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If Not Anarchism, What? A Third Way

Anarchism is a crackpot ideology. Anarchist philosophy was born holding hands with socialism, its roots in a spiritual rebellion against capitalism and the state.

The capitalistic anarchism springs from even less healthy soil than socialist anarchism. At least the instincts that rebelled against the excesses of industrial capitalism were basically healthy and sound, even if they adopted crackpot ideas about practical politics and economy theory.

The capitalist-anarchism is even worse in its embrace of rule by financial power, seeing its power-brokers as heroes of liberty rather than inane criminals they are. They adopt just as impractical ideas about human nature, political interaction and economics, but in order to run toward unlimited economic power, not away from it.

The idea of multinational corporations as ideal, taking over the role of government, openly, not bashfully, buying out the courts and the military, the police, the jails, and keeping the show going in private hands... what instincts could consider that an ideal?

And what fools could imagine it a practical, stable order?

A voluntary, self-regulating constellation of firms, banks, independent commercial power centers, their power rooted in concentrated property, with theoretically subordinate armed forces, vying for wealth and control outside any public law; producing law in a two-way interchange, in the manner of treaties; without any recourse to binding, disinterested, public external justice.

To hold something so unnatural together would require an essentially religious devotion, imbued with a zeal as strong as early Islam or Christianity, in a belief in non-violence, in the sanctity of Rights and inviolable property, held ascetically by all engaged in economic and political power. Everyone in a position of power able to abuse the rights and property of others would have to voluntarily refrain from doing so and resign the desire.

Even that would fall apart and go to factions and subside into the general tide of human nature after a short period, even if it could get kicked off. And what a bizarre spiritual movement it would be, rooted in materialism, money and individualistic consumption!

Pure democracy might be the antithesis of property and economic liberty, and a horror worse than its opposite. But the opposite - unlimited economic power - with the elimination of any political redress against economic power, property, is almost as bad. Some would say worse, that really depends on your personal bias.

I would much prefer a mixture of the two holding each other in check, and more than that, would welcome a third center of power in the balance, like that provided historically by Church, or by a stable political class of 'statesmen' not engaged in democratic politics, but with some permanent status and influence.

Some third body not tied to political factions or to economic interests to carry on a tradition and teaching in virtue, a political ethic, a civic identity, a way of life.

Some body or institution devoted to principles higher than money or political power, commerce or career politics.

An institution to provide the balast and anchoring for a healthy education in character and morality and identity, not connected to either private economic interest or the state. A body that could actually carry on and seed moral principles, even if it were merely NAP or some basic liberty ethic.

With those competing sorts of institutions you can achieve a balance that permits actual liberty to exist for centuries. If you destroy all of those institutions but one, liberty disappears. An imperfect real liberty is better than a perfect pipedream.


The return of a third class into the balance between economic and political power would be most welcome and appropriate, and historically realistic. It is real, it is proven. Until modern times this third power always existed and countered excesses and abuse from either side, held off tyranny when possible.

It always stood outside and aloof from merely economic or secular political power considerations.

Unlimited political power in the hands of demagogues, disregarding individual property, is one extreme. Unlimited economic power, enforced with goons and a police state, disregarding the right of persons separate from property, is another extreme.

Balanced against each other, they are an unstable brew like what presently exists in America. They could tip into open conflict and violence, with one side gaining the concentrated power.

What is lacking, what is missing?

What were the Founding fathers? They were a type of a class, maybe not the most perfect example in history, separate from either pure economic interests or pure political demagogues.

A semi-stable, semi-permanent class, a body that was an anchor and source of stability to the political order of the time, and a source of a sound civic education to the people. A referee and rallying point for the people to draw strength when up against dangerous concentrations of private power.

Their ideas, their sense of civic virtue aligned with their identity, and their great stores of political wisdom and knowledge of history enabled them to provide center of gravity to economic and political power.

The Roman republican class was a similar institution. The Church in European history is another example.

An institution not rooted in purely private interests of class, power or property, and able to balance the other two impulses, and ameliorate the harm of excessive economic and political power.

That is the proper answer to the dangerous conditions developing now, the diminution of distributed economic and social resources, the growing wealth disparity and the ripening potential of economic conflict that could break out into violence at any time, and which could see one side or the other come to a complete tyranny.

A third way, a third power, a third institution. Way of the Future.


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Just naming random logical

Just naming random logical violations doesn't actually establish they occurred. You need to also define the logical rule violated, and explain what sentence I said that was the offender. Otherwise you're just chucking flash bang grenades in the middle of a war zone. i.e., failing miserably.


yes yes yes. PREACH

A Fourth Way

We need someone to control people, make rules up for them to follow... let's see, let's see... who can we get to do this... I know... let's get a third class... a third class made out of people... that's it... let's get people to make up some rules... only a third class of people... but then again people are savages, so I'm thinking of a 4th way... someone to keep that third class in line... I know... we could use a select group of people!... yeah, that's it, that's the magic number ... a fourth way!

