Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Persuasion vs. Force

Sometimes a single book or even a short cogent essay can change an individual’s entire outlook on life. For Christians, it is the New Testament. For radical socialists, Karl Marx’ and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto is revolutionary. For libertarians, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is pivotal. For economists, Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action can be mind-changing.

Recently I came across a little essay in a book called Adventures of Ideas, by Alfred North Whitehead, the British philosopher and Harvard professor. The essay, "From Force to Persuasion," had a profound effect upon me. Actually what caught my attention was a single passage on page 83. This one small excerpt in a 300-page book changed my entire political philosophy.

Here’s what it says:

"The creation of the world — said Plato — is the victory of persuasion over force… Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals…

"Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."

Professor Whitehead’s vision of civilized society as the triumph of persuasion over force should become paramount in the mind of all civic-minded individuals and government leaders. It should serve as the guideline for the political ideal.

Let me suggest, therefore, a new political creed: The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.

Surely this is a fundamental principle to which most citizens, no matter where they fit on the political spectrum, can agree.
by Mark and Jo Ann Skousen, read the rest.

Parenting Can Be Fun!

Someone recently pointed me to this article about how parents hate parenting. Yup, there’s lots of research to prove that we do, including a study by Nobel Prize behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman in which he surveyed over nine hundred women; child care ranked sixteenth in “pleasurability” out of nineteen activities, below things like cooking, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, and housework. Now, I am far from being a mother goddess, but this surprised me.
by Wendy Priesnitz, read the rest.

Re: The Case Against Time-out

We've stopped punishing our kids with time-outs or spankings. We've stopped punishing them completely. Instead, we meet their needs, as Dr. Haiman lays out. I know parents that have kids, and the only reason, it seems, they had them was to decorate their life. When their children get "nasty", they get nastier. It's a disgusting display of parental tyranny, in my opinion. Ditch the poor parenting, and choose love.

The Case Against Time-out

For generations, parents have sought a reliable and dependable way to handle childhood misbehavior. The most recent and popular discipline technique is time-out. Although time-out is better than spanking, it is not an appropriate way for parents to cope with the misbehavior of their children. Moreover, the use of time-out can create subsequent childhood behavior problems. These problems can affect the well-being of the child and severely strain the parent-child relationship.
by Dr. Peter Haiman, Ph.D., read the rest.

The Case for a Voluntary Society

Guest post by Chase Rachels.

The establishment of a few axiomatic truths is required to make rational inferences from observed activity. Examples of these include: no object can be in two places at the same time, one and one make two, and of course “A” is “A”. It would seem, however, that an additional claim has made its way to this list of self-evident truths with little conscious awareness; the necessity of the State. Of all the commonly accepted truisms, this one is among the least scrutinized and the most dubious. All other axioms may be verifiable from direct observation. You are you (the philosophic equivalent of “A is A”) can be verified by looking in the mirror. One and one make two may be verified by taking an individual stone and placing it next to another. However, how do we verify the necessity of the state? The first response may be “well it has always been there!” This of course is a non-sequitur as the longevity of the state has nothing to do with its validity. Perhaps other examples of tribal or archaic societies will be cited to show the state as being necessary to protect us from such a base or savage lifestyle. However, these examples also tend to fit within the definitional parameters of a “State”.

This of course brings us to the question of “What is the State?” In the words of Dr. Hans Hermann Hoppe the State “is defined as an agency characterized by two unique, logically connected features. First, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision making. That is, the state is the ultimate arbiter in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself. It allows no appeal above and beyond itself. Second, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that unilaterally fixes the price that private citizens must pay for the state's service as ultimate judge and enforcer of law and order.” (Hoppe) The conflict of interest should be apparent and the logic of the definition sound. Extrapolated from this definition is the State’s exclusive “legal” right to initiate the use of force against others, peaceful or otherwise.

Now that we know what the State is we may conclude that Anarchy is what the State is not: A society organized and based exclusively on voluntary exchange, association, and intercourse. Before the practical application of an anarchic system is elaborated upon, it would behoove us to review the two fundamental principles upon which it is based: The Non-Aggression Principle and The Principle of Self-Ownership. In the words of Dr. Murray Rothbard the Non-Aggression Principle states that “No man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else…. ‘Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.” (Rothbard, 23) The State must necessarily be in conflict with this principle as its functioning is predicated upon the initiation of the use of force and coercion. Thus, proponents of the Non-Aggression Principle must endorse a system of anarchy as the only viable and logically consistent alternative to the State. This is of course tautological; if you are pro-state you must be anti-anarchy and vice-versa, since the existence of one negates that of the other. There is no third option. Thus phrases like “I am for a non-coercive state” or “I support a state that does not operate by means of initiating force” are contradictory since coercion and force initiation are both intrinsic attributes of State function.

