A few months back, I was having a conversation with an atheist who made the point that atheists don’t necessarily believe in no god, just that they don’t believe in God–the monotheistic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is a worthy distinction to make, one which gets lost in most conversations about religion.
Perhaps this is analogous in certain respects to anarchism. This word strikes contempt and perhaps even fear into the hearts of many, and perhaps it comes from a misconception of what anarchism really is. The popular mind seems to equate anarchism with chaos, perhaps because of the more notorious anarchistic violent protesters who tend to make the news and represent the rest of us poorly. Chaos, however, is far from what serious anarchists have in mind. Anarchism would have society “organized” (not in the socialist sense of this word) by forces other than a State or even a government.
This idea is hardly unprecedented. The ancient Jews had a system which was nearly anarchistic in which disputes were taken to prophets to be resolved. After a certain time they asked God for permission to crown a king, which permission was granted, and after which all hell broke loose. In the American colonies, after the abysmal failure of collectivist systems, the scheme that proved most successful was a largely self-governed free market. More than that, sheriffs in the early days of the American republic were hired by the populace in their jurisdictions–a far cry from our current justice system.
Many will protest that this is all just a big pipe dream, that surely society must have some sort of central organization in order to function properly. This objection ignores one crucial fact: the market always provides the commodities that are needed, and this could even apply to law and order. What is more, a free market (contrary to what most were taught in civics religion class) will not tolerate any monopolies, including the present day problem of the State’s monopoly on coercion and violence, which has proven to be disastrous and unjust. The free market would do much more to ensure that the rights of all would be guarded effectively.
All of this is to say that when you hear someone say they are an anarchist, try not to assume that they’ve got pink hair and ten thousand body piercings.
Filed under: anarchism