My Take on Anarcho-Pacifism

I have never been an advocate of violent action or destruction. As a matter of fact, I consider my anarchist philosophy to be most fundamentally based on the libertarian non-aggression principle and I am personally disgusted by violence. To me, the pen is beyond any doubt more powerful than the sword; actually, I would hesitate to use “the sword” even if it were in direct self-defense. I am a champion of peace and voluntaryism.

This is essentially where my refusal to accept government comes from: government is in every sense violent force and aggression, and as such I can never accept nor tolerate it. But my morality forbids me to take violent action as part of my resistance to being ruled. I believe Gandhi set a great example – peaceful disobedience, not violent action.

The way I would like to see a society without the state is a society based on respect and tolerance, where all actions and associations are strictly voluntary and physical force is never a solution. But I realize this might very well be a utopian dream on a national level, even though I think it is a fully attainable ideal in radically decentralized communities. In local, prosperous societies there is simply no need to resort to violence, as violence does not achieve anything or offer a solution. There is simply no reason anyone would do him- or herself the disservice of violently aggress on someone else.

In a free society the incentives for violent action are none and thus the violent actions taken in such a society would be at an absolute minimum, if not zero – unless one counts mining, wood felling or smithery as “violent.”

My principle for anarchism can thus be summed up as: do no harm. The reason I do not get out on nightly missions to destroy the illegitimate property of those who continuously aggress on me (read: government) is simply that such missions would cause harm – to both innocent and semi-innocent people. I am not violent by nature and I do not generally enjoy destruction; there is no reason for it and I don’t understand it. Which makes my insistence on the necessity for a free, stateless society even stronger and more deep-rooted.

This said, let me clarify: I am certainly not saying I accept government’s illegitimate rule of me or anybody else. And I would desperately like to see government wither away, be undermined, or even be torn down. But I do not engage in destructive measures directed at people or property; I do not find destruction fun, inspiring, or even necessary.

In this sense I would certainly call myself anarcho-pacifist. But I do not non-violence is a principle that must always be honored, paying for it with my life. I do believe in my right to defend myself, my loved ones, and my property. I do not think it my duty to be a passive bystander and observer of all evils going on. If I see grave injustice being done I am likely to act; it is just that I would probably not act with force unless it is absolutely necessary – and then only as the very last way out.

I do, in a way, believe in self-defense and I would not have a problem to get a gun. As society degenerates around us it is becoming increasingly urgent for all of us to learn how to use firearms and get a gun for protection. As anarchist there is no reason whatever to expect that government “protect” works and that the monopolized police force will actually come to my rescue if I were to face real danger.

In the long term, future (some say imminent) economic crises may bring about a social stress that could fire antagonisms and outright street fighting between a government run amok (in the mainstream sense) and a people brought to arms in utter desperation. If this were to happen there is no reason not to have a gun.

So perhaps I could call myself a “pacifist with a gun.” Well, if I had had one.

But let’s return to of self-defense, it is a quite interesting concept that is not not at all as simple as most people tend to make it. Those who advocate “natural” rights, for instance, generally conclude that a violation of right is a violation of right, which causes a situation of measuring the weight of rights.

For instance, a person owning property has the right to defend that right. But to what extent? Would it be okay to kill a murderer? A rapist? A blackmailer? A trespasser? Why? Why not? In each of these situations there is the right of the violated rights bearer against the right of the violator. Does the right of a violator carry less weight? Says who? It does not follow from the “natural” rights how such problems should be solved (which is why some conclude there is a need for government), so some add e.g. a theory of proportionality to regulate these shortcomings of the original rights theory.

I think “do no harm” is a sufficient principle of justice. When you act violently in self-defense it might be justified by the situation, but that still does not give you the right to do harm. You might have to in order to save your life, but it is still wrong to do harm. Your being assaulted does not give you the right to assault the assaulter.

This might seem like a difficult principle to implement, but I think it is very intuitive and the practical solution to conflicts arising from “violence and counter violence” is fairly simple: apply any market solution of your choice. Imagine a person trespassing on your property and thereby doing harm on your exclusive right to this property. You tell him or her that s/he is trespassing and need to leave immediately. If the person refuses you can simply remove him or her from your property – if s/he thinks this action was uncalled for you might face a trial hearing held by a private arbitrator you accept.

What this means is simply that if the parties disagree on whether the outcome of the situation was just, each of their violent actions can be measured by a “third” party to which they agree. The third party can then estimate damages to set things right.

This is a rather obvious market solution to a problem of two or more parties disagreeing on a situation: let a neutral party, to which the parties agree, decide who acted “most” in error and who therefore owes the other party/parties damages. Such a system would never face the philosophical problem of proportionality, since doing harm is always a bad thing and fault can always be established and estimated by a neutral party of choice – even though “harm” is always subjectively assessed.

That is the way I see self-defense. You have the right to act, but not to harm. If you wish or need to use violent actions in order to achieve some end you are responsible for your actions and should be held accountable for wrongdoing. This applies even though you might already have been violated by the other party. If someone trespasses on your grounds to pick berries and you shoot that person the both of you have done harm – but to different degrees. You should be tried for murder and convicted, however with your fault reduced with the fault of trespassing and berry-stealing.

This way all violations and conflicts can “easily” be settled by the market as in any situation where you destroy someone’s property or are guilty of breach of contract. And there is no need for a constitution or bill of rights – you do not have the right to do harm to anyone, and that goes for everyone and everything.

If I am assaulted I will, according to this principle, use violent action to resist and possibly escape the aggressor, but I will be very reluctant to use force. And if I use force I believe I am at fault to the degree of force applied and should be held responsible for that action – just as you, as my aggressor, should be held responsible for all your actions.

This principle is equally applicable on the thugs working for government – if they attack me they should be held accountable on a market for justice. (If I violently and forcefully resist, I am at fault to that degree even if I find it necessary.) When the state is finally abolished I believe representatives for government will face charges of forceful aggression and theft filed by millions of oppressed people.

The problem with government is however that it is not a person, even though it pretends to be a “legal entity,” and thus each of its representatives can hide behind an abstraction that can not be held accountable. But the way I see it each individual is responsible for his or her actions – it does not matter if these actions were taken following orders from someone higher up in the chain of command; a taken action is your choice and thus responsibility. So on the first day of freedom the thugs, goons, and imbeciles in government will be held accountable for their actions.

This is as far as my anarcho-pacifism goes. It does state a philosophical principle that nobody has a right to do harm, but it also provides a framework for assessing violations of this principle and how to regain a peaceful equilibrium. Force is never a solution, and aggressive such is even worse. But my believing in peace and non-violence does not mean I will accept your enslavement or your rule. It means I will resist to my greatest ability and practice disobedience as much as possible, and that I will take full responsibility for my actions.

And I demand that you do the same if you want my respect as a human being.