MADISON, Wis., August 25, 2013 – Maybe you’re a libertarian. But an anarchist? No way.
Some day, however, you might be.
On the path to anarchism, there are five stages. And unlike conventional applications of the Kübler-Ross model, the end result is not death or loss, but life and freedom.
5: Denial. To you, anarchism is silly. Untenable and impossible, it should be dismissed. On the other hand, your abstruse ideal of “limited government” should be upheld and relentlessly pursued. You may or may not think the phenomenon of “market failure” is real.
An anarchist friend of yours gives you a copy of Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty. Proudly donning your faux-Che “Reagan Revolution” t-shirt, you assert, “I’ve learned everything I need to know from Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, thank you very much.”
4: Anger. Why are these pesky anarchists undermining the libertarian movement? Just when respectable liberty-minded politicians begin to influence their colleagues, some renegade anarchist sullies the gains. And as soon as libertarianism earns an iota of respect from the general public, anarchists remind everyone just how crazy freedom is.
If confronted by a particularly persistent anarchist, you quote F.A. Hayek, assuming that will shut the anti-stater up. “Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal [libertarian] cause as the wooden insistence of some…on certain rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire.”
Besides, even if private roads were indeed possible, surely the government is necessary to provide for the national defense. The Constitution says so, after all.
3: Bargaining. Alright, alright. Maybe the anarchists make some solid points. You’re willing to concede that. Still, though, we live in a world of reality.
Your hero, Ludwig von Mises, knew this. For that reason, he rejected statelessness, noting that, “Anarchism misunderstands the real nature of man. It would be practicable only in a world of angels and saints.”
Also, your statist girlfriend (or boyfriend, wife, husband) just came to terms with your inhuman belief in the institution of private property and is sleeping with you again. You’re in no position to push the envelope. As long as the anarchists leave you alone, you leave them alone.
Upon further insistence from your anarchist friend, you begrudgingly read Rothbard’s For a New Liberty.
2: Depression. After reading the Rothbard, the world around you collapses. You call all your fundamental beliefs into question.
“Could I really be one of them?” you lament. “There’s no hope for me now.”
On the precipice of anarchism, you desperately cling to the last remaining tenet of state power you believe might be legitimate: justice. Even if the free market could supply adequate amounts of clean air, defense, and police, how would disagreements between private firms be settled?
1: Acceptance. One day, it just all comes together. Everything “clicks,” so to speak. Any lingering cognitive dissonance evaporates and the fog lifts. Reading Hoppe had something to do with it, of course, but it was your ability to toss off the shackles of conventional thought that ultimately led to your complete rejection of the state.
You reach an intellectual apex of sorts. No longer does your conception of society include the retrospectively narrow constraint of the state and its progeny—war, oppression, tyranny, injustice. Individuals need not be circumscribed to be civilized.
You realize that the state is not a virus that can be inoculated by exposure in small doses. It is a cancerous tumor that feeds on those unaware of its true malignance. You conclude that “limited government” is an oxymoron.
Observing that a disproportionately high number of anarchists wear them, you succumb to an irresistible temptation to buy a bowtie.
Suddenly, you’re an anarchist. You experience it—that awkward moment when you realize the state is superfluous.
And while it’s probably not polite cocktail party conversation, you bring it up anyway. “I’m an anarchist,” you blurt out at every opportunity, if for no other reason than to enjoy the quizzical looks that always ensue.
Then, over a three-and-a-half hour conversation, at least one of your interlocutors becomes intrigued enough to check out that kooky Rothbard character. The five stages begin in yet another individual, and for that, it was all worth it.
Inside every libertarian, there’s an anarchist waiting to be set free. You’re either a statist or you’re not. There is no in-between.
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