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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How Politics Really Goes...

and a totally bogus way to describe your own political program.

Here's what happens in real politics: a bunch of people have different views as to how society should be governed. They hash these views out: preferably, by reason and persuasion, next best, by propaganda and voting, and worst of all, by civil war. Ultimately, one group comes out on top, and thus has the ability to enforce its view on others. The people who lost either grumble and go along, are dead or in prison, or move away.

That is the way politics has always proceeded. There really isn't any other possible scenario.

Except in the fantasies of some people who believe imposing their vision is actually not an imposition on anyone at all! Consider anarcho-capitalist Geoffrey Allan Plauché, who asserts of he and his cohorts that:

"We do not seek to impose centralized controls on 'society' but rather to remove them! We do not seek to impose our preferences on 'society' by force but rather to prevent certain members of society from imposing theirs on us by force!"

Of course, by "removing" controls, they mean "placing everything under the strict control of strong property rights." By "not imposing their preferences on others by force," they mean "imposing the property rights regime we like on others by force."

For instance, what would Plauché and his ilk say to, for instance, communists, who certainly do not agree to Plauché's preferred property rights regime? "Well," no doubt he would respond, "they are free to implement communism on their own property!" Of course, "their own property" and "Plauché's own property" are the very concepts that the communists don't buy into, so this response amounts to, "Once you have acquiesced to the private property regime we are imposing on you, we will let you have your little play communist islands within it... because we've won, and would like to be magnanimous."

Good God, this limp-wristed libertarianism makes me appreciate Hoppe, who at least has the cojones to say, "My political system is correct, and I damn well will enforce it on you given the chance, and boot your arse right out of town should you complain too much."

Politics is about deciding what the rules for a society will be. The winners must impose their favored controls on society, because otherwise we can only have anarchy in the sense of chaos, and not in Plauché's preferred sense of order without a ruler. Plauché, if he wins, means to impose his system of controls (rule by strong property rights) on society just as surely as any other political advocate does... he is just too timid to admit it.

17 comments:

  1. Gene, I agree with you on the issue of politics. But you're missing the point here. You seem to forget the fact that most libertarians believe in natural rights, so it's not such as "politics is about deciding what the rules for a society will be", but "we have some nature, and that is what determines what the rules for a society should be".

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  2. Ivan, that's cool, but then come out and say it... like Hoppe does: "I've got the correct conception of natural rights, and I am willing to enforce that concept on you if you have it wrong."

    Because, you know, communists also think THEY have natural rights correct, and think private property is a violation of those rights.

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  3. This is right on target. It's not just the presence of property rights either (although you make a good point vis-a-vis the communists) - it's also exactly what those rights are. Property rights aren't just something that you turn on or off like a light switch. They're deeply embedded in institutions and they evolve over time. And they're also historically contingent - we don't enter life as blank slates. We enter this world in families that provide us with a more or less advantageous start, and they entered this life into older families that provided them with a more or less advantageous start. When we say "property" that's just the advantages that several generations have laundered into respectability and passed on to me which my fellow Americans have sworn to defend my title to. That's all it is. To say "I believe peoples' (presumably current, status quo) property rights should be honored" is only to say "I believe that the vicissitudes of history ought to be legitimated by the force of society - if not the state itself".

    This isn't to complain about property rights, of course. I'm a big fan of property rights and so are you, I imagine. It's only to complain about the people who are deluded into thinking that standing up for the status quo property regime is inherently the most liberal position to take, or that it distinguishes itself in being the "non-coercive option". All social organization is coercive, period. There is no non-coercive option. We can accept that, be liberals, and seek out the least coercive, most dignified option - or we can talk ourselves into a logically coherent but practically meaningless infinite loop by telling ourselves that there's a way to avoid coercion.

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  4. btw - when something a libertarian says makes you appreciate something Hoppe says by comparison, that's when you know they're saying something ridiculously idefensible.

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  5. "All social organization is coercive, period. There is no non-coercive option."

    That's right. And, as you guessed, I like property rights, too. I even think that the current property rights regime, however unjust its origins, should *mostly* be honored. (Clearly provable cases of "Those palefaces stole that land from my great-grandfather" excepted, and welfare provision clauses, etc. included.) I just don't think there is no coercion involved in enforcing those rights.

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  6. I don't think it is a matter of Plauche being timid. Rather, I suspect that he has so internalized the libertarian point of view that he can't even conceive of not seeing things that way.

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  7. Imposing a preference to prevent all imposition of preferences is the least worst imposition of preferences, maybe?

