Mad as a Fish and I have been conversing in the comments section of "Socialism Defined". Fish has offered a few questions that the very few readers that visit this blog may like to help answer. He starts with a little story: [Note: Most of the formating is my doing.]
- An 'anarchist' friend and me were having a drink (about a year ago, when I was still working the 9-5) and we moved on to the inevitable 'why do we bother with work?' convo.
- "It's all in the mind you know." He said, as if I hadn't heard it before. "The State. You don't have to go to work tomorrow - we could all just up sticks and stop - and that would be the end of that. People don't realise their own power."
- To which I responded, "Yes, but I am, unfortunately, living under a capitalist system of labour organisation - which means that in order to achieve my goals I have to engage with it - Would you suggest that I simply stop the pursuit of what I desire?"
- "Ah!" He said, as if pulling off some particular coup. "But then most of what you desire is measured by the private property you can purchase with your earnings! Property is theft, man."
- So I reach for his glass, "You won't mind if I take your pint then."
- "Get off - that's mine!"
- Property is theft - moron. It's not that I condone private property as an institution - it's just that it is UTTERLY pervasive as an idea, and has been since it was begun by enclosure acts in the 1600's. Removing such a deeply entrenched idea takes time - this is why I think Anarchism - at least in practice (if not theory) - is a little juvenile.
And then asks:
Would like to hear your thoughts on Anarchism - as it's actually quite a new idea to me. I know 'without state' does not nessecarily mean 'without order' - it's just that,
- given the six billion people we have on this merry little dirtball, can there be any other means of realistic mass cooperation than the state?
- Would you advocate the 'small social units' approach instead?
- And wouldn't that in turn lead to cultural and technological stagnation?
- Is that a bad thing?
1) Yes. Of course, this has to start from some common definitions. "State" can have a good or bad connotation. I like to separate the "good" state from the "bad" state by denoting the former as the "public trust" (schools, transportation, hospitals, fire and accountable police DP, etc) and the bad state as "The State" or "Big Brother" (corporate welfare, military- and prison- industrial complexes, goon police). The public trust serves any and all - all benefit from it, and all must pay for it. We each have a stake in the education of our children; the health and well-being of our neighbours, family, and coworkers; the movement of goods and raw materials, etc. Whereas with "The State", very few benefit from corporate welfare and the creation of mechanisms of oppression like prisons and detention centers. I cannot accept that we must allow "The State" to exist alongside the public trust. They both feed from the same teat.
2) Yes, I would advocate such an approach. Herbert Simon talks a bit about this and other economic topics. A good article can be found on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Simon
Also, if we look at biology, we see that in many cases this is how organisms do it. Our cells organise themselves into productive units that perform some specific task. They don't require the brain to perform every little operation. Humans in large groups are less efficient than humans in smaller groups. There is a part of the brain that largely dictates how many people we can have in our "I remember/know you!" storage. Tribal and hunter-gatherer cultures are known to split when they grow beyond that number. Military units are also organised into 150 or less men. I almost talked about this kind of stuff in a previous post: http://mentat-mookie.blogspot.com/2006/10/centralized-versus-decentralized.html
3) Not necessarily. Computers, books, the internet, etc will break down borders and boundaries. The fact that we can come together on blogs and discuss these things, being half a world away from each other, suggests we have a wonderful opportunity to stitch the world together.
4) Cultural and technological stagnation are not to be desired. Culture is as much a means of expression as it is a way to adapt to changing conditions. Technology will become increasingly necessary as our society grows and becomes more complex. I couldn't imagine our modern economy operating without digital computers. The extra paper waste and time less well spent crunching numbers and charts out by hand would make it nearly impossible.