Note: This was first written in December of 2016. I’ve since grown as a writer/researcher and I understand that there may be flaws in this article. If anything is wrong with what you read, please email me (see the contact page).
The word ‘anarchy’ is used almost entirely derogatorily in political discussions, for example, ‘without government, it would be complete chaos! It would be total anarchy!’ The vast majority of people are naturally repulsed by the thought of complete disorder – and rightfully so; but why has ‘anarchy’ become synonymous with ‘chaos’, ‘disorder’, or my favorite, ‘no rules’? The most likely reason for this misconception is that the etymological background of the word ‘anarchy’ is lost to the majority of those who are aware of the word. Additionally, the rapid parroting of baseless interpretations gives the word nothing but negative connotations, particularly since the state naturally seeks self-perpetuation by maintaining the status quo, not by changing it (therefore, it is not in the state’s best interest to let positive paradigms of the word ‘anarchy’ to exist—these false paradigms are typically propagated by mass media institutions). Let’s have a look at the actual meaning of the word ‘anarchy’: An, from Greek, meaning without, and archy, or arkhos, meaning ruler(s). Any other term (contemporarily) deemed synonymous with ‘anarchy’ is utilized merely to demonize the word and, be it consciously or subconsciously by its user, to demonize the entire philosophy of anarchism.
When viewed as an ism, anarchy suddenly becomes less intimidating thanks to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Que’est-ce-que la Propriété (What is Property?), published in June of 1840. Proudhon, unbeknownst to himself around the time of publication, was possibly the first person known to have introduced this type of political philosophy against the state. Proudhon was, however, not without opposition in his own time; Karl Marx was quick to retort with his own works on communism, at times directly attacking Proudhonian philosophy. Proudhon believed communism to be a “primitive form of association”; he also states (of communism):
The members of a community, it is true, have no private property; but the community is proprietor, and proprietor not only of goods, but also of persons and wills. In consequence of this principle of absolute property, labour, which should only be a condition imposed upon man by nature, becomes in all communities a human commandment, and therefore odious. (Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, Proudhon, A Biography, pg. 48-49)
Proudhon later was adamant to ensure that his ideals were not to be confused with those of communist ideals, and that his conception of property was more in line with how we today would view it in a Lockean sense.
Herein we can see the birth pangs of two mutually exclusive (yet enigmatically compatible in some contemporary circles) sociopolitical ideologies. The ideological rift between Proudhonian anarchism and (in part, Hegel-inspired) Marxist communism however, only widens as communism becomes self-evidently detrimental to the human condition as with and henceforth, for example, the rise of Bolshevism in the early 20th century (the rise and ideological foundation of which, ironically, was not too dissimilar from the occupy movement) and the subsequent deaths of over 100 million people between all communist regimes.
During the early years of the Bolshevik takeover when private property in the USSR was being seized and redistributed by the state, it had been decreed, “a household of one to five people had a right to own one work-horse and a foal (young horse)” and, to exemplify the extent to which a given state will not denounce its own practices, the text referenced was published in 1966 by the USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of History in Moscow –nearly 40 years after the Bolshevik takeover. The text proudly continued to explain the history of the aforementioned forceful seizure and redistribution of private property as such: “Thus the victory of the October Revolution ended once and for all the system of landed proprietorship, a shameful relic of the Middle Ages, and at the same time it rescued the peasantry from exploitation by landowners.” [emphasis added] (Chebayevsky, F.V., History of the October Revolution, pg. 310-311) We can see clearly here in this state-published history book that statists view individual liberty and private property as being antitheses to their statist theses, thus, in coincidence with Hegelian dialectic, the statist syntheses will always conclude with force, coercion, and collectivism all in the name of a falsely romanticized stated objective (that objective being the feigned proletarian uprising resulting in forced wealth redistribution vis-à-vis, ironically, the unsustainability of oligarchy – oligarchy, paradoxically, being the very basis of Bolshevism).
Post USSR, Hegelian dialectic as it pertains to the perpetuation of statism (and of the state itself), can be observed through mass media productions in the form of problem-reaction-solution; specifically, the destruction of three separate world trade center buildings in New York City and partial destruction of the Pentagon in 2001 (thesis/problem) the continuous media event that metastasized global hysteria (antithesis/reaction), and the subsequent global war on an idea (terrorism) that follows (synthesis/solution). The state becomes an immoral entity in this regard when its citizens become unknowingly subject to manipulation by the media.
