Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to end the state

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
~Henry David Thoreau

The intense passion which drives anarchists to oppose the existence of the state invariably springs from our deep compassion for the suffering of its many victims. The state robs huge portions of the income of all who reside within its borders and utilizes the loot to finance all manner of force on all manner of victims both at home and abroad - ultimately escalating to the mass murder of millions in senseless wars.

Though passionate, we who seek to end the state seem to struggle over how to actually realize the dream. Many strategies have been tried – from running in elections to civil disobedience – to no avail. What all of these strategies have in common is that they all seek to end the state by engaging it directly in some form of conflict.

But when we battle against the state directly we invariably lose. This can at times lead to a feeling of despair. The state seems so powerful and we seem so weak by comparison. But I believe very strongly that both the perceived strength of the state and that of our weakness are illusory.

The state is actually a lot weaker than we think it is. I am in fact convinced that the state is so weak that it can be permanently ended in our life-time. But only if we focus our passion and our resources on the real force that gives rise to and sustains its existence.

What is this force? Do you know? Are you sure? If you do not know, why? How many of us who are engaged in struggle with the state have actually taken the time to stop and think deeply about this fundamental question?

How can we seriously expect to defeat an enduring institution without being absolutely certain about why that institution exists in the first place and why it seems to be so resilient? How can we defeat an enemy that we do not truly understand?

The state is organized coercion. When citizens line up to vote they do so because they are either seeking to impose their will on their neighbors or to prevent their neighbors from imposing their will on them or both. Are not the hearts and minds of those who seek to use coercion the force that breathes life into this thing we call the state?

Freedom is the absence of coercion. Freedom is the decision to stop imposing our will on each other and to live and let live. The voluntary society to which we aspire is one in which interactions between people are voluntary, based on mutual consent and free from coercion.

By why does coercion exist in the first place?

To answer this question you need only introspect.

Have you never felt the urge to impose your will on another human being? What was the force that drove you to do so? Was it not fear? Is not all coercion rooted in fear?

Have you ever felt the urge to impose your will on another human being but resisted the temptation to do so? What was the force that drove you to resist? Was it not empathy for the person(s) whose freedom that you would be restricting? Was it the knowledge that harming another to alleviate your fear would put you into conflict with your conscience?

Is not the force that gives rise to and sustains the existence of the state uncontrolled fear? Is it not the case that this thing we call the state is merely the physical manifestation of the collective uncontrolled fear of a society? When fear grows does not the power of the state grow? When fear recedes is not the power of the state weakened?

Is this not the crux of the matter?

Is not the root of all that is evil the decision to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion?

Is not the root of all that is good the decision to resist the temptation to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion and to seek instead to use the power of empathy for those who would suffer from it to face and overcome the fear itself and thus remain in harmony with our own conscience?

Is this not obvious to us all?

Why then do we continue to hack at the branches of evil instead of striking at the root?

Who among us has not convinced countless supporters of the state that using coercion against our fellow human beings who have done us no harm is morally wrong only to witness them continuing to support the state?

Human beings are not driven by logic. We are driven by emotion. People behave this way when they are driven by fear. Their fear can be so overwhelming that they will tell themselves whatever lies they have to in order to morally justify coercion to themselves because the coercion serves to alleviate their fears.

Importantly, however, when they choose the path of self-deception, they are choosing the immediate gratification of relief from fear at the expense of the long term suffering of living in disharmony with their own conscience.

All human beings are naturally driven to act in harmony with their conscience because all human beings are driven to be happy. And one cannot be truly happy if they are in disharmony with their conscience because their conscience will punish them relentlessly for the harm that they are causing to others.

This is why we can be absolutely confident that we will ultimately win the struggle. Humanity is destined to exit the age of barbarism and to dispense with the state and other forms of organized coercion because human beings are driven to be happy and they can only be truly happy when they are acting in harmony with their conscience by not causing harm to others. Our very biology compels us to do so. The end of the state is pre-ordained by evolution.

Voluntaryism is nothing more than the natural philosophy that human beings choose to follow when they are acting in complete harmony with their conscience.

Our task then is to help those who are willing to find happiness by choosing to stop harming others either directly or indirectly through their support of coercive institutions like the state and to instead harness the power of empathy to choose to face and overcome the fears that give rise to the urge to control their environment. The task of bringing about an end to the state then is actually a joyous one because it requires us to help people become more happy and self-confident in order to do so.

