Homer2101 on January 25, 2012, 12:16:00 am
Your post is too damned long and verbose. Pick an issue, state you premise or evidence and then don't beat it to death by over-talking it. Otherwise, I--and a good many others on this forum--will roll our eyes then move on to a post that has less words and more content.
The members of this forum are not a captive audience, and don't have to read anything they do not feel is worth their time. However, if someone responds to one of my posts, it seems polite to answer in as much detail as possible. I can condense arguments, but then someone will probably complain that I don't provide enough support, so I try to be thorough rather than concise. Will try and condense things, but no promises.

In skimming your post, I ran across this rather odd presumption:

The reason I keep raising definitions is because the an-cap societies I have seen proposed so far have no consensus-building institutions...

And yet, you fail to define consensus and you do not tell us why it is necessary for a society to exist. However, if you mean the prevailing ethos or guiding principles of a society, then I will reply that consensus is an emergent quality of individual human interactions in a group context. No institutions are required. In fact, I think that an institution that tries to "build" a consensus is on a fools errand.
Someone will probably complain about using a non-American source, but the Oxford English Dictionary definition seems as good as any. The first entry is perhaps more useful, because to me the essence of consensus isn't agreement, but rather acceptance.

I should have been more specific, and apologize. Consensus-building involves members of a society deciding on a course of action which all of them can live with, at least as far as I define it. In small groups consensus does emerge from human interaction, but that process doesn't work above the tribal level because people only interact with a small number of other individuals in depth. I may "interact" with a cashier in a supermarket once a week, but that interaction has nothing to do with building consensus. Which means that a complex society must have some means of arriving at outcomes which most of its members can accept. Unless that society is made up of individuals who either share a gestalt mind or are so alike as to be indistinguishable.

Even a complex society will probably have "natural" consensus on some guiding principles, but those guiding principles do not exist in a vacuum. They must be applied to real-world problems, else they're little more than empty words. The interaction between general principles and a perceived problem is where most disagreements will arise in any society, and especially in a diverse society, because reasonable minds will differ on what the "best" outcome is for many situations. I raised examples where concepts such as "harm" and "aggression" can be interpreted in multiple reasonable ways in earlier posts, and will not repeat them here, as requested.

A society will need a mechanism for dealing with problems in ways that most can live with. I say "dealing with" because a society can decide to not respond to a problem -- for example, a legislature might decide that the state should not provide access to healthcare; that is a response, and presumably one most in that society can accept even if they do not agree with it. "Problems" in this context might be a dispute between two individuals over the sale of a cow; so long as those individuals accept the result as valid, their problem has been dealt with. Society may not be the best term to use here, but writing "people who matter" in every other sentence is a bit too wordy even for me. Should be obvious that in a country of illiterate dirt farmers ruled over by a nobility, the opinions of the farmers don't matter unless the farmers make themselves matter. Modern society is much more complex than a preindustrial one, the number of relevant individuals is enormous, and in an an-cap society based on individual sovereignty every individual's opinion theoretically matters, much as individual opinion is very important under a democratic government.

Anyways. It does not matter whether disputes are resolved in a courtroom, or at a duel at midnight, or by casting finger bones. That in itself is a consensus-building institution so long as most members of society accept the outcomes as valid; in industrial societies people tend to want some sort of rational result, though. Most societies have considerably more than an institution for resolving disputes -- a legislature is a consensus-building institution for determining how to use the apparatus of the state to deal with a perceived problem, or whether to deal with it at all, for example.

A society can theoretically exist without such mechanisms, but only at a very limited level, because otherwise divergence of opinion will lead to armed conflict. I am not saying that a society must have the entire paraphernalia of the modern state, but that some sort of consensus-building institution will have to exist for it to function as a coherent whole. Else the differing minds of that society will split and the whole thing will fragment because individuals cannot reach outcomes which they find acceptable.

To insert the obligatory Heinlein quote:
Quote from: Podkayne of Mars
Politics is just a name for the way we get things done . . . without fighting. We dicker and compromise and everybody thinks he has received a raw deal, but somehow after a tedious amount of talk we come up with some jury-rigged way to do it without getting anybody's head bashed in. That's politics.

Apologies for the length, but that's about as concise an argument as I can make.

Homer2101 on January 25, 2012, 12:32:27 am
Lots of interesting stuff.  Our posts are getting longer and more complex.  This is me breaking down, and strenuously resisting interacting with all the interesting bits and just keeping what are most interesting to me.  If I missed one that you are more interested in, please bring it back up and we'll drop the others.
I find more or less everything in this thread interesting, so it's all fair game. If I don't address something, please poke me and I'll get to it.  

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Contracts exist because businesses want to regulate their commercial relationships. Laws serve a similar function. A business owner generally wants to know its responsibilities and obligations before making an investment; I doubt many would want to determine what they can and cannot do through social osmosis. And few towns will want to wait for a factory to start dumping waste before taking action.

They're asking for the moon.  There are some things you can know in advance, which you put in the contract.  Then life blindsides you.  Few towns may want to wait for a factory to start dumping waste but every last one of them did -- partly because the dumping practice preceded (by centuries or millennia) the awareness of the toxicity.
A good contract is proactive, and any good drafting attorney will provide for contingencies and for unexpected events, or else make sure that there are default rules in place which all parties to the contract find acceptable. Similarly, a good law is proactive and provides for rules before things get out of hand. While not all contingencies can be predicted, it's possible to provide for default rules for situations which can be foreseen, which usually are the ones most likely to occur anyways. We might not be able to anticipate all future pollutants, but we can make laws for those we know of, create defaults for future ones, and then make a system for amending the entire law if necessary. Just because we cannot anticipate everything does not mean that we shouldn't think of the future at all. A good system is sufficiently flexible that it can adapt to new circumstances.

