Can You Be An Anarchist And Business Owner?

Photo: revolution cycle (CC)

Photo: revolution cycle (CC)

This article in the Washington Post raises a very interesting question:

A meeting of anarchists, progressives, a self-described “surly feminist” and others on the far left of the political spectrum is underway. They’re young and radical. They’re organizing intently. The matter at hand could be oppression, or the police state, or revolution.

But it’s not. It’s walking dogs.

They sit in a circle in the living room of a Petworth group house and tick off their “route updates,” which mostly consist of details about the new canine clients they’ve signed up.

That’s because business is booming.

The seven people present belong to Brighter Days, a dog walkers’ collective founded on anarchist principles. Last year, the five-year-old business grossed more than $250,000. Its members have equal ownership and make business decisions by reaching consensus during weekly meetings such as this one. Any of them can block any decision. They split their earnings evenly, have a group health insurance plan and cover for each other on days off. They even get paid vacation — seven weeks of it.

Moving from would-be anarchist to successful business owner brings a few quandaries. If you oppose the idea of a state, should you pay taxes? Is it ethically sound to care for the animals of professionals while they are at work at institutions such as the International Monetary Fund? And if you don’t believe in corporations, should you buy health insurance from one?

From the start, Brighter Days has taken a path in the middle, keeping as close to its anarchist ideals as possible while running a legitimate business…

[continues in the Washington Post]

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68 Responses to Can You Be An Anarchist And Business Owner?

  1. Patrick Robinson June 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Theres a difference between following certain anarchist principles, picking and choosing what suits you at the time, and being an anarchist.

    • VoxMagi June 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      Good point. Too many folks have no knowledge of what constitutes anarchism. The historic movement has countless intellectual antecedents…but our education system completely ignores any reference to anything but anarchism as random violence.

      These folks have drawn from anarchist principles, socialist principles and more…weaving a non-tradition business plan…which is great…but they aren’t full scale anarchists by any measure. 

  2. Patrick Robinson June 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Theres a difference between following certain anarchist principles, picking and choosing what suits you at the time, and being an anarchist.

  3. Skullfaceflamenco June 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Sounds more like the business is being run in a socialist manner.

    • Jin The Ninja June 23, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

      anarchism is alternatively (and widely known) as libertarian-socialism. 

  4. Skullfaceflamenco June 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Sounds more like the business is being run in a socialist manner.

  5. Jbar June 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    I think once you include someone else, your ideals begin to suffer.

  6. Jbar June 23, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    I think once you include someone else, your ideals begin to suffer.

  7. Jbar June 23, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    I think once you include someone else, your ideals begin to suffer.

  8. VoxMagi June 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Good for them. At a guess…I’d suppose that t works because they each come to the table expecting to work together for the benefit of both their selves and the group as a whole…while not pushing the usual forced heap of crap off on all the other members…and with an all volunteer group of people with realistic expectations of their responsibilities…its plausible.

    It’s not really a betrayal of principle to pay a tax that you may not like or harbor deep disagreement with…when its the only way to stay out of jail and keep your movement alive. There is a difference between publicly decrying a tax as onerous and unjust…and being retarded enough to imagine that you are so special and brilliant that breaking a law when you espouse unpopular politics will somehow go unnoticed.

    I wish these folks all the luck in the world. Trying to do something based on principles other than overwhelming individual greed and self aggrandizement is a fresh breeze. 

  9. VoxMagi June 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Good for them. At a guess…I’d suppose that t works because they each come to the table expecting to work together for the benefit of both their selves and the group as a whole…while not pushing the usual forced heap of crap off on all the other members…and with an all volunteer group of people with realistic expectations of their responsibilities…its plausible.

    It’s not really a betrayal of principle to pay a tax that you may not like or harbor deep disagreement with…when its the only way to stay out of jail and keep your movement alive. There is a difference between publicly decrying a tax as onerous and unjust…and being retarded enough to imagine that you are so special and brilliant that breaking a law when you espouse unpopular politics will somehow go unnoticed.

    I wish these folks all the luck in the world. Trying to do something based on principles other than overwhelming individual greed and self aggrandizement is a fresh breeze. 

  10. VoxMagi June 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Good point. Too many folks have no knowledge of what constitutes anarchism. The historic movement has countless intellectual antecedents…but our education system completely ignores any reference to anything but anarchism as random violence.

