“I’ve been to my share of tea party events,” House minority leader John Boehner (R) of Ohio told a Monitor luncheon for reporters this summer. “Let me tell you about these events. Yep, there are some disaffected Republicans there. There are always some Democrats there. Always a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office.”
Huh? Anarchists want to kill all politicians?
A peaceful philosophy
Rep. Boehner’s crude attempt at a joke odiously mischaracterized anarchist philosophy and painted an inaccurate portrait of its core values. Anarchism is an ideology based on individual freedom and opposition to institutionalized aggression, not some insane love of public mayhem.
Yes, when people hear the word “anarchist,” they call to mind images of molotov cocktail-wielding, black bandana-wearing street fighters at G20 protests.
That impression is more a product of 200 years of Boehner-style smear rhetoric than an accurate perception of what anarchism means or what anarchists do. It’s on par with any other stereotype – the “lazy/violent Negro” used to justify racist Jim Crow laws, the “potential pedophile” trotted out to support discrimination against homosexuals and other sexual minorities, the hopped-up robber or rapist offered up as justification for the war on drugs.
Yes, there are violent and insurrectionary anarchists, just as there are people who resemble those other stereotypes. No, those particular people are not representative of this diverse movement any more than those other stereotypes are representative of African-Americans, LGBTQ persons, or recreational drugs users.
Why I attend tea parties
I’ve attended tea parties as an anarchist because I’m a sincere libertarian who cares about limiting the power, scope, and size of government and fighting its unjustified intrusion into the lives of peaceful individuals. Many of my fellow tea party attendees intuitively and intellectually grasp the danger of the unlimited state and seek to reduce its influence over their personal lives. Anarchism is the logical extension of that reasonable impulse, not the nihilist tantrum that Boehner makes it out to be.
At tea party events, I like to ask questions of people who care about limiting government.
How is land justly acquired? Most people accept homesteading or occupancy and use as appropriate justification to call a parcel of land one’s own.
In reply, I note that the state doesn’t “use” or “settle” the land – people do. The people who call themselves "the state" merely draw arbitrary political boundaries and declare that if one lives within their dominion, one must buy defense and justice services from their coercive monopoly.
What happens if someone attempts to buy better, cheaper, or more just services not linked to artificial political borders? Agents of the state will throw that person in a cage (and kill him if he resists).
The real threat
Market anarchism is such a basic and sensible concept, an idea so in tune with the values professed by many tea partiers, that it’s only natural for anarchists to show up and challenge fellow freedom-lovers to adopt it.
I agree that a consistent philosophy that values and respects the peaceful choices of the tea partiers and their neighbors is indeed a threat to Boehner and his ilk, but not a threat of the type he claims. It’s not a death threat, it’s the threat of a pink slip.
Ross Kenyon is a news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society and a senior at Arizona State University, where he’s majoring in American History and is a member of the ASU Students For Liberty leadership team.