This post is a COPYPASTA that was originally published under my old pseudonym, 'Sentient Void', at the Ron Paul Forums Blog, on 06-11-2011.
While the anarcho-capitalist and voluntaryist movement has certainly been growing *significantly* (at the extreme disdain of 'left' anarchists) - I don't think we make certain *very* important distinctions clear enough.
I believe part of why many others have trouble grasping anarchy is because they are (including many anarchists, even) conflating 'the State', with 'government' or 'governance'. There is an essence of 'talking past eachother'.
Understand, all States are governments, but not all government (or 'governance') requires the State.
In an anarcho-capitalist (which is a tautology supported by theory as well as historical evidence) society, there would still be government. Government by your peers through social and commercial ostracism and acceptance. Government of social behavior, civility, disputes and justice by competing courts, defense/security agencies to ensure protection, and the recognition / respect of property rights. Government of businesses and the market through the free market, the price signal, profit & loss, competition, customer satisfaction, commercial ostracism (credit ratings, boycotting, reputation, etc), and supply and demand. Government of risk and socialization of that risk, through insurance agencies. Self-government through individuals' pursuit of their *rational* self-interest, having themselves to bear the responsibility of their actions through the decentralized accountability systems arising out of the market to maintain it.
I could go on. Anarchism does not necessarily mean 'no government' so much as it means 'no State' or (etymologically speaking) 'without ruler'. In a purely capitalist, free market society - you have no coercive authority over you. All commercial and social relationships are voluntary. Your employer is not your ruler (despite what so many 'left' anarchists like to claim), since you can leave your employer at any time and choose another employer who pays and/or treats you better, or choose to work for yourself, even.
Your typical 'left' anarchist heads are exploding at these words right now - but anarcho-capitalism is the only realistic, moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and still not just maintain civilization... but maximize prosperity, liberty and justice, above and beyond what any flavor of the State could ever come close to deliver.
For many anarchists, like many of us here - the conflation of 'government' and 'the State' is probably more semantic than anything. For many non-anarchists - it's not semantic so much as different perceptions leading to problems in understanding - the issue of 'talking past eachother'.
To the extent that I understand the real concept of 'no government' - then I completely agree with the critics in criticizing their perception of anarchy - because it's true... with a complete rejection of all forms of 'government' in how I described it above - there certainly *would* be chaos and misery.
The rejection of universally preferable behavior (such as engaging in theft, murder, rape, etc). The rejection of the price signal and laws of supply and demand. The rejection of any and all forms of voluntary authority as well as the rejection of all self-government, in that individuals reject acting in their own*rational* self-interest in the name of holding no restraint and acting purely on whim and animalistic tendency (while being able to force others to bear the cost) would certainly result in chaos and misery for many people.
Anarcho-capitalists do not advocate rejection of these things, nor do they think they would be rejected absent the State. Rather - justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized.
I think anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists could do a *much* better job of communicating this. Then people would not only be not talking past eachother anymore - but others may be much more open to discussing such ideas.