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The cover quotation from The Republic by Plato gives insight into the action of man and the forces that influence these actions, with respect to equality and justice. In essence, Plato is trying to convey the necessity of government and other influence to keep even the most pious and righteous person in check. When we examine the governmental aspect of this quotation and assume that Plato values equality, we see that he shuns lack of government. In concordance with Plato, I feel that anarchism, an ideology that regards abolition of government as the necessary precondition for a free and just society, is in error. I believe that government is necessary for justice and the enforcement of equality.
First, if anarchism is unable to exist, it cannot possibly provide justice. Throughout history, it is shown that this is invariably the case. Never in the past has anarchy survived for significant periods of peace. One example of the failure of a large-scale attempt at anarchy was in early twentieth-century Russia. In the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the anarchist Peasant Worker’s Union revolted against the government there in conjunction with other dissatisfied groups, namely the anti-Bolshevik “White Guards” and socialists. They did achieve temporary success in defeating the government. However, when the fighting stopped, the anarchists tried to spread their ideas to their ally groups. As the absence of government did not preserve justice, and, more commonly, was not accepted, society weakened, and the previous government was able to regain control with foreign aid.
Yet another failed attempt at justice without government is seen in the Spanish Civil War, in a pattern almost identical to that of Russia. In the mid-1930s, when the anarchist CNT and a number of other groups had just defeated the Spanish dictatorship, the CNT started to assert their ideas of collectivization. Immediately, the groups who had just helped them, along with the recently defeated government, began to attack the CNT. Very soon Spain was again a dictatorship. In both of these cases, as society neared true anarchy, the idea was in some way defeated, disallowing the development of the theoretical “anarchical justice”. In addition, the zero success rate of anarchism is clear evidence that it is unpopular when put into practice. Because people react to the level of justice and equality provided by government (or lack of it), general contempt for anarchism and its lack of success show that people prefer government and the justice it brings. Thus, anarchism’s want of equality and justice are both a cause and an effect of its limited success.
Secondly, it is undoubtedly true that when law is absent, people will act in their own self-interest, whether the means by which this is achieved are just or unjust. Because anarchy does not exist, as seen above, this cannot be demonstrated directly, but an example involving trust in late nineteenth-century America will clarify this idea. In a world where no law prevented it, monopolization was nevertheless recognized as an unjust undoing of equality. Still, in the 1870s, John Davison Rockefeller used his wealth to put the competitors of his Standard Oil Company out of business. He continued to ruin people’s lives by buying out and undermining competitor companies until, in 1890, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act forbade it. In this example and several others involving trust, people who were not restricted by law proceeded in following unjust paths. Does this not demonstrate the necessity of government, the definition of which is a lawmaking body? If government were not present, can’t we assume that people would follow any unjust path they felt would benefit them?
Lastly, the success of government, primarily democracy, in providing justice and equality for its people professes plainly its necessity in contrast to anarchism. The United States is a prime example. Our Constitution is devoted to the prosperity of our government, a task in which it has been quite successful. The government, in turn is to provide its people with justice and equality, which it does to a large degree, indicated by its popular existence for over 200 years. In addition, amendments were made to the Constitution dealing directly with equality, increasing justice from its already superior level over anarchism. The 14th Amendment of Civil Rights for Ex-slaves, etc. states “But when the right to
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