'Aristocrats were always anarchists'

It’s been three years since I last quoted this, from G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. So it’s about time I quoted it again.

“You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    From each according to his abilities to me according to my needs.  Suck it bitches!

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    Second.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Amen.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd Studge

    the rich have always objected to being governed at all

    .

    While I love The Man Who Was Thursday to bits, the rich people in the most powerful government on earth at the moment don’t seem to be putting up many objections.  Maybe aristocrats were always anarchists, but CEOs like state protection and bailouts.

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    “don’t seem to be putting up many objections.”

    So where’s this clamor for deregulation and dissolving the top income bracket’s marginal tax rate originating?

    Deregulation has consequences, and the rich like being able to take their profits and have the government pay for the consequences instead of them. That’s not them being “governed.”

  • Matri

    They don’t put up any objections because the rules are basically condensed into this sentence: “Whatever the frakk they want, however they want it.”

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd Studge

    I thought by “governed” what was meant was “being in a state with effective government”.  By your definition, rich people aren’t and have never been governed – they’re the ones doing the governing.  Matri’s right on the money.

  • Matri

    I mean, how else do you explain the Republicans fucking over the economy, the country and everybody else just to get more tax cuts for the rich?

  • Matri

    I mean, how else do you explain the Republicans fucking over the economy, the country and everybody else just to get more tax cuts for the rich?

  • Matri

    I mean, how else do you explain the Republicans fucking over the economy, the country and everybody else just to get more tax cuts for the rich?

  • Matri

    I mean, how else do you explain the Republicans fucking over the economy, the country and everybody else just to get more tax cuts for the rich?

  • Matri

    I mean, how else do you explain the Republicans fucking over the economy, the country and everybody else just to get more tax cuts for the rich?

  • Christopher Lake

    Exactly, the rich only like government when they are in charge. Otherwise it’s communism. At least according to the conservatives in American 

  • Anonymous

    Shorter Chesterton:  “This is all your fault, Kropotkin!

    Yeah, this seems completely wrong to me.  The anarchist movement–especially in Chesterton’s time–was intimately tied to the labor movement, and the vast majority of its supporters were working-class.  As were most of the people who actually fired a gun or threw a bomb in the name of anarchism. It’s true that many of the most influential anarchist writers were from well-off families, but that’s true of pretty much every political movement, Christianity included.  If you want to be an influential writer, it helps to have leisure time and a good education.

    And anarchists typically didn’t object to being governed.  (Individualist anarchists did, but there were never that many of them.)  They objected to being governed by a state, because they thought that a state would inevitably end up crapping on its workers. 

    Disclaimer: I am neither an anarchist nor a historian.

  • Matri

    because they thought that a state would inevitably end up crapping on its workers.

    Well, the Republicans have proven that.

    Reminds me of the monkeys-in-a-tree corporate analogy.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Isn’t that the “beauty” of the trend towards corporate-feudalism in the guise of libertarianism?  By mixing up anarchy in economics with reactionary theocracy, the Right has blended up a dangerous cocktail.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Isn’t that the “beauty” of the trend towards corporate-feudalism in the guise of libertarianism?  By mixing up anarchy in economics with reactionary theocracy, the Right has blended up a dangerous cocktail.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Isn’t that the “beauty” of the trend towards corporate-feudalism in the guise of libertarianism?  By mixing up anarchy in economics with reactionary theocracy, the Right has blended up a dangerous cocktail.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been reading Nicholas Nickleby lately, and would like to offer a similar quote from its pages:

    “‘What do you call it, when Lords break off door-knockers and beat policemen, and play at coaches with other people’s money, and all that sort of thing?’
    “‘Aristocratic?’ suggested the collector.”
    –Charles Dickens

    Reminds me of that Aristocrats joke a bit, but in a less-offensive way.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the Republicans have proven that.

    Reminds me of the monkeys-in-a-tree corporate analogy.

    Or to put it another way:  Something’s “trickling down,” but it sure isn’t money.

  • http://profiles.google.com/raven268 Raven Corvid

    I like Chesterton, and I love that book, but he didn’t know anything about politics. Anarchism was always a movement of the poor: from the Diggers to the POUM in Spain. It was about the lower classes constructing a social order for their own good, as opposed to one imposed by church and state. The participants in historical anarchist movements had been so abused by governments that they did not believe that good government was even possible: they wanted to do it themselves. Rather like the Tea Partiers before they were co-opted, actually.

    As for the rich: as we see now, the rich are fine with government, so long as it is working for them. The new aristocrats, like those of old, want to _be_ the government.

  • Aimai

    I’m actually the great grand daughter of a a real live anarchist, who founded and led two anarchist communes, one in Michigan and one in New Jersey.  The thing to remember is that Kropotkin style anarchism is communal, totally different from modern american style FYIGM libertarianism which is isolationist, selfish, nihilistic and in the true sense of the word idiotic.

    Also, anarchism changed, or died off, because of the realization (ultimately) that in a world of governments and corporations most people were going to have to combine together to work within and against dominant structures.  You weren’t going to be able to withdraw from the world and just ignore it.

    aimai

  • http://www.facebook.com/LoneWolf343 Derek Laughlin

    If you love to book, than maybe you would remember there are two kinds of anarchists, the “innocent” and “guilty” anarchists. A good real life example would be the Tea Party, an astroturf political movement where poor people are tricked into serving the rich’s interests. You don’t think that practiced liars would tell you their true intentions, do you?

  • Tonio

    A good real life example would be the Tea Party, an astroturf political
    movement where poor people are tricked into serving the rich’s
    interests.

    Would you explain the astroturf analogy?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    From Wikipedia: Astroturfing is a form of advocacy often in support of a political or corporate agenda designed to give the appearance of a “grassroots” movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing

  • Tonio

    Thanks for the explanation. For a minute I wondered if you had come up with the metaphor on the spot. No question that people like the Koch brothers are using the Tea Party movement that way. However,  the vast majority of Tea Partyers probably don’t realize that they’re being manipulated. While I don’t claim to be particularly perceptive to manipulation, in the case of Fox News it practically screams at me from the pixels: “White Christian males are being persecuted!”

  • eyelessgame

    It’s similar to “there are two sorts of libertarian conservative: billionares and suckers.”

  • eyelessgame

    Arrgh, I said “billionares”.  Caffeine first, then blog comment. Caffeine first, then blog comment…

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-7-2010/supercuts

    John Oliver: The rich are above us. And if we allow them to drink from the fountain of wealth long enough, wealth can’t help but trickle down. Think of it as a golden stream, John, showering us in slightly used, oddly hot champagne…

  • Anonymous

    What’s really funny is when you ask a libertarian if the private sector is not creating jobs because of government interference, why is it that all the jobs are being created in China, the last major communist country? If they answer at all they’ll try to claim that it is because somehow Communist China is more capitalist than America.

    Then when you point out that Communist China offers businesses free energy, rent, healthcare for their employees, free facilities and basically all the things our corporate overlords are fighting against Americans having, and that (plus cheap labor) is why China is more attractive than any other place. Said libertarian will mumble something incomprehensible and leave.

    Libertarianism is really just code for, “I want all the government that helps me, and nothing that costs me and nothing that would prevent or lessen my profit in my chosen field.”

  • Tonio

    Communist China offers businesses

    You could also point out that if China has businesses, it doesn’t really qualify as communist.

  • Lori

    From each according to his abilities to me according to my needs limitless wants.  Suck it bitches!
    FTFY

  • Madhabmatics

    The Man Who Was Thursday was an awesome book that p. much changed my outlooks on religion (it is subtitled “A Nightmare” for a reason.) Also philosophy police all being paranoid about each other is, in fact, awesome.

    However, yeah, Chesterton was going with the “oh no scary boogeymen” Anarchists the press made up to freak people out, not most real life Anarchists. Also, unirionically the best quote from that book is:

    “I do not go to the Council to rebut that slander that calls us
    murderers; I go to earn it (loud and prolonged cheering). To the priest
    who says these men are the enemies of religion, to the judge who says
    these men are the enemies of law, to the fat parliamentarian who says
    these men are the enemies of order and public decency, to all these I
    will reply, ‘You are false kings, but you are true prophets. I am come
    to destroy you, and to fulfil your prophecies.’”

    Although this one, about his visit to America, is also p. good.

    One of the questions on the paper was, “Are you an anarchist?”
    To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer,
    “What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist”
    along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about
    what constitutes atheist. Then there was the question, “Are you
    in favor of subverting the government of the United States by force?”
    Against this I should write, “I prefer to answer that question
    at the end of my tour and not the beginning.” The inquisitor,
    in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down,
    “Are you a polygamist?” The answer to this is, “No such luck”
    or “Not such a fool,” according to our experience of the other sex…

    …There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers;
    and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are
    so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions
    and they are certain to tell no lies.

  • Anonymous

    It’s true the Chesterton quote may lack historical accuracy, but, when considered in light of the whole debt-ceiling dust-up, there is a nugget of truth in there.  I remember being really alarmed at the prospect of default.  What about my mom’s social security check?  What about out small mutual funds accounts?  The only person who could face a default scenario without being too worried would be a plutocrat.  Sure, one or two of his million dollar accounts would be wiped out completely, but when you have several separate million dollar accounts (and many are offshore), it hardly matters.  You can sail away on your mega-yacht. Yes, there actually are such things.  The travel channel (or maybe it was discovery) did a little segment on them. 
     
