J Thomas on January 08, 2011, 08:27:33 pm
An AnCap society is supposed to be based on the ZAP. The ZAP includes "Thou Shalt Not Steal" as part of it.

So, it was asked: if, somehow, through being very good at free-market exchanges, through coming up with a really valuable invention, or some other legitimate means, someone got so rich that he "owned everything", how would that problem be dealt with.

No, you were told that a free market transaction is an exchange of value. Hence, one cannot own everything. He traded away something to get everything he has, so the other guys still have something. Ergo, you mythical trader does not have everything, by definition. Quod Erat Demonstratum.

We started with a mythical government which enforce equality in all things. Of course we agreed that this was bad even though there is no way it could actually happen. After all, who equalizes the equalizers?

I proposed the other extreme, a society in which utter inequality was enforced. And you and Terry have failed to say anything about how good that would be, but only insist that it couldn't happen in an AnCap society.

You have gone so far as to make an argument that nobody can ever go bankrupt in an AnCap society, in the process of claiming that it isn't possible for one person to own everything.

See, nobody can ever go bankrupt because every time they trade anything, the other person must give them something in exchange. So they will always own something, no matter what.

If it's possible for one person to go bankrupt, then it's also possible for a second person to go bankrupt, and by finite induction it is then possible for all but one to go bankrupt.

So if your argument holds to prevent one person from owning it all, it must follow that no single individual can ever lose everything.

quadibloc on January 08, 2011, 09:06:48 pm
But with absolutely no relevance to your "man who owns everything" fantasy.  ::)
Actually, it was someone else's. I agree, it's not really possible for someone to own absolutely everything. The only example of that I can think of was in a Donald Duck cartoon.

But it is possible, and it has happened, for a few people to own a lot, and for most of the rest of the people to own very little, and to be at a huge disadvantage in trading their labor for anything. And those who own can even believe that taking maximum advantage of the situation is the humane thing to do: "The Iron Law of Wages" had said that if the rich were so foolish as to pay the poor more than a bare subsistence, that would just let them breed until one could no longer afford to pay them more than a bare subsistence - thus increasing the sum total of human suffering.

Which suggests that wages rose when the government decided it needed more cannon fodder.

The fact that an exaggerated form of that scenario was proposed that really couldn't arise in practice doesn't change the basic issue; noncoercive free markets can allow very gross inequalities to persist, to be perpetuated.

One response is to ask just how much of a bad thing that is. It isn't bad if a few people are very rich when everyone else is comfortable. And if a lot of people are very poor, usually that isn't because of what the rich have managed to take for themselves - a few people have managed to be comfortably well-off in an environment where there just isn't enough for everyone, even if it were split equally.

But because poor and desperate people will often resort to stealing, even if disparities weren't caused by initiation of force with the connivance of government, tyranny and repression usually aren't far behind in that sort of situation - first, the rich create a government that serves their interests, then demagogues create a new one that only changes the faces of the masters, not the situation of the poor.

Sorting out who is to blame for starting the situation sometimes isn't easy - population versus resources, success building on success in the free market, or government corruption. But such situations usually led to the collapse of whatever freedom had existed in the affected society. (This is even an argument used by socialists for welfare measures - they prevent harmful unrest and disaffection.)

Democratic governments can tax and redistribute to reduce inequality, and thus gently correct a situation of extreme inequality. The question was posed - how does an AnCap society cope? So far, the answer seems to be that people get fed up and use their guns. In other words, ZAP gets thrown out the window, respect for private property is replaced by what usually goes by the name of anarchy.

Noting that one man owning everything is a fantasy is well and good, but it's evading the original question.

SandySandfort on January 09, 2011, 07:39:01 am
You have gone so far as to make an argument that nobody can ever go bankrupt in an AnCap society, in the process of claiming that it isn't possible for one person to own everything.

See, nobody can ever go bankrupt because every time they trade anything, the other person must give them something in exchange. So they will always own something, no matter what.

