Long has man understood the definition of slavery. And long has he continued to practice it, ignoring and even mocking decent folks’ cries for its abolition.
It’s time for something new.
Were he still alive, Leo Tolstoy, a self-described “spiritualist anarchist,” would be 184 years old today. The world of 2012 could learn a lot from this towering, 19th Century intellectual. For one thing, Tolstoy understood well the anarchist attitude of “live and let live,” and he spent a good many words railing against The State and its brutal, oppressive nature.
Tolstoy’s ideas on civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
He saw government for what it really is, “an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.”
At heart, Tolstoy was a lover, not a hater. In his most famous work, War and Peace, he wrote:
“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here.”
This is not the kind of “warm and fuzzy” sentiment one might expect from an anarchist, at least not given the currently and widely misunderstood definition of the word. The term “anarchist,” for the average voter, is a pejorative used to describe jackbooted hooligans rampaging through the streets, hurling Molotov cocktails through Starbucks windows and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
In point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The word has been hijacked and, in accordance with the Newspeak of our time, has come to mean the exact opposite of that for which what it stands. This is a convenient confounding of the definition, one that serves directly the goals of The State, the brutish institution that presides over the enslavement of individuals within a given border and, not infrequently, declares wars against those living within foreign borders.
Properly understood, the term anarchy, which derives from the Greek anarchia, literally translates an, “without” + arkhos, “ruler.” Freedom from being owned…enslaved…forced against one’s will. Freedom to act voluntarily. Freedom to associate with whomever one so desires and under whatever conditions he or she sees fit…provided they do not diminish the ability of another to enjoy the same freedom.
Tellingly, when one looks around today and sees who has the guns, the clubs, the Tasers and the jackboots…when we identify correctly those who wield the power to tax, detain, imprison, torture and to commit the lives of young men and women to battle…when we realize who badgers businesses, hampers trade, regulates progress, debases monies, and claims private property for their own ends, we see, emblazoned right there on the perpetrators’ uniforms, the bold, unmistakable badge of The State.
And yet, curiously, it is to The State that most people look for protection against these very same evils. Tragically propagandized individuals are left to wonder, for example, who will safeguard them against theft and violence…if not for the institution that relentlessly steals and aggresses against them. They entrust the course of justice to an institution that daily and obscenely perverts it. And they surrender unto The State all the liberties and opportunities they wouldn’t dare be caught without.
How is that working out, you ask?
In yesterday’s edition of Laissez-Faire Today, fellow anarchist, Jeffrey Tucker, cited the results of a new study from Pew (source). It combines several sources of data to decisively declare a lost decade:
• Medium income data for the middle class shows a drop over 10 years from $72,956 in 2001 to $69,487 in 2010, the first time in the postwar years when income ended a 10-year period lower than when it started
• Median wealth, which means assets minus debt, fell 28% in the same time frame. A broad poll shows that 84% of people say it is more difficult than 10 years ago just to maintain the previous standard of living.
“The bleak summary,” wrote Jeffrey, “Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some — but by no means all — of its characteristic faith in the future.”
The State is the problem, Fellow Reckoner, NOT the solution. After five years (and counting) of grinding deepening recession, it’s time to change tack.
Far from being something to fear anarchy is, in many ways, the natural solution to our troubles. Anyone who doubts this will have trouble reconciling the fact that 99% of their most critical life decisions are made in a private state of anarchy. We’re all anarchists, for example, when it comes to choosing a mate. At the risk of belaboring the point, imagine for a second if the government claimed the right to tell you whom to marry. What do you think would happen to the quality of human relationships under such a regime?
Now imagine the government chose your friends for you too, scheduled your social events, dinner parties and planned your weekends. Imagine a panel of bureaucrats assigned you a hobby of their choosing, prescribed for you a television channel and allotted you a specific time to watch it. Imagine the Minster of Gastronomy chose your restaurant for you, made your menu selections and decided on your wine. What do you suppose might happen to your overall quality of life?
Few, if any, people would tolerate such intrusions on their personal liberties. And with good reason! Who would want to consummate a state-imposed marriage or, worse still, impose that obligation on an unwilling, state-selected partner? Decent individuals reserve — and, should the need arise, will defend — their right to chose these things for themselves.
When it comes to the most important things in life, when it comes to our family and friends and to deciding how we spend the precious time we have with them, we’re all anarchists. It’s high time we took the statist shackles off the rest of our lives and started acting like it.
Regards,Joel Bowmanfor The Daily Reckoning
Joel Bowman is managing editor of The Daily Reckoning. After completing his degree in media communications and journalism in his home country of Australia, Joel moved to Baltimore to join the Agora Financial team. His keen interest in travel and macroeconomics first took him to New York where he regularly reported from Wall Street, and he now writes from and lives all over the world.
