Saturday, 31 July 2010

Why Anarchism? by Richard Hunt


In an interview with Troy Southgate during the mid-1990s I tried to show how government caused the poverty of the periphery by removing the crops by force and then by taxation, creating the wealth at the core; how its taxation on trade, to increase its power, caused a high cost of living, therefore high wages, high labour costs and labour-saving technology to reduce those labour costs. It is this industrialisation which is causing terrible damage to the high population of the developed world. 

The killer argument against industrialisation is that it means harder work. American workers work the longest hours (except for Japan, which I don't know about). What I didn't talk about was the damage done by government to the small, rooted community, the tribe. The community had three functions: defence, the sanction for good behaviour and welfare. 

The first form of government is a local bully and his mates, a 'hero' and his companions, who force the local population to hand over the results of their hunting and gathering. To forestal any objection, most of them are disarmed. This is the first nail in the coffin of the community - it has lost its function of defence. The ruler, with the fiat of religion, then makes its laws to protect his position, including laws governing his subjects' behaviour. These are administered by 'justice'. This is the second nail in the coffin of the small community. It is no longer the sanction for good behaviour. Amongst groups, without leaders and an imposed system of 'justice', unacceptable behaviour is discouraged by shame, ridicule and, ultimately, exile. Crime is not so much punished as made amends for. If someone kills someone, his whole extended family has to give 50 cattle to the extended family of the victim. This is a strong sanction against killing people on potential murderers by their own family. In today's judicial system a crime is punished but no attempt is made to make amends. A fine is imposed, but it goes to the State, not to the victim.

The final nail in the coffin of the small community came relatively recently. Mobility of labour and thus the provision of welfare by the State. The State now gets half its income and therefore power from indirect taxes, taxes on trade. The more goods are traded, the more taxes the government receives, the more powerful it is. This is justified by the nonsense theory of conventional economics that trade creates wealth which trickles down to the poorest. So the poor are forced to hand over their crops which are consumed by the core. All that's left to trickle back tothe periphery is soot, sewage, scrap and second-hand clothes. To increase traded crops even more, the poor are driven off their land by Acts of Enclosure and into the cities. This is called Mobility of Labour. Cut off from their communities, they can no longer rely on help in times of trouble. To avoid revolution, governments have to provide State welfare instead. Thus a community now has little use. The State has hijacked all its functions: defence, justice and welfare.

But the State's take-over of the sanction for good behaviour doesn't work. On the one hand we are no longer constrained by the opinions of our grandparents. We are no longer ashamed because they don't know; they are so far away. And the State doesn't admit that the community provides any useful sanction for good behaviour; indeed, it forbids it. But on the other hand its police don't care if we beat our wives or husbands; they don't care whether schoolboy bullies are 'faxing' their peers, or staff mistreating orphans or old people. They're not bothered if the poor are mugging each other. Their function is to protect the property of the rich and their middle classes. While we are no longer constrained by the opinions of our relatives who are far away, nor are we constrained by the police. So we get a soaring crime rate and the breakdown of social life.

As individuals we no longer need the community. The State provides defence, some justice and welfare. So we don't need to put up with the constraints of the community, the interference of our neighbours and relatives. We are free! We can make as many babies as we like. We can tear down the restrictions of conventional behaviour. We can be ourselves! We can deride the old and their old-fashioned standards, and the traditions that held the community together. It makes a certain sense. We no longer need the community. The State does the community's job. The fact that social life hasn't completely broken down is because most of us still behave because of what our parents, friends and relatives would think. But more and more people try to forget this constraint, behave unacceptably and make social life impossible.

So government, by destroying the small community by hijacking its functions, is the cause of increasing social breakdown. It is also destroying the traditional knowledge gained over the millennia and handed down from generation to generation to generation in the community. Nowadays they even have to teach parenting skills to young mothers because their mothers, aunts and grandmothers aren't close by to help and hand down hard-won traditional knowledge and skills. Dysfunctional families are not a modern phenomenon. But previously, if it was seen that a family was not coping with its children, aunts, sisters and parents would have stepped in and suggested that a child stay with them for a while. A child was not, then, a product of a nuclear family, but a tribe, all contributing. There's an American saying: 'You need a village to bring up a child.' Today the villages and tribes and extended families have been destroyed by government actions. A child of a dysfunctional family has no escape. So he is abused and grows up an abuser. Blood relationship is obviously the basis of the extended family and community. But it is not essential. Every community is able to incorporate a number of unrelated individuals.

So government is the cause of poverty and social breakdown. How do we get rid of government? By cutting its lifeblood, taxation. Without taxation government can't even hire a hall to meet in, let alone employ police to enforce its laws. At the same time we have to cut the size of the political unit, until progressively, we reach the autonomous, self-sufficient, armed village. Clearly there is not room for many of those, so at the same time we have to cut the population by at least three-quarters. And that still doesn't leave any room for the animals. Should animals have any space? Some think that Anarchism is impractical, that we have to have rulers. But for hundreds of thousands of years humans have lived and thrived without them. All over the world anthropologists have found that nearly all hunter-gatherer societies don't have rulers. Anarchism is very practical. It stops poverty. It stops social breakdown and is painlessly achieved by cutting taxes, the population and the size of the political unit.

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His curriculum vitae is one of principled radicalism. Former Editor of GREEN ANARCHIST, ALTERNATIVE GREEN and author of TO END POVERTY: THE STARVATION OF THE PERIPHERY BY THE CORE (a ground-breaking work influencing the development of National-Anarchism), there is little doubt that RICHARD HUNT was one of the most stimulating and original thinkers of the last decade.