So Smash the State, Already!

Let me get right to the point: I am not an 'anarcho-capitalist,' nor am I an 'individualist anarchist' or a 'philosophical anarchist' or even, in the way the term tends to be understood, a 'rational anarchist' (although I am both rational and an anarchist). I'm not a 'socialist anarchist' or 'communist anarchist' or an 'anarcho-syndicalist' (although I am both an anarchist and, in some respects, a syndicalist).

I'm an anarchist: one who supports the elimination of the state -- the state being defined, at least herein, as an organization laying claim to, maintaining, and generally regarded as having, an enforceable monopoly on the use of force in a given geographic area. I support the elimination of the state as such, and I support the elimination of all its actual iterations.

I'm an anarchist, period.

There's a cottage industry -- one of which I very much approve -- centered around the creation of both utopian and dystopian speculative fiction focused on theoretical anarchist societies. I approve of this cottage industry because fiction is the proper format in which to deal with what the stateless society will look like.

Fiction is the proper format for dealing with that because we aren't there yet. We haven't seen what the stateless society will look like. All we really know is that it will be . . . well . . . stateless.

And that's all that really matters. I'm an anarchist because I can't imagine a stateless society that isn't superior (in every way that matters) to any version of state-tainted society that I've seen or read of.

Governments seem to have outright murdered in excess of 170 million of 'their' citizens in the 20th century alone -- and that excludes another 40 or 50 million killed in the 20th century states' gangland feuds ('wars').[1]

When it wasn't busy murdering people, the 20th century state was busy mugging them. Just to throw out a random factoid, the 26 states comprising the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had a bottom taxation level of around 25% of their Gross Domestic Products from 1965-2000.[2]

Don't even get me started on the costs of regulation, the enforcement of 'laws' against 'crimes' which have no victims, the rate of imprisonment or the sheer bloody humiliation of being required to kneel before some bureaucrat (whose wages are paid by said prostrate serf) and ask 'permission' to exercise 'privileges' which the poor peasant, likewise, paid the cost of providing in the first place.

It isn't too much of a stretch to imagine improving on the performance of our enemy, the state. I'll take L. Neil Smith's North American Confederacy, Ken MacLeod's Norlonto or New Mars, even Ursula K. LeGuin's Annares or Hobbes's 'state of nature' (I'll take my chances on making life less nasty, brutish and short -- I'm more red in tooth and claw than Tennyson could imagine, Bubba) any time.

Any one of them would do. And I don't really get to pick and choose anyway. The most I can do is my little part of smashing the state and then things will go how they go. That's why it's called anarchy, right?

So -- why the constant factional conflict between 'x-anarchists' and 'y-anarchists?'

Yeah, yeah, I know.

The 'socialist anarchists' hold that 'anarcho-capitalism' isn't really anarchism because private property would entail hierarchy, and that hierarchy is the essence of the state.

The 'anarcho-capitalists' hold that the 'socialist anarchists' aren't really anarchists because socialism would require coercion, and that coercion is the essence of the state.[3]

Screw the essence of the state, fellas. We've got a whole lot more than 'essence' to deal with at the moment.

The big ol' hairy beast itself, for example.

If you think the 20th century was bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Hitler, Stalin and Co. were dilettantes who barely scratched the surface of human suffering. Work camps, gas chambers and ovens? Amateur theatre.

The post-WWII state started off by developing weapons that can vaporize more people in 45 minutes than its less able and ambitious predecessors managed in 45 years.

When it's had an idle moment between killing off its victims and washing their blood from its paws, the monster has been putting that stolen 25%+ of GDP to good use figuring out new ways to create more mayhem -- everything from cruise missiles that can target the exact center of that zit on your forehead, to microwave beams that'll heat up your skin until you fall over and scream 'uncle,' to germs, chemicals and mycotoxins that will peel that skin right off your still-twitching body.

'Twixt and 'tween those joyous endeavors, the state has found time to attach all kinds of numbers, fingerprints and other identifiers to its victims, clamp down on their ability to travel or trade without forking over a percentage as vigorish and, worst of all, move forward on its ultimate goal: twisting its victims' consciousnesses until they begin to actually believe that this is normal life.

There is certainly a place for the utopian vision[4] -- and, I suppose, even room for arguments over methods and means -- but, eventually, we have to do something and let the chips fall where they may.

That's where they're going to fall anyway -- and it's not like we could do any worse.

Smash the state, already.

[1] 'Death by Democide,' by R.J. Rummel

[2] 'Taxes as Shares of GDP in the United States and Other OECD Nations, 1965-2000,' from Citizens for Tax Justice

[3] I find the 'anarcho-capitalist' line more persuasive on this particular issue, aside from the fact that 'capitalism' is an unfit term for use in conjunction with anarchism -- 'capitalism,' per Fred Foldvary's Dictionary of Free-Market Economics, refers to 'industrialized mixed economies,' i.e. state-regulated economies. A more proper term -- one that might even allow me to affix a factional badge to my anarchism -- would be 'market anarchism' or 'laissez-faire anarchism.' Or maybe just 'agorism.'

[4] As a matter of fact, that vision is quite necessary -- read L. Neil Smith's 'Unanimous Consent and the Utopian Vision' for more on its importance.

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Thomas L. Knapp is publisher of Rational Review.