Not talking about pre-industrial societies, mind. The toxicity of industrial byproducts was well-known in the nineteenth century. The factory operators simply didn't care, and at the time it was considered an acceptable cost of industrialization.

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Laws generally do not create conflict

Yes, they do -- they don't create violent conflict, but they do open up brand new avenues for disagreement.  Here, I'll show you:

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But a law can solve a boundary dispute without need for violence, or even the expense of arbitration/litigation.

It will also create boundary disputes by creating new boundaries.
A law is a codified rule arrived at through discussion and compromise, and by being codified allows for predictability. Subsequent disagreements which are resolved through litigation/arbitration/whatever increase predictability because individuals can look back on cases similar to theirs and see how their own case will turn out. Obviously any rule is subject to interpretation, but that doesn't create conflict in any meaningful sense any more than would an unwritten rule. To go back to boundary disputes, people will argue over ownership regardless of whether or not the law of adverse possession exists, but that law allows individuals to determine what their rights are without resorting to violence, which is more than I can say for a law that says simply "do no harm".

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modern industrial development creates new problems

No, it does not.  There is only one problem, ever:  do no harm.

What you want laws for is to spell out, a priori, what that means.  Got kids?  Tell a kid, "Don't touch Mommy's vase."  So he goes and gets a stick, and touches the vase with the stick.  He's not in violation of your law, now, is he?  "Don't touch it with anything."  So maybe he blows air at it, to see if air "counts".  How about jumping up and down so that the floor vibrates, and the table, and the vase?  See what I mean by the existence of a law opening up disagreements?  You can send the kid to his room (because he knew damned good and well what you wanted), but you can't send an entire society to its collective room -- and we all do this, not just fractious three-year-olds.  How about Mr. Silverstein of World Trade Center fame, with his towers insured against acts of terrorism, arguing that the two plane strikes were two separate events so he should be paid double, and the insurance company arguing that it was all one event?  No matter how detailed your contract, you can always always always find some new hair to split.

I say that the more details you have, the more hairs there are to split.  Laws will therefore multiply problems just by defining more and more of them, smaller and smaller.

One law:  do no harm.  Then if I think you have harmed or wronged me, I tell our community that I feel injured or endangered or whatever it is.  I make my case to them, you make yours, and either they tell me I'm being oversensitive, or they tell you you're being a jerk, or they tell us that we're both idiots, or whatever it is.  It's what we do in court anyway, except that we have to pay lawyers through the nose for the use of the specialized language of The Law.

If there were more specific laws in place, you could harm me by doing the "I didn't touch the vase, the stick did" trick and maybe no lawyer would take my case because they could see you weren't technically in violation.

Or maybe they would, seeing an opportunity to soak us both.
The things people could do to harm one another increased exponentially with industrialization, as did the scale of the harm. Preindustrial societies have to worry mostly about intentional harms, or at worst relatively minor negligent acts that cause harm; any decent survey of old Anglo-American law shows as much. In comparison, an industrial society has to worry about unintentional harm that can level an entire city. Transport of toxic chemicals, for example, can result in very severe harm on an enormous scale even when the transporter exercises utmost care. Ditto for nuclear energy plants. In such cases, a government-made law can reduce uncertainty by providing rules, such as immunity for chemical transporters who exercise due diligence, and regulation for how such things should be transported to minimize risk to people. A court can do the same thing after the fact, of course, but anticipatory legislation is more useful because it reduces uncertainty and encourages development.

More generally, it's a matter of abstraction.  "Harm" is a deceptively simple concept that in practice is so ambiguous as to be meaningless. It does form the basis for most laws in one way or another, though. Anglo-American tort law does more or less what you suggest should be done in an ideal society -- two parties are brought before a neutral person or panel, present their arguments, and a decision is rendered which both parties are required to accept. However, such a system requires predictability, because a system of dispute resolution which is perceived as arbitrary or biased will not be able to maintain legitimacy; a system whose results are not accepted will not survive for long without assistance. Which means the "community" will still have to follow precedent and at least try and appear objective, same as any modern court. In the long run the system will be no different than the modern judicial system.

A law can be drafted very broadly, of course, same as any rule. That usually is not a good thing. Good laws, like good rules, should be written with a reasonable degree of specificity. For example, a U.S. state whose name escapes my mind at one point enacted a child porn law written so broadly that it arguably criminalized possession of written descriptions of fictional minors engaging in sexual activities. The state attorney general of course argued that his office would never try and prosecute anyone under such a construction. Shortly after the law was passed, the state predictably prosecuted a man because of his dream journal under just such a law.

Same with the vase example. A rule made absurdly specific will not cover all eventualities, so it has to be reasonably broad. "Do not harm" is however even more subject varying interpretations than "do no touch." Yet the rule still has to be specific enough that it doesn't lead to unwanted results. Ditto for contracts. Silverstein and the insurance company might argue over the exact compensation he is entitled to, but the contract still served its purpose of protecting his property. Just because it did not predict all possible outcomes does not mean that a contract is a failure.

