The Stateless Society of Kowloon

Recently I came across this article about the Kowloon Walled City, a section of Hong Kong that remained in Chinese hands after a treaty gave the British control of the city until 2000.

What struck me as I read further and studied the photos taken by a photographer wasn’t the austere living conditions at the time (the city has since come down) but the natural order that arose.

In Kowloon, there were no police, no business licenses, and no housing code. Yet, according to the photographer, “Despite its seedy reputation, the Walled City offered a sense of togetherness to thousands of people who had no community.”

Ironically, it was also the one place the poor could get access to affordable medical and dental care, since the dentists and doctors operated outside of normal regulations.

The article calls the city “lawless,” but on Facebook the Statism is Slavery page made the following remarks:

Not a result of so called “lawlessness” as the article postulates. Rather a result of the central planning of politicians, also known as socialism.

This is what happens when a small group of gubment agents thinks it knows better than everyone in some geographic area where information is decentralized but broadly interpreted through a free price system.

In both cases, a free price system and an economy centrally planned, people are going to pursue their own best interests. You can either argue for a system that understands and accepts that, or argue for a system that attempts to systematically interrupt it, yielding this…

Pretty wild environment in any case.

Kowloon was by no means perfect, obviously. But it proves one thing: the state isn’t needed to maintain law and order. People can govern themselves. Nor is it needed to provide goods and services. The market provided what was demanded. People interacted without the third party meddling of state agents and organizations.

Again, I wouldn’t choose to live there if given the option. Nevertheless, we have to remember the context in which the city was built. It provides us a glimpse of what stateless society might resemble even though it is an imperfect example nonetheless because the direct cause for its statelessness were the actions of two central governments. A true stateless society has to derive from spontaneous and voluntary interactions; if the foundation for the society is flawed, those flaws will be made manifest outwardly.

What it proves is that when the state is removed from a functioning society, chaos and unrest is not the natural response. The sign of civilization is its ability to function without the coercion  of state intervention, which props up unstable institutions it has weakened and undermined.

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