Feed People, Not Politicians

Andre Bauer, South Carolina Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate, has made a quote that should end up in the politician hall of fame.

While speaking about government providing school lunches he said, “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

Bauer later suggested boosting student performance by telling people “Look, if you receive goods or services from the government, then you owe something back.”

If you need to resort to describing humans as if they were other animals, you’re probably hiding the fact that your argument has no substance and at best a tangential relationship to reality. I’ve been known to refer to certain individuals as pigs, but I don’t try to tell people they actually think like farm animals.

Poverty as we know it is enforced by authority. The state clearly functions to bolster the interests of those who will share influence with it. Since the poor have little influence in policy-making circles besides what professional advocates represent, they are generally regarded as pawns or discards who should join the military if they want a free lunch.

As an anarchist I am certainly against all state programs. But the root of the problem isn’t that some people are being forced to pay for the meals of others. The root of the problem is that authority wrecks economic opportunity, upends competing providers, and tells the lower ranks to obey or pay while inventing new requirements for them to satisfy. The root of the problem is that authoritarians regard other people as means to bring about their dreams of command.

Every time a politician like Bauer makes his name on new government projects, what is seen are the glamour and glory of redevelopment or enforcement. What is not supposed to be seen are the individuals pushed further to the margins of the economy as their neighborhoods are destroyed and livelihoods are stolen.

When government takes more control of which business models are allowed and which choices are acceptable, it builds higher barriers to entering the market. Government protects corporations that would steal anything from anyone if they thought it would boost their profits by the slightest margin. Then government punishes those who can’t afford top lawyers after they were caught going around barriers to the market.

Direct action, effecting changes without being authorized or going through established channels, is the way to think of the solution. It’s not my place to decide what risks other people should take, but do think about who authority protects and serves. Nearly everyone can take some kind of direct action to better the world. The type of community building fostered by mutual aid (the sharing of physical resources, labor, and knowledge for mutual benefit) could improve life for a large number of people. So would at least privately expressing solidarity with those caught trying to upend the establishment and take control of their own lives.

Every time a person’s needs are supplied from outside the system, a barrier to destroying the system is broken. Building anti-authoritarian organizations will help people become more autonomous. It can also make the new world more participatory and more responsive to the desires of more individuals.

Bauer’s remarks on stray humans betray an attitude that politicians usually deliver softly: that the worth of an individual consists of his ability to satisfy the demands of authority. To anarchists, each individual exists for her own benefit, and each individual’s freedom must only be restricted when she infringes on the equal liberty of another. Anarchists replace authoritarian demands with respect for non-invasive individuals and the realization that a better world can only exist if we build it.

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