March 9, 2009 – Anarchy is so frightening to people. Yet what if anarchy already exists?
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
One might gather from my writings that I’m not terribly fond of government, that less is more, that none is best of all. I am a pragmatist, however, and recognize that anarchy cannot work in large societies. The reason is that large societies harbor a small percentage of people who will sooner or later join forces, congealing into a critical mass that dominates the rest of society, primarily for the purpose of exploiting it. Large societies are the perfect venue for opportunistic people, enabling them to claw their way up the ladder of “success” in near anonymity until they are ready to take control of society. Exploiting a large number of people, even if each is exploited only a little at first, is the road to riches for those doing the exploiting, which is plenty of incentive for them to seek to climb to the top. This technique of incremental exploitation is the model for both government taxation and corporate monopolies.
So how can anarchy be anything more than a theoretical dream? Anarchy can work in small societies, tribes, if you will. In small groups of a few hundred people or less, common moral values, peer pressure, shared commitment and a familiarity with all others in the group is sufficient to induce people to behave. Such groups can function smoothly and enduringly with a small set of rules. It’s also far easier for people to adhere to a small number of clearly defined rules than a million obscure laws, most of which are contrived for the purpose of generating revenue for governments and corporations. It is simply impossible for anyone to comply with every one of a vast body of laws, especially since the larger the body of laws, the more likely it is that laws will conflict with one another, creating Kafkaesque contradictions that are impossible to resolve.
If we organized ourselves into smallish communities, the very kind that offer the best promise of a sustainable future for mankind, we may have a chance to exist without government. Of course, there is still the possibility – perhaps even the likelihood – of inter-tribal warfare, especially over coveted resources if there emerges a shortage of such resources. However, would such warfare be any worse than the state-sponsored, capricious, immensely destructive total warfare we practice today? I seriously doubt it. What’s more, with war waged on a personal level instead of from behind desktops and joysticks thousands of miles from the front, the participants will have ample reason to avoid future wars, unlike today where a few profit handsomely from wars without risk to their own lives.
So what do I mean by “Anarchy for the few”? What does “anarchy” mean anyway? It does not mean “chaos,” as is commonly misconstrued. It simply means the absence of government. Human beings, growing up with a multi-millennial legacy of government, can no longer fathom a world without government, even though human beings existed without government for most of their history. But is today’s lack of imagination because people don’t believe a world without government is possible, or is it because those in power who benefit from government have been indoctrinating the rest of us for thousands of years to believe that government is necessary? Animals live in anarchy and do so more harmoniously than human beings do in their strictly ordered societies. There is violence in the animal world, but it’s limited to the minimum amount necessary to eat, reproduce or defend territory, all of which pertain to propagation of an animal’s genes. With few exceptions, mostly among primates, animals do not engage in indiscriminate violence like humans do. Animals seem to move on and forget about momentary episodes of violence as soon as the need for such violence has passed, unlike human beings who seem to harbor memories of injustice and a desire for violent revenge for centuries.
What, then, would anarchy for human beings look like? There would be no laws, save a few basic values. Societal pressure – remember, we’re talking about tiny societies here – would be sufficient to enforce adherence to a small set of values. There would be no territorial borders, except those that other tribes might choose to enforce, but they could just as easily choose to relax their territorial boundaries and tolerate visitors or even new residents. There would be no fundamental restrictions on anybody, save the restrictions erected by other individuals pursuant to the defense of their own natural rights.
I submit that this state of freedom from restrictions – anarchy – already exists for a few, the elites of this world. They travel the world freely, unconstrained by national boundaries, laws or governments. They have the freedom to do more or less as they please as long as they don’t imprudently cross one of their own, in which case they may find themselves the target of a corrupt and easily manipulated political machine. One merely has to consider a single day’s headlines chronicling the lawlessness among governments and corporations to see this truth.
It matters not whether these “elites” are part of a government or are “private,” especially considering the revolving door between the two contrived sectors in what is really a symbiotic system best described as fascism. The important distinction between “them” and “us” is that they live in anarchy while we live under increasingly oppressive authoritarianism, a dichotomy I find particularly interesting since I view the two systems as polar opposites.
One might erroneously conclude that the disastrous state of world affairs today is proof that anarchy cannot work. After all, the people who run the world live in anarchy and have made an utter mess of the place. However, our mistake is granting complete freedom to people who are least suited to live without boundaries! The elites of the world cannot serve as role models for, or constraints upon one another because they are all equally defective, psychologically speaking! These people, above all, are the very people who require peer pressure to keep them in line and provide them with guidance, yet they have been given total freedom, like inmates being given the keys to the asylum. One should not conclude from this mistake, endlessly repeated throughout history, that anarchy itself is untenable. We just haven’t gone about it the right way.
I believe anarchy can work in small groups, which are conveniently the best suited to create a sustainable future as well. Without the need to support a wasteful government, fewer resources are consumed, enhancing sustainability. With every person pulling their own weight, so to speak, instead of learning how to live off the toil of others, civility and mutual respect can be restored. I harbor no illusion that those in power who are benefiting from “government” will step aside and allow us to indulge in this much needed societal reorganization. They’ve grown accustomed to their parasitic position in our society and will not relinquish it easily. My only hope is that the exigencies of the collapse, presently in its incipient stages, will eventually render the old authoritarian models irrelevant once and for all.