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Why should one consider anarchism in the first place?

by Bryan Caplan

Unlike many observers of history, anarchists see a common thread behind most of mankind's problems: The state. In the twentieth century alone, states have murdered well over one hundred million human beings, whether in war, concentration camps, or man-made famine. And this is merely a continuation of a seemingly endless historical pattern: Almost from the beginning of recorded history, governments have existed. Once they arose, they allowed a ruling class to live off the labour of the mass of ordinary people; and these ruling classes have generally used their ill-gotten gains to build armies and wage war to extend their sphere of influence. At the same time, governments have always suppressed unpopular minorities, dissent, and the efforts of geniuses and innovators to raise humanity to new intellectual, moral, cultural, and economic heights. By transferring surplus wealth from producers to the state's ruling elite, the state has often strangled any incentive for long-run economic growth and thus stifled humanity's ascent from poverty; and at the same time the state has always used that surplus wealth to cement its power.

If the state is the proximate cause of so much needless misery and cruelty, would it not be desirable to investigate the alternatives? Perhaps the state is a necessary evil which we cannot eliminate. But perhaps it is rather an unnecessary evil which we accept out of inertia when a totally different sort of society would be a great improvement.

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