Anarchism

Maybe a Revolution Really Is a Dinner Party

A utopia in microcosm.

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This week my colleagues Scott Shackford and J.D. Tuccille have both blogged about those illegal ephemeral restaurants known as underground dinner parties. As a postscript, I thought I'd throw in a thought from one of my favorite American weirdos, the 19th-century spiritualist, psychometrist, abolitionist, and (yes) libertarian Stephen Pearl Andrews, who in 1852 described a dinner party as a utopia in microcosm:

Revolution was in the air.
CBS 2

The highest type of human society in the existing social order is found in the parlor. In the elegant and refined reunions of the aristocratic classes there is none of the impertinent interference of legislation. The Individuality of each is fully admitted. Intercourse, therefore, is perfectly free. Conversation is continuous, brilliant, and varied. Groups are formed according to attraction. They are continuously broken up, and re-formed through the operation of the same subtile and all-pervading influence. Mutual deference pervades all classes, and the most perfect harmony, ever yet attained, in complex human relations, prevails under precisely those circumstances which Legislators and Statesmen dread as the conditions of inevitable anarchy and confusion. If there are laws of etiquette at all, they are mere suggestions of principles admitted into and judged of for himself or herself, by each individual mind.

Is it conceivable that in all the future progress of humanity, with all the innumerable elements of development which the present age is unfolding, society generally, and in all its relations, will not attain as high a grade of perfection as certain portions of society, in certain special relations, have already attained?

Suppose the intercourse of the parlor to be regulated by specific legislation. Let the time which each gentleman shall be allowed to speak to each lady be fixed by law; the position in which they should sit or stand be precisely regulated; the subjects which they shall be allowed to speak of, and the tone of voice and accompanying gestures with which each may be treated, carefully defined, all under pretext of preventing disorder and encroachment upon each other's privileges and rights, then can any thing be conceived better calculated or more certain to convert social intercourse into intolerable slavery and hopeless confusion?

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    1. They’re throwing unregulated parties! They want more than 10 rounds in their magazines! THEY’RE PRACTICALLY ANARCHISTS!

    2. Hah! If he thinks the Tea Party is anarchy, imagine what he thinks about libertarians.

      1. They obviously spend their time hoarding leather clothing and chains in preparation for the coming Gasoline War.

        1. I’m imagining something like a cross between Mad Max and Fallout.

          1. All good libertarians seize New Vegas for themselves.

            1. Hot damn, count me in for the New Vegas op.

      2. Libertarians want to impose liberty on society! Can you imagine? Not having to ask permission and take orders from our wise masters in government? Oh, the horror!

        /Tony

        1. To be fair, I imagine it’s quite a scary thought for Tony to make decisions for himself.

          1. Nah. What’s scary to the likes of Tony is everyone else making their own decisions because they might not make the same decisions that Tony would make, and that’s scary. So legislation and regulation must be put into place to force people to make the same decisions Tony would make. For their own good. Because people are stupid.

            1. So legislation and regulation must be put into place to force people to make the same decisions Tony would make

              You mean we all have to live in our moms basement and remain unemployed, forever?

              In a gated community of course.

        2. You just want the freedom to oppress your fellow man!!!

    3. I like that the Tea Party are simultaneously theocrats that want the government to enforce Biblical mandates, yet they are also anarchists who hate the government.

      1. To be fair, some of them are.

        1. I don’t think there are any legitimate anarchists in the Tea Party. I do think there are some crazy social conservatives.

          1. And racists. I mean, that’s the only reason to dislike Obama is racism. Right? Right?

          2. do think there are some crazy social conservatives

            Definitely are. But the TP is made up of a pretty diverse group. Some of them are actually very libertarian leaning, but may not know it, because they watch Fox News and think that libertarians are crazed anarchists. I think that is changing now, though.

            1. My local paper ran that garbage piece about the dangers of radical libertarianism. Twice. And it’s a comparatively conservative rag.

            2. Yes, I just got into it with my ex-wife over the tea party. Had to straighten her out on a few things. She got all talking points on me and so I had to school her.

              1. I have learned that I have to be very subtle and patient with my wife in convincing her about libertarian principles.

                I just don’t talk about politics until an opportunity arises. For instance, she sees something on TV news that upsets her, and then I patiently explain to her how libertarians solve that issue.

                It’s a slow and patient journey. She’s starting to agree with me, ever so gradually…

                1. When we first got married, my wife though libertarians (like me) wanted to let the corporations to destroy the environment and poison and maim our children. Trying to argue rationally against someone who is thinking emotionally is an uphill battle.

                  I don’t think I ever convinced her, but years of listening to Michael Badnarik and Ron Paul in debates did, along with year after year of stupid government decisions by Bush and now Obama, and seeing an ever larger portion of our income going to the government to waste just because we advanced in our careers by our own efforts.

          3. I don’t think there are any legitimate anarchists in the Tea Party.

            If by “legitimate anarchists” you mean Tea Partiers aren’t dressing in black, smashing up Starbucks and splashing red paint on banks and people wearing fur, you are correct.

    4. We are winning!

      See, even Harry Reid agrees.

  1. Let the time which each gentleman shall be allowed to speak to each lady be fixed by law; the position in which they should sit or stand be precisely regulated; the subjects which they shall be allowed to speak of, and the tone of voice and accompanying gestures with which each may be treated, carefully defined, all under pretext of preventing disorder and encroachment upon each other’s privileges and rights, then can any thing be conceived better calculated or more certain to convert social intercourse into intolerable slavery and hopeless confusion?

    Isn’t that what political correctness is all about?

    1. No, you’re thinking of well-developed sexual harassment codes which criminalize incompentent sexual advances by schlubby men.

        1. Then you have nothing to fear.

  2. “and the tone of voice and accompanying gestures with which each may be treated,”

    Kind of like “excessive heckling”?

  3. But will it be televised?

  4. You know what we need here at H&R? A story about underground dinner parties.

    1. Either that or something about police shooting dogs. I hear that happens occasionally.

      1. Poll the commentariat for the answer!

        1. Then write an article for each poll question.

          1. Then write an article for each poll question

            With charts and graphs for each article.

    2. It’s never been tried before.

    3. It’s almost as if there some sort of… conspiracy going on.

      1. Someone should write a book on that!

  5. If there are laws of etiquette at all, they are mere suggestions of principles admitted into and judged of for himself or herself, by each individual mind.

    And, of course, violators will be put to death, because that is the only conceivable form of ad hoc justice available in anarchism.

    1. All forms of punishment either carry the ultimate threat of death for your refusal to comply or are strictly voluntary. Sure, the state may not have the death penalty, but if they decide the throw me in prison and I refuse to go, they will kill me if necessary.

      1. Comply or die.

    2. I have a friend with whom I occasionally debate libertarian issues who thinks libertarianism (especially the anarchistic variety) will inevitably lead to the biggest, strongest guys (or the ones with the biggest guns) enslaving the rest of the world for all eternity. He actually thinks government protects us from this horror.

      1. Somehow the NAP and voluntary cooperation comes to mind.

        1. Or, as with most, your friend is listening to the media, and does not know the difference between anarchy and libertarianism.

          1. Limited government means no government! Everyone knows that!

            /Tony

      2. Your friend may technically be correct. The government is the biggest strongest guys with the biggest guns, who seized power starting from a state of anarchy.

        The government has enslaved us and is the horror.

  6. Ok, who wants to bet they dream up a law that makes it illegal for parents to cook for their kids?

    1. The first time I read that I thought it said “cook their own kids.”

      It must be lunch time.

