Flag.Blackened.net | OBJECTION #9: Without a government such as the one in this country I’d be a miserable hunchback, out of work, or, perhaps worse than that, I’d probably be pushing daisies in a cemetery somewhere.
When I had polio my folks were too poor to afford all of the medical bills without assistance from the government. The operations I had in later years, my education, my rehabilitation, and my current employment are all the result of government financing. I believe the U.S. government has been exemplary in providing assistance to the underprivileged, the down-and-out.
Sure, I’m the first to realize the problems in this country, economic, social, etc., but to tout another way by continual criticism of what is, is counterproductive. Give me concrete, workable ways a libertarian based society would protect civil rights, keep the peace, help the economically, physically and mentally disadvantaged of this world. Show me how it would provide food for all of its citizens, stop the exploitation of the “have nots” by the “haves” and maybe I’ll begin to take the libertarian views seriously.
True, the current U.S. government hasn’t done all of the abovementioned tasks all that well, but at least there is a vehicle which the government can work with to solve the problems that exist today. All I’ve read in your magazine is what’s wrong with the current governmental systems and a bunch of quotes from libertarians or anarchists talking in generalities. Try taking a specific example of some kind of problem and then state in specific terms how a libertarian society at least would attempt to come to grips with it, e.g., helping victims of a polio epidemic who were unable to help themselves.
As far as I know, no civilization has survived for any appreciable amount of time in an anarchist state. I think of the old west and what a mess it was with bandits robbing trains and gun duels in the street and so on. Set up a society from its roots and project how you see it would be in 100 years under anarchy.
I think we’re in a sad state of affairs when we think of ourselves first so much we lose track of others and of the sense of mankind that John Dunne so aptly wrote about. I hate governmental corruption and injustices as much as you do, but I just don’t think libertarianism is the right way to go. I think it’s a step in the wrong direction – 180 degrees wrong.
ANSWER: This objection typifies some people’s fears that anarchist societies will not work. In time we will take each of the ideas inherent in your objection, lay them out individually so they can be properly understood and then shall answer them. But in the beginning we must understand the underlying philosophy on which this objection rests.
It is this: government introduces an element to human society that makes it possible for people, particularly the disadvantaged, to live in society. It tempers the rough edges of human life, giving protection and justice to those who otherwise would be crushed in the rush for survival. You are saying that people, left untouched by governmental control, cannot be relied upon to treat with mercy and generosity and fairness those who are weaker or who have fallen on unfortunate circumstances.
Government alone, according to your objection, brings to society the one power that is capable of civilizing human relationships and you suggest that without government we would be cast into a hopeless abyss of bandits and gun duels.
In sum, then, your objection assumes that:
1) people left to themselves will not take care of their unfortunate neighbors. People will not freely help anyone, particularly those who can in no way return the favor. Their only concern is themselves and the whole of natural human society is rooted in the reality that only the strong will survive.
2) government alone can correct this human deficiency. Government and governors apparently are immune from the human failing detailed in the first point. From this we must conclude that the governing class is made up of a specially endowed race of human beings who are possessed of characteristics of generosity and mercy unknown anywhere else in the human family.
3) government has a moral claim nobody else has that authorizes it to coercively redistribute wealth from those who produce it to those who cannot take care of themselves. The unfortunate have a claim on others to support them and that if this support isn’t voluntarily forthcoming it can be wrenched by force from those who do not freely choose to give it.
Each of these premises, to say the least, is highly questionable, but because they are implicit in your objection they deserve to be discussed.
Apparently you have grown up in a much different world than I have because all around me I meet people helping other people and not asking anything in return. And this is in spite of all the government programs that discourage this kind of voluntary neighborliness. The thousands of private charitable organizations in this country give an irrefutable answer to your assumption that only government can and will help the disadvantaged. In addition to the many formal institutions of charity, there are an untold number of private acts of charity that escape public attention altogether but which, nevertheless, add a most humanizing element to social life.
Only by ignoring altogether the multitude of non-coercive acts of charity that exist all around us can you begin to believe your assumption that the government was the only institution that would have helped You and your folks through your severe health problem. Admittedly, the government did come to your help, but that doesn’t prove no one else would have. All it demonstrates for sure is that no one else needed to.
Your second assumption springs quite naturally from your first. If people will not voluntarily assist their neighbors, then the only way to get them to do so is to force them into it.
Who is to do the forcing? If all people are naturally uncaring and selfish then we cannot hope to find anyone possessing the qualities of mercy and generosity needed to care for the unfortunate. Any who step forward for the task must immediately be suspect for their true motives.
However, if you now deny your first proposition and allow that there indeed are people possessed of the qualities needed to unselfishly aid their brothers, then there are two questions that need be asked.