The reason we have government that won’t leave people
alone is because we a nation of dolts who can’t run their
own life but they want to run someone elses life.
What else is slavery except 100% taxation?
There are people who don’t believe in or recognize anything but their existence is not in a position of RULE is it?
I don’t think they are in charge I just think they want us to believe they are. Am i missing something?
What a great article! Joel again manages to explain it in simple yet powerful terms!
If anyone else is interested in learning more about the philosophical background behind modern day anarchism, I’d suggest taking a look at Stefan Molyneux’s website at http://www.freedomainradio.com.
Also look on YouTube for a video called “The Story of your Enslavement” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbp6umQT58A
No your not missing anything. Democracy is just a way
to shield aristocrats from the gullitone by putting
politicians and elections in the way. Vote for party “A”
because it’s a slightly smaller turd than party “B.”
And then pretend we’re changing something.
Without government we would have no roads, no bridges, no schools, no way to defend ourselves against a foreign aggressor. As I see it, the government’s role should be to provide for us collectively those things we cannot provide for ourselves as individuals. The problem is not government per se but too much government. The pendulum has swung way too far and now the government wants to intrude into every aspect of our lives.
5000 years of history has shown that this never ends well!
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Plato must have had a reference point, an observation of what was going on around him to have expressed such a mind-blowing thought as he did in his cave essay. If it’s been going on for that long,… then,… all I can say is … WOW!
Which came first? Government, roads, education, bridges, or defense? My cat knows how to defend itself and all without government supervision, or anyone telling her to do it. Building things and defending ones self is natural, not nurtured. Government is a nurtured experience and the world could do without it. Yes there would be tragedies, but all the govs in the world have failed to prevent tragedy. They have wasted much $ attempting to prevent the impossible.
“Without government we would have no roads, no bridges, no schools, no way to defend ourselves against a foreign aggressor.”
We wouldn’t have mail delivery, either, I suppose.
You’re right. Without government we wouldn’t have decrepit, crumbling roads and bridges, we wouldn’t have public indoctrination centers to teach our children that the state is their god, and we wouldn’t have a national “defense” that galavants across the globe slaying dragons and boogeymen to keep us “safe.”
What we would have are privately funded roads and infrastructure of a much higher quality and lower price than the current government incarnation. We would have privately funded schools and electronically connected groups that actually teach logic, critical thinking, and whatever else is deemed necessary to produce a free and independent human being rather than a good obedient worker and citizen. We would have no national defense, but we would also lack a state that only serves to create enemies and pick fights. If a foreign power did try to conquer the territory of the former United States, it would be going up against hundreds if not thousands of independent territories. The sheer manpower and material requirements to subdue these territories and all 300 million people within them does not exist in any current nation state.
Rothbard discusses Tolstoy a little bit:
This is 100% false.
“‘Without government we would have no roads, no bridges, no schools, no way to defend ourselves against a foreign aggressor.’
This is 100% false.”
no, it’s 99% false. the 1% would have all the roads, bridges, schools, and personal defense they need. the remaining 99% – well, they’re the 99%, if they were worth anything they’d have their own roads, bridges, schools, and personal defense.
Broseph, don’t try to convince the 99% that they have value without government, or that the U.S. would be a hard country to conquer. Nevermind that the invading army wouldn’t know their way around the U.S. and we would, which is a huge advantage even for non-professional soldiers. Ya see, water and food don’t keep people alive, gov does. As long as he invading army has a gov, forget food, water, ammo, medical supplies, etc. which would run out well before the invading army was all dead. Forget that! They have a Government and their incompetence is something to fear and hold dear.
Also, I recall when the 99% were going to take on the 1% in battle. Wonder where all that went. Maybe there was one smart person in that 99%, which figured out, that the gov they love, was in bed with the 1% and we all know how hopeless the 99% are without their Government God to provide them the resources necessary to conduct a war.
Our world is far from shedding its flags and freeing humankind of government oversight…we can only whittle of down slowly one thing at a time. Use your vote to tell them the new city hall is a waste of time. Show up with neighbors to townhall meetings. Write your congressman and tell him he’s a schmuck head. Learn to live with less and plant a garden. Put up a solar panel and a windmill. Take all your money out of stocks. Don’t claim all your income. Use cash for everything. Lower your price for labor and services. Get a tiny car. Ride a bike. Walk to the store. Put a stop to guns by slowly gathering and destroying them privately.
I believe it was Jefferson who said that the ideal position for the USA would be to be just left off ANARCHY. Currently we are just right off 100% government. We now deserve everything we get.
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