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Is anarchy utopical?

There are different interpretations of "utopian". If "utopia" simply means that it has not yet been realized, I agree – the model of an anarchistic society I prefer indeed has not been realized. There is a simple reason – it depends on modern information technology. In this sense, it is as utopian as any new invention, thus, something necessary for progress.

There are serious arguments against utopical proposals. Let's list some of them:

Anarchy is not an ideal society

If "utopia" means a society which is perfect and everybody is happy, than anarchy is certainly not an utopia.

Instead, the Golden Rule does not require serious modifications of the everyday behaviour of people and organizations, except the state. People and non-state organizations who behave in agreement with the law should not change their behaviour. "Capitalistic exploitation" is as possible as today. Problems related with the existing markets remain. Therefore, our proposal is certainly not an idealized society without problems. It is simply another method of conflict handling.

A Golden Rule anarchy will be not that different from existing society. The difference between former Eastern European socialistic states and Western democratic states is possibly greater.

Reasons for failure

Let's now consider another important counter-argument. Once we have no anarchy yet, but states, there should be reasons for this. Possibly there is something wrong with anarchy. As long as we do not understand the reason for previous failure, there is something wrong with the theory.

Now, our answer consists of two parts. First, anarchistic principles are successful in various domains. That means, there are important partial realizations of anarchy, and they are successful. It is therefore only a very special domain where anarchy has not been successful.

Second, we know about a problem of anarchy in this domain. Fortunately, it is a technological problem which may be solved with a modern information technology.

The problem of information handling we consider elsewhere, let's consider now various partial realizations:

Anarchy between states

First, the whole world today is anarchistic, there is no superiour world government. And competition between different states for capital has an essential influence on the states – they behave in a much more civilized way. We have seen examples where open peaceful competition has destroyed bad competitors in a civilized, peaceful way - the "German Democratic Republic" (former communist East Germany) has not survived the opening of the wall. In this sense, statism is much more utopical – a world government, even states unregulated by competition with other states, do not exist.

Markets

Of course, the main argument against the state is the success of markets in almost every domain where the market has been in competition with state regulation.

It is often claimed that the market requires regulation by the state. But this is wrong. The existence of illegal markets, for example for drugs and prostitution, proves that markets are possible without state, even against the state.

Of course, these illegal markets have serious problems. They are not ideal – there is low quality control, the methods used to enforce contracts are not very nice. But these problems have a simple explanation – the use of other, civilized methods is impossible because of the restrictions by the state. The mafia is unable to support a prison system and open court hearings because that's made illegal and too complex to survive in illegality. Therefore, it is unreasonable to blame the illegal markets for using other methods. To conclude that really free markets have the same problems as illegal markets is unjustified.

Low scale anarchism

Anarchy works on the low scale too. Of course, there are also a lot of families where a person has a monopoly of force. Nonetheless, a lot of families do not have such superiour instances, and their family life is much better described as anarchy. There are also enough examples of small communities with a more or less anarchistic type of organization.

Internet

A very interesting example of large scale anarchy is the net.

In the internet we observe very interesting and important things. Especially that rules may be enforced without the authority of a state.

Resume

The purpose of this short overview was not to discuss these examples, but to show that anarchism is not very utopian. It is utopian only in a very weak sense – that it has not been realized yet.

But utopian ideas of this type are necessary for progress. The society we have today was in the same sense utopian in the past.

Step-by-step transformation is possible

Another problematic feature typically related with utopian proposals is that they require a complete reconstruction of the whole society from the scratch instead of step-by-step transformations.

This is also not a property of our proposal. Instead, a scenario of step-by-step transformation is possible. Even more – it is not even necessary: A rigorous, one-step transformation is possible too. Indeed, it simply rejects all monopoly rights of the state, allows everybody what is allowed today only for the state. This does not require to forbid any existing method.

The possibility to enforce ethical rules is realistic

The concept requires what a certain ethical rule – the Golden Rule – should be enforced without a superiour military power. Is this utopian?

The answer is certainly no. The point is that we already enforce comparable ethical rules – named democracy, human rights, justice. This is not easy, but experience shows that it is not impossible. All we need is that the majority of people accepts the Golden Rule as a restriction for the state too. If this happens, in democratic states the transformation is possible in the straightforward legal way – by winning elections.

No idealization of human beings is required

Does the concept require an idealization of human beings?

Not at all. All we need is that the majority rejects a certain behaviour of others – in this case, of states today or syndicates in Golden-Rule-anarchy – as unethical. This is something people already like to do – to criticize others.

If these organizations behave as required by the ethical rule is a different question. But it is completely sufficient for stability of Golden-Rule anarchy if they behave in agreement with the rule as well as states today behave in agreement with their own constitution. This is certainly not unrealistic. Moreover, a syndicate is much weaker compared with a state today, and therefore much more sensitive to public pressure.

Are there other reasons for failure?

Another interesting argument against various utopian proposals is that there are objective reasons for the failure of these concepts, but the authors have not understood them. One variant of this criticism claims to know these objective reasons for failure, another variant simply claims that there must be such reasons once previous attempts have failed.

This argument is, of course, a very strong one, it has to be taken seriously. Of course, it is not decisive. It would be decisive only if we assume that no progress in society is possible in principle. Indeed, every progress has to face similar counter-arguments.

The other meaning is simply that such a society has not yet been realized. In this sense, this anarchistic concept may be considered as utopian. But in this sense the modern democratic state was also utopian some years ago. Thus, this cannot be a decisive argument against Golden Rule anarchy.

Nonetheless, it is an important fact which has to be taken seriously. Especially it is necessary to understand why we have states today and not anarchy. There may be reasons for having a state instead of anarchy. Of course, it is impossible to prove in theory that there are no such hidden problems – only realization of the project proves that it is realistic.

Nonetheless, I have identified an important reason for failure of anarchy in the past – a failure which was unavoidable in a large society without modern information technology: the problem of trusting a stranger.