How do Americans view freedom?
“In this century, the human race faces, once again, the virulent reign of the State—of the State now armed with the fruits of man’s creative powers, confiscated and perverted to its own aims. The last few centuries were times when men tried to place constitutional and other limits on the State, only to find that such limits, as with all other attempts, have failed. Of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries, of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried, none has succeeded in keeping the State in check. The problem of the State is evidently as far from solution as ever. Perhaps new paths of inquiry must be explored, if the successful, final solution of the State question is ever to be attained.”
― Murray N. Rothbard, Anatomy of the State
I recently posted an image on my Instagram of an audio book (Anatomy of the State, by Murry N. Rothbard) that I had just finished listening to, along with the hashtag “#Anarchy”. The next day I was surprised to see an old friend comment under it:
“I just feel like anarchy is an extremely selfish, hedonistic, and egotistical political philosophy.”
This friend of mine is by no means an unintelligent individual, in fact I would say he’s quite bright and has a keen mind for abstract thought, which is why I was so interested in what he had to say. I think it’s an illuminating insight into a psyche common among those who are understandably unfamiliar with the general philosophy of anarchy.
He went on to say:
“Do anarchists believe human beings ought to help one another? If so, do they have enough confidence in humans to do the right thing without any influence from the government? I get libertarianism, but at least they conclude there is some use for government, limited as it ought to be.”
Now, to start, I don’t want to attempt to psychoanalyze my friend too much because I think that would prove to be an impossibly inaccurate task and therefore not worthwhile. I do however want to try and empathize with the concerns he lays out.
There are several things I find noteworthy in my friend’s comment, the first being that he seems to feel compassion for others around him, and I think it’s fair to assume that he is expressing concern for those unable or less able to help themselves. I think most people feel the same way generally when they see someone in dire straits; in fact, I believe it’s an incredibly useful evolutionary human development. Man being the socially dependent creatures we are, and living in as complex a society as we do, it’s imperative that we aid others, just as we would prefer them to do if we found ourselves in need.
I believe though, that our philosophical divergence comes from a fundamental disagreement of why people act the way they do, and what it is that motivates individuals. For decades the state, through various platforms - including but not limited to public education, professional licensure, and media propaganda - has perverted the minds of the public to believe that anything less than what is implemented by the government would result in total desolation. As Albert Jay Nock said in his book “Our Enemy, the State,”
“There appears to be a curious difficulty about exercising reflective thought upon the actual nature of an institution into which one was born and one's ancestors were born. One accepts it as one does the atmosphere; one's practical adjustments to it are made by a kind of reflex. One seldom thinks about the air until one notices some change, favourable or unfavourable, and then one's thought about it is special; one thinks about purer air, lighter air, heavier air, not about air. So it is with certain human institutions.”
If we were born into a society where the state had granted itself a monopoly over the production of food, it would be looked at as lunacy to suggest that the private market could better provide this service. Such is the difficulty that we find ourselves in today. “
-Albert J. Nock, Our enemy, the State
This quote helped to illuminate precisely why people with fears and concerns that seem outside themselves would look toward the state for answers. I would simply argue here that the state is acutely incompetent, and has but one tool, the rifle, and the rifle is a poor substitute for real human ingenuity in helping your fellow man.
On a brief empirical note, I would reference the places in the US that are the most dependent on state welfare, namely - Native American reserves, the people of Appalachia, and inner cities. This, I believe, shows a strong correlation for the bitter affects that state welfare can have.
Very much in the same way that any religious person would struggle in the midst of a faith crisis, the citizens of a nation must understandably grasp for straws, or just ignore the fiasco entirely, to justify the existence of a parasitic state. This is the reality of cognitive dissonance.
One last insight that I would like to comment briefly on is the overall lack of basic knowledge about the actual philosophy of anarchy. Being a former member of the LDS faith and having spent two years on a mission trip attempting convert people, I quickly discovered the deep and entangling roots of religious (or just religious-like) identities that burrow into people and strongly take hold. Whether it’s an actual belief/anti-belief in a deity, tribe, job, nationality, ethnicity, etc. that people espouse, that thing is incredibly painful to pull away from. Inevitably, they will keep following the path of least resistance and find ways to justify their continued identification with said belief. No matter how rational or logical a new or contradictory idea may be, it is the knee-jerk reaction of all people to reject what rocks their proverbial boat.
“If “we are the government,” then anything a government does to an individual is not only just and untyrannical but also “voluntary” on the part of the individual concerned.”
-Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State