Tyranny of One, Tyranny of All
Written by Darrell Anderson.
People who migrate toward the philosophy of anarchy eventually ask the big question. How do anarchists live in a world overwhelmingly infected with the philosophy of statism? In other words, how does an anarchist live practically in a statist world?
Fundamentally, an anarchist rejects the concept of one human ruling other humans. By definition, anarchy means “without rulers.” Anarchy does not mean without law or order, only that all people at all times are free to pursue their own happiness. The foundational boundary is that no individual may trespass against another. Trespass might take different forms. Some people think of trespass only in terms of physical violence, but trespass can occur without immediate threat of physical harm. Taxation systems, for example, trespass against people who have not provided explicit consent to participate. Any deprivation of property rights is a trespass, regardless of how minute or incidental.
Because of the statist mindset, the anarchist realizes that the majority of the population is continually seeking to deprive him or her of rightfully and lawfully owned property. That property includes an individual’s own body through conscription laws, both militarily and civilly (jury duty, for example). Thus, an anarchist recognizes that the current systems of legal plunder are illegitimate and have no foundation. Yet, no anarchist should be naïve to think that those possessing political power are going to walk away when asked.
I would think that most anarchists, if not all, agree that the first philosophical act an anarchist can or must do is to always make a positive effort not to knowingly trespass against other people. Yet, even in a statist world, such an approach is challenging. Suppose, for example, a client or customer refuses to pay you according to the terms of a contract. You could try to use a third party mediator or arbitrator, but you cannot force the damaging party to participate. If your contract calls for arbitration, you still cannot force or compel participation. Should you then, appeal to the statist court system? Doing so, in some anarchists’ opinions, implies that an individual is then legitimizing the statist adjudicative system. Other than “self-help” enforcement, the only other alternative is to count your losses and move on.
Thus, the first step any anarchist should take is an attitude adjustment. Learn to watch and be ready for any way that one might commit trespass and avoid such situations. The second step any anarchist must take is to be prepared to provide restitution when trespass occurs.
Tightly related to those attitude adjustments is developing a lifestyle that reduces the opportunity for trespass or being trespassed against. A primary practical act any anarchist should commit is to eliminate debt — all debt, and should do so as quickly, lawfully, and assertively as possible. Debt is bondage. With such a dark cloud overhead, debt compels an individual to participate in the statist world. There is no way to distance one’s self from the statist world as long as an individual has both feet in “the system” with debt.
You cannot limit the effects of the statist system as long as you embrace debt.
Avoid thinking that debt cannot be eliminated quickly. Numerous stories and testimonies are available from people who, after they became focused, were able to eliminate their financial debts. Yes, sometimes eliminating debt means liquidating assets, and that will be an option each individual must evaluate.
By eliminating debt, such that only typical living expenses remain, an individual then has more breathing room to escape the clutches of the statist world. Without the overhead of debt, people can explore more easily various options for financial freedom and liberty. Without debt people discover options other than “working for the man.” Without debt, people can become more self-directing, more self-sufficient. When people become more self-directing and self-sufficient, justification and desire for external societal controls become less important. Statism begins to lose legitimacy.
By eliminating debt, paper trails also disappear. Overhead, such as reconciling bank and credit card accounts, can be dismissed as well, thereby eliminating stress and wasted time that could be devoted to other pursuits. Without those paper trails, the statists lose control to monitor or steal from you.
In all, however, a rationally thinking and reasonable anarchist is willing to admit that completely escaping the statist world is impossible. All that can be pursued is reducing the effects.
For example, an individual can escape various tax systems, but never fully. An individual can choose to not own a home, but unless an individual wants to live in a cardboard box or play squatter or caretaker, must then endure the costs of rent — and the landlord will pass the cost of property taxes to the tenant.
Likewise, an individual can find ways to stop paying income taxes directly, but nobody can avoid the hidden embedded costs of taxation that are passed down the line to the final consumer. Some people have estimated that the income tax increases the final cost of products by 30 percent.
Bypassing sales taxes is possible in many ways, but no individual completely escapes those costs.
Similarly, traveling requires using the “king’s roads.” Arguably the roads belong to nobody, but try convincing a “law enforcement officer” or that individual wearing the black dress. An individual can choose to travel without license and insurance, but for most people such risks tend to be abnormal.
More importantly, the anarchist who is mentally consumed with seeking ways to avoid the statists is missing an important lesson. Anarchy, if anything, is a philosophy. Anarchy is an attitude expressing liberty of action. When an anarchist is so consumed with seeking ways to avoid statism, that individual actually becomes a slave to an obsession. By definition an anarchist believes in the rule of nobody, yet if such an individual becomes obsessed with escaping the clutches of statism, that person then begins a process of submitting to emotional and psychological rule of one’s self. Emotional and psychological bondage is just as effective as physical bondage.
Anarchy is an attitude that reflects a fundamental belief that people are autonomous. Anarchists believe that each individual is self-responsible and self-directing. That simple foundation means an anarchist should realize that no individual can control the actions of other people. The best any individual can do is control the outcome of his or her own life.
A practical anarchist realizes he or she is an idealist living in a non-ideal world. The distinction is that although occasionally some people will use force, coercion and the threat of violence to compel action from you, you do not have to volunteer to participate. There is a difference between voluntarily participating in the statist game and being compelled as a question of survival. There is no shame in the latter.
Some people argue that seeking idealism is a waste of time. However, why should people not strive for the ideal? Would you prefer that doctors help deliver live babies only 50 percent of the time? Would you prefer a spouse or lover to remain sexually faithful only 75 percent of the time? Would you prefer to be healthy only 5 days a week? Would you prefer to live in a cardboard box or nicely constructed house? People strive for the ideal every day and that is what the anarchist seeks. To argue that one should not strive for an ideal is to argue contrary to the observations of everyday human actions.
Anarchy not is only a philosophical ideal, but a sensible approach toward life. Too many people are obsessed with looking for false security or paradise rather than just getting on with life. An anarchist does not wait for other people to provide fulfillment, but takes the bull by the horns. An anarchist is self-directing. Anarchists realize the world is changed one individual at a time. Although accepting and embracing the social nature of all humans, mindless group-think is unacceptable to the anarchist. Because human nature continually strives to be free, an individual could argue that anarchism is not idealistic but realistic.
An anarchist should ignore statists. When confronted by a statist, an anarchist should (usually) take the path of least resistance. Sometimes that means yielding to some nonsensical fiat rules. Pay a tax when cornered to do so, if necessary obtain “permission” to travel on the statists’ roads, etc. Most of these issues are not worth losing sleep over, and sometimes can be avoided.
Practical anarchy is rational anarchy:
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame . . . .But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world . . . aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.” — The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
A good strategy for practical anarchy is always avoid trespassing against others and also to reduce the effects of statism and change the world by personally eliminating debt. By eliminating debt, and thereby opening the doors to bypassing many statist control mechanisms, an anarchist has done much to pursue a quiet and peaceable life. Eliminate debt and many of the remaining challenges often become academic or intellectual exercises. Yes, in the end an anarchist still will pay a few bribes to secure a quiet and peaceable life, but with debt, the burden is almost too much to bear.
The next practical step is to teach and provide guidance to other people. No political action is required but the world gets changed one individual at a time.