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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14784/the-search-for-the-good-society/

The Search for the “Good Society”

November 29, 2010 by

The connotation of unreality that the word has acquired follows from the fact that every utopia ignores the central operating lever of man: he seeks to satisfy his desires with the least expenditure of effort. FULL ARTICLE by Frank Chodorov

{ 53 comments }

Wildberry November 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

I have new respect for Chodorov. He has disposed of anarchism and socialism in one short essay.

Matthew Swaringen November 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Utopian anarchism only. I don’t know of any anarchist here who would say that eliminating police eliminates crime, but eliminating bad laws certainly does eliminate many would be law-breakers who were doing something that harmed no one.

Wildberry November 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

In the anarchist world, who is left around to enforce the “good” laws? The “good” police?

Dagnytg November 30, 2010 at 3:54 am

How many laws do you need?

Wildberry December 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Dagnytg,

Good question. Any?

If you grant the legitimacy of laws, you also grant the legitimacy of government. To deny government is to deny laws.

Can there be too many laws, or wrong laws? Obviously. Does that lead to the conclusion that the very concept of a “law” is wrong? That the very concept of government is wrong? I don’t think so.

Dagnytg December 1, 2010 at 4:41 pm

You’re assuming that laws are only legitimized by gov. If I follow your logic, the only reason I don’t steal from my neighbor is because the gov. says it’s wrong.

I don’t believe that to be true. Laws are legitimized by nature and they are inherent to the human condition.

Example:

I was watching the show “Survivor man”. In the show, this guy (Les Stroud) goes into different environments and films himself attempting to survive. In this particular episode, he is in the rain forests of Papua, New Guinea living with a tribe. His goal is to film a burial ritual.

On the long journey the ritual site, the tribe comes across a large house (it looked more like a primitive barn). The tribe stops some distance away from the structure. They then start shouting in their native tongue. Les explains that the tribe is sending a message to the owners of the house stating they are passing by and mean no harm.

Even in the ultra third world, property rights exist. Laws exist in the rain forest of New Guinea…but there is no government.

Laws are legitimized by human nature… gov. has nothing to do with it.

Wildberry December 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Dagnytg,

“You’re assuming that laws are only legitimized by gov. If I follow your logic, the only reason I don’t steal from my neighbor is because the gov. says it’s wrong.”

You are equivocating on the definition of “law”. I can agree with your point below, (I mostly do) and still be making a different distinction than you.

There are “laws” of nature, “laws” of social convention, like in your example, and laws of “common law” and “legislative law”. I was referring to legislative laws, and asking you if there are ANY justifications for legislation? If so, then it implies government in some form.

It is not necessary to have a government to experience the laws of gravity. True enough. Failure to observe the laws of gravity will lead to potentially harmful consequences. You don’t need a government to enforce the law of gravity.

Social conventions are more like gravity than legislation. We observe them because we value cooperation, we understand the implications of tit-for-tat, and we wish to avoid potentially harmful consequences, like being attacked by a person who believes you are invading his sanctuary and intending him harm.

Then there are legal conventions, which attempt to memorialize social conventions into rules that can be enforced by a third parties, like judges and juries. IP law is a combination of social convention (attribution) and legal convention. Common law is a form of enforceable social convention. Legislation, in its most benign form, is a process of making common law uniform across a number of smaller jurisdictions.

“Laws are legitimized by human nature… gov. has nothing to do with it.”

Well, it is true that legislative laws must pass some form of sniff test for “justice”. Same with common law, but the checks and balances are better there. Social “laws” develop over time, and are based on the human desire for cooperation. These are hard to form and hard to modify. I think of this as the “common sense” test for whether a legal convention seems “just”. If it is in conflict with what we “know” socially, it “feels” wrong.
I have used an example of this to show how IP law is consistent with social conventions. Ever heard someone say something smart and claim credit for it, only to find out that it was actually said by someone else? Why do we react negatively to a person like that? For the same reason that we would react to a plagiarist in that way? I think so.

Peter Surda December 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

Wildberry,

If you grant the legitimacy of laws, you also grant the legitimacy of government. To deny government is to deny laws.

Why? That appears to problem with conflating formulation of law and codification of law. There is no logical reason for this.

Dagnytg December 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Wildberry,

Thank you for your very thoughtful and intelligent reply.

I’m not “equivocating” on the definition of law. I was assuming a definition that most people accept: Law is a system of rules.

If you grant the legitimacy of laws, you also grant the legitimacy of government. To deny government is to deny laws.

My point is clear. I can deny government and accept law. The two are not mutually inclusive.

I was referring to legislative laws, and asking you if there are ANY justifications for legislation?

No… the consequence of legislation is the criminalizing of human action.

Wildberry, you’re justifying law using byzantine legal definitions. I am not.

I making the moral argument that law comes from people and their social interactions. Those interactions are inherently based on respect for property rights. Property rights are an ethical and moral interpretation of what law is. It is the only moral foundation from which laws should be derived. People inherently understand this foundation. Whether in jungles of New Guinea or the streets of inner city Oakland, this moral foundation is understood, accepted, and defended.

So I ask you, again, how many laws do we need???

Wildberry December 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Peter,

*If you grant the legitimacy of laws, you also grant the legitimacy of government. To deny government is to deny laws.*
“Why? That appears to problem with conflating formulation of law and codification of law. There is no logical reason for this.”

Law: 1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority. 2.a. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by political authority. b. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system. -American Heritage Dictionary

Laws of custom are governed by cooperative social mechanisms, for example peer pressure.

