There is a popular idea that a functional society requires a government to hold it together – a body of people who govern the rest. But what does it mean to be governed?
The first person known to adopt the label “anarchist” [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon] gives us some idea:
“It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be … exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused … disarmed … imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”
Government is the body by which some people govern others – an instrument of rule by some over others. This is an inherently unequal relationship that allows people with the most access to power – typically those with something to offer other power players – to exert unfair advantages over other people. It sets up a hierarchy where some are expected to yield and some are given the privilege of initiating force due to the title of their office or the type of work clothes they wear. Being allowed to vote and protest does not mean that you are not expected to yield to the people in charge.
The word anarchy can describe an ideal world where there is no authority, no subjugation, no rule of one individual over another – an ideal that societies move toward but can never fully reach. But anarchy can also describe a society where norms of anarchism are widely adopted – where impositions of authority are viewed as unjust and are met with efforts to resist or alleviate them.
.. it is a movement that cannot really be led in a traditional sense as you can’t force people to be free and coercing people to prepare for self-government would make you a ruler.
Getting to the world where no authority is recognized as legitimate will not be easy. The state and authoritarian structures are deeply rooted. But by dealing honestly and effectively with today’s problems, libertarians can invite participation in exciting and innovative paths toward liberty. In doing so, we prepare people for government which governs not at all – by motivating them to prepare themselves.