate power while undermining national sovereignty and local control.
The TPP and the secretive negotiations undermine free speech, further entrench corporate rule, deny people around the world lifesaving medicines and erode national sovereignty.The agreement is yet another example of the corrupting influence of money in our political process. Accordingly, those involved in the negotiations will face significant opposition and dissent from the TPP Welcoming Committee and other concerned citizens.
The TPP Welcoming Committee is a coalition of individuals and organizations including Backbone Campaign, Sole de Utah, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, the Justice Party, Center for a Stateless Society, Popular Resistance, Occupy.com, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, HESA-Heterodox Economics Student Association at the University of Utah, and March Against Monsanto.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Defense Fund Launched for Ross Ulbricht, Accused Silk Road Marketplace Operator
New York, NY, November 20, 2013 – The family of the man accused by the US government of operating the Silk Road online marketplace has launched a fund for donations to their son’s legal defense.
Ross Ulbricht, 29, was arrested on October 1st and charged with creating and operating the web marketplace Silk Road, under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”. The allegations include a variety of conspiracies, including narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering, as well as planned acts of violence. Ulbricht denied all charges in federal court in San Francisco in October. He will appear at a bail hearing at the United States District Court, Southern District of New York at 11:00 am EST on Thursday, November 21.
On their website, the Ulbricht family states: “Our goal is to provide Ross with what every American citizen is promised: a fair trial. In the USA we are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We firmly believe in Ross’s innocence and are working hard with the best legal team to prove it.”
The family has retained New York-based attorney Joshua L. Dratel to defend their son in court. Mr. Dratel stated: “It is crucial that we have a level playing field for defending Ross, and that requires resources from the communities that support him.”
The Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Fund LLC is a Wyoming-based corporation established by the Ulbricht family. All donations are used solely to pay attorney fees, fund accounting fees and ancillary legal expenses.
SOURCE: Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Fund LLC, www.freeross.org
Joshua L. Dratel
Joshua L. Dratel, P.C.
29 Broadway, Suite 1412
New York, New York 10006
United States of America
Office: +1 212 732 0707
Fax: +1 212 571 3792
Today marks Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day, transgender and gender non-conforming people join with our allies to mourn and memorialize the transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been killed for who they are. There’s a lot at stake here. Trans* people, particularly transgender women of color, face horrendous bigotry, violence, and murder. According to a 2011 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 50% of LGBT individuals murdered in 2009 were trans women and 44% of LGBT individuals murdered in 2010 were trans women. This year, the Transgender Murder Monitoring project identified 238 reported cases of murdered trans* people around the world since November 20, 2012.
The consequences of this violence are disastrous for individual liberty. This violence and bigotry makes trans* people afraid to express their gender identities. It makes us afraid to walk in certain places and times. Freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and gender self-determination are jeopardized by violence, bigotry, harassment, and murder.
Rather than protecting people from these crimes, the police and prison systems all too often perpetrate them. In October, a drag performer in Texas was tased by cops and died shortly after. CeCe McDonald still languishes in prison for surviving a hate crime in which her racist and transphobic attacker died. The state’s criminal justice system all too often incarcerates trans* and gender non-conforming people for defending themselves from violence. A 2011 report found that 29% of trans* people had experienced police harassment and abuse. Is it any wonder that 46% said they “were uncomfortable seeking police assistance”? In the struggle against gender violence and abuse, the state is not an institution we can rely on for help. It is damage we must route around.
I hope you will take some time tonight to find a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in your community. Please take some time today to mourn the many trans* folks, especially trans women of color, who have been murdered. Trans* lives matter. Violence matters. Freedom of movement, gender expression, and gender self determination matter. Today let’s mourn our dead; tomorrow let’s fight for the living.
This week I had the great pleasure of talking with Ben Stone, the Bad Quaker, about a wide range of important topics. We discussed left-libertarianism, the IP attacks against C4SS from earlier this fall, the symbiotic relationship between corporations and government, the dangers of bigotry, and much more. The podcast can be found here.
Amia Srinivasan has four questions for free-market moralists, specifically those who accept something like a Nozickian account of individual rights. My own take is more Rothbardian than Nozickian, but that still seems close enough to give her four answers, and to ask four questions in return about the assumptions that underlie her essay.
