I wish very much that I could report the riots now tearing across England as the opening gambit of anarchist revolution. Unfortunately, I can’t. The riots appear ideologically inchoate: They are a phenomenon born of rage, and rage is irrational, no matter the reason or unreason of the original spark (the killing, by police, of alleged criminal Mark Duggan).
The ever-opportunistic statist left, of course, would have us treat the riots as a reaction to Conservative/Lib-Dem “austerity” measures, but that explanation doesn’t hold much water. People who like big government tend to have big government, armed and in uniform, do their rioting and looting for them.
The American right doesn’t constrain itself to wishing — its flacks merely make the “anarchy” claim and then move on, feeling they’ve added a new piece of confirmatory evidence to their ongoing argument that anarchy is “that special lawlessness which is the hallmark of poorly socialized young males” (the editors of National Review, “Rioting, Anarchy, and the U.K.,” August 10) or “the logical conclusion to the decades-long disintegration of civilized behavior” (Robert Taylor, “Anarchy in Britain,” The American Spectator, August 11.
Even the paleo-”libertarian” right seems to have gone Buckleyite for the moment, analyzing the riots less from a libertarian perspective than as “conservatives who recognize that the state sometimes is, and is today as never before, the necessary instrument of our proximate deliverance.” Unlike their idol, Murray N. Rothbard, who was able to optimistically muse, as the North Vietnamese Army overran Saigon, that at least he was witnessing the death of a state, LewRockwell.com’s bloggers seem to find cause for joy only in the opportunity to rehabilitate racist hatemonger Enoch Powell and explain the riots as a function of Austrian time preference theory, with a heavy dose of the former’s prejudices informing the latter analysis.
This, unfortunately, is typical of the “paleo” response to any development which seemingly threatens to upset the teacart of “bourgeois virtues” or “middle-class values.” When it becomes apparent that that teacart has long perched precariously atop a house of state-capitalist card tricks, they resort to race-baiting to obscure the issue, as any reader of the infamous Ron Paul newsletters can attest.
If true anarchy is present in the riots, and I believe it is, it’s to be found in ad hoc mutual aid societies springing up in affected neighborhoods. People are coming together to defend each others’ lives and possessions, in the absence of political government’s ability to do so or interest in doing so. Anarchy is not society without rules — it’s society without rulers. And it works, whenever it’s required, or even allowed, to.
As for the riots themselves, no, I cannot commend them. But to the extent that they challenge the power of the state and create not just the possibility, but the necessity, of “temporary autonomous zones” in which people learn through practice that they neither need, nor should abide, the state, I can appreciate them.
Reposted from Centre for a Stateless Society
Thomas L. Knapp, Senior News Analyst and Media Coordinator at the Center for a Stateless Society, is a long-time libertarian activist and author of Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed. Knapp publishes Rational Review News Digest, a daily news and commentary roundup for the freedom movement.