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The Well-Tempered Anarchist

James C. Scott is a political scientist, anthropologist, and co-director of the agrarian studies program at Yale University. His most notable previous work was Seeing Like a State, which deftly described the consequences of the drive towards standardization, homogeneity, and quantifiable (and thus measurable) standards of efficiency produced by the rise of the bureaucratic nation-state from the 1500s onward.

This volume is distilled from a course on anarchism that Scott taught 20 years ago and comprises six essays centered around a theme, rather than a single, sustained argument. An idealist who believed in revolutionary change in the 1960s, Scott became disillusioned when he realized that “virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew… able to extract more resources from and exercise more control over the very population it was designed to serve.” He came to appreciate the anarchist critique of these revolutions, and many other anarchist “squints” on things as well, but could not buy the total program: “I believe that both theoretically and practically, the abolition of the state is not an option. We are stuck, alas, with Leviathan… and the challenge is to tame it.”

Even here Scott is no starry-eyed optimist, as he adds: “That challenge may well be beyond our reach.” And so we see a former radical and current appreciator of anarchism reaching the essential conservative insight that reality may severely constrain our ability to realize our imaginings.

In the first chapter, “The Uses of Disorder and ‘Charisma,’” Scott presents one of his more problematic ideas. It is introduced by the story of his seeing German pedestrians habitually failing to cross an intersection against the light, despite the road being empty of traffic. He argues that the Germans could stand some practice at law-breaking, which would help avoid any possible repeat of the 1930s and ’40s. Well, certainly it is good to have the spine to break manifestly unjust laws. But Scott goes much further than that, suggesting that “every day or so” we should “break some law that makes no sense, even if it’s only jaywalking,” in what Scott calls “anarchist calisthenics.”

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This attitude could, I think, easily lead to contempt for the law, and needs to be balanced by a healthy, Socratic respect for the value of the rule of law for social life. (To Scott’s credit, he does admit that deciding when to engage in such calisthenics requires “careful thought.”)

While giving two cheers for anarchism, Scott is not particularly well disposed towards right-wing libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. He pointedly notes: “The last strand of anarchist thought I definitely wish to distance myself from is the sort of libertarianism that tolerates (or even encourages) great differences in wealth, property, and status.” Contrary to the atomic individualism that underlies much contemporary “free market” political economy, Scott insists that individuals are significantly shaped by the framework of social institutions in which they conduct their lives. Human beings were never the atomic individuals of neoclassical economics, but its hegemony is making them more and more resemble its assumptions about them:

Further, the neoliberal celebration of the individual maximizer over society, of individual freehold property over common property, of the treatment of land (nature) and labor (human work life) as market commodities, and… cost-benefit analysis (e.g. shadow pricing for the value of a sunset or an endangered view) all encourage habits of social calculation that smack of social Darwinism.

In the next chapter, “Vernacular Order, Official Order,” Scott revisits a theme he explored to great effect in Seeing Like a State: “The people” are attuned to a local, “vernacular” context and vocabulary that require intimate knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. For instance, the people of Durham, Connecticut call a certain road “Guilford Road” because that is where it takes them. But the residents of Guilford call the same highway “Durham Road.” The state, on the other hand, operating as it were from on high, has a difficult time with such subtleties and so slaps on a label that fits the street into a larger, abstract scheme covering all of Connecticut, and so it becomes “Route 77.”

Taking such an aerial view can make sense at times, but it can also be destructive, as in the case of modernist urban planning, where Scott evokes the great urbanist Jane Jacobs:

One sees in the newspapers photographs from beaming city officials and architects looking down on the successful model as if they were in helicopters, or gods. What is astounding, from a vernacular perspective, is that no one ever experiences the city from that height or angle. The presumptive ground-level experience of real pedestrians—window-shoppers, errand-runners, aimlessly strolling lovers—is left entirely out of the urban-planning equation.

Scott is suspicious of impersonal, rationalist plans and institutions in general, not just those forwarded by the state. For instance, “scientific” forestry—the practice of planting “forests” in large monocrops of a single age—is another of his targets. Now, certainly states have been involved in that practice but so have large private firms. At first the practice seemed beneficial: the result was large tracts of trees that could be easily managed and harvested efficiently with predictable yields. But after a century, extremely low biodiversity and very high susceptibility to pests and diseases made these places famous not for their efficiency but for “forest death.”

