Anarchy Sucks
April 13, 2014 9:46 AM   Subscribe

 
Hail Hydra!
posted by briank at 9:54 AM on April 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


I think the villagers reckoned that though they could kill us and steal our money, the risk of vengeance by our Northern Alliance protectors outweighed any possible gain. And this of course is the same logic that drives law-abiding behaviour in our more civilized lands. It is the fear of a larger power that will at some later date make us pay for our depredations that keeps us all in line.
Eh. I'm all for reasonable and effective law enforcement, but this claim strikes me as similar to the surprisingly common occurrence of a theist wondering why atheists don't just kill and rape and steal. I'm glad that your fear of punishment, whether by a god or by a government or by whomever, stops you from acting out your psychopathic impulses, but don't assume that just because you are a psychopath, everyone else is too.
posted by Flunkie at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2014 [41 favorites]


hmmm. the first link is well enough presented, some compelling anecdotes, but the conclusion is effectively, anarchy sucks so you best just shut up and embrace your local coercive, bureaucratic, corrupt (insert your own negative adjective here) western democracy ... as if there is no conceivable middle ground.

Or, just let Tom Streithorst say it himself ...

We in the west are so accustomed to police and courts of law and calling 911 that we take them for granted. The conservative antipathy to government, the Reaganite notion that “Government is the problem,” is a tad adolescent, complaining about mom and dad, forgetting they feed us, house us and do the laundry. And the liberal assumption that government exists to serve the interest of the people is also naïve. Government power at its deepest level is coercive. I don’t pay my taxes because I support government policies, I pay my taxes because if I don’t the state can take my house, or throw me in jail. Thank God for that.

Seriously? That's the best you've got? Maybe just keep to the reporting and steer clear of analysis.
posted by philip-random at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


So was Calvin.
posted by Fizz at 10:04 AM on April 13, 2014


Weird juxtaposition of links.
posted by Segundus at 10:06 AM on April 13, 2014


So was Calvin.

See also: Fermi Paradox.

Also, was kind of disappointed because I was expecting an article extolling the virtues of monarchy.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that your fear of punishment, whether by a god or by a government or by whomever, stops you from acting out your psychopathic impulses, but don't assume that just because you are a psychopath, everyone else is too.

Agreed. It is the oldest excuse for oppressing people that there is -- some of us do not need saving from ourselves because we are not wicked savages who would go steal and slaughter if we could get away with it. Some of us can be trusted no matter what system or lack of one is out there...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:25 AM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hobbes was right that anarchy sucks...he's hardly the only one to realize this, of course.

Hobbes wasn't right that the only alternative is to invest absolute authority in the sovereign... Not that I think this really needs to be pointed out
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:29 AM on April 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


...some of us do not need saving from ourselves because we are not wicked savages who would go steal and slaughter if we could get away with it...

This ignores context. Would you be such a "savage" if you grew up in an anarchic region where the government did nothing to protect you and your family?
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Would you be such a "savage" if you grew up in an anarchic region where the government did nothing to protect you and your family?

I remember a few years back, the top Canadian military officer in Afghanistan making the unpopular statement that the only way to do the mission right was to commit to it for fifteen-twenty years. Because the only way to achieve anything close to a lasting peace in the region was for a generation to grow up with some kind of sustained protection from the warlords, and thus the ability to imagine some other kind of "normal".

Canada recently pulled out its last troops after less than thirteen years.
posted by philip-random at 10:56 AM on April 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Flunkie: "Eh. I'm all for reasonable and effective law enforcement, but this claim strikes me as similar to the surprisingly common occurrence of a theist wondering why atheists don't just kill and rape and steal. I'm glad that your fear of punishment, whether by a god or by a government or by whomever, stops you from acting out your psychopathic impulses, but don't assume that just because you are a psychopath, everyone else is too."

