Bill Kauffman on Anarchism

From The New Pantagruel (and originally American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, recently published by ISI):

PERHAPS no political term is quite so misunderstood as “anarchy.” In the popular press, it is a synonym for disorder and chaos, not to mention looting and pillage: countries like Haiti are always being “plunged into anarchy.” The anarchist, meanwhile, is frozen into a late-nineteenth-century caricature: he is furtive, hirsute, beady-eyed, given to gesticulation, gibberish, and, most of all, pointless acts of violence. Yet anarchy, according to most of its proponents through the years, is peaceable, wholly voluntary, and perhaps a bit utopian. The word means “without a ruler”; anarchy is defined as the absence of a state and its attendant coercive powers. It implies nothing about social arrangements, family and sexual life, or religion; and in fact the most persuasive anarchists, from Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy to Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, have been Christians.

Rightly, since this is a short entry in a reference work, Kauffman describes at a go several distinct lines of anarchistic thought, while others must be left unmentioned (Nock's absence, in particular, is notable). One needn't be an admirer of all the figures Kauffman discusses to see some wisdom in the broad philosophy he outlines. In a day and age when even soi disant critics of "big government" support ever larger military budgets and welfare schemes for private schooling — or if you're Charles Murray, a $10,000 handout to every American — anarchism has something to say that's well worth hearing.

I particularly like this line that Kauffman quotes from Edward Abbey: “Be loyal to your family, your clan, your friends, and your community. Let the nation-state go hang itself.” 


Without a Doubt

Damon Linker has an interesting, and in places certainly misguided, piece on Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in the current New Republic. I should comment at greater length on the piece, but for now I'll just mention that one aspect of Neuhaus that Linker does effectively shed light upon is just how revolutionary — as in the likes of Lenin, not just "innovative" — Neuhaus's tendencies have always been, from his radical days in Bedford-Stuyvesant when he (says Linker) "contemplated the morality of participating in armed revolution to overthrow the government of the United States" to the mid-'90s flap over "The End of Democracy" (which didn't actually call for armed revolution from what I recall, though Gertrude Himmelfarb might have assumed otherwise), to his support for the Iraq War.

I'm certainly no fan of the political system we have, but the notion that violence would make it better and could usher in a reign of virtue and Christian charity, we'll, let's just that the notion of a "Catholic" Robespierre is no less objectionable than that of any other kind. Do the theocons really want a police state? Maybe I shouldn't take it for granted that they don't. (Tangentially related: David Gordon's takedown of Edward Feser, who is trending what looks like a Jacobin direction himself.)

By the by, although I gave TNR a hard time last week, I have to say that for the cover alone the mag wins a few points this time — it's a gallery caricatures depicting different types of conservative, from paleocon (Pat Buchanan) to neocon (Wolfowitz) over to "con con" (Abramoff) and Genghis-con (Cheney).

Cribbing From Nisbet, Part Deux

Dreaded deadline doom is upon me, which is no less dreaded for being self-imposed. So in haste I'm just going to transcribe a few words from Robert Nisbet tonight, something I'll have recourse to now and again. This is from The Present Age, his last book:

In Western Europe, throughout the Middle Ages, the majority of Europeans lived cradle-to-grave lives in the church. There was no aspect of life that was not either actively or potentially under the ordinances of the church. Birth, marriage, death were all given legitimacy by the church, not the state. Property, inheritance, work conditions, profits, interest, wages, schooling, university admissions, degress, licenses for professional practice, workdays, holidays, feasts, and commeorations, all were subject not to secular but to ecclesiastical governance. The Middle Ages represented the height of ecclesiastical absolutism. That particular absolutism has vanished in the West–though not of course in other parts of the world, beginning with an Iran–but no vacuum has been left. Much of modern European history is the story of the gradual transfer, as it were, of ecclesiastical absolutism to monarchical and then democratic-nationalist absolutism. Medieval man was so accustomed to the multitudinous ordinances of the church governing his life that he didn't even see them. That is more and more true today of modern man, democratic man.

Of Course It’s a Civil War…

…but that's good, says Charles Krauthammer:

Now all of a sudden everyone is shocked to find Iraqis going after Iraqis. But is it not our entire counterinsurgency strategy to get Iraqis who believe in the new Iraq to fight Iraqis who want to restore Baathism or impose Taliban-like rule? Does not everyone who wishes us well support the strategy of standing up the Iraqis so we can stand down? And does that not mean getting the Iraqis to fight the civil war themselves?

Why does this look familiar? Maybe because last week's Onion said the same thing ("Rumsfeld: Iraqis Now Capable of Conducting War Without U.S. Assistance"):

WASHINGTON, DC—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that escalating violence in Iraq demonstrates that the Iraqi population is now capable of waging the Iraq war without outside military aid, and pronounced the American mission there "a complete success."

"Over the last month, the Iraqis have been fighting like you wouldn't believe," said Rumsfeld in a press conference at the Pentagon. "New Iraqis are joining the war every day—so many, in fact, that we don't know where they all came from. It's almost as if they came out of nowhere."

"The scope and intensity of the combat in Iraq is such that I believe the presence of American forces in the country will no longer be required to help the Iraqi people plummet into meaningless violence," Rumsfeld added.

Krautie is one hell of a satirist.

China Instead of Dubai

Remember the ’90s? Remember Hutchison-Whampoa, the Chinese firm that had Republicans up in arms because it won a contract to administer the Panama Canal? Josh Marshall remembers, and now he relays the news that Hutchison-Whampoa is going to be running the tests for nuclear materials at American ports Freeport, the Bahamian entrepot to the Eastern seaboard of the United States. I’m not as suspicious of Hutchison as Marshall is, but certainly I appreciate the irony of this turn of events. A little time goes by, and the GOP is making some surprising new friends.

In other Hutchison happenings, Li Ka-Shing, the company’s chairman, has signed on to an advisory council for British Chancellor of the Exchequer (and prime-minister-in-waiting) Gordon Brown. Li — Sir Li, actually — is a high-school dropout worth $12.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Edit: Let me see if I have this right: the United States is contracting with Hutchison to oversee nuke-detection at Freeport in the Bahamas. I can understand that maybe the Bahamians don’t have the financial resources or expertise to make their own arrangements for detecting radioactive material, but the role of the U.S. here still strikes me as bizarre. If the U.S. wants to make sure Bahamian security is up to American standards wouldn’t it still make more sense to go through the Bahamian government — you know, velvet glove and all that, keep up a pretense of Bahamian sovereignty?

The Literary Ancestry of Courtney Love

Who knew that Humphrey Bogart threw Love’s great-grandmother into a lake, or that three generations of the Fox / Carroll / Love line have written books? Probably not very good books — I’m not about to read any — but I had no idea Love had such a tangled and interesting family backstory.

The story begins with Elsie Fox; she was Linda’s grandmother and Courtney’s great-grandmother (see family tree), though neither one knew she existed until 13 years ago. Turns out Elsie was Courtney’s intellectual wild-child doppelgänger. She partied hard with her husband, Paul Fox, and his cousin Douglas Fairbanks, and wrote screenplays so godawful that Graham Greene called one, Last Train From Madrid, “the worst movie I ever saw.”

The Seattle Weekly tells the tale. (Link via A&L Daily.)