Just saw Rachel Maddow explaining that Republicans have a secret hankering for anarchism (if only!), and that the spurious appeal of statelessness can be refuted by considering the nightmarish conditions in Mogadishu, capital of stateless Somalia (interesting that she just happens to pick the area of Somalia with the highest government presence).
The truth, of course, is that in Somalia as a whole, security and prosperity have improved, not deteriorated, as a result of state collapse.
I just sent her (no doubt pointlessly) the links to Benjamin Powell et al.s article Somalia After State Collapse: Chaos or Improvement? (observatori.org/paises/pais_74/documentos/64_somalia.pdf) and Peter Leesons Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse (peterleeson.com/Better_Off_Stateless.pdf).
If anyone wants to join me in this probably futile gesture, her address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though this is a fruitless gesture, I heartily endorse it.
I’ll send her a letter, mainly with the intent of challenging her various presumptions. I’m a minarchist, not an anarchist. So, why am I pitching in?
Simply to point out that there are other ways of looking at things. I think she is intelligent, well educated, and holds her views in good faith.
Here’s the letter I sent:
I confess that I have not seen your segment on Somalia. The subject is fairly complicated, with a fair amount of debate taking place in ivory towers. However, I don’t think you were trying to critique Somalia’s stateless existence. Rather, it was a proxy for critiquing Republicans and their (largely ahistorical and fraudulent) resistance to taxation and government. The message you were trying to convey-from a rhetorical perspective, quite effectively-Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous aphorism: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Thomas Hobbes, in his treatise Leviathan, makes a similar argument that statelessness is a life that is nasty, brutish, and short.
I don’t personally dispute this; after all, the services government provides must be paid for. There are only two real ways to pay for them, and those would be inflation or taxation. Considering the havoc inflations plays, taxation is clearly the lesser evil. However, I have a lot of respect for genuine antistatist thought; which, by the way, you won’t find within the smoke-filled halls of any political party. Indeed, it negates the notion of politics in general.
The essential point that antistatists make is to challenge Holmes with this radical notion: That civilization itself predates the State, and that the State owes it’s existence to civilization. Under this view, either the State itself is illegitimate; or else, something to be made the slave, not the master, of those they govern. The former argument has some evidence to back it up, as history and anthropology suggest that the ‘social contract’ is little more than a post-hoc rationalization of formal government. I myself accept this notion, while accepting the State. After all, it is the definition of the necessary evil: an institution or practice that, while essential, is morally indefensible. It is important not to conclude that an evil is necessary without careful thought, considering how many institutions and practices have been justified in this manner.
It is important to consider, in the case of Somalia, what they lived under before anarchy. Faced with a brutal and corrupt government, statelessness was certainly preferable. Even today, there exists within their culture an antipathy to government. It could very well be permanent, rendering any attempt to erect a government a futile task.
In regards Republicans, I wouldn’t take their rhetoric very seriously. They want government, just a government that wants what they want it to do. What they want it to do, I think we both agree, is not something either of us will like.
I look forward to your reply.
Tristan D. Band
P.S. I would suggest rethinking your position as a “national security liberal”. Militarism, and the use of military and police, is anti-ethical to liberal goals. Neoconservatives think, among a number of things, that national security can be ensured through warfare. History reveals the opposite to be true; war makes the world less safe, not more. On a final, friendlier note, I wish you and your partner much happiness and joy, In the words of Spock, “Live Long and Prosper”.
It’s hard for me to watch the Rand Paul interview and actually think that she wasn’t going to misrepresent everything he was going to say unless it was in support of the civil rights act to the letter.
I also saw that bit. I agree with Tristan: Maddow actually gives people a genuine opportunity to state their case, if they can do it. Opposing guests aren’t on there just for target practice, like on Olbermann (has he ever had a hostile witness on his show, or just the amen choir?).
Yes, while Maddow often makes me fume, she’s much fairer to dissenting guests than folks like Chris Matthews or Bill O’Reilly.
How Olbermann would treat a dissenting guest is, as you note, a matter of sheer metaphysical speculation.
