Monday, November 17, 2008

Anarcho-tyranny, part three.

We might have expected from Samuel Francis more than this apercu of "anarcho-tyranny" but we have that alone to my knowledge. In spite of the brevity, I believe it is worthy of our consideration. I've dealt with this same insight at some length under the rubric of "Velvet Fascism." However we call it, such is the temper of our times.

Kathy Shaidle and Peter Vere wrote The Tyranny of Nice, and Jonah Goldberg wrote Liberal Fascism, both titles on the topic of benign intervention into the privacies of the people by the force of state-- for the good of the people. I often end my own writings on this topic with the line: "Lord, save us from those who would save us from ourselves."

I write of Velvet Fascism. Francis writes of Anarcho-tyranny. Regardless of how we phrase it, all of us interested in the preservation of Human freedom and its growth across the world are working toward the negative freedom of individual choice in the life of privacy. That sounds negative, doesn't it? And who likes negative? It's so... negative. That negative freedom is the freedom from rather than the freedom to is lost in the phraseology. That you might be free from government control of the minutia of your daily details isn't so romantic-seeming as having the freedom to. But let's look for a moment: If you are free from, for example, government control, then you do not need permission from outside. You are free to, let's say, walk and talk. If you are free to walk and talk, then you must know this is so because the government has told you so. The mind of free to is the mind of control. The mind of free from is the mind of freedom.

Even within an anarchist/libertarian world of free from there might be an infinite number of categories in which the person is not free to. You would not be free to do harm to others, and probably not be free to harm yourself if that harms others as well. Yes, there oughtta be a law. And usually there is. Few if any of us would choose freely to live in a world of fantasy computer games, violent worlds of lawlessness and sudden death. We do have laws. Many of our laws are Natural, based on the experience of living in the real world; and some of our laws are Positive, based on tradition and experience from others over time as codified. Laws are often good for the orderly working of the lives of the majority most of the time. The fewer the laws and the less tightly they bind people to the opinions of orthopraxy, the better. Our intuitive sense of right and wrong is often a better a judge than the laws of scholars from centuries long past and far gone. When it fails, then we have laws, as we must have. Chaos is a bad thing in our social life. So too though is hyper-control, even if it is-- for our own good.

Lord, save us from those who would save us from ourselves.

Samuel Francis presents us with a veiw of a world of the worst of both worlds, a world of anarcho-tyranny:
"Anarcho-tyranny" - a form of government that seems to be unknown in history until recently. Anarcho-tyranny is a combination of the worst features of anarchy and tyranny at the same time.

Under anarchy, crime is permitted and criminals are not apprehended or punished. Under tyranny, innocent citizens are punished. Most societies in the past have succumbed to either one or the other, but never as far as I know to both at once.

In the United States today, lawmakers worry far more about drivers who don't wear seat belts, run red lights or play their stereos too loud than they do about the thousands of rapists, thieves, and killers who prowl about as free as wolves in the woods. If the Maryland legislature spent any time this year increasing the penalties for real crimes, I haven't heard about it, nor did it make much effort to improve enforcement of the laws it already has.

One danger of the new laws is that, once Maryland starts enforcing them, other states will tend to adopt similar ones. The reason anarcho-tyranny flourishes is that it gets lawmakers off the hook. The legislators can pass such laws and then brag to their constituents about how tough they are on crime and how devoted to public safety they are. Once a lawmaker gets an anarcho-tyrannical idea under his belt, you can be sure the idea is headed for the law books.

But of course such laws do nothing to impede real criminals. The anarcho-tyrants create new laws that merely criminalize the innocent and ignore real criminals. The result is that law-abiding citizens catch it twice: once from the real criminals to whom the state is oblivious and once from the laws that criminalize the law-abiding.

Yet Maryland's little adventure in anarcho-tyranny did not spring full blown from the legislators' heads this year. A couple of years ago, the state government outlawed smoking in most restaurants, an unprecedented statewide invasion of privacy. Is it surprising that similar invasive laws were passed this year?

And will it be surprising if such laws spread? Well, no. Five days after the Maryland lawmakers adjourned from their labors to make their state safer from loud radios and lightless windshield wipers, the national anarcho-tyrant-in-chief himself unbosomed his own contribution to new statecraft.

The Clinton administration announced that it is proposing federal legislation to allow police to stop drivers who are not wearing seat belts. Big Business, those lovers of liberty, in the form of the insurance industry, is all for it, and together with its Siamese twin, Big Government, it's busy contriving schemes to enlarge state power yet more.

The secret of tyranny - whether anarcho or the plain vanilla version with which the world is all too familiar - is that it never sprouts full-blown from anything. It always starts small and then gets bigger. So if you think these laws are good ideas, you shouldn't be too surprised at the arrival of an era when state power has grown so big that it starts
knocking at your door - if, that is, it bothers to knock at all.

The Samuel Francis Letter. P. O. Box 19627. Alexandria, Virginia, May 1997
But! But! But! all these things are for our own good, obviously. How can a reasonable person object to the state demanding that one wear seat-belts or refrain from killing others with second-hand smoke or polluting the planet? There oughtta be a law. And if there isn't one today, rest assured that there will be one soon. You are free to.... But you are not free from....

I'll continue next time with more from Sam Francis.

7 comments:

Walker Morrow said...

I have a couple of thoughts.

My view of freedom tends to be one of some sort of natural order. I see freedom as being inherent in the being of humanity; in the existence of the individual. The reason I think that is simply for the reason that I am typing this now, or why I reach up to scratch my nose every so often. I can move, therefore the freedom to choose to speak and act must be something that I am born with, and something which is natural to my existence.

