This piece originally appeared in Plough.
In the nineteenth century there was a debate in the revolutionary left between those who believed that state coercion was evil because it served the interests of the capitalist class (the Marxists) and those who believed that violent coercion was evil regardless of who wielded it (the anarchists). As the tragic history of the twentieth century shows, the Marxists (who gained ascendency) never shied away from imposing the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
But I’ve always felt that the great anarchist writer Mikhail Bakunin got in the rhetorical kill shot in his classic Statism and Anarchy: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the People’s Stick.’”
In Tyranny, Inc., Sohrab Ahmari asks whether the American working class might be tired of being beaten with a stick, even if it bears the title of “free enterprise.”