More on the Anarcho-Libertarian Idea

Lately I find myself reading more and more anarcho-libertarian articles. Some are almost ancient. Don Boudreaux’s article from early in the last decade—The A-Wordis a well reasoned examination of the idea. It is worth noting that it was written before 9/11, before the Patriot Act, before drones, before etc.

Without attempting to put words in his mouth Don seems to me to be arguing for a society that is organized in a free-market system where force is prohibited as a means of organization. I love the concept. The question is how do we get there? Or how might it happen? The novel I am now working on will make some attempt at how it might happen.


In the following article Robert Higgs demonstrates why we must move in that direction as soon as possible. Read Higgs first, then come back and click on The A Word

The State—Crown Jewel of Human Social Organization

By Robert Higgs  April 3, 2013

Since the earliest stage of human history (say, the time of Cain and Abel), human beings have been homicidal maniacs. Yet, for untold ages, something was missing, something with the capacity to raise their murderous mania to truly magnificent heights. Only very late in human history—perhaps 10,000 years ago or thereabouts—did the long-awaited breakthrough take place: men finally devised the state. By employing its powers of organization, command, violence, and plunder, rulers could finally bask in the glories of heretofore undreamed-of atrocities. No longer did men have to rest content with workaday violence and manslaughter. Now they could achieve vastly more monstrous enormities than the evilest village bully had been able to achieve or even to conceive of previously.

Now human beings could attain real glory for the first time. Now the rise of empires lay within the realm of realistic ambition. Killing by the ones, tens, or hundreds no longer defined the limits of human wrath, because now killing by the thousands and tens of thousands became possible, along with enough rape and pillage to satisfy all but the most twisted psychopath. No longer did a man have to settle for murdering his brother, his wife, or his fellows in the nearby village. Now even huge numbers of remote strangers became fair game. Indeed, thanks to the state’s amazing capabilities, a ruler might now conceive of utterly annihilating an entire society.

No wonder people have looked on the state with such reverence and lavished on it their highest adoration and deepest loyalty. Every thinking man must perceive that without the state, the constricting limits of a man’s malevolence put almost unbearable pressure on his natural desire to slaughter his fellow man and to destroy every speck of his enemy’s property that he cannot loot or hold hostage for the payment of tribute.

With the rise of the state, statesmen became possible—men whose vision embraced truly grand adventures and enterprises in exploitation, oppression, plunder, and mass mayhem. And from the greatest statesmen the greatest empires might spring. What sorrow we must feel as we contemplate the bleak counter-factual of history without the great Roman Empire: we cannot begin to imagine any stateless society able to put even a tenth as many severed heads on pikes along the roads or to nail even a tenth as many men on crosses to endure prolonged suffering before they gratefully expire. Likewise for the great Chinese, Persian, Mongol, Aztec, Inca, and other empires that fill the pages of history, giving vivid color to what otherwise would have been a humdrum human experience of little more than economic, artistic, and literary creativity and peaceful cooperation, spiced with meaningless and petty acts of kindness and compassion toward one another. No individual, no family, and no gang could have wreaked such havoc as the great states and, a fortiori, the great empires. Only man’s ultimate achievement in social organization—the state—could have done the job.

So, the next time you happen across a neocon, a red-white-and-blue jingo, a military Keynesian, or a rock-solid supporter of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, stop and shake his hand. Give him proper appreciation for his service as the living embodiment of the ideology and the institution that finally allowed the human species to break the bonds that had constrained it from time immemorial and hence finally to achieve the greatest heights of atrocity, death, and spoliation. Credit where credit is due, my friends.

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7 Responses to More on the Anarcho-Libertarian Idea

  1. Lane Lester says:

    Almost all of anarchy is appealing to me, with the exception of two areas. My observation of human action makes me think that roads cannot be privatized. Yes, I’ve read the anarchist proposals of how it could work, and I don’t buy it. OTOH, roads will always be government controlled, so it’s a moot point.

    I’m also not so sure about private legal systems. Those who are well-off can make it work for them, but I’m not so sure about the poor.

  2. Allan Ripley says:

    Erne, my friend. How cautiously you approach the truth. Yet, approach it, you do.

    Bob Higgs has been writing in this vein for years and has produced some of the best thinking on the subject of the relationship between free people and the state. Certainly he is not, in any sense, the first, but by adopting this subset of the liberty/obedience problem and applying some serious intellectual rigor to it, he has given us some means of achieving clarity. His “Against Leviathan” and the most recent “The Delusions of Power” are powerful commentaries against the necessity of a powerful state.

    His work is one reason why I continue to be an unapologetic Rothbardian. Rothbard would follow a logical thought to its end which is not the usual case where we hold a logically correct position but hesitate to advance it because “there there might be dragons.” His (Rothbard’s) position, summarized through my own point of view, was “government’s interests lie in the advancement of the government. As long as it has the power to advance, it will do so” leads to the meme that “if government’s interest is in its own advancement, all other interests must be subservient, and its primary goals will continue infinitely.”

    My personal take is that no matter how good the effects of government are superficially in the present, the nature of the beast will lead to where its positive effects are less than its negative effects and that any external pressures on the beast will diminish in influence over time as it grows more powerful.

    It’s not that “government” is bad, it’s that governments will always turn bad unless they are absolutely prohibited from doing so. There is a very recent novel written by a young lady libertarian that provides an interesting possibility on how this might be done. From Amazon “Looking Backward 2162-2012: A View From a Future Libertarian Republic” by Beth Cody.

    I am glad to read your next book is progressing. I am anxious to read it.


  3. Jim says:

    I have to admit that I have never considered the question in this way and so I think any book as compelling as your last one will introduce this idea to many, many people. That is a very good thing as much needs to be done to foster more open-minded thinking. How can we be free if we aren’t even able to imagine such possibilities and think, discuss and debate them through to their logical conclusions?

  4. Michael Costolo says:

    Hi Erne,

    I have never understood peoples attraction to the concept of anarchy. After reading your suggested works, I still don’t. The idea that a free people will, or even can, exist peacefully with each other absent some external influence is one that has no evidence of support in the history of life on Earth.

    In any area without a strong central government, let’s say modern day Somalia as a current example, regional strongmen lay down regional law without any representation by residents. Are they free? Have they liberty? Should we expect something otherwise to happen in this situation?

    Take any part of the world at any time in history and find a tribal society that is at peace with all its neighbors. I don’t think you can do it. It isn’t in human nature. Even a casual examination of history shows mankind is not inherently peaceful.

    This isn’t to say that the strong central government system that we have is perfect. Far from it. But there is a reason that civilization evolved to form governments. We have a taste for order and fairness, and rules that we mutually agree to operate by, with predictable consequences for choosing to violate those rules.

    Our society would be vastly improved by reshaping our governing back to this fundamental concept, rather than scrapping it altogether. Tossing out the baby with the bathwater is not a step toward more individual freedom.

  5. Julie says:

    Life continues to teach me ever increasing levels of insight into the quote “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No, I do not believe we would have murder and mayhem without the “state” and we do have much evidence to show that we have such with it. I would definitely support more opportunities for “The Merchant Law”. – Now, how do we get there from here? Certainly “We,The People,” can not count on “The Government” people to cooperate in voting themselves out of power positions. There must be some realistic answers. – – – Keep on with your writing, Erne

  6. Diane says:

    … ok – I’m curious — will *all* types of force be prohibited or just physical force? … in my opinion, our ties to our current social structure, which has to include government by definition, are multi-faceted… fear of force is only one factor…

  7. neo says:

    Good article. I think you are right on track. It is time to re-think everything and ask the hard questions. Question everything.

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