A primer on anarchism from individualist anarchists William Gillis and Ryan Neugebauer. Anarchism is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with a call for chaos and disorder, a characterization which most of its adherents consider to be quite the opposite of what they strive for. But it is difficult to pin down just what unifies the many strands of anarchism under a single umbrella. In this interview, we discuss some of the central ideas behind most forms of anarchism: power dynamics in relationships, hierarchical vs. ‘horizontal’ organization, freedom as consent vs. freedom as the availability of options, among others. We conclude with a discussion on strategy: just what would bring about the end of the state? Does it require violence against the state? Is the aim of anarchism primarily a cultural shift, or is it something more concrete?
For more of Ryan Neugebauer’s take on anarchism, see ‘An Evolving Anarchism‘.
For more of William Gillis’s anarchist thought, found on his website Human Iterations, read ‘Your Freedom is My Freedom: The Premise of Anarchism‘ and ‘You Are Not the Target Audience’.
Center for Stateless Society (where William Gillis is Coordinating Director)
The Seasteading Institute
Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art and The Tin Box for the theme music.
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Nick Bostrom is an Oxford philosopher known for work on ‘anthropic reasoning‘, warnings about the dangers of superintelligent AI, and the simulation argument (see my thoughts on the latter). He recently released a new working paper: ‘The Vulnerable World Hypothesis‘ that poses a strong argument for strengthening global state power. Anarchists and libertarians of all stripes should consider the argument and address it, as it constitutes a serious challenge to their program.
In the paper, Bostrom argues as follows: think of human technological development as an urn filled with balls. Most balls are white: these are mostly beneficial, or at least harmless, technological developments. A few are gray: they’re dangerous and have potentially catastrophic consequences, but either act on a long enough timeline that it’s possible to prevent these consequences, or are otherwise containable (fossil fuels and nuclear weapons might both go under this category). Presumably, there are some black balls. These are the sort that, if anyone discovered this technology, it is almost certain that humanity would suffer a catastrophic, possibly species-annihilating, event within a very short span of time, unless it were possible to very quickly and effectively contain it.
Bostrom elucidates the black ball possibility vividly: we had no reason to assume that something like nuclear power, if it were possible, should be easy or difficult to recreate. Had it turned out that nukes were fairly easy to make in your own basement, we might not be around right now to talk about it.…
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Political philosophy begins with the question: who should have political authority and why? Anarchism answers: no one. Popular mythology tells us this is synonymous with chaos and disorder, but there are many reasons to doubt this must be so. In this episode, I argue that anarchism – properly understood – is in fact the correct answer to the problem of political authority; it is the only answer that avoids unjust hierarchies, provides for individual and social freedom, and optimizes for general welfare. This is because, in a word, society is best seen (and run) as a web, not as a pyramid.
Much of my focus is on specifying what I mean by anarchism, and which version of anarchism I’m arguing for. Specifically, I argue that the notion of a free market – again, properly understood – is at the heart of anarchism. At the same time, I argue against “capitalism” as being a confused and rather unhelpful notion, quite removed from the notion of a free market. I also argue against popular libertarian approaches to free markets and anarchism, such as the so-called “non-aggression principle” and property rights. Instead, I zero in on a notion of free market defined as a cultural norm in which monopolies are viewed as unacceptable. Only this definition, I argue, properly communicates what a free market really is and only it provides the necessary conditions for a free and prosperous society. It is, at the same time, a maximally permissive definition: it requires no particular views on interpersonal ethics or lifestyle, and is as compatible with (for example) communism as it is with more familiar notions of “free markets”.…
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