Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Anarchist Misconception

There are a LOT of young anarchists. A LOT. Like, if you wander around an internet forum or a college campus with the big red “A,” you’re almost guaranteed to have some random weirdo walk up to you and deliver a sweaty high five right into your palm…and if you’re lucky, he might even offer you a joint!

These people are generally classified under one of two belief systems:

1. For any given society, they are better off without a government than with a government

2. By changing cultural norms, they can eliminate most of the needs for governments


They promise that things will be better with no government, and point to all the terrible things that governments have done since the beginning of human history. They have supported slavery, extorted massive amounts of wealth from citizens, protected negligent and polluting companies, started pointless wars, etc etc.

Governments, in their view, are mostly bad things that people use to oppress others. We’d be better off without them.

Unfortunately, I find this to be an argument that really doesn’t appreciate how much government has changed since the industrial revolution (and, indeed, just the past 50 years!)

Liberal democracies generally do not assault their citizens, or even citizens of foreign nations. Indeed, they are highly dedicated to international institutions, foreign aid, and providing healthcare and education to their citizens. Obviously, this might piss off a libertarian (who sees government as slowly encroaching on all areas of life), but it should demonstrate to most other people that government is NOT intent on screwing people over anymore.

It might be incompetent.
It might be mean sometimes.
It might overstep boundaries occasionally (see waterboarding).

But the government is NOT evil. At least not by intent.

The typical retort is that government, even if it isn’t bad NOW, will probably revert back to a horde of evil, barbaric Roman conquistadors. It is, after all, the way of government!

However, this really ignores how much history has changed. Back before the industrial age, the only way to make a quick buck was to steal it in some fashion. In this era, looting is not profitable, nor is it easy to do in an era where guns are so prevalent and liberal democracies don’t permit doing bad things to foreign countries anymore.


So, I really don’t see the return of “evil government.”

But, they say, doesn’t that mean that people are already good, and that government is superfluous? After all, good people don’t need government, and bad people wouldn’t be capable of making good government…


Perhaps. But we’ve turned a new leaf in how we rule ourselves, and a lot of anarchists don’t seem to accept that. That’s the main problem I have with them.

1 comment:

Candide said...

Not once in this essay (read: rant) is there any counter-argument to the number #2 belief system of an Anarchist 'By changing cultural norms, they can eliminate most of the needs for governments'.

As for 'Liberal democracies generally do not assault their citizens, or even citizens of foreign nations', I'm not going to get into taking sides on the Iraq war, but nonetheless there is a war in Iraq and it was declared by several Liberal democracies, and yes, citizens of a foreign nation are dying.

I found this view of an Anarchist to be very naive, and I'm not even an Anarchist.