    When you think of anarchy not as an  alternative political system but in the colloquial sense of “total collapse of society,” the quote becomes more accurate.  At this point it’s not relevant though, because we have a frightening number of supposedly neutral news organizations that are  willing to broadcast the oligarchy’s message for them.  Take this gem I just read from the AP under the headline “Fed may react to market plunge and stalled economy” 

    That decline came after credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Friday downgraded the United States’ long-term debt because of what it saw as political gridlock that is preventing Washington from making meaningful cuts in the country’s soaring budget deficits.

    (italics mine)
     Funny thing is, according to S&P’s  own press release, failure to raise revenues played just as much a part in the downgrade.  Here is the quote:

    we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues s less likely than we previously assumed

    (italics mine, again).

  • chris the cynic

    However,  the vast majority of Tea Partyers probably don’t realize that they’re being manipulated.

    That’s what makes it manipulation.

  • Anonymous

     And I think this is related, while Gov. Perry was holding his prayer rally, a few blocks away 100,000+ showed up to get free school supplies and immunizations, this got no press coverage, and there were so many, some had to be turned away when supplies ran out, that Perry would not think to mention this speaks volumes, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/08/290973/prayer-rally-school-supplies/

  • Anonymous

     And I think this is related, while Gov. Perry was holding his prayer rally, a few blocks away 100,000+ showed up to get free school supplies and immunizations, this got no press coverage, and there were so many, some had to be turned away when supplies ran out, that Perry would not think to mention this speaks volumes, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/08/290973/prayer-rally-school-supplies/

  • Tonio

    Yes, that does reflect badly on Perry’s worldview. Both are worthy of press coverage, if only because Perry as president would push the country far toward theocracy.

  • Anonymous

    The rich only remain rich because the power of the state protects their property rights and the value of money and contracts with armed force.  Without the state to protect them, how would the rich keep the poor off “their” land? What is their money worth if there is no state to back it as legal tender? How far will they get on their yacht without a navy to keep the anarchist pirates away?

    One might say the rich could hire armed thugs to protect their property, but how will they prevent these armed thugs from just appropriating it all for their anarchosyndicalist commune?

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I find that behavior somewhat MORE offensive than that in the joke. I’d much rather aristocrats degrade one another in horrible disgusting ways than consider themselves above the rule of law. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    Why not? The United States has businesses too and there are still many people who think that it’s a Communist country.

  • Anonymous

    One might say the rich could hire armed thugs to protect their property,
    but how will they prevent these armed thugs from just appropriating it
    all for their anarchosyndicalist commune?

    Rich people can exist in stateless societies too; look at the “big men” in Oceanic cultures, or the tribal chiefs of the Pacific Northwest.  They manage to retain their wealth by:

    a) establishing social and emotional ties to their allies, so that the latter don’t see themselves as hired “thugs,” but as loyal friends/clients/family members;

    b) demonstrating an exceptional talent for acquiring wealth, and

    c) periodically distributing a fraction of that wealth to their allies.

    b) and c) combined mean that, for his allies, beating up the rich guy and taking his stuff would be killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.  Serve him loyally and you get a reliable payoff.  Fight him and you have to fight all his other allies who stayed loyal.  Even if you win that fight, you still have to defend your winnings from everyone else, since nobody has any reason to be loyal to you.  And even if you win that fight, it’s only a short-term benefit if you don’t actually have the knack for moneymaking like the rich guy did.

  • Anonymous

    Chesterton’s point, out of context, is certainly valid (and it’s amusing that it’s actually MORE true today than when it was written, if we equate anarchists with libertarians).

    But yeah, the guy was a brilliant writer, but I’m always left a bit uncomfortable by his relentless siding with the powers that be, the nobility, the church, the military and the other established institutions of his time, and his more or less complete dismissal of the idea that there might have been such a thing as social injustice or a need for systemic change.

  • Madhabmatics

    I wouldn’t go that far. Chesterton definitely had faults – he was really, really antifeminist and wasn’t a big fan of anything that sided with evolution – but I don’t think it’s so easy to peg him as always supporting authority.

    He wasn’t so much a military supporter – many of his writings were concerned with mocking Britain’s Empire and writing about how they ought to stop using their military against other countries. He actually spent time in jail for his sometimes-violent opposition to the Boer Wars, for instance. He also made no bones about England being completely awful to people internationally, writing in The Crimes of England (which disses on Germany and Austria as much as England) he says,


    The truth about Ireland is simply this: that the relations between
    England and Ireland are the relations between two men who have to travel
    together, one of whom tried to stab the other at the last stopping-place
    or to poison the other at the last inn. Conversation may be courteous,
    but it will be occasionally forced. The topic of attempted murder, its
    examples in history and fiction, may be tactfully avoided in the
    sallies; but it will be occasionally present in the thoughts. Silences,
    not devoid of strain, will fall from time to time. The partially
    murdered person may even think an assault unlikely to recur; but it is
    asking too much, perhaps, to expect him to find it impossible to
    imagine.

