A Free the Animal Commenter “Guest Post”

Hey, why not? Sometimes, you just get a comment that needs to get out there, and maybe only because the blogger (me) wants to mess with you. Could you do it as part of a post on an otherwise wider topic, as I've done numerous times before? Sure, but how about if the comment lends itself to a post all on its own?

As always, you get to judge...so long as you're prepared to be judged as well.

The problem for something like this is that many of you will immediately look away (Don't Go There), which is "bad blogging," on the surface of things. On the other hand, that's how I blog. I'm not the news. No Circle Jerks...uh..."Focus Groups," here.

Such is the case when this popped through yesterday. Yea, it's a bit off the range. Some of us really take the whole wild animal thing much to heart, perhaps. Stated another way, this is really advanced socialism, using the pure meaning of the term: we are indeed social animals.

It was in response to this comment by Steve, an excerpt.

The only example of anarchism I can think of is Somalia.

The essential problem is that anarchy is pretty much gone, unless you want to look to the few remaining vestiges of hunter-gatherers or primitive folk. We've about 4 million years of history in surviving in the wild, migrating to all corners and heights of the globe, exploiting resources cooperatively and then domestication and fields of grain come along. And big surprise: where you have something to steal, there will be thieves.

My chief consternation as a Paleo blogger is not really in dealing with the thieves. I know who they are, and deal or not, best I can. No, my chief consternation is in not getting discouraged over the whole mess, when I find how much almost all—and I emphatically mean: almost all—Paleo folks love the general diet and lifestyle, and yet love their favorite thieves too.

So here we go. My hope is only that it motivates a bit of thought...out of the box.

Jeremy Voluntaryist responds.

Somalia is not Anarchy.

First, no intelligent anarchist argues that the sudden and catastrophic implosion of the state will result in a peaceful, self-regulating society.

What most of us want to do is reverse the centuries-long process of building up the state, by building alternative social institutions, organized on a voluntary cooperative basis, to supplant the state.

With the varied meanings of the word, it’s easy to write off Somalia’s issues as merely the fruit of “anarchy.” But Somalia’s problems were created by rulers and aspiring rulers, not by any anarchists advocating no rulers. Somalia does not have anarchy, nor does its situation serve as evidence that anarchism is unlikely to work.

Since the brutal dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barre fell in 1991, Somalia has faced varying intensities of civil war between aspiring governments, not an overall defeat of government.

Violence is done in trying to force a centralized government on a county with decentralized power, and in forcing a modern state onto conflicting customary law. But proponents of central government are unable to accept that forcing everyone to obey whoever has government power might not be the best way to promote harmony among different interests and allegiances.

Anarchy didn’t establish dictatorships, make International Monetary Fund agreements, or deploy foreign militaries to Mogadishu. The problems in Somalia have been, and continue to be, caused by authoritarians and looters in government, business, and banking.

So it would make far more sense to look at a stateless or near-stateless society that’s been that way for a long time, under comparatively stable conditions (like some of the near-stateless areas in Southeast Asia described by James Scott in “The Art of Not Being Governed”), and the institutions by which people peacefully govern their lives.

Second, “Somalia” does not equal “Mogadishu.” Most of the horrific, Mad Max scenes captured in Somalia are in Mogadishu, where the central state was most powerful before the collapse and the institutions of civil society were accordingly most atrophied. As Roderick Long, director of C4SS’s parent body the Molinari Institute, put it, “the farther one gets away from Mogadishu, the more one gets into relatively peaceful areas that have always been anarchic or close to it, barring occasional intrusions from the statebuilders in the city.” In other words, the further you get from Mogadishu, the less Somalia resembles “Somalia,” and the more it resembles the kind of stable society described by James Scott.

Third, the proper comparison to Somalia is not the United States and similar societies in the West, but to the actual state that existed in Somalia before the collapse of central power. Given that comparison, things in Somalia aren’t that bad at all. For example: a study by Benjamin Powell, Ryan Ford and Alex Nowrasteh took “a comparative institutional approach to examine Somalia’s performance relative to other African countries both when Somalia had a government and during its extended period of anarchy.” And it found that Somalia, when subjected to an honest comparison — “between Somalia when it had a functioning government, and Somalia now” — is less poor, has higher life expectancy, and has experienced a drastic increase in telephone lines.

An excerpt:

One of the more recent heckling techniques adopted by government apologists of all stripes is to point to the Horn of Africa, usually while chortling, and say, “There! You don’t like government? You want anarchy? Well, what are you waiting for? Move to Somalia!”

Indeed, the mainstream press have painted Somalia with the broad-brush catchphrases “anarchic,” “lawless,” and “chaotic.” This, however, could not be further from the truth.

Since U.S. troops deposed the dominant governmental regime in the early 1990s, Somalia has been a hotbed of would-be, wanna-be, and actual governments all vying for uncontested rule over the populace. At present, the U.N. and U.S.-backed “official” government is capable of controlling only a few blocks of Mogadishu surrounding its immediate headquarters. African Union troops, headed by the ruling elite in Ethiopia, have thus far proven wholly ineffective in stomping various warlord-run militias and hardline Islamic rebels out of existence. To the contrary, such heavily armed bands roam about the countryside, often entirely unopposed, seizing territory while looting, raping, and killing the inhabitants. Even al-Qaida affiliated or sympathetic groups are now increasingly drawing the attention of U.S. special forces military units, determined to bring the “War on Terror” to yet another front.

Meanwhile, the “civilan” Somalis attempt to live and work and trade with some semblance of normalcy, erstwhile under a hail of bullets, missiles, and bombs – both from factions domestic and foreign. The devastation and accompanying squalor on land drives many Somali men to piracy off the coastline, which prompts the U.S. Navy and armed vessels of other nations to step up their presence in the region, escalating the tensions and hostilities even further.

No, there is no “anarchy” in Somalia – not as that word is properly used; to denote an absence of rulers. While there may be many ways in which Somalis under such conditions are not hampered by the institution of taxation, and are thus free to trade what goods and services there are to be made or had on a voluntary, consensual basis, such conditions are not precisely conducive to optimum commerce. With a constant barrage of different warring factions running amok, each competing fiercely to be the one, uncontestable ruling force, there is only an atmosphere of impending statism with no current group of guerilla fighters able to muster enough firepower to snuff or drive away all of the others.

True anarchy – market anarchy – contemplates free and unbeholden individuals dealing with each other as peaceful traders for mutual benefit. If you want to do good business and turn a profit, you don’t go around killing current or potential customers, suppliers, partners and employees. You compete to be the best at providing quality goods and services at reasonable prices – not with threats and violence. Anarchism is, contary to popular belief, strictly a peaceful philosophy. Governments do and can only rest on violence as their ultimate defense. Markets, in and of themselves, don’t and can’t operate that way.

The truth is that there is nothing anarchic about Somalia. It is at present a rat’s nest of governmental (i.e. criminal) muscle-flexing, all ultimately to the ill of the Somalian people, and the world at large. It’s time the world learned this indispensable lesson.

I would only point out one thing, which is how he generally refers to anarchism as a philosophy. When you speak of philosophy, that means you're integrating a lot of things such as premises (metaphysics), how you know anything (epistemology), how you might choose to act (ethics), get along with others (politics), or even, how you might want to artistically represent all the foregoing (esthetics).

