Every State is in Anarchy

One of the most frequent objections to positing a world without states is that a free society will be devoid of any kind of law and order. Wouldn’t we all descend into lawless chaos? Isn’t it part of human nature that we will all up fighting each other? Can a free society actually work, or is it just a utopian dream?

Most likely, the libertarian will reply to this searching question with an explanation of how private security and justice firms will work to keep the peace. In addressing the further allegation that such entities could themselves end up fighting each other to the bitter death (until one of them emerges victorious as a new “state”), he might explain how any wanton use of violence will simply lead to a loss of customers and revenue, well before much damage can be done.

While these answers may be cogent, they are still unlikely to proceed beyond the point of mere speculation that never quite does enough to dispel every last shred of doubt. (This is, indeed, a general difficulty with any practical argument in favour of freedom; whereas socialists and statists can lay out impressive blueprints for the production of everything, our aim is to set people free so they can fulfil their own plans. As such, we have no precise idea how any particular industry will be run in a free society.) This is exacerbated by the fact that “anarchy” – which, technically, a world without states would be – is, indeed, always associated with chaos, disruption and disorder. Thus, we always seem to be on the back foot.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand; the best way to dispel the question “how will a free society work?” when it comes to the matter of law and order is, in fact, to redirect it by asking: how does the state work? Just why does the state structure apparently create order yet any alternative is unlikely to do so? What is so special about the state?

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