Anarchy! No rules, no police, no authorities. Do we really need a government? It may sound awesome to live in a country with no rules or government, but many people find it quite a scary concept. What happens when you can’t go to the police? When you’re forced to defend your own land? The Ancient Greeks said that without the rule of law, there can be no freedom. Were they right? Is government necessary to live a free, comfortable life? There are very contrasting views on this subject. There are many Anarchists today that will tell you that life without government is much better than living under a system of rules.
The only way to figure out if this system will actually work is by looking to the past, and in some cases, the present. There have been many instances in history of a lawless, stateless society. Some have been success stories, and some have been complete failures. Some are products of civil wars, while other states of Anarchy were precursors to successful nations such as the USA. Some of these countries passed through a state of Anarchy with little to no ill effect, while others are still recovering from lawlessness today. My personal opinion is that an Anarchist society can be successful only if the majority of its people are responsible and do not want to take advantage of a nation without the rule of law. But read about these lawless countries, and make up your own mind!
Somalia is one of the most well-known examples of a country with no government. This state of Anarchy lasted from 1991 to 2006. After a dictator called Siad Barre was ousted from power in 1991, no government ever replaced him. Instead, the country plunged into a period of time that was lawless and without any semblance of government. Instead of having a government, the Somalians reverted back to old clan systems and customs. The rule of law was the “Xeer,” and ancient system where a council of elders decides the best way to settle disputes on a case-by-case basis. Although there were no rules or laws so to speak, the Xeer guaranteed safe passage, trade, and marriage for people throughout Somalia to certain extent. Rural Somalians didn’t even notice the change, since they had been using the Xeer long before the old government fell anyway. Interestingly, under this state of Anarchy no Somalians ever had to pay taxes, as this was forbidden under the Xeer. Because there was no longer a coast guard, this period of time was characterized by a huge rise in Somalian piracy. There was also extreme violence throughout Somalia during this time, although during the same time neighboring countries with a government suffered much worse violence.
Because there was no government imposing taxes and regulations, businesses were able to step in and offer services at incredibly cheap rates. Somalians enjoyed some of the cheapest and best cell phone services in all of Africa. They also had several privately owned newspapers, electricity provided on a local basis, and one entrepreneur even supplied one hospital with free electricity. Mogadishu had its first gas stations built during this state of Anarchy. Their currency was based on a mixture of real money and forgeries of pre-1991 bills. The forgeries were treated as having equal value to the real bills. The world bank stated that economies might actually be able to function better without a government, because there is no central bank, and no one has to pay for government services as they are all provided by private businesses.
In 2010, Iraq broke the record for going the longest without having a government. 208 days passed before they broke the record that was previously set by Netherlands at 207 days. And it was months before they managed to form a government after breaking that record. Iraqis were incensed that they had risked their lives to vote months earlier following the fall of Saddam Hussein, just to have to wait for the politicians to get their act together. There were a number of reasons that led to this stall. For one, there was still much violence and instability after the US involvement in Iraq. Secondly, all of the political leaders accused one another of fraud after the election results came in, probably because the election results were so close, with one party winning 89 and the other 91. During these long months, the parliament were still collecting their paychecks…
The record set by Iraq was shattered by Belgium in 2011 when they went 589 without an elected government. How did this happen to a rich, Western nation like Belgium? Well, as it turns out this “state of Anarchy” was a lot less exciting than it sounds. Day-to-day affairs were run by a temporary government headed by a former prime minister, and this government was actually able to make decisions about the country just like a normal government would. This lack of government began after the two main parties, the Flemish and Walloons, were unable to form a coalition government. The dispute was so intense that many people expected Belgium to split into two separate countries at some point. Luckily, Belgium pulled through, and is now one of the most influential countries in the world.
The “Wild West” of America is seen as a classic example of Anarchy. But the truth is that there has actually been quite a few times in American history where government played little to no role in society. In terms of the Wild West, the truth is that there was a government in place during this time. But in many cases, the government was seen as a distant influence that was irrelevant in day to day activity. This is especially true in areas known as “the frontier,” parts of America that were outside the federal jurisdiction and too far out into the wilderness for real law to enforce. In these parts, settlers were left to settle disputes with pistols at high noon in many cases. In other cases, a town elected a sheriff, who was basically in charge of running a private security company for that area. Remember, the only difference between policeman and a hired gun is that the policeman is paid by the government.
