Kristopher Morgan 8/31/17
Every single time violence is used during a protest you hear politicians, the media, and everyone in between shouting “anarchists!” Not only do those of us who proudly wear the badge find it insulting, it is an incorrect use of the term. Ironically, it seems very few members of society are actually willing to spend time studying and contemplating anarchy and what it means to be an anarchist. I present the following to close that gap and do my part in informing society on what anarchy is and is not.
What Anarchy Is Not
First and foremost, anarchists are not people who legitimize or perceive violent actions as acceptable. The molotov cocktail throwing ‘anarchist’, who has no respect for law, or people and their property, is a complete farce. Anarchists have the utmost respect for property, which is why we oppose states in the first place. In order to pay for government provided services, taxes must be collected with or without the consent of the people, as a matter of law. It is inconsistent to reject governments on the grounds that they constantly infringe on people and property and then riot and commit acts of vandalism to get the message out.
Furthermore, there is a misunderstanding about lawlessness and disorder. Anarchists understand and respect natural law, but reject legal positivism. The basis of natural law is private property rights, whereas the operate assumption of positivism is the state may assault private property when the political climate demands. An example of positivism would be the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Socio-economic circumstances opened the door for another layer of healthcare legislation and President Obama and Congress gave us the ACA. It violates natural law by demanding people who don’t purchase health insurance pay penalties when filing taxes; a way of using force to alter behavior. Anarchists view such use of law as not only undesirable, but criminal.
Anarchy is not a utopian worldview. It may be true that a successful anarchist society depends on everyone following natural law and staying within the bounds of actions that are based on consent. However, it is also the recognition that if we are to protect ourselves, permitting political coercion by a body of people is a poor first step. Anarchists do not believe that life without the state would be a paradise by any stretch of the imagination, we simply define the state as another criminal organization the same way we might the Mafia. It is noteworthy that often times the most adamant defenders of government’s necessity often try to find ways to save money during tax season. Anarchists simply seek to apply the same rules against theft, arson, murder, etc. to governments as we do everyone else.
Finally, we do not imagine an anarchist society as one wrought with chaos and crime with no means of protection. Since anarchists are people who reject violence and embrace peace, an anarchist society would be quite orderly. (I should note here that a society that has decided a state is undesirable due to the violence involved should not be confused with a society whose government has collapsed and created a power vacuum). There would be no government passing laws which reallocate people’s resources, nor would a society made up of such peaceful people be riddled with crime. Security would be provided through a host of consensual relationships such as, but not limited to a) the individual, b) family and friends, c) the community, d) charities and e) business. On the other hand, governments open the door for the chaos we normally associate with anarchist societies. Since government force is perceived as necessary, everyone is encouraged to use force against others through the hub of the state. How many people would never participate in such coercive acts if not for the state? Just observe the liberals and conservatives struggling with each other, each to gain the upper hand and get our government to do their bidding. The outcome? Kids born in 2016 already “owe” the United States Government $42,000; theft on a scale that would otherwise be impossible. Politics can turn the most peaceful people into monsters if they’re not careful. Anarchist society would have its imperfections, but its foundation would not be violence.
What Anarchy Is
Anarchy is a philosophy based on total equality and freedom of all members of society, with complete adherence to natural law. The very act of taxation is coercive in nature, so the logical conclusion is that a government that cannot tax nor hold a territorial monopoly on force cannot be considered a government. Powers allocated to governments may be written in constitutions and other governing documents. They may even be accepted by the majority of people. But the ruler/subject relationship is not a part of the human condition and has no place in natural law. The closest we come to is parent/child relationships, which may explain why America has one mommy party and one daddy party, but it’s still a far cry from saying states are natural. Authority and power structures will always be artificial.
Anarchists also embrace peace in private life. It may be true that there are some among us, for example the poorly named anarcho-communists, who wish to overthrow the existence of private property. Whether they realize it or not, they are closer to competitors of state power, NOT anarchists who eschew the use of force as a means to attain goals. If their ideas ever become popular, all property would be up for grabs, with everyone in society “defending” their right to take ownership of the things they want. Everyone struggling over control of everyone else’s property is the beginnings of a communist revolution, and eventually those who do the best job ‘defending’ their right to use resources become a state, since they would have to continue protecting what they have seized. I must reiterate here that private property is an absolute must to form a society without a state. Proper ownership of property is achieved through homesteading, gift, or trade, none of which includes theft. Contrary to the concept of public property, the message of private property is that one only has a just claim over any property gained through the aforementioned methods. In the framework of private property, property lines are a two way street. They let others know where their sphere of control ends and yours begins, as well as telling the owner where their sovereignty is limited. States on the other hand fund everything they do through coercion. Rather than trade or ask for donations (gifts), they simply take. As is the case with anarcho-communists, states view resources as being theirs for the taking. For these reasons, anarchy in its truest form will always be a branch of libertarianism, not communism.
Most anarchists have a tough time telling those around them what they truly believe. This is to be expected when majority of the population is educated in government schools. Governments and anarchism do not mix. We all know those liberals who know everything they know about conservatism from liberal media, or those conservatives who know everything they know about liberals from conservative radio. Each has a caricature impression of what and how the other thinks. Likewise, government schools and the superstructure misrepresent anarchy. Pile that on with the fact that every time a protest turns violent someone labels them anarchists along with the confused anarcho-communists, and it’s easy to see why there is confusion. By now we should all know better. Violent actions are not consistent with anarchy or anarchist values. Anarcho-communism would never lead to the state dissolving.
The defining feature of a government is the ability to exercise power over individuals and their property under the perception that their actions are warranted. This is precisely what any criminal wants. The bank robber wants a monopoly over taking all the money in the vault. They don’t want competition from other thieves or from the rightful owners. And they certainly don’t want to be held accountable. When we apply those rules for universal moral standards to the government, what can we call it but the most successful criminal organization in a country?
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The author’s views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Ask A Libertarian Team or its followers.