We’ve come to crossroads, and a climax as well. If some sort of federalism, presumably the ideal form of government, management, administration, whatever, spanning the entire globe stands for the climax, the pinnacle of what’s ultimately achievable in the realm of politics, where do we go from thence is our next question; hence the crossroads.
In particular, the first is a necessary condition, the essential aspect of any anarchistic thesis that’s worth its salt: a measure of peace and relative stability must be secured worldwide and without fail as a necessary precondition for any of the smaller units which comprise the greater whole to be able to pursue their unique, self-determined futures without undue interference from any of their neighbors, near or far. And the second, the direction this inquiry must take.
Lest you wonder, we’re talking about a world government, a kind of government that would command ultimate authority if and when push comes to shove, a government that would serve as a court of last appeal if and when need be, both authorized and empowered to resolve any and all differences that might possibly arise between any of the smaller units. For indeed, if a network of constantly warring and competing nation-states represents the greatest obstacle to attaining human happiness and justice, not in any personal, isolated or idiosyncratic sense, apart from the life of the community but as an essential part of such a community (and that’s the gist of the anarchistic thesis as best as I can understand it!) then surely, a world government of one kind or another is the only way to go, if for no other reason that it renders the very idea of nation-states, ever warring and competing nation-states, obsolete. Problem solved
Keep in mind, however, this is a conceptual analysis by and large, a Gedankenexperiment of sorts, and as such, it has no direct bearing on what is or is not likely to transpire in the immediate or near future; it merely outlines the possibilities, nothing else. Nonetheless, it does stand to reason that, whether due to the kind of global challenges facing humankind or simply by virtue of our self-preservation instinct (or, if we really want to be magnanimous about it, our evolutionary potential), better sense will prevail and we shall escape relatively unscathed, ready to face a brighter tomorrow. The motivation surely abounds and it’s one basis for hope. Meanwhile, we can’t help but tend to the thereafter, the aftermath, the likely or the unlikely eventuality that, even in the best of all possible worlds, with a world government firmly intact and in place, we’re not exactly over the hump. Problems remain.
To name but one, how exactly are we to envisage the nature of the would-be relationship between such a government and any of the lesser units? More specifically, perhaps, in what administrative capacity ought it serve? What should be the proper sphere of its jurisdiction (i.e., the extent of its authority), and what powers must it command in order for it to be able to enforce its decisions in the event that all efforts to amicably resolve the seemingly irreconcilable differences came to naught?
I take it as axiomatic that some such government, if we are ever to get to that point, would have to command sufficient power and resources in order to overcome all manner of resistance from the less cooperative members; otherwise, its authority would be vacuous, more in the realm of fiction than fact. How exactly would the requisite kind of power be amassed and maintained in a state of readiness? That’s a logistical and, from the strictly conceptual standpoint, uninteresting question.
I suppose one fair solution would be for each and every member to be required to contribute manpower and related resources to the common pool, not unlike the situation whereby the Greek city-states were required to pay a tribute, as good a term as any, to Athens (the hypothetical government we have in mind) in order ensure protection from any and all enemies, foreign or domestic: that was the explicit purpose behind the Delian League, the first recorded experiment with federalism, and a successful one at that, until Athenian hubris took over and perverted the notion. Needless to say, the combined force of the federation would have to exceed that of any of the coalition’s members in order for it to be decisive; and the whole concept would have to be predicated, besides, on a mutually agreed-upon disarmament down to the bare minimum, however you’d care to define that minimum. So here is another precondition!
For better analogy, think of the UN, for instance, with the capabilities of NATO, both idealized, of course, to form an incorruptible body or organ, either beyond any and all challenge. A tall order, I hasten to add, but then again, not an inconceivable one. The decisions would be reached by a show of hands, and they’d be final and irrevocable.
But as I said, that’s a logistical problem and not all that interesting from the conceptual standpoint. What is interesting, however, and what is of far greater import, are the limits to which we would be prepared to go when it came to defining the proper sphere of some such body’s jurisdiction, its proper and rightful authority, an authority we could all go along with and agree upon. For surely, the idea of mutual protection guaranteed to each and every one in order to stave off all manner of aggression from any and all quarters, a Hobbesian idea if there ever was one, is one thing; and in this respect, the concept of world government is not only justifiable but a necessary one as well. But it’s another thing entirely if we were to go beyond, beyond those limits, that is.
All of which brings into sharp relief the question of justice. How so? Because if we do go beyond the auspices typically associated with a dominant protective agency, its intended role and function, a concept that has been invoked time and again in order to justify the existence and the perpetuity of the state(see Nozick, for instance, in particular, Anarchy, State, and Utopia). Except that this time we’re talking about the world at large, the one and only state, and if we’re to go beyond, into areas and concerns which are clearly beyond the purview or the intended objective of guaranteeing protection, then we’d surely be on shaky grounds; and the reason again would be, the anarchistic thesis!