There are things I agree with and things I disagree with in this column by Justin Raimondo (it gets better as it goes along), but I definitely disagree with his saying that Paul’s treatment on Maddow’s show was an “ambush” or a “gotcha” moment. She was trying to get him to give her a straight answer to what in context was an awfully predictable question, and he was wriggling like an eel.
Matthews. Heh. He’s like one of those DJ’s who keeps talking into the beginning of a song. I saw one guest who seemed to be actually counting seconds, trying to make absolutely sure Matthews was through asking the question. When he finally started talking though, Matthews immediately interrupted. I wonder if it’s not deliberate, as part of his branding or something.
I meant to add before, it’s misleading to take a case where the state suddenly just implodes and leaves a social vacuum as an example of anarchy in operation. It would make far more sense, if we’re looking at traditional societies, to check out the stable societies James Scott describes where there are long-lived and functioning institutions.
Yes — and the farther one gets away from Mogadishu, the more one gets into relatively peaceful areas that have always been anarchic or close to it, barring occasional intrusions from the statebuilders in the city.
She is probably more likely to read a short summary of the paper.
I’ve just found a knock-down argument against statism: Pol Pot’s Cambodia was awful, and it was a state, so all states must be awful.
Actually trying to defend Somalia as an example of ‘successful statelessness’ crystallizes everything that people rightly find repulsive about the kind of “left” *chortle* libertarianism you caucasians espouse, but unfortunately it fucks over genuine anti-capitalist, anti-hierarchical, anti-property-and-exploitation (i.e. actual historical anarchism) movements in the process. Thanks a lot for infiltrating and destroying the movement from within. No wonder people don’t take anarchism seriously.
Actually, I don’t see anyone upholding Somalia as an ideal. I just see statements that Somalia is better off without a state than it was with a state, even though there are authoritarians competing for power and no explicitly anarchist ideology prevails there. Showing that the state can be detrimental to social harmony by challenging the falsehoods told about current real-world scenarios seems worthwhile to me.
I wonder if Berkman will scurry off after this hit and run, or will he stick around some?
As Darian notes, my point was not that Somalia is an anarchist paradise but simply that it is better off without a state than it was with a state. Do you disagree with that? If so, what do you think is wroing with the evidence I cited?
As for your ad hominem, a tradition of anarchism that is anti-hierarchy and anti-exploitation but nevertheless pro-market and (in some sense) pro-property is just as much part of the authentic anarchist tradition as your eponym (unless you want to read Proudhon, Tucker, Spooner, etc. out of the anarchist movement — which your eponym incidentally did not).
You never know, but I’m willing to bet that Rachel Maddow’s reasons for not taking Anarchism seriously have very little to do with any market Anarchist’s comments about Somalia. I suspect that it has more to do with not knowing much of anything that any Anarchist of any tendency has ever said about anything.
As for “actual historical Anarchism,” well, whatever, man; I could sit here and dish about Proudhon and Warren and Tucker and why you’re wrong, but who really cares? If the kind of stuff I’m into were a new development in Anarchism, that’s not an argument against it. There are lots of new developments in Anarchism all the time which turn out to be good ideas. Lots also that turn out to be bad ideas; that’s the thing about being in an innovative social movement instead of some kind of blockheaded hypertraditionalist church. If you have an argument that this is not a good direction for Anarchism to take, fine, you can make that argument; but simply asserting that these newfangled ideas you kids aren’t promoting aren’t like the ideas that Alexander Berkman had is just a stupid form of conservatism. Not an argument.
Interestingly enough, both progressives and conservatives seem to be attempting to link their statist rivals with anarchism more than I can recall them doing over the past 10 years. So if anarchy is a more popular bogeyman than it once was, what does that mean? Is anarchy getting more attention? Is it recognized as a bigger threat to capitalism than it once was?
Well, I think that what’s happening is that Anarchism has become the default form, and the most innovative moral and political center, of the radical Left, and of revolutionary thinking. If you’re doing far-Left organizing, even if you’re not an Anarchist, you can’t avoid Anarchist ideas, forms of organization, ideas about process and procedure, and predecessors having done the organizing on the ground.
