People who want to live in a society organized on the basis of peaceful, voluntary cooperation don’t want to be ruled by monopolists—by states. State authority is illegitimate, unnecessary, and dangerous.
But that obviously leaves open the question: what do we do now, while we’re still under the state’s rule, to make our lives more bearable and help to dismantle the state?
One answer, for a lot of people, is: vote. And that’s an answer about which I’m increasingly skeptical.
In The Conscience of an Anarchist, I talk about electoral politics as offering one avenue for positive social change. I’m not saying it can’t play that role. But I am saying there are good reasons to pursue alternatives.
Some people oppose voting because they think it’s immoral, as if the sheer act of voting placed an imprimatur on the political process or as if the voter were responsible for everything someone for whom she voted did in office. I think that’s silly. Voting can be a defensive act; the harmful results of (more…)
A voluntary society would be a society without the institutionalized aggression of war.
Organizing our interactions with each other on the basis of genuinely voluntary cooperation wouldn’t eliminate violence, of course. People who would rather achieve their goals through the use of aggressive force than through rational persuasion won’t vanish once we find ourselves in Libertopia. And people would surely associate to protect themselves against aggressors. But the organized evil of war would be absent.
It would be absent both because institutions in a voluntary society would lack the means to engage in war and because they would lack incentives to engage in war.
States are able to make war because they tax, borrow, and conscript. Institutions in a fully voluntary society could do neither.
People would contribute to defense providers’ costs—whether by paying service fees or (more…)
Lots of people seem to think they need Big Brother to tell them—or, at least, to tell other people—what to do. They have trouble envisioning a peaceful, voluntary society because they assume that someone needs to monopolize the use of force. Otherwise, they’re afraid, life will be (in Thomas Hobbes’s famous phrase) “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Let the skeptics know that law could be an integral aspect of life in a peaceful, voluntary society and they’re likely to roll their eyes. Any entity, they might say, that does identify and enforce law just is a state. The fact is, though, that you can enforce law without being, or being indistinguishable from, a state.
What makes law without the state different? It’s consensual. In a peaceful, voluntary society, people would be obligated by laws or legal systems to which they had actually consented.
It’s part of the modern state’s legitimating ideology that it rests on “the consent of the governed,” but of course (more…)