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This is the archive for April 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Luke made some thoughtful comments on my recent post about not voting.
The thing I don't get about anarchy is that one apparently never submits to the power of anything. Put that way, this objection makes even me uncomfortable, but in any dispute, someone eventually has to get their way. A man, when convicted of murder by one authority, cannot just decide that he isn't subject to that authority, but to another more forgiving one or to just himself. The morality of the punishment can't depend on the consent of the criminal. So somebody has to impose their will, right or wrong, on someone else eventually, and then how are they different from a government?

Luke, you’re right in the essentials here, but you’ve bookended good premises with conclusions that don’t follow.

There’s a couple of premises that your conclusions imply. First, and Billy hits a solid double off the center-field wall with: nobody has any business putting "The People vs ..." on the indictment., is that authority must be centralized and universal. The rejection of that premise is the core of market anarchism. The second premise is that authority is primarily a question of force.

You use three terms in ways that imply you see them almost interchangeably: power, authority, and will. They are not.

Start with “will", because everything starts with will. One dictionary definition of it, and the one closest to how I will use it here, is: “The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action”. All purposeful actions have to begin with will, with the decision to act. You cannot impose your will, nor can you submit to another’s will. Those are useful terms for a more complex series of decisions and actions, but they cannot literally be done. You cannot fully cause another’s actions, you can only influence him to will those actions himself.

Power is the ability to act. Machines have power, animals have power, and human beings have power. But only human beings have direct will-driven power. Machines have power, but act on the will - and actions - of their designers and operators. Animals have power, but act without will. Only human action is derived from will.

Authority is where will and power intersect, and the point of intersection is purpose and value, i.e. goals. The subjectivity of your consciousness means that only you have the full context of both the values you seek and the conditions under which you must seek them. You have the authority to act on your will simply because no-one else possibly could.

Authority can be delegated, but not given up. Delegating authority means to allow another person to make decisions regarding your resources, on the condition that they do so in order to pursue a goal of yours. This can only be done if the goal and the authority are limited to some sub-context of the full context which you alone can hold. Since you alone have the full context, the root of delegated authority always remains in your own will and your own values, and the resources used to pursue those values remain yours until they are traded for something more beneficial to those goals.

The kind of universal authority Billy cites is an attempt to sever authority from that full context. Authority taken rather than accepted means that the goals pursued are not yours but what the “authority” claims to believe are yours. Authority so taken assumes control of the resources without the requirement that they be applied to your goals.

In your example, a man convicted of murder by some “authority” might decide to submit to a different authority who, presumably would not convict him. The root of the word “convict” is the Latin “convictus”, which is also the root of our word “convince”. A conviction is not an action directed at the defendant, but one that is applied to the prosecution.

A conviction is often called a “finding” of guilt, and that phraseology is telling. A conviction in a legal dispute means that the wronged party is convinced, via a process putatively derived from the facts of reality, that the wrong was done by the person in question. It places no obligation on the defendant. It does place a moral right, if not an obligation, on the wronged party to acquire compensation and or restitution from the offender, even by means of force if necessary.

The offender’s submission to this process is irrelevant. In our legal system, we allow and require a defendant to participate on the practical grounds that it makes a convincing finding of fact easier and less prone to error, but it is not a moral requirement. All that is required is that the wronged party be convinced enough to act. You might think that is a low bar, as anyone can claim he is “convinced”, and thus be allowed to use whatever force he arbitrarily deems necessary. But in fact it is a high bar for a rational person. A hunch is not a conviction; a hasty conclusion based on partial evidence is not a conviction; an emotional reaction to loss or anger is not a conviction.

This is where authority comes in. In our legal system, authority for such matters is taken, not accepted. The courts take the authority for punishment and restitution from the wronged, and they take the authority for protection of the defendants rights from him. This seizure of authority severs the power to act from the will of either party. That is why we have criminal proceedings that provide no restitution to the victims, that impose as the only cost on the offenders that of incarceration or a fine paid to the state, and in which no-one has any responsibility for an incorrect finding.

The state takes authority and applies it to goals other than that of righting the wrong, and instead to collective goals such as reducing crime, exacting non-productive (and often counter-productive) punishment (“penance”) on the offenders in order to “send a message” or to conform to some fallacious Platonic notion of essential goodness and badness , and protecting its other political goals. These goals, even though they include things like “freedom” and “rights”, are not in full concordance with - and often in outright conflict with - the goals of the individuals they have supposedly derived their authority from. And worse, as Billy points out, they claim to subsume the goals of those who have no interest whatsoever, and for whose rational goals may be actively hindered by the process.

Market anarchy starts with the root of legitimate authority, the individual, and proposes that any and all proceedings remain tied to that authority. And further, that responsibility for actions taken remain with those whose will those actions are a manifestation of. The bar for action by one who has a conviction of another’s guilt is not only that they be convinced, but that their conviction is strong enough, and rationally enough arrived at, that they are willing to take responsibility for the consequences of acting.

Either party may delegate some part of the authority for his part of the process, and for his actions, to another. But he cannot abandon the authority, and thus cannot disavow himself of the responsibility. No state can take either away without committing a crime in its own right. Those parties that accept delegated authority also accept part of the responsibility for the consequences - and they by definition don’t have the full context that either party has - and so they may require a higher standard for conviction.

Even in this scenario, the accused does not have the easy out of just finding another authority who will protect him against the facts of reality. The wronged party can arrive at a conviction with or without the accused’s cooperation, and they can act on that conviction, so long as they have the power to do so, with or without cooperation. This does not imply the wild west, nor vigilante justice. Responsibility means accepting the consequences of one’s actions, but those consequences will come about whether responsibility is accepted or not. Those who try to protect their clients against the facts of reality will incur consequences to their reputation, to their financial status, to their social status, and even to their personal safety. As will those who pursue retaliation for hunches, for hasty conclusions, for emotional outbursts of violence, or that is out of proportion to the offense and goes beyond restitution, beyond righting the wrong.

