A common fallacy people subscribe to is we should not live in a free society because the roads might be imperfect. The endless argument against anarchism is the “Argument from Apocalypse.” (AFA)
The AFA is not an argument at all, of course, but rather relies on rampant fear mongering, and an argument from intimidation.
Basically, the argument goes something like this:
“We’re all gonna DIEEEEEEE!”
It would actually be nice if it were slightly more sophisticated than that, but the reality is that it is not.
The basic argument is that if we accept proposition “X,” civilized society will collapse, children will die in the streets, the old will end up eating each other, and the world will dissolve into an endless and apocalyptic war of all against all.
This is not an argument at all, since it relies on fear and intimidation. Darwin faced exactly the same “objections” when he first published his theory of evolution. “If we accept that we are descended from apes, everybody will abandon morality, society will collapse, war of all against all etc etc etc.”
Abolitionists faced the same argument when suggesting that slavery should be abolished; atheists face the same silly objections when disproving the existence of God; philosophers have been put to death for suggesting that ethics should be based on something other than superstition; scientists are accused of the same evils whenever some new development threatens people’s existing prejudices – it is all the most rampant nonsense, which survives only because of its endless effectiveness.
The AFA remains effective because of a basic logical fallacy which has doubtless been around since the dawn of speech: “Belief ‘X’ would result in immorality or destruction, and so only a fool or an evil man would advocate ‘X’.”
Since very few people wish to appear either foolish or evil, they tend to back down in the face of this argument, or take the imprudent path – which I have trod many a time – of attempting to disprove the AFA.
“Anarchism results in evil!” cometh the cry – and anarchists around the world endlessly respond with: “No it won’t!” – thus losing the argument before it even begins.
The only thing that is relevant in any intellectual argument is whether it is true or not. Refusing to examine the validity and consistency of a mathematical argument because you fear that accepting its conclusions will result in endless evil is simply surrendering to superstitious fear-mongering, and abandoning your rationality. Propositions cannot be evil – mathematics cannot be evil – statism cannot be evil – error cannot be evil – and the truth is not virtuous.
A proposition cannot strangle a baby; an argument cannot rape a nun, and a theory of anarchism cannot turn people into shrunken-headed zombies in hot pursuit of Will Smith.
A theory of anarchism can only be true or false, valid or invalid, logical or illogical.
If someone deploys the AFA, it proves nothing except that he has no good arguments, and that the proposition in front of him is emotionally unsettling in some way. In other words, all that the AFA proves is intellectual idiocy and emotional immaturity. It is the philosophical equivalent of arguing against the proposition that “ice cream contains milk,” by saying, “I once had a dream that an ice cream monster was trying to eat me!” It is the kind of non sequitur we would expect from a very young child, which would only indicate an utter incomprehension of the proposed statement.
People who are threatened by ideas should at least have the honesty to say, “I am threatened by this idea,” rather than pretend that the idea is somehow objectively threatening to the human race as a whole. If I am afraid of short men, I should be honest about my fears and say, “I am afraid of short men,” rather than vehemently argue that short men will somehow destroy the world.
However, prejudice against anarchists – much like prejudice against atheists – is one of the last remaining acceptable bigotries in the world. We cannot judge any group negatively – except a group that relies on reason, evidence and nonviolence.
Thus, it will not do us any good to run screaming from the idea of a stateless society, imagining all kinds of demonic horrors. If we allow fear-mongering to not only inform, but rather define and direct our thinking, then we are left without the ability to think at all, but instead must sit clutching the skirts of those who tell us tall and terrifying tales.
We cannot judge the truth of an idea by our fears of its effect.
Arguments for or against the existence of gods are not validated by our fears of – or desires for – a godless universe. We cannot oppose a theory of gravity by saying that it is unpleasant to fall down stairs; neither can we oppose a new theory by demanding prior historical examples. The entire point of a new theory is that it is unprecedented; the first man to invent a jet aircraft could scarcely submit examples of jet aircraft flying in the past.