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  • 8/14/2019 Anarchist Theory FAQ


    Anarchist Theory FAQ


    Instead of a FAQ, by a Man Too Busy to Write One


    Bryan Caplan

    Version 5.2

    I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs least;" and Ishould like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, itfinally amounts to this, which I also believe, - "That government is best whichgoverns not at all;" and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of

    government which they will have.--Henry David Thoreau,"On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"

    Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but havedifferent origins ... Society is in every state a blessing, but Government, even inits best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

    --Thomas Paine, Common SenseThey [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship -- their dictatorship, of course -- can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No

    dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can begetonly slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom,that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up.

    --Mikhail Bakunin, Statism and AnarchismIn existing States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. If the road between two villages is impassable, the peasant says, "There should bea law about parish roads." If a park-keeper takes advantage of the want of spiritin those who follow him with servile obedience and insults one of them, theinsulted man says, "There should be a law to enjoin more politeness upon thepark-keepers." If there is stagnation in agriculture or commerce, thehusbandman, cattle-breeder, or corn- speculator argues, "It is protectivelegislation which we require." Down to the old clothesman there is not one whodoes not demand a law to protect his own little trade. If the employer lowerswages or increases the hours of labor, the politician in embryo explains, "Wemust have a law to put all that to rights." In short, a law everywhere and for everything! A law about fashions, a law about mad dogs, a law about virtue, a
  • 8/14/2019 Anarchist Theory FAQ


    law to put a stop to all the vices and all the evils which result from humanindolence and cowardice.

    --Peter Kropotkin,"Law and Authority"

    [W]hoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts, viz.: 1. That every

    man who puts money into the hands of a "government" (so called) puts into itshands a sword which will be used against himself, to extort more money fromhim, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will. 2. That those who willtake his money, without his consent, in the first place, will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he presumes to resist their demands in the future. 3.That it is a perfect absurdity to suppose that any body of men would ever take aman's money without his consent, for any such object as they profess to take itfor, viz., that of protecting him; for why should they wish to protect him, if he doesnot wish them to do so?... 4. If a man wants "protection," he is competent tomake his own bargains for it; and nobody has any occasion to rob him, in order to "protect" him against his will. 5. That the only security men can have for their

    political liberty, consists in their keeping their money in their own pockets, untilthey have assurances, perfectly satisfactory to themselves, that it will be used asthey wish it to be used, for their benefit, and not for their injury. 6. That nogovernment, so called, can reasonably be trusted for a moment, or reasonablybe supposed to have honest purposes in view, any longer than it depends whollyupon voluntary support.

    --Lysander Spooner, No Treason: the Constitution of No Authority If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied onsociety by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon theLeviathan State and ... try freedom.

    --Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty

    Table of Contents

    1. What is anarchism? What beliefs do anarchists share?2. Why should one consider anarchism in the first place?3. Don't anarchists favor chaos?4. Don't anarchists favor the abolition of the family, property, religion, and

    other social institutions besides the state? 5. What major subdivisions may be made among anarchists?6.

    Is anarchism the same thing as libertarianism?7. Is anarchism the same thing as socialism?8. Who are the major anarchist thinkers?9. How would left-anarchy work?10. How would anarcho-capitalism work?11. What criticisms have been made of anarchism?

    a. "An anarchist society, lacking any central coercive authority, wouldquickly degenerate into violent chaos."
  • 8/14/2019 Anarchist Theory FAQ


    b. The Marxist critique of left-anarchismc. The minarchists' attack on anarcho-capitalismd. The conservative critique of anarchisme. "We are already in a state of anarchy."

    12. What other anarchist viewpoints are there?13.

    What moral justifications have been offered for anarchism?14. What are the major debates between anarchists? What are the recurringarguments?

    a. "X is not 'true anarchism.'" b. "Anarchism of variant X is unstable and will lead to the re-

    emergence of the state." c. "In an anarchist society in which both systems X and Y existed, X

    would inevitably outcompete Y." d. "Anarchism of type X would be worse than the state."e. Etc.

    15. How would anarchists handle the "public goods" problem?a.

    The concept and uses of Pareto optimality in economics b. The public goods problem16. Are anarchists pacifists?

    a. Tolstoyan absolute pacifism b. Pacifism as opposition to war

    17. Have there been any historical examples of anarchist societies?18. Isn't anarchism utopian?19. Don't anarchists assume that all people are innately virtuous?20. Aren't anarchists terrorists?21. How might an anarchist society be achieved?22. What are some addresses for anarchist World Wide Web sites?23.

    What are some major anarchist writings?

    What is anarchism? What beliefs do anarchists share?

    Anarchism is defined by The American Heritage CollegeDictionary as "The theory or doctrine that all forms of governmentare unnecessary, oppressive, and undesirable and should beabolished." Anarchism is a negative; it holds that one thing, namelygovernment, is bad and should be abolished. Aside from thisdefining tenet, it would be difficult to list any belief that all anarchists

    hold. Just as atheists might support or oppose any viewpointconsistent with the non-existence of God, anarchists might andindeed do hold the entire range of viewpoints consistent with thenon-existence of the state.

    As might be expected, different groups of anarchists are constantlytrying to define anarchists with different views out of existence, justas many Christians say that their sect is the only "true" Christianity