Thursday, January 14, 2010

zOMG! It's Anarchy!

I don't believe in, nor am I against, government. I know what you're thinking--UC is one of them there Anarchists. I don't like the word Anarchy(I prefer NonArchist). Anarchy conjures a picture of bomb-throwing lunatics; hate-filled, irrational, and wild-eyed. It implies that I'm against any form of government, and, as I said, I'm not. People should be free to believe in whatever they want. Just don't force your beliefs on others. That's the big problem with government. The one defining characteristic of all governments is the use of force. I like voluntary association. If you think force is necessary to "keep people in line", then you and I must part ways. If you think a police state is necessary to eliminate criminals, then I have to ask, how is that working out for you lately? How about the failed schools, crumbling infrastructure, lying-sack-of-shit politicians, constant wars, check points, oppressive taxation, etc...?


  1. The only problem is that "voluntary association" doesn't work. First there's the problem of violent people, which means that people have to band together together to hire their own thugs ("police") to protect their shit. But then there's always some deadbeat who leeches off of everybody else and refuses to pay their share to pay the community cop, as I pointed out in my unicorn post last july. At which point, force becomes involved -- either to kick out the freeloading jerk, or force him to pay.

    In short, civilization requires defending against thugs, and defending against thugs requires that *everybody* pays, because *everybody* benefits. That's just the facts, ma'am. So we ought to talk about what can be done to make government work worth a damn, rather than about fictional bullshit that has never worked and can't work any more than Communism could work because, duh, it *CONTRADICTS BASIC HUMAN NATURE*.

    - Badtux the "In Libertopia, unicorns are real" Penguin

  2. Hi BadTux,
    Actually, voluntary association worked very well for this country until we ran out of frontier. If you prefer to live in a police state, that's cool. I'm happy for you and I would never try to force freedom on you. Government can't be fixed. It's the problem. You chase your unicorns and I'll chase mine.


  3. Democracy is a police state? Dude. Put down the crack pipe and live in the real world for a while! Ludicrous statements like that are why most people think Libertarians are batshit crazy.

    I am currently reading a bunch of Historical Society papers about the rise and fall of Rhyolite, once the largest town in Nevada, now ruins. One of the first things they did was create a "Municipal Association" of downtown merchants that was assessed fees to handle paying for streetlights and hiring a cop and building a jail. The second thing they did was pass a property tax assessment to build a school. The third thing they did was have that cop expel forcibly from town anybody who would not pay either of those assessments. That history is repeated all across this "frontier" that you mention. When my own forefathers moved into the wilderness in the aftermath of the American Civil War (something about armies tramping through their farmland destroying everything they owned and them saying "fuggitall" and setting out West), they settled someplace en masse where they could log and farm and... uhm... passed by majority vote a community assessment to hire a constable and build a school. And anybody who wouldn't pay that assessment got to know that constable up close and personal as he seized their property in a tax auction and evicted them from the district. And this was 1873! Not that the constable ever had to do that, because simply knowing that it would happen was enough to keep the deadbeats paying for the infrastructure to keep their community safe and their community's children educated, but the point is that even then, if you were a property owner you had to pay your taxes or have your property seized and sold off to pay them.

    Now, you *are* correct that it was a lot easier to get away from taxes then, just don't own property. But you're reading some sort of history that's completely unlike the dry history I'm reading of people getting together and by majority vote building the infrastructure of a new nation via taxing themselves -- and seizing by force and selling off at tax auction the property of deadbeats who refused to pay the assessments for building schools and hiring constables. Civilization, in the end, is simply incompatible with the "I'll pay if I feel like it" notion that you're spewing. You can't find one modern civilization, *anywhere*, that has managed to deal with the deadbeat problem without, in the end, relying upon the ability of the majority to force the minority to pay for the shared infrastructure of civilization (roads, schools, cops, jails, etc.).

    - Badtux the Reality Penguin

  4. Hi BadTux,
    OK, I put down my crack pipe, but I'm sorry to say I don't feel any differently.
    I'll clarify--Yes, America is a police state, and it's getting worse. Every other sentence of your comment was about forcing people to do things they might not want to do. Force is not a moral basis for association, and I don't care if I'm the only one on earth that thinks that way. But if you're happy with either chains on your feet or a whip in your hand, I won't try to talk you into freedom.
    It sounds like Rhyolite's experiment with a police state must not have worked, because, as you noticed, it's a ghost town.