Dr. Rothbard carries on to define the Principle of Self Ownership as “the absolute right of each man by virtue of his/her being a human being, to ‘own’ his or her own body; that is, to control the body free of coercive interference.” (Rothbard, 28) For the reasons stated above, this principle is also in direct conflict with the premises of the State. There are only two alternatives to this statement. One is that another person or group of persons has a higher claim to your body than you do. This philosophy of course lends itself to aristocracy, oligarchy, and despotism. The other is that everyone has an equal claim to everyone else’s body, so no one fully owns anyone nor do they own themselves. This philosophy of course lends itself to ideas of democracy, socialism, and communism. This second alternative is the philosophical premise upon which our current state rests upon today. Some may argue that perhaps it’s a hybrid of these two alternatives with those in Washington being the oligarchs and the populace being the mutually owned proletariat, however, what can be certain is that we are not being permitted to exercise exclusive rights to our sovereign bodies as stated in the Principle of Self Ownership. One final premise I would like to establish prior to our discussion of a practical application of anarchy are the necessary criteria for the ownership of property. The first one is original appropriation, or in other words “finders keepers.” If you so happen to stumble upon an unclaimed good in nature then you may claim ownership of said good if you so choose. The second criterion is simply a consequence of the first as it states that anything you produce from your originally appropriated good is also yours. Dr. Hoppe states the third and final means by which one may attain rightful ownership over a good to be through “…voluntary, contractual transfer of its property title from a previous to a later owner. To deny these truths is to claim that a second person or set of people have a higher claim on your property, or that everyone shares an equal share of all property.” (Hoppe) Notice that Dr. Hoppe’s final point mirrors the alternatives to the Principle of Self-Ownership; this is not merely coincident. At least one of these three aforementioned criteria must be met in order for an individual to be considered the rightful owner of a given good.

Quickly, I would like to suggest a methodology of evaluating the merits of anarchy. The first point I would like to make is that the following stateless solutions to complex social problems I will be proposing are not meant to be authoritative, rather they are simply meant to be viewed as plausible examples of how said problems could or may be resolved. The marketplace of ideas driven by billions of minds will doubtlessly come up with much more refined and innovative solutions to the issues we will be discussing shortly. Secondly, I ask that when you evaluate the validity of these proposals that you compare them to current state methods and their corresponding efficacy as opposed to an ideal or utopic society. Many of us tend to make that unfair contrast when scrutinizing such theories.

First and foremost I would like to discuss two ideas and/or functions which all States ascribe to: taxation and social contract. Let us start by breaking down the implications of taxation, by first asking its purpose. Well that is simple enough; taxes are imposed on any given people as a means to fund the operations of the state. Taxes come in many forms ranging from sales tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, income tax, inflation tax (printing money), excise tax, tariffs …etc. There are too many to make an exhaustive list, suffice to say the State prides itself in its ability to formulate different means to tax its constituents. The common element shared by all taxes, however, is their mandatory nature. Payment of these taxes is not conditional, and anyone caught trying to evade said payments will be quickly punished in the form of fines, imprisonment, or even death. Thus it may be concluded that taxation in itself is a form of coercion as condemned by the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) stated above. We can take this conclusion further by equating taxation to theft, i.e. you are compelled to pay them under the threat of coercion. Whether the act is committed by a common thug or an agent of the State with a shiny badge and a funny hat, coercing an individual to relinquish his/her personal effects is an act of theft. Anarchists are diametrically and fundamentally opposed to theft as it is in direct violation of both its fundamental principles of Non-Aggression and Self-Ownership. On a side note, it is counter-intuitive for States to claim that in order to protect your property they must first fund their protective measures by violating the very property rights they portend to protect through taxation! This type of cognitive dissonance is typical of the State when attempting to validate its existence. Some may say that taxation is not theft because we get a product or service in return in the form of a public good be it a road or a public library. However, this is analogous to purchasing a car for someone in his/her name and expecting him/her to pay for it. It is ludicrous to expect someone to pay for a product or service he/she did not agree to purchasing even if the individual is able to enjoy the benefits of said public good (as in the case of national defense). Where there is no consent, there may be no liability, and this brings us to the highly acclaimed Social Contract.

