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What do you think about my idea of a constitutional system of anarchy?

–9 votes
First let me say that I am NOT arguing for minarchism in the least, and that is not what I mean by "constitutional anarchy." Let me also say that the term "constitutional anarchy" is one I made up, and so you should probably read the following explanation before answering. Sorry if it's a lot to read, but reading is necessary to understand my point.

What I mean by "constitutional anarchy" is the idea that an anarchist community, in its formation, should draw up a list of (edit:) specific aspects of community and personal life (end edit) that should be respected by everyone in the community, regardless of the circumstance. Kind of like the Bill of Rights, but agreed upon by everyone, not just rich white guys. Noncompliance would be punished by ostracization or some other kind of negative social sanction (for more information, check out the various questions on this site about anarchists dealing with crime).  Participation in the community, and thus agreement to follow the outline of the constitution, would be completely voluntary, and different communities wouldn't be in any way obligated to have the same constitutions. People could very easily "shop" for a community with a constitution that they preferred, or if they wanted to change the constitution, they could take it up with the community.

These constitutions would not in any way restrict personal freedoms, except as they relate to the well-being of other members of a community. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't hurt other people. This is a well-established anarchist credo, and a constitution would simply clarify that statement in relation to the community.

I know that many people will make the argument that by its nature, an anarchist society will never have atrocity or inequality and there is no reason to create a list of "rights" because every right that a person could possibly have would already be respected, but I don't believe that's true. For example, the issue of sex atrocities and the people who commit them comes up often, and there has never been a really good answer given, answers are usually vague and noncommital. (The "just let the family deal with it as they see fit approach" does NOT work. Often it results in feuding clans, which results in the creation of authority and institutionalized violence). A community with a concern for the sexual well-being of its young children could draw up a constitution that states that children incapable of explicitly stating consent and giving a clearly reasoned explanation of their consent (which would eliminate most kids under 13) have the right not to be pressured to have sex, and a girl who is not old enough to safely have a child without a serious risk to her wellbeing has the right to not be pressured with sex (eliminates most girls under 16). If a person violates that, they would become subject to punishment by the community. If a person doesn't like that, and I'm sure some anarchists wouldn't like the idea of that kind of restriction, they could simply find another community without that kind of constitution, or without any constitution at all (though I imagine most families with young kids, especially girls, would choose to live in communities with more protective constitutions).

Also, as an irrelevant side note I want to mention the fact that this American obsession with ridiculously young girls is probably a side-effect of a pedophile culture that doesn't value or respect womanhood. Women in most traditional cultures don't generally have their first child until they are in their twenties.

If a community felt it appropriate, it could even be helpful to outline methods of "justice"(another loaded term, but basically I mean the way of dealing the appropriate consequences for individual actions, not the consequences themselves. Those would need to be decided individually, per case) in the constitution. For example, as I mentioned, family vengeance quickly leads to clan warfare, which creates a violent, authoritarian culture. Instead, I might propose a method of "trial by open, voluntary jury," in which the entire community is allowed to weigh in on the issue before a punishment is dealt, helping to make sure that just one group of people, like an angry family, isn't exercising sole authority over that person's fate.

Oh, and finally, this constitution is not concrete. There is no centralized state enforcing it, there is no authority inherently belonging to it, it is simply a list of suggestions that the members of the community request that each other follow on the potential penalty of social punishment. If a community happened to become divided on an issue about the constitution, it could easily divide itself into two halves, with people simply joining the half that they preferred. Communities are not concrete either.

I know that this idea of a "constitutional anarchy" will probably be rejected by purists, but it might have some promise. Let me know what you think. Even if it has some issues that I'm not seeing, it's a flexible system. Oh, and yes, I'm most sympathetic to the anarcho-communist school of thought, so you can probably see where I'm coming from in that context (and now all the post-leftists can make fun of anarcho-communism in retaliation).


edited to fix tags
asked Oct 9, 2014 by Lantz (-20 points)
edited Apr 21, 2015 by dot
These posts are helpful, funky, and I'll try to respond to them as soon as I have time (probably after this weekend, because I'm going on a trip today).
"if this whole semantical ridiculousness about the nature of "rights" is the only obstacle to my idea..."
But the nature of rights is *the central issue* to your bizarre quasi-statist idea. If you can't be bothered to separate the rights discourse from its immersion in statist language -- not to mention practice! -- then it's always going to be difficult for people who have dispensed with that discourse as a way of trying to convince anyone of anything to take you seriously. If you were to use moralism as the basis of your arguments, you'd get similar responses.

tl;dr: rights and morality are for saps.
lantz: "Rights aren't "laws", at least not in my scenario. They are guidelines."

OK. No harm done since your constitutionalism amounts to nothing more than, "Aw jeez, come on fellas, can't we just play this way?"

I just can't understand why it took so much heavy breathing and keyboard pounding to get there.
While I usually find the knee jerk reaction to talking about "rights" to be intellectually lazy, your proposal illustrates the dangers quite well. Certainly all groups need ways of maintaining and negotiating values and behavior, but your proposal seems very legalistic. In fact, I'm having a hard time distinguishing between your examples and actual laws, despite the clever phrasing. You might as well say things like "You have the right to not smoke marijuana", and pretend that's not a law. I've found written rules to be useful sometimes, but I think it's extremely dangerous to consider them as a basis for organization. They are specific tools to solve specific problems. Why not concentrate on integrating other modes of interaction into your life? Ritual, celebration, mandatory drinking sessions, all the tools you can think of.
I was gonna make a long reply to these comments, but you know, you guys are actually right. A society based on the harm principle, and mutual aid, and free association, doesn't need a list because rights are already built into those principles. However, I still think that communities should try to reach an agreement on behavior that will not be tolerated, and advertise those agreements to potential members. I might believe in equality, but I still have no interest in ever living in a community that tolerates pedophilia or anything like that, because those are the kind of topics that the harm principle can get a little fuzzy about.

1 Answer

+3 votes
[since nobody chose to actually log an answer, allow me.]

the phrase "constitutional system of anarchy" is one of the most bizarre i have heard in quite some time. kind of like "anarcho-capitalist". it just doesn't work, in my mind.
answered Nov 2, 2014 by funkyanarchy (10,830 points)
i realize this answer speaks only to the phrase itself, but i figure all the comments above do sufficiently for actual concept. or else i'm just being lazy. :-)
I wouldn't call it lazy at all. Succinct is how I'd categorize your answer.

It's often easy to get lost (at least for me) in pages of concepts, theories, explanations, and interpretations. But like you, that phrase sounds strange to me...it's a contradiction within itself. I can't visualize it, feel it, or understand it, and pages of words doesn't help me.

So, I appreciate your answer. A "constitutional system" is not of interest to me, except to wish for its demise.