Monday, June 28, 2010

The Face of Anarchy

There seem to be a lot of young people who sing the praises of anarchy. Anarchism advocates;

“a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. It seeks to diminish or even abolish authority in the conduct of human relations.”

The Anarchist will tell you that it is the state or capitalism or the world bank, or some conspiracy of rich and powerful that is responsible for the woes of modern society. They will tell you that if we were all just free to act as individuals without the confines of state or multinational corporations with their laws and force, money and power we would all be better off.


Last weekend Toronto got to see what anarchy really breeds. It’s not peace, it’s not freedom, it is brutal, mindless violence and destruction. It is the law of the pack, and as an individual you are one with the pack or you are its prey.

Now I do not hold a Hobbesian view of man. I do not believe that a man must completely subordinate himself to a “sovereign” (state or king) or face a life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”, but I do believe that there is a proper place for the state as a protector of unalienable rights and those rights alone can make individuals sovereign.

The Anarchist dismisses the role of the state, and while they lay claim to some notion of rights they rely on the individual alone to assert his own individual sovereignty, they call for each man to be his own law. The result of course is that if one man's “law” is stronger than another's, by hook or by crook, with no one to counter their will or force, then the brute will win, and the weaker man will loose.

Now the Anarchists involved with the G20 protests would probably tell you that they only vandalized the apparatus of the state - police cars and the like - or the establishment - multinational corporations and banks. What is more they would claim that this vandalism is in keeping with their view of sovereign individuals, but those attacks are a dire warning to any real individual.

The small businessman ought not to heave a sigh of relief at being spared this weekend but he and everyone else ought to consider that under anarchy, the moment the mob recognizes you or your life’s work as established (and by definition, of the establishment) then you are doomed. Any right to property or person that you may have had while the mob’s focus was elsewhere is gone, suddenly you are not a person; you are not of the mob. You don’t matter.

Dog eat Dog is a euphemism often used in conjunction with capitalism and capitalists but I’ve yet to see a businessman operate with the sheer animal violence of the Anarchists. So when you watch TV tonight and you see the businessman cleaning his ruined storefront and when the news flashes the images of black clad hoodlums smashing burning and destroying bear in mind that you are seeing both the true face of capitalism (productive effort) and Anarchism (mindless destruction).


Yeisen said...

i am going to have to disagree with you... while there are violent people in the world... does that mean all are violent? if there are some violent anarchists... does that mean all are?? if there was place where anarchy ruled... with anarchist communities... couldn't those peaceful anarchists cooperate to protect themselves from the violence... as their own police militia...

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

The so-called anarchists up in Toronto are actually from the left: I saw pictures of Mao, among other signs of it. Their so-called anarchism is not that at all, for the most part. These people seem to use anarchy as an excuse for total barbarism.

I am not sympathetic to anarchy. I had some anarchist ancestors from the old country, but upon coming to the US, and seeing how a Constitution build on the principle of individual rights-- even one that was in the process of being dismantled--protected their rights far more effectively than no state at all, they did not remain anarchists. They became fervent American patriots.

Zip said...

Okay, so the peaceful Anarchists create a militia to protect themselves from the un-peaceful Anarchists. So what ends up happening do you think?

The Good guys fight the bad guys.

In the real world that is called a civil war, or since Anarchists don't believe in the state we can just call it open warfare.

I'd go farther though. If peaceful farmer "A" claims a piece of land also claimed by peaceful farmer "B" what happens then?

Lets just for the sake of argument say they take this to arbitration...

Who's arbitration?

With no authority to appeal to who decides? Does farmer "A"'s arbitrator or farmer "B"'s?

Does farmer "A" ask his militia to protect his property rights?

Surely farmer "B" would demand the same of his militia.

When farmer "A"'s arbitrator finds in his favour and he moves to put a fence around his property what do you expect farmer "B"'s militia to do?

Anarchy falls apart at both the macro and micro scales of human interaction and that in and of itself answers the question if there ought to be a state or not.

The state is a necessary entity, but unlike today a proper state is constrained. It is concerned solely with the protection of the individual rights of Life, Liberty and Property. A couple of pertinent quotes from Ayn Rand...

"The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law."

This principle lays the foundation for this...

"Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted."

Of course this would require a quantum shift in our society, for most do not prescribe to what could be called a philosophy of individualism or of rights for that matter, nor do we have principle within politics nor objective law.

Zip said...
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Yeisen said...

in the case of the farmers??? really... is that would you would do... call a militia over a mis-understanding... if you are intent on conducting yourself honorably when joining an anarchist community... one would agree to cooperate... peacefully... where to settle... to be sure not to piss anyone off... if you think anarchy cannot work because of such a lack of honor... then how can a state??

Zip said...

Yeisen, it was you that suggested the militias, for the protection of the individual, not I. I merely point out that when farmer "A" and farmer "B" do not agree, and a state is not there to fill the role of arbitrator with objective law then the only "law" left is force.

What is the solution to the farmers problem then Yeisen? What can a community without any law or body of enforcement do when two individuals can not or will not compromise or agree?

I do not mean to suggest that all men are swine or brutes but I know that men often disagree and sometimes they disagree violently, even when they are otherwise rational men.

You also did not answer the question as to what happens when the Baddies are left unconstrained by any law or threat of judicial force? You might be able to count on two farmers to come to a reasonable solution but what about those unreasonable people who will do as they will in a society without law?

Hell, never mind them, what about the reasonable ones that just want you to do everything their way? How would an anarchist community protect its ideals and its property against Islamic extremism or something like it?

