Wanted: Thoughtful Anarchists…

To those of us who are not anarchists, that headline sounds like an oxymoron. Thus far, I haven’t seen evidence that we’re wrong.


I frankly haven’t been exposed to that many anarchists.

The few I have been exposed to (such as this comment from Steve’s Facebook page) espouse such thoughts as:

I don’t live in, and never have, any territory where the Constitution was signed. The people who lived where I do, at the time, were free and independent people who were conquered by a government run amok.

In what way does that imply my consent to such conquest?

As to the people who don’t understand freedom, they have been brainwashed by the same government for the past 150 years to believe they can’t have freedom and that anarchy=chaos.

Simply because they have become inured to the cult to which they belong doesn’t grant them the power, being the majority, to enslave me as a minority.

Or this one, from the Comments section of one of yesterday’s posts:

All you have to do is explain why it is appropriate to initiate violence to accomplish your social goals. How your personal philosophy justifies pointing guns at people because they did something you didn’t like that causes you no harm.

Or this bit of argumentation (again, from Steve’s Facebook page):

Stop making excuses for your Constitution fetish. cure it.

Or this (somewhat) thoughtful “philosophical challenge” from Crispin Sartwell (hey—he tried to make it thoughtful!):

My irritating yet astounding new book Against the State (SUNY Press) argues that all the arguments of the great philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, Rawls, Nozick, and Habermas, among others), are, putting it kindly, unsound.

The state rests on violence: not the consent of the governed, not utility, not rational decision-making, not justice.

Not only are the existing arguments for the legitimacy of state power unsound; they are shockingly fallacious, a scandal, an embarrassment to the Western intellectual tradition.

So I issue a challenge: Give a decent argument for the moral legitimacy of state power, or reconstruct one of the traditional arguments in the face of the refutations in Against the State.

If you can’t, you are rationally obliged to accept anarchism.

I’d offer a huge cash prize, but I’m broke.

Henceforward, if you continue to support or observe the authority of government, you are an evil, irrational cultist.

You’re an anarchist now, baby, until further notice.

I’m assuming that there are anarchists who can describe in fairly non-combative terms what they believe and why. So please—tell us your stories.

What exactly do you believe? and why? and how did you come to that belief?

What about your beliefs bothers you? What about your values or relationships or safety needs—whatever—is not yet answered by your philosophy of government (or, in your case, non-government)?

NOTE TO MY NON-ANARCHIST FRIENDS: Let the anarchists speak first, please.



5 thoughts on “Wanted: Thoughtful Anarchists…”

  1. Well, since the first two quotes are mine, I guess I should respond in some manner.

    One question would be, what is combative about what I said?

    As to what I believe, I believe that there is no place for force, or the threat of force, in personal relationships or to achieve social goals.

    I believe there is no such thing as a “common good”, only good for each and every individual. That the individual is the single most important component of society and that, without individuals, society would not exist.

    I believe that an appropriate philosophy requires internal consistency. Any internal contradiction in a personal philosophy negates at least a portion of that philosophy.

    In addition, one’s philosophy must not contradict objective reality. If there is a conflict between one’s philosophy and one’s perception of reality either the philosophy must be invalid or your perceptions must be incorrect.

    These aren’t sufficient to generate one’s beliefs but they are necessary.

    As to bothering me, little bothers me about my philosophy. My values are very clear, I value my life and that of my fellow man. I strongly value relationships that are based on mutual benefit and reject relationships that are based on force or fraud. I believe I am responsible for my own safety and the safety of others that don’t endanger me or mine. Delegating those responsibilities is irresponsible.

    I believe that governments derive their just powers from the rights of the individual citizens that have formed the governments. The citizens can not delegate any powers that are not within their own rights. Governments cannot legitimately do anything that any individual citizen could do, because those citizens cannot delegate anything that they can’t do themselves.

    That’s a start. I find it incomprehensible that you might think that we anarchists have not carefully considered our positions. It’s far easier to blindly accept the status quo, the same that’s been in place for centuries, if not millenia, that someone else, or some group of someones, should have control over your life and that they might know what’s better for you than you do yourself.

