Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anarchy Malarkey

While discussing socialism and the requisite use of force in such a system, the notion of anarchy was introduced. A self-labeled “Anarcho-socialist” bemoaned the fact that Anarcho-socialism is often conflated with Statist-socialism, when in fact they are disparate theories of governance (or the supposed lack thereof) and economics.

While these systems are indeed dissimilar in their utopian visions, both are unbiblical in their approaches to ethics and economics. Statist- socialists, who take by force the wealth of one group of citizens and give that wealth to another group of citizens, are guilty of breaking the Eighth Command: You shall not steal.

While Anarcho-socialists have no designs for the forced redistribution of wealth (though it is rather difficult to envision folks voluntarily giving their wealth to others), they are nevertheless advocating rebellion against God. That is, they are philosophically opposed to that which God ordains, viz. government (Romans 13:1-7).

Governments are ordained by God. When I speak of governments I have in mind three spheres of rulership: the family, the church, and the state; each of these rules according to divinely delegated authority. Thus, these governments are not autonomous but answer to God’s authority and standard as revealed in scripture.

Hence, Paul writes: “Whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2). Therefore, anarchy cannot be sustained or maintained, and in the final analysis, I don’t think it can even be momentarily truly attained.

My dialogue partners’ words appear bold and italicized.


“I really do not feel like debating it. I have had many debates over the last few months with people about Anarcho-socialism. MOST, not all, but most, choose to ignore the fact that Anarcho-socialists are NOT statists and that they wish to abolish the government. They ARE libertarians. I have seen the wildest accusations thrown at both my friends and myself over it and I have had enough.”

Are there any historical/contemporary examples of sustained, voluntary, non-Statist, National Socialism? Also, are there any historical/contemporary examples of sustainable nation-States that have no civil government?

[Please note: No attempt was made to answer these two questions.] 

“What about voluntary communities (Kibbutz's, Christian intentional communities, etc.)? People intentionally coming together to pool resources, without the threat of violence hanging over their heads?”

There may be "communities" but these are quite small. Right? I'm speaking specifically of "national socialism"...voluntary, non-Statist socialism on the national level. Any examples of this?

“What's the difference between an intentional community and a "nation," aside from their size? (and of course, the latter's boundaries being propped up by the state, and the former's boundaries enforced through voluntary/peaceful association and agreement?)”

I'm not particularly interested in getting too involved in what properly/biblically constitutes a "nation."

So...let's keep it simple. When I speak of "nations," within the context of this thread, I am speaking of entities such as Germany, Japan, and the United States.

When you introduce the term "community" I have in mind a group of folks joined in voluntary association. Examples of communities--as I am thinking of the term within the context this discussion--would be groups such as local Boy Scouts, the Hell's Angels (though I don't know how "voluntary" it is once in!), and perhaps a local Lion's Club.

“Anarcho-socialists are anarchists, which means they have no desire to create a ‘national socialism.’"

As I further contemplate the concept, I do not believe that anarchy is sustainable in a community or a nation ("community" or “nation" as discussed above).

Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "anarchy" thus: "the complete absence of government."

In accord with Webster’s dictionary, it was previously said that anarchists desire the abolition of government. But is the complete or total absence of government attainable—much less sustainable? I don't believe it is.

What I mean is this: Anarchists may be rid of official government but they cannot be rid of de facto government. Humans have differing gifts and abilities. Leaders and followers naturally and inevitably emerge—a pecking order, if you will—within all groups; including anarchists. That is, they can strive to be rid of official government but they cannot be rid of human nature (de facto government) while so striving.

Anarchists cannot societally exist without leaders and followers; without organization. The total absence of government cannot attain or sustain human community. The anarchists who advocate that there be no official government do so from within de facto government structures.

(To dispute my thesis of natural, unavoidable de facto government, anarchists will appeal to the writings and sayings of influential anarchists—anarchist leaders, organizers, and thinkers—watch and see!)


