CPAC 2014: Why anarchy fails

The 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference drew a fairly international swarm of conservatives possessing a variety of ideas about limiting and specializing the role of civil government. The obfuscations of a (to use Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s term) plus sized, overreaching bureaucracy have made some young people wonder why we need a civil government in the first place and why we can’t have anarchy instead.

How do you respond to the statement: “The system isn’t broken; the system never worked”?

This is the question posed to the author of this article by the lovely and well-spoken Julia Tourianski of Brave the World conducting man-on-the-street interviews at CPAC 2014.

George Washington (James Manship) interviewed by the Anarchist (Julia Tourianski)

George Washington (James Manship) interviewed by the Anarchist (Julia Tourianski)

The aforementioned author longs to be someone who can master brevity and quick wittedness enough to give a concise answer to so simple a question, as opposed to bumbling through a convoluted response that if decrypted might read: “Systems fail to work when people put too much trust in them…so it all comes down to individual responsibility.”

But if it comes down to the individual rather than the system, asks Miss Tourianski, then why can’t we have anarchy?

Fair question. Statism is the sin nature of government, because government rises like leaven if left unchecked. Why, then, is government necessary at all? Is there any explanation for why anarchy fails?

James Madison nailed it in Federalist No. 51:

“But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Some have observed, however, that even angels themselves require some form of government, because harmonious society is a result of designed order rather than chaos.  Like oxygen, we might say that government is vital but fatal in unlimited amounts. Laws govern both the natural and the supernatural.

But there is a catch to even the most efficient of laws, which John Adams noted on October 11th, 1798:

 “…[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Self-governance is essential to the function of any civil government. Scripture tells us that he who rules his spirit is better than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32). After all, it is individuals who ultimately make decisions regarding the electing of public officials, and it is individuals who make decisions once they are in public office.

But although individuals are endowed with a conscience, human nature is not basically good. If there is no fear for evil behavior according to enforced, impartial law, innocent life is made even more vulnerable. Law exists to protect God-given rights in a godless world.

Quite simply, people will always try to overpower one another, whether it be through force by government or force in absence of government. Anarchy isn’t truly feasible until everybody is willing to leave everybody else alone, which will never happen on this earth as we know it. A proper civil government is one that operates according to this failing of humanity rather than in denial.

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Amanda Read

Amanda Read

Assistant Editor & Contributor at Brenner Brief
Amanda Read is a writer and filmmaker based in Alabama. Trained as a historian and unconventional in thought, she investigates the roots of contemporary culture and politics.


The opinions and/or statements made are not endorsed by anyone except the author. Brenner Brief News and its leadership are not responsible for what the independent writer has said. Contact us if you have any concerns. Civil dialogue is also welcomed below.

  • Matthew Reece

    I encourage you to read the Anti-Federalist Papers and The Production of Security by Gustave de Molinari,

    Because men are not angels, government is far too dangerous to be allowed to operate.

    Rights are not God-given. Rights are valid concepts because arguing otherwise results in a performative contradiction.

    Anarchy is feasible when the cost of trying to overpower others is so high that only a fool would make the attempt. And as for the fools, natural selection eliminates the stupid.

    • Sommers

      Interesting thought however I fail to see how god given rights results in a performative contradiction. Unless you believe that god is a creation of man, then yes i can see the self negating argument. The proposition that Anarchy is feasible only applies if your assumption of the role of government is to control. however, our constitution is a document that lays out a government of non-control and sets it as a subservient entity commanded to perform certain tasks such as coin currency. as for your last point. What about all the times its not too costly to overpower others, what happens to the weak against the strong in an Anarchistic model.

      • Matthew Reece

        God-given rights do not result in a performative contradiction. They result in someone saying, “Prove the existence of God,” for which there is no answer. A logical basis for rights does not have this drawback.

        The Constitution is not “ours,” whatever that means.

        There is no such thing as a government of non-control. A government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within a geographical area.

        Clearly we do not need government for coining currency. Precious metals have been in use for millennia, and now we have Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

        The weak are in a better position to defend themselves without a state, as no government means no victim disarmament laws. The strong would only have what military might they can purchase, not the entire military might of a state.

