Monday, June 09, 2008

Selective Implication

I noticed something new today, arguing as I often do with people that I generally agree with about most things because we disagree on some small thing. And I'm struck with the realization that it seems to be remarkably easy for people who don't want to think about something to not think about it.

A useful term to describe the specific phenomenon I'm encountering is "selective implication". This is a phenomenon where a word has certain implications and connotations that are selectively applied. This can be a good thing if used correctly; sometimes for lack of a better word, we use one that implies something slightly different than what we actually mean, and it gets the point across. We leave it up to the plausibility and context to determine what was actually meant by that word in that case, and which connotations or implications might not be intended. For example, the phrase "Capitalism has brought great wealth to the world" is not using the word "capitalism"'s capacity to imply exploitation. The phrase "Gravediggers of Capitalism" is not using the word "capitalism"'s capacity to imply prosperity.

In my previous post on my other blog I described a mental filter I use to compare ideas to each other, and throw away useless ones. A variant of this filter is pretty common to libertarians (I think mine developed from the common libertarian version). The difference appears to be that libertarians very often use this filter on words, not on the ideas that the words stand for. Libertarians very often insist on a very strict definition of capitalism to mean "free market" (although I don't know why they use the word "capitalism" when "free market" does a better job with less fuss). In doing this, they strip "capitalism" down to what they believe to be it's core meaning, and throw away all it's other implications and connotations. As I've said, this can be a useful thing. Libertarians tend to be very precise thinkers. Not always necessarily accurate, but precise. In a "2.24885837+2.11358=3.92485263" sense. But this habit often leads to libertarians stripping away some very important implications and connotations that these ideas and words carry that screw with their ability to understand new ideas that they are not familiar with. It also gives a lot of room for people to assert things that aren't true as if they were obvious. Somebody who doesn't care a bit for the word "Capitalism" will rarely be seen defending inanely huge fortunes on the grounds that the free market naturally produces them. Somebody who cares for nothing but the word "Capitalism" will rarely fail to do so. And very often those who believe that inanely huge fortunes are not legitimate creations of the free market will be denounced as "socialists".


"Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant."

The above instruction is impossible to comply with once having heard it. As soon as you read or hear the word elephant, you're thinking of a big gray animal with a long trunk. If I call a rock "the elephant", I'm not trying to say it's a biological, living, breathing thing. It's obviously not. What I'm trying to do is put the implications of the word "elephant" in your head; I trust you to make the necessary connections between the rock I'm talking about and an elephant, or to discover what rock I'm talking about by associating the idea of a "rock" with the implications of the word "elephant". Maybe it's got a trunk-like feature, on the end of an elephant-head shaped bulge on one end, maybe it's just a big rock the size of an elephant, maybe it's a statue of an elephant. Whatever it is, you know damn well I'm not telling you that the rock has a large brain and grows ivory tusks, even though these are quite essential characteristics of elephants.

"I hate going to work."

I don't know about you, but what passes through my mind when I read the word "work" in this sentence is doing things you've done a hundred times before, leaving home every day, being on a schedule, earning a wage or salary, coming home late in the day, the color of dirt and wood, fighting rush hour traffic, dealing with annoying coworkers and customers, going to sleep tired and waking up tired the next morning because that's the schedule, and the fear of not being in control of things and the dependence upon your boss's happiness. These are the images that come to mind.

When I say "work should be abolished" I'm obviously not talking about the definition from physics. I'm not talking about all productive endeavor. I'm not talking about doing something you don't like. I'm using the word "work" because there's no other word that brings up enough and the same implications and connotations (and as few unwanted or extraneous implications and connotations) as I want you to think of when I choose a word to describe it.

When I say I am opposed to capitalism, I am not saying I oppose free markets. I'm saying I'm opposed to at least most of the things that the word "capitalism" implies, centralized wealth and wealth disparity, bosses and workers, consumerism, consumption, the GDP, corporations, pointless extravagance...that's what I'm opposed to. It is unfortunate that "capitalism" has come to imply "free markets" in addition to these things, as there's no reason for it to be so.

When I say I am opposed to government, I am not saying I'm opposed to order, agreement, or control. I'm saying I'm opposed to politics, opposed to making other people's decisions for them, opposed to lies and bullshit, opposed to monopoly, opposed to all the witless slogans and arrogance and raw, unsubstantial imagery that is brought to mind when I hear, see, or speak the word "government".

A lot of the time all it takes to understand somebody is to try to understand them. Not to hear them, not to listen to them, but to actually recognize that there is an idea, probably at least somewhat sensible, that they are trying to communicate to you, and to try, make a conscious effort, to understand what they are talking about. Robots would object to my calling a rock an elephant on the grounds that rocks and elephants are defined in a mutually exclusive manner. People respond by thinking about what rock or what elephant I might be talking about and how the one relates to the other. Don't be a damn robot. Be a person.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Labor Theory of Value

I got some relatively quick responses to that last post, both of which ignored what I originally was trying to write about to talk about the LTV, which is a mere afterthought I added to the post on an immediate insight. So here's a bit about the LTV.

First of all, I think the LTV is valid. This does not mean that I think everyone's labor is worth exactly $10 per hour, or that mudpies sell for $10 if they take 1 hour to make, or any of that stuff. I associate the LTV with Adam Smith and David Ricardo, not Karl Marx. And I'm not going to defend Marx's version and I'll dismiss any objections based on Marx's version as a strawman.

Adam Smith:

"The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people."

Notice he says "what every thing really costs", not "the price that everything sells for". All costs can be expressed as labor costs.

Ricardo:

"The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative quantity of labour which is necessary for its production, and not as the greater or less compensation which is paid for that labour."

What's being said here is basically "cost and price are different; costs are always ultimately labor costs". That ought to put Ricardo's statement that value (stated in terms of costs or disutilities) derives only from labor into the correct perspective. Prices tend toward reflecting costs because where price exceeds cost, production ceases until that condition changes. Thus, the LTV does not say that the price that something sells for is always directly and solely coming from the labor put into it, only that it's costs are.

What is not being said here is that "people only want something as badly as the labor that went into it", or that "value is tied directly to the object and has nothing to do with evaluation by individuals" or that "two people can't value the same thing differently". It is not irreconcilable with STV. As I said in my last post, they are complementary if you understand them (or at least, if you don't start off with the belief that they are incompatible and then look for validation of that hypothesis). The LTV doesn't have to "provide a means for discovering when labor should not be done at all", or "comparing the value of alternative uses for labor." As I said, it is complementary, not exclusive, to a subjective understanding of value. I don't know how I can say "they're compatible" and get an objection like "LTV can't account for X that the STV can". Apply the immortal ethic of ARFCOM: "Get Both."

And I'm going to recommend this to anyone wanting better understanding. Studies in Mutualist Political Economy by Kevin Carson.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

False Dichotomies Make Bitterest Enemies

In the late 1800s there was one outstanding disagreement among individualist anarchists. They divided essentially into two camps; the Natural Law anarchists, including Lysander Spooner, and the Egoists, including Benjamin Tucker.

Tucker was the first to translate Max Stirner's "The Ego and His Own" into english. This is where Tucker got his rationale for individualist anarchism from. Stirner's Egoism was something that would offend a lot of libertarians these days. His position can be summed up accurately as "might makes right". In Stiner's words, "I do not step shyly back from your property, but look upon it always as my property, in which I respect nothing. Pray do the like with what you call my property!"

Lysander Spooner took a very different view. Spooner believed in a natural law, discoverable by inquiry. This was his rationale for individualist anarchism. Spooner rejected "might makes right" outright, as most libertarians would today.

Eventually the disagreement caused a split movement.

These two ideas were, supposedly, two alternatives to the same thing; two rationales for the same idea. If you weren't one of them, you were the other (or you were not an individualist anarchist). You couldn't be both. Yet I find that, right now, I'm both.

When Max Stirner proposed his "might makes right" ethic, he was stating simple facts about the way ownership practically works. The state does not control all of the property it does because they are better traders than anyone else. Might makes right. The state has "right" to it's property insofar as it is willing to kill people that disagree about what it's property is.

As I see it, egoism describes property, while the natural law is both predictive and prescriptive, but not descriptive. Essentially, in a Tucker/Stirnerite egoist world, Spoonerian natural law is what can be expected as the shape of an emergent, self-organizing law as it appears in anarchy. Natural law and egoism are doing different, but extremely closely related things. The forces which shape this law are universal everywhere.

It's analogous to Stirner saying "Rocks fall if you drop them" and Spooner observes "the rock fell at an accelerating rate of about 10 meters per second per second" and then wrote an equation that should describe the movement of the rock, and all rocks everywhere, and called it a law of physics. They are perfectly complementary ideas! How did this get such results out of people?

