On Anarchism

The central or core belief of anarchism is that government is immoral and unnatural because they (the anarchist) did not give consent to its existence and to the limits it places upon them.

The assumption is that consent is required for something to be natural or moral. However, they did not consent to being born and nothing is more natural than new life and birth. And I don’t believe they would consider their own existence to be immoral. So, their assumption is false.

After my many years in the libertarian movement and after reading the classic works of anarchists and libertarians, I have applied the logic taught to me when I was busy earning a college degree in philosophy & political science — and found that anarchists are like people born into a house who demand that everyone living there change to accommodate their desires.

They apparently have no idea of the work that went into building the house, of the special advantages they received from being in the house and in the rooms of it they are in, of the labor and other costs involved in maintaining the house, or of how “nasty, brutish and short” their existence would be if the house did not exist.

And the same can be said of libertarians and others who refuse to accept the necessity of government.

The house in this metaphor is society or civilization and there has never been one that has endured without a government of some sort.

Governments may be smaller or larger, more or less bureaucratic, deeply corrupt and closed or basically honest and transparent — but they always exist. The central issue of the current day is not whether government will exist, but whether it will serve We the People — or just the top 1% of the monied elite.

 

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About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed (May 2016). Mobile notary public and signing agent, freelance writer, and ordained minister. Science fiction and fantasy fan, willing servant to cats, avid reader and collector of books and other stuff. Please see my websites (including this blog and others) for more info on me and what I think about the issues of the day.
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5 Responses to On Anarchism

  1. I don’t think that the ‘unnaturalness’ of governments is a central belief of anarchism, plus it is also very hard to argue. The immorality of government on the other hand is something obvious – government uses forces people under the threat of violence to do what a small group of people has decided would best suit themselves, whether unmasked or under the mask of the abstraction called ‘We the People’.

    Your example with the house is based on an entirely false premise that assumes that a household and the government are comparable. Just because your parents have full authority over you while you are a child does not mean that any random group of people can have that authority over you when you are an adult.
    If you are speaking about a normal household you can assume that the parents who brought their child into this world a) wanted to bring this child into the world b) love their child c) are willing to spend their own time and money on this child with little to none material gain. Can you say this about any government? Are governments responsible for our existence? Does government love its citizens? Do government spend their own hard earned money and time on us without any gain?

    Your statement that an anarchist society can never exist because it never existed is not an argument and in the same way, I can say that a government that fully serves ‘We the People’ will never exist because it has never existed. Only in this case I would be right, but not because the argument makes sense, but because of other reasons that would make this reply even more longer.

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    • Tim Gatewood says:

      “The house in this metaphor is society or civilization and there has never been one that has endured without a government of some sort.” — So, no, I did not say that the house was government. As for whether something new can exist, sure, it could — but history shows zero examples of enduring societies without government. Until such time as an anarchist can show how they would either smash the state without it rising from the rubble or cause it to wither permanently, anarchism is a pipe dream.

      You know, I agree that there has never been a government that fully serves We the People. And I don’t expect there ever will be. However, there can be one that comes a heck of a lot closer to that than what we have now, as it has done at various times in the past. Perhaps we can get back to that by focusing on what works and what does not work to advance that goal. I just don’t believe redefining government as immoral or unnatural (which IS the argument of natural rights advocates within the libertarian and anarchist movements) is a useful way to move us in that direction. What such a redefinition has done is to make it easier for the richest of the rich to corrupt the government and join Big Business and Big Government in cahoots against We the People.

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  2. curiosetta says:

    > The central or core belief of anarchism is that government is immoral

    This is not quite true. Obviously ‘government’ cannot be moral or immoral because ‘government’ is an abstract concept like ‘church’, or ‘society’. Only PEOPLE are capable of being moral agents not abstract concepts. A ‘government’, a ‘church’ or a ‘society’ cannot murder, torture, assault or steal from people. Only PEOPLE can murder torture, assault or steal from other people.

    Anarchists are people who accept the basic universal moral rules that form the basis of any civilised/ moral society (such as assault, theft, coercion, kidnapping etc are immoral). What makes them anarchists is that they they apply those moral rules CONSISTENTLY (universally) to everybody, because anarchists do not believe people can be exempt from basic universal moral rules and the basic human rights that are derived from them.

    In practical terms anarchists do not believe wearing special costumes or having lots of flag waving supporters are valid reasons to be exempt from basic universal moral rules. An anarchist would say that I do not have the moral right to (for example) tax you or coerce you in any way simply because I am wearing a fancy costume, or because I happen to have the support of thousands of people.

