Simple Liberty  



What Is Liberty?

Written by Darrell Anderson.

The word freedom implies an individual is unfettered in any manner to act. Freedom implies no boundaries to limit human actions.

The concept of boundaries, however, transforms the word freedom into the word liberty. Whereas the concept of freedom ignores the concept of obligations, the concept of liberty implies potential obligations. The word freedom ignores interactions with other humans, the word liberty acknowledges those interactions. The word liberty describes specific freedoms of action without obligations toward others,[1] but recognizes that obligations might exist. The concept of boundaries introduces obligations toward other people. The concept of freedom implies unrestricted movement and actions regardless of boundaries, but the concept of liberty imply restrictions on actions because of boundaries. Liberty acknowledges possible boundaries and merely is freedom from fiat boundaries.[2]

There is another word that describes the concept of liberty. Anarchy. The “A” word. A word that typically instills discomfort and uneasiness into the minds of many. A word that many people today carelessly use to imply bomb-throwing, unlimited boundaries, chaos, and disorder. What exactly is anarchy?

A straightforward definition of anarchy means “without rulers.” For example, monarchy is the “archy” or rule of one, oligarchy is the rule of a few, hierarchy is a layered rule; thus anarchy is the rule of none.

From Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, second edition, 1983:

Anarchy: (Greek) anarchia, lack of ruler or government, from anarchos, without chief or ruler; an privative, and archos, ruler.
Privative: in grammar, changing a positive term to give it a negative meaning.

Although the Webster’s definition includes the “lack of . . . government,” such a definition is misleading without defining the word government. If government means a centralized organization of people commonly known as the nation-state or any other form of external dictatorial regulation of human action, then Webster’s definition is correct. However, if the word government refers to the process that is a natural and normal outgrowth of people forming groups and societies, then Webster’s definition is misleading.

Anarchy does not mean without rules, but is a philosophy and social system without rulers.[3] Some people incorrectly define anarchy as no rules or boundaries, but that most certainly would be a world of chaos and confusion. The distinction between rules and rulers is important. Likewise, anarchy does not mean a social system without leaders. In any group of people certain individuals will exhibit or demonstrate special or unique skills and abilities to lead others and to coordinate individual actions. Thus, anarchy is not barbarism. Anarchy is not Utopian or idealistic but a realistic logical conclusion to the principles of self and trespass.

Trespass is any violation of an individual’s body or resources. By definition, trespass includes the threat of violation. Anarchy does not necessarily prohibit self-defense, but prohibits initiating trespass. Many philosophical anarchists believe that any self-defense must be proportional to stopping the trespass.

Anarchy as a social system contains a presumption of self-government. Anarchy depends upon the concepts of reciprocity, mutual benefit, free association, and voluntary exchange. Philosophical anarchists are not against law and order, but against the fiat legislation and rule of a privileged or self-appointed few.[4] All philosophical anarchists oppose coerced, fiat, dictatorial law and social systems.

Because anarchy is a social system without rulers, anarchists embrace the concepts of contracts and localized customary law. Although there is some overlap, customary law should not be associated totally with English common law (judge-made or judge-found law). Although also depending upon customs, traditions, and precedents, English common law was sometimes influenced by dictatorial law or people, and as the English common law system grew, many English common law judges were employees of the king. The term customary law is broader in meaning and fundamentally is a set of societal rules developed outside any formal written frameworks.[5] Customary law is a horizontal, bottom-up system of guiding human action and is a natural outgrowth of any social system.

Because anarchy is a social system without rulers, that philosophy is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of statism. Statism is an ideology embracing centralized rule, encouraging top-down dictatorial law, and embracing a policy or belief of using force and coercion and the threat of violence to satisfy needs and wants.

The German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer called voluntary exchange the economic means of satisfying needs and wants, and forced exchange as the political means.[6] The former method implies persuasion and cooperation to obtain title to resources, the latter implies force and coercion — and often violence or the threat of violence. The former method implies moral power, the latter political power.[7]

The French Liberals of the early nineteenth century also recognized the distinction between voluntary and involuntary exchange, articulating that difference as a class struggle between warriors (bandits) and the industrious class (producers).[8] This struggle can be expressed in many ways: power vs. liberty, takers vs. producers, administrators vs. producers, force and coercion vs. persuasion and cooperation, idlers vs. laborers, predators vs. creators, moneyed elite vs. workers, exploiters vs. creators, status vs. contract, or rulers vs. the ruled. The political means is merely a way to sustain energy flows with minimal effort — the desire of getting something for nothing.

