So I get a response from Mr. Bylund the other day to my Blog entry, and I keep meaning to write up my own reply, and just never get around to it. I am a man of many passions (as this blog should quite readily show) I once spent an (in hindsight) inordinate amount of time on politics and political thought, but those days are quickly receding into the past. Much like the message he sent me.
Then, lo and behold, I notice he’s added comments to the blog entry itself.
Hello Mr. Bylund! I’m not ignoring you, I just think that achieving the anarchist ideal ranks somewhere behind science fiction fandom and humor (and living in the here and now) on the importance list. I establish my own values, just like I know and uphold my own rights. I don’t look to government to maintain them for me, but to abstain from violating them in the process of doing its legitimate work.
I read your comments through several times. This is the paragraph which I feel the need to specifically address:
To minarchists, the anarchist position is utterly utopian, perhaps even idealistic, and they conclude it would not work. Such a society could quickly degenerate into chaos and misery since there is no final arbiter in conflicts and no power to leash or control the evils unavoidably existent in society. The reasoning is that there needs to be something larger, but external to the market, setting the basic rules and enforcing them. Without the enforcement of rights, there are no rights.
The key phrase here is final arbiter. Government is legitimate, in my estimation, when it:
- Violates no rights in maintaining its existence.
- Acts only as the final arbiter in a conflict.
While I don’t know of any government that meets this criteria that is currently in existence, I believe that it is possible to attain (I would refer to Nozick’s state as government because that is the word that fits the purpose being served) What I do hear from Anarchists that argue with me on the necessity of government is that they have a plan to substitute the structure that is government for another structure which does essentially the same job, but isn’t government. My counter argument will always be a rose by any other name. It is still government no matter what it’s called.
When I point out to them that anarchy is chaos by definition and that political anarchy, to be true to its definition, would require that there is no structure (which I will always call government) in order for it to be called anarchy,that the resultant society would be chaotic and prone to instability, which most likely would lead (and has lead in the past) to more repressive forms of government taking root, I’m told that I just don’t get it.
But I do get it. The anarchists want to use the word anarchy to serve as a figurehead for something that isn’t anarchy but will be different from the current government structure, a tactic which has and most likely will backfire again when acted upon. Which is why I bother to argue about this in the first place.
Utopian and idealist visions have lead to some of the worst hell holes on the planet. During the time of the Russian revolution, Anarchists and Socialists were brothers in the same cause; fighting to bring change to a Russian society that desperately needed it. The idealist Anarchists of the time thought that if they could just get rid of the Czar, the social utopia of Communism (which is a governmentless form of society, an anarchy; at least as Marx envisioned it) would soon follow. I think history will show it turned out differently.
No, I’m not saying that Anarchists are Communists. The Wiki entry should plainly show, if nothing else, that Anarchists don’t even know what Anarchists are. Which is fitting, considering the definition of the word anarchy. Chaos is its own definition.
Every time I find myself butting heads with someone politically, I discover that the someone in question has some ideal vision in his head concerning what should be the way things work. A Utopia for which they just won’t accept any substitutions. Unfortunately reality doesn’t consult with us concerning it’s inner workings. In an ideal world, there would be no idealists. That’s my idea of utopia. You can thank your lucky stars that I don’t believe in utopias.
If we want structures to serve the purposes we intend for them, then we have to look at the constraints that reality places on us and design them to fit. Self-funding support bodies for essential government functions (i.e. the cost of police and fire departments being funded by the insurance companies and land owners that profit from their existence) is just one vein of thought on the subject. Government structures that don’t violate rights simply by existing in the first place.
Suffice it to say I’ve put some thought into this, and I doubt that there is much that can be said that will sway me from my opinion.
One thought on “Ideally There Would Be No Idealists”
Mr. Byland wrote me back. These are his comments. I’m contemplating my response. Don’t hold your breath, it took nearly a month to formulate what I wanted to say last time.
3:09 am (11 hours ago)
Thanks for your reply, which I find interesting even though I do not agree with much of your reasoning. Using the definition of the word, Anarchy, is not really a valid argument since there are multiple definitions and since definitions tend to change over time.
The original meaning of the word, etymologically, is simply “without rule” from the Greek words meaning only that: a negation and “rule.” We could discuss how and why the meaning of the word has come to be “chaos” and “disorder” but that is not really interesting. Dictionaries nowadays do say things like anarchy meaning the “lack of rule, disorder”
(wordmentor.placementor.com/vocabulary_powerkit/02.htm). But there is no reason “lack of rule” must also mean “disorder,” don’t you agree? There is no obvious connection between the two, even though it may seem intuitive at first. People get together peacefully and respectfully in many
situations without rule AND without disorder.
This is a reason anarchists tend to believe the definition of “anarchy” is somewhat “politicized” and distorted. It may be so, but that does not really matter. Anarchists use the etymological or philosophical meaning of the word, “without [explicit] rule.” If you use the dictionary as an argument against anarchism you are really fighting a straw man.
As for structures being government, I do not agree. I can think of a great many spontaneous and voluntary structures in which there is no rule or government whatsoever. Using your method (googling “define:government”),
government means “the organization that is the governing authority of a
political unit,” “the act of governing; exercising [force-based]
authority,” or “a way of ruling a country; a system of rules and laws.”
Using the definition commonly used in political science, government is a “monopoly of ‘legitimate’ force.” But in a world respecting natural rights there is only one kind of force being legitimate: (self-)defense when your rights are violated. Why would you enforce a monopoly of such force, and would that itself not violate rights?
There are many interesting things to discuss, but I’m not sure e-mails is
the correct medium for such a discussion. That is why I have a proposition to make: would you be interested in a public discussion on our web sites? Perhaps you could make an initial statement from a minarchists view on your site and I can reply on mine, and then we can do this over and over again for as long as we find it worth while.
I’m thinking it should be interesting to follow for both minarchists and anarchists as well as others. I’ve been involved in numerous discussions like these, and so have you (if I understand you correctly). If done in a constructive and respectful manner I think we both (and everybody else)
can gain from this.
I think it would be possible to have the discussion published as an
article series on e.g. Strike the Root or other sites as well, if you’re interested (and then we’ll get paid too).
What do you think?