Voluntary law flows from the ancient truth that society cannot be organized without the use of domination, fraud and coercion, unless each member follows their own code. Conversely, it is the quality of each person following their own code that makes an anarchy (in the sense of a self -organized society) exist as a recognizable social entity possessing organization. A pure anarchy may be very highly organized, and may be much more highly organized than an authoritarian society. Anarchies, while punishing hypocrisy and allowing for self-defense, exclude the exercise of compulsory authority of one person over another. In the limiting, ideal case, self-rule is anarchy's only organizing motive force. If any organizing force other than self-rule is at work, the society is not an anarchy in the purest sense.
By "only motive force," I mean that there is no compulsion of any person or group on another, using coercive or fraudulent levers, requiring that a law be followed. When each person is participating knowingly and voluntarily, each in a sense is following her own internal law. Whether or not the internal laws of different people happen to be the same, or are written down somewhere: justification for enforcement every law flows only from its self-adoption. All law is in a sense internal, but in self-organizing societies, no law exists except those which each person decides to follow, without threats or fear of punishment.
There is endless confusion about consequences and fear in self-organizing societies. In authoritarian societies, there are consequences and fear associated with failing to follow the law willed by some imposed authority. In self-organizing societies, there are consequences and fear associated with two things: (1) failing to follow one's personal honor code or "law", or (2) adopting a personal honor code that people in all available support networks view as abominable. In the first case, one who fails to follow their own law cannot be trusted, and thus will not find it possible to enter into trust-based relationships upon which society depends. In the second case, the person adopting a law that all condemn is not untrustworthy per se, but will be shunned as one that holds to contemptible or dangerous views. However, such pressures arise naturally from the population as a whole, and not by the will or whim of an individual or collective entity.
Coercion is willed by identifiable entities. Fraud is likewise willed. Self-organizing societies eliminate coercion and fraud in the adoption and application of law, but not natural pressures to behave sociably. Naturally occurring, non-coerced and truthfully-based shunning does NOT amount to coercion. Shunning cannot be considered coercion, because a duty to serve or transact with another cannot be imposed on any free person, without violating basic notions of self-sovereignty. In other words, it would be illogical to consider shunning to be coercive, per se. A person who voluntarily decides to shun another is not free, if shunning is forbidden. However, shunning that occurs as a result of fraudulent disparagement of the person shunned, or as a result of threats of force against those who would otherwise not choose to shun, is certainly a form of coercion. The proper complaint lies against the person who has fraudulently disparaged or threatened force, not against the one who shuns, in that case.
Thus, the essential organizing principle in self-organizing societies is "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the the law." If "what thou wilt" includes initiation of aggression or fraud, however, imperfections in order arise. Well-ordered anarchies need something in addition to self-rule, sometimes called reciprocity or love. It has been recognized since ancient times that social order depends on reciprocity, which has two principle aspects or "prongs": esteem by members of the society of a higher, non-subjective morality, insofar as consistent with treating others as you would like to be treated in similar circumstances. These same two principles, or some recognizable variation on them, underlie every well-ordered anarchy.
Self-organizing societies do not work if large majorities of their members do not generally seek to do what is right (the first prong) by some rule or principal based in reciprocity (the second prong). When most do, the incentives for doing evil diminish, because everybody knows they will be taken care of. There is no need to take risks associated with robbery, murder, theft, or other violations of property and person, merely to survive or to alleviate fear of poverty. "Carry your own weight" and "care for the unfortunate" arise naturally. Crimes of passion and simple negligence still happen, but less so economic crimes.
The principal of non-aggression is another example of a rule of reciprocity that can be applied in a self-organizing society. Because "non-initiation of aggression" (i.e., the Non-Aggression Principle, or "NAP") and "love your neighbor as yourself" (the "Golden Rule") are distinctively different moral precepts, they will result in different kinds in self-organized societies. So there can be different kinds of self-organizing societies, based on different principles of reciprocity like these.
These different kinds of self-organizing societies or social networks can be intertwined. Any number may so coexist. Their memberships may overlap, up to the point where the same people are subjected to conflicting self rules. On the other hand, one cannot simultaneously be a member that esteems Red over all other colors, while also being a member of a society that esteems Blue most highly, unless one is colorblind. Nonetheless, self-organized Red and Blue societies can coexist, so long as esteem of one's favorite color is not considered a license for aggression. This illustrates the notion that some types of self-organized societies are compatible, when intertwined. For example, a person may be a member of a first self-organizing society in which all members follow the non-aggression principle, while also being a member of a second self-organizing society in which all members follow the Golden Rule. This is because the Golden Rule subsumes the non-aggression principle. One cannot violate the non-aggression principle while following the Golden Rule, and it does not matter that the converse is not true.
Self-organizing societies based on the NAP and the Golden Rule are compatible, because both principles prohibit aggression except for defensive purposes. It does not matter that one can violate the Golden Rule without violating the NAP, because those who hold to the Golden Rule are bound to take no aggressive action against such transgressions.
In addition, both the Golden Rule and the NAP require a certain restraint with respect to actions that are not aggressive or fraudulent, but are nonetheless repugnant. People have different moral sensitivities, and are easily outraged when others openly do what they consider to be terribly immoral. Under a Golden Rule approach, other folks would have to consider your publicized moral sensitivities because they would like you to respect theirs. Because everybody is making an effort to respect others' moral sensitivities, fellow members in a Golden Rule society can have confidence that their fellows will not willfully dishonor their own sincerely held and publicized moral sensitivities. At the same time, the Golden Rule prevents prying into victimless conduct that participants prefer to keep private. In a NAP society, nobody would object to any victimless public or private behavior either, because all are following a rule that say one is not supposed to care about whether their own sensitivities are respected, so long as nobody initiates force or fraud.
