As I’ve mentioned, Zoz, the planet Zik is from, has no government; it exists in a state of anarchy. But what does that mean? What is anarchy? How can Zik be from a peaceful society that is also an anarchy?
Anarchy Is Not Chaos
Dictionary definitions for the word anarchy often associate it with disorder and even chaos. Popularly, it is thought of as a Mad Max scenario where people act barbarously towards each other because they are able to pursue their baser instincts without the fear of reprisal or punishment from a central authority.
But this isn’t what anarchy actually means. The roots of the word come from ancient Greek, and it means “without rulers.” There is a subtle but important point here: it doesn’t mean without rules, it means without ruleRs. In other words, a civilized way of interacting is possible without needing a centralized authority to enforce laws. Ethics become the framework in which people interact as opposed to rules.
The consequences of breaking the rules currently mean you can be fined, arrested or jailed. But removing a central authority doesn’t mean people will be able to act without consequences. The consequences of breaking ethical norms in a stateless society will be different, but still dire, because since interactions are voluntary, you may not be able to do business, even to the point of acquiring basic necessities, if you are consistently unethical. Who would want to do business with a known thief or murderer? And violence can be resisted more effectively by an individual than by a small group of centralized cops who are given a monopoly on the use of force.
A Bad Reputation
Until recently, anarchists have had a very poor reputation. Thanks to mass media depictions, as well as hooligans and thugs who don’t understand the concept of universal ethical principles, the popular image of an anarchist is someone who wears all black and a face mask to a protest and starts breaking windows and setting things on fire.
These people are trying to use force and violence to make their political point, and in doing so, give everyone who disagrees that a state is needed a bad name. As happens so often, the movement becomes defined by its most extreme and disagreeable members. It’s easy to propagandize the public with images of black-clad ne’er-do-wells assaulting, vandalizing and committing arson.
Oddly enough, these people who are using force and violence to achieve their ends are acting exactly the same way the state they oppose does. That makes them hypocrites, not activists.
The Non-Aggression Principle
“To the wicked, everything serves as pretext.” – Voltaire
As I’ve mentioned, anarchy has rules, in the form of ethical principles. These ethical principles must be internally logically consistent. If they require an edict from a god or some other external authority figure, they can be argued against. They can also have exceptions that can be loosely interpreted by priests or politicians as excuses to act against the principle. For example, murder is wrong in most faiths, but exceptions are made, often within the same scriptures that define the principles, based on arbitrary criteria. An ethical principle must apply in all circumstances, otherwise it isn’t a principle.
One of the base principles of ethical anarchy is the non-aggression principle, or NAP. This principle states that initiating aggression against another person is illegitimate. Notice that this is slightly different from pacifism (which states that all violence is illegitimate), in that it is legitimate to use violence in self-defense.
Following this principle, it is unethical to commit murder, rape, or to steal someone’s property. Some anarchists claim that private property is invalid, but that is illogical, for reasons I will expound upon in a future blog post. The short version is that you own your body; no one can make a claim on it but you, and that is the basis of property rights. Again, I’ll go into this in detail in the future.
A more in-depth examination of ethics and the NAP is available in the form of a free book called Universally Preferable Behavior, among many other texts.
The State Is Illegitimate
“What makes the difference between a gang and a state is the belief that there is a difference between a gang and a state.” – Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski
That initiating aggression is wrong is a pretty easy thing to understand, but its implications are enormous. Every government relies upon initiating aggression in order to exert its authority. Since this violates the NAP, governments are unethical and illegitimate.
A government relies upon linguistic tricks in the form of legalism to fool people into accepting its ethical violations as legitimate. It will redefine its activities to camouflage its true nature. Murder becomes “national defense,” theft becomes “taxation,” kidnapping becomes “arrest.” All of these activities violate the NAP, so they’re given different names to camouflage what they truly are.
There is another organization that performs all of these same activities under their proper names: the mob. Government is therefore a protection racket in disguise. That it uses its unethically sourced gains to provide “services” is no different from a crime syndicate offering protection services to the people it preys upon.
“The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” – Alfred Whitney Griswold
Unfortunately, in our world, pretty much every square inch of the planet is claimed by one state or another. There are few places you can go to escape the influence of statism. In my comic, a group of anarchists decide to head to the stars in a parallel to the way people escaped Europe in the 1600s and 1700s to create new societies in the New World based on their shared values. The Zozians hope to create a functioning society that eschews the use of force and aggression. One that follows the NAP. In other words, a more civilized society.
Ultimately, statism is the institutionalized law of the jungle, where might makes right. The opinions of those in power are enforced and given the legalist name “laws.” Regardless of the ethics involved, those who act in ways the powerful disagree with will be aggressed against. And the oppressed are made to pay for the continuation of this state of affairs. It is inherently uncivilized, barbaric, and brutish.
People can be trusted to act in a civilized manner with each other once they understand the simple ethics of the NAP. People don’t need a government to tell them how to act if there is a logical and consistent framework they can use. We don’t need to use coercion and theft to create the things that make our lives easier. If we have an opinion, we can use our intellect to debate the merits of the idea as opposed to using aggression to enforce compliance.
It is my belief that we can do better than statism as a species. We’ve only come partway out of the jungle, and I believe we can step right out of it and be better off. The story of Zik and his Zozian society is my allegory for this hope, and this comic is my vehicle for showing you how it is possible.
So is anarchy dangerous? Yes, but only to those who still live in the jungle. Only to those who wish to continue to act unethically. Only to those who wish to continue to hold humanity in an uncivilized state. For those of us who wish to advance humanity into a more civilized future, it is a sure path.