To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
I share Proudhon's anti-establishment sentiments against being watched, inspected, regulated, taxed, etc. I could add my signature below the above paragraph without hesitation. Have I got little experience with paying high taxes and stamp duties? Is my work regulated too lightly? Do I enjoy the foolish caprices that our lawmakers keep spewing out all the time they sit in the Parliament? No, no, and no.
I've had tons of experience with authorities and the abuse of their monopoly power—and I live and work in civilised countries.
What I don't share with Proudhon, however, is his abhorrence of property. He considered property theft and was pretty much a hardliner about it. To some extent, I understand even this extreme point of view. (Note that “I understand” does not mean “I agree with.”) In Proudhon's time (1809-1865), capitalism was still young and aggressive. There were robber barons and people who amassed their wealth in countless unsavoury ways.
We still know people like that today. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson coined the term “extractive elites.” Unlike productive elites, which come up with new ideas, products, services and technologies, the extractive rich seek special advantages and rents. They engage in murky deals with corrupt government officials; they get rich by manipulating government contracts and by dodgy privatisation. Think Russian oligarchs; think Caros Slim Helú and many other third-world tycoons.
One of the worst mistakes of utopian socialists—including Karl Marx—was to confuse the productive and the extractive elites. By destroying all of them, Marxists didn't achieve anything good. They inhibited the economic progress, and in the end, a new generation of the post-communist extractive rich emerged on the rubbles of the socialist Utopia in Asia and much of the European continent.
Sure, Proudhon himself was not a Marxist. Nevertheless, he influenced Marx in a significant way. The criminalisation of private property was, sadly, his major contribution to the development of radical left politics. It has caused a lot of misery—much more torment than all robber barons together multiplied by one thousand. Ideas have consequences and Proudhon's ideas resulted into emergence of the most oppressive authorities the world has ever known. What a cruel paradox.
I share the deep distrust in the establishment with Proudhon, but nothing more than that.