Monday, August 06, 2007

My Philosophy

A while back, I was asked "Why?" by many friends in the blogging world who were curious as to the changes I made.

This is my answer. (By Ken Schooland.)

These are the first principles from which my political stances emanate. It is neither "left" nor "right". It is about freedom and liberty - true freedom and liberty.

Any questions?

Update:

This from Catfarmer pretty much says it all too, and far more eloquently than I could.

Keep the questions coming.

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33 Comments:

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Nastyboy said...

Thomas Payne would be impressed. Great manifesto.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Very interesting, and very thought provoking. I agree with a lot of the sentiment expressed.

As an aside, I always found it surprising that conservative libertarians and social conservatives have attempted to live within the same political sphere, party-wise. It makes no sense to me, whatsoever, consider they strongly differ on the very concept of liberty.

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Mike said...

nasty,

Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were some of the people I have always read and admired in this area. Their work went a long way to me realizing I have probably been libertarian and anarchist for a long time, without realizing it.

Jim,

Actually your aside is actually a big battle within the libertarian community at the moment - thanks to GWB, a lot of libertarians are suddenly seeing conservatives, especially social conservatives, as the enemy rather than a friend. When guys like Lew Rockwell side with old Marxist like Alexander Cockburn, you know things are getting weird.

I guess its interesting then that the 'Red Tory' tradition is more philosophically libertarian than anything else Canadian.

I find it odd that Lefties and NDP-types like I used to be aren't rushing to embrace libertarian and anarchist ethics and philosophy more. As you say, they are far more compatible than they think.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

Mike-

It's a very interesting summary of, I assume, the roots of libertarian or original liberalism. As a political philosphy it is very close to the one I've had for a long time although I have, at different times, had greater or lesser tolerance for the grey bits in the middle.

Bearing in mind that I agree with the basis of this as a political philosphy I'll make some observations / pose the following questions:

1. If you adopt this philosphy literally, it seems to me that you need to accept that there will be substantial inequity in the distribution of property in society. [ not you you but writing "one does" or "one doesn't" seems pretentious ] When challenged about the inaction of Libertarianism in terms of 'social justice' most libertarians fall short of claiming that social injustice is the lesser injustice. Most try to claim that without govenment people will suddenly become more caring and voluntarily part with more of the time and property.

2. If taken literally, the inability to impose a leader on others means that this political philosphy doesn't scale up very well. If leaders require consensus then they could lead only a small community. This may work well in communities that are loosely coupled but works less well as communities become more interdependant.

3. Nature is an externality.

4. The devil is always in the details.

As an aside, I've always wondered what a left-libertarian is. Could you explain?

Also, why would an dipper embrace libertarianism; one seems the antithesis of the other. NDP values are collective action values ( eg unionism ). NDP values embrace social engineering which necessarily includes taxing and redistributing which I understand libertarians frown upon. NDP values seldom see personal responsibility as a root cause, libertarians often do.

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Mike said...

KevinG,

Yes, you were one of the one's that asked "why?" weren't you?

1."need to accept that there will be substantial inequity in the distribution of property in society." I accept that as a reality now, as do most on the left. That does not mean that the property, power and wealth were acquired illegitimately and through coercion, rather than voluntary exchange. There are many in the left-libertarian community (including icons like Murray Rothbard) who accept that some kind of homesteading of these properties would be acceptable.

"When challenged about the inaction of Libertarianism in terms of 'social justice' most libertarians fall short of claiming that social injustice is the lesser injustice. Most try to claim that without govenment people will suddenly become more caring and voluntarily part with more of the time and property."

Don't mistake those who claim to be libertarians or anarchists with those that are. There are many "vulgar libertarians" that use libertarian sounding arguments (usually based on Ayn Rand - yuck) to excuse much of the economic and social injustices today. They are apologists for the status quo, rather than proponents of liberty. There is a large and growing community that posit that much of the social ills and inequity are caused by state interference on behalf of certain industries and classes - a kind of neo-mercantilism. Many are followers of Proudhon and Tucker. Think of Dean Baker and his "Conservative Nanny State" taken to an extreme conclusion. Most of them (and me) claim that without government interference, people will have more opportunity and resources to be more cooperative. Like all those Americans do when disaster strikes (a little jab at no comments on that post at your place).

2. "If taken literally, the inability to impose a leader on others means that this political philosphy doesn't scale up very well. If leaders require consensus then they could lead only a small community. This may work well in communities that are loosely coupled but works less well as communities become more interdependant."

That's rather the point. Anarchy literally means 'no leaders' and true libertarians want all associations to be voluntary and consensual. Radical decentralization is a feature not a bug. Many of the left-libertarians I read are more than willing to envision a future where the Anarcho-Syndicalist town or county is next to and trades freely with the Ancap village or the small, representative city. So long as it is voluntary and consensual, no issue.

Remember, Lexington, Kentucky or Orange County California didn't invade Iraq illegally, a giant, centralized behemoth called the United States of America did. Without the massive centralization, it simply would not have been possible. There are some advantages to small and decentralized.

3. You'll need to explain that one.

4. "The devil is always in the details." I agree. Using that video as the basis, one can come up with many contradictory positions on various issues. I believe that the idea of personal freedom and personal responsibility will make a better arrangement than we have no, even with the "devil". Its not utopian, but I think its better and more free.

Check out the links on my sidebar, especially Brad Spangler, Kevin Carson, Roderick Long, Left Libertarian.org and the Blogsphere of the Libertarian Left. And my other site too.

Why would a Dipper embrace libertarianism? Because the NDP stands up for the little guy, fight for personal dignity and is, for the most part extremely civil libertarian. Tommy Douglas was all about empowering the powerless and supporting cooperatives (second C in 'CCF') and worker-owned ventures. None of this is contrary to libertarian or anarchist thought. I think the NDP's heart is in the right place, but their methods are mired in a poor understanding of economics and clutching to upper-left-quadrant "state" socialist thinking. I think they have forgotten their cooperative, self-reliant roots.

Its not that far of a jump. No further than Conservative party people who claim to be "libertarian" yet still support spending on war, outlawing victimless, consensual behaviour between adults (marijuana laws, "tough on crime" or anit-gay marriage).

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

"but their methods are mired in a poor understanding of economics and clutching to upper-left-quadrant "state" socialist thinking."

Indeed, I think the dipper solutions embody what a libertarian would call state coercsion. In a strict interpretatation even Tommy Douglas' healthcare would fall into that category wouldn't it?

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Indeed, I think the dipper solutions embody what a libertarian would call state coercsion. In a strict interpretatation even Tommy Douglas' healthcare would fall into that category wouldn't it?"

Yes it would. Notice I am not a member of the NDP any more.

;-)

There is a strain within the NDP that holds closer to cooperative, self-reliant part of the NDP character. People like Pierre Ducasse for instance.

So for me the goal is the same - quality universal healthcare - but the methods are different.

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

"So for me the goal is the same - quality universal healthcare - but the methods are different."

You are an optimist :)

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Yes I am...

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous UpMyKilt said...

keving:

""So for me the goal is the same - quality universal healthcare - but the methods are different.""

And I'll bet your an optimist too ;). There's a big mess out there that statists created... :)

By the way, libertarians/anarchists have no issues (generally speaking) with collective action. It's the coercion through threat of force - whether that force is through legal or other immoral methods to be part of the collective that libertarians/anarchists (generally speaking - at least my "brand") finds repulsive.

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger jj said...

