Saturday, 15 September 2012

What will future generations think of us?

Here in the 21st century, we look back at people in past centuries with a sense of amazement that they actually believed the things they said, and apparently saw nothing wrong with doing the things they did. Most people in past centuries were, by today’s standards, incredibly violent, vindictive, racist, sexist, homophobic bigots. We are rightly appalled that slavery - ownership of one man by another - was not only tolerated and accepted, but supported and rationalized, by almost everyone in society – even the slaves themselves. We are appalled that brutal forms of punishment, like hanging, beheading, burning at the stake, torture, having limbs cut off and eyes gouged out etc, were once the norm, even for the most trivial of crimes or sometimes for no crime at all. We are appalled that even in the 20th century, racism and sexism were the norm, and nobody seemed to have much of a problem with it.

We believe we are now more enlightened. But what will future generations think of our values, attitudes and morals? Is there anything we consider normal (not immoral) today, that future generations will be appalled and ashamed of? Do we have any blind spots? I think we do.

A lot of people today make arguments in favor of government actions. Take the statement “I think the government should enforce a minimum wage law.” This statement doesn’t seem so bad – it is economically ignorant, to be sure, because it hurts the very people it is supposed to help – but is it immoral? It doesn’t seem immoral in the same way that a statement such as “I think black people should be slaves of white people” is immoral.

But are they really that different? Both statements are supporting the use of violence by one class of people against another. Supporting a minimum wage law means supporting the use of violence by one class of people – who call themselves ‘the government’ – against another class: employers and employees, who are trying to make a voluntary exchange with each other for mutual benefit. In both cases, the violence is aggression: whites initiate violence against blacks when they enslave them; the government initiates violence against employers and employees when it threatens them with fines or imprisonment them for breaking the minimum wage law. How could it possibly be that one initiation of violence is moral while the other is immoral?

Most people today support a great many different kinds of government action, ranging from having government merely operating courts, police and defense services, to controlling schools, healthcare, money and banking, and regulating markets, through to all-out socialism, where government controls everything. I believe people in the future will look back at us today with bafflement, confusion and shame, for the way most of us not merely tolerate, but actively and passionately support this institution called government. Future generations will ask of us: what were they thinking?

Could they not see the contradiction inherent in having an institution set up to protect rights and liberty, which must necessarily violate rights and trample on liberty in order to exist?

Could they not see anything immoral with having one small group of people acting “above the law” and controlling the lives of everyone else, using threats of violence?  Why did they think that taxation was anything but mass robbery?  Why did they think war was anything but mass murder?  Why did they think mass robbery and mass murder were OK as long as they were done by someone acting as government?

Why did they keep turning to government to help solve the problems that the government itself had created? Was it not obvious to them that the cause of all the war, poverty and suffering they complained about was the very same government they supported so zealously?

Why did they think more violence was a good solution to social problems? Why did they keep demanding more laws, regulations, central planning and control? Why did they keep giving up their rights for empty promises of security and prosperity?

How did they ever expect to be able to find some selfless angel to run the country? Why did they think that someone needed to run the country in the first place? How arrogant/ignorant/utopian were they to think that, even if they found such an angel, he would be able to run the country better than the country runs itself?

Could they really not imagine a world without government?

19 comments:

  1. #1 of 5. Greetings Graham -- as a preface, my current line of thinking is libertarian-leaning republican aka Paulitician. I think anarchy, even anarcho-capitalism, is simply a Bad Thing... not because in and of itself it is immoral, but simply because logically (and historically) the state of anarchy always without fail leads to despotism, either rule by the strongman, or rule by the mob, or some cyclic back-and-forth between the two. You need a constitutional republic (one that does not degenerate downwards into mob-ruled pure-ish democracy nor degenerate upwards into aristocrat-ruled plutarchy/monarchy/similar) in order to preserve & protect individual rights.

    So, with the intro out of the way, to address your post: yes, as a species we have massive blindspots. Individuals often have blindspots, too, even the most competent (in some category of competency). Slavery is bad; hence, we have a law against it, the 14th amend. Torture is bad; hence, we have a law against it, the 8th amend. Minimum-wage-laws are also considered bad, since they interfere with the free market, and end up causing the opposite of the intended impact (i.e. hurt the poor not help them).

    Still, although I don't agree with min-wage, since I understand why & how it is bad, I can understand why people originally used to support them, just as (for instance) you can see why people originally used to support the prohibition of alcohol, and nowadays still support the prohibition of various other drugs. The intent of the min-wage law was to keep the wealthy powerful owner of a business (boss) from abusing their position to take unfair advantage of their employees (worker). That whole grapes-of-wrath-book scenario, where the boss purposely seeks out the poorest people to employ, and then places the factory far away from other competition, so that the worker will have to purchase overpriced food at the company store, accept overpriced rent on their barracks provided by the company, and take company scrip rather than any sort of legal tender for pay. Throw in unsafe conditions and other forms of domination, and you end up with nigh-slavery. Which, as already discussed during the 1860s, is bad.

    So most people, progressive repubs of the early 1900s sorts at least, see min-wage laws as a necessary evil: govt laws to stop bad things (just like the anti-slavery law was originally seen as a necessary evil since it was a violation of state's rights). Of course, the modern hard-left-liberal-democrat sees min-wage *as* a human right, while handily ignoring the actual repercussions of the law on the poor.

