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Practical Anarchism


(Adapted from something I wrote on 7/14/00)

I guess the major critique of idealistic Anarchy is that violent crime would flourish and we would return to the so-called "State of Nature" that was supposedly eradicated by adopting the "Social Contract".

That's funny, I don't recall ever signing a Social Contract ;-) It seems to me that we are born into whatever political regime runs our homeland. Some regimes allow some of the people to choose some of the office holders directly, every so often, by plurality vote, usually from a restricted list of pre-nominated leaders.

If you are unhappy with your homeland's regime, your options for change are pretty limited, even in a Constitutional Democracy. You can devote ever increasing amounts of your time and fortune trying to get particular laws enacted or repealed, and maybe that will help ... but that isn't the same as changing the political system. Usually revolutions don't work unless you have a combination of inept leadership and dire economic crisis. One person's dissatisfaction really isn't going to topple a government.

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So, what does anarchism mean to me? It means that I do not pledge allegiance to any flag. It means that I view legal systems objectively -- legal systems, whatever their means of legitimacy, are merely imperfect systems of control and punishment. Laws are not morals, and do not command my loyalty. If I disagree with a particular law, I do not feel like I am a bad person, and if I break a particular law, I do not feel like I am a criminal.

Whenever we act purposefully, we make a judgment about the benefits and risks of our behavior. One of the risks of illegal behavior is that we might get caught and punished by agents of the state. Ultimately, the state might imprison or kill us for our disobedience.

Anarchists see the state for what it is -- a powerful force that tries to control our behaviors -- and some Anarchists do what they can to oppose the state. But I don't think we'll ever get rid of the state. There are too many control freaks out there. As soon as you destroy one form of government, another one pops up in its place. If you oppose the state too vigorously, if you actually threaten the state's existence, it will dispose of you.

It is bigger than you are.


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