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Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Don't Love the State!

Joe was surprised by my post joking about all Congressional hearings being about wasting taxpayers money. I've seen this before, where anarchists imagine that if one is not an anarchist, one must think the current state we have is great.

I don't. The state is often terrible. I am no longer an anarchist because I have come to believe that, while that is true, not having a state is usually even more terrible: it typically involves a number of rival groups engaged in a violent struggle to become the state. Obviously, anarchists don't advocate this! I just think that is what will usually result from the dissolution of the current state.

The typical comeback is that, well, "We will have a society of individualists who will not tolerate this sort of thing." But even if that can be created, those individualists will have the problem of defending against outsiders who want to impose a state on them. And then they will wind up either being conquered, or creating a "defensive state" to protect against this: Switzerland!

And I think Switzerland is as good as we can hope for, in a fallen world.

23 comments:

  1. No coincidence that Dr. Paul's favorite country from a limited government perspective is also Switzerland.

    I suppose the majority of the US might have been better at some point but that is surely not the case today.

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  2. Obviously, I know that you are aware of the problems with the state-based governance. I wasn't really surprised considering that you're more conservative-minded than progressive-minded, I was just kidding around when I said that somebody must have hacked your blog (I'm sure you know I was kidding).

    I do think that Switzerland is probably one of the better state-based systems of governance, but it is also highly decentralized in that it favors local politics over national politics on most matters (due to the markedly different cultural groups within Switzerland), it is highly exclusionary of immigrants and on the national level it allows citizens to call into question its national laws (some compare this to direct democracy, I don't). Probably one of my favorite aspects of the Swiss is their strong support of neutrality and free trade.

    This is not to say that Switzerland is perfect, it's far from. I mean, there are some laws there that I find to be intrusive and illogical (such as their gun laws and conscription), but that is the bed they make for themselves. I've always been of the opinion that if there is anything in this world that involves humans, then it will inevitably be flawed. I just prefer to keep the flaws contained to smaller rather than larger institutions, so that it ultimately has the least impact.

    Oh, and I don't think that groups fighting for the reins of power is any reason to accept a state. Logically, if you are against warring for the power of becoming a state, then the idea of a state is the finality of this struggle and is thus not preferable. I mean, that's kind of like saying that you're against drinking, but you're in favor of drunkenness. Also, I don't think that the past is always an indication of process. For instance, if all of technology were to disappear, would we then begin with stone tools. No, because we already are aware of and know how to make steel. To come to the conclusion that because that is the way social systems were constructed in history means that that is the way that they will be constructed in the future entirely ignores the fact that we aren't the same society that we were then. I don't think that society always moves in some predictable linear fashion. Do you?

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  3. Steven Pinker said in a NYTimes interview that he used to be an anarchist as a young man.

    His argument was, "So if there is no police tomorrow, we'd all rob banks?" Since he lived in the low-crime, uneventful Montreal, he believed people were generally orderly and easygoing by nature. And that the police just made life harder by stopping and questioning people.

    However, when a police strike occurred in Montreal, all hell broke lose, and people did not hesitate for a second to steal television sets.

    That ended his anarchism.

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    1. I've mentioned this before, I am certainly not in favor of the term "anarchism" for my philosophy, because there is still governance, police, defense services, etc. The only difference between my concept of governance and that of the statist is that I do not believe that a monopoly state is the best means of organization, nor do I believe that it is the most just. I don't know, it just seems weird to me that people dislike monopolies in all other realms of life except for the one that can pose the greatest danger to humanity: the form of governance.

      I imagine that Pinker was more of a classical anarchist (i.e. communist), so he believed more in the concept of a system that doesn't need police, defense services, governance, courts, prisons, etc (i.e. he believed in a fairy tale version of the nature of man). I will agree that that represents a pipe dream, and I am glad that he finally woke up to the realities of life. However, it does reflect pretty poorly on him that he did in fact believe such nonsense to begin with.

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    2. By young man, I meant 15 year old, so he was in an age of fanciful thought. By his admission, it was largely to get a girlfriend.

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    3. "it just seems weird to me that people dislike monopolies in all other realms of life except for the one that can pose the greatest danger to humanity: the form of governance."

      Well, there is 2500 years of political philosophy explaining this "weirdness"!

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    4. Wow, Gene! I wasn't aware of that.

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    5. I know you are aware of this. But I wonder why you made a comment as if you weren't aware of it?

