Now, I have no special reason for going out of my way to insult by quoting as I have above Scott Greenfield (I still like the guy), other than that in his post today at Simple Justice from which I’ve quoted he appears to have gone out of his way to insult and misrepresent all anarchists (and reluctant anarchists) of good will everywhere.
Anarchy is not chaos. It’s “rulerlessness.” It’s not something unheard of in the modern world. In fact, it’s the prevailing condition of international relations between so-called “sovereign” states (despite the United States’ longstanding propensity to act as if it’s the world’s ruler). It’s the principle behind the vaunted “balance of powers” supposedly built into the U.S. Constitution (though this principle is itself unfortunately “balanced” in the Constitution by other elements aiming towards the concentration of power).
If anarchy prevails in the relationships between the nation-states of the world, why could it not prevail between the States of these United States? Between the counties making up these States? Between the townships making up these counties? (One might expect such self-governing townships to ally with other townships for their common defense, just as nation-states make treaties with each other today.) Indeed, Thomas Jefferson idealized just such a radical decentralization of power as governance at its most optimal.
It’s a testament to the effectiveness of centuries of statist propaganda that I can’t think of another word in the English language for anarchy that doesn’t connote chaos.
It’s true, as Scott observes with respect to what’s going on in Egypt today, that “Nature abhors a vacuum.” But it was the outgrown size of the Egyptian State combined with its unacceptability to the Egyptian people which is responsible for the size of the vacuum its disintegration is leaving. By monopolizing and concentrating power unto itself, the State makes itself appear indispensable. A thoroughly Jeffersonian polity would not have left such a vacuum, and indeed would not have so easily disintegrated.
Like Scott, “I’m neither wise enough nor knowledgeable enough to have a view worthy of expressing on what’s happening in Egypt.” So I turn to Wikipedia, that first resort of ignoramuses everywhere:
While in office, political corruption in the Mubarak administration’s Ministry of Interior has risen dramatically, due to the increased power over the institutional system that is necessary to secure the prolonged presidency[clarification needed]. Such corruption has led to the imprisonment of political figures and young activists without trials, illegal undocumented hidden detention facilities, and rejecting universities, mosques, newspapers staff members based on political inclination. On a personnel level, each individual officer are allowed to violate citizens’ privacy in his area using unconditioned arrests due to the emergency law.
. . .
Egypt is a semi-presidential republic under Emergency Law (Law No. 162 of 1958) and has been since 1967, except for an 18-month break in 1980s (which ended with the assassination of Sadat). Under the law, police powers are extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship is legalized. The law sharply circumscribes any non-governmental political activity: street demonstrations, non-approved political organizations, and unregistered financial donations are formally banned. Some 17,000 people are detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners run as high as 30,000. Under that “state of emergency”, the government has the right to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason, thus keeping them in prisons without trials for any period.
So, even if we admit that the current state of anarchy in Egypt is attended by a certain measure of (hopefully temporary) chaos, might not even chaos be preferable to what the Egyptians were living under just a few days ago? The Egyptian people by their actions seem to think so. So why not “applaud” it?
I have learned from the TV a couple things about what’s happening in Egypt. I saw small groups of people organizing themselves to defend effectively their own neighborhoods from looters. This is where, as Jefferson recognized, “government” should begin, and where it should ultimately repose. Ironically, the Egyptians who spontaneously joined together to defend Egypt’s ancient treasures from looters and whom Scott applauded as heroes in his post for “standing between history and anarchy” are themselves wonderful living proof that people don’t need the State to defend the things they care about.