These days, we've got this new point of separation. It's an extremely fundamental thing being argued about. It's an extremely hotly argued about thing. Both sides are incessantly condescending to the other, just like in the days of Tucker and Spooner. But at least Tucker and Spooner agreed on this point.

The new one is the Labor Theory of Value vs Subjective Theory of Value.

See, the Subjective Theory states a truth on par with Stirner's egoism. The fundamental nature of value is such that individuals independently value things, and these values are not tied directly to the object. STV describes the nature of value. The Labor Theory provides principles for prediction and prescription of the values things would or should have in a more universal sense. In prediction, LTV states that prices will tend toward the costs of labor. In prescription, it advocates that the worker get the full value in exchange for their labor. Again, perfectly complementary ideas. Yet there's almost a war going on between labor value theorists and subjective value theorists.

I don't get it myself. Why can't people just take the good, useful parts of two ideas and see if they can't be reconciled?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Classes

I separate society into two classes: The political upper class, and the political lower class. These are, respectively, those who benefit from the state, and those who are harmed by it. This is a nice, simple dichotomy to work with. But it's sorta like the distinctions of the red, pink, white, gray, and black markets. There's different grades that should be distinguished for clarity, rather than simply lumped into "economy" and "counter-economy". So here's a more precise version of my political class theory, divided into three classes:

1. The fuelers
2. The foolers
3. The rulers

The Fuelers are the people that keep the state going, i.e. the host organism. Taxpayers (as opposed to tax-consumers), soldiers, good obedient nationalistic citizens, et cetera.

The Foolers are the apparent political class. That is, the people that get elected, appointed, et cetera. They are the formal state. The congress, the president, the judges, the directors, everything right down to the cops. They have transient power. They are mere interchangable elements of a grander parasite.

The Rulers are the true political upper class. They are the people who have, not transient, but perpetual power. Not through getting elected, but through being able to control those who are, no matter who they are.

Libertarians recognize the dichotomy I gave at the beginning of this post, they see and understand a political upper and lower class, and, seeing themselves in the lower, try to move into and displace the upper. But most libertarians have a shallow view of the situation. Their attention is directed away from the Rulers, toward the Foolers (which is the whole point in having Foolers, to fool people, like most libertarians, and everyone else).

And this is one more area where I find agorism takes a generally-good anarchocapitalist idea and hones it. Agorism advocates displacing the true political upper class. The agorist technique is to profit from statism without partaking in it's violence, by entering the black market (which exists specifically to correct the economic stupidity caused by the state, not to maintain it as does the pink market). The agorist technique is to bribe the police to be just, not to change the law they are sworn to uphold to be just. Rothschild may "care not who makes [the nation's] laws", but his antithesis, the agorist, cares not who enforces them, because in either case, one may change the individuals in apparent power, but cannot change the individuals in true power.

I seriously can't even count how many new insights agorism has brought with it into my head. It's certainly not a logical proof of it's validity, but it's a MUCH more useful idea for me than anarchocapitalism was.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Persuasion

This blog post comes from a forum post I made. The OP asks for help with his liberal (read: state socialist) friends. I responded in vast overkill because somebody got me going on something I had lots to say about. The core advice is not specific to liberals at all. It is advice for persuasion, period.

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Don't be on the defense. Don't put them on the defense. You are not enemies, you are friends. Assuming you are both on a quest for truth, you are partners in the search for that truth. You help each other figure out what is true and what isn't.

Some people are not looking for truth. Some people are looking to preserve their identity as a liberal. If they value being a liberal and the relationships they would lose if they stopped being a liberal more than they value truth, then they're hopeless in that condition. You have to figure out a way to make truth their first priority. Do not let them lie about how truth is their first priority (the contradiction is obvious, and most strongly indicated in whether their decisions and actions contradict their words). Trap them with it if you have to. Don't be hostile or threatening to their worldview, but point out their hypocrisy as humor that they can laugh at (so they won't be angry at you). If you can align them with truth, and align yourself with truth, then you don't have an enemy, just a friend that doesn't know it yet. Persuasion isn't just about giving people truth, it's about getting them to accept the truth, which requires getting them to want the truth. Do not just appeal to facts, appeal to values.

From this sentence: "its okay to use the government gun when its for the good of the people", it is apparent that they value "the good of the people". If they are being honest in this (i.e. no ulterior motive), then showing them that universal healthcare is detrimental to "the good of the people" will be an effective tactic. But they probably aren't, they probably heard that rationalization for it and regurgitate it like a good liberal, where their true values lie: being a good liberal = being a good person, by the reasoning of many liberals.

It's actually a pretty common mistake for newer libertarians to make to discover how universally true the moral argument is, and then use the moral argument against people who don't share your moral premises. They value morality, in all likelihood. They do not value your moral laws, they value theirs. Arguing from it's immorality by the laws you propose will just make them disagree with your moral laws insofar as they do not already share them. The true basis for the morality of decisions is the results of the decisions. "Good" is what is good for people. This should be obvious because of all the pseudo cost-benefit analysis involved. If you asked them whether or not the costs of universal healthcare, without the benefits, were good or bad, they'd be an idiot to say that nonzero costs with zero benefits is good. The problem is that they believe that the good outweighs the bad. Fundamentally this idea is refuted by the fact that you will never get any more benefit from the government than it costs in the first place. At best it's hypothetically equal, but there's always overhead and bureaucracy and bullshit like spending social security dry, so outputs never exceed inputs, preventing it from being good, the costs always exceed the benefits. Bureaucrats and statists ALWAYS emphasize and overstate the benefits and ALWAYS downplay or underestimate the costs, using highly advanced deception tools developed by intellectuals recieving state subsidies or grants.

In cases where there's a negative externality, like aggression, the good of the aggressing individual is threatened by the retaliation of the victim who suffered loss. That's a good rule of thumb to use a lot of the time, if somebody wants to retaliate against you because of what you did to them, you probably costed them something. In the case of the state, there is no retaliation of the victim against the state, almost ever, so it can appear intuitively moral if it is believed that the act of aggression served the good of someone else. The moral costs appear to be virtually zero, and the benefits appear to be nonzero, so obviously universal healthcare should be good! The hard part is getting them to realize the unseen costs.

The issue with identity-value like wanting to be a good liberal is that if you bring up the costs, they subconsiously see a threat to their identity, and they'll say something according to their identity that makes them feel like a good liberal and that superficially appears to refute what you said, like "yeah, you should go to jail for not paying taxes". But that obviously just moves the problem back a little bit, because then you've got to repeat the process for the costs of paying taxes without the benefits, to get them to admit that there certainly ARE costs, because once they've acknowledged the costs they are forced to re-evaluate the costs and benefits. If they decide the costs of taxation outweigh the benefits, good going! If they don't, they're stupid, and they'll probably bring up more "i'm a good liberal" rhetoric or "you're a bad libertarian" rhetoric (they think they are good not only because they are what they are, but because they are not what they are not, and because their enemies are who their enemies are), and usually I'd get something absolutely irrelevant like "but who will build the roads?" or "best country in the world you should be grateful" or similar stupid shit, and if you can't get them back on topic after they try to do that, they're suffering from severe cognitive dissonance and you need to let them ferment and cool off because they'll probably be angry because you made them scared because you threatened their identity as a good liberal but they won't admit that to themselves.

This is why I prefer to either argue from the first principles and original facts, or to convince them that their first priority should be truth, depending on the the circumstances. If you don't have them wanting truth they won't care about facts and principles so you should really go for that first. I can't overstress it enough. People really do let their desired truth overrule the real truth. This is the number one enemy of reason and it's pretty much my definition of faith.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It Doesn't Just Happen

Agorism predicts that, as the agora grows, DROs and PAs will come about and eventually suppress the state. Counter-economics, until these form, is a means of inordinately profiting and a result of smashing the state in your head, but it itself doesn't further the revolution except to grow the counter-economy a tiny bit so that DROs and PAs will form. I think agorists are working it a bit backwards here. DROs and PAs haven't formed and overthrown the state in Burma (although it might be because the black market isn't an "agora", isn't conscious of agorism). A 100% counter-economic market is agorism, but a 50% counter-economic market is still statism, and a 0% is still statism. What would 99% be? 90%? 80%?

Instead of trying to grow the agora over generations or so, why not work on adapting a DRO and PA to operate in much lower-density agoras? If a way of providing the service in a 100% counter-economic market is inevitable, and 99% would be extremely easy, at some point it becomes moderately hard, unless you adapt your model specifically to work in an extremely-low density agora. There's no law of physics that says that at some certain point it becomes impossible to do. It'd be a hell of a task, but the payoff!

