The Allure Of Anarchy
In 1969, Roy Childs, Jr. wrote, "Objectivism and the State An Open Letter to Ayn Rand," which is much more important as a description of all that is wrong with the concept of government than a criticism or Rand's view of government, because there is no form of government that is ethically or objectively right.
Having thoroughly delineated all that is wrong with government, which he refers to as the, "state," and demonstrating that all forms of government are oppressive and immoral enterprises, he advocates anarchism as a kind of solution to governments existence. While he is right about the evils of government, he nevertheless, like most anti-state and anarchists activists, naively swallows one of the wrong ideas that makes governments possible—the idea that freedom is something that depends on a collective or social state. In his argument for anarchism he writes:
"This is the only alternative to continuing centuries of statism, with all quibbling only over the degree of the evil we will tolerate. I believe that evils should not be tolerated—period. There are only two alternatives, in reality: political rule, or archy, which means: the condition of social existence wherein some men use aggression to dominate or rule another, and anarchy, which is the absence of the initiation of force, the absence of political rule, the absence of the state. We shall replace the state with the free market, and men shall for the fist time in their history be able to walk and live without fear of destruction being unleashed upon them at any moment—especially the obscenity of such destruction being unleashed by a looter armed with nuclear weapons and nerve gases. We shall replace statism with voluntarism: a society wherein all man's relationships with others are voluntary and uncoerced. Where men are free to act according to their rational self-interest, even if it means the establishment of competing agencies of defense." [Emphasis mine.]
The question is, who is, "we?," and by what method will this revolution be put over?
What's Wrong With Anarchism
[NOTE: The following is apprised from the 2005 article, "Anarchism."]
Why There Are Governments?
I am not an anarchist, I am an individualist, a "free independent individual," because there is no other kind. Because I am an individualist, I have no use for government. No government has anything of value to offer me, and all government is a threat to my life and personal freedom.
I have been asked on a few occasions, "what if everyone were like you, what kind of a society would we have?" The implication, I suppose, is if everybody had my views, there would be no government and most people automatically assume without government there would be rampant crime and chaos. But, if everyone were like me, there would be no need for a government.
"People like me," that is, free individuals, do not want anything in this life they have not earned. In a society filled with individualists there would be no theft, no fraud, and no extortion. There would be no murder, rape, or beatings, either. individualists only want to be free to produce whatever they can by their own effort and to be free to trade with others what they have produced. In a society filled with individualists there would be no one looking for a hand-out or welfare, because, like me, everyone would be earning their own way and supporting their own families.
Individualists take responsibility for their every choice and act, because that is what living fully as a human being is. In a society filled with individualists, everyone would enjoy fully their successes, but bear the consequences of their own failures. They would never ask someone else to clean up after them.
Individualists do not need, or want, anyone else to provide them anything. If they want a road someplace, they will work out how to pay for it and build one. In fact there is nothing they might want that they wouldn't either work out how to provide, working with as many others as necessary, or, do without.
Individualists have no interest in interfering in the lives of others. How anyone else lives their life is their business. In a society filled with individualists, people would live the way they did in the city where I grew up in the 40s and 50s. No one locked doors, everyone minded their own business, some were religious, others were not, and most people were happy. That's what it would be like if everyone were like me.
The truth is, most people are not like me, not independent, and not individualists. Most people are terrified they might have to be totally responsible for their own lives. Most people have little or no confidence in themselves to succeed and be happy, or even to live, entirely by their own effort.
Most people are not individualists, and that is why there are governments. Societies composed entirely of honest, decent, self-sufficient, competent men and women of integrity have no use for a government. It is because societies are composed largely of dishonest, indecent, mooching, incompetent men and women of the lowest character that governments are supposedly needed.
There would be no supposed need for a government if a society consisted entirely of individuals who were no threat to anyone else's life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. It is because everyone believes others in their society are a threat to their life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness that they clamor for a government to protect them.
All Governments Evil
The protection of individual freedom is not the only reason governments are formed. That idea is a strictly modern Western one. Governments formed for other purposes are always evil, but even one formed with the good intention of protecting "individual rights" is evil.
Government is an agency with the exclusive power to initiate force in a geographical area. That power is legitimated by the word "law." Whatever the ostensible purpose for which a government is formed, once it is formed, its central purpose becomes the sustaining of itself and accruing more power and wealth to itself. The reason this is true is because, however those who will govern are chosen, they must be selected from the same society that is the supposed reason for government in the first place, that is, the herd of largely dishonest, indecent, mooching, incompetent men and women of the lowest character, the very individuals the government is supposed to protect its citizens from.
Though all governments are evil, some are much less evil, and some are totally evil. It is not the kind of government, republic vs. democracy vs. oligarchy, for example, that determines how evil a government is, but the size and power of a government. In the early years, after the formation of America's constitutional republican government, most people enjoyed the highest level of freedom, perhaps ever in the history of the world, though the excesses began within the first year with the outrageous whiskey tax. That early freedom was due entirely to the fact government was very small and was largely unable to oppress the people very much. There is little individual liberty in the United States today, though it is still the same kind of government, but it is large enough today to control almost every aspect of every citizen's life, and it does.
Why I Am Not An Anarchist
I am philosophically opposed to government because it is a wrong solution to social problems. Even when the solution to the problem is meant to be the protection of individuals from harm by others, no government ever actually does that, and in the end, all governments become the biggest threat to individual liberty, and the hardest to defend against.
But I am not an anarchist for three reasons:
1. There will always be government. The only people one can truly convince that a free society is possible without a government are independent individualists. Whether there will ever be a society of mostly independent individualists is very unlikely. Most societies will consist of the kind of people that dominate most societies today, and they will always clamor for a government, and will always get their way.