Laws of agreement are governed by contracts.

Laws of authority are governed by agents of that authority. (i.e. Congress and Courts)

Laws imply enforcement. Enforcement implies governance. Government implies an agency with the authority to enforce authorized laws.

Wildberry December 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Dagnytg
You are most welcome. Likewise.

Sorry to keep doing this, but definition of terms seems to be a theme.

Equivocal: Open to two or more interpretations and often intend to mislead. AHD

See my response to Peter defining “law”.

“I can deny government and accept law.”

Let me be more precise. You cannot accept a concept of law and deny the concept of governance. Without governance, a law is just a rule that you may choose to follow or not. Gravity is a law of nature. Adherence is not optional. The consequence of denial is a splat on the cosmic sidwalk.

“No… the consequence of legislation is the criminalizing of human action.”

Are you really asserting that ALL legislative law criminalizes ALL human action?

“I making the moral argument that law comes from people and their social interactions. Those interactions are inherently based on respect for property rights.”

I cannot keep up with the imprecise use of terms you are employing.
Ethics are rules of “right” and “wrong” Morality is defined by conduct in conformity to those rules.

They are called rules, because your adherence is optional. You may choose to conduct yourself morally or immorally. Claiming that you created the phrase “To be or not to be” may be immoral, but you are unlikely to do jail time. You are likely to be viewed as untrustworthy, though, which carries its own negative consequences.

I do agree, however that legislative laws are not likely to be respected if they have no connection to commonly held beliefs about “right and wrong”. This is a large part of the problem today; we have lost our skills to distinguish right from wrong, and so we accept as “right” that which is “wrong”.

“So I ask you, again, how many laws do we need???”

The minimum number required to get the job done.

Peter Surda December 3, 2010 at 5:45 am

Wildberry,

Law: 1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority. 2.a. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by political authority. b. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system. -American Heritage Dictionary

I disagree with “political”, because we disagree on what it actually is. How do you distinguish between political and non-political authority, if not by the the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force?

Laws of authority are governed by agents of that authority. (i.e. Congress and Courts)

Again: how do you distinguish political and non-political authority?

Laws imply enforcement.

I’m not sure about this but I’ll agree for the time being.

Enforcement implies governance.

What is governance if not territorial monopoly on the initiation of force?

Government implies an agency with the authority to enforce authorized laws.

Authorised by whom? By itself? That kind of sounds like the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force, don’t you think?

Wildberry December 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

Peter
*Law: 1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority. 2.a. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by political authority. b. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system. -American Heritage Dictionary*
“I disagree with “political”, because we disagree on what it actually is. How do you distinguish between political and non-political authority, if not by the the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force?”

Politics: 6. The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society. 1a. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs. American Heritage Dictionary

Departing from this definition, it is not necessary that we define the method of governing. If you limit the concept of society to two people, the “laws” would be those rules that they agree to be governed by. Of course this leads us directly to enforcement, which you see coming, I know. But anything short of a law, with its implied power of enforcement, is not really law. It is an agreement. Under Rothbardian ethics, as I understand them, a party to such an agreement would still be free to break it, since he can’t contract away his free will.

This is what is meant by a law. A society agrees to be governed by laws, and the system of governance, the chosen political system, becomes the enforcer of last resort. Adherence, within the boundaries of this society, is not optional. If adherence is optional, it is not a law. I have not had to invoke a State by your definition to arrive at this position.

*Laws of authority are governed by agents of that authority.*
“Again: how do you distinguish political and non-political authority?”

I think this is the wrong question, but my answer would be something like this: Political authority implies society. Non-political authority implies a absence of society. I have defined society (borrowing from others) as *two or more humans acting in cooperation*. A person who cooperates with no one else would depend upon personal authority to control the conduct of others, and there is no appeal of last resort to an entity outside of his own self. The remedy of last resort could only be violence or withdrawal.

A better question is “what is an agent”? An agent acts on behalf of the principal, and owes a duty of obedience to that principal. The principal may terminate the agency relationship. If authority is derived from the consent of the governed, i.e. arises from society, it is a political authority of that society. The authority of enforcement may be confined by the laws of enforcement established by this society, and breaches of conduct by the agent are subject to enforcement by the principals.

“What is governance if not territorial monopoly on the initiation of force?”

See above. I have not used that definition, nor have I offended it.
Governance is a political system designed to protect the rights of individual members of a society, perhaps by a set of impartial laws adopted by that society, enforced by an authorized agent of society.

“Authorised by whom? By itself? That kind of sounds like the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force, don’t you think?”

Authorized by the individual members of a society. If there is no society, there is no authority. If there is no authority, there is no society. It is not required that the boundaries of this society be territorial. They may be virtual, as in a membership agreement to join and be bound by the laws that have been established before you joined. Also, enforcement would not be an initiation of force, since force is applied only in response to a breach of conduct. This is one concept of “government” which does not offend your definition of State.

Peter Surda December 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Non-political authority implies a absence of society.

That’s a useless definition, because the word “political” becomes redundant.

The principal may terminate the agency relationship.

In other words, he can secede. If you do not have exceptions to this rule, you’re an anarchist.

If authority is derived from the consent of the governed, i.e. arises from society, it is a political authority of that society.

Here is again the same issue of definitions. Political authority can only arise against the consent of the governed. Apolitical (free-market) authority is, on the other hand, really based on the consent of the principal.

I’m sorry Wildberry, but almost the whole of your posts explain how people should according to your ideas behave. But that has nothing to do with the question at hand. We are discussing what a government is, not what is should be.