FSK discusses tax resister insurance. This is the sort of thing agorists should be really focused on in terms of counter-economic behavior. Growing the counter-economy is certainly conductive to the agorist goals and greatly preferred over the white market, but a "deep black market" business, not just acting in violation of the state's decrees, but in direct contravention to it, and making a profit doing it, that's the kind of thing that has massive potential to liberate society very quickly. Let's not wait around saying "Well we can't really do anything but stay off the books and out of jail until the agora develops and grows to [undefined point of precipitation of the agora]", let's get our asses to work figuring out how we can form DROs and PAs now, not worry about whether we can or not. Worst case scenario, if we can't make it work here and now, the techniques developed will still help it come into being sooner than it would otherwise. The failures would be learned from, the successes would be remembered.

What do we need, exactly, to get from here to there? Let's build it. We already know it'll happen, in the fullness of time. But it doesn't just happen. People make it happen. People like us.

"Man will not fly for fifty years." -Wilbur Wright, 1901

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Geoism, Land, and Space

Something I do when arguing with people that have new ideas is consider under what conditions what they're saying might be true. I'll readily admit that open source software is about as communistic as you can get. But it works flawlessly in the case of open source software, because there isn't any scarcity with information. In a world without scarcity, communism would work perfectly. It works under those conditions. I'm still not a communist.

I'm not a geoist either. However, their reasoning is strong enough to warrant the kind of thinking I mentioned, "Under what conditions would they be right?" Obviously, from my ancapish leaning perspective, they'd be right if land ownership was illegitimate. But under what conditions would land ownership be illegitimate, aside from theft? Then I looked at what we have today.

Land as property is unique. Not because "they're not making it anymore", they are, they're just not making much. It's unique because, in the case of all other property, our title to that property moves with that property. If we treated land the same way we treat any other type of property, property titles to land could be carted around by dumptruck. That's just not how land ownership (presently) works.

What we actually do isn't "owning land". It's "owning space". You don't own the dirt on "your land" except by the fact that it's on your plot, in your space. Likewise, "trespassing" is a charge for being in somebody else's space, even if that trespass does no damage whatsoever to the person trespassed against.

But how can space become property? With all physical property of matter and energy, it becomes property through labor. Space cannot be labored on. Without this, space cannot be owned. If space can't be owned, what is title to space?

It is analogous to intellectual property. It is a claim to own that which is inherently unownable. It's a way to rationalize the use of force against others who've done no damage to you or your legitimate property.

This only takes me as far as to grant geoists that there's something illegitimate about land monopoly. It takes something else to get me to accept the geoist economic rent collection thing, something which so far, I haven't found. But, at least, I'll accept that there is some kind of injustice there, though perhaps not through the specific way they think of it.

I recognize the problems that I've seen geoists bring up that "If all the land on the planet is owned, where am I supposed to live?" But I don't see how the collection of economic rent solves this problem. It preserves the land titles, it just compensates everyone else for the inconvenience of that title, without giving actual land to the non-landowners. At best that'll make it easier to pay rent to to renters, but it won't solve the original problem.

Enter restitutive justice (more and more appearing to me as the means to solve most intra-left-libertarian conflict). If it were recognized by a justice system (I'll assume it's anarchic, as that pushes the limits of unideal circumstances) that ownership of space was not legitimate, but that it was nonetheless claimed and enforced, a debt would be owed to vagrants who were aggressed against under this guise. The debt would cancel between the landowner and vagrant if the vagrant did actual damage to the landowner's property, but if not, the landowner would lose money every time he had to enforce his illegitimate claim. A persistent vagrant would be given, after some time, enough money to likely buy off a part of the landowner's property, and thus come to own it legitimately.

But why go through that hassle? A more streamlined way of doing it would be to cut the justice system out of the way as much as possible, leaving, at most, the possible threat of it's use, and to allow the vagrant to claim some already owned land. A landowner would tend to allow that if they know the courts will rule that way. Naturally this would be technical theft, especially if the land had been improved by labor, and so would create a debt from the vagrant owing to the improver (or whoever had justly aquired the title from that improver), for the amount of the improvements that had been taken over. For instance, if a 10 acre lot had been uniformly invested with $10,000 in improvements (fertilizers, plowing, planting, paving, etc), and a vagrant were to move onto 1 acre and make it his own through his own labor, he would, owe the prior owner $1000 for the pre-existing improvements to the land. Once that debt was paid, it would become the former vagrant's land free and clear.

This is a more self-regulating system. Vagrants won't want to incur more debts than they need, so they won't take more land than they could use, nor would they rationally choose land which had already been improved unless they intended to make use of those improvements, and would probably choose unimproved land to improve on their own to keep in good standing with their neighbors. Nobody would be denied access to land on which to live an independent life to the extent possible. Nobody would be forced into renting. Everybody would have a place where they can do whatever they want to their property without worrying about the conditions imposed by renters.

The only scenario which has come to my mind for which a solution isn't readily apparent to me would be dumping on unowned land. For example, what'd be there to stop people from dumping toxic waste on unclaimed land? Perhaps those who chose to claim an abandoned dump site may be able to find who did it and demand a cleanup?

On a side note, this is analogous to my beliefs on children's rights as well. It may be argued that young kids might not have rights because they have no responsibility, but it would certainly still be a crime for a parent to, for example, have the child's arm amputated for no reason, and the child would have cause of action against the parent authorizing that when the child became mature enough to bring suit. (This is the same line of reasoning that refutes the "social contract" line of the anti-libertarian FAQ.)

I still haven't heard much good critique of this idea, nor seen this idea anywhere else, so I'd love to hear anything you have to say about it. I encourage comments, or contacting me in the other ways listed on the right side of the screen if the discussion should become prolonged.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Anarchist Without Objectives

This blog was made specifically for my philosophizing, but I have more to say than philosophizing. So I made another blog where I'll post the more useless stuff, personal updates, rants, jokes, really awesome youtube videos (been on 56k for a month, so I'm behind on that), et cetera. A blog for what most blogs are used for.

The new blog is Anarchist Without Objectives. Yeah, I like using puns in my names.

I'm by no means abandoning this blog, this other one is a complement, not a replacement. At least that's the plan right now.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Positive Feedback, Rivalrous Rates

I tried to make this as short as possible. I'm sure I've gone through a more thorough explanation somewhere else, but this is a short entry because it's really a pretty simple concept that doesn't need elaborate hypothetical situations and such.

Nathyn (a state socialist who trolls the Free Talk Live forums) asks:
"Authoritarianism can cause poverty and inequality (I.E., North Korea and Dalits in India). But what proof do you have that inequality is caused primarily by governments?" [Emphasis mine]
It's just my personal belief that government is the primary cause of inequality. I haven't gone through an exhaustive list of potential causes of inequality trying to estimate the contributions of each factor toward existing inequality, but as I'll show, it seems to be a rational conclusion based on how the state works.

Power has the property of being usable to get more power. And in politics, all power comes at somebody else's expense, for all power one gains in politics, somebody else must lose some power. Anybody who gets some perpetual political power (not the temporary power of elected officials or those who appear to be in charge, but those who can influence said elected officials essentially irrelevant of who the actual individuals are, including after a political revolution, i.e. the rich), will be able to use that power to increase their own political power. For example, a $50,000 bribe that leads to a new regulation that puts enough of the competition out of business that the centralizing effects bring in another $100,000 in capital.

The longer this system is allowed to run, the more centralized the wealth becomes. The richest don't get much power from the poorer anymore, so they go after the next-richest. Whoever wins, they've got more power (i.e. money) for later use against whoever is next-richest. It's easy to "win" power at the expense of those less powerful, but difficult to win at the expense of those more powerful. Those in the middle will find that those below them have little power left to take, and those above them are taking what they themselves have, and so find themselves gradually weakened. At the top, power can be had at almost anybody's expense. So as the time this system has been in place increases, the centralization becomes extremely pronounced.

The system of statism has been running from the beginning of recorded history. My reason for believing that most of the present inequality is a result of politics is that one can predict from this that the inequality caused by politics will be enormous. One also sees that the present inequality is enormous. Lacking knowledge of any other potential causes of such enormous inequality, I'm personally left with the conclusion that most of it is caused by politics.

Politics a positive feedback system with rivalrous feedback rate and inputs. The rivalrous feedback rate alone is sufficient to cause inequality, and rivalrous input is the reason why the poor are so poor. Those in power take both the best feedback rates and the best inputs. Metaphorically, they command the highest interest rates and give out the biggest loans, thus they get the most income and will eventually get the most money.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strong Libertarianism

Most people are familiar with strong atheism (there's no such thing as god) and weak atheism (I don't believe in any god). The analogous positions are deep anarchism (there is no state) and an anarchistic or radical minarchism (I don't believe that any state is legitimate). As there are already good labels for these positions, it's not my intent to duplicate them with this new word. So when I say "strong libertarian" I don't mean "the state does not exist".

