Thursday, 23 June 2011

Something for Nothing: Greece is not alone

Anarchists believe that there is such a thing as a Free Lunch. Yours.

That really is the only belief anarchists have - but there are lots of anarchists.

In poor and unhappy countries, when public order breaks down, the first thing people do is loot what they can. This is called anarchy and this anarchy is understandable. The hugely unequal distribution of wealth and income in such countries is the result of huge injustice supported by state repression. Looting brings about an immediate, rough and ready re-distribution. Unfortunately, shop keepers who aren't the worst criminals (and may indeed be victims of the local regime's protection rackets) are usually the biggest victims - though occasionally looters get into presidential palaces - they did in Iraq. But they can't get into bank accounts held in the tax havens for crooks created (mainly) by the US and UK governments.

Unfortunately, looting works in favour only of the young and fit - and male. In the same way, Greek anarchists fighting the riot police are young, fit men.

If you don't fall into that category, and have no talent for burglary, your only hope of getting something for nothing is to get it off the state and get the state to make others pay. In Greece, this system broke down primarily, it seems, because the state was useless at getting others to pay - too many tax breaks and too many tax evaders and, secondarily, because the state indulged the desire for something for nothing on an unaffordable scale. Borrowing to pay benefits was doomed to come to a sticky end (though you do wonder why BNP Paribas and others went on lending to Greece way past the point when it became seriously sub-prime).

To those in receipt of "something for nothing" it does not always feel like that. A civil servant with a sinecure probably feels he has a job (sinecures usually go to men, especially in countries like Greece).

British MPs clearly feel a sense of entitlement to putting everything on expenses, whether required by their work or not.

And those with inherited wealth - what used to be called "private means" - never consider that someone else is working to keep them in the style to which they accustom themselves.

In this way, you can be an anarchist without being a young, fit male. And you can begin to see what a lot of anarchists there are in the world.

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