[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Gerard Casey’s discussion of medieval Ireland, which I’ve previously mentioned here, is now available online.
A brief excerpt:
Political theory – and, I suggest, most political practice – is dominated by a myth to the effect that the state is necessary. … Such is the power of being first in the field (‘positioning’ in advertising terms) that the State can literally get away with murder if it can foster the notion that it is legitimate. … Irish society, organised on anarchical principles, lasted for almost 2,500 years! During that time it showed a capacity, vital to any organic and developing system of social organisation, to absorb alien elements and internalise them.
Er, these examples of quasi-market anarchist societies leave much to be desired. I’m particularly dismayed by passages like these:
unit of currency was the female slave (cumal) or various kinds of cows.
The king, as the wealthiest and most powerful man in the neighbourhood, was central
to the affairs of the tuath. All free men owed him loyalty and paid a special tax. He could
call upon the freemen to repel invaders or to attack a neighbouring tuath.
Medieval Ireland doesn’t sound like it was much better than the common feudal states of continental Europe. There was still an underclass of poor people and landless farmers, with no evidence that living conditions were any better than those of serfs. Internecine raiding and warfare between tuatha contradicts everything market anarchists say about the economic incentive for private security firms to negotiate rather than battle.
I hate to sound like, of all things, a consequentialist, but if free-market anarchy isn’t going to produce greater openness, prosperity and power decentralization, then what’s the impetus to fight for it? I’m not asking for much, I’m just asking for a society in which people don’t exist in a general state of powerlessness, choosing between several bad options. Being a left-libertarian, I know you share my sentiment.
These medieval stateless and semi-stateless societies leave much to be desired from a libertarian standpoint (left or otherwise) — but if one compares them to contemporary states of broadly similar culture, the anarchies are generally less violent and less oppressive than their statist neighbours. Anarchy by itself doesn’t guarantee the triumph of libertarian values (hence the importance of culture, education, direct action, etc.) but it does help.
(Note also that the tuatha were territorial, or at least more territorial than the Icelandic godhordh, so there was a monopolistic aspect screwing things up.)
Any chance the link to this paper can be found or the text somewhere else?