Sunday, January 25, 2009

Welcome to The Anarchy School

Warm greetings, dear Reader!

Today, Sunday, January 25th, 2009, seems like as good a time as any to open the doors of our new school, announce it to the world, divulge its purpose, and break open a bottle of champagne in celebration. (Only a statist would waste a perfectly good bottle of champagne by actually breaking it across the bow of a death-dealing vessel of war!). Settle into a comfortable chair while I put the champagne on ice...

The Anarchy School is a school for all free-thinking, open-minded individuals who yearn for freedom in our time - people like you, dear Reader. Its goal is to stimulate your imagination, provoke discussion and new ideas, and ultimately to formulate actual working plans to create a society completely free of coercive government. Together we will work out solutions that will get us from here - a world of freedom-crushing nation-states, to there... not Utopia, but a real, dynamic, and prosperous free society, the first of its kind in world history.

Lest you think this is pure fantasy, an unworkable dream for misanthropic malcontents, consider the following: as we shall see, there have been semi-anarchic societies in the past (e.g., ancient Iceland), and they exist today (e.g., Somalia). Consider also the current world-wide economic meltdown, and understand that it presents a golden (perhaps literally golden, in our new economic system) opportunity to secede from the States, which may well be collapsing all around us. We must be ready to seize the moment if and when it comes, possibly in the next decade. By then we will have graduated from this School, and have issued our Declaration of Independence.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Our first lesson today will be an exercise in free thinking, imagining what a free America would be like if the mistakes of the past could be rectified. Indulge me as I create an alternative history for America, beginning just after the victory at Yorktown...

Imagine that the secret Constitutional Convention never took place, and America remained a Confederation of truly independent states. Imagine further that free citizens of the several states managed, over a period of several decades, to institute voluntarist, tax-free societies through means that we will develop in our classes. How would America have evolved under those circumstances, with no Congress, no Supreme Court, and no President? With no tariffs, and no taxes at all? In an anarchic society, all money exchanges and all labor is voluntary; the early Americans would first have to abolish the slavery that existed, so true anarchy would have to wait until the economic conditions were right. We'll come to that shorty, dear Reader.

The year is now 1800...

With no federal budget to lard, we can assume no standing armies and no offensive wars take place. Thus, no War of 1812. There is also no Louisiana Purchase, of course. Lewis and Clark still get together and explore and map the West, seeking their fortunes. Wars with the Indians are avoided at all costs, as the settlers negotiate property rights with them, and acknowledge the Indians' property rights as well, for example to sacred burial grounds and hunting grounds. Indians are encouraged to help develop the new lands and share in the wealth, and eventually they're accepted as true American natives. The Americans expand westward in peace and harmony, and no new states are formed; the new lands are known simply as the Free Territory.

Meanwhile, free market capitalism fuels invention after invention, and prosperity is everywhere. As their experience, confidence, and wisdom grows, Americans gradually dismantle the old state apparatus, and abolish all forms of statist impediments to progress, including monopolist inventions such as copyrights and patents. The result is the dramatically increased pace of progress; by 1850, Americans have developed fully mechanised farming, and all slaves have been freed, as slavery is now economically as well as morally untenable. Progress is slowed slightly until the properties of petroleum are discovered, so steam engines dominate for a while, but soon the petroleum powered car is developed, and the first airplanes are invented. Private roads and airports are constructed or expanded to meet the new demand. Toll roads and bridges are everywhere, but tolls are extremely low to facilitate commerce.

The year is now 1865, and no Civil War occured to slow the advance of civilization. No Reconstruction foists tyranny on the former slave states. The gold standard has become fully institutionalized and accepted by this time, and no monetary crisis occurs due to bimetalism. America is the envy of the entire world, and a school of economics known as the American School is universally admired and studied. The benefits of anarchy and sound money are not seriously disputed, but governments are still entrenched in most of the world. The danger of war with foreigners remains very much on American minds.

There are many other problems, of course; anarchy does not cure all the faults of human beings. Murder, rape, robbery and fraud still exist. Human monsters still walk the land. But the problems and criminals are dealt with locally. The citizenry is universally armed, to keep the monsters at bay (and prevent them from forming gangs and governments!). The anarchic tradition grows stronger, and America thrives. The 1876 Centenial is a celebration of the greatest century of man's existence. What lies ahead?

Ah, dear Reader, we're coming to the really good part! But the rest of this alternate history story will have to wait for our next class. Be sure to visit again tomorrow, and bring your open, curious mind, with lots of questions.

That champagne should be good and cold by now. To your health!

Glen L.


  1. I guess you were wrong since the comments seem to be working.

    Only a statist would waste a perfectly good bottle of champagne by actually breaking it across the bow of a death-dealing vessel of war!

    You might, however, break it across the bow of a nice forty footer (or the head of some jet skiier that just zipped between your skiier and the boat)

  2. Well, my wife and my tax guy (and great friend) are the only ones to comment so far... (sigh).
    Oh well, I will slog... er, blog... ahead anyway.


  3. Ok, looking forward to the next installment! Good, so far! You might check out Zero Aggression Principle (ZAP). It is similar to the LP's Pledge, which I believe LP scrapped a few years ago.

  4. Thanks, Col. Hogan, good to hear from you. This is a big project and I will need all the help I can get. Guest bloggers are always welcome!

  5. Hey Glen -- This is great! I enjoyed your intro pieces and look forward to more! - Jeff K

  6. Cool revisionist history post. A few comments and questions follow.

    I'm not sure the Lewis and Clark expedition would have happened, since Thomas Jefferson used his power to task these 2 members of the U.S. Army (Lewis being a Captain and Clark a Second Lieutenant). Yet, exploration would have definitely happened, albeit later and probably not under the names of these two.

