Vote No-Confidence . . . In the State!

Last week (Thursday, June 2), reports CNN, “Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.” The no-confidence motion was lodged by the opposition party in response to the Prime Minister’s “handling of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis.”

If the political process has seemed to the Japanese to be incapable of solving the country’s many problems, then they have begun to see through the state’s veneer of sensibility and order. Anarchists, contrary to our reputation as agents of chaos, urge only that we extend the no-confidence vote to the state itself.

Whereas we are quite comfortable subjecting particular administrations and policy decisions to scrutiny, the political paradigm itself is conspicuously exempt from probes regarding its efficacy. Given the state’s miserable record concerning the social issues it is supposedly designed to address, we might wonder why it continues to enjoy the public confidence.

On the whole — across geographic boundaries and time — has the state’s record of murder, theft and exploitation really shown it more worthy of our confidence than that of Prime Minister Kan’s government? As a specific example of the state, is present day Japan really unique in its failures, or is there something fundamentally wrong with politics itself?

Market anarchists recognize that the fundamental nature of the state makes it impossible for it to serve society in any positive way. Although, as Frank Chodorov observed, scholars have “turned tribute into ‘fiscal policy’ and clothed it with social good,” this merely reflects our “adjustment to conquest.” The state, with violence as its foundational tool, has always been an origin of social problems — at least for the laboring masses. For the ruling class, on the other hand, these problems have proved very profitable.

To abrade the foundations of authority and hierarchy, we too must file a no-confidence motion, one entered simply by our abstention from the political process. Once we withdraw in large enough numbers, implementing our vision of change through peaceful counter-institutions, the state will be forced to compete with the versatility of true free market society.

The state depends for its existence, and that of its economic system, on tractable, “civic-minded” subjects, pietistic sheep who will accept without thought “the way things are.” That the state has dominated society so completely and for so long leads most to believe that it ought to exist, that it has won out on the practicality and strength of what it does for us.

Nothing, however, can be accomplished through arbitrary force and compulsion that cannot be achieved through voluntary agreement, trade and cooperation. The important difference between a market anarchist society set free from the state and society as it is today is in the initiation of aggression against the peaceful person.

In the latter social system, every facet of an individual’s life is defined by the use of coercion against non-aggressors, forcing them into an economic and social (or rather anti-social) arrangement that they did not choose. It would be a mistake to conceive of a hypothetical, genuine free market economy in the narrow terms of the formal economy as it exists today, denominated in dollars and excluding black and grey markets.

The free market is rather a construction used to represent all of those voluntary and consensual happenings in economic life, not only quid pro quo exchanges, but also, for example, charity and gift. The free market, then, is not merely a strictly economic imperative demanded by efficiency and cost-effectiveness, but an ethical one too.

It is distinguished by the cost principle, whereby each individual internalizes her own costs, but it is also defined by the noncompulsory nature of the relationships that comprise it. The economic crises inherent in statism are thus tied inextricably to the broader, moral wrong that it rests on: Confidence in the state is confidence in crime, the belief that forceful engineering for the few can have benefits for the many.

Like Japan’s government, all governments everywhere are crying out for a popular vote of no-confidence. To cast that vote, you have merely to withdraw your consent from the state and invest in the kinds of harmonious social organization that actually do help real people.

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