Hi Mike
Thanks for posting this, it provided me with one of those so-called "moments of clarity";)

The recent discussions on free speech at my blog were an eye-opener -- most of the responses, even in disagreement, were measured and rational, others not so much. Let's put it this way, I didn't even bother putting up the post I'd done about handguns. Why swat the hornets nest with a stick, and then come back and swat it again with a two-by-four?:D

Anyway, I'll be looking into some of your links about libertarianism...

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Cool thanks for the input JJ. And sadly, I have not taken your advice about handguns - as evidenced in my responses to posts over at Scott Tribe's blog, here and here.

Drop me a line anytime...BTW theconverted.wordpress.com in the links section is me.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger John M Reynolds said...

At first blush, your philosophy does not present any hope for the future. If you don't believe in heaven, hell, or the state and just believe in science, reason and liberty, why are you an optimist? What do you look forward to? What gives you hope?

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Mike said...

"At first blush, your philosophy does not present any hope for the future."

How does it not present hope for the future?

I will assume you watch the Flash video I linked to.

My philosophy celebrates the individual, allowing them the liberty to choose the method the best way, in there opinion, to live. It celebrates community in that community is freely and voluntarily entered into. It celebrates peace because free, voluntary exchange is always by definition mutually beneficial and mutually beneficial relations are by definition, peaceful.

Live and let live.

How does any of that not sound hopeful?

"If you don't believe in heaven, hell, or the state and just believe in science, reason and liberty, why are you an optimist? What do you look forward to? What gives you hope?"

I derive optimism and hope from simple observations of human nature. Most people are good, kind, friendly and sharing. It is a reality of evolution that cooperation and altruism are the better survival strategy for the genes, rather than aggression. Humans have evolved to be this way and our ethics and morals spring from our conception of this evolutionary reality.

Now evolution is not perfect - one only needs to be just cooperative and altruistic enough to ensure survival and propagation of the genes. There is a role for some forms of aggression and competition - again, just enough. Humans have evolved to balance these in order to survive and flourish.

Thus, we are good and moral because that is our nature, because that is how we evolved.

How am I not an optimist?

I do not need the threat of eternal pain or the promise of eternal pleasure to motivate me to do good. That is for the intellectually lazy. I do good because it is the right thing to do, for the evolutionary reasons stated.

None of this precludes me from see the world and the universe as a wondrous place to explore or life as an adventure to be had and enjoyed.

Despite what you imply, I am not a nihilist. Not many atheists are, frankly. nor are many libertarians or anarchists. Indeed the very basis of these political philosophies and belief systems is that people are inherently good and can achieve great things if given the chance.

I'm still not sure how my philosophy is not optimistic or does not present hope for the future. Perhaps you could elaborate.

 
At 3:22 PM, Blogger John M Reynolds said...

In a comment above, you admit to being an optimist. I did not question that.

On the top of your blog, you put, "No Heaven. No Hell. No State. Just Science, Reason and Liberty" I don't know how you figure I implied that you are a nihilist.

My problem with your theory as stated in the banner of your blog is partly displayed when you said, "It celebrates peace because free, voluntary exchange is always by definition mutually beneficial and mutually beneficial relations are by definition, peaceful." Even if most humans are good, what should be done about the rest that are not? What should be done when they take advantage of the good? What happens when their actions cause hardship or even the deaths of several of the good? And how can you tell the good from the bad when no one is always good? How would you suggest applying judgments? How would you persuade those who sometimes choose bad actions to make better choices?

The problem is with empathy. Many do not have it. They have not learned to care about others beyond themselves. The world is made up of too many individuals. Not enough are moral. Morals have to be taught.

If everyone is busy celebrating the individual, then how can progress be made? How can community be a free choice? Without community, most would perish quickly. What happens when one community disagrees with something that your community disagrees with? What is the difference between community and state? I watched the video up to the credits. If you are truly against having a State like your blog banner says, then that is at odds with the video that suggests choosing a leader is possible.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Many do not have it"

Well I disagree right there. In my experience most normal humans have plenty of empathy. I don;t know on what you base that assertion.

"The world is made up of too many individuals. Not enough are moral. Morals have to be taught."

I would say the world is not made of enough. Too many people blindly follow leaders and do not think critically about their live and their actions.

Their are plenty of morals. People are innately moral as I indicated above - with an innate morality, we would not have evolved as we have. Most people know right from wrong without being taught. What is being taught is the cultural context and expression of morality.

Most people are good and moral - they do the right thing when given the chance.

"Even if most humans are good, what should be done about the rest that are not?"

Punish them or obtain restitution from them in proportion to the crime. Of course, the crime would have to be something that caused provable harm to someone else or it isn't a crime after all. Sometimes shunning or eviction from a geographic area, for instance. What makes you think we need a God or a State to punish people who violate laws?


"How can community be a free choice?"

What an odd and silly question. I choose, voluntarily to join or remain in a group, because I like it and it is beneficial to me. I choose to live by the rules. That means I am a member of the Prog Blogs by choice, live in my neighbourhood by choice, have a group of friends by choice, am involved in a Kung Fu club by choice...well you get the idea. If I do not like how these communities act or no longer believe what they stand for is right, I am free to leave and form a community with someone else.

"Without community, most would perish quickly."

True, which is why humans have evolved to live in optimum groups of 30 to 40. Which is why urban living has been popular for 5000+ years. Which is why hermit living is a very rare occurrence. But as I stated, communities can be built on voluntary agreement not coercion.

"What is the difference between community and state? "

A community can be based on voluntary arrangements, mutual respect and non-coercion. A state is based on force and non-voluntary participation in a collective. They are not synonymous.

"If you are truly against having a State like your blog banner says, then that is at odds with the video that suggests choosing a leader is possible."

How so? A leader is not a state. It is possible to voluntarily choose someone to act on your behalf and consent to their actions so long as consent can be withdrawn. If Harper did something you did not like, could you withdraw your consent and stop obeying those laws and regulations you do not agree with? No, you would be jailed, fined or otherwise forced to comply. And what of people like me, who never voted for him (even when I voted) and have never consented to anything he stands for? Can I merely ignore his leadership, his laws or his regulations because I have not consented to them, not agreed that I would obey them? Nope.

I can delegate to a leader so long as I actively consent and agree to do so. I can withdraw my consent at anytime. I should be free to enter into agreement and to live by only those things I agree with. Personal responsibility and all that.

I do not for a minute think that YOU should live that way. If you want to believe in heaven and hell or subject yourself to a coercive state, go ahead. As I have said before:

"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782"

Live and let live. I won't force my ideas on you if you do not force yours on me.

Aye, but there's the rub eh? You want me to have to do things against my will, follow laws I do not agree with, pay taxes I think are theft or believe things that are illogical and provably false because its "for my own good" or because if I don't, you don't think I'm "moral."

And I must be made "moral", don't I?

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger John M Reynolds said...

I will be busy tonight, so I will catch you later. Thanks for the fast reply.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger John M Reynolds said...

So, within a community of 30 or 40, how would you determine the proper level of restitution when someone does something wrong? Who gets to make that decision? Is it a group effort all the time with one person doing the administrative actions, or will that leader have the power to enforce the community's moral code? Will the moral code be written down? The only crimes mentioned are theft, slavery and murder. What about other crimes like assault that does not result in murder?

What happens when the goals of one community conflict with the goals of a neighbouring community? For example, if a tornado goes through and wipes out the local crops such that the neighboring community is starving and yours barely has enough to feed your own community. What would happen then? What would happen if in desperation of survival, the other community takes your community's land (theft of property). Can your community punish the other? How do you claim land property rights? Would there be treaties between communities? Who gets to make up these treaties?

