Stage Six Anarchism
by Justin Frost
I’ve gone through several stages of metamorphosis to mature into the anarcho-capitalist I am today. In my early 20’s I lived by a set of goodly rules and civilized standards so as to get along with others, and indeed desired to be a good person in my heart, but still I ran into problems defending my position on political and economic issues.
According to Kohlberg’s model I was shifting to Stage Five moral reasoning as I accepted the common standard that I am bound to a social contract. The concept of the ‘greater good’ is something I believed without question as a young adult. In my early college days I was apt to accept the well meaning philosophy that posits that each member of society should live to provide for the good of the whole. “The end of adolescence, from a developmental standpoint, occurs when the young person’s perspective shifts from self-absorption to absorption of… the collective voice of those who define what it means to be an adult in that society or community.” (Taylor, 2000, p.350)
I unconsciously accepted the societal norm of collectivism, an Aristotelian ideology that claims “the community can and properly should make demands on its members and that universal individual rights can be carried too far.” (Noddings, 2012, p.11) At the time this socialist philosophy seemed to be in alignment with my intention to do good for humanity. The idea that “a community’s needs and welfare can, and should… sometimes override individual rights, and a good citizen expects to contribute to the state not simply demand its protection of individual rights,” seemed morally responsible according to the dichotomy of good versus evil I categorized behavior into. (Noddings, 2012, p.11) I believed quite simplistically that selfishness was evil and living for others was good.
Some years ago I fell in with a rabble of liberty activists who enlightened me about the non-aggression principle, a moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate, which serves as the foundational ethic around which peaceful society organizes. (Non-aggression, Wikipedia) The non-aggression principle is a standard that all behavior can be checked against to determine if an act is just or criminal. Before I learned about the non-aggression principle my ethics were disorganized as there was no central rule which I applied to every aspect of my life. Until I took the time to assess how the non-aggression principle applied to my existing moral code I was prone to conforming to the status quo of a statist society. I have come to understand that the NAP is the golden rule around which we can organize a society of responsible individuals free from regulation by the state
By practicing skepticism and questioning everything, especially information from authority, I came to reject many of the beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that are generally accepted by mainstream society. Through this critical process of reflecting on and assessing my values according to the non-aggression principle I transitioned to Kohlberg’s sixth stage of moral development. “In stage six moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. Legal rights are unnecessary, as social contracts are not essential for deontic moral action. The individual acts because it is right, and not because it is instrumental, expected, legal, or previously agreed upon.” (Lawrence, Wikipedia) Developing this level of reasoning I achieved a greater awareness of my self and my role in the world as a sovereign individual.
“Although Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operated at that level.” (Lawrence, Wikipedia) Considering how radically opposed my current views are from mainstream society it is no wonder consistent Stage Six minds are hard to come by. Democracies do not value the absolute sovereignty of an individual, so exercising sovereignty is essentially an act of defiance and usually results in the mob ostracizing those who disagree with the decisions of the collective. The very existence of democracy asserts the group is more important than the individual. The individual is always a minority in a democracy thus has no voice.
Dewey claims that there is no inherent discord between the individual and a democratic state. Dewey’s vision of a democratic utopia inspired much of his philosophy but perhaps his grand scheme didn’t take into account the problems inherent in authoritarianism. “An important objection to Dewey’s work is that he paid little attention to forms of systematic oppression and cultural hegemony.” (Noddings, 2012, p.38) Considering he was concerned about protecting American culture during the rise of National Socialism I’m surprised Dewey was so apt to turn to the mechanisms of government when he seems to put so much value in people’s ability to think independently.
“Dewey insisted that state and individual are, ideally, in a relation of mutual support.” I think it is a rather idealistic concept for a pragmatist to hold so dear.
Dewey tends to blur his concept of state with his concept of society. “A good society treasures its dissidents and mavericks because it needs the creative thinking that produces new hypotheses, expanded means, a larger set of alternatives, and in general the vigorous conversation induced by fresh ideas. The individual, similarly, needs a democratic state in which to flourish; it is therefore in his or her best interest to contribute generously to the maintenance of a democratic way of life.” (Noddings, 2012, p.38)
The state is not society. Through my experiences I have come to understand the state to be a group of people who attempt to exercise a monopoly on force, and thus possess the unjust power to coerce others to do their will at the threat of violence. I didn’t just come across this information one day and suddenly become an anarchist; I saw that the world didn’t work the way I was told. “Thinking begins with the nagging sense that something is problematic, something is unsettled.” (Noddings, 2012, p. 30) I started to see the agenda behind much of my education, and subsequently saw through the outright lies the media and government were telling me. I began to see that the individuals that serve the state are invested in influencing the education of others to produce more believers in statism like themselves. I saw the state as a religion devoted to the worship of authority; a fictional entity that zealots indoctrinate others to believe in. I realized that the state does not exist beyond the coercive interactions between individuals; it is merely a banner distinguishing a privileged class that lives at the expense of productive society.
In the same regard, I have come to understand that society does not exist beyond the peaceful interaction of individuals. Society is not a servant to the interests of the state; furthermore individuals don’t live to serve society. I systematically unlearned what I was taught to believe and rebuilt my entire construct of how the world works based on the non-aggression principle. This fundamentally changed me from socialist thinking to accepting anarchy.
Rejecting statism freed me from a widely accepted and persistent delusion. Now, as an anarchist, I see the world through new eyes. A once powerful and threatening authority figure has been revealed to be a nothing but an old man behind a curtain desperately trying to maintain control. Through my rejection of authoritative knowledge I’m able to recognize that the state is a group of humans that attempts to create an illusion of authority through the oppressive architecture of capitol buildings that tower above comparably insignificant individuals in order to convince us we are merely cogs meant to serve its machinations. With my anarchist eyes I now see public schools for what they truly are; nothing more than churches in which the state’s doctrine is taught every weekday. I unplugged myself from the state’s socialist matrix and found myself pitted against a vestigial institution of slavery that places those who initiate force above those who negotiate peacefully.
I am compelled by principle to disobey unjust laws and organize things as I see fit as I am capable of judging what is right regardless of the decisions of any group or official. The actualization of one’s ability to exercise sovereign decision making is the essence of Kohlberg’s sixth stage of moral development and, in my personal experience, harmonious with the evolution of anarcho-capitalist principles.
Noddings, Nel. (2012). Philosophy of Education. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Taylor, Kathleen. Marienau, Catherine. Fiddler, Morris. (2000). Developing Adult Learners: Strategies for Teachers and Trainers. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Non-aggression Pinciple http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/