But never mind. Forget the last 4 million years. It would never work. Humans are simply incapable of survival without some ruler admonishing obedience to the magical people of Earth (politicians) or the magical people of the sky (Gods). (...And taking their cut in the process)

Comments

  1. I agree that Somalia is not an example of Anarchy but rather an example of the consequences of trying to force a system of government (in this case factions trying to force varying systems of government) upon a people.

    Much like the Middle East there is nothing natural about the African nations, they got carved up by Colonial powers and when the Colonialism thing ceased to work they created artificial national boundaries, declared their hands clean and left with “We’re out of here, thanks for all the mineral resources!”

    Which does not excuse the total lack of function in these nations but does explain why there are continuing conflicts. If they had been left to develop naturally and of their own free will perhaps there would have been more progress … okay not “perhaps,” there WOULD have been more progress.

  2. Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

    In the interest of openness, everything I put in that response was at one time said by another person. I simply took what they had already written and merged multiple other authors ideas and statements into one single paper. Most everything above can be found in various articles at http://c4ss.org/

    • Thanks Jeremy. Also, it should be known that Jeremy posted two comments to this effect even before I put this up but had suggested it. He did no for sure that everything after the link was a quote, so that’s how I put it.

      Sorry for the multiple comments and clarifications ans such to make sure everything is open and honest. Forgive us. We’re anarchists and can’t really help it. We have nothing to go on but our own reputation and character.

  3. Jason Kelly says:

    When statists say “Somalia”, I respond “Disney World”. There’s no government ruling Disney World, but in the dozens of times I’ve been there all I’ve seen is tens of thousands of people from all over the world interacting peacefully, even though they speak different languages and come from an array of cultures. Local, state, and federal rulers ostensibly preside over the place from afar, but I’ve never seen any police, government courts, or bureaucratic offices making sure people behave themselves inside the parks and resorts. It’s generally the same in everyday life. Customs and social norms affect our interactions to a much greater degree than formal law. Most people will never step foot in a courtroom. Almost all conflict is resolved peacefully and voluntarily.

    • Jason, what most people never stop and realize is that upwards of 99% of their daily lives are anarchic—even atheistic.

      Perhaps the 99% have a point.

      What power, that 1%.

  4. Well, Richard, a few weeks ago I said I was going to unsubscribe from all the paleo blogs I have in google reader. I only got part way through. And I’m glad I didn’t take the final step.

    I’ve been looking for more anarchy related writing but seem to be failing miserably so far. Thank you Jeremy and Richard for this post. I now have a starting point. My next obsession begins!

    • Bixy:

      Ha: I have to restrain myself because everyone knows that the government is totally fucked when it comes to nutritional advice, and yet they line up at the voting booth to make sure it educates their children just fine, among other things other people pay for.

      It’s a process.

      Glad I caught a mind before it went away.

      • I should clarify, I haven’t abandoned paleo and gone vegan, just the obsessive reading about all things paleo :)

        I commented on your post am I hero or villain post http://freetheanimal.com/2012/01/once-you-find-me-boorish-crude-and-no-longer-worth-your-timesuccess-has-been-achieved.html#comment-106344 which was just immaculate timing on your behalf for me. I mentioned I wanted to move on, use that paleo reading time for other things.

        Well, I think this has nailed it for me as my next port of call. Alternative states…c4ss.org seems as good a place to start as any.

        I haven’t always agreed with everything you say (although it’s fairly rare that I think one of your posts is off the mark), but damn it, you often come up with some interesting shit. I no longer use soap, or shampoo…just on that, have you tried cold showers as the next step? Very invigorating! (Also, I make my own toothpaste for when I do use it – equal parts coconut oil and baking soda. Try if you like, works a charm.)

        And you bring up too many other interesting topics for me to leave completely. Keep it up.

      • “I no longer use soap, or shampoo”

        Going on 2 1/2 years myself.

        I’m not growing long hair for the 1st time in my life. Intolerable in the shampoo days. strangely pleasant, now.

      • A year now for me. And yeah I’m letting my hair go too. Although it’s starting from a pretty short (and receding) base!

        http://pixel420.com/pixel420/stateless/ seems another good starting point.

      • Oh no, what have I got myself into now? I should never have clicked that link. Now I’m going to be reading all night.

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        Bixy, that’s a great page to get people started.

  5. Avalanche says:

    Jason writes: “I respond “Disney World”. There’s no government ruling Disney World,”

    No? Try stealing something. Try setting up your homestead within their (owned and taxed — and well-policed!) bounds. Try even parking where they don’t want you to park! The guest poster and Jason seem to have this lovely (and sorry, child-like!) belief in the ‘innate goodness’ of people. They seem to believe that “if only” there were no state, why then, everyone would play nice. No. No, they wouldn’t.

    That’s a lovely “vision” of humans that does not match reality! Thinking that hunter-gatherers were ‘peaceable’ friendly folk discounts the unresolvable problem that eventually, each tribe runs out of accessible resources. Or they want the better grounds near the river, and someone else is already there. Or they need new females, or want the (laboriously made) weapons or hunting gear. H-Gs made HONEST use of whatever resources come to hand — and if those resources required driving off or killing (or enslaving) some OTHER group of H-Gs to get that group’s resources, why so be it!

    Oh, you may say, the weaker group can just run away. Not until bird flu sweeps the planet and kills off 80+% of the population. There’s nowhere left to run! And if your group of anarchists don’t band together and make arms to protect themselves, why MY group of banded-together not-so-anarchists will overrun them and take their stuff! EVERY human group must form a war band — a group to protect their own (families, resources, stuff); and only ‘civilized’ folks think there’s some way not have to do that!

    You can only “play” at anarchy in your daily life if *someone* is willing to step in and create some sort of structure for you to play in. You wanna be a ‘real’ anarchist — you need to move away from ‘civilization.’ No more computers, no more supermarkets — they require an infrastructure that includes guards and unhappy folks stuck in deadend jobs.

    “True anarchy – market anarchy – contemplates free and unbeholden individuals dealing with each other as peaceful traders for mutual benefit. If you want to do good business and turn a profit, you don’t go around killing current or potential customers, suppliers, partners and employees.”

    Oh, come ON! Who are these “free and unbeholden” folks going to rely to make sure their stuff is NOT taken by force from them? (Or do you really believe no one steals in a society without a govt? {eye roll}) And if someone can get better ‘goods’ by “killing current or potential …”whomever, why do you think people won’t?!

    • “If you want to do good business and turn a profit, you don’t go around killing current or potential customers, suppliers, partners and employees.”
      Best not kill the customers immediately. That’s bad for business! If the customers die a few years later, nobody can prove that the business was to blame.

      Anarchists are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that dominant people won’t claw their way to positions of power and take control.

      • “Anarchists are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that dominant people won’t claw their way to positions of power and take control.”

        Voters are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that dominant people won’t claw their way to positions of power and take control.

        As I’ve said and will keep saying. Nigel is the biggest, most unabashed question beggar I’ve come across since 1993 on the Internet. Most people are actually clever enough to get a sense of themselves and formulate their arguments in other ways.

        I guess Nigel is too used to dealing with morons on metabolism.

        I implied something, there.

