I'm not sure that bangpaths actually *were* "suitably anarchic" --- if
"somebody else" had decided to name their own machine decvax or ihnp4
in the Olden Times, it probably would have resulted in severe
confusion. Certainly if any intermediate site would have wanted to
connect to both the "new" ihnp4, and the "old" one (a major uucpnet
hub at Indian Hills); probably even if not, due to attempts at
optimizing paths at intermediate sites, which made the implicit
assumption that atomic hostnames were unique.
The reason you had the appearance of anarchy, though, is that each
machine wound up using the set of its own known neighbors as an
implicit root set. There's no reason why you can't do the same thing
with DNS --- set up a private root server that refers you to the
Internic for .com, .net, etc., while also serving whatever you like
for private and unassigned TLDs.
The Alternic was a project to do exactly this on a broader scale.
Technically, it was entirely viable; what killed it was the behavior
of the proponents, which was politically inept at best, and downright
criminal at worst (one of the kingpins confessed to hacking the
IANA-assigned official root servers, and that was basically it for the