-----------

So, when I was first moving away from Christianity, and one of my Christian friends and I were talking on the phone and I was telling her about it, she just had this sound in her voice of bewilderment and fear... "How do you not murder someone then? If you don't have God telling you not to, you could do horrible things!" and I asked her "Do you really think you would murder someone if you didn't believe in God? Like, the only thing keeping you from killing someone is because God told you to?" and she said "Yes!" and I got downright scared thinking that someone doesn't have in innate sense of right and wrong, or at least perceive that their innate sense of right and wrong is innate. Sure it's not uber innate (I mean, to a certain extent, these are socially constructed mores -- in a way, echoing what sonic meat machine just said "what if you grew up in an anarchic region...?" -- but in the end, it is not 100% the outside moral police telling us what to do that keeps us doing the "Right" thing). The fact that someone feared the idea so much that they thought I would instantly turn into a murdering lying raping pillaging monster is a terrifying thought about what they think of the world and ultimately themselves.

She, admittedly, was younger than I, and I was maybe like 19 or 20, so she was still growing up, and I hope that she has changed her views over the years, but reading Flunkie's comment there reminded me that there are indeed people who truly believe this. That the only alternative to enforced moral jurisdiction of an almighty being is 100% moral relativism (and situational ethics gets mixed up in that as well, when brought up from the pulpit, even though they're related, they are distinct concepts).
posted by symbioid at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


but the conclusion is effectively, anarchy sucks so you best just shut up and embrace your local coercive, bureaucratic, corrupt (insert your own negative adjective here) western democracy ... as if there is no conceivable middle ground.

I'm not sure we're reading the same article. The conclusion I took away is this: political discourse about government is way oversimplified on both the left and right. And yes, bad government beats no government pretty much any day. It takes a pretty oversimplified and uncharitable reading of this to assume he is condoning bad government or suggesting that working to change it is useless.

Great article.
posted by hamandcheese at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


The GIFs on the other hand: meh.
posted by hamandcheese at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2014


I'm glad that your fear of punishment, whether by a god or by a government or by whomever, stops you from acting out your psychopathic impulses, but don't assume that just because you are a psychopath, everyone else is too.

That's exactly what a psychopath would say.
posted by michaelh at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


...reminded me that there are indeed people who truly believe this. That the only alternative to enforced moral jurisdiction of an almighty being is 100% moral relativism

This is my experience too. I like to remind these folks that freedom and morality are the same. If you can't determine and choose a moral action based on reason and facts, then we haven't examined any moral action to take, and we find ourselves equating all sin with murder. Moral codes evolve to eliminate disagreement and set up a clear boundary of right and wrong, however arbitrary or absurd. As a result, they often eliminate those who disagree, however minor the point of doctrine, because disagreement is the worst sin of all. Moral codes are the basis for cultural atrocity, because they justify it. But when we are free to choose moral actions, we typically use self-reasoning and begin from the equality premise or golden rule.
posted by Brian B. at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that your fear of punishment, whether by a god or by a government or by whomever, stops you from acting out your psychopathic impulses, but don't assume that just because you are a psychopath, everyone else is too.

But, I mean, the basic concepts of murder and psychopathology are sort of inextricably bound to the cultural context of growing up and living in a nation-state with a monopoly of violence. If you were part of a culture where violence was controlled with blood feud or weregild, it's the height of naive universalism to imagine you would have the same beliefs and behaviors about when violence was acceptable that you do as a middle-class Westerner. That's not merely because of the state's ability to use force to punish you for breaking laws, but because of the whole cultural-ideological value package that co-developed with it. There are certainly other value sets that have existed that condemn violence even in the absence of the power of the state - pre-genocide Moriori culture, for example - but they are far from being the universal human condition except in "psychopaths".
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:43 AM on April 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


It takes a pretty oversimplified and uncharitable reading of this to assume he is condoning bad government or suggesting that working to change it is useless.

I guess I just took issue with his assumption (present both in his closing paragraph and the choice of headline) that I (a reasonably mature, not atypical reader) might actually believe that full-on ANARCHY!!! could be the solution to anything, that I didn't already have a fairly sophisticated take on the individual freedom vs security state discussion. I mean, who's he addressing here? Mostly male early-twenty-somethings with black balaclavas in their sock drawers?
posted by philip-random at 11:56 AM on April 13, 2014


this claim strikes me as similar to the surprisingly common occurrence of a theist wondering why atheists don't just kill and rape and steal.

