[The following discourse on anarchism was an early attempt of mine to outline the nature and difficulties both of government and of the alternative – i.e., no government – rather than to advocate either of them. When I wrote it, I’d already come to disbelieve in “problems” and “solutions,” sociopolitically speaking. However, I had not yet abandoned the search for a political structure – with one possibility being no structure at all – that would “work” by the most common criteria.
     These essays first appeared at the old Palace of Reason in July and August of 2004 – FWP.]

Part 1: Anarchy And Anarchies.

     “Anarchy” merely means “the absence of a ruler.” Thus, the anarchist proposes that the State be done away with, and not allowed to return.

     Joseph Sobran has made the point that in any particular area of human conduct where political authority does not intrude, there is anarchy. This might best be called “situational” or “topical” anarchy, in contrast to the “general” anarchy of a completely Stateless society.

     In the United States, we have religious anarchy. One’s choice of a religion is unconstrained by political authority. Indeed, that was what lured a lot of the first immigrants to these shores. If we except “incitement to riot” and the odious McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, we also have speech anarchy. One may say whatever one pleases without concern for legal penalty.

     In those markets untouched by regulation, there is commercial anarchy. Vendors may offer whatever product they please, under whatever conditions and at whatever price, to whomever has the desire and the means to buy it. Even within the strictures of regulation, there is a form of anarchy. Once a vendor has met the regulatory standard for a product, he is free to sell anything at all. (This is not an unmixed blessing. If you disagree, try Maxwell House Coffee, Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product, or a durian.)

     “Free.” I like that word, don’t you? For that is at the heart of the matter. Anarchy is just another word for freedom.

     No, I’m not headed where you think. Read on.



     The great questions of human relations are unchanging. The greatest of them all, how to get the benefits of a social order without sacrificing one’s individual freedom, is forever being “answered” by opinion-mongers of all stripes in a fashion that says more about their arrogance and intellectual conceit than it does about Man, liberty, or the nature of society.

     Having read that, you might well be thinking, “But he’s one of them, so how does he exempt himself?” You have every right.

     The Great Question above does not change only because the question, as stated, is meaningless. It lacks context. The possibility of freedom and the availability of society are both contextual matters.

     The “Robinson Crusoe” model, so often used to examine economic decision making in an entirely unconstrained situation, contains its own context. Crusoe was alone; there was no society to join, and no one to attempt to dictate to him. Neither freedom nor society had a relevant meaning in his circumstances.

     At the extreme opposite end, we could consider a nightmare scenario such as J. G. Ballard’s “Billennium,” where the human race has overpopulated the world to such an extent that each individual is allocated no more than three or four square yards of living space, and is packed in shoulder-to-shoulder with others whenever he leaves his domain. In such a situation, society is overwhelming; it swallows all possibility of freedom whether one’s fellows do anything to restrain him or not.

     By constraining what is possible, contexts delimit the meanings one can give to freedom and society. Therefore, we must assign a context before we can discuss anarchism, the merits and demerits of an anarchic order, and how they would compare to the available alternatives.

     I hope that last statement didn’t blow past too quickly. For, as David Bergland has said repeatedly, Utopia is not one of the options. When studying proposed sociopolitical systems, one must compare them to one another, not to some imagined ideal in which there’s no crime, no want, no interpersonal nor intergroup strife, and no one ever runs out of disk space.

     Context determines what alternatives are truly available. The “Billennium” context eliminates virtually all alternatives except rigid regimentation and rationing of all things; the “Crusoe” context eliminates all alternatives except total freedom and self-sufficiency. Since we live between those extremes, we must consider the alternatives available within our particular parishes, and not be misled by what we might be able to do “if only things were different.”

     Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t study ways to make things different, but that’s a separate topic.


Government In The American Milieu.

     The context of greatest interest to me, and, I would assume, to most Palace readers, is that of the United States as it stands today.

