“I don’t care if there’s a government or not,” a friend once told me. “I just want people to stop hating and being violent. I just want everybody to behave and get along.”
Total face-palm. If people ever learned to “behave and get along” — that is, if we were guided by moral principles and not mere laws — it would render the State obsolete (if it isn’t already, which is arguably the case). My friend expressed indifference to the idea of a stateless society, then without realizing it she described one. It appears State propaganda is so effective that even a young woman with a master’s degree can’t reason clearly.
Anarchists are accused of underestimating human evil and stupidity, which is why there must be a State to control human evil. However, if humans are evil, isn’t that a better reason to dismantle the State?
When considering human evil, there are only four possibilities, and they are: (1) no humans are evil, (2) a few humans are evil, (3) most humans are evil, or (4) all humans are evil. No matter which is true, it would make sense to abolish the State.
Immediately we can rule out the first position, unless you are a moral relativist and hence do not accept the existence of evil. There are obviously evil people; they troll you on Facebook and call you during dinner. If there were not, the State wouldn’t be justified in the first place.
Perhaps only a fraction of the human population are inclined to evil. Those who are evil are almost always drawn to power, while good people find satisfaction in ordinary life. Therefore, evil people are most likely concentrated in the State, and they are using its power for their own self-interest in order to exploit the vast majority of good people. This is the worst and most likely the scenario in which we live.
If most humans are evil, then we again can expect the State to be headed by evil people, tyrannizing evil and good people alike. If the minority good people held power over the majority evil people, it is unlikely they could retain their power before those who are evil take advantage of and depose them. It is the tragic tale of human history that no one has or ever will be able to create a State which assures that only good people will rule the bad ones.
Lastly, if all humans are evil, then the State will obviously never stop evil. We should all just be dead.
Next up is a related and equally tired argument against anarchism — that is, in the absence of recognized authority, society congeals into mobs and gangs. Isn’t that what happened to Western European civilization after the fall of Rome? When the Romans left, local thugs banded together, they appropriated horses and weapons, then pillaged, raped and burned. Trade and production became impossible.
There is one gaping flaw in this description: there is little difference between these gangs and a State other than a State receives legitimacy from its victims (uniforms and badges) for the robbery and murder it commits.
Lysander Spooner argues, “If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized.” This is precisely what happened; eventually these ancient barbarians built castles and called themselves kings, but they never ceased their plundering.
The truth is that 86 percent of inmates are imprisoned for victimless crimes — drug possession, immigration, weapons charges, improper paperwork, avoiding taxes, even selling lemonade without a license. These people locked away have not violated anyone else’s rights. If every politician, soldier, and policeman were to be abducted by aliens today, people would more likely be selling lemonade before killing and robbing each other.
Ultimately, the question of whether humans are inherently good or evil is a red herring. Humans need not be inherently anything.
Anarchists do not call for a utopia; we do not believe people are angels of compassion. We are saying that people are not born to be selfish and destructive. If you hand anyone a gun and command them to shoot a stranger, they will not — unless they have been taught otherwise. This is the mentality of warfare; who else but policemen and soldiers, who are agents of the State, have exclusive permission to kill other people?
Objections often boil down to one mistaken notion: anarchism does not mean “no rules,” it means “no rulers.” So how might a society enforce rules without having any rulers?
Stay tuned …