Enter Edward Bernays, the founder of what became modern propaganda, and the American nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays’ claim to fame was his persuasion of the American public that certain products were not only acceptable, but also normal, in fact the consumer that does not partake in the consumption of said product would be the odd one, and fear of social ostracizing is always an underlying threat with the consumer. Bernays was so incredibly effective at marketing, advertising, and public relations that the U.S. government made use of his abilities to persuade the American public that the U.S. needed to enter World War I. Bernays himself begins his book Propaganda with, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” (Bernays, Edward, Propaganda, pg. 1) The moral dilemma with propaganda is not that people are persuaded to believe one thing or another, it’s that the state and its outlets are self-declared legitimate authorities both as governors and as disseminators of truth (while neither authority can possibly be legitimate). The first question that naturally arises in the discussion of propaganda is ‘if the media is privately owned, how can the government disseminate propaganda?’ The answer to this question begins with Mussolini-era fascism (not the loosely and almost always misused ‘fascism’ that is ambiguous in meaning and rarely correct).
The fundamental definition of fascism is the collusion of private and governmental entities in order to create domestic and foreign policies that favor both types of entities. Lobbying, for example, is a nice way of saying ‘legal bribery’, and is the mechanism by which American capitalism (which is in fact fascism) is allowed to exist. Countries that claim to be ‘capitalist’ are often merely an amalgamation of socialism, capitalism, communism, and fascism, but ultimately private interests in any given society always manage to become high priority governmental interests (yet the original private interest remains hidden from the public). On Mussolini, George Seldes wrote, “The corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director.” (Seldes, George, Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism, pg. 426) Corporationism, or corporatism, is derived from the Italian corporativisimo, which is in reference to a collective good (a tenet of utilitarianism) being dominant in a hierarchy of collectivism and individualism, this of course being antithetical to Western classical liberal ideals of individual liberty. Thus, a new word for fascism had emerged, leaving the pejorative nature of the word fascism as ambiguous as the state that it may serve, and that new (and rather underused) word is ‘corporatocracy’.
When men are given power over others, they are quick to turn a blind eye to human suffering for the sake of maximizing profit. The methods by which money, labor and resources are usurped are entirely clandestine – but also technically usurped legally, because those whom are the architects of the law are also those whom would have otherwise desired to break those laws had they not designed said laws in a fashion that best serves their interests. There must always be an actor to carry out these clandestine usurpations, for they cannot happen on their own; thus, takes the stage the economic hit man:
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign ‘aid’ organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. (Perkins, John, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Preface, ix)
The economic hit man is just one of many complex machinations of the state and the institutions by which it is upheld. It becomes impossible for a rational person to condone state-sanctioned actions performed under auspices such as ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘preventing terrorism’, and other seemingly philanthropic and valiant reasons, when the result almost always ends in the de facto surrender of a nation’s sovereignty, the surrendering of individual liberties for the sake of greater security, and the virtual enslavement of a nation’s people for the betterment of transnational corporations and banks. In countless examples, we can see how the people of any given society suffer horribly when their government hands them over on a silver platter to overwhelmingly powerful entities. When the people no longer have control over their own destinies, the state becomes not only undesirable, but also archaic and obsolete – and outright abhorrent at best. When the people make heard their voices against the state, the state always retaliates, but let us take a look at the state conceptualized as having no borders, having no legal confines, nor owing allegiance to anything or anyone except its own architects – I give you: globalization.
In 1999 in Seattle, tens of thousands of people took to the streets with the intent of spreading a message of anti-globalization while a congregation of international corporate and governmental leaders planned the world’s future at the World Trade Organization meeting nearby. The City of Seattle naturally responded to the protests with force to protect the WTO meeting, and ultimately to maintain the state’s hegemony over the people it governed (via the squelching of free speech). The protestors viewed the day as being a success since anti-globalist messages became far more known to the public given the dramatic events that unfolded during the protests:
Since then, the movement has grown stronger and the fury has spread. Virtually every major meeting of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization is now the scene of conflict and turmoil. The death of a protestor in Genoa in 2001 was just the beginning of what may be many more casualties in the war against globalization. (Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and its Discontents, pg. 3)
However, the state emerged victorious, yet again, as it’s media apparatus ultimately controlled the narrative: ‘anarchist protestors, lawless and disrespectful to private property, caused untold millions in damage during WTO protests’. Mind you, the accusatory nature of the official narrative is purely conjectural and baseless, but successful nonetheless as propaganda.