Amia begins by asking:
1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?
This largely depends on how we’re defining “free.” There certainly can be (and are) large discrepancies in social power that might not necessarily involve the direct use of force or fraud. Those discrepancies are often very socially destructive, and it is legitimate to say that people on the wrong end of that kind of situation aren’t “free” in some broad (but important) sense of the word.
However, it’s not clear why acknowledging this would pose a threat to libertarianism. Libertarians can believe that people should always work to maximize “freedom” in its broad sense while also believing that it is always wrong to violate it in its strict sense. And, indeed,plenty of radical libertarians and free marketeers have explicitly tied their defense of freedom in the strict sense to the importance of freedom in the broad sense.
So here’s the first counter-question:
1. Do government interventions typically shrink or expand existing inequalities of social power?
Toward the beginning of her column, Srinivasan notes a couple examples of moral defenses of social inequality on free-market grounds. Yet despite the assumptions of both Srinivasan and the defenders of inequality she cites, a moral defense of voluntary exchange can’t be used to defend many of the inequalities we see in the world today.
As Srinivasan herself has noted elsewhere, the wealthy are considerably more dependent on government than the rest of us. This makes sense, given that they’re the ones most likely to havesignificant influence over public policy.
Even those laws and programs ostensibly designed to help the poor typically work to entrench the social position of the already wealthy. Sometimes this is through less obvious benefits, andsometimes this is by making the exploited complacent enough to not revolt.
If Srinivasan agrees with what seems like the logical conclusion of her earlier column about the rich and government dependency, it seems like the logical conclusion is that government usually works to strengthen existing inequalities. If that’s true, the drive toward freedom in that broader sense is an argument for free markets, not against them.
It’s hard to see how social inequality could be made worse by taking power away from an institution that’s engaged in massive land theft, killed serious attempts at labor organizing, regulated away alternatives to the life-draining workplace of the modern world, and just generally worked to keep the poor poor and the rich rich.
Considering the amount of violence it took to build existing relations of social power, rights-based libertarians (including Nozickians) are in an especially good place to tackle these problems. This is because they can remind us that property that’s been verifiably stolen is ripe for expropriation by anyone else willing to put it into productive use.
Next, Srinivasan asks:
2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible?
No, definitely not. I don’t know who Srinivasan thinks disagrees with this, though. The idea that libertarians believe non-aggression is the only important moral principle is a common strawman, but it’s almost never something any libertarian actually advocates. So the only way this is a mark against libertarianism is if you assume a 1:1 correlation between what’s morally impermissible and what ought to be legally impermissible. So, to Srinivasan I ask:
2. Should everything morally impermissible also be legally impermissible?
Srinivasan and other anti-libertarians will probably agree that the answer is no. If that’s the case, there needs to be some standard for how we do determine what should or shouldn’t be illegal.
One natural inclination might be to fall back on a libertarian standard, that invasions against people’s rights are what ought to be illegal. An alternative might be to say that the law’s violence should be used or not used according to the seriousness of a moral wrong.
This alternative test would go sharply against common sense morality, though. For example, most of us would probably agree that under normal circumstances, adultery is worse than petty theft or minor vandalism. And yet most of us would also probably agree that adultery should stay completely legal, and that petty theft and minor vandalism should remain illegal.
3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange?
No. Following what I said after the second question, that’s not a mark against libertarianism. Following what I said after the first question, allowing government intervention is more likely to allocate resources according to what keeps the rich rich and the poor poor, not according to who deserves what.
There’s another problem here, though:
3. Is there a good way of using government to dependably discover and enforce desert?
Governments are made up of human beings, no wiser, no more omniscient, and with no more well-tuned of a moral sense than their citizens. Given how removed they are from people living under their supervision, governments do a poor job of actually doling out the right kind of help at the right time.
One useful way of at least getting people what they want while also taking everyone else’s wants into consideration is letting them interact freely through markets. This is because prices carry much more information than any particular participant will (or can) ever actually know, and often important information about people’s needs that can only be discovered through actual market exchange.
If we want to talk about resolving people’s needs beyond just what they can get through commerce, libertarians also have a better answer to that than government activity.
I don’t think anyone has to be reminded how much better that private charities performed than governments after Hurricane Katrina. What they might be interested to know is that even more effective than top-down private charities were efforts based around grassroots mutual aid.
