Too many of us get confused on the basics of life, the universe, and everything. Especially these three concepts. Let’s dive in.
Many of us find ourselves defining key concepts in a lot of different ways. All three of these words: anarchy, tyranny, and liberty, are examples of that.
Consider Doug Casey, a well-known libertarian writer and advocate of finding freedom offshore from the States. His definition of anarchy is, “The absence or non-recognition of authority.” Another definition he present is, “The absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual.” Doug goes on to explain that what these definitions represent, therefore, is, “leave me alone to live my life as I choose. As long as I don’t aggress against others, my liberty should be respected.”
This is, of course, very different from both the dictionary definition and the popular understanding of anarchy. But as with other libertarian/classical liberal authors, we need to sort out a bit: which of these makes the most sense? Which can best be applied to our daily lives? And to politics?
The Oxford dictionary tells us this:
- a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority or other controlling systems.
- the organization of society on the basis of voluntary cooperation, without political institutions or hierarchical government; anarchism.
Merriam Webster is more complex, if not complete:
1. a – absence of government, b – a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority, c – a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
2. a – absence or denial of any authority or established order b – absence of order: DISORDER
The popular understanding? To most people, it’s just a synonym for chaos and violence. This concept is pushed by many politicians, academicians, and of course, the mainstream media. And of course, to the various groups like Black Lives Matter, the Occupy movements, and followers of Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre Joseph Proudhon. AND definitely governments and their agencies and agents. Like the FBI: “What is anarchist extremism? Anarchism is a belief that society should have no government, laws, police, or any other authority. Having that belief is perfectly legal, and the majority of anarchists in the U.S. advocate change through non-violent, non-criminal means. A small minority, however, believes change can only be accomplished through violence and criminal acts…and that, of course, is against the law.”
All things concerned, we here at TPOL think that Doug does better with his third one: “leave me alone to live my life as I choose. As long as I don’t aggress against others, my liberty should be respected.”
I propose it isn’t so much that there should be no government, but that there should be no coercive government. Yes, true anarchists believe in voluntary cooperation. But we generally have no problem with police, political institutions, or even hierarchies in their proper place.
The problem is, these entities do not ever stay in the proper place. Voluntary cooperation becomes coerced cooperation, police become jackbooted thugs, and hierarchies no longer function at the behest of those they supposedly serve. Rather the intities seek more and more power and privilege.
Although dictionaries do not consider them opposites, I believe that the opposite of anarchism is tyranny.
Merriam-Webster has a workable definition: “oppressive power, especially : oppressive power exerted by government.” Lots of definitions of tyranny speak of “sole rulers” and cruel acts and other things that distract us from the basic truth. While there are certainly degrees of tyranny, any coercive government is a tyranny. Even tyrants – whether individuals or groups or even democracies and republics – can be compassionate, kind, wise, and helpful. But what they have is still a tyranny.
Darkwing recently explained that in a TPOL comment: “I have the right to own anything I want and the government has no right to stop me. When governments tell me I cannot own something it is all about control.” Tyranny is not about what you do with the power, but that you have the power.
But it is in governments’ own interest to portray both anarchy and tyranny in extreme, negative terms. They want to be seen as the middle road, the top of the bell curve.
Doug points this out: “Not surprising then, that they [government] do all they can to discredit not only the anarchist, but the very concept of anarchy. To the American founding fathers, the anarchist was respected for his reasoning and his courage. … the anarchists of today are equally worthy of our respect. They represent the voice of Liberty just as much as they did in 1776.
Unfortunately, for all their wisdom, the Founding Fathers were short-sighted and lacked faith (enough faith: both in God and in ordinary people). They thought, taught, and practiced the mistaken idea that liberty needed government to protect it. In this, they accepted John Locke’s writings far too much, and we, nearly 250 years later, are paying the price for their shortcomings. Not in the manner the regressives claim, with their nonsense about 1619 and the evils of dead white people, but because they failed to properly understand the lust for power and wealth.
Liberty, therefore, suffered through American history and does so today.
Your thoughts, dear reader?