Just because we cannot predict everything, does not mean that we should not try and anticipate for eventualities. No method of arranging human relations is going to be perfect. But that doesn't mean we should give up. Yet the system you've suggested, of individuals presenting their case before a presumably impartial body, isn't different from our current system, so not sure we're really in disagreement. I do think such a system would essentially be a copy of our current judicial system, with precedents and odd points of law and considerations of social policy, though.

Or maybe they would avoid the political hot potato of contradictory laws:  for example, the 5th Amendment says you may not be compelled to provide evidence against yourself.  But the IRS demands such information every year.  But you have the right not to do that.  But the IRS will take your house if you don't. . . .
Not going to go into Fifth Amendment interpretation. I am not as familiar with the subject as I'd like. According to Wikipedia, an individual can be required to provide non-incriminating information such as his annual income, but might not have to provide incriminating information such as the source of that income. That more or less matches what I know about income tax law, since the IRC requires individuals to report all "income" however obtained, but not necessarily its sources.

It shows how reasonable minds can differ in interpreting even something as seemingly-simple as "[N]or shall [any person] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."

Here -- IRS vs Constitution -- we have the State itself in violation (one way or another).  But the State controls the courts, and the laws, and the enforcers.  Who or what enforces the law upon the enforcers of the law?
Depends on the state. In New York an individual can bring an Article 78 proceeding, and probably has other remedies I am sadly not aware of. At the federal level, individuals can sue agents of the state under a number of theories, though their success may vary. In almost all cases there are also administrative procedures to address violations by agents of the state.

In general, a lot depends on the state and its controlling government. Well-constructed state institutions are designed to be limited in power, have mechanisms for limiting the potential for abuse, and allow private citizens to recover damages and punish violations. Separate enforcement agencies, separation of interests and of purpose, and other tools can be used to good effect. I usually speak of the state apparatus as a single whole, but the state is made up of multiple parts. In well-constructed states there is some tension between those parts, which can be harnessed to reduce potential for violations.

Strong civil and economic societies also help restrain the state, especially under a democratic government, because they provide an additional layer of powerful oversight. Citizen-watchdog groups are a prime example.

 
Please when considering crimes, do not omit the archogenic ones -- the ones committed by the law enforcement institution itself.  >Here< is a bit of a study claiming that, in the 20thc, you were 6 times as likely to be killed by your own government than in a war.  Even if I were less in conflict with my neighbor thanks to laws, now I have a new neighbor, the State, with which I can be in conflict, a neighbor created by law, and one which can kill me with impunity.
A state is neither inherently benign, not inherently evil. It's a tool to be used by those who control it. Some of the links on that site are dead, but it's an interesting resource, and thanks for pointing it out. Am roughly familiar with most of what the site author talks about. I disagree with some of the author's methodology, at least skimming the site, because he seems to lump things together inappropriately to arrive at a large number purely for shock value. A lot of people were killed during the Great Leap Forward from famine, but those deaths should not be lumped together with deaths from the Thirty Years' War, for example.  

The simple answer would be that individuals can also kill a lot of people, and private organizations can be very efficient at doing so. Pogroms in eastern Europe and the Balkans were often carried out with little state support -- the state would merely look the other way and let individuals do what they would. The African slave trade is another example, and one where the state actually moved in to ban the practice despite opposition from individuals.

The best answer I can provide in this space is a continuation of my response above to your question of who enforces laws against the state. The apparatus of the state is controlled by a government. The best government is built in such a way that mass murder against its own citizens is made virtually impossible. I say "virtually" because with human beings anything is theoretically possible. True democracy helps; separation of powers horizontally between branches and institutions and vertically between federal, state and municipal levels helps even more. Enumeration of powers, limitation of authority, and other tools can be used to restrict the government's ability to abuse the power of the state. The electoral system's interaction with the social, economic, political, ethnic, geographic and religious divisions within a country is very important, and a good electoral system must account for the composition of the electorate and its various interests.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were very much concerned with how to make an effective government that would neither become a vehicle for mob rule, nor a dictatorship that would abuse its powers. They mostly succeeded. A state isn't doomed to perpetuate crimes against its own citizens.

It is also incorrect to infer that states do not protect individuals from violence merely because in the aggregate more have died from the actions of the state than from actions of individuals. There are numerous examples of "stateless" societies where the risk of violent death is quite high.

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Lawyers arguing over a point of labor law is a better outcome, at least to me, than workers burning down company offices.

You see these as the only two options?  It's either laws and police and chiefs-of-police, or wanton destruction?  Huh.
Sort of. Without a means of arriving at a peaceful resolution to their conflict, the only remaining alternative to the parties involved is force. If an arbitrator reaches a decision which becomes precedent, and can enforce his decision against an individual, he is not far removed from being an agent of a real-life government, even if enforcement is merely a writ "allowing" the winner of a dispute to use force. I prefer a system where disputes can be handled peacefully.

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I'd be genuinely interested in what you imagine a stateless society to be like.
Depends on the core assumptions. A functioning anarcho-capitalist society can exist under certain circumstances.

Does not answer the question.  I was having trouble with your distinction between human society and government. I want you to either make an equation, society=government, or to tell me what the difference is.  I'm not concerned with the circumstances that you think could give rise to an anarchy, nor to your estimate of its likelihood of arising/existing/surviving.  I just want to know how you would know one if you saw one.  You ride into town and -- ? What do you find?

