Oh No! Science Supports… The Anarchists!!

by Paul Rosenberg on January 31, 2012

Okay, I’m talking about the real anarchists here, not bloody bomb-throwers or anti-capitalist window breakers. I mean the people who have decided to face the scary fact that all coercive power corrupts and that it always will.

The great argument against the anarchists has always been that of the esteemed Thomas Hobbes: That humans are brute beasts, and that left to their own devices, they will break, steal, rape and murder in a never-ending orgy of death.

Anarchists always presented examples of cooperation to counter Hobbes, but images of bloody fear sell much better than images of cooperative workers. And beside, every powerful and authoritative voice on the planet says Hobbes is right, and not many people would dare cross them!

So, most people became comfortable in their conclusion that, while the anarchist next door was a nice guy, his ideas could never work in the real world.

Last week, however, science lined up on the side of the anarchists. On January 16th, the Medical University of Vienna released a serious scientific study that produced this headline:

People Behave Socially and ‘Well’ Even Without Rules

 

You can click on the link above to get the whole story, and you can follow links in it to reach the scientific paper itself, but here was the experimental setup:

Millions of human interactions were assessed during the study which included actions such as communication, founding and ending friendships, trading goods, sleeping, moving, however also starting hostilities, attacks and punishment. The game does not suggest any rules and everyone can live (in the virtual world) as they choose.

And here was the result:

“The participants organise themselves as a social group with good intents. Almost all the actions are positive.”

Take that, Hobbes!

Of course, the author says “the result of this is not anarchy,” but he or she is simply making the common mistake of confusing the peaceful “anarchy” with violent “chaos.” Regardless, the results of the study speak for themselves.

Of course most people behave fairly well most of the time – we all live in that circumstance every day. The fear mongers just don’t want us to realize it… and that just got a little harder for them. :)

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