It is interesting to me that I have never met an anarchist or a libertarian who is basically an anarchist that has actually been to a failed state. Talking about anarchy from a dorm room or college party house or a nice quiet farm out in the middle of nowhere is very different from actually seeing it. I am not saying there isn’t a person like that out there it is just that I haven’t interacted with one yet.
First of all anarchy is a very relative term. It is sort of like socialism in that it never truly happens, and when it does it is only for a short period of time. There is going to be some form of government clinging at the greased string of power until the last possible moment. Either that or some sort of a thug stepping up to try and carve out his own little princely state, most likely a lot of thugs trying to carve out their own princely states. You can have bad government or ineffective government or illegitimate government but some sort of system will at least be trying to keep or take power.
Secondly it is really not something you want to be involved in. Between crime, general lawlessness and assorted thugs and former government entities vying for power there is often a lot of fighting. Basic rights such as property and relative (there is always some crime) safety which we take for granted would be gone overnight. Now granted there hasn’t been a civil war or riot or massive disaster of Katrina proportions in Idaho or Minnesota but ever indicator we have is that these events bring about the worst in people. Sure there are a few neighbors helping each other out and some good Samaritan will save somebody’s grandma but those are few and far between. My observation is that folks will typically do about whatever they think they can get away with in these situations. Also these situations are more likely to lead to another, even worse government, not a better government or a long term lack of government.
Look at how the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. After the Soviets left the Afghan commies fought on for a few years (till the money dried out with the fall of the Soviet Union if I recall) and then a transitional type government was set up for about a week followed by the big players like Heychmar and Massoud and other smaller regional guys fighting it out for power. The Taliban came to power because they could do a few things. They made roads safe to travel (a relative term in tribal central Asia). They had a court system that, while very harsh, was quick to deal with problems and most people found it to be fair. In short they offered the basic securities of rule of law.
The honest truth is that a pretty bad government is, by any functional measure, better than this sort of situation or the government which stems from it. It is not nice to say and goes against a lot of American ideals but if you look at history it is true. Our revolution is probably the only time in history that a revolution led to citizen’s lives getting better in the long run.
I file Anarchy under a “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”