     Gross statistics and aggregates can be misleading, but we must nonetheless include them in our assessment of this context. America is a 3,000,000 square mile landmass with a population of approximately 300,000,000 people: about 100 people per square mile. (A more intimate way of stating our population density is one person for every six acres of land — and if you think that’s crowding, you’ve never had to mow an acre of land.) Its Gross Domestic Product for fiscal year 2002 was approximately $10.4 trillion, or an “indexed productivity” of about $35,000 for every man, woman and child. As only about 65% of the population participates in the labor force, it should more properly be given as $52,000 per worker.

     Americans come in all races, colors, ancestries, creeds, and sexual orientations. Members of some of those subgroups hate others “not of our kind” and want to do them harm. Of course, we also have plenty of “non-ideological” criminals, enough to fill 1.4 million state and federal prison billets.

     Quite a number of us, estimated from 80 to 120 million, possess firearms. A somewhat smaller subset of us, about 1,030,000 at the last tally, consists of lawyers admitted to the bar. Opinion varies as to which of those groups is more dangerous.

     The law books of the U.S. positively bulge. The Federal Register, which contains the “enactments” of federal regulatory agencies, alone sums to nearly 100,000 pages. The compendious United States Statutes At Large is a 220-volume collection that consumes 45 feet of shelf space. The various states and lesser political units all have their own legal milieus. Each of these laws compels or forbids the private citizen to do something, under the threat of punishments as light as a $5 fine or as heavy as death. However, few Americans actually know what the law requires of them in any given situation, with a few highly publicized exceptions.

     Despite all that law, there’s plenty of crime. Homicides alone average about twenty-three thousand per year. Crimes of violence totaled to 1,431,000 in calendar 1999. Crimes against property summed to a staggering 10,205,000 in the same year.

     Plenty of law, plenty of crime…and plenty of government. America’s 87,504 governmental units spent $2.8 trillion in 2000, the last year for which I have absolutely reliable figures at hand. That year, federal expenditures came to $1.8 trillion, and the lesser units spent the rest. This year, the federal budget extends to $2.5 trillion; if the states’ expenditures have risen in proportion, America’s governments will spend about $3.8 trillion in all. Spending that money is the principal function of more than 20 million federal, state, and local government employees.


An Eagle’s-Eye View Of Political Systems.

     Viewed coarsely, there are only three political systems:

  • Anarchy,
  • Popular sovereignty, whether direct or representative,
  • Government imposed without regard to the popular will (e.g., aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, or dictatorship).

     There are many ways to structure a non-anarchic political system. America is nominally a constitutional federated republic operated by elected legislators and executives. Britain is a non-constitutional parliamentary democracy hemmed in by various traditions, with a ceremonial monarch to provide continuity with her past. Switzerland is a complex federation with a titular monarch like Britain’s. Ireland decides public policy questions by competitive assassination. Italy is a madhouse. And so on.

     The overall consensus (if one omits the opinions of dictators and their beneficiaries) is that popular sovereignty is justifiable, whereas imposed government is not. However, these systems are not divided from one another by an impassable gulf. Indeed, the central question of all systems of popular sovereignty is how to keep them from degenerating into imposed governments, which they’ve shown a regrettable tendency to do over the centuries behind us.

     Strangely and ironically, this is also the most important question asked about anarchy.


Performance Is the Issue.

     Structural questions could validly be criticized as secondary. After all, “we” don’t erect a government because “we” expect it to grow to a certain size, or specifically because of the intrinsic value of constitutionalism, tradition, or oligarchic or monarchic rule. “We” do so because “we” expect it to provide us with certain services.

     The problem is that there’s a lot of variation concerning the services “we” want.

     The great majority of men would agree on the supreme importance of national defense and domestic justice. Most would agree on the high priority of public order and (properly circumscribed) the maintenance of a standard of public decency. A substantial subset would argue for “safety net” services, to prevent the corpses of the less fortunate from clogging up the streets. Others would clamor for the regulation of commerce, to insure that vendors’ offerings to the wider public will meet certain standards. A few would argue that the State ought to impose equal economic outcomes on all men, the supposed goal of Communism. And these are only the crudest observable divisions of opinion among us.

