Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Anarchy without Fear

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” - William Butler Yeates

The Memory Hole

October 17, 2002


These, you might say, are bleak days for libertarians, except that libertarians never have a nice day. Experience keeps proving them right, but still, after the “Reagan Revolution” and the final flop of the Socialist Motherland, alias the Soviet Union, they can’t make a dent in the political duopoly dedicated — right here in America! — to saving the welfare state.

All one can say is that libertarians’ days used to be even bleaker; a lot bleaker. They can remember when socialism, and the Soviet Union, used to look like the “wave of the future,” and opposing the trend was known as “trying to turn back the clock.”

Actually, libertarians’ ideas have had an influence their political weakness doesn’t reflect. Many conservative Republicans would vote for the Libertarian Party if they thought it had any chance of winning, rather than helping the Democrats win.

Libertarians are divided between conservatives and anarchists. The former think there must be some minimal state, or “limited government.” The anarchists think the state is evil in principle and must be totally eliminated. A radical position, to be sure, but an interesting one.

The first great American anarchist was Lysander Spooner, who died more than a century ago. His argument was simple. There is a natural and unchangeable moral law, which forbids slavery. No man has the right to force others to do his will. The state not only claims such a right, but claims a monopoly of force — the right to force its subjects to accept its laws as morally binding, no matter how arbitrary and unjust those laws may be.

That is, the state claims that its commands supersede the moral law. It claims it can add to, and subtract from, the eternal law of God. It never actually says this, but the claim is implicit in its supposed authority. If it has a legitimate, limitless monopoly of force, we all have a limitless duty to obey it. And this, Spooner says, is absurd. It amounts to saying that the state has the right to violate all our rights. Once we grant the principle, we are already slaves of the state.

Conservatives have tried to rein in the state with constitutions confining it to a few specific powers, but these constitutions have never worked for very long. The reason is simple. The state itself “interprets” the constitution in such a way as to broaden its own powers constantly — or it simply disregards the constitution as soon as it’s powerful enough to get away with it.

There is no getting away from it: at bottom, the state is nothing but organized force. Its only abiding rule is this: “Obey, or we will hurt you.”

What is force? Simone Weil defined force as that which turns a person into a thing — a corpse or a slave — with no will of its own. Of course even a slave exercises his own will to some degree, but only by sufferance of his master. The state itself has to allow its slaves some latitude, but its permissions aren’t genuine rights. Even the Soviet rulers had to permit some degree of the economic freedom it had abolished in principle; otherwise the socialist state would indeed have “withered away” — through famine. If the slaves don’t eat, the master starves too.

Most men today can hardly imagine living without the parasitic force-systems we call states. However bad the state may be, they assume that anarchy would be somehow even worse, even after a century of world war, mass murder, and general waste and destruction claiming hundreds of millions of lives and creating poverty where there might have been plenty.

By now, if men learned from experience, they would talk about the state in the same tones in which Jews talk about Nazis. Instead, they continue to imagine the state as their savior and protector, and as the natural solution to all their problems. Yet it’s self-evident that the bigger the state, the larger the ratio of force in human life, and the smaller the scope of free action.

The measure of the state’s success is that the word “anarchy” frightens people, while the word “state” does not. We are like those African slaves who believe that their master is their benefactor, or those Russians who still believe that Stalin was their guardian.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Today's the day...

Monday, November 03, 2008

(Forced) Consent Of The Governed

FOOD FOR THOUGHT...Better keep your eye on Obama's idea for a civilian national security force.

Obama: We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

Thanks to: The Western Rifles Shooters Association

From the archives of The Memory Hole
Individualist Anarchism: The Brass Tacks

In this item from the December 1873 issue of The Word (Vol.2, No.8) edited by Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner summarizes for the reader his principal case against the American government in the wake of the Civil War reviewing the implications as well as the consequences of actions that establish beyond a shadow of a doubt its close kinship to the worst examples in history of despotism.

Forced Consent

"Abraham Lincoln did not cause the death of so many people from a mere love of slaughter, but only to bring about a state of consent that could not otherwise be secured for the government he had undertaken to administer. When a government has once reduced its people to a state of consent—that is, of submission to its will—it can put them to a much better use than to kill them; for it can then plunder them, enslave them, and use them as tools for plundering and enslaving others. And these are the uses to which most governments, our own among the rest, do put their people, whenever they have once reduced them to a state of consent to its will. Andrew Jackson said that those who did not consent to the government he attempted to administer upon them, for that reason, were traitors, and ought to be hanged. Like so many other so-called "heroes," he thought the sword and the gallows excellent instrumentalities for securing the people's consent to be governed. The idea that, although government should rest on the consent of the governed, yet so much force may nevertheless be employed as may be necessary to produce that consent, embodies everything that was ever exhibited in the shape of usurpation and tyranny in any country on earth.

It has cost this country a million of lives, and the loss of everything that resembles political liberty. It can have no place except as a part of a system of absolute military despotism. And it means nothing else either in this country, or in any other. There is no half-way house between a government depending wholly on voluntary support, and one depending wholly on military compulsion.

And mankind have only to choose between these two classes—the class that governs, and the class that is governed or enslaved. In this case, the government rests wholly on the consent of the governors, and not at all on the consent of the governed. And whether the governors are more or less numerous than the governed, and whether they call themselves monarchists, aristocrats, or republicans, the principle is the same. The simple, and only material fact, in all cases, is, that one body of men are robbing and enslaving another. And it is only upon military compulsion that men will submit to be robbed and enslaved, it necessarily follows that any government, to which the governed, the weaker party, do not consent, must be (in regard to that weaker party), a merely military despotism. Such is the state of things now in this country, and in every other in which government does not depend wholly upon voluntary support. There never was and there never will be, a more gross, self-evident, and inexcusable violation of the principle that government should rest on the consent of the governed, than was the late war, as carried on by the North. There never was, and there never will be, a more palpable case of purely military despotism than is the government we now have." Lysander Spooner.