A Matter of Scale

in #anarchy4 years ago (edited)

Imagine that you and five or six of your friends decide to go on a camping trip in the woods. What would your reaction be if one of those friends said the following?:

It sounds nice, but who are we going to appoint to be in charge? I mean, someone who tells the rest of us how to behave, makes all the important choices and tells us what we can and can’t do, and punishes us if we disobey? Because without that—if we each just decide for ourselves what we’re going to do—obviously this camping trip will devolve into violent chaos!

Would you consider such an opinion and suggestion reasonable, useful and necessary? Or would you find it bizarre, irrational and kind of creepy?

To put it another way, in the setting of you and a few friends, would you want authoritarianism, or would you want “anarchy” (no one ruling anyone else)? Incidentally, if everyone voluntarily decides to follow the advice of one person in the group—because maybe he knows more about camping, or maybe he knows the area really well—that’s not at all the same thing as appointing him as ruler, and telling him he gets to force his decisions on everyone else.

Now let’s suppose that, notwithstanding the weird suggestion of your one uber-statist friend, you all embark on this camping expedition anarchist-style, as a bunch of equals figuring things out along the way by consensus and agreement, instead of by coercion and domination.

After hiking for a while you encounter another group of people, about a dozen of them, out backpacking. You see the other group setting up tents for the night, and once again your anxious friend speaks up: “Now we definitely need to pick a leader, a ruler to speak on our behalf and represent us in our dealings with this group of strangers, otherwise they might kill and eat us, or enslave us!

Now would you agree with him? Or would you still behave like an anarchist, not trying to rule anyone or be ruled by anyone, from either group?

Then suppose you go over and chat with that other group of campers, and they mention that there is some big camping event in the area, and there are many hundreds of campers around. Now your uber-statist friend urgently implores you to listen to him: “With all these people around, strangers whose histories and motives we don’t know, how can we afford to not appoint a master now!? Anything could happen if no one is in charge!

You might then ask him if he really thinks that, even if your little group picked a leader from among you, hundreds of strangers would suddenly obey you. And he might respond, “Well, no, it can’t just be from our group; all the people together have to choose a ruler!

It might then occur to you to ask, if he doesn’t trust that huge group of strangers to behave themselves, why would he trust them to appoint a ruler over everyone? Or, more specifically, if he is scared of an average stranger doing nasty things, why in the world would he trust an average stranger who has been given societal permission to dominate and control him (and everyone else)? At this point your paranoid friend is just about frothing at the mouth. “People acting on their own are unpredictable, careless, sometimes malicious and sadistic! We need LAWS to protect us!!! And we need LAW-MAKERS to write them!!

Aren’t “law-makers” also just people? Aren’t they also sometimes unpredictable, careless, malicious and sadistic? In fact, aren’t politicians universally recognized as being less honest and more power-happy than the general public?


Then you might have to tell your friend:

    • As unpredictable or nasty as some people may be, there is no magic spell to make everyone be nice, or to always protect the good people from the bad people.
    • Giving someone power over you isn’t going to make them less of a threat to you, and isn’t going to make them more honest or virtuous than they were before. (In fact, as the saying goes, “power corrupts.”)
    • It’s just a bunch of people out camping. Chill out.

But then the question becomes, at what scale do you suddenly think that human interaction and peaceful coexistence requires, or is even helped by, giving some people permission to forcibly rule everyone else? How big does the crowd have to be before you think a coercive ruler is going to make things better? Mind you, organization and cooperation—which occur all over the place, every day, on a voluntary basis—are not the same as authoritarian power. In fact, true cooperation and violent domination are mutually exclusive.

So, when you’re finished chuckling at your mentally unstable, state-worshiping friend, make sure you don’t have a touch of the same psychosis he has. At what point, at what scale, do you start to repeat the absurd idea that peaceful coexistence requires coercive “government”? How many people, or how big an area, does it take before you start asking for politicians and their hired enforcers (tax collectors, police, soldiers, etc.) to extort and dominate everyone, including you, for the “common good”?

Around the world and throughout history, people in positions of “authority” have committed far more theft, assault, terrorism and murder than normal people, by a huge margin. To trust people more when they have the power to forcibly extort and control you is just plain stupid. Anyone who says that “government” and political “authority” are necessary for, or conducive to, civil society, is merely repeating blatantly absurd lies—lies taught to him by those who want to rule over others.

