Anarchism and Government

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Imagine a government just disappearing. At all levels. There would be chaos for awhile, maybe quite a while. Eventually people would start organizing, though, to defend the country, or maybe just the locality, then to provide police, firefighters and other services citizens need. Maybe these would be provided on a different basis, though, who knows? But there would be a government again. Wouldn’t there?

One of the current ideologies is that the free market is inherently good, and government inherently evil. I subscribe to an investment magazine which has been running an interview with a business owner, who is an exponent of that theory. He charges government with being based on violence and essentially being a parasite and obstructing freedom, particularly of the market. He says he’s an anarchist.

What the man says is not untrue. Government does grow from the barrel of a gun, as Mao Tse-tung put it. It does limit freedom, and in fact that’s one of its functions. If government is to serve the greatest good of the greatest number, some forms of freedom can’t be allowed.

But the man says he’s an anarchist. Just what does that mean? As I understand it, anarchist belive in having no government, that humans are rational and can regulate themselves with out having an authority over them. It’s a nice theory, but history tells us it has yet to be possible.

There are castles in Europe because at the time they were built there was no central authority to enforce the law, and people needed a safe place to run to when their neighbors came calling. Would people like the Vikings be allowed to conquer parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia and Sicily now?

Or has the human race evolved since then? At the end of the First World War a spontaneous revolution took place in Russia. Less than a year later the Bolsheviks overthrew that government and became more repressive than the Czars had ever been.

In China the so-called Empire ended about 1912 with the rise of Sun Yat -Sen, who was followed by Chiang Kai Shek. The Nationalist government never controlled the whole country, so there were powerful warlords in various places (as there were in Afghanistan when we invaded, and may still be), and were never able to prevent the rise of Communism under Mao and its ultimate takeover of the whole country. 

After World War I a liberal socialist government that many Germans didn’t like took over. The Nazis and Communists had private armies, and political murder was particularly prevalent in Bavaria, as Hitler had his headquarters in Munich. Everyone knows what eventually happened in Germany.

These examples say to me that anarchy only works for some: those with money and power. People with money are the ones rightwing ideologues particularly admire and compare other people to. They see too many people being dependent on government and our liberties vanishing. In part, I agree with them, but don’t think they’re talking about the whole picture.

Governments aren’t the only ones who can use the power of the gun, nor are they the only entities people can become dependent on. Most of us in this country are dependent on the transportation system that brings us food and other things, the power grid that brings us electricity, etc.

Josef Stalin was a criminal in the Caucausus long before the 1917 revolution. Mao’s Communists lived off the land in China. Stalin and Mao eventually headed their own governments, but they used force before they did that.

In this country, if the government were to be significantly weakened, the picture would be different. As things now are, large corporations and industries use lobbying to ally the government with them. It’s more difficult for ordinary citizens to ge the government to do what they want.

But if the government becomes significantly weaker, you might possibly see private armies being used by different corporations or parties against each other.

More likely, I think, is that the wealthy will conclude a stronger alliance with the government, and any repression will be carried out against ordinary Americans, especially minorities.

It’s particularly ironic that the people speaking against the government are, in my opinion, employed by people who intend to use both private and government power against ordinary citizens. even more than they do now.

So obviously I see the danger more on the Right than the Left, which is not to say the Left couldn’t become dictatorial too. I think that’s less likely, at the moment, at least in this country, but doubt that the difference would be great for most people. Would you have preferred to live in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia? The differences were mostly cosmetic. Both were most interested in persecuting and killing their enemies, with the welfare of their citizens a distant second at best. I don’t see much to suggest we couldn’t have more of the same in much of the world, including here.

Liberty is a wonderful ideal. The question is always: for whom and for what. Ordinary Americans don’t have the power or money to protect their liberties against determined predators, whether those are from the governement or private sector. Some individuals have guns and ammunition. That won’t be enough to protect them against government power or private armies.

The government in this country, unlike a lot of others is theoretically supposed to protect ALL its citizens. In practice it makes choices, and tneds to favor the wealthy and powerful. As much as the wealthy and powerful protest against government, in practice they like it very much–as either an ally or a tool. They won’t be for anarchy unless they’re sure it will be to their advantage. Some have suggested, though, that they’ve already been preparing for it.

I wish I could believe that human rationality could unerringly protect us from these dangers. It’s possible that we’ll find a way to shift our social paradigm towards a more peaceful and benign society, but it will take a lot of watchfulness and action to prevent disaster. I don’t see the possibility of a workable benign anarchy any time soon. Such a system would have to put strict limits on power-seeking (which would make it no longer an anarchy), or a charismatic individual or powerful group could easily take over. If enough people were to become truly selfless, they could influence others to cooperate in a truly rational way. Absent that, the power-seeking element of human nature would be difficult if not impossible to resist. It’s been with us for as long as we know about. It might be possible to get rid of, but that would require dramatic changes. American culture encourages just the opposite.

Some find communalism absolutely inimical to American values. Others, while valuing individuality, object to the extremes to which it can be taken. Individuals can still achieve positive things more or less alone, but to resist predatory and totalitarian groups requires organizations, which in turn are always at risk for corruption. Only a whole new paradigm and approach is likely to remove this danger.

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