Minarchism, Anarchism, and Democracy: A Shared Challenge

Minarchism–basically as small a government as we can get away with–is probably the most economically efficient possible way to organize society. A night watchman state providing courts of last resort and just enough military to keep someone worse from taking over.

The trouble (argues my inner anarchist) is that if we’ve got a government–an organization allowed to force/forbid behaviors–we’re already on the slippery slope to abuse of powers through political trading. Without an entrenched culture that takes minarchism seriously it’s only a matter of time before a) the state grows out of control and you’re no longer in a minarchist Utopia, or b) a populace unwilling to do their part allows violent gangs to fill the power vacuum.

Having a government at all is a risky proposition from the perspective of someone worried about the abuse of that power. Better not to risk it at all.

Anarchism relies on the right culture in a similar way. This is clear to critics of anarchism (basically it’s just the minarchists who are willing to take anarchists seriously at all) and is the crux of an important argument against anarchism. Without the right culture, what’s to stop people from just creating some new government? Nothing at all.

In fact, we face the same problem in the military-industrial-nanny-state complex of our imperfect real world. For any government–or lack of government–to work, the ideological framework of the people living in that society has to line up properly. To the extent people are ignorant, distracted, short-sighted, biased, or mean-spirited, we get governance that reflects those flaws.

If we want to live in a better world, we can argue all day about what sort of government we do or don’t want. But ultimately we have to work on improving the culture, because the median voter is still in charge.

11 thoughts on “Minarchism, Anarchism, and Democracy: A Shared Challenge

  1. And how do we work on improving the culture?

    I certainly agree that culture is essential. But, do you have anything more specific?

    Another issue with minarchism and anarchism are that in the vacuum people have historically replaced them with extended families and clans, which in many and possibly most ways are worse than governments, especially at [not] creating institutions of development and growth.

  2. The idea of an anarchic techno-utopia arising with the increasing interconnectedness of nations, cultures and peoples, and decreasing (personal) significance of local or distant government, is sort of a nice one. But it would happen naturally or not at all. So long as a majority of people want a government, there will be a government, realistically.

    As far as influencing culture goes, the first step would be to shed everyone’s immediate, indoctrinated thoughts on anarchism — “chaos, riots in the streets, raping, pillaging,” and locate the various philosophical traditions alongside mainstream thought.

    • Connecting your two paragraphs together it seems one way to both encourage the process and change minds is to foster smaller scale successes which prove the possibility. The way to change minds is to show it is possible and create smaller scale successes which are enlarged and emulated and improved over time.

  3. I endorse what you say, but I have come up with my own variant- Meridocracy. The motto is ‘Share Power’, and we could keep government small by having a time-share system of government. If an adult wants to be a citizen, then the cost is to perform some community service for eleven months of the year (Fire brigade, paramilitary patrols, etc.) and in your birth-month all same month citizens would be the government of your canton. No permanent government, and no politiking. We could simplify things if appointments are based on seniority, so the eldest-serving citizen of a month becomes Mayor, and so on.

    • And when February people form their one-month government, they can reset the tax rates! Which month were you born in, Rick?

  4. Also, if your Canton did need some permanent public or civic servants, then each month could send its’ best volunteers to contests, and any positions could be offered to the Champions, and councils of champions might be a second chamber of review, or the people to send to other Cantons to negotiate any border issues, and standards for use on public properties, etc.
    And what happens to those who don’t want to be citizens? They would be like guests, or tourists, who must obey the local rules, but would have no vote in the rules, by their own choice.
    After all, authoritarians seek to concentrate power. If we disperse it, and all have a hand in government, then this will keep governments, and laws, small.

    • I like the idea of requiring in-kind/time contributions. Probably less efficient within the narrow context of any one job, but I suspect that cost would be outweighed by the greater buy-in.

    • That’s what I’m hoping will happen. That, and the thought of automatically becoming part of the government, might be a powerful incentive to become a citizen of such a Meridocracy.

  5. […] I have not been paying attention to the election news cycle. I have dropped out of that system. I am lucky that I was born in the United States. I marvel at the underpinnings of the American constitutional order (an internationalist order). I understand that self-government and elections go hand-in-hand (if only we were all enlightened anarchists). […]

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