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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16244/on-doing-something-about-it/

On Doing Something About It

March 28, 2011 by

If a prominent politician hires a hall to make a speech, stay away; the absent audience will bring him to a realization of his nothingness. FULL ARTICLE by Frank Chodorov

{ 25 comments }

anonymous March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

The anarchist says the State is evil.
“The anarchist,” says the State, “is evil.”

Joe March 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

The anarchists say the State is evil. They are wrong. The State are evil. It is not a system that creates privilege, it is a number of morally responsible people who do so. A robot cannot declare war and a general staff cannot conduct one; the motivating instrument is a man called a king or a president, a man called a legislator, a man called a general. In thus identifying political behavior with persons, we prevent the transference of guilt to an amoral fiction; we place responsibility where it rightly belongs.
I always liked the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard was found to be a fraud. The same applies to all the pomp and circumstance that is perpetrated on the american citizen. As they say, ” everyone puts their pants on the same way.”

Horst Muhlmann March 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

In the UK, the “anarchists” say the State should continue to send them checks.

Daniel G. March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm

So was Chodorov an anarchist? He seems to renounce it in the beginning of the essay, but his opposition to the use of coercion makes him sound like one.

Tom Puckett March 29, 2011 at 12:36 am

If anyone deserves to be scrutinized without mercy it should certainly be those who view politics as a career. Once the guidelines are laid down that protect the liberties and individual rights of the people, how freaking hard is it to follow those guidelines? Presidents, Senators and Legislators are servants. Civil servants with clearly defined guidelines for their behavior while in office. The pursuit of power versus the protection of individual rights clearly defines the character of those who violate the trust of their constituency.
The failure of the process also falls on the people for their tolerance of this moral ambiguity. The inability to take the failure of politicians to task. The avoidance of the responsibility by apathetically accepting the marginalization of the law by the same politicians because the effort is too great to correct. The trickle down effect of compromising liberty creates the environment that “nothing is black and white” and that reality must be shades of grey. Which is false.
The anarchist and the politician are evil sides of the same coin. The anarchist destroys existing political structures through violence and presumes the absence of the law is better than the bastardized version that he now suffers. The politician destroys the law brick by compromising brick, pretending that a little bit of a good law is better than none at all. The end result is the same. The law protects no one. Liberty is lost and the only beneficiaries are those who revel and profit from the the pillaging, the anarchist and the politician.
We have a system that prevents this rubbish. The trouble is no one is doing the work required to make everyone accountable. Forget the notion that the divine right of kings will produce a leader that will benevolently protect us from ourselves while we do nothing. Step up to the plate and take the mantle of responsible self-governance upon yourself. Really enjoyed Mr. Chodorov’s article.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 5:25 am

I agree with most of what you said, however, I do not agree with your views on private property. None of us truly own anything, and we certainly do not have our own selves to thank for that which we temporarily possess. None of us are truly individuals, we are a collective organism. All is to be shared for true peace and order to occur. I must thank every “individual” (including plants and animals) on this planet for every fortuitous event that occurs to me, as, within a closed system, in order for anything to occur all things must adjust to accomodate the movements of any other thing. Thus, private property, and the idea of the “individual” are fallacies/illusions which only serve to prop up the ego. It is this clutching to the idea that we we ought to individually profit from our labour that keeps our artificial divisions in place, for, when we look at those who do not work to the same degree, or in the same way as us, we feel that they are undeserving. But, they must be where they are in order for us to be where we are. So we owe them every bit as much as we ourselves feel we are owed.

Richie May 31, 2011 at 6:46 am

How inspiring.

nate-m May 31, 2011 at 6:58 am

I agree with most of what you said, however, I do not agree with your views on private property. None of us truly own anything, and we certainly do not have our own selves to thank for that which we temporarily possess.

You must be in possession of something and control it in order to use it. It’s a matter of fact. You can have a ‘community spoon’ shared by a small town or something, but at some point in order to actually use the spoon to eat something you must take it and be the sole person in control of it.

‘Property Rights’ describes the social and legal mechanisms in which we get to decide who gets to control the spoon at any one time. No amount of pretending we are a single organism is going to change physics.

Thus, private property, and the idea of the “individual” are fallacies/illusions which only serve to prop up the ego.

Actually individualism is critical for the well being of society.

We all operate on a individual level whether you like it or not. We act on our own needs, our own desires, and our own wants. Everybody all the time. Without a high level of self-interest we would simply cease to function and starve to death.

It is this clutching to the idea that we we ought to individually profit from our labour that keeps our artificial divisions in place, for, when we look at those who do not work to the same degree, or in the same way as us, we feel that they are undeserving. But, they must be where they are in order for us to be where we are. So we owe them every bit as much as we ourselves feel we are owed.

Actually what this website describes is how economic mechanisms when people are allowed to freely associate with one another. In a truly free and peaceful capitalist society resources are naturally allocated to people that are best able to serve there fellow human. Large ‘capitalists’ may control significant resources and money, but that is only based on the fact that they are able to fill the needs of their customers in the most successful manner possible. It’s the average person that controls production through their own needs and desires, not the factory or store owners.

It’s a society were people are in service to one another. Purely voluntary service. The better you are able to serve the more money you can make.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 7:25 am

You must be in possession of something and control it in order to use it. It’s a matter of fact. You can have a ‘community spoon’ shared by a small town or something, but at some point in order to actually use the spoon to eat something you must take it and be the sole person in control of it.

‘Property Rights’ describes the social and legal mechanisms in which we get to decide who gets to control the spoon at any one time. No amount of pretending we are a single organism is going to change physics.

Once again, I used the phrase “temporarily possess”, things merely pass through our possession, we act as agents of nature in this regard.
“Property Rights” as you described, are social/legal mechanisms indeed. That means, they are products of the imagination of society, not natural law.
There is no “pretending” to be a single organism, biology tells us that it is so.

Actually individualism is critical for the well being of society.

We all operate on a individual level whether you like it or not. We act on our own needs, our own desires, and our own wants. Everybody all the time. Without a high level of self-interest we would simply cease to function and starve to death.

We operate under the illusion that we are on an individual level. We rationalize our actions and create stories which give us the impression that there are “logical/rational” motivations, however, we make our “decisions” based on our environment, the environment in turn is dictated by all the organisms that inhabit it. We operate collectively with the illusion that we operate individually. This is supported by recent neuroscience research that has found that when we make decisions, the decision is actually made before we are even aware of it. Individualism is not critical for the well-being of society as you state, it is actually to the overwhelming detriment of society. You say that without a high degree of self-interest we would “cease to function and starve to death”, however there are many biological safeguards to protect against this. Such as hunger. It is not in “self-interest” that we attempt to gather food and feed ourselves, it is simply a biological response to a lack of satiency signals from our nervous system, caused once again by our various environment factors. Nature ensures that all continues.

Actually what this website describes is how economic mechanisms when people are allowed to freely associate with one another. In a truly free and peaceful capitalist society resources are naturally allocated to people that are best able to serve there fellow human. Large ‘capitalists’ may control significant resources and money, but that is only based on the fact that they are able to fill the needs of their customers in the most successful manner possible. It’s the average person that controls production through their own needs and desires, not the factory or store owners.

It’s a society were people are in service to one another. Purely voluntary service. The better you are able to serve the more money you can make.

You did not understand my final point, briefly, I will once again summarize: All things must accomodate the changes of all other things. This means, that we, individually, control nothing. We operate as agents of nature in accordance with the signals given by our environment. “Individuality” is an illusion, albeit a very convincing and comforting one. But, if we truly look at how nature and our species operates, we invariably come to the conclusion that we operate collectively, not individually. As such, “individual property” makes no sense whatsoever. It is fine to temporarily possess and use things, but when we imagine that we have them because of our “hard work” then we begin to deceive ourselves. In order for you to have your car, myriad other events had to occur around the world and indeed throughout the universe. Indeed, every single particle in the universe had to be moved billions of times in order to accomodate your reality. You do not have yourself to thank for your possessions and accomplishments, you have literally EVERYTHING to thank. Thus, all things belong to all things. Ownership is an illusion.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 7:58 am

I should clarify since the site reformatted my paragraphs. Some paragraphs were copied/pasted from the previous reply to my original post. Please refer to the previous post if confused.

Anthony May 31, 2011 at 8:45 am

Ryan,

You said “None of us are truly individuals, we are a collective organism.”, but that sentence only makes sense if you completely ignore biology, evolution and the world around you. Evolution acts on individuals in so far as they are the only entity capable of physically reproducing. Evolution does not act on groups, and it is certainly not consistent with reality to claim that we are all part of some “super organism”.

Further, your claim that we live in a “closed system”, but in fact we do not live in a closed system in any sense of the term. We receive a constant influx of energy from the sun and we constantly lose energy to space. We are using only a fraction of a percent of the solar energy that is available to us every second of every day, and that is not even factoring in all of the energy stored on the earth in the form of chemical, thermal and nuclear potential energy. We live in an open system, and we have not even begun to reach the limit of our potential.

Finally, you said that the idea that we should “individually profit from our labour” is somehow artificial and unnecessary, buy the fact that you have access to a computer means that you believe that you should profit from your labour too.

If you didn’t believe that you should profit from your labour shouldn’t you give everything you have above the bare minimum you need to survive to those who have less then they need? Shouldn’t you be working 18 hours per day, 365 days per year to provide food and shelter for those who don’t have it? Or do you think that you should profit from your higher productivity and enjoy good food, a comfortable house, leisure time, etc?

If you choose option 1 then I don’t expect to hear from you again, but as long as you have the time to use the internet I will know that even you don’t agree with your theory (that people should not profit from their labour).

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 9:29 am

Firstly, it is entirely consistent with biology and evolution that we are a collective organism, and by that I mean all living things on this planet. We do evolve as groups, not as individuals, it is the actions of many that enables evolution, not the actions of the one. Additionally, although reproduction is certainly the mechanism by which genetic change is passed on, that same mutation must be passed along by many, through many generations, through planetary changes of drastic degrees. The CAUSE for evolution is certainly environmental, and that environment encompasses all living things. All organisms contribute to the evolution of all other organisms, regardless of to what degree.
Further, with regards to biology, all one must do to confirm that we are all of one life, is to look at the building blocks of life. Namely, C, A, T, G, and U. We all share these. Each and every living thing on this planet. Going even further, the planetary cycles flow through us. We are all truly a part of this planet, being built from its components. Every molecule of water in our bodies was once part of seas, clouds, rivers, and oceans, as well as other living organisms throughout the life of the planet. The same concept can be applied to all that makes up our physical form.

For all practical purposes, we do live in a closed system, the mere fact that sunlight passes through our atmosphere does not make it less so, for those rays are on a one-way trip. Our air, water, soil, as well as most organisms do not leave the planet. Indeed, when one air molecule is displaced, all air molecules must adjust their position accordingly. Planet-wide. The forces of nature dictate the motions of all things, not our own “decisions”. Certainly gravitational forces from celestial bodies also act upon us, but that is again another macroscopic system, and for the purposes of this conversation, does not strictly apply.

The fact that I have access to a computer says absolutely nothing about my beliefs concerning individual profit. It is the circumstances of my life which have led to this point where I have access to a computer, most of which I had absolutely no control over. The fact remains that I am where I am owing to the actions of others as well as myself. All the events of my life required that others be in certain places at certain times in order for me to arrive in the here and now. Each one of them, human or otherwise, had an equally critical role to play, as all organisms must be where they are and doing what they are doing in order for the universe to be in whichever state it happens to be in.
Once again, I am where I am through no “decisions” of my own. Taoist philosophers had a strong grasp of this concept millenia ago, and it is no less true now. Do I believe that all should work to the breaking point to support the rest of the world? No. I believe that leisure is a necessity for all things, pleasure being something also to be shared. I believe that my contributions to the collective are equally important when I am not “working”. Do I believe that I personally should profit from my work? No. I believe that all should profit from my actions regardless of whether those actions are on company time or not. Do I believe that I should have a nicer house, better food, a faster car than others? No, I do not, I believe all should have what they require in keeping with what nature can provide. So, your assertation that my access to a computer is telling of my personal beliefs is erroneous.

In short, we are all acted upon continuously by our environment. Our environment is continously being affected by all of us. We are as much individuals as any one cell in a body is an individual. For that same cell to assert that it has sole ownership of, say, blood, would be ludicrous and dangerous to the body as a whole, and it is, in fact, cancer. Literally what cancer does is redirect the blood to grow itself and in doing so deprives its neighboring cells and the organs that they make up. Cancer cells also, in being totally self-centered, do not participate in the symbiotic processes which they ought to, but instead take in nutrients and in return give only lactic acid, a painful and toxic substance to the body.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 9:45 am

If all property were held in common, all resources would eventually be consumed because economic calculation would be impossible. That’s why even animals in the state of nature have a sense of “my stuff/your stuff.”

It follows that nature has a particularly brutal way of dealing with bad ideas like yours.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

I believe that is an awfully arrogant statement to make, to imagine that the “economic calculations” of man dictate the real-world consumption of resources. Firstly, we’ve done a terrible job of managing our resources to date, and the more advanced the calculations become, the worse we abuse the planet. Secondly, animals in nature have no sense of “my stuff/your stuff”, rather almost all operate as mini collectives, with individuals being secondary to the group. Nature in fact, has particularly brutal ways of dealing with individuals who operate independantly of the group, rather than as you asserted.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 10:10 am

When ownership of a lion pride gets transferred to a new alpha male or males, the breeding females go in estress and the new alphas promptly slaughter all the previous alpha’s offspring. I would call that a rather highly developed sense of “my stuff/your stuff.”

Try taking a dog’s bone away so it can be collectively held with his litter mates and see what happens.

Seriously, what world do you live in? In the one called Earth, all beings on the planet economize.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am

I would add that resource depletion is in virtually every case due to a tragedy of the commons.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

No, sorry, the instinct to kill the offspring is a neurochemical response, and is actually for the well-being of the group, not the well-being of the alpha. It’s not about “private property”, it’s about the continuation of the mini-collective in accordance with evolution. You’re applying human behaviour to something that is not equivalent.

Dogs have egos. It’s a learned behaviour, and has to do with our co-evolution over the past 35,000 years.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

So now we’re down to “mini-collectives.” I can cite you to solitary leopards hoarding their prey in treetops if you wish.

The larger point is the alpha’s self-interest in acquiring and maintaining exclusive ownership of the pride hunting territory and its breeding stock ends up benefitting the species as a whole. Dress it up with terms like “private property” for homo sapiens and the result is the same. Where notions of private property are abandoned–the Soviet Union, North Korea, numerous 1960′s-era hippie communes–the result is always scarcity and appalling levels of human suffering.

Dogs have ‘egos’ due to learned behaviour from their human companions? Okay, try your little experiment in canine communism with a wolf pack.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 10:30 am

A “Tragedy of the Commons” would require:
A) Independant Behaviour (a myth)
B) Rational Decisions (also a myth).

In reality, the depletion of resources occurs because individuals feel that they ought to profit from consumption, and that economic theory dictates that consumption ought to consistently increase. In case you hadn’t heard, 1% of the human population “owns” 40% of the world’s resources. Or maybe that statistic is crap, but either way, it’s an obscene balance of wealth. Because we prop up the individual as the focus of our society as opposed to the collective, we give tacit permission and even encouragement to excessively consume with little regard for the other inhabitants and thus true owners of the planet (collectively).

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 10:49 am

A tragedy of the commons occurs because with collective ownership, the incentive is to consume faster than everybody else, as with the Chinese strip-mining the planet’s oceans. There is no incentive to economize as there is with private property. Taking your reasoning to its logical conclusion, cows should be extinct and wood should no longer be available as a building material. Just the opposite happens because we no longer hunt free-roaming herds or chop wood in borderless forests. In fact, humans took ownership of wild cattle and free-growing trees and used genetic selection to breed them into abundant and renewable resources.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 10:51 am

Once again, the Alpha has no interest in “ownership”, he is simply following his genetically encoded instructions, and with no true self-interest involved. His actions are dictated by nature and nurture alike, but not by some impulse to “own” anything. He does what he does NOT as an individual, but as an agent of the collective. As do we. The difference is, he is not under the illusion of being an individual, and as such does not do what he does in exchange for anything personally. He simply does.
With regards to the Soviet Union, North Korea, etc, private property was never truly abandoned, they simply paid lip service to the idea, but truthfully, those in the higher echelons gained ownership of MORE and the proletariat lost ALL.
And no, what I described as egotistical behaviour would not occur in a wolf pack and no, I would not try to take a bone from one to share with another, however I have worked a great deal with wildlife and have seen predators and prey alike share with their brethren many many times.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2011 at 10:56 am

What do you mean “their brethren?” Aren’t all animals just all animals–sharin’ and gettin’ along? Did you once see a lion share some food with a hyena?

The notion of private property is instinctive in humans as well: try taking a toy from a two-year old.Whether the animal’s sense of individuality and ownership stems from instinct or higher brain function is immaterial to our analysis. Animals clearly have a sense of individuality (an “I” distinct from the surroundings) and ownership (marking territory, guarding genetic lineage, hoarding food, etc.) In fact, it is debatable how much of our own actions are the result of a truly free will.

Scott D May 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm

The experiment that you refer to above is actually a few decades old. In those studies, the Bereitschaftspotential, or “readiness potential” of test subjects was studied, which showed that the electrical activity associated with making a movement appears to occur before the subject has consciously made a decision to move. There are problems with this experiment, such as the fact that it relies upon the subject self-reporting the decision. This creates a contradiction, as it implies that the self-reporting of the decision was a conscious choice but that the choice itself was not. It makes for an interesting debate on consciousness, but how you think this bolsters your collectivist argument is beyond me.

Speaking of contradictions, you need to examine those inherent in your own view. If consciousness is indeed an illusion and we are one big happy collective organism, then we are all following along our own hapless paths in a deterministic universe, and that hated 1% that you speak of are as much victims of their fate as the poor that they supposedly exploit. You see, you really can’t have it both ways. People either have control over their lives and are in part responsible for their own livelihoods, or they are automatons who are at the whim of cause and effect.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 8:30 pm

@Scott, I wasn’t implying that predators SHARE with prey, I was saying that they share with the others of their kind, but that both types of animal share that behaviour.

Ryan McKenna May 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Whoops, that was supposed to be @Anti-Gnostic

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