In another, frightening tale of private but impersonal institutions, he describes searching for a nice convalescent home for his two aunts. He hears good things from all of the residents of each home he visits, until he happens to be left alone with one for a moment. Then she hurriedly tells Scott that her home is horrible but she was afraid to say so in the presence of the staff because they punished residents for any complaining—by, for instance, neglecting to bathe them. Scott realized he was witnessing a “regime of low-level terror.” From that point on, he tried to see residents at other homes with no staff present, but three out of the four institutions he visited refused his request.

Continuing the same theme, Scott’s case for local shops is such a good enumeration of the many ways in which they are superior to the giant chain stores that it is worth quoting at length:

It is surely the case that ‘big box’ stores can, owing again to their clout as buyers, deliver a host of manufactured goods at a cheaper price than the petty bourgeoisie. What is not so clear, however, is whether, once one has factored in all the public goods… the petty bourgeoisie provides—informal social work, public safety, the aesthetic pleasures of an animated and interesting streetscape, a large variety of social experiences and personalized services, acquaintance networks, informal neighborhood news and gossip, a building block of social solidarity and public action, and (in the case of the smallholding peasantry) good stewardship of the land—the petty bourgeoisie might not be in a full accounting, a far better bargain, in the long run, than the large, impersonal capitalist firm.

In another paean to spontaneous ordering, Scott describes the “shared space” concept of improving traffic flow that has been gaining ground of late, especially in Europe. It turns out that removing traffic lights can make driving, biking, and walking in dense conditions safer, when done properly. Hans Monderman, the pioneer of this concept, did not simply yank the light from the busiest intersection in Drachten, the Netherlands: he replaced it with a traffic circle, a bike path, and a separate pedestrian area. Furthermore, as Scott notes, drivers’ increased alertness in these new situations is “abetted by the law,” which penalizes those it holds responsible for accidents.

Here we glimpse part of the reason for Scott’s two rather than three cheers for anarchism: spontaneous ordering can take care of many things we typically believe require central direction, but the successful examples we see around us tend to rely upon an underlying, state-supplied order.

Scott also takes on the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, which predictably resulted in teachers “teaching to the test” and in fact often falsifying results to meet standards imposed from the top downward. Scott explains the perverse results by invoking “Goodheart’s law [which] holds that ‘when a measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure.’ And Matthew Light clarifies: ‘An authority sets some quantitative standard to measure a particular achievement; those responsible for meeting that standard do so, but not in the way which was intended.’”

At the same time the United States was dumbing down its educational system in this fashion, Scott notes that, ironically, many other nations were doing away with such standardization, with good results, while thinking they were following the American model. He adds another example of the problematic nature of such “one-size-fits-all” measures, that of French kings, who, wishing to tax (presumably wealthier) subjects with larger houses more than those with smaller ones, instituted a tax based on the number of windows and doors a subject’s house had. The result? Houses in France had fewer and fewer windows and doors as time went on, whatever their size.

These cases segue into one of the most interesting claims of this book: the fixation on what is measurable in political decision-making is a way of pretending to be apolitical while actually favoring a certain style of politics—technocratic, elitist, analytical, managerial. For instance, Scott argues, cost-benefit analysis is not a politically neutral way to make decisions, it is a way to make a political decision by deciding what costs count for what and what benefits count for what, while pretending that one is not doing so and attention is being paid to “Just the facts, ma’am.” Often such a fixation has been established with the laudable goal of eliminating discrimination, but the result is perverse: “While fending off charges of bias or favoritism, such techniques… succeeded brilliantly in entrenching a political agenda at the level of procedures and conventions of calculation that is doubly opaque and inaccessible.”

[1]The aspects of Scott’s work that I have been able to examine above, although they don’t do justice to the entire book, demonstrate that the typical left-right axis by which political positions are classified is seriously inadequate to the task of handling a thinker like Scott. His case against big government is going to appeal to libertarians. His demonstrations of the wisdom often contained in traditions and customs will be attractive to conservatives. And his concerns with lessening inequalities of wealth and power will be congenial to progressives. So where does he fit on the left-right axis? Nowhere, I’d say: he is his own man. And, setting aside its many other virtues, that alone makes this a book worth reading.

Gene Callahan teaches economics at SUNY Purchase and is the author of Oakeshott on Rome and America [2].

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17 Comments To "The Well-Tempered Anarchist"

#1 Comment By Bryan On January 24, 2013 @ 6:14 am

I like his jaywalking advice. Hey, MLK said we have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws.

