Libertarians, Anarchists, and Cavemen

25 09 2011

Over a year ago, I posted something about the conflict between my anarcho-capitalist political stance and my newer understanding of human behavior. This came about because market anarchism and other “idealistic” political theory tends to presume and depend on rational behavior among humans. The problem is, that much of our behavior is irrational. I began to realize this when I discovered game, the art/science of being attractive to women.

Game, as it is understood today, came about as a mechanism to get men, especially men of high intelligence (who arguably think too much), to stop projecting rational thinking onto women. Instead, we should behave in a way that takes advantage of their instinctual drives if we should hope to get what we want from them. This doesn’t just work for men on women they want to bang, but it’s definitely the scenario where it’s most pronounced.

I’ve also learned, and this is similar, that if you want to convince people to agree with you, rational argument is not normally the most effective means of accomplishing this goal. It is generally more effective to appeal to one’s emotions. If you can appeal to the more powerful emotions like fear, even better. Understanding this helps explain why democracy doesn’t work so well, why the people who manage to get elected to political offices tend to be awful human beings with no discernible conscience.

Rational arguments work on critical thinkers, typically people of well above average intelligence. The problem is that most people are not critical thinkers. The structure of anarcho-capitalist society is a hard sell, largely because of it’s necessary complexity. It could be argued that people in an anarcho-capitalist society don’t need to “believe in” anarcho-capitalism for things to run smoothly, but I’m not convinced. I’m not saying anarcho-capitalism is the necessary endpoint of critical political thinking, but that any sufficiently complex and sufficiently different social arrangement is too far-out for the typical idiot to understand or accept.

More recently, I’ve been heavily into the ideas of the paleo diet community, and when you think about the natural environment of our ancestors and how it differs from what we have, it’s easy to wonder if we might be seriously ill-equipped to deal with the society we’ve accidentally created. A very recent post by Andrew at Evolvify addresses this. There’s a lot I could say about his post, but right now I’m mostly just referencing his claims about hunter-gatherers. He’s got a lot of footnotes, is what I’m saying.

When we think about humans in paleolithic times or even modern hunter-gatherers, we see small groups of 20-100 people where everyone knows each other. Such small societies are inherently orderly because each person needs the rest of the group for their own survival and reproductive success. Hunting, gathering, and child care are performed communally. Violence within groups exists almost exclusively among males vying for the mates.

What we don’t see are property rights outside of a man’s hut, his tools, and maybe his wife. We don’t see individuals lost among thousands of fellow humans who neither know nor care about each other. Outsiders may be welcome among hunter-gatherers, but they will certainly have to demonstrate that they are trustworthy before they are trusted. In such a world, a man is never expected to interact peacefully with people he’s never met and has no reason to trust, as we are expected to when we go about our business.

The problem here is that this world is very different from what we have today and very different from any future world we can imagine that doesn’t involve massive depopulation, something I’m not a supporter of, to put it mildly. What we can do here is question the practicality and necessity of private property in land, I suppose. I’m not one to argue against the private ownership of land, but I’ve always felt the the arguments of georgists or geoists have some merit. If you fell off a cruise ship, landed on an island, and met a guy who claimed to own the entire island because he got there first, you might really have a problem with his further claim that you must either do as he demands or leave.

In the Evolvify post I linked to above, Andrew notes how common it is for paleo people to also be libertarians and how these ideas are at conflict. Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism support the institutions of private property, and individual responsibility and autonomy. Communist anarchists favor limited private property rights and shared responsibilities, and this sounds a lot more like the environment to which we are best suited, as long as we’re talking about the social arrangement inside the monkeysphere™. If you’ve never heard the term, please follow the link to Cracked.com and learn. Basically, it’s the size of a group of people we can be part of and care for everyone else in the group, estimated to be about 150 for humans. Of course (as if this is common knowledge), communist anarchists typically support collective societies on a much larger scale, all the way up to the entire population of Earth.

It may well be a good idea be part of a monkeysphere™ of some sort, where wealth and and responsibilities may be shared to some extent. I think fraternal orders might be good for this, and I think those who embrace paleo-living concepts would likely benefit from building interdependent groups based on this one common interest. I also think that it’s impractical and unwise to totally abandon private property and individual autonomy for several reasons, including the fact that the cost of being shunned from a group just isn’t what it used to be and that we quite literally don’t need to depend on each other the way we once did. Also, I can’t ignore the reality that even if we build wonderful monkeyspheres™ for ourselves we will still need to deal peacefully with outsiders on a regular basis.

In conclusion, I don’t really know what to conclude. I still believe the state, especially the nation-state is an unnecessary evil, but maybe voluntary socialism on a small scale isn’t a terrible idea, and I should point out that we have that already in families. I’ve touched on a lot of stuff here, and I have a lot more to say in seven different directions. For inspiring me to think about this stuff, in addition to the game and paleo bloggers out there, I’d like to acknowledge Joe Rogan, for continually referencing our ape ancestry and our evolutionary limitations on his podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, which is the most open-minded and informative podcast by a household name in all of the internet. I should also mention Richard Nikoley of freetheanimal.com, who twittered the Evolvify post to me and recently posted two related articles, If You Want Someone Dead Kill Them Yourself and Are You More Moral, More Benevolent and More Competent than Any Politician? Then Act Like It.

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4 responses

26 09 2011
Cal

No anarchocapitalist (or libertarian in general) is opposed to small-scale voluntary egalitarian social units. Think families, clubs, fraternal organizations, mutual aid societies, coops, hippie communes, etc. These are all to varying degrees operational examples of micro-socialism. Where libertarians differ from anarcho-communists like Kropotkin is precisely in extending this to macro. Private property and market prices are empirically and logically completely necessary on a macro scale for a productive economy. An-coms don’t understand or accept this. That’s the difference.