Statism is a philosophy of attempting to artificially create a privileged social system, a unique subsystem of society attempting to create virtual perpetual motion through the captured labor of other people. Statism is a philosophy of creating a social system of classes, an attempt to create superior and inferior social groups based upon distinctions of rank or property titles.[9]

In anarchy, force and coercion are not used to exchange wealth or satisfy needs and wants; persuasion, cooperation, free association, and voluntary exchange are the acceptable avenues. Free association is truly free, there is no force and coercion and no political interference is used to exchange wealth. No property titles are created through processes of political privilege or color of law.

Color of law: acting under the pretense that a statute or custom, whether or not necessary, provides justification to bypass, evade, or ignore known or accepted boundaries.

In anarchy all legitimate property rights are honored, beginning with the primary property right of the body. With true free association all people are free to contract and all conscionable contracts are upheld. Any contract that initiates trespass against another individual is unconscionable, even if promoted under the color of law.

Anarchy and statism are incompatible, which explains why statists must mislead people by defining anarchy as chaos and disorder. Somebody once declared that the only two political theories that are completely consistent are anarchy and totalitarianism. Anarchy fully embraces the concept of self, totalitarianism fully rejects that concept. Statism always degenerates into totalitarianism.

  1. Anarchy means self-government.
  2. Anarchy means self-responsibility.
  3. Anarchy does not mean no rules, only no rulers.
  4. Anarchy is not confusion.
  5. Anarchy does not mean chaos, disorder, and bomb throwing.
  6. Anarchy does not mean no law or order, but ordered liberty.
  7. Anarchy means do not trespass.
  8. Anarchy does not mean resistance but ignoring.
  9. Anarchy means respect for legitimate property rights.
  10. Anarchy means freedom to associate.
  11. Anarchy means voluntary association.
  12. Anarchy means being free to pursue your own happiness.
  13. Anarchy means no individual is superior to another.
  14. Anarchy is not force and coercion, but cooperation.
  15. Anarchy is not political power, but persuasion.
  16. Anarchy rejects political privilege.
  17. Anarchy is liberty.

Anarchy is not a political system. Anarchy is apolitical. Anarchism is a philosophy — a social system. Anarchism is a conscientious decision to honor the freedom to choose without fear of trespass.

Anarchists do not pretend to know how humans will or should form their social structures and communities. Anarchists believe that such choices must belong strictly to each group of people, but also believe that all such choices must be based upon free association and voluntary exchange. With thousands of existing different worldviews, anarchists accept and embrace that many different communities would exist in anarchy.

An anarchist is an individual who is at peace with neighbors and chooses not to use force and coercion to satisfy needs and wants; even the force and coercion used under the illusion of the color of law. An anarchist rejects the idea that various beliefs or worldviews can be forced upon other people, or that various non-trespassing human actions such as “vices” can be coercively stopped or controlled.

Anarchy is a logical conclusion to the concept of self.

Liberty is anarchy.


Terms of Use


[1] Morris, Christopher W., “Human Autonomy and the Natural Right to Be Free,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 4 No. 4, p. 391, footnote 8.

[2] Hayek, F.A., The Constitution of Liberty, 1960, The University of Chicago Press, p. 178.

[3] Hirshleifer, Jack, “Anarchy and Its Breakdown,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 103, No. 1, p. 27.

[4] Osterfeld, David, “Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts, and the Police,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9 No. 1, p. 49.

[5] Fuller, Lon L., The Morality of Law, 1969, revised edition, Yale University Press, p. 128.

[6] Oppenheimer, The State, Chapter 1, Theories of the State.

[7] Ballou, Adin, “The Superiority of Moral Power Over Political Power,” Dissenting Electorate, pp. 7–10.

[8] Weinburg, Mark, “The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th Century French Liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 50–56.

[9] Oppenheimer, The State, p. 4.