My frustrated comment to the previous post by Troy, caused him to reply with a thoughtful comment, regarding my increasingly serious flirtations with anarchy. My efforts to compose an equally thoughtful rejoinder, outgrew that somewhat off-topic comment section, so here it is as a new post specifically addressing my perspective on the subject of anarchy.
One of us is surely mistaken.
Perhaps we both are at this juncture, Troy, and now just living with very different illusory movies running in our heads, which we mistake for reality. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
some government is needed
As you well know, I spent the first 70 years of my life convinced of exactly that; but that in no way obligates me to be submissive to any so-called authority, or support the tyranny into which the Federal government has devolved. Madison particularly despised the concept of democracy. How then, did we end up with mob rule? Why is it so readily accepted by the sheeple?
Can we agree that mankind deserves at least the level of individual Liberty he and his contemporaries enjoyed? Would you not also agree that the odds now of retrieving that worthy goal, through any nonviolent political process, are essentially nil? Must we abandon it entirely then, perhaps out of some errant sense of patriotism, or is another violent revolution inevitable?
At a quick glance, anarchy may seem to have a lot to recommend it. But, upon deeper reflection, it soon becomes apparent (to most of us) that anarchy provides a sure and consistent path to some manner of “strong man rule”.
Troy, you have had a front row seat to my slow, cautious, careful, and deliberate investigations into the philosophical underpinnings of anarchical thought. This was in no way a causal “quick glance,” and I can assure you that after reading several books, numerous scholarly essays, and countless articles on the subject, I have given it considerable ‘deep reflection.’ Interestingly, the notion that it would inevitably result in “strong man rule,” is still not at all apparent to me. With all due respect, from my perspective, reaching such a conclusion appears to be the result of distinctly shallower thought than I have invested in the subject.
As for strong man rulers, try to convince me that the average citizen of Iraq, is now better off under their democratically elected religious tyranny, than they were under Saddam Hussein. Then, try to make the case that America is somehow better off, for having deposed him and arranged their democratic elections. The same questions could be posed about our unnecessary meddling in Qaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, et al.
The rest of us require the establishment of a few simple rules along with some manner of power to enforce said rules.
As I have tried to articulate often, anarchy is not the absence of rules, it is the absence of rulers. Neither is it a proper synonym for chaos. History is replete with examples, of local communities effectively enforcing mutually accepted rules of the road and behavioral standards , without need of heavily armed jackbooted goons, following orders from some distant potentate or oligarchical authority.
Common sense and abundant anecdotal evidence, suggests that a well-armed society is a polite society, which inherently discourages thuggish behavior. Absent government agents from afar, dictating and enforcing multicultural tolerance of aberrant behaviors, the risk of instant karma can be a powerful deterrent to unnecessarily offending one’s neighbors. Ultimately, the threat of banishment is probably the most effective tool of tribal persuasion.
Please consider rereading my ten-year-old “Sovereign Rights” essay. Needless to say, my thinking has changed considerably since I wrote it. Yet, I still would have no serious objection to cooperating with a limited ‘government’ as described therein, under the subheading “My World.”:
In my worldview…
I value the free market exchange with others, where all are always winners. When governments stay out of these matters, we always receive something we value more, in exchange for something we value less; and are never forced to make a trade we deem not in our best interest. I am perfectly willing to help a neighbor in need occasionally, for no more than the good feeling it gives me to do so. It would depreciate the value of my gift, if I expected anything more than appreciation in return.
Yet, none has a “right” to my charity, simply because we happen to reside within the same arbitrary political boundary. Nor does anyone have a “right” to the fruits of my labor, because they have less resources or greater “needs” than I might. I am neither a slave nor a serf; I am a freeman and I shall act like one, regardless of who might choose to call me selfish.
To examine our founder’s vision of instituting the absolute minimum government among men necessary for a self-governing society of cooperative individuals, let me explain how I view my place in it. Try to keep in mind that while my attitude toward “society” may seem radical, in the late 18th century America was populated by rugged individuals with a pioneer spirit. They took responsibility for their own lives and, like me, just wanted to live them their way, unobstructed by meddlesome neighbors and officious governments, from which they asked nothing more than to be left alone:
I am a godless sovereign. I was born with all the inalienable rights of any monarch. What I do on my own property is my business and no one else’s. I have no gods, rulers, leaders, or caretakers, and do not need or want any. When I vote, I am registering my choice for an employee, not a visionary leader, and certainly not a nanny. I am at the top of the pecking order and look up to no one. I am a freeman, not a supplicant, subject, serf, or slave. My life is my own to live as I choose. I owe an amorphous “society” nothing, and it owes me nothing.