These came both from local churches and loose-knit organizations like the Common Ground Collective, who took the time to actually find out what people needed, rather than just assuming.
Similarly, we can remember the fraternal societies of the past, which knew their members closely enough to actually get them real help in an efficient way, without subjecting them to thedehumanizing paternalism that many recipients of government aid feel today. Any feasible social safety net will need to be genuinely social, by which I mean completely disconnected from government.
So if you prefer that people get more of what they need or deserve, the right response is to have government step away to let the people operate on the knowledge they actually have. If you prefer that people don’t get what they don’t deserve, you should make sure they can’t use government to get it.
4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don’t freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing?
Of course not. However, as we’ve discussed, that doesn’t mean that there should be any legal obligations outside of respecting individual rights. Even if there were, government wouldn’t be an effective way to discover or enforce those obligations. Rather than enforcing those sorts of obligations, interventions would likely work to help already socially powerful people avoid their own obligations.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s ignore everything else I’ve said here. There’s still one more question worth asking:
4. Are people morally equal?
Srinivasan surely agrees that they are. If she does, though, her assumptions about the ability to violently enforce people’s moral obligations don’t get her where she wants.
If she’s right about everything else but agrees that people are morally equal, this just gives everyone a right to violently enforce everyone else’s moral duties. It doesn’t give one group of a people a right to hoard that privilege for themselves.
In order to even establish a government, she has to show us how the group of people who operate the government win their preferential moral status. Here I step away from her intended target, Robert Nozick, but at least he acknowledged the prima facie problem of political authority, and bent over backwards trying to solve it.
Srinivasan claims that someone can’t make a hardline moral defense of the free market (or of an absolutist position in favor of libertarian rights) without taking some very counter-intuitive positions on all four of her questions. But this is only true, I’ve tried to show, if you assume some other, even more counter-intuitive answers to the questions I’ve raised.
Welcome to the fourth review! Let’s get started.
First up are the usual pieces on foreign policy and militarism:
Civil liberties is the next topic:
Onward to a brief detour into environmental politics!
A second brief detour into the politics of nationalism:
And some misc. pieces follow:
We end with the first two games from the ongoing World Chess Championship:
After watching a couple of people I know argue about whether “economic freedom” or “social freedom” was more important, I had the typical libertarian reaction: That’s a meaningless question, they’re the same thing. All transactions are “economic” in an important sense, and all relationships between people are “social.” To violently repress any non-invasive action is to limit someone’s economic opportunities, and doing that tends to put people in a socially subordinate position.
Then it struck me that there’s another problem with that dichotomy that left-libertarians in particular are in a good place to point out, and it has to do with popular ideological assumptions about whose “economic freedoms” are most often violated.
For most people, the archetypal examples of something that violates “economic freedoms” typically involve repressing a wealthier or otherwise more generally privileged person, and their archetypal examples of something that violates “social freedoms” typically involve repressing a poorer or otherwise more generally oppressed person. When you control for that, it becomes a lot harder to distinguish between what’s a restriction on “economic freedom” and what’s a restriction on “social freedom.”
For example, consider labor laws that harm serious, wildcat unionizing. Are those restrictions on “economic freedom” or “social freedom?” What about holding vast amounts of completely untouched land? Vagrancy laws? Zoning (especially regulations regarding non-related people sharing a house)? Eminent domain? Occupational licensing? Drug laws? Prohibitions on sex work? Immigration laws? The general regulatory web that prevents a resurgence of mutual aid societies?
It’s definitely not clear to me, and I think that shows the purpose this distinction really serves.
“Virtually everything about these people’s livelihoods, social organization, ideologies, and (more controversially) even their largely oral cultures, can be read as strategic positionings designed to keep the state at arm’s length. …
The huge literature on state-making, contemporary and historic, pays virtually no attention to its obverse: the history of deliberate and reactive statelessness. This is the history of those who got away, and the state-making cannot be understood apart from it.” –James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed.
There are many projects that have been developed throughout the past several decades that, if not created by market anarchists, have been immediately recognized by market anarchists as expressions of our dissolution strategy against that personal-cultural-structural damage known as the state – our enemy.
