Sunday, December 4, 2011

Response to a Voluntaryist


http://www.facebook.com/notes/chase-voluntaryist-rachels/the-case-for-a-voluntary-society/2203984790077 <--This is the case for anarchy that I am responding to in this post.

This article has a lot to say, a lot to digest, and a lot to respond to, such that it’s difficult to know when to start. So I’m going to start at the beginning (a very good place to start, as Mary Poppins reminds us!) with the discussion of universal truths. A is A, 1 + 1 = 2, etc. Things which no reasonable person having a reasonable discussion can deny. Since I think we’re both reasonable people having a reasonable discussion, I embrace this logical foundation.

Your first assertion is that the necessity of the state is not one of these universal truths. I agree wholeheartedly. This does not, however, mean it is a bad idea. I do not support the existence of the government because I have always assumed its necessity, but because I personally believe a limited state to be good. However, the same applies to your belief. You hold that the initiation of force is immoral. That is not a universal truth either. It is a moral evaluation. It is your subjective belief. That I happen to share that belief is irrelevant; someone, somewhere does not agree or may not agree in the future. Unless you can prove this to be true logically, it cannot be assumed in our debate. 

Essentially, we must establish that any question of how humans OUGHT to act or OUGHT to relate to one another is an essentially moral question. Furthermore, we must establish that any answer to a moral question is not a universal truth. Unlike universal truths, morality is inherently not provable. The most we could hope for in the line of proof is that a very large majority believes a moral principle to be true, perhaps even 99.99999%.  But then again, a comparable majority presently believes in the necessity of some form of state, which you’ve shown is not a universal truth. The point is that no moral evaluation can possibly be proven, or can possibly be made without somebody disagreeing, and thus no moral evaluation is universally true.

Therefore, the necessity of anarchy is no more universally true than is the necessity of a state. This says nothing of the desirability of either. The question is not one of universal truth, because in issues like this none exists. This issue is simply one of subjective moral desirability. Our debate must focus solely on which society is the most morally desirable.

You have eloquently expressed your belief on why anarchy is the most morally desirable in your article. While I agree with some of your arguments, I disagree with your conclusion. So, if I do not believe in anarchy, what do I believe in? Well, I consider myself a Libertarian. I do not believe that libertarianism = anarchy. The article above has given us a very good definition of anarchy. So, to illustrate my differences from it, I must define libertarianism. What does it mean to be a Libertarian? Well, obviously the root word of libertarian is liberty. To me, and probably to most libertarians, it means maximum liberty. I believe human society is good to the extent that it is free. I, like most libertarians, define freedom as the ability to do anything you like to the extent that you don’t infringe on other people’s inherent birthrights. I think our current constitution gives a pretty fair definition of those rights: life, liberty, and property (of course, that constitution has been trampled on by our government so much that defending those rights is not, and arguably has never been, what our government does). Of course, each of these definitions of liberty and rights are also subjective based on your morality. But based on what you wrote I assume you would probably accept them more or less (let me know if that is a hasty assumption!)

I also recognize that humans are not perfect, human society is not perfect, and consequentially human society can never be perfectly free. You also agree to this in your article, when you urge the reader to compare anarchy to the status quo rather than to a utopia. Because we err, we will inevitably deviate from total freedom occasionally. There is a certain extent to which human beings are flawed, and thus a certain extent to which freedom must be encroached upon. Our subjective moral aim is to minimize these flaws and maximize freedom. Thus, your characterization of me as a “minarchist” in your comment was accurate. This is in fact the official slogan of the Libertarian Party: “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom”. You’d probably even agree with this slogan. The difference is, you view the minimum level of government required to attain the maximum amount of freedom humanity possibly can as 0. I wouldn’t. The question before us, therefore, is what amount of government, what level of officially, authoritatively organized force and coercion, will result in the highest amounts of net, sum freedom for humanity? You say zero, I say more than zero. The rest of my rebuttal to your argument will focus on a) how much more than zero I support, and b) why I feel that level of state will engender a freer society than a society with no state whatsoever.

Part one: How much government do I support? I support a government that defends people’s inherent rights to life, liberty, and property. I believe these are the only three things which all human beings, from every socioeconomic class and every walk of life, are born with. You are entitled to keep what you are born with if you like, or to trade it on mutually agreeable terms (after you’ve reached adulthood, of course…I don’t think anyone here would disagree with the principle of some sort of guardianship over your rights while you are a child!). The state’s only role, in my opinion, should be to defend those rights from encroachment. I recognize that this will require force, coercion, nastiness, and a general restriction on liberty. However, I also recognize that governments are not the only thing which can restrict liberty, and I hold that they are the greatest safeguard against those other things. I also recognize that this state’s social contract will require some unwilling participants to submit to force they never agreed to submit to, which was initiated upon them. However, I feel that injustice is a lesser injustice than the alternative, and that their amount of freedom, while restricted somewhat, is still greater than it would be in the alternative. That is to say, the amount their freedoms could be breached in the absence of a government is greater than the amount they would be breached in the government I would create.

You began your speech by saying “don’t compare anarchy to a utopia, compare it to the current state”. I also reject the current state. It’s hardly fair that you force your debate opponents to defend something they do not support, especially when those folks have already demonstrated their discontent with the status quo by joining a “Be Libertarian” group. So I’d counter with this: don’t compare anarchy to the current state, compare it to the state we could have if we enacted serious reforms and strict constitutional adherence. You posit a choice only between state and no state, but there are many different types of states; consequentially, there are more than two options here. Naturally, this debate must be purely hypothetical; since neither a good example of anarchy or a good example of a truly restricted government exists today, citing real world examples can be difficult. I anticipate a great many attacks, and perhaps clarifications, on the state I have proposed, but I am ready to defend them as they are brought up just as you’ll doubtlessly defend your proposal.

