Hey libertarians: The individual you oppose to the state was a creation of the state

"In primitive societies the person does not exist, or exists only potentially, or, as we might say, in spe. The person is the product of the State." -- David George Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, p. 29

Many other thinkers have pointed this out: The rise of the modern individual and the rise of the modern state were mutually supporting processes that each depended upon each other.

39 comments:

  1. "In primitive societies the person does not exist, or exists only potentially, or, as we might say, in spe."

    What the hell does that mean?

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    1. It means that in primitive societies an "individual" only understood himself as part of a tightknit social group. His very being was defined as his being in this social grouping.

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    2. So it's a cultural difference.

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    3. That should've been phrased as a question.

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  2. Now I know how atheists feel when they read my Sunday posts.

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    1. But I sympathize for you: just like those atheists, your view has been decisevly refuted, and you have no idea how to respond. You have my sympathy!

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    2. I'm agnostic, not atheist. Why do you say the atheists have been decisively refuted?

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  3. Ironically, that's how ancaps often come across. Any kind of cult.

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  4. Gene, in all seriousness now (as opposed to my earlier quip), tell me if the following is reasonable:

    (1) It would have been totally fine for you to title this post, "Hey libertarians: The 'individual' you oppose to the state is not a useful concept. I propose a different notion of 'individual' that is much more coherent, and if that's the definition we use, I note with irony that it was a creation of the state"

    (2) But actually you wrote, "Hey libertarians: The individual you oppose to the state was a creation of the state." And that's clearly not true. What Mises et al. mean by "individual" especially in the context of contrasting him or her with the State clearly is *not* a "creation of the State." If you went back to pre-State times, individuals in this Misesian sense would clearly exist. People would be acting in the Misesian sense, regardless of their own subjective understanding of social relations.

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    1. This completely ignores the "mutually supporting process". The contention is that the very idea of the kind of rights, prerogatives, and distinctness which you claim did not exist in the distant tribal past but developed in tandem with the notion of a 'state', that is social structures to define, mediate, and enforce these notions. (I am not endorsing, just explaining.)

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    2. See Ken's response Bob.

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    3. Bob, when the Catholic Church says liberalism is built on a metaphysically incorrect understanding of the individual, it doesn't mean people don't choose!

      I mean exactly what I said, and it is correct, even if you don't see it.

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    4. "What Mises et al. mean by 'individual' especially in the context of contrasting him or her with the State…"

      Why is contrasting "the individual" with "the state" so key? Can "the individual" not also be contrasted with gangs, families, tribes, religious orders, parents, society, etc.?

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  5. One last thing Gene: A long time ago you had a blog post where you complained that an-caps call all non-ancaps statist. You then quoted from an *actual* statist, and said something like "Whoa now *that* is a statist! But c'mon, just because I believe the State should exist, doesn't make me a 'statist.'"

    Does this ring a bell? Can you find that post?

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    1. I think I saw it. It's the one talking about Mussolini and Mises.

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  6. Perhaps you should read "The Art of Not Being Governed" by James C Scott. It is revelatory about how often cultural placements and connections are chosen.

    If you are talking about the Western individual, one with comparatively weak kinship connections, that is in large part a creation of the Catholic Church, with its strict consanguinity rules, blocking cousin marriage and so weakening kinship as a device for social cooperation, effectively forcing the development of stronger chosen mechanisms.

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    1. "Not Being Governed" is nonsense as an idea. In the Middle Ages the Church was the state.

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    2. Lorenzo, try Charles Taylor's "The Sources of the Self." Of course, EVERYTHING that happened in the past is a creator of what we have today, but the modern individual is very much a post-Reformation phenomenon.

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    3. Samson, no, the medieval Church was not the State or even a state. That is why there were constant struggles between princes and the Church.

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    4. Gene Callahan, Rape Booster and Heretic! Or so I read (you can guess where I bet):

      http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/10/potpourri-234.html#comment-1022294

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    5. "…but the modern individual is very much a post-Reformation phenomenon."

      Someone else (a very well read person) told me that it came into existence earlier, like after the fall of the Roman Empire.

      "Samson, no, the medieval Church was not the State or even a state. That is why there were constant struggles between princes and the Church."

      I'll grant you that the set up at the time was much messier than our more formal politico-legal orders, but is that a significant difference? The Church and medieval princes must have functioned as forms of government albeit in different places.

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    6. Samson C: Scott is writing about stateless societies in SE Asia and how modes of living and identity evolved/were chosen precisely to avoid control by the state. And yes, there have been stateless societies.

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    7. That societies have existed without written law or formalized legal procedures isn't something I doubt, Lorenzo. It's just that I think you lot are seeing what you want to see. Somalia isn't a free market, medieval Iceland didn't have a market of "private courts", and the Wild West didn't feature private defense agencies. A small town with no taxes still would have a government. That there are no taxes in it is not an important difference.

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  7. Is "the individual" that libertarians imagine capable of eliminating the free rider problem?

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  8. What's up with MF's bizarre accusation? Is he normally this much of an ass/moron?

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    1. Oh yes. At least this time he didn't go on about Gene wanting to put him in a box. He calls people liars regularly, makes outlandish claims like the rape thing, contradicts himself routinely without noticing. He is the very model of a modern Major Ancap.

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    2. What about that Roddis fellow? He also seems like something of a twit. Does he really believe "government intervention" is at all a meaningful phrase?

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    3. Yes, one time I made a joke… I don't remember exactly what, but it was something like "I don't believe in capital punishment, but in your case, Major, I would make an exception." Ever since then he has repeatedly told people "Gene threatened to kill me."

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    4. I made a similar but milder joke where I posited a hypothetical in which MF was killed. He said it meant I wanted to kill him, and he trotted it a few times, just as he did to Gene. And frankly Samson he's not even the worst over there.

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    5. Ah, wonderful. Here he is completely misrepresenting me on contracts and property and spewing hilarious fallacious equivocations.

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    6. Roddis and M_F are the worst commentators on Bob Murphy's blog.

      M_F's standard tactic is simply to arbitrarily redefine one of his opponent's key words and then say he was won under his new definition.

      The most bizarre example of this was when he debated me on Say's law. After losing the argument, he then decided that he could literally redefine “immediately” as used by Say in any sense he wanted at all:

      “Other than the misleading word “immediately”, which can be taken to mean any time at all, since the standard for “short” and “long” periods of time is not objective but subjective, how is that statement idiotic?”
      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2011/12/say-repudiated-says-law.html?showComment=1322754858471#c4751417681290758722

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    7. His general tact seems to be "flail around like an idiot until my opponent stops arguing". Twice he's dodged me and continues to spout nonsense regarding contracts. He seems like a cultist.

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  9. OK Gene mark this one down in the record books, I am agreeing I misunderstood what you were saying. I still think what you're saying is totally wrong, but I now see that I misunderstood you before.

    I thought you were going back to your claim about methodological individualism, but no, I see now you are talking about something else, the idea of an individual being the locus of rights/political sovereignty.

    Last thing: Can you remember the post I asked about, where you said, "Now *that* is a real statist, guys, let's not abuse our terminology!" ?

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    1. Bob, here: gene-callahan.blogspot.com/2011/04/those-damned-statists.html?m=1

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    2. Thanks for your acknowledgment here Bob. But still, see my most recent post on this topic.

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  10. I asked at Bob's Blog, but here is probably better. Gene, what is the "modern individual"?

    (Samson claims it to be the socially unconnected "atomic" individual, do you agree?)

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    1. Yes, I'd like to know if I got it correct.

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