Radical Politics

The new radical social philosophy mentioned before argued that in liberal democracies most revolutionary social changes came not from political activity but sources outside politics—in response to technological development, affluence, generational difference, and the influence of new ideas.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

Behind such a cordial gathering of genuine idiosyncrasy is a freedom and anarchy I personally find exemplary. “Assembled we stand,” runs our reiterated motto, “disassembled we fall,” and for the Third Assembling I added: “POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHO DO THE WORK.”

—“Why Assembling” (1973)

It should not be forgotten that the three major strands of anarchism are quite different—one emphasizing individual liberty against the state and even the duly empowered majority, another emphasizing decentralized democratic communities (and usually a concomitant pacifism), and the third the apocalyptic overthrow of existing institutions.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

One rule familiar to libertarians holds that attempts to make illegal anything that people desperately want produces not only unintended deleterious effects but unanticipated business opportunities. Ban by law the selling of alcohol and one result is the organized crime we associate with historic Prohibition. Prevent Americans from owning gold, and libertarian entrepreneurs will sell gold coins. Ban abortion, I once conjectured, and the beneficiaries would be rouge doctors, those experienced at delivering illegal services, and the incarceration industry, none of which should otherwise merit anyone’s support.

—“To the Sidewalks, Go” (2003)

The new radical social philosophy mentioned before argued that in liberal democracies most revolutionary social changes came not from political activity but sources outside politics—in response to technological development, affluence, generational difference, and the influence of new ideas.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

It should not be forgotten that the three major strands of anarchism are quite different—one emphasizing individual liberty against the state and even the duly empowered majority, another emphasizing decentralized democratic communities (and usually a concomitant pacifism), and the third the apocalyptic overthrow of existing institutions.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

In part because of the increasing number of aspiring young people entering every art, there would be a need in all the arts for “alternative institutions” simply to cope with the growing populace. (I still think that alternative institutions were most important cultural development of the 1970s, though disappointed in the policies and attitudes of those organizations that have survived.)

We abrogated editorial authority not because we were rudderless or lazy (though we never agonized over whether something or someone would be “appropriate to our pages”), but because we wanted a compositional structure radically different from the restrictive, self-serving nature of traditional editorial processes. We wanted a genuine participatory democracy that successfully redistributed both initiative and responsibility. The only control left to us was the invitation itself, so that just as unfamiliar would-be collaborators were asked to show us examples of their work before receiving an invitation, so a few previous contributors were not invited again. The almost paradoxical reason was not that we thought their work “no good,” whatever that might be, or that we wanted to impose a particular style or taste, but that their work was insufficiently unconventional, which is to say that it did not need Assembling.

—“Recalling Assembling” (1997)

Since the costly “war on drugs” has been lost, while that in Iraq has stalled at great continuing expense, may I predict that the feds will soon publicize their War on Overweight, which obviously takes more lives prematurely than either recreational drugs or military invasions (not to mention automobiles). Though victory here might be similarly elusive, two charms of the War on Overweight are that it would be a lot less costly (unless those laid off at the DEA become the Obese Police) and that failure here might discourage our government from declaring further wars, all wars.

Liberty (2006)