Jason Stone
7 min readOct 1, 2021

Near Anarchist Societies — A Practical Pathway Towards Progress

Anarchists often advocate for a stateless, boarder-less society, however, these goals may come in conflict with the need to respect indigenous peoples’ attempts to maintain continuity in their ancient homeland and the complexity of managing military forces.

Members of societies that are primarily comprised of individuals who are not living in their ancient homeland may not appreciate that many of hype native inhabitants feel a substantial obligation to preserve continuity with their heritage in their ancient homeland. The hope is that their unique variety will perpetually have a home in the territory their ancestors worked hard to protect and develop. Since arguably most of the world’s inhabitants live in their ancient homeland, Anarchists must convince most of the world that there is an ethical, effective way for them to peacefully preserve continuity with their heritage in a stateless society where a more diverse collection of individuals and cultures may come to inhabit their ancient homeland. The decision to open the land to new arrivals is extremely consequential since once a substantial settlement has occurred there may be little chance of rolling back the changes without ethnic cleansing or genocide occurring. Liberal nation states with democratically determined immigration policies may provide them with a well understood arrangement for preserving the continuity they desire.

Ideological movements may sometimes subject large populations to relatively untested schemes in ways that can result in dysfunction and increased amounts of authoritarianism. Liberal nation states attempt to protect large amounts of territory with military forces that their governments fund and control — ostensibly for the purpose of protecting the population and preserving the land for uses that are consistent with liberal values. They also interfere with substantial alternative military powers from forming within their territories. Although liberal nation states may sometimes engage in unjust wars and may primarily serve the interests of the wealthy investor class, they simplify the problem of hostile military forces by reducing the total number of militaries and, due to many years of real-world experience, their tendencies are well known. Anarchists that advocate for a diverse collection of autonomous communities forming in a stateless way in the territories that are now controlled by nation states face a serious problem. A large collection of independent communities that are based on a plurality of ideological orientations and have their own military defenses may behave in ways that are somewhat unpredictable versus the well known behaviors of the liberal nation state. Unless real-world knowledge about how these arrangements would function in a way that preserves the freedoms Anarchist seek can be obtained in ethical ways, it may be premature and irresponsible for us to advocate for completely abandoning the military arrangements that are part of the liberal nation state.

If we accept that these two problems exist, then what progress can be made? The primary goal of Anarchism is to create societies that are thoroughly based on voluntary agreement and cooperation in a way that overcomes the forms of exploitation that are associated with traditional capitalism. Truly voluntary agreements imply the existence of practical alternatives. Existing nation states tend to force a set of generic rules onto vast territories and populations through violence and are often difficult to move between. If it is too difficult and irresponsible to abandon the liberal nation state form in the immediate future, then perhaps progress can still be made by making it easier to move between nations and by encouraging higher levels of subsidiarily within nations.

Arrangements that better ensure that native inhabitants are able to maintain continuity may make it more likely that these nations would allow diverse immigration in a way that would expand the number of nations an individual is able to voluntarily reside in — making membership in such nations more legitimately voluntary. Such arrangements could include special International Zones (IZ’s), native and universalist substates in a union, and immigration policy set by referendums of the existing citizenry. IZ’s would allow voluntary parties to an international social contract to move freely between IZ’s in participating nations — where residents would only be allowed to establish permanent residency and businesses within the special zones. Longterm visits outside of the special zones could be regulated by visa-like agreements. Native and universalist substates could exist within a nation, where native substates could be discontiguous and have ownership and management rights to landmarks around the nation. Only those with qualifying native status could be offered citizenship in the native substate, however, all citizens would be allowed to live and work in either substate within the terms that define the union of the substates — similar to the Schengen Area in the EU. The native substate could include a state church that conducts rituals that only include its members. These rituals would work to maintain continuity with the native heritage in a more ethically voluntary way, since any member of the native substate would be allowed to switch their citizenship to the universal substate at any time without having to physically relocate to the universalist substate. The native substate could allow for special public schools and zoning that control the types of structures and uses occurring within the substate and landmarks they control. A single military force could be shared by both states to avoid violent conflict occurring between them. In all cases the immigration policies could be set by a referendum of the existing citizenry in order to avoid accusations of manipulation by shadowy elites or other conspiracies so that the diverse citizenry is more likely to be able to claim that the arrangement is legitimate in a robust, multigenerational way. For nations containing multiple groups claiming native status, multiple native substates might exist in a union with a universalist state. For instance in Israel there could be Arab and Hebrew substates, with a state mosque and state synagogue, in a union with a universalist substate.

