Early Morning Thoughts

November 4, 2008

Episode #126 of This American Life, “Do-Gooders,” talks about the Rwandan genocide. Anarchists do have to, at some point, deal with the view that people are “bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling,” as they put it in Scrubs. Anarchy as envisioned by anarcho-capitalists assumes a society in which people are generally cooperative and honest with each other, not as a direct response to fear of punishment, but just because that’s the norm. It’s not an altogether absurd assumption, since that is the society we actually have in America, but clearly there are places and individuals for which the constraints imposed by government really are binding.

Alright fine, but government isn’t magic. It is much too easily granted to government advocates that the structures of government make it less likely, not more, for thugs and thieves to take advantage of people. After all, what’s the ratio of functioning democracies to kleptocracies in the world right now (or throughout history)?

It’s hard to be a true advocate of anarchy, because I don’t have a good notion of everything that goes into having a functioning society. In Africa, society breaks down in ridiculous ways, like nothing we can imagine. Forget redistribution of wealth; how worried are you that your neighbors will band together to kill you and your family?

If I go too far with this line of thinking, I might turn into a genuine conservative and start holding purity, in-group, and tradition as moral values.


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