Questions on Anarchism – Part I

Note from Caleb: This is Clark’s first post. If you missed his intro, check here. Enjoy!

Dear sirs, I am.

G. K. Chesterton upon being asked what was wrong with the world.

The argument for anarchism must deal with what, to Christian anarchism, is probably the biggest challenge to the system. That challenge is a moral one, and centers around the claim that anarchism must purposely do nothing in regards to immoral practices to avoid placing an obligation on the individual which would defeat the supposed intent of anarchism. But, clearly, where evil is being done to the defenseless, good men cannot remain idle. So, then, how is the anarchist to engage this issue?

Firstly, we would hope that man would quickly learn from his mistakes. Essentially, if it is to be granted, as I think it must, that what is evil is also generally unbeneficial, then man will eventually realize the futility of evil and cease from it. But this may entail a great deal of suffering among those who cannot defend themselves. We will return to this issue.

Secondly, anarchism has nothing against voluntary associations made to protect the weak and so cannot be said to “do nothing”. Here another challenge may arise from the first, anarchism is said to achieve universal peace, yet, if these voluntary groups confront one another, what peace would there be? The anarchist must honestly admit that he has no full answer to this challenge. These groups will not be forced to maintain the peace, for that would, truly, defeat the intent of anarchism, which being the removal of manufactured or societal obligations and restrictions.

However, lying in the intent of anarchism, is the answer to the original challenge. The intent of anarchism is that every person be fully responsible for his own conduct. Why should this be the case? The fact is that, without responsibility, no man will grow to change his actions; he will not encounter the consequences of his actions if someone takes responsibility for them. This same principle may be pursued further, if man learns in proportion to his responsibility, then we may expect that if everything is left in the lap of the individual, then he will be learning as quickly as possible.

The moral things that are, in today’s society, left to organizations and the government, should be burning in the heart of every individual. Christ was adamant that the downtrodden be taken care of; that is the intent of anarchism; to return to the Samaritan the care of his neighbor. So what is the answer to the original challenge? It is that, in anarchism, evil only goes on because the individual has not countered it. The rule of reason must prevail, were someone does evil then we must reason with him. If he refuses to cease, then we may prevent him. But no government must ever take away the responsibility and, therein, the grace available to the individual. The argument that Paul makes, that where sin abounds, there grace abounds all the more[1], is central to anarchism. The idea being that grace is taken from man by a government who stops man from sinning. The objection may arise, again, what about those who will be caught defenseless? Is the death of the defenseless so little in the balance? In Ecclesiastes it is said that the sleep of the laboring man is sweet, whilst the sleep of the fat man is fitful[2]. This refers to the ultimate end of man; each will be judged justly and, so, that objection, which relies on the inherent injustice of death, is not cogent. A new objection may arise, why then do we defend life at all? Simply put, because of the potential joy present in that life; that is why we defend the unborn and all human life. This wondrous good, Joy is not truly available in the finite, earthly life but potential enjoyment of life may be had and so we defend the defenseless. But it could not be said that the potential enjoyment of the individual is more important than the potential enlightenment of the individual.

So, anarchism has no foolproof answer to the difficulties that the freedom of our fellow man will bring. But it is untrue that anarchism does nothing, and it would accomplish less than nothing to take away the responsibility from the individual and, so, divulge him of the grace available to him and his opportunity to learn from his mistakes. Anarchism’s intent is really a very long-distance one. No matter what happens, no matter who dies, there is the dream that an enlightened humanity will arise out of the rubble and achieve a society conducive to the query after truth.


[1] Romans 5:20

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:12

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So what do you think?