If you have to drop anything, I'd rather it not be this one.  This is my big interest just now.
A society in that sentence is a group of people who interact with one another on a fairly regular basis. That's about as narrow a definition as I can come up with. A government is, broadly, a means of achieving a socially-acceptable solution to problems; it's also the control mechanism for the apparatus of the state.

As far as I understand it, the defining characteristic of an anarchist society is the absence of a state apparatus and the government which would control it. The results of such a state of affairs will vary depending on assumptions. Not sure if that's the answer you're looking for. I won't go into what I think such a society could look like, because that doesn't seem to be what you're looking for, and because it'd be an entirely subjective answer dependent on too many variables.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 12:40:21 am by Homer2101 »

Homer2101 on January 25, 2012, 01:35:08 am
The reason I keep raising definitions is because the an-cap societies I have seen proposed so far have no consensus-building institutions, so their core principles have to be accepted by virtually everyone and defined concretely enough to survive future problems.

We might behave piratically to outsiders, or outsiders might behave piratically to us, or enough outsiders in a certain group behave piratically to us that we suspect all outsiders in that group, and are tolerant of insiders behaving piratically against members of that outside group, which is the anarchist equivalent of a state of war between groups, but while such situations are possible, and indeed quite likely, we really don't want efficient and safe methods of dealing with such problems.

That an anarchic society has no mechanism for creating a consensus that makes it safe to use violence in inherently controversial ways is a feature, not a bug.
It's true that a society can accept the above as the cost of near-absolute freedom. The results however might be rather unpleasant in practice, so not sure how many people would actually find the costs acceptable. People have always banded together for protection, in large part because people have historically destroyed or absorbed weaker neighbors, and have perpetrated all sorts of cruelties on one another for no objectively good reason. Freedom is pointless if someone with a bigger stick can take it away.

Lots of interesting stuff.  Our posts are getting longer and more complex.  This is me breaking down, and strenuously resisting interacting with all the interesting bits and just keeping what are most interesting to me.  If I missed one that you are more interested in, please bring it back up and we'll drop the others.

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Contracts exist because businesses want to regulate their commercial relationships. Laws serve a similar function. A business owner generally wants to know its responsibilities and obligations before making an investment; I doubt many would want to determine what they can and cannot do through social osmosis. And few towns will want to wait for a factory to start dumping waste before taking action.

They're asking for the moon.  There are some things you can know in advance, which you put in the contract.  Then life blindsides you.  Few towns may want to wait for a factory to start dumping waste but every last one of them did -- partly because the dumping practice preceded (by centuries or millennia) the awareness of the toxicity.

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Laws generally do not create conflict

Yes, they do -- they don't create violent conflict, but they do open up brand new avenues for disagreement. 

Good points.  The statement ignores the question of just *where* law comes from.  If, as in a common or customary legal system, law is 'discovered' or derived from the community, then you already have a consensus of sorts, and much less conflict, because most people have already agreed to abide by these laws.  However, if legislators are creating laws, then who knows how they are creating these laws, or how many people will agree to abide by them?  It's a much riskier way of creating law, and will require more effort for enforcement, especially if more people don't agree to these laws.  Legislation creates strife and chaos, not peace and order.
The decisions made by elected officials represent social consensus as much as would a direct poll of the electorate. Legislatures are actually better at determining social consensus because they can sit down and work things out; an electorate of even a few thousand people would have a much difficult time reaching an outcome that most can live with, especially for a diverse population. Elected officials can of course be influenced by bribes and such, but so can an arbitrator in an an-cap society. Strong civil institutions can limit the impact of bribes and such, because an elected official in a true democracy depends on the favor of his constituents for survival no matter how many millions in campaign contributions he may receive. An an-cap society . . . does not generally have as many mechanisms for ensuring that dispute resolution is fair, and it should not be hard to imagine a situation where arbitrators are little more than rubber stamps for corporations, or where "private security" is a polite euphemism for gang-like protection rackets.

As for agreeing to abide by the laws, that is where consensus-building comes in. We as individuals do not have to like a piece of legislation, so long as it is acceptable. I might not like the Citizens United decision, but I will abide by it; some corporations may not like legislation restricting their ability to donate funds, but they'll mostly abide by the law and seek to subvert it through legal means. Of course, bad or arbitrary legislation will create problems, but I never argued that the current system is perfect.

Which brings me to the second point: a government doesn't merely exist to pass negative legislation which prohibits certain behavior. A government also uses the apparatus of the state to solve problems which the market and private organizations cannot solve. All transportation is subsidized to some degree through tax-paid funds and use of eminent domain, which is a good thing because the benefits of a good transportation network are enormous but building one is prohibitively expensive and unprofitable.  Common defense is a traditional problem which private entities cannot easily solve, for what should be obvious reasons. It takes one warmonger to start a war, and he won't bother to count the ADT signs before carpet-bombing a city, so all those private insurance companies and security firms an an-cap society will rely on for defense will either have to defend all the free-riders in that city or, more likely, take their money and run. Social Security was implemented to reduce the burden on individuals of supporting retirees.

As I've said before, the state is a problem-solving institution which, harnessed to a well-constructed democratic government is able to deal with problems which cannot be handled through other means in a way people find acceptable. A real-life an-cap society therefore would have to either deal with problems the state currently handles, or accept them as costs of freedom.


mellyrn on January 25, 2012, 09:29:32 am
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It is also incorrect to infer that states do not protect individuals from violence merely because in the aggregate more have died from the actions of the state than from actions of individuals. There are numerous examples of "stateless" societies where the risk of violent death is quite high.

