Anarchists Didn’t Start the Fire

"Anatomy of an Anarchist HackerSpace." Photo by Rek2. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
“Anatomy of an Anarchist HackerSpace.” Photo by Rek2. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

When Joe Biden declared that “arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted” at a campaign speech in Wilmington, Delaware on July 28, he echoed his archrival Donald Trump. The Democratic candidate’s words could have come from a recent tweet by the  incumbent, who conflated “arsonists, looters, criminals, and anarchists” on June 4.

When Biden asserted in the same breath that “peaceful protesters should be protected,” he wasn’t just showing that he hadn’t noticed the multitude of anarchists among the peace protests while he was busy enacting wars. And when he implied that such anarchists are devoted to “violence or destruction of property,” he ignored that real anarchists have uncovered how the nation-state’s ultimatum of force drives rather than resolves conflicts.

Anarchists have understood how “government is civil war” since Anselme Bellegarrigue originated that phrase in one of the earliest anarchist manifestos 170 years ago. Four decades later, Voltairine de Cleyre observed that appealing to “a representative of that power which has robbed you of the earth, of the right of free contract of the means of exchange” to stop theft is to “institute a wholesale robber to protect us from petty larceny.”

Bellegarrigue’s insistence that “anarchy is order” wasn’t entirely alien to the liberalism of Thomas Paine, who saw how a “great part of that order” in society “is not the effect of government” but “existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government is abolished.” Thomas Jefferson admitted that it was “not clear in my mind” that society is not best off “without government.”

By the turn of the twentieth century, the US government was passing legislation to exclude such skeptics. Emma Goldman noted that “too late did the lukewarm liberals realize the peril of this law to advanced thought,” with those “disbelieving in organized government” including such leading intellects of the time as Leo Tolstoy, Herbert Spencer, and Edward Carpenter. Biden’s seemingly tepid twenty-first century ideology would handcuff linguist Noam Chomsky, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and anthropologist David Graeber.

“This impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic” has always been useful for “those in power,” as historian Howard Zinn noted, because “they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority” …  and no need for them. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee “did not wait for the government to give them a signal” to fight segregation, and in so doing “embodied the characteristics of anarchism.” Zinn recommended such efforts to push against injustice be built up outside of the formal political process, foreseeing that “if we have a movement strong enough, it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House.”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


“Anarchist” Is Not An Insult

Anarchist Flag
“These are anarchists, these are not protesters,” US president Donald Trump said on July 20th, defending his decision to unleash Department of Homeland Security hooligans on anti-police-violence demonstrators in Portland.  Anarchist-bashing  — referring to “radical left-anarchists” in Minneapolis, “ugly anarchists” in Seattle, etc. — has become a consistent Trump campaign theme since May.

Does Trump have any idea what an anarchist is? Or is he just hoping that frequent repetition of a word he associates with widespread fear and loathing will get an increasingly hostile American public back on his side?

It’s somewhat amusing that Donald Trump considers the word “anarchist” an insult, or that he fancies himself morally fit to insult anarchists.

He’s got a lot of nerve, that guy. He’s a head of state. Or, in more accurate English, a second-rate mafia don, chieftain of an overgrown street gang with delusions of grandeur.

Trump and his type — the “leaders” of political governments —  murdered hundreds of millions of innocent victims in the 20th century and are already off to a bang-up start in the 21st.

Trump and his ilk steal more wealth, destroy more property, and kill more of the people they claim to serve in any given week than all the anarchists in history combined. Then they try to shift the blame onto their victims and onto the anarchists who stand up for those victims.

Gangsters like Trump (and his 44 predecessors) aren’t morally qualified to shine a Black Bloc rabble-rouser’s Doc Martens, let alone criticize the ideological anarchists who daily expose the protection racket called the state.

Anarchism comes in many flavors, but at root it’s a simple concept: It calls for the absence of rulers.

Note that second “r.” Not an absence of rules, but of charlatans who empower and enrich themselves and their cronies on the false claim that they serve society by enforcing rules.

Nineteenth century anarchist Lysander Spooner exposed the American version of that racket, incidentally prophesying the arrival of Trump:

“[W]hether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

Not all who hear themselves called “anarchists” resemble the remark or deserve the praise, but high praise it is indeed. Anarchists are defenders of freedom and opponents of the death cult known as the modern state.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Executive Orders: This is Trump’s Brain on Drugs

Pills (free stock photo from Pexels)

On July 24, US president Donald Trump signed four executive orders with an eye toward altering the way prescription drugs are priced and purchased in the United States.

Three of the four orders embody good ideas that accord with the goals of think tanks supposedly supporting “free-market policy solutions” to America’s healthcare problems.

Sally Pipes, president of one such think tank (the Pacific Research Institute), writes in opposition to those three orders, and in support of the fourth, anti-free-market order, at Fox News. Her opposition says more about PRI’s supposed support for free markets than about the quality of Trump’s orders. Let’s look at how these four measures stack up against a free-market approach.

The first order requires federally funded community health centers to “pass the giant discounts they receive from drug companies on insulin and EpiPens directly to their patients.”

These clinics advertise affordable, sliding payment scales for low-income patients. Trump’s leveraging their federal funding  to stop them from price-gouging patients. Even if we disagree over whether government should be funding healthcare at all, we should agree that taxpayer funding shouldn’t go toward picking the pockets of the poor.

The second order will “allow the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where the price for the identical drug is incredibly lower.”

Trump usually opposes free trade, but this is a step in that direction, and it’s the RIGHT direction. The US government shouldn’t artificially jack up drug prices by restraining trade across borders.

The third order — which Pipes supports — eliminates market incentives for pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate drug prices between insurer and pharmaceutical companies. Trump, decrying them as parasitical “middlemen,” hath decreed that they may not accept “rebates” from drug companies for successfully negotiating deals.

Yes, these “rebates” can create situations in which consumers ultimately pay more for drugs. They incentivize benefit managers  to negotiate bigger paychecks for themselves instead of lower prices for patients. But that’s an issue for market actors — pharmaceutical companies, insurers, pharmacies, and consumers — not government, to tussle over.

The fourth order brings us back to the same territory as the first: Taxpayer money versus drug pricing. It would require Medicare, the US government’s healthcare program for senior citizens, to negotiate drug prices based on an “International Pricing Index” reflecting prices in other developed nations.

Trump is delaying implementation of that order pending a counter-proposal from the industry, but it should be a slam-dunk. Medicare, whether one supports its existence or not, is effectively the biggest prescription drug purchasing network in the world. That market power should get its members the lowest, not the highest, prices.

Healthcare would be cheaper, better, and more accessible if government got its nose out of the matter entirely — but failing that, three of these four orders make good sense. They’re also a great litmus test. They tell us who really supports freer markets in healthcare and who just pays lip service to the notion while advocating crony capitalism in service to Big Pharma.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.