“Anarchy means no rulers”
What does this mean? Let’s apply some straightforward reason and logic to this premise in order to extrapolate the depth of information encapsulated by those four words:
No rulers implies no one ruling over anyone else, which is a scenario termed “individual sovereignty”, meaning everyone has exclusive control over their own self. This in turn implies that no one can wield political power over anyone else. Political power is therefore fully decentralised, resulting in an equality of power. This doesn’t mean that everyone is equally powerful per se, but simply that political power is evenly distributed throughout society. It intimates that no one possesses any special powers, entitlements, or exemptions that are not also afforded to everyone else. In this manner together we experience an equality of freedom. The same level of freedom is by default afforded to everyone. This is not absolute freedom; only a supreme tyrant can attain absolute freedom to do anything they want (within the confines of physics). Instead it is a level of freedom that does not mitigate anyone else from experiencing that same level of freedom. It is optimal freedom for everyone.
Anarchy > no rulers > individual sovereignty > equality of power > equality of freedom
Anarchism is the theory of how we attain and implement anarchy. Merely eliminating the state is insufficient to accomplish this let alone guarantee stability and security. There are two options: the creation of rules, or the adoption of principles. These approaches differ in that the former is enforced, while adherence to the latter is voluntary. Rules are problematic, since in order to preserve individual sovereignty absolutely everyone would have to agree to said rules. This is extremely unlikely, so it’s plainly ridiculous to suggest that “anarchy is no rulers but not no rules”. The only viable solution is therefore governance by principle.
Since principles are adopted voluntarily, adherence to them falls entirely to the conscience of the individual. Clearly not everyone will choose to abide by the necessary principle(s), but that in itself does not render anarchy impractical. Just so long as a substantial proportion of people adhere to the principle(s), the end result is no more problematic than any other system that’s been tried up until now. Social cohesion is a sliding scale, and does not depend on absolute compliance.
This now begs the question: “What are these principles?” First we need to define some basic criteria for the formation of a suitable principle:
2. Simple to fathom.
3. Consistent with maintaining stable anarchy.
Also… the fewer principles the better. The Ten Commandments would surely be more effective were they encapsulated in one commandment!
Historically two candidate principles have emerged: the non-aggression principle, and the ‘Jesus’ principle. Let’s examine each of these options with regard to the aforementioned criteria, starting with the NAP:
1. Is it unambiguous? While “do not initiate aggression” ostensibly appears straightforward, there quickly arises the age old issue of what constitutes aggression? This is not nearly as clear cut as it may seem. For example, if only the threat or application of physical force would constitute aggression, then that leaves scope for all sorts of other malicious behaviour, which may be intended to provoke a violent response. Do we really want to be trapped in a world of escalating passive-aggression? On the other hand, if merely malicious behaviour is classed as actual aggression, then paradoxically where do we draw the line?
2. Is it simple to fathom? “No”, as we’ve already see, it’s paradoxical.
3. Is it consistent with maintaining stable anarchy? Does it militate against an imbalance of power via the instigation of authority? Does it serve to maintain equality of freedom? That would depend on the specific implementation. If the NAP only precluded actual physical force or the threat thereof, then “no”. If a violation included malicious behaviour by way of passive aggression then potentially “yes”, but this is impossible to quantify objectively.
4. Is it non-contentious? Clearly not, as this would boil down to individual perception of the specific implementation… assuming everyone even agrees on a specific universal implementation.
5. Is it powerful? “No”, it outright fails tests 1 through 4.
Let’s see if the ‘Jesus’ principle fares any better. The ‘Jesus’ principle, which stems from his fabled Sermon on the Mount, states:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” More contemporary wording may be, “treat others as you yourself would like to be treated by others”.
1. Is this unambiguous? “Yes”.
2. Is this simple to fathom? “Yes”.
3. Is this consistent with maintaining stable anarchy? Does it militate against an imbalance of power via the instigation of authority? Does it serve to maintain equality of freedom? “Yes”, because any power that is created would then have to be afforded to everyone.
4. Is this non-contentious? “Yes”, it’s inherently impossible to (rationally) argue against its very premise.
5. Is this powerful? It’s quite possibly the most powerful idea ever voiced. It perfectly encapsulates “no rulers”.
There’s a clear winner here. The ‘Jesus’ principle covers everything the NAP pertains to and more, whilst benefitting from clear cut logical simplicity that only the insane, narcissistic, or sociopathic may choose to quibble with it.
How do we then apply this principle to attain, implement, and maintain anarchy? The answer is quite simple: we endeavour to live by it, thereby gradually editing it into our social conditioning. We refuse to settle for anything less. We undermine existing society by actively implementing all that is consistent with this principle at grassroots level. We call other people out, by refusing to tolerate breaches of it. We exercise freedom of association towards those who are like minded, whilst withdrawing cooperation from those who reject it.
There is no other way. Although it can be argued that the ‘Jesus’ principle notionally encompasses scope for force, it’s clear that such force would be limited by what we ourselves are be prepared to endure, something that (by the ‘Jesus’ principle) we absolutely have to be honest about. Do we really want to live in a totalitarian society where the ‘Jesus’ principle is stringently enacted by force? “No”… perhaps we tried that already with Catholicism, and fuck all good it did us. Totalitarian application of the ‘Jesus’ principle results in universal minimum freedom, not universal optimal freedom. Anarchists lead by example, they don’t rule by force.
It hopefully hasn’t escaped anyone, that I managed to type all this without (until now) referring to any form of economic implementation. That’s because anarchism itself, is entirely independent of any economic implementation. In a society of optimal freedom, and individual sovereignty, we are each free to determine how to best participate… provided in doing so we adhere to the ‘Jesus’ principle. The question must therefore be “would I be happy for someone else to impose their economic preference on me?”, and the answer quite clearly is “no”. Therefore the only economic solutions compatible with anarchy are those that can fully integrate alongside one another, and which are not dependent on the imposition of any system of property. This implies that stable anarchy cannot have a system of property that is dependent on any rules beyond the simple conscientious respect for one another’s occupancy, use, and belongings. If you’re concerned that others might not respect your feelings of entitlement, then your conscience is likely indicating that others may perceive such claims as unreasonable.
The lack of certainty inherent in a stateless society may (at least initially) lead to feelings of insecurity, the solution to this is to actively endeavour to maintain social cohesion. If you are in doubt about a particular course of action, then simply consult with your neighbours, and obtain the desired certainty in advance of committing yourself. A degree of compromise may be necessary, but that cuts both ways if you seek to avoid hostility.
This essay started from the premise of “no rulers”, and ended with the imperative of social cohesion. In order to exist without rulers, protect our individual sovereignty, maintain an even distribution of power, and thereby experience optimal freedom, we must each also voluntarily adopt a principle that impels us to actively strive for maximum social cohesion, in order to guarantee our own security.
Anarchy > no rulers > individual sovereignty > equality of power > equality of freedom > Jesus principle > social cohesion > security.