     A popular sovereignty must deal with these variations. It may choose to do so by majority rule, by apportionment, by rotation of power among the factions, by constitutional constraint, or other means, but it must deal with them. For practical purposes, it is impossible to have a polity in which all men are agreed on everything of public importance.

     The occasional praise heard for imposed governments, as for example “the best form of government is benevolent dictatorship — if you pick the right dictator,” is to the effect that these systems have sometimes maintained order — “quieted the factions” — and restrained their own excesses better than popular sovereignties. Indeed, in the early years of both Italian fascism and German National Socialism, much praise was lavished on both Mussolini and Hitler for imposing order on societies which had, according to the consensus of the time, become chaotic. Then there are modern autocracies such as Lee Kwan Yew’s Singapore, which advanced to the forefront of the Pacific community under his hard and unsparing hand. Despite his despotism, most Singaporeans regard him as the savior of their country.

     Even an anarchy would have to deal with such fragmentation of opinion at some level, for some groups would undoubtedly try to impose their desires on others, just as they do under all other schemes. Matters of property are where the most obvious occasions lie. In the absence of a State that defines property rights and the mechanisms for conveyance, what would prevent a sufficiently large and well armed group from expropriating anyone? In the wider view, how would we distinguish between legitimate defensive violence and illegitimate invasions of the rights of others?

     An anarchist must respond to such questions by refusing to answer them. But in what sort of context is acquiescence to such uncertainty, which most Americans would deem unacceptable, likely — or possible?


Possibilities And Plausibilities.

     To be thinkable in a particular context, anarchy would have to have a prospect of outperforming other political systems that might plausibly be applied to the same context. “Outperforming” has two facets:

  • Providing the services a dominant majority wants most urgently from its system;
  • Limiting the costs of participation in the system and the society that has adopted it.

     Believe it or not, all of political theory hinges on those two standards for evaluation. Political theory, like politics itself, is about the struggle for power: what sort of man will grope for it, what he’ll do or promise to get it, and how well or badly private citizens will tolerate what he does with it. Rights and rights theory, the fascinations of many who ponder politics and State action, are unimportant adjuncts to this set of dynamics. Though they’re often used to argue for alterations in the power structure, as a practical matter they would only influence the shape of the political system in times of true revolution, an event that’s become exceedingly rare.

     Political theory scholars call this the authoritarian allocation model. The phrase has two applications:

  1. The allocation of authority, backed by coercive force, to specific mechanisms within society;
  2. Authority’s allocation of licenses to particular individuals and groups.

     A license, of course, differs greatly from a right. It’s a frankly practical grant of legal latitude or property, made by political authority, to a particular licensee. The grant might be conditional. It can be withdrawn at any time. The licensee might have to pay for his license in some fashion. The whole affair might be accepted or opposed by other elements in society, with a huge range of possible results. Morality enters into it in no sense whatsoever. All that matters is whether the resulting alteration of the context is politically stable.

     Most Americans, even most who are deeply interested and involved in political thought, don’t reckon up the huge extent of licensure in our society. Only about a fifth of all government expenditures are for national defense or our domestic police-and-justice systems. The remainder is basically split between two functions: paying government employees and administering various schemes of licensure. Since licensure is an inverted “thou shalt not,” whereby non-licensees are forbidden to do the specified thing on pain of legal penalty, this amounts to a couple of trillion tax dollars per year being spent to reduce the freedom of American citizens.

     Two conclusions follow:

  • Americans could be a lot freer than they are, at least in theory.
  • If any significant fraction of government activity could be eliminated, and its cost returned to the citizenry, without upsetting an essential element of the national consensus, we’d be not merely freer but materially better off as well.

     Within this context, the question for the proponent of anarchy becomes: If the State were eliminated at this time, would the consequences, after some acceptable settling-out period, be better or worse in terms of Americans’ freedom, security, and the cost of the goods and services they desire?

