I was intrigued by the Politics Test I took yesterday, on several counts:
- My own brother made some comment, like, "I laughed when it pegged you as an anarchist." But I am an anarchist, for fifteen years now. "Oh."
- Whoever designed it has a reasonable grasp of what we individualists call "anarco-individualism," "anarco-capitalism," "free-market anarchy," etc.
- More interesting than #2 is that the predominant tradition of "anarchy" throughout history has been communist and totalitarian (aye, ironic, eh?). In other words, the vast majority of "anarchists," historically speaking, would come out somewhere in the totalitarian quadrant of that test.
The reason for #3 is trivially simple: The only way to prevent the "twin tyrannies" of private property and capital accumulation is through the tyranny of a totalitarian state. But try arguing that with an anarco-syndicalist. It’s not like the, uh, USSR, illustrates my point, or anything.
Here’s another thing: You could spend the rest of your life in alt.society.anarchy reading the hundreds of thousands of posts there over the last 15+ years, and you would likely not get the clarity of what I’m talking about with regard to anarchy as you could from a brief time at Wikipedia. The defining paragraph doesn’t really do a bad job, either.
The term means "being without rule", and is derived from the Latin word anarchia, from Aristotle‘s Greek term αναρχία (αν an- "without" plus αρχία arkhia
meaning "command" or "rule"). Based on this etymology, anarchists are
typically described as rejecting all forms of rule or domination,
including all instances of enforced or representational government and
any concept of the State,
and instead favouring social relations that are voluntarily and freely
established among individuals. While not all anarchists accept this
definition, this is the sense in which the term is commonly used in
So, historically, those who have called themselves "anarchists" have really misnamed themselves and have conflated the tyrannical force of the state with the validly earned authority of property owners, capitalists, and employers.
What I thought I’d do, for fun, is take the 49 questions of the Politics Test and cover them here, in four parts.
1. The government should subsidize struggling museums, theaters, and artists.
The only way the government can do that is to take money from people who are otherwise unwilling to provide it (stealing). These places are "struggling" because unlike the hundreds of gainfully occupied business establishments you’ll pass by on your way home tonight, these places can’t seem to provide enough of, or the right kinds of, or the right mix of values that enough people will trade for in order for them to at least break even (forget profit, even). If you enjoy the sorts of art and displays that don’t enjoy huge appeal, then, by all means, support them. Do your level best to convince others to support them. I wouldn’t think of stopping you, even if you happen to think that pictures of Christ submerged in urine are just dandy.
2. I am troubled by the eroding distinction between entertainment and marketing.
I take the questions to mean: shouldn’t the state step in, establish, and enforce some standards? Of course not. I believe in freedom, after all. And, I happen to think that the pinnacle of entertainment-in-advertising, the Super Bowl commercials, are just grand. In fact, personally, truth be told, it’s usually my main reason for trying to catch the big match when I can (unless the 49ers are playing). If you don’t enjoy that, I’m not going to argue, and I’m certainly not going to force you to watch. I’ve stated the principle (freedom), but on a practical level, I am inundated with commercial solicitations and I’ve found my own ways to filter them out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be exposed to them at all — so I appreciate that some go to such efforts to entice me to take a closer look.
3. Protesters cause more good than harm.
Of course, "good," and "harm" ought to be defined, but I’ll stipulate to the practical limitations inherent in such a test. The fact is that I find the cause celebre of public protestations to be a steaming pile of bullshit 99% of the time. This means that I, with my more conventional values, ought to be perfectly safe. The principle, here, is freedom, applied to speech. The question is a trick, really. The good, as I would define it, is in the exercise of such freedom in and of itself. That means: whether a protestation advocates for values I love or hate, I love the freedom inherent in the exercise even more. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from film, The People vs. Larry Flint: "If free speech can protect a scumbag like me, because I’m the worst, then it can protect all of you."
4. A person cannot be truly spiritual without regularly attending church or temple.
This is a politics test, so the question is, I think, trying to get at one’s likely position with regard to church and state. But spirituality is a much broader topic than the monotheism of the Christian faith. I find secular humanists to be "spiritual" in the sense that they can be awed by the human condition and potential that’s so much more than glandular squirts of certain chemical compounds. Church is one way in which people attempt to access a sense of life that’s more than the DNA they’re composed of.
