Anarchy and Compassion

There is a certain segment of anarchists who want to emphasize their peaceful intentions by calling their creed "Compassionate Anarchism." Unfortunately, many of their "compassionate" positions betray a deep misunderstanding of human nature, economics, and power.

The most obvious error is in terminology. Capitalism is condemned as antithetical to compassion, but the term is used to conflate the diametrically opposed concepts of free markets and corporate collusion with government. Free markets are the result of a compassionate respect for the equal and reciprocal rights of others to associate and exchange voluntarily without imposing coercive force against them whereas the modern corporate system relies on government-granted privileges and protections through coercive force against peaceful people. This should be an obvious distinction to anyone who claims the title of "anarchist," but socialist propaganda clouds minds. In fact, the "compassionate anarchist" usually claims the authority to govern others, redistribute wealth according to their own concept of equality and fairness, and threatens violence against any who dispute their dictates.

Image credit. This is as close to finding the original source as one can be. Further links from here are all apparently dead ends.

The free market is completely cooperative. Voluntary exchange only occurs when both parties cooperatively perceive mutual benefit and agree to make an exchange. The price system is a decentralized organizational and informational network that offers incentives for better cooperation. It is pure anarchy, with no rulers or subjects. It appears chaotic, but the result is an organic emergent order. Competition is sometimes cited as proof of the destructive effects of the free market, but what is competition if not the desire to better serve others through some combination of more efficient production, higher-quality products, lower prices, or new products/services? How is this destructive? Greed is curbed by the need to serve others in order to profit. Only when political power supported by a widespread religious belief in its legitimacy interferes with this process do we see the boogeyman the socialist fears in the "capitalist system."

Further, nothing in the free market precludes voluntary communes, cooperative business models, living as a primitivist, forming a syndicalist collective, or anything else any hyphenated anarchist philosophy advocates. The free market philosophy does not somehow forbid charity, or mandate that all exchanges be a cutthroat competition. In fact, government is the organization that cracks down on soup kitchens and supports the corporations that seek to maximize profits by screwing the consumers through the prevention of market choice.

There is no compassion in coercion, even if you excuse your coercion through references to a "greater good" and some nebulous concept of "fairness." There is no rationality in citing abuses by the government to excuse attacks against people who disagree with you. There is nothing anarchistic about a central planning committee that claims the authority to govern others, no matter how you try to twist your words. The first step in compassion is removing the shackles from your fellow man, not trying to make new ones according to your design.

The desire for revenge, whether the cause is real or imagined, will destroy any efforts toward real progress. Remember that justice fundamentally requires the identification of a specific violation of rights, and restitution by the specific violator of those rights to the victim of such violation. "The rich" are not automatically guilty, and "the poor" are not automatically victims. Ideologies of collective guilt and collective victimhood through any analysis other than the plunder by the specific members of the political class political class against the specific members of the productive class falls flat.

If your brand of "anarchism" calls for initiating coercion, rethink your beliefs. There is no compassion in government, no matter how it may be organized. There is likewise no compassion in demanding the power to rule others in its stead, no matter how you try to justify it, because you will then be that which you claim to oppose. If we are to build a better future, we need better ideas. Better ideas must be supported by reason, not the same cycle of blame games, power grabs, and emotion-driven sophistry that has reinforced The State throughout history.

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Jacob T.
Bad Quaker, market anarchist, librarian, gamer

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