Why My Fictional Future Society Is An Anarchy

Written by Victor on . Posted in Blog

If you’ve been reading the story on this site, you know that the planet our hero Zik comes from, Zoz, doesn’t have a government. This is obviously not very common in modern science fiction! In fact, having one or more states for characters to come into conflict with is a very useful tool in storytelling. So why would I create a futuristic society without a government? Why deprive myself of that easy plot device? Let’s take a look at what some other sci-fi tales have to offer, so we can see more clearly why Zoz stands apart.

The Big Two: Star Trek and Star Wars

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Chancellor Palpatine manipulated the Republic into an Empire.

Star Trek and Star Wars are without a doubt the two largest science fiction franchises in history. Multiple movies, television series, books, and graphic novels all depict stories set within these two fictional universes, and they have millions of fans. So what kind of futuristic worlds do they depict? What is the political structure of their societies?

In Star Wars, there is a Galactic Republic. It’s like an amped up United Nations, where political groups, corporations, and quasi-sovereign planets come together to debate and create laws and resolutions on the capital planet of Coruscant. It’s a huge bureaucracy, the machinations of which take up huge portions of the screen time in Episodes 1, 2 and 3. In fact, the whole arc of those films shows how Palpatine was able to manipulate that structure to become Emperor.

So we have a centralized government, one which holds power over a huge swath of the galaxy. It’s somewhat diffuse at first, but because of Palpatine’s plotting, it becomes a strong force which projects immense power, eventually becoming the first Galactic Empire. Debate paralyzes its effectiveness and allows it to be malevolently guided to totalitarianism. Even the Rebellion is essentially just another militant power structure seeking to replace the Empire with yet another centralized government.

In Star Trek, there is the Federation. Again, the system of government is very similar to the United Nations, even adopting a similar flag. There is much less emphasis on the civilian side of the political sphere. Instead, the stories center around the captains of various starships in the military arm of the organization. While it is not depicted as an aggressive imperial force, their organizational structure is unabashedly military. It is a soft imperialism, in which strong diplomacy is used to sway civilizations into joining the Federation as member States.

Again, we see a strong, centralized government which seeks to expand its power over the galaxy. There is a Magellanic feel to it, however, as the galaxy is still being explored and “new life and new civilizations” are still being encountered for the first time, as opposed to Star Wars, where the galaxy has been explored quite thoroughly already.

So both of the Big Two feature monolithic centralized governments, in which member States are incidental to the importance of the central government. The State is a huge part of both stories, being like a character unto itself, as the people come into conflict with the bureaucratic momentum of the political situation they find themselves in.

Other Sci-Fi Series Aren’t Much Different

Such a potty mouth!

Chrisjen Avarasrala, from the brilliant series The Expanse, becomes head of Earth’s United Nations.

Babylon 5, The Expanse, Buck Rogers, Firefly, and so many other great science fiction series all have this constant backbone of government and politics in them to some degree. There seems to be a consensus or a supposition among science fiction creators that the future will inevitably have a government in it. They only differ on the shape of that government, although the United Nations is very often the template.

Some of the depictions of future governments are fairly realistic and detailed, especially The Expanse, in which Earth, Mars, and The Belt are three separate political entities vying for power within the Solar System. On the other hand, in Firefly the state is less precisely defined, and the series has a Wild West feel.  Dark Matter has many states and quasi-state corporations wielding power and vying for control within an overarching political system, the tensions within which are leading the plot into a galactic war in season 3.

A series I really loved, and one which I borrow some plot structure ideas from, Babylon 5, depicts a conflict between several nations, one which the Earth Alliance gets caught up in the middle of. The Narn and Centauris are blood enemies, and Earth and the Minbari are both recovering from a war they fought shortly before the series begins. The mysterious Vorlon turn out to be at odds with the sinister Shadows. All this sets the stage for a story that was obviously told as the Cold War ended and our world entered a new and uncertain future.

There Are A Few Exceptions

There are some works that depict future societies that either have no government or very little government. The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, or The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein come to mind. Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed is another example. There are others, of course, but they are far less numerous than works which depict a hyper-statist or dystopic future. There are certainly no examples of widely-known anarchistic science fiction stories; stories that the general public who doesn’t delve deeply into the rich tapestry of sci-fi would come across. It is safe to say that as far as the future goes, we seem to have decided that The State is Inevitable.

So Why Is Zoz An Anarchy?