    Also, wasn't one of the main causes the resistance of free trade with France, along with the impressment of US persons into the British ranks? Wouldn't the populous have started some sort of uprising, sparking the war anyway?

    Your mention of the dismantling of copyrights and patents is interesting. EULA's would still be allowed, creating a distributed system of contract between the users of a work and its creator (or if contracting is limited, who enforces that?). In that case, misuse (and unauthorized reproduction) would still be enforceable. Yet, how would the system (or lack thereof) handle this? Would an unbiased court be constructed to deal with the case, or would the creator have to seek justice by some other means?

    Also, slaves may indeed have been eliminated from the field, but there are many other household tasks that would have kept slavery around, such as cooking, cleaning, and splitting wood. It may have taken a much longer time for the social cost of keeping slaves to become high enough for their owners to free them.

    Would the toll roads and bridges have armed forces to prevent non-paying people from crossing? If so, would the owners of these structures not have a large amount of political pull (they could stop commerce by closing their roads)? If not, how would they continue operation if there is no penalty for crossing without paying?

    People unable to afford cars would probably form carpool unions so they could all chip in to pay the tolls. It's possible these unions could also gain much political pull for the recreation of statism. There would still be people with little to no money in an anarchical society, since gambling and various other opportunities for complete loss would exist.

    I also don't think there would technically be a gold standard per se. There would be hundreds of competing currencies, as well as stock certificates, warehouse receipts, etc. The gold standard currency would actually be formed by trading real warehouse receipts from repositories of gold bullion. Yet, a check would have to be put on these warehouses to make sure they weren't over-issuing their receipts. Perhaps logs could be kept by multiple trusted community sources of all transactions between the warehouses, with a responsible group of them overseeing every transfer.

    But there's no way to enforce this, so the stocks of gold and other commodities could still be distorted. If copious logs were kept of all imports of commodities, along with quantities of gold discovered domestically, perhaps the supply could be very closely estimated by the public. Yet, this creates an incentive to bribe the record keepers, making them record false transactions of imported gold, giving the public the impression of a larger supply, allowing the breaking of the gold standard of warehouse receipts.

    Counterfeiting would probably be trivial and legal as well, especially in the scenario where there is economic and technological plenty, and not restrictions on trade, such as those imposed on chemicals and locksmithing tools currently.

    So, how do we handle these issues? I'm looking forward to your response (and to reading the promised continuation). Great stuff!


    Thanks for all of your interesting remarks. I apologize for being so slow to respond; my excuse is that it's tax filing season (sigh).

    Lewis and Clark, in my historical fantasy, would naturally have been funded by private citizen Thomas Jefferson, whose personal fortune would not have been decimated by his two terms in office as President, as it was in reality.

    As for the War of 1812, my understanding is that it was precipated primarily by American designs on Canada. Minus the newly centralized American state, I don't think that would have occured. We simply would have not been involved in the affairs of Britain or France, and "Moby Dick" would never have been written. No big loss, in my opinion.

    I'm not sure what useful purpose EULA's would serve in an anarchic society; I certainly oppose them and routinely ignore them in our real society, now. I'm for open source, as long as its voluntary. How about you? The issue of intellectual property is complex and interesting, but in my fantasy world it has no particular relevance, as the enlightened society realizes that restrictions that tend to enforce monopoly rights are detrimental to all, including the monopoly holders.

    On the issue of slavery, I think that the economic downside of slavery, even for domestic servants, would quickly have outweighed any initial upside. The moral issue also could hardly be avoided, minus an overwhelming economic issue such as maintaining a huge plantiation. After all, domestic slaves were owned (and I hate that term) by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, but were freed long before the Southern slaves were.

    "Would the toll roads and bridges have armed forces to prevent non-paying people from crossing?" Of course not. In fact, most roads and bridges in early America were payed for by tolls, willingly paid by the people that didn't have to maintain them. The concept of users pay is non-controversial. In my anarchic fantasy tolls would be as cheap as possible, but access would most likely be prepaid. Violations of the prepay standard would be telegraphed to all businesses, including hotels and service stations, who would refuse to do business with the violator.

    Furthermore, in an anarchic society political pull would be almost nonexistant, and there would be no reason to interrupt commerce, something that is beneficial to all. Only armed and malicious governments think in those terms.

    "People unable to afford cars would probably form carpool unions so they could all chip in to pay the tolls. It's possible these unions could also gain much political pull for the recreation of statism."

    I would think that tolls would be so cheap that such measures would be unnecessary. And why would the people wish for a return to the godawful state-run roads we're afflicted with today?

    "There would still be people with little to no money in an anarchical society, since gambling and various other opportunities for complete loss would exist."

    This is no doubt true. There would still be murderers and other sociopaths too. There is no perfect solution to the problem of people without means, free riders, murderers, thieves, and rapists. The anarchist believes that statists handle these problems in the worst possible ways. We believe that private charities handle the problem of poverty far better than state welfare, and we believe that shunning and ostracizing criminals is a far better solution to chronic crime than prisons and executions. But more on that later.

    As for your last comments on the gold standard and money in general, I have no doubt there would be problems, and I'm open to any ideas on alternate commodities (I have a few ideas of my own). The general principle still remains, i.e. money should be backed by commodity wealth, and fractional reserve banking should only be allowed in private transactions where the depositor is aware of the risk he/she is taking.

    Thanks again for your intelligent questions.