Does this phrase sound familiar to you? “If you don’t like Country X then you can get the f*&$ out!” I may be digressing, but I thought it noteworthy to acknowledge the “insult upon injury” expectation to not only pay for a service you didn’t ask for, but to also not complain about what you get or even offer alternative means of its production or allocation. This idea is of course completely at odds with the free market. Reverting back to the Social Contract, I feel it to first be in order to define exactly what a Social Contract is in the context of the State in relation to its constituents. A Social Contract is, in short, a binding contract applied to all persons arbitrarily determined to fall under the jurisdiction (typically determined by their physical residence) of the State. Being under the State’s arbitrarily determined jurisdiction is literally the only requisite for the contract to be binding. Your lack of individual and voluntary consent is immaterial. Again, we find another conflict with the premises of the State, as Anarchists recognize the only valid contracts to be ones in which are individually and voluntarily agreed upon absent the threat of coercion. You may say that “well we do in fact choose and therefore voluntarily consent to such public goods through the process of voting!” Yet again, even assuming you aren’t just voting in self-defense for fear that someone may use the state against you if you refrain, a majority vote does not translate into the consent of each individual being bound by the contract. “Well, what if we could get unanimous consent? Would it still then be considered an invalid contract?” If society can achieve unanimous consent on a particular issue then the involvement of the state would be entirely superfluous. At that point the State would be an unnecessary middle-man.

Next we will evaluate the age-old argument that the state is necessary to protect the good people from the bad people. So let us first take a step back and consider the four possibilities of societal makeup.
  1. All men are moral. If this is true then of course there is no need for a state, since the threat of “bad” people will inherently be nil.
  2. All men are immoral. If this is a case then we are all screwed and any attempt to form a state can only result in the wicked tyrannizing everyone else. This situation may be the most representative of the stereotypical Mad Max view of Anarchy.
  3. The majority of men are moral and a minority immoral. This is what I personally believe to be the case. However, since the state represents the institutional monopoly over the “legal” initiation of the use of force over others, then certainly evil people will occupy a great many positions of authority in that system as good people tend to not seek this coercive power. A curious observation on this point is that many people tend to think of the state as immune from infiltration by immoral people; however it would seem the contrary is closer to the truth. Even if some good people are able to attain positions of authority in this system, many of them will succumb to corruption from exposure to this unnatural coercive power.
  4. The majority of men are immoral and the minority is moral. In this case a State would certainly be destructive as the constituents, which as stated above consist of a majority of immoral persons, would simply use their voting power to push through immoral policies.
Thus we may conclude that in all four possible situations, the State is not a preferable solution to the issue of the existential threat posed by evil people (Molyneux, 90).

Before we can discuss law and order, I must first introduce the ideas of dispute resolution organizations (DRO) a.k.a third party arbiters and the diverse application of insurance companies.

Third party arbitration is simply the private form of what we know today as the court system. The difference is, however, that the arbiters being used in any dispute between two or more parties must be agreed upon by each party before any subsequent arbitration may take place. This successfully averts the sticky conflict of being subject to laws under which an individual does not agree. Again, think back to the idea of Social Contract. If rulings by any DRO are seen to biased or unjust then the individual may always play the trump card and make the ruling public, and if the claim is found to be valid then there will be a loss of major business for this dubious DRO. Also keep in mind that it would be in the interest of any competing DRO’s to detect this type of foul play. Thus, this system of competing DRO’s, consumer evaluations, and the press serve to regulate and temper any potential abuse of arbitration power. The success of a particular DRO will be predicated upon consumer satisfaction, reputable past dealings, availability of subject matter experts related to various disputes, and the degree to which their rulings are viewed as valid which again goes hand in hand with its reputation. Furthermore, the DRO’s level of interoperability with other DRO’s will be another major factor in its success and profitability. A real world example of this would be the cell phone industry; would you really want an AT&T phone if you could not talk to someone using Sprint or Verizon? Thus, there are obvious economic incentives for these DRO’s, as well as other third party insurance organizations, to establish a high degree of reciprocity and interoperability within their operational procedures.