Earlier in American history, when the nation was first formed and gained independence from the British, the founding fathers had very specific ideas about the role of government in their new state which gave birth to the so-called “lawless” state of the Wild West. Right from the beginning, the founding fathers wanted a very small government that did not interfere too much with the people. They wanted to start a Republic. Contrary to popular belief, America is not a Democracy, it’s a Republic. The basic difference between the two is that a democratic government can swell to enormous size, enforcing all kinds of laws and regulations on the public, so long as the majority of the people agree on it. A republic, on the other hand, is a government limited by a set of laws and rules, ensuring that the government will never get too big and become corrupt.
Another key example Anarchists like to use of a lawless system actually working is in Medieval Iceland. And it’s actually a great example of how a country can prosper with no rules or government. First of all, because of Iceland’s location, there was no threat of invasion. This eliminates the need for a standing army. One of the main reasons governments justify their existence is because they claim they are necessary to protect the people. Imagine how much lower your tax bill would be if you no longer had to pay for your country’s armed forces! In addition, Icelandic people were distrustful of any form of central government, much like the founding fathers of the United States. The Icelandic people settled disputes locally with the help of their chieftains. There was one member of the group that memorized all of the laws and was able to recite them, and offer advice when necessary. The citizens were allowed to choose to give their allegiance to whatever chieftain they wanted, even if the chieftain was at the other side of Iceland. This kept the Chieftains on their toes, and decentralized the chieftain’s authority. Murder, as well as all crimes, were punishable by a fine. This was true even in war, so if you killed 7 guys in battle, you would have to pay all of their families restitution money. This made war almost non-existent in Iceland.
Many people have argued that the Spanish Civil War and the three years following it was the closest any modern country has come to a free, stateless society. Anarchists were instrumental in organizing the people in the revolution against Spanish dictator Franco in the revolution of 1936. When Franco was finally deposed, Anarchists were once again on hand to steer the nation towards being a functional stateless society. More than half the land was put into the hands of the peasants, who cultivated it themselves without landlords or bosses telling them to do it. In parts of the country where libertarian ideals were embraced, restaurants, barber shops, and factories were all managed and owned by their employees. George Orwell visited Spain and was amazed at the level of equality among all people, saying, “The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master.”
In 1997, Albanian citizens lost billions of dollars after falling for several pyramid schemes. They thought the government was profiting off these schemes, and so they rioted and deposed the ruling party. It turned out that government officials were in fact investing in these ponzi schemes and it was later found that they were fronts for arms trafficking and money laundering. Albanians invested 1.6 billion dollars into these schemes, and for a population of only a few million, this meant they lost big. Many had to sell their houses. A new party was elected, but this didn’t stop the civil unrest. In the south, all law and order collapsed. The gangs completely took over the southern cities. During the night, the gang leaders would announce on loudspeakers that people were not to go outside, as the gangs would be having gun battles every night from now on. These criminal organizations, known as the “Salvation Committee,” completely usurped the rule of law and the government of Albania during this time of unrest.
The African nation of Burkina Faso has seen some of the worst examples of anarchy in history. After the president Blaise Compaore had been ruling for 27 years, he tried to amend the constitution so he could rule even longer. This sparked an uprising that ended in the overthrow of the president. Afterwards, the army promised that there would be free elections, but this process was delayed. During this time, there was much civil unrest. Although the military imposed a curfew, there were still areas of Burkina Faso that were ungoverned by the rule of law. After much fighting and rioting, a new president was put in place.
In 2011, president Mubarak of Egypt was ousted by a popular uprising. The military assumed power, dissolving the parliament and suspending the constitution. After some time, President Morsi was installed, and among his chosen parliament were four members of the Muslim Brotherhood. This caused liberal and secular groups to walk out on the talks, as they believed the Muslim Brotherhood would impose strict Muslim law on the population. Their fears were confirmed when the Muslim Brotherhood supported Morsi as he stated that no one could challenge the decisions he made. This led to massive riots and battles between Egyptian people who wanted to remain liberal and supporters of Morsi. Morsi was later deposed by General Al-Sisi. There have been many times where the military took temporary control of the nation during political upheavals in Egypt, and during these times there was no government.
