Anarchy: A Definition

 

I previously posted “Towards a definition of Anarchy” in an attempt to begin a conversation. Nearly a year later, I feel sufficiently equipped to push that conversation further.

In that previous post, I argued that anarchy is the rejection of institutions predicated on the crimes of coercion, theft, or murder. I explored the cultural and etymological roots of the term “anarchy” as well as the underlying philosophy, and presented a starting place for achieving a working definition of anarchy. That definition has served me fairly well in discussions on social media, in person, and on this blog. Over time, though, I have found it necessary to modify aspects of that definition and explore the necessary conclusions of that definition.

After a year of perpetual discussion about presumed first principles and their results, I believe I must explore the term from two angles: that of its linguistic uses and that of its philosophical importance. I, unfortunately, must explore its linguistic function first, as it will help clarify the philosophical definition.

Anarchy, as a word, can be used to describe a state of affairs. Typically, it is used as a pejorative when it is used in this manner, courtesy of your local propagandists. The state of affairs it references is one in which there is an absence of “archons”: individuals who claim the right to coerce or otherwise harm non-aggressors. The free -I’m sorry- “black” market is a prime example of one such circumstance, such as open-air markets in rural parts of Empire and developing nations. In some rare cases of the pejorative use, it may be accurate; but more often it is a distinct lack of anarchy that is misidentified as such on the news and popular media.

Anarchy can also refer to the philosophy of anarchism or that of anarchists. This is nothing new, of course; I often refer to anarchy as “a philosophy of personal responsibility”. Many assert that anarchism is predicated on the non-aggression principle (the NAP) as its first and only principle. However, as I hope to explore soon, the NAP presents many challenges when taken on its own. In “New Logo” and “Is Property Theft”, I briefly explored the issue of voluntarism as a positive assertion from the NAP, primarily because the NAP is a negative moral claim and, even if the claim is true, the positive inverse statement of that claim is not necessarily true.

Most of the issues arising from using the NAP as a solitary first principle is that its conclusions are either voluntarism or some other conclusion informed by the anarchist’s other philosophical commitments, many of which result in impoverished or absurd worldviews. The fact that the NAP is a negative claim is what causes its dependance on other principles. This dependence is not an issue in itself, it is the theory-ladenness of the NAP’s terminology in every iteration. A prime example of this issue is when “libertarian” feminists start discussing male “micro-aggressions” and criminalizing the act of having a Y chromosome. As I’ve discussed before, if the NAP is to obtain, one’s response to aggression must allow for self-defense, up to and including the execution of lethal force. So, if “libertarian” feminists are to be consistent, they must embrace the perennial feminist slogan of “kill all men”. Somehow, this does not sound like a philosophy predicated on the non-instantiation of force (another way to say NAP).

If anarchy is to be predicated on negative claims, it must either be predicated on claims that are less-susceptible to mixing with bad philosophies than the NAP, or be predicated on a mixture of negative and positive claims such so as to form a complete worldview on its own. Let’s begin with the negative first principles which may be more reliable than the NAP, possibly even axiomatically grounding the NAP itself.

I previously argued that anarchy is the rejection of institutions predicated on crime. That particular claim would be an ethical one. While anarchism may be a moral philosophy, I have found that all moral philosophies must be predicated on some other basis for moral or ethical claims. In “An Economics of Ethics”, I implied that ethical claims are best rooted in ontology and physics while morality must be rooted in ontological claims.

Anarchism is best served, then, in basing itself not in the rejection of particular institutions but, instead, some ontological claim which results in such an ethical proscription. One such commitment would be disallowing collectives from one’s ontology. There is a series of fairly compelling arguments for the non-existence of collectives, but such cases will have to be made elsewhere, as this post is concerned with defining anarchy. For now, I will assert that anarchism is a philosophy which denies the existence of collectives, instead focusing on individuals and individual actions.

This focus on individual action can be informed by one of two suppositions: the existence of objective moral facts or nihilism. In the case of nihilism I must inquire as to why one who finds no meaning or purpose in anything would be motivated to embrace anything more than nihilism; I do not expect a satisfying answer. Even so, the case of a nihilist anarchism does not preclude ethics (as defined in “Morality and Ethics”), as most nihilists that don’t just kill themselves tend more towards epicurean hedonism out of an interest in maximizing one’s own pleasure. In which case, anarchism’s minimum ethical framework may even seem a bit narrow to a nihilist. “Don’t shit where you eat”, the nihilist ethical maxim, requires a degree of virtue and future-mindedness, whereas the NAP is merely a prohibition against a narrow list of actions which could be reasonably be considered crimes.

