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.