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.” 


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