If you do not agree with a provision in a treaty, then you could leave and seek out another community if you can find one that will have you. What if the minimum of 30 is breached by people leaving because they did not agree with a provision in a treaty? Is the treaty still valid? What happens when the community grows too large? What happens when the optimal max of 40 is exceeded? Humans used to live like this. This is called tribalism. Tribal culture does not work with large groups. If you are not talking about tribalism, then how does what you prefer differ from tribalism?

Getting back to individuals, I am not so worried about myself as I am those who are my responsibility. I have entered into an agreement to form a family unit. This was by choice. The decision to have kids was mutual consent. I am now partially responsible for my kids. I cannot just walk away from that community. That would be immoral. I must work to feed, house and clothe them. When my kids seek what is best for themselves, say by taking a toy that with which they want to play though another is already playing with it, I must teach the kids that theft is wrong. I must teach the theif that the action of taking the toy made the other person feel bad. I must teach them that how others feel matters. I must teach them about consequences. Sadly, I have not seen people who are innately moral. They were taught it in their youth. People who have not been taught morals grow up such that no punishment will convince them to be productive members of society. A recent example is Cliff Tang ( http://stevejanke.com/archives/235702.php ).

"You want me to have to do things against my will, follow laws I do not agree with, pay taxes I think are theft or believe things that are illogical and provably false because its "for my own good" or because if I don't, you don't think I'm 'moral.'"

Nothing of the sort. I am simply trying to understand where you are coming from. You may be surprised to find out how much you and I agree on some things.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger Mike said...

John,

Its a sunny weekend and I'll be outside with my kids a lot, so I may not get back to you for a bit. but rest assured, I will answer your questions.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger John M Reynolds said...

Thanks Mike. I appreciate it. I will check back every once in a while near the end of the long weekend and early next week.

You can delete this msg and my last short message when you have read it if you don't want it clogging up your site.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Mike said...

"So, within a community of 30 or 40,..."

First let me begin by saying that 30 to 40 is the historical, optimal, but is not some sort of Utopian ideal. I do not advocate in anyway breaking up cities and forming millions of groups of 30 or 40, but merely point out that even when living in a city of millions like Toronto or Ottawa (where I have lived) your community is likely to be 30 to 40 - co-workers friends, associates, local businesses. You may even have multiple communities, both exclusive and overlapping - work, hockey leagues, membership in a political party or in the local Royal Astronomical Society club etc. 30 to 40 is a historical observation and a basis for the observation of human behaviour in large groups, not an ideal to strive for.

Now

"how would you determine the proper level of restitution when someone does something wrong? Who gets to make that decision? "

The proper level of restitution will be agreed to before hand or be proportional to the value of that which is wrong. I suppose it also depends on what you mean by wrong. In a society without the state, everything would be done via cooperative and\or contractual means. All interactions would be via mutual, consensual negotiations. Therefore, in order to do business with someone - either to enter their store, enter a contract etc - I would know, and agree to in advance, the penalties of violating the voluntary agreement. If I do not agree, I don't do business, or I don't enter your store or otherwise use your property. If I violate, I have already agreed to the punishment.

If one the chance that I do something like steal without expressly agreeing to the contract, then a common, sense natural law based proportionality would be applied. That is, if I took something worth $100, I would be required to return the item or pay $100. I might even have to pay further expenses for investigation and adjudication.

The charges would be heard by an adjudication agency we both agreed on, with the agencies having partnerships and agreements to recognize each others judgments. Those who do not judge fairly would quickly be ostracized by other agencies and avoided by the public and go out of business.

That's just an example have a read of this for much more detail.

Similarly, read this for a more social take on the ideas.

Of course, I should point out, that nothing in this is heterogeneous. Different communities and different organizations could have common law traditions. Some could operate like I said above. Some could be more cooperative based, like anarcho-syndicalist or totally communal. Still others could, at a much smaller scale, choose to live under laws and tax supported courts like we have now, but probably only at the village or town level.

"Is it a group effort all the time with one person doing the administrative actions, or will that leader have the power to enforce the community's moral code?"

Only as prescribed in the agreement, as I stated above. This enforcement would also be more subtle and decentralized. Ostracization would be a key tool. Most insurance companies would not insure someone who was shown to be a thief or did business with high risk persons (not without pay extra premiums). Thus, the thief would find it very hard to do even his shopping or get any kind of needed credit or have anyone do legitimate business with you. No need for a leader or enforcement of a "moral code".

Remember, anarchy literally means "without leaders" and the basic tenet of anarchism is:

"No one has the right to initiate force against another or delegate the initiation of force, except in self-defense or defense of legitimate property."

I suspect you would see a lot of smaller scale, groups cooperating, rather than deferring to a leader. Even if they do, the 'leader" is only by agreement...If the leader tries something that one does not agree with, you merely do not follow it.


"If you are not talking about tribalism, then how does what you prefer differ from tribalism?"

See my opening paragraph. It would not be "tribalism" because a community may not be based on geography or ethnicity. And one could be a member of many communities at the same time.

And again, all associations would be voluntary, not coerced. You would be free to come and go from community as you see fit, so long as you could agree.

"For example, if a tornado goes through and wipes out the local crops such that the neighboring community is starving and yours barely has enough to feed your own community. What would happen then? What would happen if in desperation of survival, the other community takes your community's land (theft of property). Can your community punish the other?"

Watching "Jericho" I see.

;-)

Well, the damaged community would need to negotiate, possibly based on credit, the purchase of food and material form other communities. And likely as not it would not be "the community" buy each of the individuals within the community. Most likely members of the the affected community would band together and cooperate to obtain what they need. And as has been shown in Kansas this summer, lots of other communities, even those with not much, would gladly and voluntarily help.

In the event that the community banded together and stole the land from members of another community, they would be justified in using force to get it back. But it would not be "the community", it would be the individuals who actually owned the land - a "community" cannot own anything. They may decide to hire an outside agency to get the land back, they may band together and do it themselves.

That of course is based on the fact that your scenario is even remotely plausible, which I don't think it is. Remember my caveat - 30-40 is not an ideas, merely an observation.

"How do you claim land property rights? Would there be treaties between communities? Who gets to make up these treaties?"

How do you do it now? By homesteading unowned or abandoned property, mixing your labour with the land to produce something (crops, clear some trees put up a fence, live there) and registering that land with different agencies and with your neighbours.

"I have entered into an agreement to form a family unit. This was by choice. The decision to have kids was mutual consent. I am now partially responsible for my kids. I cannot just walk away from that community. That would be immoral."

Well, I will not pass judgment on the morality of that, but even today, in order to do that, you would face some pretty severe penalties and costs, which you agreed to in the first place.

"I must teach the theif that the action of taking the toy made the other person feel bad. I must teach them that how others feel matters. I must teach them about consequences. Sadly, I have not seen people who are innately moral. They were taught it in their youth. People who have not been taught morals grow up such that no punishment will convince them to be productive members of society. A recent example is Cliff Tang"

By innately good and moral, does not mean that you do not have to teach your children. Of course you do. But you are teaching them the application of those morals, and teaching them those morals in a safer, more pleasant way. Without you, your children would learn the right-and wrong of theft fairly quickly from those they stole from, and likely with a great deal of pain. Those who don't take lived to reproduce others that don't take and those that were able to teach their children that lesson early enough lived to reproduce others that taught this lesson. Which is why in a country of over 33 million people, 32 100 people are in prison (0.097% of the population) and 120 500 (0.37%) are under other kinds of supervision . Even if you double those numbers (and these are the numbers for ALL criminals, not just theft) assuming that only half of the criminals are in jail, you still get a number under 1% of our total population.

By numbers alone it looks like the vast majority of folks are pretty moral, no matter what they do or believe in.