  1. Very interesting blog-post. Historically speaking, the Anarchists (esp. Anarcho-Syndicalists) had their greatest claim to fame in Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921) and in the Spanish civil war (around 1930s). You are definitely correct in their quotations of anarchist writers to defend their position(such as Michael Bakunin, Noam Chomsky, etc.). The Anarchist movement was relatively strong in the late 1980s to early 1990s in the US and the ideas seem to be growing again so your post is very relevant. In addition to the great points you make, there seems to be two other systemic problems with the philosophy of anarchism/libertarian socialism in its various forms: (1) It makes a fatal assumption that man is neutral whereas we know he is fallen. He has a proclivity to selfishness and evil. (2) Even if the anarchists were able to remain neutral in regards to greed and oppression they are ripe for cooption and oppression by others whose agenda is not so neutral (Communism, for example)- which is precisely what happened in the Russian and (and to some degree) Spanish movements. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing such helpful information. Indeed, the Bible is clear that man is not morally neutral, and thus any philosophy which which assumes otherwise proves unlivable.

      Thanks again for your input.

  2. Your protagonist asserted that the difference an "intentional community" has would be "boundaries enforced through voluntary/peaceful association and agreement."

    That statement jumped out at me as being at least naive, if not foolish. You pointed out that no such community can exist wthout leaders, organization, and government. And Dr. Carpenter observed accurately that we are naturally fallen and therefore selfish and evil. Both point to the great fallacy of such "communities" - their sustained existence is always in doubt. They are at risk from internal strife and natural desire for control, and they are at great risk from external forces who would take advantage of their peacefulness to take what goods or value they have. There are myriad examples of this, from Germany's ruthless rolling over small benign and defenseless nations at the start of WW II to the ongoing tribal conflicts in places like Africa, where even small gain is possible. Not to mention the many examples of this in scriptures.

    No, man is wicked, and the few such small communities that have existed for brief periods of time have done so within the boundaries of a nation with laws, government, and protection by police or military. That they could exist for any period of time outside that protected environment is simply hubris. Self-deception abounds in their minds: "If we're nice and peaceful, everyone will leave us alone." However lofty or serious their goals, they are undone by human nature. They need a dose of reality, and the Gospel.

    Thanks again for another thought-provoking article.

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    Rick Koenig

    1. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful analysis.

      You are absolutley right: To reject biblical paradigms for humanistic philosophies, to think that man knows better than God, is "simply hubris."

  3. I'm not an anarchist, but to be fair to the other side, most anarchists do recognize the importance of contracts/binding agreements, and realize that there is a need to have 3rd (and even 4th) party arbitrators to enforce contracts and resolve disputes.

    A non-anarchist believes that this function should be in the hands of "the State" (either Federal, State, or local government -- funded through compulsory taxation), while most anarchists argue that this function should be put into the hands of a dispute resolution organization (DRO), and thus be voluntarily funded (you would have the freedom to pick a reputable DRO to arbitrate a contract with another person, in case a dispute arose).


    So technically speaking, most anarchists aren't against "government" in the sense of a body that arbitrates disputes amongst people (what Steve calls "de-facto government"). The question is probably a bit more narrow; namely, whether any tax (the forcible seizure of property) should be compulsory. The anarchist would say "no -- nobody should have their property taken by force or without their consent," while a non-anarchist libertarian might say "only in the case of courts and police," and a Republican might say, "only in the case of courts, police, national defense, border security, etc, etc.").

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      You observe: "Technically speaking, most anarchists aren't against 'government' in the sense of a body that arbitrates disputes amongst people (what Steve calls 'de-facto government')."

      Yes, this is why I say in the second to last paragraph: "Anarchists cannot societally exist without leaders and followers; without organization. The total absence of government cannot attain or sustain human community. The anarchists who advocate that there be no official government do so from within de facto government structures."

      You write: "most anarchists . . . realize that there is a need to have 3rd (and even 4th) party arbitrators to enforce contracts and resolve disputes."

      Here you use a word which utterly demolishes the anarchist's position. The term of which I speak is "ENFORCE."

      How can an anarchist be consistent to his stated principles and yet speak of the ENFORCEMENT of a contract, or the the ENFORCEMENT of anything?

      Call it what you will, but any group or "organization (DRO)" with the power to "ENFORCE" is inconsistent with the stated principles of anarchism.

      Anarchism will not, because it cannot, be societally sustained.

  4. Great post. I'm in the middle of studying and writing on Romans 13:1-7 even today, so it strikes me in a timely fashion. Bible teachers who have seen that passage speaking of the intention of Government and not any particular one have often been accused of wanting anarchy, as are modern, fairly mainstream libertarians. The fallacy being, if you seriously desire the modern State to be cut down to size, you must secretly desire anarchy.

    1. Absolutely right...limited government is in no senese anarchistic.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and may God bless your work in Romans 13.