      • Richard, it’s not like you to mince your words. You’re the host and I’m your guest, so you can call me whatever you like. I’ve been called worse on a certain Island! I won’t get “sand in my vagina”. ;-D

        However, name-calling makes it look like you’ve lost the discussion.

        I wasn’t question begging. I was stating a fact. Anarchy can’t work due to human nature. Confirmation bias, much?

      • “I was stating a fact. Anarchy can’t work due to human nature.”

        Humans are bad therefore we need a government made up of humans. MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

      • Checks and counter-checks reduce (but not eliminate) the worst of human nature.

      • First off: Thanks for a great blog! Wonderful to get the (pretty natural) combination of Paleo and Anarchy on a blog.

        In response to Avalanche and Nigel: I agree that realizing a true anarchistic society today or in the near future (sadly) is a pipe dream. But the philosophy is nonetheless very important, because it emphasizes personal freedom (with the boundaries being defined by the freedom of others to be unharmed by your actions) and rejection of all authority. Anarchists were some of the most insightful and forward thinking people in the late 1800s and early 20th century. They saw the madness that engulfed the world in world wars, racism, nationalism, sexism and fascism for what it was, and fought it, claw and teeth. It is more important now than ever, because of the intensifying conflicts over resources we can expect with our growing population and dwindling supplies. Nationalism and any kind of authoritarian ideology will only lead us down the same path we’ve repeatedly stumbled down in the last century, but this time the stakes are even higher.
        One point that I don’t see anyone else stressing here is co-operation and mutualism. Most anarchistic philosophy advocates the creation of cooperatives and alternative social institutions that are not based on hierarchies but are truly democratic in their decision making. With membership, of course, being completely voluntary and non-binding. Lone individuals, or badly organized groups of people cannot fight potential new dictators who try to impose their will. But well organized groups of people with a deeply held revulsion to the very idea of someone attempting to control and coerce them CAN.
        People in the societies we live in today are unfortunately infected with the authoritarian meme, even if its generally to a lesser extent than the fanatic nationalists who died in droves in the two big wars.
        However, recognizing that this is not a natural state of being, but something that we have been conditioned to accept without questioning, is the first step towards realizing a true anarchistic society.
        I think the important thing to do for people who agree with the ideas and philosophy of anarchism today, whether or not they believe it can be achieved in our lifetime, is to make these ideas coherent and available to those who think anarchy just means chaos.
        Yes, there will always be people (psychopaths, narcissists, religious fundies) who will try to control others. However, the key realization is that these people are a small minority. If the majority is aware of this, reject the idea of being controlled, and can organize themselves, they will not fall prey to the authoritarians.
        Laying the groundwork for a majority of society rejecting coercion and control consists in knowledge dissemination: knowledge of the origins of superstition, dogmatism and religion, knowledge of the principles of critical thinking and the scientific method, knowledge of history and the transient nature of nations and empires etc. etc. Knowledge is key. Any attempt to stop the free spread of knowledge (internet censorship laws etc.) must be fought. The anarchistic cause I believe is not a short term goal or a quick fix. It’s a realization that if we are to survive as a species in the long term, a culture of free-thought, non-dogmatism, non-coercion, peaceful cooperation and staunch rejection of bullies and authoritarians is the only sensible way to go.

      • Idealism is all very well, but it seems to make some people very angry.
        See The Five Stages of Grief.
        Stop tilting at windmills and get to stage 5 a.s.a.p.

      • If the labour movements had jumped straight to stage 5, you’d likely be working 16 hours a day in a sweatshop now.
        If the feminist movements had jumped straight to stage 5, your wife (/girlfriend/mother) would be still be considered a second rate human being and have no right to vote.
        If the movements against racism had jumped straight to stage 5, you’d be living in a de-facto apartheid society where a black man is lynched for stepping on a white man’s shadow.
        None of these things just happened naturally or were ‘given’ to us by our gracious leaders. Every step of they way, these movements were counteracted by the powers-that-were. Anger at social injustices is a GOOD thing, if it inspires action. Unlike the death of a loved one, or a medical prognosis of certain death, there is nothing final or unchangeable in the way society is run today. Acceptance will only permit the status quo to remain, or worse, allow fascism, racism, sexism and inequality to slowly creep back and reestablish themselves as “The way things are” or “Human Nature”. If you agree that a society of free-thinking, freely cooperating individuals who won’t accept being controlled is a good thing, worth striving for. And you believe that you can influence (non-coercively) at least some of the people around you to come to the same conclusions, that’s all that’s needed on your part. It’s really just a natural extension of the egalitarian ideals that are generally accepted today by most people in developed countries.

      • Squirenetic:

        Well, of course you’re a thinking person, obvious from your comment.

        But I have to plead ignorance on your fiirst 4-5 points, and sorry if you thought me worthy to get it right off. I do have some sense of East meets West which I think you may be driving at, but could you school me a bit on how jumping to stage 5 ends up being worse that where we started?

      • Hi Richard!
        From the Wikipedia article:
        Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
        If we’d change the “I can’t fight it” to “I can fight it”, with regards to social injustice, I’d be on the train. I’m all for constructive solutions, and I don’t see anger as having any intrinsic value, and definitely it’s not a stage to get stuck at, if we want to attempt to apply these stages of mourning to what is really a much more dynamic process. However, I do see anger as an important catalyst for change in some circumstances, and I recognize that widespread anger with prevailing conditions were a great factor in mobilizing the movements I mentioned in my previous post. Anger without action is quite pointless however. But even sharing ones feelings about the way things are with others (who in many cases share the same feelings but have kept them to themselves) can lead to constructive dialogue and a way forward, which I believe constitutes a type of action. Hope that clarifies my point!

      • I believe my mistake was to let Nigel frame the issue in terms of mourning stages, when in fact the easiest repudiation of his straw man would have been to differentiate a dynamic process in which the circumstances change based on the actions of the participants (society) to a less dynamic one where the circumstances are the same (death, loss of a limb or sense etc.) regardless of the actions taken. In the second case, acceptance is the only way to move forward. In the first case, acceptance might just mean accepting the world as it is and not trying to change it. IE complacency.

      • I framed it in terms of mourning, as people are mourning their loss of freedom. Why are you losing your freedom?

      • I believe that you are losing your freedom because the American sheeple vote for whomever promises them the most happiness & security.

        As there is nothing that you can do about it (I hope that you’re not planning to try to overthrow the Govt.), what’s the point in bitching and moaning about it?

    • “You can only “play” at anarchy in your daily life if *someone* is willing to step in and create some sort of structure for you to play in.”

      Up until this, pretty much totally rational and real. What you do seem to understand is that an absence of central government is not “utopia.” that’s good. It fucking sucks, actually, because going it on your own, without the ability to socialize the costs of your life, kinds sucks. But go figure. Some of us would prefer being able to live a life without stealing from those with a few more shillings.

      Why not just leave us in the jungle, savannah, plains or wherever wild humans might have found themselves, and left them to sort shit out on their own, to betterment or detriment?

      One little tidbit, though, up in para 4. There was no theft before the neolithic because “take their surf” meant almost nothing, and was a decidedly losing proposition—anyone thinking otherwise to have a meeting with Darwin, eventually.

      Oh, my goodness.

      Well, there you go. That takes care of paragraph 6 and 7 as well.