Cliff Tang and his ilk are the exceptions, not the rule, even for criminals (most of whom stop offending around age 40, even if they don't get caught) which is why they make the news. And nothing in Janke's little diatribe indicates Tang is this way because of lax moral teaching in his family. The reality is some people are simply born with brain imbalances or other conditions that prevent them from caring. Some become car thieves and some get elected Prime Minister.

"Nothing of the sort. I am simply trying to understand where you are coming from. You may be surprised to find out how much you and I agree on some things."

Actually, no I wouldn't be surprised. See above. Most people are very moral and most people believe many of the same things, despite outward differences. I once worked for the NDP Candidate in Nepean Carleton. At a debate, I found it odd that all three Candidates - Liberal NDP and Conservative - agreed on most things. Their disagreements mostly centered on the details of achieving the goals the agreed must be obtained.

My vision is a peaceful live and let live, personally responsible, cooperative, voluntary society. Not unlike that of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, the Buddha, Proudhon, Benjamin Tucker and that other guy...oh yeah, Jesus.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Josh Gould said...

Mike, I think your ideas are interesting, but simply unrealistic and wrong-headed. But I'll just focus on this:

I derive optimism and hope from simple observations of human nature. Most people are good, kind, friendly and sharing. It is a reality of evolution that cooperation and altruism are the better survival strategy for the genes, rather than aggression. Humans have evolved to be this way and our ethics and morals spring from our conception of this evolutionary reality.

I don't think there is any overwhelming evidence that "evolution" has conveyed these qualities to the exclusion of tendencies toward aggression, competition, and conflict.

Now evolution is not perfect - one only needs to be just cooperative and altruistic enough to ensure survival and propagation of the genes. There is a role for some forms of aggression and competition - again, just enough. Humans have evolved to balance these in order to survive and flourish.

I don't buy this. We've also evolved to the point that our technology could wipe out almost every human being on the planet, and we've come within a hair of starting such a war only a few short decades ago. Sixty years ago among the most "civilized" of European nations was murdering millions in ovens and gas chambers. Human beings are capable of monstrous acts - on what basis do you conclude that your ideal would constitute a stable and desirable sort of political change?

While I agree that human beings can certainly be very cooperative and altruistic, we tend to favour those we know over unfamiliar people. In short, how are conflicts dealt with in large communities? How are cities of millions organized or governed? And they would need to be governed, because water and transit systems will not run themselves.

I also read your state-less health care article from a while back. Setting aside the conspiracy theory about the CMA and its provincial constituents colluding to lower the supply of doctors (the exact opposite of current trends in medical school enrolment), your solution is really nothing more than an insurance system by any other name - except with worse economies of scale!

Nothing prevents the formation of local cooperative clinics or any such community health centres. There are, indeed, the trend in current practice. However, the efficiency gained by having a single-payer system is due to saving all these small organizations from maintaining elaborate billing systems. Right now, if I'm travelling within or even outside the province, I know that my health card will be accepted at just about any walk-in clinic or ER. No such guarantee would occur under the highly decentralized (and disorganized) system you propose.

That brings me to my final point - I cannot imagine travelling any distance in your anarchist world. To quote Sanford Fleming in the Heritage Moment, it's ridiculous to have 12 different time zones between Halifax and Toronto. It would be even more ludicrous to have hundreds of little jurisdictions with varying rules (read: laws) and practices over a short distance.

Of course, I don't believe that the sort of extreme decentralization would be a stable situation - we'd be likely to see rapid consolidation in some areas and the emergence of larger "communities" (read: states). And all that aside, I can think of no way of arriving at your ideal situation either. Unless all states and "coercive structures" are eliminated everywhere nearly simultaneously, matters are not likely to remain "voluntary" for long.

As goes the saying, power abhors a vacuum.

 
At 4:15 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"I don't think there is any overwhelming evidence that "evolution" has conveyed these qualities to the exclusion of tendencies toward aggression, competition, and conflict."

I never said it was to the exclusion, as the very next line you quote indicates. Aggression has a place, but for the most part cooperation and altruism are better than naked aggression and violence for perpetrating the genes. A truly successful society will have a balance of these kinds of individuals.

"I don't buy this."

Whether you buy it or not is irrelevant. "Just good enough" is a cornerstone of evolution. I'm hardly talking about anything new and earth shattering here, as the scientists in this episode of Quirks and Quarks discuss and the basis of the book "The Evolution of Cooperation" by Robert Axelrod.

"We've also evolved to the point that our technology could wipe out almost every human being on the planet, and we've come within a hair of starting such a war only a few short decades ago. Sixty years ago among the most "civilized" of European nations was murdering millions in ovens and gas chambers. Human beings are capable of monstrous acts - on what basis do you conclude that your ideal would constitute a stable and desirable sort of political change?"

Indeed humans are capable of monsterous acts, but very few humans actually do these acts. Every single example you have given was only possible because of the strong, central, coercive authority of the state was taken over by those mad enough to do so (a small minority), who then turned that power to evil deeds. how close to nuclear war? A hair's breadth, but under to command of less than 50 people in history, as the service of the state. The Holocaust? Only after years of propaganda from a police state, who then tried to keep it secret from its own people and were only able to do the job by using psychopaths or highly intoxicated soldiers.

Your examples are less an indictment of human nature than it is about the terrifying power and horror that can be created by the apparatus of a state.

"In short, how are conflicts dealt with in large communities? How are cities of millions organized or governed? And they would need to be governed, because water and transit systems will not run themselves."

By voluntary means as I described above. Why would water and transit systems need a state to run them?

As for my article on my other blog, I stand by it. It is not necessarily trends in medical schools that are the cause of the shortage, but the licensing of doctors and medical professionals in general. The regulation and bureaucracy for a foreign-trains doctor is staggering. The regulation for non-doctor practitioners (nurse-practitioners etc) is staggering. The doctor is the procedural bottle neck in the system and when there aren't enough, we have wait times and higher costs for service.

And yes, my idea certainly is "nothing more than an insurance system by any other name". But it goes hand in hand with the number of practitioners in a truly freed market for medical services. You economies of scale argument is true only if we consider the same number of doctors, the same highly regulated "market" and the same choice we have now.

"No such guarantee would occur under the highly decentralized (and disorganized) system you propose."

Why is that? Do you know why your OHIP card is accepted in Florida? Because of an agreement between OHIP and the major insurance carriers and governments in the US. Why could not a cooperative make similar reciprocal agreements or partnerships? It would certainly be a desired feature, wouldn't you say? It would certainly make good business sense to offer that and for various organizations - cooperative or otherwise - to make those agreements and offer them as standard coverage. Or as an option that people who do not travel opt out of for a lower premium?

"I cannot imagine travelling any distance in your anarchist world. To quote Sanford Fleming in the Heritage Moment, it's ridiculous to have 12 different time zones between Halifax and Toronto. It would be even more ludicrous to have hundreds of little jurisdictions with varying rules (read: laws) and practices over a short distance."

Yes, Sir Sandford Fleming. Tell me, was standard time imposed by fiat by some central authority on all countries in the world? Well no, in 1885, they chose to follow it at a Conference in Washington DC - via voluntary acceptance because it made sense. I also see that he was thought of as a mad Communist and his ideas were dismissed as absurd - ideas which are now viewed as common sense.

Do you actually think towns and villages will simply stop living in a timeszone (Saskatchewan and NFLD, I'm looking at you)? Or, by fiat, change when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends? Yes, that would be the work of mad anarchists, wouldn't it?