One is naturally inclined to ask, ‘what exactly were they protesting in Seattle?’ and the answer is neither short nor simple. Here are a few examples of what was being protested: first, the Thai shrimp trade is conducted utilizing slavery (zero wages, being held and forced to work against their will), but affluent societies purchase this shrimp, and the method of acquisition goes almost entirely unnoticed. Why do the recipients of this immoral practice not boycott the product, or at a minimum stop condoning its sale and purchase? Another example: there is a stadium currently being built in Qatar for a future FIFA event, and just a couple of years into its construction, over 1,200 Indians and Nepalese have died building the stadium (keep in mind the kingdoms in the Persian Gulf import workers from impoverished nations, luring them in with false promises and glorified work contracts, but upon their arrival their contracts are nowhere to be found and a new and much less desirable contract is presented to the imported worker; the worker’s passport is then seized and held by their local-national sponsor and might be returned to them upon fulfillment of their contract.)
The powerful and affluent western states are enablers of third world slavery because it benefits them by proxy (the Persian Gulf for example produces oil and props up the world reserve currency, the U.S. dollar) and the West is automatically absolved of moral obligation to intervene in foreign affairs (only when convenient) under the guise of intervention being antithetical to maintaining good diplomatic and trade relations with foreign states. Another example: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994, resulted in massive job loss in the United States and was ultimately extremely detrimental to the Mexican economy – the repercussions of NAFTA are felt to this day. These are just a few of numerous examples of why the people in Seattle took to the streets that day in 1999.
‘Free trade’ agreements (aspects of globalization) are decided upon by governments foreign to the people caught in the middle of the agreements, and therefore ought to be deemed null and void, as the people neither voted for the ‘agreement’, nor knowingly voted for the ‘elected’ ‘representatives’ that push these agreements. More examples of agreements as it pertains to globalization is the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the Lisbon Treaty: the EU parliament votes on laws that unilaterally affect all citizens of the EU, regardless of which member of parliament belonging to whichever country voted for whichever law – so a citizen of Greece will have to comply with laws, regulations and taxes that a French parliament member voted in favor of. All EU member states that ‘voted’ themselves into the Euro Zone forced their citizens to adopt a currency, thus granting the utmost control to an overarching, unelected governing body (the central power-house of which is located in Brussels—an infinitely complex and redundant bureaucracy).
The nature of an expansionist super-state like the former USSR, EU, or US naturally leads to societies seeking to restore their sovereignty before they are swallowed up by neo-imperialism. The United Kingdom, for example, never joined the Euro Zone, retained its own currency, and recently voted to leave the EU (this is significant particularly amid talks that are currently taking place to form an EU army, in which many British citizens would want to take no part). A final example of the undesirable results of globalism and dictated laws in the modern era is the Treaty of Lisbon. Lisbon makes the EU a supranational federal-style state, virtually dissolving national sovereignty of individual states under its dominion, and restricting individual liberties rather than liberating individuals; for example on the subject of expression, citizens may ‘hold opinions’ so long as they do not compromise public order or ruin the integrity of morals, among other vague exceptions. On the subject of the deprivation of life, for example, one is permitted to live so long as one is not rioting or causing insurrection. Lisbon is so vaguely written (based on the European Convention on Human Rights) that the state can conveniently choose which laws to enforce, when to enforce them, and when it is acceptable to make exceptions for those laws, be it to quell civil unrest or simply to bolster its coffers on the backs of the unknowing citizen.