I see two kinds of libertarians on the radical end where I reside. The first kind of libertarian is the more common on the Free Talk Live forums I post at, and Ian Bernard (anarchist cohost of Free Talk Live) is a good example. They follow libertarianism to the letter in politics, then pretty much let it go. They'd defend Microsoft from any claims of "monopoly" or "predatory business practices" without much independent consideration. They'll advocate ostracism as a good way to punish people. They'll ban people who use the term "wage slavery" because they find it offensive. In short, "weak" libertarianism is strictly political libertarianism, not a social libertarianism.

The second is the kind I am. Libertarianism is more than just politics to us "strong libertarians". The principles of libertarianism have applications outside the sphere of "how much government should we have?" It's about more than just leaving other people alone. It's about empowering people with freedom. It's about empowering yourself with freedom. And not just freedom from government either. Freedom from superstition, freedom from ostracism, freedom from tradition, freedom from being guilted into things, freedom from the "tyranny of genes", freedom from bad ideas in general, freedom from whatever holds you back. Freedom from gender, racial, regional, and age-related stereotyping, among other types. Freedom from restricted information. Freedom from deliberate incompatibility. Freedom from DROs that tell you "You can't buy and sell from this person, they're bad!" Freedom from the urge to control others. Freedom from things that interfere with your power to achieve values and virtues.

"Strong libertarianism" pursues empowerment through freedom in every sense possible. Not just the ones that are politically or socially acceptable. Not even just the ones that you think you want to accept. Every sense that you can recognize it, it's about empowerment through freedom in that way.

Strong libertarianism is about making yourself, and making yourself better. It's about empowering thought and action. It's about brutal honesty and openness. It's about eating with your elbows on the table because it is convenient to do so. It's about seeing yourself as the inherently free and powerful being you are.

It's not about whether you're an anarchist or a moderate (not directly, but I imagine it correlates positively with radical libertarianism). Hans-Hermann Hoppe would qualify as an anarchist (barely) but he's nowhere near being a strong libertarian. Many of Hoppe's ideas are exactly the opposite of strong libertarianism, his ideas about immigration being a prime example. Hoppe is a "weak libertarian".

I think the libertarian movement needs more awareness of this distinction.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Restitution and Antipropertarians

Some ideals of justice call for the punishment of the offender. I call this "retributive justice". Some call for the repayment of the victim. I call this "restitutive justice". Note the two different, but similar words. I support restitutive justice, just repaying the victim.

Anarchists usually fall into one of two categories, pro-property, or anti-property. Pro-property usually means "coming from a Libertarian angle", anti-property usually means "coming from a socialist angle". I'm gonna call them "propertarian" (from the word "property") and "antipropertarian".

Antipropertarians usually substitute possession-and-use for what the propertarian calls "property". They're similar concepts, but not the same. But I think I've found that, in the context of restitutive justice, they're actually compatible.

To illustrate this, let's suppose we have a propertarian farmer and an antipropertarian farmer. The propertarian farmer sees the others' land and thinks "that's his property", whereas the antipropertarian farmer looks at the other's land and thinks "he is using it and it is in his possession". The antipropertarian notices that the propertarian has left a field fallow for 10 years. They're not using it, and probably won't be using it anytime soon. In the eyes of the antipropertarian, the other farmer is no longer using it, making it free for him to put to use himself. Assuming they can't or don't agree on how to use the land, the antipropertarian may do what he sees as his right - he starts cultivating the empty field and grows and harvests a crop. The propertarian farmer may be none to happy about this. What does he do?

According to Rothbardian and Lockean property theory, the antipropertarian did the work, which created the property right in the crop. And, according to the principles of restitutive justice, there has been no damage done to the land itself that would allow for cause of action against the tresspasser. The propertarian should have the right to force the antipropertarian to repair all damage done, but what damage is there for the antipropertarian to fix? There was no cost to the propertarian at all. If the propertarian claimed the crop which the other farmer harvested, he would be stealing.

Ultimately, there is no action that can be rightly taken against the antipropertarian.

This doesn't just apply in this one case. A propertarian not living in a house they own may find it has been moved into by an antipropertarian. Hold the antipropertarian responsible for any damage done to the property, but cause of action does not extend beyond that, no cause of action exists for the "crime" of living in a house so long as it has been maintained. An irresponsible squatter would certainly be held liable for any damage done to the property, a responsible squatter would not have done any damage to be held liable for.

In every case I've been able to think of where a propertarian and an antipropertarian disagree about whether a crime has been committed, the crime is of such a nature that no restitution can rightly be demanded, rendering it effectively no crime at all for all practical purposes.

This does of course depend on restitutive justice. A system of retributive justice can't guarantee the same level of interoperability between the two that restitutive justice does. I see this as just more reinforcement for my position of strictly restitutive justice, but take whatever conclusions you want from it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not-So-Infinite Regress

To the best of my knowledge, this type of argument has been used successfully to fight off the IRS, and by a friend of mine who is still in highschool that successfully used it against his teacher. Sorry I haven't tested it that much, but making practical use of it will depend on your creativity, understanding, and intelligence.

The time you use it is when a bureaucrat of some kind begins demanding that you do something. I would hesitate to use this on cops because they'll think you're talking back and being confrontational and they'll threaten you with charges of some sort, but any other kind of bureaucrat should be fine.

After they make their demand, ask them if they think they have the right to make such a demand. They'll probably respond that, yes, they do have that right. So then ask them where they got this right, is it a right that they inherently have? For instance, if you met the bureaucrat off the job, would they still have the authority to make that kind of demand? They'll probably answer to the effect that they don't. So then, if it's not a natural right of theirs, it must be a right somebody else originally had, and simply delegated to the bureaucrat you are speaking with. They'll probably answer affirmatively. So ask them who it was, and make a suggestion. Their boss? Of course it is, who else would it be? And does their boss have the right to make that demand off-duty, is it the boss's natural right? Well, no...

At this point they'll begin to see where you're going with this, and they'll probably not want to keep going down that road unless they're an especially arrogant bureaucrat. If they don't try to cut their losses and get out of a humiliating demolition (assuming you have a thorough understanding of how to apply the principle), then proceed to apply the same reasoning of "is it their natural right? No? How about their boss? Is it their natural right? No? How about their boss..." until they give up or you arrive at Congress, the Constitution, or the Voters.

If at any time they call the argument inane or frivolous, remind them that if it turns out that nobody who authorized this ever had the natural right to make this demand, then it's impossible for the bureaucrat to have the right to make the demand.

If they ever get the idea in their head that they don't need to have been delegated the right, accuse them of pulling rights out of thin air, and after all, if the bureaucrat has the right to invent rights out of thin air, so do you! Including a right to not comply with their demands. If they try to say that you actually don't have that right, ask them where they got the right from. If people don't have the right to invent rights from birth, then somebody else had to give it to them...you know where that's going. You could also demand that they prove it (don't worry, they can't), but if they're not likely to go very far down this new tangent that looks suspiciously like the main avenue.

If dealing with the IRS, you'll probably end up with the Secretary of the Treasury, and from there, go to Congress. From Congress there's only a couple places to go.

First, they can go to the Constitution. Dissuade this if possible, because it's difficult for people to accept that the Constitution isn't valid. Try to lead them toward thinking the rights had to come from the voters if possible. In case they do try this, (and if they're persistent enough to get here and the "voters" route fails, there's a good chance they will,) familiarize yourself with Spooner's arguments in "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority". If you don't think they'll get it, just point out that a piece of paper doesn't have the right to make demands either, and the absurdity of even supposing it possible. The people that wrote the Constitution didn't have the right to make this demand of you either.

Second, they might say "well the Congressmen got that right from the voters." To this, respond that they are now supposing that, firstly, one's neighbors had the right to make this demand, and secondly, that the act of voting gives the Congressman thus voted for any or all of the rights of the voter. The first is self-evidently absurd. Even the state will help you chase down and imprison a neighbor that robs you. The second is also wrong, because the nature of voting is not a contract to confer rights to the congressman, and because even if it was, it would be impossible to tell whether or not the person even voted for that congressman, or for that matter, even voted!

There is only one person who naturally has the right to make demands of you, and that's you. Unless you knowingly and voluntarily (no force or fraud used) signed a contract giving them the right (this is THEIR burden of proof, not yours), they never had it, and can't get it. And if the person is indeed acting under your what is ultimately your authority, then simply tell them that you revoke your delegation of authority to them, and terminate any contract you had with them, on the basis of fraud.

If the discussion even gets this far, and the bureaucrat has not yet given up, they will be faced with the realization that they don't actually have the right to make the demand that they have made.

The exact words used will probably need to be changed according to context and any stupid answers they may give. Expect this argument to work on the more petty bureaucrats, those with other things they need to do. As presented here it probably won't fly in court, although Marc Stevens applies this basic principle more specifically to court appearances, so check out his Adventures In Legal Land site and book. He's got an audio version of "No Treason" on his site too.

This may come in useful as well...