Subsidiarity is a form of social organization where tasks and rules are applied to the most local level possible. One way to shape the process of reorganizing a society around the subsidiarily principle is the Escapability Heuristic — which states that the less escapable an arrangement is the less voluntary and, therefore, the less coercive an arrangement ought to be. If there is substantial disagreement about what a rule or other arrangement ought to be and there is no practical alternative, then many participants may not be truly voluntary. Polling and voting (if few participants relocate after votes that are far from unanimous occur it is likely that many participants find the arrangement unacceptable but difficult to escape) could be used to detect when there are significant numbers of individuals that substantially disapprove of some arrangement but find it difficult to escape. Those arrangements that are the cause of the most substantial disagreements could be placed into a set of horizontal agreements and sub-agreements that can be freely chosen between in a practical way so that the arrangements are more likely be truly voluntary. This could mean things like allowing states, counties, and cities to decide on a issue (for instance networks of states and cities being allowed to adopt different arrangements both internally and for interactions between each other) or allowing individuals or organizations to select different options whatever land they may reside on when possible. This refactoring process could be performed on an ongoing basis with the hope that those arrangements that are most difficult to escape would tend to only contain elements that all participants do not feel in strong disagreement with — while more contentious arrangements would be more escapable in a practical way and therefore be more voluntary. Nations that are easier to move between could allow for additional degrees of escapability should someone find a particular nation’s overall arrangement to be substantially unacceptable.

In a system organized around subsidiarity, tax policies and regulations may vary more freely within a nation. This may allow for voluntary conventions meant to overcome the exploitation associated with traditional capitalism to be explored, such as universal basic incomes (UBI), land value taxes that share land rents and the value of extracted natural resources, voluntary tax-free investment funds that can only be paid into a maximum amount by each citizen (perhaps up to the amount they receive from sharing land rents and the value of natural resources) in order to provide an alternative source of finance that distributes profits to the average citizen, and mutual aid organizations that are funded from some combination of the following conventions in a way that could replace many government run social services. Local citizen’s investment funds of the type mentioned could aggregate into regional, national, and international funds that could be basis for their own stock markets that make available funding at all scales without further enriching the small wealthy investor class. International movement of money in these funds could perhaps someday also provide a less coercive alternative to IMF and World Bank financing. Workplace democracies might prefer these funds since they would know that the profits would be distributed to the average individual as a form of mutual aid — especially if they are allowed to sell equity to the funds without giving up voting rights to the investors. Mutual aid organizations could be allowed to accept a transfer of some portion of a citizen’s UBI along with the right to invest them in a citizen’s fund from a donor or someone who is receiving aid. They could also be allowed to take out low interest secured loans that are backed by the money earning interest in the funds where it sometimes may be posible to collect donations to cover the cost of regular loan payments. Care could be taken to monitor the effectivness of these arrangmnts and to provide traditional government social services should an experiment fail. Workplace democracies and mutual aid organizations that are built on citizen funds could someday form elaborate global networks that engage in voluntary coordination and offer forms of mutual aid that are less dependent on ongoing profits from investments and traditional cash exchange in a way that satisfies communist goals (See Public Wealth Communism).

Properly respecting the burden that members of the native population often feel in regards to stewardship of their ancient homeland and refraining from forcing experimental military arrangements on a society may both be necessary for practical, ethical, and effective progress to occur. Hopefully these humble suggestions will at least inspire even better suggestions for those wishing to make progress towards free and prosperous societies based on Anarchist principles.