The Stateless Society Fights Back
Life without a state? Really? Answers to common questions.
by Stefan Molyneux
My recent articles
on the stateless society have generated some fascinating feedback.
Questions, issues and criticisms rained heavy on my inbox – here
are some of the more challenging queries I received, and my responses.
#1: Mass Pollution
In my own
discussions with friends and such about anarchy, there is one sticking
point where I have had trouble finding the anarchic solution, so
I wonder if you might have an idea about it. I guess you could call
it distributed pollution. There are many examples of pollution where
each polluter does not contribute much to the total, but there are
enough polluters that the total pollution is a problem for everyone.
Cars are an
obvious example here: it’s cheaper for everyone to pollute individually,
but collectively we all suffer. There are two solutions to this
problem; one economic and the other social.
answer is that in a stateless society, people will take out insurance
against ailments such as asthma, cancer and so on. Thus any air
pollution which causes illness will increase the costs for insurers,
since they will have to pay out for treatment and life insurance.
If pollution-related health problems are projected to cost insurers
$100 million over the next ten years, they can spend up to $99.9
million on reducing air pollution – in other words, they can pay
car manufacturers/gasoline companies/road owners up to $99.9 million
to reduce pollution and still come out ahead. (Of course,
they can also refuse to pay out claims, which will put them out
of business pretty quickly!)
The most logical
approach would be to allocate the costs of reducing air pollution
to those who generate it. DROs (Dispute Resolution Organizations;
private insurance mediators) would likely charge drivers and manufacturers
for the costs of reducing air pollution – and would structure the
contracts so that it would be cheaper to simply reduce pollution
than for the DRO to pay for its consequences. Also, remember that
car pollution is currently high because road use is "free"
to the user, which increases consumption. If car users have to pay
for all the costs of driving (roads, pollution etc), use
If that answer
doesn’t satisfy you, no problem – in the free market, there are
as many solutions as there are interested parties! Here’s another.
Let’s say that for some reason DROs didn’t care about the rising
costs of air pollution. The first thing I would do is start a Clean
Air Company, which would, for a fee, guarantee air quality in certain
neighborhoods. How would I achieve this lofty end? Simple: emotional
advertising and social pressure. First, I would start running ads
showing kids and grandmothers keeling over from asthma. Then I would
offer bright yellow "clean air" stickers to anyone who
signed up for my program – and for cars which met certain low-pollution
guidelines. That way, anyone in a neighborhood who didn’t sign up
for my clean air program would be highly visible – all their neighbors
would know, and social pressure would do the rest.
me? I have two proofs. The first is the fact that waiters are almost
always tipped – despite the fact that everyone who doesn’t tip is
a "free rider." If you think the "tipping" example
requires face-to-face contact, what about tsunami charities? Billions
raised, and almost none of those who gave will ever meet the recipients
of their generosity.
don’t deal effectively with pollution anyway. The Canadian government
eradicated the Newfoundland cod population through subsidized over-fishing.
The most polluted lands in the US are owned by the government. Logging
is a problem because the government won’t sell the land outright,
just the timber harvesting rights, which provides little incentive
for renewal. If global warming is occurring, Kyoto barely slows
it down; if it isn’t, Kyoto is a huge waste of time and money –
the worst of both worlds. Public property is always taken care of
badly – and in the stateless society, there is no such thing as
public property, since there is no such thing as a government.
So – DROs would
pay to reduce pollution, drivers would pay the full costs of driving,
and a clean air company would use powerful and proven social pressures
to make sure money was available for pollution reduction. Is it
ideal? Perhaps. Could it be better? Sure – those are just my ideas.
In a free market, thousands of the best minds will be working to
solve the problem of "free rider" pollution. If the problem
can be solved, it will be. If it can’t, let’s stop
using the government to pretend that it can!
To sum up:
if people care about mass pollution, it will be solved. If they
don’t, then those uncaring people will also be running the government
– and so it won’t be solved by the state either.
your article, but the practical reality is that under anarchy, the
few "evil" men would band together and plunder the "good" majority.
