January 4th, 2009

Anarcchism, what is it?

I took a quiz on a website linked to a live journal journal: 


The quiz offered to identify me politically on the basis of my answer to about a dozen brief, apparently simple, questions.  I took the quiz and found myself labeled "liberal."  So I took the quiz again to see what would happen if I answered the questions differently (not dishonestly, just differently); now I was a "centrist."  Third time, "centrist" again.  One more try: "liberal."  There were only five options: "liberal," "conservative," "centrist," "statist," and "libertarian."   The reason I could answer some of the questions several ways (or actually, no way) was that the existence of the modern state was presumed by all the questions.  For example, one question asked me to choose between a military draft and an all volunteer army.  To me that is a "have you stopped beating your wife yet? type question.  It was not possible to say that I don't  think I should have an army at all, or that I don't think I should have a state at all.

The website was obviously a "libertarian" web site.  Libertarians take seriously the conservative individualistic insight that "that government governs best that governs least."  Henry David Thoreau answered that therefore the very best government would be one that governed not at all.  A government that governed not at all would be no government at all, that is, an anarchy.

Perhaps the quiz was correct in not making room for anarchy among its possibilities.  If politics is about government, than anarchism would not be a political orientatation, it would be an apolitical position.

Why can't I be a libertarian?  First of all, libertarianism is a radically individualist theory; if life is a system of winners and losers, then good luck to the losers, they can't expect any help from government, or from me unless I feel like helping.
Second, by limiting government, they give even more power to what is already the dominant institution in the modern world, the capitalistic economic system.  Instead of the CEOs picking our political leaders, they will, in effect, be our political leaders.  Even the thin, irresponsible, unreliable layer of watchfulness that regulatory agencies provide will disappear  and the economic meltdown we saw in 1929 and 2008 will spread to moral, religious, family and all other institutions.

Anarchists do not necessarily believe in violence, they do not necessarily believe in individualism, they do not necessarily believe in social disorder.  The only defining belief of anarchists is that government produces more problems than it solves and therefore we would be better off trying to solve our problems of living together without it.  This requires great involvement and great effort by everybody, great restraint by everybody, and great compassion by everybody.  The alternative is that we will kill each other off or evolve into something that is less human than we are now.  It also requires an economic system based on the same conditions: the purpose of an economy is to feed everybody, shelter everybody, keep everybody out of prison or hospital (or at least make their stays there as brief and pleasant as possible), clothe everybody, and quench everyone's real thirsts.