    > The assumption is that consent is required for something to be natural or moral.

    This is also not true. Anarchists adhere to the Non Aggression Principle (NAP). The NAP rejects the initiation of force as a legitimate way to achieve your aims. The NAP rejects the behaviour of a rapist who is INITIATING force against his/ her victim. The NAP allows appropriate force to be used to protect oneself from a rapists – AKA ‘self defence’. Self defence is legitimate even though the rapist does not consent to being forcibly stopped from committing rape. The issue is the initiation of force, not the lack of consent.

    > However, they did not consent to being born and nothing is more natural than new life and birth.

    The miracle of new life is not remotely comparable to the initiation of force. There are many things we do not consent to but which are not the initiation of force. A surprise birthday party, being born, a noisy plane flying overhead, a letter asking for a charity donation etc.

    > And I don’t believe they would consider their own existence to be immoral.

    Correct.

    > anarchists are like people born into a house who demand that everyone living there change to accommodate their desires.

    Anarchists do not demand anything of other people, as long as nobody tries to rule them by force. Anarchists are happy for people to live any lifestyle they want as long as it does not violate the NAP. What is it that anarchists object to which you want to do? Can you be a bit more specific?

    > ….who refuse to accept the necessity of government.

    This is not a moral argument, it is just an assertion. Also ‘governments’ do not exist just as ‘churches’ do not exist. What you are actually saying is you believe a tiny minority of few people in a big fancy building should be exempt from basic moral rules that apply to the rest of us. This is the exact same claim made by those people who defended a society coercively ruled by religion or monarchy. In this modern age we have rejected their claims (admittedly a work still in progress).

    > The house in this metaphor is society or civilization and there has never been one that has endured without a government of some sort.

    And before the abolition of slavery there had never been a society without slaves. Before the wright brothers flew there had never been a working flying machine. Also you argument is based on the premise that statist societies are functional, enduring and preferable (and moral). Yet the most barbaric, immoral and destructive acts throughout history have always been committed by governments (and the church, and monarchy before them). It has been calculated that in the last century alone 250,000,000 people have been killed by governments, and that is not including all the government wars.

    And of course, government is the most immoral institution in society simply due to the fact that they are the only institution in society who still claim the legal and moral right to initiate force to achieve their objectives.

    The vast majority of day-to-day society today (business and personal) operates in a state of anarchy. In daily living all interactions are conducted voluntarily and without any coercion. If coercion or theft is used we recognise the transaction are immoral and invalid and we call them theft, murder, forced marriage, rape, fraud, bullying, extortion, terrorism etc.

    > Governments may be smaller or larger, more or less bureaucratic, deeply corrupt and closed or basically honest and transparent — but they always exist.

    No. Governments do NOT exist. Only PEOPLE exist. ‘Government’ is just a collective term for a bunch of PEOPLE (and their supporters) who declare (and violently defend) their monopolistic legal right to behave immorally.

    If we stop believing in mountains they still exist. If we stop believing anybody has the right to initiate force to achieve their aims ‘government’ ceases to exist. In this sense ‘government’ is really just another superstition. It exists only in our minds. What exists in reality is PEOPLE…. some of us are adhering to basic morally and some of us are not.

    > The central issue of the current day is not whether government will exist, but whether it will serve We the People — or just the top 1% of the monied elite.

    Neither ‘government’ nor ‘we the people’ exist such that one can ‘serve’ the other. There are just ‘people’ (individuals). Initiating force is not the same as ‘serving’. A slave master is not a ‘servant’ of the slaves. When slavery was legal then the institution of legalised slavery DID serve the interests of the slave masters. But that is not a moral argument for slavery.

    Making theft and coercion legal for a minority called ‘government’ (or ‘church’ or ‘monarchy’) DOES indeed serve the selfish interests of certain groups in society – obviously. And naturally these groups will all compete to get their hands on the spoils of legalised theft and coercion (tax, wars, regulations, laws etc). These are observations or truisms, not arguments.

    The issue is very simple. Should universal moral rules apply to everyone universally? Are humans born equal? Is the ‘divine right to rule’ a valid concept in the 21st century?

    Am I free to live in peace or are you going to initiate force against me, either in person or via a third party of armed thugs acting on your behalf as your representatives?

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    • Tim Gatewood says:

      Governments, churches, We the People, and other collective terms used here and in everyday speech are short-hand for webs of relationships and resources. These webs exist in the same way that any other man-made institution exists, and they persist over time because they serve a useful purpose that most people see and accept (consent to).