Also BILL3, you need to learn to play the accordian, and don't ever wear purple hats:

That is a lot of elpises. Did

That is a lot of elpises. Did you come by them all legitimately?


Great video, thanks for the post

Anarchic Hell Hole

"A[n] [in]voluntary, self-regulating constellation of firms, banks, independent commercial power centers, their power rooted in concentrated property, with theoretically subordinate armed forces, vying for wealth and control outside any public law; producing law in a two-way interchange, in the manner of treaties unilaterally; without any recourse to binding, disinterested, public external justice."

"To hold something so unnatural together would require an essentially religious devotion, imbued with a zeal as strong as early Islam or Christianity, in a belief in non-violence, in the sanctity of RightsPower and inviolable propertyplunder, held ascetically by all engaged in economic and political power. Everyone in a position of power able to abuse the rights and property of others would have to voluntarily refrain from doing so and resign the desire."

In trying to describe free market anarchy as some sort of hell hole, you came much closer to describing this morning's newspaper, so I made the fixes for you. Notice that most people would consider all the changes I made as negative. Even if your description of anarchy is correct- and it very well could be- it sounds light years ahead of what our constitutional republic, along with every other society in history, has devolved into.

A third, disinterested class is nothing more than wishful thinking. To say that the American founders were outside or above the drudgeries of political and economic life is incredibly false. They weren't the referees, they were playing for keeps. Men like Adams and Hancock sparked the revolution for nothing more than a tax on soft drinks and requiring government approval on official documents- very minor by today's standards. By your reasoning, you might even say that the English political class passed these sorts of laws to keep the economy of the colonies, especially radical Massachusetts, in check.

Is free-market anarchy possible in our current world? None of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can say for certain. But let's forget about this Marxist, competing-class nonsense. We are all individuals with different desires and priorities, and none of us are completely free of the reality of economics.

Why would you need to make

Why would you need to make said changes if I had described present reality accurately? every change you made was an opposite of the thing said.

You then claimed that my description of the fantastical anarchy was head and shoulders above present reality. But of course, my description was of something that doesn't exist and the point was how such a thing is absurdly improbable. Your saying it is better hardly deals with the point.

Keep the softballs coming, like hitting beachballs with a croquet mallot.

Anarchy means no governement

(why the down votes? It' a great post. DP=closed minded???)
The courts and government have two radically different origins.

It is true that governments will immediately institute their own court system once a population is conquered...but that is not their origin.

Society can have anarchy (lack of government)and a thriving judiciary.

Also, individuals can own resources in common, and administer those resources through a popularly elected association without granting that association TOTAL power over the daily affairs of the individuals.

So imagine this anarchist outline of no chaos and no government:
1) Individuals determine x resources will be owned in common. And administers those resources through an elected association.

2) This management association has ZERO rule making power over the lives of the individuals which constituted it. And it cannot prohibit competing service providers.

3) A judicial system is made available to allow individuals to settle controversies in a civilized manner. Maybe a grand&petite jury system.

4) A common defense system is made available to those individuals that wish to pick up arms and defend the prosperity this anarchist way of life has created.

No government, no limited liability, and a safety net of resources available to every individual, along with private property and liberty.

That's a 3rd way...

And one more note...right now, this conversation/ interaction/ social intercourse exists functionally without government, religion, or any other hierarchy. Most of my day is the same. I do business everyday without government, so I am very comfortable with "anarchy".

Controversial topic, but I do

Controversial topic, but I do think you may have a point. The free market works in ways we don't expect. Has anyone ever considered that the current situation of centralization we have right now is actually the free market at work? The default mode of humanity seems to be centralization. We had free markets in the past before, but if free markets were infallible, they would have remained free.

Not to say that anarchy can't or won't work, but it seems to me that the real solutions only tend to take place after witnessing the total failure of centralization. Solutions only seem to come into existence after the initial mistake has been made. Rarely do people have the foresight to think up solutions that solve problems before they even occur.

It's only after people have undergone the effects of centralization that they tend to turn to free market principles. But when the good life has been restored, people become complacent again and the free market slowly defaults back into being unfree and being centralized.

It seems to me that the human race is somewhat doomed to repeat their mistakes. And that's because the human race is a forgetful race with a limited amount of imagination. Rarely do they put themselves in the shoes of those that have gone before and that's why they don't learn from the past. Most people need to repeat the mistake in order to relearn a truth that has already been discovered before.

If you want to break free from this cycle, we need a system that allows people to simulate the mistakes from the past IN PERSON, because people only tend to learn from mistakes. Telling them it's mistake doesn't work. And only some pay attention to history lessons, but most don't.

