Anarchy, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Government"
The question of what it would be like to live in a state of anarchy, is one of the great philosophic questions of all times. On one side of this question, for example, was the French socialist, Pierre Joseph Proudhon who declared "that as man becomes morally mature the artificial restrictions of law and government can be dispensed with."6 Proudhon dreamed of a state of nature where all property (to Proudhon "property was theft") belonged to the whole and that "perfect man" would take from the store of property only that which was needed, that all men "by nature and destination" are to be in a society where all would be equal and free, and have no need for a government as everyone went about in a loving and sharing way. The critics answered that for such a state, as was visualized by Proudhon, a new race of mankind would first have to be regenerated. Until then, a state of anarchy was but a "delightful dream." This whole notion of the history of men moving towards a perfect state, under-pinned the philosophy of Marx and the Russian revolution of the early 20th century.7 Collectivists or socialists do not normally ascribe to the notion that history lives and is inextricably moving, as if animate, -- to some glorious end state; indeed a person's disbelief in this is what distinguishes him from a communist. Both communists and socialists,8 however, believe, contra to the hard evidence of history, in the perfectibility of man.
One need not resort to choosing between Hobbes and Locke, or, indeed come to any hard conclusions as to the nature of man at all, in order, to conclude, first off, that anarchy would not work and that some level of government is needed for the better working of society: for man, as is crystal clear, is not perfect; and, if he be headed anywhere in particular, including to that of an angelic state, his estimated time of arrival be, at least, a millennium away. The fact is, however, that too much government, as an antidote to anarchy, will leave society as the patient, worse off.
"Slavery results from laws, laws are made by governments, and, therefore people can only be freed from slavery by the abolition of governments. ... And it is time for people to understand that governments not only are not necessary, but are harmful and most highly immoral institutions, in which a self-respecting, honest man cannot and must not take part. ... And as soon as people clearly understand this, they will ... cease to give the governments soldiers and money. And as soon as a majority of people cease to do this, the fraud which enslaves people will be abolished. Only in this way can people be freed from slavery." (Leo Tolstoy)9Anarchy comes from the Greek; it means no law or supreme power. Anarchism exists where people, individually or by voluntary groups, are left to totally sort out their own affairs. Should this work? The answer might come when one studies the nature of man. At his center, at his heart, every man is an anarchist. He only wishes that his neigbour be governed; as for himself, he wishes but to be left alone.
Anarchism is a theory of the absolute and complete liberty of the individual. The wish, one that man has carried in his heart through the ages is that he should have no master but one that suits his own mood. It is the extreme of liberty; at the other end of the pole is totalitarianism, absolute control possessed by government, or, almost by definition, in one person (one can think of Bismarck, Hitler and Stalin, and the many others who, throughout the world, emulate them to this day).
Personally, I do not believe anarchism would likely work, though -- while probably not the best way for society to conduct itself -- anarchy is bound to be vastly superior to totalitarianism. In its scheme anarchism has one primary rule, and it is, "mind your own business." And under anarchism the primary crime is when one interferes with another's business.
It was Thomas Paine who said, "The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security." Thus, one might say that anarchism is a state of affairs that does not last, directly a government is done away with, it is almost immediately reformed, usually in its simplest cast.
For most of us, we need some order in our lives much before we can get on with leading it. We are not so much concerned with our own personal disorders, for presumably we have some control over ourselves; but, primarily, we would like to bring the disorderly conduct of others under control; we have to know what to expect of them if we are to make our own plans. It is the activities of other persons with which we are concerned, activities which have potential to impact on us, for good or for bad.
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[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]