Is Anarchy Possible?

25 January 2015

Before we can say whether an anarchist future is possible, we should start by saying what exactly anarchism is. Emma Goldman, the great American anarchist, defined it in 1910 as “the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law.” Anarchists believe that all forms of government—be it a liberal democracy or a socialist state—are based on violence and coercion. To sum it up: government equals tyranny.

Many of you might agree with that basic idea that state power is necessarily coercive, yet wonder if there really is an alternative. Perhaps we must suffer some degree of tyranny at the hands of government in order to guarantee certain public goods, like education, health care, and infrastructure. And don’t we need the state to ensure law and order? Who would protect us, if we didn’t have police and a judicial system?

In light of the many stories in the news these days about police racism and brutality, and the lack of accountability for such abuses of power, some of you are probably scoffing at the thought that police are there to protect and serve. And given the astounding number of people incarcerated in US prisons, many of which are run by private companies for profit, it’s a little difficult to take seriously the idea that the criminal justice system is working for the good of (all) the people.

But we should be careful not to damn all government over the particular failures of one. There may be deep injustices in the US criminal justice system, but perhaps those are best tackled by reform, not by abolishing state power completely.

Let’s set aside criminal justice for a moment and think about civil justice. Without the coercive power of the state, how do we enforce agreements and protect people’s legitimate interests? For example, let’s say you and I make an agreement with one another, and I pay you to do a particular job, like painting my house. Let’s say I pay you the full amount, but you rip me off by not completing the job. Under an anarchist social order, how can I protect my interests when there can be no legal sanctions or deterrents? What kind of recourse would I have, if there are no laws and no state authority to enforce them? What's to stop everyone from cheating one another?

Under any social order, be it liberal democracy or anarchy, cheating customers just seems like a bad business model. You would never get repeat business and surely word would spread about your shady practices, and you’d have difficulty building your livelihood in this way. Yet, despite this, people do cheat one another all the time. Obviously, then, our current system does not prevent that from happening, so the mere existence of the state is not itself a deterrent for cheaters. Moreover, you’d have to have a very dim (and, I’d say, unrealistic) view of humanity if you think an honest, hard-working person would suddenly become a scoundrel and a thief because the state is not controlling everything anymore.

Moreover, an anarchist might argue, if people had more autonomy—if they were able to decide for themselves what kind of lives they wanted to lead, what kind of work they wanted to do, and how to spend their time—maybe then there would actually be less cheating.

Is anarchy the only way to give everyone greater autonomy in their lives? The anarchist thinks so—the mere existence of the state and its arbitrary coercive power undermines personal autonomy because we never explicitly consented to live under its authority. Sure, some of us get to vote for representatives at different levels of government from federal to state and local, but once elected, these so-called “representatives” make their own decisions that may or may not be what their constituents want or need. And so often the choice we are given is between Tweedledum or Tweedledee, with one just about as bad as the other. It’s hard to see how that is that anything but arbitrary.

While I find this line of thought persuasive, again, I think it’s important to distinguish between how things happen to go in the US, and how things must go in any liberal democracy. The two certainly come apart, which begs the question: what’s the best way to tackle these problems—reform the state or abolish it? For example, if the US had a multi-party system elected by proportional representation, like they do Denmark (which is often touted as the best example of a functioning liberal democracy), would this give us the kind of personal autonomy the anarchist wants? Or, do even the Danes need to be freed from the tyranny of the state?

In the end, it all comes down to one issue. Do we give up some of our autonomy because we get some things that only the state can provide? The anarchist might say we suffer from a lack of imagination, that we can achieve many great things working together without any hierarchical coercive structures in place.

So, what do you think? Would life be better if everyone could choose what to do, free from the tyranny of government and unburdened by man-made law? Do we need the state? Or is that just something the state has convinced us of? Is anarchy a realistic alternative?

Comments (31)


tslug1@gmail.com's picture

tslug1@gmail.com

Thursday, September 7, 2017 -- 9:27 PM

I am disabled. How would I

I am disabled. How would I survive in this idealist world? Anarchy did not help me get a car I could drive. Anarchy did not give me accessible buildings and subways.

mirugai's picture

mirugai

Sunday, January 25, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

ANARCHY

ANARCHY
Of course before one advocates anarchy as a ?non? system, we should look to see how anarchy works where it is in practice. I see the most important and dramatic aspect of anarchy as the absence of law (and law enforcement by police, courts, etc.) governing behavior.  Two groups that believe behavior is only governed by law, and thus should never be asked about laws, are lawyers (for obvious reasons), and atheists (who are certain that any god-given rules are false). When walking a mountain road in Morocco, I always wonder what keeps some local guy from just coming up to me and taking everything I am carrying from me; or what keeps the starving mother with starving child everywhere in India, from doing the same? It is not law that keeps them from holding me up, but they don?t do it. Why?
I have asked this question of anthropologists, professors of religion, intrepid travelers, students of foreign cultures, and members of these cultures.  Among the answers: a social/religious principal insisting on hospitality and ?giving?; one?s ego says ?I have so much already, I don?t need what you have?; everyone is armed everywhere, so don?t risk it. None of these need law for enforcement, and so they are examples of what happens in anarchist situations.  But what do these protective measures depend on? They are not ?natural? laws (as the anarchist pictures them); they are religious and social imperatives, and individual ritualistic assessments of one?s own needs, and the deterrent power of force. 
Anarchy is advocated by the young.  They have nothing to lose by it, and everything to gain from taking. And they have the strength to hold onto it. But centuries of conditioning Americans to ?What I Want Capitalism? makes them incapable of ever moving to ?What I Need? and ?What My People Need.?  This is why the only deterrent to bad behavior in an American anarchy will be armament. The Occupy Movement, which I support, is not an anarchy movement; it is just an anti-political movement; it is saying the political system has completely failed and the berserk capitalism that results is the outcome. Politics and government cannot be expected to reform capitalism, so stay out of them.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Monday, January 26, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

I thought governments were

I thought governments were instituted to secure rights? Implying, of course, that we lose rights without them. How? If the libertarians are right, governments thwart rights. But I would hardly call Emma Goldman a libertarian. Before representative democracy became the norm all alternatives to royal authority were referred to as 'republican'. As a result, the colloquial sense of the word became hopelessly vague. Before socialist theories actually became incorporated into real governments, in varying degrees, advocates of alternatives to libertarian capitalism were called anarchists. And now we don't know what we mean by the term and get lost in contradictory senses. The plain fact is, people quite ordinarily get up to things on an individual basis that tend to set up conditions and contexts that are not only unjust to many or most, but in the aggregate are a kind of criminality. By feathering your own nest others get denied the same chances in life you had. By networking, you set up conspiracies against those who are socially less well equipped even if more competent otherwise. When such effects grow too extensive for a single voice to effect, factional divisions in society emerge on every side to 'represent' the individual voices that now cannot have effect alone. But there's the rub! Such a scale of human society that requires us to choose amongst factions in order to have any voice leaves the realm of human empathy, which is individual, and erects an edifice of collective prejudice that stifles the only scale of human compassion that can really bring justice into being. Governments are instituted, nevertheless, to undercut this breakdown of the human spirit. But tends to simply play shill to faction, instead of un-gagging the quiet voices that might make us all realize what an unjust world we have created. This enigma is the abiding problem of our age. But anarchism is just another word for license. The libertarian is not an individualist. It is a claim of a privileged right to silence empathy, the most individual demiurge amongst us. That silence cannot be achieved individually, and the libertarian is being quite dishonest in claiming it as an individual right. 'Anarchy' is the red herring in this lie.

MJA's picture

MJA

Monday, January 26, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Some Government thoughts:

Some Government thoughts:
Who needs to be governed or ruled over, do you? Are you out of control? Without rules and regulations, without police, judges, politicians and kings, without the control of government, would you be out of control? Do you need management? And if so, who better to manage yourself than yourself? Who would you pick if you had to choose another to manage you? Me? Vote for me and I will set you free!!! And because Democracy gives us that choice, to pick the rulers to rule us, the managers to manage us, the controllers to control US, what if we don't need or want to be controlled, is that Democracy too?
What about self-control, now there is an idea, the only real form of government there is. But if one gives the control to another does One not lose his own control? Have we not voted away our power and strength, our true selves? Have we not given away our independence that we fought and died for only to  lose our-self control all over again?  Isn't that what is happening in Egypt? They fought for freedom only to make way for another corrupt government. Why can't we keep US free?
America was founded on a Declaration of Independence, to free ourselves from tyranny or government only to form a new government to take control. It is a representative government because when it was formed there were no telephones for distant communication. We needed representation if you believed in government (and to bad for those who did not) because it was impossible for everyone to represent themselves. But today we continue on with this archaic tradition even though we carry instant communique with anyone any time in the palm of our hands. Government is tradition! 
What if you don't believe in giving up to others our rights, not wrongs, just rights, what right do we have left of our own? Are we nothing but sheep and in some cases being lead to the slaughter. Join the army, see the world! And without this wonderful military to protect US and the rest of the world from being controlled by others, we continue to be controlled by our own Democratic government selves?  
As for myself, I don't vote anymore, I can't vote for another to rule me. I believe in self-control, nothing more, nothing less. I do have a dream though, that One day there will be a single ballot question that asks: Do you wish to be governed or do you wish to be free? I would surely come out and vote for freedom.
AYE!
=   

