John W. Ray: Is anarchism feasible? | Columnists

“But what is government itself if not the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. James Madison

Anarchism has a long history dating back to ancient Greece. Anarchists believe that the primary political value is freedom and that because all institutions inherently limit individual freedom, all institutions are bad. Literally, anarchists are those who believe that we do not need government and that we can meet our social needs through voluntary cooperation.

America is facing an existential crisis from within because the core values ​​upon which our system is based are being subverted and our long-established institutions have lost their legitimacy. Those who undermine our institutions substitute nothing for them and suggest nothing to improve them. The intellectual foundation of this position is anarchism in that these people argue that the individual is everything, that we should be free to do what we want, and that any attempt to limit people is morally wrong because it restricts the freedom. Don’t wear masks, buy the biggest gun possible, remove taxes, eliminate regulations, etc. The litany is familiar. (Of course, these same people see no inconsistency with the government limiting women’s individual freedom, the LGTBQ community, etc.)

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What is the problem with this anarchist position? To answer this question, we need to look at the ideational basis of the extremist’s position and some societal underpinnings.

Whenever basic and necessary societal functions are regularly performed, they become institutionalized. If institutions are not functioning properly, basic societal functions are not being performed well. Institutions are defined by their rules of procedure, their purpose and their values.

Political institutions are necessary to ensure social order by binding people together, promoting cooperation, controlling antisocial behavior, implementing collective decisions, and providing a method for collective decision-making. Political institutions are the foundation of our political culture, values, goals, policies and laws. Without political institutions, we would have chaos; the weakening of political institutions contributes to the dientergration of society.

What are the rules/values ​​that unite American political institutions?

1. Majority rule and minority rights.

2. Freedom compatible with the common good

3. Participation in political life

6. Tolerance of opposing points of view

8. Accept election results

These are attacked. Too many people today say without proof that elections are unfair; too many of them espouse an unbridled and excessive freedom; too many people reject the fundamental tenets of American political institutions: equality, human dignity, the rule of law, tolerance of opposing viewpoints, and the right of all to vote. All of this represents an attack on the fundamental rules and values ​​of American democracy. Add to the above a good dose of racism, ethnocentrism, misogyny, homophobia and nativism and you will understand why American politics is facing an existential crisis.

If institutional rules are weakened or destroyed, institutions are weakened or destroyed. What American political institutions are replaceable? Which American political values ​​are inoperative? What new institutions and values ​​would these people substitute for the old ones? Even if we disagree on politics, we should be able to uphold the age-old rules and values ​​of American democracy.

Without effective political institutions, people would be free to pursue whatever they want to pursue. The result would be what Hobbes described as a war of all against all. As each would be judge of his own case, there would be innumerable quarrels. Since people would be unrestrained, conflict would become the norm. Is this what we want?

While the need for strong democratic political institutions does not eliminate the need for constant vigilance as institutions can be unrepresentative, irresponsible or oppressive, our political system cannot exist without them.

If one looked at the common denominator of all these right-wing subversives of democratic political institutions, one would find it to be a mistrust and hatred of government and government goals, a rampant selfish individualism , of an excessive valuation of unlimited freedom, that is to say , Anarchism. Is anarchism desirable? Is anarchism possible?

The philosopher John Rawls remarked: “The good of political life is the good of free and equal citizens recognizing the duty of civility to one another and upholding the institutions of a constitutional regime.”

Dr. John W. Ray teaches courses in political theory and political science at Montana Tech. He is currently writing a paper on far-right institutions, democracy and threats for presentation at the University of Oxford, England. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Montana Tech.

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