    As for myself, I see min-wage laws as a necessary evil, but the necessity goes down as technological sophistication of the society goes up. You cannot trap workers into your overpriced barracks, if they own a car and can commute to work. You cannot trap workers into your overpriced company store, if they own a car and/or can have products delivered via the internet (or telephone for that matter). You cannot pay workers in fiat-currency... whoops, arrgh, we've eliminated company-scrip and replaced it with federal-government-scrip! So there is a case where things can be improved. Anyways, in the long run, I think the min-wage should tend towards zero, but perhaps never get there (e.g. to avoid child-labor perhaps?), but I would prefer we reduce the min-wage by some *other* mechanism than currency-hyperinflation.

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  2. #2 of 5. Your fundamental question is, how could it possibly be that one initiation of violence is moral while the other is immoral? And the philosophical answer is, slavery is immoral (the slavemaster is coercive), but by the same token anti-slavery laws are immoral (the govt is coercive in that case). So, is anarchy the answer? No. Because in the case of slavery by the slavemaster, they are removing the slave's individual right to liberty & property (and often to life as well). In the case of the govt passing an anti-slavery-law, and enforcing it, they are *protecting* the individual right of the slave, and doing nothing to the master; there is no such thing as the individual right to enslave others.

    As for the min-wage law, the govt is coercing the boss to pay at least a certain amount per hour, and simultaneously are coercing the worker to be unable to *find* a job for the very unskilled employee (since if the job-requirement only justifies $5/hr in pay but the min-wage says the boss must pay $10/hr then in short order NO boss will offer the $5/hr job to anyone anymore). Thus, the min-wage law is pretty clearly immoral in theory, while the anti-slavery law is not.

    However, in practice sometimes a limited min-wage law is useful, because it can eliminate job-descriptions that are *close* to slavery even when not called by that name. For example, slavery is basically the offer to pay $0.00/hr, and you have to sign a contract that says you will never quit until you die, and that all your kids will sign the same contract. The anti-slavery law gets rid of all three of those things... but does not prevent a person from signing a contract that they will be paid $0.01/hr, and guarantee a 99-year employment. That sort of contract is *effectively* slavery, even if it does not extend to offspring. The min-wage law, in concert with a right-to-work law, prevents abuse of those sorts of loopholes to the 14th amend. Now, ideally, the min-wage law would be something enforced by court precedent, rather than by inspector-bureacrats, much like a civil court enforces anti-fraud law to prevent sale of adulterated meat, say.

    Your larger point is that we (meaning we humans overall, but also meaning you and I in this blogpost) are in the midst of discussing the proper roles of govt. The anarchist's position is that there should be no govt, and that slave will simply have to defend themselves against potential slavemasters on their own, and worker will have to defend themselves against implicit contractual nigh-slavery on their own.

    The way libertarian-leaning folks look at it, there is some need for a limited-power govt, which is in charge of cops & courts, plus the military & spies, but no more (at least at the federal level... at the town-level things like schools might be run by the city council and municipal taxes used to fund them... but not at the top level certainly).

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  3. #3 of 5. Most people in the 1800s wanted the govt to also provide infrastructure of specific sorts: post-roads, canals, elementary schools, grants of federal lands to promote construction of railroads, and perhaps also a federal mint and/or a central bank.

    During the early 1900s, the role of govt was expanded dramatically: regulate the railroads, bust the trusts, punish the bankers, save the wildlife, tax income, popvote senators, plus fiddle with interest-rates & inflation knobs. This reached a fever-pitch in the 1940s, with fascism and communism helping to make the increasingly socialist govt in the USA and EU seem less radical than they were. But once in place, the kernel of socialism grew and grew.

    Nowadays, plenty of people think the role of govt is to provide free broadband, free phones, free schools including college, free doctors, free retirement, free bread, free circus, and free money. They don't understand it as being socialism-bordering-on-corporatist-communism, because how can it be bad, if FDR won WWII, and LBJ won the space race, and Reagan won the Cold War? We're *against* communism like the USSR, so obviously we cannot be socialist-whatever. Sigh.

    "people in the future will look back at us today with bafflement, confusion and shame" Actually, I think they will see us in much the way we see the Greeks & Romans: as a society with many bad ideas, but also with so many good ideas -- the kind of good ideas that eventually changed the world for the better, permanently. The question is whether we have to go through a second span of Dark Ages before we succeed.

    "contradiction inherent in having an institution set up to protect rights and liberty, which must necessarily violate rights and trample on liberty" Here we just disagree. Yes, government is coercive: they force people to do things. But there most definitely are differences in what specific things they force people to do. A proper government is only that has a limited role, carefully defined to keep it from growing too abusive or corrupt, but not so restricted that it cannot do the job it was created to do.

    To my mind, the role of govt is to prevent an external invader (think columns of tanks rolling out of North Korea to conquer all other nations and dominate the world) from taking away the lives/liberty/property of the citizenry. Which means, govt needs to run the military and the spies. The role of govt is also to prevent an internal despot (think of Al Capone & the mafia in the 1920s ... or the slave states of the 1820s ... and to a small extent the hypercorp) from taking away the same things from that same citizenry. Last, but the most crucial thing of all, is that the govt has to be structured in such a way as to prevent *itself* from becoming a threat to individual rights of the citizenry: checks and balances, constitutions, elections via voting, et cetera.