"Whatever the form in which the Government functions, anyone entering into an arrangement with the Government takes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the Government stays within the bounds of his authority... and this is so even though as here, the agent himself may have been unaware of the limitations upon his authority." Federal Crop Ins. Corp. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380 at 384 (1947).

Always question authority.

On Voting

The morality of voting is a significant point of disagreement among anarchists, so it deserves some attention.

I don't vote, and don't plan on voting. I don't see it as a remotely effective means of getting anything. You can't vote the state out of existence. No election will change the state's innate tendency to grow. The most you'll get out of voting is temporary relief, with an overall extension in the life cycle of the state. That's why I don't vote. It's got nothing to do with whether voting is ethical, and everything to do with whether voting is effectual. It's not, it's a waste of time and energy.

But I think I have a relatively unique understanding of natural law and justice. At least, I haven't heard my views from very many other people, including anarchists, irrelevant of adjectives. Whenever I have discussed systems of market justice and natural law with other anarchists, they have said something extremely different. So I'm gonna try to analyze voting from my perspective on justice, because I don't know of it being analyzed in my framework anywhere else, and people are still going nuts over Ron Paul.

A lot of the arguments I've seen have to do with whether or not one is "free" to choose whether or not to vote in a condition of state coercion, but with voting being voluntary. In other words, who has ultimate responsibility for your having voted, you, or whoever created the conditions that drove you to vote? Because if it is the voter who is the responsible party, then a case can be made that doing so is wrong. If the state is the responsible party, then your actions taken under it's duress are not something you may rightfully be held accountable for.

My approach to the problem is a little different.

In my view, all illegitimate interaction between people creates a cause of action. A cause of action begins when damage is done by a responsible party. If I tresspass and run across your property to get to the other side, you really won't have any cause of action against me because I did no damage (unless I've done it many times and worn down your grass, but that's different). If you went to demand restitution, you'd be able to demand almost nothing of me (and keep in mind that if you demand restitution for damage I never did, I will have cause of action against you for enslavement). I would be the responsible party, but you've got no substantial cause of action because I've done no substantial damage to you or your property, nor threatened you in any way.

If we assume that the voter is not the responsible party, then obviously voting cannot be wrong. If we assume that the voter is the responsible party, then we have merely opened up the possibility that voting is wrong. You'd still need to prove an actual wrong that the voter could be held responsible for.

The damages caused by voting have other responsible parties than the actual voters. The damage occurs when bureaucrats enforce policy. The bureaucrats do not take action in the name of the voters and under their directive, with the voters to be held responsible for all actions of the government. "The state" is the responsible party. The state practically acts as an insulator of responsibility, not a conductor, not a conduit, not something through which responsibility flows on to some other entity. The state is the endpoint of responsibility. The responsibility for the actions of the government are not passed on to the voters. In the "United States", as Lysander Spooner pointed out, there's no way the voters can be held responsible for the acts of the government because a secret ballot is used.

The voters have the power to choose the politician, but responsibility can't flow back onto the voters because of the secret ballot. The politician has the power to choose policy, but then there's another one-way gate, because the politician chooses policy, but it is not the politician in whose name the policy is enforced. Policy is enforced in the name of the state. Neither the politicians nor voters may be held responsible for any damage done by the enforcement action, and the bureaucrats themselves merely act as agents, all responsibility for the actions of bureaucrats falls onto the state unless the bureaucrat acts out of it's capacity as a bureaucrat.

Cause of action may be against the bureaucrats, or against the state, but not the politician, and not the voters. The disconnections involved prevent the voter from being responsible for the damages at two points.

And then, even if you managed to somehow break through that and determine that the voter is the ultimately responsible party, you'd still have to prove how much damage his having voted caused. What would the difference have been had this one voter not voted? In almost every case, it would have made no difference. It is illegitimate to try them as a class of voters to try to avoid this, because then people would be held responsible for the actions of others.

So, there's some good arguments against voting. It's counterproductive. It discourages independent action. It encourages thinking in terms of statist nonsense. But the immorality of voting is, in my view, not a good argument against voting.

Think Inside The Other Guy's Box

In circles of armed conflict, there's talk of what's called the OODA loop. It stands for "Observe, Orient, Decide, Act". It's called a loop because it repeats itself. OODAOODAOODAOODA et cetera. The key to victory often lies in breaking your opponent's OODA loop by blinding, disorienting, confusing, or restraining your opponent. Another tactic is to "get inside" your opponent's OODA loop. Don't just run your own little OODA process, try to imagine, in your own head, what your opponent observes, how they will orient, what they'll decide, and how they'll act. This is less important in short skirmishes such as a sudden mugging or an ambush, where breaking the opponent's loop is easier. However, in conflicts of any length, where tactics of any sort are required, it becomes an invaluable and often deciding factor.

How people act depends on what they want. But something to keep in mind is that at the same time, how people think also depends on what they want. From a debate, it's easy to get the impression that somebody engaging in a debate has the intent of trying to learn. But sticking to this assumption can lead to a lot of wasted effort. So when somebody says something, always keep in mind that what they want isn't always what you think they want, and isn't always what they say that they want, and in fact, isn't always even what they truly believe they want. Always ask yourself what the other person wants. Don't go just by their word, don't go by your first impression. Go by what they do. They can deceive you with words, but their actions betray things about their values that they aren't even consciously aware of. Get inside their OODA loop. Observe their actions, then you can work backwards to see what their decision was, from which you can often work backwards to discover what this decision was based on, the person's motivations and premises.

A while ago, a number of my market anarchist friends on youtube began arguing with communist Buddhagem. The exchanges went back and forth a few times before either side gave up. Something I noticed my market anarchist friends doing is assuming that Buddhagem really cared to understand what market anarchist beliefs actually were. In my analysis, what Buddhagem wanted was to piss off people who he saw as his enemies. Much fun can often be had by doing this, because most people are stupid enough to fall for it. When somebody's means do not seem to fit the ends you believe they seek to fulfill, it's easy to think that they're just wrong, and their means are improper, and to attempt to correct their means so that their ends may be satisfied. When people resist any change to their means, it's not necessarily because they're just stupid or persistent or obstinate, it may indicate that their means do indeed satisfy their ends, and it is their ends that you have misunderstood. In these cases, I have found, a good way to test for a suspected alternate motive is to stop giving them what you suspect they want, or give them exactly the opposite, and see how they react after doing this for a short time.

Loss is not just something that happens. People don't feel loss until they have recognized it. In some cases, this feeling of loss is prevented by preventing the actual loss. In other cases, people prevent themselves from feeling loss by denying it, by refusing to recognize it. Psychologists call it "denial" and classify it as a "defense mechanism" with good reason.

When somebody's values contradict, for instance, having no problem deriving joy from the torment of others (pissing off ancaps) and at the same time wanting to think oneself to be of good moral nature, the easy way to not have to deal with the contradiction is to deny it. The person will not want it to be recognized, certainly not to others, but absolutely not to himself, that this is what he wants. He will tell himself a lie that he wants to believe, for instance, that he argues with them to discover the truth of the matter, as it is apparent to anybody, discussing with market anarchists will assist in this end. When the intensity of his drive for truth is superseded by his drive for self-esteem, this kind of contradiction becomes inevitable.

The best way I know of to deal with such people is to stop wasting your time with them. I've been experimenting with trying to show people what's going on in their head when they do this, but response has overwhelmingly been to deny being in denial. It's a vicious trap to fall into, and the only way I can think of to stay out is to value truth so highly that nothing else can cloud your vision. You have to check yourself for it, because if other people check you for it you'll probably deny it, and if nobody checks for it, you'll never find out. So make sure to avoid these traps.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Radical Politics Chart


I made this chart. This chart represents my "political map".

The first thing to notice is that it's divided according to equality and inequality. It's my firm belief that liberty and equality are NOT dichotomous. Liberty is a natural product of equality, and equality is a natural product of liberty. What I mean by "equality" here is "classlessness", the absence of distinct classes.

The axis labeled "means of destruction" can be thought of as "who gets the guns?" or "who controls the state?" If people are to have different levels of decisionmaking power over the use of the guns, then someone subscribing to that belief is a political elitist, a statist of some variety. If you believe that there should be no distinct, perpetual classes of those with power to use violence and those without, then you support political equality.

The axis labeled "means of production" can be thought of us "who decides how to use the tools?" If you believe a few people should control all the tools, and the rest work for those people, then you are in favor of economic inequality. If you believe everybody should (or, if left alone, would) have the power to make decisions about the use of these tools, then you support economic equality, and fall under that category. I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't mean equal distribution of the actual consumer goods, not some worldwide sharing web of altruism, and I don't mean severing the link between work and reward at all or destroying profit motive at all. I also don't mean perfect economic equality, but simply the abolition of distinct economic classes of wealth in society.

