There’s one criticism that statists make against libertarians and anarchists that has teeth. “What will replace the state?” or in other words “what would stop an organization from becoming powerful enough to become a state in a stateless society?” To be honest, I think that if we pushed a magic button that made the US federal, state, and local governments disappear from existence we would see a new government form within a generation or two. Right now the masses of people would rather live under the reign of a government that “protects” their rights, but also violates them… all the time. You know, kind of like hiring a bodyguard that shows up for work, gives you quick right hook to the face, and takes 20 bucks out of your wallet. He then tells you what you can and cannot do for the rest of the day. If you violate one of his rules he takes more of your money or locks you in a cage. For your protection, of course. Sounds dreamy. The only thing that can replace the state is the individual that considers themselves to be the only government that they need. A lone republic, if you will.
I think we are already on our way to being ready for a stateless society. If humanity continues extending moral principles until they are universal, then it would be hard to not arrive there. Even if no one alive now will even get close to seeing it. Humanity has overcome many of its obviously nasty habits. In the west and most of the world slavery has been ended, full personhood has been extended to all races and both sexes, and interpersonal violence is at a historical low (even if gun-control advocates refuse to see it). The latest movements are for the tolerance of alternative sexualities and recreational drug use. As far as interpersonal interactions go, we are making a lot of progress.
That being said, we still have a ways to go. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that people have been trained to be nice, but not to have principles. We all know that stealing is immoral, but if enough people vote for it then it is moral. If I were to take $20 out of your wallet you would call me a thief. If I gathered 20 of my friends and came to your house and demanded you hand over your TV you would call us a bunch of thieving thieves. If I’m a legislator and pass a law in your state to take 20% of your income to spend on the state projects that I want, then I become a “public servant”. If the principle of “do not steal” applies to the individual, but not to the collective or to a subset of people, then it is no longer a principle. It is a tool one set of people will use to loot the rest. Every moral principle applied to the individual must be applied to everyone at all times. Otherwise theft becomes taxation, murder becomes war, kidnapping becomes arrest, threats become legislation, and debt becomes meaningless. A cold hard look at our current society reveals that politicians are immune to the moral principles applied to the citizens they “represent”. No wonder nothing ever changes. Its a pretty sweet situation politicians have for themselves. Most people have been taught to be “nice”, not principled, and thats why the legitimacy of the state is accepted as is the bickering over the rules that one group wants to impose on another.
There is almost a correlation between man’s willingness to extend moral principles and the type of government that it tolerated. When morality was used by the rich and powerful as a weapon to make people submit to their will we had monarchies and feudalism. Many a king has used God as a morality shield. They had the ability to punish others for their wrong-doings while getting a pass on their immorality. As we extended personhood to more adult men. We got the beginnings of democracy and other representative forms of government. Those in power could no longer be as open about their corruption as they use to be. It’s been a bloody path and there have been missteps. In the quest to make everyone equal some countries tried communism and socialism. It cost humanity hundreds of millions of lives. We are now at a tipping point where people are beginning to come to grips with universalizing morality to all individuals. Social tolerance is becoming the norm and politicians, though as corrupt as ever, make every desperate effort to appear not corrupt. I think we are approaching the end of the usefulness of democracy. Even if the we were not working towards universalizing moral principles, the internet is going to make the state obsolete. The icing on the cake it that modern democracies are in a race to see which will collapse first from debt and overzealous regulating.
As I see it, the liberty movement is mainly a moral one. It is useful to argue the superior economic and societal results of a free society, but I don’t know of any social movement that won by arguing with statistics and studies. Successful social movements stand firm on the grounds that group x or y must be granted the same moral standards and protections as the rest of society. Our main mission is to universalize morality and to convince people to be principled. Politicians and bureaucrats must to be restrained by universal moral principles. There is one group that we often forget about when it comes to extending moral principles; children. Whether you want to call it the nonaggression principle or universal morality, it must also apply to them. That means all aggressions like spanking, threats, and abandonment must be avoided. It is socially unacceptable for an adult to strike or threaten another. How can children learn to fully grasp the skills needed to operate in a free society if they are not shown from the start? If spanking and appeals to authority are used instead of negotiation and conflict resolution then how can we expect them to have those skills mastered by adulthood? If we act like the government when we’re raising kids then don’t be surprised when they embrace it as adults. Of all the things that we can do to prepare for a peaceful and free society, improving the way we raise kids is perhaps the most important. Everyone should be able to get on this train, even if you believe in the legitimately of the state. Do it for the kids, bro! They’re the future!
When society values universal principles like the NAP then we will be able to just let the the state fade into our history. We have left the other forms of the state in the past after society’s morality no longer allowed for them. No one ever argues that without a monarchy there will be a void that will eventually have to be filled by another monarchy. This is because the beliefs of our society will not allow it. A society that values universal principles values the individual and voluntary interaction. That is how the individual will replace the state.
Stefan Molyneux on the NAP and children: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB3F2CF45EEB95C80
Image: flickr/Kevin Hutchinson @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/hutchike/