States obviously do not protect individuals from violence, because they do in fact injure and kill (including outside the laws that allow them to) their members.  That stateless societies also involve the risk of violent death does not mean that archogenic violent death does not occur!

What death-by-state-agents means is that the claim that states do protect individuals from violence is false.  At best, states protect individuals from harm inflicted by unauthorized individuals. 

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It's true that a society can accept the above as the cost of near-absolute freedom. The results however might be rather unpleasant in practice, so not sure how many people would actually find the costs acceptable....Freedom is pointless if someone with a bigger stick can take it away.

It's true that a society can accept government as the cost of protection. The results however have been seen to be unpleasant in practice.  Security is meaningless if someone with a badge and an office can imprison and/or kill me and/or take my stuff on mere suspicion, or for "the greater good" (eminent domain?), or for no reason at all.

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Without a means of arriving at a peaceful resolution to their conflict, the only remaining alternative to the parties involved is force.

True.  You seem to say, though, that a government, with lots of very specific laws and, of course, archons and policemen, is THE means of peaceful resolution, and that an anarchy has no access to peaceful resolution, as in:

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law allows individuals to determine what their rights are without resorting to violence (emphasis in the original)

And yet I settle disputes with neighbors all the time without either law or violence.  My goats got out and destroyed a couple of my neighbor's trees.  I replaced them, without either of us invoking cops or property law or anything beyond valuing each other's good will.  He could so easily have called Animal Control or something.  And it's not like we're close friends, either.

Now, I concede that that won't always happen; humans can be such jerks.  You want laws and enforcers to protect yourself from jerks.  I get that.  I want a lack of laws and enforcers to protect myself from the jerks who get badges and uniforms and titles.  If you think jerkishness goes away with a badge and uniform, you are believing in magic.  If badged uniformed agents of the state behave better than the rest of us, then give us all badges, uniforms and official titles.  If it does not -- then your solution to human-on-human violence comes down to "give some of us jerks special power over the rest of us".  Wow.

In an anarchy, I can defend myself against ALL the jerks (insofar as my ability allows).  Under government, if I resist the enforcers even when they are breaking the law, even though I am technically within my rights, I am awfully likely to be found guilty of the crime of "resisting arrest".  The state is in a position to find itself innocent, whether the ordinary people agree that it is or not.

Show me why violence is the ONLY resource the members of an anarchic community have.

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The decisions made by elected officials represent social consensus as much as would a direct poll of the electorate.

!!!  What planet are you from?  In 2008, the year of the bailouts, calls to congresscritters were running, according to some pundits, 300-to-1 AGAINST.  Other pundits joked, "The calls are split 50-50:  50% 'no' and 50% 'hell no'!"  And yet the bailouts passed.   Just for one example.

We make jokes like, "How can you tell when a politician is lying?  His lips are moving!"  That's funny because it's so close to true.  Which makes your statement above desperately disingenuous.  I guess you really do believe in the magic that holding office removes jerkishness.

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A law is a codified rule ... and by being codified allows for predictability.

The one thing we can predict is that someone, somewhere, some time, will dispute what it means.  Probably before the ink is dry.

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arrived at through discussion and compromise

Q: Why does the discussion and compromise have to happen in advance? 
Q: There are many, many laws that never achieved public discussion -- I certainly never had any say in them, and yet I am expected to obey them even when I think they are positively harmful to me.  As I never in any practical sense consented to that contract, why should I be held to it?

A law should be a codified rule arrived at through discussion and compromise.  And, at first, the laws may well be that.  They aren't now.  A codified system will be co-opted by psychopaths (simply because psychopaths, by definition, are willing to do absolutely anything to get what they want, and normals, with consciences, aren't).  At least, in an anarchy, there isn't a "system" to be co-opted.

>Here is a case where doing away with laws reduces harm.<  Call it an experiment in anarchy.  And it seems to be working.

macsnafu on January 25, 2012, 10:37:38 am
The decisions made by elected officials represent social consensus as much as would a direct poll of the electorate. Legislatures are actually better at determining social consensus because they can sit down and work things out; an electorate of even a few thousand people would have a much difficult time reaching an outcome that most can live with, especially for a diverse population. Elected officials can of course be influenced by bribes and such, but so can an arbitrator in an an-cap society. Strong civil institutions can limit the impact of bribes and such, because an elected official in a true democracy depends on the favor of his constituents for survival no matter how many millions in campaign contributions he may receive. An an-cap society . . . does not generally have as many mechanisms for ensuring that dispute resolution is fair, and it should not be hard to imagine a situation where arbitrators are little more than rubber stamps for corporations, or where "private security" is a polite euphemism for gang-like protection rackets.

A true democracy would have no elected officials!  Everyone would be a legislator and would vote directly on the issues.  Instead, we have something more akin to a representative democracy, where people vote for the officials who then vote on the issues.  And there are ever so many issues, and usually only two or three candidates running for any particular office.  So you agree with candidate A about 70% of the time, and candidate B about 40% of the time.  Naturally, you vote for candidate A, and luckily, a majority of your fellow voters agree, and A becomes a Congressman. 70% of the time, he votes the way you want on the issues, 30% of the time, he doesn't.  A big issue comes up, like SOPA, for example, and he votes contrary to your wishes, even though you wrote him or called him up and told him your preferences.  Okay, he's up for re-election in, say, a year after this big vote took place.  You still only agree with candidate B 40% of the time--are you really going to vote for B because A voted against your wishes on that one big issue?  A still goes 70% your way.  And regardless of how you vote, your fellow voters also have a vote.

