I think there’s a strong causal relationship between (a) the overly structured lives of children today and (b) the silly political stunts of protestors and “activists.”

As has often been noted, American children today rarely play: they engage in planned, supervised activities completely dictated by adults. Those of us who were raised in less fearful times spent a lot of time, especially during school vacations, figuring out what to do: what games to play, what sorts of things to build, etc. To do all this, we had to learn strategies of negotiation and persuasion and give-and-take. I might agree to play the game Jerry wants to play today on the condition that we play the game I want to play tomorrow. You could of course refuse to negotiate, but then people would just stop playing with you. Over time, therefore, kids sorted these matters out: maybe one became the regular leader, maybe they took turns, maybe some kids opted out and spent more time by themselves. Some were happy about how things worked out, some less happy; there were occasionally hurt feelings and fights; some kids became the butt of jokes.

I was one of those last because I was always younger and smaller than the others. (Story of my childhood in one sentence.) That’s why I often decided to stay home and read or play with Lego. But eventually I would come back, and when I did I was, more or less, welcomed. We worked it out. It wasn’t painless, but it wasn’t The Lord of the Flies either. We came to an understanding; we negotiated our way to a functional little society of neighborhood children.

But in today’s anti-ludic world of “planned activities,” kids don’t learn those skills. In their tightly managed environments, they basically have two options: acquiescence and “acting out.” And thus when they become politically aware young adults and find themselves in situations they can’t in conscience acquiesce to, acting out is basically the only tool in their toolbox. So they bring a microphone and speaker to a dinner at someone’s house and demand that everyone listen to their speech on their pet issue. Or they blockade a bridge, thereby annoying people who probably agree with their political news and giving decision-makers good reason to condemn them. Or they dress up in American flags and storm the U. S. Capitol building. And they act out because they can’t think of anything else to do when political decisions don’t go their way. After all, they’ve been doing it all their lives.

When kids do this kind of thing, we’re not surprised; we say, hey, kids will be kids. When adults do it, we call them assholes. We raise our children in such a way – this is my thesis – that we almost guarantee that they’ll grow up to be assholes. Congratulations to us! We’ve created a world in which, pretty soon, the Politics of Assholery will be the only kind of politics there is.

P.S. This is why I’m interested in anarchism! As I have said several times, the difference between libertarianism and anarchism is simply this: the goal of libertarianism is to expand the realm of individual freedom, while the goal of anarchism is to expand the realm of collaboration and cooperation. We need more anarchic childhoods today to have a more mature and constructive politics tomorrow.