    These folks have drawn from anarchist principles, socialist principles and more…weaving a non-tradition business plan…which is great…but they aren’t full scale anarchists by any measure. 

  11. Mamagriff50 June 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    I’m sorry, but you are not anarchists. You are working for The Man. Anarchists do not pick and choose what laws they obey. They obet their own. You’re walking down the middle. You left your principles behind, far behind.

    • FactoryWorker June 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      Guess most of the comment posters don’t know how broad the definition of anarchism is. Maybe read more before making judgments about how closely these people represent anarchism. They don’t break any rules of anarchism if they are anarcho syndicalist, it all depends on the anarchist school of thought they come from. 

    • Butter Knife June 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Anarchism is not the same thing as breaking the law. Nor is it the same thing as willful destitution.

      Some anarchists take their beliefs to those ends, but they are still not identical.

  12. Mamagriff50 June 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    I’m sorry, but you are not anarchists. You are working for The Man. Anarchists do not pick and choose what laws they obey. They obet their own. You’re walking down the middle. You left your principles behind, far behind.

  13. anarchist June 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    Still just wasting time walking dogs, instead of doing something truly important. The dogs are the anarchist, leave them home alone and they truly create some chaos. Now if they were feeding the homeless or caring for the sick for free in front of a hospital I would give them a soft clap. This is just business as usual. 
    There is a fine line between surviving and thriving. 

  14. anarchist June 24, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Still just wasting time walking dogs, instead of doing something truly important. The dogs are the anarchist, leave them home alone and they truly create some chaos. Now if they were feeding the homeless or caring for the sick for free in front of a hospital I would give them a soft clap. This is just business as usual. 
    There is a fine line between surviving and thriving. 

  15. KxBk6U June 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I think the word you’re looking for is hypocrite.

  16. KxBk6U June 24, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    I think the word you’re looking for is hypocrite.

  17. Hadrian999 June 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    being an anarchist doesn’t mean being unable to function in society, you have to live in the world you have until
     you can build the world you want.

    • Jin The Ninja June 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

      props to your comment. altho we disagree sometimes i can wholeheartedly say “great comment!” on this one.

      • Hadrian999 June 25, 2011 at 2:40 am #

        you must take me with a grain of salt, I bounce around from Committed cynic, disappointed idealist, devils advocate, and insufferable wise ass, never know what you’re gonna get.

  18. Hadrian999 June 24, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    being an anarchist doesn’t mean being unable to function in society, you have to live in the world you have until
     you can build the world you want.

  19. Mamagriff50 June 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    Anarchy promotes revolution.      Anarchy is a society with no government or law.  Therefore an anarchist has no government and obeys no law. Walking dogs, well thats what I call a revolution…LOL

  20. Mamagriff50 June 24, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Anarchy promotes revolution.      Anarchy is a society with no government or law.  Therefore an anarchist has no government and obeys no law. Walking dogs, well thats what I call a revolution…LOL

  21. birchwhite June 23, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    In this comment section: bunch of 12 year olds (who have no clue wtf anarchism is) criticizing responsible adults.

  22. birchwhite June 24, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    In this comment section: bunch of 12 year olds (who have no clue wtf anarchism is) criticizing responsible adults.

  23. John Grunwell June 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    What you should draw from this is that anarchists are silly young folks who have not fully come to terms with the reality that EVERYONE is vested in the system, and that their idealism is for something that is completely untenable and idiotic. 

    • Jin The Ninja June 24, 2011 at 9:43 am #

       oh yes, JUST EVERYONE is invested in a system based on 500 years of colonialism, imperialism, division of labour, slavery, racism, oppression and resource exploitation. The idea that one can opt out of a coersive violent system is idealistic. The idea that there is nothing else is shortsighted, untenable, masochistic, and suicidal…(not to mention idiotic).

      • Butter Knife June 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

        These are middle-class whiteys. They are invested, whether they like it or not.

        I suspect that you are, too, and with the same irrelevance of opinion on the matter. I know that I am.

        Also, 500 years? HAH! About 500 years ago there were some relatively important changes regarding the organization and barriers to entry (resulting in huge net gains for equality, human rights and social justice… as evidenced by the fact that such terms, let alone the ideals they represent, didn’t even exist prior). Capitalism didn’t invent exploitation, it just opened a window for non-aristocracy to participate in it.You may not like it, and you may be right, but Capitalism is a huge improvement over what came before.