So where in all this electoral nonsense does democratic consensus and accountability come into it?  I didn't even bother to worry about corruption and bribes, just the way the system is *designed* to work.  With private arbitration, there are multiple arbiters, and you don't have to wait until election time to switch if one seems to be unduly influenced.

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As for agreeing to abide by the laws, that is where consensus-building comes in. We as individuals do not have to like a piece of legislation, so long as it is acceptable. I might not like the Citizens United decision, but I will abide by it; some corporations may not like legislation restricting their ability to donate funds, but they'll mostly abide by the law and seek to subvert it through legal means. Of course, bad or arbitrary legislation will create problems, but I never argued that the current system is perfect.
And the corporations have a lot more influence on legislators than you do.  If they don't like legislation, there's a LOT more they can do to get it changed than you can, and that's assuming they weren't already in there in the first place helping to create the initial legislation.

And, after all, who decides exactly what constitutes a problem that government needs to solve, and who writes the legislation that gets voted on?

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Which brings me to the second point: a government doesn't merely exist to pass negative legislation which prohibits certain behavior. A government also uses the apparatus of the state to solve problems which the market and private organizations cannot solve. All transportation is subsidized to some degree through tax-paid funds and use of eminent domain, which is a good thing because the benefits of a good transportation network are enormous but building one is prohibitively expensive and unprofitable.  Common defense is a traditional problem which private entities cannot easily solve, for what should be obvious reasons. It takes one warmonger to start a war, and he won't bother to count the ADT signs before carpet-bombing a city, so all those private insurance companies and security firms an an-cap society will rely on for defense will either have to defend all the free-riders in that city or, more likely, take their money and run. Social Security was implemented to reduce the burden on individuals of supporting retirees.
Many issues lumped into this.  Suffice it to say that Social Security is doing a lousy job of supporting retirees, especially with central-bank controlled inflation. Transportation has not been solved by government, but unnecessarily complicated.  I've covered transportation in detail in other posts, but transportation is a service, and as such, people will get what they pay for.  Eminent domain is too easily abused, and is unnecessary anyway, assuming city zoning and city planning and other regulations do not interfere in the land market, and how people arrange their living and working situations.  But since they do, it should be obvious that government is creating the problems that it then subsequently tries to solve, not solving problems that the market cannot handle.
Wars are started and fought by governments.  That one warmonger can only start a war if he has dictatorial control over a governmental power structure.  Otherwise, he's just some idiot who doesn't get along with other people very well.

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As I've said before, the state is a problem-solving institution which, harnessed to a well-constructed democratic government is able to deal with problems which cannot be handled through other means in a way people find acceptable. A real-life an-cap society therefore would have to either deal with problems the state currently handles, or accept them as costs of freedom.
As indicated above, many problems government "solves" are problems that government created in the first place.  Freedom entails responsibilities, but it affords more opportunities for problem-solving over this complicated governmental structure that *requires* a power structure that can legally violate peoples' rights, and ends up having unintended consequences, and the ever-present threat of tyranny looming over its citizens.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 01:36:48 pm by macsnafu »
I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

sam on January 25, 2012, 01:24:10 pm
Quote from: Homer2101 link=topic=668.msg18152#msg18152
Consensus-building involves members of a society deciding on a course of action which all of them can live with, at least as far as I define it.

The market solution is that some people do one thing and some people do another.  If, for example, the state provides "free" lunches, they will theoretically provide the same lunch to everyone, and we have to have "consensus".  Observe that in practice in those states where the state provides the food, in order to ensure that everyone has enough to eat, in actual practice rather than equal food, all those with the least power starve, because in practice, consensus can only work in small groups no larger than a large family.

The state is not mechanism of consensus, but of violence.  It generally originates in a bandit who is so successful that he sticks around, for example William the conqueror, a bandit who is so successful that people accept that he has the right to use violence in ways that others may not.

According to official history, the state then got better and better.  Supposedly government is good for you, and more government is better for you, but arguably it got worse and worse, as more and more parasitic bureaucratic vermin multiplied, the state got more and more expensive and less and less efficient and less and less effective.

Politicians are not a consensus building apparatus - observe how they foster division and conflict, dividing the people against each other.  They are some of the state's public relations officers.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 01:33:30 pm by sam »

sam on January 25, 2012, 07:33:23 pm
That an anarchic society has no mechanism for creating a consensus that makes it safe to use violence in inherently controversial ways is a feature, not a bug.

It's true that a society can accept the above as the cost of near-absolute freedom. The results however might be rather unpleasant in practice, so not sure how many people would actually find the costs acceptable. People have always banded together for protection

In an anarchic society, people will often choose to band together for protection - but each will individually choose who to band with, and whether to band or not.

Tucci78 on January 27, 2012, 09:12:34 am
Aaand the troll is back. . .

Back, and asking the same questions that have been asked and answered before. 

Maybe it's selective amnesia...

Not really a problem, is it?  These kinds of repetition keep the fundamental philosophical issues in play. 

I'm always mindful of the "beer money" character of science fiction mentioned by writer Poul Anderson a few decades ago, in which he emphasized that the cost of an average book was about the same as that of a quantity of beer, and it was incumbent upon the writer to provide the reader with at least as much entertainment value as the reader might've gotten from putting his spending power into the rental of said quantity of suds.

