Blog ‘The Conscience of an Anarchist’ by Gary Chartier


I just started reading the anarchist manifesto by Gary Chartier The conscience of an anarchist. I plan to blog about this as I progress through the book, so if you’d like to read along with me, click this link. First some scattered thoughts on anarchism, liberalism and my own pragmatic puzzle.

I find the criticism of anarchists and left-libertarians like Chartier, Kevin Carson, Roderick Long and others compelling. Long recent post on health care reform and the mistakes that right-libertarians fall into when talking about government programs, and reveals – I think – serious flaws, not only in the way right-libertarians talk on the world, but how they think on the world.

In a proverbial word, this is where I walk with my anarchist friends: criticism of power and privilege, of the many ways the state uses its power to favor the elite, and the belief that people left alone will mostly form voluntary and peaceful societies. . States are inherently violent institutions, as the 20th century helped illustrate with tens of millions of deaths.

And yet, even accepting all of this, I can’t help but believe that the actual process of state suppression would eventually backfire, and that this very process would inevitably favor the elite and the powerful. So my conclusion differs: instead of removing the state entirely, just work to remove the aspects of the state that are most harmful. In the meantime, the branches of the state that actually help the poor and the working class should be maintained. For a while I used the “chains first then crutches” argument that Jim Henley and Kevin Carson used, but lately I think “chains first then crutches of those who do not need it, but leave or improve the crutches for those who do”.

Which ends up being a kind of market liberalism. On the one hand, deregulate the economy as much as possible. Ending the War on Drugs; drastically reduce the defense budget; ending business subsidies; make the tax code much more progressive and the welfare state much more redistributive; giving workers some freedom from wage labor vis-à-vis both the push for deregulation and universal health care, boosting DIY at home and the gig economy. On the sidelines of political issues, I support all of the open source efforts that many anarchists have written about, and the various alternative institutions that anarchists believe could be created to work alongside the state.

In any case, these are scattered thoughts. As a liberal, I can’t travel the same distances as my anarchist friends, but I do appreciate and appreciate their criticism, and I think it doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal, a libertarian, or an anarchist (of not any band) understanding this criticism and internalizing it as much as possible is a helpful thing. So I look forward to Conscience of an anarchistand I hope you will read along.


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