Let’s assume that people do indeed act according to your “should”. Well, then there is no reason to call one organisation government and another one something else: there is no differentiating factor. On the other hand, if they do not behave according to your “should”, then there cannot be a government since the requirements are not fulfilled. Do you yet see the pointlessness of your arguments?

Wildberry December 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Peter
“That’s a useless definition, because the word “political” becomes redundant.”

It may well be useless. Let me use plain language. If society is two or more voluntarily cooperating humans, then the most fundamental social authority is withdrawal. In game theory, this is called Tit for Tat, made famous by Axelrod’s use of the Prisoner’s Dilemma to examine how cooperation emerges over time through a decision theory. The conclusion he reaches is that a successful strategy is to cooperate with those who cooperate with you, and don’t cooperate with those who don’t. Only through cooperation can one escape the zero-sum game.

If a member of society did not have the right to withdraw, then the right to cooperate could not be enforced. Without this ability to withdraw cooperation, his cooperation is not voluntary, and it is not a “free” society. This free society may choose a system to enforce their cooperative agreements. That system would have “political authority”, since it is granted by the consent of the governed. This may be in the nature of a metaphorical “social contract”.

“In other words, he can secede. If you do not have exceptions to this rule, you’re an anarchist.”

Yes, there is no exception to this rule. For example, as long as there was another “free country” to go to, one could always go there and withdraw cooperation and consent. If there wasn’t, one might chooses another method, like “vote the bums out” or organizing a revolution, or resistance by force of arms. Without the power to withdraw consent, it is not consent.

This doesn’t mean such withdrawal is trivial. It is more like a commitment to withdraw, whatever it takes. Such a commitment ultimately entails survival.

Now here is the mindblower. That does not make me an anarchist. This is only true if I accept the premise “What is not A is B”. Under a premise “What is not A or B is C”, it is not.

“…the whole of your posts explain how people should according to your ideas behave. But that has nothing to do with the question at hand. We are discussing what a government is, not what is should be.

I get that you are saying that I am offering a normative argument, but I haven’t asserted “should” anywhere. Even if I did, if there is a subtext to what I am saying, “should” implies “can”. Ethics has no purpose without morality. Ethics are rules, morality is conduct measured against those rules. We are discussing whether government “can” exist without violating a general system of ethics which fundamentally we, as libertarians, I believe we share. You say no. I say yes.

“Let’s assume that people do indeed act according to your “should”. Well, then there is no reason to call one organisation government and another one something else: there is no differentiating factor. On the other hand, if they do not behave according to your “should”, then there cannot be a government since the requirements are not fulfilled. Do you yet see the pointlessness of your arguments?”

No I don’t. But I do hear you say that there is no way to distinguish anything that is not A or B. I came across this the other night, and I think it is pretty good: “Government exercises a monopoly on retaliation,” among other things. This is in direct contrast to “a monopoly on the initiation of force”.

Rothbard defines State as having two attributes. One is the “monopoly on the initiation of force”, and the other is “compulsory taxation”. Both are coercive.

I am suggesting a definition of Government as “A monopoly on the right of retaliation”. This has three elements, all of which are coercive: a monopoly, retaliation and mandatory funding. Retaliation incorporates delayed retaliation after the fact and deterrence. These are attributes of Government. They are exclusive of anarchy, since “monopoly” cannot exist within a consistent concept of “anarchy”. They are exclusive of State, because there is no right to an “initiation” of force.

If the governed consent to granting a monopoly to a third-party agency, they are forbidden (by their own design and consent) from exercising their right of retaliation personally, except for a few exceptions of immediate consequence, such as self defense. If these functions of protection and security (both derived from the right of retaliation) are being delegated to an agent, then the execution of this function must be funded, since execution depends upon the use of scarce resources. Without funding, it cannot be delegated with any realistic meaning.

These are very well-developed arguments, and address in great detail the premises of Ancap ethics, OE, and other scholars on this subject, including John Locke, etc. These are not my original ideas. I am suggesting you put your own biases towards Rothbardian ancap aside for a moment, and consider that this view MIGHT be based on more than ignorance and logical fallacy.

Humbly submitted,

Allen Weingarten November 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The “Good Society” cannot be utopian, for it must deal with man as he is.
Given that man is an admixture of earning and stealing, what is sought is a society that rewards earning, while penalizing theft. Earning is rewarded by the market, so what is sought is its protection, by laws that punish theft (including fraud). Of course there is a tradeoff, since the enactment & enforcement of laws also contains theft and fraud. Consequently, the “Good Society” is one that maximizes the freedom of the individual, and minimizes aggression with no more intervention than is imperative to do so.
Perhaps the main thing to emphasize is that this is primarily a matter of culture, and secondly a matter of government.

Wildberry November 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Allen,
“…man is a mixture of earning and stealing, …”

As was discussed at some length in another blog, yes, no men are angels. See: http://blog.mises.org/14299/the-progressive-conversion-of-social-power-into-state-power/
and especially here: http://blog.mises.org/14250/if-men-were-angels-2/

“…no more intervention than is imperative…”

Of course the question here is “who” intervenes, and if we know who, “how”?

“…this is primarily a matter of culture, and secondly a matter of government…”

Culture: “the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions and all other products of human work and thought” – American Heritage College Dictionary.

Government: “The act or process of governing, esp. the control and administration of public policy in a political unit”- Ibid.

Chorodov seems to be arguing that a public policy based on either Socialism or Anarchy is equally absurd, and utopian.
Is that your point also?

