terry_freeman on January 25, 2011, 02:29:37 am
JThomas, speculators do a better job of stabilizing market prices than government.

Why? Because those speculators who do a poor job of predicting future needs lose money, and their influence on the market diminishes; whereas those government bureaucrats who fail to predict the future simply rush to the taxpayers' teats for more moolah.

I forget who said "capitalism without loss is like religion without sin - no incentive for improvement" - but that basically describes the problem with FEMA.

J Thomas on January 25, 2011, 08:03:03 am
JThomas, speculators do a better job of stabilizing market prices than government.

Why? Because those speculators who do a poor job of predicting future needs lose money, and their influence on the market diminishes; whereas those government bureaucrats who fail to predict the future simply rush to the taxpayers' teats for more moolah.

I forget who said "capitalism without loss is like religion without sin - no incentive for improvement" - but that basically describes the problem with FEMA.

Terry, I don't advocate FEMA doing that. I note that FEMA was doing it at a profit, mostly, but may have been subject to political interference from politicians doing favors to favored speculators. The good things about having speculators stabilize market prices tend to get corrupted when government is involved.

I do want to note that when "speculation" as a way to moderate prices works, usually there is one speculator (who may be deigned the "market maker") who sets prices. Other speculators add noise to the signal. Occasionally -- when one market maker is being pushed aside by a new one, or when he makes a wrong move, or when too much money or too much of the stock in trade gets available to some random speculator -- there can be a series of intense price fluctuations.

So the result is that this method of moderating prices gives us an artificial stability at some times, with periods of chaos between. I say it's an open question whether the whole thing does more good than harm, but my guess is that it does not.

When the Federal government appoints a manager to be a market maker, he will tend to lose his job if he loses too much money -- unless he is following some government strategy which is considered more important. When some giant business appoints a manager to be a market maker, same thing. If they can afford some losses to achieve a goal, they will do so. As a result, your evolutionary argument that market makers will tend to evolve by natural selection, fails in general.

It could be true in an AnCap society where there are no governments and no large businesses, though.

Apart from the question whether speculators do any good for anybody on average, there is the question what to do about them. I think it does hardly any good for government to try to discourage speculators -- that cure is likely to be worse than the original problem. Especially when it's possible that they occasionally do more good than harm. There should be plenty of gambling opportunities available, so that gamblers who do not actually know the details of a particular product will not be tempted to randomize markets. Government can help by legalizing gambling.

It may be possible to set up markets structured in a way that discourages excessive speculation, and if so then markets set up that way may tend to outcompete other markets. This can be done entirely by private enterprise. It would be mostly harmless for government to set up the markets and then get out of the way.

ContraryGuy on January 25, 2011, 08:53:21 am
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Charity and altruism will be the rule of the day!  No violence, no exploitation, no advantage-seeking!
Oh happy day!

Ah, very good:  the open admission of having run out of arguments of substance.  When you have to resort to skewering a caricature of the other guy's position, you're revealing that a man made of straw is as much of an opponent as you have the power to take down.  Viz.:


My adversary's
argument
is not alone
malevolent
but ignorant
to boot.

He hasn't even
got the sense
to state his so-called
"evidence"
in terms I can
refute.


---Piet Hein, Danish mathematician & poet


Oh, it wasnt really his quote I was being sarcastic about, but the whole idea of AnCap as a society.

You see, the ism of communes works well for small contained societies, like Ceres (and the various historical communities Sandy has pointed out before).

AnCap is just another variant ism of communes.  Except here its not collective ownership and share the wealth, its collective dis-ownership and 'git off'n my lawn afore I shoot you'.

This type of total individualism works great in small batches, but, like the Soviet Union, will eventually end in failure because there is no motivation to keep the society together.
I will admit you dont need any government for that, but the society will eventually look for someone to be a leader.
On Ceres, people recognize that Reggie is a leader type of person.  He has no official power, but people look to him for leader-like decisions.

And then there is the ZAP.  ZAP is what turns AnCap from an ism of the commune into Utopian Idealism.  Do you really think an entire country will adhere to an idea of not punching some fellow when he really, really deserved it?

I thought only Sandy was that kind of idealist.

mellyrn on January 25, 2011, 12:01:54 pm
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This type of total individualism works great in small batches, but, like the Soviet Union [emphasis added]

WTF??  Equating total individualism with the Soviet Union??

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there is no motivation to keep the society together.

That's the Hobbesian fallacy.  Hobbes is famous for the assertion that the natural life of man is "solitary, nasty, brutish, poor and short" (emphasis added again).  All his work in Leviathan is predicated on that assumption of solitary.

He's dead wrong.  Humans are only slightly less social than bees.  Humans need community.  Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson are considered such amazing adventures precisely because humans do not as a rule deal well with solitude.  Indeed, one of our most severe forms of punishment is being put in "solitary".  Our worst criminals don't even get that until they've been a problem in prison, and even then it's almost never for very long.

The only motivation needed to keep a society together is to be human.  The old USSR was an attempt to force a bunch of smaller societies to operate as one larger one; anything artificially held together will fall apart eventually.  But humans have an almost gravitational attraction for other humans -- societies form naturally, spontaneously, and though they may change form or format, it's very, very rare to find humans living completely solitary lives by choice.

As noted in the comic, natural "betas" will tend to find themselves an alpha, sure.  And natural alphas can, and will, hang out together, mutually respecting one another's personal sovereignty.

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Do you really think an entire country will adhere to an idea of not punching some fellow when he really, really deserved it?

Why, yes.  When the alternative is being outcast?  Absolutely.  I'm sure you have no interest in merely taking my word for it; allow me to refer you to the work of Jerry Harvey, who is neither an AnCap nor a ZAP writer but a business psychiatrist.  You, friend, will literally do anything -- even violate your own best judgment -- in order not to be cast out of your society.  Harvey can prove it.

Big.Swede on January 26, 2011, 05:56:24 am
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This type of total individualism works great in small batches, but, like the Soviet Union [emphasis added]

WTF??  Equating total individualism with the Soviet Union??

I think he is trying to compare results rather than methods. As there has been no "Great Social Experiment" with Anarc (Cap or otherwise, please correct me if im wrong) we can look towards the other GSE with Communism. On paper Communism is a great idea, everyone getting equal share, all pulling in the same direction and what not. Buuuut, as we have seen, in reality it didnt work that well due to human nature when scaled up to even the size of a huge country, let alone an entire world. But we do see smaller communities with working Communism (or similar views), even thriving ones.

What i think Contrary was going for is that result equailant. Works well on paper and/or in small scale, but when made a huge reality.... not so much, due to human nature.
"Im purely a layman, wondering from a laymans point of view."

mellyrn on January 26, 2011, 07:26:25 am
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What i think Contrary was going for is that result equailant.

Ah.  Thanks for clearing that up.

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Works well on paper and/or in small scale, but when made a huge reality.... not so much, due to human nature.

I see one other difference between successful communes and the USSR besides scale, and that is the voluntary nature of the communes.  Yep, human nature just does not like to be forced into things.

Imagine if sex were taught the way we teach, say, math or reading: 

Teacher (speaking crisply, in that voice that brooks no opposition):  Johnny, Mary:  come to the front of the room and demonstrate last night's assignment for the class.  You did do the homework, didn't you?  Didn't you?  Oh, for heaven's sake, people!  This is important!

Honest to goodness, one of our most basic drives (speaking of human nature, see) would be so shut down, the population would crash in a single generation, sustained only by those who escaped schooled sex.

Reciprocity is another basic drive (and the reason why waiters may be grateful for weirdly large tips but are also often made horribly uncomfortable by them, even to the point of refusing them -- because they don't have the means to reciprocate) and as the USSR showed, can be completely shut down by trying to enforce it.

Human nature?  Nobody likes to be forced (not for real -- even "bottoms" have a safe word).  And in any state, the people break all the laws they think they can, just because they can and because they still have some vestige of self-respect left -- like the slave who spits in Massa's dinner before serving it.  (I see a lot of safety in being labeled "law-abiding" -- but no pride.  Maybe that's just me.)

How about we have a go at going with human nature, instead of against it?

J Thomas on January 26, 2011, 07:56:22 am

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Works well on paper and/or in small scale, but when made a huge reality.... not so much, due to human nature.

I see one other difference between successful communes and the USSR besides scale, and that is the voluntary nature of the communes.  Yep, human nature just does not like to be forced into things.

Yes, and yet we are very very good at it.

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Imagine if sex were taught the way we teach, say, math or reading: 

Teacher (speaking crisply, in that voice that brooks no opposition):  Johnny, Mary:  come to the front of the room and demonstrate last night's assignment for the class.  You did do the homework, didn't you?  Didn't you?  Oh, for heaven's sake, people!  This is important!

Honest to goodness, one of our most basic drives (speaking of human nature, see) would be so shut down, the population would crash in a single generation, sustained only by those who escaped schooled sex.

This doesn't affect your basic point, but I doubt that. I expect that 90+% would demonstrate a basic competence in the subject. They would notice that they can do it whenever, within reason, with whoever, within reason. Depending on what gets taught they might all notice that they are capable of doing, say, competent oral sex on anyone regardless of gender.

As it is, most students notice that they are capable of taking group same-sex showers without feeling particularly strange about it. They just get used to it, regardless how they were raised to that time. It would probably be the same with sex education. I find it plausible that things would just work out (but that it would be a rather different society).

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Reciprocity is another basic drive (and the reason why waiters may be grateful for weirdly large tips but are also often made horribly uncomfortable by them, even to the point of refusing them -- because they don't have the means to reciprocate) and as the USSR showed, can be completely shut down by trying to enforce it.

Not to defend communism, but the USSR failed on multiple levels. One of the big things was a general lack of room for initiative. People who wanted to do something new and innovative for themselves tended to get forced into crime, because the official system had little room for that. And the concept of entirely top-down control was particularly Russian, even before communism. China similarly, and they have not particularly changed that -- the opportunity to do rote work for a giant private corporation instead of for a giant government is not necessarily a big improvement.

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Human nature?  Nobody likes to be forced (not for real -- even "bottoms" have a safe word).  And in any state, the people break all the laws they think they can, just because they can and because they still have some vestige of self-respect left -- like the slave who spits in Massa's dinner before serving it.  (I see a lot of safety in being labeled "law-abiding" -- but no pride.  Maybe that's just me.)

How about we have a go at going with human nature, instead of against it?

That sounds good. There's  a problem that the more people in the system, the more variability they display. There will inevitably be some whose self-respect demands that they break whatever customs happen to be in effect. There will be a few who actively look for things they can do to break the system. The usual response is to defend society against those people, one way or another. I think it's a noble goal to design a society with no weak points for attack, where everything is voluntary but no one can seriously damage the whole by choosing not to cooperate. I don't know ahead of time how workable that can be, but it's a noble goal and we would surely benefit by going a lot farther in that direction than we are now.

mellyrn on January 26, 2011, 09:57:03 am
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Yes, and yet we are very very good at it.

For a given value of "good", yes.

Though if you mean, "we are very very good at getting the best out of people by forcing them to do their best", not so much.

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I expect that 90+% would demonstrate a basic competence in the subject. They would notice that they can do it whenever, within reason, with whoever, within reason. Depending on what gets taught they might all notice that they are capable of doing, say, competent oral sex on anyone regardless of gender.

Substitute "math" for "sex" here, and you can still say the same thing -- and yet how many adults are as competent mathematically as they could be, if they'd had a more joyous learning of it?  How many can barely calculate correct change, much less grasp an integral function?  I say sex taught this way would make sex & sexiness as "uncool" among teenagers as math skills currently are.  Hey, I had a daughter who reveled in this competitive mathematics program called "MathCounts", so it does happen (she may have been homeschooled but her teammates, all girls, were not) -- and still the program is not exactly overwhelmed with kids trying to get into it.

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There will inevitably be some whose self-respect demands that they break whatever customs happen to be in effect. There will be a few who actively look for things they can do to break the system.

Not so much "there will be" as "there are".  They are less visible in a state because there's not much distinguishing them from ordinary folk who just don't like to be coerced.

As for these ornery folks themselves:  they're very useful, on the one hand, as a society is wise to check up on its habits & choices from time to time.  Perhaps the attempts at breaking will be instructive.  On the other, I have to note that these breaker-people are not so much free agents as victims of their own patterns.  We all are, of course; it's just that this one is relatively, even pathetically, obvious.

J Thomas on January 26, 2011, 11:29:14 am
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Yes, and yet we are very very good at it.

For a given value of "good", yes.

Though if you mean, "we are very very good at getting the best out of people by forcing them to do their best", not so much.

No, I meant "we are very very good at being forced into things".