Therefore if Golden Rule and NAP societies are intertwined, it is inevitable that NAP members will openly engage in victimless conduct that is nonetheless offensive to some of the Golden Rule members. Wouldn't the Golden Rule people take action to intervene when the NAP people publicly disrespected their "higher" sensibilities? Then, wouldn't the NAP people forcibly defend against such intervention, as violating the NAP? Not actually. The Golden Rule people would, by their own rule, have to consider how they would like to be treated if they were in the shoes of the NAP people. They would have to see that if they were NAP people, they would feel justified in defending against forcible intervention directed at anything other than protecting against coercion or fraud. So the Golden Rule people would have to limit their response to truthful and non-coercive actions, or they wouldn't be loving their neighbor. Also, the burden on the Golden Rule people would be to forgive (but not to forget) if the offender repents. The NAP people would recognize no positive duties, including a duty to forgive. So around the NAP people, the Golden Rule people would recognize a need to handle controversy without aggression. If the NAP guys just want to be jerks to the love-thy-neighbor guys to intentionally inflict severe emotional distress, depending on the circumstances that might amount to aggression and violation of their own laws, and could be resisted. But in all other cases the members of NAP self-organizing societies could do as they pleased, without fear of repercussion. So intertwined anarchies of the NAP and Golden Rule types are compatible, and can co-exist happily.
It's hard to get to such a place of not caring, of accepting that others may do things you find terribly immoral. Could you really not care if the people over there were being wantonly cruel to helpless puppies? Of course not. You might want other moral principles to be enforced, like "don't be cruel to animals," "conserve the natural environment," and so on. Although one can feel very deeply about many different moral beliefs, and take action to promote knowledge and observance of moral precepts, both the NAP and the Golden Rule prohibit aggression as a means for such promotion. Caring is permitted; aggression is forbidden. In an anarchy based on either the Golden Rule or the NAP, you can certainly choose to defend puppies against torture or abuse, if that is what you want to do. However, you cannot force others to join in that defense, nor will you enjoy any special privilege while defending your sacred moralities. You will be risking injury or loss only to your own account by engaging in a defense, as well as laying full claim to any glory attending your heroism. Any legal claim against you for your actions will be made on the basis of a law you have already agreed to accept - or else you are not really living in a self-organized society.
Some self-organizing societies are incompatible. A society based on "might make right" (MMR), for example, is incompatible with any society in which might (power) is constrained somehow. Members of intertwined "might-makes-right" and "might constrained" societies will not be able to agree on moral resolutions of disputes. The MMR crowd can't accept any constraints on the exercise of power; whatever is possible is moral, in their view. Constraints might lead somewhere the MMR folks don't want to go, like an obligation to not aggress against, or to love, their neighbors.
Many personal codes do not support the emergence of any society, or degrade the effectiveness of society. Consider, for example, a group of people all following a "might makes right" personal code. Depending on the craftiness of such persons, society may or may not be able to emerge. For simple-minded people, following a MMR code means the abolition of all trust, because any person can do anything at any time without any social repercussions. In its simplest form, MMR produces a unorganized melee, not a society. People, however, are not simple minded, and do not fail to notice that coalitions and alliances convey power ("might"), but require a degree of mutual trust. So in the real world, a group of people may enforce a set of rules among themselves, as a tool for gaining an advantage over another group.
States have a degree of MMR and a degree of constraint. Of course, states are the antithesis of self-organizing society. But we can think of them as a sort of self-organized network based on constrained MMR for advancing corporate (in the sense of collective) power. The model fits in some respects.
For example, we might conceptualize the great bulk of state laws as laws that in practice apply only to those in government. People outside of government don't generally know what the rules are, and thus, generally don't internalize them. When a state puts somebody in prison, for example, they are operating within their own law. The prisoner is certainly not following state law by being imprisoned, because the prisoner has no choice in the matter. The prisoner can't be following anything in the matter. For further example, a person filling out a tax form and paying taxes does not comply out of an internal sense of right or wrong, but because he fears that if he does not, agents of the state bearing weapons will pay a visit an an inopportune time. The taxpayer is therefore conforming to external pressure, and not following any internal law. In other words, we can think of state law, in moral or philosophical sense, as a form of corporate law applying to corporate groups and agents of such groups, and not to anyone else.
Anarchies can interwine with states, too. Amazingly, people who are members of the state can also be members of a self-organized society! Such people may sometimes be placed in the uncomfortable position of violating either the rules of the state they have agreed to apply, or their personal honor code that admits them to self-organized society. I have written more about this subject, here.
Don't miss the main point! Self-organizing societies arise out of self rule, period. That means such societies can spring into being any time two or more people adopt compatible rules and know of each other's existence. Self-organizing societies can exist in the here and now; they do exist in the here and now. There is no need to wait for the state to dissolve away. To be part of a self-organizing society, one only needs to adopt a set of moral principles, and let others who adopt compatible principles know about your adoption. Build and develop that energy, that society, to be larger and more powerful in a social sense.
If you love the idea of voluntary society, start building one today. That will be a better use of your time than dwelling on all the negativity that the state produces with its various instruments of coercion, deception, and oppression. The state cannot be saved because it rests on an immoral foundation. It can only be peacefully replaced by something based on a morality of reciprocal and equal natural rights.
* * *
Photo Credit to Kasi Metcalfe
Under Creative Commons License
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)