    I certainly can't object to Alfred Kahn, a Jimmy Carter Democrat, who imposed his own preferences to society by shutting down his own department, Civil Aeronautics Boards, and deregulating airlines.

    May more such people impose their preferences on society by tieing up their own hands?

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  8. By supposing that all societies are 'coercive' what are we presupposing? How can we know this and given all the subtle and evasive meanings usually under the heading 'coercive', what are we assuming is central to this idea? Is a murder as 'coercive' as killing someone in self-defense? Isn't is possible to have Just coercion? If so, isn't it possible to have a more Just society and a fortiori a less coercive society as well?

    Second, Gene, your use of the word "imposing" in the original post seems to imply an overarching, perhaps systematic and society-wide program of forceful alteration. But persons can withdraw consent and compliance in a decentralized way, which doesn't require "imposing it" over other people in that way. It's true to some extent that in a libertarian [nozickian] 'utopia', communists and anyone else can attempt to set up their own type of system, but it seems the reverse is not true. Does this count for anything?

    Furthermore, invoking 'communists' as a reason why libertarian anarchist's must be wrong is like invoking neitzschian-like Machiavellian brutes who have no concern for discussion and persuasion which you seem to agree is preferable to it's absence. But does the existence of these brutes mean we should abandon force of argument for the force of the fist?

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  9. "By supposing that all societies are 'coercive' what are we presupposing?"

    But I'm not "suppossing" this -- I'm looking around and noting it.

    "Is a murder as 'coercive' as killing someone in self-defense?"

    No.

    "Isn't is possible to have Just coercion?"

    Yes it is.

    "If so, isn't it possible to have a more Just society and a fortiori a less coercive society as well?"

    Yes it is.

    "It's true to some extent that in a libertarian [nozickian] 'utopia', communists and anyone else can attempt to set up their own type of system, but it seems the reverse is not true."

    I've just noted why this is false. They would have to accept Nozick's private property scheme first, which they don't, to then set up their own system within it.

    "Furthermore, invoking 'communists' as a reason why libertarian anarchist's must be wrong..."

    But I didn't do that! I showed why ancapistan would still involve coercion. So man up (like Hoppe does) and admit that ancapistan is coercive, but defend that as just coercion. Just don't pretend nobody is being coerced.

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  10. The discussion you spawned is interesting, partly because most critiques pound on what Kuehn added to this in his post. But to me it does not seem that he agrees with it at all. The way he frames his case for liberalism with coercion looks quite the same as the way libertarians argue.

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  11. So Daniel thinks he agrees with me and I think he agrees with me, but he actually doesn't agree with me?

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  12. Elisha, if you'd actually like to DISCUSS things, please come back. If you just want to be a jerk, then don't bother.

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  13. I was discussing things, albeit not to your liking; I was illustrating the inherent absurdities of denying a distinction between coercive and non-coercive behavior in social relations. Last time I checked, the reductio ad absurdum was a valid argument.

    But apparently this makes me a "jerk" in your eyes.

    P.S.: You probably won't allow this post either, but just FYI, you might want to look into polycentric jurisprudence before claiming that libertarians insist on "imposing" a unitary theory of property rights on the world. Not all libertarians are Rothbardian.

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  14. OK, Elisha, how about this: "Daniel, what do you mean by saying social organization entails coercion? That doesn't seem correct to me; please clarify."

    That's not being a jerk.

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  15. "Here's what happens in real politics: a bunch of people have different views as to how society should be governed."

    Really? They just "have" these views? But how and where did these views originate? Was it just an honest battle within the market of ideas? This is one of the central problems of Hayek's "spontaneous order": he does not account for specific agents surreptitiously planting the seeds of these views in the public arena. A cursory search of his works will yield no mention of Gramsci (none here on your blog either). This naiveté borders on irresponsibility.

    The fact is that NONE of these "views" come about spontaneously, but come at the tail end of decades or more of careful work by countless "change agents" and social engineers. What was before an absurdity for the vast majority of populace has now become mainstream -- the "agenda" has yielded its fruits (http://agendadocumentary.com/).

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  16. So, Fabio, I take it that you believe:
    1) Any time someone discusses something without mentioning it's origin, that means they think it popped into existence from nowhere; and
    2) Before Gramsci, there were no differing political views.

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  17. "They would have to accept Nozick's private property scheme first, which they don't, to then set up their own system within it."

    They could set up their own system on a limited basis regardless of whether they agreed that it should be limited in that way. The same is not necessarily true for dissidents in a Marxist system.

    I think I understand and agree with you basic point, but you've overstated it.

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