Now, the proprietors of this Web site aren't demanding monetary payment of the readers visiting this virtual locus.  Nonetheless, they're conscientious about providing the requisite entertainment value.  So what are they "receiving" in compensation for their entertaining efforts?

The way I see it, nothing more - or less - than the conscious consideration of the anarcocapitalist (AnCap) philosophy.

That being the case, the sorts of opportunities for explicit discussion of AnCap sociopolitical systems provided by - for example - this troll are pretty much precisely what this site's proprietors are trying to develop and exploit.

No matter how repetitious these discussions might seem to the regulars, they're didactic as all hell, and can be of great value to newcomers directed to this site by one means or another.

Much as I dislike the overworn expression "teachable moment," I've got to admit that as a preceptor myself I've used 'em to the hilt whenever I've come across them.

Why should they not be so exploited here? 

Bless the trolls.  Nothing helps set the lesson in the student's memory like an egregiously bad example.
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

SandySandfort on January 27, 2012, 10:20:09 am
Now, the proprietors of this Web site aren't demanding monetary payment of the readers visiting this virtual locus.... So what are they "receiving" in compensation for their entertaining efforts?

The way I see it, nothing more - or less - than the conscious consideration of the anarcocapitalist (AnCap) philosophy.

Well yeah, but even more, we would really like to get popular and sell a lot of books; maybe get a movie deal and make mucha plata.  ;D

Bob G on January 28, 2012, 08:10:58 am
Aaand the troll is back. . .


Not really a problem, is it?  These kinds of repetition keep the fundamental philosophical issues in play . . . the sorts of opportunities for explicit discussion of AnCap sociopolitical systems provided by - for example - this troll are pretty much precisely what this site's proprietors are trying to develop and exploit . . .

Bless the trolls.  Nothing helps set the lesson in the student's memory like an egregiously bad example.

First, there's a big difference between a genuine 'newbie' who may be unfamiliar with the concepts and a troll who either can not or will not accept the premises raised.

A polite newbie will try to scan FAQs (hint to webmaster(s)) or previous threads to see if hisher questions have already been addressed. It's possible they have not, or heshe couldn't find answers in the jumble.

I for one am willing to respond, with luck being able to 'point' the questioner to previous threads and/or outside references.

A troll raises the same objections again and again (and again and again and . . .), here usually couched in or reducible to the idea that, "If we didn't have Government to do 'X', it wouldn't get done." This either demonstrates the troll's inability or unwillingness to allow that there may be other paths to a free and just society than by the one we currently have, or hisher contempt for the other folk on the forum in that heshe perceives the others as stupid for not accepting hisher worldview, or hisher childish glee in 'stirring the pot' for entertainment's sake.

In any case, I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with them.

Newbies are cool, and welcome. Screw the trolls.
Whatsoever, for any cause, seeketh to take or give
  Power above or beyond the Laws, suffer it not to live.
Holy State, or Holy King, or Holy People's Will.
  Have no truck with the senseless thing, order the guns and kill.

The penultimate stanza of Rudyard Kipling's MacDonough's Song

SandySandfort on January 28, 2012, 11:05:08 am
First, there's a big difference between a genuine 'newbie' who may be unfamiliar with the concepts and a troll who either can not or will not accept the premises raised.

I agree with your point about newbies and trolls, but I have an English usage nit to pick about this:

A polite newbie will try to scan FAQs (hint to webmaster(s)) or previous threads to see if hisher questions have already been addressed. It's possible they have not, or heshe couldn't find answers in the jumble.

I loathe politically correct neologism such as hisher, heshe, s/he, etc. This "problem" was solved half a millennium ago:

Long before the use of generic he was condemned as sexist, the pronouns they, their, and them were used in educated speech and in all but the most formal writing to refer to indefinite pronouns and to singular nouns of general personal reference, probably because such nouns are often not felt to be exclusively singular: If anyone calls, tell them I'll be back at six. Everyone began looking for their books at once. Such use is not a recent development, nor is it a mark of ignorance. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/they

See also Usage section at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They

And don't even get me started about Ms....

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on January 30, 2012, 02:05:31 pm
A troll raises the same objections again and again (and again and again and . . .), here usually couched in or reducible to the idea that, "If we didn't have Government to do 'X', it wouldn't get done." This either demonstrates the troll's inability or unwillingness to allow that there may be other paths to a free and just society than by the one we currently have, or hisher contempt for the other folk on the forum in that heshe perceives the others as stupid for not accepting hisher worldview, or hisher childish glee in 'stirring the pot' for entertainment's sake.

In my experience this is a sign that those making such arguments hold their differing opinion for reasons other than those which they argue.  Thus, one can defeat their arguments effectively and repeatedly and make no headway, since the real reason(s) are kept well-hidden.  In some cases the actual reason(s) for the position are not consciously known by those who are arguing (appearing to them as a generalized fear or discomfort), and in others it is because they doubt the truth of those reasons and/or they have invested their own sense of personhood or self worth in those ideas, and counters to those ideas are personally wounding.

For example, a government employee might give arguments of the form that "'X' wouldn't get done", when the real reason is that "without government, I will be unemployed, and have to 'start over'".


mellyrn on January 30, 2012, 05:31:16 pm
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a government employee

Or anyone who feeds at the taxman's trough:  arms merchants, state-run-medical beneficiaries, bankers and other businessmen who get bailouts, and so on.  Those whose de facto day care is government-run school.  All them.

