Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I’m sure that some are just naturally opposed to taking orders or being told what to do, but that was not the case for me. I’ve always had a healthy respect for legitimate authority, and my journey to anarchism was gradual.
My parents began homeschooling my brother, sister, and me beginning my second grade year. I mention this, not because my curriculum included lessons in anarchy, but because I think not being hampered by and subjected to the propaganda of the government school system played a significant part in my journey toward anarchism.
But even being homeschooled I was not automatically opposed to the state, its laws, and all its depredations.
At the age of eleven I joined Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the US Air Force Auxilliary, as a cadet. CAP’s three main missions are emergency services, aerospace education, and cadet programs. The former mission includes search and rescue, and disaster relief, but also drug interdiction. The latter two missions are both geared toward recruiting members into the military, and specifically the Air Force.
I attended all sorts of activities and events with CAP, traveling to army and air force bases all over the country.
The annual, week-long encampments were held at various military bases in places like Ft. Benning, GA, K. I. Sawyer AFB, MI, and Ft. Belvoir, VA. As cadets, we were taught classes by military instructors, participated in close order drill, flew on military aircraft, and ran obstacle courses like real soldiers.
I joined our wing’s (state’s) drill team, competed at the regional drill team competitions many times, and advanced to the national competition on several occasions. Over the course of my eight year tenure, I advanced in grade from airman to cadet lieutenant colonel. Eventually I commanded a squadron and at seventeen attended COS, Cadet Officer School, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
At Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, I met Major General Charles “Chuck” Sweeney. Sweeney piloted the B-29 bomber Bockscar, which dropped Fat Man, the 21 kiloton nuclear bomb, on Nagasaki. Although I didn’t know or care back then, 40,000 innocent men, women, and children died and many more were injured as half of the city was instantly obliterated by the bomb. I’m sure I said something about how honored I was to meet him. I was so proud I framed the picture and autographed postcard.
You would think that after all that I would have been ready to go to the Air Force Academy or enlist, but by the grace of God I did not. Even with this deep immersion into military culture, state idolatry, and propaganda I was never ready to join the military.
When I was nineteen and still somewhat active in CAP, I began reading LewRockwell.com regularly, which at the time included a regular dose of Ron Paul, this little-known congressman from Texas. The content resonated with me immediately and I drank in as much as I could. I think it was around this time that I started becoming anti-war.
The first and only time I have ever voted it was for Alan Keyes against George W. Bush and John McCain in the Republican primary of 2000. It was a protest against Bush and McCain more than anything and I had no illusions that Keyes would win.
Shortly after my 21st birthday, as I was heading to Baltimore and DC for a couple days, someone flew two planes into the Twin Towers.
By this time I understood enough libertarian theory and history to be suspicious of Bush/Cheney and company, but was still not totally opposed to the idea of going after bin Laden if he was indeed the culprit. But by the time Bush invaded Iraq, resulting in the persecution of Christians and horrific abuses of Iraqis like Abu Ghraib, I was fully anti-war.
I watched the Libertarian Party convention in 2004 because I had seen videos of Aaron Russo, liked what he said, and was amazed that a member of the Hollywood elite could be so liberty minded. Russo was far more engaging than his opponent, Michael Badnarik. And although he beat Badnarik by two votes in the first round, the LP did not have stomach for the more outspoken Russo, opting instead for the “constitutional scholar”.
Over the next several years I continued to ingest an almost daily dose of libertarian political philosophy, economics, history, and foreign policy via LRC and the books of well-known libertarian writers. For a short chronology of some of these, see the end of this post.
The joke goes like this: “What’s the difference between a minarchist and anarchist?”
Answer: “About six months.”
It’s funny because it assumes that once someone gets that far, they’ll continue to follow the line of thinking and quickly end up at the logical conclusion. I must be thick, because it was not quite so short with me.
As late as 2010 I was still calling myself a libertarian or minarchist. I was anti-state on nearly every point, but still trying to square my Christianity and libertarianism. The only point of contention left for me was the issue of how society would function without a central authority to enforce laws and provide justice. I never bought the Romans 13 arguments, probably because they were always made by Christians who were rabid war hawks.
I was not really convinced that a state was necessary for the provision of law and order, but until I was fully convinced in my own mind and could explain how it would work to others, I couldn’t go all the way to declaring myself a full anarchist. Perhaps I was also worried what my friends, family, co-workers, and fellow Christians would think of me.
But eventually, I cannot tell you exactly how, when, or why, it all clicked in my mind. I realized that one doesn’t need to know exactly how the market will provide law and justice in order to reject the idea that it’s moral for the state to steal from people in order to keep them safe, provide services, etc. There aren’t two different moralities, one for the state and one for the rest of us. Theft is theft, and murder is murder, no matter what clothing, badge, or ID card you have.
I also realized that being consistent with the non-aggression principle (which I believe is totally Biblical) was more important than what other people thought of me. I’d rather be shunned as an anarchist than loved as a minarchist.
Since my “conversion” I’ve continued down the full anarchist road. I have no use whatsoever for the state. There’s nothing I need or want done that can’t be done better, faster, cheaper, and most importantly, without violence or coercion, by the free market.
Several years ago Aaron and I started blogging together here at Curmudgeons. Since we’re both non-violent anarchists and not those “whiskered men with bombs” that Tolkien referred to, this is our way of contributing to and advancing the anarchist movement.
If you have your own anarchist story to tell, we’d love to hear about it or publish here at Curmudgeons. You can leave a comment or use the feedback form.
If you’re interested in learning more about anarchism, I commend to you Lew Rockwell’s recent Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto and Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State. The former is lighter reading, but still quite powerful. Casey’s book is deeper, but incredibly brilliant. Aaron and I discuss it in the “Anarchy 101” edition of our podcast.
These are some of the books I read from 2004 to 2010, in somewhat chronological order:
The Case Against the Fed, Murray Rothbard
The Real Lincoln, Tom DiLorenzo
Christianity and War, Laurance Vance
Speaking of Liberty, Lew Rockwell
V for Vendetta, Alan Moore
33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed To Ask, Tom Woods
Human Action, Ludwig von Mises
The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek
Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt
Charlie Wilson’s War, George Crile
The Last Empire and Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, Gore Vidal
Dying to Win, Robert Pape
Blowback, Chalmers Johnson
Imperial Hubris, Michael Scheuer
Against Intellectual Monopoly, Michele Boldrin
Anarchy and Christianity, Jacques Ellul
Lex Rex, Thomas Adamo