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(Larken Rose is a speaker, author and activist, having advocated the principles of non-aggression, self-ownership and a stateless, voluntary society for over twenty years. Donations to help support his articles, videos and other projects can be made by PayPal to "[email protected]" or by Bitcoin to 13xVLRidonzTHeJCUPZDaFH6dar3UTx5js.)


Unlike most people (statists), I think the smaller the scale, the more workable hierarchy is (like in a family) but that as the group gets larger, decentralization works much better. Sharing, for example, works well in a family environment. EF Schumacher pointed out in "Small is Beautiful" that sharing requires a framework of love/caring/emotion to occur. One thing statists/socialists never seem to notice, though, is that sharing also assumes ownership, which is why even a small family isn't really all that socialist.

I was about to nitpick a bit, but then you did it at the end anyway. :) Very small groups, like families, can look almost "socialist" in their functioning, but they still aren't really. They're just very informal and generous with giving and sharing PROPERTY.

This is a good analogy if you take it a little farther. You're right that the notion is a camping dictator is absurd, but it is also clear that there is a need for the capacity to make collective decisions - where to set up camp, what group activities to engage in, and that there's a natural delineation between what the collective should decide and what individuals should decide.

Any group of people is going to need a system for deciding who gets to consume what resources, who gets to dump their waste where, etc, but it doesn't have to be a top-hierarchal notion of a state.

This is the distinction between government and governance. The former is arguably unnecessary, and usually oppressive. The latter is necessary if pursued conscientiously, liberating.

I think that's where public choice theory could come into play. It's a field of economics that studies how groups of people manage a commons without a governing body.

Insert mandatory Elinor Ostrom citation

I'm not sure why you would call it "governance," but otherwise I agree. "Governance" is from the same root as "governing," which almost always means one person or group forcibly controlling another. Consensus and agreement are not that.

You can use whatever words you choose; there are other more apt words to be found. When I say "government" here, I'm referring to a state or particular ruler. When I say "governance", I'm referring to the system by which group behavior emerges, whether it be through voluntary or involuntary processes. In the analogy, you and your friends aren't just aimlessly wandering the forest. There is deliberation and coordination of behavior.

It's going to be a great day when force and violence isn't used by government, because there won't be any.

governance - because we need some kind of control, or there will be anarchy!

government = control of the mind.
governance = control, using force over others.
anarchy = the absence of rulers.

In the future, things will be decided by all whom it affects.
There will not be a formal structure, it will just happen because that is the proper thing to do.
It will probably happen by the thing that replaces google making sure that all residents, and common visitors are notified of a proposed change. And then a discussion/forum will take place.

To proceed without this process will result in a backlash that no one will want to face. Further, having happy neighbors is of paramount importance.

There will be no governance creating this far better outcome.
In face, governance always puts a stop to actual discussion. Ending up with those with power silencing their opposition.

That is not how I'm those words. See my other response.

Yes, I saw that. And I do not agree with your choice of how to use those words.
I do understand that government schooling has minced these words badly, and so they must be made proper, and defined such.

The words you are looking for are government and community.

Community is the system by which group behavior emerges.
It does not come about by someone (with "authority") shouting that this should be the way the group behaves. In fact, if such happens, it usually has the opposite effect.

i.e. "Don't commit suicide, call this number for help" - increases the rate of suicides wherever it is posted.

Wow @larkenrose, this is some good talk, good analogy too, but I can't agree completely you know, a thing as simple as a camping can be organized easily without a ruler or government, but when it comes to a complicated arrangement like a big state things end up more complex. A lot of organization and probably some authority is required to keep things straight.

I hate government, but I believe it is a somewhat necessary evil. We need government but I'll say a different type of government that we have now, which is a less centralized, a more democratic, and a more honest government. These are what we need. It might seem difficult or impossible to achieve but we really have to strive towards this.


Go to the nearest supermarket. See how complex it all is, the level of organization and cooperation involved. Then see how many people are FORCED to do any of that. (Hint: none of them.) Giving some people the RIGHT TO RULE is not only completely unnecessary to complex organization and cooperation; it is also immoral and drastically destructive.

Love the analogy of a big camping event and societal structures. People do seem to believe that appointment of leaders, no matter how flawed, is better than thinking for themselves. Worse yet, it is not the cream that rises to the top. I could not help but think of Lord of the Flies as I read your post. Again, whip up some fear to gain control and power. The world will disagree with me, but I see religion having the same characteristics. Great thought provoking post, @larkenrose!