Revolutionary Marxism in general, and the Russian- and Chinese-backed Communist Party organizations in particular, used to play that role: CP members were all over the union movement, the early Civil Rights movement, the antiwar movement, etc., and even the reformists in these movements looked to Communist ideas and organizations as the folks immediately to their Left. But that development was a historical aberration, anyway: in many ways, Anarchists had already occupied the position of the default ideology of radical Leftists from roughly the 1880s-1920s, especially within the U.S.; the Leninists managed to seize the position away from us, while the Cold War lasted, because the Russian and Chinese governments were funnelling millions of dollars from their captive empire to subsidize revolutionary M-L organizing (at a time when Anarchists were reeling from a particularly intense wave of government violence and repression). That began to crack up in the 1960s with the Sino-Soviet split and the decline of the Bolshevik Empire; it defintively collapsed along with the Berlin Wall, and ever since then Anarchism has been on the rise, with Seattle as a real watershed moment of establishing ourselves as the paradigm for radical Leftism.
Anyway, the point of that whole historical side-trip is that, as we have become the default example of the radical Left, we’re now also the default target for baiting from people who want to distance themselves from a boogieman. Glenn Beck’s conspiratorial org charts linking the AFL-CIO to EVIL CADRES OF COMMUNIST ANARCHIST REVOLUTIONARIES!@$#!@! are no different from the Birchers’ efforts to link anyone and everyone to the CPUSA; it’s just that, whereas they were the people that you looked to for revolutionary thinking in the 1950s-1960s, Anarchists are the people that you looked to now.
Rad Geek, have you ever actually watched and listenned to Beck? If he is serious then he’s on the road to anarchy but hasn’t arrived yet. My wife is a fan of his and I tell her all the time that he is an anarchist, he just realize it yet.
Professor Long, thanks for the Somalia references. That information is very useful. Thank you also for the audio you have on mises.org. You were the one who closed the deal for me on anarchy.
I wonder why you would send Rachel Maddow so many essays about Somalia by people who have never been there.
I guess all those historians who write about Ancient Rome & all those scientists who write about Mars are performing a fool’s errand. After all, they’ve never been there.
I could have sent a link to some of Michael van Notten’s stuff (as he actually lived in Somalia and married into a clan there; I knew him back in my NC days) but I figured I should send something more recent (Michael died in 2002).
Of natural causes, I should specify!
wait, you call yourself a market anarchist! you can’t be, frig you USamericans are so out to lunch politically.
Proudhon wasn’t American. Yet he believed in private ownership, voluntary exchange, and even competition — yet no one denies that he was an anarchist (in fact he pioneered the term).
Actually, Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt deny it. See their book Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism for their quite compelling and essentially correct interpretation of Proudhon’s relation to anarchism.
P.S. anarchism isn’t just antistatism. It’s also against bosses, wage slavery, and warlordism of the type you folks celebrate in Somalia as “anarchism.”
P.P.S. A red-baiting McCarthyite Christian fascist authoritarian like Glenn Beck viewed as an anarchist or anarchist sympathizer is the kind of stuff we can expect from “free-market/Austrian anarchism” advocates muddying the waters with their nonsense.
P.P.P.S. Why does Kevin Carson claim to support the I.W.W. yet defend wage labor and absentee landlordism? Nevermind, I don’t expect rational arguments from opportunists like him/”Austrian anarchists.”
P.P.P.P.S. Berkman considered mutualism/individualism seriously flawed and inadequate to the task of dealing with an advanced industrial society. So did most anarchists following Bakunin since the inception of the First International
Anarchism is just anti statism. Nothing more and nothing less. Syndicalism and all of the other neo socialist non sense is just an excuse to hijack the term “anarchy”.
I see you’ve never really watched Beck’s show or listenned to him. He could be just a carnival huckster or tent revivalist capitalizing on the dissatisfaction of the average citizen for his own gain. But if he actually believes what he says then it is only a matter of time before he begins advocating abolition of the state.
