Friday, January 1, 2016

Walter Block on the Definition of Anarchy

The following exchange took place between Dr. Walter Block and Tim:

Hi Guys,

I'm hoping that someone at LRC can help me answer a question. Maybe you
could post it on the blog and allow some of the contributing authors to

I was discussing the term "anarchy" with a friend (he is a conservative and
works for a police department). My explanation to him was simply that the
term means "no ruler" and is the natural state of every day existence,
especially when it comes to voluntary interactions (based on a quote from
Robert Eschauzier, via Larken Rose's Facebook page).

But he referenced the definition of the word which appears in the
dictionary and lists such things as disorder, chaos, and lawlessness.

So how does one express his disagreement with the "official" definition of
"anarchy" as it appears in the (establishment/statist) dictionary? I told
him that it's incorrect and just because it appears in the dictionary
doesn't mean it's true - but this sounds wacky.

Thanks in advance!

Tim from Florida


Dear Tim:

The prefix "an" means "against." So, anarchy means against archy. What, then, is archy? In my view, it is unjustified rule.

Here's a bibliography:


Anderson and Hill, 1979; Benson, 1989, 1990; Block, 2007, 2011; Block and Fleisher, 2010; Casey, D., 2010; Casey, G., 2012; DiLorenzo, 2010; England, 2013; Gregory, 2011; Guillory & Tinsley, 2009; Hasnas, 1995; Heinrich, 2010; Higgs, 2009, 2012, 2013; Hoppe, 2008, 2011; Huebert, 2010; King, 2010; Kinsella, 2009; Long, 2004; McConkey, 2013; Molyneux, 2008; Molyneux and Badnarik, 2009; Murphy, 2005; 2010, 2013A, 2013B, 2014; Rockwell, 2014A, 2014B; Rothbard, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1998; Shaffer, 2012, pp. 224-235; Sloterdijk, 2010; Spooner, 1870; Stringham, 2007; Tannehill, 1984; Tinsley, 1998-1999; Wenzel, 2013.

Anderson, Terry and Hill, P.J. 1979. "An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West," Journal of Libertarian Studies, 3: 9-29;
Benson, Bruce L. 1989. Enforcement of Private Property Rights in Primitive Societies: Law Without Government," The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IX, No. 1, Winter, pp. 1-26;

Benson, Bruce L. 1990. “Customary Law with Private Means of Resolving Disputes and Dispensing Justice: A Description of a Modern System of Law and Order without State Coercion.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IX, No. 2,” pp. 25-42;
Block, Walter. 2007. “Anarchism and Minarchism; No Rapprochement Possible: Reply to Tibor Machan,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring, pp. 91-99;

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Governmental inevitability: reply to Holcombe.” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 22; pp. 667-688;

Block, Walter E. and Michael Fleischer. 2010. “How Would An Anarchist Society Handle Child Abuse?” October 13
Casey, Doug. 2010. “Doug Casey on Anarchy.” March 31
Casey, Gerard. 2012. Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State. Bloomsbury Academic;
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. 2010. “The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality.” The Independent Review, v. 15, n. 2, Fall 2010, pp. 227–239;

England, Randy. 2013. „The state: what can we replace it with?” March 31

Gregory, Anthony. 2011. “Abolish the Police.” May 26

Guillory, Gil & Patrick Tinsley. 2009. “The Role of Subscription-Based Patrol and Restitution in the Future of Liberty,” Libertarian Papers. Vol. 1, No. 12, pp. 1-40;
Hasnas, John. 1995. “The myth of the rule of law.” Wisconsin Law Review 199;

Heinrich, David J. 2010. “Justice for All Without the State.” The Libertarian Standard. May 6

Higgs, Robert. 2009. “Why We Couldn't Abolish Slavery Then and Can't Abolish Government Now.” August 20

Higgs, Robert. 2012. “What is the point of my libertarian anarchism?” January 16;