LordB's picture

LordB

Monday, January 26, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

I agree that Anarchy is best

I agree that Anarchy is best suited for smaller groups, less than 200 people. I agree that what happened in Colorado and Washington is an example of direct action and very much reflective of anarchist impulses. The problem, however, is that while these states took direct action, it also fosters capitalism, which is anathema to anarchists. Pot shops and pot growers now proliferate both Washington and Colorado and they are certainly not interested in giving away their product for free. I think it would be fascinating if states took on more initiatives that went in direct opposition to the federal government and its coercive nature. Of course, it would leave the "United States" in a much more fragmented state, more like the "Dis-United States of America." Also, there are social issues that divide this country, like abortion, and even today, while you have some states that are very supportive of providing abortion services, others have completely restricted it. Given that American government is an oligarchy it certainly is in the interest of the general public to be more involved on a city and state level than on a federal level. One of the ways Anarchists could influence the national dialogue further would be to completely pull back from paying federal taxes. Unfortunately, the IRS has coercive powers and the state would bare down upon those who choose not to pay and that might include incarceration. It would take millions of anarchists not paying their taxes to bring Uncle Sam to a crushing halt.
A strong regulatory government that works on behalf of the public good as its first and most important directive remains appealing and when you reflect upon history, there are examples of when the entire public good did benefit from a much stronger regulatory framework, i.e. the post WW2 economic boom and a much higher tax rate imposed upon the wealthier classes. If corporations were removed from influence within the halls of governmental power and the public interest was the sole interest of our elected representatives than I believe a liberal democracy would be more more appealing as a form of government to live under. As it is currently run, our form of "democratic government" does not work well and breaking away from a tyrannical oligarchy has great appeal. However, this radio program on anarchy failed to discuss the importance of human behavior. Is anarchy on such a grand scale actually possible? The professor indicated that people are already practicing anarchy, in a limited way. But I think there need to be profound changes in human behavior in order for anarchy to take place on a wide scale and one that is able to effectively be run by people who can negotiate. BF Skinner developed the idea of behavior engineering and I think it's one that warrants revisiting.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Henotikon (Michael),

Henotikon (Michael),
Merlin's Merkin! You really have a genius for packing countless confused ideas into a small statement! But isn't the result an intellectual Eunuch? Islam is today in a crisis similar to the political crisis of Europe during the "Enlightenment". You can read hundreds of books on the history of Europe and never learn that the vast majority of people there lived in small communities going about their business in an exquisitely democratic way. Their answer? Sit around in the pub every night hashing out their differences and applying this resolution to the workday. The result was an egalitarian consciousness that eventually emerged into national prominence against the most determined and powerful resistance. Islam needs a grassroots consensus. One thing I've been wanting to say somewhere: With absolutely no apologies to Fred Hayek, the road to serfdom is not big government, it was as a very pointed fact the acts of enclosure meant to suppress the spontaneous democratic instincts of the people. Today's 'free market capitalism', or libertarian economics, is an exact parallel, having the exact same effect. If you want to understand America, don't read about the events of 1776, read about the events of 1675-6. All the forces arrayed against the "civil tranquility" hoped for by the authors of the Declaration came into focus then (except for slavery and racism, which are foreshadowed). But if you think you have rights that you can keep unilaterally, what makes you think you have a right to be understood? Especially when you give every sign of not understanding yourself? Are you familiar with the thought of Parmenides?
?
 
LordB? LordD LordE!,
States' rights is a cry with a pernicious past in America. It is little more than a recurrence of the theme of the fight between King John and his barons for which would have the most complete authority over the people. You see, where there is no social context backing up the bully the weaker side can have a chance of making his view prevail, especially if in an intimate setting securing a context of people committed to listening to each other, and responding equitably. That culture of equity, and it was exquisitely equal, is called the Anglo-Saxon 'Open Field System'. Check it out if you want to see where democracy really came from. But where social arrangements grow too cumbersome bullies will use that social environs to erect contexts and systems which militate agaisnt reasonable objections to their demands of us. These grow bigger and bigger until you have something resembling feudalism, something like 'free market capitalism' under the banner of 'states' rights'. But consider this: what if you live in a state or district in which the majority will never be on your side? Can this be democracy? If you are nominally extended the right to vote, but never receive representation that you do not regard as the enemy of your interests?
Growth of the Manor, by Paul Vinogradoff, is one of the rare sources on the Open Field System.

MJA's picture

MJA

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Parmenides: The One, infinite

Parmenides: The One, infinite and indivisible.
When All is equal All is truly One. The light at the end of the tunnel is not government, it is freedom at last. =
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Henotikon,

Henotikon,
You may want to check out how Socrates ties Parmenides in knots with a (deceptively) simple suggestion, in the Plato dialog by that name, if you haven't already done so. The question is, which one is it? Is it the 'one' that unifies a count of units? Or the 'one' counted in that unity? And if the former 'one', which one is it? and if the latter one, which 'one' is it? Do you even know what you mean? You know, in a philosophy discussion this is a very serious charge, requiring a non-question-begging response. Simply reasserting the same does not make it understandable, let alone true (regardless of what the Bellman says in the Hunting of the Snark). Do your arguments above discern one thing from another and call it all one? Or call discerned what, you suppose, reveals all is one? If being is, is it also not? Or does the participant engender what is by altering it through its own departure from it? Is time a plenum? If so, what quantifier can encompass it? If no one is what time is, then what act or agency its being so? Where does it begin or end? Or is there something incorrigably no one, non-quantifiable, its meaning and worth, its moment is? The reason we each can possess the conceit of being understandable is because of the need each of us is that the other be free to construe us in his or her own way, so that then this freedom is evidenced in our response. The active mode of this need is our criticism of each other's resulting response. Ask yourself, then, why some of us demand uniform belief?
 
