Anarchism gets a bad rap. The fact that a word meaning “no rulers” has been successfully transformed into a synonym for chaos is no coincidence. States and their supporters have clear incentive to demonize any idea or movement that threatens their hegemony. In reality, however, it is states who are the greatest purveyors of chaos in our modern world. Anarchism therefore offers not chaos, but the route to true law and order.
When I took a tour of one of Amazon’s distribution centers prior to employment there I was awed by the size and scope of the operation. Yellow bins traveled on conveyor belts at high speeds above our heads. The entire inventory of the warehouse was stored on robotic shelves that moved around according to some master plan no onlooker could conceive. Hundreds of workers completed disparate tasks. I was witnessing the transformation of chaos into order at an enormous scale.
As an employee at Amazon I had little to complain about. Expectations were clear, conditions were fair, there was a clear hierarchy I never had much cause to deal with, and clear procedures for any situation you might encounter while working. No one was interviewed for their position. The only requirements were that you pass background and drug tests. One can probably imagine how diverse the employees were in every way given how open the doors were. And yet everything worked seamlessly and these various people were able to cooperate and contribute to accomplishing customer satisfaction.
Contrast this with my experience of serving in the military. Behind a facade of order created through uniforms, formation marches, and traditional ceremonies, operates a chaotic and incredibly destructive organization. The individual soldier has no control over their life and exists at the whim of a bureaucracy of officers and politicians, most of whom they’ll never meet. Most of the time soldiers sit around doing nothing. When they do train, the training is ineffective and inefficient.
Worse than any organizational issue of the military is its product. Where Amazon delivers millions of items customers desire, often products they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, the military delivers bombs and death. When Amazon delivers to the wrong address, they send a replacement at no charge to the customer. When the military misses its target, it’s often impossible to reverse the consequences. Just witnessing these atrocities is difficult to deal with. Three soldiers I knew are dead because they never managed to.
What causes the vast difference in outcome between market and government forces? One might be tempted to claim that warfare is just a vastly different field of human endeavor and that this is the problem when it comes to the military. But government ineptitude can also be witnessed in infamously horrible DMVs, poor maintenance of public roads, disastrous economic policy, and so on which are completely unrelated to warfare. The various methods of interfering with the rational planning of individuals, such as market regulations that place higher burdens on consumers, manipulation of finances and currency leading to economic collapse and moral decay, and violating bodily autonomy are additional sources of disorder.
There is also the issue of demand for war in the first place. The wars being fought by the US right now are very unpopular here. If Amazon were waging these wars, the cost this would add in terms of price and customer outrage would make the business model unsustainable. The only reason these wars are able to continue is because of exceptionalism applied to the state and the financial price being hidden by pushing the tab onto our children.
The real issue is that the marketplace for governments is highly restricted and its means of accruing funds is coercive. Other countries will often reject your application to live there and the cost of moving is often incredibly high. You have to either leave your family and friends in your home country or move them with you. On top of the issue of cost is the fact most governments provide a very similar product for their citizens so there is often no cause to move.
So while there may be a few people who move to other countries and renounce their US citizenship in order not to support its military adventurism or various other exploits, the vast majority of those who disagree with its policies will not. The US will continue to maintain its tax base and continue to spend the stolen funds on wreaking havoc across the globe.
To the extent that ‘law’ is used to refer to the laws states institute, there is of course no law without government. But this understanding of law is a myopic one. Even early states relied for their authority on the concept of natural law, the doctrine that conflicts could be resolved through reason and considerations of specific cases. There have also been periods in history when the law was not instituted by or enforced by states, such as ancient Ireland. There brehons, which were closer to today’s arbitrators than judges, memorized the law and made decisions regarding cases. Sureties were appointed who would enforce contracts and the decisions of brehons if a party either reneged or failed to pay a fine. Since this system was meant to resolve conflicts between people, not between a state and criminals, the aim was to provide restitution, in contrast to dispensing retribution as our current system does.
To be sure, early Irish laws would often be outdated in the modern world, but the system of law would likely be an improvement. Like its equivalent in the natural world, evolution in the marketplace is inherently unpredictable. The best legal system is undoubtedly one no one has yet conceived. The major issue with our current system of law is that it does not respond to market forces and therefore changes slowly without regard for the values of customers. Like any other service, justice will not be served as well or efficiently when the only provider has no competition nor need to be profitable.
Law and order are products that nearly everyone desires. We have learned in the last century that governments are far inferior suppliers of any given product. We have no reason to believe that this shouldn’t also be the case for law and order. When states with their arbitrary dictates, rulings, and enforcement are weakened, society and civilization gain an opportunity to boon.