26 09 2011
macsnafu

Interesting and reasonable points, but I don’t agree that the Georgists have a point, or at the least, they resolve the problem in a silly way.
So rare to find posts that actually give you something to think about.

26 09 2011
flare

“What we don’t see are property rights”
If tribe X invaded tribe Y’s territory, I think tribe Y would respond as if their property rights had been violated. Its just, for them, the whole tribe is the ‘owner’ of the property (rather than any individual), i imagine. Even pack animals like wolves will fight to defend their pack’s territory, and actively maintain boundaries.

“Communist anarchists”
The most important thing is that the state is proscribed. Labels like ‘communist anarchist’ are prescriptions for what ought be done after state proscription. I don’t think its really important or pertinent to make prescriptions at this point in time. In a free society, if someone wants to live in a anarcho-communist way, they will have that option and will do so. In a free society, if someone wants to live in a way where everyone has lots of property rights for everything, they can do that too and will do so. The two systems would (peacefully) compete and people will naturally gravitate towards the whichever system is ‘better’.

We need to establish the circumstance in which society will make good decisions. Its not important to actually predict and presently prescribe what decisions we think will be chosen.

The following is a reply I posted on that evolvify post, that I want to point out to you:

‘Libertarianism is not paleo’. Agreed.
‘Egalitarianism is common and effective among hunter-gatherer (and probably paleo) tribes’. Agreed.

What is the implication supposed to be? That we shouldn’t be libertarian, because it was not paleo? This is what I infer, but I didn’t see this explicitly stated. I will respond as if you said we shouldn’t be libertarian because its not paleo.

“the hunter-gatherer ethnography is completely made up of bands characterized by egalitarian political organization”
Are hunter-gatherers ‘organized politically’? Hunter-gatherers don’t have a government, so I would rather call their organization ‘social’ rather than ‘political’. Its an important point. Political systems organize people by the threat of violence, whereas more ‘social’ systems organize people by inducing voluntary action via various social levers such as inspiration/leadership, debate/discussion, threatened ostracization/other lowering of social status, etc.

Hunter-gatherers do not have politically-induced egalitarianism. They have socially-induced egalitarianism. Hunter-gatherer tribes are egalitarianism because they want to be, not because someone is threatening them with violence. Here’s an excerpt from one of your sources (Bohem 2001):

“Egalitarianism is not simply the absence of a headman and other authority figures, but a positive insistence on the essential equality of all people and a refusal to bow to the authority of others, a sentiment expressed in the statement: ‘Of course we have headmen…each of us is headman over himself.’ Leaders do exist, but their influence is subtle and indirect. They never order or make demands of others, and their accumulation of material goods is never more, and often much less, than the average accumulation of the other households in their camp.

Lee makes it clear that it is fear of group opinion–and fear of active group sanctions–that keeps the more accomplished men at this level of humility… amongst these [foragers] arrogance amounts to a crime.”

This description is basically that of anarchy! All men have authority over their self, and no other. The egalitarianism arises from various social (not political) levers.

These various ‘social levers’ can be successfully applied only because the tribe’s members all know and care about eachother (basically). If someone didn’t care what you thought of them, then your opinion would hold no sway. But hunter-gatherers have to care or else they’ll find no mates and be liable for ostracization. In the hunter-gatherer world, ostracization likely means death, if not in the physical sense then at least in the genetic sense.

However, in a modern society of modern scale, these ‘social levers’ don’t work! They can’t work, due to ‘Dunbars number’ ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number ). Humans of modern society are physically incapable of caring about everyone within their society. Even if someone could somehow legitimately care about all people, that person’s survival (both physical and genetic) would still be divorced from their opinion-caring, so I doubt this mechanism would work well for controlling behavior. Social levers such as leadership are hijacked by politicians. Levers like discussion still have some sway, but its not really feasible for everyone to be talking to everyone.

The social tools hunter-gatherers use to bring about egalitarianism break down on the modern-social level. They were built for the hunter-gatherer <150 tribe context. They work their, and not elsewhere.

The only way to possibly bring about egalitarianism in the modern context is to have a state/government go around threatening everyone into compliance. Threatening with violence! A state's primary means of organizes people is by threatening violence. This is very, very un-paleo! Paleo peoples did not have singular figures (like a state) as the sole administers of legitimate violence, and (at least according to the above quoted excerpt) things like resource distribution are controlled non-violently, by social mechanisms that are dependent on everyone personally knowing and caring about eachother. Without state violence, egalitarianism in modern-scale societies can not come about because there are physical limits to how many people we know and can care about.

I have not extensively researched the subject, but I imagine that the circumstance depicted in the above quoted excerpt (that of anarchy, defined simply as lacking a violence-wielding authority figure) is the default nature of human tribes. If true, then a liberty-embracing society (even if it were not egalitarian) would still be more 'paleo' than any statist society. The egalitarianism of primitives is a PRODUCT of their voluntary social-structure. Voluntaryism (anarchy) comes first.

"our psychology has evolved in such a way as to be sub-optimal under a libertarian arrangement"
I agree. But its worth making the effort to mend our sub-optimal psychology.

What our psychology is devastatingly ill-adapted for is statism. Statism equates 'us' (the tribe) with the state. So when people criticize the state, or if the state does something bad, or if people even posit that the state did something bad, people's extremely powerful 'Defend the Tribe!' mentality immediately kicks in. Its only natural! Statism is bad from an evolutionary psychology standpoint for many other reasons but this point is perhaps off topic.

26 09 2011
negator

these musings seem coherent.

must be nice.

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