     Always keep in mind that the anarchist does not have to guarantee Utopia; he merely has to assure an outcome better than the other systems that could be applied to the context.


The Alternatives And How They Might Be Approached.

     The generally low performance of the current American political system, as viewed by most freedom-oriented people, has given rise to much discussion of the available alternatives. The alternative most frequently discussed on the political Right is a return to strict constitutionalism, from which the country departed roughly ninety years ago.

     There’s no question that strict constitutionalism would outperform the current scheme. It did so for 125 years. No development this past century would invalidate the approach. But just as with anarchy, we must determine whether the constitutional system could be erected in our present context.

     This raises an important coordinated question: What does it mean to “return to strict constitutionalism”? Do we propose an incremental approach, peeling away State encroachments and usurpations one by one, or do we contemplate a drastic, all-at-once change and whatever consequences it would bring? In the first case, we wouldn’t really be proposing an outcome, but a process we expect to produce that outcome. In the second, we would be talking about a major disruption of the existing order, likely to cause great suffering over some settling-out interval whose duration and total casualty count would be very hard to predict.

     The major difficulty with incrementally restoring the strict constitutionalist system is the prevalence of interest groups. Each such group demands, and many receive, some special accommodation from the State. All such accommodations are anti-constitutional. Owing to ninety years of clever political maneuvering and the rise of an envy-based ethic of politics, virtually every American is a member of some such group. We are all robbing one another, through the agency of the State, and thinking that we’re coming out ahead.

     This irony gives rise to an appalling rigidity. Each of us would love to see everyone else lose his special accommodation. All of us fear to lose our own. For example, that standoff has kept an unbelievably complex, fundamentally unworkable and unfair system of income taxation in place for decades. Each of us agrees on the importance of eliminating the complexity of the system, but those who benefit from that complexity — the political class, the country’s highest earners, and the income tax preparation industry — are able to frighten us into submission by eliciting the fear that our own special subventions will be the ones to go, while everyone else gets to keep theirs.

     This makes an incremental reinvigoration of strict constitutionalism highly unlikely. The total overthrow of the system is actually more feasible. But the same is true for anarchy.


Impasse And Resolve.

     Despite the length of this essay, I’ve only scratched the surface of the subject. Anarchism has been advanced and defended by some very bright minds. Herbert Spencer, arguably the most penetrating political thinker of the Nineteenth Century, was of the opinion that one day, after centuries or millennia of social advance, the peoples of the world would throw off all government. Others, equally bright and passionate, have argued that the “necessary evil” of government arises from the flaws in human nature, and that a society which needed no government would be peopled by creatures we would not recognize as men.

     The central difficulty in comparing anarchy to any other proposed system of government is that it’s not a system of government at all, but the absence of one. At this point in the development of political and moral thought, very few persons can deal with a “system” whose only guarantee is that no man’s, and no group’s, assertion of the right to coerce others would be deemed legitimate, regardless of the reason. Our willingness to believe in human voluntary self-organization is too limited for that. So we continue to entertain concepts that implicitly grant legitimacy to the use of coercive force under certain conditions, by certain persons chosen by a certain process.

     He who endorses the necessity of government has a problem fully as difficult as the anarchist who claims that no government at all would be best: he must find a way to guarantee its performance. To this point, no scheme for doing so has been found.

     A good friend has suggested that in our present context, wherein some men are endlessly willing to coerce others, whether for a “good cause” or just for the hell of it, anarchy should be regarded as “the eternal loyal opposition:” the possibility that waits forever in the wings should we get just too disgusted with politics and government to continue them. From that perspective, the proper approach for the freedom-minded man is to turn the tables: to insist that all promoters of governmental schemes and seekers after the powers of the State somehow guarantee that their concepts would outperform anarchy. If they couldn’t do so, what reason would there be to trust them with power over us?

     One way or another, the discussion will continue.

