“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) … the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”

—J. R. R. Tolkien in a 1943 letter to his son

If ever there was an obvious mark of man’s fallenness and depravity, a ready-made proof of his swiftness to corruption, rebellion, and repression against all odds of practical success, it is his many attempts to create and maintain political authority. 

Men are quite bad at ruling and being ruled, yet they continue giving it a go. They persist in attempts to attain and maintain state power and privilege only to repeatedly prove they are the blind leading the blind, much more fitted to serving in a madhouse than in any state house or other position of political authority. 

Anyone who gives the matter considerable thought seems to know political authority isn't to be trusted, but we can’t seem to shake our baser urges to recreate the dirty thing over and over. By insisting such political authority must exist, we perpetually self-fulfill our own bupkis prophecies while pretending them to be destiny. 

Take, for instance, the prideful imbecility of the average American voter who, while he may distrust and even fear the authority of a foreign power or a government run by the opposition party, believes wholeheartedly that his government, his nation, his party, his president is good, proper, and necessary for the sake of preserving the human race. One of the tallest tales in the great American storybook is this idea that the average American hates his government because he loves his liberty. The truth is he only hates that government which is not his to command, others’ liberty be damned.

But it is not simply the American voter. Hubris has blinded many peoples in their quest to erect state power and privilege for the sake of meaning, security, order, riches, fame, glory, etc. Having gone by many names in many languages with many justifications, political authorities have risen to power of, by, and for the devils inside of us all. 

Twentieth century American author and arch-libertarian Rose Wilder Lane captures this endless cycle:

“From Nebuchadnezzar to Hitler, history is one long record of revolts against certain living rulers, and revolt against kinds of living Authority.

They replace the priest by a king, the king by an oligarchy, the oligarchs by a despot, the despot by an aristocracy, the aristocrats by a majority, the majority by a tyrant, the tyrant by oligarchs, the oligarchs by aristocrats, the aristocrats by a king, the king by a parliament, the parliament by a dictator, the dictator by a king, the king by—there’s six thousand years of it, in every language.

Every imaginable kind of living Authority has been tried, and is still being tried somewhere on earth now.”

Without fail, these political authorities have always served a single recurring proposition that the initiation of force by political authority is necessary for human flourishing. Death to this deadly proposition! Let it die a quiet death, put down by the peaceful changing of our minds to superior leanings. I certainly pray we lean in a different direction than our current bent.

Just as J. R. R. Tolkien penned to his son during a revolutionary world war, my own political opinions lean more and more towards Anarchy in our own revolutionary moment. 

In fact, I have come to believe Anarchy is the rule, not the exception. Despite clever schemes to control one another, men never truly leave the anarchic state of nature; their incorrigible liberty is an unshakable part of their nature, eternally residing in each and every one of their beating hearts. Man’s radical freedom to choose between good and evil will always upset the best laid plans of men. 

Why? Because with man’s liberty comes an itch for personal meaning and responsibility, an itch that man can never fully scratch himself. This itch will either drive him utterly mad as he searches for some political salve to numb his irritation, or he will learn to privately bear this annoyance as a necessary spur to greater wisdom and perspective, keeping his cool even while all others lose their heads to the public scratching that never seems to quite satisfy. 

In the end, a free man understands his itch to meaning and responsibility is like water to a fish, and that he would die if he ever could truly scratch it for good. Fleeting moments of relief may occasionally arrive with his loves and other prides, but it is during such brief moments that a free man remembers his itch will return and he thanks God he is still alive.

“Well, cheers and all that to you dearest son. We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us),” Tolkien finishes his 1943 letter, “But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.”

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email newsandviews931@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

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