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How might an anarchist society be achieved?

by Bryan Caplan

On one level, most modern anarchists agree fully that education and persuasion are the most effective way to move society towards their ultimate destination. There is the conviction that "ideas matter"; that the state exists because most people honestly and firmly believe that the state is just, necessary, and beneficial, despite a few drawbacks. Winston Churchill famously remarked that, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried." The anarchist's goal is to disprove Churchill's claim: To show that contrary to popular belief, Western democracy is not only bad but inferior to a very different but realistic alternative.

Aside from this, the similarity between anarchist approaches breaks down. In particular, what should the "transitional" phase look like? Anarcho-capitalists generally see every reduction in government power and activity as a step in the right direction. In consequence, they usually support any measure to deregulate, repeal laws, and cut taxation and spending (naturally with the caveat that the cuts do not go nearly far enough). Similarly, they can only hail the spread of the underground economy or "black market," tax evasion, and other acts of defiance against unjust laws.

The desirable transitional path for the left-anarchist is more problematic. It is hard to support expansion of the state when it is the state that one opposes so fervently. And yet, it is difficult to advocate the abolition of e.g. welfare programs when they are an important means of subsistence for the oppressed lower classes of capitalist society. Perhaps the most viable intermediate step would be to expand the voluntary alternatives to capitalist society: Voluntary communes, cooperatives, worker-owned firms, or whatever else free people might establish to fulfil their own needs while they enlighten others.

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