I received an interesting email yesterday from someone claiming to represent the ‘Anarchists’ of Germany and Austria. I won’t bore you with the details, but this person was asking for ‘support’, addressed the email to “Brothers and Sisters” and closed it with “I love you!”.
There’s plenty wrong with this email, but first I will point out that no true anarchist would address his perceived allies as “brothers and sisters”. Second, you should beware anyone you don’t know very well saying they “love you”.
More important, however, is the misuse of the term ‘anarchist’. There are legions of imposters out there, so let’s once again clear the air.
In my experience, most German ‘anarchists’ are actually self-described ‘anarcho-socialists’, ‘green anarchists’, or ‘chaotic anarchists’. As I have said before, there is no such thing as anarcho-socialism. The term itself is an oxymoron. Engage a self-described ‘A-S’ in conversation and you will find there are two types: ulterior motivists and utopianists.
1. Those with ulterior motive (and/or profound misunderstanding of the term anarchy) are not anti-statists at all. They are simply anti-their-state, or against the state in its current form. Implicit in the term socialism is control by the state, the party, the elite vanguard or the collective. These self-described anti-statists seek merely to substitute a new control paradigm for the existing mechanism. As you probe deeper in conversation with one of these psuedo anarchists, this reality will manifest. These individuals will usually present themselves as anti-capitalist, associating capitalism with corporatism. They will typically be ignorant of economics and will treat capitalism as a choice, thereby equating it with Marxism as an option rather than understanding the free market as simply what exists naturally when the control mechanism of the state, and its monopoly on force, are removed.
2. The utopians want to eliminate money as a medium of exchange, presumably thereby eliminating poverty, class distinction and wealth as a means of control. Again, this ideology suggests profound ignorance of economics and the distorting effects of state control of the market. The fundamental problem, however, is that commerce does in fact exist and will always exist, even under extraordinary circumstances. See my discussion of the ‘black market’. Ignoring the reality of commerce doesn’t make it go away. And the reality is that ‘money’, as a medium of exchange, greatly facilitates commerce. Proponents of this worldview typically fail to understand the distinctions between fiat currency and that which represents (or consists of) hard assets, such as precious metals, and the various control mechanisms needed to manage a fiat currency economy.
Greens and Criminals
For the reasons stated in #1 above, there is also no such thing as ‘green’ anarchy. The extent to which one opts to live a ‘green’ lifestyle, and direct his consumer and personal choices in this manner, is an individual choice. To promote such decisions for others is philosophically inconsistent with anarchy and implies the empowerment of a system of control, be it the state, vanguard or collective. Whether it’s control of the choices or control of the available options (“You may only purchase ‘green'” or “You may only produce ‘green'”), the end result is the same. There are also several brands of self-styled ‘primitivists’ that would categorize themselves as ‘green’ anarchists / utopians. Ironically, most of these people live in cities and would survive approximately 48 hours in true primitive conditions before they died of exposure.
Chaotic anarchists are essentially criminals. Acts of aggression (not, however, acts of defense) against another individual or his property are inconsistent with anarchy. Period.
There are many other terms and labels used by pseudo-anarchists, but all fall within the descriptive categories above. So enough about what anarchy isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.
The reason I warn you about being addressed as a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ is that such an address implies some higher, common cause. In fact, among anarchists, none may exist. True anarchists hold a wide variety of personal, moral and spiritual views. What unites them is their commitment to never inflict their views or preferences on another individual, and to resist any power structures that serve this purpose. Those structures include the state, tribe or other collective, and the laws, rules and regulations that are extensions thereof, including the policing and enforcement mechanisms that serve such purpose.
True Anarchism and the Free Market
Many true anarchists use the unfortunate term ‘free market anarchism’, or ‘FMA’ – unfortunate because ‘free market’ is implied in the proper use of the term ‘anarchism’. To use the term FMA, one implies that there are other forms of anarchism, a myth dispelled above. Further, use of the term FMA implies that the free market is somehow, as mentioned above, a ‘choice’ – akin to other such choices. In reality, the only choice is the degree of statism and control one is willing to submit oneself to. The free market is not a choice or an ‘ism’. Rather, the free market is simply what exists when the mechanisms of state control are removed. Therefore, the term is redundant, using three words when only one will do. However, it is the existence of these other ideologies masquerading as anarchy that causes true anarchists to use the term FMA.
A common misperception is that anarchists support violence and other terroristic tactics to promote their worldview. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. At the core of the true anarchist belief system is the Non-aggression Principal. This principle asserts that no individual may use force against another individual or his property other than in self-defense of one who is in violation of this principal. The question then is whether or not violence is acceptable against the state, on the grounds of self-defense. I will leave this question for readers to comment on.
