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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4362/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-city/

The Rise and Fall of the City

November 23, 2005 by

In this excerpt from Democracy: The God That Failed, I explain why cities exist and how governments destroy them through interventionist politics. It is in the large cities where, as the subjective reflection of this complex system of spatio-functional allocation, citizens will develop the most highly refined forms of personal and professional conduct, etiquette, and style. It is the city that breeds civilization and civilized life. But once the state arrives on the scene, the process of de-civilization begins. FULL ARTICLE

{ 123 comments }

Vince Daliessio November 28, 2005 at 4:52 pm

Thanks Allen!

Jim Bradley November 28, 2005 at 6:34 pm

Paul — There’s a reasonable argument that a libertarian society would quickly succumb to all the statism that you hold in contempt: and do so faster and more dangerously.

We have a great country, and I think the Rothbardians have gotten so arrogant with a “it’s rightfully mine” attitude they’ve lost touch: they’ve forgotten that freedom costs and it sometimes costs dearly because of man’s condition (sin) of which we are all (unfortunately) a contributor — I think that’s part of the thrust to invert evil and good (example: Rothbard’s position that we were the aggressor in communist expansion, something to which Reisman vigorously objects) so that this new narcissism can justify the incompatible moral position. In fact, I think that is the underlying theme in Hoppe’s work. That private property is a supporter of morality and that the thrust to statism is a devolution of man. But Hoppe is tracing the circle — it sounds like he is remarkably closer to our framer’s intent than anarcho-libertarianism.

averros November 28, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Jim —

> There’s a reasonable argument that a libertarian
> society would quickly succumb to all the statism
> that you hold in contempt: and do so faster and
> more dangerously.

I would like to hear that argument. What you said is an assertion; a valid argument would include either a proof of inherent instability of libertarian society or at least a description of the mechanism of such conversion.

(I would accept that a society in which majority of the population are believers into some collectivist or theist dogma would quickly erect yet another state – but let’s assume true libertarian society, characterized by the prevailing acceptance of the libertarian ideas, and is prosperous enough to afford protection from external aggression).

David White November 29, 2005 at 7:24 am

averros,

Because he is a hardcore Christian fundamentalist (I know this from previous email exchanges), Jim’s “argument” boils down to his belief in man’s utter depravity and his inherent inability, therefore, to govern himself. Hence the inevitability of the state — a fallen few lording it over the fallen many — at least until the real Lord returns (at which time infidels like me will long for the good old days of worldly oppression).

In other words, Jim believes that libertarianism is impossible because he believes that liberty is impossible, man’s only “choice” being between heaven and hell, never mind that the Lord knew what the choice would be all along.

billwald November 29, 2005 at 11:32 am

A covenant is only voluntary if one is free to leave and there is a “livable” place to go. The American covenant was successful – at least for white people – until Lincoln’s war because people could “go west” to rape and pilliage the Indian People.

After Lincoln’s war the western lands became fenced and the outlaws learned that the big cities were better killing grounds.

Vince Daliessio November 29, 2005 at 1:49 pm

billwald,

Your dystopian scenario requires that all land in the land be held by racists or other opponents of theose wishing to “opt-out” – I can say with some certainty that there would be small enclaves that would welcome even the most despised, depraved individuals on earth, probably not far from where they lived…look at Greenich Village and Castro Street as they became magnets for gays (though they still had to fight for their rights) , and the cities in general for blacks and other minorities. This kind of flow of association, in a completely libertarian society would be more or less continuous over time. Hoppe believes gays and others who do not support a certain shared “family” ethic would be selected out of most communities, but he fails to imagine that they might form their own, when the evidence is in front of him.I don’t see that as homophobia or racism, simply as a result of his point of view.

Vince Daliessio November 29, 2005 at 1:50 pm

NOTE – I didn’t mean to imply that homosexuals are, by definition, depraved or widely despised.

