Saturday, February 9, 2008

Functional Anarchy

One of the objections to anarchism (and Libertarianism, for that matter) is the basic "trains on time" question. If the government doesn't make sure

1) murder has consequences
2) we have standard currency
3) trash is picked up off of the streets
4) the population is literate
5) we're happy

how will we

1) sleep at night?
2) pay for shit?
3) walk safely?
4) send l33t text messages?
5) justify our arrogance?

Libertarians, most of whom are men who favor legalizing prostitution ([1] see pt. 6a), answer all such questions with "the free market will provide all our needs, Amen." The basic idea is that if it needs to be done someone will do it for money and the market will naturally set the fairest possible price "...and because we aren't paying taxes we will all be rich, Amen." As much as I'm irritated by Libertarian deification of free market capitalism (and guns) I have to say they are partly right about this. My divergence with the Libertarians in this case is that I don't think it is all about money and the profit motive.

Here in the US various levels of government do a lot of good things, some of them well and others not. It is one thing to argue that some of them could be done better by other entities, another thing to examine the evil done by American government and yet another to fundamentally rethink how things could be done. I no longer think it is adequate to ask questions like "is property tax the best way to pay for public education?" I think most people who know anything about school finance understand that it is not. Sadly, this has not, and probably will not, cause the situation to change.

I find this question much more interesting. "Is it possible to provide universal education for children without the use of force?"

Think about the various ways force shapes and or enables our current educational system. The way we do taxation in the US is the most obvious example. Failure to pay taxes won't (typically) get any of your digits cut off but you can be arrested and jailed for it. Think through the casual but often violent force exerted on students through bullying and hazing. Skipping corporal punishment for the moment, our kids learn that it is good and right for institutions to impose their will on individuals and punish those who resist. While things like detentions and suspensions may not seem harsh I think they are force. In this case the student is being punished for failing to follow the rules of an institution they are compelled to participate in, not even one they joined by choice.

Alternatives? Private schools, home schooling...they are options for individuals and they work out well for some kids. What about systemic change? How do we change our culture so that education takes place without force?

Barcelona is often mentioned when questions of making anarchism "work" come up. Barcelona was entirely free of Nationalist control for a time during the Spanish Civil War. It is still a city with a substantial anarchist presence today. There is disagreement about how long Barcelona was an anarchist utopia during the war and how utopian that time actually was. I think the historical record does show that in Barcelona and other parts of Spain where anarchism and collectivism took root it either was functional or would have been functional had it not been actively attacked by the Nationalists or others with capitalist agendas.

If in Spain, why not here?

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