The question must be asked though… Why are so many people so fearful? Why are there so many souls with such low self-confidence? Why do so many people see the world as a fearful place from which they need to be protected? They certainly were not born that way. One need only watch a child at play to realize that we are all born fearless, self-confident and joyful.

Some would say it is the conditioning that people receive from their environment. This is a critical error. It is not what happens to us that defines us but rather how we choose to think about what happens to us. It is the *choice* to think of ourselves as victims and to re-tell our victimhood stories to ourselves over and over again that dis-empowers us. When we do so we create a powerful emotionally charged image of ourselves as weak and powerless victims who are unable to protect ourselves against a hostile world where threats lurk around every corner.

It is victimhood thinking that not only zaps our self-confidence but drives millions into debilitating depression and to seek solace in various unhealthy forms of immediate gratification. It is victimhood thinking that must be overcome in the mind of the individual in order to rebuild their self-confidence to the point where they will be strong enough to face and conquer their fears and thus lose their desire to impose their will on their fellow human beings, or to stand idly by while others do so.

This then is the task at hand. A permanent end to the state can only be achieved by attacking the force that gives rise to it. That force is uncontrolled fear. In the mind of a healthy individual empathy/love is far stronger than fear and can easily contain it. The fear that gives rise to and sustains the state can only be conquered by ending the underlying self-inflicted suffering of victimhood thinking from which it spawns. This is what must be done by those who truly wish to strike at the root of evil.

However, in order to effectively help others to re-build the fearless self-confidence that they were born with, we must do so for ourselves as well. As Gandhi said … “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” How many of us have dis-empowered ourselves by choosing to think of ourselves as victims of the state? Has that type of victimhood thinking not zapped our self-confidence in our own ability to achieve the dream?

What if we chose to think about the situation differently? What if we saw the truth that all force springs from fear and sought to cultivate compassion for the fearful instead of anger for the force that resulted from it? When we see the truth that behind all acts of aggression is uncontrolled fear we see the truth of how weak the state really is and how easy it actually would be to bring about its downfall by simply choosing to help people to overcome their fears.

What if we realized just how incredibly powerful we are? A single individual can change the world. There exists a ripple effect for everything that we do which we are almost never aware of because we can only see our effect on those with whom we interact directly. We do not see the bigger picture. We don’t see how helping one statist to find happiness by choosing to live in harmony with their conscience for the rest of his life affects all of his subsequent interactions with people and how these, in turn, affect their interactions, and so on and so on. In this fashion, our small ripple in the pond of humanity can grow into a great wave that sweeps the world affecting countless lives of which we will never be aware.

The state is a manifestation of those who live in fear. We are the fearless. The state is weak and we are strong. The future belongs to the fearless.

The end of the state is at hand. We need only channel our passion such that we are striking at the root of evil instead of hacking at its branches. With every person who we help to become more self-confident the state becomes weaker and we become stronger.

An end to the existence of the state and the age of barbarism as a whole is pre-ordained by evolution. Our choice is merely whether we would like to bring it about in our life-time?


Joel Laramee said...


As always, I love this post. As I've said before it seems rare to me to find a straight-up anarchist who draws his fellow anarchists' eyes to the ways in which they might unwittingly feed into the evil that they see manifest as a great "tree" of evil-- the imperial state.

That said, I take issue with a few of the things you said, especially this: "Human beings are not driven by logic, they are driven by emotion." I believe that evil is actually empowered, deeply, by reason and logic, twisted and built on doomed foundational knowledge/premises.

It is entirely possible that I missed your real point. In any event, perhaps we could talk sometime?

In freedom,

Alex Ryan said...


Thank you very much for the compliment. :)

Indeed. I perhaps should have been more clear in my statement.

I did not mean to imply that reason and logic could not serve evil. What I meant is that what really *moves* us are emotions.

It has been my observation that many people are so overwhelmed by their fears that it leads them to practice self-deception in order to preserve that portion of their belief system that does not stand up to the scrutiny of reason and logic.

It's not that they are not capable of changing their beliefs. It's just that they need to overcome their fear in order to do so.

Indeed, let's talk some time.

In freedom,

Kitty Antonik Wakfer said...

Many of your points, Alex, are well taken, in part if not completely:
"The State is organized coercion. When citizens line up to vote they do so because they are either seeking to impose their will on their neighbors or to prevent their neighbors from imposing their will on them or both." I would emphasize that the State has a self-decreed legal monopoly on the use of physical force on adult humans within its self-designated jurisdiction and this is the important form of its coercion. Also, those who vote are seeking to have the State use physical force or its threat to make or prevent their neighbors from acting in some manner would in all likelihood not themselves use physical force to prohibit or to require such behavior, even if not because of any fear of retaliation.