As a sovereign, I grant all my neighbors equal status in their own domains. I have no designs of conquering or ruling them or their territory. I could care less what others do with their lives, as long as they don’t forcibly interfere with my enjoyment of my own. …
…reality and common sense dictates that not all out there are as benign, so there is good reason to enter into treaties with other trustworthy sovereigns for mutual protection. Further, to enrich my own life, there is much to be gained by free trade with my neighbors, so it is in my interest to join in commerce with them as well. Then, I am a social animal, and find pleasure in camaraderie with other sovereigns, so I am willing to join in fun and games with some of them in the commons.
This requires some form of social contract between sovereigns. The moment I choose to step off my property into the community, I acknowledge that I must abide by custom and established law, in order to function in a cooperative society. I am expected to wear clothes, not spit on the sidewalk, drive on the customary side of the road, leave the initiation of force to the sheriff, etc.
This requires that I temporarily relinquish some of my inherent rights for the benefit of participation in the community while off my property. However, nothing suggests that I have abandoned my sovereignty in any way, or that upon returning home all my rights are not fully recovered. Pooling our resources to invest in infrastructure and public services that facilitate our mutual interests in protection, commerce, and amusement makes perfect sense; and I am willing to share in the expenses to the extent that I will use them.
…my neighbors have no more right to assess me to fund endeavors I have no interest in participating in, than they have to force me to attend their church.
I recognize that there is a need for an orderly administration of these public endeavors for us, and the vulgar name for it is “government.” I will concede that the manner of structuring this necessary evil, and picking those to represent us therein, is subjective and difficult to accomplish fairly and equitably for all sovereigns concerned. I would agree with Voltaire that a benevolent dictatorship, tempered by an occasional assassination, would appear to be the best choice; but that has fallen out of fashion of late.
A formal charter, compact, constitution, or call it what you will, setting out the agreement between sovereigns, seems to work reasonably well; with guardians selected by the sovereigns sworn to uphold it. Choosing those guardians, and restraining the collective power they gain from our franchise, is difficult at best.
The use of a democratic process to choose among competing candidates is as good as any other I have contemplated. The rub comes when those chosen guardians of our social contract get too far removed from their employers; find it in their own selfish best interest to please others not directly employing them; and begin to regard themselves as our visionary “leaders,” with us merely their “constituents,” rather than their employers.
It is important to recognize that no one has the right to trespass on my property, or use it in any way without my permission. No one has a right to confiscate my wealth or earnings, or force me to do anything I deem not in my best interest. All attempts to do so, even under the color of law, are acts of aggression.
[I have only recently concluded that voting to empower others to do such, is itself an act of aggression, which is why I stopped voting.]
All government agents attempting to coerce me, intrinsically use the implied threat of deadly force. For if they are resisted, eventually big men with big guns will appear to back them up, and they will use those guns if that is what it takes, to force my compliance or incarcerate me for my contumacy. To the extent that I may choose to be cooperative with such a coercive agent, it is because I value my life and liberty more than my property, but I do not grant the premise that they act legitimately because they claim to represent “society.”
I am a sovereign freeman who bows before no god’s priest; nor any emperor’s potentate; and I’ll not substitute society’s bureaucrats for either. For the mind-numbed minions who willingly abdicate their sovereignty, and prostrate themselves before any of these, to exchange their liberty for ephemeral security, I have only pity… and scorn.
Of course, my subsequent trip down anarchy lane, has caused me to rethink the necessity of even a minimal level of government. I have studied very convincing essays, suggesting that those societal functions I had assumed required a limited government, can as easily be performed, better and cheaper, by co-ops with private contractors. The basics of civilized society, and my place within it, would remain the same, if not actually improved.
The subtle, yet important difference would be, that nobody would likely make the mistake of regarding such entities and their functionaries as authorities, with some divine right to rule capriciously over us. As importantly, their charters could specifically permit enforcement of property rights and the nonaggression principle only. There would be no mechanism for one faction of the community to create new PC rules for them to enforce against another faction.
Remember, a well-armed populace isn’t going to long put up with an overweening dispute resolution contractor, any more than they would an undisciplined gang of thugs. Trust me, every conceivable objection to the benign concept of anarchy to which I refer, has been carefully thought through and more than adequately dispelled in the reference material I have studied and deeply reflected upon.
By my lights, no matter how deep I delve, it remains infinitely more attractive than the current state of governmental affairs in America. When can we conclude that government doesn’t work, and consider trying a different organizing principle? Of course, your movie may differ significantly from mine, and the chances of achieving my vision of anarchy, are certainly no better than yours are of achieving a return of the Federal government to America’s Founding principles. I suspect we are just tired old men, yearning for times that never really were, and undoubtedly will never be. 😉 ◄Dave►