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  4. #4 of 5. Clearly, modern govt has become the enemy of the citizen: the checks and balances of 1787 have failed to properly restrict govt to the role intended for it by the founders. Still, the Constitution is pretty darn good, and when you throw in good amendments like the 14th that correct bugs in the original text, *very* good. Some of the recent amendments are perhaps not so good, but the real problems are bound up in bugs found in the original document, vague stuff like the General Welfare, the Commerce clause, the Necessary & Proper clause, and a few others. We need to fix these bugs.

    But, I disagree that we should scrap govt as a whole. Yes, taxation is bad. Let's figure out a way to make voluntary taxation work (you only pay for govt services you want to exist). That more than *anything* else will really keep the role of govt restricted. Same thing with war; if we want to really restrict war, make it an entirely voluntary thing, and make the funding also entirely voluntary (and the personnel also completely composed of volunteers too). Folks will be willing to part with some tax-dollars to hire a local sheriff, as a crime-prevention measure, and if there are bad nations or bad terrorists or the like out to attack them, will provide the funds to raise an army for defense.

    Offensive war will still be mass-murder, of course, but even the most liberal legal code (anarchism) permits killing an intruder in self-defense. When the tinpot dictator from the neighboring lands tries to enslave your citizenry, when you raise an army to crush the invaders, then counter-attack to depose the regime, you are well within the international self-defense clause, methinks.

    "cause of all the war, poverty and suffering they complained about was the very same govt" Again, here we just disagree. The natural state of humanity is barbaric violence, abject poverty, and all-around misery/suffering. The world is a harsh place. Certainly, govt *can* also cause barbaric violence (offensive war), govt *can* be responsible for abject poverty (communism), and govt *can* propagate suffering (legalized slavery). But it is wrong to say that, since govt can be a cause of such things, that therefore it is always and only the sole cause, and thus that ending all govt will also logically end all those bad things. This is a nonsensical position.

    "Why did they think more violence was a good solution to social problems? Why did they keep demanding more laws, regulations, central planning and control? Why did they keep giving up their rights for empty promises of security and prosperity?" Here you are 100% dead on target. I have no idea what the answer is. The best I can do is quote Reagan: the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.

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  5. #5 of 5. "How did they ever expect to be able to find some selfless angel to run the country?" Actually, um, George Washington... Ron Paul... sometimes such people exist. But yes, they are so rare that it is better to come up with a way to run things without depending on them. In fact, you have to assume you will never get any more of them! Checks and balances, carefully created to keep the role of govt where it ought to be, no weaker and no stronger than desired.

    p.s. Thanks for your delegate-counts at mises.org ... do you have some estimates on how many stealth-delegates there were, versus bound delegates? For example, Ron Paul won the popvote in the US virgin islands (29% to 25% or something like that -- but still a win). He only got one bound delegate, though, and that was the way the first-ballot vote was actually cast: one for Ron Paul and the rest for Mitt. However, at least four other dels from the virgin islands were not *against* Ron Paul, since they signed the paper to get his name put into nomination, and give his his 15-minute uncensored speech.

    I'm curious about Virginia, especially, among others. Are you still interested in keeping track of these details, for historical purposes partly, but also to help in 2014 and 2016 elections?

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    1. Hi J, thanks for your comments!

      You bring up so many different points that I can't respond to all of them, but I will make a few brief points (numbered to match your own numbering):

      #1 I'm not sure whether you are opposed to the minimum wage or not, because you call it necessary, but you do seem to understand it's effects. So you seem to be saying that hurting the poor is necessary, which is a strange position to take.

      #2 I suggest looking up the definition of *initiation*. It is an important word, and you seem to be overlooking it. Anti-slavery laws are not immoral, because they are not *initiatory*.

      Also, check your definition of slavery. Slavery does not mean "employment with zero pay". Slavery always involves aggression, by definition. If there's no aggression involved, it isn't slavery. Think of volunteers - they work without pay... are they slaves? Why not?

      #3 Government is aggressive by definition, because taxation is aggressive by definition, and all governments tax by definition.

      #4 "Voluntary taxation" is a contradiction in terms.

      Your blind faith that government can be "limited" using a piece of paper is sad. A small gang write on a piece of paper that they are allowed to rob you... and you believe them?! You think that *magical piece of paper* gives them super-human rights, gives them moral legitimacy, or any kind of legitimacy at all? I suggest you follow Ron Paul's advice and read Lysander Spooner's "The Constitution of No Authority". The U.S. Constitution is empirically a complete failure, and this failure was entirely predictable from theory. We don't need to "fix the bugs"... we need to recognise that the whole idea is flawed from the start.

      I find it incredible that you can believe that "The natural state of humanity is barbaric violence" and at the same time think government should exist! That is very utopian. I mean, if you thought that humans were naturally good, maybe I could see why you support a government: what harm could it do? But if you really think humans are naturally violent, how on earth can you support the idea of having a small group of *humans* with super-human rights? That's madness...

      People are violent so we need a government made up of people are violent so we need a government made up of people are violent so we need a government made up of people are violent so we need a government made up of people are violent so we need a government made up of people ...

      Cool Reagan quote by the way. Hadn't heard that one before.

      #5 "Checks and balances"... and by that you mean the government checks *itself* and balances *itself* right? How's that ever going to work? Isn't market competition be the best conceivable "check and balance" on power?