A recent court case upheld the claim of a religiously own business to deny birth control and abortion coverage to its employees, as a matter of its freedom of religion. But does my freedom mean a right to impose my views upon you? Does religious freedom imply a right of religious authority over the members of the church? Even its employess not members of it? This ruling is an example of casuisty. How is your 'freedom' and 'one' not similar?

MJA's picture

MJA

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

The Socratic dialog never led

The Socratic dialog never led to truth, only more questions; I prefer One answer, the answer is just One. =
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

"Just the place for a Snark!"

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
   As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
   By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
   That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
   What I tell you three times is true."
Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark, an agony in eight fits, from fit the first.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Thursday, January 29, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Well, how about looking at

Well, how about looking at the question as a difference between autonomy and sovereignty? It's all well that each of us is autonomously free to be him- or herself. But people assert property rights by which they raise a sovereign claim to deprive others of it. Locke tried to excuse this sovereignty by deprivation by an appeal to supposed undiminished opportunity others still possess to achieve similar ownership. The fatuous nature of this claim should be obvious even were the wilderness still at our doorstep, if it ever was, with all the abundance of nature available to all and in no need of cooperation from others to obtain. This was as deceptive a suggestion in the eighteenth century as it would be in the twenty-first. Nevertheless, the radical property claims of libertarians equate sovereignty over property to personal autonomy and demand absolute authority in it, as we all would over our minds and person. But any such sovereignty claim sets up obligatory terms that require collective enforcement. This is the part of the equation that libertarians so willfully refuse to see. There is no autonomous sovereignty claim. Such claims merge and clash in ways that cannot produce freedom on any scale for anyone. Its law is not liberating, but obligating, or criminalizing freedom. Where there is a claimed right to deprive others there is also an appeal for legal protection from a yet higher or greater sovereignty. It is therefore a dishonest claim that property is the same as liberty, or that regulating property is a violation of inherent rights. And, by the way, there is no inalienable right to property established in the American Constitution. In fact, property is only mentioned in terms of the conditions under which it can be alienated.
The Reformation was said to be a struggle of individual freedom against hierarchy. This is a misunderstanding. The Latin Church was indeed hierarchical, and imposed hierarchy upon any emerging political entity in Western Europe. But the feudal system was not itself inherently hierarchical. It was an organic growth of personal covenant. Each binding agreement was fluid and individual. A tenant was not subordinate to his lord, and outside the covenant he was equal to all, except for the sovereign. In Anglo-Saxon England even a peasant could sue a lord in court, though his remedy would be rated according to his class, but his right to appear in court would not. When the Reformation blew up in the face of the Latin Church it was inspired by this egalitarian feudal principle that all social relations are relation of individual covenant. The problem is, when we regard the god a the ultimate sovereign, and suppose we can make an end-run around all other sovereignty claims to have "a personal relation with god", the question arises, can we suppose we hear the voice of god without supposing ourselves to be that voice? The famous case of Anne Hutchinson underscores the point.
Sovereignty is no more individual than the market value of the property over which it is claimed. And the fact is that property claims can only exceed a fairly low level without developing an ethic requiring others to subordinate their own autonomy to it. The rich claim that they alone know what is best for the continued prosperity generated by their property and that therefore they must be sovereign over it. They then claim, also, that others must be coerced to serve their needs because the propertyless will not work even for their own needs without social force or deprivation applied. This, of course, relates the question of anarchy to the earlier thread on hypocrisy, in that there cannot be an honest anarchist, at least not on the neo-con, libertarian side of the economic spectrum.

Laura Maguire's picture

Laura Maguire

Sunday, February 1, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

We had a great Live Chat here

We had a great Live Chat here on the Community of Thinkers with James Martel, guest on our anarchy show. You can read the transcript here. Lots of interesting and challenging questions were asked, so for anyone interested in anarchism, I would encourage you to check it out.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Monday, February 2, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Is law oracular? Or are we