More reasonably, one could allow for the existence of objective moral facts. In another post, or perhaps, in a book I hope to self publish at the end of this year, I will make an introductory argument for the the existence of objective moral facts. Today, though, If we allow moral facts ontology, we can quickly come to see that objective moral facts can only be proscriptive: categorically disallowing certain behaviors for rationally self-interested individuals while not prescribing any particular actions. I’ve explored this discussion before in “The Dark Side”. As time goes on, I will expand that discussion into an argument in its own right.

I still refer to the NAP as shorthand for my own proscription against crime (coercion, theft, and murder) which could, technically, be considered an ethical proscription which obtains universally. This is due to an anarchist definition of “rights”: namely, a right rooted in the rejection of collectives’ existence and a focus on individual action. Such a definition could be “a delineation of behaviors which one could justifiably defend oneself with any necessary degree of force.” It would, then, be reasonable to assert that provoking one’s right to self defense is inadvisable under all circumstances.

What I am trying to express here is that the NAP (in whatever form) is a result of anarchist first principles, not a first principle in itself. It is certainly a useful rhetorical tool to appeal to the NAP straightaway, as “I think people shouldn’t murder each other” is usually common ground for people. However, if that is the extent of one’s education in anarchism, one will be prone to the mistakes explored earlier. Much like a man that becomes a Christian because “Jesus forgives you,” and leaves it at that, one will be prone to doing stupid things and giving the philosophy to which one claims to adhere a bad name.

Ultimately, anarchism is a moral philosophy. Predicated on certain ontological claims and on an informed understanding of the way the world operates. Anarchism is the conclusion that individuals ought to behave in a manner consistent with personal responsibility and not attempt to place that responsibility on the shoulders of others without their permission. This is primarily a practical consideration, but it is fully complimented by some forms of deontological frameworks, so long as they do not violate the ontological or ethical claims of anarchism. This consideration, I think secures anarchism from mixing with bad philosophies without requiring positive ontological claims.

I propose that a sufficient definition of anarchism (or anarchy, for simplicity) would be as follows: a philosophy predicated on the claim that collectives do not exist, only individuals; the claim that one is responsible for one’s actions, and will face the inevitable consequences of those actions, which results in the claim that one cannot justifiably commit crimes (coercion, theft, or murder) under any circumstances; and the claim that one can and should defend themselves from crimes as well. At first glance, this definition may not seem too similar to the popular conceptions of anarchy, but one can quickly conclude from these claims that governments do not exist, only people do, and those that engage in government activities, such as taxation (theft), enforcement (coercion), and war (murder), are criminals and ought to be dealt with as such. In other words, anarchy dictates that one interact with ISIS, Ted Bundy, and one’s local government bureaucrats and enforcers in a consistent manner.

TL;DR: My original suggested definition of anarchy was a good start, but it certainly needs work. The 2015 model of “Mad Philosopher’s flavor of anarchism” is ultimately little more than an ontological commitment which, if consistently and logically applied, can (and frequently does) result in the rest of the assertions and arguments I have made on this blog over the course of the last year or so. Anarchy is a philosophy predicated on the claim that collectives do not exist, only individuals; the claim that one is responsible for one’s actions, and will face the inevitable consequences of those actions, which results in the claim that one cannot justifiably commit crimes (coercion, theft, or murder) under any circumstances; and the claim that one can and should defend themselves from crimes as well. In other words, one can do whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

 

Intellectual Property?

It should be no surprise that the issue of property should become so central on an anarchist philosopher’s blog; nearly every opposing argument to anarchy I have encountered hinges on property rights or one’s fear that their property should become insecure.

It also should be no surprise that intellectual property should come up so quickly; copyright law has been a cultural mainstay sine the Church and publishing companies had decided to try and control society’s intellectual pursuits several centuries ago. IP is a subject almost as involved and arguably more convoluted than property at large, so I’m going to focus on one specific point concerning IP today and add to it more later on. I would have to, as property rights and IP intersect frequently with issues such as innovation and privacy. Some more definitions, some metaphysics, and one not-so-world-shaking claim are all I can manage this week.

What is intellectual property? Despite being a centuries-old cultural mainstay, IP law is very nebulous and unhelpful to rational inquiry. Only slightly more useful is the cultural and academic narrative concerning “stealing ideas” and channels by which one gives credit, which are somewhat informed by IP laws. Instead of teasing ideas out of these frustratingly ad-hoc narratives, we should look at the term and the high-altitude basics with fresh eyes.

