Bad Objections to Anarchy: The Historical Objection

One objection to anarchy is the historical objection. “Anarchy has never been tried before, so it’s risky.” Or, “Anarchy is historically associated with violence.” These are two separate objections and we will cover both here.

It’s never been tried before

Yes it has! Even today, the vast majority of everything you do is voluntary, or anarchic. This should be the historical argument for anarchy, not an objection.

The American Frontier was also a great example of an anarchy with no formal rules. As David Friedman anticipates would occur in such a situation, private security flourished and order was actually well kept. Not to mention the explosive economic growth in those times.

In a few years the American population will forget that health care was ever created on the private market. While we still remember, remember! It used to be cheaper, faster, better, stronger before Obamacare and increased government controls, supposedly to better us, hurt us.

Now to the crux of the issue: What the objection really means is that no formal government has ever officially declared anarchy as the political system of a country. Of course this is true! It will always remain true for two reasons, and that does not mean that anarchy hasn’t been tried or isn’t preferable. It merely means that anarchy is necessarily an informal political institution, which is a good thing as we will discuss in a second.

The two reasons that it is not simply a historical fact but also a logical necessity that formal government never has and never will officially declare anarchy are twofold:

  1. It is not in their interest to do so.
  2. Even if they did so, it would be logically absurd.

It is not in the interest of an entity to declare that it is powerless. Not only in the practical sense, which is true, but also in the logical sense. Misesian logic which underpins the Austrian school of economics, yet is a matter of a priori rather than empirical reasoning, holds the Action Axiom as true. The Action Axiom says that men do what is in their interest. Not merely as a matter of practical reality, but in the sense that people cannot do anything other than what they want to do.

Likewise, a political entity, which is merely an aggregate of people, could not possibly declare anarchy, because it is exactly opposite their interest in the Misesian or Austrian sense.

Secondly, even if they wanted to officially enshrine anarchy, which they don’t, they would render the enshrinement null, void, and logically absurd. That is because anarchy is the political system in which there is no central state government or authority. Yet, therefore, the state claiming that it is an anarchy would be logically absurd! So the objection that a state must enshrine anarchy doesn’t work, because it would be absurd to do so.

Anarchy is historically associated with violence

On the face of it, this accusation is rather true. Unfortunately it is akin to an ad hominem attack on the concept of anarchy, a red herring, and a strawman.

Anarchy per se is not the same as anarchy as historically practiced. Moreover, Anarcho-Capitalism in particular is extremely unlike historic anarchy. So much so that traditional anarchists will often accuse anarcho-capitalists of not even being anarchists! Yet, denotatively anyway, anarchy need not be violent. In fact, in the long run it won’t be. Violence is simply too costly.

A much larger error is committed by the implied fact that non-anarchy is somehow peaceful. Have you seen the State? Why a complete treatment of this topic is lengthy, the summary is to say that a real capitalistic anarchy in the long run will maximize peace because war is expensive and free markets prefer the cost effective alternative, much like physical objects prefer a path of least resistance.

The reality of the fact

The reality of the fact is that every service any government has ever rendered has also at one time or another in history been rendered on a free market, and the results are usually better, cheaper, faster, and stronger. Law enforcement, law creation, road building, armies, and more have all been rendered on the free market and many are even rendered in such a way today.

Private police exist, private legal institution called arbitration courts exist, private roads exist, and more.

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  1. […] as pointed out in this article under the Anarchy section of After Econ’s Other Page, the historical objection is not a good […]

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