The alternative to the state: introduction
The purposes of this blog (and upcoming book) include exposing the dangers of the state and promoting the alternatives to it. I believe I have sketched the problem in previous posts, explaining why the state is at the root of many of our greatest problems today. This series will describe the alternative.
Right from the start, please bear in mind that when I say “the alternative”, I do not pretend to have all the answers. No one person has the answers to how society should operate. Only the people as a whole, working together in societies of their choice, can decide that. Politicians and bureaucrats barely represent us at all. They are not the people as a whole, yet they are the ones who hold the power. Anarchists want the people to have a free hand in designing their society from the bottom up, as opposed to being forced to accept one imposed from the top down.
That means they choose the forms of association that are right for them. They may wish to organise as communities, apartment blocs, agricultural cooperatives, workers’ unions, and so on. They will come up with their own rules, pool (or not) their resources as they see fit, and organise to solve collective problems in their own ways, not in whatever ways are in the interest of the powerful.
Though I do not have all the answers, at least I can and should suggest some things, and then we can try them, and see how they work out. One could argue with some justification that it is up to anarchists to propose the ideas (though I would argue it is up to the statist to justify the initiation of force and the preferability of monopolies).
In part 1 of this series, we will consider what people are doing to become sovereign individuals. A sovereign individual is one who rejects being ruled. He or she does not recognise the authority of anyone with whom he or she has not entered into a voluntary association. The sovereign individual does what is possible to avoid consuming state services and paying taxes. He or she is a person who tries to stay free in an unfree world.
Part 2 will look at agorism and counter-economics. Agorism, from the Greek word agora, meaning open marketplace, is a radical way of breaking the state’s various monopolies and regulations, and delving into black markets. Counter-economics, or counter-establishment economics, means, according to Samuel Konkin, who coined the term, the practice of any peaceful human action that the state forbids. Lysander Spooner once attempted to start a rival to the US Post Office. He violated the law, of course, and was shut down. He was successful until that time, however; and had his American Letter Mail Company succeeded in opening up the market for mail, de facto or de jure, he would have been a successful agorist.
Part 3 considers mutual aid. Mutual aid means, well, helping each other. It means voluntary, reciprocal exchange of resources and services. You might have something I need, and then tomorrow I might be able to help you with something I have. Though it dates back to early man (and perhaps millions of years before that), mutual aid has evolved into mutual aid societies, which could mean cooperatives, money pooled by whomever for insurance, credit unions and trade unions.
Though other parts of this blog talk about polycentric law (such as the recent post on previously-existing anarchic societies), part 4 goes into greater depth as to how it could function in the modern world. Competing legal agencies are an alternative to the state’s monopoly of the dispensation of authority and justice, and have the potential to lead to a far more just and prosperous world. Contracts are a big part of the law; this section will deal with them as well.
A number of alternatives to state services have been proposed on this blog. We have considered roads and highways, education, health care and environmental protection in the stateless society. I think, given what we know about human nature, there is no reason to believe that we could not perform all the tasks of government that are perceived as essential or preferable. When something is left to people unfettered by force, individuals, associations, co-ops, grassroots mutual aid campaigns, free clinics, unions, communes, businesses and charities will take care of it. Not everything needs to be about profit or power. Charles W. Johnson in Markets Not Capitalism (p62) describes this truly-free market as “the space of maximal consensually-sustained social experimentation.”
In fact, unlike anything run by government, free-market involvement leads to advances and innovations, rather than stagnation. But it is just as possible to have cooperatives and communes, planned communities, and communities owned by businesses for their employees, all of which exist today, none of which require government intervention. Government intervention would prevent the members of those communities from making their own rules. But why? Are people in government somehow more moral or able to make rules than the people affected by those rules? Humans make rules in the absence of force; and they copy each other’s best practices. If the members of a collective believe no one in their community should do drugs, they can make that a rule. They might make you sign a contract agreeing not to do drugs when you move in, and if you get high, they kick you out. If it works for one community, another might want to copy them. Seems simple, really. In part 5, we will look more at contract-based communities.
Some communities around the world have taken measures to extricate themselves from the long reach of the state. Some merely do not recognise a certain federal law; others do not recognise governmental authority whatsoever (secession). Part 6 will discuss how communities are breaking free of the laws of less-representative levels of government that they do not like.
The real alternative to the state is simply to allow people freedom from force. Everything that the state forces on us is one less freedom. How about eliminating laws and regulations, one by one, and letting people be free to figure things out for themselves? They get their freedom, they take responsibility, they are no longer forced. It is simple.
What stands in the way of this idea is a small number of people who want to control others and a large number of people who enable it by paying taxes, voting and obeying the law. When people embrace better ideas, they will free themselves.