Autarchy, autarky – and anarchy

The underlying subject of this journal is autarchy, and how it can be implemented in the context of a small village in the south-west of France. Autarchy is a philosophical, social, political and economic approach to the question: how best to live one’s life. It is not a system and has no creed or dogma. It requires no suspension of disbelief, no act of faith. It is one method among many that attempts to answer a few basic questions about work and conduct and our interaction with the world. It is an approach to the problem of living, and is flexible, adaptable and open-ended.

It should not be confused with Autarky. These two words share a common prefix, auto, self – but their endings are distinct and divergent. These two derivatives of similar but different Greek roots (archein, to rule; arkeein, to suffice) are frequently confused. ‘Autarchy’ means self-government, usually nowadays without pejorative overtones. ‘Autarky’ is invariably used pejoratively to mean self-government in a manner condemned by the speaker. A regime is autarkic if it tries to be self-sufficient by cutting off trade and intercourse with the rest of the world.

Autarchy  is not the same as autarky, and it certainly shares nothing with anarchy.  It simply means self-government, in the sense of self-sufficiency. It contains within its meaning sufficient common sense within a framework of logic, to withstand the basic interrogations: what shall I do in this life and what is worth doing – whether I am male or female, parent or child, single or family.

There’s nothing intrinsically strange or difficult about autarchy.  It simply means self-government. We are used to the idea of Government – it’s one of those things that Other People do, on our behalf, for our own good, paid by our taxes. But government is enormously burdensome and expensive. It requires a huge task-force to implement. It is oil-hungry, and it may be one of the early failures when oil becomes scarce. Tax-collection and law-and-order are the life-blood of a system. If they falter, and fail – then what have the citizenry to do? What moral and practical system have the people got to help them survive the chaos?

If oil gets so expensive that the ordinary woman and man cannot do their normal work, cannot get to the office or the factory, cannot pay their tax, cannot leave their house to shop or work or visit – then we have a major break-down. The rules that have hitherto applied, may no longer be enforced . The requirement to pay a tax to the central system may no longer be possible. A new and different system of dues, and duty, and payment will have to be established. How we organize our labour, dispense justice, and regulate our social lives in an era of possibly violent transition – will be one of the subjects of this journal.

How to be self-sufficient – how to look after ourselves and our families and our community of young and old and sick when the state-system can no longer provide for us – is the central theme running through this journal.

Anarchy is a branch of socialism, whereas autarchy is not. Socialism is always discernible at a single point :- intervention in the economy. The autarchist is content to permit the market-place to make its own adjustments or revisions, if and when they are needed. She/he favors human liberty;  believes in property as a total concept, favors moral fulfillment of contracts, and supports profits, rents, and interest without equivocation. 

Economic freedom is the implicit right of any individual to own any kind or any amount of property and to unite voluntarily with others for purposes which relate to property in any particular. Impositions by any agency of force, regardless of the end in view, are essentially contrary to freedom. If one believe in freedom, one must believe in economic freedom – full latitude of choice in any and all economic areas, for each person. This can never be accomplished by any procedure, organized or otherwise, which uses violence (even the violence implicit in taxation) to take from an owner anything which is rightfully his.

Support of freedom is essentially support of self-government in all particulars. Freedom is autarchy, and autarchy is self-rule.


2 Responses to Autarchy, autarky – and anarchy

  1. Vicky says:

    I admire your attempt to look at what humans may be facing once the existing governmental structures no longer can do what they have been doing. However, I cannot agree that your suggestion of autarchy is sufficient in lieu of what has gone before. All human communities have the threat of force to hew to the norms of their group, implicit or explicit. Whether it is the threat of banishment or physical harm, those threats are accepted by the group as necessary to maintain the peace or status quo.

    This true in hunter/gatherer as well as our own elaborate western culture.

    For most of human history there hasn’t been explicit ‘ownership’ of the land. Groups may claim use in certain areas, but individual ownership of specific parcels is fairly recent.

    Your libertarian outlook is only possible because governments have been able to bureaucratize the system of deeds and make them subject to contract law. Without that underpinning none of us could think about our absolute freedom to own land. That is, we take the right of ownership for granted because we grew up in this culture, rather than the old way of community ‘ownership’ and ‘use rights’ by the individual based on community agreement.

    You will have to bring our same governmental ‘function’ into the new world of failed states. And therefore some threat of force to maintain the law of personal ownership.

    All I’m really pointing out is that libertarian ‘idealism’ can only actually flourish when there is some bedrock of police power/law that protects the individual. Even if it is more localized than the national state.

    If we live long enough [I was born in 1941] we may be very wistful for some of the things that our tax money bought in the ‘good old days’ like paved roads and water projects. And anti-slavery laws.

    Good luck with your homestead and business.


  2. richard says:

    Thanks for your response. I’m taking some time to think about what you’ve said. I generally do my thinking outdoors. My hero, Germaine Greer, who likes young people and cats and gardening – declared that what she most liked to do in her free time, was think.

    It’s the question of the force needed to back up rights, or claims. That might soon be the force of numbers [those used to such rights] or the force of arms [those now equipped to defend themselves], or the force of the group [in our village – the chasseurs, the possible bully-boys with the biggest guns, and usually linked to La Mairie].
    I have a draft essay on why I might have to join les chasseurs . . .

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