I freely admit that anarcho-socialism is a utopian fantasy within a utopian fantasy, but I also have to stress that the latter utopian fantasy is not impossible to achieve, and that, in fact, achieving it would not be terribly difficult. It would be relatively easy to cast off the shackles of the state and violence, and I’m going to take a moment to clarify what I think is the best way to achieve this.
Step 1. Acquire Territory & Abolish Its State
In many ways, the easiest step, and in other ways, the hardest. Every single parcel of land on the planet is sectioned off to one state or another, so this territory acquisition is more than just purchasing territory: it is also telling the currently-ruling state that it no longer has any authority. Rest assured that the state won’t take this well–it never has before. When American colonists told the British Empire this, it resulted in war. I tend to think an attempt to do it today would also result in war.
We’re going to assume, solely for the sake of simplicity, that we can purchase land in Hawaii, and that native Hawaiians are ready and willing to refuse the state’s authority. So let’s presume that we anarchists do exactly this, and we tell the Hawaiian government that we will not pay another cent in taxes or listen to another of its laws. It will react with violence, and will enlist the help of the U.S. federal government to do it. We have to gloss over this for the time being. Plenty of people have written about this sort of scenario, and there’s no reason for me to spend much time in it. I’m not saying this step offers assured victory, but it’s certainly not impossible–as I said, the American colonists succeeded.
We need not declare war on the state to abolish it. We need only to refuse to consent to its authority. As countless others have observed, the state needs our consent; our consent is not optional, in theory or in practice. A state that deals with a population that does not consent to it will ultimately be abolished, as its reserves will wear out against the continued resistance, keeping it from accomplishing anything. It will not be the anarchists who declare war on the state, though; the anarchists will simply start ignoring the state.
The state will be the one to declare war, by kidnapping the anarchists (calling it “imprisonment”), killing the anarchists (calling it “war”), and stealing from the anarchists (calling it “taxation” and “resource acquisition from enemy combatants”). It will absolutely be within the anarchists’ purview to retaliate–the Non-Aggression Principle forbids aggression, not defense or retaliation.
Step 2. ???
With the state abolished, there’s not much more to be done, except for individuals to simply do whatever they think is best. That an individual’s own best interests are served through cooperation rather than violence is tautological, and is frequently called the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It has long been observed that cooperation–that is, reciprocation and presumed “give-and-take”–pervades human society*. Without question, which works better is revealed to be cooperation, not competition, though it’s worth mentioning that “competition” as used in these articles is speaking of “competition” in general terms, not economic ones*^.
It is stated that, in modern society, a mess of laws and rules help prevent companies from cheating, because cheating might be more beneficial than fulfilling an agreement*. In a certain, very limited and very short-sighted sense, this is true. I would benefit from dropping by a random gas station and cajoling its attendant into letting me pump $5 of gas that I’d “totally pay back” later that day, and then never return–I would net a $5 gain at their expense. Since there are numerous other gas stations from which I could purchase gas in the future, why don’t I do this?
Aside from inherent moral concerns, which are not always applicable, the truth is that I am likely to have to do business with them again. The fewer gas stations are in the area, the more likely I am to have to do business with these people from whom I have effectively stolen $5. As my options dwindle, the chance increase that one day the other gas stations will be out of gasoline, will not have my cigarettes, or any number of other things. Simply put, the fact that I’ll almost certainly have to deal with them again prevents me from screwing them over**.
It may be in my best interests in the short term to con them out of $5 of gasoline, but in the long-term it is tremendously damaging to my own self-interests to cheat them**.
Violence as a Driving Force
Intuitively, we all know this.
I’m sure we’ve all had that one friend who, at our party, gets drunk and becomes belligerent, ultimately getting into a fight. What happens next? Though the party may not recover that evening, the reality is that the friend who became violent (even if he did so because another friend who owed him $100 wouldn’t pay him back, or any other short-term gain the violent friend could have gotten) will not be invited to future parties, and will find himself increasingly without friends, and this will, for any social animal, be a negative thing^^.
Our belligerent friend may have beaten the $100 out of another friend, but he will be ostracized from the group, from the pack, and has harmed his own self-interests.
It is primarily when people will never be held accountable for their actions that people behave immorally (according to most moral conventions), and that should be no surprise to anyone. This isn’t to say that the average person will behave immorally if they know they can get away with it (I would argue that the average person obeys an internal moral compass that has been socially instilled in them, and that it is not fear of consequences that keeps the average person from stealing, raping, or killing), but it is to say that anyone who would be willing to do something immoral becomes significantly more likely to do something immoral as the chance of being held accountable drops.
If a person sees a $20 bill fall from someone’s pocket when no one is watching and no one can possibly see, the first person is far more likely to pocket the money themselves, instead of stopping the second person and handing it over. Yet if an attendant is watching, the person is substantially more likely to stop the person and return their dropped money. It’s worth pointing out here that nothing about anarchy precludes accountability.
Of course, in an age of surveillance cameras, national criminal databases, mugshots, and the Internet, is increasingly hard to find any place that a person can go where they cannot still be held accountable, but this is the reason that so many American politicians continue going to Thailand, the Philippines, and Cuba to have sex with child prostitutes–something they would never do in the United States because the chance of being caught is far too high.
As social exposure increases because of the Internet, the long-term consequences of short-term benefits at the expense of others become greater. The violent friend might be able to use Facebook and other websites to find a new circle of friends, but I would point you to this unusual Craigslist ad:
Remarkable, isn’t it?
