Friday, February 12, 2010

What would an Anarchist society look like?

db0 asks What would an Anarchist society look like?

I'm curious as to my readers' thoughts on this article. The acrimony and personal hostility between him and me is simply too great for anyone to reasonably trust my analysis to be sufficiently unbiased.


  1. I'm skeptical that the order that emerged from an anarchist society would be a desirable one. First of all, would a useful order emerge? We aren't birds in flight, or non-linear equations. Second, I've watched the documentary he cites (and yea it is good). It points out that there is only a single instance where chaotic order can be harnessed to create useful forms, that is, via evolutionary selection. Now, at the risk of sounding like the kind of demented moralists who hysterically warn against depraved "Darwinist" theorists like Francis Galton and try to make that an indictment against evolutionary theory, the fact is that evolution can be a pretty messy process. So, exactly how is this chaotic order to be established?

    It's often astounding that those dubious about the efficacy of evolution (think conservative Republicans) place total trust in simple free market rule systems to create desirable order out of nothing. This is basically the gift that Adam Smith gave us, and it keeps on giving.

    Don't get me wrong, I Do believe it is significant that free market economics demonstrated significant prescience in identifying the counterintuitive idea that order can emerge from simple rules, even where conflicting interests clash, however economics has also demonstrated that that order is not necessarily congenial to us human beings. You simply cannot posit that order will emerge, and then also that spontaneity will engender benevolence.

  2. It's worth noting that Adam Smith also observed that non-market regulation was both necessary and desirable: markets were good and powerful, but not all-good and all-powerful.

  3. That was very prudent of him.

    I don't want to leave the impression that db0's proposition is wholly absurd. The problem is that there's no possible way to know the nature of the system that would result. It takes extraordinary faith to say that one cannot predict an outcome, yet that it will be a desirable one. When it's put this way (and I really don't think that's an embellishment), I do think the case could be made that anarchism is a pipe dream -- he's essentially made that case himself! It's a bit like playing socio-political Russian Roulette.

  4. My thoughts were pretty much along the same line as Hunt’s. The order that emerges could just as easily be horrific as desirable.

  5. As a computer programmer, I definitely do like detailed specifications. I understand that things will evolve in unpredictable ways, but I want to know what's going to happen tomorrow.

  6. It's also worth noting that any general category of social organization has the potential to turn out horribly.


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