Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Dream of Anarchy, or, Strange Women Lying in Ponds

If there is one thing that political liberals and conservatives can agree upon, it is that the government is inefficient, misguided, detached, and morally deficient (they will, of course, differ on which actions are good and bad, as well as defining the ideal).  Recent polls clearly indicate that Americans are unhappy with Congress in particular, currently at a nine percent approval rating.  While I would agree that our current elected representatives are historically poor, I acknowledge that even in the best of times, government is rarely popular.  As G.K. Chesterton put it, "The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."

This is not really surprising; it's practically human nature to question and even resist authority.  Especially in a culture that emphasizes individuality and competition, rules are often viewed as roadblocks to success and happiness.  To some degree, we are all guilty of justifying unlawful actions; I myself often mentally rewrite posted speed limits with what I believe to be the de facto limit, perhaps five mph more.  Business leaders may be pressured to ignore regulations in pursuit of greater profit, just as athletes are often pressured to use drugs or other banned substances for greater performance (leading to more money and fame).  However, in all of these cases, cheaters still desire the law to limit others; merely rebelling does not make one an anarchist.

In fact, it's rather difficult to define the positions of an anarchist, just as it is nearly impossible to define anarchy itself.  In popular use, anarchy is used often in place of "chaos", but the etymological definition means only "no ruler", just as a monarchy means "one ruler", typically a king.  But perhaps, old woman man, you are perfectly content with your anarcho-syndiclist commune?  Is this not itself a system of government, with a ruler?  How is any order possible at all without a government (and is a government possible without a "ruler")?

"We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn't obey the rules." - Alan Bennett

Simply put, if rules need to exist, then a ruler needs to exist; this is really the central point of the social contract theory and the writings of Thomas Hobbes.  Certainly, there will be disagreement on the best system of government, but my point is that even those that advocate "anarchy" really aren't: they often are using the idea as an antithesis to the system they wish to dismantle without giving much definition to the alternative, one that will certainly still involve some measure of rule.  Another individual or group may consider that new system barbaric, and the dislike for government continues.

Of course, I do not typically converse with anarchists, nor do I personally advocate a totalitarian, Palpatinian rule.  The political discussions I see in our present age are from slightly more moderate positions, arguing for more or less government intervention in a number of issues.  I believe such discussions are healthy and necessary to any republic in which the public has a voice in their representation.  The only real conflict I have in such conversations (other than that they are often less than civil and amount to name-calling) is one of dealing with mankind's inherent flaws: advocates for strong, centralized government often do so out of a concern for what society would become without such oversight, given the state of man, while those that advocate less government control do so out of a concern for what a ruler would or could do to a society, given the state of man.  If "corporations are people", then are not governments people, too? 

The bottom line is that the flaws of government are our own flaws.  We elect people to represent us, and in spite of the naysayers, the American public gets it right: it elects prideful, selfish, immoral opportunists into office - who could better represent the American public? 


  1. I agree that the government is made by the people, but our system of checks and balances have been totally derailed by corporate influence.
    Making government truly for the people by the people is what I believed the Occupy movement was trying to accomplish.

    1. I can't really argue otherwise, Jen. Equating money with "speech" is one of the worst SCOTUS decisions in recent times. I was personally inspired by some of your stories. Unfortunately, the "Occupy movement" was too loose a confederation, at least nationally speaking.