Speaking as a gov't employee myself, though, I'd (much!) rather become unemployed and start over in an anarchy, than have the current system continue even if it never got any worse than it is.  I can't think of any way I could cause the change (at least, nothing more direct than participating in an education like this forum), so I won't -- and if I knew of any way to prevent the change, I wouldn't.

Eonknight on February 01, 2012, 03:48:58 pm
Hi all.

I've been reading the comic and following the forums for a while now, and I find all this discussion very interesting. Now I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as I'd like on this subject, so please bear with me.

First, let me be the devil's advocate for a moment here... I find that some version of the statement that "existing government is inefficient" is recurrent in making the case for AnCap, but from what I know, and to paraphrase another member of this forum, this is a feature (albeit costly) of the democratic system of government, not a bug: the system has been designed to be inefficient to prevent abuse of power.
Moreover:

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Firms that succeeded in making large scale central organization efficient, due to the leadership of a great man, for example Sam Walton, usually find that the successors of that great man are not so great.

Central organization can work on a large scale, but you need a great man to make it work, and there is a shortage of great men.

And, supposing you find a great man, finding a successor seldom works out so well.

I would respond that so far, in EFT, all the dicey situations have been handled by exceptional characters: Reggie, Babette, Libby, Bert and Ernie, Ed Turner et al., people that are leaders in their own right. So it seems the same can be said of AnCap. Big problems, regardless of the system used to address them, will always call for great men. Hence, I don't consider these valid arguments against government...

Second, the statement that the existing government is "violent" also doesn't sit too well with me. Let me explain: I do understand the context and what is meant by this statement, and I've always believed strongly that because someone else has it worse doesn't mean that I can't have it better. But please consider this: for all it's shortcomings (and boy, does it have some!), this system is what allows us, men, women and children alike, to be relatively safe. The possibility of us having our Darfour or Somalia moment is remote, to say the least. We (North Americans, especially) have never been so prosperous as a society as we are now, historically, despite the recent downturn. While I did suffer some minor, government-sanctioned abuse, I presently consider it the price I pay for relative safety and prosperity - in practice. Dealing in speculation - in this case "we would be even more safe/prosperous/technically advanced if AnCap had been implemented" is moot, as we will never have confirmation.

Lastly, as I believe has been said before, like socialism before it, AnCap sounds very good in theory but has a significant potential to go wrong. However, the problem I see is not so much with the system itself, but with the transition to such a system from our present situation. It goes without saying that the existing "powers that be" won't go down quietly, but it goes beyond that. In my opinion, the evolution of the so-called "western" society has made it such that people are now, more than ever, centered on their own well-being, far ahead of any sense of collectivity. While AnCap is centered on the individual, its birth will have to be brought about by people who put collective well-being before their own (at least to some degree). I can hardly see this change being brought about from the top down, and any attempt to bring it about from the bottom will probably be met with considerable resistance.

So while I welcome any attempt to improve our condition, and while AnCap seems promising, how do we get there?

mellyrn on February 01, 2012, 05:31:53 pm
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all the dicey situations have been handled by exceptional characters

Maybe.  Maybe they become great in the handling.  Thing about a state, however, is that you NEED a great man, to stand between you and the psychopaths that will ineluctably coopt the power.  An AnCap society doesn't have a power nexus to be coopted.

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be relatively safe

You, like others before you, discount archogenic crime (crime committed by the state, either by, say, policemen with delusions of grandeur, or by the state for the statecronies).  I maintain that the level of safety or danger is independent of the political system in place (we're all humans here, whether we have badges & titles or not), with the qualifier that, under government, I have no defense against archogenic crime and under AnCap I may defend myself against whomever I can.

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I presently consider it the price I pay for relative safety

The "safety" of not defining "minor, government-sanctioned abuse" as "abuse, period".

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like socialism before it, AnCap sounds very good in theory but has a significant potential to go wrong.

You imply that a representative republic ("We (North Americans, especially)") does not have a significant potential to go wrong.  I see not only that it has such potential, but that it already has gone wrong.  No society goes from being free to being a police state in one move, so you have the boil-the-frog problem.  As of today, I guess you don't think the water in the pot is all that hot, and apparently don't think it can reach a boil.  How bad does it have to get before you say Oops?  Even I see that the current system could be lots worse (I'm glad I wasn't born in Gaza) but that doesn't make me complacent about what we've got.

However, this
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So while I welcome any attempt to improve our condition, and while AnCap seems promising, how do we get there?
is an interesting question.  I start with education:  anarchy =! chaos and destruction, for one.  And I think that, absent being able to escape from Terra, the way forward is very much from the bottom up.  So what if there is resistance at the top?  What can 1% do when 99% go a different way?  What happened to the Brits in India?  Which reminds me -- how many people died in India's emancipation from Britain, and how many do you think would have died if they'd tried to fight their way free?  What will happen when we engage in peaceful noncooperation?

Almost none of my day-to-day activities have anything to do with government in any form; nearly everything I do is just plain ol' human gettin' along.  When more of us realize that "government" really only plays a vanishingly small part in life (and that mostly negative -- forget abuse, I just mean here taking money from us to do what we'd rather not have done anyway), we can walk away from it, like a Dumbo's Feather we no longer need in order to fly.

 

anything