Arnold Kling  

Democracy Without Government

PRINT
Krugman on How Blogs Have Chan... The Toothpick Problem...

From an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.


The process is what scholars of anarchism call "direct action." For example, instead of petitioning the government to build a well, members of a community might simply build it themselves. It is an example of anarchism's philosophy, or what Mr. Graeber describes as "democracy without a government."

That is David Graeber, who I quoted a while back on the origins of money. According to the article, he is one of the academic theorists behind the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The term I would use for "democracy without government" is mobocracy. I cannot imagine a worse society.

But all this theory is probably not relevant one way or the other. Think of this in terms of a status game. The academics want to use the OWS movement to enhance their status at the expense of people in business and finance. I predict that this attempt will fail. I think that the academics have worn out their welcome even worse than the bankers have.



COMMENTS (13 to date)
Ryan Murphy writes:

It also sounds similar to Bloomington School solutions to public goods problems?

Bryan Willman writes:

Mr. Graeber's book goes on at great length about complex social structures, with various kinds of enforcement, that existed amongst various groups of people that did not have "government".

Somehow, having the village elders, or a meeting of the Wives, or of the Matrons, decide something isn't "government" and doesn't involve "debt".
It's just pure cronyism often with a very strong flavor of oppressing women's reproductive rights.

In any group of any size, there will be some kind of structure. It may work well or poorly, be "good" or "very bad", but there will be some structure.

You can refuse to call it government if you like, that won't change the reality.

And of course "members simply build the well" sounds good, but a far more historically likely case is "big strong members beat the smaller ones senseless and made them carry water."

Doing something without waiting for the government to do it? Isn't that known as capitalism?

Jayson Virissimo writes:

direct action = entrepreneurship?

Jonathan Carp writes:

The word you are looking for is "ochlocracy."

[broken url fixed, duplicated "http" removed--Econlib Ed.]

Cahal writes:

Joseph,

No it is not. Corporations lobby for assistance from the government all the time in the form of complex private property rights, subsidies and so forth.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

Cahal is correct. .. and the government should be unable to provide assistance, because of constitutional limits. Corporations lobby govt because it has a high return on investment, compared to actual investment.

M. Flood writes:

I was only able to observe a satellite protest in Edmonton, but from what I understand what I observed was not atypical:

strategyandsurvival.blogspot.com

The protesters are primarily young, in university, and uninformed about economics, finance, or politics. They are protesting out of a desire to assert radical identity and feel some non-coercive solidarity. I saw non-coercive because they are not only acknowledging that they have no leadership, but proud of the fact. The organizers allow anyone to come and speak their piece as long as they are vaguely socialist/redistributivist and swell the numbers of the crowd.

Bill writes:

Ryan,

My reading of the Bloomington School (though not extensive) would be that what is implied in the article is one 'possible' solution to common pool resource problem, not that it is the only path. Solutions are specific to the circumstances of the problem.

I think Graeber is making a mistake by imposing the constraint of 'democracy' on the possible solutions. The solutions without government could be democratic or something else, it would depend on the specific circumstances.

Floccina writes:

I once heard on a history show on TV that Benjamin Franklin got the business men of Philadelphia together to pave and light (with candles I guess (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_street_lighting_in_the_United_States) many of the cities roads. Now he may have used tax Dollars but it did not sound like it. Does anyone know more about that?

Chris Koresko writes:

David Graeber: The process is what scholars of anarchism call "direct action." For example, instead of petitioning the government to build a well, members of a community might simply build it themselves.

Without having read Graeber, based on this one example it sounds like the word he is looking for is "civil society". But the word "democracy" here seems to imply some form of coercion, perhaps of a minority by a majority.

Arnold Kling: The term I would use for "democracy without government" is mobocracy. I cannot imagine a worse society.

mobocracy (n): The coercion of a minority by a majority, outside of any structure of mutually-agreed upon rules ("government")

John Doe(Doh) (Dough) writes:

This "mobocracy" is something our nation has seemed to be heading towards for a while now. Not only does it allow the simple minds of many people to be in control, but also obviously causes confusion. Throughout history it has been proven that a stable central government is needed for sustainability. The thought behind the wall street protests is ludicrous and hopefully will be disregarded by our somewhat weak current government.

Walter Sobchak writes:

I think there is a difference between starting an organization and wanting to be disorganized at all times.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top