    To quote Elvis Costello, “What’s so bad about peace, love and understanding?”


  2. Keith, I am baffled by your many of your statements! If you do not believe in any sort of “common good”, would you then be against inoculation against communicable disease?.. Infrastructure that benefits all?… support for those who are incapable, for whatever reason, of currently supporting themselves?… controls on the emissions of toxic substances, wholesomeness of your food?… (do you have a mass spectrometer in you home lab?)

    If you are responsible for your own safety, how do you protect yourself from those nations with large standing armies or nuclear weapons?… or even the terrorist with a suicide bomb? What about those in your nation who may find your ideals repugnant and dangerous?

    There is nothing wrong with peace, love and understanding… except for those to whom such words have little or no meaning–except as they apply to anyone who believes, looks, or thinks as they do.


  3. Thanks, Keith. I think I’m at least beginning to grasp the chain of inferences that brought you to bring your comment yesterday:

    All you have to do is explain why it is appropriate to initiate violence to accomplish your social goals. How your personal philosophy justifies pointing guns at people because they did something you didn’t like that causes you no harm.

    And of course I was helped by your additional explanation there today.

    Is it fair to say you don’t believe in community police or armies? Am I following your thinking accurately?


  4. Defense of person and property is a right held by individuals. Individuals have the right to act in such defense. Individuals can delegate their rights to others either through minimalist government (which we anarchists fear can never be held in check, reference the discussion about the Constitution which started this) or through hired help through private security.

    Individuals don’t have the right to dictate to others what they put into their own bodies or any number of things that our government has claimed the power to do. Therefore, they cannot delegate such to the government to do on their behalf. If government derive their just powers from the rights of the governed, as was claimed in the Declaration of Independence, then the government can’t derive the power to control what people put into their own bodies.

    Armies are a legitimate function of government, when used solely for defensive purposes. The concern of the founders of this country, the reason they only allowed for the army to be funded for two years at a time, is that standing armies are commonly used for offensive purposes and military adventurism.

    As to John’s questions …

    Vaccination may be a valid mechanism for protection of one’s self from disease and can confer benefits on others and society (as in the collection of individuals). However, mandating vaccinations (forcing people to be vaccinated at gunpoint) is often counterproductive or innefective in terms of cost. This is usually done to benefit the pharmacy companies moreso than to benefit anyone else.

    One key example of this is the vaccination against chlamydia, supposedly to protect against cervical cancer. I did the calculations myself based on readily available statistical information and the cost per life saved, in the very best case assuming that all annual deaths from such cancer would be eliminated through the vaccine, is over one quarter of a million dollars. If you were given the choice to pay that cost yourself don’t you think you could find more cost effective ways to save lives? Don’t you think you could save a lot more lives for the same amount of money?

    Many states have mandated this vaccine so you don’t have the choice.

    Infrastructure has, at many different times and places, been provided through private initiative, either for direct profit or indirect profit. One example was the transcontinental railroads following the War Betwen the States. Two railroads were built with government funding and direct support. One railroad was built completely privately. Within just a few years only one railroad had not gone into bankruptcy. From my political position I would assume you could guess which one.

    Pollution is a trespass and should be handled through a tort system. There are varying ways of handling such a tort system amongst different anarchists but there are examples from history of societies with independent (non-governmental in any sense we would recognize today) court systems. Insurance systems or programs have been provided as another possibility.

    The system by which our electrical appliances and many other consumer goods are certified safe is an example of how consumer safety can be protected without government. Underwriters Laboratories is a completely independent, private consumer safety organization. Most consumer goods are guaranteed safe by this organization without government involvement. The track record of UL is far better than that of the FDA and USDA in protecting our food supply.

    on and on and on …

    Those of us who oppose government have thought far more about that opposition than those that take the easy way out and support government. Anarchy, or even real support of limited government of the type on which this country was founded, is not a philosophy for the lazy or ignorant.



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