Is law oracular? Or are we all legislators? If each is the lawgiver, the process of social harmony is a constant revision, a dialectic of critique and response through which our differences prevent social sclerosis by engaging everyone in continuous alteration of the conditions of concourse and discourse. Society is meant to be dynamic. And is meant to leave no one out of that drama. In a way, the job of the community is to provide the context in which each individual is realized in all its merits and character. But this limits how much disparity there can be amongst us in access to that drama. Those who feel an interest is that disparity engineer means of cutting some of us off from it. The simplest method is to require eternal verity and oracular certainty in law. "Was it men or some god that is the author of your laws?" (first line from Plato's Laws). Paul Feyerabend, in The Conquest of Abundance, says that the first towns were not markets or fortresses, but communities of landlords separating themselves from surrounding tenants. It was a way of celebrating and entrenching the social disparities that benefit them. Those of us who are on the short end of the stick are rightly indignant, even punkish about this state of affairs, and attack law as unresponsive and irrelevant to our lives. This sets up a whole language of ambiguous moves and counter-moves that blur the edges of the terms. Indignation becomes "resentment", law becomes sacred and immaculate, or stifling and corrupt. The feelings that arise on one side spill into the rhetoric of the other.
Before there was capital, there was, famously, barter. But do we really remember this rightly? Was barter really just an exchange system comparable to but made infinitely more practical by money? Or was it an ongoing interest in each other's wellbeing that was never a settled matter and always needed to be revived and revised? If so, then money shuts down the human flow of mutual interest and so sets up the process of creating social disparities. The world gets divided between those who are privileged to pursue their interests and those who can only subsist in obligatory service to that privileged class. The Romans were past-masters at establishing and enforcing obligation. Their law was rigid, status related, and brutally enforced. Rome did not fall, it was abandoned. The bishop of Rome tried to revive his position by claiming superior legal status to the Eastern Empire. This did not work, but as Western Europe began to consolidate after centuries of raids, the Pope was able to assert his authority by creating a new Rome, in opposition to the old empire on Constantinople. The most effective weapons in this were the Latin language, and the unquestioned authority of Roman law. This combination suppressed the democratic aspirations of the people. Meanwhile, Anglo-Saxon law was emerging from a loose collection of highly democratized communities, but then conquered by the Normans who were at once at odds with Rome, but in need of some external justification for their suppression of unrest against their rule over the English. The law that emerged pretended to have its roots in Rome, but the more careful authorities are clear that this was just a conceit to deny the English of their indigenous authorship of their laws. The Celts before them were a herding people who shared the open grazing to all of the villagers who claimed it as their common property. They had each a piece in the village called a croft, very much private property or "domes". The English adopted this system and adapted it to a more agrarian lifestyle, evolving what would come to be called the "open field" system, which Norman law would slowly erode under the acts of enclosure. But, because the Celtic tradition was husbandry rather than farming, the leaders were not imposing upon the people by restricting hunting of large wild prey to the nobility. Kings were itinerant, expecting the lower nobility to supply their needs as they moved about the countryside. This requirement evolved the manor system, in which lower nobles built huge manor houses large enough to meet their obligation to the king. But it took on the form we see on Downton Abbey long after this was a practical requirement. But, yes, they gathered in servants from the local community to service the needs of the huge estates. American elites, who are financially easily able to reproduce this lifestyle, have not done so because the pretext of entertaining the itinerant king was never there, and so our elites pretend to be somehow less like an upper class. It's not really intrinsic, it's just not their style, at least not since emancipation. But even through all these variations of tyranny, the suppression of the dynamic of law that must welcome the needs and views of each to complete itself, the universal principle that makes the difference between justice and unjust disparities is the superseding of mutual interest in the meaning and worth of each person with the quantifier money is. It is a mistake to suppose that capitalism came into being with the invention of money, capitalism is the use of money in a profit system based on the payment of rent on property or interest on borrowed money. But if the simple invention of money did not create capitalism, it was the prerequisite of it. And if money is intrinsically toxic to human community, capitalism certainly is. But it is a toxicity necessary to a complex society, though it seems obvious that it can be mitigated by carefully designed conditions. It should be rendered homeopathic by dilution. But in large economies money does not trickle away, it accumulates, becoming more and more toxic. The answer should be obvious, remove it from its toxic pooling and spread it about, to those who really earned it in the first place. This can and in some places is being done to clearly superior effect than we have in America, and even once was here, under the New Deal, the most prosperous era in our history. But getting lost in ambiguous terms and rhetorical devices, or reducing alternatives to a contrast between Mad Max and Caligula, is unhelpful. Of course we need to carefully devise and regulate our conduct, but this only means coercive authority where people are naturally inclined to become invested in socially toxic systems. It seems humorous that a discussion of anarchy should end on the note it did, let's network on it!   