    Dave, the batshit-crazy, crackpipe-smoking,freedom-loving, NonArchist carpenter

  5. I won't contradict your notion of what America currently looks like. We haven't had democracy in a long time in America, what we have is a plutocracy where the various plutocrats determine who shall rule us, then hold sham elections to allow us to select which of their acceptable candidates (either of which is acceptable to them) shall rule us.

    But I'm not understanding you, apparently, about the "voluntary association" thing. Are you saying that my ancestors in 1872 were running a police state? Because I assure you, that's not what *they* thought. They thought they were providing for the common good -- protection against thieves stealing from their stores and providing a school for their district's children -- by democratically joining together to form a government capable of levying taxes then using the levied taxes to build a school, pay the school teacher, build a jail for the town, and hire a constable. Are you saying that instead what they did was set up a fascist police state where people could not travel without showing their Official Government ID?

    If so... all I can do is shake my head. Because that's not what the reality was for my great great great great gandparents. They were a bunch of people in the middle of a wilderness doing what was necessary to have a decent life for their children, that's what their reality was. But you say that they were running a fascist police state because if someone didn't pay their taxes, their property would be seized and sold at auction to pay off the back taxes. Wow. Stretching much?!

    - Badtux the History Penguin

  6. Hi BadTux,
    If cops were "forcibly expelling" people and "seizing land", then your ancestors did indeed live in a police state, whether or not that fits anyone's "reality".
    Bottom line, penguin: No group, no matter how large, has any right to initiate force or even use the threat of force, to impose their whims on others, no matter how lofty or seductive or democratic those whims might be.


  7. So.... how were my ancestors supposed to build the school and hire the cops to keep the thugs away, if paying their taxes was voluntary? What is your solution to the deadbeat problem, where deadbeats take advantage of the public safety created by the cops and take advantage of the product of the schools (educated workers) but refuse to pay for them?

    What is your solution to that problem? Other than putting your hands in your ears / over your eyes and shouting "I hear no-think! I see no-think!" at the top of your lungs?

    Pioneer democracy such as I described did not arise because my ancestors were jack-booted thugs. It arose because it was necessary to get civilization kickstarted on the frontier by providing public safety and education for the kids. Is it your stance that public safety and education could have somehow arose in some other way? Can you point to a single instance anywhere in human history where this happened on a large scale without some sort of system of taxation and enforcement of taxation? Anywhere? Hello? Hello?

  8. Hello again BadTux,
    What a low opinion you must have of your fellow humans. That parents wouldn't educate their children without the State's forced indoctrination camps. That people would be incapable of defending themselves without police who break down doors in the middle of the night. That no entrepreneur would create something of value without government hurdles. That people aren't ethically capable of voluntary cooperation without a government overseer. That no carpenter could build a worthy house without building officials. That no farmer could grow food without farm subsidies.
    BadTux, why do you hate America? Did your classmates pick on you when you were young?


  9. So if it's that easy, it must have happened somewhere, right? So tell me where it happened, instead of engaging in personal attacks upon me!

    I mean, it's a simple question. If what you say is possible, WHERE HAS IT EVER HAPPENED? 1650's Massachusetts? Oh wait, they had school laws there which required communities to tariff themselves to run schools. Gosh, why do you think they had to pass those laws? Surely the people with money in those communities would have created schools without a law, right? Right?! And did education happen in the South, where there were no such laws? (Hint: *NO*, not until the post-Civil-War era, when the Reconstruction governments passed laws allowing school districts to have the power to tax, the majority of Southerners were illiterate in 1860).

    C'mon, if it can be done just by clicking your shoes together and saying "I think I can! I think I can!" why hasn't it been done, despite all the attempts over the years by socio-anarchists, "hippies", "survivalists", etc. to create such communities? Why can't you point to one example of such a voluntary community (one without the power to tax and enforce that tax) that actually worked? Or can you point to such an example that actually worked for more than a couple of years? C'mon, if it's as easy as you say, surely this isn't that hard a question!

    -- Badtux the "One example, please?" Penguin

  10. BadTux,
    Rather than a weighing of ideas, a quiet asking and answering in turn, you seem to need to win every discussion by bullyragging. I grow weary, and I have been overwhelmed by your eloquence, so...
    I, Underground Carpenter, under the pedagogy of the insufferable know-it-all, BadTux, now realize the error of my ways. I see it now! Freedom sucks and humanity must be held together, at any cost, with the glue of force! And whips and clubs! And guns and garrisons! May the governmental force be with you and may your chains hang lightly!