Part two: Why will this society be freer than anarchy? In short, because anarchy would enable a greater amount of rights-infringement than the government I propose would conduct. This is the section which I imagine the most of our debate will center upon. In both a state and anarchy, people’s moral views and/or selfish desires are checked by other people’s views/desires. The primary difference I see between a state and anarchy is that in the state I propose, there are systemic safeguards to the weaker/minority faction, whereas in anarchy there are none. In the state I propose, there is a constitution outlining everybody’s rights, whereas in anarchy there is none. While that constitution can theoretically be abridged, it requires a huge majority in order to do so because of the checks and balances inherent in the system. Anarchy has no such checks. The result is that the constitutionally restricted state with a system of checks and balances defends only those rights that a large majority of the populace wants defended, whereas the anarchy you described either defends nothing or defends whatever rights are most profitable for DRO’s to defend.

Remember when I said there is no such thing as universal morality? Well, there isn’t. But there are some morals that come mighty close. “Killing is wrong”, for instance. “Theft is wrong”. “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” These are things which are held to be true in just about every organized religion on earth, and believed by most who lack a religion as well. Unfortunately for anarchists, “The initiation of any force for any reason is wrong” is not among them. Very many people, including myself, believe that the initiation of force is sometimes justified. They believe it is justified to prevent would be killers from killing and would be stealers from stealing, even if doing so requires killing the killer, or stealing from unwilling taxpayers to fund the cop who will stop the stealer. They believe that the oppression of a very small minority who does not hold killing to be immoral is preferable to allowing those killers to run rampant (which I’m not saying you support, don’t worry. I’m getting there). So the question becomes, which agent should carry out that force? A single state, or several competing DRO’s?

You argue that DRO’s are preferable to a state by claiming:

“[With DRO’s] the arbiters being used in any dispute between two or more parties must be agreed upon by each party before any subsequent arbitration may take place.  This successfully averts the sticky conflict of being subject to laws under which an individual does not agree.”

But it does not avert an even stickier conflict; that is, the conflict of choosing the DRO! Feuding factions are likely feuding because they have a different moral code, and acted based on it. Since morality is not universal, DRO’s will have their own worldviews as well. Which worldview the dispute will be resolved from?

In a state, there is a system in place which is applied equally to all factions in the nation. Yes, this has the downside of being “one-size-fits-all”, so to speak, in that there is only one way in which this government would operate but many, many opinions about how it government should operate. The many who disagree will feel oppressed. Would it not be better, you ask, to have each faction decide for themselves? To have several smaller communities where each individual’s voice is heard louder? Well, perhaps on a federalist level, but not as the only source of authority. This is partly because communities of any size are not islands and their moral opinions, and thus the actions based on those opinions, do not affect only themselves. Bordering communities might have different moral standards. They might get along at first, but when Community A has a massive drought and ensuing famine with nothing to trade, and Community B has a bountiful harvest, Community A might decide it’s perfectly moral to steal in order to stay alive. When community B disagrees, we have a mini-war. No DRO is going to be able to stop them, because none would be mutually agreed upon.

As Brian Rux so, erm, eloquently described with his “fuck you, you goatless cunt” comment, cooperation cannot be assumed even by a clearly guilty party, let alone by a party who believes themselves to be in the right (as most guilty parties do). Each DRO would also consist of biased, flawed, malleable human beings, just as a state is. The profit incentive for the DRO is no stronger than the reelection incentive for a politician, and both incentives are just as easily hijacked by special interests. Your assumption that profit would incentivize DRO’s to appeal to as many world views as possible is equally false; they could simply pander to wealthier individuals and make the same amount of profit defending their interests. Lotus doesn’t make a profit by offering cars accessible for the masses. You accurately observe that in governments, powerful factions sometimes oppress the weaker faction; yet you ignore that the same thing would occur through DRO’s. Each DRO would develop a certain worldview, be contributed to by those who shared that worldview, and would decide with those who shared that worldview; anyone who lacked that worldview would not contribute to it, and would not agree to have it as their arbiter. With either a DRO or a state, or neither, somebody’s morality must be discarded to resolve a conflict between two worldviews. Under my state, minority protections are built in in the form of universally enumerated constitutional rights; the majority could only oppress the minority insofar as they respect those rights. Under anarchy, the powerful group faces no such restraints.

In summary, I think there’s a reason this group is not titled “Being Anarchist”. If it had been titled in this manner, I would not have “liked” it. Libertarians can still believe in unalienable rights, rights to which everyone is entitled to at birth. They can still believe in a social contract created to defend those rights for everyone, even those who couldn’t afford to defend their own rights through a DRO or insurance group. They can believe that the coercion necessary to fund that state is a lesser evil than the coercion that would exist without that state. The true question is, what are those rights? This is a question for the constitution. Once they are established, we must decide which coercive actions of the state actually defend them, and which do not? This is what our legislative, executive, and judicial branches must figure out. It is not a one-time decision, but an ever-running process as governments adapt to changing threats to the constituent’s rights. If we wish to alter the answers to either of these questions, we would be best served to work WITHIN the system (by doing things like voting for Ron Paul, who’s now in second place in Iowa ahead of Romney!!!) instead of trying to topple the system.

That is all. Let the notoriously long-winded anarchists dig in!

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