Since American’s intervention in Libya, the country has deteriorated into a lawless hellhole. Ever since Gaddafi was deposed, the country has fallen into Anarchy, and not the pretty kind of Anarchy where everything somehow works without any form of government. More like the violent, unstable kind. The end result of the war in Libya is a destroyed country with no economy or political structure, plagued by “inter-tribal warfare.” And then there’s the added bonus of ISIS taking root in Libya and using the country as a stronghold. In theory, Libya is ruled by two rival governments, one in the east and one in the west. But in truth there is little to no “governance” in this country, and widespread violence has become commonplace in this nation, and continues to this day.
They call Yemen “Syria without the news cameras.” It’s just as bad as its Arab neighbor, although you’ll never hear about it on the news. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Yemen has plunged into a state of complete turmoil. The American armed forces are now spread so thin across the Middle East that they are ignoring the instability in Yemen because of other threats elsewhere in the area. This shift in attention has allowed Shiite Muslim rebels to intimidate the country’s leaders to the point where they are forced to resign. Just a few days ago, Houthi Rebels announced that they are going to install their own Prime Minister. This divides things even further than they already are. More than 6 groups now control different parts of Yemen, and there is no single group that controls the entire country. While the Americans divert their attention elsewhere, militant groups like the Sunni offshoot of Al-Qaeda are able to set up base in this region, and carry out attacks such as the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France.
France went through a tumultuous period of lawlessness during their revolution in 1789. During the transitional period between the deposition of their king and the installation of a government, the streets were extremely wild. There was no one to enforce the rule of law. Neither the people or the king was fully in power, and the country was in a state of turmoil for some time. Eventually, the king was deposed and a government was installed, but France went a long time without an actual government, which both shocked and interested other major countries at the time, all of whom were ruled by Monarchies. Eventually France led the way and became the first country to overthrow their rulers, but not before they passed through a state of Anarchy.
First of all, let me say that there’s some debate as to whether this place actually ever existed. It was allegedly a nation founded by pirates on the coast of Madagascar, where one was free to do whatever they pleased. Think Pirates Of The Caribbean, but a whole country of them. It was supposed to have been founded by the legendary pirate Henry Avery, and it was said to have existed for about 25 years. There weren’t many laws, but the pirates who founded it were against monarchies, slavery, and capitalism. According to the story, they practiced direct democracy, which means they voted on all of their decisions, and had no rulers. Councils were formed to help settle disputes, but these pirate Councillors were supposed to see themselves as one with the population, and not as rulers. The people of Libertatia also allegedly created their own language. In addition, there was no racism in Libertatia, as half of Henry Avery’s crew was black and half was white.
Zomia is a vast region of Southeast Asia that has never been under the control of any government in all of its history. The reason for this is to with its geography, it’s covered in rough terrain and the population is small and prefers to live simply, without anyone interfering in their customs. This area covers much of North Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, Burma, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. These people have been continuously and successfully fleeing the efforts of various governments to create governments in the areas in which they live. They have their own locally-based economies and choose to live as their ancestors did rather than mix with the rest of the modern world. Zomia is the largest area in the world that still hasn’t been absorbed by nation states, although experts say that will soon change.
REPUBLIC OF COSPAIA
The Republic of Cospaia is another shining example of a country functioning with no rules or laws, and no government whatsoever. During the existence of Cospaia, the country flourished and became rich, largely because they didn’t pay any taxes to Italy. Its creation began in 1440, when Italy was divided into several kingdoms. One of these kingdoms was ruled by the Pope in Rome. The Pope at the time borrowed money from a different kingdom, and offered a large portion of land as collateral in case he couldn’t pay back the money. He failed to pay back the money, and in turn the land was given to the other kingdom. However, the initial contract failed to mention the tiny village of Cospaia! That meant that neither the Pope or the other kingdom owned Cospaia, and they promptly declared themselves a separate country. Both the Pope and the other kingdom allowed this, because they both wanted a “buffer zone” between the two territories.
So for the next 385 years, Cospaia flourished as a stateless, Anarchistic country. Cospaia was a very small country, with only about 330 hectares and a population of 300. They became rich by growing tobacco, which was banned by the pope and so they were the only source in Italy. They were also a source for all kinds of smuggled and illegal goods. Disputes were settled by councils of elders, but there was little to no violence or crime in Cospaia anyway. In 1826, Italy starved out the residents of Cospaia and forced them to join the rest of the country.