    Yours in bondage,

  11. Oh come now. Reality is a continuous function, not a binary true/false. You are falling victim to the binary fallacy, where there is only two possible states of humanity, perfect freedom or perfect tyranny. That's not how life or reality works though. We're all imperfect, and so is reality. There is a wide spectrum between perfect tyranny and perfect freedom, and neither perfect tyranny or perfect freedom actually exist in reality -- like all continuous functions, the outliers are so rare that their likelihood approaches infinity.

    It's like reaching the speed of light. You can never actually get there. You can get very close to it, with an enormous expenditure of energy, but it is simply physically impossible to get there, it would require infinite energy. The same applies to perfect tyranny vs. perfect freedom. Neither is obtainable, any more than the speed of light is. At that point, you have to be pragmatic and look at what the best compromise is that gets the most freedom for the most people, rather than being an ideologue. Ideology, in the end, is a dead end, because ideology presumes a perfection that is simply unobtainable in the messy thing that is reality.

    - Badtux the Non-binary Penguin

  12. Alrighty then, BadTux. Now we're talking like friends again. You make an excellent point, and it's a real meat-and-potatoes question in philosophy.
    You're right--most human actions, in spite of Hollywood, are complicated by elements of good and bad. But just because something is complicated doesn't mean we can't understand it. If you go to the paint store and ask for gray paint, the mix-master will want to know how many parts black and how many white. They even put the formula on a sticker so you can get the same color again in the future. Same thing with human behavior. It's all about choosing the better from the worse, something an education is supposed to equip us to handle.
    The Founding Fathers were as clever as they come, but even they weren't able to shackle a government. So now the government they created shackles us. Yes, I know I sound melodramatic, and my chains do indeed hang lightly. Nonetheless, they hang. I'm also perfectly aware of my chances of talking 300 million Americans into a laissez-faire utopia. L. Neil Smith said it better--People that have to be talked into freedom don't deserve it.
    Ideology is not a dead end. It is exactly the thing that guides our choosing of the better from the worse. And pragmatism is a wholesale cave-in, a laziness in thinking.

  13. We have the reality we have, in the end, not the reality we want. Examining human nature over history, and it becomes clear that, without any external regulation of their behavior, there is a significant number of people who simply don't behave the way that L. Neil Smith postulates.

    Yes, I've read L. Neil Smith. I looked around at the reality I was living in -- criminals, rip-off artists, deadbeats, people who wanted something for nothing, morons who will wave signs around chanting "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" (well, not those exact signs back then, but you get the point) -- and scratched my head over how to get from here to there. Thought about it for the next ten years or so then finally decided it's just not possible, it's just another strain of utopianism like the hippie communes of the late 60's/early 70's, or like (real) Communism (the anarcho-socialist voluntary syndics, not the Soviet Union authoritarianism), both of which posit that human beings will behave in ways they simply do not behave. In the end we have the reality we have, not the reality we wish we had, we have the humanity we have, not the humanity we wish we had, and have to figure out some way to make it work as best we can rather than expect some ideology to save us.

    In the end, we have the society and government we have here in the USA because the majority of the population has no problem having that sort of society and government. Ruminate upon that next time you're tempted to rant about something like "taxation is tyranny!". The majority of the people of this nation are so stupid and easily lead that they *LIKE* being herded like cattle through airport security and responding to request for "Your Papers Please" because it makes them "feel safe". There is no (zero) chance that a people like this could ever make the utopias of L. Neil Smith or Karl Marx work. So the question is, what *is* achievable? Not L. Neil Smith, that's clear. We have the humanity we have, not the humanity we'd like to have. Alas. So what *can* be done to keep us as free as is possible given the limitations of the jumped-up apes with delusions of grandeur who populate this planet? That is a good question, and ranting about how the only freedom is perfect freedom doesn't help answer it.

