III. Future

5.2 What is Anarchism?

The main purpose of this section is to locate the usage I make in this book of the term anarchism relative to its other principle uses in the history of ideas.

The word anarchy come from the Greek anarkhia meaning ``without a leader''.

It has been used in modern times for political theories, doctrines or movements which either advocate the abolition of government or of the state, or more generally of compulsion or coercion.

Anarchism is distinguished from libertarian doctrines, which see a minimal state as necessary for the protection of individual liberties, by its uncompromising nature. The distinction is made stark by the use of the term ``minarchist'' for the most radical libertarians who nevertheless feel the need for some minimal state.

The main tradition of anarchist thought has also been closely aligned with socialism in seeking not only liberty but equality. Though there are many strands to anarchist thought, there is a sufficient coherence between these strands for there to be a perceptible movement of movements, and for some anarchists to downplay the differences by talk of ``anarchy without adjectives''.

Radical libertarian capitalists, who wish to abolish government but retain the free-market capitalist economy, are called ``anarcho-capitalists'' but are not accepted as anarchists by many of the social anarchists.

The ``anarchism'' here espoused will likewise be rejected by many present anarchists. It falls in some respects between the social anarchists and the anarcho-capitalists.

Its distinguished most conspicuously by being conceived in terms of the minimisation of coercion (by any party) rather than in terms of the abolition of state or government, allowing that the discontinuation of coercion by the state would suffice. It shares with anarcho-capitalism the retention of the existing free-markets in labour and capital, but anticipates radical transformations in the way those markets work, and a greatly shifted balance between for-profit and non-profit entities.

5.3 Coercion and The State

I'd like to explain here why, in aiming to minimise coercion rather than insisting on the abolition of the state, I still consider this to be a radical anarchism.

I propose to do this by some comparisons.

The purest anarchist theory holds that social disorder is caused by the coercion exercised by the state rather than the latter being necessary to limit the former. The idea is that if the state is abolished, there will no longer be an reason for antisocial behaviour on the part of individuals. That may or may not be so, but I'm afraid that I don't believe, however little reason there may be for it, that antisocial behaviour will ever entirely disappear. Furthermore, I'm not inclined to think that violence on the part of individuals is any more acceptable than violence on the part of the state. If some violence does persist, and there is no state to deal with its perpetrators, then others will, and violent crime will yield violent retribution and vigilante justice.

In my view we should seek to minimise coercion, and adopt the best institutions for that purpose. Allowing violent restraint and possible incarceration of those who would otherwise continue to commit greater violence serves to reduce the overall level and is therefore consistent with a full-blooded anarchist position.

In fact, it seems to me unlikely that in the kind of society which I am proposing the government would ever entirely disappear, and that the government would continue to exercise some minimal coercion. The kind of minimal policing which is desirable to minimise coercion could be undertaken by some non-governmental organisation, allowing for the abolition of the state. However, it seems to me that there would be no advantage in taking this final step, and the resulting society would suffer no less coercion and would in no substantive sense be more fully anarchic.

In anarcho-capitalism, it is envisaged that private protection agencies would serve instead of the state for this kind of purpose, and that individuals would purchase protection policies from such agencies. It seems to me however that this role, if not undertaken by the state would be better done by not-for-profit agencies which would be funded by voluntary contributions and which would supply the service to all without charge. The difference between this and state which does nothing more is purely nominal.

For many anarchists the state is synonymous with coercion. A body which used no coercion would be for them, by definition, not a state. So relative to such anarchists the difference between proposing abolition of the state, and proposing that the state relinquish coercion is purely verbal. Residual coercion will in either case be justified if it palpably serves to reduce un-sanctioned coercion. Whether we call the body which exercises this coercion a ``state'' or not is not important.

5.4 Anarchism and Equality

The great challenge for social anarchists is how to realise a reasonable distribution of wealth without coercion. The difficulty of this is made more apparent by the contrast in performance between the socialist command economies and the free-market economies.

Social anarchists do not want command economies and seek collaborative organisation of production. But it is hard to see how this can work without the free market. Once we have free markets we will get differential income and will need redistributive taxation to realise equality.

It seems inevitable that an efficient economic system will result in differential incomes, and doubtful that any wholly voluntary mechanism will yield equality, particularly not where total wealth is comfortably above subsistence levels.

Our anarchism does not seek to deliver economic equality, seeking a sufficiency for all but admitting wide individual variations in wealth. A major part of the innovation required to realise our anarchistic utopia concerns the ways in which the important functions now funded by compulsory taxation could be funded by entirely voluntary means.



Subsections
Roger Bishop Jones 2016-01-07