The thing people like you miss about “wage slavery” is that dividing labor and making payment with a medium of exchange is the only successful alternative to grow your own, and barter. I don’t have the time or energy to raise cattle or to butcher and prepare one I’ve bartered for, but I sure did enjoy my gourmet bacon cheese burger earlier tonight. I had to pay for it somehow.
Why does Kevin Carson claim to support the I.W.W. yet defend wage labor and absentee landlordism?
You’re new here, aren’t you?
Berkman considered mutualism/individualism seriously flawed
Of course he did. That’s why he wasn’t a mutualist or an individualist. But the point of mentioning his reception of mutualism was not to reopen the argument about whether mutualism is a good idea or not. It was to reply to your silly assertion that mutualists and individualists are not part of “actual historical anarchism,” but rather are newcomers “infiltrating” the movement. That’s certainly not how it seemed to actual historical anarchists like Berkman, in spite of very real and deep disagreements.
That said, even if the point of the discussion were to reopen the issue of mutualism and its critics, the arguments you raise here are astonishingly awful arguments. Berkman thought it seriously flawed. Well, so what? You’ve got an appeal to authority, but where’s the argument? (Maybe it’s hiding somewhere next to Kevin Carson’s esoteric tracts defending absentee landlordism.) “Most Anarchists following Bakunin” thought it flawed. Well, so what? I don’t know whether “following” is supposed to mean that you’re referring to Bakuninist Anarchists, or to Anarchists who came, historically, after Bakunin, but in either case, even if true, this at best a crude appeal to the majority. If I wanted to decide arguments based on authority, tradition, and majority opinion, I’d be a fucking Republican.
Do they also deny that Tucker, and Warren, and Spooner, and Hodgskin were anarchists? I mean, okay, if you want to go back and write all your opponents out of the history books, fine. But there’s an odd mismatch between your constant (rather conservative) appeals to what anarchists have traditionally thought, and your dismissing as not really anarchists people that Berkman, Goldman, etc. were happy to consider anarchists.
We can debate whether or not anarchism is essentially against all of those things (many anarchists have thought it wasn’t), but that’s beside the point, because we left-libertarian market anarchists are also against bosses, wage slavery, and warlords. (The warlords in Somalia are largely focused around the government-rife area of Mogadishu; those are state-created aspiring statists, and nothing to do with the aspects of Somalia I was praising, in the areas of the country away from Mogadishu, the warlords, and the foreign governmental interventions.) You don’t seem to know very much about us; maybe you should find out what our positions actually are before you attack them.
I have no use for Glenn Beck. But your ad hominem “kind of stuff we can expect” style of arguments sounds a lot like … Glenn Beck. Verbal abuse and appeals to authority are a statist mode of argument; shouldn’t anarchists rely on rational persuasion instead?
What on earth are you talking about? Kevin’s not an Austrian, he opposes absentee landlordism, and he favours a system in which wage labour will disappear.
If you don’t bother to find out what your opponents’ positions actually are, it’s no wonder you can’t locate the arguments for them.
That’s true, as the passage I linked to shows. But the passage I linked to also shows that he didn’t regard them as fake anarchists, or authoritarian-capitalists in anarchist guise, and he didn’t substitute insults for argument in explaining his disagreements with them.
My favourite bit was about Kevin Carson supporting landlords because he’s an austrian. I feel sorry for him! After all that time being called a liar and a thief lol…
Also, as has been pointed out already NO ONE is saying Somalia is a good place to live. The argument is that it’s a little better than it was under a state.
Everyone knows anarchism is about more than anti-statism, we are criticised all the time about it.
Obviously non-individualists thought individualism was flawed…
Also individualists thought non-individualism was flawed…
Proudhon was anti-communism so at one point the “historical” position would rule out Kropotkin. Kropotkin argued that his version of communism would get around the objections, which is fair enough, yet we aren’t permitted the same privilege?
Again to Berkman:
We left-libertarian market anarchists hardly need to be told that “anarchism isn’t just antistatism,” because that’s the very point that we (or many of us anyway) keep stressing; that’s what the whole “Comprehensive Liberty” and “Thick Libertarianism” conversations have been about.
