Blaming the Victim

Blaming the Victim

A recent article by Kenneth Silber, an illustrator for Heisenberg’s Fun House, purports to draw some fundamental lessons about political philosophy from recent events in Iraq. Specifically, Silber claims that events in post-battle Iraq have empirically refuted "anarchism." There is no substance to the article whatsoever; however, it does give occasion to delineate some common errors in thinking about statelessness. Note that Silber’s argument against "anarchism" is made in two short paragraphs in a very short article.

First, this article was written about four days after the sparsely attended demolition of Saddam’s statue, deemed the end of the regime. So, "anarchism" is given four days to work, while statism has been failing for hundreds of years without a peep from Mr. Silber.

Second, if we define anarchism as the absence of a government with a monopoly on the use of force, it is evident that the United States either has or is about to have such a monopoly. Thus, there is no anarchy in Iraq.

Alternatively, the United States still seems to be in conflict with specks of the regime and is now contending with religious-based political parties that seek governmental power. Although this may technically be considered anarchy, we must not confuse this state of affairs with anarchism as a political or moral ideal. Rather, what we have here is a fight among various would-be governments. The source of the conflict is precisely the ethos anarchism seeks to quell: the desire to be king of the hill, A No. 1, top of the heap. Thus, in no way can the current violence in Iraq be laid at the feet of philosophical anarchists.

Speaking of which, where are the anarchists in Iraq? There do not seem to be any. No wonder they have failed. Mr. Silber expects anarchism to succeed by means of the efforts of non-anarchists. What a fair-minded fellow he is.

Even if there was a Rothbardian cadre in Baghdad, one could excuse their forbearance at this point. Were they to set up shop(s) now, they could expect to be killed by the U. S. Army, no respecter of private defense companies. Ali Rothbardallah, you’re off the hook.

Silber blames "anarchy" for the lack of services such as water and electricity. On the contrary, no private entrepreneur will start offering such services when he knows that competing factions are fighting for control and will soon steal his company. Again, the culprit is not private property statelessness, but competing governments none of which respects private property. The certainty that Iraq will soon be ruled by a socialist state still in formation tends to put a damper on anarcho-capitalist enterprises. Silber is oblivious to the obvious.

Silber’s biggest problem, like most statists, is his lack of a coherent theory of order. He correctly deems looting of private property to be disorderly. Yet, he apparently supports the war and therefore says nothing about the destruction of private property and private bodies by the U. S. military. Like most united statists, he apparently believes that what the U. S. does, including disordering body parts, is "orderly" by definition. I beg to differ with those who beg the question.

April 22, 2003

James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at

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