1) Why is a coercive power needed to force people to pay for this charity if there are people who will voluntarily shoulder the burden of their less fortunate neighbors? If you answer that it is because there aren’t enough of these people around with enough money to adequately take care of the needs of the disadvantaged, then:
2) Where do those who use government to force others to pay the bill for this coerced “charity” get the privilege of playing Robin Hood? Were do they get the right to take the products of one persons labor and forcibly redistribute it to someone else who has not earned it? You are ignoring the one person in this highwayman’s game who is always a victim – the taxpayer. When you tax him you have admitted that he wouldn’t freely have given you his money, so where do you get the right to reach into his pocket to take what you want from him? You may try to excuse this act of thefta as being necessary for a noble purpose, but don’t hide its nature as an act of plunder. Who is there that will protect the producer from the ravishing raids of the politically powerful who have set upon their course of plunder wrapped behind a cloak of humanitarianism?
No Divine Right
Long ago we should have given up the notion that there is som kind of divine right among rulers, that these political masters are cut from a different cloth than the rest of humankind. This fairy tale just doesn’t wash. The presence of such jewels as Richard Nixon and Co. should cause even the most believing of today’s believers to question the notion that members of the political class have particularly noble and generous characters and are possessed of angelic qualities lacking in the rest of humanity. The governing class is not an elite arising from the people ordained to save mankind from itself. If history should teach us anything, it is that the political class is composed basically of self-servers who thirst for power and privilege and who have found in government the perfect vehicle to achieve their purpose. They are not the noble denizens of this earth that you picture them to be.
You have suggested that an anarchist world would be one full of bandits and gun duels. But the truth is quite contrary. It’s a world in which states exist that is full of banditry and gun duels. Governments are virtually unable to check the acts of individual violence that abound in this country and in many cases are directly and indirectly involved in causing them. Throw in a hopelessly outdated court system that doesn’t dispense justice and hardly even gets around to dispensing the law, and you have a system that fails miserably to operate the one service government defenders always claim government alone is capable of providing.
But beyond that there is one fact that government defenders often choose to ignore. That is: The biggest and most aggressive bandits and murderers are the governments themselves. Whatever violence there would be in anarchist societies could only pale in comparison to the violence governments through wars and persecutions have brought to human history.
The legalized murder and plunder that go under the name of war are the creations of your beloved government. All the broken lives, destroyed homes, mained individuals and slaughtered peoples that war leaves in its wake are the children of that state that you so unhesitatingly turn to to be the defender of the downtrodden and helpless.
For everyone like you who has benefitted from the state’s system of organized theft, there are dozens whose lives have been ruined or destroyed by that same state. Government stands condemned by it own record as an institution that for centuries has been responsible for massive terror, torture, and slaughter. Government has no equal in this grizzly busines – and never will.
what I have written so far has largely been a negative response to your remarks. Let me for a bit approach this subject from the positive aspect of anarchism. Anarchism is not a dead or negative philosophy as you suggest – it is very much alive with a positive message for humankind. Far from being solely bent on trying to tear down government, anarchists are a people of peace who ask nothing more than that people respect the humanity and individuality of each other and reject coercion as a way of life. Of course we condemn government every opportunity we get because we recognize it as the single greatest threat there is to human peace and well being. But our attacks on the state are rooted not only in our knowledge that government by its very nature is destructive of true society, but also in our conviction that the full benefits of social life can come only to free people, and, conversely, that only free people can create a climate where true society can flourish.
Anarchist societies will place responsibility for order directly on free individuals, not on formal government. As William Reichert pointed out so well in his book Partisans of Freedom, authoritarians place their faith in the repressive state while anarchists put their trust in social man.
Paraphrasing David T. Wieck, Reichert writes: “Anarchism is not opposed to organization that depends upon the authoritarian principle of command and compulsion for its success. An anarchist society, building upon th social responsibility and initiative of primary groups acting voluntarily, will gradually develop the libertarian social foundations essential for a truly free society.”
Anarchism doesn’t pretend to offer answers to all the social, economic, and political problems that confront us. It’s no grand blueprint that attempts to spell out in detail how anarchist societies of the future will be organized and will solve the problems that confront them.
You challenge me to “set up a society from its roots and project how you see it would be in 100 years under anarchy.” In doing so you approach anarchist political philosophy with the same premises you have borrowed from statist ideology. You suggest by such a comment that it is in the power of an anarchist to dream up some social model and program how people would exist in that sort of world. Statists have been trying to do that for centuries and they’ve always failed.
We don’t view people as clay to be shaped and moulded according to our schemes and we have no desire to create models for the future. It’s not because our imaginations lack the vitality possessed by other mortals. Rather, it’s due to our belief that people know what they want out of life, know how best to achieve it for themselves, and, if left alone, will do so in an orderly and peaceful manner.
We’re no afflicted by the urge to create grand designs and then pretend somehow that these visions bear any relationship to what is or could be.
In sum, then, the question is not whether anarchist societies will take care of those who are unable to provide for themselves, but rather whether the aid some few have received from the government isn’t greatly overbalanced by the misery, destruction and chaos that governments have always wreaked on the human community. Read Entire Article
by Michael E. Coughlin
Objections to Anarchism – The Principles of Anarchism are Timeless Truths was originally published in serial form in the dandelion between Summer 1977 and Summer 1979.