      #PS Glad to hear you appreciated my counts! Have you checked the Mises Wiki page recently? In the Republican Convention section, I have a brief commentary about what I think happened. Feel free to add information to the page if you want.

      I had Paul with 267 delegate supporters going in to the RNC, and he ended up with 190 votes. The difference of 77 includes: 22 from Va, 17 from Ma, 10 from Ar, 6 from NM, all of whom apparently chose to abide by their state's binding rules and voted for Romney (unlike the NV delegates, who voted for Paul despite their supposed binding!). I don't know why those 4 from VI didn't vote for Paul, but maybe they were bound too and stuck with that.

      Graham

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    2. In the interests of staying on-topic here (comments about what future generations will think of our foolish mistakes) for this blog entry, I will move the gory discussion of delegates over to here...

      http://managainstthestate.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-sham-republican-national-convention.html

      ...although truthfully, methinks the most important thing that will be remembered about the politics of our age is how corrupt they really were, at the highest levels. We have Ron Paul to thank for being brave enough to expose it. Without his 2012 campaign, we never would have caught them on video; he forced the leash-holders to reveal themselves.

      "The important thing is that I have challenged the status quo, the corruption in Washington, and as a doctor I know that the patient, in this case the country, is responding -- and now has a good chance of recovery. This is very, very pleasing to me."
      -- Ron Paul, 9th January 2012, NH (live free or die)
      -- http://rt.com/news/blogs/contrarian-view/interview-ron-paul-win/

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  6. #zero. This is a good discussion, but fundamental issues like this take time, and my posts tend to be verbose anyways. Point being: comment as you see fit! (With apologies to Lionel of WPIX in NYC... who incidentally is writing in Ron Paul this year.) Ignore any parts you wish. I will take no offense.

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  7. #1 & 2, I'm opposed to min-wage in *principle*, especially min-wage that is high, but in practice I'm in favor of a dirty ol' pragmatic compromise, a min-wage that is low but non-zero. At the moment wikipedia says US$7.25/hr, which is dramatically too high. However, I would see little harm in a min-wage law of $0.50/hr for instance, and maybe some good. Hard to argue that 'hurts the poor' since hardly any actual jobs would be outlawed, eh? So what is the point of having it then: that it is an easy-to-measure easy-to-enforce no-fiddly-definitions-needed sort of anti-slavery law.

    You say that slavery isn't *just* work at $0/hr, which is true, and mention volunteering at a church or in a club or just doing some stuff with your buddy. But what if your buddy had you sign a contract, that you would volunteer for 99 years, at $0/hr, for 80hr/wk? Well, that's a functional slavery, even if not 'initiatory'. I guess another way to put it is that I don't see volunteering as work, I see it as fun; ditto for hobbies and child-rearing and other non-boss employment scenarios. Min-wage laws keep indentured servitude and contractual abuses and similar schemes away, as well as functional slavery. Killing many birds with one stone. Min-wage laws are an abuse of power if the threshold is large, but not (in practice! as opposed to in the moral calculus) if the threshold is set to a sufficiently small amount, and kept there.

    As a concrete example, say there is a $0.25/hr min-wage law, and you are over helping your buddy paint his house, and some busybody local sheriff makes your buddy pay you. He gives you a buck, which you can then give back to him, for him spending a few hours on some other project, or simply as a gift. Or just keep that dollar, you more than earned it, and your buddy will hardly care. No matter what way it turns out, not much trouble to you and your buddy; plus, you can vote the annoying sheriff out of office next election, and put somebody serious in charge. Compare this happy ending to the actual min-wage laws, which say your buddy must pay you $7.25/hr, provide you with worker's comp, provide you with free healthcare, use OSHA-approved scaffolding that costs more than the value of his entire house, treat all paints as a hazmat during transport & use, hire a bookkeeper to track your withholdings, send in a matching payroll tax from his own pocket, and all sorts of other insanity. Maybe you'll still help your buddy, but if some federal bureaucrat decides his RonPaulForever.com website is too annoying, they *can* get him jailed and financially destroyed, merely by following the letter of the law. To the hilt, as it were.

    There are two serious arguments against having a low-threshold min-wage law: one, that it is a slippery slope (once you have one people will try to fiddle with the number for political-pandering-patronage-bribery), and two, that in an ideal world no govt is ever needed (i.e. anarchy). Having the usual anti-slavery law is perfectly moral, we agree on that (I'm with you on initiation-of-force). But I'm trying to point out that, if that idealized concept is your *only* way of analyzing things, then you will end up saying that my $0.25/hr min-wage proposal is just as bad aka immoral as $5M/hr min-wage proposal that would be in effect totalitarian communism (outlawing employers). They might have the same moral-calculus, but the practical impact is very different. Your original article is basically arguing that future generations will see us as morons, because we did not approach all questions purely as moral-calculus probs, but I'm pointing out that there is a practical side, too.

    Pop quiz: if *all* govt is immoral, then how can you agree an anti-slavery law is *not* immoral?

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  8. #3 & 4. Well, you need not use that terminology for my wild scheme (swiped from objectivists) of 'government via voluntary taxation' if you find it an abuse of the language; perhaps 'tightly meshed voluntary contractual association funded via investments' would better describe what I'm thinking about. But in my mind, there is not much difference in the phrases: I'm seeing a prez in charge of the military, a congress in charge of making the detailed decisions about how to invest the voluntary ('tax')dollars, and courts + cops that enforce the constitutional laws, and the *funded* statutes. Citizens can end the war in Afghanistan, simply by pulling their funds; ditto for the TSA, the dept of education, and anything else they find unprofitable for their investment.

