A Reply to Milsted: The Need for Anarchists

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Yesterday''yesterday' being Wednesday, January 25th'Strike The Root posted on its homepage a link to Dr. Carl Milsted's piece 'The Need to Be Anarchists,' which he wrote for The Free Liberal, of which he is senior editor.

In the next to last paragraph he wrote: 'The real point I am trying to make is that one can be a moral libertarian and still believe in having some government, with some authority to tax. And it is possible to hold this belief without rationalizing away the proposition that taxation is theft. A libertarian does not have to be an anarchist.'

Even though I am one anarchist who continues to keep his mind open to the possibility that there may be a sound argument to be made for the proposition that minarchy is superior to anarchy (i.e., a minarchist state could possibly be legitimate if all of the inhabitants therein really and truly do consent to it of their own free will), Dr. Milsted doesn't make it. Contrary to his statement otherwise, 'rationalizing away the proposition that taxation is theft' is exactly what he did in his piece.

This, naturally, inspired me to write down some thoughts of my own in response to what Dr. Milsted wrote. To wit, (ahem) . . .

My Own Individual Observation: Anarchy works every day, to the extent that it is allowed to work. Thousands, perhaps millions, of various transactions'of goods, services and ideas both philosophical and spiritual'take place every day between individuals and voluntary associations with nary a government bureaucrat or law enforcer in sight. Though government works overtime to extend its tentacles into nearly every aspect of human existence and randomly lashes out at people in wildly unpredictable fashion much like a lunatic in the spasms of a fit, it is at least somewhat naturally limited by the fact that it consists of human beings, and human beings are inherently incapable of being omnipresent.

Libertarians have a wonderful opportunity. They can point out to the 99+% of the people who view anarchy as being 'too risky to be attempted' that anarchy is already part and parcel of daily human existence, that they themselves engage in anarchistic actions every day, most of them peaceful, voluntary and mutually satisfactory to a variety of self-interests pursued by many very different individuals.

Dr. Milsted asks us to consider the case of national defense. He wrote, 'In order to defend against foreign aggressors, a majority of the people form a defense association.' A defense association? You mean there would only be one? And it would have to be one approved by the majority? That sounds like a monopoly. It would seem to me at least somewhat likely that in an anarchistic world, there could be many different defense associations to choose from, some of them perhaps being for-profit enterprises, with others perhaps being non-profit, voluntary networks of people freely donating their own time and money for mutual defense.

He posits that in order to support his hypothetical majoritarian and monopolistic defense system, plundering the minority with taxation is acceptable so long as 'the economies of scale are such that this tax is less than half of what people would have had to pay for defense on their own.' But if this is true and self-evident, then it should be possible to persuade everyone involved to voluntarily contribute to this defense system by means of a reasoned verbal argument, rather than just steal from them. Let's also be clear that any circumstance in which a majority is allowed to plunder the minority for any reason'even reasons claimed for collectively utilitarian ends'consistently leads to tyranny.

'I have only stated that the empirical case [for anarchy] is weak, and that the risks involved in completely doing away with government are high,' wrote Dr. Milsted. Yes, there are risks. I am one anarchist who doesn't claim to possess a crystal ball that enables me to peer into some parallel universe and see an anarchistic world at work, so I suppose I can't make my case with any certainty, but anyone looking for certainty in this world is chasing a phantom. But while the anarchist model cannot honestly offer any absolute guarantees of protecting individual freedom for everyone for all time, the minarchist model described by Dr. Milsted is a guaranteed first step toward the suppression of individual freedom'that much is certain. History is littered with examples of what happens when a majority consents to plundering and coercing a minority even just a little: the emboldened majority continues to stake bigger and bigger claims on the livelihoods of the minority until the day finally arrives when oppression is total.

My point is crucial for those libertarians who have no desire to affect the 'political process' cited by Dr. Milsted, for they are aware that the political process is no path to human freedom, but a detour away from it.

As Henry David Thoreau once said, people will eventually have anarchy when they are ready for it. Whether they realize it or not, most of them already behave like peaceable anarchists each and every day, as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. After all, government is not civilization itself, but a parasite upon it.

When the parasite eventually exhausts itself, as it inevitably will, the very same 99+% of people who currently say they reject anarchy will be more prepared for anarchy than they realize.

We just need to persuade them of that crucial idea.

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Robert Kaercher's picture
Columns on STR: 20

Robert Kaercher is a stage actor and freelance writer residing in Chicago, Illinois.  He has been known to bless the reading public with his opinions and analysis at Strike The Root's blog and his own Postmodern Tribune.