      • Sommers

        Ok thats a completely different argument. Now you are arguing based on a predictive possible outcome based on simplistic probabilities. Doing this casts a blanket declaration on one scenario based on. That itself introduces a irrecoverable error in the logic path. As for myself I would have said “rights come from god” using god as a amorphic term that could easily been swapped with other terms like “nature” “physics” or any other widget higher order than man. So as you can see your argument that its a performative contradiction would not work because I would not have made the tertiary argument you assumed would be made.
        The “ours” is in fact accurate because the US constitution belongs to the the people of the united states. It is OUR property. I have to wonder if your inability to understand the phrase “our constitution” is because you are not a) an American citizen, b) live in America but refute your citizenship c) are being intellectually stubborn in some fake ignorance of the common term. Whatever the case be it’s a bit JV academic and you know it.
        Yes it’s true it is not necessary to have a government to coin currency as history shows us people will come up with all sorts of ways to exchange good/services however, I would argue that having government coin the currency as a means of commonality devoid of exclusivity would be the more ideal scenario. The result would be a plurality of coin. Which is what we have.While government should coin a common currency they do not enjoy a monopoly as you very well know.
        You can argue that the weak are better able to defend themselves all day and all night but the fact remains. If I am strong, I am going to find others of like mind and ability. If I decide that Sarah on the other side of the hill is weak but has nice stuff. There isn’t much she can do to defend herself from me. I’d also like to point out that victim disarmament laws only occure in progressive centers while in more conservative minded regions, the right to defend yourself goes unquestioned. You seem to not reconize the fact that these united states are not uniform in there laws so to make a blanket declaration is folly. Oh and cryptocurrency are great but they too have a governing body that coin them.

      • Matthew Reece

        I am not arguing probabilities. Any competent debater is going to see that the burden of proof is on the person who makes a positive claim, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that the claim that God exists is an extraordinary positive claim, and that God cannot give rights if God does not exist.

        The Constitution is a slave contract written by slave-raping hypocrites over 200 years ago which has either authorized the most powerful and dangerous terrorist organization in human history or failed to stop it. Only 40 men ever signed it, and they had no right to impose it on anyone who disagreed with it or on anyone yet unborn at the time.

        As an idea, the Constitution cannot be owned because ownership is formed through the mixing of labor with unowned physical objects. An idea is not a physical object. Also note that the purpose of property rights is to prevent conflicts over scarce resources, and ideas are non-scarce. The term “our Constitution” is therefore nonsense. And who is the “we” in the possessive “our?” Collectives do not exist; only individuals exist.

        As an anarchist, I reject the idea of citizenship of any kind as a form of slavery.

        Letting government have any control over the currency is a recipe for disaster. All governments abuse this power, from the earliest debasers of gold and silver coins to modern central banks printing as much fiat as they want.

        That the strong prey upon the weak is a problem that can only be solved by making the weak stronger, and it is against the selfish interest of those who wield state power to allow this to happen. In a stateless society, Sarah can shoot you dead, hire someone else to do it for her, tell everyone what a threat you are and convince them to forcibly expel you from society, etc.

        Victim disarmament laws are in effect globally. If I want to start a military defense organization and start offering protection to customers, I will be unable to get the nuclear deterrent I need to stop states from destroying my company and murdering me, I will have a very hard time getting military hardware, I will have to jump through hoops to get large-caliber rifles and shotguns, etc.

        Cryptocurrencies are not coined by a governing body. Miners provide the computing power to maintain the ledger and are rewarded with new units of currency at a somewhat predictable rate.

      • Sommers

        I absolutely agree, the burden of proof is in fact on the individual making the positive claim. To which that would be you. I made NO claim of the existence of God and if you actually read what I wrote. I wrote that the term GOD was an “amorphic term that could easily been swapped with other terms like “nature” “physics” or any other widget higher order than man.” Personally I believe that rights are natural rights derived by Something greater than man, I’m just not sure what yet. But that’s just me.
        To say that people who identify themselves as Americans “You Excluded because you are not an American” cannot own the constituion is either academically dishonest, ignorant of the concept of the rights of inheritance or both. And as for the Constitution being a Slave Document. You have now made a positive assertion to which, by YOUR own standard must prove.
        I am very sorry for you to have to live in a place where getting large caliber weapons and shotguns is so difficult. I however do not have such a problem as the victim disarmament laws do not apply here. I hope peace and civility prevail in what must be a high crime progressively controlled region. Really, I hope someday you’ll be able to escape such a toilet.
        I’d like ot point out that central banks were not a part of the founding of this country and yes THEY are the debasing currencies. not only that but the progressives concept of a managed economy through bank/govenment partnerships has given us what we now have, a sudo fascist monetary system of faux value that favors government capitalists from the point of a gun. and yes, this federal goernment has gotten so far outside of its constitutional bounds that you can easily argue that we do not actually have a federal government anymore. We have an occupying government. Which is why imposing the constitution upon the government is so very important because the constitution’s intention is to forcibly restrain it to a small corner of the room as an obedient servant who job is no more than to sweep the floor and maintain the outhouse.
        Unfortunately, progressives have decided to break those bounds and greedily grow it to proportions seen over and over again in history that never ends with rainbows and lollypops.
        I like how you yourself have made a performative contradiction by thinking the weak are able to become strong and defend themselves against the strong. The very nature of being weak is that you are unable to be strong therefore the argument is in fact a performative contradiction. People who are of less means CAN make themselves strong if they have the “potential energy” stored up to do so. The weak have no such “potential energy” stored and cannot by virtue of physics make themselves strong. Perhaps given the variable “T” for time they could store up enough of the needed resource to defend themselves. But since the ledger must balance on both sides of the equation the “Strong” would also enjoy the same variable “T” so unless the “strong” decide to wait. the weak are fucked.
        Cryptocurrencies do in fact enjoy a governing body. That body is the creators of the software and the minors who are rewarded the coin in exchange for effort by the creator. The creators ARE the governing body. To say that they do not exists would be to say that all the different variant coin do not exists at all. Thank you for allowing me to so easily defeat your arguments. Have a nice day