So, “intellectual”. I tend to avoid metaphysics on my blog, instead reserving such exercises for in-person discussions and my still-unpublished book. I am essentially a substance pluralist, which means I am not beholden to the materialist doctrine. Today, I am going to be using terms such as “ideas”, “mental/intellectual substance”, “mind” and the like. While these terms sound like some sort of Cartesian dualism (to which I do not ascribe), I am aware that, in some form or another, there are materialist parallels to each of these concepts. For the sake of our discussion, we will have to assume that people possess minds and that the discussion of intellectual matters are concerned primarily with the operation of minds. I don’t think this is too far a stretch for my readers.

Ideas are immaterial. Where apples or rocks exist independent from observers and act on their own (producing gravity, growing, decaying, interacting with their environment), ideas are contingent upon minds (or, rather a medium which can contain the idea, such as a mind). If there is an idea in my mind, it exists solely within my mind. Even as I write these words, the idea I am attempting to express resides solely within my mind. It is possible, though infinitely unlikely, that someone, at some point in time, may have an idea that is identical to the one I am expressing now, but it would not be the same idea, nor would we ever have a method by which to determine that it is identical.

This is due to the phenomenological barrier between our rational minds and the world around them. I am currently experiencing having an idea and attempting to express that idea in precise linguistic terms. I am expressing it in this way, hoping that by reading these words you, the reader, will be able to use this expression to construct a similar enough idea such that we will have a common language for expression of ideas. You can never see or experience the idea in my head, but you can attempt to construct a facsimile idea that is close enough.

In short, I cannot “give” or “take” and idea from you, I can only strive to provide you with the necessary components of an idea I wish to share. If I, for whatever reason, wish to prevent you from constructing a particular idea, I can attempt to avoid expressing hints at that idea. This is the basis of a secret. If I have an idea in my mind and wish no-one else to be aware of it, I can refrain from expressing it and even engage in behaviors that may prevent others from becoming aware of such an idea. For instance, Bruce Wayne can pretend to be a playboy billionaire too busy hanging out with loose women to be beating criminals in the dead of night, thus keeping his secret of being Batman.

Bruce Wayne is an excellent example, as he effectively demonstrates the nature of secrets. For example, the common inhabitants of Gotham have no idea that Bruce Wayne is Batman, primarily because they are ignorant of the requisite evidence to form such an idea. However, every iteration of Bruce Wayne is eventually exposed as Batman to someone else (Alfred, Dick Clark, Catwoman, Bane, etc.). The moment that a copy of the idea that Bruce Wayne is Batman is created, the secret is out. Such a secret inevitably spreads at a geometric rate, sparking the creation of duplicate ideas in fresh minds from the initial host, spreading like a virus and taking on a new form with each duplication.

If Alfred discovers Bruce Wayne is Batman, can Bruce justifiably kill or coerce Alfred in order to prevent such a spread of information? One may make a convoluted case that Alfred, by knowing something that could put Bruce in danger, is aggressing against him… but I don’t have time to waste on such absurdities. All Alfred has done is construct an idea which serves to inform his understanding of the world. The material equivalent would be Bruce creating a tool, say an ax, in order to make woodcutting easier, and Alfred, seeing the utility of such a tool, fashions an ax himself to cut his own wood. It is possible that Alfred’s ax may put Bruce at risk,(Alfred may snap, and murder Bruce in his sleep or a criminal may acquire the ax and use it in the same manner), but the mere fact that Alfred possesses a tool does not threaten Bruce. The same applies to Catwoman, Talia and Ra’s AL Ghul, Bane, etc; regardless of who knows the alleged secret, the only thing that matters (morally speaking) is what they do with that knowledge.

Now that we’ve taken most of our time exploring the term “intellectual”, let’s briefly turn our attention to “property”. My last two posts (here and here) explored the basics of property already. We don’t have to go much further than we already have. I got the least amount of feedback to-date concerning these posts, so I have had very little opportunity to change my mind.

Two key requirements I have laid out for something to be considered property are thus: the alleged “property must be a discrete and identifiable object, and it must be transmissible. Given what we have already covered concerning intellectual matters, it becomes readily apparent that an idea is not really discrete and identifiable. Whether it be an immaterial entity within one’s mind, a specific arrangement of cells and chemicals in a brain, or a series of magnetic charges on a metal plate, an idea is difficult (to the degree of being an impossibility) to identify as a discrete object. Additionally, an idea, in any of the forms I have just listed, cannot really be moved from one medium to another; they are actually merely duplicated with varying degrees of fidelity. Because “intellectual” things cannot meet the necessary conditions for property, “intellectual property” is an oxymoron.