One of Pierre Bayle's arguments for for why atheism should be legally tolerated involved at looking at the behaviour of Christians. Countries that were Christian by law still needed laws and law enforcement to keep Christians from murdering each other. Surely keeping atheists in line couldn't be any worse.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:57 AM on April 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


None of the situations he uses for examples seem to be examples of anarchy. War is not anarchy. War, is a hierarchical system imposing its will on a populace and/or political unit. The New York example is also a puzzling example of anarchy. The term anarchy is being bandied about in this article as if there is one definition of anarchism that is universally accepted. I guess it's also possible that the author just didn't do his homework and is ignorant of philosophical anarchism. This article seems to be a fairly vapid endorsement of authoritarianism.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:49 PM on April 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


There is no such thing as anarchy, just systems where the powerful are checked with greater or lesser degrees of accountability.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:02 PM on April 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


One thing that bugs me about articles like this is how they use the words we and us. By bringing us these isolated examples, we're supposed to generalize them, not just to all cultures and situations, but all people too, including ourselves.

It's not just the rule of law that's keeping me from trying to steal cameras, sell dope or shoot people. It's a sense of fellow-feeling, that part of my mind that winces when I see something bad happen to someone else, that knows that could have been me.

I'm not an amoral actor looking to extract maximum value from all situations damn the consequences, and most of the rest of us aren't either. That's just the way I was brought up and educated. My point is, the value of good upbringing and education is a much greater aid to civilization than that of the iron glove of the state.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is no such thing as anarchy

Well except for the fact that there is. If you are trying to say that it has never been implemented, then yes I agree, but philosophical anarchism is most assuredly a thing.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I also have to say, it's a shame those animal GIFs are below the fold, because many of them are hilarious.
posted by JHarris at 1:34 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I tend to buy the stat that 1-3% of the population is a natural born sociopath. I hope that nurture can beat nature in this, but the state of the situation right now is that there's one for every subway car.

A lot of the population is true neutral and goes where they see momentum. That's how a charismatic sociopath can gain control of a scenario.

One thing that haunts me is the hall of Pulitzer Prize winning photos at the Newseum. So many of them are of lynchings and public murder. When you look carefully at those photos, many of those group scenes will show a mostly neutral mob, one psychotic grin of true enjoyment and one furrowed, concerned bystander face. Good and evil and a sea of empty faces.

We have to teach people to not be bystanders anymore. We have to show the neutral majority that they are the power that sets the direction because that's the truth. 1-3% only gets to rule when no one else is willing to step up.
posted by Skwirl at 1:49 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, the ideal of political anarchism is impossible. Why? Because among the anarchists will be someone who wants the anarchy to become a monarchy. All it takes is a couple of guys to think his ideas sound pretty good for him to have a little gang. Once he has a little gang, He can go around and maybe take down a few rivals who also had little gangs. Then he's got a bigger gang—and so on.

Essentially, if there is no state, there is war between the few people who have the mentality to want war, crushing the "peasant" (that is, normal people) underfoot. Most of the modern era's "dictators" are just kings by another name, who won their kingdom in a power vacuum.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:58 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how any of the examples given in the first article have anything to do with anarchy, to be honest.
posted by adso at 2:04 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you are trying to say that it has never been implemented, then yes I agree, but philosophical anarchism is most assuredly a thing.

That's true, but I don't need to believe in God to believe in the existence of Catholicism. We're talking about two very different things there (neither of which are super-relevant to this conversaiton, it seems, so maybe I'll just stop derailing any further.)
posted by Navelgazer at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, we get it. You've been to Afghanistan, it was intense, and by association you're kind of intense. Something, something Hobbes.
posted by gallois at 2:37 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


None of the situations he uses for examples seem to be examples of anarchy.

I'm not sure how any of the examples given in the first article have anything to do with anarchy, to be honest.

Depends on how you define the word. I think he's talking about Force without freedom and law. I think you're talking about Law and freedom without force. Technically your definition is more accurate, but I can see where he's coming from.