How many well-armed, coordinated thugs would it take to ravage an
unprotected populace – a few thousand? The good people simply go
about their business, then one day, 2,000 armed evildoers sweep
into an area, and have their way with it. Even if the general populace
were armed, they could hardly stand up to a trained group like this.
(BTW, this is what the gun lobby doesn't seem to understand – if
the government goes after them with 10,000 soldiers, a "well-armed
militia" has not the ghost of a chance.)
the good group might eliminate the evil group through sheer weight
of numbers, but the former would probably lose men at a ratio of
10 to 1, since they will always be caught by surprise and fighting
is not their stock-in-trade. This would be repeated constantly and
is obviously unacceptable. Isn't this what Genghis Khan, and the
Vikings, etc. were – essentially wandering thugs who plundered "good"
security force would be irresistibly tempted to assume the "evil
group" role, I'm sure, so this is no solution.
me, I detest all governments; I just feel that there is one valid
role for government to play, and that is to protect its citizens.
The idea that
roving bands of thugs will successfully "take over" a
stateless society is a surprisingly durable notion, given the disasters
we see every day in Iraq. The simple fact is that invasions are
never profitable unless subsidized by the taxpayers of the invading
army’s government. From a mere financial standpoint, Iraq is
a fiscal disaster – which proves that even invading one of the most
oil-rich countries in the world doesn’t pay! Iraq was invaded only
because the costs of the invasion are entirely borne by taxpayers
– which allows billions to be siphoned off to the military, state
agencies and private corporations. The same is true for all occupations
in history, from the Roman, British and French Empires to the Eastern
Bloc to the Iraq occupation. Taxpayers are forced to pay with money
and blood, while billions are stolen through subsidies and contracts.
The real target in any war is not foreign troops, but domestic
taxpayers. War is a means to an end: the end being the pillaging
of the public purse.
is profitable; in the absence of a state, war is not. This means
that peaceful citizens will always have more money and resources
than violent criminals. In a stateless society, DROs will constantly
work to defuse and exclude the criminal element and ensure that
crime does not pay – and it won’t, since an honest income will be
so much higher than it is now! Thus the argument that bands of thugs
can successfully take over a free society has no basis in economics,
logic or history. The worst possible case in a stateless
society is that a band of thugs will set up shop locally and demand
cash "protection" from honest citizens, like the Mafia.
However, even that situation is preferable to the current
system, since the Mafia need to ensure that their citizens remain
relatively happy in the long run – unlike governments, which drive
entire societies into war, bankruptcy and dictatorship.
but what about foreign governments, whose armies are subsidized
are even easier to deal with than internal gangs, due to one basic
fact: political leaders only invade other countries if they themselves
are in no danger. If a politician can stay far behind the lines,
make stirring speeches, strike noble poses, hand out contracts and
watch his popularity soar, war seems like a pretty good deal. If,
however, declaring war threatens him personally, suddenly it doesn’t
seem so attractive. The simple proof of this thesis is that no
country possessing WMDs has ever been directly threatened with war.
(In fact, the best way to logically deduce that Iraq had no WMDs
was that the US was prepared to invade it!)
against warlike foreign leaders always dissuades invasion – so,
what is the best way to threaten the lives of such criminals? So
far, the only answer has been the proliferation of WMDs. In a free
society, cheaper and less dangerous methods will surely be discovered
– and here are some possibilities.
decides to invade a government-free US. The Canadian PM starts making
threatening speeches and massing troops along the border.
How could the
stateless society respond? Well, DROs are the agencies most threatened
by invasion, because if the Canadian government takes over, they
will be the first to go. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of
a group of worried DRO leaders. What would we do?
First, we would
get to the root of the problem, which is that the Canadian PM
is the person responsible for fermenting war. Given this fact,
we would avoid threatening Canada’s troops or its general population,
who are not the problem, and have no power to prevent the
invasion. If we threaten the troops, we’ll make them more belligerent
– and if we threaten the general population, we’ll make them more
supportive of the war.
