The question whether people in a stateless society could respond satisfactorily to a disaster like the BP oil spill is really just a special case of the general question whether people without the state can do the things people attempt to do through the state. It seems to me that the answer is “yes.”

That’s because everything the state purportedly does is actually done by people. Sometimes they act out of fear; sometimes out of the perception that the state is legitimate; sometimes what the state commands turns out to be just what they want to do anyway; and sometimes because they believe that what the state is asking them to do is just what they are morally required to do anyway. But, for whatever reason, they do it.

This fact ought to be sufficient to make us confident that ordinary people, cooperating peacefully, can deal with environmental or other disasters in a stateless society. In what follows, I briefly discuss the purported advantages the state might be thought to possess in dealing with large-scale problems before noting some ways in which people in a stateless society could cooperate to prevent or remedy a disaster like the one currently taking place in the Gulf. …