Leading by Example
This article was written by guest-author The Admiral Anarchbar.
All of the anarchists that The Admiral meets are peaceful folk that follow one guiding principle: The Non-Aggression Principle. They think it is wrong to use force to get your way. And they believe that it is a great sadness for us to fight with each other and use government force to mold society. They all recognize that the market enables lasting cooperation between people that have fundamental philosophical disagreements.
But these positive and optimistic anarchists are a rare breed. So we all follow the words and teachings of a few role models such as Walter Block, David Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and the venerable Murray Rothbard. We recognize the value of voluntary cooperation and of freedom. But we find ourselves in a land of statism. How best to promote the path we know is right?
Imagine for a minute that you are a serf during the Middle Ages. You look around and find a few things that are really awesomely cool, like that band of bards that traveled through last month, and the seasonal harvest festivals. You compare that to the king and his castle, and think: every year he taxes some of my meager wealth and I’m not allowed to say what he spends it on!
So you go to your friend, also a poor serf, and suggest to him: Why don’t we have a representative democracy like the Romans did? We outnumber this king and his guards, we can band together and force him to change, to give us a vote on how we want our tax money spent. We eat well only during festival, and he eats lavishly every day!
But your friend knows only his own experience and isn’t aware of Italian history. Just as today, the people I suggest anarchy to have known only statism and haven’t read Rothbard in their statist school. Your friend ponders the proposal for a bit, and then points out that this democracy idea would never work!
For one thing, we’ve always had a King. Without the king we wouldn’t have someone to lead and protect us. We would be disorganized without his leadership. And why would anyone want to step down from that role voluntarily after four years? King is for life.
Supposing that we were able to convince our own King that it is good for him to step down and let us choose a new leader, what would stop the new guy from staying in power? He’d control the castle guard. Sure he’d say all the right things for us to elect him. But I don’t think he’d allow another election. Nobody would give up the power of King.
So you think you’re proposing a peaceful election, but really we’d just end up fighting a bloody civil war with each other every four years. And what if you and I disagreed about who should be next, then we’d probably end the friendship because only one of us will be on the right side of that battle. The winner would gloat, and the loser would feel soured.
No, democracy is totally unworkable. I think it’s better to just keep our King and pay him the taxes. He’s doing a pretty good job. Don’t let the roving merriment of the bards lure your mind into some kind of unrealistic utopia.
Of course, The Admiral has invented this tale with some analogies. The friend argues from ignorance. He cannot imagine that any other system of governance than monarchy would work. Thus, he invents some justification for how the current regime should remain. And it sounds reasonable.
But anyone arguing for democracy today repeats these blunders. They can’t think of alternatives, because no alternatives are mentioned by the media or state education system. Instead, we are all well versed in different aspects of centralized government: representative republic, direct democracy, and monarchy. Everyone (except my friendly anarchist compatriots) think that without government to rule us society would collapse. We need a narrative that shows otherwise.
An an anarchist, I’m proposing peaceful self-governance. Yet people think I’m proposing a total lack of law and order. But law, just as any other good and service, can be provided on the free market, for less cost and at higher quality than politically-oriented monopoly government. And order is simply the natural and spontaneously emergent sum of individuals cooperating with each other.
In a world of people that think “only one ruler for life” is the only workable alternative, they will indeed take sides between two uncertain princes and fight for one to be king. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Meanwhile, today, in a world of people that think “we need to vote for our legislature” is the only workable means of organization, they will indeed assume the necessity of government, and assign to it socially necessary goods and services, such as police protection, roads, law, courts, etc. Again, when people think they cannot make do on their own with each other, government becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And that’s exactly why we need for anarchists to be vocal role models, walking in a different direction. Those following the non-aggression principle are a peaceful folk. Entrepreneurs, even when not specifically of anarchist mindset, can fashion alternatives to government services: Private security in Detroit, decentralized electronic currency like Bitcoin, and private education as reported by James Tooley in The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves.
With these successes, what can be accomplished when anarcho-entrepreneurs make it a point to out-compete government? Self-governance in its natural market form.
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