As for numerous laws over a short distance, well, been to Europe lately? I also might add that such would recognize the differences inherent in various places - economically, culturally etc. And since under anarchy there would be vastly few laws anyway and only those you voluntarily agree to, I hardly see the issue. You don't seem to mind the different criminal laws in various US states or different traffic laws in different Canadian cities.

"we'd be likely to see rapid consolidation in some areas and the emergence of larger "communities" (read: states)."

Why? What reason would this happen?

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger Josh Gould said...

I never said it was to the exclusion, as the very next line you quote indicates. Aggression has a place, but for the most part cooperation and altruism are better than naked aggression and violence for perpetrating the genes. A truly successful society will have a balance of these kinds of individuals.

There are many ingredients to a successful society (whatever that means, growth rates? peace? wealth? health status?), but it seems improbable that large societies will have noticeably different distributions of particular "types" of individuals.

In any case, altruism in the sense of genes may imply that one organism sacrifices itself for another with similar genes. While it's a valid analogy to take this to the level of individual interactions, you could just as easily argue that tendencies to altruism and cooperation make humans well-suited to follow the directives of others, so as to safeguard the welfare of a greater collective. To the extent that these features are relevant to "voluntary" action, it is not at all clear that altruism is a correct motivation for, say, trading for mutual advantage.

Whether you buy it or not is irrelevant. "Just good enough" is a cornerstone of evolution. I'm hardly talking about anything new and earth shattering here, as the scientists in this episode of Quirks and Quarks discuss and the basis of the book "The Evolution of Cooperation" by Robert Axelrod.

Actually, I don't buy that results of evolutionary game theory, shown under highly restrictive and abstract conditions, have clear implications for public policy, much less for justifying global anarchist revolution. The Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma (of Axelrod), in particular, is problematic since it assumes a game of infinite length. With a finite number of rounds, it is in fact optimal to defect (not cooperate) on every turn!

Indeed humans are capable of monsterous acts, but very few humans actually do these acts. Every single example you have given was only possible because of the strong, central, coercive authority of the state was taken over by those mad enough to do so (a small minority), who then turned that power to evil deeds. how close to nuclear war? A hair's breadth, but under to command of less than 50 people in history, as the service of the state. The Holocaust? Only after years of propaganda from a police state, who then tried to keep it secret from its own people and were only able to do the job by using psychopaths or highly intoxicated soldiers.

The scale of the Holocaust was facilitated by mass industrialization and a centralized state - but neither are required for monstrous acts. The Mongols ravaged across Central Asia and the Middle East with no more organization than that of a nomadic tribe. Pograms in Imperial Russia required little more than angry mobs, and nor did massacres of Jews and other "undesirables" throughout Mediaeval Europe. Obviously there are no shortage of examples of massacres, genocides, or forced removals or populations - and it is further clear that these are not features of states but of certain human communities over time.

Your examples are less an indictment of human nature than it is about the terrifying power and horror that can be created by the apparatus of a state.

You can use it as such, yes. But the state is not some sort of alien appartus imposed upon people - it is simply a highly variable method of human governance. The phrase "monopoly on the legitimate use of violence" applies only in the sense that other forms of violence are illegitimate, and that the legitimate use thereof is further constrained by law.

Now, of course you can point to ample examples of the illegitimate, arbitrary violence on the part of governments. That shows nothing more than that some governments are corrupt and, well, illegitimate. The anarchist would say that all forms of violence are illegitimate, and that even the broader notion of "coercion" is to be eliminated.

Well, it is not at all illegitimate to force individuals who would coerce or inflict violence upon others for their own ends not to do so. Unless such people are simply not present in an anarchist society, how do you deal with those who are quite happy to use violence or coercion for private reasons? It doesn't matter if such acts are irrational; it will certainly still happen, particularly since property is most certainly present in your system.

By voluntary means as I described above. Why would water and transit systems need a state to run them?

First, they need some sort of authority to run them. You're not going to build and maintain water mains and filtration plants without an organization large enough to finance and govern these operations. The same applies to transit systems, which must somehow schedule and allocate routes and finance maintenance. Second, smaller communities lack the economies of scale to run these systems by themselves. Since these communities are not nomadic, I would assume, they cannot very well exempt themselves from the water or transit authority.

Now, I don't know whether you'd posit that a private corporation should run these systems, since they are in a very real sense natural monopolies. The alternative is sending representatives from all the communities to sit on the governing bodies of these authorities, i.e. exactly what is done now in municipalities across the country. Communities can't opt out of fixed infrastructure, and hence they must contribute to its maintenance. The authority is necessary, and is indistinguishable from a state or government.

more to come...

 
At 11:17 PM, Blogger Josh Gould said...

As for my article on my other blog, I stand by it. It is not necessarily trends in medical schools that are the cause of the shortage, but the licensing of doctors and medical professionals in general. The regulation and bureaucracy for a foreign-trains doctor is staggering. The regulation for non-doctor practitioners (nurse-practitioners etc) is staggering. The doctor is the procedural bottle neck in the system and when there aren't enough, we have wait times and higher costs for service.

The CMA does not control licensing or any other feature of regulation. So the notion that the doctors' union (and the CMA leadership is behaving more like a union lately) is to blame for the problems is simply false. Now, the various regulatory bodies do indeed impose substantial requirements on foreign medical graduates, depending on where they're from. They are not, however, held to a higher standard than Canadian physicians - the issue is simply whether their training can be deemed to be equivalent. Indeed, more should be done to speed up the accreditation of clearly qualified foreign-trained physicians.

In any event, the doctor shortage in Canada is not as extreme as has been suggested. While we have relatively fewer than France or Sweden, we have about as many as the UK and US, and more than Japan. As for nurse practitioners, they are not regulated by the same bodies as doctors, and regardless of conspiracies that may be spun about limiting their use, they are becoming increasingly common. Where I live, they are already a much faster alternative to seeing a family doc at the local group practice, which is not to say that it takes long to see a GP either.

And yes, my idea certainly is "nothing more than an insurance system by any other name". But it goes hand in hand with the number of practitioners in a truly freed market for medical services. You economies of scale argument is true only if we consider the same number of doctors, the same highly regulated "market" and the same choice we have now.

I don't follow this. Should regulatory provisions for, say, orthopaedic surgeons be relaxed? It is one thing to increase the supply of doctors by training more and allowing physicians of equivalent qualifications to practice. It is quite another to undermine the integrity of the profession by some unspecified relaxation of regulation for the sole purpose of increasing supply. Should licensing or Royal College exams be changed? Should just anyone be allowed to practice medicine, regardless of qualifications? Caveat emptor?

Why is that? Do you know why your OHIP card is accepted in Florida? Because of an agreement between OHIP and the major insurance carriers and governments in the US. Why could not a cooperative make similar reciprocal agreements or partnerships? It would certainly be a desired feature, wouldn't you say? It would certainly make good business sense to offer that and for various organizations - cooperative or otherwise - to make those agreements and offer them as standard coverage. Or as an option that people who do not travel opt out of for a lower premium?

OHIP covers international travel only to a limited extent, so I don't follow your point. Generally you'd be advised to purchase travel health insurance. If you don't travel, you don't purchase travel health insurance, so there is already an "opt-out" mechansim. Within Canada, the portability of OHIP is legally mandated by the Canada Health Act. Since this is intended for temporary emergencies, it is simply a way of ensuring that routine travel is less risky and more convenient.

Do you actually think towns and villages will simply stop living in a timeszone (Saskatchewan and NFLD, I'm looking at you)? Or, by fiat, change when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends? Yes, that would be the work of mad anarchists, wouldn't it?

