Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Anarchy is Not Anti-Organization

I believe in self-ownership, meaning that each individual owns himself and is his own sovereign. I believe that the non-aggression principle is valid, meaning that the initiation of force is illegitimate. The consistent application of these principles leads me to completely reject the legitimacy of the government. That is what makes me an anarchist and anti-government.

A lot of misunderstanding arises after people hear that I am anti-government. Many people assume that I must be anti-organization and anti-cooperation but nothing could be further from the truth. I believe I have identified the root of the misunderstanding. It is actually my fault and it is due to my use of ambiguous terms.

Ambiguity: Is this a duck or a rabbit?

There are two ways to understand the term “government”. The first way, the way that I have been using it, describes the monopolistic and coercive organization that believes it rules everyone within a particular geographic area. Examples of this can include a state or federal government. The second way to use the term “government” describes a voluntary and non-coercive institution that utilizes explicit contracts that specifically delegate an individual’s authority. Examples of this can include a homeowner association or an out-of-court settlement agreement.

From now on, in order to avoid confusion, I will use a different term to describe the system that attempts to govern people whether they like it or not. Like many other liberty-minded people, I will call it the “state”. The word “state” signifies much more than simply an individual state in the United States of America. It signifies a nation or any political entity that claims the exclusive right to control people in a given territory.

As an anarchist I am anti-state but I do not have a problem with voluntary governments. In a world of anarchy, if a bunch of people got together and explicitly agreed to form a communist government using property that they owned, I would not have a problem with that. I would be concerned that they would not succeed and I might tell them as much, but I would be fine with such a society existing. I, myself, would most likely contract with some type of voluntary government in order to take advantage of services like courts and police protection. 

I wrote this post because it is important to know that being an anarchist does not mean embracing an "every man for himself" mentality or any other radical idea about how people should live their daily lives. The only thing that being an anarchist means is rejecting the use of physical coercion to achieve your ends. All voluntary relationships, including any non-coercive governments, are consistent with anarchy and are okay with me.


  1. I'm glad you wrote this. The two definitions of government you explain help to dispel confusion. When I've used the word government in our previous conversations I've been talking about the second, non-coercive, meaning. It helps to know that you have been referring to the "coercive" definition of the word.

  2. great post. here's my distinction on "government" and "state":

  3. This is a good distinction. I still have difficulty understanding how a non-coercive government could have a court that had any teeth to enforce a contract or apply penalties.

    1. Perhaps this article will help: