Shayne Wissler
“… to understand is, above all, to unify.” – Albert Camus

A basic taxonomy of anarchism

April 12 2013

As a principled advocate of individual liberty, I sometimes get mislabeled an “anarchist”, both by those who are anti-liberty and by those who are for it. This common mislabeling gives me some impetus to identify clearly where I stand, and I wrote an essay on this subject: Against Anarchism: The Case Against Individualist Anarchism.

In this post I’d like to give a brief summary of the different types of anarchist using a somewhat different classification system than the one I used in my essay. As with the categories used in my essay, they aren’t intended to be mutually-exclusive types, but tendencies that can in principle exist in the same person at the same time to various degrees.

[link]True anarchists:[link]

  1. Angry Anarchist. This type of anarchist is so angry he can’t see straight. His anger at perceived injustice (sometimes real injustice, sometimes not) has driven him to the point of blatant irrationality, and there’s just no talking to him about the various principles and definitions underlying his view.
  2. Secession Anarchist. While secession can be a legitimate political action (as in the case when America seceded from England), a secession anarchist advocates illegitimate, property-rights violating secession. As a theoretical construct, a city-state can in principle be voluntarily formed by city-state members effectively signing easements with one another, forming a new political entity through perfectly unanimous consent (example easements: a community that wants quiet after 9pm, or who wants everyone to take reasonable care of their yards, or who agree to fund the local fire department). A secession anarchist agrees that you can form such entities (they like to emphasize tiny entities such as Home Owner’s Associations, pretending that larger ones are impossible), but then claims the prerogative to unilaterally secede from such associations regardless of easement terms. I.e., this type of anarchist claims the prerogative to buy property in the middle of a peaceful community, and then unilaterally decide to break all the rules he agreed to when he first came. In effect, this anarchist is a thief – he steals the easement that granted some measure of property right to others.
  3. Appeasement Anarchist. Everyone has a right to come to another’s defense, regardless of locale. If a woman is being raped next door, in the next city, or half-way around the world, in principle you have a right to intervene. Further, you have a right to form associations – governments – that help people whose rights are being violated. An appeasement anarchist fixates on the fact that modern governments often engage in imperialism (which is of course illegitimate) or taxation without consent (again, illegitimate), and in so fixating, implicitly attacks the principle of that one has a right to come to another’s defense and a right to associate with others who wish to do likewise. Ironically, the appeasement anarchist supports the rights of tyrannies abroad, but not the rights of the individual victims.
  4. Paranoid Anarchist. A paranoid anarchist observes that government is a very powerful force, and quite simply, is so fearful of this power that he refuses to recognize that humans have a natural right to create it. In this respect he is like the person who fears all technology or progress – distrusting power simply because it is power. Clearly, when mankind creates something with great power, then at least an equally great care and diligence should be taken to make sure that power is not abused, and in the case of government, mankind has been extremely irresponsible. The proper course then is to become much more responsible, and that requires becoming much more rational, but rationality is something the paranoid anarchist has thrown out the window.

[link]Semantic (in name only) anarchists:[link]

  1. Consent Anarchist. A consent anarchist has decided that since the governments the anarchist is aware of have violated rights, that therefore all governments implemented on whatever principle must also violate rights, and thus he equates any system based on consent as “anarchism”. This type of “anarchist” is engaging in blatant post hoc ergo propter hoc, question begging, and arbitrary redefinition.
  2. Confused Anarchist. This type agrees with the principles of freedom of association, contract, and justice, and thus supports the right of others to form governments so long as those governments don’t violate his rights. This person really just prefers to “opt-out”, but does not begrudge others in their not opting out, but only (rightly) disapproves of being attacked merely for his opting out. I don’t consider this type to be an anarchist; please see my essay for why I call him “confused”.