        1. E-yup, I did it too: “Cook their four kids?”

  7. NOBODY NEEDS MORE THAN ONE FORK!

  8. YOu know who else threw a dinner party?

    1. Hannibal Lecter?

  9. I always wondered if Jane Goodall could keep a straight face at a cocktail party.

    1. “The alpha male now seeks to assert his dominance over the impertinent beta male by loudly describing how he went to Harvard. He compares this to his rival’s alma mater, Brown, which is considered to be an ‘inferior’ marker of social status.”

  10. What’s scary to the likes of Tony is everyone else making their own decisions because they might not make the same decisions that Tony would make, and that’s scary.

    Sometimes people plant vegetables where flowers should be!

    1. They may even plant them on their own front lawn!

  11. I have a friend with whom I occasionally debate libertarian issues who thinks libertarianism (especially the anarchistic variety) will inevitably lead to the biggest, strongest guys (or the ones with the biggest guns) enslaving the rest of the world for all eternity. He actually thinks government protects us from this horror.

    Like our retarded former untrainable furniture-chewing yapping dog MNG, he learned everything he knows about human nature from watching crappy old westerns in which the outlaw gang rides into town, lynches the sheriff, smashes up the saloon, and rapes the delicate young schoolmarm?

    1. Taggart: I got it, I got it!
      Hedley Lamarr: You do?
      Taggart: We’ll work up a “Number 6” on ’em!
      Hedley Lamarr: “Number 6”? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that one…
      Taggart: Well, that’s where we go a-ridin’ into town, a whampin’ and whompin’ every livin’ thing that moves within an inch of its life. Except the women folks, of course.
      Hedley Lamarr: You spare the women?
      Taggart: Naw–We rape the shit out of them at the Number 6 Dance later on!
      Hedley Lamarr: Marvelous!

  12. Is it conceivable that in all the future progress of humanity, with all the innumerable elements of development which the present age is unfolding, society generally, and in all its relations, will not attain as high a grade of perfection as certain portions of society, in certain special relations, have already attained?

    They didn’t have reality TV in 1852, did they?

  13. They may even plant them on their own front lawn!

    In raised beds. The HORROR!

  14. Is it conceivable that in all the future progress of humanity, with all the innumerable elements of development which the present age is unfolding, society generally, and in all its relations, will not attain as high a grade of perfection as certain portions of society, in certain special relations, have already attained?

    I feel the need to point out that the persons in attendance at a salon are not participating in an anarchy.

    They are all under the control of the property owner, who is the person in charge of the guest list for the salon.

    There is no need to microregulate behavior because everyone in attendance knows that boors will be expelled and not invited again.

    So that beneficial self-regulation is based, ultimately, on everyone’s knowledge that a property holder possesses the arbitrary and unaccountable power to control access to the salon.

    1. To me, anarchy isn’t really a thing that can happen. It is an observation about the world. Ultimately, there really is no rule or archon. Just a bunch of people doing things. Any individual can do whatever they want and take the consequences. Whether those consequences come from the laws of nature or the actions of other similarly autonomous people really makes no difference.

    2. Yeah. And there is also the ever present threat of the government. Not only can the property owner kick you out, he can call the sheriff to do it.

  15. With Airbnb, Uber, and underground supper clubs, Libertarianism is the New Black.

    Didn’t the New Yorker recently do some sort of profile on the interesting and unique travel experiences offered by Airbnb?

    I’m sure that the A-list social scene in New York is stomping at the bit to get into a supper club circle. Wolvesmouth can probably charge $300 a plate at this point no problem.

  16. 1) It’s not really any of the State’s business to try and stop or regulate, particularly*.

    2) But let’s not be deceptive; a “dinner party” is something you throw for your friends.

    These people are charging strangers money; it’s not a “dinner party”.

    (* Since it’s commerce, it may well be the State’s business to tax it like any other commerce, to fund the operation of the State, if we’re not Rothbardian anarchists – and I’m not.

    But the “health code” part is none of the State’s business to mandate, period.)

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