I think his essay is an interesting interpretation of Hobbes. I think philosophical anarchism is pretty idealistic. It's useful for critiquing governments, but I wouldn't trust it to defend me in a melee. I know that I personally don't need the rule of law to prevent myself from running amok, but I'm old and lazy. When I was 7 years old, I actually did need the threat of force to prevent myself from causing mayhem. On a limited scale.
posted by ovvl at 2:39 PM on April 13, 2014


Well when Hobbes was 72 years old England was so screwed up they brought the monarchy back. Compared to that cockup we are doing just swell.
posted by bukvich at 3:11 PM on April 13, 2014


In my view, anarchism in the Hobbesian sense is something that is ever-present and kept in check only to some degree by laws and the action of the state, in combination with the agreement of peoples' better nature. Groups in which this anarchism has been mitigated have developed, in history, from gangs and communes, to city states, to countries - always having boundaries and hinterlands. There has been a tendency for these groups to grow and connect, in modern history - although there have also been periods of dissolution of these entities within the broader scope of history, and in various parts of the world.

It seems to me that today, the Hobbesian brutal free-for-all type of anarchism is actually most prevalent - on a different level, so to speak - in the global markets. Only there are anarchy and "freedom" from taxation and regulation held up as shining principles. But there are also regulation, taxation, and laws, within contexts of the markets. There are communities of entities, with trust and shared values, underlined by codes of conduct.

I hope the story of our current global cultures can get to a point where the safety and freedoms afforded to individuals in modern states is something that can also be achieved within global markets, moving away from the currently evident disparate Hobbesian anarchism with strongholds of power and wealth, to a global "contract of state" between financial entities, corporations, governments and people, with similar level of security and freedom. With the freedom that laws, services and institutions bring, and a common majority acceptance of the right systems being in place for the right reasons.
posted by iotic at 3:17 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes the rise of finance brought higher paying jobs to Manhattan, yes rents went up, pricing out the mooks. But the simplest, most basic answer is that cops came back to the streets.
This is insanely bad analysis.
posted by Catchfire at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


"So, when I was first moving away from Christianity, and one of my Christian friends and I were talking on the phone and I was telling her about it, she just had this sound in her voice of bewilderment and fear... "How do you not murder someone then? If you don't have God telling you not to, you could do horrible things!" and I asked her "Do you really think you would murder someone if you didn't believe in God? Like, the only thing keeping you from killing someone is because God told you to?" and she said "Yes!"

Uh, so...Honestly, turning into an atheist really did make me a worse person in some relatively minor ways. I'll admit it freely. I stopped feeling nearly as much guilt, and I'm kind of just much more of a bitch now.

But considering that what made me an atheist in the first place was largely the "problem of evil" and reading Man's Search for Meaning (holocaust memoir) + some pagan Roman authors, it's safe to say I already had a very strong, probably innate, sense of justice that Christianity ultimately just could not satisfactorily answer.

Taking advantage of Christians, honestly, is pretty easy. I don't blame them at all for being afraid of atheists. That's why I stick up for them so much- they need it!

(Also, though, it was weirdly incredibly empowering to realize that the "God" I had been talking to for so many years was essentially myself. The fact that people created a wise, all-loving father to emulate is really touching in a way, if you think about it. I'm not sure I so much discarded Christian ethics as just uber-internalized and individualized them. Kept the really broad strokes, anyway.)

The wellspring of religion is man and man's nature.
posted by quincunx at 4:00 PM on April 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


"So, when I was first moving away from Christianity, and one of my Christian friends and I were talking on the phone and I was telling her about it, she just had this sound in her voice of bewilderment and fear... "How do you not murder someone then? If you don't have God telling you not to, you could do horrible things!" and I asked her "Do you really think you would murder someone if you didn't believe in God? Like, the only thing keeping you from killing someone is because God told you to?" and she said "Yes!"

Penn Jillette Rapes All the Women He Wants To:
The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. I don't want to do that. Right now, without any god, I don't want to jump across this table and strangle you. I have no desire to strangle you. I have no desire to flip you over and rape you. You know what I mean?
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on April 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


What War Is Good For
Late in the 20th century, anthropologists learned that feuding and war were extremely common among the world’s last surviving Stone Age societies. On average, something like 10 to 20 percent of people in these societies died violently, and archaeologists suggest that similar rates applied in prehistoric Stone Age societies. In 20th-century industrialized societies, by contrast—despite two world wars, the use of atom bombs, and multiple genocides—just one to two percent of people died violently. And as Steven Pinker pointed out in his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, in the 21st century the rate is, so far, well below one percent. Why, even though our weapons keep getting more destructive, has the risk that anyone among us might die violently fallen so much? Can that trend continue?
The Resources To Prevent Democracy - "The main reason for the link between oil and authoritarianism, according to Ross and others, is straightforward: oil gives dictatorships money to buy off their citizens, so they don't have to democratize."

