I’ve struggled for a long time to figure out what to call my current political position — or whether I have have a political position anymore. It depends on what you mean by “political,” I guess.
As the word is normally understood, I’m apolitical, almost to the point of indifference. If you’re talking about the bigger question of how power is organized and distributed, that’s a different matter entirely. I’m certainly not a statist. I’m also no longer what you’d consider a minarchist. But I’m finding that none of the variations of “anarchist” really work for me anymore, either. (All of the labels just seem to confuse the issue.) I’d like to take a look at why I think the debate between anarchists and minarchists is going to cease to matter soon.
Let’s say the debate is among plantation slaves about whether to co-operate with plantation owners for better treatment or to openly revolt. You could quibble about how good the analogy is, but I’d say it’s reasonable.
You could make good arguments on both sides of that argument. The ones arguing for co-operating and working for better treatment and better working conditions would be the pragmatic ones. That position would especially appeal to the slaves who might have built up a bit of status or privilege with the owners. For them, it could seem foolish to risk everything, especially when the chances of success seemed low and they weren’t sure what would come next. The ones arguing for open revolt would take the position that being a slave of any sort was immoral, demeaning and unacceptable. I can understand how each would feel. I’d like to think I would opt for open revolt, but if the danger were really great, I might not. I might play it safe.
As long as the state is around — and has the guns and other power to go after us — we face pretty much the same choice. As I’ve written before, I don’t choose open revolt. I choose to obey the stupid rules to stay out of trouble. But it doesn’t mean I favor the rules or think they’re moral.
Now, let’s take the analogy about the slaves and plantation owners one step further. Let’s say that you foresaw that there was a change coming that was going to render their plantations obsolete and make slaveholding unprofitable. Because of this, you felt certain that the plantation owners were going to go away — at least insofar as their ability to keep forcing you and your fellow slaves to do anything. Assuming you believed that, would you really care who won the debate between the “revoltists” and the “appeasers”? Or would you just think it was an irrelevant question — and that the real question was what came next — after your oppressors were gone?
That’s why I’m not terribly interested in the anarchist vs. minarchist argument. It’s simply because I believe the state is going away for economic, technological and social reasons, so the debate about how to face it down is soon going to be a moot question.
I believe the real issue is looking to what comes next — to planning what we’re going to do when the state starts collapsing.
I might be wrong, but I’ve slowly become convinced of this over the last 20 years or so. I started looking at bits and pieces of the evidence nearly two decades ago, but I was so entrenched in “the way things are” that it was hard to wrap my mind around how much was going to change. (A book that was important to opening my eyes to the possibility was 1994’s “The Great Reckoning,” by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg. They turned out to have their timing badly off, but their logic and historical analysis still hold true for the longer term, as far as I’m concerned.) It’s taking even longer to put that into words and find a new paradigm to explain what’s coming. I’m just happy to see that other people have been looking toward alternatives, too, and are further down the road to figuring it out than I’ve been.
I have friends who are working in the two mainstream political parties. I have friends who are active with the Libertarian Party. I have friends who are disgusted and apathetic, so they’ve withdrawn from the process. I have other friends who are dedicated anarchists of various types. The arguments for each of those choices have merit. I can understand how someone can come to any of those positions. I’m not trying to argue with people and tell them that they should choose my path. I’m just explaining why I’m not joining you on the particular choice you’ve made if you’re doing one of those.
I’m actively looking for alternatives. I might end up on an island of my own somewhere. I might end up on one of Patri Friedman’s seasteads. I might end up in a free city in Honduras. I might end up in some group that carves out an enclave nearby after the state collapses. I don’t know.
There are many possible choices — and that’s the real point. There are potential choices. You’re not limited to thinking about simply choosing between wild anarchic lawlessness or just beating back the state to a manageable level.
Those who start thinking about this now — and adjusting their lives to the new reality now — are going to be in a much better position to deal with the coming changes. It’s time to dream big and then make it happen.