Notice that the guy doesn’t appear to have even done anything overtly wrong, but has indisputably harmed his own self-interests in the long-run. A violent friend may learn that the friend he attacked has contacted the new circle of friends, and informed them of the guy’s violence, and that they, too, ostracize the violent guy. Cheating, conning, and lying are always about short-term gain at the expense of long-term benefit, and this is why an anarcho-capitalist society does not need (as John McAfee suggested in the Stossel debates) a requirement of people to keep their word.
People will keep their word because it is in their best interest to do so. No one would want to do business with a company that routinely breaks its contracts and agreements, and the problem would sort itself out, quickly eliminating the scruple-less companies while leaving only the honorable ones. This has routinely been accomplished in the past through free market means, and trust relationships have consistently formed throughout human history, a direct consequence of people recognizing that their own interests are served best by “playing nice” with the other kids**.
Step 3. Profit.
It’s hard for us to even comprehend how successful such a society would be.
There would, first of all, be no corporate tax or income tax, because there would be no one to charge, collect, or spend the tax. This would cause an incredible influx of international corporations and businesses. There would be so much money sloshing through this place’s economy that we’d be left breathless, and this is not hyperbole. How do you think the corporations would treat these wonderful people who were welcoming them?
With tremendous rewards.
Thankful to keep 100% of their money, the corporations would very quickly work together to pave every road needed, would build hospitals and schools, would build and maintain airports and seaports (this one primarily because they need them).
We in the west understand corporations only as straw men, and we’ve become completely unable to realize that these straw men… are straw men. Before we continue, we have to regain the ability to recognize these Straw Men Corporations for the straw men they are.
First of all, it takes remarkable levels of cognitive dissonance to call corporations greedy because we are helping ourselves to 35% of their money. Let’s take a moment to appreciate that. We are literally taking 35% of someone else’s money, and then bitching that they are being greedy. How dare you steal from someone for your own benefit and then call them greedy! Cognitive dissonance in full swing, of course, because the greedy one is quite obviously the one stealing money for their own benefit, especially since 0% of the money earned by corporations is earned through theft.
Secondly, we are swimming in a sea of corporations who do tremendously helpful and generous things. Even with the exorbitant tax rates, most corporations gladly give Senior Citizen discounts, after all. For centuries, doctors were expected by the bounds of morality to treat those who could not afford to pay; it was only when we started using the law to force them to treat people that this even became an issue. Our doctors have never allowed poor people to just die.
On a Guardian article yesterday, I found someone who said that Apple should have to make more contributions to society. I found that to be an utterly and remarkably stupid thing to say. Apple has made enormous contributions to society. Apple invented the smartphone. That’s a contribution so enormous that we have not fully understood who much of a game-changer it really was. I presume this person wasn’t there when the first iPhone was debuted; it revolutionized everything. “Apple should contribute to society…” Are you kidding me? They’ve contributed more to society than even Microsoft has, and far more than CERN has (though CERN’s contributions will increase exponentially in the future).
Seriously, when you have contributed to society to even 0.0001% the extent that Apple has, then you can demand that they contribute more.
Dealing With Growth
The rest of the world will not be happy with our prosperity.
Behold how the EU is forcing Italy to raise its tax rates. This is precisely what we are seeing. Italy has set its own tax rates, and the EU does not want to compete with the awesome deal that Italy is offering corporations. So what does the EU do? It demands that Apple pay Italy, and demands that Italy increase its tax rates. Instead of lowering their own tax rates to compete with Italy, the EU exercises its authority and power to maintain its monopoly.
Imagine that Italy is Wal-Mart, selling a loaf of bread for $1, while the EU sells bread for $2. The EU gets pissed off, because no one is buying its bread, not when they can buy it from Italy at such a lower price. So what does the EU do? Rather than lowering the price of their bread to $0.97 to compete with Italy/Wal-Mart, the EU whips out its guns, points them at Italy, and says, “Don’t forget we’re bigger and more powerful than you. Raise your prices, or we’ll punish you.”
Yay, democracy, right?
Stupid UK fools for wanting to get out of that…
After all, who doesn’t enjoy having a tyrannical authority point guns at them and force them to comply? I’m probably gonna get some of that this weekend, because it’s such a wonderful thing to experience.
We’d see this, too, in our anarchist society. The rest of the world, tremendously envy of our lack of taxation and the influx of international corporations that just drives our prosperity through the roof, would invade us. Here, we’d mostly have to rely on the hostility between the United States, China, and Russia to keep them from being involved, but it wouldn’t strictly be necessary. But have no doubt: nations would invade us out of envy, wanting the money for themselves, and many Americans, Europeans, Chinese, and Russians would justify it. “They should have to pay!” they’ll scream and cry, forgetting that they’d literally be invading and conquering a place to take its money, and that it would be blatant imperialism. “Capitalist imperialism,” some people would call it, though the anarcho-capitalist society would be the capitalist one. :/
But it’s all about long-term benefit, isn’t it? What’s in the best interests of the corporations here?
To fight tooth and nail alongside us for our right to govern ourselves, and the corporations would have the power to do it.
Other states would not be willing to just sit and watch us prosper. They would grind their teeth as they stared enviously at us, thinking about why they should have our money, and justifying to themselves why invading and conquering us would be totally justified.
I’ve covered it elsewhere, but a free people fighting on principle to resist oppression and conquerors, motivated by liberty and justice, cannot be defeated.