Or's picture

Or

Monday, February 2, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

As a social order alternate

As a social order alternate to the one currently in place, anarchy is both tempting and terrifying, the latter mainly because the results of its implementation are ambiguous and we, humans, resent change.  Then, anarchy, as defined by Emma Goldman, suggests quite a few inherent problems of its own. 
If anarchy is defined as a new social order based on liberty and unrestricted by manmade law, then what is the meaning of liberty? What is the essence of this definition? If we had all the answers about what is right and what is wrong, what is just - in just, what is good, evil - then why would we need any social order? What is the purpose of an alternative social order that is in itself flawed or incomplete, that brings the same problematic as the social order we currently have only with a different face?
And if we don?t have all these answers then anarchy (as a social order) if instituted in a society would eventually end up having similar problems to those we find today in the non-anarchist systems.  Anarchy is theoretically possible, but as soon as it is put to practice and institutionalized its intrinsic sense of liberty comes to an end just as it happens in any other social order ? anarchy stops being anarchy the moment it is instituted as a system. 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Nice try, I suppose. But it

Nice try, I suppose. But it rather misses the point. What I was trying to do above was to show that there is a context on the periphery that is missed by our focusing on the usual concepts and methods thought to achieve the kind of results conventional wisdom has come to bank on. There is nothing unilateral to freedom. This notion derives from the evangelical tradition of the Christian West (and the other biblical traditions) that belief is consensual and consent is constitutive. If only everyone, or some critical mass, comes (freely?) to believe in the method, if not the result, the test of truth will be met, and the world can enter Vall Halla or the End of Days, or whatever. But the Western tradition of individuality as it is conceived today is a conceit of the late Middle ages (via Thomas Aquinas) that individual faith transcends authority. But this only echoed, in a garbled fashion, the far more human intercourse that underlay the social lives of most European peasants. Worth and value was personal, what we do for each other in recognition of what we mean to each other. But where the satisfaction of need extends beyond what we can keep on a personal basis, as an ongoing reckoning of who is doing what for who and what deficit is outstanding amongst us, some more "objective" reckoning intrudes upon the personal ongoing measure and test of worth we are to each other, and the individual goes from being a running dynamic of finding our worth in needing each other free of obligation, to a 'unilateral' in which obligation is the only quantification, the only objective test and measure. Once the quantifier intrudes the only path left to us is anarchy of the one against all or the all against one. Hence all the variations on a theme illuminated so well in these discussions. But largely beside the point.  

MJA's picture

MJA

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Perhaps Pink Floyd was right:

Perhaps Pink Floyd was right: "All in all we're just another brick in the Wall".
How many laws or bricks are there? Can they even be counted? And what do they all mean? Each One of us lives by our own rules and then there are all the other rules: work rules, play rules, and game rules, traffic rules, pedestrian rules, and bike rules, business rules and corporate rules, money rules and tax rules, medical rules, doctor rules, and healthcare rules, and don't forget the religious rules God forbid, then there are the town rules, city rules, county rules, state rules, and government rules, and each of them have there own rules. 
We do have a Supreme Court to interpret these rules. Do they know how many rules there are and what they all mean? Does anyone know? And if we don't all know all the rules and the meaning of all the rules, does that mean we are guilty if we don't live by all the rules? Are we all guilty and who are we to judge even ourselves?  
How many bricks are there? Isn't the thought of a world without walls and manmade divisions, barbed wire fences, rules and regulations appealing to everyone? An indivisible thought, a just thought of liberty, as just is the equity of freedom, a thought that might just lead us there. Isn't that where we are meant to be, free?
"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Later on in his speech, President Reagan said, "As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, 'This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.' Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom." President Reagan
I have a thought: Lets open the gate! 
=  

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Michael,

Michael,
Once again you count up to "=" through an injudicious application of "?". It really seems time you noticed this! Without "?" you can't even count up to one! Freedom ? liberty. Liberty is license or privilege over possessions. Freedom is a response of need. We need each other free if we wish to understand and be understood. There is nothing unilateral freedom is. As such it is liberty equated with freedom, not government per se, that is its enemy.
As for Reagan, he was an atrocity as a president. He invented and promoted the Jim Crow economics we live under today. He negotiated with Iran to keep our people hostage until after the election, in return for a promise of illegal weapons sales. And he stalled the fall of the Soviet Union even as he pretended to seek its ruin. He could easily have come to terms with Gorbachev, but used the Star Wars program as a pretext to scuttle talks. The speech he gave in Berlin was given at a time when Gorbachev was already in separate negotiations with Western Europe to open the Eastern Bloc countries. The "tear down this wall" remark was just another of Reagan's monumental hoaxes, he knew it was imminent anyway.

MJA's picture

MJA

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Let freedom ring! =

Let freedom ring! =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

In more than one note, let's

In more than one note, let's hope.
?

