Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are Conservatives Like Me Anarchists?

I'm a little perplexed.  Over the past two weeks I've been called an anarchist twice.  The first time was when I was explaining my civil society ideas to a 60-ish liberal, a man that started out adult life as an SDS activist at Boston University.

The second time was when a liberal took out after my piece "There Has To Be a System."

Who, Me?  An anarchist?  I have to admit it took me aback.

But then I realized that it all made sense.  To a liberal, a world without their big-government programs would indeed be a world without structure, a world of chaos.

But let's get one thing out of the way.  Wikipedia defines "Anarchism" as "a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies based on non-hierarchical free associations."  That's not what I or any conservative I know about or any libertarian I know about is proposing.  Anarchy comes from the Greek and means "without a ruler."

What libertarian conservatives do want is a state that is as small as possible, with a ruler whose powers are strictly limited to the need to defend people against looters and pillagers foreign and domestic.  We do want most social or "societal" functions dispatched by free associations, which might or might not be "non-hierarchical."  But we admit the need for a state.  It's just that we don't admit the need for a state of liberals, for liberals, and by liberals.  We think that such a state can be described in a single word: unjust.

So when liberals call me an anarchist they are projecting.  They are saying: but you want to tear down everything that we have spent the last century building.  And all that will be left is societal rubble.

This all issues naturally from the liberal analysis of the condition of humanity.  Starting at least with Marx, the left has asserted that capitalism is at least as hierarchical and exploitative as feudalism.  Under capitalism the workers are exploited.  The only solution is to meet force with force: a revolution to smash the power of the bosses, or "countervailing power" to match corporate power with union and government power.

If you think the lefty way then you think of society as purely a balance of power, just like the balance of power between nations.  Unilateral disarmament by the workers (and now the traditionally marginalized) would mean their utter destruction by the bosses.

(Yeah.  Funny how liberals call for unilateral disarmament between nations but not within nations.)

The conservative and libertarian worldview says that the fundamental relationship in the modern era is the economic relationship of the invisible hand.  The way to get ahead is not to go out looting and pillaging like some medieval king or some fascist or socialist dictator.  The way to prosperity is to divine the needs of the consumers and give it to them.

Liberals say no, that couldn't be true.  Unless we step in with our wage and hour laws, our social safety net, and our vigilant regulation of business then workers will get exploited without limit and we'll get a society of gross inequality with the rich and the poor and nothing in between.

Conservatives say the science is settled on this.  Starting right when Marx made his predictions about the "immiseration" of the workers the lot of workers has improved.  And the lot of workers has improved fastest where the economy and the society were the most capitalist.  In the 1950s John Kenneth Galbraith talked about "countervailing power" between Big Business, Big Labor, and Big Government.  Today, of course the Big Businesses of the 1950s are a corporate memory and the private sector unions reduced to penury.  Instead we have the market-focused behemoths like Walmart, Microsoft, and Apple and Google.  But Big Government is bigger.

What did Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, say about corporate power?
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
You can see why corporations like to get in bed with government when things start going south. Government can stop the consumer from "spending his money somewhere else" and can force him to keep spending his money at the old place.

Conservatives as anarchists?  No, liberals.  You are just interpreting the world anarchy, a "world without rulers," to mean "a world without liberal rulers."

Can't say I blame you.

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