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Anarchy in West Virginia

Posted Saturday, May 9, 2009, at 8:52 PM

The greatest threat to individual freedom is an efficient bureaucracy.

However, government is a necessary evil.

If everyone took responsibility for their own behavior and cooperated on the basis of trust, we would have no need for regulation and oversight. Unfortunately, the human race is imperfect and must enforce a set of reasonable rules to prevent injustice. But the imperfection of the human race often creates a set of unnecessary, unreasonable rules, creating even more injustice.

The only sane option is to limit government as much as possible by ensuring the maximum amount of individual freedom, thereby allowing individuals to do as they please as long as they are not harming others or infringing on the freedom of others.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republicans whom I can't stand, one nation under smog, indespicable with liberty and justice for some, not all."

The above words were inscribed on one of the T-shirts of 15-year-old Katie Sierra, a student at Sissonville High School in West Virginia. Some of her other T-shirts expressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan and similar perceived injustices. The fact that she was a new student with green hair and the World Trade Center Twin Towers had recently ceased to exist didn't exactly endear her to the rest of the conservative student body.

On October 23, 2001, Katie asked the school principal, Forrest Mann, if she could start an Anarchy Club so like-minded students could meet, have discussions and do community service. She presented Mann with the club Constitution that made it clear the club would not tolerate hate or violence. Her stated goal was "to dispel the myths about anarchism, especially the belief that anarchy is chaos and destruction."

Not too surprisingly, this request was about as welcome as a leaky bag of raw sewage. Not only was Katie forbidden to form an Anarchy Club, she was suspended from school for three days for "disrupting school activity."

Webster's dictionary defines anarchism as "a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups."

In other words, anarchy basically means the absence of government. It's the opposite of hierarchy, which denotes various levels of authority.

The Britannica defines anarchism as "the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government -- harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being."

There are many people who believe in this way of life. They contend that as both political philosophy and personal lifestyle, social anarchism promotes community self-reliance, direct participation in political decision-making, respect for nature, and nonviolent paths to peace and justice.

The anarchy movement has a long history in certain European countries, particularly in France and Germany.

As with most utopian schemes, it looks good in theory but won't work in reality. I remember back in the 60's and 70's when groups of dissatisfied folks, often called Hippies back then, rejected conventional society and formed communes. Almost every one of these entities failed, usually within a very short time frame.

While being exact opposites, anarchy and communism are almost the same thing.

In communism, everyone is considered equal, required to put forth an equal effort and given an equal amount in return. This would be a perfect world as long as everyone felt the same way. But those who disagree are virtually prisoners of the system, often sent off to a padded cell to be re-educated. Plus those in control of the system can't seem to curtail their greed and provide more for themselves than they allow for the masses.

Anarchy has the same drawback. It only works if everyone agrees with it. A world without government is a world without rules and there will always be those who take improper advantage of it.

Katie Sierra deserved better. She had an unpopular belief system and wanted to share it with others. Instead of allowing a free flow of ideas, her school principal chose to silence her.

America is not a place where the majority rule -- it's where we are all allowed to think and speak freely.

There's nothing wrong with a little government, especially locally. Personally, I like roads.

But if we could somehow reduce the federal government by about 90 percent, that would be fine with me too.

Unfortunately, the new Obama administration believes in promising more than it can deliver and delivering more than it can afford. Borrowing against the future and passing the burden of massive debt onto future generations is not only repugnant, it is immoral.

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Quote for the Day -- "The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government." Henry Ward Beecher

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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a pack of wild squirrels free from government scrutiny. His blogs appear on several websites, including www.myspace.com/bret1111

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Comments
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This has nothing to do with what anarchism is. Anarchism is the opposition to hierarchical social relationships, not to social organization as such. Obviously in an anarchist society one would not be allowed to infringe on the freedoms of others - the difference is that there would be no special group of people that decides what the laws are and is thus above the law (i.e. a State).

"The only sane option is to limit government as much as possible by ensuring the maximum amount of individual freedom, thereby allowing individuals to do as they please as long as they are not harming others or infringing on the freedom of others."

That's pretty much exactly what anarchism is. But if a government can be limited by its subjects, it's not really a government, and they are already governing themselves, therefore they are in a state of anarchy. The historical purpose of the State has always been to prevent the people from governing themselves, because (they were told) there would be chaos if people were allowed to govern themselves. If people can decide what their government does, it's not really a government, since the notion that people would be going around killing each other without a ruling class has already been called into question. If a State really is a State, it cannot be 'limited' by its subjects. The only thing that limits the powers of States is the threat of insurrection and/or revolution, in other words, of "anarchy"!

"As with most utopian schemes, it looks good in theory but won't work in reality."

