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Anarchism, libertarianism, and the way forward

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith       (Page 4 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Moreover, without the state there would be no economy and society as we know it. In the absence of laws and public services, we'd still be hunter-gatherers.

Fryett rejects my claim that without government we'd be hunter-gatherers. To the contrary, he says: "Government invented agriculture? Actually, it was the other way around--surplus gave rise to the state." But see Without government, we'd be hunter-gatherers, where I summarize the history: According to the Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, the transition from a society based on hunter-gathering to a modern state progressed hand-in-hand with the development of agriculture. Government protections and laws enabled trade, storage, and distribution systems. Surpluses resulting from agriculture funded government. Farm labor could be enlisted for government projects and wars.

Fryett writes: "Transportation, schools and the other services listed above are the result of the labor of countless workers, and it is they and not the state who are responsible for their existence. The state isn't providing these services, but rather is establishing its hegemony over them."

But the state organizes and funds these activities. It's historically not true that the activities pre-dated the state.  The New Deal, the WPA, rural electrification, government jobs programs, " many liberal programs of the 20th century lifted up the middle class from under the foot of robber barons.  Public schools, organized by governments, greatly raised the standards of education.

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Fryett writes: "The great majority of anarchists reject political parties. To paraphrase Ngo Van: The so-called workers' parties are embryonic forms of a new state. Once in power they form the nucleus of a new ruling class and induce nothing more than a new system of exploitation."

That is extreme and ignores the need to get from our current state to the desired, utopian goal that Fryett has in mind.

This brings us to an important question: how are we we establish anarchism?  Chomsky says the state can be used to make progress towards a society based on anarchism: the state "provides devices to constrain the much more dangerous forces of private power. Rules for safety and health in the workplace for example. Or insuring that people have decent health care, let's say."

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Or maybe, in contrast, the path to anarchism is similar to the path to spiritual enlightenment in some traditions:  the ego just burns out and fades away.  Similarly, eventually society will mature to a point where hierarchy is no longer needed. Sounds utopian to me.  But over time civilization may approach such a utopia.

Fryett takes issue with my claim that workers prosper when their companies do well.  But I say that it depends on which company is involved and whether there are unions. There's no denying that auto workers prospered until the 1970s. Many workers in high tech are paid well and receive stock options; so such companies are partly worker owned. But certainly Walmart and fast food workers are terribly exploited.

We need unions and government to step in and tweak and supplement the market so that the economy doesn't just serve the 1%.

"What we want is that the means by which society produces those things we need and desire--factories, schools etc.--be publicly owned and run by the workers." Publicly owned? Does that require a state to manage that ownership? Maybe Fryett means that ownership will be managed locally and in a bottom-up way.

Fryett writes, "If the U.S. went anarchist tomorrow, we would still have need of the FAA or something like it." Wouldn't the FAA have authority over private individuals. Isn't such authority potentially tyrannical?

I predict there will always be nastiness and selfishness as long as humans exist.  With power comes risk. Without power nothing happens.  We need police power to regulate human desires and behavior. And we need government to protect the weak from the strong, and the dumb from the smart.

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Fryett says a "core principle for us is freedom; the ability to act, think, engage, disengage, build, withdraw, plan, organize, exchange, love, and dream freely. The state corrals such liberty, confines it within acceptable parameters." But I don't think there's anyway around the need to corral liberty.   The Koch brothers want "liberty" to pollute and corrupt.  Without laws and police, life would be hell on earth. With corrupt laws and police, life is also hell.

Fryett gets dreamy: "Anarchism is the end of the world of warring camps, the end of the age of the sword. Once the merciless, obscene world of state and capital is vanquished, and society is thus transformed, the Dark Ages will finally come to an end, and the real Enlightenment can begin, an age of peace and plenty" He wants an end to wars and the competition of the marketplace. Everyone will just live in peace, love, and cooperation. But people love competition (e.g., sports) and competition is what drives innovation and gets people working.

We all want a world where everyone loves everyone else, and nobody hurts anyone, and everyone is equal, and there are no authorities or police to lord over us. And over time we can transition towards such a world, bit by bit.  More and more human interactions will be peaceful and cooperative.  But we're far from such a world now, and the Occupiers' refusal to get involved in electoral politics and their insistence on trying to create utopia right now make them impractically utopian.  Their purist idealism makes them overlook the benefits of  government, corporations, and political parties.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)

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