So how can
we defuse the situation? Here are some ideas (in escalating order):
that, if the troops are not disbanded, no offensive action will
be taken against soldiers or civilians, but instead political
leaders will be targeted.
- Arm everyone
along the US side of the border with any weapons they liked –
for free (In Switzerland, for instance, every household has
to have a gun – and the Swiss have not been involved in a war
in 800 years, despite being right in the middle of Europe!).
- Offer the
foreign troops sanctuary, property and jobs if they lay down their
arms, desert and cross the border peacefully.
- If the threat
continues to escalate, offer $100 million in gold to anyone who
can convince the Canadian PM to demobilize his troops (using
whatever methods work the best).
- Drive all
politicians underground by putting massive bounties on their heads.
- Kidnap the
PM’s family and hold them hostage until the troops are demobilized.
things can escalate from the above in ways that are easy to imagine
– although I am sure that the problem would be dealt by the first
one or two items.
Why are these
approaches so effective? For one thing, in a stateless society,
there is no single target such as the White House or the Pentagon.
Authority is diffused, decentralized, like the Internet, and so
cannot be struck at directly. Thus DROs can target foreign leaders,
but foreign leaders cannot target DROs – and so the advantage lies
though, that none of the above works, and foreign troops end up
invading the stateless society. What will they face? A combination
of determined DROs, private security forces and well-armed civilians.
Remember: in a stateless society, there are no legal limits on the
weapons that private citizens can possess. (It is likely that DROs,
though, would refuse to represent those who possessed certain weapons
– a limit that would doubtless be lifted in the case of imminent
Thus the invading
army cannot tell which citizens have which weapons. This raises
a significant "fog of war" problem. The US felt safe invading
Iraq because the Iraqi government had been largely disarmed by 14
years of sanctions, and so could not retaliate. Even now, when they
are nominally in charge of the country, they face constant attrition
from guerilla fighters. Now that the Iraqi population has access
to arms, they have the upper hand even in the face of overwhelming
US military power. (The main reason for this is that the US military
has developed the capacity to blow away armies standing out in the
open – with the inevitable result that no army ever opposes the
US by standing out in the open, but instead uses guerilla tactics
and a war of attrition. It’s as if Vietnam never happened! But that’s
inevitable – state armies are not designed to protect citizens,
but to create conflict and spend money, and "big thump"
weapons are far more expensive than guerilla training.)
Last but not
least, if the threat of invasion grows, DROs will hire mercenaries
to repel the invaders. In the unlikely event that DRO combatants
do actually engage government troops, it will be a case of
private incentives versus government inefficiencies – FedEx versus
the Post Office. Does anyone believe that a government-run army
– which is just the Post Office in fatigues – can beat a private
army? The military is just another government program, subject to
all the same irrational stupidities as every other government program.
So far, we have only seen the agonizing waste of governments fighting
other governments – the spectacle of a government army fighting
a private army will be brief, efficient and highly instructive.
anyone out there show me any examples of a government successfully
defending its population from violence? France in 1789? Russia in
1917? Germany in 1933? Poland in 1939? France in 1940? England which,
after winning the war against national socialism, imposed socialism
on its own population? America, which subsidizes and arms dictatorships
and currently has more than 200 troop bases around the world stirring
up anti-US rage? What about the Civil War, which murdered 600,000
Americans without even effectively freeing the slaves? The First
World War, which caused the Second? Did America emerge from the
Cold War more free or less free? (Hint: taxes, debt
and regulations!) Did Korea or Vietnam end the Soviet regime? Of
course not – the inefficiency of central planning did. What about
World War Two? In 1950, more people were enslaved by dictatorships
than in 1939 – despite 40 million murdered! So how can anyone
say that governments protect their citizens? Violence begets violence.