Let us move on to the establishment of property ownership. This may be accomplished by the certification of a third party service provider. It would be in the consumer’s best interest to select a widely recognizable certifier so as to decrease the probability of losing an arbitration battle against someone with a competing claim on the given property. If a property dispute takes place, the third party arbitrators may simply review the date at which the disputed property was claimed by each of the self-proclaimed owners along with the validity of the records provided to determine the ruling. Again, a third party arbitrator may also provide a means for the prospective patron to appeal any unfavorable judgment as a means to qualm his/her concerns of these potentially sticky situations and thus make its service that much more desirable. And of course as mentioned earlier, the consumer will always wield the whistle blowing trump card.

Next we move on to the applicability of insurance companies. In a stateless society one’s reputation is vital for his/her economic viability. Many businesses will have a vested interest in verifying a given person’s reputability before dealing with said individual, so as to determine the probability of transactional reciprocation (the chances that the person will/or can actually pay for the product or service being offered). With the presence of such a demand, it will be highly likely that insurance companies or some other third party will provide the service of easily scannable and conveniently accessible third party records. These records could include a plethora of information ranging from a person’s credit history, criminal history, medical information…etc. Of course, many businesses would likely require or highly recommend the usage of such personal records when conducting business and different businesses will place a different amount of weight on different pieces of information. Of course these personal records may be conveniently stored and carried in the form of a card or even an RFID chip. The individual will be economically compelled to attain this service and will probably also have to submit his/herself to a few stipulations set by the insurance/records provider in the case of misconduct during the patronage of said service. For example, if he/she decides to steal, the premiums for the insurance will likely increase as he/she becomes viewed as a higher risk and the individual will be required to compensate the affected owner of said stolen property before coverage is reinstated.

The same methodology would apply to anyone who murders or rapes or performs any other form of misconduct. The costs of compensation or even length of voluntary confinement will be in proportion to the heinous degree of the crime committed. One may object however “what if the person goes off the grid?” Well, two things: First, the person will have to forgo all the luxuries that the division of labor provides and deal with the plights of economic ostracism. Second, the risk for this exists under a State system so it is not an argument against Anarchy in favor of the State. In addition, it would be in these insurance companies best interest to create an environment where these altercations are prevented, as this is the only guaranteed situation where the insurance company will profit. The State not only is absent this incentive to prevent crime, it actually has every incentive to allow it to increase so that it may justify an expansion in its budget. Also, most victims prefer a form of monetary restitution to having to pay for their offender’s incarceration fees through taxes! Simply put, in a free society with no trading prohibitions, the economic incentives for crime are dramatically decreased whilst there is a corresponding increase in the incentive to conduct honest business. Anarchy does in no way rely upon the good nature of people to function properly; it only assumes that people are motivated by self-interest. This does not preclude the existence of altruism, however, as acts of altruism are inherently voluntary.

Next the dreaded question of National Defense! Well we run into the age old collective action problem, where some claim that if everyone is not forced to pay or if they do not have assurances that others will pay, then they themselves will not either. However, there is plenty of empirical evidence to the contrary. Let’s take tipping for example, most people tip even though they are well aware of the possibility that others will not. These defense DRO’s will, unlike the State system of national defense, be primarily concerned with economic efficiency. They will attempt to provide the highest degree of defense at the lowest cost. Additionally, there will not be the moral hazard that permits them to be used to police the world and “secure interests”, because their existence will be predicated on continuous patronage of its customers, who will not be willing to fund such unnecessary and costly adventurism. It is the very fact that many are concerned with foreign invasion that will serve to fuel the demand requisite for the manifestation of a defense DRO service and its associated financial viability. Also, these defense DROs may provide its patrons with donor cards which various businesses may offer discounts for showing. Again, this is all speculation, but hopefully you are able to see the viability of such an arrangement. Furthermore, the lack of gun controls will discourage domestic criminals or foreign invaders from heedlessly invading the country or a given person's property. A disarmed populace, after all, is just asking for predatory targeting. Finally, private security firms would rise out of the lack of desire for people to have to protect themselves.

