Archive for the 'Theory' Category

Confusing a Society with its Country

I was recently reminded while commenting on a blog post on The Dollar Vigilante, that I had thought of an interesting hypothesis on how people confuse the name of a country with the name of that society. It seems to me that the linking of the name of a society to the name of the state that that society is in is one way in which the state gets ingrained in peoples minds. The reply on that comment I made expressed some confusion over what one would call an anarchist society given that it really wouldn’t be a country per se.

Society is made up of the voluntary interactions between people that bring benefit to both parties. These interactions over some sufficiently large scale build something up called a society. In all (with maybe the exception of Somalia) modern societies a group of people got together and formed what we know as a state, the government of that society, which dominates and suppresses the people of that society while attempting to appear benevolent. Then the name that people give the country, state or government is also the name they give to the society that is being dominated by that state, I think as a convenience of geography.

Boarders are artificial constructs! I remember arguing with my high school government teacher constantly about why it was that given I had never consented to be ruled under the constitution that I had to pay for people in Idaho’s interstate highways but not the roads of people in Quebec who were actually closer to me. His response was something along the lines of, well we live in a society that you came into being a part of at some point, if you don’t like it leave. I find that notion to be appalling. Simply because one does not wish to be extorted by a monopoly government that they did not consent to, they are told leaving is the only option to escape oppression. Certainly, I agree that leaving could be beneficial (especially given the current state of the US) however, why should one be prevented from declaring their small plot of land as an independent society and living off their land, accept nothing receive nothing from the US government.

I find the logical arguments of Lysander Spooner in No Treason especially appealing when examining these questions over whether or not a government actually has any authority over people. He demonstrates definitively that “under general principles of law and reason” the state is not something people all voluntarily agreed to enter into.

I am reminded of a couple of great songs that speak to these points. The first, is a song by Rush, whose songwriter is a libertarian. The second is a John Lennon song, while I would say Lennon’s anti-authoritarian views were incompatible with the way he desired societies run, the song still speaks to the point of anti-statism and  imagining a better society.

Profit of Privilege

As I stated in a previous post I agree with Gary Chariter and other left-libertarians when they decry capitalism on the grounds that most people conceive of it in a way that is not actually associated with a freed-market. However, initially I was somewhat resistant to this position because I felt like we did have a society in which, while the government was intrusive in many ways, did maintain some semblance of a free market. I have come to realize that government intrusion is not the exception in the economy, it is the norm, and really there is no market which is not affected by some government action. Also most of the government action, while usually given a purpose that sounds good, is largely a hand out to big business in one way or another.

One way the government intrudes in a market is to enhance the economies of scale and remove diseconomies of scale. For instance, large companies can afford to hire lawyers to lobby congress for privileges, get around the complex patent and tax codes, and comply with licensing requirements (some increased economies of scale). Small companies still have advantages in that they may be more nimble in adjusting to changes, able to customize better for the individual consumer and not have large transportation costs (some diseconomies of scale the government tries to remove). These government actions work to increase the overall firm size beyond what would be the optimum in a purely free market. All that government action costs money, so we get larger businesses and higher costs to the consumer.

It is usually thought that the government is a necessary tool for aiding the poor, and largely I think libertarians are silent on this issue. It is hard to argue that a government who directly gives money to the poor is not in some way helping them. I would argue though that while it does appear on the face of it that they are doing good, they actually on net do more harm to the poor in various other ways. The government raises the cost of a lost of items in modern markets, not just via taxation, but licensing requirements, and monopoly copyright laws. Also the distribution of land to government-favored persons hurts the poor who would otherwise be able to live off the land so to speak. I also largely try to make people who support government programs “designed” to aid the poor see that there is another side to the issue in that the government must forcefully take the money from some who do not wish to give it (I for one would rather give it to a more efficient private charity of my choosing). Also as many Austrian economists have pointed out, inflation also hurts the poor the most because of at least two reasons, that the prices of the consumer goods go up not necessarily in proportion to their wage, and because the money is first given to people who are well-connected to government and the first people to get the money are able to use the new money to buy things at prices before they have time to adjust to the new money.

What follows is a video of Gary Chartier describing how he thinks we can address the problem of health care for the poor while avoiding a system of government take-over.

I find his arguments to be extremely compelling. Surely freed-market advocates have been making similar arguments for decades, but his emphasis on the ways in which the poor are systematically disadvantaged when it comes to health care is to my taste. Also check out what some of the Mutualists have to say about the profits of privilege, it is surely amazing how un-free a market we have at present.

