Re: Internet and Anarchy

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 16:39:04 -0800 (PST)

> I'm not sure what you think the Internet has to do with anarchy. It was
> developed in the United States with government funding and functions at
> the pleasure of a multitude of governments. Please clarify why you think
> the Internet is an anarchy, I'm curious.

Usenet, BITNET, FIDOnet, and ARPAnet all evolved independently, and
only the last with govrnment funding. When it was proposed to
connect them, the APRA protocols were found to be the most flexible,
so those were used as the standard to which the others were adapted.
Since then, the number of independent commercial networks, foreign
networks, and others that have been connected completely dwarf the
few remaining dregs of ARPAnet that remain--and ARPAnet never did
have any kind of "control" over anyone else's machine. 90% of the
users on today's internet are subscribers to commercial services
like AOL, CompuServe, and Netcom, carrying 90% of their bandwidth
on commercial carriers like Sprint and AT&T. The government's
role started small and vanished completely.

Every single, individual, host on the Internet is completely
autonomous and free. Any machine has complete freedom to send any
packet it chooses, and to ignore any packet it chooses, and to
connect to any other host that is willing to connect with it. There
is no central authority of any kind for any service--email, news,
the Web, FTP sites, and all other services are the result of free
individual hosts agreeing to transmit traffic in certain ways.
When people abuse the system, such as mass bombing of commercial
mail and news, no central authority restrains them; the individual
hosts agree upon ways to minimize such traffic by enforcing
contractual agreements upon their users, configuring their software
to make it difficult to do and easy to remove, and as a last
resort by simply using their autonomous authority to ignore and
not propogate the offender (e.g., the "Usenet Death Penalty").

Each of the foreign nets has its own rules--or might not--but has
no authority to affect what anyone sends or receives. Even within
their own borders they cannot help but allow traffic that might
otherwise be against their laws (German servers can't help but
send Neo-Nazi mail and chat; Muslim hosts propagate pornography
just as efficiently as Swedish ones).

Even the one serious attempt by the US legislature to proffer
some control over the Net was properly slapped down by enlightened
judges in Philadelphia. The only laws of any kind that apply to
Internet traffic are those that apply generally to any communication
medium and to any business enterprize: you can get arrested in the
US for sending child porn or in Iran for sending blasphemy--assuming
you are stupid enough to not use sufficient encryption, which yet
another enlightened judge has helped free from regulation.

Email, Usenet, the Web, and all other Internet services operate
as wonderful spontaneously-ordered anarchies. Whatever control
there is is by /unanimous/ consent of the controlled, and there are
no attempts to force control on those not consenting (except, of
course, by freely choosing not to connect to them). The fact that
it gets good work done without major problems is indeed the finest
testament to the efficacy of anarchy man has yet produced.

> You are committing the naturalistic fallacy here. Just because a price
> would naturally be X in a free market doesn't mean the price SHOULD be
> X. Likewise, government frequently attempts to do good things (space
> travel, quick economic recovery, for example) that would not happen in a
> free market. That doesn't mean they OUGHT NOT to happen.

What subjectivist nonsense. You are postulating what you seek to
prove: i.e., that non free-market results can be good. Where is your
proof that the free market cannot prduce all that is possible and
necessary for mankind? And by what standard of morality do you
measure such things? Please state the premise of your morality before
attempting to show that the free market does not meet it.

> I must not get your point. How does cryptography keep me from paying
> property tax on my home, license tax on my car, income tax on my salary,
> or sales tax collected by CompUSA?

As the information economy becomes more and more prominent in your
life, the physical things like cars, food, and housing will become an
increasingly smaller part of the economy (but not absent, as you
point out). When most of your productivity is done by telecommuting
from home, and most of the cybercash you earn there is spent on the
net for more information-based goods and services, those parts of the
economy will become less and less traceable. And even trades for
physical goods can be arranged by encrypted conversation--how can the
IRS find out that I traded a bushel of my Zucchini for a bushel of
my neighbor's tomatoes, or that I traded an hour of Java programming
for a meal at a restaurant I found on the net and negotiated the
trade with in complete secrecy?

> Sorry for the lack of clarity. I meant the state of anarchy. That is,
> what is to prevent someone from setting up a government once your
> anarchy is established?

This is anarchy 101. In an A-C society, and protection agency that
tries to establish itself as a monopoly can only do so by attacking
its competitors by force at great expense. By doing so, it opens
itself up to getting a bad reputation and violent opposition.

> I have trouble even getting into your head on this one, John. What the
> Nazis did WAS essentially anarchic. They illegally whipped up a bunch of
> support for executing the Holocaust. How would it be any different under
> an anarchy? And before modern enlightened government, slavery was common
> and "natural."

Hitler came to power legally, under the existing rules of an established
government. Every executive order he gave was quite legal. No anarchy
here, just government as usual. And if you seriously propose to tell
me that it was government that ended slavery and not individuals, then
you need to read some /real/ history and not what they spoon-feed you
in US high school history courses.

> I don't recall the United States butchering hundreds of millions of its
> own citizens this century. It seems to me that the butchering is on the
> decline as governments become more enlightened, no?

Change that to "as the /people/ become more enlightened" and we agree.
Before you try to argue against anarcho=capitalism, you really ought to
read the basic tracts on it to better argue the real points and not your
misunderstanding of it.