This leads us to our final point of “how do we prevent the manifestation of another State out of these Defense DROs and private security firms?” Well, this is an obvious concern, and as such, when said Defense DRO or private security firm is soliciting to you their services they will have to find an innovative way to qualm this fear. Perhaps some methods may include subjecting themselves to third party inspections to ensure they are not amassing a secret army (the funding of which would raise a myriad of other obstacles which we will not elaborate on). Perhaps they will also set up a trust fund managed by a third party in which they will submit to you if they are found to be operating outside of their contractual guidelines. Again, everyone’s prosperity and livelihood in a stateless society would be intrinsically tied to the continued absence of the State. This, therefore, would provide the self-interested incentive for consumers to demand safe-guards against the manifestation of such a State. Finally, would it not be considered a funny concern that there is a mere chance of a state forming in an anarchic system? How would ensuring the existence of a state possibly be seen as a preferable alternative to this? Certainly this is a ridiculous suggestion.

I know we only covered a few topics, but hopefully now you have not only learned the ethical basis behind the idea of Anarchy, but also the viability of its practical application. For those of you who think that Anarchy is just an idealistic notion, ask yourself is the more realistic one really a system that is funded through coercion and whose policies are formulated by a select few and whose compliance is mandated under threat of violence? Is this not the incredibly idealistic and I would argue irrational and evil notion? Please, I only ask at the very least not that you agree, but that you instead refrain from supporting the use of violence to forcibly impose your will on me. I promise I will pay you the same respect.

Works Cited

  • Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "State or Private-Law Society - Hans-Hermann Hoppe - Mises Daily." Ludwig Von Mises Institute. 9 May 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.
  • Molyneux, Stefan. Practical Anarchy. Freedomain Library, 2008. Print.
  • Rothbard, Murray Newton. For a New Liberty: the Libertarian Manifesto. San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1978. Print.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Can Free Markets Guarantee Freedom?

Guest post by Spencer Morgan.

How Can Free Markets Guarantee Freedom in the Absence of a Strong Central Power?

Freedom can’t guarantee anything. It’s not a top-down system or a mechanism that we can evaluate by a comparison to the various models of centralized control. By definition, it is the absence of that control. The “system” in a totally free society is nothing more or less than the cooperation of millions of free individuals acting voluntarily with one another. It is not a blueprint for Utopia. Conflicts and mistakes will arise, just as they do now. The difference in a free society is that, in theory, conditions of liberty have already been reached. One of these is the absence of the widespread perception that holding a badge, a title or a written edict from a bunch of people in a fancy white building conveys automatic and implicit morality to the actions of the person taking them.

Yes, until the validity of that concept is largely destroyed in society, a sudden absence of state institutions would be very tumultuous and likely to lead to a new and possibly more abusive state. People would simply act on that concept and empower a new group of rulers. Since the state is merely a conceptual abstraction by which people mentally assign validity to the actions of certain individuals, then anarchy (being the absence of the state) is also merely the prevailing absence of such a perception. For a more detailed treatment of this line of thinking, I highly recommend Alfred E. Cuzan’s essay “Do We Ever Really Get Out of Anarchy?

If groups of people try to rise up and control everyone once a condition has been reached where the state is seen as an illegitimate concept, and where people live their daily lives in the absence of the state, they may have some success in imposing their will by force and fraud. That success, however, would be extremely limited in such a society because it would only be of effect among those whom these criminals could employ or threaten with force. The key component necessary for any group of them to become what we know now as a government, and maintain ongoing control over society will not be available to them. That element is the widespread perception of their legitimacy. This is the primary difference between our state institutions and the Mafia. The Mafia knows they can't accomplish the accepted control over all of society in a given geographic area. In a free society, the realities which prevent that now would prevent any group of humans from doing so.

As for the question of how to have armed defense in a given locality without an authoritarion system in control, a lot of intellectual work has been done so there's no need to reinvent this wheel. The drafters of the American Constitution, while they weren't fully applying the philsophy of liberty, did recognize that centralized military institutions were more of a threat to freedom than a protection. This is why they preferred to place more trust in a militia system comprised essentially of the entire armed populace. A voluntary, self-armed militia could, in a given situation of need, come together to accomplish a defensive objective. One guy you may not have heard of from this era, because he got the 2nd most votes to head the colonial Army (behind George Washington), is General Charles Lee. He was a former British officer who was exiled for his vocal support of the colonists and wrote extensively on a theory of military strategy consistent with individual liberty. Private security companies would, no doubt, also play a role and would have a motive to fill any need for which there is demand from voluntarily paying customers.

