Writing in The American Conservative, William Lind bemoans the tendency revealed by current upheavals in the Middle East. “[T]he worst possible outcome … is the disintegration of states and their replacement either by statelessness — as we see in Somalia — or by fictional states, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
But what’s so bad about that? Let’s look at a couple of Lind’s objections:
“Within the territories that were formerly real states,” he writes, “power devolves to many non-state entities.”
Color me clueless, but isn’t that exactly what “limited government conservatives” usually claim to be for?
Isn’t that, in point of fact, precisely the goal Lind himself pursued as Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation? That institution’s “Declaration of Cultural Independence” swears off state politics and commits its adherents to “the creation of a complete, alternate structure of parallel cultural institutions.” Moreover, those “parallel cultural institutions” are of a specifically “Judeo-Christian” variety. But these days Lind lists, among his fears, the possibility that power will devolve to “religions and sects.”
“Internally, war becomes a permanent condition,” he warns. To which I can only reply, “was it not ever so?” Hobbes’s “war of all against all,” if ever that war truly raged, didn’t end with Leviathan’s appearance on the scene. The modern state merely armed the political class at the expense of the productive class, then proceeded to systematize the slaughter and — with spectacular exceptions like Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s reign of terror, Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” — regulate its domestic intensity to a more bearable and sustainable level than that of all-out war between states.
It’s questionable, though, whether the “war of all against all” ever took place, at least at any thing like the level of horror Hobbes claimed. Lind invokes Somalia as a modern-day equivalent, but the most notable characteristic of Somalia is how peaceable the place is when foreign states and their domestic quislings aren’t trying to impose themselves in place of its loose non-state clan social structure.
The real nut of Lind’s objection to anarchy seems to be that “externally there is no one with whom other states can deal.” He treats this as a bug. I consider it a feature.
What kind of “dealing” takes place between states? The least onerous form of trade between states — the baseline — is a continuous barter, between their political classes, of wealth stolen from their productive classes.
From there, it only gets worse, up to all-out war that makes any conceivable stateless “war of all against all” look like a friendly game of flag football: Massive armies (cajoled or even conscripted from among the productive class, of course — if you’re looking for the political class, consult your directory of “undisclosed locations”) arrayed against each other, brandishing terrible weapons that only acolytes of the state could manage the psychosis necessary to imagine, or work up the hubris to invest the massive amounts of unearned wealth required to develop.
Do I really need a state to “deal” in my name? Here’s a little bit of that Judeo-Christian lingo for Lind:
“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves …” (Isaiah 28:15)
That’s the bargain Lind proposes as a bulwark against good, clean anarchy. Thanks, but no thanks.
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