"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
The Anarchist's Gift
Exclusive to STR
February 7, 2007
I don't have just one reason to hate the State, I have over 180 million of them. That is a conservative estimate of the number of people killed in the last century alone by governments, whether through wars, genocides, pogroms, and miscellaneous acts of murder and oppression.
All of these people died because some pig in a suit wanted more land, wealth, power, privilege, or just wanted to settle a grudge with his fellow rulers across the border. All this at others' expense, no less. Ultimately, all states are based on force, and politics is the tool by which people use that force to achieve what they want, even if they have to violate everybody else's rights in the process. And because the State must, by necessity, be a monopoly on "legitimate" violence against others, there's no escaping this uncomfortable fact: politics kills.
And from there we can only conclude: politics is a crime.
Yet if you dare question any aspect of statism, be prepared to face a volley of snide remarks and head-shaking. Statists have a hysterical answer for every objection; they've had plenty of practice! You might hear this delicately constructed argument: "You're crazy! We need government in order to survive! Without it, everything would turn to chaos! The wealthy and powerful would take advantage of the weak, there would be nobody to prevent people from killing and robbing and raping each other, we'd be without social services, and people would die in the streets! The economy would collapse and we'd all live in poverty! Terrorists would run amuck with no one to stop them! What would we do?!"
They then conclude: "Argh! Stop being so, so...unrealistic!"
Well, that's all very cute, but the fact of the matter is we have all these kinds of problems now. And in some cases the problems have only bred new ones. We have bigger wars, indiscriminate terrorism, horrible weapons for mass murder, and the potential for nuclear holocaust thanks to big bombs and bigger egos. We have extremes of poverty and wealth, slavery, and famine, bred and nurtured by socialist and corporate fascist policies. We face Orwellian surveillance, social oppression, a polluted planet, and so on.
If people justify statism on the basis of eliminating or minimizing the problems aforementioned, they are sadly mistaken.
Indeed, would it be unfair to conclude that the State has failed?
So why do so many view the State, "good government" and constitutions with almost religious zeal? Why do people believe in the State to begin with? Or rather, why don't people hold politicians to the same moral standard as everyone else?
They have been taught to never consider the alternative.
Thus, most folks would tell you that you're wrong to be anti-war and anti-State because it's not "realistic". That is the extent of their intellectual arguments. Therefore, we annoying curmudgeons need to accept it and shut the hell up.
Well, maybe they're right. There may always be politicians, warmongers, tyrants, extortionists and con artists who take advantage of others for their own gain. There will always be murder, rape, theft, extortion, oppression and other crimes. But does that mean we should close our eyes and blindly accept it because, well, these things will always happen and it's "unrealistic" to point out exactly why they are wrong? No! We don't do that, do we? I doubt you know anyone who would. We eagerly condemn murder or theft as evil, and we condemn the people who commit such acts. Yet we refuse to apply the same principle to those who do it on a grand scale...because it's "unrealistic".
Henry Kissinger would be so proud.
"Unrealistic" is a slur that only muddles the issues at hand. It is neither fair nor correct to compare so-called "unrealistic" anarchist ideas and (I assume) "realistic" statist ideas side by side as if they were a contest between Republicans and Democrats; they're not just polar opposites but different worlds altogether. Anarchism is a worldview based on concrete morality and sound ethics, while statism is an anti-moral worldview that relies on utilitarian ethics (in other words, based on the "it works" concept. But "it works" for whom?).
Above all else, we should define anarchism as a moral and ethical imperative. We likely won't see a stateless society, universal acceptance of individual rights, or even any committed libertarian governments develop in our lifetimes, but in no way does that mean we should accept evil and make excuses for it in the meantime. Right and wrong do indeed exist in the end; civilization would crumble without such a moral compass. An anarchist, at their best, should aim to show people the very real and concrete differences between right and wrong, and then apply these principles to everyone; kings, preachers, CEOs, presidents, and members of Congress. No exceptions, no excuses.
In short, anarchism boils down to the study of right and wrong. We may not have all the answers, but we ask the right questions. That is the mark of intellectual honesty. Doing the right thing and preaching the right way are rarely popular. But then, most of the best things in life refuse to come with ease. Freedom is not easy, but it is right, just, and good. To ask people to ignore these moral imperatives and expect to truly thrive...that's an unrealistic fantasy.
This is the anarchist's gift. Now go out there and be generous.