Tacit Submission

Do you and I willingly give up our freedom and property for the benefits of living in these United States? Do we tacitly consent to oppression by not moving to another country? Do we tacitly consent to the authority of our governments by not rebelling, by not throwing the tea into Boston harbor?

John Locke and many today say "yes"; we tacitly accept the State by paying our taxes, by receiving its benefits (such as property protection!), and by not emigrating. They say we acquiesce in an implicit contract in which we give up freedom or accept compulsion in exchange for other things that we value.

This view is dead wrong. Why is it wrong? We are born into a system, we are chained from the start. The deck is stacked against us. The State has powers that it accumulated many decades ago, before you and I were born, and has accumulated since. We can change our position only at great cost. If we calculate whether to consent or not, we seemingly consent because we expect that to fight will cost us dearly without our securing a gain. We are not making a social contract freely entered into. There are guns to all our heads, one of which is PAY YOUR TAXES. Protest that and you go to jail. Call this consent?

People love their country — their area, their people, their culture, their place. To move is a wrenching experience. Why should we have to move anyway? So we stay on despite the State's impositions. Call this consent?

The State controls education. The State passes out favors to garner support from intellectuals and the press. The State manufactures propaganda. The State ties as many people up in the knots of social programs and subsidies as it can. The State deifies itself. Basically, the slaves are indoctrinated to love their masters and fear any other situation. How can anyone enter a contract with open eyes and freely when the other side has educated you from day one to pledge allegiance to it, to accept that the State is the source of your prosperity, and to threaten you with loss of what you have if you resist? If your education is so poor that you do not know where prosperity and happiness come from — and they are not from the State — then you are a sitting duck for all sorts of misinformation and propaganda. Call this consent?
by Michael Rozeff, read the rest.

Re: Voluntaryism is a Vehicle

Nic, you've one-upped me for the last time!! Beautiful, well put.

Re: Voluntaryism is a Vehicle

Guest post Nicholas Hooton.

I think even "anarchism" and "a free society" are vehicles. The destinations are unwritten. Each man, family and organization will have its own destination, and will be completely free to pursue it. Voluntaryism will be a vehicle for capitalists to innovate and create abundance in a cutthroat competitive marketplace. It will be a vehicle for Latter-day Saints to live in the United Order. It will be a vehicle for mutualists to collectively share a set of natural resources and production means to benefit all. It will be a vehicle for each man, woman and child to pursue whatever dream or aspiration or vocation they wish, free of arbitrary limits imposed by coercive dictates. Their only limits will be the volition of others, the right of others to be as free as they are.

Voluntaryism is a Vehicle

Doug Kendall wrote in a Facebook group, "Voluntaryism is the vehicle, not the destination."

As long as I've identified as a voluntaryist, I've never looked at it quite like that. I've always considered voluntaryism as a less-controversial synonym of "anarchism". Really, though, as Doug points out, voluntaryism is the vehicle, anarchism, the "free society", the "absence of the state", or even "the absence of unrighteous dominion" is the destination. Love it.

Destroying Childhood to Save Children

Society is deeply schizophrenic about children.

On the one hand, there is the Sandusky response. Jerry Sandusky is the former Penn State football coach accused of serial child molestation. Even before a trial, states are scrambling to pass new laws to require universities and athletic associations to report any suspicion of child abuse. In this response, children are defenseless and desperately need their innocence protected by diligent adults.

On the other hand, there is the public-school response. A mere sampling of news stories from last week:
  • A 9-year-old is suspended for sexual harassment because he told another student that a teacher is “cute.” 
  • A high school student is handcuffed for wearing a hoodie that did not match school colors. 
  • A 13-year-old student is arrested for allegedly burping during class. 
  • A 7-year-old is investigated for sexual harassment for hitting a boy in the groin who was allegedly choking him.
In this response, children are dangerous brutes and adults should treat them as emerging criminals.

Both approaches harm children.
by Wendy McElroy, read the rest.

Society's Survival May Depend Upon Kids Who Haven't Been to School

"Once again I have heard the term 'anarchy' incorrectly used to describe an incident of vandalism, violence, and mayhem said to have been perpetrated by 'anarchists.' In reality, anarchy can be defined as a society without a popularly recognized government or a central governing authority. And that, most people assume, will automatically lead to vandalism, violence, and mayhem. Why do they think that?" - Wendy Priesnitz, read the rest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Political Cycle

Guest post by Ben Speers.

