Liberty Commentary

Anarchism 101

from Life After Authority

I love how people who would barely pass an 11th-grade civics test like to taunt anarchists with the ever-so-damning, irrefutable line “But how would you prevent a warlord from rising to power, in Anarchy?”* and then act as if that is such a complete and well-thought-out argument that it pre-empts any need for actual, you know, discussion.  Because really, anarchism is just a booger that can be flicked away and ignored, not a social/political philosophy that’s been developed, advocated, and put into practice by hundreds of thousands of people over the last 150 years.

The anarchist answer to that question is actually pretty simple, though.  How would we prevent people from “rising to power”?  Well, by refusing to obey them, mainly.  And by defending ourselves if they attacked us.  And generally by nurturing a culture of resistance to authority, grassroots mutual aid, and willingness to use direct action to bring to an end any manifestation of control/domination, wherever it is seen.  Not exactly rocket science.

It’s hard to give this answer without the obvious corollary question of its own popping up, begging to be asked, a bit more rhetorical: how else could you possibly prevent someone from “coming to power”?

By writing someone else’s name on a piece of paper, and then putting it in a box this person-in-power has given you?  Or maybe just flushing it down the toilet?  Maybe by performing a ritual with some incense?  Perhaps through prayer?  Or maybe just by obeying this person who’s rising to power and hoping that someday they’ll get tired of it?

How’s that been working out for ya lately?

If you ever get that to work someday, however many millions of corpses later, I’ll take it all back.  Clearly, then, we anarchists simply failed to see that the best way to prevent abuse of power…is to obey whoever is in power.

Until then, you might want to think again before using this “argument”.

*Clarification: some people do ask this question sincerely.  The “trollish” version should be rephrased as more of a sneering statement rather than a question: “You anarchists would have no way to protect…”.  I’m not going to link to the example that sparked this because I don’t want to deal with that particular troll ever again.  But you get the idea.