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F R O M    T H E    E D I T O R
Smash the State?
Emily Grant • Anarchists: the Chosen People?
October 2000

There’s no government like no government. According to its defenders, anarchy allows people to truly live their own lives and be completely independent of governmental oppression. 

This issue of the Yale Free Press will examine anarchy, especially anarcho-capitalism (see David Barnes, p. 6, “U.S. Out of North America”; Katherine Mangu-Ward, p. 4, “The Wall Street Journal Revolution”; Eve Tushnet, p. 9, “Philosophy in the Dorm Room”). Anarcho-capitalists claim that if government were abolished, we could count on the spontaneous creation of private corporations that would provide all the services that the government formerly provided, except this time it would be faster, better, and cheaper. For example, the functions of the police departments and the army would be turned over to protection agencies; roads would be built and maintained by road companies. Anarcho-capitalism addresses some important problems that we see in the modern world: mainly, the inefficiencies of government and the problems of governing a pluralistic  society. 

Although our cover article supports anarcho-capitalism, detailing its philosophy and problem-solving techniques, I believe this theory has grave deficiencies. Anarchy is a political philosophy that seeks to maximize choice by abolishing the constraints of government. If people are left to choose everything, then they will most often choose the best, and be happy. Or at least free. 

Libertarians and conservatives agree that the details of political life should not be an important focus of most people’s lives. But in anarchy, each person has to spend a great deal of time to get an acceptable form of protection. The truth is that most men have better things to concentrate on — their children, their spouse, their neighbors, their parents. Comparing statistics between various protection agencies is simply not what is important in life. 

Not all human beings want to choose; not all human beings can choose. The elderly, the sick, the mentally disabled, the child, the infant, and the unborn all have various degrees of difficulty exercising choice. Yet they are still human beings needing protection. Anarchy does not provide this. One possibility is that the family should provide protection and care for the weak members of our society. 

But the values that hold any family together — self-sacrifice, love, honor, duty — are not reconcilable with the radical choice that the anarchist advocates. The rebellion of the teenager occurs when he notices that he didn’t choose his family; so why should he obey his parents? Why should he spend time with his brothers and sisters? Why can’t he make his own decisions and boldly die his hair purple? Anarchy is the more grown-up version of this complaint and is fundamentally at odds with the values of the family. 

The anarchist should not act as if the political philosophy of a nation can be completely and utterly divorced from the principles which govern people’s lives. A regime — that is, a form of government — necessarily shapes the values of its people. A direct democracy encourages and even relies on conformity.  If the citizens didn’t believe that the majority was almost always right, or right about the most important things, they would be unlikely to willingly obey the laws of their government. Similarly, a society ruled by lawyers or experts, like our own, encourages passive dependence in the citizenry and arrogance in the managerial elite. Anarchy, then, would encourage and rely upon its own set of values. If men do not accept the principles and mindset of anarchy, they will rebel against it, and like the Israelites demand a ruler. Thus, for anarchy to work, there must be an anarchist personality; that is, a person who would be happiest citizen of the anarchist world. 

That personality should be familiar to Yalies. The perfect anarchist is smart, leisured, contemptuous of all unchosen bonds, tied to no particular place or nation. He is independent, and wary of binding himself to anything that might constrain his choices. He prefers friendship to marriage, contract to promise, temporary arrangement to permanent ones. The perfect anarchist is not one who will selflessly care for others; why should he be bound?

Anarchy is an invented system of government; we do not see it, and have not seen it, in action anywhere on earth.  Its proponents claim that human beings are really like the perfect anarchist, and that simply does not ring true. And a regime founded upon faulty theories of human nature is bound to fail — to put it into more anarcho-capitalist terms, that regime would not be catering to the needs of its customers. Caveat emptor. 

Emily Grant, Editor-in-Chief
 

   
The Yale Free Press is published by students ofYale University. 
Yale University is not responsible for its 
contents. By the same
token, The Yale Free Press is not responsible for the contents of Yale
University.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


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