      • Matthew Reece

        If God is an amorphic term, then it has no standard meaning and may therefore be ignored.

        I have demonstrated why a collective cannot own anything and you have failed to demonstrate otherwise, so you implicitly agree that the point is proven.

        The Constitution is a slave contract because it authorizes a group of people to force other people to associate with them, obey their commands, and give up the fruits of their labors. Slavery is the non-ownership of one’s body. Ownership is a right to exclusive control. By imposing control over the wills and labors of other people, those who wield state power are engaging in slavery.

        When I say large-caliber weapons, I am talking about those modern machine guns, cannons, howitzers, missiles, etc. that civilians cannot legally acquire anywhere.

        Government “capitalists” are not real capitalists. They are fascists.

        The Constitution cannot restrain the government because the interpretation of the Constitution is left up to the government. They will simply interpret it to allow them to do as they wish. That is how we got to this point, and restarting the experiment will eventually produce the same result, thereby condemning our descendants in the 22nd and 23rd centuries to an even more oppressive regime than we have now.

        A performative contradiction occurs when the act of making an argument is inconsistent with the content of that argument. I did no such thing, but you did. To argue that the weak cannot become strong is a performative contradiction because every human was once weaker than they are now, as every human was once a baby, and babies are quite weak both physically and mentally.

        If you want to call the creators and miners of a cryptocurrency its governors, you may, but they are not rulers or even governors in the Federal Reserve Board sense. They do not normally have power to enact monetary policy, and people would have a strong incentive to abandon the currency if it were tried, as the inability to enact monetary policy is a large part of the appeal.

        Thank you for allowing me to so easily burn down your field of straw men.

      • Sommers

        So only things that have a standardized meaning have any validity? Hmm then i guess your non standardized currency is also an invalid argument.

        At no point did I argue that a collective owns the constitution. We the individuals of America own it both jointly and independently of each other, there is NO collective only commonality. To assume “as you have proven to do a lot” the word “we” is a term of a collective is as juvenile as a tenured professors lecture.

        Please oh please show me exactly where in the constituion it “authorizes a group of people to force other people to associate with
        them, obey their commands, and give up the fruits of their labors.”

        That simply does not exist outside of progressive propaganda. I bet I know what your response is going to be to that but I’ll reserve that till you actually say it.

        Private citizens CAN and DO own cannons, machine guns and other large caliber weapons but I guess you didn’t know that did you. Don’t worry I won’t hold that against you since you clearly live in a terrible place controlled by progressives to which I’m sorry for your loss.

        Yes your right, the constitution itself cannot restrain government because the government collective has seized powers it does not rightfully posses and to reset it will in fact over time result in the same situation we have today. That’s the nature of the battle between freedom and greed. It never ends, it never can. The best we can do is to keep resting it when it wears out. Much like any machine. to believe you can create the perfect society either through government or anarchy that lasts the test of time is foolish. It requires maintenance.
        You can continue to lay claim to the performative contradiction but the fact remains that i did not say the weak cannot become strong. I said that the weak cannot become strong in time relative to the Strong’s ability to defeat the weak inside a specified time frame. I know the variable “T for time” is a complex concept to people who only see half a ledger but you must grasp it to understand how the basics of x y intercepts work.

        Yes the weak can become strong if given enough time relative to the intercept i.e. defeat. Generally they cannot because devoid a rule of law rendering the weak “T” to zero has no real consequence.

        Or in real real laymen terms so it can be understood.

        Jenny one eye is gonna be dead before she can get a gun and aint nobody gonna know she’s gone.