I’ve never understood the term “anarcho-capitalism.” Capital is going to exist in any society that uses currency and has division of labor. When such a society moves toward anarchism there will necessarily be some “anarcho-capitalism.” The only way to limit its growth is with broad government strictures, but then you are back to standard Leftism, and not anarchism at all. Discoursing against “anarcho-capitolism” seems to be the precise point where high-minded academic jargon comes full-circle back to meet with childish naïveté: “I want anarchism but not any of the outcomes that it produces,” or “I want anarchism, but only populated with people who have no ambition or whose material appetites seem appropriate to me,” i.e. mythical human beings.

Less traffic lights sounds nice. I once read a pretty funny tangent about how four-way stop-sign intersections are totally irrational and wasteful. They really are, when you think about it.

“These cases segue into one of the most interesting claims of this book: the fixation on what is measurable in political decision-making is a way of pretending to be apolitical while actually favoring a certain style of politics—technocratic, elitist, analytical, managerial. For instance, Scott argues, cost-benefit analysis is not a politically neutral way to make decisions….”

Now THAT is 100% true. He is dead-on with that observation. Just like how we’ve all been trained to speak of The Economy, always with the definite article “The,” as if it were an actual Thing, without any moral dimension of its own, that can perform tasks or be molded. Classic, classic brainwashing, that. Good stuff.

#2 Comment By Rick Geissal On January 24, 2013 @ 11:11 am

In view of the question at the end of classifying on Left-Right line, I recommend. politicalcompass.org and its matrix of classification.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 24, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

It seems unfair to comment not having read his work, because rhetorical analysis as described has a frame which places it in a specific context.

But,

arguments about NCLB have been popular, but unless there is some demonstration as to how the standard forced teachers falsify results, it doesn’t carry much weight. Every year at the end of the semester an instructor in some history class provides a final exam. Now the exam is exactly the same for each student, regardless of learning styles, income, community, family background. Throughout the year each student has been expected to learn said material study guides are distributed, reading material, pop quizzes, standard quizzes are administered. just how all of the preceding not ‘teaching to the test?’

Now one could challenge the value of essay exams over objective exams, but in either case, the instructor has a standard that any student must meet to pass the course. I have heard no specifics that prevented any instructor from teaching their students to obtain said goals, at the very least attempt them without falsifying or even laying the test out before hand and teaching said material. From the NCLB “Blue Prints for Reform” [3]

[Raising standards for all students. We will set a clear goal: Every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a career, regardless of their income, race, ethnic or language background, or disability status. Following the lead of the nation’s governors, we’re calling on all states to develop and adopt standards in English language arts and mathematics that build toward college- and career-readiness by the time students graduate from high school. States may choose to upgrade their existing standards or work together with other states to develop and adopt common, state developed standards.]

Furthermore, the standards are not based on some imaginary state priority, but instead focussed on what is required for each student to enter into college or university systems. Nothing from a political perspective limitted or strangle held school districts of their instructors from developing their strategies in goal attainment:
[Developing Effective Teachers and Leaders. Both states and school districts will carry out strategies to develop effective teachers and leaders that meet their local needs.

States may use funds to recruit and develop effective teachers and principals, support the creation of effective educator career ladders, and improve teacher and principal certification and retention policies to better reflect a candidate’s ability to improve outcomes for students. Recognizing the importance of principal leadership in supporting teachers, states will work to improve the effectiveness of principals, through activities such as strengthening principal preparation programs and providing training and support to principals of high-need schools. States will also be required to develop meaningful plans to ensure the equitable distribution of teachers and principals that receive at least an “effective” rating. {If states are unsuccessful in improving the equitable distribution of these teachers and principals, they will be required to develop and implement more rigorous plans and additional strategies more likely to improve equity.}]

As for Goodheart’s Law, it’s not the target or the measure it is the strategies used to attain them, unless the target is a target unto itself — that is not the case here. The target was college and carreer. So I don’t think the law is applicable.

“Dumbing down” is the process of lowering a particular process or goal so that one or the other or both are acheiveable. Now in the case of NCLB, the standards were standardized for each student. Whether those standards were higher than what was previously required statewide or nationwide would require some reserach, but in Texas the standrd of intellectual acheivement, even if by rote seems to have been raised, that is hatrdly dumbing down. However, the prcess of claryifying objectives so that everyone understood the game plan could be called dumbing down, but one could hardly arguing clarifying objectives negative consequence of dumbing down. In such cases dumbing down is practical and enhances comprehension of what is expected. The French tax adjustment to counting windows just does not work for me. First, I would need a demonstration that every French citizen in the class to be taxed actually has the same number of windows, in which case one need only count the houses in the class. The need to count them suggests that the homes in France of the class to be taxed were not standardized, but varied. So measure was a flaw in methodology/strategy as opposed to the standard of expected /goal of needed monies.