If it's possible for one person to go bankrupt, then it's also possible for a second person to go bankrupt, and by finite induction it is then possible for all but one to go bankrupt.

So if your argument holds to prevent one person from owning it all, it must follow that no single individual can ever lose everything.

You logical error is your assumption that each subsequent is equivalent to the one before. That is not true. Each subsequent bankruptcy changes the whole economic system, incrementally and makes it more difficult for the next to happen and so on.

Your argument is the equivalent of "if I add one mile per hour, I will eventually reach and surpass 186,282 miles per hour.

There are a number of reasons successive bankruptcies resulting in trades with a given guy would be more difficult, but the easiest to imagine are bidding wars and economic shunning of the guy who was trying to own everything. Either of those are sufficient to expose the fallacy of your assumptions, thus obviating your conclusion.

mellyrn on January 09, 2011, 07:52:43 am
Quote
"The Iron Law of Wages" had said that if the rich were so foolish as to pay the poor more than a bare subsistence, that would just let them breed until one could no longer afford to pay them more than a bare subsistence - thus increasing the sum total of human suffering.

Ironically, people produce fewer children when they are materially comfortable.  Under stressful -- i.e. "poor" -- conditions, humans, like any other animals, reproduce a lot, as if to insure that at least one or two offspring survive.  (Below a certain point, of course, they fail to breed at all.)  Let them live in at least comfortable conditions, and they'll have smaller families on average.

Quote
The fact that an exaggerated form of that scenario was proposed that really couldn't arise in practice doesn't change the basic issue; noncoercive free markets can allow very gross inequalities to persist, to be perpetuated.

"Inequalities" in the sense that one cookie-cutout "person" has more and another has less but, when the actual unique individual and his unique traits and characteristics are considered, those "inequalities" -- in a free market -- are probably pretty representative of his relative contributions.

What will he do with it?  If he loved and respected his kids, he wouldn't leave them a damned thing, but he's probably softheaded enough to leave it all to them anyway.

And one of them is a chip off the ol' block, and continues aggregating.  Even then, he can only acquire by providing value.  Still, let's say he's acquiring land.

He can't possibly use it all himself.  He can't keep out squatters all by his onesie.  So he hires people.

One of his hireling "foremen" decides that he'd rather use the land he's overseeing for some other purpose.  The owner objects, and calls for arbitration.

Remember that there are no laws here.  There is respect for property -- and no law defining once and forever just what "property" is.  A court of arbitration might very well decide in the foreman's favor, and observe that the original owner's claim of property is based only on a rather tenuous chain of agreement, whereas the foreman's claim lies in "I'm here, I can control it myself, and I'm providing the community this new value".

When you can't control it personally, in what sense is it yours?  Without a law saying that it is, I mean.

Or perhaps the original acquisitor was acquiring not land, but gold.  He eventually has all the gold . . . until he needs to pay someone for something.  Maybe he manages to get by on barter until he does have all the gold.  Bwahaha.  Then the community agrees to use wampum instead.  Currency is, after all, whatever's current.

There will be poor people.  There can be desperately poor people.  A society that allows desperation to arise deserves what it gets; that's the price of short-sightedness.  Ain't saying that the desperately poor are then "right" to use force; rather, that that's a foreseeable and therefore preventable outcome.  It won't be like it's any great surprise.

But there is no preventing poverty -- regardless of the governing system -- until we become the Borg and all individuality is lost, because there will always be the, well, "negative-sigma" of the distribution of traits.

terry_freeman on January 09, 2011, 08:17:43 am
An AnCap society is NOT based upon ZAP. It is based on there being no rulers.

ZAP is a natural outgrowth of an AnCap society - but nothing in ZAP requires one to take suicide pills if one's great-great-to-the-nth grandfather foolishly agreed to such a provision in a contract. Nor, if someone merely asserts ownership of a vast tract of land, does ZAP require that assertion to be honored. You can assert ownership if you can convince others to respect your claim. If you can defend your claim, you'll have no trouble gaining such respect. If you make a modest uncontested claim, no trouble.

However, if you claim an estate the size of Pennsylvania, and do not defend it, squatters will wander in and make use of it.

The principle of squatters taking possession of undefended land has been part of Common Law for centuries. It is preserved in legal systems today, but the State permits one to externalize the cost of defense - you need do nothing more than send a scary letter to the squatter to "defend" your claim, in the eyes of the courts. Based on that scary letter, the courts will send big men with guns to evict the squatter.

J Thomas on January 09, 2011, 10:12:05 am
You have gone so far as to make an argument that nobody can ever go bankrupt in an AnCap society, in the process of claiming that it isn't possible for one person to own everything.

See, nobody can ever go bankrupt because every time they trade anything, the other person must give them something in exchange. So they will always own something, no matter what.

If it's possible for one person to go bankrupt, then it's also possible for a second person to go bankrupt, and by finite induction it is then possible for all but one to go bankrupt.

So if your argument holds to prevent one person from owning it all, it must follow that no single individual can ever lose everything.

You logical error is your assumption that each subsequent is equivalent to the one before. That is not true. Each subsequent bankruptcy changes the whole economic system, incrementally and makes it more difficult for the next to happen and so on.

Your argument is the equivalent of "if I add one mile per hour, I will eventually reach and surpass 186,282 miles per hour.

There are a number of reasons successive bankruptcies resulting in trades with a given guy would be more difficult, but the easiest to imagine are bidding wars and economic shunning of the guy who was trying to own everything. Either of those are sufficient to expose the fallacy of your assumptions, thus obviating your conclusion.

No, I'm using your logic only.

Every time you make a trade, the other guy has to give you something. Therefore you will always own something.

That is your argument, applied to one person. Therefore no single person can ever go bankrupt.

Quote
No, you were told that a free market transaction is an exchange of value. Hence, one cannot own everything. He traded away something to get everything he has, so the other guys still have something. Ergo, you mythical trader does not have everything, by definition. Quod Erat Demonstratum.

Since one person must always trade away something to get something else, he can never own everything. He cannot drive everybody else bankrupt.

Since everybody else must always trade away something with one person, he can never own nothing. They cannot drive him bankrupt.

Do you see that logically it is the same argument?

quadibloc on January 09, 2011, 12:26:24 pm
Since everybody else must always trade away something with one person, he can never own nothing. They cannot drive him bankrupt.
Actually, the argument is valid. If all people ever did was trade, they could never become bankrupt.

To become bankrupt, and own nothing, a person must do something else besides trading. One of these two things would suffice: consuming, or borrowing.

He could trade what he owns for some food... and then eat it, as is required to survive.

He could borrow money, using what he owns for collateral... and the value of his collateral could decrease, and the money from the loan which he invested could work out badly.

Now that I've shown it's possible for a person to become bankrupt, then all that has to happen is for everyone else but one person in a society to become bankrupt for one person to own everything. Isn't it better to explicitly point out the fallacy than merely to give an existence proof which some people might not accept?

An AnCap society is NOT based upon ZAP. It is based on there being no rulers.

ZAP is a natural outgrowth of an AnCap society - but nothing in ZAP requires one to take suicide pills if one's great-great-to-the-nth grandfather foolishly agreed to such a provision in a contract.
Now this may be a source of my confusion.

I figure that in these forums, the position I'm arguing with isn't really one official position, but rather the different related views of people belonging to three different schools of thought; AnCap, libertarianism, and minarchism.

And common to the first two, at least, I had thought, was the idea that, as a moral principle, nobody has the right to initiate force. Not even the democratic majority.

I took that as a starting point, because it seemed to me that it didn't make sense to view it in another way. Only if you believe that something is true as a moral principle would you not be swayed to abandon it by an argument from consequences. (If we don't have conscription, and taxes to pay for a giant fleet of nuclear submarines, then we're likelier to have to defend ourselves from the bad old Russians, and that would entail some unpleasantness.)