What does “dividing labor” have to do with an objection to the critique of “wage slavery”? Hardly anybody who talks about “wage slavery” — certainly not the communists — is against a division of labor per se. The argument is about how labor ought to be divided, and on what terms. The proposal is not for everybody to do identical work or for the worker-occupied factories to all make the same products. The alternatives to wage slavery that are proposed are for workers to gain ownership of the means of production and exchange goods amongst themselves, rather than mediating their economic relationships through bosses and financiers.
Also, what does “making payment with a medium of exchange” have to do with the critique of wage slavery? Communists generally don’t want much in the way of quid-pro-quo exchange, but it’s not mainly because of their critique of “wage slavery.” (It’s based on some other things, e.g. their critique of commodity fetishism.) And there are many non-communist anticapitalists who oppose wage slavery but have no fundamental problem with payment with a medium of exchange (Proudhon was trying to start a bank, for Pete’s sake). The issue for them, again, isn’t the existence of money; it’s the control of money and property by the State and a select class of capitalists favored by the State. For the mutualists, the upshot isn’t the eradication of exchange, payment, money, or credit; it’s the decentralization of control over exchange, payment, money, and credit. What we’re after isn’t the end of “making payment with a medium of exchange,” but rather patterns of payment and exchange where workers make the decisions and keep the profits, rather than being handed down directives and receiving fixed wages for time served.
If you mean “out to lunch” as in the awesome Eric Dolphy album, then thank you, we market anarchist are awesome.
interesting discussion. if liberals like maddow ever really bothered to learn about the sordid history of state formation and the corresponding primitive accumulation employed to create and sustain our current inequalities, i think they’d be less inclined to defend the state as a bulwark against the so-called free market…nah, they may even be more likely to defend it upon learning.
not that i’m invested much in the above who-is-a-real-anarchist dance, but didn’t kevin carson say somewhere, i think in the c4ss comment sections, that he essentially had no theoretical differences with rent and wages? not trying to pick a fight, i like his work, but i was sure i’d seen comments to that effect from him. perhaps it was qualified by a remark about the leveling tendencies of a free(d) market.
He has said a number of times that although he prefers mutualist to Rothbardian property rules, he thinks that most of the things that are forbidden by mutualist rules but not by Rothbardian ones would nevertheless be very difficult to sustain under Rothbardian rules, and certainly could not dominate as they do today — so that the consequences of mutualist and Rothbardian rules would not be vastly different. (In other words, if Rothbardian rules were consistently applied then while wage labour and absentee landlordship would be permitted, nevertheless workers’ cooperatives, self-employment, and the acquisition of land would be so much easier that no one would be forced into working for a boss or living under a landlord unless for some reason they found it convenient.) That’s why mutualists like Kevin and left-Rothbardians like me can cooperate happily — because although we favour different rules, we think the consequences of the rules would be fairly similar, so neither side is too uptight about the possibility of some localities adopting the other guy’s favoured rules.
Millipede: I’ve got no theoretical differences with whatever level of rent and wages can exist in a free market, but that’s qualified by my belief that the “wage system” is almost entirely the result of government’s role in the primitive accumulation process and in promoting a particular model of industrialization.
No no, you’re both a lying thieving mutualist and a lying pro-property crypto-capitalist.
Does anyone happen to have a link to the Maddow segment in question, or a title I could search?
It seems like they are under a set of laws and have a monetary system, which I don’t consider to be true anarchy. It’s more tribal ruling than anarchy. I’m glad it is working for them. I was excited to see anarchy applied to a country, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t my idea of anarchy. Although, it is not very common for anarchist to agree with each other on how it should work.
You and I might not agree on what the ideal anarchy would look like, but I’m sure we can both agree that Somalia isn’t it. The point is not how great Somalia is in absolute terms, but rather that without a state Somalia has done better than it did with a state and better that its neighours are doing with a state — so that, however bad Somalia may be, it can’t be legitimately used as an argument for the necessity of the state.