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

 Turning and turning in the

 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.--
W B Yeats
 

MJA's picture

MJA

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Free Birds

Free Birds
I saw some birds fly by today and wondered why they are free to fly and live as they please and we, mankind, needs to be governed, ruled and controlled? If birds can be free then why can't we? And if our manmade rules are there as we are led to believe for our own protection, why is it that we continue to self-destruct? If the innumerable rules we already have can't keep us from destroying ourselves and this planet, are more rules the solution? How many more do we need to survive?
Or rather, is it the rules themselves that are the cause of our own demise? If you believe in bible stories, hmmm, wasn't it a single rule, not to eat a certain fruit that lost paradise? Had there been no rules, might paradise still be here today? Today we have more rules than can be counted and the effect seems to be very much the same, Earth lost. If there were no rules would we live in harmony? Are rules the problem? Is freedom the ultimate solution we are searching for? It seems to be working for everything else but us. Wouldn't it be nice to try freedom and see. Imagine to be as free as a bird and live and fly as you please. "Imagine living life in peace".
 John and me, =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Thursday, February 5, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Some rules help us keep from

Some rules help us keep from bumping into each other. But even as we stop at the stop-sign we are free to critique whether it is needed at that intersection. If that critique had no plausible hope of being heeded we would be less free. But the power of legislation, not the absence of law, is what freedom is. Birds, by the way, all live under a highly developed and strictly enforced ranking system. It's called pecking order. As for me, as attractive as flying (without mechanical support) may be, I would not trade arms and hands and opposable thumbs for wings and a barrel chest.
But one odd thing keeps coming out in your posts, you clearly have some implicit sense of what I've been getting at, even if you repudiate this explicitly. The first thing you wrote months ago was that the universe is immeasurable (which it isn't). Yesterday you referred to a wall of countless bricks (how many bricks make a wall, anyway). and again just above remark about countless rules. From a man who takes all one this seems strange. But more to the point, it expresses a sense that number gets lost in a more encompassing meaning. Your mistake in this, I think, is that you regard this loss as a mode of induction rather than, as I would argue, reduction. How extensive must the count be before we recognize that there is a more encompassing meaning? How extensive must the count be before the notion of number gets lost to the meaning of it? The answer is not the most extensive term, but the least. The reduction that at first finds solidity evaporating before probabilistic flux between matter and energy, and ultimately a meaning even such probabilities cannot calculate. The result is meaning. The least term of time is that differing that can only be described as the lost enumerator. The least term of time is all the differing it is. It is not until we have pressed through all the question that we can achieve satisfactory answers. It is the rigor of that count, and the loss of any sense in the notion of its enumeration, that we learn the meaning of words and come to know each other the person each is in that character of loss. But like any loss, it is only the response recognized it not its own and yet of worth is that meaning articulated in the world, however real that loss is. But we need each other free for this completion to the drama of loss and recognition that meaning, and person, is. There is no freedom alone or unilateral. It is not letting be or being at liberty, it is a need fulfilled in the freedom enabled through that need. Freedom is the product of not being alone in loss.  

MJA's picture

MJA

Thursday, February 5, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

I don't comprehend your

." the universe is immeasurable (which it isn't)."
So then tell us please the measure of the Universe.
And if I may ask again, how many rules are there in your measurable Universe? 
Thanks, =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Friday, February 6, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

I suggest you read A Short

I suggest you read A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.

MJA's picture

MJA

Monday, February 9, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Hawking wrote: "philosophy is

Hawking wrote: "philosophy is dead" and that was the end of that.
Philosophy is truth and truth will set us FREE! =

MJA's picture

MJA

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Leafology

Leafology
Socates whilst walking through the park came across his friend Enstein standing in the shade under a tree. After some greetings Socates asked, ?what brings you here today?? Enstein replied,? I am here doing some very important scientific work scientifically measuring the number of leaves that have fallen from this tree.? ?For what reason? Socates asked, Einstein answered, ?to prove the measure of nature or the science of physics is most certainly, quantifiably, or quatum mechanically, wave mechanically, particle physically absolute.? ?Is Nature measurable? Socates asked? Then asked further, ?how many leaves have you counted here today?? Enstein replied ?5.? ?Are you absolutely certain of you measurement? Socates asked? Enstein responded, ?to make certain I should count them again.? As he counted a light breeze came up and flipped a leaf over exposing yet another leaf. ?Well well well?, Socrates said, ?how many leaves do you count now?? Enstein smiled and counted again and said,?now there are 6?. ?Would you wager everything you know Enstein that scientifically your measurement is absolutely correct?? Enstein showing some discomfort now said, ?ahh yes, yes I would. I am certain there are 6. And to prove it to you I will right here and now count them again.? As he began to count a bit of a wind came by and blew all of the leaves away, much to Enstein?s dismay. Now it was Socates time to smile and ask, ? if science is the measure of all things, and yet it cannot even count the number of leaves fallen from a tree, then what can science measure, anything at all?? Eistein turned to Socates and said, " hmmm, smart question, is it measure that is in need of measure?? Socates replied, ?perhaps we will both find the truth right here.?
=

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Michael,

Michael,
You have both Einstein and Socrates quite wrong. Socrates was a Pythagorean. Einstein had a very highly developed sense of humor. Have you ever heard of Michaelson-Morley? Or the Lorentz transformation? By the way, the universe is something like fifteen billion years old, as I recall, and that sets an outer limit of that many light years in radius. A good deal less, I expect, since it is has almost certainly not expanded that fast for that long. But physics and I parted company, for the most part, many years ago, it was not where my fascination lay. Not sufficiently, at least, to justify the work of getting as good at it as I felt I could have been. If you take offence athiestic assertions, you'll love section 125 of Nietzsche's The Gay Science.

