In a previous post (How About Some Honesty?) I touched on a subject of immense importance: honesty when arguing a political point of view. But honesty is a much more important concept than I maintained in that previous post. Actually, when arguing for a certain state of things, i.e., a normative, there is no reason to assume someone else will do the work. If you really want something to change in a certain direction with a specific end goal, then why would you not invest time, labor, and money into making it happen?
Normatives usually include how to organize society, how people should act, morals, ethics, the meaning of liberty. They almost always involve people and how people act or in what ways they are allowed to act. When this is the case, would you say it is consistent, that the person arguing a normative is believable, to not act the way explicitly preferred or even prescribed?
In the previous post I argued many so-called “pro war libertarians” are inconsistent because they do not in any way act or take part in the war they advocate. They don’t join the army. Many of them don’t even pay the taxes that finances the war. (I do pay such taxes, I’m afraid.)
This might seem as a dishonest argument, but I don’t think it is. When arguing for normatives, for how people should act, then the least one could expect is for the person supporting and arguing for a certain point of view acts that way. Why do you argue you know what others must choose while not making the same choice for yourself? Actions speak louder than words.
This is not to say there aren’t circumstances that could make it impossible to act the way one would prefer. It might also be too costly. In such cases it might not make sense. But to argue for a normative without even trying – or consider trying – to act that way yourself? That is hypocrisy.
Advocating killings without yourself killing (or trying to kill) is hypocrisy.
Advocating rape without yourself raping (or trying to rape) is hypocrisy.
Advocating theft without yourself stealing (or trying to steal) is hypocrisy.
This type of behavior can be summed up as politics. Politics is about making others act a certain way without oneself taking the lead; politics uses force and coercion to make people act according to someone’s preferences without demanding that that someone acts the same way. We see this all the time: politicians prohibiting or wanting to prohibit private health care or health care insurance while making sure to have the most expensive insurance themselves; politicians raising taxes while not paying them themselves; politicians advocating torture while they would never use such methods themselves (or subject themselves to such horrible treatment); politicians advocating war while never themselves ever risking a bullet (or killing someone).
The reasoning above shows clearly the beauty with the anarchist position, which does not have the intrinsic contradictions of most statist positions advocating “liberty,” and the methodology of direct action – do it yourself. This position, at least in theory, is non-hypocritical: it does not include contradictory statements (it includes only your right to do with your life as you please as long as you do not restrict others’ doing what they wish with their lives) and it ultimately requires that you act yourself rather than make others act on your behalf. This is the only moral position (at least for as long as it does not include force/violence/coercion).
This is, however, a theoretical view of the anarchist position. There are plenty of anarchists who do not “do as they preach” or that even act in a way directly opposite to their expressed ideals. In such cases the anarchist is a hypocrite.
Nevertheless, anarchists tend to be less hypocritical than others. For two reasons:
1) Anarchists don’t support a coercive system thought “necessary” for liberty; and
2) Anarchists don’t believe in political means.
Let us take a look at these two specific points.
Liberty and the State. Liberty is the absence of restrictions, the absence of force, coercion, fraud and involuntary hierarchy. How can one combine such a concept with the concept of a state, which is ultimately defined as a “monopoly of [the use of] violence”? Imagine a society in which people only act voluntarily, add a structure with monopoly power – what do you have? It is difficult to imagine the result is more liberty. The result is necessarily less liberty.
This is, very simply summarized, the reason most political movements are developing dogmatic terminology and their own definition of words, struggling with trying to limit language in such a way that the fundamental lie will never be exposed. Liberty under a state is always, and can only be, liberty at the mercy of power. Liberty under the state is limited to actions accepted by its rule(s).
Political means. I have previously discussed the implications of engaging in the political process, i.e., using politics as a means, on many occasions. Political means, in the sense of using the state to achieve certain goals, always means using power to force people to act in a certain way. Be it removing a certain restriction or regulation or enacting another law to outlaw available alternatives.
Politics is a methodology of hate – it makes people rulers on all levels, and teaches people to obey those higher in hierarchy. It makes people develop brown noses and hard feet – in order to “succeed” or accomplish anything you need to brown-nose your superiors and keep inferiors in line (by force, if necessary). Even in local chapters of political organizations people “secretly” band together in factions and fight each other for “influence” or power.
Anarchism, and generally also anarchists, do not condone the state nor political means. This should always be the case for those advocating and championing universal liberty. But it is not.
As has already been mentioned, some anarchists have no problem with engaging in party politics. Also, there are a lot of so-called libertarians – “minarchists” – supporting both a state and political means as necessary for liberty. What about this position?
It should be fairly obvious by now that the minarchist position is strictly hypocritical. The so-called minarchists claim to be champions of liberty while advocating a centralized power with the monopoly to use force; they claim people have “a right” to do whatever they wish “as long as they don’t hurt anyone” but use political means (effectively striving to acquire the power to “legitimately” force others) to accomplish their goals.
If one were to construct a way to calculate the “level of hypocrisy” for a political or philosophical position, I have no doubt minarchists would end up with a “high score.” As a matter of fact, the level of hypocrisy should be lower the more “open” and undisguised the advocacy for power is. Nazism and fascism, for instance, would score low – being less hypocritical – simply because they advocate force openly and use forceful means to acquire the power to use it. Republicans and democrats are, in this respect, more hypocritical than nazis and fascists.
Having said this it is not difficult to realize why it is so uncommon to “do it yourself.” The ideologies and political programs themselves are fundamentally hypocritical. What you wish to achieve is usually an end goal for society where others act as you want. You want the power to make it happen, i.e., the power to force others to act the way you want. I despise nazism in every possible way, but at least they are not hypocritical – they want power to use it, they are explicit about it, and they attack, abuse, coerce and kill to get it.
The way I see it, anarchism and anarchists (in general, there are exceptions – especially when engaging in violent action against people and/or possessions) are superior morally and philosophically. Not only because of their belief in themselves, in man, and in freedom – but because they advocate freedom and they take it on themselves to achieve it. Collectivist anarchists generally do it in clubs (not seldom with internal structures of hierarchy) whereas individualist anarchists do it individually or organized in networks. In either case, they want freedom and they do what it takes to get it – and they do it themselves.
It is my personal opinion that the late Samuel Edward Konkin III – SEK3 – had the best theory on how to achieve a free society. But no matter what you believe of his theory, he was not hypocritical: he advocated freedom through counter-economics (SEK3 on counter-economics here) – where market anarchists take it on themselves to act on the market out of reach of the state’s oppressive apparatus.
SEK3 also recognized that it might not be possible to advocate liberty, in the purest sense, and act 100% freely. There are costs of acting in an oppressive state society. Such costs can make it practically impossible to act the way one would like to. Konkin recognized this impossibility and simply stated that it is every market anarchist’s moral obligation to act as much as possible without the realm of politics.
Each and every one of us is to some extent acting hypocritical – this is a necessary condition in a society so totally entrenched with state control and state power. What separates the hypocrites from the non-hypocrites is whether the advocate for liberty makes sure to act as little as possible in the political realm or not. If you take it on yourself to change the world, not just talk about it, you are not a hypocrite – even if you are “forced” to accept some oppressive measures. If you talk of changing the world and strive for the power to force that change on others rather than acting yourself, then you are indeed a hypocrite.