Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Anarchist's Weakness

Alan Saunders interveiwed Robert Wolff about anarchism. Straight away, of course, Wolff has to explain that there are many different kinds of anarchism; he describes four kinds, mainly so that he can dispense with the exercise of categorization and get on talking about the main theme. Otherwise, he'd still be talking.

So Wolff believes that the autonomy of man is incompatible with the state. This should not be viewed as the absence of law, but rather that each man rules himself under his own law. Now, I have reached this point in terms of legislation. Should someone have a greivance, it would be simple enough to judge the case based on the perpetrator's own law. We can know that by his public choices. Observe any of the major religions, and we've got the basics- don't steal, murder, etc... Business and professional organizations provide guidelines, best practices, and the like. Members of such organizations have already affirmed these rules voluntarily and those who engage in transactions with them do so in part because of these rules.

In theory someone could claim no rule, no morality, but in practice it would be impossible for this person to live. Would you do business with a person who claims he has a right to steal from you? Or have anything to do with someone who thinks he should be able to murder whoever he wants? Of course not.

I don't think I'm describing anarchism. Wolff's definition seems to fit the model, but then I don't seriously think Wolff would like it either because he's an anarcho-communist. Many anarchists don't believe in property rights- this is the sort of idea, which, if actually implemented would do just as much harm as the state. The property owner has authority over a small portion of the world; in a world without property rights the temptation is to organize for efficiency and we end up with a person or a committee in charge of the entire realm, despite being completely incapable of proficiency in all matters necessary to provide decent stewardship with regard to all of that stuff.

Anyway, I did enjoy the interview. The Philosopher's Zone also provides a transcript, in case you prefer text.

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