Mashuri November 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Actually, Chodorov seems to be arguing that public policy based on Socialism, Anarchy and everything in between is absurd.

Wildberry November 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

You mean that Chordov is saying that any form of public policy is absurd? That would seem a little hard to defend, but I’m willing to listen.

Mashuri November 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Hard to say, since I am not Chodorov. He states, “Then there are the utopians who dwell somewhere between these schools; accepting the State as a desirable or unavoidable fact of life (or even enjoying divine sanction), they propose to rid it of its admitted imperfections by legalistic tinkering.” This is directed at the “everyting in between” I mentioned. I haven’t read the book so I couldn’t tell you how he defends his approach. Perhaps he is simply saying that mankind is screwed no matter what.

Wildberry December 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Utopia: 1. An ideally perfect place, esp. in its social, political and moral aspects. 2. An impractical idealistic scheme for reform. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Belief in Utopia is absurd. Like anarchism, in an advanced, highly populated society, it has never existed. One might argue that it “could” exist in a Garden-of-Eden-like construct. One could hypothesize about how all the issues of life would be handled in such a world. It is a story. It didn’t end well.

As I say below, human history in relation to the natural world is not a record of utopian ideals. Therefore, “legislative tinkering” is insufficient to create this perfect state of being. I agree

Peter Surda December 2, 2010 at 8:37 am

Wildberry,

ok, I see that you understand the problem of Utopia. Now, let’s make the argument that the statists’ (and minarchists’) position is utopian.

We both seem to agree that the state does not have any magical powers. From that it follows that it’s unnecessary to fix problems (unless the “solution” somehow depends on the the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force). It does not mean that in a society without state, problems magically disappears. It means that even if you have problems, introducing the state does not fix them. It would be a step in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, a lot of statists’ arguments require exactly this assumption: that the state has magical powers. They begin with describing an undesirable situation and explain why it wouldn’t be resolved satisfactorily by the market. Then they conclude that this necessitates (or justifies) the state. But that’s a non-sequitur. You could just as well say that this necessitates mafias (if you argue from the point of view of force) or pink unicorns (if you argue from the point of view of magical powers) and the sentence would have the same argumentative value.

Wildberry December 2, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Peter,
“From that it follows that it’s [the State] unnecessary to fix problems (unless the “solution” somehow depends on the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force). It does not mean that in a society without state, problems magically disappears. It means that even if you have problems, introducing the state does not fix them. It would be a step in the wrong direction.”

First, I object to this definition of “State”, and further have asserted it is an equivocation to apply this definition so broadly as to encompasses any action that is not performed either directly by the rights-holder personally, or an agent working on his behalf, both of which must be subject to the free-market forces, (i.e. economic calculation). This is what we have been debating elsewhere.

There is an argument which concludes that enforcement is coercion in all cases, even when not “initiated”, and that since the economic calculation depends upon voluntary action, enforcement is not, by its nature, suitable for free-market provision. This argument has merit.

A private enforcement agency (if that is what you are contemplating) would not be a “state” because, although it “initiates force”, it does not necessarily hold a territorial monopoly on this service; it is subject to the free-market forces of competition.

But an agency that “sells” enforcement is not a free-market agency, since it is “initiating force” on a third person on behalf of another third person. Such an agency is not operating on the basis of an economic calculation. The “criminal” is not calculating rationally and then choosing to be “enforced”. It is not free-market human action conducted among equal traders. It is a free-market function between two parties to the detriment of a third party. The “victim” and “agency” make a deal to coerce the “criminal”.

How can such an agency be both subject to free-market forces, yet not be a free-market function? This is a contradiction.

The fact that it is not a monopoly, meaning you can fire them and hire a different one, is not sufficient to satisfy the claim that it operates within a free-market context.

“But that’s a non-sequitur. You could just as well say that this necessitates mafias (if you argue from the point of view of force) or pink unicorns (if you argue from the point of view of magical powers) and the sentence would have the same argumentative value.”

I agree. The argument is equally useless to argue for the abolition of the State as for the existence of a state.

To resolve this issue, we would have to argue about whether such an agency should be based on the mafia model (my understanding of free-market protection), the pink unicorn model, or some other model.

That is the debate I have been trying to get you to for some time now. However, your insistence that we may not venture beyond your definition of State, and your premise that “all states are verboten” prevents such a discussion. In your view, such a discussion is useless, since you have already concluded that such a discussion is precluded by your “internally consistent” system of logical deduction which leads you to that conclusion.

You believe that the position against the concept of “state” is proven by the way you have defined what the word “state” means. Since the word “state” can only have one meaning in your logical system, any attempt to discuss a use or meaning that is outside of that definition is assumed to be invalid. Thereby, your assumptions are smuggled into your premise.

I believe that your use of the word “state” to define all instances of meaning of that concept is an equivocation, since it obviously does not cover all instances of the real world where the word “state” might be applied.

Therefore, until there is a breakthrough of understanding, this debate remains circular in nature, and irresolvable.

Peter Surda December 3, 2010 at 6:12 am

Wildberry,

it looks like the one of the crucial points of our disagreement is the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force as a defining attribute of state. So maybe we should concentrate on that.

A second issue in your post is that you equate defensive violence with initiation of violence. Initiation is the one that came chronologically first. Someone defending his property or attempting to gain it back is not necessarily initiating violence. It might happen, for example, if innocent third parties get involved, but there is no such requirement per se. It does not matter either if someone does it on the victim’s behalf.

We can, of course, have a disagreement regarding the exact form of justice. But that is a normative question and has nothing to do with the state.