The Right Model for Education

I recently came across a very particular private school, the Sudbury Valley School. This school has, when compared to traditional schooling, very radical policies. Children come in for at least five hours a day, do what they want, then go home. There are several aspects to this kind of free schooling or unschooling which I think anarchists will find appealing. Children are I think by nature rather curious, and learn from almost any experience they have because the world is all new to them. It would make sense that the child would be most ready to learn the thing that they would prefer to do. The Sudbury Valley School has pretty low costs ($7400 per year irregardless of age) compared to both public schools, and traditional private schools (my private middle school cost about three times as much). Also I think the cost could be even lower given that the facilities at SVS are extremely high quality.

This certainly was true of my own early education. I would say that I was educated despite my formal schooling, not because of it. I found that it was very hard for me to learn things from courses that I had to take because the school forced me to do so. I resented them for restricting my freedom, and potentially wasting my time. Having discussed the issue with my mother some, her point of view was as I think it still is that children needed the kind of school structure because otherwise they would be out on the streets hurting themselves and others, and that I was some kind of a rare exception for wanting to educate myself on the internet all day.

I found and still find this perspective to be a propaganda message that the publicly operated schools put into parents. I think that the reason that some children to things which are considered bad, joining gangs doing drugs etc. is because they feel a need to rebel against the authorities that are attempting to control their lives. It seems to me in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the schooling was much less invasive, there was far less crime among children and teens. Formal school also is horrendous for the poor despite some people’s good intentions. The poor would be better suited to grow up in an environmental where they work and learn a trade from an early age (ie apprenticeships) so that they can attempt to pull themselves out of poverty. It seems to me the idealistic picture of a child from a poor family becoming the next great scientist or engineer is something that really doesn’t happen often enough to justify the teaching of advanced science to every person alive.

What about self-education? Have we forgotten that potentially one of the best ways to become educated about some subject is to go out and read some books on it and then talk to some people who know something about it. I find this by far to be the best way for me to learn something, and the internet is an amazing tool for learning in this way. The school to me says prison, slavery, and duty while reading things on the internet says freedom, community, and discovery. Milton Friedman’s school choice doesn’t go far enough (and has various problems), people shouldn’t be forced to pay (at threat of jail) for the “education” of others in these prisons called public schools. The nice sounding slogan “It’s an investment in the future” is all well and good until you realize that really no one is learning much for all the money were putting in, and that the category of things that could possibly count as investments in the future (sending Newt Gingrich to Mars) is so wide that clearly not all of them are good ideas. We need to end public schools now, and implement low-cost private schooling along the lines of Sudbury Valley.

This argument, for completely free schooling, was made much better than I can by Murray Rothbard in his book “Education: Free and Compulsory” which can be found here.

Freed-Market Advocates Should Oppose Capitalism and Socialism

I have been watching some videos from the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) done by Gary Chariter for their Stateless University. Professor Chartier’s arguments are extremely compelling, and presented in a very logical fashion. He says that we should discard the term capitalism because in most modern contexts it is affiliated with government corporate partnership and a hierarchical structure where capitalists impose their authority on others. He then favors terms like freed-markets and market anarchism. I think that is on the right track, our tradition of individualist anarchism does have a lot of common with left and I think we would be smart to seek more allies there.

However, he then argues that we should attempt to reclaim the term socialism for our movement (in the second part of the video). I think he desires to do this because a lot of the historical figures in the anarchist tradition have favored this term (Benjamin Tucker for one). I can understand the appeal of reclaiming the term, but I don’t really see how the situation is much different from the term capitalism. In modern context socialism’s main definition involves the states control and regulation over the means of production (State-Socialism). So while I think he is well intended to desire some socialist ends like peace, equality, and solidarity with the poor and working class, it does not seem to me like reclaiming the term socialism is the way to do it.

In the following video Roderick Long (also a left-libertarian anarchist) discusses how he thinks capitalism and socialism are anti-concepts following the definition of Ayn Rand. I do tend to think that we should not use either term to describe our ideas because both mean things in modern contexts that we really do not want to associate with (basically both involve some connection with the state apparatus).

Despite this criticism I really have been enjoying Prof. Chartier’s video series. He is an excellent speaker and I think is going to become a more central figure in the movement. Jeff Riggenbach did a great podcast discussing some of Professor Chartier’s contributions. The book he edited “Markets not Capitalism” can be found online here. It is a collection of essays from some of the greatest left-libertarian thinkers throughout history, including Karl Hess (one of my personal favorites).


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