Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and Politics for a Stateless Society.

Author:Roark, Eric
Position:Book review

Gary Chartier, Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and Politics for a Stateless Society

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-1107032286.

Gary Chartier's Anarchy and Legal Order offers nothing less than a tremendous contribution to contemporary libertarian and anarchist thought. The state, Chartier argues, is not an institution that merely needs a good tune-up like a poorly running car; instead, given its track record of hostility toward 'peaceful voluntary cooperation', its very legitimacy needs to be re-thought and ultimately rejected. Chartier's argument is made plausible and persuasive by his detailed account of how a just legal regime can exist and function within a stateless society. My short critique of Anarchy and Legal Order is limited to a central element of Chartier's proposed just legal regime, his non-aggression maxim (NAM). Chartier maintains that one central element of a just legal regime is that it would uphold the NAM and that, 'it [the state] is an enemy of the NAM and so of just social order' (p. 156).

Chartier writes that, 'the nonaggression maxim (NAM) is the injunction that moral agents should avoid harming the bodies and interfering with the just possessory interests of others' (p. 45). The NAM, or something akin to it, has found support among the vast majority of classical liberals, libertarian and anarchist thinkers. Chartier is on solid ground with his endorsement of NAM. The trouble with NAM is not its intuitive appeal but instead with specifying what counts as harming the bodies of others or even more challenging specifying what counts as a just possessory interest.

In respect to a just possessory interest over physical objects (excluding the bodies of sentient agents), Chartier outlines a set of baseline possessory rules that allow the first agent to take effective possession over a physical object to become its effective owner and use, exclude others from using, and transfer the object, as they see fit--within the bounds of respecting the just possessory claims and bodies of others (pp. 64-5).

Chartier maintains that these baseline rules of effective possession are justified, in large part, by what he deems the Principle of Fairness. This is a requirement of practical reason that demands we avoid discriminating arbitrarily among those impacted by our actions (pp. 23-7). A paradigmatic case, Chartier cites, where the principle of fairness is violated involves discrimination based upon ethnicity or race...

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