We're All Anarchists Now

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.

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning