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

Lions of Liberty Podcast Ep. 43: Shayne Wissler on Against Anarchism

July 16 2014

On July 8, 2014 I was interviewed by Marc Clair at Lions Of Liberty:

In this episode of the Lions of Liberty Podcast, I welcome Shayne Wissler back to the show, to discuss the concepts laid out in his essay, “Against Anarchism.” Shayne explains why he believes it’s vital for advocates of individual liberty to work out differences in their philosophy, and describes the contradictions he sees with the anarchist viewpoint. Shayne and Marc delve into various concepts including secession, non-intervention, and how the formation of city-states and federations can remain consistent with the principles of individual rights. As always, stay tuned for Marc’s post-show rant, in what may be the most controversial episode yet!

I think Marc does a wonderful job of framing the issue and structuring the discussion – thanks Marc!


It’s more difficult to be precise in an extemporaneous interview than in writing. Additional remarks/qualifications based on some “buzz” I’ve seen regarding this interview:

“Why did Wissler state that anyone who is in favor of the drug laws is participating in a criminal action and that they are spreading evil around?”

Contrary to popular mythologies, being a voter does not wash your hands of guilt.

Being in favor of the War on Drugs would not be enough to make you a criminal, but taking actions that you know or should have known directly support it would, even if the action is “merely” giving your opinion. E.g., if walk up to a hit man, and say “In my opinion, this person should be taken out, and the person who does this should get a thousand now and a thousand later”, and then hand him a thousand dollars, that makes you an accomplice to murder. Likewise, if you call up your Congressman, and tell him that “The War on Drugs is a good thing, and I will not vote for you unless you support Drug War legislation”, then you are aiding and abetting The War on Drugs. You are a participant in it, just as much as is the person who hires the hit man is a participant in murder.

As it happens, I’ve heard some anarchists that go so far as to claim that when you hire a hit man, you aren’t actually guilty in any way, because the hit man has free will and this somehow “washes clean” your “sin” of giving him money. This is a silly argument. Paying the hit man may not be identical to pulling the trigger, but it is similar in principle; likewise, pulling a voting lever is similar in principle: you know, or should have known, what the consequences of your action will likely be, therefore you are culpable. (To be clear: I’m not opposed to voting; I’m opposed to voting for legislation that constitutes overt rights violation.)

Probably one of the things that motivates statists is the idea that government can “wash clean” one’s sins, that pulling the voting lever is not only your civic duty but is also a way to cleanse your soul while you vote for heinous things (or while you vote for someone because you know they will vote for heinous things). This is akin to why some people are Christians – they like the idea of a simple ritual washing away one’s guilt, regardless of how heinous.

But this sort of attitude about guilt only creates more victims. Taking responsibility for the crimes you have supported creates less. You have to decide: do you want to spread pleasant but destructive myths or actually stand on the side of justice?

“Wissler claims that the state does not have a monopoly on defense and courts because anyone is currently allowed to set up a private security agency and private adjudication. What happens when the private agency attempts to arrest a cop for violating rights? Does the government allow this competition? No, it initiates violence against the innocent in order to prevent competition – it’s a violent monopoly.”

First of all, no, I didn’t say they don’t have a monopoly because people are allowed to set up private agencies. I say they don’t have one because the very idea of “monopoly” is nonsense, that the closest one gets to it is the power to have the final say, which is an attribute that all systems (or “non-systems”) share. So, calling a government a “monopoly on force” while contrasting it with a “defense agency” is making a distinction without a difference. It’s playing a conceptual shell game.

If you actually investigate the issue, you’ll find that private citizens have successfully arrested bad cops. They have even shot cops in self-defense and not been prosecuted, or have won their cases. In any case, you’re really talking about a scenario where the most powerful government institution disagrees with you about a particular case. But this is not different from what you advocate: in your “anarchist” system, the strongest “defense agency” will have the final say in any case they care to adjudicate. It so happens that the strongest system now is the one that most people support. That too would be about the same in your “anarchist” system.

So again, when you use the term “monopoly”, you’re pretending that there’s a distinction when really, there isn’t.

“Your position seems perfectly consistent with anarcho-capitalism. So, why do you reject that term in favor of the city-state model/terminology?”

I can tell that you haven’t read the essay. Please pay special attention to the section on “semantic anarchism.”