Friday, October 30, 2009

Anarchism Versus the State, Part 1

An epic debate between Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio and Michael Badnarik, 2004 Libertarian Presidential Candidate on the question 'How Much Government is Necessary?' at Drexel University, Philadelphia, July 5, 2009 Full audio of the debate available at


Anonymous said...

Interesting theories as always, but, I feel, practically implausable.

Great assumptive leaps and wishful predictive thinking based on tenuous analysis of human behaviour that has never actually exised in the form described are not a good foundation for a social theory. (The constitution caused the 2nd world war! Sounds more like religous zealotism then logical political analysis).

If anything Anachism had its time in primative hunter gatherer societies, we have moved on BECAUSE of organised government, that came into existance (in theory) to counter the very evils that it is being blamed for (admitedly not entirely successfully).

That said anachism/minarchism is a positive counter balancing force against the other extreme and such indivuals are, as always, necessary.

Like all extremes though if they were to suceed we would just hit another dead end and die of lotus poisioning as is the utopian curse.

Life is about evolution and change, dynamism in all things, it would be a sad day if the pinacle of human society is us all living in glorious self centred isolation defending our castles, smug in our ability to look after our own and fend of the ideas and influences of others.

Sometimes concentration of power is the only way to acess the wonders of the universe. With its exercise envitably comes both pain and wonder.

Is running away into your own mundane bunker/mini-state the way to improve mankind and our universe, it seems somewhat defeatest to me.

So safe... so free.. so... so... bored.

Jon said...

Argument from antiquity; that the state has been around since time immemorial (even if in the non-Westphalian sense) that it must exist. Religion has existed since time immemorial but in recent years we have realized that it cannot solve all our problems. We move on, get over it and so forms the very evolution and change you say humanity is about. The shift away from the flat earth scare tactic also forms that evolution, allowing us not to fear so-called "tried and true"s. As well, I think primitive humans did live in tribes in order to survive.

Also, argument from apocalypse - we'd all be so free, fragmented and bored; the Internet has shown that we can never become bored. Hell, when I was unemployed for a year I still seemed to occupy my time reading, sports, learning how to do things, Molyneux's 1000 podcasts, etc., etc. Molyneux once said that there's always things to be done. We all want to paint pictures and make music sometime in our lives but we put that off because something stupid always gets in the way (like filling tax forms or putting up with the perpetual construction of awful state roads to drive home).

After the state, we can still try for eternal energy, longer lives and finally feel as capable as the renaissance men once did! Doing that even without the state and with voluntary interactions with others I imagine will still take a long time so I fear no loneliness in my castle lol.

The problem now lies in that which prevents us from doing all that. We spend so much time dealing with politics and try to muster what's left of it with the more advanced issues.

The only problem with freedom is that one must possess an imagination and not think so little of themselves.

Nphyxx said...

I keep hearing Badnarik coming back to this statement, "I don't think you want the responsibility of pulling the trigger to defend yourself when it comes down to it. I don't think you have the balls - but don't worry, I do and I promise I'll do it for you."

See, that sounds great for me. Mr. Badnarik is welcome to offer his services to me, and the services of his organization, for a fee, and if it is reasonable and I estimate it to be cheaper than the risk of aggression, I'd love to pay him for it. That's not what he's offering though - he wants my sanction to act as he wishes as long as he claims it's in my interests, and he wants not just my money, but my bended knee in exchange.

I wouldn't ask Mr. Badnarik to write software for me; I can do it myself, it's what I've studied and practiced for years to become successful at. I wouldn't expect to also defend myself against criminals well; I'd expect a specialist to handle that. That's called division of labor. In a pinch, in a blind alley, I may have to defend myself; in a pinch, maybe Mr. Badnarik would whip up a bit of javascript to fix a bug on a website. I wouldn't expect exclusive right to write that script for him on threat of violence if he does it himself or has someone else do it for him; why does he want the same in order to provide me security? It seems silly to me.

(end rant)

Very enjoyable debate, and well done on both sides. Thanks for the post.

Andy said...

Not sure if this is a forum for extended debate.. but in reply...

To avoid unmanageable subject expansion, I will focus on a small part of the debate. The eventual outcome in the achievement of an anarchist state as opposed to the transitory stages on the road to the state and their practical feasibility.

Specifically addressing the premise that ‘An Anarchist state (oxymoron?) would be a boring place to live in and would restrict the future options of itself and its members.’

Not wishing to take up too much screen real estate my argument follows in the very simplified points below:-

1. Individuals in the Anarchist State must be free from compulsion from all forms of social organisation, not just governments but also commercial structures (corporations etc). I.e. The power to withhold resources (wage payments and monopolies) is as oppressive as the power to compel the taking of resources (Taxation).

2. Large achievements require large ‘social machines’ to achieve them (governments, corporations, charities etc). The larger the project the bigger, more powerful and resource hungry the ‘social machine’ needed to achieve it.

3. These ‘social machines’ will be inhibited but their inability to compel individuals to participate and thus they can never be as able to concentrate and manage community resources as those that have the ability to compel. ( No compulsory purchase for roads and other infrastructure projects, no taxation for medical research or standing armies etc).

4. Thus their projects will be smaller and less interesting. The more freedom in society the more restricted they will be. Would we have CERN, the British National Health Service, The Space Program and indeed the Internet (by product of military research I understand) itself without large ‘Social Machines’.

Now in answer to this conclusion you could state that:-

1. We don’t want large social machines and their associated ‘oppressive’ projects. Well maybe, but the fact remains the Anarchist state would present less opportunities to its members and be able to achieve less. How much less would need to be quantified but any less makes it more boring and shuts off or terminally delays potential advances in our ‘reality’.

2. We can achieve all the things that are possible in a society with compulsion by other methods, one presumes voluntary participation. I would doubt that as it presumes aspect of human nature that currently don’t appear to exist or some other means of social control or manipulation (the new or old medias?). That said it would be interesting to explore these other methods.

To conclude, if anarchism reduces exploitation then the fruits of exploitation will reduce. Currently some achievements are only achieved by harvesting those fruits.

We need these achievements to progress the human race to a point of perfection. Ideally then we will manage the exploitation required to keep it in ‘acceptable’ limits by means of good governance (as opposed to lack of governance).

If human perfection IS Anarchism then the requirement for achieving things outside Anarchism (Space Travel, Human Super-evolution etc) may be moot.

I doubt Anarchism is the pinnacle of human social evolution but you may have a different view.

Then again once we have discovered everything there is to discover, it could be the social system we sit in while we watch the stars blink out one by one.