Higgs, Robert. 2013. “The State—Crown Jewel of Human Social Organization.”;

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2008. “Reflections on the Origin and the Stability of the State.” June 23

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2011. “State or Private Law Society.” April 10;

Huebert, Jacob. 2010. Libertarianism Today. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger;

King, Seth. 2010. “Daily Anarchist Interviews Walter E. Block ,” September 9;

Long, Roderick. 2004. “Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections”

McConkey, Michael. 2013. “Anarchy, Sovereignty, and the State of Exception: Schmitt’s Challenge.” The Independent Review, v. 17, n. 3, Winter, pp. 415–428.

Molyneux, Stefan. 2008. “The Stateless Society: An Examination of Alternatives”

Molyneux, Stefan versus Michael Badnarik. 2009. “How much government is necessary.” July 5

Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014A. Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto. Rockwell Communications LLC;

Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014B. “What Libertarianism Is, and Isn't.” March 31

Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York;

In the view of Rothbard (1973, emphasis added by present author) “For centuries, the State (or more strictly, individuals acting in their roles as ‘members of the government’) has cloaked its criminal activity in high-sounding rhetoric. For centuries the State has committed mass murder and called it ‘war’; then ennobled the mass slaughter that ‘war’ involves. For centuries the State has enslaved people into its armed battalions and called it ‘conscription’ in the ‘national service.’ For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it ‘taxation.’ In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.”

Rothbard, Murray N. 1975. “Society Without a State.” The Libertarian Forum, volume 7.1, January;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1977. “Do you hate the state?” The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July;
“…there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State – any State – is a predatory gang of criminals.”
“The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or – for minarchists – dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.”
Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.

“Paul, Ron.”  Undated.

Shaffer, Butler. 2012. The Wizards of Ozymandias: Reflections on the Decline and Fall. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute;

Sloterdijk, Peter. 2010.  “The Grasping Hand: The modern democratic state pillages its productive citizens.” Winter;

Spooner, Lysander. 1966 [1870]. No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority and A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard,  Larkspur, Colorado: Rampart College;

Stringham, Edward, ed. 2007. Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers;

Tannehill, Morris and Linda Tannehill. [1970] 1984. The Market for Liberty, New York: Laissez Faire Books;

Tinsley, Patrick. 1998-1999. "With Liberty and Justice for All: A Case for Private Police," Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter, pp. 95-100;

Wenzel, Robert. 2013. “Robert Ringer's Strawman Anarchist.” February 2;

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans


  1. In his speeches, the late great Marshall Fritz used to advise anyone in conversation to replace "anarchy" with "anarchism". The former connotes disorder while the latter portrays a system of self-government, along with voluntary institutions.

  2. "Unjustified rule" leaves room for justified rule. If means no government, which of course would be a disaster. Ancaps always think their rules will prevail if there was no government.

    1. The only justified rule is that which individuals voluntarily agree to.

    2. Wags, Ancaps simply believe community should be voluntary.
      If, when the State ultimately ends, you want to live in a community with a taxing authority and a centralized local government that can draft you for its wars, you should be able to live in such a society.
      If you are an Ancomm and want to live in a communist community, then by all means you should be able to.
      AnCaps would live in whatever society they saw that fits them, and even to refrain from community altogether. The key is being able to secede from a community when one finds that it doesn't suit his needs or comes into conflict with his Right to Self Ownership.

      What would be wrong with this?

      Live in and build whatever civilization you want, but allow others to do also.
      If the AnCap society failed, well, so be it, let the Market decide, not a bunch of sociopathic central planners.
      One more thing, AnCaps that I know, while they don't believe in the State being legitimate, it does not mean that we do not believe in Law and self governance. In fact I would argue that we are the ones who actually advocate rightful Law and Justice.
      I have no doubt that there would be complications, just like there is in any community, but at least, if you didn't like it, you could vote with your feet, and be completely done with it, unlike the situation we have today.