        • Jin The Ninja June 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

          I AM invested, at least physically.

          Your ahistorical and eurocentric rhetort  demonstrates a complete ignorance regarding non-western governance traditions. You are correct in one respect: while capitalism did NOT invent oppression and exploitation- it certainly feeds, fuels and perpetuates it. Capitalism is the new form of colonialism and imperialism. It is just as genocidal and homocidal as the forms of conquest that came before; however it also is more subtle in it’s approach because of its universal acceptance and codification in institutions, laws, governments and mainstream discourse.

  24. John Grunwell June 24, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    What you should draw from this is that anarchists are silly young folks who have not fully come to terms with the reality that EVERYONE is vested in the system, and that their idealism is for something that is completely untenable and idiotic. 

  25. JoiquimCouteau June 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    “As a theory of revolution, [anarchism] recognizes the revolutionary process as one to which no further limit can be imposed – revolution of this kind is not a single act of redress or vengeance followed by a golden age, but a continuous human activity whose objectives recede as it progresses”
    -Alex Comfort

    So yes, you can, for now. 

  26. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    “As a theory of revolution, [anarchism] recognizes the revolutionary process as one to which no further limit can be imposed – revolution of this kind is not a single act of redress or vengeance followed by a golden age, but a continuous human activity whose objectives recede as it progresses”
    -Alex Comfort

    So yes, you can, for now. 

  27. R Z June 24, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    anarchism is alternatively (and widely known) as libertarian-socialism. 

  28. StevenBaster June 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    I think many people who subscribe to or believe in an anarchist philosophy also live in a capitalist non anarchist society.  There is a lot of grey area there.  Do you live as a criminal just to be cool?  Well personally I work for a living and play the game.  I would prefer a different world but I also have to survive this one.  We can try and change the world and there are different ways to get there.

  29. StevenBaster June 24, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I think many people who subscribe to or believe in an anarchist philosophy also live in a capitalist non anarchist society.  There is a lot of grey area there.  Do you live as a criminal just to be cool?  Well personally I work for a living and play the game.  I would prefer a different world but I also have to survive this one.  We can try and change the world and there are different ways to get there.

  30. R Z June 24, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    props to your comment. altho we disagree sometimes i can wholeheartedly say “great comment!” on this one.

  31. hypnos June 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    Its a good thing there are so many REAL anarchists on the interwebs to help us separate the real from the bullshit!

    Remin me, where do I go to sign up for my membership card?

  32. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Its a good thing there are so many REAL anarchists on the interwebs to help us separate the real from the bullshit!

    Remin me, where do I go to sign up for my membership card?

  33. SuperSerial June 24, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    anarchy is gay most of your claiming to be anarchists would be too lazy to hunt and cook you own food is the system did eventually collapse.

    • Jin The Ninja June 24, 2011 at 9:40 am #

       thanks for that poignant analysis john zerzan lyte. i am glad to know the primitivists are so forward thinking…lol

  34. nothing June 24, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    anarchy is gay most of your claiming to be anarchists would be too lazy to hunt and cook you own food is the system did eventually collapse.

  35. thoughtfor June 24, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Anarchy does not mean living without laws it means without leaders, literately – “an” (as in anti) and “arch” (leader, chief, or principle as in archangel, archenemy). They way this seems to be organised is perfectly in line with that. All this stuff about anarchists only being violent and rebellious to any kind of laws is bullshit.   Anarchy does not equal chaos which is state of no order or authority. What defines anarchy is its opposition to authority, but anarchists can collectively agree on laws they choose to obey.  Anarchy means without leaders, not without rules.    Doesn’t mean I agree with every current law, but its a start.

  36. thoughtfor June 24, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    Anarchy does not mean living without laws it means without leaders, literately – “an” (as in anti) and “arch” (leader, chief, or principle as in archangel, archenemy). They way this seems to be organised is perfectly in line with that. All this stuff about anarchists only being violent and rebellious to any kind of laws is bullshit.   Anarchy does not equal chaos which is state of no order or authority. What defines anarchy is its opposition to authority, but anarchists can collectively agree on laws they choose to obey.  Anarchy means without leaders, not without rules.    Doesn’t mean I agree with every current law, but its a start.

  37. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Again with this number inflation? 5 years earnings at 250 thousand is 50 thousand a year, divided up by 7 employees each person earned about 7 thousand a year from walking dogs. Not all that much money.

