Æon Flux

A Note on Giroux and Anarchy

Paterson Joseph as Giroux

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about this otherwise excellent film is a statement made by the character Giroux toward the end of the film.

In the chapter titled “You Are Needed,” after Oren Goodchild is executed, Giroux and some armed men approach Chairman Goodchild.  The last thing Giroux says to the chairman is, “Whatever we are, we’re not anarchists—there have to be rules.”

This quote is most unfortunate, for it incorrectly insinuates that anarchy is a system without rules, that anarchy is lawlessness.

It is abundantly clear, therefore, that the character Giroux does not understand what anarchism even is, for if he did, he would have been familiar with the fact that anarchy does not mean “without rules,” but means rather “without rulers.”  There is a fundamental difference here.

To make the matter clear, it is anomie, not anarchy, that means “without rules.”  Anarchy, in fact, is diametrically opposed to anomie, for any system that prohibits rulership necessarily promotes rules, most specifically the rule that there may be no rulers.

As such, anarchy is that system that forbids any and all aggression, where aggression is defined not as the use of force per se but rather the initiation of force specifically.  If person A attacks person B and person B uses equal and opposing force to defend herself from person A, it is person A who is the aggressor, not person B.  Thus, the anarchist would find person A’s actions to naturally be criminal, while she would find person B’s actions to be perfectly within the (natural) law.  This prohibition on aggression, what we call the nonaggression axiom, is the whole of the law in an anarchy, and enforcement of this law would effectively eliminate all coercive hierarchies.

Let us relate this back to the film.  The Goodchild régime—especially Adjunct Chairman Oren Goodchild and his henchmen—routinely initiated force against the innocent people of Bregna.  As such, the Goodchild régime was a band of criminals, and nothing less—just like every state to ever exist.  One of these victims of the state was Una Flux, the sister of Æon Flux.  Since the Monican rebels are not initiating force against anyone, but are rather merely responding to aggressors with equal and opposing force, we can cheer them on as the heroes of the story.  In other words, the Monicans are simply crime fighters, and since anarchists oppose the one crime against natural law (i.e., aggression), there is no conflict in being an anarchist and supporting the Monican cause.

Thus, if we are to sum up anarchism up into a single law, it would be this:  No person or group of persons may aggress (i.e., initiate physical force or fraud) against the person or justly-acquired property of anyone else.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that an anarchy must rely on the existence of Monican rebels in order to fight or prevent aggression.  There appear to be three ways in which a prohibition on aggression can be enforced without a state apparatus:  A person may choose to (A) employ the rather inefficient method of defence whereby she sits all day on her front porch with a shotgun, (B) form a Community Watch or simply make a deal with her neighbour that she will look after his property if he looks after hers, or (C) hire a protection agency for her protective needs.  This third option may be the most practical, and because private protection agencies will have to do a superb job at keeping their customers safe so as to not lose customers to competing private protection agencies, it only stands to reason that they will be far more effective and efficient than a government-monopoly police agency.

Mr. Benjamin Ricketson Tucker

This idea of private protection agencies is not a new one.  While the earliest exposition for private security I have found comes is in the French liberal economist Gustave de Molinari’s 1849 work The Production of Security, one of my favourite quotes on the subject comes from the nineteenth century American anarchist, Benjamin R. Tucker, who, in describing anarchists, writes that they

are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats.  They believe that “the best government is that which governs least,” and that that which governs least is no government at all.  Even the simple police function of protecting person and property they deny to governments supported by compulsory taxation.  Protection they look upon as a thing to be secured, as long as it is necessary, by voluntary association and cooperation for self-defence, or as a commodity to be purchased, like any other commodity, of those who offer the best article at the lowest price.  In their view it is in itself an invasion of the individual to compel him to pay for or suffer a protection against invasion that he has not asked for and does not desire (Benjamin R. Tucker, “State Socialism and Anarchism”).

When Giroux says that he and the men behind him aren’t anarchists because “there have to be rules,” it’s clear that he’s assuming that rules can only exist if enforced in a régime founded upon an aggressive hierarchy.  It unfortunately seems that Giroux is not alone in this faulty assumption, since no one in the film appears to correct him on the matter.  Nevertheless, aggression is inherently criminal, regardless of what the aggressor may say to the contrary, and as such, Giroux is sadly, and inadvertently, advocating lawlessness.  This is perhaps all the more sad because Giroux is an otherwise endearing character, from what little of him we see in the film.