      • “There was no theft before the neolithic because “take their surf” meant almost nothing, and was a decidedly losing proposition—anyone thinking otherwise to have a meeting with Darwin, eventually.”

        Not sure if serious or just speculating.

        From what I’ve read, while there’s no evidence of large scale organized conflict (no large scale yet), there’s plenty of evidence that people were killing each other off well back into the Paleolithic. Some modern HG tribes murder and steal from each other fairly regularly, and theft of kills/food and the like is well documented in many animal species.

        I don’t think we’re different. We’re animals. We fight over food, we fight over mating rights, we fight because we stubbed our toe and someone happened to piss us off during the temporary emotional disequilibrium. Claiming that there was no theft prior to the neolithic just sounds like romanticized claptrap, and kind of off key in a post that talks about how much it would “fucking suck” to be thrust out into the wilderness.

      • It was certainly not institutionalized, theft, pfw.

      • Avalanche says:

        Oh, well, that’s okay then?! {wink}
        (Are you really writing: If some singleton steals your food or your wife or your spot by the river bank — no problem; so long as it’s not institutionalized stealing!?)

        “It fucking sucks, actually, because going it on your own,
        without the ability to socialize the costs of your life, kinds
        sucks. …”

        I don’t mean ‘socializing the costs, I mean — like the stereotypical wild wild west — if you’re out somewhere living on your own (jungle, savannah, plains or wherever), and some organized — or semi-organized — group comes riding in to take your stuff?! You’re S.O.L.! The organized — or semi-organized — group will ALWAYS overcome the singleton (or the smaller group). Yeah, yeah, we’ve all got our guns — and when you run out of ammo, as you eventually WILL — the organized — or semi-organized — group will ALWAYS overcome the singleton (or the smaller group).

        THEY didn’t sign on to mutualism and friendly organizing, kumbaya!

    • “The guest poster and Jason seem to have this lovely (and sorry, child-like!) belief in the ‘innate goodness’ of people.”

      Can’t speak for them but I think the Anarchist argument is not based on the innate goodness of people, but rather on the innate badness of people. The argument is that it is human nature to try to enforce your will on others … something that has been proven time and time again.

      “You can only “play” at anarchy in your daily life if *someone* is willing to step in and create some sort of structure for you to play in. You wanna be a ‘real’ anarchist — you need to move away from ‘civilization.’ No more computers, no more supermarkets — they require an infrastructure that includes guards and unhappy folks stuck in deadend jobs.”

      Why should I be required to move? I am perfectly happy right here, and right here I will stay. Computers come and go, supermarkets come and go. Can you believe that there was a time when we had no computers? Yes, yes, it is true ….

      You misunderstand “Anarchy.” Anarchy is not the lack of civilization, it is the option to have a real voice in the form of your civilization.

      • rob, I edited that a bit for clarity as it wan’t clear who was saying what.

        I want to take one quibble.

        “but rather on the innate badness of people.”

        No, that’s what God & Country does.

        We’re just people. Some amazingly good, and some malignly bad.

        How you going to deal with that?

        I want to take my own chances with that, just like I try to do with everything else, diet and health advice included.

        Oh, yea, and you guys get to look this up, but as usual, as regards to moving, the guy went Spiro Agnew on you, just as they always do (there’s a relevant, popular quote involved).

  6. Oh, come ON! Who are these “free and unbeholden” folks going to rely to make sure their stuff is NOT taken by force from them?

    Come and try and take my stuff by force…you’ll see how a well armed, well trained person doesn’t need to rely on calling in the goon squad of the State to protect his own.

    • Hope that they haven’t got bigger/more guns than you!

      • I’m sure the innocent old lady that got shot by a no-knock drug raid by a militarized SWAT team had the exact same hope.

      • Just for reference to my last quip:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathryn_Johnston_shooting

      • oops, I guess we were in sync there, KG. I linked that up before I even saw you linked it. While there are innumerable examples, this is one that about takes the gluten free cake.

      • And there’s Radley Balko for the really masochistic.

        These are all just isolated incidents, folks.

        The important thing is winning the War on Drugs.

      • You mean like little old black lady Katheryn Johnston?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathryn_Johnston_shooting

        Don’t click that link, folks. There’s nothing to see there, and this is the Land of the Free (keep repeating).

      • You keep telling me that I’m oppressed in the UK, but shit like that almost never happens here. Keep repeating “Guns are good mm-kay”.

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        “Shit like that almost never happens here.”
        You mean police brutality? After all Ms. Johnson was shot by POLICE. “was shot by undercover police officers in her home on Neal Street in northwest Atlanta on November 21, 2006,”

        Would Ms. Johnson be any less dead if she was beaten to death by the government’s goons instead of shot?

        Replace the word “gun” with hammer, screwdriver, baseball bat, ice pick, a
        chain, etc. ANYTHING can (and has) been used as a weapon at one time. Guns are simply a tool.

        Also, the UK is statistically MORE dangerous than the US.
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html
        The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S.
        In the decade following the party’s election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 per cent to 1.158million – or more than two every minute.

        The figures, compiled from reports released by the European Commission and United Nations, also show:

        * The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU.
        * It has a higher homicide rate than most of our western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
        * The UK has the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU.
        * It has the fourth highest burglary rate and the highest absolute number of burglaries in the EU, with double the number of offences than recorded in Germany and France.

        But it is the naming of Britain as the most violent country in the EU that is most shocking. The analysis is based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents.

        In the UK, there are 2,034 offences per 100,000 people, way ahead of second-placed Austria with a rate of 1,677.

      • OMG. You used the Daily Mail as your source! You don’t know how funny that is.
        Nice straw man. The above discussion is about the state abusing the people, not about crime. The UK has a very high population density compared to the US. Nice try, though.

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        You’ve gone on so many different tangents nothing can be considered a straw man argument at this point.

        Is that your standard response to everything now? Make vague arguments and then say anyone answering is a “straw man”? Seems to be the case.

      • Nigel mocks someone for using The Daily Mail as a source (all the figures used could be fact checked, so the source is irrelevant) when he probably suffers from evert mythical delusion there is with regard to guns, most of which are death with here.

        Page 51 is a good place to start.

      • From page 11 of the linked PDF:

        “Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year or 6,849 every day.(65) Often the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.”

        “Every day 550 rapes, 1,100 murders, and 5,200 other violent crimes are prevented just by showing a gun. In less than 0.9% of these instances is the gun ever actually fired.(67)

        References:

        65 Targeting Guns, Dr. Gary Kleck, Criminologist, Florida State University, Aldine, 1997
        66 National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000, Bureau of Justice Statistics, BATF estimates on handgun supply
        67 Ibid

      • Page 12

        Fact: 60% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. 40% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed.68

        Fact: Felons report that they avoid entering houses where people are at home because they fear being shot.69

        Fact: 59% of the burglaries in Britain, which has tough gun control laws, are “hot burglaries”70 which are burglaries committed while the home is occupied by the owner/renter. By contrast, the U.S., with more lenient gun control laws, has a “hot burglary” rate of only 13%.71

        Fact: Washington D.C. has essentially banned gun ownership since 1976 and has a murder rate of 56.9 per 100,000. Across the river in Arlington, Virginia, gun ownership is less restricted. There, the murder rate is just 1.6 per 100,000, less than three percent of the Washington, D.C. rate.72

        Fact: 26% of all retail businesses report keeping a gun on the premises for crime control.73

        Fact: In 1982, Kennesaw, GA passed a law requiring heads of households to keep at least one firearm in the house. The residential burglary rate dropped 89% the following year.74
        Fact: A survey of felons revealed the following:75

        • 74% of felons agreed that, “one reason burglars avoid houses when people are at
        home is that they fear being shot during the crime.”

