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”.…
In part 1, I defined the state as a pattern of behaviors coupled with a collective interpretation of that pattern. In this second part, I move on to the case for anarchism proper. I begin by showing that the case for the state is inherently one from necessary evil. If I’m right, and it turns out that the state is not necessary after all, it follows that it is undesirable. This is what I argue in the first half of the episode. I conclude with an extended discussion of strategy. If the state is undesirable, then how should we go about getting rid of it? By analyzing what the state is, we see that both revolution and activism are unlikely to succeed. The only path forward with a real chance of success is agorism.
Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
0:20 – Quick part 1 recap
1:05 – Necessary evil
4:39 – “Necessary” is part of the CIF
6:43 – General rule: less is necessary than appears to be
8:30 – The significance of empirical counterexamples
11:52 – Polycentrism
14:50 – Competition facilitates accountability
22:13 – Against revolution
24:44 – Against activism, for agorism
30:28 – Obsession with combating Trump
34:06 – Objections to “see no evil”
36:00 – Empirical effectiveness of activism
38:12 – Capitalism v.…
What does the Stanford Prison Experiment have to do with a case for anarchism?
In this episode, I argue for a certain view of the state. Piggybacking off Max Weber’s definition of the state as a “human community that successfully claims the monopoly over the use of physical force within a given territory”, I propose a similar but broader definition. Whereas Weber’s definition is a political one, based on power analysis, my definition purports to be sociological, and therefore less morally charged than Weber’s. Crucial to my take on the state is the concept of a Collective Interpretive Framework (CIF) – a shared lens through which we interpret reality. I argue that the state is a function of a particular CIF; in other words, it is a certain CIF we share that causes reality to manifest governments. This view of the state as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” and “shared hallucination” sets the stage for the case for anarchism coming in part 2.
0:20 – What I’m arguing and what I’m not
4:33 – Stanford Prison Experiment
12:04 – Weber’s definition of the state
13:17 – The “human community”
14:14 – Who has the power?
19:10 – The sociological v. political perspectives
21:47 – The correct definition of the state
23:23 – Mafias and cults
25:07 – Collective interpretive framework: necessary, inevitable, legitimate, real
29:05 – Summary so far
29:52 – The state-generating feedback loop
33:04 – Applying the analysis to all social phenomena
34:27 – Stanford Prison Experiment as metaphor
36:49 – Setting up part 2