5. Something like the theory of Natural Selection explains why some people are homeless.
I think this one’s designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction from religious people who don’t know or understand the theory. On the other hand, I don’t know that natural selection really explains anything of the sort. What I do think is that poverty and irresponsibility tend to beget poverty and irresponsibility. There are exceptions, and anyone can escape any time they want, but when people behave like animals, then natural selection, a theory that explains non-conscious reproductive selection, is probably as good as any for predicting the most likely outcome.
6. If countries like France are unwilling to cooperate with our military plans, we should treat them as enemies.
You have to accept the collectivist premise to really answer this question either way. This question is probably looking to identify those with a jingoist sense of nationalism. Individuals, regardless of national origin, should judge and treat all others as individuals, according to their own values. But, given the premise of the question, if you pretend that America is an individual and France is an individual, why would you treat someone as a enemy (qua enemy of the state) because they don’t see things your way? You may wish to disassociate yourself, but that is a far cry from treating them as an enemy, by which I mean: someone you might consider preemptive attack based on their likely threat to you.
7. I feel guilty when I shop at a large national chain.
Oh God, no. Even if I might not like the quality and service as much as something more exclusive, I’ve got to admire their prowess in distributing so many values to so many people at such low prices. The real answer here is that the large national chains are just exercising their right to invest and use their capital as they see fit, and you, as an employee or customer, can freely associate or not associate. It’s all very voluntary. Of course, I condemn any national chain — or anyone else for that matter — that uses the state to get subsidies for themselves, such as the use of eminent domain.
8. Social justice should be the foundation of any economic system.
The problem, here again, is that you’re asked to accept the premise that there ought to be "an economic system," by which is meant: a state system of economic manipulation. I believe in free trade, which means: down to the very commodity or debt instrument that traders mutually agree to use as a medium of exchange. I agree with Ayn Rand: "Capitalism is the separation of the state and economics." As far as "social justice" goes, this is just a euphemism for the idea the state ought to play Robbin Hood and establish force-backed economies that steal from some to give to others in the name of "justice," which, of course is a gross inversion and perversion of both morality and reason. Theft can never form the basis of doing justice.
9. People shouldn’t be allowed to have children they can’t provide for.
I wish that people would be responsible enough to not have children until they can reasonably provide for them. But I wish a lot of things for people. The bottom line is that no matter how stupid I think some people behave, I have no right and no basis to force them to do anything except to leave me alone. And if I have no such right, then neither does anyone else. And if none of us have such a right, individually, there is no way we magically acquire such moral sanction by forming ourselves into a mob. Of course, if people have children and then neglect or abuse them, then there exists moral authority to intervene, if necessary, though every effort must be made to protect and respect people’s rights.
10. I would defend my property with lethal force.
Greg Swann disagrees, but that may come down to the way we interpret the question. I agree that it would generally be disproportionate to kill someone for stealing your car, for example, but what if your life, as nearly as you can tell, depends on your car? So, I’m agreeing, but not strongly. Of course, I have a right to engage lethal force to defend my life, and there I strongly agree. But to great extent, our lives, as we know them, depend on and are all entwined with our property. Stealing some of my stuff isn’t going to diminish my life enough to kill someone over, but there is a line, somewhere, where my life becomes not my life, anymore.
11. The world would be better if there were no huge corporations, just small businesses.
But I’ll bet you don’t know why I disagree. Even if I hated huge corporations, I’d still strongly disagree, because the only way to not have huge corporations is to use the force of the state to prevent them, such as communists do. And if the state was so oppressive as to do that, the world would surely be a worse place all around, even if you happened to enjoy there not being any huge corporations. It’s easy to advocate "freedom" when all you mean is that people are free to do what you’d like them to do. But what freedom is, really, is a recognition of where your right to action with respect to others, ends.
OK, next up with be questions 12-22. Probably sometime tonight.
Update: Here’s Part II.