Lots of people manage to arrange their thinking so they don't even notice much resentment. If we believe what they say.

terry_freeman on January 26, 2011, 11:50:41 am
ContraryGuy, if you think "Git off my land afore I shoot you" captures the spirit of AnCap, then you have not been paying attention.

Much better to think "Don't threaten me, if you know what's good for you."

AnCap is likely to encourage small-scale communities - contrary to your vision of solitary hermits. It will not, however, conflate voluntary communities with large-scale government aggression.

Modern-day Amish communities - except for their abhorrence of technology - are very AnCap in spirit.


macsnafu on January 26, 2011, 12:01:17 pm

On a personal level, you can avoid some of the problems by making sure you never need to sell your labor in a buyers' market.

Anytime you are selling your labor and/or knowledge, it is a buyers market.
....
In the mainstream marketplace, it is always a buyers market.

Nonsense.  The market is *always* about both supply and demand.  You can't make a blanket statement like that without understanding what is affecting supply and demand.  Certainly in today's society, there are numerous laws and regulations that limit business competition, and thus create a "buyer's market" for labor, but it doesn't have to always be that way.   
I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

Brugle on January 26, 2011, 02:57:26 pm
I note that FEMA was doing it at a profit, mostly,
That's surprising.  Is there a reference?  I don't know anything about FEMA's program, but decades ago when I lived in Houston (where all things petroleum are of interest), I remember reading articles about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve which said that the government tended to buy when the price was high and sell when it was low.

Also, was this actual profit, considering inflation, storage costs, and amortization of capital costs?  Or was it profit using phony "government accounting", which allows the state of California to report about $500 billion of pension liabilities as about $50 billion?

quadibloc on January 26, 2011, 03:11:16 pm
And in any state, the people break all the laws they think they can, just because they can and because they still have some vestige of self-respect left --
Depends on the general state of the law.

If you have lots of stupid laws - like a 55 MPH national speed limit, or a national drinking age of 21 - you will indeed engender that kind of relationship between people and the law.

Respecting the rights of others, though, the way people would do in an AnCap society as well, is something that involves pride, not just safety. So if the laws stick to prohibiting the kinds of conduct that people already believed to be wrong, the fact that there is a state shouldn't, by itself, invert people's moral sense.

So all you need is to have politicians obey the voters, and limit what government can regulate, and things should be fine. At least, it seems like they generally were fine for a long period of time, at least for most people.

J Thomas on January 26, 2011, 03:16:53 pm
I note that FEMA was doing it at a profit, mostly,
That's surprising.  Is there a reference?

I interviewed with the director of FEMA for a job, and he made that claim. I don't know how much the published or unpublished data support it.

Competent market makers will make a profit most of the time, unless they have other priorities. They can lose big when there's a big change in real demand or supply which they don't find out about soon enough.

There's no particular reason for a market maker to be incompetent just because he gets a government salary instead of a salary from a private company. There's an argument that a government bureaucracy won't care if they lose money -- they can just ask Congress to give them more. And a government employee who's supposed to make a profit will keep the same responsibilities even if he fails, because government has no feedback loops to encourage performance, but instead any outcome is as good as any other. I think this argument is somewhat overstated though there is probably some tendency for it to be true.

ContraryGuy on January 26, 2011, 03:48:31 pm
ContraryGuy, if you think "Git off my land afore I shoot you" captures the spirit of AnCap, then you have not been paying attention.

Much better to think "Don't threaten me, if you know what's good for you."

AnCap is likely to encourage small-scale communities - contrary to your vision of solitary hermits. It will not, however, conflate voluntary communities with large-scale government aggression.

Modern-day Amish communities - except for their abhorrence of technology - are very AnCap in spirit.

Modern day Amish are neither abhorrent of technology nor market anarchists.
The Amish do not abhor technology, they are merely skeptical of it practical use.  Amish communities often have electricity and running water; some even have telephones.  Not modern phones like you and I have, but telephones nonetheless.
They are quite right to be skeptical of technology, because of its adverse impacts on their way of life.

The Amish are not, however, anarchists.  Capitalist or not.  The Amish way of life does not adhere to the vision of Anarcho-Capitalism as expressed here.
Unless I am mistaken there are no Amish Fortune 1000 companies.  I dont think the Amish even have companies.