“But what about books? You can own, trade, identify, and move books.” Books are obviously property; they meet each of the necessary and sufficient conditions we have already covered. However, there is a delineation between the material book itself and whatever ideas the book “contains”. The paper, ink, glue, etc. are discrete and identifiable, but the ideas that can be constructed by way of the material object only exist insofar as the mind is able to assemble ideas from its interaction with the material object. When one buys a book, one isn’t buying ideas. One, ostensibly, purchases a book with the intent of receiving fresh inspiration for one’s mind, but all they purchase is ink-stained paper.

“What about ebooks or software?” Legal fictions aside, we can look at identifiable, concrete actions and determine what is taking place. When one creates an ebook or piece of software, they are devising a particular series of on/off signals which are comparable to the phonetic and tonal sounds one makes when one performs a speech or holds a conversation. One can duplicate that series of signals with comparative ease, courtesy of modern computers. However, in order to create a duplicate, one must first have access to an existing instance of that arrangement of signals.

Ultimately, the (ostensibly) easiest method of gaining access to that series of signals is to pay the creator or host for such access. Things like DRM are typically implemented with the intent of making alternative methods of access cost-prohibitive. In the case of software, limiting functionality to people and charging for a password to increase functionality is still a common practice today, even if it is somewhat hidden behind the user interface. A material comparison would be a factory producing fully functional and free cars with locked doors. The easiest way (in this case) to gain access to the car and drive it away would be to pay the factory owner for the key to unlock the door.

Based on these behaviors, I would say that electronic media or, rather, the data stored on those media, are not property. They are certainly intellectual, which disqualifies them from being property. Instead, when one “purchases” an ebook, software, or whatever, one is paying for the service of allowing access to an extant copy in order to duplicate it, for the service of providing a password which grants access to functionality, or some comparable service. If this seems contrary to one’s intuition, I suggest one investigate how exactly services like Netflix operate.

The most informative part of this discussion, though, is a matter of the metaphysical and physical impossibility of theft. When something is stolen from its owner, the owner looses access to and control over the stolen item; that is the definitive quality of theft. Ideas (and data, a subset of ideas)can be copied, modified, and even destroyed, but they cannot be stolen. If it can’t be stolen, it isn’t property.

TL;DR: Metaphysics and science alike will admit that the phenomena of ideas are immaterial (or, at least, have not yet found the specific material components and nature of ideas). Both will also bolster the claim that ideas are not moved about in the same manner as material objects, but are mind-specific and merely copied from medium to medium. Based on our current definition of property and these attributes of intellectual things, ideas cannot be property. Therefore, intellectual property is an oxymoron and ideas cannot be stolen. Nor, despite laws to the contrary, can one justifiably initiate aggression against anyone else over an idea they have, not even Batman

Picture

 

The State IS War

The State IS War

A few months ago, I briefly described a “state of war”. The main focus was on the state of war as pertains to interactions between individuals, but it could be considered a prerequisite to this post on the nature of the state of war as pertains to states.

Hearkening back to “Towards a Definition of Anarchy”, I denounce any institution predicated on or constructed for the sake of coercion, murder, or theft. For now, we will simply define “government” as the very same. Between laws enforced by men with guns threatening murder or imprisonment and theft in the form of taxes, fines, and regulations, it is clear that the common conception of government fits the bill. What are the differences between an individual criminal engaging his victim in a state of war and an institution of thousands of individuals doing so?

The first difference, as will be apparent from readers’ gut reaction to the above statement, is one of public opinion. A random individual pointing a gun in someone’s face because “Smoking is bad for you” would be publicly reviled and may even be stopped by a third party. However, a man in a blue shirt and a shiny badge pointing a gun at someone for smoking is hailed as a hero and many would likely come to his aid if the victim were to defend himself. Admittedly, public opinions on weed are shifting (and the opinion on tobacco is shifting the opposite direction), but public opinion on law enforcement is not. The same holds true for taxation (because you live within an arbitrary cartographic boundary, the state owns your property), laws (those within said boundary are subject to the opinion of the state with regards to morality), standing militaries, etc. So, where one could easily find support in protecting oneself from an individual criminal, the same is not true with institutionalized crime.

Secondly, due to the nature of institutions and collectivist ideologies, the guilt of the crime is distributed across a great many people. For example, one’s intuition is typically such that the grouchy lady making $10 behind the counter at the DMV is not guilty of theft or murder due to her job. Many people, even, do not find the soldiers stationed around the globe or the local cops who are shooting children to be guilty of murder. This intuition can find its root in many claims; “It’s just self-defense”, “it’s for the greater good”, “they’re just doing their job”, and “if you just follow the law, nobody gets hurt”, come to mind. At the end of the day, though, by participating in an institution, one is de-facto endorsing the core beliefs and activities of that institution. If I work for planned parenthood, I endorse eugenics and infanticide. If I work for Starbucks I endorse pseudo-socialist fair trade coffee. If I join the Boy Scouts or the Knights of Columbus, I am endorsing a pseudo-paramilitary organization dedicated to nationalism.

