Anarchy and Whatnot

22 08 2010

I’ve been a regular poster at anti-state.com for about five years, a forum for anarcho-capitalists or market anarchists. I’ve identified as such a person pretty much the whole time. Prior to that, I had been accused of being an anarcho-capitalist by other libertarians. One way to look at anarcho-capitalism is that it’s libertarianism taken to the extreme – if less government is better than no government is best. Of course, put so simply it probably sounds stupid. For a bit of an explanation, see what I wrote four years ago. Since I put that up there, dana of minarchyblog.wordpress.com added a comment:

who will enforce contracts? no enforceable contracts, no business–no entity vested with a mutually agreed upon monopoly on the legal use and threat of force–no business

This is why I don’t like to call myself an anarchist except around people who already agree with me about almost everything. I only know about 1.5 such people in real life. If I ever mention being a fan of statelessness, this new fact becomes more important to the other people in the conversation than whatever we were talking about and I’m suddenly expected to explain myself, to explain how a stateless society could possibly “work”, who would take care of the poor and elderly, who would build the roads, who would solve crimes and lock up the criminals, and so on. Some even ask about things that are already routinely done by for-profit non-government firms, like trash pick-up. The single unsatisfying answer is to first view everything we value as economic goods, and know that I maintain that all economic goods, including roads and justice (though perhaps excluding love) can be provided in a competitive marketplace. I know you’re not convinced, and I don’t feel like convincing you. Hell, I’m not sure that I’m convinced.

Lately, I’ve been very interested in human evolution, especially evolutionary psychology. An understanding of natural selection goes a long way toward understanding human behavior, and a lot of people, smart people and people who think they’re smart, have trouble grasping the mechanics of natural selection. For one, many people happily believe that humans are continually evolving to be more intelligent than before, yet there are many other traits that impact reproductive success, and our environment has changed drastically from that which we adapted to. Though we have the highest capacity for logical thinking of all the Earth’s creatures, irrational thinking and non-thinking behaviors can be and often are more important for survival and reproduction. I suspect that those who’ve spent a bit of time learning about human mate-selection might really get this. Ayn Rand did not, and I don’t think Mises and Rothbard did either. Having gotten into this, I’ve become very cynical about humans.

Having identified as an anarcho-capitalist for as long as I have, I recognize a somewhat familiar objective to an-cap theory developing in my head. Typically, the objection is that ordinary people aren’t good enough or smart enough to be left to their own, that they need to be led, perhaps that they need to be protected from themselves. I sort of agree with this, and I have particular objections for specific arguments that an-cap folks make. For example, medieval Iceland is probably the often cited example of a long-term peaceful stateless society, and it is a very good example, but it was different from modern societies in ways that might be important. It was a fairly small population of norther Europeans, lacking ethnic or cultural diversity. Greater size and diversity in a population do not seem to favor order and peace, and such a legal system might require intelligence and behavioral traits that other populations might not have. Yes, I’m one of those horrible people who doesn’t think all races are equally intelligent. Another great example of peaceful statelessness is that of the American West (long PDF), but again we have similar problems.

Bottom line? I don’t know, but I don’t really feel like trying to explain or defend the entirety of anarchism or anarcho-capitalism  to anyone. I can explain possible mechanics to a dispassionate listener, but I’m much more concerned with how the world is today and how it might be improved, especially for me and those I care about, but also for the billions of people I’ll never meet. If you’re curious, go read David Friedman or Roderick Long; or read LewRockwell.com, if nothing else. I’d rather talk about individual issues as the come up. In general, more government is bad and less government is good. I guess I don’t really have a point, except to let readers know where I’m at politically.

Whatnot.

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5 responses

23 08 2010
mike

In principle I agree with you that “government is bad.” But I like the analogy that we are birds in a cage. That cage is government and the state. The cage isn’t good; we cannot flutter around. But on the other side of those bars is a nasty cat, corporate power, big business. If the government is weak, if the cage is flimsy, the cat feasts on us. You only have to read a Dickens novel to understand that we’ve been there before. So the question should be how do we expand the cage without dismantling it (until the cat can be slain)? The other question I have about anarcho-capitalism, is how do we prevent the emergence of new cats? “Free markets” or “free exchange” will never happen. The stronger of the two in an exchange will have the upper hand.

23 08 2010
unfrozencaveman

Did you read what I wrote? You’re trying to initiate the exact sort of discussion that bores me to death. I just said, “…I don’t really feel like trying to explain or defend the entirety of anarchism or anarcho-capitalism to anyone.”

Your analogy sucks. Clearly you see the cat as a greater evil than the cage, but birds can fucking fly. The cage will starve the bird or hold it in place while the cat figures out how to open it. Without the cage, the bird should have little trouble avoiding the cat. Okay, maybe you’re analogy doesn’t suck. I’ve never read a Dickens novel. I also didn’t pay attention in Civics, so I don’t believe that tax isn’t theft, jury duty isn’t slavery, or that I ever signed some social contract.

The other question I have about anarcho-capitalism, is how do we prevent the emergence of new cats?

How and why do we kill the first one? A more common and seemingly more valid question that we get asked is how do we expect to prevent the emergence of new cages?

“Free markets” or “free exchange” will never happen. The stronger of the two in an exchange will have the upper hand.

WTF, free exchange, where neither party “feels” ripped off happens every day. What alternative is there to free exchange? Communism? How much “personal property” am I allowed to have?

Thanks for the visit, Lefty! Now, go watch “Pawn Stars” or something.

24 08 2010
mike

Capitalism means rule by capital. Anarcho-capitalism just means remove the state and put capital on steroids. Even if you could momentarily even the playing field for everyone, imbalances would be created immediately. Stiglitz won the Nobel Prize for showing that “free markets” cannot exist.

25 08 2010
unfrozencaveman

Stiglitz was also part of the Clinton administration and the World Bank, and Barack Obama and Yassir Arafat both one the Nobel Peace Prize, so that distinction doesn’t carry much weight with me.

While I’m highly skeptical of him, Stiglitz has done some interesting work, but I’m not going into this here. I’m trying to attract readers, not bore them death. If you want a debate got to anti-state.com and post on the n00b/antagonist board or for a more economics-centric debate find some Austrians to argue with. There used to be a board mises.org, probably still is.

29 08 2010
Linkage is Good for You: Backlog Edition (NSFW)

[…] Caveman – “Anarchy and Whatnot“, […]

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