      I reject the anarchist and libertarian claim that the vast majority of all human interactions are done in anarchy. The way I see it is that the vast majority of all human interactions in society exist within a framework of laws, relationships, and rules — not anarchy. I don’t expect you to agree with me, of course.

      I agree with your desire to be free to live in peace. In fact, it is a desire that I share.

      However, we can not expect everyone else to stop following the institutions that they were raised under in order to accommodate this desire. You were born into a society that has a government. It IS part and parcel of that society. If the citizens of that society are actively participating in the government, it can serve a very useful role. Redefining government as an immoral gang of thieves which exists only to initiate force based on whims and caprice does nothing to help society or the average person in it — and a great deal to undermine the ability of the government to serve as a check and balance against the power-lust and destructive actions of private persons.

      I find it odd that libertarians and others refer to the ability of the government to enforce the laws as “initiating force” because of the perceived threat of force POSSIBLY being used, yet many of these same people salute and cheer individual citizens walking around openly armed, which is a much clearer threat of ACTUAL violence and initiation of deadly force. And the analysis that libertarians and anarchists apply toward big government seems to be only rarely applied toward big business, which is equally guilty of many of the same sins.

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      • curiosetta says:

        > Governments, churches, We the People, and other collective terms used here and in everyday speech are short-hand ….

        Sure. But I think we have to be precise with meanings whenever we are discussing the subject of ‘government’ and ‘anarchy’ specifically (in a conversation like this one). In casual conversation it’s fine to say “The Catholic church tortured people during the inquisition”, but obviously in a trial that would make no sense because ‘a church’ (much like ‘a government’ or ‘a society’ or ‘a fan club’) is incapable of torturing anybody. Only specific human beings are capable of acting on other human beings.

        > I reject the anarchist and libertarian claim that the vast majority of all human interactions are done in anarchy.

        Could you list some of these everyday interactions which are not done in a state of anarchy?

        Just to be clear, anarchy means without rulers (without legalised/ legitimised coercion). Marriage NOT conducted in a state of anarchy is called ‘forced marriage’ and so on.

        > The way I see it is that the vast majority of all human interactions in society exist within a framework of laws, relationships, and rules — not anarchy. I don’t expect you to agree with me, of course.

        Well yes and no. Again it’s all about definitions….. Anarchy MEANS adhering to rules because anarchy means an absence of RUERS (ie the non recognition of a legitimate coercive ruling class of kings or presidents or priests). Anarchy does not mean the absence of rules. Rulers are people who claim, and violently defend, their exclusive moral and legal right to rule over others by force. Rulers claim, and violently defend, their EXEMPTION from the very rules they impose onto everybody else. This reduces those rules to the status of mere laws, which I’ll explain in a moment.

        Anarchy is in fact the natural and inevitable CONSEQUENCE of society adhering to, and applying, rules consistently to all of society. A rule is not a rule unless it applies universally (to everybody). That is what a ‘rule’ means (although this meaning is constantly being perverted of course!). If we have a society based on rules, then logically there cannot be any legitimate rulers because a ruler is – by definition – someone who is exempt from rules!

        It’s actually a lot simper than I’m making it sound LOL

        In everyday society people accept and generally adhere to rules. Theft, coercion, assault, fraud, murder etc are accepted as ‘against the rules’. They are regarded as immoral and unacceptable behaviour. And anybody who breaks those rules is immediately identified as a rule breaker, a criminal, anti social etc. But right in the middle of all this consistency and rationality is the institution called ‘government’.

        A ‘government’ is a group of people within a geographical area who claim and violently defend a monopoly on the legal and moral right to violate all of those rational and moral rules. And so if the VIOLATION of rules concerning such fundamental things as coercive behaviour or property rights is considered legitimate for some – and indeed forms the foundation of the society – we cannot say that that society is based on, or adheres to, or respects rules at all. Statism is a system which has absolutely no respect for rules at all. Instead of being a society based on rules it is a society coercively controlled by rulers. This obvious (yet seemingly incomprehensible to most) distinction is the core of the statism vs anarchism debate.

        Most people assume a statist society has rules and an anarchic one does not. But the truth is actually the other way around. Such is the power of statist propaganda.

        Here is where that confusion stems from IMHO….. By enforcing their monopoly on the legal right to steal, assault, coerce, murder, kidnap etc the people calling themselves ‘government’ must logically prevent us from behaving as they do (that is what ‘enforcing a monopoly’ means after all). So they prevent or punish everybody else in society who attempt s to steal, coerce, murder etc. And that kind of makes it seem as if they are outlawing those activities. But if you do think about it (and of course we are encouraged to never do that) we soon realise that ‘enforcing a monopoly on the right to do X’ is not the same as ‘enforcing rules outlawing X’.

