The Founding Fathers' Next Step
September 04, 2006
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It had its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.
-- Thomas Paine, from the Rights of Man
Read what Paine wrote. I mean really read what Paine wrote.
"order ... is not the effect of government ... It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished."
"the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government ... society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government."
Let's be sticklers for semantic precision. Anarchy means, literally, "no government." Anarchy does not mean "chaos." Anarchy does not mean "disorder." Anarchy means merely "the absence of government." Nothing more, nothing less.
As Paine pointed out, order existed prior to government, and would continue to exist even in the absence of government.
As Paine pointed out, civil society can do for itself essentially everything that we credit to government.
Sounds pretty damned anarchistic to me.
How does it sound to you?
Authoritarian conservatives in the GOP like to cast themselves as "defenders of traditional American values," even as "champions of democracy."
The problem with the authoritarian conservatives' ahistorical spin control is that the "traditional American values," i.e., the values held sacred by America's Founding Fathers, were never authoritarian, conservative, or democratic.
America's Founding Fathers were free-thinking radicals whose values were anything but authoritarian, anything but conservative, anything but "democratic."
As the above quote from Founding Father Thomas Paine makes quite clear, America's Founding Fathers were borderline anarchists.
Hell, forget the qualifier, "borderline." They were anarchists.
America's Founding Fathers settled for a constitutional republic only because they thought it was the most they could get away with. Had they been more familiar with the successful precedent of medieval Iceland and other anarchist societies, they would surely have authored a market anarchist constitution rather than a republican constitution.
Anyone who professes to champion the Founding Fathers' "traditional American values" is obligated to first acknowledge what the Founding Fathers valued, before blindly declaring that they are "champions of democracy" and "Jeffersonian democrats."
The Founding Fathers were not "champions of democracy." They despised democracy, and considered it the worst political system ever devised.
Benjamin Franklin, who said "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" was certainly no democrat.
The Founding Fathers hoped that the structural safeguards embodied in a constitutional republic's basic law, its constitution, would prevent the emergence of mob rule, i.e, democracy.
They were pessimistic about the long term efficacy of the safeguards they created.
As George Washington wrote in his Farewell Address of 1796,
"In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels ... I dare not hope ... that they will ... prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations."
They were right to be pessimistic.
As we, their intellectual heirs have discovered, constitutional republics gradually degenerate into democracies, and democracies rapidly degenerate into dictatorships.
To wit, George W. Bush's recent outburst before his cabinet members:
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
Those of us who consider ourselves the Founding Fathers' intellectual heirs, must take up where the Founding Fathers left off.
We must do what the Founding Fathers would be doing if they were alive to see what has been done to the great republic they founded, often in their name.
We must take the Founding Fathers' underlying and overarching political agenda to its logical next step.
We must popularize, and in the course of time, implement market anarchism.