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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Michael Oakeshott on Anarchy and Order

"But the practical anarchists had a certain intellectual superiority over their more theoretical successors: at least they knew whom they were against, although their chosen victims were often innocent enough. All that the 'philosophers' can find for an enemy is something they 'the State'. This leads to a diminution of bomb-throwing, but in other respects it is not an improvement...

"For it comes easily to the anarchist to forget that [the modern] 'individual' is not a metaphysical entity but an historic achievement, and to forget also how decisive a part 'government' has played in this achievement...

"But perhaps it is here that the real character of 'anarchy' reveals itself. It is a plausible doctrine in a certain context. We can entertain the notion of 'no government' with equanimity, even with enthusiasm, when government has established habits of orderliness that have some momentum of their own, and when disorder seems to be a remote contingency. This condition is, at best, fragile, and it is good to be reminded that it is so: Sextus Empiricus tells us that when a king died the Persians used to be left without laws for five hair-raising days in order to impress upon them the need for government. Nevertheless, if this condition seems at any time to be firmly established, the doctrine of anarchy will seem plausible. Further, when government has not only established habits of orderliness, but has itself come to display a propensity for over-activity which can be opposed, even in a somewhat exaggerated manner, because the margin of safety is great, the doctrine of anarchy will be particularly attractive. In these circumstances the philosophical anarchist may be welcomed as a friend whose head may be a little light but whose affections are to be trusted. He is on the right side in this game of tip-and-run we play with our masters, even if he is inclined to end the fun by swiping the ball out of the field." -- "Anarchy and Order," The Vocabulary of a Modern European State, pp. 72-74

13 comments:

  1. Gene, im new here and just one to ask you a little question (my english is really bad, so i'll try to be clear and direct): are you (still) an ancap?read few articles that you wrote in anti-state, lew rockwell etc and you seemed ancap. But here i saw that you have some critcs (really goods, i think) to some libertarians. Besides, you aprecciate Oaakshot and Voegelin (and, i suppose, other classical conservatives like Burke). I think both the traditions are rich and fascinating... but just wanna know if you've changed your mind after all this years or if you're just making an "internal criticism" etc...Thanks and keep on!

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    1. Yes, not an ancap.

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    2. Well, since we're asking Gene questions about his political leanings, I would also like to ask a question.

      In many of our discussions over the past year or so (two years?), I have noticed that you do show some respect for Austrian thinkers. Obviously, politically you reject libertarianism, or at least Austro-libertarianism, specifically anarcho-capitalism. However, I am curious as to how you would classify yourself economically?

      I know that you like to pull from many resources, just as I like to think that I do, but if you could only list one school of economic thought that you most agree with, which would you choose?

      Just to engage in advance reciprocation, my roots of economic learning are in neoclassical thought, but I consider myself an Austrian today (amateur, of course). Obviously, you know what my answer is for political philosophy: socialist!

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    3. I hope that I don't have to explain that that last line was complete poppycock.

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    4. Well, if you want anyone to know what you are talking about you probably do.

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    5. "However, I am curious as to how you would classify yourself economically?"

      Here.

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    6. Are you saying that I mixed the lines between political philosophy and economics? I'm confused.

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    7. Joe, I really have no idea what you are talking about. You:

      1) Asked me to describe my economic "school," and I gave you a link.

      2) Said the "last line is poppycock" and that you hoped you wouldn't have to explain why. I said you wouldat least if you want me to know what you are talking about.

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  2. Gene,

    1) What link?

    2) I called myself a political socialist in that last line, which I assumed you would know is poppycock, especially since I identified myself as an Austrian economically and that you know I am a libertarian.

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    1. 1) Where it says "Here" a few comments ago.

      2) OK. I had no idea what "last line" you were speaking of!

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Sorry to have wasted your time, but for some reason I didn't see that link, and I think it may be related to another comment I made regarding thinking in words and mental images. You see, the "here" button in that reply of yours is located where the "reply" button would normally be. So, my mind automatically categorized it as "reply" rather than "here".

    Either that, or I am a complete moron (which I never discount as a real possibility).

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