As Mayday approaches and with it the traditional harbingers of summer, such as the sight of a freshly dug paving brick in flight, with its comet’s tail of dirt particles, tracing an arc towards a McDonalds plate glass window or the contents of a looted Baby Gap whirling in the breeze, blue bibs and striped sleepsuits hanging off street lights, my thoughts turn to that strange creature who has emerged from winter hibernation, the anti-globalisation “anarchist”. This creature represents a conundrum: While he professes to favour anarchy, he is more likely than not to owe his current indolent lifestyle to a most un-anarchical social welfare system. How to reconcile this contradiction?
The first thing I’d like to say is that I am not anarcho-libertarian. I do understand the arguments, I just remain unpersuaded. But my intention here is not to provide a rebuttal of anarcho-libertarianism, rather to compare it with the “anarchism” more prominent in the popular imagination, that of a Mayday protester. If you take such an anarchist at his word and grant that he will be happy to forego the benefits of a redistributive welfare state once his utopia arrives, where does his purported philosophy differ from an anarcho-libertarian or anarcho-capitalist?
It occurs to me that the principal difference lies in the respective attitudes towards private property. The anarcho-capitalist respects private property, his own and others. The “anarchist” considers all property to be theft and asserts a right to expropriate such property as he needs or wants from others. As a welfare state needs a state to sustain itself, the anarchist presumably imagines that the “needy”, in lieu of state handouts, simply steal what they “need” from others. Of course if you are one of those “others” you may not be so keen on this happening. As there would be no state police force, the task of defending property devolves to the individual who may contract it out to private security services. Thus the anarchy favoured by the “anarchist” turns out strikingly similar to that proposed by anarcho-capitalists. Is this really what he wants?
I suggest that what the “anarchist” really wants is short term anarchy. An afternoon or so of mayhem, “for kicks”, and then a return to an un-anarchical world where the welfare state remains to inadvertently subsidise his “alternative” lifestyle.