2 min read

Bludgeoning the People, for the People

Bludgeoning the People, for the People
Photo by Thomas de LUZE / Unsplash

Welcome back to Anarchist Hot Takes, the weekly newsletter from Everyday Anarchism. This is another in my series of essays on the perils of proclaiming that American democracy is in peril.

Like I mentioned in the last one, there are lots and lots of anarchist cases against democracy. There are also some wonderful cases for democracy in the anarchist tradition, but I'm going to start with the anti-democracy cases.

One that I've quoted multiple times already in the podcast, and probably in the newsletter, is the most famous and pithiest. Once again, what do you say about democracy, Oscar?

High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. It has been found out. I must say that it was high time, for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised.

There it is! Democracy simply replaces the previous source of authority with something called "the will of the people" or "popular sovereignty." So when the SWAT team comes to your house, that's supposed to make you feel better? It was the "will of the people" that your front door was destroyed and armed men stepped on the necks of your family? I don't see how that makes things better. It fact, it seems to make it worse, in a lot of ways.

And who sent those armed men to your house? A judge in a court. Judge means "the one who says the law." That doesn't sound much like any version of democracy worth having. And court, of course, means where the king lives. So you go to the king's house, where someone says what the law is, and that someone can send men with military weaponry inside your house. And it's all fine, because the person who appointed that judge was elected.

When you put it this way, democracy seems pretty indefensible. So either this isn't very democratic, or democracy itself is incompatible with freedom and community.

Anarchists have entertained both of those options. I'll be getting to them soon.