I began creating Zik the Gallant Defender of Zoz after coming to a bit of political awakening in my life. I had looked at all sides of the political spectrum and couldn’t see myself becoming part of any of it. I looked at the different political parties in Canada and found that I couldn’t really get behind any of them. There were things I agreed with that some of them were striving for, but ultimately, it was the system itself that turned me off. Looking at how other countries govern their people didn’t inspire me either.

Then I started watching some of Stefan Molyneux‘s YouTube videos. He argues passionately for a rational system of ethics, one based on the Non-Aggression Principle and one free of decrees from scripture or consensus. His premise is that right and wrong can be derived logically and doesn’t need the support of outside organizations or the use of force. I read his free book Universally Preferable Behaviour, and it completely changed my outlook.

Suddenly, I could see the simple truth that humans don’t need governance; they need an ethical framework that makes sense, one that cannot be logically refuted. We don’t need to live in a society where we have to behave or else. Instead of having organizations that pronounce edicts (regardless of whether those edicts are derived democratically or not) and assign punishments for transgressors, we can govern ourselves!

But Wouldn’t Society Descend Into Chaos Without Government?

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Heath Ledger’s Joker was NOT an anarchist, despite his dialogue!

Many fear that without the Rule Of Law, society would completely dissolve into chaos. People would take the excuse to indulge every act of greed, malice and depravity they have in their hearts without the fear of being arrested. Everything would collapse and we would be back in the stone age before the month was out.

Here’s the problem with that. Anarchy means no rulers, not no rules. That one extra letter “r” makes a huge difference! I will likely make another, more in-depth blog post about this topic, but the short version is that as long as people have a code of ethics that works, and that they commonly adhere to, things would run pretty smoothly. And I’m sure you’re about to ask “but who would build the roads?!” like everyone always does. Again, I’ll cover that separately, but the short answer is “people who want roads.” On Zoz, they fly, so roads aren’t really a thing.

A Lot Needs To Happen To Get There!

Obviously, this is an ideal that most of humanity isn’t ready for. Indeed, there are ideologies in the world actively trying to push us in the opposite direction, regressing us back into a feudalism based on religious or political ideologies. We have a long way to go to get to a stateless society! It begins with understanding ethics and trying to implement them in how you live and how you raise your children. Maybe in a few generations we’ll get there.

So how would my futuristic Zoz achieve a society without rulers? Well, I took the easy way out: the Zozians simply left Earth behind. If embarking into the unknown in order to found a new society based on a set of principles could work for the Pilgrims a few hundred years ago, the same idea can work now, as we sit on the technological cusp of making our first forays into living permanently away from Earth.

The story of Zik the Gallant Defender of Zoz starts after Zozians have spent a thousand years traveling to their new world, terraforming it, and settling down. Zik is a third generation Zozian; his grandparents were some of the original colonists. He is among a few intrepid explorers from Zoz who are beginning to explore the galaxy around them. Unbeknownst to them, in the intervening millennium, other humans have left Earth, and using technologies invented after the Zozians left, been able to colonize huge areas of local space and build interstellar civilizations. The story begins just as Zik becomes the first Zozian to re-establish contact with the rest of humanity, after stumbling onto a prison planet while exploring. As he begins to discover, Zoz managed to build a functional society without a government, but no one else bothered to try. As the story progresses, we’ll see how the other civilizations in the galaxy are affected by the philosophy upon which Zoz was founded.

We will see the Non-Aggression Principle and Universally Preferable Behaviour being used as the foundation for the decisions Zik makes as he encounters different situations. He’s not always going to decide correctly, since we’re all fallible, but he comes from a culture where this is ingrained behaviour, so he will act accordingly. So far, he has not acted to initiate aggression in any of the situations he’s encountered. Even faced with the capture of Amelia, he chooses to try to negotiate before violence is forced upon him by the rash actions of others.

I wanted to tackle this idea to show that we don’t have to imagine a future where we still need a government. We don’t need to fantasize about a massive bureaucracy governing us like in Star Wars or Star Trek. We don’t have to wonder what it would be like to be in a galactic Cold War like in Dark Matter or Babylon 5. We don’t have to succumb to the temptation to enforce our opinions with violence and threats. We can imagine a future for humanity where we evolve past that, where we become better at being civilized, instead of staying stuck in the same political rut we are now, but with better technology. That’s like getting a better car; it might be a smoother ride, but you’re still stuck traveling on narrow roads in two dimensions. Why not fly?


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