Language is Anarchy

We are often warned about the dangers of a lack of government regulation or central planning. “It would be total anarchy!” is used as an argument against freedom and the free market. How else could we get the rules that create order in our society? Its not a very compelling argument and it lacks imagination. Unknown to most people, we are already surrounded by anarchy. In fact, every word we speak is the product of it. Language is created and maintained by anarchy and free markets.

Language pre-dates any form of government or central planning. Despite that, it has been birthed through countless spontaneous human interactions. Its a concrete example of spontaneous order. Its origins reach so far back that we still haven’t been able to create a satisfactory hypothesis to how language came about. It has enabled the human race to achieve all that we have and all that we will accomplish. It is the basis for our ability to organize and cooperate. It is without a doubt one of humanity’s most important achievements.

If you think about it, language is its own type of market. It is a market of ideas, information, and methods of communicating. In the US the average individual speaks 16,000 words a day. Multiply that by the over 300 million people in the US and that is an amazing amount of transactions in the language marketplace. There is an incredible amount of diversity in this market, as well. New trends in vocabulary and grammar are emerging and dying constantly. I think that we can all agree that teenagers are hellbent on bending speech and the written word to the breaking point and almost always annoyingly. On the other hand you have grammar nerds and writers that take reading, writing, and speaking very seriously. Even so, spontaneous order is created and the English language is alive and well. This is the power of anarchy.

I would argue that anarchy is the only way to create something as complicated and dispersed as language. I’m not even sure how to categorize language. Is it a public good? Does it fit into the “commons”? If it does, its a great example of how the market can handle the public goods that so many people fear would evaporate if they weren’t regulated. Imagine if the government tried to codify the English language. What if they locked us into arranging sentences into a few state-sanctioned formats. What if they didn’t allow new words to be created or worse they created the words we had to use. What if you had to follow their rules when writing an email, or a comment on a Facebook wall, or writing a poem? The English language would die immediately. There can’t be any rulers of the English language or any language. There would be no way that it could meet the diverse needs of the population. Lucky for us, the nature of language makes it very difficult to regulate or manipulate. The average person hates being told how to speak or express themselves and the massive amounts of communications that take place renders any attempt useless.

This does not stop the state from trying to use language to cement their power over us, though. Government’s best hope to be useful to us would be to submit to the will of the market and if it started submitting to the market when it is in society’s best interest then we wouldn’t really have a government, would we? Language is driven from the bottom up, but there are organizations that seek to create commonly accepted standards. They are useful, but are not set in stone. This allows for uniformity, but also for evolution and improvement. Various dictionaries, academia, schools, good writers, bad writers, good speakers, and even bad speakers all contribute to the English language. Its a virtually uncontrollable free market. Even public schools that “teach”, and I use that word loosely, most kids how to read and write for 18-ish years have a relatively small impact on their usage of language.

Government is constantly trying to co-opt the language developed in the free market. It makes great efforts to pretend that it is part of society by adopting the new forms of expression society creates. Political campaigns and advertising for the latest government program are ripe with these tactics. The state tries to appear “in-touch” with the common person, but its only an attempt at pandering to one group or another. Obamacare has taken a specific interest in this. It has spent a great deal of money, with little success, to tap into the youth to get them to purchase health insurance that they are required by law to buy. It’s a grand old circle jerk, isn’t it?

What’s worse is that those in government are constantly abusing language. The whole purpose for language is to help us transfer information, to co-operate, and to form connections with each other. Government is the complete opposite of this. All they use it for is to obscure, redirect, divide, attack, and misrepresent. We can all agree that politicians lie to get into office, right? This is commonly accepted even by the most loyal of statists. In the struggle for state power the parties systematically sort us into groups in order to pandered to us. Whoever does this most effectively gets to wield power over us.

I hope that I have shown to a reasonable level that anarchy has been the main force behind the development of language. Anarchy does not produce chaos. It produces spontaneous order through human interaction in a free market. We can all agree that language is probably the most important public good we have. Without it we are little more that a common herd animal. If something as important as language requires anarchy and a free market, then we must consider that we apply this to other things like the economy and society at large. When you think about it, they are a lot like language. They are made up of countless human interactions. Like language our economic exchanges are a form of self expression. They communicate to others what we desire and what we are willing to give. Since the trade is voluntary, both parties are better off. This is not that different to how language operates. We trade information and form connections with one another. Our economic transactions are just another way of expressing ourselves and they are just as diverse as the language we use. There is no reason to believe that the anarchy that gives us language would not also create a society that we would all want to live in.

Live Free.


Sources:

Gender Jabber: Do Women Talk More than Men?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/women-talk-more-than-men/

6 Early Theories About the Origin of Language
http://mentalfloss.com/article/48631/6-early-theories-about-origin-language

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