"Is not all coercion rooted in fear?... Is not the force that gives rise to and sustains the existence of the state uncontrolled fear?" I agree that the emotional insecurity of the vast majority of every State populace has supported the rise, continuation and growth of governments (but it is not correctly a "force" but rather the root of a "process"). One need only do some detailed reading of various periods of history to see that this has been the case for humans in virtually all cultures throughout recorded time. The majority of individuals have not through the ages used reasoned thinking (wide viewed, long range) for their decisions, but rather simply gone with their emotions, with only short term (often very much so) considerations taken. However, those who lead/head the State are very often (possibly always) motivated not by fear but desire for power over others. Acknowledged though, if one were inclined to investigate further for a particular power-hungry individual, it may be discovered that this individual is in actuality fearful of others - what those others might choose to do if s/he did not (him/her) hirself or employ others (the enforcers) to use physical force to impel them to obey edicts/mandates/directives/laws/etc of hir (his/her) making.

"Human beings are not driven by logic. We are driven by emotion." Yes to the latter, but not necessarily to the former, since emotions can be made to be fully rational by being consistent with and the automated subconscious product of one's logic. This requires an understanding of what thoughts/ideas and beliefs (the latter being convictions held despite lack of fact) underlie one's emotions and the use of a process of "reprogramming" emotions that are inconsistent with rationally held ideas and demonstrated facts, as in breaking old/bad habits and forming new/good ones. Once this takes place, emotions can be both rewards for excellent decisions and tools of cognition, doubly valuable in one's life. [Cont'd due to max character limitation.]

Kitty Antonik Wakfer said...

[Cont'd due to max character limitation.]
"..all human beings are driven to be happy." While you do not substantiate your statement, it is a highly important fundamental truth. All living organisms seek to gain and/or maintain the conditions that promote their well being. Among all life-forms, human beings have by far the highest capability (even if not utilized by all or even most) to use very long term, wide range thinking for assessing that well-being, what I and husband Paul Wakfer define as Happiness - all that an individual seeks to attain and maintain. Paul in his writings explains that the purpose of each person's life (whether or not s/he knows it) must necessarily be to optimally increase hir Lifetime Happiness, with the optimality requiring wide viewed, long range consideration (rational thinking). Optimally increasing one's Lifetime Happiness does not mean that one is or should be or can be in a constant state of happiness. It requires instead some periods of time when gratification of immediate desires are postponed, or even a state of unhappiness taken on, in order that the sum of all one's Happiness States over time (one's total Lifetime Happiness, effectively the integration - in the mathematical sense - of Happiness over time) becomes as large as possible. For a full and detailed explanation see the definition of Lifetime Happiness and its annotation page (click on the shaded portion) at:

"..and they can only be truly happy when they are acting in harmony with their conscience by not causing harm to others. Our very biology compels us to do so." Humans are social animals, they cannot exist - come into being and even just survive - totally alone. Therefore, optimally increasing one's Lifetime Happiness requires that a human consider, as part of hir wide view, long range thinking, the outcomes of hir actions on others. Intentionally harming another human is rarely in one's long range best interest, whereas voluntary interactions to mutual (long range) benefit always are. I appreciate that you are here attempting to root proper human social behavior in the biological nature of humans and I laud you for that approach. Please read "Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Interaction" for a complete and consistent theory using this approach.

I am going to stop my critique here (though there is definitely more I could write) and simply state that you, Alex, have addressed some areas of importance - happiness as life purpose and fear as a major obstacle, with the State depending greatly on the latter. But some very important aspects have not been addressed - the power of the individual alone and in concert with others when using Social Preferencing towards creating an orderly society without the presence of the State, and in currently beginning the active process of withering away the State. Rather than detail those points here I hope that you and others will read (as a start) - "Tax/Regulation Protests are Not Enough: Relationship of Self-Responsibility and Social Order" .

Alex Ryan said...

Thanks very much for your lengthy and very thoughtful feedback. :)

Gian Piero de Bellis said...

Perhaps it would be more feasible and more acceptable to all if, instead of "ending the state" we aimed at going beyond the territorial monopolistic state as advocated by Paul Emile de Puydt and Max Nettlau ("Down with the State!" and "Only upon the ruins of the State. . ." express emotions and wishes of many but it seems that only the cool "Opt out of the State" can help them towards their realization." (see PANARCHY. A Forgotten Idea of 1860)
A part from that, congratulation for your very interesting post.

オテモヤン said...
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