Vince Daliessio November 29, 2005 at 1:54 pm

billwald;

Further, the rape and pillage of the Indians was largely due to government policies involving the “American System” of federally-subsidized railroads and canals that came to fruition in the middle of the 19th century. In Tom Woods’ PI Guide to American History, he points out that in colonial times, most New England courts recognized Indian land claims.

billwald November 30, 2005 at 10:21 am

No reference to homosexuals implied. The people who “went west” for the most part couldn’t live with the civilized social contract that existed on the east coast. Some for economic reasons, some because they couldn’t restrain their antisocial proclivities.

When I drive over the Cascades I think of how desperate the families must have been to leave civilization and force a wagon through the wilderness. When I drive through Arizona and Northern Texas I think of what it must have been like to live there before electricity and the rail roads got there. I wouldn’t have taken the land as a gift if I had to live there. Boggles the mind that people would kill other people to occupy land that won’t support one cow on 10 acres. How desperate they must have been.

Vince Daliessio November 30, 2005 at 10:43 am

I think that a lot of people fell victim to hype in those days. It’s also hard to imagine why they might have been susceptible until you realize that a lot of manipulation of immigration was occurring in the North, and of course the ongoing tragedy of slavery in the south helped drive people west. Even after the Civil War, the feds kept conditions so bad there for so long it’s a wonder more didn’t move to the barren parts of the west – better to die a free man than to live a slave.

Allen Weingarten November 30, 2005 at 11:53 am

Hoppe writes that “Families and households must be recognized as the source of civilization.” I concur, in the context of the issue he is addressing, and emphasize the imperative to defend the family from the encroachment of the state. However, on a more abstract plane, I aver that we ought to define what we mean by “civilization” and on that basis consider its source.

I define “civilization” as the organization of society around ideals, to uplift man (by culture) while restraining barbarism (by government). From this perspective, civilization is not based on sociology, economics, or other material prerequisites, but on certain fundamental beliefs. Here, I find the fount of civilization in moral choice, for until there is the ideal of choosing right from wrong, we have groups, but not civilizations.

Moreover, although families are important, they oughtn’t be our ideal for social behavior. To do so would be to aspire to socialism, which can be viewed as how the family is run. This arrangement is surely appreciated by those who wish to be cared for, and for those who wish to take care of others. Why not run society in this manner?

Let us note that in a family, the time comes when children grow up, and need their independence, while parents must allow them their liberty. One does not abandon his values when he becomes an independent adult, but now follows them in his voluntary interactions with others. That is, he sets an example, and employs suasion rather than coercion. Whereas children need to be governed to achieve adulthood (wherein the family constitutes a benevolent dictatorship) adults need liberty for their fruition. Our constitution is founded on the inalienable rights of the individual, and not on the families that one comes from or will form.

Paul Edwards November 30, 2005 at 2:34 pm

Allen:

In respect to your comment:

“Moreover, although families are important, they oughtn’t be our ideal for social behavior. To do so would be to aspire to socialism, which can be viewed as how the family is run. This arrangement is surely appreciated by those who wish to be cared for, and for those who wish to take care of others. Why not run society in this manner?”

are you sure that the similarities of family to the socialist state are as significant as are the differences? How are they similar?

1. parent/state looks after child/tax-payer
2. parent/state controls child/tax-payer
3.
add more if you know of them.

differences:
1. parent funds child’s existence
state is a parasite and taxes tax-payer
2. child agrees to relationship
tax-payer is coerced into relationship
3. parent cares about child’s well-being
state truly does not give a rat’s behind
4. parent attempts to convey helpful truths to child
state attempts to lie to and bamboozle tax-payer
5. parent tries to provide a safe environment for child
state meddles militarily and makes tax-payer’s environment more dangerous and life threatening
6. parents remain busy providing for family, setting a good example
state is idle because it confiscates: has time to legislate, regulate and impoverish others
7. parent looks forward to child’s independence and hopes for even greater things for them
state seeks ever more power and control over tax-payer’s life: it seeks to oppress

I know I’ve missed some.

I think the similarities between state and parents are superficial. The differences are what are important. I would argue the family is pretty ideal.

P.M.Lawrence November 30, 2005 at 6:23 pm

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that many oppressed southerners emigrated to Canada after 1865.

Allen Weingarten November 30, 2005 at 6:38 pm

Paul Edwards asks “are you sure that the similarities of family to the socialist state are as significant as are the differences?” Then he lists a few similarities, followed by many differences. Yet the question as to whether two things are more the same or different is not coherent (and does not depend on how many relations one can list). For example, whether a whale is more similar or different than an airplane depends on the context. With regard to being alive, they are different, but with regard to being larger than a breadbox, they are the same.

I had supplied the context as the “ideal for social behavior.” Here, both the family and socialism are dictatorships, where the final authorities are the leaders.

Mr. Edwards then says “I think the similarities between state and parents are superficial. The differences are what are important. I would argue the family is pretty ideal.” Thus he would conclude that whether both are dictatorships is a superficial aspect of their rule, whereas the fact that the family is helpful to the child, while the state is destructive to its denizens is what is important to their rule. Or to put it simply, he is less concerned with whether the rule is dictatorial, than whether it is benevolent. Perhaps Mr. Edwards would want a society that is based on the family, namely a benevolent dictatorship?

Paul Edwards November 30, 2005 at 7:27 pm

:) Now that was pretty clever Allen, i must say. I’m still smiling even as i type this.

OK, i’m going for it; you say: “Perhaps Mr. Edwards would want a society that is based on the family, namely a benevolent dictatorship?”

I take it you were not happy with the “while you live under my roof, you live according to my rules” form of “dictatorship” were you? I don’t think you can be truly serious in construing this to being similar to the socialist who says “i will take your money if you are productive, but i will subsidize you if you are unproductive; and if you don’t like it you can go to jail”.

I really don’t think context makes much difference here, the two are just plain very different.

As for the whale and the airplane, i make the same argument. Although they are both big and have a tail fin i don’t think there is a useful context where this makes them very much alike. A superficial argument could be made that they are the same because they are both big and they even steer left and right using a similar principle. The fact remains, people just don’t build whales so they can travel large distances in a short period of time.

Allen Weingarten December 1, 2005 at 7:52 am

Paul Edwards responds to my claim that two things are not similar or different, except in terms of a context, by “I really don’t think context makes much difference here, the two are just plain very different.” *I do not find it tenable to claim that two things can be the same or different, except in terms of the context in which they are evaluated.* Identical twins or clones can be completely different if we are discussing whether they are alive, and one of them is dead. Conversely, by that criteria, a frog and a person can be the same with regard to being alive. Can Mr. Edwards provide a single example of two things being the same or different without providing or implying a context for evaluation?

Again, let me state that at issue is the ideal for social relations. And once more, let me ask whether “Mr. Edwards would want a society that is based on the family, namely a benevolent dictatorship?”

His statements about living under one’s roof, and being subsidized are not relevant to what constitutes the criteria, and by his reasoning he could say to my above example “I don’t think you can be truly serious in construing” a frog as similar to a man. Yet biologists do use frogs, for their genetic makeup, to study man.

Then Paul says “As for the whale and the airplane, i make the same argument. Although they are both big and have a tail fin i don’t think there is a useful context where this makes them very much alike. A superficial argument could be made that they are the same because they are both big and they even steer left and right using a similar principle. The fact remains, people just don’t build whales so they can travel large distances in a short period of time.” Here again, Paul simply assumes a different context, (which illustrates the intrinsic perspective). Note that the issue can be whether they can fit into one’s truck, and neither can. Another useful context can be in a will where things are allocated among the beneficiaries according to their financial value. Here, both could be worth $10,000 while there could be two airplanes where one is worth a fortune, while the other has to be towed away (perhaps by the elephant).

*Let us note that the context for using the family as the guide for government is not superficial, for it is precisely the one that guides socialism, and most pertinently our social democracy.* Thus people argue that businesses should not be free from regulations, because that would be unfair. In a family, we do not want the stronger to receive more than the weaker, but “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Paul Edwards December 1, 2005 at 9:56 am

Allen:

I suspected that if we bashed away at this, we’d get to the root of our disagreement.

By your comment “Let us note that the context for using the family as the guide for government…”, you may have revealed why we disagree. The original point of contention was your assertion that “families … oughtn’t be our ideal for social behavior”. But now you are using the term “government” instead.

Do you mean the term “government” to equate to social behavior, or the coercive state? I think you mean the state. But that wasn’t the how i interpreted the original question.

The ideal and only acceptable state is one that does not exist. Perhaps that puts us back in agreement. This confusion may also be related to the fact that others have been confusing a voluntary covenant with a coercive state. There’s a superficial similarity, but they are substantially different. The former is ethical and libertarian and the latter is not.

Adam December 1, 2005 at 10:55 am

What a weird attempt at philosophy. Context-dependance doesn’t equal coherence and coherence doesn’t equal truth. Coming up with multiple-contexts in principle as something to beat up an argument with is nothing more than a surreptitious attempt to relativize either 1) everything or 2) whatever points your opponents are attempting to make. Yours seems to be the latter, since the former would by turns make your counter-argument self-refuting. Which, incidentally as well as thankfully, it is anyway, since your own response and Philosophy 101, 1st Quiz explanation of context relations could have just as easily been applied to your comparision of the family as socialist state. Your bland assertions that YOUR context is the relevant one go unexplained but with some context-independent statement about not wanting the stronger to receive more than the weaker. We don’t? Who doesn’t? When? Why? All families? Not mine. Tell me what famly on earth operates by credo: “from each according to his faculty, to each according to his needs”?

Allen Weingarten December 1, 2005 at 4:56 pm

Paul Edwards writes that I have substituted the term ‘government’ for ‘social behavior’ which is true, but I mean the same thing, namely what is the ideal across the board. I claim it is the independent individual, rather than control by leaders, that is the ideal for social behavior, as well as governance. He writes that “The ideal…state is one that does not exist” which is also true and not pertinent, for I was addressing what the ideal was that we aspire to, and not what exists. Recall that I began with what was the fount of civilization, rather than the political issues that Paul is addressing.

I find it interesting that Paul and I see the world so differently. To me, the most destructive force in America is our social democracy, which can be viewed as “the world should be run as a family”. To him, my position makes no sense. Conversely, Paul believes that things are intrinsically the same or different, which to me (this lack of a context to supply a criteria) makes no sense.

Libertarians, Objectivists, Austrians, Anarchists, and others often think in terms of a society where everything is worked out by common agreement. The fact is that even two of us who agree on the imperative for freedom as well as preserving the family, find one another incomprehensible. Perhaps we remain as “The Blind Men and the Elephant” http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html.

This reminds me of Jackie Mason’s routine about how things can look so different to people: “I have a girlfriend who is charming, cultured, educated, genteel, and never has a bad word to say about anyone. So I think she is the finest person in the world. But to my wife…”

Adam seems unable to fathom that one can only determine whether things are similar or different by the context in which the criteria is given. Clearly there can be different contexts. To a geometer, an orange and an apple can both be spherical; to an artist, they can display different colors; to an economist, they can have the same monetary value; to a dietician, they can have different roles, etc.

He then asks why my context is the relevant one, which is clearly because it is what I wrote that was being discussed.

Finally, he asks “what family on earth operates by credo: “from each according to his faculty, to each according to his needs”?” A family with a healthy and a sick child will require the healthy one to make sacrifices for the sake of the sick one. (They will even kill a healthy chicken to make chicken soup to cure the sick chicken.) There are of course families (presumably Adam’s) that do not care for their sick, nor demand responsible behavior. However, I was speaking of the ideals of a family, which may not be met in practice.

Adam December 1, 2005 at 6:09 pm

Allen,

“Adam seems unable to fathom that one can only determine whether things are similar or different by the context in which the criteria is given.”

This is the philosopher’s tu quoque. His opponent cannot get out of his peasant-philosophy world into the philosopher’s pure essence enlightenment so he fakes like he knows more about thinking. Makes argument easy, like surfing. Most 6th graders understand what you said if you’d drop all the tosh like “in which the criteria is given”.

“He then asks why my context is the relevant one, which is clearly because it is what I wrote that was being discussed.”

I much admire your arrogance but your discussing it doesn’t make it the conversation-stopping context relevance you want it to be. It makes it you discussing it. Your context was silly and unsupportable on its face, in fact. Which is probably why you, you know, didn’t support it. Like I said, I could cut and paste your own rant about context-relevance and it would do the same damage to your argument as it did to Paul’s. And, as I said above, much more.

“A family with a healthy and a sick child will require the healthy one to make sacrifices for the sake of the sick one.”

This has nothing to do with the Marxian credo. They might, or they might not. Did you deduce this praxeologically? My family wouldn’t behave as such, and didn’t. Families and familial dynamics are a little too complicated for you I think. Moreover, families aren’t politico-scentific in nature. They’re just not. You might be able to capture 15% of what goes on in families with such a myopic heuristic, on a good day, but that’s probably it.

“There are of course families (presumably Adam’s) that do not care for their sick, nor demand responsible behavior.”

In all seriousness, why are you talking about my family?

If we must force everything into your childish binary verbal categories like Marxist v. Nobody Gives a Crap then you win. If we aquire the faculty of thought, we realize that paternalistic practice makes the titular heads of the family like a welfare state (I guess?), and what is going on is surely not “to each according to his needs” and none of this nonsense of “from each according to his faculties”. The metaphor, again, of politico-scientific reference of families is pretty stupid anyway and I’m not going to go into it further just note that promoting responsible behavior and caring for sick have nothing to do with your dainty credo. There are a thousand other dainty credos that could make the same claim and none of it would still have to do with a silly attempt at philosophy, freshman year.

I noticed in preview my paragraph spacing didn’t show. Sorry.

Paul Edwards December 1, 2005 at 6:31 pm

Allen:

You wrote: “The fact is that even two of us who agree on the imperative for freedom as well as preserving the family, find one another incomprehensible.” All I can say to that is, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Just kidding.

Seriously, if I thought that the term “social behavior” equated to “government” (i.e. the state) my first question to you would have been do you have a term for my concept of social behavior, which is free association and cooperation between individuals? I’m an anarchist, so it would be kind of strange for me to discuss what might be the optimal model to base a state on. So I guess from our initial terminological problem, our conversation could only go more and more sideways.

Therefore, I think we can both safely assume that neither of us has gained much insight into the other’s thinking. Our lack of synchronization on terminology has made that impossible. Your conclusion that my view is that “the world should be run as a family” is a funny confirmation that we definitely did not connect.

Anyways, I can say that if by chance we are applying the same meaning to the terms “freedom” and “family” then I am glad that we at least agree these things are very important to preserve.

Allen Weingarten December 2, 2005 at 8:29 am

Adam might have an argument on whether or not things can be intrinsically the same, or whether my context is erroneous, etc. However, his ad hominem comments are far clearer, to wit: ‘he fakes like he knows more about thinking; I much admire your arrogance; I could cut and paste your own rant; families and familial dynamics are a little too complicated for you; if we must force everything into your childish binary verbal categories like Marxist v. Nobody Gives a Crap then you win; the metaphor, again, of politico-scientific reference of families is pretty stupid anyway.’

If it is the case that I fake, rant, am arrogant, limited, childish, and stupid, surely I am not worth debating. I shall not therefore respond to his writings.

Paul Edwards writes “if I thought that the term “social behavior” equated to “government” (i.e. the state) my first question to you would have been do you have a term for my concept of social behavior, which is free association and cooperation between individuals?” I concur with his view of social behavior as our rights, and would add that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” That is, the ideal of our constitution is as Paul describes it, and not dictating how citizens must behave, in the manner that parents dictate how their children must behave. (*Note however, that I have not said that social behavior is government, but rather that the ‘ideal’ for guiding both is the free and independent individual.*)

He is correct to disagree with my political views, for he is an anarchist, and I am not. We do agree however that freedom and family are important to preserve, and not to do so by a dictatorship, whether or not it is benevolent.

Daniel Morin March 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

Allen Wrote: and I would add that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

I disagree completely. Perhaps Allen should read “No Treason” by Lysander Spooner (an MP3 is available at http://mises.org/daily/4723/No-Treason-no-1)

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