Part 2: The Problem of Rights.

     The anarchist is never motivated by fundamentally utilitarian considerations. Even the great David Friedman, arguably the foremost anarcho-capitalist theorist now writing, who claims that the basis for his convictions is purely a matter of what works best, must at some point confront the question: “What do you mean by work?

     It’s insufficient to speak of economic efficiency. No one, however materially minded, would countenance a society in which all of us were rich at the expense of a single enslaved person who toiled to keep us that way.

     It’s insufficient to speak of a better adjusted production of public goods. Why are they “goods?” Why aren’t they “bads,” and how does one discriminate between the two?

     It’s insufficient to speak of a more objective or reliable administration of justice. You must first define justice, an enterprise with many traps and pitfalls. You must decide whether you’d prefer to defend a state of society, or a process with defined characteristics. Then you must tie your preference to a conception of rights.


     Anarchism, if it is to produce results preferable to those available from a limited government, appears to have some prerequisites:

  1. It requires a high and near-uniform degree of “buy-in.”
  2. To prevent the spawning of a new government, it requires a near-uniform distribution of lethal power.
  3. In keeping with the points above, it requires a near-uniform agreement on rights.

     There’s room for reasonable men to disagree about what would constitute sufficient unanimity of allegiance, or an adequately uniform distribution of the ability to wield force. However, under conditions of anarchy, the margin of tolerable dissent on what a right is and how it might justly be defended approaches zero.


     Regardless of all other considerations, there must be a definition for a right on which all participants will agree. The definition need not lay out a blueprint for discovering rights and discarding other sorts of claims, but it must delineate the objective distinction, as a society goes about its business, that it makes between accepted and rejected claims of rights. Only one definition fills the need:

A right is a claim whose acquisition or defense by force, up to and including lethal force, is accepted by the enveloping society.

     Thus, we have a bright line that divides accepted claims of rights from rejected ones. Society, acting through whatever mechanisms are available to it, will wield, or permit the individual to wield, lethal force to acquire or defend accepted rights. Conversely, it will wield, or permit the individual to wield, lethal force against claims it finds un-righteous.

     Rights theory, the body of thought that’s accumulated around the concept and its implementations, has three major outcroppings:

  1. Natural rights,
  2. Civil rights,
  3. Distributive rights.

     There are several disturbing conflicts among the consensuses in those three branches. For example, the Lockean natural rights scholium holds that the right to life is the source of all other just claims. From there, it elaborates a theory of property rights that’s logically inseparable from the right to life. However, starting from the very same right to life, the devotees of Distributivism, the tenets of which were first asserted in the nineteenth century by Proudhon and Louis Blanc, argue for a right to that which will sustain life — a claim which, if accepted, makes a hash out of all notions of property rights.

     Another irresolvable conflict arises when civil rights — those rights of procedure that obtain when one petitions government for some claim — fail to return the result that would objectively agree with natural or Distributive rights. For example, in the case of a jury trial, it is possible that the jury is swayed more powerfully by an attorney’s rhetoric than by the facts and merits of his case. Thus, it produces an unfair verdict, a miscarriage of justice. But the procedure itself is supposed to protect the rights of the parties to the controversy, whether civil or criminal, and indeed some procedure for settling incompatible claims must exist in any political order. To set it aside because of a specific verdict is to point a gun at the administration of justice.

     Things get messier when one considers neo-Distributivist theses such as that of John Rawls. Rawls is best known as the promoter of the Difference Principle, which asserts that gains that accrue to the best-off in society are only legitimate if they reduce the difference between the status of the best-off and that of the worst-off. Put another way, the elite shall not be permitted to profit as a group at the expense of the poor as a group. There’s absolutely no philosophical justification for such a stricture, yet it’s the practical premise of every social democracy on Earth. It makes individual claims of justice impossible to settle according to an objective standard, for a verdict that penalizes one man and rewards another might constitute a “gain to the best-off at the expense of the worst-off” counterbalanced by no other effect.