And so I assumed that anarcho-capitalism had very little in common with old-fashioned anarchism, which talked a lot about tearing down the rich for the sake of the poor. That could be completely wrong; maybe AnCap is really old-fashioned anarchism with a little respect for the good things capitalism can do for you, on a small enough scale at least, grafted on. Or the reality could be somewhere in between.

In any case, I assume that a political school of thought starts from a small set of fundamental moral premises, playing the role of statements like "only one straight line may be drawn through any point that is parallel to a second straight line not intersecting that point", and all cases are handled through deductive logic. More or less. In the human world of politics, there has to be some room for the ad hoc.

If, instead, ZAP is just a rule that's followed most of the time, but not having rulers is what's followed all of the time, yes, then one is looking at something different. So there would be different arguments against it. One problem that comes to mind is that the society is likely to be... unstable. There's no guarantee that the ZAP would be put aside quickly enough to prevent levels of inequity that lead the people, foolishly, to follow a statist demagogue. But, of course, guarantees are what statist societies with their rule by the iron fist are in the business of, not anarchies of any kind.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2011, 12:44:04 pm by quadibloc »

SandySandfort on January 09, 2011, 12:57:40 pm
Every time you make a trade, the other guy has to give you something. Therefore you will always own something.

That is your argument, applied to one person. Therefore no single person can ever go bankrupt.

Wrong again. Think it through logically. All I have a gold coin; I trade it for a banana; I eat the banana. I am now bankrupt. Q.E.D.

terry_freeman on January 09, 2011, 02:44:46 pm
You have gone so far as to make an argument that nobody can ever go bankrupt in an AnCap society, in the process of claiming that it isn't possible for one person to own everything.

See, nobody can ever go bankrupt because every time they trade anything, the other person must give them something in exchange. So they will always own something, no matter what.

If it's possible for one person to go bankrupt, then it's also possible for a second person to go bankrupt, and by finite induction it is then possible for all but one to go bankrupt.

So if your argument holds to prevent one person from owning it all, it must follow that no single individual can ever lose everything.

You logical error is your assumption that each subsequent is equivalent to the one before. That is not true. Each subsequent bankruptcy changes the whole economic system, incrementally and makes it more difficult for the next to happen and so on.

Your argument is the equivalent of "if I add one mile per hour, I will eventually reach and surpass 186,282 miles per hour.

There are a number of reasons successive bankruptcies resulting in trades with a given guy would be more difficult, but the easiest to imagine are bidding wars and economic shunning of the guy who was trying to own everything. Either of those are sufficient to expose the fallacy of your assumptions, thus obviating your conclusion.

No, I'm using your logic only.

Every time you make a trade, the other guy has to give you something. Therefore you will always own something.

That is your argument, applied to one person. Therefore no single person can ever go bankrupt.

Quote
No, you were told that a free market transaction is an exchange of value. Hence, one cannot own everything. He traded away something to get everything he has, so the other guys still have something. Ergo, you mythical trader does not have everything, by definition. Quod Erat Demonstratum.

Since one person must always trade away something to get something else, he can never own everything. He cannot drive everybody else bankrupt.

Since everybody else must always trade away something with one person, he can never own nothing. They cannot drive him bankrupt.

Do you see that logically it is the same argument?


Jamesd, have you ever borrowed money? Are you acquainted with the concept of negative net worth? People who go bankrupt owe more money than they are worth. They may have, for example, bought a house for $700,000, mostly borrowed, but the same house can only be sold for $300,000 nowadays. Such bizarre valuations are, of course, more likely in a system where the value of currency fluctuates due to fractional reserve banking, inflation, and other manipulations.

Now, if one does not borrow, negative net worth is much harder to accomplish, is it not?

J Thomas on January 09, 2011, 10:48:59 pm
Every time you make a trade, the other guy has to give you something. Therefore you will always own something.

That is your argument, applied to one person. Therefore no single person can ever go bankrupt.

