Do We Ever Get Out of Anarchy?

I've encountered a very interesting essay that asks whether or not we ever get completely out of anarchy, by Alfred G. Cuzan. Anarchy, as defined by libertarian-anarchists, in this case our author, is "a social order without Government, subject only to the economic laws of the market." And Government is "an agent external to society, a 'third-party' with the power to coerce all other parties to relations in society into accepting its conceptions of those relations." Contrast big-g Government, or the State, fitting this definition, to little-g government, or governance. In the words of John Hasnas, anarchy "is a society without [G]overnment, not a society without governance."

It must also be mentioned that anarchy and chaos or disorder are often used synonymously. This is an error. Although chaos and disorder may arise in an anarchic society, they are not synonymous with anarchy. Disorder and chaos may also arise in the total State society, as has been obvious over the last century. To say that anarchy and chaos or disorder are synonymous is like saying that working and happiness or contentment are synonymous. I doubt slaves experience happiness while working.

This essay, however, looks at the establishment of the State, or Government, and whether or not it abolishes anarchy. The author argues that although Government becomes a third-party to each relation in society (taxation and regulation), within Government there still exists anarchy. He says, after explaining in detail, in short "society is always in anarchy. A [G]overnment only abolishes anarchy among what are called 'subjects' or 'citizens,' but among those who rule, anarchy prevails."

Looking at the founding of the United States of America, we see that at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, the 13 colonies, although internally governed, existed in a state of near-anarchy amongst one another. The Articles of Confederation had created a relatively weak Federal Government and so was replaced with the U.S. Constitution. The Federal Government the Constitution established was one prided in it's system of checks and balances. And that the officers within the several branches had certain powers over the others to keep them all in line through the "jealousy" that each branch was supposed to feel towards the others. As every libertarian and Constitutionalist knows, this jealousy didn't last very long and soon enough each branch began working with the others until, over two hundred years later, the Constitution may as well not exist, let alone act as any sort of chain, binding down the Federal Government. Our author calls the type of anarchy that exists among the officers of government "political anarchy".

After establishing the first part of his thesis, he then explores different structures of government, "measured along a centralization dimension." He goes on, "The more authoritative powers are dispersed among numerous political units, the more pluralistic the government. The more centralized the structure, i.e., the more authoritative powers are concentrated, the more hierarchical the government. Note that the more hierarchical the government, the more government is run on the assumption of an ultimate arbiter. In other words, the more centralized the structure, the greater the effort to create a single 'third party' inside the government itself in the form of a God-like figure such as a Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Castro. Such a 'third party,' however, remains in complete anarchy from the rest of his countrymen and the rest of the world." Viewing the amount of power and control the U.S. Executive Branch has exercised over the last century, without regard to Congress or the Judiciary, it's easy to see his point that those working in Government are largely "lawless".

This essay is well worth a read and can be found here. The author concludes that "anarchy, like matter, never disappears - it only changes form. Anarchy is either market anarchy or political anarchy. Pluralist, decentralized political anarchy is less violent than hierarchical political anarchy. Hence, we have reason to hypothesize that market anarchy could be less violent than political anarchy. Since market anarchy can be shown to outperform political anarchy in efficiency and equity in all other respects, why should we expect anything different now? Wouldn't we be justified to expect that market anarchy produces less violence in the enforcement of property rights than political anarchy? After all, the market is the best economizer of all - wouldn't it also economize on violence better than government does, too?"


Stefan Molyneux said…
You might be interested in a free audiobook 'Practical Anarchy,' available at