Groups can have leaders and followers can think for themselves. Your comment is superficial and dehumanizing.

I respect the fact that you disagree with me, @itsokaytoeatmayo. Our differences in opinion are what make diversity of thought such a beautiful thing. Have a great day!

It is an odd predicament.

Many times in a group of people there is often a leader who rises from within due to their trustworthiness, performance, dependability, selflessness, and so on and so forth. BUT having such a leader AND giving them such power can leave the group as a whole weaker should that leader perish.

There are moments when consent within a group is terribly difficult to achieve and ofter you need that "leadership" individual to make a decision that everyone goes along with BECAUSE of the trust that leader has earned.

Without that person the group may never agree on anything and become stagnant at best, dissolve at worst.

Great post. Thank you. Merry christmas!!!

"if he doesn’t trust that huge group of strangers to behave themselves, why would he trust them to appoint a ruler over everyone?"

This is a very, very, very good point!

Just came over from Sola. I like your article. I agree with your point of view however our old system trained people to function and to obey and it takes a lot of awareness and reprogramming to adapt to a selfresponsible and cooperative lifestyle. Most people are used to „rulers“ to think for them. As I mentioned before, communities such as Steemit can be a solution to learn win-win coexistence. Happy New Year!

Nice,I want to your friend. I ever vote you and you vote me.thangk you. :)

Excellent article. Resteemed!

I enjoy your articles. I have a question for you. If you could live (and maybe you do) in any city in the world right now for at least the next couple of years, where would it be and why?

Frostproof, FL. They are 2/3rds the way "there". Best county right now, is Barry Co., MI. Sheriff Dar Leaf will arrest any govStooge who violates Title 18, Sec. 241 & 242. He is VERY militia-friendly. He is considering going full bore with the Deputiz'm Plan. We "minarchos" are taking aim in Freeport, MI and the anarchos are looking at the unincorprated area south of Lake Odessa. 2018 is goin' LIVE. Join with us.

Very nice picture thanks

I could see a side-by_side story of a bunch of voluntaryists camping and how that would go.... "hey fellow campers for anyone needs soap I've got a whole squirt bottle." "That's cool I have a loaf of bread." "Sweet I brought a hunk of cheese." "Hey guys I'm gonna put the extra kindling over here." "No wait, tom already has a stack over there." Meanwhile, later that night... "Ken don't put that food in your tent." "It's cool I know what I'm doing." "But Ken if you do that you will put usb all in danger." "So what. I do what I want." "Okay, Ken. But I'm gonna move my tent way over here." "Yeah Ken, dumb idea, I'm moving now too."

I've been in the woods camping with voluntaryists. First of all, we all do use currency, of various kinds. Trade occurs amongst all free humans too, but currency like cash, crypto, or metals are used as mediums of exchange.

Also, most voluntaryists I have had the pleasure of dining with, camping with, or hanging out with in general, are way smarter than the average idiot who would leave food in his tent in bear country. :)

Not to mention, if a person did that and was ignorant as to the danger, chances are he will listen to the advice of his friends when several of them say, "Woah, dude. Bad move." Lol

Honestly from the hundreds of anarchists Ive met and known, I generally have to say I've never run into a more considerate, and easy to get along with group of people. :)

I'm not sure how you misssd my point here but that's cool. I was trying to say how autonomous individuals get along just fine with no govt.

In other words, statists are fucking stupid.

Not really. They have been programmed and indoctrinated to believe that, all of their lives.
Saying they are stupid does little to help them break their conditioning.

Best point; I have consider myself an anarchist for the last 20 years and only now I understand how ridiculous the idea of a state is. I always disliked the idea, but never understood how stupid and unnatural it is!

Exactly! Plus when we go around labeling others as stupid we tend to forget how prone we can be ourselves.

Unfortunately, they are geniuses when one ponders how they keep so many in the world believing it's right to submit to them for much of their lives. Think about it. Immoral, but certainly not stupid.

A good one, Larken. Hope you have a great Xmas! :-)

I have been at libertarianism since 1976. I am still waiting for the anarchos to show us more than "tent city" here and there. So far all we see is talking, writing and camping. Derrick Broze attempted to get some sort of internal marketing organized... Can we at least see one little village somewhere? I would invest in some time-share property there.