     For the purposes of achieving the necessary unanimity about rights, theory is worse than useless.


     The most enduring pragmatic conceptions of rights are:

  • What you can acquire and defend successfully (the “test of arms”),
  • What you can get away with (the “philosophy of power”).

     Their clarity and simplicity, however, is more apparent than real. Both neglect the element of time and those processes that require it for their development. Neither addresses the innate sense of justice, against which both would be pitted in an infinite number of cases.

     A third conception of rights originated with novelist Eric Harry, and appears in his novel Protect And Defend:

“Rights are an archist concept. Rights have no meaning except when confronted with superior power. They are what is left to the people after the government has taken all its wants. Your country’s Bill of Rights defines your most cherished freedoms how? By limiting the legal power of government to encroach upon them.”

     As the character arguing for this concept of rights is himself the leader of an anarchist uprising, one can easily discern the structure of thought behind it. In his view, rights are meaningless in a statist order, since whenever the State decides that our rights stand in its way, it will have the power to abridge them, and will do so to whatever degree it deems necessary.

     But there’s no need for a State to bring about massive, unopposable incursions upon rights in any formulation. All it takes is a gang with a coherent agenda and a preponderance of coercive force. That such a preponderance appears incompatible with one of anarchism’s other prerequisites does not guarantee that one wouldn’t arise of its own — especially since that’s how States arose in the first place.


     Under statist conditions, interest groups arise, formulate agendas, claim rights, and attempt to persuade the State to enforce them. Note that no interest group in America could enforce its will upon the country at large without the collaboration of the federal government. As matters stand, government’s overwhelming coercive power is indispensable to the creation of an assertive right — that is, a right whose fulfillment requires the active cooperation of others, rather than just their passive tolerance.

     Assertive rights don’t appear in the natural-rights formulation; indeed, they’re antithetical to it. But both civil rights and Distributive rights theorists allow them, and many, perhaps most, accept their existence. They’re frequently combined with theological exhortations of various kinds, such as the Christian doctrine that mandates charity toward the less fortunate. When they’ve been accepted widely enough, they become indistinguishable de facto from all other claims of rights.

     Anarchist theorists who hold to the natural-rights view see this as an argument in anarchism’s favor. They maintain that without the State to compel dissidents to bend to claims of assertive rights, such claims would get no consideration. But this is a case of affirming the consequent. The sole strong statement one could make is that, in the absence of a State, imposing assertive rights would require other coercive mechanisms. That doesn’t mean that such mechanisms would not become available.

     Political beliefs aren’t the only ones that guide human social behavior. Many are willing to put their private convictions above the pronouncements of political theory. How many free-market advocates have accepted government welfare or subsidies for one thing or another? How many nominally live-and-let-live types are incensed to the point of violence by drug abuse, prostitution, or pornography? Any such deviation from a strict Lockean ethic constitutes a willingness to abridge a defensive right in favor of an assertive one. Coercion-minded majorities have a way of forming around such positions.

     This makes it plain that the ability of a minority to resist such impositions is critical to the endurance of a Stateless society. But by definition, a minority is less numerous than the majority. Therefore, under uniform-distribution-of-force conditions, it will be less powerful, and possibly unable to resist a sufficiently large majority that’s convinced that justice is on its side.

     This is a problem for anarchist and limited-government advocates both, but it’s terribly unclear which system would come off better when powerful passions, such as that over drug abuse or abortion, rise to the top of society’s consciousness.


     The prospects for a convergence around a single conception of rights appear very poor. There’s no indication that a uniform understanding is possible through any of the logical paths put forward by rights theorists. There’s ample evidence that the incentives to seek rent from the political system, for instance by forming interest groups, are stronger than ever, certainly more than strong enough to divert politicians and jurists from pronouncing a State-mandated common code of rights. Though it sounds paradoxical, such an action by the State would be the best possible foundation for an anarchic future.

