Monday, November 25, 2013

Sic Semper Tyrannus, Assassin's Creed or Liberty's Credo?

So I reposted a poster here about American assassins and noted the designation of one's political affiliation as Anarchist-Socialist.

As the old Indian said in the Outlaw Josey Wales, I went home and thought about that.  "Anarchist-socialist."  "Anarchist-socialist."

Then, of course, I knew what bothered me.  "Anarchist-socialist" makes as much sense as "dry-wetness" or, perhaps, "wet-dryness."  In other words, it makes no sense at all.  Anarchism is a state in which no one rules over another.  Socialism is quite far down the other end of the liberty-slavery spectrum, certainly closer to slavery than to liberty.  Where collective decisions limit the both the uses of capital and freedom of choice in the larger, non-abortion, sense.

A friend on Facebook took issue with my self-description as an anarcho-capitalist.   But it is what it is.  I have seen tyrannies, I have watched their depredations on mankind, and in their own small way, I have felt their sting in my own life.

I have seen the tyranny of clergy.

A child of the Catholic faith, I grew up in a family that loved and respected the hierarchical church, the Primacy of Peter, and all.  That hierarchy and the trust it demanded were too capable of abuses.  My life has a shape in it, a vein that runs through it, that is the product of the abuse of that hierarchical authority.  I have lived under the shadow of clergy abuse, a natural product of disproportionate positional authority. 

I am living to seen the political tyranny of our own presidency, who, in the shadows of his own failed moral suasion, has moved to rule by executive order.  In my own lifetime, I have seen political tyrants stand up -- Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Tito -- and I have seen them fall down -- Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Idi Amin.  I honestly hope to see the political tyranny of Obama laid down in the silent grave of history alongside the tyranny of those others.

I have seen the tyranny of ideas.

This last may seem strange without explanation.  So let me explain.  Ideas can be a spark that ignite the passions, or a spark that ignites a fire of enlightenment.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, evil as he was, understood this capacity of an idea and expressed it in defense of liberty of speech in his most famous dissent, in Gitlow v. New York:
It is said that this manifesto was more than a theory, that it was an incitement. Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief, and, if believed, it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason.
But there are ideas whose persuasive capacity cannot burn and cannot brighten.  So when one who is smitten with a failed idea does not see the idea giving birth to fire or light in the hearts and minds of others, then the temptation can be to artificially bring about by force what is not native to the idea.  Some ideas that burn brightly and enlighten are so well-stated in the words of those who have trod the path of sweet liberty won against tyranny before me that they serve by themselves to explain:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Decl. of Ind.  "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"  Patrick Henry.

Where this thinking leads me is to these questions:  is liberty such an idea, one that burns not brightly, that lends no light?  If liberty burns brightly, how are our present lights so dim?  If liberty throws its light freely, how are so many living in a preferred shadow of government direction, government control?