By Daniel McCarthy
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Lawlessness abounded as the first six months of 2020 drew to a close. Americans could be forgiven for thinking they were living under anarchy, as leftist mobs tried to deface or tear down public memorials and statues of everyone from Christopher Columbus to Abraham Lincoln. Violent crime surged in New York City, while Seattle saw the creation of a radical commune of sorts, in the form of the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (or CHAZ). Mayors were slow to react, when they reacted at all. It was as if cities across the country had decided to submit to a mugging. Months of COVID-19 lockdowns had left Americans demoralized or stir-crazy.
Yet this was a curious sort of anarchy, not only tolerated but in many respects sponsored by elite authorities—by mayors who sided with the mobs and by educators who taught the nation’s youth to despise its history, and who in many cases took to social media to encourage and rationalize acts of wanton vandalism. Corporate America joined in as well, evidently perceiving no threat from looters whose thefts would not be noticed in quarterly reports, and whose destruction of local businesses would serve only to cut down on the competition. In a sense, this was the opposite of anarchy: it was revolution from above.
Anarchy does have a well-deserved reputation for violence. But there are points on which conservatism and philosophical anarchism converge, and those points often have to do precisely with criticizing the kind of liberal establishment whose power was only enhanced by the outburst of iconoclastic rage America witnessed in June.