The time zone example was simply an analogy (or rather a quote that I'm fond of which illustrates the point). But it would not be at all unexpected for communities to impose all sorts of tolls or restrictions on travel or work. They need only find it advantageous. Suppose one community controls a bridge over a major waterway, without which transportation across the river is costly and slow. If travellers need to use the bridge, the community can charge as much as it wants, extracting a charge in proportion with the degree to which a person or group needs to use the bridge. It would seem to be a perfectly legitimate situation under global anarchy, yet it is hardly beneficial to travellers.

For that matter, what of the community that dumps raw sewage into a river, upstream from other communities? How do they prevent this from continuing? How are such environmental externalities dealt with? Or the distribution of radio frequencies?

As for numerous laws over a short distance, well, been to Europe lately? I also might add that such would recognize the differences inherent in various places - economically, culturally etc. And since under anarchy there would be vastly few laws anyway and only those you voluntarily agree to, I hardly see the issue. You don't seem to mind the different criminal laws in various US states or different traffic laws in different Canadian cities.

And in Europe, the development of the EU has permitted the free flow of people and workers across national borders. While the EU is not sovereign in its own right, it is nothing other than a government.

I further fail to see how it is a foregone conclusion that communities everywhere will maintain an anarchist mindset (much less attain one in the first place) in perpetuity. In short, how does this anarchist revolution come about? How does society remain in an anarchist state? But I suppose how we get there is the key - and effectively intractable - problem.

Really, I'm interested to know how thousands of years of state societies and legal cultures, much less highly centralized governments and corporations and NGOs, can be swept away. What sort of war would be necessary to abolish the state? What guarantee do we have that such a revolution would have the results you propose? When has this happened before? What are the practical implications of overturning the "system", and what are the explicit benefits in terms of human welfare, i.e. life expectancy, standards of living, health status, education, leisure time, and, ultimately, happiness?

Will people be happier under anarchy? Why? How do you know this?

You see, I'm skeptical of revolutionary projects of any sort. Anarchism is posited as the solution to the problems of power and coercion. Not only is that a highly contestable position, but it presupposes the existence of a solution. We don't live in an ideal world. Ideally, your system would work (though I don't really think it would for long, at most). And in the real world...?

(And, yes, I've seen that video before. Given that the basic principles espoused in it lead inevitably to contradictions and inconsistencies, the logical response would be to conclude that the principles themselves are problematic. Alternatively, the conclusions drawn from them are not really implied by the principles, and many consist of little more than nonspecific slogans and statements of little practical value.)

Why? What reason would this happen?

Because it's happened throughout history. Simply consider the United States - the Articles of Confederation were eventually untenable, leading to the establishment of the Constitution of the Federal state. Or the emergence of Rome as the hegemonic power in Italy, following the overthrow of the Etruscan kings. The unification of China, the consolidation of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the establishment of the Iroquois Confederacy, the power relationships of Greek city-states, etc., etc.

It is simply naive that people the world over will ask their officials not to initiate force on their behalf, for all time, everywhere. The moment certain communities "opt-out" of the rules of anarchy, the situation destabilizes. How do you prevent that from happening?

 
At 2:30 AM, Blogger Ron said...

Just a few comments. and I'm thoroughly enjoying--and appreciating--the tone and the depth of this discussion. Thank you all.

BCAA, AAA, CAA and the US affiliates seem to manage auto coverage all over the world. No reason to assume medical care insurance couldn't/wouldn't function the same way. And as well.

Food is far more necessary to a person's ability to provide than, say, a road--but every time I see a shortage of something (since I don't see any Corn Flakes shortage, for example) I note that 99 times out a hundred it's in an area supplied/overseen by government. That's not a coincidence.

I've also noted that if people really want a road, they'll build it--like the coal companies would have built the road to Tumbler Ridge if the state hadn't been able to rob Vancouverites to provide it for them. Check the history of the original US turnpike system.

But it would not be at all unexpected for communities to impose all sorts of tolls or restrictions on travel or work. They need only find it advantageous. Suppose one community controls a bridge over a major waterway, without which transportation across the river is costly and slow. If travellers need to use the bridge, the community can charge as much as it wants, extracting a charge in proportion with the degree to which a person or group needs to use the bridge.

Folks go around things that are too expensive or too inconvenient. There's more than one way to get most anywhere. It's a rare business than can survive by ticking off its customers.

Really, I'm interested to know how thousands of years of state societies and legal cultures, much less highly centralized governments and corporations and NGOs, can be swept away. What sort of war would be necessary to abolish the state?

Well, although other factors were certainly in play, it didn't require any heavy violence to cause the fall of the Soviet government; that was very much more the result of a critical mass of citizens finally and simply choosing to ignore the incumbent government. My thinking is that the essential flaw then was that the Soviet citizens had been taught to see democracy as a goal, not a means--and therefore were largely unprepared to use it in any meaninngful way. They chose democracy but didn't know what to do with it.

While admittedly far short of leading to anarchy (in fact, quickly moving away from it, voting back most of what they'd had, with ex-KGB guys picking up the slack--like the vaccum described earlier) the Soviet crash still illustrated some entertaining possibilities: ignoring a government conveys its own power.

Certainly I don't expect to see any sort of large-scale anarchic "revolution" in my lifetime in, say, North America. And I also expect that lots of early but larger pockets of anarchy will be absolute messes; but at least they will be voluntary. I expect the world will always have a percentage of creeps and slackers, and deserving needy. At least the creeps and slackers won't be bureaucrats.

Still, when it comes to government, I always argue for zero, amazed that the onus is so often on me to justify my rejection of the State, when it makes far more sense that the State be expected to argue/beg for its imposition on me--and you.

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Josh,

I look at moving toward anarchy as the natural progression. We started by being ruled by invaders who imposed themselves on people and exacted tribute upon pain of death - nothing more than theft and extortion at the point of a spear, or a club. These invaders became kings who them claimed ownership of the land and forced people to become peasants and\or slaves, formalizing the relationship and claiming some divine right to do so. When they tried to do the same thing to the neighbouring kings, we had the wars you speak of. Some kings won and some lost ans some kingdoms grew because of this. Soome we had France, Russia and the Mongols you speak of. But there has also been a steady erosion in this power. Slaves became serfs or peasants as rulers realized that they could get more tribute that way. Serfs became citizens and the justification for ruling over them changed from overt violence, to "divine right" to "representative". Democracy itself was thought to be an unworkable "mob rule" when Paine wrote and Jefferson pursued the American revolution. Yet it worked better. As people become more empowered they become more self sufficient. As technology advanced, they had less need of imposed rule from above, from another class of humans.

The next step is no rule by anyone but yourself, and living in voluntary cooperation with others. I don't think its Utopian - yes there will be bad people who use violence and things may not be perfect, but then, they aren't now. But I believe it will be less violent than we have no and it will certainly be more free.

"Given that the basic principles espoused in it lead inevitably to contradictions and inconsistencies,"

Which contradictions and inconsistencies would those be?

"It is simply naive that people the world over will ask their officials not to initiate force on their behalf, for all time, everywhere. The moment certain communities "opt-out" of the rules of anarchy, the situation destabilizes. How do you prevent that from happening?"

First, what 'officials' are you talking about? If it is someone whom I have agreed to delegate some decision making authority to voluntarily, and they violate the terms of that agreement, they are ignored or, if needed, forcibly removed from 'office'. If a community does this, they would be fought and repelled by the others. The rule is against initiating force and using coercion, rather than voluntary agreement, to achieve ends, it does not mean you should not be able to defend yourself against an initiation of force. In fact, the idea that all initiation of force can and will be met with self-defense will discourage this behaviour more. The threat of losing trading partners or supplies will also deter it. And lastly, you seem to think of a 'community' as a unit or whole on its own. It would be made up of voluntary individuals and a particular decision may cause a large number of them to opt out of the community, meaning that this decision may be fought from within as well as from without. Imagine if Bush wanted to Invade Iraq and the 40% of the US population that disagreed, stopped supporting him financially and 40% of the soldiers refused to go. Imagine further that as it wore on there was less and less money for this because more and more people opted out.