When there is no one to fob off the responsibility to, rational actors will be very careful about exercising their power, and irrational actors will see their power rapidly diminished, if they can even build it up in the first place. Rational actors will submit, to the power of reason, to the power of markets, and to the power of social pressure - to the power of consequences that are manifestations of reality rather than stolen authority. Irrational actors who choose to submit to none of the above will ultimately submit to the effects of them, and ultimately to the physical power of the rational actors, whether they agree to or not.

It can’t be perfect, but nothing can be. The present system where power, responsibility, authority, and value are all divorced from one another creates an environment that can only deteriorate. Authority can only be taken and used by force or the threat of force. Wrongs done in the name of that authority cannot be righted except through the extremely high cost and terribly uncertain outcomes of a faceless bureaucratic process in which no-one suffers the consequences of acting wrongly, or, failing that, the massive violence of resistance to the state or outright revolution. And every such incident widens the gap between the so-called collective will and the will of the individuals in which authority resides - thus requiring increased force to maintain that stolen authority, and a higher hurdle to overcome for those trying to convince, or worse, to force, the “authorities” to allow their own interests to be recognized and pursued.

Individuals in a market anarchy have all the powers that a present government has with one exception: they cannot use any resources but their own. They cannot arbitrarily claim the resources, nor the authority, of others. Thus, they cannot isolate themselves from the consequences of acting - from responsibility. Because of this, and because force and violence are the most consequential actions a person can engage in, force and violence will for the most part be absolute last resorts, and then, used only when the need to use them is overwhelming. People who accept responsibility for themselves will not commit acts which necessitate a violent response. They will not commit acts which cause people to - for their own protection - shun them or refuse to trade with them. They will not commit acts in pursuit of their goals that, because of the consequences they know are likely to follow, will take them further from those goals.

And finally, market anarchists understand the fallacy of imposing one’s will in any context. No-one can force another’s body to act on the will of a separate consciousness. The only thing that can be done is to create artificial and arbitrary consequences (your money or your life), in order to convince someone to decide, to “will” themselves, to commit a certain action. Individuals do retain the power of force, but the only thing force can do directly is to prevent action, not to cause it. Dump the idea of imposing will altogether, and government is stripped of nearly all of what currently constitutes it’s power and so-called authority.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I had a nice friendly chat with the Republican candidate for Pima County Attorney (Brad Roach) today. It was purely accidental, he was at the a booth at the home show, and I couldn’t resist asking the group assembled there if the R’s had any plans to grow a spine in the near future. He quipped that they would, but that stem cell research hadn’t progressed far enough yet. My interest was, of course, purely academic, but I stuck around for about 20 minutes since he seemed surprisingly willing and able to hold a decent conversation.

He thinks Roe v Wade was a horrible decision on legal grounds, and that the feds have no business outlawing drugs - though he still thinks the state should ban them. Interesting answers from a Republican. He says he believes in the right to bear arms, and that crime would be reduced if drugs were legalized - but that the problems of increased addiction would be worse. Sally jumped in at this point with the argument that letting people decide on their own whether or not to take drugs is, at it’s core, the same argument gun grabbers use against letting people decide when and how to defend themselves. He didn't, or wouldnt, see it. Not so unusual for a Republican.

I had told him at the start that I had pretty much given up on the Libertarians for being too liberal and too big-government, and he seemed a little non-plussed at that, saying "so you really don't like government?". Toward the end he asked if we were registered Republican, while a cohort with a clipboard sidled up to us. Sally said she was still registered Libertarian, and he turned to me and said, “so you too, or are you an independent?” I told him that I was an anarchist, and he actually was willing to argue the merits of it! The clipboard lady faded back into the background just about then.

I said that I’d heard all the arguments he was about to make, and that I was sure I could talk him out of them, but that I didn’t have time. He seemed a nice enough guy, and surprisingly thoughtful, but that argument would be simply wasted, and there was plenty more interesting things to see. I parted with the recommendation that he should find productive work and avoid politics.

Here’s another potentially valuable member of society sucked into the black hole of government work where any productive abilities he may have will be totally wasted - at best - and some things he said tell me he knows it, but suffers under the delusion that he'll be the one to stay above it. On the other hand, he’s decided that that is his current mission in life, so he’s probably already too broken for it to matter anymore. Maybe I planted a seed, but most likely it’s in salted earth and wouldn’t get enough water in any case. Though it surely will get buried in plenty of fertilizer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Email out just now to a casual friend who asked about my choice for President.

I don't vote. I don't believe in voting. I don't believe in democracy. I'm a capitalist and an individualist, and those are, separately but especially in combination, wholly incompatible with democracy. I believe in the ideals of the Declaration, and that the Constitution was a repudiation of them. I believe in governance by the *unanimous* and individually revocable consent of the governed. The only forms of governance that are consistent with that are self-governance or governance for hire by individuals.

Voting is a way of distributing power over other people's lives. I don't want any power over other people's lives, and I don't want anyone having power over mine. The only power I want to share in is the power to trade or not to trade, to associate or not associate, to respect or not to respect. Government itself is the second biggest scam ever pulled over on the human race, and it is the cause of most of the problems in the world today. Those that it is not the cause of are nearly insolvable because government won't get out of the way.

There's no utopias, but there is real freedom, real happiness, and a truly good life available to human beings. Government is an obstacle to that, not a benefit. Rules are absolutely necessary for them, but government is about the arbitrary, and the lawless when law is defined as natural law. Government is chaos.

So, my answer is not only "none of the above", but "never again".