Many who call themselves anarcho-capitalists are actually relatively indifferent about economic equality or inequality and take a "whatever the market gives us is good, let's just get there" stance. It isn't my intent to strawman that position, so it should be borne in mind that I would simply call those people "market anarchists", with "anarcho-capitalist" being a more specific type of market anarchist. On this chart, market anarchists belong obviously to the political equality side, but if they make no predictions, they don't belong to either the economic equality or inequality side. They're just agnostic or apathetic, but they happened upon the word "anarcho-capitalism" to describe their beliefs and think it's so perfect that they ruthlessly declare themselves anarcho-capitalists. If you are this kind of market anarchist, I'd recommend considering what you think would happen under anarchism so you can gain a deeper understanding of your own beliefs.

Anarcho-capitalism and agorism are not the same in my view. My use of "anarcho-capitalism" on this chart is to mean a variant of market anarchism that predicts essentially what we have now, minus the government. People looking for these imaginary "job" things, using other people's tools to build other people's property and getting paid according to the best guess of the owner, the market dominated by a few really large firms, a boss-worker relationship being the preferred type of economic organization. Often the Randist theme that big business is America's persecuted minority is present, and an anarcho-capitalist will think of the benevolent good-guy big businessmen being oppressed by the evil altruistic socialist government. Sometimes there's also the implicit idea that some people are just plain fifty times better than most other people, and so they'll naturally get fifty times richer, and there's really no explanation provided for it. Belief in the existence of a class of natural-born elite does conflict with anarchism. That's the kind of thing that I call "anarcho-capitalism". If you want or predict a society as I have just described, then you are an anarcho-capitalist as I have placed it on the chart above.

A quick word about the Austrian School. While I admire the Austrian methodology and most of it's conclusions and reasoning, and I link to it from this blog as an intellectual resource, I don't unquestioningly accept all their conclusions and definitions. Like any group of imperfect people, they make mistakes too. The tendency of Austrians to call whatever they advocate "Capitalism" and to call anything else "Socialism" is one of the places I differ with them. I do my best to avoid creating confusion through the misapplication of labels (as you might notice by my insistence on explaining things every time I label something).

So when I put agorism on the same side as socialism, I do not mean this to be interpreted as agorism being statist, or being anti-market, or being a warm-and-fuzzy altruistic belief in sharing and goodwill, or being anti-property, I mean it to be in favor of economic equality. To borrow an example from Brad Spangler, a radical socialist would call NAFTA "capitalism", whereas a radical capitalist would call NAFTA "socialism", and both would condemn it. On the other hand, I have spoken to self-avowed socialists and self-avowed capitalists who both see an agorist world as I described it to them (worker-entrepreneurs own their own means of production, worker-cooperatives for factories and such, little if any big business, no state, no taxation, and an explanation of the justice system) as something that they would support and like to see happen; my "socialist" friends consider it socialism, my "capitalist" friends consider it capitalism. Please don't get hung up on these words. The capitalist's idea of the capitalism/socialism dichotomy and the socialist's idea of the capitalism/socialism dichotomy probably will differ significantly.

Agorism and libertarian socialism are in the same square. There's some libertarian socialists out there with what I'd consider some really dumb beliefs about money and ownership and power and such, but what qualifies them as libertarian socialist is that they believe in political equality and oppose political elitism, and they believe in economic equality and oppose economic elitism.

Also note that fascism and "state capitalism" (what we have today) are in the same square. Before any radical capitalists chime in to tell me that fascism is actually socialism, and the Nazis were "national socialists", I'm going to remind them that politics is an art of lies, and that calling people whatever descriptor they want to be called irrelevant of the actual meanings of the words (thinking of democrats as democratic, thinking of republicans as supporters of constitutional republic in more than just rhetoric, thinking of national-socialists as actual socialists, etc) is a good way to shoot yourself in the cortex and limit your ability to think straight in relation to these ideas. Fascism isn't socialism. Yes it's collectivist, yes it's anti-free-market, no it's not socialism.

If you've got an opinion or question about my chart or my explanation of it, please leave a comment.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Interest

Historically anarchists have been opposed to interest, as well as rent and other things. One particularly interesting anarchist to me is Benjamin Tucker. It was his contention that in a world without a banking monopoly (read as "free market"), interest rates would practically fall to the cost of administration, tracking, and collecting on the loans. I'd like to believe he was right, but don't see how it's possible.

There is only so much capital in the world, only so much that can be loaned out, and only so much willingness to loan it out to the future at the expense of the present. The demand for this capital, by contrast, is practically infinite. There is an opportunity cost for lending money out of a finite supply of savings. Some of the things credit would be spent on will be more productive of wealth than others. I hate to use a hypothetical situation with absurd circumstances to demonstrate a principle, but it's easy to do, so I will.

Let us suppose that most people are using most of their wealth to satisfy their present needs, and they either can't or refuse to save any more and a bank has only $10,000 to loan.

Enterprise A has done calculations and predicts that total profits from the increase in production would exceed $10,000 in six months if it gets that $10,000 now. Enterprise B has similarly reached the conclusion that the money can be used to increase profits to a total of $10,000 one year from now. Enterprise C has found an exceptional opportunity that it believes will allow it to meet it's expenses and have $20,000 in profit in 3 months. One enterprise will create a $10,000 surplus in 6 months, another create a $10,000 surplus in 1 year, the third will create a $20,000 surplus in 3 months. It should be obvious enough which enterprise should receive the money if they can't all get it.

Without interest, whoever got to the lender first would get the capital, irrespective of the actual results. The lender has no incentive to hold out on Enterprise B to see if Enterprise A or Enterprise C might come along and promise better results. But Enterprise C has much more to gain than either of the other enterprises, and will be willing to pay more than the administration costs to ensure that he secures that $10,000 this moment. And so an excess is created that would be considered interest.

Now, in reality, it's unlikely that such high rates of return will be so frequent that loans must be considered at that interest rate. In the above hypothetical situation, an interest rate of 101% per year will cause Enterprise B to not want the loan, and an interest rate of 101% per six months will cause Enterprise A to turn it down. In the real world we've got much more credit to put toward much less lucrative opportunities, but we have, nonetheless, a limited amount of capital today, and infinite opportunities to use it, ranging from creating a surplus of value (investing in a business) to creating a negative return (getting into debt over a fifth vacation home on the Hawaiian shoreline for instance), that nonetheless, people will want.

Consider the impossibility of building a computer in agrarian times. They could not take out enough capital to build a computer, for enough didn't even exist in the world at the time. If everyone were to put all their effort toward building a computer back then, they still would not have a computer, and would run out of food before they were done figuring out magnets, and would have been generally unhappy while doing so, being hungry, thirsty, tired, and so forth. It is not possible to invest more toward the future than exists in the present. And most of what exists in the present is used to satisfy present needs. To a degree, people will give up their present needs in favor of future goods, depending on how much better the future good will be and how far in the future it can be had.

Decisions as to how limited savings will be used have to be made, and while I certainly admit that other ways of doing it can exist, interest seems the most sensible way to coordinate the two in a continuous way.

So while I'm against rent (as in, you're better off owning than renting), and against wage slavery (as in, you're better off as an entrepreneur), I really don't see it as reasonable to be opposed to interest.

A potential problem that interest might present is that it is a positive feedback system that has the potential to eventually dominate, like the bacterium which, under ideal conditions and having infinite resources, would expand to flood the earth in bacteria in a year, and destroy everything else.

But I think in a freed market the banks would be paying almost as much in interest to those who put their savings in that bank as it would be taking in from those who are indebted to the bank, ultimately spreading the profits to anybody who is willing to save. And for anybody who didn't save and fell behind economically as the rest of the economy advanced, an opportunity would exist to take advantage of the surrounding infrastructure built by others, the rewards for advancing would far exceed the cost of the loan, and once the debt was cleared and their hands more productive, they could easily be right back on par with the rest of society. I might have to elaborate on this later though, because it's still kinda fuzzy to me.

At least that's my take on it.

Wage Slavery

I hoped I'd been adequately clear in my previous post on the subject, where I tried to avoid using this language because it pisses some people off and makes them stop listening, but apparently while using that language I wasn't clear enough. So I'll drop the euphemism and stop phrasing around the bush.

In the experience of most libertarians, the people who have used the term "wage slavery" have inevitably used them to rationalize a belief in state necessity or the abolition of money or something dumb like that, and thus unfairly dismissed the whole idea. I think there's a valuable lesson to be learned in the socialist viewpoint.

The common libertarian rebuttal is that working for a wage is a choice, making it voluntary, and precluding it from being slavery, and this is a mostly valid rebuttal, if a bit shallow, applying the "I don't see a gun, I don't see a bureaucrat, that means it's voluntary" way of thinking. The common socialist line that "you don't have a choice whether or not to work" also has some validity, although it is phrased amazingly poorly for digestion by a libertarian mind, especially in this context where the libertarian is looking for anything to pick apart.