    - Badtux the Realist Penguin

  14. "external regulation of their behavior"? Who externally regulates the behavior of the regulators? Without their ego-swelling power, if they had to work to support themselves like the rest of us do, politicians might even be like-able enough. The job seems to ruin them as humans.
    I worry less about how people would behave in freedom than why some people not only don't embrace freedom, they seem to abhor it.
    I don't want to change your mind. You seem happy with your government. I'm merely stating my opinion that I'm not happy with it. But you won't see me marching to Washington, pitchfork and torch raised high. You won't see me bearing arms to water the tree of liberty. Force is not an argument, and I'd be a hypocrite to insist that people embrace freedom. The most I can hope for is to find a few like-minded people to associate with; people who quietly discuss, asking and answering in turn. I don't even demand that my friends agree with me.
    I think my fellow humans are worthy of freedom and you think they deserve leg irons. That probably says more about either of us than our respective views on government.
    I'm sorry I can't stop "ranting" about perfect freedom. I can't for the life of me figure out how to reconcile freedom and slavery. It just doesn't seem possible. In any compromise there, only slavery can win. Governments never give up power. It's only a matter of time until America becomes a North Korean-style gulag.
    I'm really enjoying our exchanges, BadTux, and I greatly appreciate your taking the time to comment.


  15. What you are describing is an old conflict that predates modern technological civilization: "Who shall watch the watchers?" In democracy, the notion is that *the majority* are the watchers. This leads to the problem of the "tyranny of the majority" that makes conservatives so hate democracy (whether a representative democracy or direct democracy), but what is the alternative? We've tried almost everything over the centuries, and none of them work even as well as democracy.

    You appear to believe that mankind is something other than what mankind is -- funny-looking apes with delusions of grandeur. Like all apes, the majority of mankind follows alpha males who win their position based upon their propensity to violence (or proxies thereof -- for example, Americans' worship of those who are wealthy is implicitly the same as an ape's worship of an alpha male who is the largest and most violent ape, it's just that wealth -- the ability to commit violence by proxy -- is standing in for actual violence). You appear to believe that mankind is something other than what his biology dictates him to be. But the entirety of human history contradicts you. There have been multiple attempts by anarchists, Marxists, and other utopian thinkers to bring their utopia to fruition upon this planet, and all of them have fallen afoul of fundamental facts of human nature, the most fundamental of which is that we are apes with delusions of grandeur. The only thing that has even halfway resulted in freedom is pragmatic attempts to create checks and balances via representative democracy.

    So yes, I'm pessimistic about the chances for perfect freedom. There's only so much you can expect of apes. On the other hand, it is quite possible to have sufficient freedoms so that the majority are content with their lives without running into the fundamental problem of human nature. That is what George Orwell (and the Busheviks for that matter) got wrong -- any society which becomes so totalitarian that it interferes with the daily lives of its people is not going to persist, but, rather, is going to slide downhill into poverty and misery that reduces the power of those who are on top as the nation's economy declines. Nations which have sufficient freedoms that people can go about their daily lives without running into applications of power against them tend to simply do better in the long run. So yes, from a practical point of view the movement of humanity is towards freedom, but not towards the sort of perfect freedom that you project, but, rather, the sort of freedom where the vast majority of the people feel comfortable and safe and do not have their lives unduly bothered by power. Perfection, in the end, is something simply not possible with biological beings that are in the process of evolution, though my cats may disagree with that notion ;).

  16. "We've tried almost everything over the centuries, and none of them work even as well as democracy." Right, BadTux, I'm glad you're finally catching on. Governments--none of them work. And they never will work. No matter the restraints, no matter the constitutional limits, governments always grow more and more brutishly powerful. The alpha male thing you pointed out is spot on. And you're also correct when you say that we've tried almost everything. The one thing that has never been "tried" is freedom. (Please note that I don't think freedom is just another variant of government. Government is a cancer--why live with any part of it?) And the reason it hasn't been tried is because most people think as you do, that humanity hasn't risen far enough out of the mud of savagery to deserve freedom. That same reasoning is why America is bankrupting itself in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those brown-skinned "people sitting in the dark" aren't capable of self-government, so we have to force them to accept our kind of chains. Nobody says, "Hey, leave them alone. They can sort things out for themselves." It's the delusion of superiority that allows "The Lawgiver" to think he alone knows exactly the right kind of chains to place on his fellow humans.


  17. "It hasn't been tried"?! Uhm, no. It has been tried multiple times, the most recent being during the 1960's when a bunch of anarcho-socialists went off and formed communes and kibbutzim. Attempting to run human societies without government of some time has failed every time it has been tried, falling apart due to two problems: 1) the deadbeat problem where a significant portion of the population are not willing to pay for the common infrastructure needed for a society to operate (and there are externalities for a lot of this infrastructure that are impossible to bill, if five people in a condo complex refuse to pay for the security guard who patrols the complex, then the other 15 people who live in the complex will refuse to pay for him too because they will not support keeping deadbeats safe, then there will be NO security at the condo complex), and 2) the problem of power, which is basically a special case of problem #1, in that a significant proportion of people are deadbeats and will not voluntarily join together to take on those who are by fact of nature inherently more powerful, thereby leading to dictatorship and tyranny.

