A Requiem for Anarchy

Article by Daniel Bourgeois.
Anarchy is a political philosophy that argues for a stateless society (no rulers). Though one finds its roots in ancient Greece, anarchy found credibility in the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the moral centrality of individual freedom), and especially in the 1800s in the works of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (political abstention and small property) and Mikhail Bakunin (collective properties). After the Second World War, the welfare state rang the death knell of anarchy, though it appears sporadically as a reaction to stifling states, as was the case in many countries in the 1960s.

Moncton Councillor Daniel Bourgeois has posed a procative question: why should the 254,000 residents of New Brunswick’s local service districts be forced to accept a level of governance and expense that they have not chosen? He argues that the provincial government could address the imbalance in taxation between local service districts and municipalities without creating costly new levels of government or forcing regional amalgamations.

Anarchists strive to abolish political authority. Instead of formal governments, societies would be governed by all citizens through regular collective decision-making. Josiah Warren’s “voluntary communities,” wherein goods and services were private and exchanged freely, is a good example.

Today, anarchy would find few fertile grounds. Despite growing demands for private health care and education, societies are hesitant to take significant steps to that end. And no one is calling for private police and fire services. Thus, although the welfare state is no longer an omnipotent and omnipresent beast, it is still relevant. And it will remain so until we find a better alternative.

To its credit, the welfare state has managed to make anarchy an unpalatable governance alternative.

But anarchy is alive and well in New Brunswick, though changes are afoot to uproot it for good. The Finn report wants to impose representative democratic government on unincorporated areas, but it does not show why this is better than plebiscites that give citizens ‘direct’ democracy.

Local anarchy in LSDs

Today, 254,000 New Brunswickers live in local anarchy, in unincorporated areas called Local Service Districts (LSDs). By comparison, the province’s 105 municipalities provide local government to 460,000 New Brunswickers. Thus, more than a third of New Brunswickers live without local government. This has been the case since 1967, when the province abolished regional counties and their elected councils.

There is some governance, but no government, in 157 of the 266 LSDs that have an advisory board. These boards are comprised of local citizens and meet on a regular basis to tackle local issues. Their advice is sent to the Minister of Local Government, who either approves or rejects the advice. In the remaining 109 LSDs, anarchy dominates because there is no advisory board.

Many citizens living in LSDs do not want a municipal government. They live a good life without local rulers. This begs an interesting question: What benefits do elected councillors provide?

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