The fact of the matter is that the market at present, is not free, and the market conditions are unfairly favorable to employers of wage labor, creating a condition of the employers having more control over the workers than they would fairly have, a condition which might be aptly called "wage slavery", and this is a condition libertarians ought to be opposed to.

The price of refined sugar in the United States is four times the world sugar price. Do you have to buy sugar? Are you forced to buy sugar at gunpoint? Technically no, but it's such a widely-used substance that this price increase is going to work it's way into your budget, directly or not. Do libertarians say that it's wrong to prevent the government from regulating sugar in this way, or do they proclaim that "buying sugar is voluntary, so there's nothing wrong with the sugar market"? No, they don't. However, apply the same conditions to the labor market and the crime seems to vanish in an opaque cloud of invisible hands.

It may be a fairer comparison to refer to income taxes. In this case, the libertarian is forced to observe that valid portion of the socialist line "you don't have a choice whether or not to work", in order to declare the taxation to not be truly voluntary despite choosing to pay taxes in favor of making the guns show themselves. This limited choice, however, as libertarians will note, does nothing to change the involuntary nature of the government's receipt of their money. "Wage slavery" is extremely similar to income taxation, although much less direct, and rather than the government getting the excess money, it is the employer that gets it. To the degree that one's hypothetical free-market wages have been reduced to one's real wages, it may aptly be said that the employee or taxpayer is being robbed.

When I say I am opposed to "wage slavery", I am not saying that I am opposed to work, or that I am opposed to money, or that working for a living is slavery, or that earning or paying a wage is a criminal act, I don't believe any of those things. I'm saying that I'm opposed to theft, no matter how direct or indirect this theft may be, no matter how "politically correct" to libertarians my observations may be.

"Wage slavery" is slavery. When blacks were owned as slaves, they were often paid a wage in the form of food and housing, and sometimes given money to spend in the market. This did not make them any less slaves. Their hands worked the fields, and their masters took the product of this labor, according to Lockean and Rothbardian property theory, the property of the slave. Slavery is persistent, continuous, ongoing theft. And that's something that can be observed in the present-day market, if you know to look for it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Generally Stupid Objections

My criteria for putting them in this list is that it's such a popular objection, that it's really pretty stupid to think that the recipient anarchist hasn't heard it before or that it didn't change their mind last time but this time it'll work. Hopefully now I can just point people to this instead of answering their dumb statements.

"Anarchy is chaos."
Only in metaphor according to popular culture which doesn't know what anarchism is in the first place, and thus can't make adequate metaphor of it. The word "anarchism" has a much more pertinent meaning, go look that up.

"The government does good things."
The bad things government does far outweigh the good things, especially when considering that most of the good things government does would get done anyways without the government.

"Read/watch [fictional work], that's why anarchy doesn't work."
Honestly this is too stupid to even merit rebuttal. I'm mentioning it only because it's such a self-evidently impotent argument that it shows how dumb some of these objections can be.

"Blah blah necessary evil blah blah."
Well-known figures of speech are not axiomatically true.

"You're just a hateful little bitch."
Ad hominem.

"You're too young blah blah blah..."
Tell Rothbard. Also, ad hom.

"Rights are things the government gives the people."
Well then where did the group of people in "the government" get their rights from to give to everyone else? If they can create them ad nihilo, so can I. Governments aren't magic.

"In a democracy, we are the government."
We are supposedly given some control over the government. This does not make us the government.

"Well since anything that makes a decision is a government blah blah blah..."
This argument defines it's way out of the applicability of the arguments against government. Unfortunately, for this very same reason, it doesn't do anything to refute anarchist claims where they are intended to apply, which is to say, the state, and thus doesn't refute anything.

"If you go against the government they'll throw you in jail."
Argument from intimidation is fallacious.

"Mises wasn't an anarchist."
He wasn't infallible either.

"We The People..."
...are not one single consciousness with one single will able to make something voluntary to all by pretending we did.

"...the Constitution of the United States..."
...is invalid, as Lysander Spooner so thoroughly proved in the 1860s.

"If you live here, you're consenting."
If I live in the ghetto, am I consenting to have my bicycle stolen?

"Love it or leave it."
You don't own the country, you have no right to tell me to.

"Look at the aftermath of Katrina."
What a great example of government failure. With all the weapons confiscation, roadblocks, FEMA crawling all over the region inside the government-built failed levees, you can say that it was chaos, but you can't say it was anarchy. Government set the dominoes up, and went out of it's way to knock them all down. The example has nothing to do with anarchy or anarchism.

"Look at Somalia."
Supposedly there isn't a government except the one that supposedly is, and the UN and US and Ethiopia were meddling in the region, and Somalia was essentially the poorest country on earth even when it had a state, thus Somalia being a wartorn shithole is no effective argument against anarchism at all.

"We should work within the system."
The state is inherently evil, and it isn't going to abolish itself by vote. Anything less than complete abolition is temporary relief and delays the government's ultimately destroying itself as all governments do. Like inflation, it feels good in the short term but is ultimately counterproductive in the long term.

"If men were angels, we wouldn't need a government."
If men were angels, the government wouldn't have the problems that support arguments in favor of anarchism.

"Anarchy assumes all people are good."
If all people are good, government is unnecessary. If all people are bad, government is intolerable. If some are good and some are bad, the bad will seek to dominate the good through government. In no case is government desirable.

"But it's too extreme!"
Too extreme for what? Not too extreme to be realized, communism, despite it's flaws, went from manifesto to revolution in 70 years. Not too extreme to be true, extreme consistency does not make something invalid, just the opposite.

"Gangs of criminals will just take over and oppress us like dictators!"
Well, it's certainly possible (that's how we got governments in the first place), but using this as an argument to support government is hypocritical because it supports gangs of criminals taking over and oppressing us, which it's intended to stop. The same forces that smashed the old state would prevent the formation of a new one.

"Governments are necessary for cooperation."
Cooperation is necessary for government. Which came first, a cooperative group of people, or a government? Either cooperation does not require government, or government never would have formed.

"Anarchy is against human nature because people are meant to obey others."
Even if true (and it's not), this wouldn't disprove statelessness. You can still obey others and not have a state. You're just choosing a leader rather than having one forced on you. The state doesn't pass the objection, however. At the top of government are the final rulers, these people do not obey any others. This would be against human nature.

If you believe I have missed one, please leave a comment, and I will add it to this list.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Intellectual Property

In the material world, we've got this inconvenient little thing called scarcity. Objects are discrete, and there is only one of each object, but there are many people all with their own plans for the use of such objects, and these objects cannot be used in two mutually exclusive ways at the same time, even though people's plans for such objects may be mutually exclusive. An object can only be and do one thing at a time. A car cannot be in the driveway of my residence ready for me to use, in the Walmart parking lot ready for you to use when you finish shopping, and on the highway being used to take some kids to a soccer game, all at the same time. Yet me, my friend, and my neighbor, and for that matter the rest of mankind, can all think of uses for that car that better suit their own needs than the use I choose for it. But only one of us can get our way.

In the interests of preventing unnecessary destruction of such valuable objects, we have what we call "property". Property is the freedom to enforce one's decisions as to how an object will be used against others who attempt also to act upon decisions made about the same object. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Actions have consequences. You alone are permitted the freedom to use force to impose your decision as to the use of your property, but you alone bear the consequences for those actions. Should your actions have consequences which others bear, you have violated their exclusive right to decide how their property should be used. For while they may have decided their property should not be used as a dump, you may be dumping your trash onto their property, a decision which you are excluded from making. And in most cases, they will shift the burden of the consequences, the costed opportunities, back onto you. You'll owe them restitution for the opportunities you have cost them.

Property rights only apply to objects, though. They must apply to objects, but they can only apply to objects. Ideas and information are not subject to scarcity. The opportunity cost of using an idea is nonexistent. Everybody can have the same idea and use it their own way at the same time. There is no basis for any exclusivity in decisionmaking power over ideas. And, more damningly, property in ideas is incompatible with property in objects.

Unauthorized reproductions of intellectual "property" does not prevent the original creator from making any decisions which they have the right to make. The only way it could is if every creator of ideas instantly became partial owner of every information storage medium in the universe. Only then would they have any right to tell anyone else that they have no right to reproduce an idea.This is incompatible with any absolute right of property to the owner of the storage medium. Intellectual property not only lacks the foundations needed to justify any exclusivity, but enforcing it means denying the basis for property in the first place. Affirming intellectual property is saying the owner of the printing press can do whatever they want with the press and that the creator of an idea can tell the owner of the printing press what they can print. They're not compatible.

