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Grover Norquist, anarchist?

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 19 years ago, in 2005, on the World Wide Web.

Did you know …

  1. … that Christian anarchism (think William Lloyd Garrison or Leo Tolstoy) is just like anti-abortion terrorism and Christian Reconstructionism?

  2. … that if you, personally, don’t mind chipping in for public roads, schools and sewer systems, that constitutes a knock-down refutation of the anarcho-capitalist complaint against taxation?

  3. … that anti-capitalist anarchists are in fact Maoists who want a do-over of Bolshevik totalitarianism?

  4. … that dismantling the right of habeas corpus is, in fact, a step towards anarchism?

  5. … that Republican legislators and lobbyists who occasionally express contempt for government are, in fact, paradigm cases of anarchists?

It’s true! I read it on the Internet.. (Thanks, Guerilla Science.)

Here, at least, is something that anarchists of all sects, organizations, and creeds can come together on: Lisa Jones is a know-nothing blowhard. You can let her know what you think at HeyJones@gmail.com. Here’s my contribution:

Ms. Jones,

I recently read your column, The battle between law and anarchy, for the Rocky Mountain News. You wondered if most political debates today aren’t between right and left, but between anarchism and rule of law. I think you’re probably right, but I can’t say that I’m entirely convinced by your brief in favor of the rule of law.

There’s a lot to wonder about; for example, your comparison of the pacifist Christian anarchism of Leo Tolstoy or William Lloyd Garrison (who described complete nonviolence as one of the highest Christian duties) to the statist politics of the Christian Reconstruction movement seems a bit strained, as does your attempt to compare anti-capitalist anarchists such as Emma Goldman or Mikhail Bakunin to the death march of forced collectivism under Mao Zedong. (For the record, you might try reading the extensive and fierce anarchist polemics against Bolshevik tyranny, such as Goldman’s My Disillusionment in Russia.) I was also a bit puzzled by your attempt to portray Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist as an anarchist, when part of the point of the quip that you refer to (about making government so small you can drown it in the bathtub) is that he doesn’t want to abolish the government.

But for the moment I want to focus on a more theoretical point. In the course of criticising anarcho-capitalism, you say:

But anarcho-capitalists also oppose taxation and the very existence of the state. They want to privatize all public institutions, such as schools, and rely on a self-regulating competitive marketplace instead of government. …

Plus, I don’t mind chipping in for public roads, schools and sewer systems. Insofar as tax revenues are used wisely for the common good, I support limited taxation.

Actually, all anarchists oppose taxation and the very existence of the state. That’s what makes them anarchists rather than statists. But I’m a bit puzzled by the justification you give for limited taxation. If you, personally, don’t mind chipping in for public roads, schools, and sewer systems, then no anarchist would suggest that you shouldn’t be allowed to get out your checkbook and make a donation. But that’s not taxation. Taxation is what happens when other people who don’t want to chip in are forced to do so. Do you think that you have the right to sign away other people’s money without their consent? If not, why does your personal willingness to pay for public goods have anything to do with the argument?

Charles Johnson

Let’s hear your response!

3 replies to Grover Norquist, anarchist? Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Labyrus

    “The philosophical divide in this country is not between left and right, but between those who want to work within our system of legal checks and balances and those who want to take the system apart for whatever reason.”

    Frankly, I think she gives us more credit than we’re due. I’m pretty sure the more important philosophical debates right now have to do with applied ethics and the nature of the mind, and that this is more of a political debate, but hey, maybe I’m just crazy.

    Her approach to ideological divisions within “anarchism” pretty well goes to show that she’s never actually looked into historical or contemporary anarchism in depth, if at all. Beyond the sheer idiocy of her arguments, a more appropriate term for the broad tendency of anti-statism (which is not in any way limited to movements that anyone identifies as anarchist) would be “libertarian”.

  2. Discussed at www.bradspangler.com


    ACTIVIST ALERT: respond to hit piece on anarchism

    Charles Johnson over at RadGeek People’s Daily requests responses to a terribly misinformed op-ed in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News slamming anarchism (of all stripes). Quoth RadGeek: Here, at least, is something that anarchists of all sec…

  3. Kevin Carson

    I just read, not long ago, a similar comment at the Progressive Review blog by a twit who said the main threat to the Green Party was “infiltration” by “libertarian anarchists” whose main goal was to create disharmony in the progressive movement. He lumped Alan Greenspan and the Federalist Society together, of all things, into his broad category of “libertarianism.”

    I had a run-in with the same guy a couple of months ago when he made a similar commment. I pointed out the left-friendly stuff Rothbard and Hess had written, and the potential for a libertarian-green alliance on things like eliminating corporate welfare, shifting taxes to land value and pollution, etc.

    His response? He started baiting me as a supposed neo-confederate because of a Lew Rockwell link in my blogroll, and linked to a Southern Poverty Law Center list of hate groups in NW Arkansas.

    People like this can’t think critically; what’s worse, they don’t even want to.

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