Although the average, unknowing citizen is disarmed both in knowledge and with proportionate arms to that of its governors, those whom actively and passively engage in civil disobedience at least possess the cerebral capacity and the gumption to arm themselves cognitively and with physical armaments. Without these people who want to enact positive change in their society, no change would ever occur. Violence only begets more violence and one certainly cannot condone non-defensive uses of force, but we can utilize the example of revolutionary Catalonia. Catalonia for years had achieved and maintained autonomy (statelessness) amid Spanish economic depression (thanks in large to the anarchists), but was returned to statehood by the fascist Spanish government and anything of significance that was uniquely Catalan had become outlawed – even the Catalan language itself. One significant event that lead to the loss of Catalan autonomy was when the anarchists (ironically) and the communists established a government of sorts that was divided into many factions (when unification and formation of a small government was a better option than being conquered by the fascists). The pro-government communist faction had, by Orwell’s account, essentially sold out the anarchists for fear of death by the Franco regime, so the anarchists started “distributing in huge numbers a leaflet saying: ‘Be on your guard!’ and hinting that ‘a certain Party’ (meaning the Communists) was plotting a coup d’etat.” [emphases author’s]. What happened next, as is evidential today, was the failure of the anarchists to defend themselves and retain their stateless society. This of course is a classic example of a fully functional anarchist society falling apart due to interference from government, not from internal dysfunction or disorganization. Another consideration worth noting from Orwell regarding the destabilization of a free society was when the Spanish government (as can be seen throughout the world’s history) gave an “order to surrender all private weapons, coinciding with the decision to build up a heavily-armed ‘non-political’ police-force from which trade union members were to be excluded.” (Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia, pg. 156, 222) There is however one prolific writer in the realm of philosophy who, despite her radicalism, did not agree with having an armed society, nor, for that matter, a society without the state.
Ayn Rand, a legend in her own time and even posthumously, is the founder of objectivist philosophy (objectivism, which is partially compatible with the general ethos of anarchism) and is the author of Atlas Shrugged among other revered works, actually denounced anarchism, calling it “a naïve floating abstraction”, insisting that “a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along.” (Rand, Ayn, The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 112) Rand however, does not take into account during her vague explanations of the fundamental roles of the state the fact that the state automatically becomes corrupt by virtue of it declaring itself to be the ultimate authority on all things that may be governed. Humans are the factor that cause dysfunction within the state because humans are taught to be corrupt and are taught to seek power (inadvertently or otherwise, and regardless of genetic predisposition), however even a computer program for example cannot ‘be’ the state, because as objective as a program may seem to be, ultimately a human must design the program, and even with a ‘perfect’ program, it could, like all things, become corrupted. To refute Ayn Rand’s denunciation of anarchism and naïve praise of the state we’ll go back in time about half of a millennium.
Niccolò Machiavelli proves for us, long before the contemporary proliferation of ‘democracies’, that the innate nature of a ruler is not to allow his people freedom, but to maintain control over them in part by instilling and maintaining an ever-present fear of consequences for disobedience to laws; Machiavelli also says “when a prince acquires a new state, which he adds as a province to his old one, then it is necessary to disarm the men of that state, except those who have been his adherents in acquiring it.” But more alarming than the almost-expectedness of a ruler seeking the forced disarmament of a society is the pressure put upon a ruler to not only maintain power, but to hold onto his/her own life – Machiavelli writes:
He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him. (Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince, pg. 96, 188)
This excerpt explains perfectly the automatic method by which the state becomes corrupt. Regardless of the form of which the state takes (but in particular with a state that, theoretically, rules with the consent of the governed) it will default toward corruption as it favors those whom have already obtained power, for they have learned to seek more power and enjoy the benefits of having power. Power corrupts, and power generates authority, and fear is the mechanism by which the people are controlled and even by which the people are convinced that the state – that an illegitimate authority – is necessary and vital to happiness, to the preservation of life, and to the thriving of the human species (for the non-theists, or for the speciocentrics). Fear, exercised in countless ways both subtly and overtly, is not the only mechanism by which a society is controlled; another method is giving the people the illusion of choice, or making the people believe on a fundamental level that their choices are their own, and that their actions are of their own volition, or that the vote that they cast actually has an effect on the outcome.
Lysander Spooner in the mid-late 19th century discusses the futility in thinking one is free simply because one has the ‘freedom’ to cast a ballot. In summation, one is presented with two choices: to vote, or not to vote. If one votes, one is granting their consent to be governed in a fashion suitable to one’s own needs; however if one does not vote, one is sacrificing that tool which can make one’s life better – but either way one is being governed with or without consent. Either way, dominion is placed over the life of the individual regardless of what was placed on the ballot, or whether a ballot was cast at all. Choice, in this regard, is simply choosing the ever-cliché “lesser of two evils” which ultimately is using force against your friends, family and neighbors whom may have voted for the ‘other’ evil (and thus used force against you). Analogous to this, Spooner uses the example of when a man “has been forced into battle, where he must kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing.” (Spooner, Lysander, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, pg. 8) What Spooner is alluding to in this excerpt is an old concept known as the non-aggression principle – the foundation of anarchism.