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    6. That I am aware that there are centuries of explanations for a monopoly state doesn't mean that I personally agree with them. To me, it is weird, as I have yet to find a strong enough position for the monopolization of power. Granted, I'm not as well-read as I'd like to be in political philosophy, but I do think that I am leagues ahead of many people with regard to understanding the topic.

      I mean, if I said that I think that it's weird that people believe in god, does that mean that I am ignorant to the reasons why people believe in god? No, I know the justifications, but I just don't agree with them. To me, it is a weird belief.

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    7. "That I am aware that there are centuries of explanations for a monopoly state doesn't mean that I personally agree with them."

      Of course not. But if you were really familiar with, say, Hobbes's or Augustine's or Hegel's case for the state, you might still disagree, but you would hardly find those cases "weird."

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    8. Fair enough, Prateek. I was a little Marxist in my high school days, as well. However, I wasn't an anarchist, I was a supporter of global governance (international socialism). Once I got into reading the Enlightenment thinkers, I kicked that ideology real quick. Funny what a few years and a few books will do...

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    9. Ok, Gene. Wrong choice of words.

      BTW, I have read Hobbes' case, I have not read Augustine's, and I tried to read Hegel's and couldn't get into it (or, just couldn't get it).

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  4. I really am not surprised to hear that. It wouldn't surprise me if you all in all are more or less a minarchist, which still is libertarian.

    And because you are pissed with the attitude (the general claim of moral high ground of anarchists [although who doesn't claim the moral high ground in the end]) and some extreme views of some or lots of anarchists you like to be provocative and/or play devil’s advocate and/or just point out the absurd from your point of view.

    I just recently read two papers of you about ABCT (2003 paper with Garrison and the 2009 paper with Horwitz), they both are really great. I hope you excuse it if I praise them and consequently you on the Mises forum..

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    1. Skylien, you may praise me whenever you wish.

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  5. BTW, I know that you were referring to Old Switzerland. However, I still think that for a modern state Switzerland is better than others because it retains some parts of the old confederation. In all honesty, most other modern states are scarily socialistic for my tastes.

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    1. What I admire most about the Swiss constitution is the plural executive. It is something we really ought to consider.

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  6. "I am no longer an anarchist because I have come to believe that, while that is true, not having a state is usually even more terrible: it typically involves a number of rival groups engaged in a violent struggle to become the state."

    And such a power struggle doesn't go on today between, say, the legislative branch and executive branch of any given government? It may not be violent but the attempted grasps of authority still exist- even if done for political reasons.

    "But even if that can be created, those individualists will have the problem of defending against outsiders who want to impose a state on them."

    So a group of bandits attempt to establish a state over the land of Rothbardistan; you are arguing that the people of Rothbardistan wouldn't resist or would have an ethical issue defending their property?

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    1. "And such a power struggle doesn't go on today between, say, the legislative branch and executive branch of any given government?"

      Yes, it sure does! But...

      "It may not be violent..."

      At least it's not violent!

      "So a group of bandits [A STATE] attempt to establish a state [CONQUER] over the land of Rothbardistan; you are arguing that the people of Rothbardistan wouldn't resist or would have an ethical issue defending their property?"

      I'm sure they would resist.

      And then lose.

      History is full of non-state after non-state people losing to states.

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    2. Correct me if I am wrong Gene, but has Somalia not yet succumb to a centralized state despite the various power fractions attempting to establish one (financed in part by the U.S.)?

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    3. So, James, you are saying a state of civil war will continue until it ceases. That IS an insight.

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    4. Yes Gene, making the point that a civil war will continue till it ceases isn't insight. But that clearly wasn't my point. I just acknowledged that thus far, Somalia disproves your point that all stateless societies eventually succumb to a centralized government.

      Will it eventually? Perhaps. But we don't know the future precisely.

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    5. "I just acknowledged that thus far, Somalia disproves your point that all stateless societies eventually succumb to a centralized government."

      So James, if you say "All people eventually die," would I disprove your point by noting that there are many living people.

      And, in any case, I stated no such rule as "All stateless societies eventually succumb to a centralized government." First of all, I would have phrased it "All stateless societies eventually ACHIEVE a centralized government." And secondly, what I said was that this has happened again and again in history. Thus, I find it likely to keep happening in the future. I certainly don't claim it is a "law" of history!

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