When most people hear the word “anarchy,” a very vivid image comes to mind of either chaos or people wearing black bandannas over their faces as they throw improvised bombs or fight with police officers during protests. Or, if they are a little more knowledgeable, they think of the Anarchist Cookbook, a book on how to make explosives (the author eventually repudiated the work).
Unfortunately, anarchy and chaos are often considered to be related or, at the least, similar in their definitions. When ones says that something is in a “state of anarchy,” it is usually not said in joy or happiness, but with sarcasm or dread.
The aim of this site, among other things, is to dispel these misconceptions about what people like myself believe and what it is we are actually advocating. Sadly, I have encountered both online and in person individuals like myself who subscribe to the libertarian philosophy who either have a hard time articulating their beliefs properly or explaining them to others in a way that can be understood.
Although “libertarian” does not evoke nearly the same emotions or conjure up as negative a picture as the word “anarchy” does, it is also not fully understood by many, including those who purportedly subscribe to it. To use them both as a single term requires all the more explanation.
To put it succinctly, libertarianism is a political philosophy that can be summed up by a single rule, known commonly as the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP): No one may act in aggression or in violence against an innocent person. From a moral perspective, it stems from the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. As ones does not wish to be murdered or stolen from, so should one not steal or murder another.
Aggression can come in many forms, such as taxes, fines, levies, fees, licenses, eminent domain, zoning, and inflation to name a few; violence, then, can also come in many forms, including conscription and imprisonment for victimless crimes, i.e. crimes that involve no victim but are crimes merely because the law says so.
Anarchy, then, is not the absence of law but of rulers. As history has shown, no matter what civilization or era, political leaders have used authority bestowed to them, in order to enforce just laws, to instead enrich themselves or oppress those underneath them.
Rather than have governments passing and enforcing laws, society under anarchy is governed by private entities that require voluntary cooperation and involvement. This is fundamental to protecting individual rights. While anarchy is regarded as a philosophy void of government, it has government in a privatized sense. Each individual gets to choose who they will delegate authority to, and whenever they wish to they can withdraw that consent and seek out a new authority.
The term “libertarian anarchy” is a combination of both terms to describe the political environment in which its proponents, such as myself, believe is the most logical, practical and moral of any conceivable political system. As the 20th Century proved, all major systems of government have inherent flaws that lead to genocide, oppression, total war, starvation and persecution.
At the heart of libertarian anarchy is the necessity of consent, how it alone determines the legitimacy of authority, and how no modern government outside of an anarchist system can claim legitimacy based on this definition.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Thus, in order for a government to be legitimate or for it to have just powers, it requires the consent of the people it rules over.
The only way for this to logically work is for this government to receive the consent from each person individually. Legitimacy cannot be determined by popular vote or majority decision. For one, why a majority? Why not require two-thirds majority?
Among other problems, this means in effect that legitimacy of a government is really determined by the people allowed to vote, how many, where they are located, and the boundary size of the government. On top of that, who gets to decide any of this and where does their authority to do so come from?
Perhaps one can see where this leads.
Therefore, the only legitimate government is one which receives consent from all people who are under its authority. All actions have to be voluntary and consensual. As long as they do not violate another person’s rights, no one can be forced to do something against their will.
That, in essence, is libertarian anarchy.
For a much more thorough and scholastic treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy Against the State. Though occasionally, albeit necessarily technical, it is extremely thought-provoking. Casey, a professor from University College Dublin, brilliantly uses deductive reasoning and logic to come to his conclusions as he tears apart all the arguments that justify the existence of the modern state. Most objections to libertarian anarchy are addressed in some manner in this book.