By L. Reichard White
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
If you've been around the freedom movement for any length of time, you've probably heard conversations such as the following:
The anarchists among us (myself included) have occasionally faced the argument that "there is no historical example of a functional anarchy."
I've looked, and I cannot find any evidence of one. But that's not my point.
Murray Rothbard, early 1600's pre Boston gov't. for 4 years.. thousands of people...
Actually, anarchy is the rule, not the exception. From the anthropological viewpoint, more than 98% of human evolution occurred without formal government of any kind. Leadership in the very small groups within which our ancestors evolved -- and the small groups (twelve or fewer) you've been involved in too, I suspect -- tends to be a very informal matter. Governments are a recent aberration -- and according to at least one study, keeping leaders under control, a well established tradition:
"This type of egalitarian decision making, practiced by nomadic groups that keep their leaders on a short leash, has predominated for at least the past 50,000 to 100,000 years, [Christopher] Boehm contends." "These groups vigilantly monitor and control their leaders' access to big game meat and reproductive partners, he contends. Collective decision making further restrains leaders' personal ambitions." -- Bowers, Bruce. 1995. "Return of the Group". Science News, November 18: p330
Clearly this type of anarchist society was functional -- or we wouldn't be here. I know what you're thinking -- but governments caused the vast improvement in the human condition since those days exactly like wet streets cause rain.
The era of "modern" governments is a johnny-come-lately situation which, even if human biological evolution is continuing, hasn't been around long enough to power significant genetic change. This implies that anarchist groups are not only the rule for human societies, but also the kind of group our genetic makeup is designed for.
"Social engineers" should keep this firmly in mind. While humans are very adaptable, the further they stray from the original design, the greater the strain and the greater the possibility of breakdown -- it's true you can transport the space shuttle on top of a 747 -- but it's not something you want to do every day!
Governments, which haven't had time to be spliced into such an old genome, rather than being the rule, are an unintended consequence of large groups. Unlike small groups, large groups produce enough surplus to support and attract government infestations. In small groups where most people know each other face-to-face, "leaders" as far out of line as most modern ones, wouldn't survive the night.
Keep in mind that what passes for "anarchy" these days isn't. Situations such as Bosnia, Rowanda, Beruit, etc., which are normally called "anarchy" are, rather, two or more potential governments struggling for domination --- which is the de-facto definition for the way the word "anarchy" is normally used today. Those who claim that "anarchy" is bad are usually referring to such situations, and I whole heartedly agree with their evaluation.
However more astute critics may correctly recognize the type of small group anarchy under which our ancestors evolved and lived for the "past 50,000 to 100,000 years" and which is in effect how we mostly live our day-to-day lives. Critics of this type of anarchy often claim that inter-tribal warfare and intra group killing -- neither of which governments have stopped, incidentally -- look at gang warfare in the US and the murder rate -- was horrible enough to justify governments. For this argument to wash, these critics would first of all have to show that small-group anarchy would rack up a record worse than the following one ----
New York, NY - An early July column in the Wall Street Journal by R.J. Rummel confirmed what most libertarians already know: that government is the biggest scourge of mankind. According to Rummel's research, governments of all kinds (though principally communist) have killed 119 million people in the twentieth century. The second runner up, war (also sponsored by governments, usually) has killed "only" 35.7 million. -- AMERICAN LIBERTARIAN Vol. 1 no. 2, Aug. 1986, pg. 8
-- which has been "improved" since 1986 ---- in Nicaragua, Bosnia, Iraq (100,000+), Guatamala, Chechnya, East Timor, etc.
It's possible that with small groups and intergroup warfare as many might have been killed, but I doubt it -- it's unlikely that such smaller groups could have afforded to develop atomic bombs, etc. or had enough people under their thumbs to kill Stalin's 20 million or perpetrate Hitler's "holocaust", etc. At any rate, what kind of an organization, claiming to protect it's citizens, kills more than 119 million of them --- without even having war as an excuse?
Only as recently as this evening has it occurred to me to ask the similar question, "Is there any historical example of a government gradually giving up its power peacefully?" (There will be....)
Hope so, there was the "velvet revolution" in Checkoslovakia. But remember, these selfish sub-cliques called "government" and their retinue of brown-nosers, suck-ups and hangers-on depend on filching a significant portion of the hours of you and your group's life in order to survive. Even if you're an American, according to unchallenged testimony by Senator Olympia Snow of Maine and Representative Donald Manzullo of Illinois, this filching amounts to more than 50% of what you earn:
QUESTION: How long did Americans work to pay taxes in 1995?
ANSWER: January 1 to July 9, 1995. -- CNN Factoid, 12:20, 15 Apr. 1996
Many believe governments won't give up their food easily:
* Kamin's 4th Law: Governments will grow until destroyed by war or revolution.
* Mangrum's corollary: If not destroyed by war or revolution, governments will continue to grow until they crush the population which supports them.
So, do YOU think governments enhance our well being over-all? If so, how?
L. Reichard White lives six houses up from the old Black Horse Tavern, a birth place of the Whiskey Rebellion -- which explains a lot. His current project is a revision of historical perspective, based on the theory that many modern problems find their basis in small-group instinctive drives which fail to work correctly in modern history's large super-groups. He has supported his writing habit for over twenty years by beating casinos at their own games.
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