It is not terribly uncommon for college students of the 21st century to come to college without much interest in politics at all, and leave with a firm belief in enforced democracy that claims itself to be “anti-establishment”. It is the stereotypical change that brought about a whole line of tee shirts that claim: “I survived college without becoming a socialist.” Not many buy those.
But that is not my story.
I went to school at one of the largest, most conservative universities in America. I was well aware of this fact before arriving, but that did not change the fact that, despite everything my conservative parents had taught me and despite everything I heard on Sean Hannity, I was what anarchists would call a hardline statist. That is not to say the conservatives are not really for small government, just that they think they are.
I had a lot of ideas about what was wrong with the world, and a lot of ideas about what the government ought to do to fix it. Now, I don’t claim that all of these ideas about what was wrong with the world were incorrect. I simply hadn’t had the proper perspective about them.
I noted that there was a vast disparity between the rich and the poor, and that those with wealth seemed to be enjoying life at the expense of their underlings, or somebody else’s underlings. Reality did not seem to be what conservative talk show hosts had told me, that the poor were just lazy, and if they worked harder, they could be a manager, and then be rich enough to buy more than ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I knew a lot of very hard-working poor people who had been that way for some time. They had come to work every day, grabbed their coffee, put on their best smiles, made big plans for going up the ranks, and then… never did.
I saw that the prices for all the things required for daily living seemed astronomically higher than what made sense for what people could afford. I knew (and know) people who avoid very necessary operations because they simply didn’t have the money from their job they made to afford such a thing. I noted that we lived in a society that had one getting a college degree to get a job to pay off the loans for the college degree. And it just didn’t seem right to me.
I watched videos and videos of corrupt cops beating the hell out of citizens for minor infractions. Perhaps that was a libertarian-leaning issue of mine, perhaps not. And it seemed to me that government needed to get on that, too. They needed to root out the corrupt cops and replace them with cops that really cared about their community. I believed they needed to only really worry about major issues, like keeping people from killing people and whatnot. I still believed that people should be nicer to cops, because not all of them were bad, but that they did need a good amount of reform.
I would come to find more issues with society as it existed, but at the time, the only answer I could see to fix the problem was a government willing to do so. I expressed these concerns to a friend from church. As I would soon find out, this friend was a libertarian. He asked the right questions, and I began to see the world differently. I began to question whether the addition of the state into these things would really be beneficial, or if it would be even more detrimental. I began to learn what the state did, how it worked, what it had done, and what it was doing. And the more I learned about it, the more I began to despise it.
I realized that the reason there was a vast disparity between the rich and the poor was that the rich, especially those leading large corporations, have the government practically in their pocket. The government bends the rules for them, regulates the market in their favor, defends their property for them regardless of legitimate claim, subsidizes them from market losses, and bails them out in case they need it. The government can’t help the worker by regulating the market, because it’s the intensive regulation of the market that harms the worker in the first place. Licensing? It was a way to keep them from working for themselves. High university prices? That’s to keep them from learning how. Welfare? Just another excuse to keep their employees’ salaries low enough so they can never be able to pay what is currently required to be self-employed or in a cooperative. Government-granted property titles? The thing that allows the rich to own mountains while their underlings can’t even afford a house. Banks? I could go for pages and pages on all the problems with banks.
I found out that the reason why tuition for universities is as high as it is has almost entirely to do with government as well. The more the government subsidized the universities, the bigger they grew. The bigger they grew, the more services they could provide. The more services they provided, the more they needed to pay for. And the more they needed to pay for, the higher the tuitions went. And even those who go for the most job-opportune fields pay the price for that. If the universities were free inside a capitalist market, someone else would be paying for it, and likely through some level of coercion. And after even more looking into the situation, I decided that public schooling was not really for education anyway. The most populated classes were for those things that did not really teach individuals how to work for their own interests – it was to work for someone else. They couldn’t work for themselves. They were too dumb, made dumb by a system more interested in providing a large labor pool for their corporate cronies to feed off of than it was interested in enriching their citizens’ lives.
I arrived, finally, at the conclusion that the premise of the cop could not be reformed, because the entire premise of law enforcement is just as the title suggests: law enforcement. The laws they enforce are not random. The petty crimes that people are locked up for are to keep their prison population at whatever amount is needed to keep going a massive amount of free labor for the state. And even if they were able to keep their laws to a minimum of “don’t harm others”, didn’t they need to harm others to make that happen? And couldn’t communities protect themselves in a voluntarily funded manner? I figured they could. I concluded that the premise of a law enforcer was not, then, to protect their communities. It was to enforce the whims of a ruling group, regardless of the morality of the rules they came to, regardless of the consent of those ruled. If the cop were to change, they would need to serve the people, and finish their servitude to government. In essence, to be a better cop, they would need to stop being a cop.
And as I pondered these things over months and months, I became tired of finding excuses for it. I have not suddenly gained a love for free-market capitalism or full communism. But wherever I’ve found there was even a small government with seemingly noble intentions, historically, it would always grow. Always. So the answer that my libertarian friend had given me, to keep it small, did not seem to work either.
I do not claim to have any ideas for the perfect utopia, because I do not believe that utopias exist. I do not know if we should use free markets or gift-economies or voluntary communes, and frankly I don’t care that much. I do not even claim to know for sure how a stateless society will work. But I know what doesn’t.
On the day that I decided that, I became an anarchist.
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