How would the int'l community react if the people of a country declared anarchy?

Let’s pick a country out of a hat…how about Portugal? So let’s say the Portugeuse rise up against their government, overthrow it, and decide to replace it with nothing. They just agree not to install a new government, and for argument’s sake let’s say some ridiculously high percentage of the population agrees with this, like 90%.

(A government is, most basically, an organization holding a monopoly over the use of force in a given geographical area – there are plenty of theoretical ways that people could continue to function without the state, let’s presume the Portuguese find one of those ways that works and would allow them to live peacefully.)

Now, the international community seems to have taken the nation-state for granted. They act almost as if national boundaries are (or ought to be) permanent, and they seem to think every square inch of land on the globe where people live must be under the control of some government or another. In fact, much of what makes a government “legitimate” as representing a people is having the recognition of the international community.

I imagine some Portuguese would try to set up a new government, but so long as 90% of the people didn’t want one at all and refused to submit to rule willingly then the potential new governments would have to resort to direct force.

Would the international community:
A) choose one of the new upstarts to recognize as the official government, support their use of force to establish a new government, and declare the 90% who want no government to be “rebels”
B) simply accept that there is no longer any nation-state governing the geographical area of Portugal
C) something in between

IMHO, the international community would go bonkers if they didn’t have some bureaucratic offical representing the population within a geographical boundary and might use pressure to force them to accept a government.

I’d think the international community would recognize the 10%ers. I mean, if they’re the only one’s claiming to be the government of Portugal and they’re not engaged in a bloody civil war with the other 90% and the other 90% aren’t sending out emissaries to the EU and UN, who’s to say the 10s aren’t the government?

After all, many single-party states have good international standing even though only a small percentage of the population participates in the political process. Likewise, in countries with active insurgents, the Government may only controll the capital and a small fraction of the land. If the 10s could do that, I’d think they’d be recognized.

I suspect you could also look at failed states like Somalia for instruction.


In your bizzaro world ( :slight_smile: ) where this occurs, I’d say the international community would go apeshit looking for someone to talk to. Alternatively, their neighbors might invade and create a government so they had someone to talk to.

Trade beyond a simple barter system can’t really exist without a government since someone has to be responsible for enforcing contracts and creating exchange currency (You try and buy a burger and fries with a bushel of corn and see how far you get).

Property rights are pretty much the foundation of all government. Someone has to protect that or I can just start taking your corn and you starve. Thus the need for a military/police. Also, you have to feed that military, thus the need for taxation. At that point someone has to keep records of who was fed what, thus the need for scribes or clerks. Since these people don’t create food, but rather exist to protect or manage it somehow, they need to have tokens for which to translate their labor into food on the table… thus banking.

And so it goes. True anarchy requires reversion to a hunter gatherer state. And I don’t think that can exist in a country that has already moved beyond it’s ability to support it’s population by hunting/gathering. Once you NEED to farm because the population size requires it… it’s all over but the paperwork.

In short, look at a country like Somalia. Pretty much total devolvement into anarchy followed by mass starvation followed by gov’t (okay warlords, but still)… the model tends to move up the scale of civilization by sheer necessity. It begs a side querstion though… as an academic excercise ONLY, what would happen if the UN flat stopped giving food to somalia. Within a decade or so one side would have emeerged victorious (granted, after a lot of death). The point is, that that side would almost inevitably start moving back up the chain of civilization.

Or maybe not. Weird question, what made you ask this? :slight_smile:


The only two anarchist groups that controlled any land that I can think of were the Ukranian anarchists under Nestor Makhno in the Russian Civil War and the Spanish anarchists in Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War.

In both cases no national governments recognized the anarchists as a legitimate regime. Judging from these examples I’d say that in RexDart’s hypothetical the option A would apply - other naitons would recognise whatever remnants there were of the old Portuguese govenment.

The U.N. sends in troops, kills the 90% and the rest live happily ever after.
Just my guess.

I doubt that anarchy would last that long-someone would probably seize control and declare him or herself dictator.

The scenario where a people refuse to have or obey any government leads directly and irrevocably to a bloodbath so countries would do what they have done in such situations in the past: help a bit and not much else.

I think the standard for Europe is different than for the Third World. If a European country descended into anarchy or a fascist dictator took over I think you could measure the US or European response in hours, not months as in a typical Third World crisis.

ESPECIALLY if this happened in Germany or France.

Germans are so lawful and orderly that even in Anarchy they would obey laws and things would mostly go peacefully on. :slight_smile:

I think even primitive tribes weren’t anarchists… a truly anarchist country is impossible… but a very developed country might attempt a very minimalist state structure.

A neighboring country would move in and try to annex the former country, in this case Portugal. I don’t think there would be much fighting either; good luck trying to organize a bunch of anarchists to defend the non-country.

Dignan, revolutions throughout history are such that people who don’t belong to a country fight for it. Whether they are anarchists or not doesn’t seem to matter much.

Some of these responses echo an age-old confusion between anarchism and anarchy. The former does not forego structure in the way the latter does. An example of pure anarchy would be where there has been a mass bombing or natural disaster and the country has descended into lawlessness - looting and pillaging and the like.

Anarchist models are nothing like this. Anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism, as two prominent examples, are HIGHLY organized; they just don’t cede power to some elite but work out a complex system of cooperation. It is entirely possible that, under such a model, you would be able to pay in corn cobs for your burger and fries.
Of course most people are too lazy and uncommitted to entertain such a model neverthelone try and make it work. But the scenario proposed here is one in which Portugal has somehow come to the point of adopting it as their form of governance so we have to work within that speculative framework.

Would a dictator be able to rise and replace this model? It’s possible if they had their hands on sufficient weaponry and the assistance of secret ‘great and powerful friends’. But they would have a fight on their hands since, for ninety per cent of the population to have taken such a radical departure from obsolete power structures suggests that:
(1) they would be particularly resistent to abandoning the new model, which provides them with more power and equal opportunity and does away with inequities and injustice;
(2) their model would need to have been so comprehensively and painstakingly realised that they would have sound strategies for repelling this kind of tyranny.

The UN charges in and kills 90% of the populace because they don’t have a model of government (or indeed ANY government) that the world is used to? That is not the role of the UN, who are particularly circumspect about taking any action that is not formed and agreed to by their own charter. We saw this only recently in their refusal to be involved in the attack on Iraq. What would the anarchist Portugal have done to threaten other nation states? Nothing. It would be an unusual situation for the United Nations to deal with, to say the least, but they would not dream of taking incursive action. The CIA is another matter.

I believe that Hobbes (the silly man, not the genius stuffed tiger) had the correct view of things: a hypothetical State of Nature in which pure anarchy exists would be an ugly and ultimately temporary creature. Tribes and societies are founded on power and respect. Should they not exist, say in a group of new-met strangers, we build them automatically. Sometimes I bow to you because I respect and like you. Sometimes I bow to you because you have a large weapon and will hurt me otherwise. Yet the fact remains that I bow to someone who bows to someone until we reach the one(s) most everyone bow to. Even in a democracy one sees this, though it is much more fluid and less shrouded in tradition.

My major point is that anarchy is not a government but rather the vacuum which governments are created to fill. Nature abhors a vacuum, so someone would step up and end the anarchy.

WAG: we’d just ignore it and trade with them with spanish currency…?

Vote Bakunin: Define this Monty Python-esque government ideal you have. And why it deserves the term “anarchic”.

Priam, I’m guessing by his user name that Vote Bakunin is a fan of this famous anarchist:

There is quite a variety in theories of workable anarchism, as I alluded to in my OP.