It's not as if people will simply stop creating in a world without copyrights and patents and intellectual property. The open source movement is sufficient proof of this. It is an actively creative group of people, making software that they know in advance they'll have no exclusive right over, that they know in advance, derivative works will be made out of with no permission asked nor expected, that they know in advance their name will not necessarily be seen on it. And yet, there is a market. The common objection that artists and creators and inventors would stop creating if they thought they would not have exclusive right to it. And yet, in the open source movement, people are making money doing what is equivalent to writing books that anyone may obtain for free and reproduce as they want. Clearly, that objection, while it sounds good in theory, doesn't have as much application to the real world as it's proponents might tend to hope.

Ideas are not scarce, and proponents of intellectual property are trying to create an artificial scarcity through force where no scarcity needs to exist in the first place.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Statist Apocalypse

Who here hasn't gotten one like this?

Quote:
I, or my tribe, is better equipped and we come knocking at your door. The private police franchise finds it more profitable to look the other way. Then what?


I call it "The Argument from Apocalypse", it follows the general structure of "Everything goes wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it. What do you do about it?"

I'm sick and tired of it so after answering his question I wrote up a response I deem rather adequate. Take notes, because much of this scenario is derived from my observations of the way things are. The parts from reality will be italicized.

Quote:
If you continue making arguments of the general nature "Everything goes wrong and there's nothing you can do about it", then please do allow me to do the same for you, lest it become obvious that you are a hypocrite.

Suppose your state seizes absolute control of everything despite any restrictions that should have been in it's founding documents, but nobody in power seems to notice or give a fuck, or they're behind it. The people are so thoroughly indoctorinated, stupid, and lazy as they've been made by public schools that they are in support of it, or they don't know, or don't care, or are too passive to do anything about it, because to take the time to think they'd have to miss the big football game, the only free time they have left anymore.

You can't own guns to defend yourself against the corrupt police force, and they're indistinguishable from the military anyways, especially after the recent deal leasing surplus or retired harriers (or at least the ones that don't get dumped into the ocean) to the local police force.

Your savings account has been made worthless by inflation and you're taxed out of 80% of your income after income, sales, transfer, estate, property, licence, inflation, and other taxes, to speak nothing of the price increases from all the hidden taxes that get built into the sale price.

You're in a mountain of debt from the home loan you took out while housing prices were kept up by import tarrifs on the building materials and an artificially low interest rate and an artificially restricted supply that is by law unnecessarily expensive.

You can't get out because of your low wages, which you can't get raised because your union, if you have one, has been made irrelevant unless they can work through the state which is owned by the biggest businesses anyways, who you have to work for, ultimately leaving you just barely in the black at the end of the month.

Your every move is tracked, scrutinized, and regulated. Random attacks are made by the government against the people to keep the rams in patriotic, angry, unthinking fervor, while the ewes are kept in terrified submission.

Your door is busted down at 2 AM and police rush in with machineguns, yank you out of bed, and demand to know what the white powder in the bag is that you've never seen but they claim they found in your house, and drag you away to be held in a cell without bail while they try you in a secret trial without you being allowed to make a case, without a jury, where they imprison you for possession of cocaine, with intent to sell, they presume the money you earn is going to support terrorists and convict you of treason, and you're to be killed in the morning at sunrise by firing squad. Your family, if you aren't divorced, will have to take on all your debts in addition to their own.

Isn't this argument annoying? But so effective! It lets me completely evade whatever is likely or unlikely and pull the conditions out of my ass without regard to other effects of the same causes that brought this system to be in the first place. Using this wonderful tool I can base my conclusions on contradictory premises but they're too deeply hidden to be obvious and if you bother to find them I can just deny it anyways and accuse you of avoiding the question. You can't just ask for other conditions or take some way out that I failed to block in my scenario because I can just change the scenario to prevent that route from being available.

But yet, if you have any right to demand a response from me to your stupid situation, you must come up with an adequate response of what you would do in the situation which is not terribly absurd or unthinkable since we're already about 80% there anyways.

And now for the final question you expected me to answer which I highly doubt you adequately are able to without severely compromising your position: Then what?


I'm thinking I should make a revised copy where I gather up articles and link to examples of reports of these things happening.

Note: They never did answer the question.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gain and Loss 5: Agorism vs Anarchocapitalism

Anarchocapitalists often look at agorism and say "But that is anarchocapitalism. Why do they call themselves something different?" Why indeed? It's difficult to explain to an anarchocapitalist why agorism is different and better in the sense that an agorist can percieve the difference. I've had a hard time putting my finger on it until now: Agorism is a more gain-oriented perspective.

For an example of this, it helps to understand the agorist's view of the post-revolution economy.

The ancap's typical view of a post-state economy is that not a great amount of change will take place. Some price changes will obviousy occur where the state had been favoritist and discriminatory, of course, but otherwise, people will carry on as they do now.

The agorist's typical view of a post-state economy is different. Agorists see a post-state economy of entrepreneurs replacing what Marx called the proletariat - an entrepreneurait, in agorist terms - comprising most of the economy, just as was the class of counter-economists which brought about the revolution in the first place. Contrast the entrepreneur with the employee. The idea of a job as we know it is a loss-oriented concept, it trades away both higher wages and more freedom for a kind of "safety", hiding behind the veil of the entrepreneur, not holding the employee responsible in case of loss. Society would largely do away with jobs as we know them.

Consider insights gained from Gain and Loss 4, a post about thought and action.

C-ancaps are loss-oriented thinkers. They're probably just interested in the theory of it. They love the intellectual discourse and comfort of sitting at home talking and reading about market anarchism. Or they may be so afraid of the state that they fear doing something about it may get their name on a secret government list. In any case, they are doing little more than thinking and talking.

B-ancaps are loss-oriented actors, often activists. In this category you'll find most Free State Project members. Obviously anyone willing to move, to act, for liberty is not going to be in the C-class. They enjoy talking about it every bit as much as the C-ancaps, but they go out and protest the actions of the state, they protest laws, they spead libertarian literature, they are out there acting to prevent the state from taking away more of their freedom.

A-ancaps are gain-oriented thinkers and actors. This is where you find the agorists. They are not just saying it, they are LIVING it. They're not just talking about how the War on Drugs is keeping drug prices high, they're out there getting in on the profits. They're not just talking about how taxation is theft, they're researching or practicing the ways to stop paying taxes. They're not just protesting a new law, they're professionally subverting the state, and making money doing it. They're not just thinking about how alternative institutions would work, they are pouring the foundations. They're the ones out smashing the state for fun and profit.

Many anarchocapitalists are political, in that they advocate "working within the system", generally pay their taxes, apply for the necessary permits and licensing, vote, and so forth. This is a loss-oriented position of course, giving in to your fears of potential loss.

Agorists don't participate in the existing political system. To the maximum extent possible, no voting, no taxpaying, no obedience. Contrary to the ancap view of disobedience as a loss, agorists see it as a gain, as profit. It's more gain-oriented.

For another good example of agorism's gain-orientation, consider the treatment of socialists by ancaps as contrasted with agorists.

The ancap says to a socialist, "You are my enemy. You stand for theft and oppression. You stand for illegitemate authority, and support the good of one class at the expense of another. You are the antithesis of everything I believe." (On a related note, most socialists react the same way to capitalists.)

The agorist says to a socialist, "You are my friend, to the degree you agree with the non-initiation of force. You stand with me, in opposition to systematic theft and oppression. You stand with me, on the side of liberty and equality. You are my ally."

The ancap position is negative; the agorist position is positive. The ancap is often quite happy, and even ready to deliberately cause the misconstrual of words in an attack upon the socialist in order to feel victorious. The agorist, who is seen as almost socialist by anarchocapitalists, attempts to understand and think about what the socialist is actually trying to say. And the agorist, using this understanding thereby gained, seeks the help of the socialist in fulfilling the shared goals. The ancap seeks to deepen the ravine between the left and the libertarian political movements. The agorist seeks to bridge it. The ancap is a loss-oriented thinker. The agorist is a gain-oriented thinker.


Frederick Mann, whose works I see on BuildFreedom and BigBooster when I visit those sites, is very much a gain oriented individual. He speaks of the economic means to freedom, not the political means to less slavery. He talks about "the strange 'job' concept" dismissively, as he rightfully ought to dismiss such an idea as a job, which is rooted in the pursual of security, stability, the prevention of loss, not the achievement of gain, which he discusses in the same articles under the name "real free-enterprise" business, which you do not need a "job" for. I don't think a word I've read that was written by him has been loss-oriented. The lack of loss-orientation probably alienates a lot of readers from him, but draws in the right ones anyways.

Frederick Mann also advocates, interestingly enough, agorism in practice. While I have never seen him use the word, or agorist vocabulary like "counter-economy" or "entrepreneuriat", he advocates the same thing for the same purpose. I'm adding a link to BuildFreedom to my blog.

This is essentially why I think agorism is superior to anarchocapitalism. Those attracted to the agorist ideas tend to naturally be more gain-oriented, thus the agorists will be the more effective group, even if they are fewer in number.