I love armchair philosophical discussions. But I don’t think they prove anything or make much difference in the world. It’s too easy to fool me. It looks to me like most anarchists talk a lot but don’t really do much. That’s the kind of anarchist I was. I am tired of talking and not doing.

Once upon a time I thought political activity was the way to get things done. I tried it out and proved to myself that it was a waste of time.

I convinced myself I was an anarchist because of the philosophy and history. Part of that was learning how people think we could do the useful things that the state monopolizes, but without the state. So I thought I knew just what needed to happen. I had a system.

So what changed?

Psychology teaches me that I am not immune to bias. Reading Hayek taught me that understanding society is more difficult and more important than understanding the state. He taught me that markets can help people solve problems that they otherwise couldn’t; that people who think they know just what to do if they get their hands on power have made a dangerous mistake. The market is a discovery process, and my guesses about what makes the world better have no necessary connection to what the world actually thinks.

Also, I wanted to stop thinking about the perfect world and start thinking about things I can accomplish that make the world a bit better, things that build society instead of reinforcing the state. Bitcoin is a big flashy example of this, though it remains to be seen whether it will truly succeed.

We need tools and seeds and raw materials for making a new society. Politics seems unlikely to provide these tools, and I could waste a lot of effort trying to take that path. Better to do stuff for real, have it spread and survive or not on it’s own. We may have plenty of time to build, or we may face a sudden catastrophe and need things in a rush.
So 5 principles:

  • Do things I can do now.
  • Expect to have to learn.
  • Expect people to disagree.
  • Let dissenters opt out
  • Tolerate experiments, learn what works or not.

I need a new label. Maybe builder. Maybe loose cannon. I haven’t earned it yet, but that’s my new ambition.

I’m not sure any of this will reassure those people who don’t like anarchists. I still like all the philosophical arguments against statism. But they’re armchair exercises. I agree with people who dislike the word “anarchism” for the baggage it brings and confusion it causes, but my disagreement goes deeper than that. I don’t find the minarchist ideas any more plausible than I did. Those ideas are just as armchair-bound.

My compass points whichever way increases cooperation and reduces coercion. I want to follow my compass wherever it leads, not seek a vision of utopia.