Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Absence of Unrighteous Dominion

We are taught in holy writ that "when we undertake...to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves". Also, that "it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." That is because to control or dominate over another unrighteously is evil, and where evil is, God is not. It is my belief that political anarchy is the absence of this "unrighteous dominion". I am completely aware of the objections that such a statement of belief as this may create. As I will show, these objections are misdirected, the word anarchy has been misused in contemporary thought, and a state of political anarchy is actually desirable for a righteous people.

Anarchy and Tyranny

From politicians to religious leaders, anarchy has been used synonymously with chaos, confusion and tyranny. John Adams, one of the founding fathers of America used it thus, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." And former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Fielding Smith said, "The Constitution is our assurance against anarchy and despotism." Now, I don't blame the users of this word for their misuse, the misuse of the word anarchy is commonplace. But I also feel that if we are to understand the important contributions made to advancing the cause of liberty by libertarian anarchists such as Lysander Spooner, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Hoppe, we must have a correct understanding of the word anarchy itself, as well as the way in which these theorist employ it.

Political Anarchy Defined

As I will now demonstrate considering the foregoing, anarchy is one of those words that has taken on a meaning wholly absent from its etymological construction. This word is comprised of two parts: an-, meaning "without" and -archy, meaning "a ruler", which comes from the Greek -arkhon, meaning "ruler" and -arkein, meaning "to rule". Anarchy, therefore, means "without a ruler". By comparison, monarchy means "a single ruler", minarchy means "minimal rule", and autarchy means "self-rule". There is nothing inherently objectionable to the word anarchy. What do we understand is "a ruler"? A ruler must be contrasted to a leader. The difference between these two is consent: a ruler rules without the consent of the ruled, or in other words, exercises unrighteous dominion, whereas a leader leads with the consent of his followers. Political anarchy, then, can accurately be defined as "without, or the absence of, unrighteous dominion".

Does Political Anarchy Work?

Many proponents of liberty have an incorrect understanding of political anarchy, as I have shown. Those that have an understanding of political anarchy closer to its real meaning oppose it on the grounds that "it won't work". To believe that political anarchy "won't work" is akin to believing that peace or liberty won't work. It's not a matter of what works or not. It's only a matter of desiring the absence of unrighteous dominion, because it is true that for the peace and liberty-lover, unrighteous dominion does not work.

Unrighteous Dominion

Men such as John Adams and Joseph Fielding Smith use anarchy incorrectly (technically). It is true that a state of political anarchy can pave the way for someone bent on exercising unrighteous dominion, to rule over others. But as soon as that were to happen, the people now being ruled over would no longer be in a state of political anarchy. They would then be under any number of forms of rule. If the ruler ruled tyrannically, they would be under a rule of tyranny, desiring, I am sure, a return to political anarchy. As then the tyranny, or unrighteous dominion, would cease. Put another way, where unrighteous dominion exists,  political anarchy is absent, and the inverse, where political anarchy exists, unrighteous dominion is absent. This is the framework used by liberty-loving political-anarchy-theorists like Spooner and Rothbard. It is also this framework that I believe those who desire peace and liberty, and fight against the use of unrighteous dominion, are in a true sense political anarchists.

Conclusion

The purpose of writing this short essay was to clarify a misunderstanding that I believe separates peace and liberty-lovers from like-minded political-anarchy-theorists. Though there may be some whose desire for political anarchy is merely a step towards establishing their own form of unrighteous dominion, this is not a flaw of political anarchy. This is a flaw of those men. The word anarchy is understood erroneously by the common person, and so labeling oneself an anarchist will not help one's image or message, I have found. To the common person, I am simply a "liberty-lover", or as Walter Block has put it, I desire that you "keep your mitts to yourself," and I will keep mine to myself. I want to live in a free society, free from unrighteous dominion. I believe Heaven is this way, and so exists in a state of political anarchy.

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