Sunday, 19 February 2012

How Would Anarchy Deal With Global Warming

How would anarchy deal with global warming?  Street thugs?  Intestinal blockage?  This is a really, really common question among people new to anarchism, and for good reason.  One of the main strengths of statism - communism, democracy, dictatorship, what have you - is that it offers a solution.  We'll solve global warming through co-ordinated state action, through public awareness programs, through our leader's dictates, and so on.  We'll deal with crime by re-educating, by locking up and separating, by simply killing the offenders and so on.  When somebody familiar with these philosophies hears about anarchism, that familiar question - what do we do  about [random problem] - generally gets no answer or an unconvincing one, like 'we'll let go and see what happens'.  Naturally, statism seems to win this round by at least having a plan of action.

However, look at these supposed statist solutions, and (in general) they don't work.  A lot of the time, like the way crime is dealt with, these solutions make the problem much worse!  Certainly global warming is hardly being, shall we say, arrested by state intervention.  Perhaps only the state can solve the problem it's caused by this point, although I suspect that there is no hope and we're all screwed.  In any case, it must be recognized that a plan of action is only a merit if it is to some extent effective; that a vague desire to 'do something' about a problem is only praiseworthy if it does not, in fact, create a dozen new problems on the way.


  1. For what it's worth, I don't feel the dichotomy you've set up is quite fair.

    Not that I'm an anarchist, see for example, but setting up the question as an either/or commands the result that statism is the better solution - at least among the practical-minded.

    As I see it, the question hinges on matters of degree as opposed to whether one prefers to live in a Hobbesean State of Nature.

    For example, I think it's meaningful to ask the question of whether one would prefer to live in a society where dominant members do not have the right to engage in wars that function not only to slaughter society's underlings but also to enrich those dominant members.

    I think it is meaningful to ask whether one prefers to live in a society where its members have meaningful input to matters of social policy as opposed to a system whereby social policy is declared by elites and the hoi polloi merely ratifies policy with no meaningful avenues of dissent.

    If the questions are put that way, I believe the dichotomy between statism and anarchy simply melts, and brings to the fore the issues that drive such theoretical (not to mention unfortunate) debate.

  2. Hmm. I've read, with great interest, the post you linked and I think that to an extent you're right: the way things are now, Anarchism alone isn't going to provide the blueprint for, well, any society.

    Here's my position. I'm not interested in providing the blueprint for a society or trying, as you mention in Pied Cow Partisan, to roll back the march of corporations, for the same reason that I'm not trying to stop global warming. I simply don't think it's possible, even for somebody with serious political power. My anarchism is a personal anarchism, not a utopian one - and I suppose that means I should refrain from making broad pronouncements on 'statist solutions' or 'anarchist solutions'.

    Obviously I'm still going to, but feel free to take them with a double-handful of salt.


    And I should mention (in this increasingly turgid comment) that I think I disagree with your dissolution of the statism/anarchy distinction, but I'll post on that after I've thought it through sufficiently.