|Anarchy and Economy|
goveRnments / are striking examPles / Of what's out of
(John Cage, from Overpopulation and Art, lines 406-408, published in John Cage, Composed in America, Marjorie Perloff and Charles Junkerman, editors, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1994.)
|In the first
installment of this Anarchy and Economy series
(Musicworks 62) I proposed that the time of anarchy had
come, a fact that is easily perceived by studying the
behavior of the economic entities that sustain material
life in our time.
Since then I have heard from the mouths of venture capitalists and mergers and acquisition specialists phrases such as "Capitalism is anarchy", "What is needed now (vis-a-vis government) is a revolution", and "Anarchy...of course...what do you think free trade is?" I suppose I should be gratified but actually I am not. What do these capitalists mean by endorsing anarchy? Am I really that far behind, that the prey I had hoped to awaken I find dancing before my arrival? Or does anarchy to them mean something else, something more benignly related to the free flow of goods and money, something more prosaically along the lines of deregulation, that is, governments off our backs? They made one thing perfectly clear: bureaucracies-- governmental, corporate, academic, all of them--are the capitalists' enemy number one, and if that is what anarchy means, they are all for it.
|Anarchy does mean the end of bureaucracy, but it means a lot more. I wish my capitalist friends would read and absorb Esther Ferrer's letter that accompanied the first Anarchy and Economy article, and I invite you to do so as well.|
etymology goes back to Greek and the Greeks. Literally,
it means "without leader", though we are
informed by our dictionaries that the people in those
days used it also to mean lawlessness. It hardly matters,
since both notions - leaderlessness and lawlessness -
carried with them until very recently equally horrid
connotations. Now that governments at best get out of the
way (or inevitably behave badly) we all are having an
easier time downgrading the value of leaders. A more
widespread recognition of the valuelessness of lawmaking
will not be far behind. And then, with the end of
lawmaking, the end of laws.
A bare minimum of rules, easily comprehended by a child of six, are all we need to function effectively as a group devoted to the survival of each and every member therein. The remaining guidelines are details: important, yes, but only inasmuch as they are specific, pertinent, and timely. Those will not be laws, but ephemeral courses of action, that are decided upon, used, and promptly deemed unnecessary (until the next issue arises, at which point it's guidelines can be decided upon, used, and abandoned).
|The essential motor of such a process is not leadership but communication.|
|Anarchy gets a bad rap from its ancient connotation of lawlessness, a situation capitalized upon by the Marxists and socialists who abetted the application of the term to bomb- throwers and assassins after the anarchists stood alone before L'Internationale in condemning all governments, even those 'of the workers', as ineffective and oppressive. By the "without leader" standard, no bomb-thrower can be an anarchist unless she/he acts completely alone, and launches the device in such a way that not a single other person is effected by the blast. That is to say: an anarchist must go to as much trouble to make a bomb ineffective as a terrorist must pursue to make a bomb effective.|
|AN ANARCHIST VISITS QUEBEC DURING THE REFERENDUM AND RECEIVES A LETTER FROM A FRIEND IN ONTARIO|
|One of the
reasons it is so hard to see anarchy as an alternative to
government these days is that governments themselves are
acting so lawlessly.
Why? Because it is what the voters want. The last winning campaign in Ontario promised removal of photographic devises that had enhanced the police's ability to uphold the laws pertaining to highway speed limits: a gift to aid in the breaking of laws, from the leaders to the people, gladly accepted. The new premier proudly lists amongst his cutbacks--along with the usual battering of the poor and disenfranchised--a reduction of funds for legal prosecutions.
How? When the church abandoned Quebec 35 years ago (as the government of France had done 200 years prior) the French, Catholic inhabitants of Quebec were invited and obliged to forge, once again, a new collective identity. In 1760, three identifying elements were at their disposal: a language, a code of law, and a religion. The element lost at the Plains of Abraham was a nationality. With one gone and three still available, an identity was forged that survived for 200 years. In 1960, a second identifying element, religion, was lost. The identity crisis has resurfaced. The two elements still intact--language and law--now carry a fuller burden in the identity formula; and the two elements gone--religion and nationality--are re-attracting attention. Realists consider the extant domains of law and language sufficiently rich to solve the problem. Dreamers tend towards the revival of the extinct domains of religion and nationality. And, as in any search for self, self-confidence is key, framing the challenge as opportunity or imposition, exaltation or terror.
In October, 1995, the rulers of Quebec offered a referendum: should a separate sovereign state be created by taking Quebec out of Canada. 19 out of 20 voters voted. Stasis was maintained by the slimmest of possible margins.
|The foregoing may satisfactorily
frame the referendum in time and place, but it does so
only intellectually. It looks at the vote from the point
of view of the issue being voted, that is, the vote's
content. What really interests us is the referendum's
message, that is, what the process reveals about us.
The first and most potent message is that the most strident and prolific quacks and dreamers amongst us are our democratically elected leaders. We had separatist ministers demanding that French Quebec women make more babies (taking the sentiments of the worst priests of Quebec's oligarchic past). We had a separatist leader promising to solve all future economic woes through the waving of a magic wand (direct quote, no kidding). We had the separatist premier of the province blaming defeat on "money and the ethnic vote" (presumably endorsing a more completely impoverished future both economically and culturally). And through it all we had no effective opposition at all from the leaders against separation.
More subtly quackish was a string of arguments for increasing government efficiency. Since the Quebec government had by its own account done next to nothing for the year before the vote, and they won over half the people on the promise that a vote for separation would be a vote for consolidation of governmental powers, supposedly a good thing, then we must accept the message that half the people would like to see their government doing nothing more completely. The voters who voted for separation voted anarchically, that is, for more of nothing from their government, a consolidation of ineffectuality. And the voters who voted against separation voted anarchically too, for they voted for the maintenance of a more robustly ineffectual system, to wit, one with two ineffective governments in self-absorbed combat.
|In toto, the vote
was a veto, and unanimously. In the U.S.A. laws are
written, debated, rewritten, and finally passed by the
Congress. As far as lawmaking is concerned, the President
cannot specifically cause anything to happen. But he can
cause specifically nothing to happen. That power is
called the veto. The role of the People versus the role
of the President is: the People vote, the President
vetoes. In the Quebec referendum of 1995 a far more
extraordinary role evolved for the people and the
leaders: the voters vetoed, and the leader, having
nothing to do, quit. By voters vetoing, I mean that, by
their vote, they caused absolutely nothing to happen
(slyly usurping the governments own special function).
Furthermore, by collectively accomplishing such a perfect ambiguity, they vetoed not only the actual proposal, but the entire process. Just as in the days before the vote the province grew divided, each side with increasing angst staring down the barrel of the other, the day after the vote saw the province merged together once again - as one great sore and perplexed head with the same two barrels now pulled around against left and right temples.
|To a true anarchist, however, the richly poetic injustices of the exercise have no merit, because the simplicity of the alternative offers so much more: no leaders, no government.|
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