  38. SF2K01 June 24, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    Again with this number inflation? 5 years earnings at 250 thousand is 50 thousand a year, divided up by 7 employees each person earned about 7 thousand a year from walking dogs. Not all that much money.

  39. mrtastycakes June 24, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Cooperative ownership is a core tenet of anarchism, so, technically, the ideology would support the idea of all people as business owners.

    Surprising, anarchist principles make pretty good business principles. See: Sunkist, REI, Ace Hardware, the Associated Press, Land o’lakes, True Value, and the Green Bay Packers.

  40. mrtastycakes June 24, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Cooperative ownership is a core tenet of anarchism, so, technically, the ideology would support the idea of all people as business owners.

    Surprising, anarchist principles make pretty good business principles. See: Sunkist, REI, Ace Hardware, the Associated Press, Land o’lakes, True Value, and the Green Bay Packers.

  41. R Z June 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

     thanks for that poignant analysis john zerzan lyte. i am glad to know the primitivists are so forward thinking…lol

  42. R Z June 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

     oh yes, JUST EVERYONE is invested in a system based on 500 years of colonialism, imperialism, division of labour, slavery, racism, oppression and resource exploitation. The idea that one can opt out of a coersive violent system is idealistic. The idea that there is nothing else is shortsighted, untenable, masochistic, and suicidal…(not to mention idiotic).

  43. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Sorry, but something as reeking of earthy compassion as taking care of dogs does NOT qualify as a “business” in the usual sense of the word.  You need to be involved in something more conventional like arms trafficking in order to be a respectable member of the Chamber of Commerce.

    And yes, they are “Anarchists” in the truest sense of the word.  What creates more anarchy than warfare?

  44. Liam_McGonagle June 24, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Sorry, but something as reeking of earthy compassion as taking care of dogs does NOT qualify as a “business” in the usual sense of the word.  You need to be involved in something more conventional like arms trafficking in order to be a respectable member of the Chamber of Commerce.

    And yes, they are “Anarchists” in the truest sense of the word.  What creates more anarchy than warfare?

  45. FactoryWorker June 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Guess most of the comment posters don’t know how broad the definition of anarchism is. Maybe read more before making judgments about how closely these people represent anarchism. They don’t break any rules of anarchism if they are anarcho syndicalist, it all depends on the anarchist school of thought they come from. 

  46. your friend June 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    walking dog in parks that dont allow dogs is anarchy 

  47. your friend June 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    walking dog in parks that dont allow dogs is anarchy 

  48. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    The Feds will shut down this act of terrorism immediately.

  49. chonus June 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    The Feds will shut down this act of terrorism immediately.

  50. Butter Knife June 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    These are middle-class whiteys. They are invested, whether they like it or not.

    I suspect that you are, too, and with the same irrelevance of opinion on the matter. I know that I am.

    Also, 500 years? HAH! About 500 years ago there were some relatively important changes regarding the organization and barriers to entry (resulting in huge net gains for equality, human rights and social justice… as evidenced by the fact that such terms, let alone the ideals they represent, didn’t even exist prior). Capitalism didn’t invent exploitation, it just opened a window for non-aristocracy to participate in it.You may not like it, and you may be right, but Capitalism is a huge improvement over what came before.

  51. Butter Knife June 24, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Anarchism is not the same thing as breaking the law. Nor is it the same thing as willful destitution.

    Some anarchists take their beliefs to those ends, but they are still not identical.

  52. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Can you just BE?

  53. Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Can you just BE?

  54. GoodDoktorBad June 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Can you just BE?

  55. Hadrian999 June 25, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    you must take me with a grain of salt, I bounce around from Committed cynic, disappointed idealist, devils advocate, and insufferable wise ass, never know what you’re gonna get.

  56. Micho_rizo June 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin

    Anarchy doesn’t mean you don’t work or make money.

  57. Micho_rizo June 27, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin

    Anarchy doesn’t mean you don’t work or make money.

  58. R Z June 28, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    I AM invested, at least physically.

    Your ahistorical and eurocentric rhetort  demonstrates a complete ignorance regarding non-western governance traditions. You are correct in one respect: while capitalism did NOT invent oppression and exploitation- it certainly feeds, fuels and perpetuates it. Capitalism is the new form of economic colonialism and imperialism. It is just as genocidal and homocidal as the forms of conquest that came before.

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