One Minute for Anarchy

December 30, 2008

After asking my socialist friend to make a one-minute argument for socialism, I thought it only fair that I try to construct a one-minute argument for anarchy.

Despite being a really accurate description of my beliefs, “anarchist” is somehow an infelicitous description, since people have many associations when they hear the word “anarchist” that have little to do with my beliefs. As an “anarchist,” I’m opposed to government, not “order” more generally. That is an important distinction because, for me, anarchism is about asking “What is government supposed to do for us, what does it actually do for us, and is there a better way of organizing society so that we achieve those goals more effectively and efficiently?”

I think a large majority of people would agree that the core role of government is to provide safety through the police and military, and dispute resolution through the courts. As an anarchist, I would point out that the system we have, democracy, is a system of centralized, command-and-control provision of these goods. And upon hearing the aphorism that democracy is “the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried,” perhaps we shouldn’t just shrug and think about how clever we are for appreciating the aphorism, but rather take this statement as yet another indication that all forms of centralized production are fundamentally flawed. But there is an alternative. We have it in food production, we could have it in “government,” too. 

In centrally-planned economies we saw chronic, systematic failures due to a lack of accountability and lack of incentives to do a good job for the people involved. If we are surprised to see those exact same problems spring up in our centralized system of government, then we haven’t properly understood what was at the heart of the failure of communism.

One minute, it turns out, is not a lot of time. But I do feel like this is the best answer to the question “Why anarchy?” As an anarchist, though, it’s hard to be objective. Suggestions?


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