The observations about cost benefit analysis would be accurate if, said analysis soley value policies where the targets and issues are primarily maleable. But CBA is an effective tool in the tangible dynamics of polices of which there are dozens of models designed to measure differing aspects of goods.

I appreciated reading the article and Prof. Scotts observations.

Keenly aware that not having read his rhetorical devices, context is important.

#4 Comment By John Drinkwater On January 24, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

Of Scott’s books, I have read, The Art of Not Being Governed, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, as well as portions of Seeing like a State. All excellent stuff.

I would argue that he is definitely on the left (still) — even far left, very much influenced by radical anarchist and Marxist writings — but he writes in such an accommodating way that it apparently appeals to people across the political spectrum. In this way, he may be much like George Orwell, also a radical leftist who won the favor of conservatives by opposing the Soviet Union. (Incidentally, Orwell also wrote very favorably of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War.)

#5 Comment By John Drinkwater On January 24, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

As for American libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism, they bear very little resemblance to genuine anarchism and probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath. I say ‘genuine’ anarchism because anarchism was founded on the radical left in the late 19th century by Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin and Malatesta — all extreme leftists. And continued as an exclusively left-wing movement abroad and in America in the early part of the 20th century. Witness Emma Goldman.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s at the earliest that the American right decided it might try to co-opt the term for its own purposes.

So if we’re talking about ‘real’ anarchism, we have to look at the movement’s founders and practictioners for decades before Murray Rothbard ever came along. If conservatives want to embrace anarchism they would have to support (at least in theory) the abolition of private property of land, the military and the police. Something tells me the ‘anarcho-capitalists’ aren’t willing to do so…

#6 Comment By EliteComminc. On January 25, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

I am not sure who owns who . . . (though I suspect it’s not me) but I will gladly relinquish any number of the ten rescued cats occupying our humble abode . . .

#7 Comment By Bryan On January 26, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Whoa, buddy. John Drinkwater, are we reading the same Orwell? “Homage to Catalonia” is my favorite work of his, and he obviously begins that poignant work with a high opinion of Spanish anarchists (high enough to take up arms with them), but he seems to have a very different perspective by the end of the book.

I highly recommend reading Dostoevsky’s “Memoirs from the House of the Dead” and Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” in juxtaposition for a great comparison of how life events affected two brilliant writers with “revolutionary-left” tendencies; one by being sent to prison, one by actually fighting in a real war with leftist revolutionaries.

#8 Comment By John Drinkwater On January 26, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

Bryan, I have read House of the Dead and loved it. I don’t think Dostoevsky’s later turn to the right relates in any way to what Orwell wrote. I didn’t read Homage to Catalonia as a rejection of anarchism. It was a rejection of Soviet communism, precisely because the Soviet Union worked relentlessly to defeat the anarchists.

#9 Comment By John Drinkwater On January 26, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

I should add that House of the Dead is, in my view, D’s best work. I don’t care for his turn to the right which is reflected in later book, particularly Demons, which is a tendentious attack on the left, and I think a complete misrepresentation of anarchist beliefs. D conflated Sergei Nechaev with Bakunin, which was a big mistake considering the fact that Bakunin was a genuine man of ideas while Nechaev was a self-serving terrorist.

#10 Comment By John McIntosh On January 27, 2013 @ 2:06 am

Anarchy is great way to live,
It just that other people always do it wrong.

#11 Comment By Cornel Lencar On January 27, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

Reminds me of “Small is beautiful”…

#12 Comment By Anonymous On January 27, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

“And continued as an exclusively left-wing movement abroad and in America in the early part of the 20th century.”
John, intellectual American anarchism was heavily individualist during the 19th century, possible more so than leftist. Might you be conflating the spread of anarchism amongst laymen (which was very much leftist, as leftist ideologies will always spur the most people towards radical self-identification) at the turn of the century with that amongst intellectuals before the turn?

