Libertarians are often thought to make up a “lunatic fringe” because we are so vehemently opposed to state control. Media stories often refer to “anarchist youths” trashing banks or to their “Euro-style” brethren that want to topple well-established democracies. The common theme is lawlessness, chaos, and violence in these media portrayals.
Anarchism, in its true form, is the absence of government and has nothing to do with violence. Those in power want the ruled to believe that they cannot exist without a strong centralized government.
Since these misconceptions about anarchy are so well ingrained in common referential sources such as the Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia, it’s easy to understand why these misconceptions are so common.
One only has to look at less common sources – but much more scholarly ones – such as mises.org, or the Cato Institute to learn about the true meaning of anarchy.
Anarchy is not lawlessness; it is the natural state of mankind existing outside the state. Anarchists seek to live out from under the thumb of distant rulers who attempt to apply a “one size fits all” fix to the ruled. Any other representation of anarchy is a false one perpetrated by ill-informed miscreants.
America was founded as a self-governing society. In fact, it can be argued that The Declaration of Independence calls for an anarchical state of existence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Jefferson spells it out in his most famous work – the people allow their government to guarantee certain rights and when these are infringed that government must be overthrown. Unfortunately for Americans it seems that consent to govern was turned over to the government over a century ago in the aftermath of the Civil War.
English barrister John Lind understood the Declaration’s implications at the time of the Revolution and thought it a formula for anarchy because he understood that government in any form violated these “unalienable rights” in some way or another.
The Revolutionary War was won by a loose confederation of states held together by the Continental Congress.
Revolutionary radicals innately distrusted all forms of government and were extremely hesitant to allow for a federal, centralized power in their new nation.
Still, a federal government was created and the United States were set on a collision course between North and South over the right to secede and the bounds of federal power to limit that right.
Prior to the Civil War the US Federal Government was much smaller in scope than it is today. Americans living in that time period could not imagine the burdens the Federals have put upon the citizenry and would never have tolerated it. That’s why they seceded – over state’s rights.
Unfortunately the South had also built up its economy around slavery; if slavery had been abolished at the outset (as the Declaration clearly implicates) the Civil War (or the War to Prevent Southern Independence – thank you Thomas DiLorenzo) would never have happened and federal power would never have exponentially increased into the monster we have today.
Beginning with Reconstruction and continuing with statist policies today (including the military/industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about) we have turned into a welfare state.
Presidents beginning with Lincoln expanded and centralized federal power without ever looking back. Under the Wilson administration the hated Income Tax (first conceived by Lincoln) was permanently implemented even though it directly contradicts the Constitution (Article 1, Section 9).
To cover themselves Congress forced the 16th Amendment on the people.
Did Americans give Congress the power to do this? Somehow I doubt the income tax was an electable campaign issue. Does anyone believe for a second that Congress could force a statist act such as this on the American people now in the Information Age?
So instead of thinking of anarchists as lunatic youths hurling firebombs at banks or starting riots at global economic conferences think of Thomas Jefferson, or Thomas Paine, or Lysander Spooner. Read the Declaration of Independence and consider the implications of that great document written 235 years ago this summer.
Consider for a moment that “libertarian anarchists” want to reel in a federal government that has spiraled out of control in ways the Founding Fathers never intended.
The Libertarian Party is a party of principles and ideas – not one of reactionary politics. The next time someone comments on a message board about those “crazy” libertarians think again…consider for a moment how uninformed that person is about the Libertarian platform.