What Happens When the State Breaks Down?

Well, what do you know? Gangs take over!

Why, this is an almost unimaginable result. Who in the world could have predicted such a thing?


  1. Some of the anti-establishment types at CounterPunch.Com were defending - yes, DEFENDING - the rise in crime after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

    Why did they believe it was a good thing? They said it meant that the "corrupt police" could no longer wield their power, whereas criminals were deathly afraid of what Mubarak-era police used to do criminals.

    Apparently, in the mind of anarchists, civil liberties include being able to commit crimes without a police to punish you.

  2. I'm not sure what you think is novel about the idea. Yes, when one gang starts to lose a grip on its claimed-turf monopoly, other gangs try to move in.

    My ancestor's mistake in Leviathan was in convincing himself that the difference between "the state" and "the Latin Lords" or "MS13" or "the Crips" or "the bloods" was a difference of kind rather than of preferred colors, etc.

    1. "I'm not sure what you think is novel about the idea."

      Um, nothing, Tom. That's what all of the links are about. What I think is not novel but pitiful is that people actually try to persuade others that entering this state of gang warfare would be a good idea. Of course, 98% of the people who do it are timid intellectuals, who will be hiding in their closets should actual anarchy break out. But, in the mean time, I guess it helps establish a more macho public image.

      But what an masturbatory exercise: to welcome public chaos in order to be able to color oneself a daring "anarchist"!

    2. Anonymous12:32 PM

      Dude, you're delusional if you think that I am an anarchist for the reasons that you describe. I am sure that there are a few who are, but I've never met one. And if you think that I would be hiding in a closet during a breakdown in society, just keep in mind that I'm a white guy living in an extremely poor, black neighborhood on the East side of Cleveland-- I don't scare easily. I would, however, probably head to the woods for safety, food and shelter.

      As for this example you show, it certainly isn't a good one. It is no better at proving the need for the state than that video a few weeks ago about traffic lights proves that a state is not needed. You're essentially making the same argument, just in reverse.

      In fact, it would be my opinion that it is the presence of the state that devolves into disorder, not the absence of it. After all, every example we've ever seen begins with a state, and the disorder is typically caused by other factions attempting to gain control of the state. The case in Syria is a prime example of this dynamic.

    3. Joseph, everything in human life dissolves into disorder, not just states.

      Order is a temporary and evanescent achievement.

    4. Joseph,

      Gene did say that 98% of anarchists would react this way. Perhaps in this instance you are, if not the 1%, then at least the 2%.

    5. Anonymous1:46 PM

      Gene was speaking of those who would hide in a closet when he said 98%. His actual implication in the above comment, as well as others in the past, is much broader than that. He often mistakes the reason why he was a libertarian with why others are libertarians, that reason being immature rebelliousness.

      Yes, I can agree with that statement. And really it is not about order vs. disorder, but rather about the sort of order. As I am sure that you know, ancaps see the state-order as unjust. Once you have that view, it is quite hard to shake.

      We can both show examples for or against the statist and anti-statist views, of that there is no doubt. However, my prime concern is with the continuation and flourishing of the human race. That's all I really care about. And in that context, I cannot see the state-order as being able to be made better. It's reached its peak, and what comes next, only society will determine. However, I do think that whatever does come next for the human race, it probably will *not* include a monopoly government, at least if it is to be viewed as an advancement of civilization.

      Do I think that people are ready to do it now? Absolutely not! To be honest, I don't think that it will even happen in my lifetime. But, I do think that if and when society does move away from a state system of governance, that is the only proof that we've really advanced as a civilization and species.

      The state-order has been around for a while, and I don't think that tinkering with how much or how little power it has, or how that power is divided, is ever going to move us forward in terms of governance. I simply reject the idea that we are stuck in this stagnant mess forever. Humans have been through a lot of twists and turns and have made it this far, I think we've got a few more tricks up our sleeves before our time in the universe is over.

  3. Gene,

    There is no question of "entering the state of gang warfare."

    We've never left it, so we don't have to worry about re-entering it.

    The question is whether to continue putting up with the monopolies of the larger, more powerful gangs which continually war between themselves and on "their" populations, or whether to take the risk of being able to more ably suppress the activities of their smaller competitors should those competitors start feeling empowered by the breakdown of the Westphalian Nation-Gang paradigm.

    1. "We've never left it, so we don't have to worry about re-entering it."

      It is tough to talk people down who are in a wildly hallucinatory state.