So far, you have, regrettably, failed to provide a coherent theory of state. You only provided vague constructs that explain what it, according to your ideas about justice, should be. But you have not explained what this “should” has to do with the actual “is”. It’s like the ontological and moral arguments for the existence of god: we desire it, therefore it is. If you reject the territorial monopoly on initiation of force, what is it then?

Wildberry December 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Peter,
“it looks like the one of the crucial points of our disagreement is the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force as a defining attribute of state. So maybe we should concentrate on that.”

Yes, I agree. I responded to your last two posts before reading this one, but this is indeed the crux of the issue.

“A second issue in your post is that you equate defensive violence with initiation of violence. Initiation is the one that came chronologically first. Someone defending his property or attempting to gain it back is not necessarily initiating violence. It might happen, for example, if innocent third parties get involved, but there is no such requirement per se. It does not matter either if someone does it on the victim’s behalf.”

Yes, this appears consistent with my understanding of “initiation”

“We can, of course, have a disagreement regarding the exact form of justice. But that is a normative question and has nothing to do with the state.”

We can discuss our disagreements about “the exat form of justice” only if we can define a concept that is not “anarchism” and is not “state”. That is what I am attempting to lay the foundation for.

“So far, you have, regrettably, failed to provide a coherent theory of state. You only provided vague constructs that explain what it, according to your ideas about justice, should be. But you have not explained what this “should” has to do with the actual “is”. It’s like the ontological and moral arguments for the existence of god: we desire it, therefore it is. If you reject the territorial monopoly on initiation of force, what is it then?”

Given what has been said thus far, I think we might be able to approach this topic now. Let’s take your definition and agree that it is a stake in the ground.

Let’s also assume that Anarchy is the “absence of State”. That is another stake in the ground.

The question I have is this: Is there any conceptual territory between or beyond these two stakes? Or do these two concepts define the entire universe of possibilities?

I have argued, as have many others, that there is. Allow me to name this “Government” without assigning that concept to either “State” or “Anarchism”.

If the function of government is to 1)protect inalienable human rights, and 2) provide security, both of which are a form of enforcement function, then any departure from this functional scope creates something other than Government. It may be a State. Anything less than this is not Government. It may be Anarchy.

State, therefore, becomes “an unauthorized expansion in the scope of Government”.

Anarchy becomes “an absence of Government or State”.

In this framework, it is not necessary that I provide a theory of State beyond this construct. Same with Anarchy. To posit the requirement that I define State that in some way distinguishes the difference between your State and some other is equivocal.

We are not discussing the ways we might distinguish “State”. We are attempting to define a discussion about Government. Do you agree there is a difference?

Peter Surda December 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Wildberry,

regrettably, I think we’re going in circles. I define state as the territorial monopoly on the initiation of force, and the absence of such an entity anarchy. There is no third option, because there is no logical way of representing it. I further assert that the definition provided is relevant for the historical development as well as for the libertarian theory.

You provide these definitions:

If the function of government is to 1)protect inalienable human rights, and 2) provide security, both of which are a form of enforcement function, then any departure from this functional scope creates something other than Government. It may be a State. Anything less than this is not Government. It may be Anarchy.

So you describe that the function of government is this and that. I.e. if a government exists, it should perform these activities. But what does this have to do with actual reality? You only express your desire that people should act in a specific way. That’s like saying that “children should brush their teeth”. If they don’t brush them, do they stop being children? That’s of course ridiculous. The whole approach is invalid and useless. It is mixing normative and positive claims.

Wildberry December 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Peter,
Welcome back.
Yes we are regrettably going in circles for reasons that are becoming obvious.

“There is no third option, because there is no logical way of representing it.”

You are being confronted with the limitations of your rational construct. If we accept that your definition of “state” represents one aspect of reality, and “anarchy” represents everything else, there is no room in your construct of any other constructs.

If I assert that C is neither A or B, it cannot avoid conflice with a logical framework which delclares “all entities are either A or B”. Any attempt will lead us back to this contradiction.

Therefore you are stuck, as are other anarchists. You cannot get beyond your rationally logical construct without contradicting it. This is a limitation, and can only be broken by accepting a premise which states “That which is not A or B, is C”. This explains why some believe that pure rationality has limitations. I am one.

Then we may discuss the attributes of C.

This is your dilemma and why we are now confronting logical circularity.

Allen Weingarten November 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Wildberry, we agree that men are not angels. Moreover, we are addressing government intervention, which does so by “its enactment & enforcement of laws”. You have given a description of Culture and Government, but I only want to clarify that Culture is a matter of freedom, while Government is a matter of force.

My point is not to address the limitations of socialism or anarchy, which would be addressing what is not a “Good Society”. Rather it is to clarify that what constitutes a “Good Society” is a matter of minimizing aggression (which in this context is by theft and fraud). Here, government is necessary to restrain man’s aggression, yet it inevitably engages in aggression.

A mathematician would describe this by letting: X = the amount of aggression committed by citizens; Y = the amount of aggression committed by government. Then a “Good Society” strives to minimize X+Y, which is the total aggression in society.

So Culture enhances man, which is what is called the “Objective function”, while Government constrains aggression (while it also commits it). My point on Government is that it must be used sparingly, although it currently commits more aggression than it prevents. Here, I would use government only insofar as necessary for the survival of the society, and not for the sake of providing benefits or pursuing ‘moral’ objectives. (Here, I agree with the Declaration of Independence, that the purpose of Government is to defend the inalienable rights of the individual.)

Wildberry December 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Makes sense to me.