The Doom Loop of Oligarchy - "Over time, a political system that gives the wealthy more power is a political system that is going to do more to protect the interests of the wealthy. It's the Doom Loop of Oligarchy, and we're seeing it daily."
posted by kliuless at 10:27 PM on April 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


If you are trying to say that it has never been implemented, then yes I agree, but philosophical anarchism is most assuredly a thing.

Philosophical anarchism is like philosophical capitalism; if people all just behaved in the right way according to the theory, everything would be perfect, and the world would be a wonderful place.

In other words, I wish I lived in Theory; everything works there.
posted by happyroach at 12:37 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


In Central America, I wouldn't say it's anarchy, but maybe there are places that are anarchy-ish. The police are there but corrupt and ineffective. I was in places where armed gangs were openly patrolling the streets, where people's homes were covered in razor wire. Where you couldn't pump gas in your car without the safety of armed guards at the gas stations. It was tense, edgy.

But even in those conditions, most people I talked to were perfectly lovely and kind. In three months, I was only in one kinda scary situation, when I got lost in Santa Ana, El Salvador, and a guy covered in tattoos and with a perfect Southern California accent hassled me for money.

Anarchy isn't really a condition where everyone you talk to would just as soon rob you as help you. Most people act decent to each other, because they're decent. Even criminals aren't sociopaths, for the most part, and will act rationally-- I was told about one place in Guatemala that used to have a gang that preyed on tourists until the local drug runners 'took care of them', because it was attracting attention they didn't want, and was hurting the drug sales to backpackers, etc.

It's more that you don't have rights, as are commonly understood in the US. People can discriminate, they can pollute, they can rob you, they can extort you, and your only recourse is going to be whatever associations you have -- family, business associations, gangs, etc, that are willing to stand up for you, and people with the most money and weapons have the most rights.

It's not a state of living that's anything like a living hell, for the most part. I actually loved it down there and want to go back. But I have an American passport, and I can leave any time. That's not the case for people that live there-- if you drive a chicken bus and a gang shakes you down for money, your only option is going to be to pay, or leave, or die, or start a gang war. There's no going to the police, because they won't help you.

I have a hard time believing that anyone who advocates for anarchy has ever lived somewhere with no government.
posted by empath at 1:05 AM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that anarchists believe that governments are the biggest threats to their 'rights' and I think that anarchy only gives you the rights that you personally are willing to pick up a gun to protect.

Some people find the idea of living in the Wild West appealing, but IMO, it's a neat place to visit, but you wouldn't want to buy a house there.
posted by empath at 1:12 AM on April 14, 2014


Consciously anarchist societies have existed at least twice in the modern era: in the Ukrainian Free Territory around the time of the Russian Revolution, and the region around Catalonia around the time of the Spanish Civil War.

Both lasted around three years. Both functioned reasonably effectively in that time, but were not perfect. (In particular in Spain when the land was expropriated it went to whoever farmed it in accordance with anarchist theory: great if you were a tenant farmer, but wage labourers were shut out of both systems).

The Ukrainian Free Territory ended when it was conquered by Leninists. Anarchist Catalonia was first undermined by the Communists (who appealed to the middle classes by preaching much less radical expropriation) and then conquered by the Fascists.

Neither of them failed because people thought "Whoa, this really sucks compared with Representative Democracy, the pinnacle of all political development", but because they were forcibly conquered by totalitarian states with more military power than the anarchist militias.

I'm not sure whether anarchism is really the best way to run a society. But this article doesn't tell us much about how practical or desirable anarchy really is. To find out it would be more useful to look at the actual anarchistic societies, rather than war zones or modern states in economic downturn.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:28 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Being conquered is a failure of an anarchist state, because a lack of security is basically the defining feature of anarchy.
posted by empath at 1:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Humans are such tribal beings. We are often very loyal to anyone we consider a member of our tribe, but often quite hostile, or at least disinterested in those outside of it. Consider foreign aid, which is often aruged against by some because we should "take care of our people first". What does "our" people mean in this context? Do you know the poor and suffering in your nation better than the people in another nation?