    #4_B & 5. I do love those old-school founding documents, yes. They are really structural *ideas* though, which happen to be written down. (What's sad about contract law? It's just a written version of honesty methinks.) In 1787 there was the idea that each slave would add 0.6 votes to their slavemaster's power in the ballot-booth... but simultaneously, that all men were created equal and enjoyed the inalienable right of liberty. The internal contradiction, the bug, was mostly fixed in the 1860s, although we're still tying up loose ends, and will be for some time yet. The supreme court this summer has some more commentary on the power of the commerce clause, and the power to lay taxes. There's your gang of robbers, Madison et al... but to me, that's just a bug, which can be correctly reasonably easily by striking the word 'lay' and replacing it with the word 'request', or if you prefer, lay-taxes replaced with request-investments. I'd prefer just inserting a word: lay-voluntary-taxes. Obama sees himself as a VC, with colleges and solyndra and chrysler and goldmanSachs as his startups (Mitt is similar but prefers keystoneXL and exxon and delphi and goldmanSachs).

    I'm just slightly changing the structural ideas so that instead of guys like that *taking* our assets for *their* investments, we can earmark our own assets for particular investments, and then reap the contractual rewards thereof, ourselves. Our existing system of checks and balances is that voters are supposed to keep congress in check, plus the presidential veto helps, so that we don't spend ourselves blind. But there is a loophole: congress can borrow money from overseas, and voters not yet even *born* will have to bear the burden. Sick... but an effective political tactic, expecially since FDR figured out how to close the loop, bribing the *current* generation of voters with populist spending projects, so that they will put the big-spenders back into office continually. Huge bug! But it is a bit hyperbolic to call the founding docs a complete failure -- industrial revolution? end of slavery? women's suffrage? digital telecomm? space travel? Some pretty good things (in the moral sense!) have happened in the past couple centuries, and arguably they would not have come about without some pretty-darn-close-to-correct structural ideas.

    I haven't heard of Spooner & No Authority -- I will check it out. (But if it's about the ludicrously long feedback-loop from the time when congress passes something unconstitutional to the time when it finally gets struck down by the supreme court, years later, with luck and plenty of cash for legal fees, then I already agree.)

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  9. #6. As for barbarism, and government checking itself... I think the point of *me* helping to fund a govt is so that it will protect me/family/friends/city/nation from the external barbarians. Sure, I can learn karate, get some body armor, build myself a castle, and learn to fly an attack chopper; but it's more efficient to pool my resources with like-minded individuals, and organize ourselves structurally to defeat the external enemy. That's the good thing about natural barbaric violence: it tends to be stupid, and easily thwarted, as long as you plan ahead, and build a govt that is structured correctly. (Romans eventually lost to the barbarians *after* they became a military despotism on top of a bread-and-circus welfare state; before the 2nd punic war, they were doing well.) But, as you point out, as soon as you organize a govt, you just created a monster; if it has the power to give you everything you want (e.g. perfect security from invading barbarian hordes) then it also has the power to take everything you have. Better to limit the size and scope. How? Yes, by playing off govt against itself.

    Because in reality, there is no such thing as 'govt' that is monolithic. There is the commander in chief of the army, a particular person. There is the chief justice, and the AG. There is the secstate, and the speaker, and so on. There are tons of mayors and sheriffs and judges. All these people are 'govt' when considered as an abstract collection, but they are also individuals with their own ambition, that can think and act on their own. Checks and balances is simply the idea that you create a specific sort of structure, where each little power-faction will tend to have certain things they can do, but not other things, because *other* power-factions within the overall 'govt' abstraction stop them. Clearly we have yet to come up with long-term workable structures, but I haven't given up yet. Which is pretty much the definition of being utopian -- in the sense that I am searching for a practical yet utopian scheme that will result in a better world going forward -- so I guess you can call me guilty of that.

    But... anarchism is also utopian, albeit not in the same fashion. If I believed that everyone was inherently good, then I would be 100% in support of anarchism, because there would be no hordes, and no power-mad politicians, so anarchy would just work, and never devolve into despotism or mob-rule. But strongmen do arise, predictably, every time. Look at the dictatorships in the middle east. When they are overthrown, sometimes you get anarchy, for a brief moment... and often you get mob-rule. Then another despot. Arrrrgh... maybe you and I are talking about different meanings of the word anarchy, but I think there's pretty much only one thing it means, lack of govt-structural-forms.

    "People are violent so we need a government made up of people are violent so we" Hee hee -- yeah, it's pretty funny. But people are not continuously violent, especially if there are checks. 2nd amend: widespread ownership of weaponry can reduce crime, deter invasion, and keep govt limited. 1st amend: freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, right to petition for grievances... sometimes exposing scandal & corruption is the most effective tactic. But your point is well taken: a govt that is run by tyrannical folks is the worst of all worlds. (I cannot find the quote right now, but there was some gangster a few decades ago, when they were retiring said something along the lines of, if they could do it all over again, they'd start a company and buy off some politicians, rather than becoming a criminal and breaking the law, since just rewriting the law in your favor is both a safer *and* more profitable way to steal.)

