Monday, August 03, 2009

Anarchism and conservatism

All power finds its expression in relationships. Anytime power is not held equally by participants in a relationship, anarchism, with its bias toward freedom, always begins by asking why. In this respect, anarchism is principally concerned with authority rather than any particular relationship per se.

Most political philosophies thrive by focusing on particular relationships to the exclusion of others. American conservatism, for example, is woefully preoccupied with defending the economic privileges of a ridiculous minority against the rest of the country, who, contrary to conservative dogma, wouldn't mind having public money directed toward public purposes every once in a while.

Yet conservatism is artful in framing every legitimate, popular use of government as an expansionist takeover in violation of constitutional principles, as though entertaining a democratic impulse would drive a stake through the heart of the Republic, and prompt the Founding Fathers to cry out from their graves. This is not to say that there hasn't always been an argument to be made against "big government;" unfortunately for conservatives, it has always been that the government does far too much of what the public doesn't want, far too little of the reverse, and usually on behalf of the powerful minorities which sponsor "conservative" concerns.

Naturally, conservatives will assert that the relationship between "private liberty" and the interventionist state should be the preeminent concern for all Americans, which is probably why they repeatedly scream "socialism" at a mostly bewildered electorate. Indeed, conservatism has succeeded in attracting a large, mostly white, male audience in its overtures to the higher order of wisdom emanating from the white, male leadership of the American past, with whom they secretly share a "truer" understanding of the proper role of government; certainly in comparison to the populist rabble, with their disregard for conservative "values."

While anarchism shares with conservatism a natural antagonism toward government power, conservatism as it is practiced by the Republican Party is little more than the defense of an enormous power grab in the private sphere, where it tries to conflate the small-scale ownership of the past with multinational corporations which own the resource wealth of entire communities, and then argue that the communities have no right to infringe on private liberty, because a piece of paper, whether law or contract, says so! 99% of the time, anarchists challenge government on the grounds that it goes along with this (as in global justice campaigns, aka "anti-globalization") or similarly anti-democratic policies.

Of course, as with every political consideration, one cannot look to a single relationship for guidance in a world that is enmeshed with innumerable others. In circumstances in which wealth and property are already monopolized by a possessing minority, "private property rights" are not a call to liberty but a reaffirmation of the disenfranchisement of most of humanity from the basic rights of survival, dependent as they are in their relationship with the few.


TGGP said...

No mention of a possible "tyranny of the majority"? I'm personally quite glad we have a Bill of Rights (even if its often ignored), though it is quite undemocratic.

I'm also surprised you didn't mention that conservatives are big boosters of the police and military. Not big government at all. Hey, look over there, a liberal fascist!

Keifus said...

IOZ is right. That is good.

JRB said...


You're right that I don't raise these issues directly, and you're right to bring them up.

erin4iraq said...

My favorite bumper sticker of all time:

Question Authority - under which was hand written - make me