Lee November 29, 2010 at 7:40 pm

The anarchist rejection of force is a silly pipe-dream which wouldn’t outlast the morning dew in the real world; the government monopoly of force is nothing more than an effort to take that very beneficial force from the majority and into the hands of an elite few. It seems we can never get beyond the absurd idea that no controls exist on behavior except those we great minds can conjure up. Hence the history of “civilized” man is the story of going from one idiot form of control to another and developing endless problems which never would arise under the natural laws by which we were created.

Wildberry November 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Lee,
That was pasionate. Let me ask you, have you considered the story of the Garden of Eden? Is a return to the natural state all that is requried?

I don’t think it is a matter of finding a way to prevent problems from ever arising, but rather to strive to improve our methods for dealing with them when they do (inevitably) arise. Yes?

Lee November 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I think a large part of the problem is accepting the reality that living involves some unpleasantness, sometimes grief, often not the way we think it could be or should be. But the unavoidable truth is that most of our grand schemes have only brought more grief and misery. Since I consider religions just more of the schemes we invent, I won’t even try to make comparisons to the Garden of Eden.

Mainly the point I want to get across is that there are certainly controls on behavior other than those of our invention; they only require us not to interfere and when we do there is a price which will be exacted.

guard November 30, 2010 at 3:21 am

Right on Lee. “Accepting” reality is simply a euphemism for not trying to change it with violent force. There are indeed completely natural controls on human behavior. A population of thieves can never exceed the numbers that producers can support. To think that producers are somehow superior to thieves is a value judgment based on that phony scheme: religion. Why should thieves be controlled and producers not? Surely the thief is entitled to use force to protect his life if the producer is.

Dagnytg November 30, 2010 at 4:20 am

The thief is violating property rights and a producer is not. Therefore, the thief is is entitled to nothing.

Lee November 30, 2010 at 4:58 am

My definition of accepting reality is understanding that there are aspects of existence which will not be changed by force or anything else. The history of government and religion is one of producing very large problems from what should have been very small ones.

As far as populations of thieves we have certainly created a huge one even now which threatens to overwhelm the producers. One way or another a price will be paid for the situation which has been created and it won’t be pleasant. Right now the producers are being punished for their “sin” of tolerating the thievery, but what happens when they revolt? Will the thieves with the force of their power exterminate the producers? Then they’ll have to become producers themselves, won’t they.

Nature always exacts her price and collects interest on delays in payment. When will we ever learn…

Wildberry November 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

Lee and Gaurd,

I’m trying to get a glimpse of your world. I’m just grateful I don’t live in it, or too close to it. Wouldn’t want to get it on my boots.

Lee November 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm

If you don’t live in it then your world must be imaginary. Don’t worry about your boots because the stuff is already far over your head.

Wildberry November 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I gleefully grant you the last word. That was pretty good.

Peter Surda December 1, 2010 at 5:17 am

Wildberry,

Lee has a good point. I have been, unsuccessfully, trying to explain to you the same problem in more abstract words. You are living in a dream and object to people who want to wake you up. I’ll reply to your other posts shortly, I have a backlog.

Wildberry December 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Lee and Peter,
I guess I lied about the last word thing…

“The history of government and religion is one of producing very large problems from what should have been very small ones.”

The history of “humans” is one of producing very large problems from what “could” have been very small ones.

Humans exist in a natural world. As David Crosby allegedly said, “You can’t bullshit the ocean, no one is listening.” So, no, I don’t deny human history or the natural world.

As to the dream world, I think a good case could be made that we all actually live in our own dream worlds, ones of our own making. And your point is what…your dreams are the “Truth”?

I am sincere when I say to you that I would be more than happy to jump onto that bandwagon if I could only work my way to that conclusion without assuming away the contradictions, omissions, and equivocations Peter and I have been discussing elsewhere.

I agree that the logic of anarchism is very neat and tidy. It is like an eloquently written bit of code. When you input data to it, it always generates the predictable answer. But this creation, as admirable as it may be, is not equivalent to the relationship of “human history and the natural world”.

Perhaps you are right about the fact that one day, I’ll wake up from my Matrix-like dream and see the “real” world as you two seem to share it. Like I said, I have no fear about that if it could be done. I remain open to new ideas and approaches to increasing my understanding, which is the essence of what I am doing here.

In all humility, I appreciate the time you are contributing to that process.

Lee December 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Beyond debate_in my opinion_ is the fact that the fundamental business of the world is not, as the poets would have it, Love; but rather death and destruction. Why? Because very nearly every living organism depends on the death and destruction of other living organisms. To pretend we have or can negate this fundamental fact of nature is hubris of an astonishing magnitude. Invariably these great systems we’ve invented have turned out to be nothing more than disguised aggression.

Peter Surda December 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

Wildberry,

what a fine example of debate. It is extremely rare to find such a civil discourse amidst deep disagreement. Thank you.

At the very low level, my argument is this: what features would a state require in order to satisfy people’s desires for a better life, and does it have them? The answer that I arrived to is: it would need to overcome the economic calculation argument, and it obviously can’t do that. The only thing it can do is to redistribute wealth. Of course, any wealth redistribution will make some people better off. But that’s not what it is “supposed” to mean.

Wildberry December 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Peter,
My sentiments exactly.

“At the very low level, my argument is this: what features would a state require in order to satisfy people’s desires for a better life, and does it have them? ”

I think this is a very good place to start a discussion. Your premise is restated as follows:
First:
*No one, either directly or through an agent, may interfere with an individual’s unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.* Agree?