        • 57% of felons polled agreed, “criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”

        Myth: Private guns are used to commit violent crimes

        Fact: 90% of all violent crimes in the U.S. do not involve firearms of any type.76

        Fact: Even in crimes where the offender possessed a gun during the commission of the
        crime, 83% did not use or threaten to use the gun.77

        Fact: Less than 1% of firearms will ever be used in the commission of a crime.78

        Fact: Two-thirds of the people who die each year from gunfire are criminals being shot
        by other criminals.79

        Fact: 94.4% of gun murders are gang related.80

        References:

        68 Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms, James Wright and Peter Rossi, Aldine, 1986
        69 Ibid
        70 A “hot burglary” is when the burglar enters a home while the residents are there
        71 Dr. Gary Kleck, Criminologist, Florida State University (1997) and Kopel (1992 and 1999)
        72 Crime in the United States, FBI, 1998
        73 Crime Against Small Business, U.S. Small Business Administration, Senate Document No. 91-14, 1969
        74 Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force, Dr. Gary Kleck, Social Problems, February 1988
        75 The Armed Criminal in America: A Survey of Incarcerated Felons, U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Federal Firearms Offenders study, 1997: National Institute of Justice, Research Report, July 1985, Department of Justice
        76 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 1998
        77 National Crime Victimization Survey, 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics
        78 FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, 1994
        79 Ibid
        80 Homicide trends in the United States, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 17 2007

      • Nigel:

        I recommend you at once put a sign on your lawn:

        “This is a Gun Free Zone”

        And if not, why not?

      • And what does any of the above have to do with US police shooting people in their homes (something we don’t have)? Absolutely nothing. It’s just more irrelevant bullshit.

        What’s the point in putting a sign on my lawn which states the bleedin’ obvious? All homes here are gun-free zones. Anyone who does have a licensed gun has to have it locked away in a secure place, so they wouldn’t have access to it at short notice anyway.

      • Interesting how Nigel puts up 52 comments…many minutes & hours apart and takes virtually a day to put up a pathetic reply to his total thrashing, with references, on all his BritMyths regarding guns.

        BTW, what time does the sun set on the “Empire” tonight, Nigel?

        Fuck off, Nigel. For one, go back and look at your comment and tell me with a straight face, you miserable lying FUCK, how it is you were talking about police—and have the gall to post that crap when I’ve been blogging about the audacity of police brutality since 2003, far longer than Paleo.

        You miserable, dishonest, lying fuck of a wasted fuck.

        “What’s the point in putting a sign on my lawn which states the bleedin’ obvious?”

        To show that you have some conviction behind your ideas, of course.

        Shit. I sure hope that all Brits are not as fucking worthless as you.

        You can comment all you want here, but you are now my enemy. And that’s because you’re a fucking liar, and I hate fucking liars.

      • I’m not on this blog all day as there are better things to do in life.
        I haven’t read all of your posts going back to 2003 as there are better things to do in life.

        Anyway, I’m done. Further discussion with you on this subject is utterly pointless. I’m not exactly over-keen on snobs and conceited people.

        Friend. Enemy. Whatever.

      • “Hope that they haven’t got bigger/more guns than you!”

        More question begging.

        The government has the biggest and most guns around, and they routinely knock down doors, gwet the wrong house, kill people, etc.

        You don’t get out much, Nigel.

        In fact, the crime rate in the US is precipitously declining. Police brutality is up.

        (Please, please, look up question begging, take it to heart, act accordingly, etc.)

      • KG wrote: “Come and try and take my stuff by force…you’ll see how a well armed, well trained person doesn’t need to rely on calling in the goon squad of the State to protect his own.”
        I pointed out that anyone (individual, corporation, state) can take his stuff by force if they have bigger/more guns than him. It’s not question begging. It’s a fact.

        Stop playing the “Question Begging” card. You keep using the Non sequitur fallacy i.e Bafflement by irrelevant bullshit.

      • In relation to the crime statistics the last UK government changed the recording of crime statistics which led to a rise on a background of decreasing crime (violent). The Daily Mail has a pretty poor reputation for the standard of it’s journalism in the UK.

  7. Avalanche – consider this as well: what keeps your neighbors from breaking into your house right now and taking all of your things?

    Do you really think the ONLY reason people who live in close proximity to each other are civil and cooperate with each other is solely because they fear the law? See, the kind of people who don’t care about such things, are also the same people who don’t care about the Law in the first place.

    • When this comes up in conversation, I like to ask normal people who they’re going to rape and pillage first, if there were no laws.

      After they fumble that one, I express amazement that there is such a thing as rape and pillage, given there are so many laws and so much prosecution.

      We never get to the “people just taking their cut” like brokers, cause very few people are even that smart.

  8. Anarchists are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that dominant people won’t claw their way to positions of power and take control.

    You mean dominant people already haven’t done so? LOL

    The current crop have simply given us the veneer of “democracy” so we don’t notice the power and control they’ve taken from all of us long ago.

    • KG, please try to keep cognizant of the comment nesting. There is a reply function and the nesting should be evident just in looking.

      Thanks.

    • “You mean dominant people already haven’t done so? LOL”
      Of course! That’s the point I’m trying to make (but you seem too dense to understand it).
      Anarchy can’t work. Human nature always prevails. That’s a fact, not question begging.
      Which of the following would you prefer:-
      Monarchy?
      Multinational corporacy?
      Autocracy?
      Democracy?
      Some other cy?
      Some combination of the above?

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        Anarchy IS human nature. Anarchy is voluntary cooperation among individuals to get things done.

        I find it laughable that you are calling others dense when I’ve read though all your posts and you fail to understand simple concepts my children know very well.

        “Which of the following would you prefer:”

        Voluntary human interaction. Otherwise known as Anarchy

        You have a horrible misunderstanding of what Anarchy is. Although I doubt you’ll take the time to do so I would recommend the following book to read. http://freedomainradio.com/FreeBooks.aspx#truth

      • “Anarchy IS human nature. Anarchy is voluntary cooperation among individuals to get things done.”
        ROFL! Ever watched a bunch of young children playing? Girls are more nurturing, but boys fight over stuff. That’s human nature.

        You ain’t ever going to get anarchy in the US, so either get used to it or start your own anarchic community. Let me know how that works out.

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        “You ain’t ever going to get anarchy in the US, so either get used to it or start your own anarchic community.”

        “You ain’t ever going to get anarchy in the US”, and “Anarchy can’t work” are two entirely different statements. Which is it?

        The current Federal Government of the US cannot continue to sustain itself for too much longer. Like all other empire’s it will eventually fall. What next? Nation states? Chaos and warlords emerging?

        Anarchy is not “The Answer”. I’m not here to solve every little conceivable problem and “what if” that you might think of. I’m here to tell you that government does not, and cannot work. It’s immoral from concept to reality.

