The first Bioshock game included a fervently atheistic dictator. This dictator, Andrew Ryan, talked a lot about individualism and freedom. But he did not like people who individualistically chose freedom of religion. He only wanted freedom from religion, plus freedom of sexual debauchery and freedom to make and spend money. He claimed to reject governments and kings – but in fact he was a king in all important respects. He claimed to be free from religion – but his personality resembled that of a charismatic, fanatical cult leader.
This is a very common problem with most self-proclaimed anarchists. They want to tear down the old forms of slavery – which are often quite easy to see – and replace them with new forms of slavery – which are often more difficult to see.
I think Ex-Army is wrong about anarchy, and I am going to try to argue about it. (Update: but see below for Ex-Army’s response.)
It’s kind of obvious to me that open-borders advocates, whether they’re nominally libertarians, liberals, or neocons, are simply unrealistic, because they blind themselves to reality: an open-borders policy will change the country into a hodgepodge of people with no coherence, a situation that isn’t good for any of the three ideologies, at least not good for what the ideologies say they’re in favor of, but actually inimical to them. To put it another way, advocacy of open borders on the part of believers in any of those ideologies is really self-destructive.
And that goes double for anarchists, whom I’ve been talking to a lot lately. They keep telling me that a society without government — which will, BTW, certainly be an open-borders society — will be peaceful and prosperous, because it will be based on self-ownership and therefore very capitalistic and antiwar, which is very starry-eyed and blind to historical reality.
This reminded me of a comment I had seen on Dalrock:
In the 70s or 80s, Steve Allen (who hosted the Tonight Show prior to Johnny Carson) had a son who joined a religious cult and cut off contact with him. Steve Allen ended up writing a book entitled Beloved Son about his family situation and about his research into why so many young people were joining cults.
He spoke to one young woman who had joined a cult, but later left, and asked her why she had been attracted to the cult. It boiled down to expectations of her parents that she did not feel that she could meet. Allen asked her what career her parents had wanted for her, and she said that they didn’t push any particular career on her, they just wanted her to do “something great.” Allen noted that nearly all the cult members and former cult members that he had been able to interview came from the ambitious end of the middle class, and that an impoverished upbringing seemed to provide almost complete immunity to the desire for an alternative lifestyle of that sort.
For whatever reason, I don’t think Ex-Army can empathize with frustrated middle-class strivers who join cults. The pressure to excel, to achieve greatness, can be soul-destroying and maddening. It can drive a man to horrific crimes against others and self.
Steve Allen was an obnoxious crusading atheist. Ex-Army is definitely not a crusading atheist, but he is affably indifferent to church-going. Both Steve Allen and Ex-Army think that their rational “hard-headed” attitude makes them better-informed, but that very “hard-headed” attitude prevents them from understanding fanatics.
Many cults take middle-class people and turn them into human garbage, incapable of productive action. But other cults are shockingly effective. The cult might turn a failed middle-class student into a successful, diligent subversive.
Religious uniformity can be an excellent substitute for membership in a tribe, or a family, or a political community. If you are alienated by class struggle, if you have no sexual connections, religion might be able to save your social life.
And, not coincidentally, if you can get a fervent religious theme to take over your community, then your community doesn’t need a traditional government. In fact, your community might be a successful example of anarchy!
The Oneida Community was a religious commune founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848 in Oneida, New York. The community believed that Jesus had already returned in AD 70, making it possible for them to bring about Jesus’s millennial kingdom themselves, and be free of sin and perfect in this world, not just Heaven (a belief called Perfectionism). The Oneida Community practiced Communalism (in the sense of communal property and possessions), Complex Marriage, Male Continence, and Mutual Criticism. …The Oneida Community dissolved in 1881, and eventually became the giant silverware company Oneida Limited.
Now, a cult like the Oneida group in its heyday could have had the appearance of open borders. They could allow outsiders to come in, because they were all single-minded religious fanatics. If a dark-skinned outsider walked in and decided to emulate their cult ideology, he probably could join just as easily as anyone else – and once he joined, he would be expected to obey the principles of the group, which in practice meant absolute obedience to a totalitarian theocracy. If an outsider walked into the commune and tried to criticize their cult – well, I don’t think they would prevail without a large, fanatical army to back them up.
You can call cults like that “theocracies,” and you can claim that they really do have governments, but the church is one and the same with the government. But in practice, fanatical theocracies don’t act like governments; they slide into totalitarianism more easily than governments can. (In recent history, take a look at Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and Jonestown. As governments, they didn’t function. As cults, they were effective at pursuing their goals.)
Absence of government doesn’t mean absence of coercion. However, really effective cults have neither government nor coercion, because the adherents have destroyed the part of their rational minds that would enable political dissent.
Update: Ex-Army very generously linked to this critique with the following lovely image:
That brings us back to Ex-Army’s “starry-eyed” anarchists:
a society without government — which will, BTW, certainly be an open-borders society — will be peaceful and prosperous, because it will be based on self-ownership and therefore very capitalistic and antiwar, which is very starry-eyed and blind to historical reality
I don’t think all of these starry-eyed people are stupid, or harmless, or ignorant of history. I think that many of them are charismatic and unencumbered by conventional morality. I think some of them are advertising “open borders” because they are sincere hippies who want to get naked and have group sex with people of all skin colors. But I think others among them are advertising “open borders” because they plan to deal with immigrants ruthlessly, lawlessly, tribally. Some self-proclaimed anarchists want open borders to their land in the same way that Norman Bates wanted an unlocked front door at the Bates Motel.
A lot of anarcho-capitalists, in particular, are eager to see a new kind of society, wherein no moralizing busy-bodies will prevent noble, Nietzschean/Randian ubermenschen from lynching poor people. When that sort of anarchist says that he wants lots of immigrants, he probably has a plan to cut out their kidneys and sell them on the Free Market.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn was alleged to have been conspiring to arrange the sale of an Israeli citizen’s kidney for $160,000. According to the complaint, Rosenbaum told the cooperating witness that he had been involved in the illegal sale of kidneys for 10 years. Acting US Attorney Ralph Marra said “His business was to entice vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 which he would turn around and sell for $160,000”. Anthropologist and organ trade expert Nancy Scheper-Hughes claimed that she had informed the FBI that Rosenbaum was “a major figure” in international organ smuggling 7 years ago, and that many of Rosenbaum’s donors had come from Eastern Europe. This is the first organ trafficking case in U.S. history. In October 2011, Rosenbaum plead guilty to three counts of organ trafficking and one count of conspiracy.