I received some interesting responses to my entry “Why hierarchies are immoral,” mainly from my Market Anarchist friends who lean more on the capitalist side. In case this was not clear enough (and apparently it was not, judging from the responses), I am a mutualist.
One criticism that was leveled at my entry was that I gave no solutions. But the point of my entry was to define hierarchies, not to provide any solutions. The general Anarchist solution is to grow organizations and societies which are self-organized, and to dissolve those which are coercive or hierarchical. As for the mutualist principles, anyone can go on Wikipedia and read about it. This does not concern me in this discussion, because my points were solely about hierarchies, not mutualism.
Frequent commenter on this blog Cork, however, seems to think my entry was about proposing solutions to hierarchies. At least, about half of his response was on that very topic. In his entry, Cork uses a great number of arguments of the type “if you’re against X, then you must be insane because the only alternative is Y!”, where Y is something that no one would possibly accept. Consider for instance:
Schools would also not exist in the Tremblayan order (not much would, after all).
What would this mean? We would have a society of uneducated idiots and morons. We would not have doctors, engineers, scientists, or anyone else necessary for civlization.
We would starve to death. Pointlessly.
I am not sure if this is a parody of capitalism, or if he’s serious. Melodrama apart, it seems that Cork is confusing “schooling” with “education.” Of course knowledge is a very important value. But there is no reason why it should be acquired in a vast coercive, authoritarian system driven by the State. I am referring to the schooling system as a whole, more specifically public schools: certainly there are some alternative schools that promote excellent values such as student independence, self-governance and freedom (many democratic school models are worthwhile from an Anarchist standpoint). But they are the exception, not the norm.
In essence, what Cork is saying is that if we do not have schooling hierarchies in place, no one would ever teach anyone else, for any reason, and we’d all end up starving because there wouldn’t be anyone capable of doing anything technical. But that’s an absurd conclusion. I learn things every day by reading people’s blogs, and there’s no hierarchy there. I am taught things at work by my co-workers, people who are on an equal footing with me. I am taught things by people who write books. How is it any less a learning activity to read a book than to be read a book by some unionized moron with a felt pen?
Sunni Maravillosa used pretty much the same argument in another blog response, saying that my worldview must be bankrupt because… she’s a good mom (as if her good conduct in a coercive system should make the system acceptable). And because there’s no other possible way to raise children but by giving complete power over them to the two people whose sperm and egg started the process of their birth. To breeders like Sunni, having working genital organs is the only criterion for possession and control of a human being. And people call me cuckoo for being against breeding.
But I don’t want to get bogged down by the details here. I trust the main gist of my argument is clear: hierarchies are wholly unnecessary for anything socially valuable. Cork makes it sound as if I oppose “everyone and everything.” That’s bullshit. I don’t oppose education, only schooling. I don’t oppose production, only capitalism. I don’t oppose religion, only churches.
The issue of religion brings out another major misunderstanding for Cork:
Now, if Francois truly believes that hierarchy is immoral, he must believe it is morally justified to coercively prohibit these hierarchical institutions from forming. So I challenge him to:
1) Demand the compulsory abolition of churches (along with all the other hierarchies he opposes), and
2) Explain how this will be done without some form of hierarchical authority.
The first sentence here is key. Cork is stating that:
(1) Francois truly believes that hierarchy is immoral.
Is equal to:
(2) Francois believes it is morally justified to coercively prohibit hierarchical institutions from forming.
But this is almost a contradiction. If one believes he is morally justified to coercively prohibit something, then he must do so on the basis of some principle (otherwise morality wouldn’t be part of it at all). On the basis of what principle does one morally justify coercion? Rights. (2) would therefore imply that I believe that I have the right to stop hierarchical institutions from forming. But such a right can only be valid if I posit that my values are superior to the values of the people forming the institution, and that I am therefore their superior in some way, morally justified in ordering them to desist on the basis of having superior values. From here we seem to be only one rock’s throw away from a hierarchy.
The truth of the matter is that I do not believe that I am morally justified in coercively prohibiting hierarchies from forming. I certainly do not believe that I have any right to stop immoral actions simply for being immoral. To take an example, suppose you are smoking, and that I consider smoking to be immoral. Does that mean I believe I should use force to stop you from smoking? No, obviously not. This would seem to be the actions of an arrogant asshole who has no respect for human freedom.
Of course, Cork is free to think that about me, but I can assure you that I have the utmost respect for human freedom and would never do such a thing.
(But two out of three ain’t bad!)