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  10. #7. Finally, you write this: Isn't market competition be the best conceivable "check and balance" on power? I guess I don't understand your rhetorical question, unless you have an extremely broad definition of what constitutes a market. I agree that the free market [more detailed definition in a couple paragraphs] is the best way to run an economic system, or at least, per churchill, the least bad of all the horrible ways there are to run an economy. And certainly, govt can interfere with the free market; that is not their most evil practice, since Stalin's purges and Hitler's gas chambers were definitely worse morally than their totalitarian economic approaches. But in modern first-world countries, economic interference is arguably the way govt most directly hurts the most people, with high-min-wage-law, regulation of wheat you grow for your own personal use, penaltax if you don't purchase insurance from the govt-sponsored cabal, plus stealing from the *earned* wealth of the rich to give to the poor-that-vote-for-my-party, not to mention stealing from the *earned* wealth of the poor to give to the rich-that-funded-my-campaign. Makes me angry just talking about it.

    I'm against social controls, too, since they lead to divisive idiocy (and in the long run to gas-chambers and genocide), but economic controls lead to debt-crisis (and we are *way* closer to currency-collapse than we are to gas-chambers... although gitmo and waterboard torture and indefinite detention and kill lists certainly are terrible news... that cannot really wait until we've cured our economic woes!). So I guess, on 'social' issues related to totalitarian control of civil liberties, I think we need immediate help, or we risk creating a spot where some new Hitler-or-Stalin-clone will take control (Mitt and Obama don't qualify as such clones... but they're *both* willing to keep creating totalitarian-infrastructure that will permit such things!). Close second is immediate and drastic changes to our economic controls, inverting the deficit and stopping the hemorraging of our currency-strength and our credit-rating; basically, $1T in cuts year one, balanced budget within two or three years, and surplus of a few hundred billion within five or six years. Ron Paul for president and/or Rand/Lee/DeMint budget, with the flat tax. Third place is fixing the usual social-control suspects: strong support for 1st amend, getting the feds out of the marriage business & the racial emnity business, plus figuring out some sort of sanity on the issues around abortion. Anyhoo, I guess that's enough background to say what I think about how to put checks & balances on power.

    Maybe your question is, shouldn't there be freedom for each individual to voluntarily choose their own style of govt, so that we find out which is best? And the answer is no, because the most barbaric & violent individuals will immediately become strongman-leaders, eventually coalescing into feuding citystates. Those are easy prey for the armies of a larger govt, the size of Cuba or Venezuela for instance. And *those* in turn are easy prey for a great-power govt, such as Germany/China/Russia (in order of least to most likely at present to wish to conquer additional territory). The USA is the only hyperpower at the moment, but we have lost our freedoms, and therefore are relatively declining. The UK is now a great power grade two, and has also lost many freedoms. But the answer isn't that, because the tyranny of our govts has grown over the past century, we should scrap them and start over with the 500BC approach to governance. That will merely lead to a dynasty of World Leader For Life Putin (or similar).

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    1. (Minor correction: I wrote Ron Paul for prez, and or the flat tax of the Rand/Lee/DeMint budget... but I also meant to say that prez Gary Johnson would work, too.)

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  11. #7 cont'd. So, I do think there is a 'market' competition of sorts amongst the various nations of the world, to figure out who has the best govt. (History seems to show, the ones with the most freedoms, economic especially but also civil and social.) But I use the scare-quotes when talking about the market-for-international-choice-of-govt-style, because talking about a market for goods and ideas and services involves some implicit assumptions. Amazon Kindle and Google Android and Apple iWhatever and Microsoft Win8 and various other players are competing in a market to sell consumers around the world apps/tablets/cellfons and services related thereto. But there is no military branch of Microsoft; Apple has never used nuclear brinkmanship to make Google pay up; Amazon does not send suicide-bombers to the stores which dare to sell the iPhone6. It is a free market, not a mafia market; the free market implies that use of force (initiatory or otherwise!) is not permitted. Who keeps the use of force in check? The govt. What happens when the companies bribe the govt, or lobby the govt, to make laws that favor them at the expense of competitors? Crony capitalism; mafia markets. What happens when companies bribe the politicians with campaign donations to bail them out? Socialized risk, privatized profit. Arrrgh.

    But even though we need to get rid of the corruption, that doesn't mean we can simply get rid of govt, totally. Because then, you *would* see corporations arming themselves, and mafia-style wars over consumers, and against consumers. (I imagine that the Apple fanboys would travel door to door, performing Kewlnez Chekz on all citizens -- the Kultural Revolution demands you upgrade to iOS 8.2.4, komrade! Or we will be forced to shoot you.) I don't want *that* kind of mafia-market competition in the economic sphere; bad enough that we have it at the international level, to some degree. Like the min-wage, though, I see international competition as a necessary evil for practical purposes, because the alternative (One World Govt) is utter tyranny almost by definition. Greece a couple years ago and Spain right now are the best realworld examples for why we don't want currency-collapse in the UK and the USA: counter-examples that help by providing clear evidence that freedom is good, and statist corruption is bad.

