Anarchy gets a bad rap. It is associated with chaos and mayhem by most. Not merely the absence of government, but the absence of law and the absence of justice. Looting, burning, raping and murder are images running through our mind when we hear the word.
Strictly speaking, those are not necessarily conditions of anarchy. Anarchy simply means no ruler, as opposed to a monarchy (one ruler), or a democracy (rule by the people). Yet the image is hard to shake. Thus, I prefer to refer to it as a stateless society. Now you have a society, which invokes images of nothing less than civility, fair play, and peace, but merely with no state. No taxes, no congress to pass laws, and possibly no law enforcement, courts, or welfare for the poor. It might sound like an oxymoron, but it doesn’t invoke the same resistance the term anarchy does.
Lately I’ve been brushing up on my English history. There are several interesting, if not good, podcasts I find worth listening. There is the British History Podcast, reasonably reliable, but an awful lot of leftist moral judgement and anti-religious judgement sprinkled in. There is the History of England podcast with witty British humor, entirely lost on an Okie but quite good nonetheless. And, my favorite is the one whose focus isn’t even on history itself but on the language; The History of English Podcast. I’ve also recently finished Dan Jones’s “The Plantagenets” and “Wars of the Roses.” Now, the history of the Plantagenets is pretty simple and straight forward, but you really have to pay attention to know just what the hell happened during the Wars of the Roses; It’s confusing as all get out.
It occurred to me to while taking a break from my study to listen to Jason talk about why an anarchist society wouldn’t work what the people of the 14th century might say about the things we do now.
Let’s take a quick trip back into the past, find ourselves a well-educated monk, lord, or maybe even King Edward III and present him with a few “impossibilities” and imagine what they may say.
- Women can be, and should be given the opportunity to be world leaders.
Edward III: Laughter.
- Countries will be governed not by kings, but by elected representatives in parliaments and congresses. The royals will be nothing more than figureheads in the places they are retained, and many nations will not have royal families at all.
Lord: Madness and anarchy.
- The church will not receive money from taxation, but will depend entirely on the voluntary contributions of its parishioners. Attendance will not be mandatory and will not be enforced. Everyone will be able to read and everyone will own at least one copy of the holy script and read it on his or her own, and take away from it whatever meaning he can make of it.
Monk: This is the most serious deviation. If taxes are not levied to support the church she will fall; there will be Godlessness and wickedness at every turn. If people aren’t force to pay for the church, and they are not punished if they fail to attend, churches will disappear from the countryside and religion and love for God will disappear from men’s hearts. In addition, if every individual may read and reason from scripture translated to his own tongue, there will be as many heresies crop up as there are laymen who do read it.
Now my aim is here is not to sing the praises of our modern society, any more than we might laud the telegraph compared to the message runner, or the rotary phone as compared to the telegraph. My point is only to show how easy it is to write things off as impossible, illogical, or down right insane, that make perfect sense and are entirely achievable. Whether in terms of technology, or society, if we were to give an account of our condition to the people of the 14th century, the only men who would not find us mad would be those who were themselves insane.
So let’s take a deeper look, reexamine the arguments and the position of a stateless society, and see if they really are all that crazy. Certainly, taxes are not necessary. If the Catholic Church and scores of other churches have survived down through the last few centuries without forced attendance and forced monetary contribution why couldn’t the police force, the courts, and the welfare system do the same? And, is that any less crazy today than advocating for voluntary support for the church 500 years ago?
When we look at these issues in a broader historical perspective, all of a sudden it doesn’t seem so wacky. I don’t know if we’ll ever have a society entirely free of monopolies, of compulsion, coercion, and violence, but I do believe the day will come when they will be supported voluntarily and not through taxes.
As far as a truly stateless society, and how crazy it is to think people may figure out for themselves, free of coercion and monopoly, how to adjudicate disputes and administer justice, this may be less realizable because monopolists are highly disinclined to relinquish their monopoly. But it isn’t crazy.
We can set our dial to the 1950’s in the USSR. There, the state produces everything from cars to housing, from food to toilet paper. True, not enough is produced, and the quality isn’t very good, nor is the service prompt, but can you only imagine how much worse it would be if it were left to profiteers to provide such goods? The greedy capitalists would evict everyone, and food prices would be so high the average worker would be lucky to get one meal every other day! How silly is that? Yet, isn’t that the attitude we take when presented with the idea of people living without government? We find ourselves in the same situation we saw the people in the 14th century living in.
Alternatively, we might even come back home to modern day America, and look at the marvels of the post office. If it weren’t for the USPS, who would carry the mail to the far flung backwoods of the frontier? Well no more time travel is needed, but merely reference to a history book.
Prior to the establishment of the British post office in 1597, mail was carried by merchants and travelers who would stop in at the local tavern or inn and check a mail sack hung on a post. They would find the letters addressed to the town that they were traveling to, the keeper of the establishment would pay them the appropriate amount left with him by the sender, and the traveler would be on his way with the letters. Now, no matter how far out in the sticks you live, either someone from town comes to see you or you go to town. Even if it is a little town, truckers still make their way there; it isn’t unreasonable that what the government now does, could once again be done by private individuals.
UPS and Fed Ex are constantly expanding their field of service.
By the way, the most irksome fact concerning letter carrying is the why. It would have never come to pass but the privy council of England was interested in knowing who was saying what to whom about the crown, and if there were any plots against the crown or the realm. When we in America established our independence, we simply inherited the same system. Originally, it was a 16th century NSA spy program. How creepy is that?
Of course you’re mail is perfectly safe today with the USPS. Yes, they’re listening to your phone conversations, and reading your emails, but your letters, they don’t read those. And that’s probably true, anything important enough to send is probably sent by other channels. Nevertheless, I’m still creeped out by it.
What you find entirely natural today was nothing but the ravings of a lunatic a few centuries ago and what you think is crazy will be the norm in the future.