A challenge to anarchists from what appears to be some kind of liberal or left perspective. The first problem I see with these arguments is that they do not address the actual costs of statism.
Why Am I Posting This Article?
In the past, I have voiced my concern for the pervasive anarchist sentiment on this platform. While, for the most part, the pro-anarchists have presented educated arguments, there have been a few posts that have bordered on extremism. I am all for the free expression of thoughts and ideas, but I fear that it may affect the branding of Steemit. If this platform becomes known as an “anarchist community”, it could potentially turn off those that are proponents for other government systems. Additionally, there may be some great content creators that shy away from the platform because of the sentiment and we, as a community, could potentially miss out on some new genres and the resulting expansion of the platform that they would bring. Having said that, I would certainly not want users who are producing great, informational content on anarchism to stop. I do feel that we need to bring some balancing views to the platform, quickly. It is imperative to our continued growth that we bring some diversity in thought to the community. How much longer can we continue to produce articles almost solely on steemit and anarchy? It seems that, unless @stellabelle, @heiditravels or the occasional photography post (which I am happy to see is gaining popularity), the trending page is chock full of reiterations of the White Paper or the beliefs of the anarchos. Having said that, I am writing this article not to be combative, but to play devil’s advocate. I don’t feel that there has been a sufficient challenge to the anarchos and I am going to attempt to address some of the issues that I see in the system. What follows are a few issues I see with anarchy, and I would strongly encourage feedback from the community. This is not a drive-by pot shot at the ancaps, but hopefully the start of a productive conversation that in turn will open the doors for proponents of other systems to take part.
The Problem Of Violence
To me this is the biggest problem with an anarchist system. Yes, in an ideal world everyone would be peaceful and nice; and we could all live together, without a referee to step in when things get hairy. That’s not how the real world works. There are people in this world that would see us harmed or killed because of the color of our skin, our personal beliefs or simply because we were born in a certain part of the world. These people cannot be reasoned with. In fact, in an anarchist society, provided they are properly equipped, it would seem that people like this would thrive. Now, before somebody jumps on this argument saying, “Anarchy is not chaos and disorder! How dare you!” I understand that anarchism is not chaos and disorder (ideally), but I am simply questioning the mechanism to control chaotic elements that are outside of societal norms.
I have seen the argument that private militias and policing organizations would be formed based on need, and because anarchism would be the prevailing governmental system, citizens would not be required to pay taxes to support these organizations. This is great, but let’s look at this hypothetical situation: A woman in the community gets raped. Now, under anarchism, the possibilities for investigation and reaction are endless. You don’t dial 911 anymore. Inevitably, somebody in the community will emerge as being the most capable of dealing with the perpetrator. This person will likely (through no fault of their own) become a leader in the community, a protector. What if the community has a problem with an invading militia from another community? Again, leaders will emerge to deal with the problem. It is human nature. What is to prevent these leaders from abusing their newfound power? Now they are armed and likely have a command structure. This is how society started. We didn’t have rules or laws or forms of government, and then to combat problems the strongest, meanest and most capable were given leadership. These private militias and police forces kept power and eventually led to larger militias and police forces and governments formed to organize these institutions. Now this obviously an over-simplification and generalization, but I simply don’t see a viable solution under an anarchist system.
Going back to deviant behavior, what is to prevent false accusations being levied by a (seemingly) reputable member of a community and the accused being punished based on public opinion and mob mentality? How are minorities (in this case being defined not by race, gender, etc. but more broadly as individuals or groups that do not fall into the societal norms of a specific community) protected from abuses of community sentiment? In an anarchist system there are no checks and balances on herd behavior.
Under an anarchist system, how is private property held? Other than the threat of violence, there is no system to protect private property. What is to prevent me from organizing a bunch of big mean friends with guns, taking land, cattle, and food from those that are less fortunate and organized and splitting the plunder? There is all the incentive in the world, and an organized crime ring could take property and belongings as they pleased.
Swindlers, Con Artists, and Tricksters
The harsh reality is that under an anarchist system, it will be increasingly easy for unsavory characters to take advantage of demographics that are at risk of being cheated: such as elderly, mentally disabled, or otherwise disabled individuals. What is to protect the vulnerable elements of a community from the less-than-honorable members? Especially in an increasingly technical world, where it is increasingly easy for these swindlers to steal or cheat people out of their money.
Yes, I understand that caveat emptor is in play here, but the fact is that there are people who, through no fault of their own, are vulnerable to being cheated and, under an anarchist system, there is nothing in place to prevent this.
To be clear, I am beyond frustrated with the way welfare and other entitlement systems are functioning in the United States. Having said that, there are socio-economic issues that, in my mind, anarchism would exasperate. Under an anarchist system, those that are most capable or have the most resources are able to operate in their daily lives most effectively. Those who do not have the same abilities or societal standing will not see an improvement in their quality of life by removing a system of governance.
Their ability and standing does not change, but systems that are in place (such as public education and infrastructure like road systems, public transit, public utilities, and waste disposal) that assist in providing necessities to poverty-stricken communities would go away. Impoverished communities will simply not have the resources to maintain their infrastructures and their existing problems will compound.
Quite simply, anarchism suffers from bad branding. I would even venture to say that the general American public would trust socialism over anarchy. I’m not saying it’s justified, but the perception of anarchy is overwhelmingly negative. The term anarchy conjures images of violence, chaos and dystopia. In order for a system of government to be feasible, the general public will need to be on board. With the current branding, that just isn’t possible.
Again, I want to reiterate that I have seen some very well-educated arguments for anarchism. The above issues are practical issues that I see with the system. My hope is that this will lead to a positive and civil discussion on the topic. While I do not necessarily agree with the system, I am keeping an open mind and hope that commenters and readers will do the same.