Instead of avoiding mistakes, allow the mistake to occur, but do it in a manner where the damage is kept at a minimum. The US constitution is simply not enough to be a restraint on people.

Ah, love those drive by

Ah, love those drive by downvoters. :p

Dammit, it should become my sig.

Agree with all of this. And

Agree with all of this. And if libertarianism, or spontaneous order, or the market order, or whatever your call it - if it is the collective wisdom and experience of civilization, then it needs an institutional bearer, just like the classical wisdom had to find its best, imperfect expression in the Church which, despite everything, was a counterweight to barbarism during its tenure.

The idea that if you just dismantle political power, and empower economic bodies, that they will refrain voluntarily from force, abuse, or somehow abstain from these perpetually, as some fact of nature, is without any foundation.

Better to have the interplay and tension between economic and political power, with a third educational institution that tries to make itself permanent and play the other two permanent, natural forces (economic and political) off each other, while doing good and right for "the people" and earning their trust. This third body could embrace the ideal of not ever resorting to political force, and winning support by its word and good deeds.

That may sound silly, but its more realistic and historical than the half baked idea that if you just replace government force with some Jenga of "private" (what does that word even mean when public no longer exists?) force-wielding bodies and hoping the thing doesn't fall over in the first few years.

Americanism. We are the


We are the government.

Never be afraid to ask simple questions.

Are you really the government?

Are you a lawmaker or one of the people they hire to enforce their will?

If not, then you are not a part of the government.
You have zero governmental power.

The lawmakers and their employees are able to harm with legal impunity...do you have that power?
If not, then you are not a part of the government.

The government is a separate legal entity with the power to RULE you. You are not it and it doesn't work for you.
It claims the power to TAKE what it wants from you and has NO obligation to give you anything in return.
Disobey it, and it will put you in a cage, resist and it will put you in the ground. And it is happy to do it 24/7.

This is not hyperbole, this is basic civics.

egapele's picture


is there a shred of faith in humanity laced in your theory

Why do you put your faith in humanity?

Or see it as a virtue?

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
www.yaliberty.org - Young Americans for Liberty
www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery - Stop Deploying Traumatized Troops

Thank you.

Thank you.

egapele's picture


hah! You need to turn your text purple.

I upvoted you

I don't entirely agree with you, but this is a good conversation -- a few points:

1. There *is* an inherent instability in competitive provision of security - you're right. However, you did not adequately explain *why* that instability exists. Everything you said criticizing competitive security provision can and has been said by other minarchists, and can and has been refuted effectively by anarcho-capitalists. Minarchists are minarchists rather than anarcho-capitalists precisely because they have an *intuitive sense* (as you do, as I do) that competitive security provision won't work, that it's inherently unstable - but to date, and to my knowledge, no minarchist has adequately explained *why* that is the case, which has allowed the anarcho-capitalists to claim victory in the debate. Well, those claims are premature. I've been working for a long time on an exposition of exactly why competitive security provision is unstable, several preliminary drafts of which you can read at my blog. I'm in the process of finishing a piece of writing now that I think will be the definitive form of my argument, so check back at my blog in a week or two to read it, if you're interested.

2. While competitive security provision is unstable, impossible, that doesn't mean we're stuck with the state. There's a middle way, which I outline on my blog.

3. I too am intrigued by the idea of a "third power," as you call it - some kind of non-governmental and non-commercial institution to promote libertarian values: a "church of libertarianism," if you will. However, the more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that something like this, while eminently desirable, cannot be *planned*. It has to emerge naturally in its own time, and will only emerge given the right historical conditions, which are out of our control. A natural aristocracy, like that to which the founding fathers belonged, is precisely that: a *natural* aristocracy. Such a thing cannot be legislated into existence.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

The burden of proof isn't on

The burden of proof isn't on minarchists or any other archists. The "market" (human society) has selected for archist regimes. Anarchy is a pipedream precisely because it is the default condition, like a natural vacuum, that is always filled by an archy.

If anarchists want to dismantle the arch (present human society everywhere) let them demonstrate the feasibility of the anarch. Everyone is waiting. All I see is talk. Where's the action?

But if you ask any anarcho-capitalist...

...they think they've met that burden, and in a sense they're right. They have provided a coherent vision of a stateless society with competitive security provision, and they've successfully defeated all criticisms leveled against that vision by minarchists.

For example, one of the arguments you use, that there have always been states throughout history, therefore the state is inevitable, is a fallacy. And anarcho-capitalists can point out that it's a fallacy.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

In what sense are they right?

In what sense are they right? Anarchists have provided a piecemeal theoretical argument that has NOT survived "all" criticism. That they believe what you stated shows that they are delusional. Bill3 is absolutely right that they have the burden. In any court, the person that wants to change the status quo has the burden!

Ventura 2012

What ancaps do...