        Some examples.

        “Nobody is allowed to steal another person’s earnings” is a rule.

        “Anybody caught stealing another person’s earnings will be put in a cage” is enforcing that rule by force, hence enFORCE. We might call this a ‘law’ which enforces a ‘rule’. The willingness to use force is what defines it as a law (rather than a suggestion or an opinion).

        “Nobody except the rulers can steal another person’s earnings and anybody except the rulers who are caught will be put in a cage” is the rulers enforcing a monopoly on the right to steal. In this case a law is being used to enforce a monopoly on X, in this case X is property theft.

        This is what most laws do in a statist system. They enforce government’s monopoly on the legal right to behave in ways which are considered immoral and ‘against the rules’ for everybody else in society.

        The implied argument used to justify statism (when you break it down) is that X is bad and ‘government’ needs to be legally allowed to do X in order to enforce rules against X. But this is a terrible argument.

        For example, rape is bad. But there is no logical reason why people enforcing rules against rape need to be allowed to commit rape is there? That just makes everything worse!

        The same is true when it comes to other activities like theft, assault, murder, kidnapping, fraud etc.

        > I agree with your desire to be free to live in peace. In fact, it is a desire that I share

        Sorry to be blunt, but no you don’t…… although you probably don’t realise it (such is the power of propaganda). If you support statism then *by definition* you support, and in fact demand, coercion, violence and theft be committed against other people by a third party (in this case ‘government’) acting on your behalf, as your ‘representatives’.

        When you ‘vote’ in a ‘democracy’ you are attempting to impose your political ambitions (including the funding of those ambitions) onto the rest of society BY FORCE via a third party agency of violence (‘government’). By voting you are basically saying that you want anybody who disagrees with you and refuses to comply (and fund) your political aims to be thrown in a cage …….and shot if they resist or try to escape. This is the brutal, barbaric and immoral reality of statism.

        Of course most voters would be horrified at the thought of violently coercing anybody for any reason…… and that is precisely why anarchists often tell statists that they are anarchists at heart and that they have been tricked into supporting a violent and immoral system (by relentless state propaganda in state schools etc).

        In everyday society most statists (AKA ‘voters’) would not dare to use threats of violence (much less actual violence) to get their way in business or personal relationships…… and yet every four years they merrily ‘vote’ for a third party to point guns at everyone else on their behalf and issue demands.

        Suppose we are neighbours and you support policy X (a war, a new government agency, some new policy, a new law etc) but I oppose it and want to have nothing to do with it. Perhaps I want to spend my money on policy Y… or perhaps I just want to save it for my retirement. As a ‘voter’ you merrily vote for government to take my money from me at gunpoint and spend it on your policy X, thus preventing me from spending it how I wanted to. And if I resist I will be put in a cage as per your demands.

        Now suppose government handed YOU the gun and the keys to the local jail. They then say “We are off on holiday for a year, so if you want your neighbour to fund policy X you will have to coerce them yourself… see ya!”

        Are you now willing to point that gun at me in person and demand half my earnings and my obedience to you?

        What if I refuse? Are you willing to drag me from my family and put me in the cage?

        And again, what if I resist? Are you willing to shoot me?

        If you have a moral issue with behaving like that towards me then surely you should have a moral issue with getting a third party treat me the exact same way?

        These are awkward and uncomfortable questions. But they are the essence of the statism/ anarchy debate. But of course it is not a debate until statists put down the gun. ANY debate which ends with one side saying “I am still going to force you to do as I say …… or else!” was never a debate to begin with.

        When you ‘vote’ you are simply outsourcing violence, theft and coercion to a third party. Yet in everyday life we never behave like this ….. and when people do behave that way we call it extortion, bullying, mafia, terrorism, mugging, tyranny.

        How can you reconcile having one set of morals throughout all of society and the exact opposite morals at the very heart of society? (ie government).

        Another common misconception…… Anarchy is not a ‘system’ anymore than ‘not condoning forced marriage’ is a ‘system’. Anarchy is just ‘what happens’ when we apply logical / moral consistency to society.

        In an anarchic society we would still all be free to surrender whatever rights or property we wanted to to any group we wanted … just as long as we did not try to impose that lifestyle onto others by force, or aggress against them in any way. This means socialist communities (real or virtual) could still exist within a free society for those who did not want to retain all of their person/ property rights.

        I can’t imagine what sane person would actually choose to live like that though, given the choice.

        Hope that makes some sense 🙂

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