The aforementioned grouchy lady at the DMV, many cops, soldiers, and politicians, etc. are not murdering children or stealing property with their own hands and I am not about to advocate the wholesale slaughter of social workers… but the guilt of these crimes rests more heavily on their heads than the average voter or on those that do not execute their duty outlined in “What is the State of War?”.

Thirdly, related to the first two differences, is the efficacy or success rate of institutional states of war. Between public support, the apparently clean hands of the individuals operating on behalf of the institution, and the sheer difference in tactical assets available to the state versus the individual, the odds are forever in favor of the state. The tragedy of the commons rears its ugly head when MLK and Eric Frein are murdered by the state, the Confederacy is invaded by the United States, the government massacres native Americans and innocent citizens at Ruby Ridge, Waco, Kent State, the list goes on and on. This ignores, of course, the firebombing, drone striking, and nuclear annihilation of civilian targets on the other side of the world and imperial occupation of the globe.

Closer to home, though, one-third of my wages are stolen from my paycheck before it is even printed, due to the institutional efficiency of compliant victims. Across the continent, arbitrary laws and fines are written, levied, and enforced by a legion of bureaucrats and armed enforcers with the public support and consent of their subjects. Driving 76 on the “free”way is a deadly prospect, not because of mechanical or skill limitations, but because doing so legally grants authority to state enforcers to explicitly engage the driver in a state of war between individuals.

So, what is the cash value of these differences? Well, with regards to “What Is the State of War?” not much. If someone, anyone, attempts to force someone else into a state of war, the victim has a moral obligation to kill or permanently incapacitate them. It matters not whether they are a back-alley crackhead, a law enforcer, a mob racketeer (but, I repeat myself), a Nazi, or a Marine. Does this mean we should all start crucifying social workers or killing cops sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts? Not necessarily. The difference between individual states of war and institutional ones hinges on the difference between individual interactions and institutional interactions; I will write more about this distinction later, but for now I will simply show the result of this difference as applies here.

As is the case for an individual state of war, institutional war ought to be avoided if possible. If one finds themselves living in an institutionalized state of war, whether by way of accident of birth, invasion, or an aristocracy signing some document in a nearby colony at the behest of the French monarch, one ought to take all reasonable action to avoid and opt-out of the state and its inherent war. Anonymity, disruptive technologies, the agora, and perceived compliance are all options which do not require one to abandon their right to live where they may. An option which has greater cost and risk associated with it but with tremendously greater payout is to simply move away. Not to Somalia, of course, but to a more free place; as compared to North America and a majority of Europe, a great many exist. One does not have a moral obligation to leave, but the ought to do what they can to cease support and compliance with regards to the state while also avoiding individual states of war. One such method is to simply leave.

As is the case with individual state of war, one ought to properly equip themselves and conduct themselves so as to be prepared to defend oneself. This requires the formation of a geographically local community centered on the principles of anarchy, with equipment designed to obtain a tactical advantage, an environment of self-sufficiency, and outside the purview of the law. Insofar as these attributes are lacking, such a community must make it as costly and dangerous as possible for the state to operate in said locality, thus discouraging direct acts of war.

One also must try to de-escalate the state of war they find themselves in. This may sound contrary to the preceding prescription, but it is not. In the case of institutionalized war, it is closely tied to the second method of avoidance. If one is self-sufficient and living outside the purview of the state, the state will have little public support in engaging one in a state of war. Additionally, in disseminating the truth of the state and its inherently misanthropic nature, one can garner additional public support, thereby starving the state of its authority. As MLK and Malcolm X’s cultural revolution demonstrates, good PR is key.

Ultimately, when individual agents of the state engage one in a state of war, they are no different than any other man, morally speaking. When a master is beating his slave or a rapist is raping or a murderer is murdering, they ought to be stopped at any cost. What about the interim? When a slave owner is drinking tea, a rapist is at Starbucks, or a murderer is at church, ought one stop them from being able to continue such crimes? In 1940’s Paris, could a citizen of France be justified in shooting a man in an SS uniform who is simply drinking wine? I do not have an answer as of yet.

I do know, however, that that is the basis on which police arrest people after a crime is committed. In which case, if one supports arresting criminals after the fact, they must also support the execution of professional criminals after the fact as well. Additionally, if you believe that, for any reason whatsoever, that the US soldiers shooting SS officers across the European countryside were justified, then the french resistance is as well and those that wish to kill cops in the name of freedom most certainly are as well. If any war in known history (identified by numbers of individuals in uniform killing numbers of other individuals in uniform) can be justified, a freedom-minded individual is equally justified in killing individuals wearing the uniform of their oppressor.

