I have made a number of comments on the thread of fellow writer Rocco’s post “Too Unlimited; Adventures in Constitutional Scepticism”, which, in the bloody ongoing feud between anarchists and minarchists, takes the side of the former. Much of the argument I can accept, as it is certainly the case that a constitutionally-guaranteed right does not necessarily stop a rampaging state, but pointing out the difficulties of limiting state power does not make the case for anarchy, especially when I am not entirely sure the anarchists know what they will either put in its place, or if the answer to this is nothing, how they will prevent others from filling the vacuum?
Thus I remarked: “I don’t really understand what you are proposing, and I’m beginning to suspect neither do you.”
To which Rocco responded;
“No monopoly rule-enforcer is required for men to live together. How precisely any particular breach of the rules would be handled in an imaginary “anarchic” situation is impossible to say a priori.”
This to me is not a satisfactory answer. Indeed it reminds me of South Park’s famous Underpants Gnomes, who were busily amassing underpants as a means to make a profit. Just how this was expected to do so, however, remained somewhat mysterious:
Returning to the subject of anarchy, the offer seems to be:
Phase one: Abolish the state. Phase two: ? Phase three; Harmony between men.
Whatever comprises Phase two, going by the quote from Rocco it must include agreeing a set of rules, for the statement to make any sense. As such, this state of anarchy will begin with some kind of social contract, however informal. If there is, per specification, no monopoly rule-enforcer, there must surely be some mechanism for enforcement of contracts, or if this is too strong, some kind of punishment through ostracism for defaulters.
Separate to contractual matters comes self-defence against violent aggression. Assuming each individual has the natural right to self-defence, then he also has the right to delegate this right, or to combine with others to form a mutual defence association. Thus, so far into the empty space left by the expiring state, we find a set of agreed rules, which I would call a social contract, and one or more mutual defence associations. These measures seem unavoidable if any kind of society is to exist, and if entered into voluntarily and only operating defensively, they are compatible with libertarian principles.
However, not everyone wants to live in peace with his neighbours. Without the apparatus of the state, there are other options to those above for the maliciously-inclined. Firstly, one may choose to be a petty criminal. Secondly, one may choose to band together in a predatory way in order to live by plunder. I shall call this the warlord option. Neither of these is permissible under the libertarian philosophy, but they are very likely to occur in a state of anarchy, as they do in a state with a functioning government, police force, legal system etc.
Based on the preceding, each individual has a choice of four options:
1) Agree to a social contract and join a Mutual Defence Association.
2) Keep aloof from the above, but try to live peacefully and possibly self-sufficiently.
3) Join or form a predatory warlord militia.
4) Live as a lone-wolf predator.
Options number one and three both represent systems which could evolve to take the place of the vanished state. The distinction between the two at the early stage is easy to see; one is voluntary and defensive, the other is predatory and offensive, and if both exist at the same time, the relationship between them will be that which exists between different nations, i.e. a Lockean state of nature, with the choice of ‘live and let live’ or ‘live and let die’.
No doubt I have overlooked and simplified many things. For instance option number one as stated sounds very individualistic, but it could take the form of a collectivist commune and still contain a social contract and a responsibility for mutual defence. Nevertheless, were the state to disappear, and ignoring the possibility of foreign intervention, it would most likely be replaced in a short space of time by a number of proto-republics and outlaw states, which would present us all with the same problems of governance and state gangsterism, but on a smaller scale.
When considering such things, more effort is needed to distinguish between what is the state, what is the law and what is government. It seems to me anarchists sometimes do not do this, and then must take refuge in vagueness, for fear of conceding anything which might drag them back towards the dreaded minarchist position.