Open-Source Insurgency [PDF] – making centralized or authoritarian governance impossible. Free Open-Source Software – Debian; PGP Encryption Systems and The Tor Project – Wikileaks, Silk Road and Anonymous; Peer-to-peer File Sharing – BitTorrent, The Pirate Bay, BitCoin.
Homebrew Industrial Revolutions – making centralized or authoritarian production irrelevant. Asynchronous Collaborative Editing – Wikipedia, MOOC; Networked Manufacturing – 100k Garages, Fab Labs; CNC Production and 3-D Printing – Open-Source Ecology, Hackerspaces; DIY science and food production – Wetlabs, Aquaponics; Crowd Sourced Fundraising and Support – The Common Ground Collective, Indiegogo, Occupy Sandy.
Kevin Carson nicely sums up our approach:
“Our goal is not to assume leadership of existing institutions, but rather to render them irrelevant. We don’t want to take over the state or change its policies. We want to render its laws unenforceable. We don’t want to take over corporations and make them more ‘socially responsible.’ We want to build a counter-economy of open-source information, neighborhood garage manufacturing, Permaculture, encrypted currency and mutual banks, leaving the corporations to die on the vine along with the state.
We do not hope to reform the existing order. We intend to serve as its grave-diggers.”
Dark Wallet will be one of the many shovels available to us to ease and hasten our fossarian desires. It is A Line In The Sand – Just In Time For Our Disappearance.
A couple of months ago C4SS received a 100 bitcoin donation back when bitcoin was trading around $124. Now bitcoin is trading around $200. The C4SS workgroup debated on what to do with all that bitcoin. The first suggestions were to donate the lion’s share to established projects that were in line with our interests and aspirations like the EFF, the IWW General Defense Fund and Work People’s College, the P2P Foundation and Chelsea Manning’s Canteen Fund.
Then it was decided that, even though these organizations and projects are near and dear to our hearts, there are still more projects out there – eager, waiting, dreaming. Projects where enthusiasm outstrips resources. Where a $200 donation is the difference between a nascent anarchist infoshop in Alabama or Egypt closing its doors or expanding its operations.
We want the resiliency and the information found in the stigmergic swarm of projects and people doing new things. We want to challenge established groups to up their game and break their preconceived limits by offering them competition. The state is digging in and doubling down on total surveillance and prison economies. We need preemption, dislocation and disruption – now! We want virtualization, repetition and coopetition – now! We are dedicated to finding the cracks in the state’s system, wedging them open, freeing all prisoners and pulverizing the foundations.
We are calling this project: Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism.
We will be blogging about the projects we support as they come to our attention. We are reaching out through a number of networks to try to get an idea of what is out there or who is getting ready to start a project. If you know of a project, let us know. If you want to donate to the Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism project, let us know.
In the meantime, please, support Dark Wallet today and grab a shovel.
The following note is a response to some objections to: Real Libertarians Don’t Shill For The Kochs.
This article, “No Reason, Just Hate: That’s A Modern Liberal,” denies that the Kochs are major players in Alberta tar sands extraction and claims they stand to lose money if the project opens their U.S. oil interests to competition.
Whether or not that is so, it does not alter the facts that the Kochs support the Keystone project, or that the project is feasible only with massive land theft via eminent domain and regulatory preemption of common law liability for polluters. Whether or not the Kochs tip their hat to condemning eminent domain in principle, the fact remains that a project like Keystone is as closely tied to the state and its land thefts as were, say, the land grant railroads. So the Kochs’ defense is a bit like Lincoln’s Jesuit who, accused of killing ten men and a dog, triumphantly produced the dog in court.
Suggestions that alleging Koch financial interests in the project entail making it “all about the Kochs,” or that opposition to the project comes only from “liberals,” are strawman attacks. There are plenty of principled REASONS for free market advocates to oppose a corporatist project like Keystone without “liberals” ever coming into the picture.
If you check out the C4SS “press room,” you’ll see that in October we came within one “pickup” of hitting the 900 mark.
Our goal was to hit 1,000 by the end of the year. That looks kind of unlikely, but with 28 pickups in October, we’re doing better than the “one pickup per weekday” goal we’ve been trying to meet as a matter of course, and we’re getting ready to raise that goal.