One form of true anarchism that provides a true anti-statist plan of action that does not involve violence is known as agorism. Under agorism, alternative forms of commerce not authorized by the state are increasingly utilized until this ‘alternative’ or ‘underground’ economy grows larger than and supplants the state. Those who understand the control mechanisms of the state and how these mechanisms are intrinsically linked to what many perceive as the ‘free’, mainstream market economy will appreciate the position of the agorists philosophically, if not practically. Some of these control mechanisms are touched on here, and include a monopoly on force, restrictions on the right of self-defense and control of wealth through fiat currency and central banking.
There are many other philosophical variations on this theme including more mainstream libertarianism, minarchism and objectivism, among others. I will leave it to the reader to do his own research or voice his own opinion on these worldviews. Clearly there is much debate within the anarchist community specifically regarding the three aforementioned philosophies. Regarding traditional libertarianism and minarchism, I would urge purist anarchists to recognize one simple fact: we live in a world full of nation-states. The state has proven the most efficient system yet for obtaining and utilizing a monopoly on force. Given that we live in a world of states who have amassed vast arsenals utilizing their ability to confiscate wealth, we would put ourselves in grave danger if we did not have a mechanism of self-defense from other states. This is one of the fundamental minarchist positions. It should be noted that most minarchists have strong sympathies with true anarchists. No true minarchist would advocate against a true anarchist. He would simply suggest minarchy, with an active anarchist community to keep it in check, is a more practical and actionable proposition. The problem with anarchy, as minarchists see it, is that the thought of the non-aggression principal being universally adopted around the world is simply utopian, and hence foolish. Defense from other states is also a tenet of objectivism. Regarding objectivism generally, I would simply warn critics that just because Ayn Rand had personal qualities that were distasteful, and just because she was a bitch, does not make her wrong. Further, the fact that she attracted, and for many years retained around her, a cult of personality, also does not make her wrong. We shrug off (no pun intended) Rand’s philosophies at significant disadvantage to our own understanding of human relations.
I have been asked many times, when criticizing the state, “What do you suggest? Anarchy?!”. My response is always the same, and I will repeat it once again: One does not ‘suggest’ anarchy. Anarchy is not a suggestion, proposition or system. One chips and whittles away at the state. With each piece chipped away, one is a step closer to true anarchy. What happens ideally is that we chip away enough pieces in the pursuit of philosophical anarchy, that we get functioning minarchy.
And so, in very general terms, are the dividing lines drawn between true anti-statists and others that are merely masquerading as such. The pseudo-anarchists, closet socialists, primitivists, utopians, criminals and the confused may use and co-opt terms in any manner they see fit. Such is the fundamental human right to express oneself openly. But it would be wise for the anarchist (or minarchist) to beware those would gather you under the false banner of some ‘brotherhood’. Such a man is dangerous. He would substitute one manner of statism for another, one control mechanism for another. He would substitute the modern state for the elite vanguard, the tribe or the otherwise labeled collective. Soon this man would make decisions as to what was right and wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. Not long after would this man and his group feel compelled to inflict such decisions upon those who disagreed, disagreement being inherent in human relations. At this point would the man or group find the need to monopolize force, to regulate, to enforce and to police. And so would the unwary find himself once again under the control of an external, arbitrary government; made a member of a group, community or collective against his will; taxed and regulated; policed and enforced; and, ultimately, if he resists, arrested and imprisoned.
So to the individual who sent me the email that sparked this post: I am not your brother. I do not know you. I make no common cause with those who would elicit my support for this project or that. The only cause I support is the Constitution of the United States of America. “But BWS,” as one reader recently wrote, “by your own definition, the constitution is a failure. Look at the mess we have around us.”
No, the Constitution did not fail us. We failed the Constitution. True self-government is a test, a challenge. This was oft remarked upon by our Founding Fathers: “A Republic, if you can keep it…” The past several generations of Americans have clearly failed this test; have not been up to this challenge. But there are some promising signs. The State of New Hampshire, for example. And the State of Montana . Slowly but surely the American people are waking up. More and more are assessing the state of affairs around them, frustrated with the regulation of every day life and the ever-increasing encroachment by the state. They are looking at our political overlords – the Nancy Pelosi’s and Barney Franks – and they do not like what they see. They are looking at the largest expansion in federal spending ever and are concerned. We are reaching a turning point. The results of such an awakening are as yet unknown. But I will continue to do my best to examine, to explain and to advocate the original blueprint. We don’t need any overlords, we don’t need a brave new leader and we certainly don’t need a new world order. The playbook has already been written. You can read about it here.