Wrong again. Think it through logically. All I have a gold coin; I trade it for a banana; I eat the banana. I am now bankrupt. Q.E.D.

Agreed. Your argument was wrong.

terry_freeman on January 10, 2011, 04:34:28 am
Regarding this "one person claims the world" theory, which has been constructed to find a way to poke holes in the ZAP.

Let us consider a scenario. Robinson and Friday and two babes land on an unclaimed planet. The Robinson Family and the Friday Family "mix their labor with the soil" and thereby homestead the land. It becomes a convention that, to claim land, one must fence the land. For purposes of this scenario, the two plots of fenced-in land are contiguous.

One day, Mrs. Robinson proposes an ambitious Plan to the Mister. He balks. She says sweetly, 'Do you enjoy plowing my furrow, Mr. Robinson? You'll plow no more of my furrow if you do not follow my Plan, Mr. Robinson."

So Mr. Robinson begins to construct a fence just outside the Friday fence - all the way around the Friday lands - until he circles completely around and eventually joins up with the Robinson lands again. In short, the Robinsons now own the entire world, except for that bit already claimed by the Fridays.

In a society where the Fridays must honor any property claim, however great, the Fridays are now doomed to live within their claim, for generations to come, no matter how many Fridays there may eventually be - or pay rent to the Robinsons. If there be a government to extract taxes, the Fridays must even pay for the defense of the Robinson claim. By claiming the world, and claiming the right to charge the Fridays for defense of that claim, the Robinsons claim to rule the Fridays.

In a society where the Robinsons and the Fridays own what they are willing and able to defend on their own account, they would not be able to claim the entire world; they would not bite off more than they could chew. Reasonable claims practically defend themselves; the Robinsons and Fridays would not require fortified fences and machine-gun emplacements - but if the Robinsons did claim the world, there would come a day when the population of the Fridays would press against the defenses.

In a more reasonable world, such vast claims would tend to be abandoned as they become indefensible.

J Thomas on January 10, 2011, 06:31:47 am
Regarding this "one person claims the world" theory, which has been constructed to find a way to poke holes in the ZAP.

Ah! That's why nobody has been willing to explore the idea.

You pointed out that it's  undesirable (and impossible) to make everything equal for everybody, using an extreme case. On the other side, I claim that it is undesirable to let things get too unequal. I make no claim that an AnCap society would necessarily make things too unequal, and I do not claim that the most extreme case is possible.

I have heard explanations how AnCap societies might moderate extreme inequalities. For example, in some cases person X might go to an arbitrator and say "Person Y officially owns this resource here, and he isn't developing it much. I can develop it more effectively" and the arbitrator might rule that it now belongs to person X. Or if somebody has more stuff than he can defend, others might just take it from him.

It occurs to me that if you had two big groups of people who disagree about this sort of thing, they might fight over it. The society breaks down into warfare. That is not a flaw in AnCap societies, it's a flaw in societies where large numbers of people disagree about something enough to fight over it. The USA had this precise problem when we disagreed about slavery, and some of us were ready to fight to take away others' human property. Particular AnCap societies might be better or worse at resolving this sort of problem -- I don't see anything in the basic philosophy that says how to resolve it.

And an AnCap society does not have to have a perfect solution to every possible problem, to be way better than what we have now.

mellyrn on January 10, 2011, 06:58:06 am
Quote
it is undesirable to let things get too unequal.

Seems to be a self-correcting problem.  Absent some external-to-society mechanism, the have-nots die off (and the issue shifts to imbalance in the remaining population), or they resort to violence, or the far-sighted haves find use for what they have in at least meliorating the deprivation -- though hopefully not so meliorating it as to cripple the recipients.

quadibloc on January 10, 2011, 07:21:45 am
In a more reasonable world, such vast claims would tend to be abandoned as they become indefensible.
In your specific example, yes, this could not exist in a society in which the ZAP was honored.