    Prolly we agree on the problems, and just disagree on the solutions. But do you see where I'm coming from with the idea that anarcho-capitalist city-states are no match for a nuclear-backed army under a totalitarian dictator? Think the tiny commerce-nation of Belgium versus the blitzkreig-nation of Hitler, circa 1940. An-cap is no match for Stalin, either. Even tiny dictatorships, that don't control their own country fully, like the drug cartels of upper south america, would still be able to crush a society of anarchists. Hence, I conclude that some level of govt is absolutely necessary: to keep Jeff Bezos and Sergei Brin from violently contesting the app-marketplace, and to keep external threats from invading to take both of them out.

    Once you arrive at that conclusion, how do you keep govt itself from becoming the enemy? That is not unlike what Madison and Adams and Jefferson and the rest of them were trying to do: they needed to keep Virginia from going to war with New York over interstate tarriffs, and they needed to keep the European powers from invading and taking over (France in Louisiana and Spain in Florida and Britain in Canada -- but also other nations that might see conquering the USA as the best way to get their own foothold in the new world!). They came up with a solution of checks and balances, which has served us better than anything so far invented. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see some places where they went wrong -- which I call bugs. They themselves knew about places that were incorrect, such as slavery and the initial lack of a bill of rights.

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  12. #8. So, here's my pitch to you: I firmly believe that a strong constitutional republic, where the limited federal govt has a monopoly on force, is a necessary framework (for reasons above). It should be tasked with guaranteeing the free market will remain free, preserving the individual rights (not to include free bread & circus! -- negative rights only) of the populace, and defending the revised-to-be-less-buggy founding documents against all enemies, foreign & domestic. You think that framework isn't necessary. Okay, fine... but since I am pretty confident we agree that the current framework, as exemplified by Obama/Clegg and Romney/Cameron, is bad and getting worse, what should we do?

    My plan is the paulitician approach: we educate the voting populace about the corruption of the system, and we use the rules of that corrupt system to attain positions within the existing power-structure of the party hierarchy. Freedom is popular, which means eventually, as long as we keep a stern focus, we will win.

    Ron Paul is likely out of running for election personally -- but the liberty movement remains, at least, as yet. However, there is a significant risk that it will splinter asunder now, with anarchists and agorists going off with Tom Woods, libertarians going off with Gary Johnson (never to return to big-R where he began), and the mainstream elite establishment neocon-theocon Republicans laughing as they easily overpower the remaining pauliticians still inside the official Republican Party. If *that* happens, the only way we will *ever* get to your ideal world of true anarchy is through total worldwide economic collapse, triggered by an asteroid strike or a thermonuclear exchange or some similar end-of-civilization catastrophe.

    The new RNC rule#12 rammed through via cheating and teleprompter-scripting at Tampa suggests that such a thing *is* happening. Unless we fight it now; we will all hang separately, unless we hang together. So, why not help the liberty-movement now? I'm not suggesting that you give up on your moral principles, which lead you to conclude anarchism is the best sort of society. Quite the opposite; the fact that we both have strong moral principles, similar in tone albeit different in long-range target, is exactly *why* I am talking this over with you.

    For pragmatism, what I *am* suggesting is that your goal of creating a test-bed for some form of anarchy-based not-a-govt is far more likely to be possible under a President who is the political offspring of Ron Paul (and perhaps the biological offspring as well -- but Gary Johnson or Justin Amash would fine too). Just as a hypothetical, imagine that NV and/or MT decided to experiment with anarcho-capitalism within their borders. Obama would crush them. Romney ditto. Gary Johnson, or Rand Paul, would tell them to go for it, so long as they are willing to follow the constraints of the federal constitution. Maybe the anarchists could figure out a way, alternatively or simultaneously, to settle one of the islands in the Northern Marianas chain (USA territory), for an even less-constrained an-cap experiment, effectively seceding from the USA for a trial period of 99 years, or somesuch.

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    1. http://managainstthestate.blogspot.com/2011/07/ron-paul-is-voluntaryist.html

      Heh heh. This is a great video, which covers exactly what I'm saying here, at about 5:15 seconds through. Amish have their own enclave, socialist-communes like the Shakers have their own enclaves, anarcho-capitalists have their own enclaves. As long as they don't hurt others, either *within* their enclaves or outside of them, they can do as they wish in terms of self-govt.

      Although he doesn't say it, though, under the current Constitution with the 14th amend and the transitive applicability of the other portions thereof, nobody would be able to infringe on 2nd amend or 1st amend or 4th amend or other rights (not even the leader of the Amish). Ditto for life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. So, although Ron Paul believes in enclaves that do as they wish internally, I would deny he wants Church Of Satan enclave which engages in human sacrifice, Colombian Drug Cartel enclave which engages in territorial warfare, and for that matter in Antebellum Southern Dixie enclave where non-whites are enslaved and non-males cannot vote (plus maybe owning property is necessary to vote... and the more property you own the more votes you get).

      The overall message implied by the video *is* wrong, IMHO. Ron Paul believes taxation is theft, because, quite frankly it is. He believes offensive war is the initiation of force, because, quite frankly, it is. But time and again (omitted in this video of course!) when he talks about war, he talks about war that can be justified, and that is declared by congress, and that we fight... then go home.

      That is *not* a man who is against the state, per se, itself. That is a man who believes in the Christian doctrine of proper warfare. His quotes in the video about not permitting the initiation of force apply to physical force, whether committed by individual citizens, or by the state. But he is perfectly fine with any individual using self-defense, and ditto for nations; which means he is fine with a nation existing, i.e. with a state.

