Educating for anarchism

3 July 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in diary, philosophy | 23 Comments »

I was just finishing up at the post office this morning, mailing out the letters I wrote yesterday, when I got a phone call from a client.

(Matters of inconsequential fact have been changed to protect identities and my business relationships.)

Client: Hey Mike, I have a small job that needs to be translated within 2 hours. It’s in your email, can you do it?

Me: Sure, I’ll be home in a few minutes and take a look.

So I go home and check my email, and look at this document he’s sent me. It’s something to do with a civic organization applying for a grant from one of the EU’s panoply of wealth-redistribution organs.

I email him back:

Actually, I’m sorry but I won’t take this job.

I’m an anarchist. As such, I won’t do any work that supports government in any way.

Sorry for the surprise, but you’ll have to find someone else for this.


An instant messaging conversation ensues:

Client: i’m shocked. you surprised me.
Me: hehe πŸ™‚
Client: do you know someone else who can help?
Client: i need it in 2 hours
Me: you can try [this other guy, contact info provided] (question to myself: shouldn’t I have just said “no”, helping to further monkeywrench the job?)
Client: i’m also sending you a second file if you can do that
Client: thanks. do you know him?
Me: yes. he’s a pro.
Client: great. thanks.
Me: good luck. what’s this other file?
Client: euro funds….but for my friend also
Me: sorry but no chance, for the same reason. i won’t do any work involving getting money from governments, or helping governments operate. The only things I will do are documents that people and businesses are forced to complete by governments…
Client: hm…ok…
Client: but….
Client: i still can’t understand this…
Me: all government money comes from taxation
Me: taxation is stealing
Client: i know…
Me: i wouldn’t like to be part of the crime
Client: but what should we do?
Client: everybody is involved…
Me: resist, ignore, evade, refuse to cooperate, sabotage πŸ˜‰
Client: i’m a taxpayer too (they steal my money), so maybe this is a small legal opportunity to get some of it back πŸ™‚
Me: stealing it back is one thing
Me: but if I do work for the state and get paid, I get some money back, BUT I still lose the value of my work, and I help the state operate
Me: the math doesn’t work out. i and others still lose.
Client: come on… get over it :-p
Me: not on this, sorry
Client: ok
Client: what should i do?
Me: find someone else or refuse the job
Client: can’t refuse…
Client: it’s for my good friend…and I don’t wanna dissapoint him
Client: if i pay you more, is there any possibility?
Me: for me no, it’s a matter of principle
Client: ok…it’s your business…
Client: anyway thanks for the contact
Me: sure.
Client: have a nice day… i’m off to work.
Client: bye
Me: cheers

  1. 23 Responses to “Educating for anarchism”

  2. By Azrael on 3 July 2008

    Wow standing strong and educating good for you.

  3. By Martin on 3 July 2008

    Very practical example how everybody who wants to crash the state can act. No compromise.

  4. By Aaron Kinney on 3 July 2008

    Holy shit Mike! I said it before and Ill say it again. You are hardcore.

    Good job πŸ™‚

  5. By Danoteles on 3 July 2008

    Well done Mike! Really looking forward to meeting you in person:)

  6. By Francois Tremblay on 3 July 2008

    He is NOT hardcore. Everyone should be already doing this!

  7. By Mike Gogulski on 3 July 2008

    Thanks, gentlemen, and even to Francois, who I hereby nominate as anarchism’s unofficial coxswain πŸ™‚

  8. By Peter Kovar on 3 July 2008

    nice work πŸ™‚ but what about those, who are trying to eliminate the power of those structures from inside? Are they the right ones to blame either?

  9. By Mike Gogulski on 3 July 2008

    There are many minarchist libertarians and pragmatic anarchists who will disagree with me, but I believe that trying to work within the state to eliminate it is futile. At the same time, I believe that taking tax money for performing services for the state — as an elected official, political appointee, bureaucrat or contractor or supplier — is to share in the crime that is taxation. Good ends are seldom achieved through evil means.

  10. By Danoteles on 3 July 2008

    Peter, participation in politics (in traditional sense) is only very marginal strategical means on libertarian/anarchist agenda. I believe in limiting it to perhaps signing of petitions organised by NGOs and addressed to parliament, but some anarchists find even this obejectionable.

  11. By John Petrie on 3 July 2008

    Wicked hahdcoah! You’re a good example for anarchists and non-anarchists alike. I’m reminded of a quote by Alfred Adler: “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.”

  12. By Mike Gogulski on 5 July 2008

    Thanks, John. I guess it’s testimony to how far off the collective rocker I am that I find myself agreeing a bit with Francois. I’d like to educate, here, but damnit if I shall be considered hardcore. Would that each person found this logic within themselves, and expressed it in their own way. To be exceptional in proclaiming heresy is perhaps noble in its way, but that nobility attains value only when it is accepted by others on its merits.