All states do is wage wars, raise taxes and enslave their populations
with debts and regulation. Knowing that governments murdered 170
million people during the 20th century, we can all be
forgiven for a little skepticism when we hear the argument that
governments protect their citizens. It is blind, dangerous nonsense!
There is one
final response that, in my view, disposes of the "armed gang"
objection. If large numbers of people do want to impose their
will on others through force, then armed gangs do pose a risk to
a stateless society. However, they are still less of a risk
than a centralized state! If an armed gang runs roughshod through
your neighbourhood, you can choose to fight, pay tribute, or flee
to a freer locale. No such choices exist with a government. In other
words, if people are generally peaceful, we don’t need a state –
and if they are generally violent, we can’t allow a state to exist,
because giving violent people a monopoly always results in the utter
destruction of civil society.
prefer the evil they know to the evil they don't know. Even though
being ruled by the state is awful, it is possible that the alternative
is worse. Even if the probability that alternative is worse is small,
people do not want to risk what they have for something else, at
least not until what they have is so bad as to be unendurable. This
is a facet of human nature that the evil in our world exploit on
a daily basis. They continue to make things worse slowly in the
hopes that people will simply go along with it because they do not
wish to risk the alternatives. I know this is bad logically, but
most people are ruled by emotions rather than reason and act accordingly.
The fear of the unknown is one of the most powerful emotions. Fear
is why people continue to support the state even though they acknowledge
that it is evil.
I agree with
the above – it is usually easier to live with a tolerable (and well-armed!)
evil than risk opposing it. However, I have two arguments against
this kind of passivity. First of all, government power grows continually,
becoming more and more brutal, until it utterly destroys the host
society. This was the case in Ancient Greece and Italy, in Germany,
England and France after the Middle Ages, in Germany, Italy, Japan,
Russia and China in the 20th century – and is currently
the case with all Western governments. In every single historical
case, governments grow until they destroy society. In most cases,
governments run out of money, which causes violence to erupt from
those dependent on state handouts – resulting in martial law and
a general dictatorship. Thus the idea of "living with a tolerable
evil" is like "living with a tolerable hunger" –
it is only tolerable in the short run. In the long run, the growth
of state power murders millions and destroys everything that makes
life worth living.
is absolutely no reason to risk one’s life or remaining liberties
opposing state power. The state survives on propaganda, and thus
can only be opposed in the realm of ideas. Writing, reading and
arguing are the most powerful activities in the service of freedom,
since all general social decisions are made on the basis of perceived
virtue (i.e. state welfare is "good" because it "helps
the poor"). Change the perceived virtues, and you change the
#4: No Gun Control At All?
have everyone having any weapon they want! People would just nuke
most people are disturbed by the idea that anyone can have any weapon
he wants – does that mean that my neighbor can build a nuke in his
Those who are
getting the hang of the stateless society already know the answer
to this objection: if enough people are troubled by this problem,
someone will find a solution for it!
Here’s an example:
I buy a tract of land and build a community on it. I then only lease
the houses to people who are willing to sign a contract that they
will not build nukes in their basement. (This could extend
to any sort of weapon ownership, and is an extension of standard
condo agreements.) Presto, I have a completely voluntary society
with no nukes in the basement – or no handguns at all if I choose.
No need for a government, policemen or the NRA. This way, everyone
gets to live with the social rules they want – and the most efficient
societies will flourish, just as companies in the free market do
now. There is absolutely no reason why social rules should not be
subject to the same market forces as everything else in the economy
– everyone benefits through a multiplicity of choice and the principles
#5: How Do We Win?
question, of course, came up a lot, and requires a separate
article, which I am working on. I won’t mention any details here,
except to say that we can win, and it requires no violence
– but you’re probably not going to like the answer!
Molyneux [send him mail]
has been an actor, comedian, gold-panner, graduate student, and
software entrepreneur. His first novel, Revolutions
was published in 2004, and he maintains a
© 2005 LewRockwell.com