        So you see, I made no such performative contradiction because I didn’t make the argument you thought I did because again. You didn’t read.

        The creators of cryptocurrency CAN in fact change the monitory policy at will, They simply issue a patch to the software which they do on occasion. The fact that they haven’t corrupted it to the degree of the Fed is irrelevant relative to that same hard to grasp variable “T” . All things become corrupt eventually and require maintenance. Yes you can drop crypto currency at will much the same way you can drop the dollar if you so choose. No it’s not easy to do because most everyone recognizes the dollar as a common currency. But easy really isn’t anybody’s problem but yours.

        I think we both know that “the inability to enact monetary policy” is not the largest attraction to to crypto. It’s the privacy.

        I really appreciate the flattery you bestowed on me by mimicking my conclusion in a clever and witty way. I look forward to the next one you plagiarize…..burning straw men ….love it.

      • Matthew Reece

        Terms which can be amorphous and which lack a clear definition are essentially meaningless and should be viewed as a red flag that one is encountering sophistry. To take what I said out of context is quite dishonest of you.

        Ideas cannot be owned. The Constitution is an idea. Therefore, the Constitution cannot be owned.

        Articles I and II authorize the operation of a legislative branch to make laws and an executive branch to enforce them. That counts as authorizing a group of people to force other people to associate with them, obey their commands, and give up the fruits of their labors.

        You are the one who sounds more like a progressive propagandist, as you are the one defending the state. I am an anarcho-capitalist, which is as anti-progressive as it gets.

        Again, let me know when I can get WMDs, missiles, machine guns made after 1986, etc. without running afoul of government agents.

        Of course all systems require maintenance. Do you prefer having to fight the most powerful criminal organization in history, or having to change service providers and maybe defend yourself against a lesser criminal organization while having much better means with which to do so? That is the effect of choosing between statism and anarchism.

        Even if you were correct about the weak and the strong, it would not matter. Any problems that the weak might have without the state are had now with the state to a greater extent.

        I don’t care about the privacy offered by cryptocurrencies at present. I use them because I hate currency debasement and cryptocurrencies effectively disallow that. The coders can patch them to act like modern fiat currencies, but then people would leave and the value would go to zero, which is against the rational self-interest of the coders. The demand for dollars, on the other hand, is generated by theft and slavery in the form of taxation and legal tender laws.

        I did not plagiarize anything, as Bill Buckley’s wording was different.

      • Sommers

        You reject rules yet you try to impose them on my thought.
        You reject government yet you seek to impose a regulatory system.
        You decry we cant own large caliber weapons and then start adding criteria post fact.
        You call the constitution an idea that cant be owned yet you seem to desire ownership of your own thoughts.
        Seems to me you really don’t have anything more than a well articulated but mal-educated ideology you wish to impose on people. Good luck with that in life. I really feel sorry for you as I’m certain you’ll grow up to exists in a self created mire. #failschool

      • Sommers

        #failschool again

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  • Ella Zimmerly

    As people raise their consciousness, we can transcend lower thinking and stop being players.

  • Rollo McFloogle

    Where do the members of a government get the authority to impose their will upon people?

  • Kevin Stone

    He that ruleth over man must be just ruling in the fear of God.
    2 Samuel 23:3.

  • P-G Matuszak

    The Articles of Confederation were closer to anarchy than the US Constitution. The Constitution came about because the Articles didn’t grant the federal government enough authority to accomplish its necessary responsibilities. There was a US Army, led by Washington, with requirements for states to provide manning. But taxation was voluntary. Many states did not cough up anything to pay for equipment, much less the salaries and food for the Soldiers. The same goes for postal roads and letter carriers.

    Then the states had different commerce regulations and liked to write laws to limit competition from other states, to include tariffs for “importing” goods from one state to another.

    Anarchy doesn’t work. It forms a very temporary state of lawlessness that leaves the majority of a society begging for the vacuum to be filled. In most cases, the other extreme, a tyrannic oligarchy supporting a dictatorship, usually fills that vacuum. The people love it until they realize they gave that dictator (and his little collective of oligarchs) too much power. By then, the oligarchy has taken away too many rights, granted “privileges” to too many “special collectives”, and concentrated too much power. Any dissent is seen as open rebellion and sedition. The majority ends up oppressed. The tyranny will last longer than the anarchy that enabled its rise to power.

  • Robert Allen Parris

    It totally disregards the possibility of Rothbardian type anarchy, anarcho-capitalism…which privately accomplishes everything that is said to be accomplished by govt. Something to look into anyways.

  • Larry Lease

    Really really love this article! Great work!