Archive | May 30, 2016

Who Are the People In Your Neighbourhood, and How Can You Control Them?

I just came across this old letter of mine, which appeared in the Opelika-Auburn News on 9 February 2001:

nosy-neighbor

To the Editor:

So local government officials in Alabama’s counties are upset because the state Constitution doesn’t give them the authority to impose zoning laws or to ban prostitution?

Thank about what that means. These officials are upset because they think they, not you, should have the right to decide what you are allowed to do on your own property or with your own body.

If they decide they don’t like you running a business on your property, they claim teh right to shut your business down. That’s what zoning laws mean. And if they decide they don’t like your choices about whom you have sex with and on what terms, they claim the right to interfere there too. That’s what anti-prostitution laws mean.

In other words, they think both your property and your body belong to them, not to you.

The United States was founded on a different principle: that your life belongs to you, not to the government. But we don’t think often enough about what that implies. If your life really belongs to you, then you have the right to make your own decisions about your body and your property, so long as you’re not interfering with anybody else’s freedom to do likewise with theirs.

Sunday’s Opelika-Auburn News quotes professor Wayne Flynt arguing that without zoning laws and anti-prostitution laws we “have no control over what happens right next door”to us. But since when are we supposed to have control over what happens next door to us? If we don’t like the way our neighbors are living, we have the right to argue with them, or to shun them, but not the right to impose our preferences on them by force of law.

Thats why I vote Libertarian.

Roderick T. Long

 

 

(But it’s now been a while since I voted Libertarian (or at all); Barr/Root drove me away in 2008, and it’s going to take more than Johnson/Weld to lure me back.)


If You Love Freedom, Thank an Anarchist

[cross-posted at BHL]

It’s often said – particularly on holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day – that Americans owe their freedom (such as it is) to u.s. military veterans.

ifulove-blogpic

This claim has always puzzled me. In what war in living memory was the freedom of Americans at stake? Without u.s. military action, were Japanese or German troops – let alone Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, Panamanian, Afghani, or Iraqi ones – really going to be marching though Times Square? If anything, given the notorious ratchet effect whereby wars tend to produce permanent increases in government power, it seems more probable that u.s. military action has contributed to a diminution of our freedom.

Yet Americans do enjoy a greater degree of liberty, however inadequate, than citizens of many other countries around the world. To whom do we owe that fact?

Many people wear shirts that say, “If you love freedom, thank a veteran.” I wear a shirt that says “If you love freedom, thank an anarchist.”

So what have anarchists (and other fractious dissidents) done for the cause of freedom? In answer, I quote from two recent articles:

Anarchists have never taken power. We have resisted authoritarianism and oppression in every arena. From calling out Marxism long before its draconian aspirations became public record, to fighting and dying to resist Fascism, fighting Franco until he couldn’t afford to join Hitler and Mussolini and leading the resistance against the Nazis across Europe. We’ve fought the robber barons, the czars, the oligarchs, and the soviet bureaucrats.

And we’ve been extraordinarily popular in different regions at different points in history, although we have not yet had sufficient critical mass to completely transform the world. In every instance where anarchism surged to localized popularity with a few million adherents, as in Spain but also Ukraine and Manchuria, every surrounding power immediately put their wars on hold to collaborate in snuffing out the examples we provided of a better world, of better ways of interacting and settling disputes with one another, that do not turn to control but build a tolerable consensus for all parties when agreement is needed.

We’ve been at the forefront not just of technology like cryptocurrencies and the tor project, but we’ve also been at the forefront of struggles against patriarchy, racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, etc., etc. Since long before there were popular coalitions like “feminism.” We smuggled guns to slaves and ran abolitionist journals. We’ve coursed through the veins of our existing society, pioneering myriad social technologies like credit unions and cooperatives. We’ve consistently served as the radical edge of the world’s conscience, and played a critical role in expanding what is possible while developing and field testing new insights and tools.

Anarchism – as many commentators have noted – has served as the laboratory of the left, of social justice and resistance movements around the world. Even where we remain marginal, the tools we invent eventually become mainstream.

— William Gillis, “Transhumanism Implies Anarchism

 

 

[The] claim that our rights are something “given to” us, handed down from above by the government and its soldiers, is a pernicious, authoritarian, damned lie.

Who has given us our rights? Nobody. We have taken them. Every right we have, we have because we fought for it from below. We have these rights because we resisted violations of them, because we fought those who violated them &#150 sometimes fighting “the Soldier” – and compelled the state to recognize them. And the state recognizes them because it’s afraid that if it violates them we’ll damn well fight it – and its soldiers – again.

Rights have never been granted by authority. They have always been asserted against authority, and won from it. We don’t have our rights because the government and its soldiers are nice – but because we’re not. It’s not the Soldier – it’s the dissidents, the hell-raisers, the dirty flag-burning hippies, the folks with bad attitudes towards authority in general, who have given us our rights throughout history, by fighting for them.

— Kevin A. Carson, “No, It’s Not ‘The Soldier’

 

 


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