For indeed, if we take the main gist of the anarchistic thesis to mean that we shouldn’t ever interfere with other people’s lives, or put another way, that live and let live is the anarchist credo and motto; and further, that any interference that would go beyond the express purpose of offering protection would surely count as a flagrant violation of said principles and creed, then surely, each and every community (the lesser unit, in a nondescript, undifferentiated and generic sense) must have its say, no matter how abhorrent or morally repulsive it might be.
To take things to extreme, even a community that would thrive on the institution of slavery, surely an abomination if ever there was one, couldn’t be interfered with because of the anarchistic principle. Each community, for better or worse, would thus be entitled to write its own ticket and determine its own future, right or wrong. And there’d be nothing the central government could do to alter that future except by persuasion, cajoling, bribery, the kinds of things we usually resort to if we want to have our way yet can’t do so forcefully, since use of force would be out of the question (again, because of the anarchistic principle). In effect, therefore, what we have here is an extreme argument for states’ rights (except in a wider, all-encompassing context), and for federalism at a bare minimum.
All of which seems to suggest that the anarchistic thesis takes the concept of justice for granted; and furthermore, that since rules relating to human conduct, the laws, cannot be enforced from top-down so as to become the law of the land but must be left to the discretion of each and every community to do as it sees fit, a correlative assumption attaches to the anarchistic thesis as a rider: all questions pertaining to justice will, if not sooner than later, whether by hook or by crook, be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, case closed!
But surely, while we may entertain such lofty ideals, hope and pray for their realization; and we may draw here on a variety of sources, from our belief in human evolutionary potential, to Christ’s pronouncement that the Kingdom of God is (already) at hand (or the Kingdom of Ends, on Kant’s rendition of the concept), it’s too much to take for granted here and now. The bottom line is, justice is problematic on the anarchistic scheme of things, especially on the macro level.
And so, if there is anything to take home from these investigations, it has got to be that the concept of tolerance appears to lie at the very heart of the anarchistic thesis: tolerance pure and simple, tolerance beyond question, absolute tolerance. This is rather disturbing though not exactly unexpected; disturbing in light of a great many cogent arguments against “pure tolerance” (see, for example, a joint effort by Robert P. Wolf, Barrington Moore, Jr. and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance); and “not exactly unexpected” . . .
Well, it’s not all that easy, at least in the popular mind, to dissociate anarchism from the live and let live philosophy. So surely, we must examine the main thrust of the anarchistic thesis in light of these and other texts, in particular, the extent to which the stress on tolerance, or more precisely perhaps, the inability of the anarchist thought to dissociate itself from tolerance, may hamper its eventual development so as to make it ineffectual.
All told, we have a great deal of work cut out for us. First, we must try to restore anarchism to a position of respectability as a serious contender among competing political theories of the state. In particular, if the concept of tolerance does indeed figure in, and in a major way, as an indispensable aspect of the anarchistic thought and action, then it surely behooves us to try to set limits to what kind of tolerance are we talking about, how far should it extend, which things exactly should be permissible and therefore protected by the tolerance principle and which should not. Surely, we can neither subscribe to, nor endorse, the idea of tolerance without limits, the anything goes kind of stance: after all, we can’t have the concept degenerate to a kind of licentiousness, not only in the interest of ordinary language but, just as importantly, in order to salvage what may yet end up to be a viable political theory of the state. And so, that’s one cluster of problems we must deal with.
What’s further down the line? Well, perhaps in the interest of clarity, we may have to distinguish between two different moments or phases of the anarchistic program and thesis, the macro and the micro: label them “A” and “a” if you like. In any case, and this is just a hunch, perhaps the kind of tolerance that might be justifiable at the macro level would be out of place when applied locally, to any of the lesser units.
To put this query into sharper focus, perhaps another question is in order: In what exact sense are the objectives and concerns of the larger, all-encompassing community, a confederation of states, all “states” in this instance, different from the objectives and concerns of any of its lesser units?
Offhand, I should think the two sets of objectives and concerns would be quite different if not incomparable. Why so? Because in the first instance, the object would be to keep the respective sociopolitical units at arm’s length if need be (so as to prevent any and all acts of potential aggression), again, the main function being to serve as a peacekeeper, which surely doesn’t include or justify meddling with anyone’s internal affairs; and in the second? Well, now we’d be talking about securing good will and cooperation from humans, real humans, presumably each and every one a willing member of a human community. Quite a different set of objectives, I daresay!
There isn’t much more that I can say at this point about the anarchist program at the macro level to make things any clearer. In any event, since the devil is always in the details, we’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I’d be perfectly happy to leave the matter of general housekeeping (or peacekeeping, if you prefer) to a dominant protective agency, duly empowered and represented of course. But surely, there’s a great deal to be said about the anarchist thought and program at the micro/local level, about anarchism with a small a, about the nitty gritty and the nuts and bolts of it, about the philosophy of a community, an anarchistic community of all things. And it is here, in this and no other context, that the question of tolerance must ultimately be resolved if we’re ever to come to terms with some such community and rescue anarchism from the kind of disrepute it suffers today in order to restore it to its rightful place as a viable contender among alternative political theories of the State.