...is treat security as a consumer service, and then apply normal free market economic analysis - and they apply it correctly. This leads them to conclude that a security monopoly cannot emerge in a free market: in the same way that a widget monopoly cannot emerge in a free market. If a security monopoly cannot emerge, then a state cannot emerge, as a state is a security monopoly.

This argument is based on two premises. The first is that the principles of free market economics, such as allow us to argue against the possibility of monopoly formation in widget markets, are correct. Minarchists obviously can't attack this premise, as they believe in the same economic principles. The second premise is that security is a consumer service, not fundamentally different from any other consumer service. Here is where minarchists try to attack ancapism; they try to argue that security is special somehow; that the normal economic analysis does not apply in the case of security; that, unlike every other market, the security market is prone to monopoly (and therefore the state, and therefore ancapism is impossible).

And, IMO, that objection is absolutely correct, but it has not yet been proven. It has been asserted over and over, and hinted at, but not proven. And the burden of proof is on the critics of ancapism, since they are the one's claiming that there is an exception to the principles of free market economics. In other words, if minarchists can't explain why security is an exception, then logically they must either embrace ancapism or reject free market economics. Specifically, what minarchists need is an argument for why/how a monopoly will emerge in the security market. I don't mean some speculations with a dash of empirical evidence, I mean a logically rigorous argument - and to my knowledge, that does not yet exist.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

Ok, I see your point. That is

Ok, I see your point. That is ONE criticism of anarcho-capitalism. I don't see how the collapse of every anarchist society(often internally) in the "market" of defense services(war) does not refute their point even on this one issue. But I personally don't even need to address this point to attachk anarchism, because it wrongly accepts the premise that it is possible to have a capitalist economy in general without a monopoly on security forces.

Ventura 2012

Arguments based on history...

...cannot prove anything to a certainty.

If you just want to claim that ancapism is unlikely to work because it has never worked in the past, that's a plausible argument (though they have counterarguments, and it's in the nature of empirical debates like those that neither side can definitively prove anything). But if you want to prove that ancapism is actually impossible, then history is useless, you need a theoretical argument, one whose conclusions would be true in all times and places.

And this: "it wrongly accepts the premise that it is possible to have a capitalist economy in general without a monopoly on security forces."

Why is that premise wrong?

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

Forget about proving to

Forget about proving to certainty. Minarchists have actual evidence from history along with theory. Anarchists have theory only. How can the burden possible be put on the minarchists? Even if it was, we have more than met it by this point. Burdens shift once they are met.

That premise is wrong for a number of reasons that I dont have time to get into now but have written thousands of words on on this site. Suffice it to say that minarchists view government as a "necessary evil" for a reason. Why do you think that is? Its not just because some believe government is inevitable, that doesn't imply necessity at all. Its important to actually understand the minarchist argument, anarchists usually build strawmen to shoot down.

Ventura 2012

I suppose we just disagree

I suppose we just disagree that they've successfully answered the criticisms. I am sure Karl Marx and his friends presented a "coherent" vision of the "socialist society" and answered all the objections raised against it. Fortunately, the anarchists will never actually take over anything, or muck up anything other than the discussion.

My argument wasn't that there have always been states, therefore absence of a state is not possible. In fact I said the exact opposite. The absence of the state is the default condition, and out of that condition proceeds the evolution of violence into monopoly form. Anarchism wouldn't be a step forward, it would be a reversion to an earlier state.

The question of whether "firms" can administer violence in a more successful way... whatever that means... and have a stable order in which involuntary violence does not re emerge... is an entirely speculative bit of scribbling.

I am not even sure what the proper response is to that. I say, go for it! The anarchists say... okay.... everyone.. NOW! Even they seem to admit anarchy is impossible unless everyone does it at once. Anarchy is the chain letter of politics, it only works if everyone does it. And no one does.

there are other... archists?.

if so, google cannot find it.

Moldbug is an archist.

From Mises to Carlyle: my sick journey to the dark side of the force

Tyranny is one form of chaos; freedom is one form of order. There are others of each, however. And order is always preferred to chaos. Thus, to a Carlylean, the fatal error of libertarianism is the confusion of anarchy and freedom. Not only are they not the same thing; they are opposite poles of the political spectrum. Freedom - spontaneous order - is the ultimate form of order. Anarchy is the ultimate form of disorder.

To a Carlylean, anarchy and tyranny are fundamentally and essentially allied and indivisible. And again: the apparent affinity between anarchy and freedom is wholly illusory. In fact: to maximize freedom, eradicate anarchy. To achieve spontaneous order: first, achieve ordinary, down-to-earth, nonspontaneous order. Then, wait a while. Then, start to relax.


You wonder why we are still

You wonder why we are still debating this issue within our own movement when the founders of the movement recognized this truth 300 years ago.

Ventura 2012

Mencius Moldbug is always an interesting read


"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."