Second:
*Any process of human endeavor which is best left to the free-market, should remain there.* Agree?

Third:
*The common duty of a free people is to protect and defend these unalienable rights, and to preserve them for future generations.* Agree?

As for redistribution of wealth, etc., that’s not on the list.

Lee December 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm

If I may address that, Wildberry, I can sum up my opposition very simply: No organism has any “rights” at all; each simply eats when he can and is eaten in return. In that and every other action he must decide for himself the best course of action. On what basis would you posit some “right” to have him do otherwise?

Peter Surda December 3, 2010 at 5:50 am

Wildberry,

*No one, either directly or through an agent, may interfere with an individual’s unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.* Agree?

These are too normative for me. Instead of agreeing, let’s just say that I will assume this.

*Any process of human endeavor which is best left to the free-market, should remain there.* Agree?

Assumed.

*The common duty of a free people is to protect and defend these unalienable rights, and to preserve them for future generations.* Agree?

Here is a problem. What does it mean “common duty”, and what does it have to do with government? Anybody should be free to provide protection to other people on a long term basis. Now, what does this have to do with government? Nothing. How can this be done outside of the scope of the economic calculation? It cannot.

Wildberry December 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Peter,

*The common duty of a free people is to protect and defend these unalienable rights, and to preserve them for future generations.*

“Here is a problem. What does it mean “common duty”, and what does it have to do with government? Anybody should be free to provide protection to other people on a long term basis. Now, what does this have to do with government? Nothing.”

A duty is an obligation of conduct. You cannot show a breach of conduct without first showing a duty to act in a particular way. We are assuming a society of cooperating humans. One form of such cooperation may be an agreement concerning shared duties of conduct. For example, I could not claim that I have natural rights as a human being, while denying such rights to others in society, if our common ethics included the concept that we are all created equal with regard to these rights.

I may calculate that rights are mortal in the sense that if they are not enforced, they vanish. Therefore, I have a duty to myself to enforce my rights. Each individual in a society would also have a duty to protect their own rights. This duty is a common duty throughout the members of a particular society. This leads us back to the issue of enforcement. I see no reason why a society of cooperating humans could not agree on a system of enforcement that serves their needs. This system would be political. A political system of governance, i.e. government.

In this way, government is a manifestation of a chosen system of enforcing adherence to a code of conduct which is assumed (or agreed) is a common duty of every member of this society.

“How can this be done outside of the scope of the economic calculation? It cannot.”

The freedom to engage in economic calculation free of unnecessary intervention might be a law of a society. It is certainly part of my personal ethics. I would only join a society that would agree that there is a common duty to protect this freedom. We might formalize this agreement in the form of a law. We might agree to create an agent to act as the enforcer of this law. We might engage in an economic calculation concerning the cost/benefit of this agency. We would be free to seek alternatives, modify the agency, modify the rules this agency was bound by, and establish the price we were willing to pay for the benefit. So far so good.

However, the enforcement actions themselves, conducted by an agency, are not directly subject to an economic calculation, as I’ve explained elsewhere. The reason is its coercive nature. The party who is being “enforced” is not free to choose the alternative. He has relinquished his own negative right to protection by acknowledging both the positive right of victims to retaliate, and the authority of the agency to act as enforcer. The accused still has rights, though. These rights would have to be protected by the laws governing enforcement by the agency. You pretty quickly get from here to concepts like “inalienable human rights” and “due process”.

As Mises argues, these agencies are not free-market actors. They are bureaucracies. They operate on a budget and a set of rules. They are not internally subject to an economic calculation in the way you mean it. They may be subject to efficiency measures, but also enforcement of the rules by which they obtain their authority to operate. In this way, they operate outside the scope of economic calculation internally, but are subject to the economic calculation of the principals, who may conclude that there are ways to provide better cost/benefit results, and select a different agency, or change the rules, or “outsource” certain functions to private agencies which do operate on a profit motive.

This begins to sound a lot like ancap, but with one important difference. Government remains the enforcer of last resort. This function is required in order for a large number of humans to form a society of cooperation where individual conduct of other humans cannot be guaranteed.

This statement is the crux if the issue. This is why Kinsella, for example, must be against IP. To admit that any form of IP is legitimate, he must admit that enforcement is required, and enforcement implies government. Since he (and many others) equivocate “government” with “State”, such enforcement is inconsistent with Ancap ideology, and must be “proven” as such. In attempting to prove a foregone conclusion, one runs the risk of selecting the facts to support that conclusion.

I made a comment about Kinsella recently on this subject and he responded as follows:
I said: ““Kinsella’s opposition to IP, IMHO, seems to derive primarily from the compatibility of his position with Ancap ideology.”

He responded: “Not true. You need not be a consistent libertarian (anarchist) to see why IP is nonsense. just consistent enough.”

Here, he equivocates “consistent libertarian” with “anarchism”. I think I have shown above that I can consistently adhere to the basic tenants of libertarian philosophy without resorting to anarchism or State. If IP is “non-sense”, they why do otherwise rational people see some sense in it, in some form or another. A cannot reconcile that rationally unless I assume that adherents to IP concepts of property are irrational.

Much of the dialogue on this site is characterized by the attitudes of two rational parties trying to demonstrate that the other is irrational.

Thankfully, this has not been the nature of our dialogue, and for that I remain grateful.

Peter Surda December 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Wildberry,

However, the enforcement actions themselves, conducted by an agency, are not directly subject to an economic calculation, as I’ve explained elsewhere. The reason is its coercive nature.