Integration into society can mean a restriction of freedoms, often for diplomacy's sake. I can't just walk around saying whatever I think about people, or else I'm not going to get along with anybody. It's a censorship, or a restriction, of my freedom, so that I can better integrate. However, this self-restriction is easily reversible, as it is up to my will and whim whether or not I do so.

Government I see as an extension of society. It is there to handle the responsibilities that we individually and as a group could perform, but which we would rather delegate to government, or which are better performed by government, due to our inability to devote the time or effort to the task(s).

Ultimately, even when it is the government which is restricting my freedoms, I still have a choice in the affair...arguably. because at some point, I gave a little bit of my freedom, in order that a certain responsibility be handled for me. For instance, I gave up my freedom to kill, or drive recklessly, when I submitted myself to Law. But I am still giving something that is mine.

And ultimately, I cannot be forced to do something; not by my government, and not by the people around me. Because ultimately everything is up to me and my free will. My actions are decided by my person and by no other person. Solzhenitsyn is a very good example of this -even the Russian Gulags could not determine his words or his actions in the end.

My second thought is that the nature of Law exists determined by Reason, or Nature. A reasoned law. Acts such as murder, theft, rape, and the like; acts which are condemned by all good and civilized people; and acts which are reasonably seen as being counter-productive, are a part of this law.

Whereas government only upholds this Law which is already put in place. Ultimately, whatever silly by-laws, or restrictions that it puts in place, they do not hold equal value with the Reasoned Law. And so one can rebel against government, but not against the Law, unless one is completely amoral; an extreme sort of libertine.

Dag said...

I'm slowly slouching toward an opinion about the nature of Man, and in part it is that Humanness is an experience of contained brutality among peers and unrestrained savagery among enemies until recently.

Look to head-hunters to see exterminatory warfare, only unsuccessful due to a lack of proper technology. And extermination is sometimes allowed to lapse due to the advantages of having slaves rather than corpses.

That doesn't interest me much. My concern is with the revolution of Modernity, the ceasura being what Ernest Gellner refers to as "The Big Ditch," life on either side of which is more or less incomprehensible to the other. I date the Revolutions in the middle of the 18th century. That's not to say they began at that time but that we can say certainly that then there was a Revolution in Modernity. Yes, Descartes was a revolutionary thinker, and Locke and Hume; but I mean more than a handful of revolutionary thinkers when I refer to Revolution. I refer in large part to the mode of production, the system of distribution, and the concept of legitimate ownership. That means whole Human societies in daily action. Modernity has two revolutionary activities that separate it from all other lifestyles: Modern man understands himself as his own private livestock; and he has a concept of cruelty. No other existence has that as its metaphysical underlay.

Whether we term it anarcho-tyranny, liberal fascism, the tyranny of nice, velvet fascism or Left dhimmi fascism, what remains is the innate need among the vast majority of human beings to rule or be ruled, and often if not mostly, both at the same time, in a never-ending dialectic of sado-masocism. Modernity breaks that pecking-order into individualism and hence individual freedom, which many if not most, hate and destroy at opportunity. there is a hatred of freedom and a fear of the loss of hierarchy that drives many, if not most, into the arms of Velvet fascism in the Modern West.

That's what I'll be exploring in coming installments on "anarcho-tyranny."

truepeers said...

My view of freedom tends to be one of some sort of natural order. I see freedom as being inherent in the being of humanity; in the existence of the individual. The reason I think that is simply for the reason that I am typing this now, or why I reach up to scratch my nose every so often. I can move, therefore the freedom to choose to speak and act must be something that I am born with, and something which is natural to my existence.

-Walker, the question I think you need to ask is whether animals have freedom. Yes, of course animals can scratch their noses: but can they develop a consciousness of an intention or desire to scratch their noses? or do they just do it?

If they have a consciousness of intention, then they have the freedom to choose to scratch or not, depending on the circumstances. And if they can learn from others' intentions, then they are truly free.

FWIW, I don't think animals are conscious beings, like us, capable of figuring the intention behind actions.

I don't know if you read academic papers, but if you can get your head around this one, it lays out beautifully this basic difference between humans and our animal cousins.

Only humans, in possession of language, can conceive of their and others' intentions as a deliberate choice. Thus only humans are free. And the condition of our freedom is membership in the community that shares a language. If you look at the few cases of children who have grown up apart from the linguistic community, they are hardly free in the sense you are. They are a bundle of confused instincts with only perhaps a flickering sense of human consciousness.

So I would not speak of integration into society as restricting freedom; I would argue it is the necessary condition for freedom, to the degree that the possibilities of human freedom have developed in one's given society. Ever society has its limits of course. Some are less free than others. But over time, history evolves in the direction of greater degrees of freedom.

truepeers said...

Having said that I would agree with the statement that freedom is inherent in the Being of humanity and in some sense also part of the natural order.

Walker Morrow said...

I think that the major difference between humanity and animals is that we can make conscious choices. That, and we understand the meaning of freedom.

Or, animals do have freedom like us, although one that is also controlled by the natural order, or the pecking order of the animal kingdom. Animals have other animals over them, which can restrict their freedom as a part of nature. They're a part of a natural order. Whereas humans have no other humans over them, or at least legitimately. Humans have no other human dominion over them, as humans are all on the same playing field, because of their individual nature.

But I'll have to give that paper a look, hopefully sometime tomorrow. I'm already hoping to read Plato's Phaedro as a part of another discussion though, so we shall have to see which comes first :)

Walker Morrow said...

Dag: looking forward to it :)

Walker Morrow said...

Further installments that is.