Although the term anarchy is often incorrectly used as a synonym for chaos the true definition of the world means “without rulers.” While various branches of anarchism disagree about what is meant by “without rulers” most branches agree that it means an absence of coercive rule (the reason for the disagreement is the varying criteria regarding what is coercive). Within the realm of politics many people often refer to rights. Like the various branches of anarchism, the various political philosophies disagree about what constitutes a right but most of them share the definition of a right, which is the absence of coercive rule used to prohibit actions. The right to free speech really means an absence of coercive control over what somebody expresses. The right to keep and bear arms really means an absence of coercive control over possessing and carrying arms. In essence rights are anarchy. The debate between gun rights and gun control activists can therefore be boiled down to whether or not coercive force should be used to prevent somebody from possessing or carrying firearms and to what extent that force should be employed.
JayG over at MArooned made an excellent statement regarding rights:
Look, freedom is messy. It’s scary, and dangerous, and unpredictable. Living in a free society means, yes, it is possible that the wrong people might do something that winds up in innocent people getting hurt.
Rights are frightening to many people because the absence of control also means an inability to predict outcomes. Will an absence of control over firearm ownership lead to a more peaceful society or a more violent society? Although deductive logic and available research indicate the latter, there is no way to know what the future will bring. However we do know what the presence of control will bring, the status quo. To quote Jeffrey Tucker:
Anarchy is all around us. Without it, our world would fall apart. All progress is due to it. All order extends from it. All blessed things that rise above the state of nature are owned to it. The human race thrives only because of the lack of control, not because of it. I’m saying that we need ever more absence of control to make the world a more beautiful place. It is a paradox that we must forever explain.
Progress is only possible when there is an absence of coercive rule. Henry Ford didn’t streamline automobile production because a state goon put a gun to his head and said, “Make building cars more efficient.” Mr. Ford’s advancement of automobile production only came about because he was free to act on his idea. Steve Wozniak didn’t create the first affordable mass-produced personal computer because some thug told him to. The Apple I came about because Mr. Wozniak was a brilliant inventor who wanted to bring the power of computing to the average person. This wonderful communication system we call the Internet is another demonstration of the power of anarchy. While the infrastructure remained under the control of the state little happened. Once people were given unfettered access to the Internet is began to change society and we not sit here and enjoy the ability to watch movies and television shows on demand, listen to music on demand, and do our shopping from the comfort of our living rooms.
While freedom, that is to say the recognition of rights, may seem scary in the long run it usually turns out for the better. Coercive rule, on the other hand, tends to turn out far worse. Most of the scary things we learn about in history stem from extremely coercive regimes and individuals. It’s not surprising when you consider that those in power have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Politicians who expropriate wealth from the general population have a good reason to advocate for the disarmament of the general populace. Without doing so the general populace may decide to rise up when the politicians begin taking too much.
Gun control advocates believe they can make society better by inflicting more control on it. Their theory may sound good on paper but historically it’s unprecedented. More control generally means less progress. In fact enough control seems to return humanity to more barbaric times. As regimes or individuals gain more control over a population violence is often the result. This may be because people have an innate desire to be free, having control over a populace reduces the cost of inflicting violence upon them, more violence must be continuously implemented in order to gain more control, or some other reason(s). But history tends towards freedom being far less messy than the lack thereof. While bumps may occur in a free society those bumps tend to be relatively mild to the genocides and death camps that are so common with the most tyrannical regimes. In the end less control tends to be better for everybody and because of that more actions should be recognized as rights everyday.