Anarchy in Alaska
But what is to prevent people from stealing, fighting, and murdering if you don't have a government? That is the question which invariably occurs to one who hears of Anarchy for the first time,—yes, to many who hear the pleas of Liberty for the hundredth time and understand them not. Explaining that men are not born thieves and assassins, but that stealing, quarreling and killing are fostered by authority and encouraged by law, is a labor of Sisyphus. It is useless to ask one of these believers in the total depravity of human nature if he would leave his work and turn burglar were he not restrained by fear of the law. He invariably says:
Of course not; you and I would not do those things, but there are others who would. Just look at the crimes committed even now in spite of the law, and see the class of people who live in the worst quarters of our great cities. Do you want to turn them loose with no restraint upon their passions? It is hard to answer such an argument, because the answer involves the demonstration of all the truths upon which the idea of Liberty is founded, and, unless one sees clearly the justice of individual sovereignty, he can understand nothing of the answer. He will argue in a circle and end where he started, with thanking God that he is not as other men are and deploring the innate and invincible wickedness of other men. It is clear to me that injustice is the cause of all crime, and that the idea of authority is at the bottom of all social injustice; but I find it difficult to make things clear to one who persists in regarding
authority as one and the same thing. If I should have the mischance to find a man so dull as to be unable to detect the difference between water and fire doubless I should be quite unable to convince him by logic that water will put out fire. But it might be of some benefit to his understanding, should I take him to see the engines play upon a burning house.
Perhaps when our bourgeois friend sees that people do exist peaceably without the restraints of authority, he may admit that human nature is not essentially and incurably bad. Lieutenant Ray, who was in command at the Arctic colony on Point Barrow, tells us some strange things about two tribes of natives living in that neighborhood. Neither tribe holds allegiance to any chief or ruler. No congresses or legislatures have as yet broken in upon the rude mode of living. They are Anarchists in the full sense of the word. Each man is his own chief, and, strange as it may seem, Lieutenant Ray pronounces them the best governed and happiest people in the world. There appears to be no clashing of interests among them, and no bully has ever yet come to the front and bulldozed the tribe by asserting that might made right. Fighting and quarrelling are unknown. Ray says he never saw a child punished in any form, and yet he reports the children as well-behaved, modest, and honest. As high as twenty-five children have visited the station at one time, and their deportment would be such that he could not help but notice the striking contrast between them and the children who had all the advantages of civilization. However small the child might be, it never intruded itself into uninvited places. No matter how many tools, articles of clothing, or provisions were scattered around, the lieutenant never saw them touch a thing, much less try to appropriate or steal them. If anything was given a child, it showed its appreciation thereat, sometimes in words, but more often in smiles, and by informing its playfellows that he or she had been shown especial favors by the great white captain. The only blow Ray ever saw struck in these tribes was by a husband, who boxed his wife's ears for supposed infidelity. Thieving is seldom known among the men or women of the tribes, and, when it does occur, there is no punishment for the crime. Possession appears to be nine points of law with them. A police court would soon become bankrupt there. Neither tribe appears to have any marriage ceremony. If the man is willing and the woman also, there is no legal impediment, and the twain are as one.
These Alaskans are benighted heathen; the light of the gospel has never illumined their unregenerate souls. Christian civilization has never extended its beneficent influence over their inhospitable land. Education, that bourgeois Balm of Gilead, has never been applied to their social system. They do not even belong to the better element. They are primitive men and women living under natural law and restrained by no paper constitutions nor attorney formulas. And yet, O my authority-worshipping, pharisaical friend, these poor, ignorant heathen neither lie, nor steal, nor murder, nor think themselves better than their neighbors. Do you think justice can reign nowhere on the face of this planet outside of the Arctic circle?