Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Are You Secretly an Anarchist?

Here are three simple questions. The answers to these questions will indicate whether you are an anarchist or not (remember, an anarchist simply believes that no one has the right to rule anyone else).

1. Do you have the right to take someone else's money?

2. Can you delegate to someone else a right that you yourself do not have?

3. Can two or more people delegate to a third person a right that they do not have?

If you answered "no" to all three questions, a consistent application of your morals (beliefs, personal ethics, understanding of rights, etc.) will result in the complete rejection of the legitimacy of the state (any coercive government). You are an anarchist. Let me explain:

You believe that you do not have the right to take someone else's money. The state does just that every day. It takes people's money through taxation.

You agreed that you cannot delegate to someone else a right that you yourself do not have and that two or more people cannot delegate to a third person a right that they do not have. The state supposedly derives its authority to tax "from the consent of the governed". But the governed are people and people have no right to take people's money. Therefore, the state's authority to tax is illegitimate and thus the state cannot exist. Welcome to anarchy.

I understand that this is difficult to accept for a lot of people and surely many of you who are reading this are now desperately trying to find an escape hatch to get out of this logical nightmare. I assure you, there is no escape. Let me address some common fallacious arguments that many people try to use in order to deny their inner anarchist.

"We are the state so it's not theft if it's your own money." You do not send your taxes to yourself. The state is made up of people who threaten to use force against you if you do not send your taxes to them. Taxation is state theft against anyone who would not pay their taxes if they were not threatened with fines or jail time.

"Without the state there would just be chaos and natural rights would be trampled on a massive scale. There is no (better) alternative to the state so the state cannot be immoral." This is an example of the black-or-white fallacy because it presents a false dilemma. It assumes only two choices where more choices can exist. It is completely impossible for anyone to know for sure that an alternative to the state cannot exist. Such knowledge would require omniscience that is simply unavailable to mortals.

"100% freedom just would not work. We have to limit people's rights to enable the most freedom possible." Again, there is no way to know this, especially since our current statist system does not even allow us to try. This is an example of the special pleading fallacy (moving the goalposts) because it identifies a special scenario where the strict logical application of morality may not be applied for some reason.

"It's not theft if you get something in return." If a thief steals your car and leaves a wad of cash in the driveway, it is still theft. Theft is taking someone else's property without permission. The definition does not depend upon the provision of something in return for the unauthorized appropriation.

"We vote so it's okay." If you answered "no" to all three questions you already agreed that you do not have the right to steal and that two or more people cannot delegate to a third person a right they do not have. Voting is simply a mechanism for the delegation of duties and taxation is supposedly a duty that is delegated to the state through voting. But, by your own admission, no individual has the right to tax so no delegation of taxation duties may occur. 

"We have a bill of rights so it's okay." This is another example of the special pleading fallacy. This claim argues that the logical application of morals should not be taken to its logical conclusions because some arbitrary conditions have been satisfied.

"But it's the law." This is an appeal to authority. This argument might have a chance at holding water if the law was drafted by robots, aliens, or super-intelligent animals, but it was not. Legislation is a human construct and, because of your answers above, humans simply cannot have or delegate the rights that the state requires to exist.

"Our lives are pretty good so why worry about it?" This is a subjective claim and completely irrelevant with regards to the consistent application of morals to the question of the state.

"You anarchists are never going to convince enough people to make anarchy work." Again, this is a subjective claim and completely irrelevant. It is also an example of the bandwagon fallacy.

"You are disrespecting the soldiers who died for your freedom, the Founding Fathers, state employees, etc." This claim is an appeal to emotion and completely irrelevant.

"A stateless society could never handle roads, welfare, orphans, national defense, contract law, etc." In addition to becoming a libertarian meme (Muh Roads), this claim is an example of the personal incredulity fallacy. Simply because you do not understand how a stateless society might work does not necessarily mean that it cannot work. Most people who make such claims have never taken any amount of time to research free market solutions that replace state functions.

