On Institutional Anarchy

Anarchy tends to be associated with chaos and destruction. Whilst it is true that the attainment of anarchy requires the destruction of the state, anarchy itself is not destructive, but rather the contrary. Anarchy is not the absence of rules; it is the absence of rulers. Anarchy is chaotic order, but order nonetheless. While many would prefer to dispense with the state, at this point in time most believe that the state is at least a necessary evil, for it is supposed that it brings stability, and that its limited coercion ensures the absence of greater coercion. It is at this time commonly thought that a circumstance of anarchy would necessarily imply a power vacuum which would necessarily bring about a worse tyranny than any civilized state is capable of. Such supposition is wrong.

If it may be permissible to think of the state as an organism, composed of multiple organs, which in turn are made up of many individual cells, each with their own incentives, but which ultimately result in concerted behaviour, then it is most appropriate to categorize such organism as a parasite. The state is not productive in itself, it depends on predation over the wealth created by the subjects of its jurisdiction for its existence.

The general incentive of the individual members of the state is to expand their individual wealth and power, hence the state has a tendency to grow. The state may grow in either of two ways: by increasing the level of predation or by expanding its jurisdiction. If a particular state’s jurisdiction is not too great, a rapid increase in the level of predation might prove fatal to such state. If the subject perceives the cost imposed by the predation to be greater than the cost of fleeing or reveling, then the subject might flee or revel.

For a state’s growth to be sustainable to itself, it ought first to expand its jurisdiction, not only de jure, but most importantly de facto, and in order to be able to do such, it ought to restrain its own level of predation. As a state seeks not only to maintain its jurisdiction but grow it, it must appear to the potential subjects that the net costs of being within the jurisdiction are lesser than the net costs of being without. Such is the reason for the existence of democracy and constitutions.

Constitutions restrain the rapidity of the growth in the level of predation so that it may be bearable to stay or even enter the jurisdiction of a state; states may at times even lower the level of predation in order to be able to expand their jurisdiction. Democracy ensures that the predation is distributed in such a manner that the most is extracted with the least perception of cost. The most sustainable manner of growth for a state is by gradual marginal increments, for the perception of what is bearable becomes more inclusive over time, and as the jurisdiction becomes greater and the costs of escaping it increase, the state can get away with greater levels of predation without prompting its immediate collapse.

The institutional framework of societies with modern democratic states appear to be stable because change towards greater predation is not intended to be noticed. Such institutional frameworks tend not to be stable at all. It matters not how good the intentions or how restrained the coercion is at the beginning, it tends to always end with a leviathan. Minarchism sustained over the long run is quite rare, if it’s not the case that all small states eventually end up as tyrannies.

Modern states are relatively recent in human history. Most of the humans that ever lived upon the earth never interacted with a state as we know it. This might serve as indication of the possibility of a different institutional framework, one without a parasitical organization whose coercion is justified. Under certain circumstances, an anarchical society can be more stable and prosperous than societies with states. All that is needed is a moral sentiment among the members of such society, that coercion is never justified, and everything else follows.

In societies with states, some coercion by the state is tolerated. The amount of coercion is inevitably arbitrary, and as such it is not a strong focal point. As the state exerts an amount of coercion slightly over that which is tolerated, the amount of toleration shifts because there is nothing tying it down. In a society with institutional anarchy, no amount of coercion is to be tolerated. There is no focal point stronger than zero, especially when it comes to tolerating coercion. Institutional anarchy is more stable than minarchy because the cost of knowing, abiding by, and enforcing the Non Aggression Principle is lower than knowing, abiding by, and enforcing an ever changing code of legislation.

Institutional anarchy does not seek to dispense with a system of jurisprudence or with security forces, but rather does seek to minimize the initiation of violence and never to legitimize it, because legitimization in any way leads to expansion and the unleashing of the vicious feedback loop. Of course there does need to be a mechanism to deal with situations in which people do coerce; the main difference is there would not be a monopoly of anti-coercive services, and subscription to any service would be voluntary, thus prompting competition and its benefits.

Though it may be true that there can be no such thing as absolute stability, all evidence and logical deduction seem to indicate that institutional anarchy would tend to be more stable than any state arrangement, as the state is a parasite with tendency towards growth. Contrary to common belief fueled by state propaganda, institutional anarchy could be the most civilized way to live in society, and it might not be as utopian as some might think after all. I am not yet sure how to get to institutional anarchy, but I do know that the first step is to believe.

Categories: Libertarian

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