Conservatives like to talk about personal responsibility. By that they mean taking responsibility for your own well being and perhaps that of your family and community. But if you are not within the circle, what that comes down to is “fend for yourself.”
Liberals talk about taking responsibility for the less fortunate. By that they mean donating time or money to organizations (that employ other liberals) and letting them help people in need. But that creates dependency and doesn’t question the privilege underlying their altruism.
Anarchism, as a system based on cooperation, addresses the weaknesses in both liberal and conservative philosophies.
Like conservatives, anarchists think we should be taking personal responsibility for ourselves, our families, and our communities. But where conservatives want to put up a wall, beyond which their responsibilities don’t go, anarchists have always understood that resolving our problems requires taking responsibility on a worldwide scale.
Like liberals, anarchists are concerned with the vast majority of people who struggle to have even the basic necessities of life. But anarchists don’t want to install themselves in positions of power where they can met out drips and drabs of whatever liberals have been willing to give up. Anarchists want to work side by side with people, questioning the hierarchies and privileges that cause those inequities. We are not creating dependency, we are recognizing interdependency.
And anarchist principles work.
Worker managed coopertives are more productive than hierarchical models. Community policing is more effective than conservative models. Community involvement in schools means better results for kids. Community involvement in budgeting means better allocation of resources. The more people around when a conflict begins, the less likely that conflict will escalate.
These examples aren’t perfect representations of anarchism by any stretch of the imagination, but they do exhibit anarchist principles of responsibility and cooperation. They demonstrate that we can solve our own problems.
Its easy to sit here and criticize our “leaders”. But what did we expect? Did people think we could just pull a lever every few years and then go back to watching American Idol? If we want problems to be solved, we need to take responsibility for solving them. And anarchism is a philosophy built around taking responsibility.