Yes, I have not come to that yet. However, you are wrong. All actions, coercive or not, are subject to economic calculation. They are the application of scarce means to achieve ends, and the decision making process that decides among mutually exclusive alternatives.

The coercive element is actually only a tiny fraction of the whole (assuming libertarian rules). There is also gathering evidence, forensics, interviewing and deduction. In order to prevent violence, you also need deterrence, defensive systems, logistics, intelligence and education. From the point of view of soft products, you also need certification and PR. The use of force is ideally restricted to apprehending the criminal and making sure that he adheres to the “hard” parts of the ruling. For the “soft” parts, like losing security rating, no force is necessary.

All these actions require decisions to be made on how and when to perform them. In order to do this rationally, you need to do that based on the costs of these acts and costs of the alternative (a criminal act is not prevented or criminal not found/punished, insurance payout etc).

As Mises argues, these agencies are not free-market actors. They are bureaucracies.

Regrettably, Mises was wrong. What he maybe meant (this is further analysed by my favourite Roy Cordato in Efficiency and Externalities in an Open-Ended Universe) is that the definition of property rights is something that must exist prior to markets, but it has nothing to do with the existence or absence of state.

Regarding Kinsella, I have some minor disagreements with him, but I think this is merely due to insufficient research in the topic (he’s kind of a pioneer so of course he won’t get everything 100% right). The actual problem is that IP contradicts physical property rights, so people subscribing to one of them will be in conflict with people subscribing to the other one. Stephan’s argument seems to be that if you have strong physical property rights protection agencies on a free market, IP protection agencies will be pushed out into irrelevance. That may be true, but he’s already making an implicit assumption.

Wildberry December 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Peter,
You may have a point here, but I can’t see it yet. I am assuming that economic calculation implies a free-market context and the price mechanism. Since coercion is not voluntary, it cannot be subject to a price mechanism, since one of the “trading partners” is not acting voluntarily. The accused is not choosing to be “enforced”.

If you make the statement, “I will submit to the rules of law as long as everyone else does”, what context might have to exist to enable that choice to manifest?

So I agree with your last point. Property rights must exist and be mutually understood before a rational economic calculation may occur. This is fundamental to both property and contract law.

I also agree that these rights may have nothing to do with government. Government becomes a factor if you contemplate enforcement. Whether you choose an agency which has a singular vested interest in the alleged victims only, or a neutral third party that applies a well-defined set of rules (investigation procedures, forensics, rules of evidence, legal procedures, trial by jury, etc) is not critical to the original establishment of these rights.

I recently read Mises’s Bureaucracy. He discusses at some length how the economic calculation does not apply to a bureaucracy because it is not subject to the price mechanism. Imagining “government” without “bureaucracy” is something anarchists have spent a good deal of time on.

Touchstone, who is admittedly Randian in her approach, cites some good arguments which have been levied against Rothbard’s ancap assertions that protection services can be provided by the free-market.

So these are not my nor novel ideas, and they seem to have the solid support of Mises. The fact that Mises and Rothbard disagree in their conclusions about this issues does not make Rothbard automatically correct.

Mashuri December 15, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I recently read Mises’s Bureaucracy. He discusses at some length how the economic calculation does not apply to a bureaucracy because it is not subject to the price mechanism. Imagining “government” without “bureaucracy” is something anarchists have spent a good deal of time on.

First of all, I wanted to commend the very civil discourse going on in this thread as well. It’s great to see.

I think what Mises meant in the above reference from “Bureaucracy” is that economic calculation does not apply to bureaucracies because it is fundamentally impossible, given the lack of a free market pricing system. It does not, however, exempt them from economic law, which is why bureaucracies, by their very nature, are always destroyers of wealth rather than creators.

Wildberry December 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Mashuri,
Hi. Yes, I agree, this discussion has been outstanding, and Peter deserves a lot of credit for haning in there. I really appreciate it, and plus it’s more fun this way.

“It does not, however, exempt them from economic law, which is why bureaucracies, by their very nature, are always destroyers of wealth rather than creators.”

This is a very judgmental way to say it. Of course, no one is exempt from economic law, just like no one is exempt from gravity.
However, don’t completely ignore the fact that bureaucracies are there to perform a service, and in fact may be preferrable for other reasons. Mises used police as a good example.

I think a judgment neutral way to think of it is like a cost center. Business sometimes have service bureaues that provide some service for a cost. This cost is an input for the business production profit and loss. They are under pressure to produce the service for lower costs, since this results in increased profits for the company.

A police force, for example, should cost no more than they have to to get the job done. Their cost (say taxes) are figured into the total cost of production.

Also, they have to follow rules. Police can’t go into a protection racket, for example.

My point is that they re not a profit center. They don’t deal with equal trading partners. There is no “market price” for a given arrest, because the perpetrator doesn’t consider the cost of being arrested, and then decides to decline. Therefore, there is no economic calculation as there would be between equal trading partners.

That is the point I was attempting to make.

Welcome.

Wildberry December 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Lee,
With all due respect (and I can’t say at the moment how much that is) your view seems barbaric to me.

“Eat or be eaten” does not seem to me to be a very enlightenend premise upon which to consider the endeavors of civilized humans.

If you wish to reduce the concept of a society in its ultimate expressin to simply survival of the fittest, well, go in peace.

I for one, aim higher.

Lee December 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

Of course it’s barbaric. But less so than the governments which pretend to “improve” it.

Wildberry December 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm

It is rare to encounter someone honest enough to admit they are a barbarian. Thank you for your honesty.

Hopefully, some of us have other options.

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