TL;DR: The state, as an institution predicated on the crimes of coercion, theft, and murder, is itself a state of war. This raises serious moral concerns with regards to the relationship between a free individual and individual members of the state. Much discussion is required, especially taking into account statist justifications for war and how they apply to such relationships. A further investigation into the tragedy of enforcement is also required.

Also, for your viewing pleasure:

What is the State Of War?

What is war? Can war ever be justified? So many questions and so many emotionally charged readers… lets see how rationally we can navigate this terrain and, consequently, how many people I can piss off in this post.

“War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me”
~Edwin Starr

War, by the broadest definition, is man killing man. One can argue for qualifiers in order to narrow the application of the term, something like “large numbers of men killing large numbers of men” or “the institutionalized or systematic state of men killing men” or “states fighting states”, etc. While I am sympathetic to the desire to make “war” a technical and precise term, the manner in which the term has been used historically has been intentionally broad and inclusive, with a few exceptions. Instead, qualifiers are typically assigned on top of the term to better explain the circumstance: “civil war”, “guerrilla warfare”, “world war”, “war of X”, “war on X”, etc. It is even said when small numbers of men are involved; when two tribes or gangs consisting of a few dozen engage in killing each other , it is called tribal or gang warfare.

Thomas Hobbes, the architect of contemporary views on the human condition, aptly used the term “state of war” to describe two closely related states of affairs. The first being any situation in which a man attempts to deprive another of their life. The second is an environment or state of affairs in which there is a known disposition for such an occasion. Hobbes then equivocates this second form of a “state of war” with what he calls the “state of nature”: that is, his impoverished view of anarchy. Of course, I disagree with his false dichotomy of either sacrificing any and all rights to a tyrant or living in a perpetual solitary state of war, but his definition of war seems solid enough.

What does a state of war look like, then? Some examples are easy to point out: Nazis marching into Poland, remote-controlled planes dropping “ordinance” on children, and gangs executing people wearing the wrong color, (or an environment where such things are common) for example. There are far less obvious examples to draw on as well, but these tend to be more controversial due to their more discreet nature. I will save those for later.

For now, let’s see whether war is ever justified. As I mentioned very briefly in “Towards a Definition of Anarchy” and hope to addressing detail later, one has a duty to life and a moral obligation to acknowledge and respect others’ duty to the same. It’s a very short axiomatic step to then say war (and the state of war) is categorically unjust. Simple and straightforward, right? Well, yes… but with a qualifier.

I have a duty to live and flourish, and by extension must not inhibit others from doing the same. In a purely rational and robotic world, this would mean that mankind would never encounter or even conceive of a state of war. Of course, experience tells us a very different, more Hobbesian, story. What happens when someone violates their obligation to allow another to live and flourish? What happens when there is a gun in my face? Does one have a duty to live or an obligation to let live? There is only one rationally consistent answer: the would-be-victim has a duty to stop the aggressor from taking the victim’s life. If this means the death of the aggressor, so be it.

It is always tragic when someone is killed; again, in a world of purely rational actors, such an event would not occur. However, it is infinitely more tragic when an innocent person is killed by a criminal rather than the other way around. Why is this the case? When one is innocent of a crime (using Spooner’s definition of a crime), the are to some degree fulfilling their duty to live and flourish. Conversely a criminal is not only acting in direct violation of their duty to live and flourish (from the virtue ethics perspective) which is a vice, but also depriving others of their ability to do so. The engagement in a criminal act is to enter into a state of war, and a systematic criminal rings a state of war with him wheresoever he may go.

We have touched on how one instigates war (by attempting to coerce, rob, or murder someone), but not what the target of said instigator ought to do in concrete terms. Firstly, of course, one ought to take all reasonable precautions to avoid such an occasion: moving to a safer region, locking doors, demonstrating a secure posture in both person and property, and behaving in a virtuous and amiable manner are all good examples. Secondly, one ought to be prepared for such an occasion. Both mental and physical preparedness are required; being able to tactically assess one’s environment at all times, to have the tools needed for security on-hand, and the mental and physical ability to use said tools are a requirement for preparedness.