    These utopian theories of yours have been tried time after time after time, and FAILED. The communes are no more, they all disintegrated after the majority quit working because they refused to support deadbeats or they turned into hellholes where one charismatic individual ran a cult. The kibbutzim are quaint tourist traps catering to aging hippies. The anarchist syndics of Spain were utterly crushed by the Fascists because they were incapable of organizing a consistent defense against Franco's goons because of their insistence that provision of defense for their communities had to be *voluntary* rather than compelled. The fact of the matter is that where you see "freedom", organized goons see OPPORTUNITY. And organized goons will *always* take out unorganized individuals. Just read your Sun Tzu and Clauswitz, for cryin' out loud -- as was true then, is still true today.

    So far the *only* structure we've come up with to stop this is organized government run via democracy. As for the notion that democracy will always devolve into tyranny -- hogwash. The will of the majority may be "the tyranny of the majority", but the majority simply will not consent to any sort of jack-boot tyranny where they do not feel secure in their homes. You might be upset because the majority won't let you build your home any way you please without getting an architect's sign-off, you might be upset because the majority won't let you build the home without permits and inspections, but for the majority, that makes them feel more secure because it's that many more pair of eyeballs making sure that if they buy your home, it'll likely not collapse on their heads. That's "tyranny"? Bull****. That's DEMOCRACY.

    I'm with Winston Churchill here: "Democracy is the worst of all governments, except all others that have been tried." You might hate democracy, but as a pragmatist, it is the only thing that has ever worked. Only with the majority in charge can we effectively deal with the deadbeat problem -- the majority simply will not allow deadbeats to persist for a long time, they will either compel the deadbeats to do their share, or at least force the deadbeats into such a position of marginalized misery that they aren't much of a drag on society -- and only with the majority in charge can the problem of power be taken on directly, since those who are by nature smarter, stronger, more venal will never be the majority. Otherwise we end up with the syndics of Spain or the Cathars of France. Which, I might add, neither of which exist anymore -- the ruthless and powerful wiped them out to the last man, woman, and child because they refused to compel defense of their communities and the majority were, like, "eh, someone else will do it" and it didn't get done.

  18. BTW, these are the same friggin' arguments I have with the anarcho-socialists (real Communists) when they insist that their voluntary communes are "the" way to organize society. I ask them how they intend to deal with the problem of deadbeats, defense against organized goons, etc., and they're mostly into lots of handwaving about how it isn't *really* a problem, even though every time it's been tried, it *is* a problem...

  19. 1) The "deadbeat problem"? You don't pay for something, you don't get it. What's the problem?
    2) The thug problem? 2 lbs. of steel solves this problem easily.
    3) I don't want to "organize society" into a cumbaya-singing socialist commune, and I haven't figured out why you think I do. I won't waste key strokes trying to convince you that freedom is a good thing. Keep your police state. May your chains hang lightly.


  20. 1. I have explained it to you. If you don't pay for national defense, you still get it. Externalities. Look it up.

    2. I have explained it to you. That would not have worked against Hitler in France in 1940 any more than it worked against the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2003. Being conquered and having a dictator imposed upon you by well-armed organized thugs cannot be stopped by unorganized resistance. Sun Tzu, Clauswitz, read some military history. Organized violence *WORKS*, and unorganized resistance (all that can be done on a voluntary basis) has never -- *EVER* -- stopped organized violence. And before you bring up 1775, the Continental Army and state militias were organized military units funded by organized governments and operating as such, not unorganized rabble.

    3. Once again, you descend to personal insults and make an accusation that I want a tyranny despite my explanation that what I want is democracy. What next, you call me a cooty-head and poopy-pants?

    Given that I've already explained all this to you and your response to my asking you about these issues is to ignore it and just say "It's not so!" without providing any counterargument other than to call me a cooty-head (which, BTW, is *EXACTLY* the same response I get from the anarcho-socialist Communists and other anarchists when I point out these same problems), I guess it's pointless to continue this discussion. So feel free to respond in any way you feel, but I'm out of here.

    - Badtux the Democracy-desirin' Penguin

  21. Is he gone? Carpenter slowly looks left and right. The nasty penguin is finally gone. Carpenter brings out the unicorn and soon all the other magical creatures return. Ice cream and cotton candy for everyone!


All comments are welcome.