The Dead Hand of Socialism
The cloying dead hand of socialism has fallen across BC in the form of "affirmative action" regulations approved by the New Democratic Party for the next provincial election. There are now racial and gender quotas for candidates, and central rule by an iron fist.
People often assume that, as an anarchist, I must somehow be a socialist at heart, or at least a far-left-winger. Wrong. Socialism is much farther away from the principles of anarchism than is capitalism, for example. And these new rules vividly illustrate the problems with socialist theory and practice.
Socialism of all kinds -- from the softest utopian Owenism to the harshest national socialism -- is founded on two fundamental principles-- elitism and fascism: (a) the masses (and even the constituency parties) are too stupid to make up their own minds and need to be led by what the Trotskyites call the "vanguard" -- a repugnant elitism by any name; and (b) the good of the society outweighs the rights of the individual; this is fascism by any definition.
These new rules by the Grand Poobah Carole James and her clique are profoundly anti-democratic, robbing the local voters of all choice. I have never been tempted to vote for the NDP. This disturbing fascistic elitism guarantees that I never will.
Free Geek Vancouver
A very good friend passed on this link to Free Geek Vancouver. I haven't used them or assisted them yet, but from reading their materials, this seems to be exactly the kind of anarchistic cooperative enterprise we need to support and to build more of. I am glad to spread this link.
This is the 80th anniversary of the murder by the State of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
Lest we forget.
2007: The Continuing Death of Personal Freedom?
I strongly suspect that 2007 will be seen in hindsight as the final skirmish in the losing fight for personal freedom in North American society. After the supposedly resurgent Congressional Democrats fail to halt the slide towards complete government control of personal information (will they even try?), even the professional Pollyannas of the world will forsake all hope.
The information revolution has always been driven by corporations' and governments' need to know everything about everyone. September 11th was brilliantly used as an accelerator of a trend that had been building for a generation or more. There are plenty of examples to be found under the category heading Government Intrusion in the left sidebar. This particular note is prompted by a story in the London Daily Telegraph of the first of the year.
"Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington. By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account ... Not only will such material be available when combating terrorism but the Americans have asserted the right to the same information when dealing with other serious crimes.
In October, Brussels agreed to sweep away the "bureaucratic hurdles" preventing airlines handing over this material after European carriers were threatened with exclusion from the US. The newly-released document sets out the rules underpinning that deal. As a result the Americans are entitled to 34 separate pieces of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data — all of which must be provided by airlines from their computers. Much of it is routine but some elements will prove more contentious, such as a passenger's email address, whether they have a previous history of not turning up for flights and any religious dietary requirements ... Material compiled by the border authorities can be shared with domestic agencies. It can also be on a "case by case" basis with foreign governments.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, expressed horror at the extent of the information made available. 'It is a complete handover of the rights of people travelling to the United States,' she said ...'It is pretty horrendous, particularly when you couple it with our one-sided extradition arrangements with the US,' said Miss Chakrabarti. It is making the act of buying a ticket a gateway to a host of personal email and financial information. While there are safeguards, it appears you would have to go to a US court to assert your rights."
Chris Grayling, the [British Conservative Party transport spokesman], said: 'Our government and the EU have handed over very substantial powers to gain access to private information belonging to British citizens'."
This particular story isn't any different or more intrinsically important than many others, I guess (American citizens will no doubt be gratified to learn that this kind of data collection has already been applied to them for years). But it seems somehow symbolic that it should be front and centre at the very beginning of this new year.
I am sad to learn of the death of Murray Bookchin, one of the foremost anarchist thinkers of our age. He developed the theory of social ecology which strongly influenced Green movements around the world. I certainly didn't agree with everything he wrote -- he was entirely wrong in my opinion that anarchism should be the extreme left wing of socialism (thus rejecting individualism) -- but I can say that his ideas on the environment and its relationship to capitalism have informed much of my own opinion.
"If we do not do the impossible we shall be faced with the unthinkable."
The Free Market
“The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically. Government intervention can’t do that. Politics exacerbates and magnifies differences.”
I suspect that Freidman and his followers such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would disagree with me about what constitutes a genuinely free market -- but maybe not. As an anarchist I believe in a totally free and unambiguous free market of exchange. The real difference I have with the Libertarians, of course, is that I give zero weight to capital and thus have no sympathy for the concept of private property beyond one's basic personal possessions and individual production.
Leave My Money Alone!
I'm sure I have written before about my loathing for the spending of taxpayers' money on the arts and sports and similar hobbies. Almost every day my opinions on this are hardened with new evidence.
This morning I listened to a locally-based nationally-known stage actress tell a CBC radio interviewer that, with the reduction of Federal (i.e. taxpayer) subsidies, Canadian theatres are being forced to rely on box office receipts. She said this with shock and horror, and with that professional certainty that the vast majority of her white middle-class audience would agree with her disgust at this wanton neglect. She claimed that this would stiffle creativity because theatres would be obliged to put on old shows with a guaranteed clientele. The unspoken corollary is that the ticket-buying public is too stupid or too stuck in its ways to pay for new and inventive works and so they have to be forced to pay for them through their taxes.
Such arrogance! It is no wonder that such "liberals" or "left wingers" (for they would certainly describe themselves in such terms) are detested by anyone who actually cares to listen and think about what they are saying. Their solution to every damned thing is to put their hands in my pockets and to do it while telling me how much better they know what I need than I do myself! Social conservatives and corporate marketers are no less grasping and omniscient.
Liberals, left-wingers, corporatist fascists, Trotskyites, fundamentalists -- they are all the goddam same! Leave me and my money alone!
