Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Political Philosophy, Idealism, and the Attractiveness of Anarchy

This is a long-overdue post, and for that I beg your pardon.

Okay, that said...

It occurred to me not long ago that I’ve never really enumerated what, exactly, my political views are. Most of you probably think I’m a staunch supporter of American constitutional “democracy,” and to an extent, you’d be right. The American system of government works for a nation the size of America, but honestly, I don’t think it’s ideal.

Don’t worry, I’m not a socialist.

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that the founders of American government really didn’t have all that much going for them. They’d just come off a long, grueling war with the current world superpower, their country was all but starving, and to top it all off, they had to come up with a form of government that was at once daring and conservative. Obviously, these weren’t the most auspicious of circumstances, so the Founding Fathers should be applauded for their work.

Now that we’re living in a later time period, however, we can see that the Founding Fathers were not, perhaps, perfect. They knew this, of course, so they allowed for amendments to the Constitution. But has our society changed so much that our current form of constitutional government is no longer a viable option?

I would argue that the Constitution could still work, provided that the people exchanged entitlement for responsibility. But there’s still a huge potential for corruption when a substantial government presides over the people.

In order to eliminate that potential for corruption, one must either eliminate the people or eliminate the government. Either way, it turns out that everyone shares power to some degree. The difference is that if the people are eliminated, we get communism, whereas if the government is eliminated we get anarchy. Neither of these two extremes is necessarily desirable, but I think that the latter extreme is preferable to the former.

Don’t worry, I’m not an anarchist, either. Not entirely, anyway; the technical term for my view is a form of Lockean anarchism.

Ideally, in a Lockean anarchist society, the laws are made by the people directly—thus Lockean anarchism would only be feasible in a very small population—and enforced by private contractors. Everyone owns as much property as he or she wishes; indeed, labor is counted as property and therefore can be traded as such. Thus, if someone labors a lot, he or she can trade that labor for a large plot of land. The only proviso here is, in Locke’s words, that everyone should leave “enough and as good in common... to others” (i.e., enough property).

Taxes, as such, do not exist. There is no obligation to pay for roads or what have you, unless, of course, one wishes to use the roads etc. One only pays for what one uses.

I differ from this view in three major areas. First of all, I think that private contractors would allow for corruption. If one person or a small group of people took over law enforcement, for example, and used it for their own personal gain, the results would be disastrous. Therefore, I think that the enforcement of law and that sort of thing should be left up to the people.

Second, in order for the people to be able to enforce laws themselves, there would have to be a governing document. This document would be written by the founders of the society in very clear language, using precepts learned from the successes and failures of various constitutions. In a way, this document would itself be the government, because it would decide all matters of legality.

Third, for a Lockean anarchist society to truly function, people would have to behave in a non-human manner. I believe in the doctrine of total depravity; thus, I do not believe that people, of themselves, are capable of doing something truly good. With the help of God they can do good, but on their own, good is impossible. In an essentially unconstrained society, the basest parts of human nature would certainly come out, and the society would dissolve in moments. There is then a need for a small volunteer government to keep order.

With this small caveat, I effectively destroy my entire argument for Lockean anarchism. Anarchy does not coexist with government; the terms are mutually exclusive. While I would be ecstatic if Lockean anarchism worked, I know that it is very probably unfeasible on this earth, especially in this modern, irresponsible era. Thus, it is my ideal, but not my working model. And while American representative democracy is not ideal, it is certainly better than chaos—although I would prefer even less government than the Constitution allows, especially in regard to the courts.

That, then, is my political philosophy in a gnarled nutshell. It’s still sort of a work in progress, as I’m still attempting to hammer out a form of Lockean anarchism that would actually work. I could call it Paradoxian anarchism—an apt name.


  1. Hmm... Excellent thoughts. I think Lockean anarchism might also run into a problem with a document functioning as the government. Today, we are encountering conflict over how to interpret our constitution and this would probably worsen with a small volunteer government.

    So, it seems that you're saying that Lockean anarchism would be the ideal gov. in an ideal world (without sin nature.) Don't you think that in such circumstances, the ideal would be a monarchy? Sure, it can easily become a tyranny, but if you look at the great monarchs like Queen Elizabeth and even Solomon (most of the time), they were able to accomplish so much. And isn't the new world going to be a monarchy with Christ the King? In a world where tyranny can't arise, I think a monarchy with a good king would be best. But since sin nature is a reality, a constitutional democracy is an effective compromise.

    I don't know if you are familiar with Aristotle's six forms of gov. but I think he had similar thoughts: link http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.ciaonet.org/wps/tic09/table.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.ciaonet.org/wps/tic09/index.html&usg=__0yKv2KVK1jBR6JaHnaNaPIRtEj8=&h=132&w=454&sz=3&hl=en&start=24&zoom=1&tbnid=2ho3VEFq42dOQM:&tbnh=59&tbnw=204&prev=/images%3Fq%3Daristotle%2Bsix%2Bforms%2Bgovernment%2Bmonarchy%2Btyranny%2Bchart%2Boligarchy%2Baristocracy%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D792%26tbs%3Disch:10%2C570&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=875&vpy=268&dur=3044&hovh=105&hovw=363&tx=195&ty=65&ei=yZF8TOHVF4a8sQOL0O2CBw&oei=rJF8TNaVC5PCsAPp7dHsCg&esq=2&page=2&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:5,s:24&biw=1280&bih=792

    But definitely a great essay.

  2. I am somewhat familiar with Aristotle's six forms of government; I think I saw a video on them at some point.

    Monarchy would probably work as well in this ideal environment. But supposing everyone is equal--i.e., everyone is human--what would be the qualifications of a monarch? What would make him or her better for the position than everyone else, and how would this be decided?

    (I would tend to agree with you, though, that in this world, constitutional democracy is the best compromise... although a bit heavier on democracy would be nice right now.)

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Paradox :) I may have to wear it after all.


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