    2. It would be a little easier if the hallucinatory vision didn't morph to fit the needs of the person at any given point in time, depending on if they are evangelizing for converts or denouncing people who doubt the relative benignity of non-Westphalian Nation gangs as compared to the current situation.

      But that said, I am all in favor of the ending of the union and the dissolution of the USG (though I wouldn't be if there were no state governments).

    3. "We've never left it, so we don't have to worry about re-entering it."

      It's become difficult for me to blame the left for attacking caricatured libertarianism. They do it because in so many instances, the cartoon appears to be real.

  4. Gene,

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  5. "In a central old quarter, one man said a friend had warned him not to visit because young gunmen had established a checkpoint to rob car passengers."

    Ah, well, that's proof of it then...

    Curiously, someone recently sent me an email that said that if I see a car driving without its lights on at night, I should not signal them that they are doing so, because that's secretly a gang test: if I signal, they will do something bad to me as part of their initiation into the gang.

    hey, one person, unattributed, unquoted, said it, it *must* be true!

    I've tried to read your blog for a couple of weeks now but I can't take the condescension any longer. If this is what passes as you seriously considering the possibility of a stateless society, I'm not going to learn anything here.

    1. "Ah, well, that's proof of it then..."

      Well, no, that's evidence. Along with thousands of others years of evidence.

      "If this is what passes as you seriously considering the possibility of a stateless society..."

      I know stateless societies are possible. And they are poorer and more violent than those with states. Furthermore, you must know that I used to *make* arguments for stateless societies that people considered very topnotch. The idea that I haven't seriously considered these arguments is silly: I *advocated* them, then saw how I was wrong.

      "I'm not going to learn anything here."

      Of course not. Because you don't wish to do so.

    2. "Furthermore, you must know that I used to *make* arguments for stateless societies that people considered very topnotch. The idea that I haven't seriously considered these arguments is silly: I *advocated* them, then saw how I was wrong."

      You've made a mistake. It happens.

      Unfortunately, now you are reduced to simply mockery and condescension rather than discussion. Your post above has about 50 words and still manages to consist of not one but two condescending snarks against those who, as you know from having been associated with them before, have deep and sincere reasons for thinking what they do.

      ""I'm not going to learn anything here."

      Of course not. Because you don't wish to do so."

      You don't know me, so don't pretend that you do. I *came* here looking to understand why you have changed. I've spent weeks reading your posts and offering some thoughts and replies that represent my own exploration of this area (the major one of which you ignored, though granted it was in an old thread). I've tried much harder to learn from you than you have from me.

    3. I began reading Gene's blog as a libertarian who wanted exposure to someone who had left the ideology. I was often irritated by his tone, and understand where you're coming from. Over time I realized that his attitude was such because of the nearly unbelievable amount of self-righteous condescension coming from the Auburn ambit. What makes it difficult to handle their proto-religious certitude politely is the extent to which it is unearned. The often stupid pieces on Rockwell's website are full of ridiculous exaggerations. Note Kn@ppster's comment here about civilization having never left a state of gang warfare, and that Gene, in rejecting this adolescent barb, must be hallucinating. Surreal is right.

      It's telling that you angrily demand that courtesies the "Rockwell camp" fails to extend to non-libertarians of any kind be extended to them. Note your own smugness borne of ideological certitude: "You've made a mistake. It happens", failing to accept that it's perfectly clear he has seriously considered these ideas, given his personal history.

    4. John D,

      A couple of notes:

      1) I'm not in "the Rockwell camp."

      2) I'm prepared to consider an argument from Gene to substantiate the claim that the modern Westphalian nation state, or any Hobbesian sovereignty for that matter, constitutes a departure from "a state of gang warfare" or "the war of all against all," as opposed to just being a particularly effective organizational tactic within the context of said war -- that is, that it is a difference of kinds rather than of degrees.

      I suppose it's possible that he's even made such an argument -- but if so, I haven't seen it.

  6. So when the state breaks down and gangs *don't* take over, does that mean it was wrong to listen them? Or that their conclusions were a little less general than they claimed? Or that I'm only supposed to listen to them when they turn out to be right?

    1. Silas, contact me when an actual case of this arises. (Of course, sometimes another state fils the void fairly swiftly: that obviously does not represent a counter-example.)

    2. I did (with regard to blackouts a few months ago) and then you retreated into "Obviously I didn't mean that civil disorder breaks down EVERY time, therefore your comment about overconfidence is irrelevant.

    3. Silas, as far as I recall, we did not suffer any break down of the US state during the 2003 blackout. Even the local government functioned very effectively given the conditions, so... I have no idea what you are trying to get at here.


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