You seem to worry about things that might happen under anarchy but accept far worse that are occurring with the existence of the state.

"Really, I'm interested to know how thousands of years of state societies and legal cultures, much less highly centralized governments and corporations and NGOs, can be swept away. What sort of war would be necessary to abolish the state?"

As Ron said, a "war" is not necessary, but when enough people start realizing that the state does not serve them, but rather it serves the leaders of the state themselves or their corporate friends, they will begin to ignore it. If enough people simply ignore the laws, they lose their power and become unenforceable.

There are those anarchists and libertarians that are 'Agorists" who believe in "counter-economics" - ignore the state and set up underground, alternate libertarian institutions. Indulge in black or gray market economies rather than the regular one and starve the state of its taxes.

Some are merely waiting for the state to self-destruct and collapse under its own wieght, due to a particularly bad bust in the business cycle (some thing the coming bust due to the housing market and cheap credit expansion, combined with the debt from Iraq, will do it).

Some are secessionists who will simply opt out in their area and refuse to recognize the authority of any government or institution they did not voluntarily agree to. there are places like this in New Mexico.

And there are those that may use violence. Or there may be those that voluntarily agree to remain under the authority of those existing institutions.

So long as it is voluntary and not coerced, it make no difference to me. Indeed, that is the point.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Josh Gould said...

While admittedly far short of leading to anarchy (in fact, quickly moving away from it, voting back most of what they'd had, with ex-KGB guys picking up the slack--like the vaccum described earlier) the Soviet crash still illustrated some entertaining possibilities: ignoring a government conveys its own power.

How was the government ignored? It should come as no surprise that, given the economic and political crisis brought on by the end of the Soviet Union, many Russians are rather supportive of "strong leadership" in the form of Putin. Post-Soviet Russia is a textbook case of how poor governance (along with fanciful "market-oriented" reforms) contribute to inflation, recession, and political instability.

Certainly I don't expect to see any sort of large-scale anarchic "revolution" in my lifetime in, say, North America. And I also expect that lots of early but larger pockets of anarchy will be absolute messes; but at least they will be voluntary. I expect the world will always have a percentage of creeps and slackers, and deserving needy. At least the creeps and slackers won't be bureaucrats.

So the ends justify the means? If "larger pockets of anarchy" are "absolute messes" (read: violence, death, starvation), then why the hell should anyone favour anarchy? If such a "voluntary" society emerged as nothing more than an utter mess, why should anyone favour it?

Still, when it comes to government, I always argue for zero, amazed that the onus is so often on me to justify my rejection of the State, when it makes far more sense that the State be expected to argue/beg for its imposition on me--and you.

To can reject anything you want personally. It makes little difference since the status quo seems to be working out alright, in Canada at least. The onus is on those who would propose radical change from the current situation to show that their ideas would produce a better, freer, and ultimately happier society. While you're at it, you should point to some real-world examples of where your ideas, once implemented, have succeeded for the long term at a large scale.

*****

I look at moving toward anarchy as the natural progression. We started by being ruled by invaders who imposed themselves on people and exacted tribute upon pain of death - nothing more than theft and extortion at the point of a spear, or a club. These invaders became kings who them claimed ownership of the land and forced people to become peasants and\or slaves, formalizing the relationship and claiming some divine right to do so.

Who were these invaders, and how did they gain their power? Why did any men follow these invaders in the first place? Why didn't these people fight back anyway? Hunter-gatherer societies did not suddenly become states, ruled over by "invader" governments and kings.

The only natural (in the sense of what's been observed) progression has been one from smaller, simpler societies to larger, more complex ones. From the hunter-gatherer group, to sedentary tribal societies employing basic agriculture, to the great civilizations of antiquity, all the way up to industrialization and the internet.

To argue that there exists any sort of "natural" progression of history is nothing more than a teleology, something better suited to Marxist theories of history or religion.

Of course, it hardly matters since this sort of ahistorical nonsense is utter fantasy. At no point in the past did some alien government impose itself on the peaceful members of "voluntary" societies.

When they tried to do the same thing to the neighbouring kings, we had the wars you speak of. Some kings won and some lost ans some kingdoms grew because of this. Soome we had France, Russia and the Mongols you speak of. But there has also been a steady erosion in this power. Slaves became serfs or peasants as rulers realized that they could get more tribute that way. Serfs became citizens and the justification for ruling over them changed from overt violence, to "divine right" to "representative". Democracy itself was thought to be an unworkable "mob rule" when Paine wrote and Jefferson pursued the American revolution. Yet it worked better. As people become more empowered they become more self sufficient. As technology advanced, they had less need of imposed rule from above, from another class of humans.

I think you signicantly overrate the powers of ancient and medieval kings, who, in many cases, ruled over limited domains and contended with nobles, generals, and the odd peasant or slave uprising. A common theme in history has been the division of labour and the inequality of wealth and means. If anything, technology facilitates the greatest power in modern states, yet we have developed rules and institutions to govern and regulate this power, and to keep the government from usurping the sovereignty of the people.

Or would you have us believe that inequality would be wiped away by anarchy? Citizens today have more control over their officials than ever before; that governments will abuse their power is hardly evidence of anything other the old saying about eternal vigilence being the price of freedom.

I also fail to see how people today are more self-sufficient than in previous times, when the vast majority of human beings engaged in subsistence agriculture. Scarcely one among us could survive independently for any length of time, without the multidinous interdependencies and familial and economic relationships that exist between people.

Why does technology liberate people from "imposed rule"? Does television convey freedom? Or the internet? There is no shortage of systems which must be organized and governed efficiently and effectively to ensure the continued viability of industrial civilization. Some are generally state-operated or controlled, some by private enterprise. In both cases a high degree of centralization of management and government is necessary.

The next step is no rule by anyone but yourself, and living in voluntary cooperation with others. I don't think its Utopian - yes there will be bad people who use violence and things may not be perfect, but then, they aren't now. But I believe it will be less violent than we have no and it will certainly be more free.

And you have reason to believe it will be less violent because...? Where are the facts? The empirical evidence? "Freedom" at most means not being subject to the power of others, but as you should realise, power comes in many forms. A rhetorically "voluntary" system may be nothing of the sort, and there is no reason to think that it would stay that way.

Which contradictions and inconsistencies would those be?

Property. I'm interested to know how property is a) recognized and b) safeguarded, at least in a formal sense, in the absence of a central authority to adjudicate disputes, thefts, frauds, breaches of contract, and a great many other everyday features of human interactions.

Additionally, the whole notion of property as deriving from "mixing your labour" with something was weak in Locke and it's no better now. Homesteading, for example, is nothing more than a claim to an inanimate object, based on nothing more than the power employed to compel others to recognize it. For that matter, most historical examples of homesteading involved staking claims of land which was certainly used by prior indigenous peoples, apart from the as many as 90% of them who were killed off by smallpox and other diseases.

How does moving some wood around or contructing a house of logs (which happens quite frequently nowadays, doesn't it?) convey title to the land surrounding the house in perpetuity? Unless there is prior and enforced agreement about the rules surrounding the guarantee of property right related to its acquisition, transfer, and disposition, there is nothing to prevent any old squatter from claiming Object X as his own.

I hope to respond to the rest later.