Thirdly, if or when the first two steps prove to be insufficient, one will find themselves faced with the immediate threat of war. In such a situation, it would seem that there are a series of morally acceptable courses of action. If possible, one must try to defuse the situation before it escalates to violence. One such option would be to simply “talk down” their aggressor… to say something to the effect of “I know you don’t want to do this, let’s work through this together” another option would be to warn the aggressor that if he does not stand down, he will, in fact, be executed on the spot. Diffusing the situation is not always possible, as sometimes war sets in unexpectedly and with great intensity. Easy examples would be when a gang randomly assaults a bystander or when the SWAT team performs a no-knock raid, but I repeat myself. In the event such an action is impossible or fails, there remains the most primordial of dichotomies: fight or flight. If one can successfully flee with one’s life, liberty, and property intact one would be justified in doing so (as long as one later performs one’s due diligence in raising awareness of the instigator’s behavior). However, if any one of the three cannot successfully be secured and one parts with any of the three to any degree (even in the de-escalation phase), one is complicit in the crimes committed against oneself. In the act of turning over possessions or liberties demanded of oneself unjustly, one is enabling and condoning the theft and coercion occurring. Additionally, a compliant victim allows a criminal to pursue theft from others and such a criminal will likely become a repeat customer with regards to a compliant victim. Such is the case with murder as well, excepting the “repeat customer” portion of course.

The remaining and most unfortunately likely course of action available to one forced into a state of war is to fight. In the case of war, the victim of the instigator is thrust into an unjust situation by an unjust actor. How ought one conduct oneself in the state of war? Ultimately, there is only one acceptable answer: with all the fury, power, ferocity, and coldly calculated intent to kill that one can muster. Anything less would be, itself, a criminal and vicious act.

How could pulling punches of “showing mercy” be a crime and a vice? Well, it is quite simple, really. Once every option to avoid a state of war has been exhausted, the intent of the aggressor to commit a criminal act against the victim at any cost has been established. Any degree in which one is derelict in commitment to stopping an aggressor in the most efficacious and efficient manner possible is a degree to which one is complicit in an aggressor’s crime. In this degree one is derelict in combating the aggressor is a degree in which one is willing to allow the aggressor to commit a crime against oneself What’s more, not only a crime against oneself but the aggressor has effectively established the nature of his character to be a criminal one; therefore, allowing the criminal to commit a crime against oneself is to encourage him to commit crimes against others.

Remember, anarchy is a philosophy of personal responsibility, not winner-take-all violence. Those who believe it is their right or ability to act out a Hobbesian liberty (the ability to do literally whatever one wants with no regard to the rights of others) will not live long in truly anarchist society. An easy explanation as to why this is the case is to simply imagine a society in which a majority of people live by the standard outlined here and how such a society would respond to a Hobbesian.

I will follow-up on this post in the near future with regards to how one ought to conduct their affairs when living in an institutionalized state of war.

TL;DR: The state of war is is a state of affairs in which one or more individuals cannot be dissuaded from committing a crime. When one is faced with the prospect of war, one ought to do what one can to avoid it. If one is forced into a state of war, one ought to pursue the most effective and expedient method by which to halt said criminal. Namely, they must kill their aggressor.

There is a further discussion of this topic at about the 1:19:00 mark of Sovryh Tech Ep. 108:

Towards a Definition of Anarchy

From the Greek: “A/An” = “not” + “Archon” =King/ruler”

Throughout Athenian history, the form and function of an “archon” changed in various ways, but all of the meanings and applications of the term shared three things in common:

  • Reverence of the position held, regardless of the actions of the individual holding the position
  • Authority to dictate the actions of others
  • A support structure or institution designed to grant that authority

Because of the close relationship between mythology and political life in ancient cultures, the term archon was used to both describe human actors and intermediary deities/angels/spirits. Excepting instances wherein poetic license was used heavily, the term clearly applied to one or the other type of being; much like our use of the term “love” being applied to loving pie and loving your wife (with the only grey area being “American Pie”). Because of this distinction, I am comfortable in focusing primarily on the word as applies to human archons as apposed to divine archons.

However, it is interesting to note the mythological use of the term, and it does inform the use of the term as applies to humans. In many ancient religions, “archon” was the word applied to spiritual beings responsible for acts of widespread destruction. They typically targeted non-believers. The gnostics, especially, interpreted archons to be any being which acted in such a manner so as to prevent human beings from pursuing individuality, excellence, eudaimonia, or from taking responsibility, but this use was fairly widespread when translating other religious texts into Greek as well.

So, in the interest of crafting a concise, simple, and categorical etymology of the Greek word “archon”, I assert the definition of “archon”is as follows:
“An individual who claims the authority to coercively dictate the behavior of other individuals, especially in cases which cause destruction or prevent other individuals from pursuing individuality, acquiring excellence or eudaemonia, or taking responsibility.”
Of course, a Philosophy is always more complex than an etymological definition of its moniker. I like to make the arbitrary claim that the best philosophies closely match their moniker and I believe anarchy to be an example of this claim. Being an ontologically negative term, “no-archon” can be taken at face value to be a form of either rejecting a claim or to be an enumeration of negative claims. In this case, it is both.

