Posted in philosophy | 14 Comments »
Just under a week ago I announced here that I’ve dropped my preferences and declared myself an anarchist without adjectives. I then proposed a series of questions which one might entertain to determine whether one really ought or ought not consider oneself a libertarian/anarchist (the two terms being interchangeable in their best senses).
The response was staggering. 134 comments on a single blog post here is a record likely to stand for quite a while. The post also spawned an enormous (182 comments) reddit thread on /r/anarchism and a smaller (34 comments) one on /r/libertarian, plus an essay (with footnotes!) by Alex Peak and a point-by-point reply by b psycho of the Psychopolitik 2.0 blog.
I responded to b psycho on his post, but Alex’s site doesn’t allow commenting so I’ll follow up here on two things he wrote there.
First, Alex asks: “But what does it mean to say that private property might be ‘impossible’ in a free society?” Here, my wording was poor. A better formulation would have been to ask about one’s preferences regarding the proposition that private property wouldn’t exist in a free society. I missed the mark with my language, but stimulated the discussion I wanted to create anyway.
Alex then objects to my statement (in a comment) that property is a social construct, bringing in an argument regarding someone going and living off the land by themselves. I suggest that the isolated individual’s notions of property are irrelevant until he or she comes into contact with other human beings. It is only in interactions with other people that claims to property become worthy of consideration, and it is thereby a social process which determines what particular claims will be respected and which will not. Questions regarding Robinson’s property claims absent interactions with others simply vanish from relevance.
I’d now like to ask my dear readers a similar set of questions, again with the necessary caveats: the formulations of the questions also reflect my preferences, may be poorly worded, and are asked given the context that we can’t know what a free society looks like. Additionally, when I refer to “free societies”, I do not mean static, crystalline things never subject to change. Take the term, rather, as meaning “the early stages of a flexible, free society, subject to any number of changes going forward” if that makes you more comfortable.
- If all things (except people and abandoned or never-owned things) are private property in a free society, do you prefer the state?
- If free societies are such that states never arise from them, even if things are so awful that a minimal state might seem justified, do you prefer retaining the state against that risk?
- If free societies are rife with beliefs and practices you condemn (domineering religion, poison culture, sexism, bigotry, racism), do you prefer the state?
- If living in a free society means that more children than today are beaten, abused, indoctrinated or otherwise harmed, do you prefer the state?
- If free societies are characterized by more crime, random violence and fraud than statist ones, not counting the crimes of states themselves, do you prefer the state?
- If transitioning to a free society requires those you love to change big portions of their lives — in ways perhaps unimaginable now — do you prefer the state?
- If mega-corporations along the Exxon-Lockheed-Monsanto model thrive in free societies, do you prefer the state?
- If intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc.) is stronger than today in a free society, do you prefer the state?
- If wage labor, profit, rent and interest are common and desired by many in free societies, do you prefer the state?
- If pollution of any sort is worse in free societies, do you prefer the state?
I assert, of course without proof, that if you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not really an anarchist. Or a libertarian.
Join the lively discussion by posting your objections, critiques, arguments, disputes and complaints below!