Land and natural resources that simply exist in a state of nature are, initially, no one's property. Were I, sitting in my chair, to proclaim that anyone who wished to mine for minerals on the Moon must first pay me for the privilege, any attempt on my part to enforce such a claim would constitute an initiation of force on my part.

On the other hand, if I am in such a natural place, and I begin to plough the land, or dig a mine, then if someone were to vandalize these workings, that would be an initiation of force on his part.

So what I own is not the land itself, but my workings upon the land; the crops I have planted, the pit I have dug, and so on.

Absent any initiation of force, however, the time shall eventually come in the development of any new world where unused land that may be put to productive use without large expenditures of capital is no longer available. Some people will fare better than others, or be more diligent to others, at their labors. Some families will produce more than one child, more than two children, or more than one son. Newcomers might even still come to the world, although it no longer has a raw frontier.

Through all these causes, the event shall come to pass that the society will contain within it persons whose only means of sustenance is trading their labor for income.

History has shown that when such a point is reached, there are evils attendant thereon. Such people are likely to be at such a disadvantage in bargaining that they will be ripe prey for demagogues. It's all very well to say that with no ruler, excess inequality is self-correcting.

But the likely event is that an inequality not created by theft will end up leading to a society based upon theft - and only if everyone is very lucky will the outcome be a stable, democratic government which merely levies some taxes for the purpose of poor relief, sets minimum wages, prevents employers from combining in restraint of trade... and similar initiations of force on behalf of the common rabble.

The more probable outcome of a successful demagoguery is the French Revolution and the Terror, or the Bolshevik Revolution, or some such thing.

Combine that with most new worlds on the Earth being in the reach of rapacious neighbors with well-organized states and standing armies... that the general sentiment is that one should avoid the risk, and start from the beginning with a government, but a benign one, before either one is imposed by a foreign invasion, or results from an uprising of the proletarians, which would be far worse... is not surprising.

And, although I hate to keep repeating myself, so far, it seems to me, that all the arguments in favor of AnCap presented here have done nothing to refute the sentiment that this common perception is entirely correct and prudent.

terry_freeman on January 10, 2011, 08:29:22 am
Regarding this "one person claims the world" theory, which has been constructed to find a way to poke holes in the ZAP.

Ah! That's why nobody has been willing to explore the idea.

You pointed out that it's  undesirable (and impossible) to make everything equal for everybody, using an extreme case. On the other side, I claim that it is undesirable to let things get too unequal. I make no claim that an AnCap society would necessarily make things too unequal, and I do not claim that the most extreme case is possible.

I have heard explanations how AnCap societies might moderate extreme inequalities. For example, in some cases person X might go to an arbitrator and say "Person Y officially owns this resource here, and he isn't developing it much. I can develop it more effectively" and the arbitrator might rule that it now belongs to person X. Or if somebody has more stuff than he can defend, others might just take it from him.

It occurs to me that if you had two big groups of people who disagree about this sort of thing, they might fight over it. The society breaks down into warfare. That is not a flaw in AnCap societies, it's a flaw in societies where large numbers of people disagree about something enough to fight over it. The USA had this precise problem when we disagreed about slavery, and some of us were ready to fight to take away others' human property. Particular AnCap societies might be better or worse at resolving this sort of problem -- I don't see anything in the basic philosophy that says how to resolve it.

And an AnCap society does not have to have a perfect solution to every possible problem, to be way better than what we have now.


In an AnCap society, the arbitrators are not rulers; you don't get to make eminent domain claims, no matter how prettily you frame your arguments. However, if you see a spot of land which is not being used, and you do your due diligence and find that it has not been used for X years, and homestead it, and someone pops up later and says "My Great Grandfather homesteaded this and willed it to me and you owe me back rent", then an arbitrator might, depending on the facts of the case, rule in favor of the squatter, on the grounds that the putative owner had not defended his property for X years.

If things develop as in the "Robinsons claim the world" scenario, an arbitrator is likely to tell Mrs. Robinson to stop being such an ass.


 

anything