What’s Stopping You?

Swedish anarchist Per Bylund opines:

“Lawlessness” is sometimes used to define anarchism. Even though it
is true, at least in the sense that anarchism does not allow for
government-enforced laws, there is nothing in the concept of
lawlessness that without a doubt makes it chaotic, destructive, and
war-like. Why would the lack of rules set and enforced by a centralized
power entity mean chaos and destruction?

To draw such a conclusion one will have to embrace the thesis that
man is inherently bad, and would willingly kill, rape, and plunder were
it not for a superior power forcing him not to. Yet, the champions of
this strange philosophy fail to show how a society of such bad people
become a peaceful and orderly society when all are subdued by a single,
centralist power – and how that power, run by men, does not degenerate
into terror and destruction. After all, if man is inherently evil,
there is nothing we can do about it – and it certainly rules out making
some of those inherently evil folks the rulers of others.

All objections to lawlessness (anarchy) essentially amount to what Mr. Bylund is talking about here, in one fashion or another. In fact, anarchy has (falsely) come to be synonymous with the chaos and destruction that’s nihilism, not anarchism.

When finding myself in such discussions I some time ago just began responding with a question: assuming there were no laws whatsoever, who are you going to steal from, rape, and/or murder? Huh? Who? When? This of course compels people to confront (yea, I’ll be bringing it up, explicitly) the real reason they long for the violence inherent in the state: to keep other people in line; and the whole political objective is to try to get that line other people are forced to toe as much in accordance with their own individual values as possible.

In large part, it’s out of fear that people are so willing to sanction violence against others — to kill, imprison, and financially destroy others — so that they may feel safe & sound. But, of course, safety is an illusion. Nowadays, you’re far more likely to have an encounter with a cop than with a real thug intent on doing you real physical harm (and you know how those encounters can be). The fear is foolish; and so the justification for the state largely rests on being played the fool.

But really; what’s stopping you? What is stopping you from raping, killing someone, pillaging a home or business?

Is it only the fear of being caught? That’s all?

Well; that would be sad if you had to realize that you lack a conscience. But let’s suppose it’s true. Let’s suppose that the only thing standing in your way is that you fear being caught and you fear the ensuing consequences. So who would you fear more, police, prosecutors, and the courts, or people with a personal interest in your victim?

It seems to me that the case for the state is not a case for the state at all, but a case against anarchy. And what is the case against anarchy? Well, it seems to begin with the premise that all people are inherently evil, and so we must put a small group of these inherently evil people in charge of everyone else (we’ll erect “checks & balances” — to be checked & balanced by other inherently evil people). Since everyone is evil, we can’t count on conscience or good will and must assume the worst. We must therefore establish institutions to deliver justice, such that people — out of their own carnal self-interest — will fear the repercussions of breaking the rules we establish (and we’ll keep expanding rules, so there will always be rule breakers to set examples). But…but…in order to maintain an effective fear mechanism in this regard (fear of state reprisal for breaking its rules), we must also oppose and put down all other  deterrents (that we’ll smear as “vigilantism”), as such a thing amounts to effective competition by rendering the chief component of the state (fear) as ineffective in comparison to the repercussions likely to be dealt by those with personal interests in victims.

But yea, you’re right. Injustice is likely to happen, sometimes; unlike anything we have any experience with.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Craig J. Bolton on September 28, 2007 at 05:08

    Frankly, I don't think that this argument makes a great deal of sense.

    You are right that the case for government is a case against chaos, but the chaos comes not from EVERYONE acting in an immoral way but from SOME PEOPLE acting in such a way. You aren't going to counter that argument by asking the statist if he will be raping, murdering, and plundering BECAUSE HE'S ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT "THEY" WILL BE. After all, THEY are evil. Nevermind that he may not personally know a great number of "they," and never mind that he might think that he could take care of himself and his family in this society [where, admittedly, police and courts are an after thought]. So, that may not be a psychologically healthy way to view the world, but, in fact, it is the way that most people do view the world.

    The only arguments that are going to "reach" such people aren't "You're a good guy and I'm a good guy, so everyone must be a good guy." but "Government doesn't do what you want it to do." [Extensive examples] and "Anarchy is not lawlessness, it is the REAL situation of REAL laws not of arbitrary and power hungery men."

  2. Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2007 at 18:13


    "…but the chaos comes not from EVERYONE acting in an immoral way but from SOME PEOPLE acting in such a way."

    That's a problem. It's not "chaos." Neither is this an argument for the state, since the state has been around for a very long time, always in the midst of "SOME PEOPLE acting in such a way."

    "'THEY' WILL BE"

    Uh… not will; ARE. That it, in the midst of over 200 years of the American state, and hundreds of years more elsewhere.

    So, in answer to your final paragraph, both arguments are possible, and should be integrated into a comprehensive approach.

    It's like I wrote in the comments over at this post: "Good people are what make for a rational civilization and culture, and there’s no getting around that."

    That government doesn't actually do what it's always argued is its justification to exist is not enough. If people operate on the premise that men are evil by nature, then fear is going to motivate them to accept any force that gives them [false] comfort and the fact that they are actually in more danger slips right on by.

    The utopians (statists) indeed unknowingly accept a great deal of risk in pursuit of their perfect societies.

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