[The following post is by James Miller, TDV Correspondent and Editor in Chief at the LvMIC]
How we use words has a tremendous impact on the ideas that reach prominence and influence how societies evolve. Just think of the loaded term “democracy” and the poisonous vitriol spewed at anyone who points out the utter immorality of a governing system where the majority is able to trample over the minority. Then there is “capitalism” which was not originally a term of simple description but of scathing critique to the uninhibited market. Or consider what the term “liberal” means in context of contemporary politics. What once described those who advocated free trade, peaceful foreign relations, and a laissez-faire approach to the economy means, today, the exact opposite. “Liberal” is now used to describe social democrats who seek to use the state as a force to compel more equitable outcomes in all private matters.
And then there is “anarchy.” Whenever referred to by authority figures or the media, anarchism is typically invoked as synonymous with destruction and mayhem. Famous labor movement leader Emma Goldman incited strikes and assassination plots in the late 19th and early 20th century under the pretenses of anarchism. She openly opined for the overthrow of capitalism by insisting “the only demand that property recognizes is it’s own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade.”
Fast forward to today and the same violent tactics are being carried out by self-labeled anarchists. In Greece, adopted austerity measures – that is insignificant cuts in government expenditure matched by crushing tax increases and no real labor reforms- have led to a barrage of protests and violent clashes with police. These “leftist anarchists” are by in large protesting the threat to entitlement programs.
Just this past May Day, a type of tribute to the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, known as the Battle of Seattle, took place as “anarchists” went about breaking storefront windows in downtown Seattle. From the Seattle Times:
Spasms of violence hijacked attention from mostly peaceful May Day social-justice rallies Tuesday as black-clad vandals left downtown Seattle littered with shattered glass and put police — and the city — on edge.
The vandalism, much of it aimed at financial institutions, recalled for many Seattleites the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) riots. Mayor Mike McGinn, citing lessons learned from that chaos, issued an emergency order giving police power to preventively seize anything that could be used as a weapon.
The order, imposed after a noontime vandalism spree by about 75 apparent anarchists armed with poles, contributed to arrests and later clashes between police and protesters.
This war on “Niketown” was fought by black-clad capitalism haters dawned in North Face jackets and Levi jeans. It was highly reminiscent of last fall’s Occupy movement which saw many socialists attempting to bring down the market economy by coordinating marches on their smartphones.
The violence carried out by Goodman, Greece rioters, and Seattle protesters is not a consequence of their supposed anarchism. Anarchy does not advocate coercion. Adherents to the philosophy see the state as illegitimate as a protector of “rights” and that institutionalized force is antithetical to peace.
Doug Casey describes it best:
In point of fact, anarchism is the gentlest of all political systems. It contemplates no institutionalized coercion. It’s the watercourse way, where everything is allowed to rise or fall naturally to its own level. An anarchic system is necessarily one of free-market capitalism. Any services that are needed and wanted by people — like the police or the courts — would be provided by entrepreneurs, who’d do it for a profit.
Destroying private property while calling for the end of the state are two diametrically opposed positions. Being that the state functions solely on violence, to carry out acts of aggression on those innocent of crime or that which isn’t yours is oppressing behavior. Destroying property acquired by contractual means in the name of “anarchy” is not an act of philosophical dissent but of criminal defacement. It should entail all the lawful consequences that acts of aggression would normally receive in a truly just society.
The fact is that many of these self-identified anarchists openly seek an end to capitalism and private business. Their end goal is a world defined by communalism and egalitarianism. Since the free market allows individuals to own the fruits of their labor and encourages success, it is the enemy of these syndicalism proponents.
Because these so-called “leftist anarchists” really don’t seek the end of capitalism, their goal isn’t the abolishment of the state at all. It is even further domination by a ruling class. Murray Rothbard explains:
And I very much fear that the same can be said for the other varieties of left-anarchists: communal, syndical, or whatever. Beneath a thin veneer of libertarian rhetoric there lies the same compulsory and coercive collectivist that we have encountered all too often in the last two centuries. Scratch a left-wing “anarchist” and you will find a coercive egalitarian despot who makes the true lover of freedom yearn even for Richard Nixon (Arghh!) in contrast.
The property destroying anarchists are not anarchists at all, they are vandals and hoodlums. Unappreciative of the risk business owners take to simply transact with willing consumers, these destructionists have their sights set on the wrong target. Rather than mindlessly destroy property, their goal should be enlightenment. The American Revolution, for all its good qualities and bad, did not spring up overnight. It took nearly a decade for a minority to carry it out.
This is a lesson for real anarchists as well. People will not wake up one day and instantaneously recognize the state as the looting entity it really is. It will take decades and perhaps lifetimes to give the public a good idea of what a free society looks like and the prosperity and well being such a social order brings.
Those protestors in Seattle masquerading as anarchists must realize the only thing throwing a patio chair through a Starbucks window accomplishes is showing the world how childish and disrespectful they are to those who have done them no harm.
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal.