Dialogue with freeze43 on anarchy, part IX
I’m very grateful that freeze engaged honestly with what I think is the most important question in the discussion:
Freeze, I claimed that the belief that stealing and killing are wrong is incompatible with the belief that government is justifiable. You didn’t seem to offer any response to this. Do you dispute my claim? If so, why?
I dispute the claim that stealing and killing are wrong at all times. There are places and situations where killing and stealing is necessary, and I am sure at least to a minor extent you would agree. While government actions may or may not fall under appropriate stealing/killing, that is not to say that it can’t be justifiable. I’m personally comfortable with paying appropriate taxes, and while I’m opposed to the death penalty (for a heap of sociological and psychological reasons) I will confer that war in some instances is necessary.
This is potentially the beginning of some truly productive dialogue. Freeze, you claim that killing and stealing are sometimes necessary, and that you’re comfortable with taxes and war under some circumstances. Using taxation as the working example, am I correct in thinking this implies that you agree taxation is a form of theft, but you believe that it is a form of theft which is morally justifiable? If so, can you state your moral claims regarding theft in a way which makes this exception clear, i.e. specifies the circumstances under which theft is justified?
My claim is that it is impossible to reconcile taxation with the principle that stealing is wrong. Attempts to contort the maxim that “stealing is wrong” into a form which permits taxation inevitably fall into a reductio ad absurdum:
“Taxation is theft, but of a kind which is morally permissible.”
“So a mugger in an ally is morally justified in ‘taxing’ his victims?”
“No, only governments may legitimately levy taxes.”
“So a mugger who calls himself a ‘government’ may ‘tax’ his victims?”
“No, a government is only legitimate if it is democratically elected.”
“So a group of muggers who outnumber their victims may legitimately elect themselves ‘government’, and therefore legitimately ’tax’ their victims?”
And so on, until we reach a claim along the lines of “only those entities which exist now and which I think of as legitimate governments may steal”, which is not much of a moral principal. I claim that this reductio ad absurdum applies to every form of statist moral exceptionalism. Freeze, I suggest that if you do want to persue the reductio to prove me wrong we do it over IM and post the transcript here.
Lobbies for minorities can only be strong because they are strong- agriculture etc. are essential business for any society. There’s nothing stopping agricultural lobbies etc. becoming disproportionately powerful in an anarchy, [...]
There’s one very simple thing stopping agricultural lobbies becoming powerful in an anarchic society: they would have nobody to lobby.
[...] perhaps more so because they don’t have anyone to answer to beyond a free market (a market that they can own entirely).
What do you mean by “entirely owning” a market? Unless consumers are being violently coerced, as they are today, there is nothing stopping them from wielding the ultimate power over any business: the power to choose whether or not to purchase their product. In a free market, unlike in a statist society, businesses must serve their customers, and do so better than the competition. When there are no government bailouts, subsidies, tariffs, currency manipulations, subtle regulatory rents etc. to protect them, there’s no other way to do business.
But out-and-out racism certainly would [exist]. While there is a degree of racism that anyone must respect (the right to personal opinion), I would find it reprehensible for racism to escalate without these minority awareness groups in place, or legislature making it illegal for such action.
Can you be specific about the awareness groups and legislation you’re talking about?
On the topic of parliamentary democracy, freeze said:
I would say that getting more interests into the mix makes it more representative. By having several stances on particular issues, you accommodate for the public that value having several stances.
I concede this point.
Where do this rights come from? I’m not questioning them per se I’m just curious.
Briefly, I believe in natural and inalienable rights, but do not claim these devolve from a god or other supernatural source and are thus ultimately a human invention; in that sense, I am a moral relativist. I observe as an empirical fact that almost everybody agrees with me on the basic rights (to not be hurt, of self-ownership and of property), but make other additional claims which contradict their claims about these rights, and that therefore the practical problem of agreeing on a set of rights is one of resolving inconsistencies rather than deriving them from first principles.
On the topic of examples of anarchist states, I asked Freeze:
Do you think the examples provide any evidence that an anarchist society is doomed to failure? Do you think there is any such evidence elsewhere?
Yeah I think so. I would say that any sufficient, single-minded force would roll over and smoosh a whole heap of independent people and areas. Violence and stealing are evolutionarily ingrained traits and I would think without at least a vague sense of Big Brother it would happen rather frequently.
Suppose a group of people live together in a geographically defined area, say a valley. Another group of people are about to come into the valley and smoosh them. Can you explain why government is necessary to prevent such smooshing? Remember that the only thing which differentiates a government from a voluntary organisation is that a government uses force against innocent people to achieve its aims. Can you explain why force against innocent people is an essential part of smoosh defence? Can you explain why the costs of government, which include the constant implicit threat of violence against their own citizens, are outweighed by the benefits of government in this scenario?
Again with the difficult word use! Have either of us even *seen* an armed unit in our country?
We’ve both seen police many, many times.
99% of institutions in government behave in a voluntary, co-operative manner. Everyone might grumble about tax, but on the whole it’s paid and there is regard as to its implementation back into society.
This is one of the greatest challenges anarchists face. On the whole, people are inured to the threat of violence by government and do “go along to get along”. I’m no psychologist, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to speculate that cognitive dissonance would explain at least some of the support people voice for governments, and simply being misinformed – on morality, on economics, on history – would explain a lot of the rest. Governments have had millennia of experience in getting their subjects to placidly cooperate.
No matter how well it is hidden, or how quietly we cooperate, the threat of violence pervades a statist society. What would happen to you if you exercised your rights by refusing to pay taxes? If you did as you are perfectly entitled to do and refused to come to court after being charged with tax evasion? If you committed the perfectly moral action of defending yourself against the uniformed thugs who came to drag you there?
Well they do own the land of Australia. Wouldn’t an illegal immigrant be “stealing” if they set up here? (buried in mind I am opposed to immigration laws as they stand).
In what sense does the Australian Government “own” my property, or yours? This seems to contradict the very definition of property.
Freeze told me in an earlier post that:
I’m not particularly fond of your own utopian society as it makes demands of people who are unwilling and also uncapable.
What demands? Upon whom?
And he responded:
The start of this discussion was centred around the prospect of actually starting an anarchy and your statements pertaining to the fact that most people would not be capable or interested in starting an anarchy.
I don’t claim the right to tell other people what to do, or use violence to force them to do things. Governments do: making “demands of people who are unwilling” is their bread and butter. In a society without a government, I would continue to not make such demands, and the demands made by government would be gone. The people who are “not interested in starting an anarchy” are totally free to do as they please – and that includes voluntarily submitting themselves to the power of a government. (Of course, I think this would be a bad choice and I would try to persuade them otherwise, but it’s theirs to make). I make no demands upon anybody – I just want them to stop making demands on me and on each other.
Finally, when I pointed out:
Newborn babies don’t have money, but have a whole life ahead of them. The charity of their fellow humans has pulled many of the world’s poor into a decent standard of living, and the free market has done so for many times that number.
Is there obligation for a free market to do so?
That’s like asking if there is an obligation for pens to write, or kettles to boil. The free market is not an intentioned agent which helps people out of the goodness of its invisible heart; it is a complex, emergent machine with the property of increasing the wealth of those who engage in trade.