        If I tell you your prayers won’t work to solve cancer because god doesn’t exist, it’s not so I can give you a new god to pray to instead. The point is to encouraging you and give you information so you can abandon the simplistic answer (god) to a very difficult problem so you can face reality.

        There are many realistic cures for cancer being pursued with varying degrees of success, but they can be painful, time-consuming, expensive, and don’t always work. If you pursue all these and your loved ones cancer gets better, your god will get the credit. If not, you’ll make excuses. Perhaps your faith wasn’t strong enough!

        Through an atheist’s eyes, prayers had little to do with the loved one getting better except perhaps from a placebo effect.

        We look to governments in much the same way we look to gods, to offer us easy answers. Similarly, when things work, we give governments credit. When they don’t, we make excuses. We still have crime, war, car accidents, poverty, sickness, and death, despite the fix-all of authoritarian monopolistic governments, and sometimes because of. Instead, governments are forgiven for these massive failures and we continue to insist they have some crucial role to play.

        I don’t present anarchy as an alternative fix-all solution just as atheism is not a cure for cancer.

      • ““You ain’t ever going to get anarchy in the US”, and “Anarchy can’t work” are two entirely different statements. Which is it?”
        Both. You ain’t ever going to get it because it can’t work. Jeez!

        By the way, I’m an atheist in that I believe that there almost certainly isn’t a god. I can’t prove that there isn’t one.

      • “You ain’t ever going to get it because it can’t work.”

        Demonstrably false. The nation state is less than 10,000 years old. H. Sapiens about 200,000 or so, and our evolutionary lineage goes back 4 million years.

        Not only is your statement false, it’s more wrong than a very wrong thing.

      • What happened in the past is irrelevant. I’m talking about the future.
        The American sheeple will never vote in an anarchy party because they only vote for parties that promise them happiness & security. Security in anarchy? Don’t make me laff. Anarchies always turn into something else.

      • “The American sheeple will never vote in an anarchy”

        This is precisely why conversation with you is absolutely pointless.

      • N.B. “vote in” means “vote-in” (antonym vote-out) and not “vote, in”.

        Anarchy only works at low population densities and then only until people start cheating.

        But yeah, we’re done.

  9. Very nice stuff. Has anybody brought up ROADZZZ yet?

    I think you are being too humble here, Jeremy, ALL writing is an amalgamation of stuff other people have said.

    The Somalia/anarchy cliché is so ridiculous that I usually just laugh it off, but next time I will point to this blog post, thanks.

    • O.K. I’ll bite. What about ROADZZZ?

      • We have to have government to build things like roads. Also, high speed rail without which we can’t save the future. Never mind that most railroads, other than the transcontinental were privately owned and operated in the US back when it was the major form of transportation.

      • The Great Northern was buil entirely privately and open up a trade route w Japan via shipping at the end of the line.

      • But just imagine how much better it would have been if it had been built by by the government! Or at the very least fairer.

        And isn’t voluntary trade just another form of exploitation? At least when it involves another country, or state, or county or city?

        It all ties together: (rail)roads, corporations, Somalia, and sugar consumption.

  10. Avalanche says:

    “it emphasizes personal freedom (with the boundaries
    being defined by the freedom of others to be unharmed
    by your actions) and rejection of all authority.”

    Really, really nice concept *IF* you can get everyone around you — within a couple days arrival distance, say — to play it your way! Failing that? Look, you want: “boundaries” and “defined” — okay SOMEONE has to draw those out, and SOMEONE has to make sure everyone agrees and …er… obeys!! … those boundaries and definitions. It is not possible for a system of ‘laws’ (or ‘defined boundaries” by peace-love-dove anarchists) to be coherent and complete. Someone will ALWAYS be ‘harmed’ by such agreements: small harm or large harm, but harm. (Oh, wait, and what about that “rejection of authority” thing — even the group’s authority? THEN who is going to go along with your boundaries and definitions?)

    The “tragedy of the commons,” anyone? I want to graze more sheep — and that damages your ability to graze yours? “So what?” say I. Or, I should “control” myself for your benefit — or the benefit of the group, even when the group is NOT my group? My family will always *without fail* come ahead of your family. I’d be amazed (and pretty disgusted) if you put the welfare of someone else’s family ahead of your family’s!

    “You misunderstand “Anarchy.” Anarchy is not the lack of
    civilization, it is the option to have a real voice in the form
    of your civilization.”

    If there are humans involved? There WILL be some/many who absolutely lack ““civilization”– who will prey on all the lovely little anarchists who want to just peaceably buy and sell amongst their little groups…. Neither “government” nor religion CREATED war and stealing and ‘rape and pillage’: they merely perfected them! {wink})

    Really, it’s very, very nice that YOUR neighbors won’t decide to rape and pillage if the govt goes away. Think that applies to ALL humans equally? Think you won’t need to set up a perimeter around your house, or your cul-de-sac, or your pick-your-group, to keep away those human who don’t play your game?! Who is going to keep managing your civilization trappings if you don’t have guards protecting them from the folks who won’t play nice? You want civilization to continue (offering the bennies it does, but without the detriments that MUST go with those bennies)? Someone will have to stand guard over your water purification plant to keep someone from stealing all the pipes to sell the copper (or poisoning the water to clear the desirable land near the river). (And someone will have to WANT to work in the sewage treatment plant or your water purification plant may fail!) Who is going to be standing guard over the food producers — or do they just take their chances come harvest time? The workers won’t be particularly effective trying to do their work AND stand guard against interlopers.

    “Do you really think the ONLY reason people who
    live in close proximity to each other are civil and
    cooperate with each other is solely because they fear
    the law? See, the kind of people who don’t care about
    such things, are also the same people who don’t care
    about the Law in the first place.”

    Do you really think ALL people who live in close proximity to each other ARE civil and cooperate with each other?! Do you live in a gated community with rent-a-cops? (Oops, there’s that govt-thing again!) Do you think, if govt went away, those kinds of “people who don’t care about such things” would melt away? Suddenly LEARN to care about those things? Or would they just find it even easier to be a predator?!

    I’m fer shure not suggesting current powers-that-be and govts (not necessarily the same groups!) are anything less than “lawless” (ha) predators… But every human group needs SOME form or governing — just make sure the governing forces are YOUR forces, and not forces beholden to some other group. Anarchism is silly. No human group will ever agree to play nice if it’s to their detriment. Not cause they’re eeeeevil… but because if it comes down to MY children eating OR your children eating — I’m fighting for mine, and like KG says up there, I’m (very well) armed too. If I have to protect *my* resources all the time, and so does KG — who’s gonna do the resource management? Plan the fields, run the water purification plant, repel boarders! Oh look, we’re back to a private “army” or a public one.

    Imagine all you want a utopia where every human abides by group ‘boundaries and definitions’ because they want to, or because they agree with your anarchist principles — and pretend there are no OTHER humans around (anywhere close enough to be a problem) who won’t play your game. (Oh, guess that means no more planes, trains, and automobiles – or the “non-believing humans” WILL be close enough to be a problem!

    The human species has more predators than can be accounted for in your ‘no more govt’ desires. If you refuse to BE a predator, you’re prey! My motto is: Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don’t! And “every man for himself is not survivable” — because any organized group of men will always triumph over a singleton. So, there MUST be organization: make sure it’s YOURS!

    • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

      Avalance, are you familiar with any of the books written by Stefan Molyneux?

      http://freedomainradio.com/FreeBooks.aspx

    • Avalanche:

      Thanks for the effort but I simply don’t have the time to deal with a super long comment where each paragraph requires a few paragraphs.

      All of this stuff has been debunked, numerous times.

      The problem is that Young Anarchists have a utopian mindset and so a lot of silly shit gets out there.

      Anarchy begins and ends in the mind. It’s simply a political expression of freedom. Being a political activist as an anarchist is a contradiction in terms and the best way to deal with the whole thing is 1st, though your own resolution to avoid dealing with the state as much as possible and instead deal with all other as peaceful traders of values and 2nd, to try and convince others to live by a similar resolution.

      Look, even much of the enviro/recycling movement has gradually moved to educating and motivating the conscience of individuals, and even shame.

      Whatever you think of environmentalism, I have zero problem with it on that level.

  11. Jon Cole says:

    Avalance-

    I can appreciate the security you find among the likes of Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes in advocating social contract theory. Hobbes himself said that without giving up some of our freedoms we end up with an existence that is nasty, brutish, and short.

    However, I think that your opponents on this issue are arguing a theoretical point in that humans came from an environment where law and order did not exist. It was a perfect state of anarchy where humans thrived and later developed systems of control.

    I believe you have a situation where institutions of law and order, religion, and agrarian economies were developed to increase the control indviduals (groups) attempted to exert over the masses. As a result you have the perfect contrast to this control with anarchism.

    I have often wondered in a Hobbesian state of nature what type of species humans would return to. Are we opportunists? Scavengers? Malefactors?

    We look at parts of New Orleans during Katrina where the law and pump stations were abandoned. Granted this was not city wide as there were functioning police units scattered throughout. Living only a few hours away and watching the storm unfold on television with people who had fled the city, we saw opportunists, scavengers, psychopaths who shot at their would be rescuers, euthanizers, and desperate people trying to cling to life. At most, you had three days of lawlessness- maybe not perfect lawlessness but a major lack of it nonetheless- but, as in Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia, you had towns outside of New Orleans equally affected by the storm where cooperation and peace were the order of the day. I’m thinking of Lake Charles and the western portion of the state impacted by Rita.

    I believe that if you take the species and place it in a cage (read the cities) where resources are scarce, you will end up with the nasty, brutish, and violent vision of Hobbes’ Leviathan in a situation of lawlessness. However, on a planet with fewer than 5 or even 10 million inhabitants you COULD have enough resources to provide enough for all.

    But then again, we are one of only a handful of animals that will kill a member of our own species for reasons other than self-defense… So I don’t know how it would work out ultimately.

    • Avalanche says:

      “However, on a planet with fewer than 5 or even 10 million
      inhabitants you COULD have enough resources to provide
      enough for all.”

      I agree — and I’m only half-joking when I say I’m votin’ for bird flu!!

  12. From a practical standpoint, I don’t really care what you call yourself (anarchist, libertarian, minarchist, conservative, liberal, fascist, communist, etc.). I care what you do. If you think moral solutions are best arrived at by ballot or decree, and that the best moral solutions are enforced by armed gangs, then we have little to talk about. I will do my best to avoid you. At some point, I may do something more to prepare myself for an inevitable encounter (by making friends, buying weapons, learning to use them, etc.), but I prefer to spend time doing something other than making war.

    The real crime of government, in my view, is not so much that it exists as that it arrogates to itself all the attention that could be better spent elsewhere. When Wall Street collapsed, did we see executives repenting, accepting culpability, bending over backwards to do everything possible to keep their word to their shareholders and the public? Did we see them rebuilding their companies to meet the real exigencies of the markets (which they had misread egregiously)? Not really, no. They just went to the men with money (and everything that can buy, including guns) and asked for carte blanche (which is pretty much what they got: a few suffered a little bit, but the vast majority got to run the economy into the dirt, pay themselves handsomely for their accomplishment, and go on with their lives as “public servants” bought and paid for by taxpayers forced to save them by government). The story is the same across the board. Government takes a lot of resources (more and more these days), and accomplishes relatively little (increasingly less, as citizens become more peaceful and have less need of mafia violence to keep them from raping and pillaging). Are you interested in doing good work? If you are unlucky, you will get sucked into government, either literally (when you decide to pursue life as a public servant), or figuratively (when you become obsessed with tracking your “representatives” and trying to influence them). Either way, your intelligence is wasted haggling over who should steal what from whom. You aren’t making any really useful contributions to society (unless you have a life outside of government: the more devoted you are to public service, the more useless you really are).

    The really useful innovations come from curious people having ideas, testing them, and seeing what works. Government doesn’t arrive on the scene until the meaningful changes have already taken place, and its role is too often to stamp on the people who are changing the world for the better.

    I don’t imagine that we will arrive soon at a world without government. I am not going to waste my time antagonizing governments by calling them names (at the moment: get me in the right mood and I can sling pejoratives with Richard). But I also don’t think we should bother with them as much as we do. I think we should pursue ways and means outside of government. I think we should do our very best to have morality without government (not because this is inevitable, but because the alternative is unconscionable: encouraging people to make the government a vehicle for imposing their personal fantasies on everybody else is courting disaster, no matter what anyone happens to believe). We should do our best to be the kind of people that we can respect. If that means we go extinct, so be it. At least our last moments can be spent on something besides cannibalism, parasitism, or whatever you want to call the game where we decide whom to eat for dinner every night until no one is left.

    The best families are those that respect, honor, and love each other even when Grandpa isn’t covering them with a shotgun. The best solutions to moral problems are not born from obsessing with who gets to hold the shotgun, how big it should be, and how much extra Thanksgiving turkey we should all have to give him. The good life lies outside of government. (Epicurus was right.)

    • Joseph:

      I’m still trying to catch up but I was wondering something as I read this. This doesn’t include Nigel or any of those who have never spent a serious moment in their lives honestly thinking about any of this, but, have you ever received objections from actual smart and informed people for what you write above that, since the government isn’t normally using this money taking (taxation) to actually destroy goods, services and jobs outright, directly, that it comes unde rthe economics of “transfer payments?”

      In other words, perhaps not idea in a market sense, but not wholly destructive, so that it tends to promote jobs and advancement.

      How would you deal with that best of argument, since none of these “geniuses” we have in here have raised it?

      • From my perspective, government is just another company doing what companies do (collecting assets for itself and defending them against other companies). I do not expect human beings to live without companies (which seem to be a basic feature of the species, from prehistoric times to the present: there are loners out there, but they are exceptions, and they usually interact with some kind of company at some point).

        I am willing to entertain the idea of a good company, which means that I am willing to entertain the idea of a good government. In my mind, a good company is one whose business model values stability and what I call “human values” (e.g. love, respect, integrity, compassion, craftsmanship, real leisure, learning) over profits (which is usually measured in terms of junk collected: who has the biggest pile of toys?).