Perhaps by now you wish to revise your answers. Perhaps you are so unwilling to let go of the idea of the state that you would indeed submit that sometimes people do have the right to steal and that sometimes rights that people do not have can be delegated. If you want to make that argument, that is fine, but there are important implications when accepting such a position.

Answering "yes" or "sometimes" to the three questions means that some people simply have an innate right to steal and do other things that other humans cannot do . Since everyone is human, the only way to determine who is entitled to steal and who is not is by justifying the use of physical violence with arbitrary claims that can be argued by anyone. If your property gets stolen the thief may make an argument that justifies the theft and it is impossible to know if he is right or not. Under such a morally relativistic system, might makes right because nobody can objectively argue otherwise.

In other words, your only two logical choices are to either become a statist moral nihilist or a moral anarchist*. I recommend the latter. Relentlessly apply your personal morals in all areas of life and society and you will soon arrive at anarchy.

*I suppose you could become a moral nihilist who believes in anarchy but this blog post is unlikely to cause that.


  1. This concept may be beyond mortals. I see it as an idea we need to understand and prepare for. In a pure sin free society, this is probably the operating system. Maybe we can name it a Theology, if anarchist seems harsh. Thought provoking anyway.

  2. One can answer "yes" to those questions, yet not be an anarchist. You could voluntarily join a society where there is a "government", leadership group, or "state" if you will, that is limited in its powers to only those that protect the natural rights of it's members. The U.S., under the original Constitution, was such a government. The important component of such a government (including national and state governments) is the freedom to vote with your feet. It one doesn't like it, one may go somewhere without any government, and live the life of a nomad, where nobody will molest you. But once people live in close proximity to each other, you would spend all your time protecting your rights, property, and family from your neighbors. Or you could hire someone to do it for you while you try to make a living.

    1. As long as you consent to the rules of the "government" then it is okay, but you cannot speak for anyone (your children, your future children) other than yourself. And if it is a voluntary "government," it seems to me to be more like a charity that provides services, rather than a government that forces everyone within a geographical area to pay up or go to jail. The US constitution is what gave us this lovely display of the smallest government possible today, so I don't think it's wise to rewind the clock and start again. (Besides, we've been trying to forcefully tell people what to do for over 3000 years. I think we can give voluntary interactions a try.)

      The problem with voting "with your feet" in today's world is that the minute you go out of one tax farm (say the US) you step into another tax farm (say Canada) so you haven't really done anything except change your masters.

      If I choose to live in close proximity of another person, I sure as hell would want to make sure that that is not the type of person that I will need violence to protect myself from. Of course, in a voluntary community without government, I would still want to stay safe and I might start up a protection company or pay someone to protect me, someone that I can choose to stop paying if they stop doing a good job (unlike government). I don't think that most people in today's world don't steal or murder or rape or assault because there is a cop only minutes away, I think it is because they have at least some little spark of moral integrity or half a brain that stops them from doing it and/or understanding the consequences of committing crimes. And if someone commits a crime, I sure as hell don't want to do business with that person, and I would urge everyone else around me to also follow suit if they agree that it was a crime, and now the criminal can't go anywhere (since all could be private property) or buy anything or go out to any place until they decided to right the wrong that they committed.

    2. These aren't the 3 questions that I expected to see, although they are very good questions indeed.
      1. Do you use violence (placing a person in an involuntary position without their consent or choice) in your day to day life to solve problems?
      2. Except in self defense or defense of others, do you consider it wrong or immoral to commit that violence?
      3. Do you also consider it wrong and immoral to force ideas onto other people?

      If you answered yes to these questions, then why do you elect a politician to do these same things for you?

  3. I like the comment : "Maybe we can name it a Theology..." It is unknowingly spot on. The author of the article assumes that all people agree to his version of morality (whether it is correct or incorrect), and as such his entire subsequent argument of which he alleges that "there is no way out" is only true within the confines of his assumed moral basis. Yet his argument does not hold true when one questions the moral basis itself. Why is his version of morality better or more logically sound or valid than other versions of morality?