Bryan, you expressed better than I ever could the flaws inherent in left anarchist poo-pooing of market anarchism. When I read:
“The last strand of anarchist thought I definitely wish to distance myself from is the sort of libertarianism that tolerates (or even encourages) great differences in wealth, property, and status.”
All I could think was: without tolerance of THESE things in particular, where are we? An institution which does not tolerate? Sounds like a state. You could imagine the market anarchist-conceived notion of private law enforcement enforcing such things, but, well… that premise is the one being rejected. The only way to avoid this contradiction even on a definitional level is either, as you mentioned, have a society of perfect beings, or, as an absurdity, have a mob of intolerant persons regulating such things, but lacking the structure of state. I suspect most left anarchists rely on the former, which is very much in line with the type of wild-eyed utopianism assigned to them by myself and other conservatives.

#13 Comment By John Drinkwater On January 28, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

Anonymous,

I don’t think there’s a contradiction between individualist and leftist. Conservatives have a tendency to falsely assume that all leftists are collectivists. But anarchist-individualists of the left-wing variety were prominent in the early 20th century, in America, Europe and Russia before Bolsheviks suffocated all left opposition.

The anarchist-individualists, who were militantly opposed to both capitalism and the state, were just as revolted by the idea of an ‘anarchist commune’ as you conservatives are. Even if communes weren’t backed by any state, the anarchist-individualists argued that they would inevitably lead to the curtailing of people’s individual freedoms, if not worse than that.

#14 Comment By Gene Callahan On January 28, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Regarding Bryan and Anonymous, both left anarchists and anarcho-capitalists generally want some things to be illegal, and generally will need a way to enforce those things being illegal. Why it would be harder to enforce, say, “owning more land than you can personally farm is illegal” than “failing to pay back a loan is illegal” without a state I can’t imagine.

#15 Comment By new48er On February 4, 2013 @ 2:31 am

I very much appreciate the thoughtful discussion I have found here.

Many different points have been raised, and it would be too long to address everything I find interesting here. So, as an indirect way of responding, I would like to introduce the concept of syndicalism: an economic system in which the workers own and manage the means of production. These workers are organized in unions that carry out many of the administrative functions of government, such as oversight of the production and distribution of goods, etc. Most forms of syndicalism are distinct from communism in that each shop or work place is directly owned and managed by those who labor there, as opposed to the “state capitalism” of the USSR and China, where the Party still owned everything, and made all the decisions.

The thoughtful people here are surely familiar with the common misunderstanding of the American political system that is often articulated as, “This is a democracy, isn’t it? The majority rules.” This kind of argument is frequently invoked in condemnations of “activist judges” who make rulings that favor the interests of minorities, such as gays wishing for the legal right to marriage. As you know, the Founders understood that many of the colonists who came from Europe were religious minorities who were oppressed on that basis at home, and came to America seeking the freedom to worship and believe their minority religion. Thus, the framers of the Constitution understood that a major problem of democratic government would be that of protecting the democratic rights and freedoms of minorities – those in power, be they the majority, or the wealthy, needed less protection in the structure of law and government than such minorities.

Thus, we have a republic, if we “can keep it.” The framers of the Constitution understood the danger of demagogues and mob rule, from the example of Julius Caesar and tyrants of ancient Greece. They understood the realities of social psychology – that the People could become a mob, and at times will gladly give up their freedoms, as well as violating that of the dispossessed. This is why we have limits on executive power, such as the tri-partite executive, legislative and judicial structure, and a non-elected judicial branch. In a period of fast, radical change, the mob might follow a charismatic leader down the path of tyranny, and America would be like the monarchies from which our European forebears fled – or worse.

A side note on education: There are many in the Tea Party mob, as well as many liberals, who weren’t paying attention when they were taught all of this in eight grade, or whenever it was. Maybe they didn’t know, at that age, why they should care? And today, many people reach that level of schooling ill equipped to grasp this set of ideas. In our national dialogue about education, I almost never hear the idea any more, that it takes an educated citizen to properly participate in our democracy, because the ideas and practices of democracy go against much of our social psychology – the desire of the People, in times of anxiety, to have a strong leader with sure answers to difficult problems; and, the willingness of the People to give up freedom in exchange for whatever the demagogue promises.

So, we do not have a direct democracy in America; we have a republic, based on democratic principles and freedoms. A direct democracy might have a single body that acted as executive, legislature and judiciary; we have three separate institutions. In a direct democracy, each citizen votes directly on each question; we have a very high degree of delegation.