The non-aggression principle can be stated in any number of ways, and has been expressed throughout history in many forms by well-known philosophers and statespersons alike such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. One could state that the non-aggression principle is simply the understanding that one cannot use force (or coercion) against another unless it is in defense of one’s self or property (or in defense of the defenseless). In other words, live and let live! Any task or duty that the state proclaims only it can carry out can in fact be privatized and performed better – without stealing money (taxation) from the people as a means to carry out said task. A good reference for how exactly this can be accomplished, in previously inconceivable detail, is a book called The Market for Liberty. The basis of this book is that a truly free market (with a real ‘invisible hand’ to guide it, not the ‘invisible hand’ of today’s market) would enable a balance to exist so that a society would function nearly flawlessly without the state (and without external governmental interference).
A stateless society would not only function better without government, but also statelessness would remove the suppression of human achievement. NASA, for example, received .5% of the U.S. federal budget, whereas “defense” received at least 20% (more than 20%; much “defense” spending cannot/will not be accounted for). One could argue that “defense” spending would ultimately benefit the preservation of NASA (the argument being that without ‘pre-emptively attacking them there so they can’t attack us here,’ NASA would be lost to some eternal and unknown and invisible (and non-existent) threat), but one could also argue that the non-aggression principle, applied, would ultimately eliminate the alleged need to defend anything (unless a real threat presents itself then it would go without saying that non-preemptive self-defense would be absolutely warranted). If one believes in the idea of ‘live and let live’, one is very close to being an anarchist or is in fact certainly an anarchist.
The adage is not ‘live and let live—except when your neighbor does something that you disagree with, in which case you would have the right to force or coerce them into being forbidden from doing that thing that you don’t like under threat of imprisonment in a cage against their will for many years by a self-proclaimed and illegitimate authority that you said is allowed to govern others and to govern all the people that disagree with you even if they don’t want to be governed and aren’t actually hurting anyone.’
The adage is not ‘live and let live—except for innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time on the other side of the planet in a volatile place and die without ever knowing what it was that killed them; those people are not allowed to live if it is for a purported greater good that allegedly preserves my own way of life and keeps me happy and safe.’
The best known works pertinent to anarchism are numerous and enlightening (there simply is not enough space in this essay to fit all of the concepts pertinent to anarchism; we have only just begun to breach the subject); works about anarchism are refutable only with incomplete and therefore illegitimate arguments, but one does not need to read dozens of books on the subject to comprehend why anarchism is morally superior to the state, or even to understand how anarchism works. Understanding the state is in fact the most imperative task that awaits humanity. The state is complex, but not incomprehensible, and it has only grown more complex over millennia. Anarchism however does not grow more complex, and remains eternally a counter to the state. The state is dynamic and polymorphic and also static in its inherent aims, but anarchism is eternally static and aims only to undermine the state. For as long as the concept of the state persists and manifests itself as humans causing harm to others and to themselves (not to mention causing harm to other forms of life), the concept of anarchism will exist in memory – in knowledge – and as a response to the state. With gumption and compassion, stateless societies have been formed and can still be formed in the future, but such a shift cannot occur without inciting the proper motivations and presenting the appropriate information to the inquisitive or open-minded person or audience; the next time someone thoughtlessly says, ‘well if there is no government, there would be total anarchy!’ feel obliged to respond with, ‘yes, but only by the very definition of the word you are correct—wouldn’t it be wonderful?’
Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph via George Woodcock, What is Property? Via Proudhon, A Biography, 2nd ed., Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1972 pg. 48-49
Chebayevsky, F.V., et al, History of the October Revolution, 1st ed., Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of History, 1966 pg. 310-311
Bernays, Edward, Propaganda, 2005 Paperback ed., Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 2005 pg. 1
Seldes, George, Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism, 1935 ed., Manhattan: Harper & Brothers, 1935 pg. 426
Perkins, John, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 1st ed., San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004 Preface, ix
Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and its Discontents, 1st ed., New York: Penguin Books, 2002 pg. 3
Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia, 2000 ed., New York: Penguin Books, 2000 pg. 156, 222
Rand, Ayn, The Virtue of Selfishness, 1st ed., New York: Signet Books, 1964 pg. 112
Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince, iBooks ed., pg. 96, 188
Spooner, Lysander, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, Copied ed., Free Patriot Press pg. 8