Could we survive without government? …even thrive?
To be clear, please note that “without government” doesn’t mean without leaders, without law, or without order. These existed prior to modern nations and they will exist after their dissolution.
Look close enough, and you will find plenty of violence, mayhem, graft, waste, and destruction (what most people think is anarchy) stemming from the very human organizations most of us refer to as government. I don’t care who you are or where you are living on this planet, the not so invisible hand of government is never far away.
Yes, there are plenty of good people in government, just like everywhere else. I believe most people are good most of the time. So, it’s not the people, it’s the organizational structure through which some people work. In the case of government, there are fewer checks and balances relative to human organizations that don’t rely on force for their existence i.e. free market participants.
And of course, we have some industry sectors and hybrid organizations – those which enjoy significant government protection – like banking, healthcare, energy, and academia to name a few; think, too big to fail.
This lack of a level playing field is not only unjust, but it also creates artificial preferences that create and perpetuate other injustices. When injustice mounts, eventually there is a tipping point where peace dissolves and prosperity suffers. This happens at every level in society whether between individuals or nations.
So, if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t expect justice from a system of governance based upon injustice. And, don’t cop-out: it’s not the price of democracy – governance has always evolved. The state of affairs is unacceptable because we can do better, but it is going to require a critical mass of folks doing some soul-searching, then acting in sufficient concert to challenge the status quo.
Impossible you think? That’s what the pundits of the day said of democracy overtaking the great monarchies. It’s just changing minds and minds are changing all the time.
So, what does “anarchy” really mean? Originally, according to Wikipedia, for the Greeks, it meant “without chief or ruler” evolving into the french version “without government” and into a more modern definition that would seem to leap to the government’s assumption of what happens without its guiding presence, “violence and mayhem”.
Of course, nobody owns languages. They freely evolve where definitions often change over time, sometimes drastically, as with anarchy. And, despite the greater possibility for confusion, I find the word simple, concise, and historically relevant to mankind’s love/hate relationship with rulers. It is also provocative, but given our collective slumber, a little provocation may be in order.
So, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, this site is dedicated to education and non-violent action (except to the extent necessary for individual self-defense) for the application of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) as the single rule of law in governing all social, economic and politically related interaction – both locally and globally.
Consistent application of the NAP results in a state of anarchy – the absence of government – not the assumed disorder and violence thought to result without it.
Absent government and the NAP as a rule of law, there would only be the free market based upon consensual exchange for every type of product or service, which might include slavery – obviously not so good.
So, the free market alone is not enough to best maximize and sustain basic justice and all the benefits that flow from it. However, when the NAP is applied within the free market a sort of symbiosis occurs where each principle is better empowered together than alone. From that union, the possibilities for prosperity seem infinite.
In this context, how society would operate without government within a free market is best described by a school of thought known as anarcho-capitalism (AnCap). It may also be called libertarian anarchy, market anarchism or free market anarchism; regardless, all are founded upon the principle of self-ownership and its inextricable extension to property rights and contract law.
These ideals are best understood and applied to modern events through the study of common law and the school of economic thought known as the Austrian School of Economics – the strict application of which provides for maximal choice in the peaceful creation and free movement of people, goods, services and ideas of any type, subject only to maximal accountability in accordance with the NAP.
The NAP should be the fundamental rule of law (necessarily and equally applicable to literally all persons and entities of any type). It would be interpreted and implemented through contract law, private arbiters and enforcement agencies – yes, these too subject to the NAP.
Although a perfect society is forever elusive, the logical application of these ideals organically creates a socioeconomic environment which more justly, quickly and efficiently self-corrects for abuse of power and all the ills which stem from it (waste, graft, war, etc.); thus, it ever trends toward greater and more sustainable justice, peace and prosperity for the broadest array of persons and cultures – all without the force, control, bureaucracy, lag and hopeless centralized planning of government – in any form. The key to creating this environment lies in achieving a critical mass of the population who understand the NAP and demand its unequivocal application. At that point, government is helpless and dies of its own accord.
Critics of AnCap contend that it is utopian and idealistic. But to paraphrase Murray N. Rothbard, a central figure in the development of AnCap, what is utopian and idealistic is believing that government can centrally plan and provide for even a fraction of the needs and desires of constituents in increasingly pluralistic or diversified societies. All government – not to be confused with the services of governance – is the single greatest impediment to the betterment of humanity – as individuals and collectively as a culture, society, etc.
In all forms, government based upon force (subsisting from taxation) is inherently unjust and hypocritical. Even democracies, while often deemed the best form of government, still suffer from this fatal flaw and are severely limited to the betterment of the growth and development of humankind in terms of sustainable and more distributed justice, peace and prosperity.
As history has demonstrated in the rise and fall of past civilizations, government as a form of human organization, when based on force, has always been and will continue to be an unsustainable venture. A deeper examination of logic and history must be the foundation of any effort for systemic change – not more rules and certainly not more government!
Fortunately, due to entrepreneurial advancements in technology, the decentralization in knowledge, communication, energy and soon money, all will better physically, mentally and spiritually prepare more people to understand the brutal fallacy of all governments and how the application of the NAP would result in a more decentralized and sustainable system of governance where both individual choice (power) and responsibility (accountability) are simultaneously maximized; and by extension, the well-being of society as a sum of its individual beings.
Clearly, humankind has not only survived without government but has significantly evolved in spite of it. Only individual human beings can think, feel, decide, and act, whether alone or in concert with others regardless of the type of entity for which they may work.
In reality, there is no government per se, only individuals acting through or in league with its fundamentally unjust structure. Take away government and we’ll take away nearly Big-Everything that biasedly derives and/or maintains its nearly monopolistic or oligopolistic existence from government – many ignorantly call this system capitalism, when it is in fact, if not ironically, far closer to socialism or fascism.
Although recognizing that some forms of government may be relatively better than others, the evidence proves that all government has universally failed the very mass of constituents it claims to protect. And although we were born into these regimes, we are here in the present, and it is incumbent upon each of us to better understand ourselves, others, the environment in all senses of the word, logic, history, and just exactly what our best options may be for true contemporaneous individual and societal improvement.
And finally, in pursuit of such, to understand and accept that education never ends. To remain mentally open, to search, to actively listen, to feel with consideration and compassion, to exhaust principle, to follow the gut, may just lead us on a journey to other places, people, ideas and actions that could truly change the world. We won’t know unless we try.
S.C. Striebeck is an American attorney. After receiving a liberal arts degree with an emphasis in science and philosophy, he began his professional years as a union laborer. He then later completed his graduate education in business and law while working with his father for nearly twenty years first as a real estate broker, then as a home-builder and small real estate developer where his interest in sustainability originated and evolved. He then applied this experience toward renewable energy-related technologies and services, and non-profit lobbying for distributed renewable energy legislation where an examination of the local and global energy markets sparked an interest in libertarianism and ultimately its purest form – anarcho-capitalism. Today, he expresses his interest in libertarianism and sustainability through the practice of law and writing. He regularly analyzes current events from this perspective at wisdomofanarchy.com and via twitter @scstriebeck.