I don’t see your logic here. Yes, perhaps Somalia is better off with anarchy than with a ruthless dictatorship. I could also say that perhaps its better to have breast cancer than lung cancer, or that it’s better to have your arms chopped off than your head chopped off. What does that prove? Your Somalian example really doesn’t prove that anarchy is good, only that anarchy isn’t the absolute worst. Show me one single modern example of anarchy being actually *good*, not just better than totalitarianism or fascism — and of people under anarchy enjoying the benefits of roads, security, law and order, schools, healthcare, et cetera.
Perhaps you just wished to point out that Somalia’s problems shouldn’t be blamed on anarchy per se, or that its problems wouldn’t just magically disappear if it had a government. You have a point there. But you have to admit, if Somalians had actual law and order and security, life would be a lot better.
I didn’t take the Somalia case to prove that anarchy is good. After all, there are plenty of non-anarchists who will agree that some anarchies are better than some governments. (Locke says as much, explaining why he disagrees with Hobbes’ contention that any state that gets us out of anarchy is worthy of support.) Of course Somalia has a fairly lousy anarchy, which succeeded a fairly lousy state.
My point was that if Somalia is better off with anarchy than it was with a state, then one can’t use the breakdown of the Somali state as an explanation of how Somalia got so awful, which is what Maddow was doing. (Didn’t I already clarify this?)
The Somalia case does illustrate — though doesn’t all by itself establish — the following two contentions. But I think there is quite a bit of evidence in their favour:
a) When one compares two societies, one statist and one anarchic, that are otherwise comparable in economic, cultural, etc. development, the anarchic one tends to be better (freer, more peaceful, more prosperous, less hierarchical, etc.).
b) When one compares two societies, both statist, that are otherwise comparable in development, the one that is closer to being an anarchy likewise tends to be better in those ways.
In other words, anarchy always does better than statism with whatever materials it finds available. So in judging anarchies we need to compare them with states of comparable development (say, Somalia with its neighbours or its statist past, medieval Iceland with feudal mainland Europe, etc.). Comparing Somalia with a western democratic state and so finding anarchy wanting is like comparing a healthy person with a broken leg to a fatally ill person without a broken leg, and concluding that broken legs are great.
Some more thoughts:
As Kevin points out in his response, the modern era is one of statists forcibly suppressing anarchy, so it’s not surprising that there aren’t many examples. But there are plenty of modern examples of people under states autonomously organising “roads, security, law and order, schools, healthcare,” etc. on their own, without the state’s involvement, and indeed despite the state’s actively hostile attempts to suppress such efforts.
I should also point out that at the time of the American Revolution, all the objections that today are raised against anarchy were then raised against the kind of representative democracy that the founders were trying to establish. “Every modern, civilised society has a king,” they were told.
Sure; I’m all in favour of their having law and order and security. I don’t think having a state is the best way to get those things, though.
Okay, one more again:
Fine, but what if you found that chopping the arms off a decapitated person made their head start to grow back? That seems a closer analogy.
I think that was the idea.
On the other hand, show me an example of a territortial state that provides these things that
1) can’t be traced directly or indirectly to conquest or forcible establishment against the will of a majority of those it claims to rule;
2) doesn’t have a history of forcibly suppressing competition from self-organized alternatives; and/or
3) doesn’t, alongside all the services it provides, serve the primary function of acting as executive committee of some ruling class and enabling them to collect rents from artificial property rights.
Modern nation states, as we know them, were founded on the conquest (as described by Kropotkin among others) of the free towns by absolutist regimes, and immediately proceeded to expropriating the peasantry’s land and imposing mercantile cartels on the rest of the world.
The kind of states we’re familiar with have been quite hostile to self-organized alternatives to their services, because it undermines the basis of monopoly that enables a small class of rentiers to live off other people’s labor. The main function of the state is to enforce “property rights”: not, however, natural property rights in one’s own labor-product, but rather property rights over access to opportunities.
So asking why there’s no major examples of alternatives to the state is a bit like asking why there’s no intelligent hominids besides homo sapiens–when the whole world is scattered with the bones of competing hominids with homo sap’s teeth marks in them.