Anarchy is the theory of life and conduct under which social interactions
exist without government interference or assistance. It is not chaos,
nor terrorism, and has no connection to senseless violence; anarchy is
simply existing without being governed. Harmony in such a society would
be obtained not by submission to laws, or by obedience to any form of
authority, but by freely entered agreements between individuals.
The United States has strong ties to anarchy, a rather paradoxical
situation. It was conceived by, and is even to this day constantly being
refined by anarchists; people who maintain the view that the highest
attainment of humanity is the freedom of individuals to express themselves
unhindered by any form of external repression. Men such as the likes of
Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers, whose views can best be
summarized in something he preached, "If you think people incapable of
exercising their choices with wholesome discretion, the solution is not to
take away their choices, but to inform their discretion."
So where did the concept of anarchy come from? Could it be inherent in
human nature, a hold over from adolescence perhaps? Could it be people
are naturally opposed to being told what to do? Abraham Lincoln, during
the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, said something that summarizes human
view towards being governed, "No man is good enough to govern another man
without that other's consent."
The modern concept of anarchy as being a sort of ethical civil society
came during the French Revolution, around 1848. A man named Pierre Joseph
Pfoudhon envisioned a society in which people's ethical nature and sense
of moral responsibility would be so highly developed that government would
be unnecessary to regulate and protect society, and is thus credited with
fathering modern anarchy. Anarchy requires a lot of commitment on the
part of the individual. How does the old saying go With freedom comes
On an individual level, no one wishes to be dominated, but at the
same time the individual does not want to be infringed upon by others. A
Russian-American anarchist and women's rights activist named Emma Goldman
wrote, "I want full freedom and cooperation to evolve as a human being, to
gain wisdom and knowledge." She does not refer to freedom of others,
merely herself. Greed of freedoms is understandable because it is so hard
to trust others to always do what is good. Socrates might respond, "To
know the good is to do the good."
Can the idea of an ethical civil society, a term coined by Adam Michnik in
the 1970s, be not only applied to the individual, but can that individual
wish for government to be taken off of their neighbors as well? "Let us
treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps
they are." wrote Ralph Emerson in an essay entitled Experience. What he
is implying is even a person who is not your friend, or even a person who
you do not know, can still have similar responsibility levels as yourself.
In the past government has been justified by people like James Madison,
who claimed, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary, but"
His quote implies that, since men are not angels, we need government to
function. Many have come to agree with him, feeling that law maintains
order and balance. It is very easy in the short run to agree with some
limited government when it helps you out.
So, why reject all the benefits of a governed society? If there was no
government there could be no governmentally sponsored health care, welfare
programs, education, national defense, prisons, post offices, or
maintained roads, right? What would happen? The Libertarian party puts
forth the idea that private companies would take over and be able to both
maximize the contentment for the individual and minimize spending waste;
charities would be run by private voluntary donations. Private
institutions are able to provide a more customized service, thus providing
greater satisfaction for the individual. They site examples such as
private schools being able to provide much better services than public
schools, private family doctors being far superior to public health
clinics, and private apartments being better maintained than low income
housing provided by the government.
Their views are criticized because a lot of people doubt in a
corporation's ability to maximize anything other than profits. There
could be no government inspections, or even government standards. Because
in an anarchist society they wouldn't be monopolies, due to a completely
free market theory being placed on the economy, customer satisfaction
would have to be insured by competition: each company would need to please
their customers or else run the risk of going out of business.
"Government functions could be funded by user fees," say the Libertarians,
thus insuring that the individual only pay for what he uses.
Forcing people to pay money though is fairly minor in comparison
to another problem with government. The other problem, which is so
prominent in our culture today, is that Government says to people, through
laws, that they don't have to think anymore. They can just do what is
legal, and there is no need to think about what is actually right. "The
State never intentionally confronts a man's sense, intellectual or moral,
but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or
honesty, but with superior strength," wrote Henry David Threau in an essay
entitled Resistance to Civil Government. The government is thus, just a
big bully who forces us to do it's bidding.
Being an anarchist is like being the prisoner who Plato writes
about in his Allegory of the Cave. Once a person has seen the sun, or
rather how ideal anarchy is, they are not often welcomed by the people who
are still living in the dark, or rather under a governmental system. Even
so, Thomas Jefferson claimed, "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good
thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
The world needs anarchists, if only to provide ideas for a more liberated
What has kept anarchy from being a more prominent force in the world?
Perhaps it requires something that we as a society are not yet ready to
commit to: personal responsibility. Anarchy requires every person to take
responsibility for his own actions. We would have to rid ourselves of a
lot of our destructive tendencies: excessive greed, violence, and hatred.
Anarchy requires that the individual live his life without infringing upon
others, something hard for anyone. As Henry David Threau wrote in the
opening lines of his most famous essay:
"I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs
least," and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and
systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also
believe, - "That government is best that governs not at all;" and when men
are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government they will have.
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