        As I look out over the world (from an admittedly and unashamedly biased vantage point), it seems to me that small companies tend to do a better job at serving human values (as I understand them) than large ones. The larger a company is, the less responsibility it feels for the individuals who make it up. In a large company, like the US federal government in its current state, not everyone can have a really meaningful role: some of us are inevitably going to play the role of human capital, a.k.a. “cannon fodder” or “slaves” (or whatever you want to call people who have to jump every time the Secretary of the Treasury sneezes). A little company has to pull together to do something worth doing: everyone has to contribute, or the operation falls flat. A big company does not need all its people pulling together: in fact, it cannot let that happen, and does everything in its power to keep decision-making powers isolated in a relatively few hands; the people cut off from making meaningful decisions become slaves (human capital who exist to serve those who still think and act in a really meaningful way). The slaves are often happier as slaves when they have some toys to play with that give them the illusion of making meaningful decisions (e.g. popular elections), but that does not change their underlying condition.

        In isolating the reins of power in the hands of a relative minority, the “bad” big company is in effect struggling to be a “good” little company, much the way an unhealthy person’s body struggles to be healthy (trying to fix rising inflammation, flipping epigenetic switches to keep things working even as more and more of the body’s useful resources go to waste to feed cancerous growth). The solution, in my eyes, is to put the big company on a diet. It needs to shrink (drastically), and it needs to change its raison-d’etre from “grow as big as possible” to something like “serve human values” (a mission which requires that it know when to butt out of peoples’ lives and let them do things for themselves). There are societies that have managed this (or at least, managed it more effectively than the US): I would be much happier with the US federal government if it worked like the Swiss federal assembly (which is a lot more hands-off when it comes to letting individual communities go their own way).

        I don’t see any government ever doing more good for society on the whole than a decent private company. I think things would be a lot better if more people looked at government in this light, instead of seeing it as some kind of tool whereby I impose my moral fantasies on you against your will. My ideal USA looks a lot like Switzerland, with independent communities collaborating loosely together without narrowly prescribing how things are done. This does not mean that there are no governments in the land, only that there is not “one government to rule them all” handing down stone tablets to the new Moses every four years. Local governments take precedence over state and (of course) federal (which doesn’t need to control banking or have an army or do almost any of the crap it is currently doing through agencies affiliated with the executive branch). And no government has unilateral rights over anybody. If you are apprehended for committing a crime, you are answerable to people who accuse you (people in your community whom you did or did not hurt), and to the community (which ideally is small enough to try you by a jury of people who might actually know a thing or two about local law, justice, and whatnot). Furthermore, as long as people aren’t getting raped, pillaged, or otherwise seriously abused, government has no responsibility to do anything. If people want to use their local government to make roads or schools, that is OK: let them do it, if they can. But keep the operation small, local, unburdened by runaway debt; otherwise, you get the mess we have now, in which people fondly imagine that some companies are “too big to fail.” Ultimately, even if you have nuclear weapons and a lot of slaves, this just isn’t true.

        The Swiss system requires a lot more of its citizens than our slave state. They have to bear arms, for one example. They have to care about their communities. They have to do something besides write their congressman (vel sim). I am not under any illusions that it would be easy to turn the modern USA into a minarchist republic along the lines I have vaguely sketched out here, but I think the exercise of thinking this way is very helpful, and I would like to see more Americans thinking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of a happiness more sustainable (and more satisfying) than what we get from the current crop of gods in Washington.

        I hope this is something sort of like what you wanted to elicit from me, Richard. Feel free to keep talking at me, either way. I have no problem being called out when I say stupid things, and I am genuinely interested in learning more about this topic.

      • Jeremy Voluntaryist says:

        The Swiss canton system is much better than the US big government system. The only problem with both, and your analogy to companies, is that government is not voluntary. You can’t fire your government.
        If you’re not familiar with the concept of Dispute Resolution Organizations they would effectively solve the ideas you’ve expressed but you can also fire yours if they aren’t living up to your mutually agreed upon contract.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispute_resolution_organization

      • Thanks, Jeremy. I definitely aspire toward voluntary communities, with government being more like the rent-a-cops mentioned earlier by Nigel: if they protect the gated community badly, then residents replace them with something better. You laid your finger on the root of the problem when you pointed out that our current governments refuse to be fired (see what is going on in Syria?).

        Real public servants would contribute something more to the community than protection that becomes extortion. They would want better solutions to moral problems than they are going to be able to devise, and they wouldn’t enforce their status as ultimate arbiter at gunpoint (creating escalating waves of confrontation that culminate in nuclear standoffs). They wouldn’t feel their lives threatened by the prospect of losing their contract to provide a public service to someone doing it better. They would be resilient, tinkering away in many useful areas, and would be able to accept some failure as a necessary adjunct to success in the public sphere (as elsewhere). They would not expect to make a career of public service.

        From my position, the only hard thing about the current state of affairs is that so many people believe that government must be there (with God at the helm, of course, as he always is). The best thing practical thing we non-government people can do is set about building and implementing voluntary solutions to ethical problems that have stumped the statists. If we really don’t need them, they will go away (or nuke us, but there is no telling whether they might not do that anyway). If no one shops at Wal-mart, the store closes.

      • Maybe I can sum up my current attitude toward pro-government positions thus (incorporating Jeremy’s observation about voluntarism below): I am not incapable of approving of a particular government. What I object to the most about governments is not that they do good things (turning taxes into roads, schools, courthouses, and such), but that they accomplish these fair things by foul means (armed force). If a government is smaller, the force is less (and so more mitigated). If people could embrace voluntarism (as recommended by Jeremy), small communities (like Nigel’s gated community) could decide what kind of force they wanted to be deployed (hiring and firing their rental cops). But small governments have a way of growing large: force creates more force; would-be monopolists unite to form mega-corporations and mega-governments, governments so large (and well armed) that they do not really have to answer to anyone. Legal challenges to them disappear in miles of bureaucratic paperwork that no one can understand. Military challenges waver in the face of overwhelming weapons (which then allow the big government to demand tribute from a position of unassailable strength). They are too big to fail, and then fragility strikes. Boom! What happens? Remember New Orleans underwater. The problem with cultivating big government is that people come to rely on Don Corleone for everything: when he gets shot, his slaves run around screaming like chickens with their heads cut off. All they know how to do is take orders (cast votes, write congressmen, work an overpaid union job as half-assedly as possible), and that isn’t really helpful when the situation demands thoughtful reaction across a wide spectrum of the population. They waste a bunch of time trying to decide whose fault the mess is, and they don’t have a clue how to fix it, any more than their bosses, who are revealed to be nothing more than human beings after all. (Another historical example to think about here is Janet Reno trying to control the mess in Waco, Texas, from her office in Washington. She was too far away and out of the loop to do anything helpful. It didn’t really matter who she was, how well qualified to make difficult decisions: she wasn’t where the actions were, and so her decisions were inescapably dumb.)

        What the pro-government advocate has to do for me is show me how his government can do the good things it does without committing terrible gaffes in the process (and turning more and more of the people it governs into mindless sheep, incapable of acting intelligently on their own initiative outside of very narrow spheres). He has to convince me that he isn’t just putting up a rhetorical screen justifying the continuation of his favorite monopoly (which is what he is doing most of the time: “There has to be an omnipotent God scaring everyone into righteousness with his awesome thunderbolts, because otherwise people won’t have any morals!”). He has to answer Juvenal’s question (quis custodiet ipsos custodes?), and I have to buy the answer. He might actually do this. I am open to good government (even as I remain open to the possibility that there is some kind of god).