Fascism Rises Against The Bride
The Smoking Gun today contains a long set of letters received by the Duluth, Georgia, police department giving suggestions on what crimes the runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks should be charged with. A great many say she should, at the very least, be sent a bill for the search parties that went looking for her. Such ideas are the spawn from which fascism grows.
The people who say she should be billed for the search are suggesting that an adult does not have the right to go wherever they want whenever they want without having to tell anyone about it. Or, to put this the other way around, they are saying that you are obliged to tell someone everything you are doing. Think about that for a while. These dunces say that you -- yes, you -- have to tell someone what you are doing all the time. They are saying that we do not have the freedom to simply disappear if we want to.
A more logical and freedom-loving viewpoint would have the family who called for the search to be billed, not her.
I can see -- though don't agree with -- some form of sanction for lying to the police when she was discovered, but that's it. She is an adult. She doesn't have to tell anyone where's she's going, and she can stay away as long as she wants. Why should she have to pay the bill caused by others who won't allow her (or you and me) that freeedom?
What My Anarchism Is Not
At a site called Global Politician, a writer by name of Angelique van Engelen has written a two part series called "The Possibilities For Anarchy" (part 1) and (part 2). As usual in such pieces, Ms van Engelen confuses "anarchism" with a dictionary definition of "anarchy" and thus fails to grasp the reality of her subject.
She begins her exercise by proclaiming that "[g]oing about researching the possibilities for anarchy as a viable alternative to a current system of government ought to be as chaotic as we can make it if we want to keep in line with the subject's concept." In other words, she immediate aligns anarchism with chaos. Continuing along this path of inaccuracy, she claims that when "anarchists are seen 'live' in action, they are -- true to the nature of their political inclination -- not organised in any way"; once again linking anarchism with disorder. While it is true that she mentions Proudhon's proposition that "Liberty is the Mother, not the Daughter of Order," she fails to follow up this more promising line of inquiry.
I guess it is hard to criticize her position because, as she says, most anarchists only make themselves known through their nihilist actions fueled it seems by little more than inchoate anger. However, that is not anarchism to me, nor to many other mutual aiders.
I have said it before and I'll keep saying it: For me, anarchism does NOT mean an absence of rules or societal norms; rather it is that such rules as exist are (a) accepted voluntarily, and (b) contain no coercion of any kind on those who choose not to voluntarily accept the rules. I assume that my anarchist society will be a sea of overlapping "clubs", each with their own sets of rules. There will, of course, be some form of advantage to accepting the rules (access to some resource or knowledge or companionship, perhaps), otherwise there is no point in setting rules at all. But loss of access to that "advantage" is all that happens if one doesn't accept the rules. This is the very opposite of the situation within modern capitalist-consumerist-democracy. No rules in the present society are voluntary. You have to accept all of the rules or they will take your possessions or lock you up or kill you.
In answer to one obvious question ("Isn't there a real form of coercion if the advantage is some part of the necessary life-supporting environment -- water, for example, or food production?"), yes there is. But what you describe in the question is not an anarchist society. When the means of life are held by one group and denied to another except at a high price, that is called capitalism.
I'll go no further now as I merely wanted to lay the canard once again that anarchism must = chaos.
Lawn Darts, Nannies and Trans Fats
Behold the lowly -- and quite illegal -- lawn dart. Stigmatized as "dangerous" and banned from sale in North America in the late 1980s, the lawn dart deserves pride of place as an icon of the nanny society in which we are no longer allowed to make our own decisions.
Proponents of the ban claimed there had been 6,700 lawn dart injuries in the 11 years prior to the ban, with 3 deaths. This was enough to have them pulled from the shelves and for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue an urgent advisory to parents that they should "destroy" all the lawn darts they could get their hands on. This ban was put in place even though 1.5 million sets of lawn darts were being sold each year, attesting to the game's popularity.
And this ban was put in place even though the injuries and deaths caused by lawn darts were tiny, especially when compared with other recreational items. For example, 400 children are killed in bicycle accidents each year, and another 400,000 end up in hospital emergency rooms; and yet kid's bicycles remain on sale. As do normal darts -- those with the very sharp points, found in every rec room in America -- and BB and pellet guns, toy weapons, slingshots, and sling-propelled toys which, together, caused almost 2,000 serious eye injuries in 2001 alone.
Clearly the banning of lawn darts has nothing whatsoever to do with safety; if it did, all these other items would be long gone, too. No, it has more to do with government and bureaucrats reacting to noisy pressure groups who want to rid us of our rights to personal responsibility. I am reminded of this sorry history of nannyism by the present loud chatter from the liberal classes calling for the banning of certain foods and food ingredients. For example, the leader of the New Democratic Party, Jack Layton -- Canada's Nanny-in-Chief -- has introduced a bill that will first reduce and then eliminate trans fats from Canada's diet. What the heck is wrong with telling people transfats might be dangerous and then letting them make their own choices? Isn't this what we do with cigarettes, booze, non-illegal drugs and Big Macs? Why should trans fats be any different?
I guess my real complaint -- both with regard to lawn darts and trans fats -- is the hypocrisy involved in the operations of the Nanny State. Why ban one potentially dangerous product but not another? Why allow the smoking of nicotine, but not of cannabis? Why is it OK to gargle with Jack Daniels but not to eat a bag of chips?
Obviously we cannot ban everything that is slightly dangerous (think cars, think guns, think bleach), so why ban anything at all? Evolution teaches us that those who refuse to take common-sense precautions won't reproduce in the numbers that common-sense folks will. I say, scrap the prohibitions and let nature take its course.