MJA's picture

MJA

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Truth is my science, Truth

Truth is my science, Truth 101 =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

You choose idiolect. Not as

You choose idiolect. Not as free as it feels.
?

rsilvers's picture

rsilvers

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Contrary to what James

Contrary to what James Martell posits, "anarchy" seems foolish both in theory and in practice. Throughout the discussion, he and Ken and John were selective in the situations they considered, elided over how collective decisions are made in an anarchic society, and did not acknowledge the value of coordination by leaders and the import of the protection of intellectual property.
I agree that anarchy is not chaos. I just had the pleasure of spending a week in Bali, and a relatively undeveloped part of Bali. No traffic signals, limited road space. The "rules" of the road needed no enforcement mechanism -- it was understood that any car or truck could stop in a lane to deliver goods and the cars and scooters behind would pile up until the way became clear. Scooters weaved, safely, in and around. In the week, not only did I not see an accident, or evidence of an accident, but I did not see any dented cars.
Of course, speeds were approximately 20 mph so it took an hour to make a trip that in a modern society with ample roads would take half that or less. How well then does anarchy scale?
Worse, neither James nor Ken nor John acknowledge, at least not explicitly, the value of leadership and coordination -- which is the essence of an entrepreneur. There are many goods and services that require considerable knowledge and coordination ability, which requires some authority and hierarchy.
In the same vein, it is naive to believe that most innovation occurs by individuals who have an intrinsic desire to innovate. Sure, artists and inventors love to create and tinker, but without education -- which necessarily builds upon knowledge and skills developed across generations and would be unlikely to be generated let alone protected and disseminated, without an authority to protect. There is little doubt that the most innovative societies -- in engineering, medicine, the arts and music, ... -- are those that have a strong protection of intellectual property and a strong educational system, as well as a widespread educational system so that not merely the aristocracy has the time to devote to their creations.
Which itself is to say that anarchic societies will produce fewer public goods, and basic economic theory (and experience) show that the private market does not produce (enough) public goods. Such a dearth of public goods would prevent each individual from realizing his potential.
As to the police, James referred to disputes that exist within the society, stating that  anarchic societies policing themselves. This analysis is incomplete; omitted are assignments of duties to protect the society from outside attacks. How does an anarchic society determine who risks their "property" or, even if there is no private property, their lives, to defend when an external threat besets the society? Whether that threat be another group of individuals, or something from Nature, such as a snowstorm or hurricane or drought.
Ken and John took this bait and claimed, without evidence, that the police often exacerbate situations. Almost certainly, without getting into a semantic discussion, the police in democratic socities that protect civil liberties, are almost always responding to disputes that already exist -- intra-family squabbles, robberies, rapes, ... What form of justice is meted out to parents who do not vaccinate their children and thus your child, who is too young to be vaccinated, becomes infected?
Which leads me to my last point: James never stated the criteria or procedure to arrive at a collective decision. Meting out punishment, resources and time from each individual to be contributed to the production of public goods, ... are all types of collective punishment. Majority rule is only one possible solution method, which still begs the question of who gets to vote; moreover, it is a well-known (in economics and political science) that majority-rules criterion is not transitive. Which means that when there are three options, the option that the majority selects, a majority may prefer an option that was not selected!
By way of example, even a small group of friends may have difficulty deciding where to go for dinner or what movie to see. Oftentimes, majority rules or some form of reciprocity -- majority rules however may run into the problem stated above, and reciprocity requires that there be a future interaction. Now, consider a larger group of individuals who are anonymous in that they may not encounter each other in the future. Such reciprocal behaviors are unlikely to arise, and what are the incentives of individuals to form bonds with other individuals when those bonds are so easily dissolved, if the formation of such bonds does not entail obligations?
In short, anarchic societies are greatly limited in size, which means that they are incapable of making significant advancements and of protecting the society from many external threats, which together inhibit if not prevent individuals from realizing their potential, which Rawls stated as one of the primary goals of justice. Even the most basic unit of a society, the family, is almost always hierarchical.

Epicuros's picture

Epicuros

Saturday, November 3, 2018 -- 9:24 AM

In an ideal society where all

In an ideal society where all people have a highly ethical and educational background, anarchy would be the obvious way to go. However, societies consist of all kinds of people, most (or too many) of which do not have these basic personalty requirements enabling them to live in a society of anarchy. Soonner or later such people will want to depart from agreed principles of co-existence without laws and this is what will cause major disturbances. We have enough people breaking laws as societis are; can we imagine what it would be like if we remove the laws that discourage many people from causing harm to others?

 
 
 
 

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