    Once again, though, thank you πŸ™‚

  13. By Aaron Kinney on 7 July 2008


    What you meant to say (or should have meant to say) is that EVERYONE SHOULD BE hardcore like Mike.

    Whether or not a given action is popular has no bearing on its “hardcoreness.” Francois of all people should be aware of the argumentum ad populum fallacy πŸ˜›

  14. By Aaron Kinney on 7 July 2008

    Re: Mike,

    There are many minarchist libertarians and pragmatic anarchists who will disagree with me, but I believe that trying to work within the state to eliminate it is futile. At the same time, I believe that taking tax money for performing services for the state β€” as an elected official, political appointee, bureaucrat or contractor or supplier β€” is to share in the crime that is taxation. Good ends are seldom achieved through evil means.

    I have often thought about this too. But on the other hand, is it truly “futile” to try to defeat one’s enemy by making them fall upon their own sword?

    I think not.

    While that doesn’t mean that I’m gonna go out voting or running for some government position, I do believe that there is nothing “wrong” or inherently “futile” in using government’s own tools and actions against it, or even tricking it into attacking itself.

  15. By Mike Gogulski on 8 July 2008


    I see your point, but when I wrote “work within the state” I meant “do work for the state in exchange for compensation”.

    Making the beast fall on its own sword is a powerful idea, but I don’t really see it happening. States tend to expand and claim more power for themselves when they are injured except via war, coup or successful revolution. If we’re going to rule those methods out, it seems to me that the only real weapon we have left is education, with the goal in mind of convincing people, one at a time, to withdraw their internalized support for the state and to begin seeking non-state solutions to those legitimate social and economic problems to which states address themselves.

  16. By Mr. B on 17 July 2008

    Interesting…I was drawn to the article’s title because I am an anarchist and an educator, but I’m not sure how much of this boycotting all “helping” governments operate I can agree with. I’m a substitute teacher for the state of California, and I find the Governator’s signature on my paychecks deliciously ironic. The state provides me with a platform from which to encourage young people to question it. It pays me to undermine its legitimacy.

    There is no oversight at my job. I get my assignments from a computer; I have no adult supervision in the classroom. I’ve been doing and saying whatever I want in front of a classroom for two years now, encouraging six classes of high school students to question the system that brought them under my authority.

    I’ve also worked in the private sector for many years (teaching is not my only job) and I am still nowhere near collecting more money from my pay than I estimate the state has taken from me through its many and varied means of expropriation. To me, marking my timesheets without providing the benefits the state expects from employing me is my way of repatriating my own stolen property. And if I do cross that line from net loss to net gain, well, so what? Every penny the state puts in my pocket is a penny not spent on tasers, tear gas, etc. By soaking up as much of the state’s wealth as possible we can accelerate its decline.

    When I started teaching, I was afraid to work for the state, not just because I dreaded the idea that my actions might do something to support it, but because I thought working in such an environment might corrupt me into a rent-seeking bureaucrat like most of the public employees I’ve had the displeasure of encountering. However, paradoxically, the state’s incredible inefficiency gives me, as far as I can tell, perfect freedom to behave however I wish at work. If anyone was watching me I would have been fired long ago. For a while, when I started, I was just waiting for the axe to drop, but if it hasn’t by now I don’t know what I could do to bring it down upon me.

    I’ve also got a master’s degree in economics from a heavily subsidized state college and I’m currently taking more subsidized classes at Berkeley in preparation for a PhD program. If all goes well, I will be a tenured economics professor paid by the state to advance…anti-statism. If educators will be the swords that slay the beast, the beast is doing a fine job of forging them.

    Like how Marx said capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, statism is sowing its own crop. And it feels good to be one of those seeds. I think it’s something more of us should embrace.

  17. By marta pe on 18 July 2008

    Mr. B, you are my prophet! i’ve been considering exactly this solution for a while, and i think it’s the most effective AND ethical one.

    But i don’t think you can sabotage every government action (e.g., how was Mike supposed to react?), so you’re left with a boycott.

  18. By john on 12 June 2009

    Hey good on you for sticking to your guns, but dont you ever get tired of swimming against the current all the time? I get tired of living in a world where everyone else seems to be nuts and I have to put up with their crap rules and regulations and ways, sure I might struggle and rebel but it seems so big, all pervasive and totalitarian.

  19. By Mike Gogulski on 12 June 2009

    @john: The overall tendency in the universe is toward complete entropy. The big bang is still cooling down.

    Some of us, though, still have the fire.

  20. By Angus Palmberg on 16 August 2010

    Things like this make me proud to be a part of the human race. I guess there still is some hope after all.

  1. 4 Trackback(s)

  2. 29 July 2008: Market Anarchist Carnival — July Edition « without hyphens
  3. 17 August 2008: My muddy anti-corporate anarchist ethics |
  4. 28 December 2008: The troubles of an anarchist blogger | No Treason
  5. 13 January 2009: Educating for anarchism #4 — a reply to FSK |

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