One little village of what? Since almost every inch of inhabitable land on the planet is claimed by one authoritarian ruling class or another, any "village" of people not paying tribute to the political masters and obeying their dictates is going to be invaded by armed thugs.

Are you ready to throw in the towel, or do you believe we should try some things?... I believe the Founders gave us the means to hold off the "armed thugs". Sheriff Richard Mack, with only a few Barney Fife deputies did it. So did Sheriff Brad Rogers, protecting his Amish citizens in Elkhart Co., IN. I am pretty sure Sheriff Dar Leaf of Barry Co., MI would follow suit. ...and I have a young anarcho who I'd like to introduce to you. He lives close to Barry Co., and has been in meetings with our patriot group when we discuss this stuff with Sheriff Leaf. He is ready to back us and even arrest perps of Title 18, Sec. 241 & 242 violations. Shoot me an email. [email protected]

Oh, and in addition, I am communicating with Broze about this:

What sayeth? Vinny has a few vids on the subject. They are all good.

Very nice nature and nice season

Wow I love camping in the woods withy friends

Finally my upvote counted for $35 instead of 2¢.

Very interesting, i also love camping with friends.

Can you imagine, walking up to a group of campers and saying,
"Take me to your leader".

I wonder why all the alien encounter movies started with this line?

Since you mentioned it, here is a video someone made based on a talk I gave:

That is gold! Love it!

I just watched @movie #bloodmoney and it was baised on camping couple of friend went on camping and they find 4 million dollor in wood and they their real personalies comes on their faces... Beaware to take loyal friends with you,you never know what lies infornt of you.

Peace and love and liberty.

Love the way you try and plant some seeds of truth into the zombified minds of the masses. It certainly is I believe the MOST worthwhile endeavor to be taking and I hope I can help spread your message, great piece, very relatable.

Hey zoomT. 2018 is going to be a great year for Liberty. Enough are coming off the Trump WWE-style act, False Hope high, and are ready to dig their heels in. [email protected] Happy New Year.

I agree! I'll shoot you an email, I have been wanting to do a talk show youtube (d.tube) about this insanity maybe you join me sometime.

yes. Just responded to your email. Do you have a You Tube channel?

dude... Why are you keeping this a "family secret"? Will they take crypto for chocolate? https://www.dbchocolate.com/

I thought about it, but the truth is what I believe is not compatible with retail business and since I am not really involved in day to day operations I figured it was a no win. My family does not agree with what I believe to be true, nor do most of the customers and I have already spent a looooong time trying to get the business to make money to this point lol. Sucks but it is what it is.
Thanks for asking and who knows...

not sure if I sent you this link, but it helps with advertising, the one bot pays smartmarket (at the bottom in its own section)135% after curation.


oh. man. WAAAAAY over my 62 year old brain. LOL

I hear you, I barely understand this stuff. haha

First I want to thank you for the new follow !
I would like to continue with telling you that it was an interesting read , you got me thinking and I’d like to share my thought.
I’ll share my experience, I am a part of a men circle, we are a circle, we have no leaders , tho naturally at times , some of us are more passive and some are more active , and that changes frequently.
When we need to make decisions, we sit in a circle and communicate in a form called “workshop” .we don’t argue , cancel each other out , each person speaks there mind not relating or commenting to others . We try to be sensitive to the field that is created between us , we respect it and nurture it , we call that field “the center of the circle”
But when we are talking about a large group of people , different rules apply, naturally some people are more attracted to lead , or are better skilled for that position, it’s the job of the others to direct the leaders so it could be more beneficial to all .
But we are not living in an ideal world and things are not as simple , we are controlled by our ego , that’s why until we are free from it we will never be able to create a perfect society

Great stuff, as usual; thanks for the examples.. although I talk to some people and their neurons have been indoctrinated to only output certain responses.. it literally is like talking to a wall... or like trying to describe a painting to a blind person.. they are completely blind to this type of logical information.

Great Article !

Utopian Anarchy only works if each member is self disciplined enough to be respectful of each member's space. In the real world, you can look up group dynamics, race & IQ to figure out how people will authentically respond.

Tip: homogeneous demographics need less authority because we identify with our group as being human and other groups as sub human.

Mayo? It depends on who makes it. wink

I've always thought like this, but couldn't of put it in words as well as you have. Thanks!

I guess then my only question would be: How do you "punish" behavior non-conducive to the benefit of the many?

Simply brilliant so well put saved printed and resteemed! FANTASTIC!

Very nice nature and nice season