Among the October pickups, you’ll see some publications running C4SS material for the first time — Nguoi Viet Daily News (the largest Vietnamese newspaper in the United States), and two sister Georgia newspapers, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.
As always, thanks to our supporters for making this continued progress possible!
The Nozickian outlook is often represented as moral common sense. But is it? Here I pose four questions for anyone inclined to accept Nozick’s argument that a just society is simply one in which the free market operates unfettered. Each question targets one of the premises or implications of Nozick’s argument. If you’re going to buy Nozick’s argument, you must say yes to all four. But doing so isn’t as easy as it might first appear.
A0. I think the interpretation of what “Nozickian” means is largely wrong, and the suggestion that mainstream political discourse involves much of anything at all which is either Rawlsian or Nozickian, either in method or in content, is frankly pretty loopy and a desperate grasp at far more intellectual significance than will ever actually be found in mainstream political discourse.
Q1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?
A1. In one sense sure, in another sense, no.
I’m not much interested in arguing over lexicography; but I will say that the sense of “free” in which all such transactions are “free” is a perfectly legitimate and coherent one; and it is ethically relevant to determining what kinds of individual or social means could possibly be appropriate in responding to a given transaction.
Q2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible?
A2. No, of course not.
Hardly anyone believes this; certainly not Nozick. But of course calling something “morally impermissible” means that it’s immoral to do it. It doesn’t mean that it’s moral for a third party to prohibit it, and I fear that there may be a really crude equivocation between the notion of moral “permissibility” and the notion of legal *permission* lurking in the wings.
Q3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange?
But so what? Ownership is not, in my view, mainly a matter of desert. People deserve all kinds of things that they aren’t morally entitled to take, and people often deserve less than what they own. Maybe the best case for individual property rights derives from some kind of connection between labor and exchange, on the one hand, and desert, on the other; I’m not convinced of this, but if it’s true, it still wouldn’t follow that there’s a simple equivalence between what you deserve and what you’re entitled to own.
Q4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don’t freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing?
A4. “Obligation” is ambiguous. People have lots of non-consensual moral obligations above and beyond respect for individual rights. I don’t think they have any enforceable legal obligations above and beyond respect for individual rights. Certainly if the idea is supposed to be that there are no moral obligations above and beyond respect for individual rights, then this is a travesty against Nozick’s view — the point is specifically that individual rights are supposed to be side constraints on morally permissible action; not that they determine the whole content of morality. If on the other hand the claim is that *since* saving the drowning man may be morally obligatory, it may also (therefore) be made legally obligatory, then of course that would be trying to sneak in a pretty big argumentative move through the back door.
“I know enough about human nature to know that it’s [anarchism] a naively flawed concept.”
“Anarchy’s a lovely idea, but it conflicts with human nature.”
Anarchists are used to hearing objections like these incessantly. It seems everyone is certain that stateless society built around left-libertarian principles is incompatible with human nature. But is this true?
It seems to me that if human nature exists, we would discern it through research in psychology, anthropology, history, and economics. So, what does research in those fields tell us about states and stateless societies?
Research in anthropology and history confirm the existence of stable societies without anything we would call “states.” James C Scott documents some of these in Southeast Asia in his book The Art of Not Being Governed. There’s also evidence of an effectively stateless society having existed with functional polycentric law for an extended period in Iceland.
How about research from psychology? Well, experiments in social psychology like the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments show that hierarchy and authority (which are essentially intrinsic to states) create strong incentives for abuse. Psychologist Sharon Presley summarizes some of the research on obedience and authority here.
What about research in economics? Well, Elinor Ostrom used both game theoretic models and extensive empirical research to show that decentralized and grassroots participatory social institutions can effectively manage and govern common pool resources without state regulation. While Ostrom herself was not an anarchist, her research demonstrates the vibrant possibilities of self-governance and illuminates how decentralized and voluntary organization can build collective action without the information problems that beset states. Economic research that bolsters the case for anarchism is not limited to Ostrom’s work. For example, on the matter of states, public choice theory starts from fairly reasonable premises about human nature used for mainstream economics and shows that states often come with innately perverse incentives that will lead them to behave destructively and irresponsibly.
So if we’re looking at “human nature” through a lens of social science, it’s not obvious from the evidence that “human nature” is a strong point against anarchism. Indeed, it may provide a strong argument for it.