 
At 10:34 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Josh,

"How was the government ignored? It should come as no surprise that, given the economic and political crisis brought on by the end of the Soviet Union, many Russians are rather supportive of "strong leadership" in the form of Putin. Post-Soviet Russia is a textbook case of how poor governance (along with fanciful "market-oriented" reforms) contribute to inflation, recession, and political instability."

That Russians turned to yet another form of government does not negate the fact that the Soviet Union was brought down in no small part by the fact that the people of the Soviet Union simply stopped obeying the law and regulations of the state they disagreed with, emboldened by Glasnost and Perestroika and positively charged by standing up to the coup in the Summer of 1990. Then they choose another government under Boris Yeltsin, because they had nothing already in place. No one is perfect, I guess. I agree that much of the economic crisis that followed resulted not from total free market reforms, but from Yeltsin's misguided attempts to privatize the collective property of the former-Soviet Union and from the meddling of pro-big business vulgar libertarians such as Jefferey Sachs. Rather it was the state interference in the economy that distorted it in such a way as to give rise to the gangsters and oligarchs.

The method of obtaining anarchy is still valid, even if that was not what was chosen at the end. Ron is right.

"To argue that there exists any sort of "natural" progression of history is nothing more than a teleology, something better suited to Marxist theories of history or religion."

Yet it is your argument throughout this thread that the state is the natural organization of society, rather than the voluntary society of anarchy. So its only "ahistoric nonsense" and "utter fantasy" if it is against having a state?

My opinion was stated above to demonstrate that the progression through history of governance has been one of moving power out of the hands of privileged class (no matter how it began) of rulers to the hands of those ruled. From absolute oligarchs and monarchs ruling over slaves, to serfdom, to more power to the propertied classes (Magna Carta), to all men of a certain race (usually white) propertied or not under a democracy, to all men under a democracy, to all people under a democracy. The state has gone from total control of your life, to less and less. You may call this "ahistoric" but it is pretty easy to see in the history of government.

I merely take it to its next logical extension - no government at all. It is the ability to act and live without government that I mean by more self-sufficiency.

I have Henry David Thoreau on my side, and that counts for something.

;)

"And you have reason to believe it will be less violent because...? Where are the facts? The empirical evidence? "

And you have reason to believe it will be MORE violent because...? Where are the facts? The empirical evidence?

My belief is based on my own experience with people every day. Do you not kill merely because its against the law and the state will punish you? Do you obey traffic laws because the state will punish you? Do you go 20 over the limit because, despite what the law says, you go with the flow of traffic and are safe? Do you not steal your nieghbours yard for yourself because the state says its wrong, or because you know and respect your neighbour and accept the land is his even if you have never seen a deed? You live in a shocking amount of anarchy right now. It won't take much to go all the way and I don't think you would notice too many differences, except more choice. And more money. And more cooperation, thus more peace. But you won't likely see "Mad Max".

"the whole notion of property as deriving from "mixing your labour" with something was weak in Locke and it's no better now. Homesteading, for example, is nothing more than a claim to an inanimate object, based on nothing more than the power employed to compel others to recognize it. For that matter, most historical examples of homesteading involved staking claims of land which was certainly used by prior indigenous peoples, apart from the as many as 90% of them who were killed off by smallpox and other diseases."

You do realize that there is a large number of anarchists and libertarians that consider what happened to natives to mean that a great deal of land in the US is held by illegitimate title? Because they see the land as stolen, for the very reasons you give? Homesteading in the Lockean and Rothbardian sense is based on unoccupied land or abandoned land.

"Unless there is prior and enforced agreement about the rules surrounding the guarantee of property right related to its acquisition, transfer, and disposition, there is nothing to prevent any old squatter from claiming Object X as his own."

Yes, and I believe that is called 'eminent domain' in the US, when the state does it anyway.

What makes you think that the state is needed to "guarantee of property right related to its acquisition, transfer, and disposition,"? Why couldn't there be private or community cooperative institutions to register title? Why not private or cooperative, community courts to make judgments.

I think at the base of our disagreement is a difference in trust of our fellow humans. I trust my fellow humans to make peaceful, mutual beneficial decisions based on voluntary exchange. I trust them to deal with the problems if they can't do this.

You on the other hand don't trust them. You don't think they will make the right decision. You clearly think that they must be forced and coerced, through violence if needed, to do things they do not wish to do. The cannot be trusted to handle their own property, including their own body. And worse, you think there are some who can make these decisions for others and can do so, using violence if necessary, by passing laws and enforcing them.

You think without these laws, without these people to make and enforce these laws against the will of others, to tell them how to live, we will degenerate into chaos, a life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".

From this perspective, you are no different than the religious nuts who don't trust women to control their own body.

Sorry, I think people are better than that.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Josh,

Sorry for being snippy there at the end, but I was tired when I wrote that.

Here is something that demonstrates, with empirical evidence, examples and lots of citation, the case for anarchy. Yes, its from CATO. I normally consider them vulgar libertarian shysters and apologists for corporatism too, but in this particular case, they make good points. So in your inevitable response to this, lets skip the "its from CATO OMFG!" line and get to the meat of the argument. And though they argue from a anarcho-capitalist standpoint (of course) the same arguments could be used for anarcho-syndicalism as well.

Please, by all means, let me know what you think.

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger Ron said...

If "larger pockets of anarchy" are "absolute messes" (read: violence, death, starvation), then why the hell should anyone favour anarchy?

Well, I didn't say "are", I said some will be.

But why, then, favour anarchy?

Because we get that stuff anyways, and bureaucracy and tyrants to boot. All the individual bad guys in history don't hold a candle to the slaughter, starvation and death caused by governments (of which I can name a few dozen in only the last 100 years that have scores of victims in the hundereds of thousands, if not millions).

Look, the simplest example I can think of is this, because anarchy is not "a lack of plans"; it is only the substitution of individual plans and agreements as opposed to the plans of bureaucrats and politicians: if the government ceased to exist tomorrow, and your car broke down, I think you'd still look for a mechanic.

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difficulty with voluntary charity being the only sort is that it means that those who are disposed to providing charity will do so, often to their own economic disadvantage, while those who are not will not.

It doesn't take very long of this occuring to see how we wind up with those who are disposed to provide charity do not have the resources to accomplish it, while those who have the resources are not willing to provide it.

When disaster strikes, you then have the option of entering into the "mutually beneficial" contract of serfdom whereby you get enough food to live on while the non-charitable resource holder gets 12-16 hours of work per day from you.

What is also interesting is that this version of history has statist government starting due to the peaceful anarchic community being invaded from outside, yet somehow this would not recur under the "new" anarchic system.

I guess man has changed so much since then that organized, violent tribes no longer exist. All those stories about Hell's Angels, Lobos, Russian Mafia, and all the other internationally based co-ercive organizations are just statist fear-mongering.

Your personal experience among the people you've met means absolutely nothing, because the world is much larger than your social group, and we tend to associate with people who are like us. So while those you associate with seeming to be kind, caring and compassionate people does say wonderful things about you personally, it really doesn't mean anything when applied in a larger social context, which is what you are attempting to do here.

 
At 2:00 AM, Blogger Ron said...

anonymous: it's been a while since I viewed this thread, so I didn't note your response.

That said, given that you and I both fear tyrants and malcontents of exactly the type you describe (Hell's Angels, Lobos, Russian Mafia), I'll be glad to materially support any protection agency you might see fit to provide (or point me to) should that agency support the purely defensive non-coercive ends I wish.

And don't make assumptions about who I know or where I've been or what I've seen. I have very few illusions about how free people might behave. I don't live in a world of Pollyannas even though you might think I think I do.

 

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