Statism is utopian.

A common objection used against Anarchy is that it is a utopian ideology. To be more specific, the argument is that Anarchy cannot “work” because it would require people to be “perfectly good and altruistic.” Since this is quite impossible, we must conclude that Anarchy is a utopian ideology which relies on a false view of human nature.

While popular, this objection is hard to understand on its face. Why do they believe an Anarchy requires particularly moral individuals? Is it because there is no authority to mediate between individuals, righting wrongs? While it is true that a society cannot survive long without a mediation process, and it would be very silly for anyone to fight against that process, it is unclear why we need a centralized authority in order to effect it. Anarchy is not the position that mediation should be eliminated: rather, it is the position that mediation should be decentralized. It is not order that we don’t believe in, but centralized authoritarian order relying on hierarchies of power. That’s what we’re fighting against.

Unfortunately, we have been so conditioned to believe that centralized authorities are necessary that often Anarchy is confused with political nihilism. Yet nothing is farther from the truth. Absolutism and totalitarianism are close to nihilism: once we accept the validity of centralized control, then “anything goes.” Whatever the government does becomes ipso facto justified by the need for centralized control as a check on individual values. Anarchists completely reject this reasoning and uphold individual values as the only possible foundation for a functional society.

In fact, we precisely oppose the State because we believe that it exhibits all too human vices: aggression, greed, dishonesty, ignorance. The State exhibits these vices because it is composed of human beings who also have these vices, like all human beings possessing control and power over others. It is not that we need to have “the right people” in power or “the right class” in power: human nature itself is what is preventing statism from “working.”

The Anarchist argument is simple. If people are good, then we don’t need a government to enforce morality. If people are evil, then the people composing government are also evil, and being in government have the power to exploit others much more fully than a private individual could. If some people are good, and some people are evil, then we should desire very much to remove any concentration of power, since such a concentration would attract people who wish to control others- evil people- and give them that control.

People believe that Anarchy is utopian because they believe that Anarchy is a nihilistic ideology- that Anarchists are against all organization. As I pointed out, this is simple ignorance. Anarchists want to remove centralized authority and hierarchies of power: in short, those processes that evil people can use to exploit others most easily, those processes that create war, generalized crime, chaos and oppression.

Furthermore, we must point out a major origin problem in the notion that Anarchy is utopian. If Anarchy cannot “work,” then government itself, which must obviously have been created from a state of Anarchy, also cannot “work.” How can an unworkable system produce a workable system? The reverse can happen, of course. A skilled carpenter can create a botched piece, but an unskilled carpenter cannot create a masterpiece. If the initial Anarchist state of affairs was “unworkable,” then where was the potential in this “unworkable” society to create the “order” of government? This destroys neatly the argument that Anarchy is utopian while statism is not.

If we are to state the case clearly, we can say this. Statism is the belief that a group of people, who possess all the guns and all the legitimacy, able to make all the rules for itself, will not want to exploit its subjects. Instead, they will act completely altruistically and help fulfill the values of their subjects.

And we know from reality that it ain’t so. This is a Big Lie. Statism is utopian to the extreme, and we need to hammer that on every opportunity we get.

11 thoughts on “Statism is utopian.

  1. johnpetrie April 3, 2008 at 22:44

    Fantastic post, Francois. This is why I have a blog post category on my blog called Unrealistic. I haven’t written much about this issue, but it is completely true that Statists are the ones guilty of Utopianism, not anarchists. Unless, of course, an anarchist claims everything would be just perfect and happy in a free society; that could never be true of any human society, ever.

    Your post reminded me of three quotes from famous anarcho-capitalists, which you echoed quite eloquently. Rothbard said, “In fact, the libertarian would reason that the fact that human nature is a mixture of both good and evil provides its own particular argument in his favor. For if man is such a mixture, then the best societal framework is surely one in which evil is discouraged and the good encouraged. The libertarian maintains that the existence of the State apparatus provides a ready, swift channel for the exercise of evil, since the rulers of the State are thereby legitimated and can wield compulsion in ways that no one else is permitted to do.”

    Gene Callahan wrote, “Contra the author of one of The Federalist Papers, who wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” I have always believed that if men were angels, the state might be acceptable. It is precisely our non-angelic nature that makes the power of the state too dangerous for any human to possess.”

    The third one isn’t so much a quote, but actually a sort of graphical or tabular representation of Statism vs. anarchism in an article by Robert Higgs for the Independent Institute (http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1982). His “figure 2” in that article is a table that says: If men are angels, then either a State or anarchy is OK. But if men are not angels, then anarchy is a bad situation but a State is a worse situation.

    Sorry for making this comment so long; it was the quotes. But I also wanted to add that you ought to be careful with your analogy about anarchy being a workable situation and the State not; I could probably just as easily come up with an analogy for why it is perfectly feasible to go from an unworkable situation to a workable situation. I’m not sure it’s a priori true that a workable situation cannot proceed from an unworkable situation. Maybe “unworkable” means different things, though.

  2. […] responds to a common criticism of anarchists: our ideals are utopian, and hence impossible. If Anarchy cannot “work,” then […]

  3. xomniverse April 4, 2008 at 12:51

    Dead on.

  4. Stephan April 4, 2008 at 16:53

    Wow, great post Francois! I love this post

  5. […] Dieser Beitrag von Francois Tremblay deckt sich so stark mit meinen eigenen Gedanken (welche ich hier bereits oft genug publiziert habe), dass ich mir ausgesprochen unoriginell vorkomme Tremblay kontert die Behauptung, eine Anarchie würde ein unrealistisches Bild “perfekter Menschen” voraussetzen: While popular, this objection is hard to understand on its face. Why do they believe an Anarchy requires particularly moral individuals? Is it because there is no authority to mediate between individuals, righting wrongs? While it is true that a society cannot survive long without a mediation process, and it would be very silly for anyone to fight against that process, it is unclear why we need a centralized authority in order to effect it. Anarchy is not the position that mediation should be eliminated: rather, it is the position that mediation should be decentralized. It is not order that we don’t believe in, but centralized authoritarian order relying on hierarchies of power. That’s what we’re fighting against. […]

  6. […] Tremblay wrote a little essay titled Statism is Utopian, explaining why it is incorrect to label anarcho-capitalism as Utopian and why Statism is the […]

  7. Francois Tremblay April 7, 2008 at 14:51

    Thank you everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it. John, I’d like to hear more about your last point, if you want to expand on it a little bit…

  8. […] entire month ago, Francois Tremblay wrote a blag post, Statism is Utopian that I blagged about here. In the comments, I told him I thought he was incorrect in his assertion […]

  9. […] May, 2008 In reply to my recent blog post Statism is utopian, John of blagnet.net wrote a reply on why my proposition that a workable system cannot emerge from […]

  10. Reflexões « Far beyond Sanity May 29, 2008 at 14:04

    […] Estatismo é utópico: O próprio nome já diz. Argumenta sobre a posição exageradamente grande tomada pelo Estado e outros, inclusive um trecho que irei replicar aqui: […]

  11. […] those processes that create war, generalized crime, chaos and oppression.1 Check Your Premises – Statism is utopian. [↩] « Militante Atheisten Dieser Eintrag wurde von Benjamin B. geschrieben, am […]

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