Anarchy Columnist

Meet The D.O.’s new Anarchy columnist

Casey Russell | Head Illustrator

Anarchism isn't about chaos and destruction; it's about equality, mutual aid and cooperation.

You may have negative associations with the word anarchy, and for good reason. The word has entered the common dialect as chaos and disarray. But this isn’t what anarchists stand for.

Rather, anarchists view the current world order as one that ascribes to chaos, destruction and a gross disregard for human life, and they thus seek something better to replace it.

Why does an anarchist perspective lead to these conclusions?

Let us look at some of the logic guiding contemporary society.

Capitalism is good because it drives competition, which leads to increased efficiency, which is our best method of allocating resources. Some camps believe deregulation will allow for goods and services to operate more efficiently, while others favor regulations — such as labor, environmental or anti-discrimination laws — because they believe efficiency isn’t always the most desired outcome.

What do we mean when we talk about competition?

Well, most capitalists view competition as good: When there are more businesses in operation competing to provide goods and services, those goods and services become cheaper, more accessible and more innovative.

But the nature of competition means there will be winners and losers. For the winners — congratulations, capitalism is working as intended for you. For losers, the pure, “laissez-faire” capitalist will hang you out to dry. Others — those who favor a safety net — would seek to at least ensure the losers’ survival. But thrive? Heavens no. They lost.

This is the ideal form of capitalism. But the reality is that we don’t live in a world of ideals. Capitalism interacts with government, usually in an anti-democratic fashion. A 2014 study from Princeton University showed the rich feel their opinions are valued when it comes to policy — since they are — while the rest of us feel like we don’t have a voice. Since we don’t.

Former President Jimmy Carter has said the United States is an oligarchy. It’s hard to disagree with him if you look at the wealth of those who hold public office.

So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.
Jimmy Carter

Because society is inherently unequal and we use money to allocate resources, those with the most money are valued, while the rest of us are left to fight for scraps. Whether politicians buy their way into office or are beholden to the rich who don’t hold office, the results are the same.

We have a society that is currently unequal. There’s no debate around that. The consequences of this include the white upper and middle classes punching down on any rising group. Ruthless territorial expansion, environmental exploitation and human rights abuses arise because ever-increasing profit is favored over current lives, foreign lives and future lives.

Curbing capitalism’s enthusiasm won’t change its fundamental nature. Rather, we must move away from a system favoring competition to a system favoring cooperation.

Anarchy is one such system. Cooperation, or “mutual aid” in anarchist lingo, is engendered through common ownership of all meaningful resources. People do some measure of required work and some self-fulfilling work, while technology picks up the rest. Resources are allocated according to need. This renders most forms of crime obsolete, as there is no reason to commit them.

Think such a society is too ideal to work?

Look at the selfless anarchist response after Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters. Look at the much higher rates of charity donations among the poor than among the rich. Mutual aid is a natural inclination, as humans are social creatures who are used to living in cooperative groups. Wealth is an insulation from that.

So the question of “Why anarchism?” is not difficult to answer. Like many, I am an anarchist because I believe in an equal, democratic and more fulfilling society.

Sam Norton is a senior advertising and psychology dual major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at sanorton@syr.edu.

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