The thing about the nation state is it sort of resolves the problem of tribalism at a local level by giving everyone in an area a joint identity. It seems clear that to at least some Afghan people, there isn't really such a thing as being an Afghan, rather being a member of a particular group of people in Afghanistan. Relationships between different tribes does seem to be mediated more on force than understanding.

I reject the idea that the government having lots of guns is what stops people in a nation breaking down, it is a sense that having a shared identity that does it. Of course the problem with the nation state model is that we end up with outsiders still, they're just a bit more geographically distant.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:00 AM on April 14, 2014


What a strange and confused article. Instead of "anarchy sucks" I guess he means "lawlessness sucks". Fair enough, I think we all agree with that. Hobbes and anarchism agree on that, too.

So, what then? Embrace authoritarianism? Is not authoritarianism a kind of lawlessness in its own right?

Anarchy does not mean lawlessness, chaos, and disorder - to me at least. It means non-hierarchical organisation. The kind that already exists in many areas of life. It does not mean "no government".

I'm no expert, but I think it's a little more nuanced than his realist "might makes right" argument.
posted by Acey at 4:28 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd be interested to know if the author feels the same about international relations. There's no "de jure" leader of the world and plenty of lawlessness: the rule of international law has been flouted by both the USA in Iraq and Russia in Crimea most recently. Yet I'd bet most people would be wary of giving one person authority over the world.
posted by Acey at 5:09 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Being conquered is a failure of an anarchist state, because a lack of security is basically the defining feature of anarchy.
It depends what you mean by "security".

What most people think of as "anarchy" is a condition where criminals, acting as either individuals or gangs; rob, murder and rape at will. That's the kind of "insecurity" people think of.

The author of this article seems to be seeking to confirm that that belief is true. He uses as his examples Afghanistan after the US invasion, and New York City in the Seventies.

However, those are not actually anarchistic societies. Real anarchistic societies don't seem to be particularly prone to that kind of "insecurity". See for instance The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution by Burnett Bolloton if you want a fairly neutral account of how Spanish anarchism actually worked.

The "insecurity" that people associate with anarchy isn't really the threat that a neighbouring state will come along and forcibly make you a part of that state.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:36 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Being conquered is a failure of an anarchist state

Between 1936 and 1939 Republican Spain held off Italy, Germany and Fascist Spain while under international blockade.

In 1940, Democratic France fought against the German invasion for one and a half months before surrendering.

If being conquered by Nazis is proof of failure in a system of government, anarchism is twenty times better than democracy.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


What a strange and confused article. Instead of "anarchy sucks" I guess he means "lawlessness sucks". Fair enough,

except, from my experience, even "lawlessness sucks" is a rather pointless statement unless you follow it up with which laws we actually require in order to live in something approaching peace and security. Because in my mostly functional community, we still have very many laws that, though they may have been enacted to achieve these things, really just get in the way of folks leading uncomplicated lives. Everything from our marijuana laws to zoning concerns that maybe made sense in 1936 but now just seem to exist to keep certain bureaucrats employed.

I remember talking to a friend who had recently seen Noam Chomsky give a talk (way back when in the 1980s before most folks had ever heard of him). In the Q+A, somebody had asked Chomsky how he defined an anarchist. He though about it for a moment, then said, "An anarchist is a good neighbor. He's there when you need him, invisible when you don't."

That's a definition I continue to work with when I'm discussing the issue, particularly with younger folks who are getting all wound up with militant stuff. "But would throwing up those barricades be neighborly? What if you picked up all the garbage instead?"
posted by philip-random at 10:53 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Hobbes wasn't right that the only alternative is to invest absolute authority in the sovereign... Not that I think this really needs to be pointed out"

Yeah, one of the big themes of a couple of my History of Democracy and Philosophy of Democracy classes was about the tension between popular power and stability or safety. Hobbes' answer worked for his time, and for me, his big advantage was the extremely methodical way that he thinks about rights in general; I think his vision of the state of nature is as fucked as Rousseau's, but emphasizing Hobbes like this essay does just ends up really reducing a lot of his insights to authoritarian boot-licking. (And don't even get me started on how no one reads the crazy fun theology that makes up basically the second half of the book — it's really cool to read that at the same time as the crazy theology at the end of The Republic.)

