I am a little slow on the uptake on this one, as I have been working my tail off for my Uncle in Walla Walla. This one relates back to the riots in the U.K., and the nature thereof. It is pretty common to hear an ignorant observer say “oh wow, England looks like an anarchy!” Hilariously enough, the media and politicians do the same. But they are not ignorant. Is there an agenda there? Anthony Gregory takes a look:
If anarchy means chaos, disorder, lawlessness, reckless disregard for person and property, then the London vandals who set private buildings on fire and the hooligans who jumped on police misconduct as an excuse to loot in the service of their worldly desires were indeed practitioners of anarchy. One could conceivably argue that the word means absence of archy—meaning absence of rule of any kind, including the rule of law, which would render the word a proper label to affix to lawlessness and a philosophy that favors social chaos.But the word has another definition, which means something distinctly different. It can also mean the absence of rule as in government. And here we have to ask, what is government? Again, we arrive at two possible answers, at least. Government can simply mean lawful order, organization, social hierarchy. Or it can refer to the political institution known as the state—the organization that lays claim to a monopoly on legal violence. Many who have regarded themselves anarchists are opposed not so much to social order or even law and its enforcement, but to the state, arguing that in fact the state as an institution inevitably acts outside the natural law in order to maintain its coercive monopoly.
Most of the London looters probably do not qualify as this kind of anarchist, a serious philosophical tradition that includes Josiah Warren, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, William Lloyd Garrison, Lysander Spooner, Albert J. Nock, Karl Hess, Murray Rothbard and many others. This is the approximate heritage of lawful anarchy that is explored and defended in the Independent Institute book Anarchy in the Law.
. . .
This conflation of anti-statism and violent thuggery is hardly new. House Republican leader John Boehner described some of the Tea Party attendees as “anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office.” In 2003, the FBI was involved in heavy surveillance of anti-Iraq war protesters—people who were principally opposing the lawless violence being unleashed in the Middle East by Washington, a reminder that the bad kind of “anarchy” is often a result of government planning—with one FBI official quoted as saying, “it’s obvious that there are individuals capable of violence at these [antiwar] events. We know that there are anarchists… trying to sabotage and commit acts of violence.”
And it didn’t stop in 2003. Just a few days ago, AntiWar.com reported that it had gleaned information (thanks to the Freedom of Information Act) suggesting that the FBI was watching their main editors and commentators because of their anti-war sentiments. The process seems to be this:
- A group of people is against something the government is doing.
- They speak out against it.
- The FBI/CIA/NSA blindly assumes they either are violent or enough of an intellectual threat to warrant investigation (I am assuming at the direction of the Administration in office concerning the latter).
- The FBI/CIA/NSA cannot legally obtain a warrant to justify formal investigation.
- The FBI/CIA/NSA issues wiretaps, communication logs, and tracking measures in violation of the Constitutional principles of free speech, due process, equal protection, and privacy despite number 4.
- The FBI/CIA/NSA/Administration teams up with media sources, leaks the word “anarchist” or “terrorist sympathizer.”
- The group is demonized to the masses.
“Anarchy” has become a trigger word. The truth is, there is an anarchism that is exactly the opposite of the means by which violent rioters wish to achieve their end. Since anarchism denounces coercion as a moral way of achieving one’s goals, violence is always prohibited unless in reasonable apprehension of a certain and immanent harm. True anarchists won’t go out killing people to make a point. You and I are being anarchists every time we have a discussion, since I don’t force you to believe my beliefs and you don’t force me to believe yours. Instead, we use reason, discourse, customs, and natural order to come to conclusions about our relationship and what we will do and believe. I think it is a bit prophetic today that the state wants to force you to disbelieve certain things or flee from certain ideas just at a word. How long until “wanting you to disbelieve” that anarchy means something it does not becomes “forcing you to believe” that the state is the answer to all human problems?
In addition to the above, I give you Ten Common Objections to Libertarian Anarchism and their responses…