2. While I know that governments do not preserve individual liberty, the only kind of society that could succeed without a government would be one comprised mostly of honest, decent, self-sufficient, competent men and women of integrity, that is, independent individualists. So long as societies are comprised mostly of individuals terrified of true liberty and personal responsibility, desiring security and guarantees above freedom, little liberty is possible. All such societies are bound to become corrupt and have a powerful and corrupt government as well.
3. Anarchism, is itself, in all its forms, a political movement meant to produce a free society. While that version of anarchism that styles itself communist- or left-anarchism is a self-contradiction, the other variety that attempts to differentiate itself from the leftist version by calling itself capitalist-anarchism or anarcho-capitalism is still a movement meant to impose (negatively, I suppose) a political system to produce a certain kind of society, which is supposed to be the one providing true human liberty and justice. But "capitalism" is not a social system, it is an economic method which must be chosen by individuals free to make such a choice.
No true independent individualist can be an anarchist, except in the philosophical sense I described above. An individualist will not be part of any movement, because a movement is not an individualist action, it is a collective one. But even if an individualist chose to cooperate with others in promoting an idea, like the elimination of government, he could not advocate the elimination of government.
In the past when governments have been overthrown, what replaced them was almost always worse. As evil as governments are, there is one advantage to them. So long as societies are comprised of the material almost all are, the most dangerous members of a rotten society will naturally gravitate to the seats of power, seeking to be part of the system as politicians, bureaucrats, members of law enforcement, the military, members of the legal profession, teachers and professors in all government supported education, or other non-government institutions (like lobbyists clamoring for subsidies and entitlements) in bed with government. This is handy for the independent individualist because all the most dangerous people in society identify themselves as such, and it becomes much easier to watch them and defend oneself against them.
What Is The Solution?
If by "solution" is meant, how can the kind of society proper for rational and civilized people be devised and implemented, there is no such solution, and all attempts to implement such solutions have always and will always produce the worst of horrors. [The twentieth century is the demonstration.]
When and if the only kind of society in which freedom is possible ever comes to exist, that is, a society comprised mostly of honest, decent, self-sufficient, competent men and women of integrity, who will never be a threat to anyone else's life and liberty, there will be a free society without government, not because government has been eliminated, but because such people do not need or want one and would never form one.
I do not know what the solution would be for other kinds of people, but for the independent individual the solution is simple: be completely aware of the world you live in, particularly the political atmosphere of the country you are in, and discover all you can about it so you can use that system to provide yourself as much personal liberty as possible. To a very great extent that will involve making yourself as invisible as possible to those governments (all of them, federal, state, county, and municipal) of that country. The only life and the only freedom you have a moral claim to is the freedom you have produced by your own effort. Anything else is meddling, which the free individual never does.
Much of what anarchists have written about the necessity of individual liberty and the evils of states and governments is true and well articulated. In fact, it can be very alluring, especially to a freedom loving individualist. But it is ultimately a mistake, and part of this article is meant as a warning to other individualists not to get caught up in that mistaken movement.
The history and culture of anarchism is very complex. It is worth knowing something about that history, and the wide variety of anarchist movements that have existed and still exist to this day.
Bryan Caplan has an excellent, almost exhaustive online work on anarchism, with many other resources as well. There is also the
Anarchy Archives Online, a research center on the history and theory of anarchism, with some excellent resources and pictures.
The entire movement, in all its forms, is both confusing and confused, including everything from radical egoism to total collectivism, and the boundaries between conflicting concepts are never quite clear.
It might seem strange that a movement radically in favor of individual liberty is marked throughout it's history with actual or attempted acts of violence and "terrorism." It is ironic, but not a contradiction. Movements are always attempts to force something on people who have not already chosen it for themselves. Not even freedom can be forced on people who do not already want it.
This is the essential flaw of anarchism. Governments are evil and the world would be better off without them, but governments exist because that is what most people want. So long as most of the people of the world prefer security, guarantees, and an "easy unthreatened life" to the risky and dangerous life of freedom and personal responsibility, there will always be governments, promising the security and guarantees people desire, even though they can never deliver them.
So long as societies are dominated by the gullible who have no real interest in individual liberty, any movement to produce such a society is doomed, and is actually wrong. I might see the virtue in such a society, but how can someone who believes they have no right to impose their views of what is right on others be part of any movement which proposes to do just that. Not only are the anarchists wrong on this, but the libertarians, and even that bastard semi-freedom view called conservatism, is wrong on it, as well.
No one has a right to force on others their view of what a proper society would be, even if they are right. To force others to live under conditions they are unwilling to live under, even if it would be, "for their own good," is evil. No independent individualist could possibly support the use of force to make people happy against their will.
This is perhaps the ultimate mistake of the anarchists. They, like all other idealists, who believe their views must prevail, are willing to sacrifice some or all other principles to their ideal.
If the anarchist ideal is individual liberty, I share that ideal. If their methods allow, at any point, an attempt to force their ideal on others, who do not choose it, we have nothing in common.
Some advocate what they call, "civil disobedience" or "nonviolent action to achieve social change." The thing about individual liberty is, it doesn't have to be forced on anyone. If people really want to be free, they can be; but they do not want to be. If tomorrow everyone in this country simply ignored the government, refusing to obey any of its oppressive laws, that would be the end of the government.
So-called, "civil disobedience," as a protest or demonstration is nothing but trouble making. No one has any moral reason to obey any law of any government, and the independent individualist does not obey any oppressive laws he can possibly evade, but it is not a protest. It is not meant to influence anyone else, and it certainly isn't going to change the government.
What is wrong with anarchist activism is their aim, "to bring about social change." There are no "social solutions," only personal individual ones. It is not anyone's society to change. Attempting to make a society one you think you would be happy in is a collectivist view, not an individualist one.