Who is going to stop the man from beating his wife or kids?

Who are you going to call if a businessman defrauds you?

What happens when you're invaded?

Zip said...

Sorry for not answering your question in my first response...

The state works because it has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. In a "community" where no one has that power it is left to everyone and as a result every pronouncement of guilt or innocence, liability or exhoneration is subjective.

Yeisen said...

i suggested the militia for the protection of the community...
i will accept no monopoly of power as an authority over my life... no matter what they define as legit this week... all men are bias... so i guess there is no way a community council could determine guilt or innocence or the disputes of the farmer... i guess there is no way for people to cooperate and form a peaceful, protected community without the threat of violence..
but... you have already dismissed my views in your mind... i have disproved your state in mine... you are farmer A and i am Farmer B... your blog is your farm... sorry for intruding with watermelons on your tomato farm... un subscribing... again sorry

Zip said...

Yeisen, unsubscribe if you will it makes no difference to me, but riddle me this.

When you ask a question I answer, when I ask a question you claim that I am close minded and figuratively threaten to walk away in a huff. Why?

Why have you not answered a single one of the questions I posed?

And since it seems you only want to talk only on your terms lets do that.

You made the following statements "i will accept no monopoly of power as an authority over my life"... in the same breath as the statement "all men are bias" and the snide "i guess there is no way for people to cooperate and form a peaceful, protected community without the threat of violence.." can you tell me which one of those contradictory statements shows your true position?

Is it true that you will not accept anyone else’s power as an authority? Then why even bother to insinuate that you would accept the ruling of a community over your affairs?

If all men are bias what makes your community council or whatever more legitimate than my state?

Better yet, if you would acquiesce to the ruling of your “community” what is the practical difference between your community and my state?

If you would not acquiesce then again I ask you what would stop the community from deciding that you were being unreasonable and taking what they wanted anyway? Who could stop them? Who would you appeal to? On what grounds? With what Law or principle?

Come on Yeisen, inquiring minds want to know.

Cato said...

suppose I have Government A in a dispute with Government B, by your rationale the only way those two could be at peace is if they had an authority Government C over them. Ergo, one world government is necessary.
See the problem here?
You suppose that A and B are so irrational that they cannot find a single arbitrator they both think is fair. Even if they are, most Anarcho-Capitalists believe that security services would be provided like every other good in the market, cooperation through the division of labor. It wouldn't make sense for security or insurance firm A to start a war with insurance firm B, that would entail a massive loss of BOTH companies' capital. Firms A and B are not governments that can externalize their waste and aggression, so it is their MUTUAL self-interest to have already agreed to seek arbitration from a respected third party, in case of cross customer conflict. Spontaneous order is the hallmark of markets.

Zip said...

Cato I see what you are getting at but we are talking apples and oranges.

To me government = sovereign state which by definition rules (in the best instance at the command of citizens) within a geographically defined territory over a certain population.

The anarcho-capitalist idea of competing governments has these entities literally competing with each other for the same territory and for the same populations.

They do not then have a super-governmental agent to oversee these competing governments because that entity would become a de-facto state and that is an anathema to the anarcho-capitalist.

The thing that An-Cap's miss is that a properly constrained government exists only to protect individual rights. This means its only responsibility is to provide for Objective law (through the courts) protection of citizens from the initiation of force by criminals (by providing police) and in protecting the citizens from the initiation of force from persons and organizations outside the state (providing national defence).

In other words the state exists only to place the retaliatory use of force under objective control.

I feel like I'm going through this all over again. Cato If you would like to answer some of the questions I asked in the comments before this (addressed to Yeisen) then perhaps we can move forward from there?

Or I would also be willing to restart the debate but I think that there would have to be parameters established so that we do not go flying off into fantastic hypotheticals.

Please let me know.

Roderick Fitts said...

I have been very critical of anarchist arguments ever since reading Harry Binswanger's article on anarchism, especially this part of it:

"In any irreconcilable dispute, at least one party will find that its view of justice is stymied. Even under anarchy, only one side will be able to enforce its ideas of where the right lies. But it does not occur to the anarchists that when one of their private 'defense agencies' uses force, it is acting as a 'monopolist' over whomever it coerces. It does not occur to them that private, anarchistic force is still force�"i.e., the 'monopolistic' subjection of another's will to one's own. They are aware of and object to the forcible negation of competing' viewpoints only when it is done by a government."
[Binswanger, "Anarchism vs. Objectivism," The Objectivist Forum (August 1981)]

In a Noodlefood comment, I quoted that paragraph, and then added:

"This is entirely true. When an anarchist defense agency enforces its laws and rules, and metes out punishments, it's enforcing its powers as well, with the implication that those powers are *exclusive* for the relevant geographical area. If the defendant suddenly announced "My notion of justice isn't being upheld, so I'm going to form my own agency right now, which means that I'm not subject to your laws," it would create conflicting jurisdictions, which anarchism doesn't object to, but it doesn't suddenly override the authority of the original defense agency. In reality, I find it hard to believe that the representatives and members of the old agency are just going to let this person go because he's effectively formed a new legal entity. Which would mean that to enforce any law at all, government or defense agency, would potentially be an initiation of force, a violation of rights, and thus the climax of the anarchist argument. The only practical conclusion would be to not enforce laws pertaining to violations of rights."

I think it's still a valid point. An anarchist in his favored system could leave it's legal system like a kid leaving a basketball team.