The Endless Fallacies of Faction Wars

Bad Arguments vol. 41

faction wars

One of my favorite arguments to hear against the concept of anarchy is the endless, perpetual faction wars that will supposedly come with it. The notion of this argument is a simple one: Without a state to prevent it, people will give into their violent tendencies and we will need an increase in violence between everyone as they begin to war over land and resources, or because of simpler disputes that will blow themselves out of proportion without the state to enforce some form of peace.

Originally I had planned for this article to be a collection of some of the more common fallacies I see in play with examples of them and why they are fallacious. While I was compiling the list I began to notice that the “faction wars” argument made by supporters of the state was a perfect example of so many of them that I needed to redirect my efforts.
So as to avoid being accused of making a strawman argument it does need to be noted that these examples I’ve outlined have come from interactions with certain minarchists or general statists across the political divide. Quite sadly, these are based on real arguments I’ve witnessed. Let’s break down each area where this falls.

Special Pleading

A special pleading fallacy occurs when someone attempts to make an illogical exemption for the sake of their claim. A great example of this would be “Everything must have an origin so there must be a god. God doesn’t need an origin though.” It is, in essence, a form of double standard applied to one’s claim.

The faction wars argument often suffers from this on the simple grounds of the continuous and seemingly unending wars we have around the globe. We cannot consider the idea of warfare in anarchy as a fault of the ideology, then summarily ignore or discount the wars that take place with a state existing. Look at the following chart and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

And we need to consider something important here: this is national level warfare. The types of blood feud faction wars that people imagine will take place in anarchy pale, even in the most indulgent of extremes scenarios, to what nations have and continue to do when it comes to bloodshed and mass violence. If we are to accept their argument here they would also have to answer for the wars of the state in turn; both in scale and frequency.

Appeal to Probability

The assumption that a stateless society would immediately lend itself to the population being even more violent than they are currently, and that it would lead to these outbursts of mini wars is, on top of everything else, a clear appeal to probability. An appeal to probability fallacy occurs when, through inductive reasoning, we assume a deductive result without it being a part of our premise. An example would be me saying “I know if I don’t fill up my gas tank tonight (this is the premise) the prices will go up tomorrow (this is where it becomes a fallacy).”

With the above example, it becomes a fallacy because there is no direct or provable way to link my premise (if I don’t fill up tonight) with my conclusion (prices will go up) outside of alluding to it being a possible outcome, and one I simply believe in. Such a belief is empty until proven otherwise.

With the faction wars argument the premise is “If we have anarchy” and the invalid conclusion is “we will have faction wars.” Other than the imagination of the person laying the claim down there is little to no basis for the claim in that statement. The could add to it or try to add other layers, but by doing so with so shaky of a starting point it would be difficult to get away from simply committing this fallacy with more words.

Suppressed Correlative

This fallacy takes place when we redefine a term to account for two mutually exclusive terms and raise one above the other. I’ve had this particular exchange before regarding the topic at hand so I’ll paraphrase here to give an example.

Person 1: “There will be some that war with each other, and some who will stay peaceful as they do now.”
Person 2: “If there’s war anywhere in anarchy eventually the winner will go after the peaceful ones so it’s all war.”

Of these two mutually exclusive correlatives (some will have peace, some will have war) the second person commits the fallacy by attempting to encompass one (peace) with the other (it’s all war). The reason this is a fallacy is because it attempts to use redefinition of terms to explain away one of the options rather than presenting a logically sound reason for having one over the other.

Argument from Incredulity

This fallacy is also known as an appeal to common sense fallacy or the divine fallacy. It could best be defined as an assumption based on lack of imagination. In effect, the argument form is “I can’t imagine this being true/false, therefore it can’t be.” Many proponents of the faction wars argument, at least in my experience, have, at one point or another, included this fallacy in their cases. They simply cannot see a form of anarchy that might obtain a level of peace without an omnipresent state enforcing its rule.

They argue that it is impossible because they cannot believe it to be possible. “It’s impossible to maintain peace without a state so anarchy will be overrun with wars and conflict” is a clear violator of this particular fallacy.

Proof by Assertion

Proof by assertion is, in many ways, an umbrella fallacy. What I mean here is that several fallacies can also be considered a proof by assertion fallacy, and when a proof by assertion fallacy is taking place, quite often, there are also other fallacies involved. Depending on its use, this fallacy can include an argument ad nauseam, an appeal to authority, or an appeal to belief.

The fallacy itself occurs when a point is asserted repetitively as a form of proving it. A great example of this would be political slogans. Trump declared that “Mexico will pay for the wall” and continued to do so without addressing and regardless of any challenges, counters, or even questions against how that would work. Through the simple act of repetition many who eventually voted form him believed he would actually accomplish this.

With the argument we’re addressing it has less to do with the argument itself, and more to do with its proponents. One of the few things I’ve found utterly frustrating in debate is the goldfish memory of some proponents of the faction wars claim. I’ll engage in a decent debate on the topic, and challenge several points which my opposition will concede to, only to see the argument go back to square one less than a day later. I think this fallacy really ought to be called “appeal to slogans.”

False Dilemma

A false dilemma, or false dichotomy, or related fallacies, are already well known enough that I need not try to explain with much depth. The false dilemma here is the assumption that we need to pick between having a state with all of the associated ills, or we will have endless wars between groups.

This ignores the options for peace, the options for self policing within communities, etc. With the massively diverse schools of anarchist thought, we can clearly see dozens of potential solutions to this (imagined) problem. By trying to position our options as either perpetual war amongst each other, or having a state baby us we ignore decades of philosophy on self governance, sociology, anthropology, and all of the options we have for peace.

Illicit Generalization

Not to be confused with a slippery slope fallacy, an illicit generalization (or hasty generalization) involves a leap in logic to a conclusion not fully supported by what comes before it. By looking at a limited pattern or data set, the person committing this fallacy finds themselves inducing a potentially incorrect conclusion. If I walk by a shop and see only stilettos on display in the window I might assume that all they sell is stilettos. If I enter the shop I would find they have all forms of shoes and some accessories. By assuming the entire shop was the same as what was in the window, I have committed an illicit generalization fallacy.

“People go to war now, and people have had blood feuds in the past, so an anarchist future will be overtaken with faction wars” is such an example. It assumes that, based on a limited pool of information, that we will have these results. The information is even more limited based on how few examples of functional anarchy we really have to work with for context, and how few reflect the slew of modern forms of anarchism we’ve devised. How can we, with such certainty, declare the way all people will behave in an example either untested (as with anarcho-capitalism and similar schools of thought) or limited in scope (Paris Commune, Catalonia)? The frank answer is that we cannot.

Faction Wars Forever

There are tons of other examples I could use here, but I would start to veer away from arguments I myself have witnessed if I were to do so I will avoid going further, but I think the point here has been made. I want to note here is that a case for such a potential outcome could, indeed, be made that anarchy could lead to increases in conflict and outbreaks of violence. The biggest issue here lies less with the concept, and more with the tactics of its proponents.

The last thing to point out is that this breakdown doesn’t fully counter the point being made. The point, or claim, that “faction wars will happen in anarchy” isn’t stricken down solely by the dismissal of these arguments. If I were to claim that it was I would, myself, be committing the hilariously named fallacy fallacy. The assumption that by showing an argument to be fallacious that we’ve also disproven the point in the same move is, in and of itself, a fallacy. My hope isn’t to add more layers of fallacy to this debate, but to peel them away so we can get closer to some form of truth on the matter.


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