Firstly, it is the rejection of the claim that one has the right or ability to be an archon. Where one may claim to be a monarch, oligarch, tetrarch, etc. they may as well be claiming to be the Messiah or Darth Vader. The same applies to terms which are not explicitly descended from the term “archon”; a republican, democrat, theocrat, etc. is an equally fictitious position to be held. I will address this rejection of belief in archons later.

Secondly, anarchy as a philosophy is an enumeration of negative claims, many of which are ontological in nature. Many times, the dramatic claim of an individual anarchist is, “No gods, No masters”. This claim, while effective and concise is overly simplistic and vague. I contend that the attitude of the motto is accurate, being derived loosely from the etymology of the name and philosophy. A less dramatic but more accurate version would be “no slaves, no masters” or “Man holds no authority over man.” The reasons I wish to avoid “no gods, no masters” is probably fairly apparent; I believe that belief in certain deities is compatible with the tenets of anarchy (that is a matter for later blog posts), and the term “master” has multiple meanings and applications, many of which are not related to slavery; by putting “slaves” alongside “masters”, it demonstrates the particular application of the term “master” which one ought to assume.

So, what does anarchy mean as a philosophy? Clearly, the first negative ontological claim would be that no man has the right to coerce others to behave in a particular fashion and any institution designed for the sake of coercion or predicated upon such actions ought to be done away with. Coercion is a term with many feelings and intuitions surrounding it; many of which, if inaccurate, touch on key elements of it. However, to an analytic such as myself, a clear definition or at least description of the term is required in order to flesh out a legitimate philosophical stance. In the case of coercion, I imagine the definition is something akin to “an action or threat of action which intentionally removes one’s means of achieving flourishing with the intent to compel a particular action.” For example, saying “Do X or I will kill you,” is clearly coercion. A less obvious example would be saying, “Don’t do X (especially where X is a component necessary or beneficial to one’s flourishing) or you will be put in a cage and I will steal your property.” When phrased this way, it is obviously coercion… but it can be less obvious when each piece of that statement is multiplied a thousandfold and spread between millions of pages of legal code. The fallout of such forms of coercion is readily apparent to anyone who looks at certain parts of the public record (or my facebook page).

Equally damaging to human flourishing are the issues of murder and theft. These are both closely related to coercion, but the full relationship between the three is so complex and rich that I do not have the time and space to fully address it in this post, but I will explicitly address it later. For now, I will have to content myself and any would-be readers with a brief examination of the issue as pertains to the definition of anarchy. The root desire which leads to the need to be free from coercion cannot be fulfilled if one is subject to the threat of murder, especially when institutionalized, for the same reasons that one must be free from coercion. Also, by definition, murder is unjustified and an immediate stop on one’s ability to flourish by any defensible standard.

Theft is often the most veiled and insidious of the three issues at hand. Where murder is fairly cut and dried as far as identification is concerned and coercion is infrequently undetectable, theft is more difficult to define and can often go unnoticed indefinitely. However, if one is exposed to institutionalized theft, even indirect and unnoticed theft, they are subject to an institutionalized inhibitor of their freedom and flourishing.

So, then, anarchy is ultimately the rejection of any institution predicated on or designed for the sake of coercion, theft, or murder. There is a multitude of reasons why one would come to embrace such a philosophy and worldview, some of which I will address in later posts. One thing is certain, though: no one who embraces anarchy as defined above does so out of naivete or a desire to perpetuate the same crimes which such a philosophy decries. Anarchy is not a guarantee that people will not commit the crimes of coercion, theft, and murder; the idea that such a thing is possible is utopic and therefore absurd. However, any worldview that does not fundamentally incorporate the anarchist position is a guarantee that people and institutions will commit these crimes. Those that wish to commit these crimes have far easier and safer means by which to accomplish their goals than anarchy. For example, they can become politicians, cops, soldiers, democrats, or middle and upper management at a corporation, thereby granting themselves a secure position which allows them to commit the very crimes they wish to pursue while remaining above social reproach, as opposed to taking on the risk associated with the moniker of freedom from such crimes. That is not to say that all people who choose such careers do so out of the desire to commit crimes with impunity, but these positions certainly encourage such activities and some are predicated directly on these crimes. Before I ramble too far beyond the topic at hand, I should save such ideas for later posts.

TL;DR: In conclusion, I propose the starting place for formulating a categorical definition of anarchy would be “The rejection of any institution predicated on coercion, theft, or murder”. This definition is subject to critique and revision, but so far has served me well.