    He also clashed with the church on occasion, especially in their position as cultural imperialists, which he rejected. His excellent critique of missionary work in “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” demonstrates it very well, where he writes:

    “The Senor will forgive me,” said the President. “May I ask
    the Senor how, under ordinary circumstances, he catches a wild horse?”

    “I never catch a wild horse,” replied Barker, with dignity.

    “Precisely,” said the other; “and there ends your absorption
    of the talents. That is what I complain of your cosmopolitanism.
    When you say you want all peoples to unite, you really mean that you
    want all peoples to unite to learn the tricks of your people.
    If the Bedouin Arab does not know how to read, some English missionary
    or schoolmaster must be sent to teach him to read, but no one
    ever says, ‘This schoolmaster does not know how to ride on a camel;
    let us pay a Bedouin to teach him.’ You say your civilization will
    include all talents. Will it? Do you really mean to say that at
    the moment when the Esquimaux has learnt to vote for a County Council,
    you will have learnt to spear a walrus? I recur to the example I gave.
    In Nicaragua we had a way of catching wild horses…by lassoing
    the fore-feet-which was supposed to be the best in South America.
    If you are going to include all the talents, go and do it.
    If not, permit me to say, what I have always said, that something
    went from the world when Nicaragua was civilized.”

    (Civilization, in that context, meant colonization – the topic about which the book is concerned, and very vehemently against.)

    I also don’t get why you think he ignored problems with labor. Lots of his writings deal with the problem – he wasn’t a socialist himself, but he had more in common with them than with most other political groups and most of the people he held dear with basically Reds. His own philosophy is basically Syndicalist, calling for the resurrection of guilds-as-unions and trying to ensure that pretty much everyone had some sort of means of production. He spells this out in his debate with George Bernard Shaw on the very issue.


    I did start entirely by agreeing
    with him, as many years ago I began by being a Socialist,
    just as he was a Socialist. Barring some difference of age we
    were in the same position. We grew in beauty side by side.
    I will not say literally we filled one home with glee:
    but I do believe we have filled a fair number of homes with glee.
    Whether those homes included our own personal households it
    is for others to say. But up to a point I agreed with Mr. Shaw
    by being a Socialist, and I agreed upon grounds he has laid
    down with critical justice and lucidity, grounds which I can
    imagine nobody being such a fool as to deny: the distribution
    of property in the modern world is a monstrosity and a blasphemy.

  • Amaryllis

    Well, since we’re quoting:
    Jessica_R: while Gov. Perry was holding his prayer rally, a few blocks away
    100,000+ showed up to get free school supplies and immunizations, this
    got no press coverage, and there were so many, some had to be turned
    away when supplies ran out, that Perry would not think to mention this
    speaks volumes

    “As a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses
    us and for what we cry out for your forgiveness.”
    -Governor Perry

    “It’s not about whether Perry becomes president, it’s about making Jesus king.”
    -Pastor Jim Garlow

    “I can’t understand people who want to destroy our country. It’s a Muslim thing. It’s Satan against God.”
    -Response attendee quoted on religiousdispatches.org

    “There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were somehow weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living on the street, and they think, ‘Business as usual.’ But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.

    These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush.”
    -Yann Martel, from Life of Pi.

    It’s sad when a fictional character has a better grasp of the essentials than the man who wants to be our next president, and the people trying to help him succeed.

    If Gov. Perry is sincere, he needs to remember those Texas children, and maybe ask their forgiveness; God will wait. But since the rally is almost certainly about “whether Perry becomes President,” he ought to be ashamed.

  • Amaryllis

    And I can’t believe that I said “attendee” instead of “attender.” (Although that doesn’t sound right, either.)

    As Ogden Nash would say, “To ee is human.”

  • Tonio

    Heh. Yeah, the US is communist if you define that word as government involvement in any activities other than law enforcement and national defense. One would think at a minimum, communism requires all means of production and all enterprise to be state-owned.

  • Anonymous

    You’re thinking of socialism, Tonio. Communism, everything would be owned by the people as a collective. The distinction is a relevant one.

  • Anonymous

    You’re thinking of socialism, Tonio. Communism, everything would be owned by the people as a collective. The distinction is a relevant one.

  • Matri

    The US is communist, socialist, tyranny and dictatorship. Why? Because someone other than a Republican is in the White House.

    You’ll be able to detect this sentiment from everyone on the Right who isn’t already harping on Obama being black.


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