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What anarchy isn't (free eBook) (dropbox.com)
47 points by drummer 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

I’d recommend Anarchism by Daniel Guérin for a history of the anarchist movement and some of its philosophy if you’re interested in what real anarchism is about outside of the pejorative usage.

I strongly second this recommandation. Daniel Guérin is a very interesting author.

There are both left-leaning and libertarian variants of anarchy. For the latter: the strongest, most "steelmanned" defense of (libertarian) Anarchy (and it's not even close) is Michael Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority: https://www.amazon.com/Problem-Political-Authority-Examinati...

This is a serious work of analytic philosophy by a highly cited philosopher (who, before this book, was famous for his contributions outside of political philosophy). The book considers all of the strongest arguments against libertarianism and (seems to) decimate all of them.

Libertarianism and anarchism are quite different though, it is hard to see how anarchism works out in practice. Someone is going to have the most powerful fighting force, and when people disagree to the point of violence that group will become, effectively, the governing body.

The American civil war is a good case study. When a serious disagreement arises, really all that matters is who can sustain the most effective army. Anarchism can't work once professional armies get involved. I doubt it can work even if a neighbouring country has a professional army. Professional armies tend to win.

Military confederations are a thing and work historically. Anarchists have waged war against conventional armies and fought very well multiple times in history. It just doesn't really check out all that well as an argument in practice.

Interesting. Can you please name one or two examples for me to look up as I'm not personally aware of any large scale anarchist movemements with decisive military victories.

2 recent examples, and 2 old ones :

Recently Syrian Kurds (YPG) are more or less anarchists and had decisive military victories, mainly but not only against ISIS...

Zapatista Army of National Liberation is close to anarchism too... The conflict never was an all-out-war, so I would not called anything decisive military victories though...

During the Spanish civil war, anarchist had been instrumental against the nationalist forces, especially at the beginning of the war.

And in post WW1's Ukraine, the Makhnovshchyna had played an important historical role

He cited a whole book! :)

Right-libertarian "variants of anarchy" fundamentally ignore the foundational concepts of anarchism and are frankly a joke.

I like how Authoritania is a caricature of evil but they stop short of invading Anarchia. They want to project their evil government control everywhere but I guess they haven't figured out boats. This is very convenient for the metaphor.

I get that this book is trying to provide a quick overview, but some of the arguments seem to fall flat:

> To put it another way, warlords already did take over, called themselves "government," and convinced their victims that it was righteous and necessary for the warlords to dominate and exploit everyone else, "for their own good."

How do we prevent that from happening again? Sure, we can live in a voluntaryist society for a bit, but what prevents one of the voluntary support structures in that society from deciding to become involuntary? (Hasn't the history of basically all social organizations of all flavors - right-wing revolutions, left-wing revolutions, religions, corporations, HOAs, fraternities, romantic relationships - shown that they're all susceptible in their own ways to the people who have been voluntarily given power deciding to hold onto it without consent?)

I don't mean this in the "human nature shows that ___ never works" sense - I mean this in the sense that I expect this to be a solvable problem. What sort of structure (perhaps voluntary, perhaps involuntary) can prevent a more malignant involuntary structure from taking over?

> This is why the presence of government drastically increases the chances of people getting robbed—in fact, increases the chances to 100%, since every government "taxes" the people it pretends to "represent."

This is technically true, but I'm not sure it's a helpful framing. Currently I owe, let's say, 40% of my income on paper to the government (not counting sales taxes etc.). I still keep the other 60%. Sure, the government is "robbing" me of 40%, but they are empirically doing an effective job of preventing other robbers from taking the remaining 60%, through everything from beat cops to the FDIC. So there's a 100% chance of the first 40% being taken from me, and maybe at most a 1% chance of the remaining 60% being taken.

Let's say the government goes away. Now I get 100% of my income on paper. (Let's ignore for the moment that much of not all of my employer's profitability depends on the existence of governments, and assume that somehow I'm paid the same.) But now all of that income is at risk from other sorts of miscreants, whether petty thieves or unregulated banks. If the risk of theft is more than 40.6%, I'm worse off, right?

That is - this argument seems to rest on the idea that any taking of money from me without my enthusiastic consent is bad. But it's clearly not equally bad. Losing 40% of my money is better than losing 50%, and much better than losing 100%.

What is the actual risk to my money? That is, can you convince me that living in a country with a 40% effective tax rate compared to a land with no taxes is a bad economic decision, and not just subjecting myself to a moral wrong?

Political manifestos don't belong on HN.

Anarchist political theory has been associated with "hacker culture" since at least the '80s. I don't consider myself one, but it'd be wrong to say that it isn't apropos.

Anarchist philosophy is central to many hacker projects, such as Debian for example.

Why? Isn’t it important that tech developers have a place to discuss politics?

You cannot separate tech from politics.

A hacker once quipped: "Anarchy is that form of government where you don't get to choose who your dictator is."

So, someone who didn't know anything about anarchy made a joke about it?

> So, someone who didn't know anything about anarchy

Be wary of anarchist ideologues who:

- Don't know the utility of jokes.

- Don't discuss the game theory of social and economic arrangements and incentives.

- Suggest anarchist utopias are stable equilibria.

- Don't point out that externalising costs and harms is a local optimum in an adversarial situation.

- Don't discuss what evolutionary biology[1] has taught us about fundamental hierarchy, that is: status, dominance, and prestige.

- Don't discuss in-group bias, out-groups and intergroup competition, and lineage.

- Don't discuss the features of successful societies that persist across cultures, time, populations, and species.[0]

- Don't discuss the Dunbar limit of social networks and the problems of coordination and cooperation.[2]

- Don't provide hard theoretical or experimental evidence for their claims.

- Don't discuss the costs and tradeoffs of their hypotheses.


[0]: Consider Economist Melissa Dell, on the effects of persistence across time https://conversationswithtyler.com/episodes/melissa-dell/:

" You see the towns that were part of the stronger, centralized state going back before colonialism, so several hundred years ago. More recently, they have better-functioning local governments. They’re richer. They’re better off, which shows that places that have a long history of governance seem better able to do that more recently. "

[1]: [U]nderstanding that natural selection, acting on genes [...]generates non-genetic evolutionary processes capable of producing complex cultural adaptations. (Joseph Henrich, "The Secret of Our Success")

[2]: Nicholas Christakis, "Blueprint:The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society":

" Each mutineer had absolute dominion over his share of the island, and life was characterized by shifting private alliances. Social organization was fluid and unpredictable. The community had no legal code, no central political authority, and no monopoly on the use of force. Hence, given the absence of ties of friendship and meaningful ongoing cooperation, there was no reliable way to mediate disputes or enforce collective decisions. "

Now that's a leftist meme!

From the time of the cave paintings and Venus figurines tens of thousands of years ago, to about 10000 years ago, there is no evidence of government, a working class and a hereditary idle class, specialized police and military and so on. If you go deep in the Amazon, hunter gatherer bands still live like this.

In our modern day, where the average worker works more hours per week than those people (see Marshall Sahlins), with the default trajectory being continual global warming, with missile and nuclear treaties tossed as more states become better nuclear armed, and US, Russian, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani troops having minor incidents all over, as large mammals undergo extinction worldwide, Bolsanaro cutting down the rain forest as Covid spreads over the US and Brazil, as BLM and Antifa and MAGA and anti-lockdown riots happen across the US, it's asked how it is imaginable we go off our current course. As Slavoj Zizek says, the culture of corporate media can more easily imagine the end of the world than it can the end of the 10000 year reign of the hereditary idle class.

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