      Does he think that state should never tax anybody? If so, he does not say that. What he does think, is that from an economic perspective, using the govt to fund welfare is wrong, and that the Constitution justifies that idea more easily from the perspective of political repercussions. How does he plan to fund the government, the state? Well, not via the IRS. Not via eminent domain (nationalizations). Not via borrowing from domestic banks, nor from foreign creditors. Prolly excise taxes, or capitation tax, as one of the enumerated powers in the Constitution. Hey, maybe he would approve of my scheme for voluntary taxation (aka representative-managed investment-grade project-facilitation). But the fact that he believes a state *can* wage defensive war, means that he has *some* specific funding mechanism in mind. Certainly not printing more fiat money!

      Ron Paul is not really an-cap; he is more of a paleo libertarian, who believes that *state* govts should be responsible for determining whether abortion is legal within their boundaries, that *state* govts should be responsible for funding education, and so on and so forth. He believes the feds have a very limited purpose, as outlined in the Constitution.

      p.s. For myself personally, I don't necessarily agree with all these positions, or at least, with how Ron is justifying them. But they are all worth voting for, given the alternatives! In the long haul I believe his liberty-candidate stances will give both an-cap folks, voltax folks, and the Amish a shot.

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  13. #8 cont'd. Sure, these are just fairy-dust concepts right now. But so is the idea that, somehow with nothing but a vague end-goal, anarcho-capitalism will just arise out of nowhere, sweeping all the existing power-structures of the establishment away. Winning elections for the liberty-candidates which are part of the liberty-movement faction within the Republican Party is a small step, but it *is* a step, and in the correct direction. Leaving the party, to advocate for ideologically pure anarchism, or to join the big-L party of ideologically pure libertarianism, either course which suffers from media blackout and *mathematical* impossibility of winning (cf independence of clones -- which neither of our voting systems have -- and thus logically as well as statistically guarantees failure)... frankly speaking, *any* of that sort of thing is just playing into the hands of the current leash-holders we suffer under. Make sense?

    #9. I realize you personally aren't in a position to become a member of the republican party, but you clearly have a role in the online version of the r3V0Jtion. You work hard, and people like your work. I'd wish that you were an advocate for the liberty-movement, going forward, beyond Ron Paul. Plus, while I'm hammering on you here, why not start pauliticking amongst the Conservative party in your neck of the woods? Even the prime minister is already libertarian-leaning on the social issues; you just have to get the party aligned back to economically-sane positions, ones that they *used* to hold, in the recent past. End of sermon.

    You have to make up your own mind, about what you think is the best pathway forward. But I hope you'll give my argument some serious thought, not only because pauliticians like myself need help right now, but because I really believe that the math of elections and the money-power behind our mathematically-guaranteed-to-be-two-party-dominant voting systems restrict the options going forward available to *either* of us. If you really want anarchy to have a shot in the long run, then I submit to you that working now to help elect libertarian-leaning Republican candidates, and perhaps even libertarian-leaning Conservative candidates in the UK, is absolutely clear-as-a-bell necessary. Anarchists running for elected office is a contradiction in terms! But if you don't get *some* sort of liberty-loving candidates into office, and that right quick, then methinks none of the various flavors of anarchism will ever get their day in the sun.

    Anyhoo, I'm happy to keep jousting with you over the correct role of government in the long-haul future, and maybe you can explain to my why a specific flavor of anarchism will in fact be able to resist the Mongol Hordes of Genghis Khan. Or maybe I'll convince you that some sort of written Constitution is in fact a necessity, enforced by vigilant citizenry, and that a specific kind of structure will in fact preserve liberty via checks and balances, if we can only get the most glaring bugs worked out.

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  14. #9 cont'd. In the short-haul future, though, neither any form of anarchism nor any form of voluntary-taxation-aka-investment-via-political-representatives is going to be enacted. No way, no how.

    We can therefore concentrate our time on ideological purity, to the exclusion of all pragmatic effort to win elections... and end up with tyranny...

    ...or we can argue about long-term ideology whilst *simultaneously* unifying around a near-term solution to winning elections in practice, from within the Republican Party proper, which I call pauliticking (itself a very specific pathway within the larger liberty-movement... which also includes running third party or abstaining slash going Galt and probably other ones I've not yet heard of).

    Yes, even if Ron Paul had won in 2012, neither of us would have been fully satisfied. He wouldn't have enacted either of our utopian dreams, and with hostile members from *both* of the major parties running Congress and the courts and the bureacracies and the mass media, his presidency would have been much like His Accidency The First John Tyler: sane on foreign policy, but otherwise exceedingly tough going, and in the end unpopular with the everyday voters.

    The historical moment was simply not yet right for a resurgence of liberty.

    Moreover, I've not many doubts that Ron Paul's successors *will* struggle to live up to his shining example, and thus be even less acceptable to us. But that is only in the short run... we *can* continue taking bigger and bigger steps in the correct direction... consider the alternative...!

    For liberty.

    ___j___

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    1. J,

      I think that if you read Spooner's essay your view on the Constitution will be changed. I also suggest reading some Murray Rothbard (especially For A New Liberty).

      While I'm making suggestions, I highly recommend checking out the media section of Mises.org for lectures by Hans Hoppe, Bob Murphy, Roderick Long, Tom Woods, Tom Di Lorenzo, etc. As Ron Paul said about the Mises Institute website: "you could spend a lifetime learning from it".

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