Anarchism is not a utopian scheme but simply the suggestion that no person has legitimate authority over another. Centuries ago, the idea that there would ever be a society without slaves or absolute monarchs was considered ridiculously utopian.

"The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government."

This quote is absolutely correct. If the idea that trying to form social structures by treating others as equals is hopelessly naive, then it's even more naive to think that we will avoid this problem by granting power to those who seek to rule us, especially considering that this has never worked in human history.

"Government" and "the rules" do not just fall out of the sky. We can either choose to govern ourselves (anarchism), or hope that those who have declared themselves to be our rightful rulers will govern us fairly. Given the historical record, I wonder which one of those ideas is more of a utopian fantasy.

-- Posted by Makeminegovmint on Sat, May 9, 2009, at 10:16 PM

Well, where to begin.

"As with most utopian schemes..."

Strictly speaking, Anarchism is no utopian scheme. Ask any honest Anarchist and they will tell you that even if Anarchism were to succeed there would still be crime and injustice. And they are right. However the Anarchist argument is also true that, absent the state, a large portion of that crime and injustice would be eliminated. Afterall, it is the state that draws arbitrary lines and creates crimes that really shouldn't be in the first place. Ask yourself, how many people are labelled criminal for drug related offences, tax dodging and prostitution?

"...it looks good in theory but won't work in reality."

I can say the same for 'limited government.' The United States was supposed to be a limited government and it's pretty clear the US administration has expanded over its life time to become a bloated, bureaucratic behemoth, hell-bent on imposing its will overseas and maintaining the empire.

"I remember back in the 60's and 70's when groups of dissatisfied folks, often called Hippies back then, rejected conventional society and formed communes."

Your problem here is you are conflating two different ideologies. Hippy's weren't Anarchists but a counter-cultural movement. Some hippy's were certainly Anarchists, but most weren't. Your analogy, is meaningless.

If you want an example of present day organisation that fits the 'Anarchist' label, you have only to look so far as TorrentSharing and P2P filesharing groups. You don't have to be an Anarchist to organise like one.

It's down to how you define Anarchism, if, like me, you define it as a series if relationships between individuals that are absent aggression, than, strictly speaking, how you come to own your shoelaces can be used an example of Anarchist organisation. No government body legislated to force someone to make your shoe laces. They were produced, distributed and traded to you entirely voluntarily, without aggression -- except that coming from the government to your detriment.

"...Almost every one of these entities failed, usually within a very short time frame."

This is true, but then there is still the problem that you're conflating two different ideologies.

"While being exact opposites, anarchy and communism are almost the same thing."

Oh, here's the kicker. Actually, you saying such a thing is a terrible insult to thousands of Anarchists that have died at the hands of Communists in the past. Check the Spanish Civil War and the purges conducted by Stalinist Communists against the CNT and POUM and even in the Ukraine when, after helping to fight off many of Russia's enemies, the Soviets imprisoned Russian Anarchists and invaded the Ukraine. Once again, you need to fact-check. There are Anarchists who prefer communist forms of organisation, but they are not Communists of the type you describe. Perhaps you should look into the different between Lenin, Marx and Bakunin respectively, paying special attention to the hostility that existed between Bakunin and Marx.

"In communism, everyone is considered equal, required to put forth an equal effort and given an equal amount in return. This would be a perfect world as long as everyone felt the same way. But those who disagree are virtually prisoners of the system, often sent off to a padded cell to be re-educated. Plus those in control of the system can't seem to curtail their greed and provide more for themselves than they allow for the masses.

Anarchy has the same drawback. It only works if everyone agrees with it. A world without government is a world without rules and there will always be those who take improper advantage of it."

Once again, you have missed the entire point. You're absolutely right in your critique of Communism, and it applies to Maoist, Leninst or Stalinist Communism. However, Anarchism, by definition does not dictate to people how to live their lives and in what way to organise. At it's core is the principle that you cannot, and should not force, people to conform to your system or method of organisation. To be an anarchist is to reject the 'right' of people to rule you and to reject the 'right' for people to rule others.

Yet, I will concede that there are Anarchists out there who would be happy to force people to obey their system, but they believe so because they came to Anarchism from heavily authoritarian ideologies such as the various forms of Communism, or even in some cases the most reserved Conservatism. However, if, given an Anarchist society, you want to pay someone to make decisions for you, I would not care -- so long as you and the people who are making decisions for you do not force me into the same scheme.

"There's nothing wrong with a little government, especially locally."

Of course there is. Ever wonder why even the smallest aspects of government come to be dominated by arrogant individuals? It's because they're institutions of control that allow people with private interests to benefit said interests at the expense of others.

"Personally, I like roads."

Then maybe you should read this. It's implications for an Anarchist society should be obvious. - http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y...

-- Posted by Royce on Sun, May 10, 2009, at 2:02 AM


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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.
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