     Education is not the answer. Concepts of rights as we practice them have much more to do with the routines of ordinary human interaction, and the operation of our innate senses of justice and fellow-feeling, than with rights theory. Symmetry principles such as the Confucian and Golden Rules deserve more credit for our contemporary respect for rights, in any conception, than does any train of logic, Lockean, Rawlsian, or otherwise. In that sense, rights of any kind are an evolutionary product, a concomitant to other aspects of a society’s development. Though Americans pride themselves on our society’s respect for rights, and frequently point to that as the basis for our other achievements, it could well be more valid to say that our practical and material achievements are what make it possible to uphold any notion of rights.

     Evolution must be understood in the proper sense for this application. It doesn’t operate in a predictable or uniform fashion. How could it, when so many details of context affect what time will select for and what it will leave behind? If ideological evolution were deterministic despite context, the same conceptions of rights would have developed in Asia, Africa, and the Americas as emerged in Europe, but that was not the case. European ideas about rights, when they were imported to those other lands, were at violent odds with the prevailing beliefs there.

     Robert Axelrod has explored the evolution of rights-respecting behavior and has found it to be massively perturbed by slight changes in mores, or in the “profit margins” available through certain forms of antisocial action. Survival, and the protection of one’s family under difficult circumstances, will always trump any more abstract consideration.

     Since the prospects for acceptable anarchy are so tightly coupled to the prospects for a uniform understanding of rights, we must conclude that the preconditions for successful anarchy will not be met in the near or intermediate future. The dedicated anarchist can improve his chances of having the sort of political arrangements he prefers in one way only: getting away by himself, or perhaps with a bevy of the like-minded, where his convictions will be guaranteed to hold sway and his claims will be respected by his neighbors. Perhaps, when technology advances far enough to permit long-term-viable settlements on the other bodies in the Solar System, or perhaps in space itself, we will see anarchies of an attractive and enduring character. Don’t bet the rent on seeing them on crowded, quarrelsome, State-ridden Earth.


Skip to comment form

    • Sam on May 21, 2024 at 11:33 AM

    “Lord of the Flies” gives a pretty decent description of anarchy.

    1. Fine, if you’re going to treat a work of fiction about a group of marooned children like a documentary. Can you come up with anything a little closer to reality?

  1. Anarchy rarely lasts long enough to be photographed before a strong man arises to take advantage.

    But Mogadishu comes to mind.

    1. Really? Medieval Ireland went almost 1000 years — a millennium — without a State. Medieval Iceland went more than 400 years without government of any kind. Pre-Christian Sumer, in Mesopotamia, was also Stateless for a long though uncertain period. I’d say the record is rather mixed, but then, I also know that the histories are usually written to pander to the State, so I’m inclined to excuse people for not knowing what I know about the subject.

    • Mark on May 21, 2024 at 8:34 PM


    Getting kind of testy, aren’t you?  Your readers deserve better than those replies.

    Give thanks to God for all you have, (you’re far wiser and much better with a pen than I’ll ever be), have a shot or two, and get some rest.

    There’s a beautiful full moon out, and the sun will (likely) rise in the morning.

    Take care, and God bless.


    PS…Thanks for the excellent work you do.  I think this country did very well, until the 60’s, when the Bible was tossed out of the schools and a multitude of other events occurred.  Now the 70’s crazies in college are in charge.  Fortunately, many of them and the now looney left don’t breed.

    God’s will, will be done.


    1. Yes, I do get “testy” when people write flip, dismissive responses to carefully-thought-out pieces based on a wealth of history. It should make them think.

      I’ve been studying political, moral, and ethical theory for nearly forty years. I’ve been writing about them for nearly thirty years. I think that entitles my thinking and writing to a little respect. And as this is my site, paid for with my money, filled with meaty essays more than half of which are my personal efforts, offered to the reading public entirely for free, it flicks me on the raw to have my thinking dismissed.

      Now and then I’ll respond acerbically to what I consider disrespectful treatment. Apologies for not being Saint Francis of Mount Sinai.

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