What does this have to do with syndicalism? Well, just as many citizens of America’s “democracy” have a primitive understanding of our democratic republic, many anarchists and thinkers about anarchism have a primitive understanding of anarchism. They think in terms of pure or idealized anarchism, just like those American citizens who believe “majority rules” is a just and American way to make decisions for a group.

Most anarchists believe that “government is a social order that relies on force (violence) or the threat of force (violence),” and therefore, whatever the social order is called, those with the most power (and money) will always enforce the social order from which they benefit. Your more thoughtful or informed anarchists realize that anarchism calls for a social order that is more “civilized” than what we have right now, which often devolves to brutality, in that social order should be attained without violence as the fundamental instrument of order.

In this view of things, the problem with capitalism is this: Capitalism allows the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few; with modern technology and the organization of the corporation, this is possible to a degree unprecedented in human history. Historically, the great thing about this concentration of wealth is that kings, corporate boards, and philanthropists can use that wealth to build pyramids or museums, fund art, construct infrastructure such as the railroads and telecom networks, etc.

What is less often discussed in America is the downside of this massive accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few; yes, it can cause stagnation in a consumer economy, but what should we really care about, as Americans? The real problem is that some citizens are now “more equal than others.” In our equalitarian society, how un-American is it that the wealthiest few have so, so very much more political power than regular folks? This is very, very undemocratic! Whether we’re talking about the Koch brothers or George Soros, the degree of difference between the political power of the wealthiest Americans and the average citizen is obscenely undemocratic.

Our technological development has created a situation probably unimaginable to the nation’s founders. Sure, Alexander Hamilton wanted a society in which a low-born person of intelligence and strong character could rise to wealth and influence in a single lifetime. And this interest was accommodated. But today, in the 21st century, we are losing our democratic republic for an oligarchy. American capitalism, once seen as the means by which a common person could gain achievements equal to their ability and effort, now undermines our democratic values of freedom and equality.

Anarchism is the extension of that very American impulse, that the ordinary citizen should be boss of their own life, that no one should be a slave to anyone else, in any sense. Syndicalism is the way to organize the economy, the work place, so that power and wealth are distributed laterally, rather than vertically. In the capitalist system, each work place acts as a funnel, to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few. The authoritarian communism of the Soviets and the Chinese functioned in much the same way. Syndicalism respects both liberty and equality, in a way that neither capitalism nor communism has.

Those who argue that what makes America great is the ability of individuals to become wealthy do not understand the equality values institutionalized in the Constitution, now so greatly undermined. Economic liberty has become too great, so that we are no longer equal before the law, nor equal in self-governance – in directing policy.

We have already learned that authoritarian communism is not the answer – not because capitalism is a “better” system, but because state capitalism failed to eliminate powerful elites, and the workers remained alienated.

What syndicalism offers is not an idealized anarchist utopia, but rather the foundational economic principles that might allow a society to provide what the American founders wished for us – a society based on both liberty and equality.

Oops, I think I went too long!

#16 Comment By Glyn Tutt On February 13, 2013 @ 11:13 am

Bring it on New48er!

I take exception only to one thing; quote ” In a period of fast, radical change, the mob might follow a charismatic leader down the path of tyranny, and America would be like the monarchies from which our European forebears fled – or worse.”

Implication that the child nation born from so called nations led by charasmatic leaders are somehow not going to carry on the traits of their parents?

This assumes that most monarchies in Europe are still somehow led my monarchs that have only their own interests at heart and secondly that the USA disconnected itself from it’s colonial past.

Rubbish! Look at how bloody the post independance period has been … and still is. Look at who really controls the Federal Reserve and look at all of the charisma and support the US president gets from his country’s citizens.

History repeats itself because we are all human. The problem is that Europe has moved forward and is still changing – it is no longer the ‘old world’, it is the place which carried the cradle for you all!

So I love the discussion, but please stop looking at us over here on this side of the pond as somehow standing still, in the same position as we were 10, 30, 60 150 or even 250 years ago.

The commentator is right too when they state “Thus, we have a republic, if we “can keep it.” ” I agree – because the rest of the world is tired of the insular policies each administration maintains – instead we’re just getting on with things!

#17 Comment By new48er On February 28, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

To Glyn Tutt:

Apologies to you, and to Europe! I did not intend to imply that today’s Europe is the same as the 1400s through 1700s! Only that the U.S. will return to the “rule of men,” if we are not careful; there will be neither rule of law, nor social and economic justice.

Give me a decent job and good papers in Europe, and I’ll board the steamer today!