I tend to think that anarchism is a lot like communism: A great solution for small, voluntary groups, but kind of an impractically idealist approach when dealing with groups above a couple hundred or so. A lot of the psychological bulwarks that keep us from abstracting and dehumanizing people just peter out when the personal links are tenuous.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


A great solution for small, voluntary groups, but kind of an impractically idealist approach when dealing with groups above a couple hundred or so. A lot of the psychological bulwarks that keep us from abstracting and dehumanizing people just peter out when the personal links are tenuous.

Robin Dunbar proposed what is now called Dunbar's number. I first encountered this idea in David Wong's article for Cracked: What Is The Monkeysphere?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:04 PM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


an impractically idealist approach when dealing with groups above a couple hundred or so

I've always thought four was the magic number. No thin minority decisions. Everybody can more or less keep track of everybody else's motives and associations.

But once you've got five people, you've got all the problems of society.
posted by philip-random at 1:16 PM on April 14, 2014


... and then six is insane.



I grew up in a family of six, not counting the dog or the various hamsters and gerbils
posted by philip-random at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Republican Spain

A republic is kind of not anarchy by definition.
posted by empath at 6:26 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I've always thought four was the magic number. No thin minority decisions. Everybody can more or less keep track of everybody else's motives and associations.

But once you've got five people, you've got all the problems of society.
"

Reminds me of one of my uncle's favorite adages: "One dog's a good dog, two dogs're half a dog, and three dogs are no dog at all."
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 AM on April 15, 2014


I've always thought four was the magic number. No thin minority decisions. Everybody can more or less keep track of everybody else's motives and associations. But once you've got five people, you've got all the problems of society.

Hmm, I find this interesting.

Observe, in gaming, when you have only two players playing each other, it unavoidably becomes a zero-sum game: since there can be only one winner, everything that helps your opponent directly harms yourself. Because of this, inter-player trading mechanics are very difficult to make work in a two-player game, because one player will necessarily be the loser in that trade, which will make the player who didn't offer the trade suspicious.

Once you add a third player, the dynamics shift; it's possible to help another player without necessarily harming your own position. It's not inconceivable that there might be a similar threshold at five players, although I don't perceive what that would be. But games like Mafia/Are You A Werewolf really don't work unless you have at least five or six players, because those games are set up so to properly play them you have to have at least a certain number of players to fill in all the essential roles, and then enough "normal" players besides them to lend obscurity to their identity.

I wonder if something similar might be behind there being a qualitative change in the nature of a community when it hits a certain number of members?
posted by JHarris at 3:02 AM on April 15, 2014


Once you have a certain number of players, factions develop, and then you get a zero sum game situation again -- think Republicans vs Democrats.
posted by empath at 3:19 AM on April 15, 2014


Republicans vs. Democrats arose because of the peculiarities of our electoral system, which provides incentives for people to divide themselves into two factions. Other countries are able to sustain the existence of a third party more reasonably. There's nothing about thinking individuals that makes them band together into only two groups, provided there aren't other arbitrary rules in place that give them an incentive to do that. Or at least, that I see.
posted by JHarris at 3:44 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


show me a democracy where one percent of the vote gets you one percent of the representation and a fifty-one percent majority is viewed very suspiciously (ie: minority rights are pretty much enshrined) and I'm starting to see something that works, that doesn't immediately play to gamesmanship.

America doesn't seem to have it, and Canada's application of the parliamentary system doesn't really either. So we muddle on and wonder why young people are all cynical/apathetic about voting.

And so on.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 AM on April 15, 2014


A republic is kind of not anarchy by definition

Are you aware that North Korea calls itself a republic? That word, it may not mean as much as you think it means.

It would be most accurate to say that Republican Spain was governed by a coalition of anarchist, labour union syndicalist, communist, liberal lefty and Basque separatist parties. Basically everybody who didn't want to be a fascist or ultra-Catholic reactionary. The anarchist-syndicalist wing was dominant in the early years of the war. It turns out that anarchism is a really useful political philosophy in an overnight crisis like a coup because it's good at keeping things going when there's a total breakdown in central leadership. Self-organized militias were what stopped the fascist regular army from taking over the whole country in the early days of the war.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


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