A couple years ago, back when I was in the limited government phase of my political belief progression, I wrote down a very brief outline of what I believed to be the cycle of politics in most nations throughout history. Today I rewrote that outline based on voluntaryist principles.

Here is the original outline (to be read as a chronological flow chart):
A. Peace and prosperity
B. Materialism, moral decline, apathy
C. Cumbersome bureaucracy, personality cults, centralization of power
D. Dictatorship
E. Unchallenged tyranny, extreme corruption
F. Restlessness among the oppressed
G. Attempted overthrow of dictator. If successful I, if failed H.
H. Even worse oppression, eventually spurring an even stronger insurgency: G
I. Lawlessness, anarchy
J. New government demanded. If dictatorial, D, if too weak, I, if balanced, A
And here is the new, voluntaryist outline (I have used numbers instead of letters so as to avoid confusion with the original outline):
1. Anarchy: if people are virtuous, the system is stable, if not, 2.
2. A government is set up.
3. A relatively high amount of prosperity is retained if the government is limited, if not, 5.
4. The limits of the government are gradually eroded by ambitious, greedy parties.
5. Prosperity declines as the government becomes more oppressive.
6. Morbidly obese, broken government is overthrown either by internal revolution or foreign invasion.
7. If the warring factions destroy each other or simply refuse to form a government, then 1, if not, 2.
Some people might ask why peace and prosperity leads to moral decline. My thinking is that when things are going well, many people gain a false sense of security and invulnerability and are thus more likely to inadvertently sow the seeds of their own destruction. This is especially true under the state, wherein people may generally be less vigilant in restraining government if they feel that government is doing a good job of securing their prosperity (which is, or course, an illusion).

The greatest weakness of the original outline was, in my opinion, the very flawed assumption that anarchy causes so much violence that people must--and should--demand that a new government be set up. Widespread, extreme violence can exist under anarchy if people fail to set up private systems of commerce, security, and justice. In fact, it may not even occur to people--at least not immediately--to set up such systems if they are mentally addicted to statism. However, anarchy need not necessarily be violent. It can be peaceful and extremely conducive to prosperity if people realize that the state is not the only possible mechanism for securing their rights. Indeed, the state has a proven, universal record of being more dangerous towards than protective of personal liberty.

Likewise, the assumption that limited government, or "just the right amount of government," is ideal is also flawed. History has shown that limited government is, in the long run, chimerical. The mere existence of state-enforced government, no matter how constitutionally limited and small to begin with, creates some very powerful incentives for abuse, mission creep, and auto-aggrandizement. And in any case, if coercion and violence-based governance is immoral, then even a little bit of it is wrong.

It would be appropriate at this point to explain what I mean by "virtuous" in number 1 of the new outline. I intend to write a more detailed article about this very question in the near future, so I'll keep this brief for the time being. Basically, people need to respect their fellow human beings' rights and be thoughtful, open-minded, and innovative.

This is the opposite of the "morbidly obese, broken government" described in step 6. What I mean by that description is a government that is extremely corrupt, mind-bogglingly inefficient, oppressive, over-stretched militarily, and lacking sustainable funding. This is the typical end-state of nations that attempt to control every aspect of people's lives (i.e., most or all nations), which inevitably becomes an expensive enterprise and often leads to extreme deficit spending, unrecoverable debt, unsustainable borrowing, and runaway inflation.

So, how can the cycle be broken? I could probably write a book addressing that question, but the short answer is that, as the outline says, people must possess the necessary virtues at the right time, namely when the state collapses. When intelligent, liberty-loving people are able to educate and persuade enough of their neighbors to support private solutions to 'public' problems, then the people will be ready for a sustainable stateless society.

Spanking as Punishment

A friend linked to this Australian study showing that most parents still spank their kids. I'm not surprised by this at all.

For me, and I'd like to think most parents, you feel bad when you spank, but you do it because you think you have to, that it's the only way to raise a child to become a healthy adult. I learned that that isn't the case, and that spanking was a counter-productive means to that end.

I wasn't spanking because I wanted to be mean, I was spanking because I thought it would "work". Once I learned it didn't, it was easy for me stop. I wasn't married to it, or punishment, as a tool, and I don't think most parents are either. That's where education comes in, and where this website comes in.

Read Kohn's work "Unconditional Parenting", watch his DVD presentation, and peruse Jan Hunt's and Naomi Aldort's archives of articles. If you spank and punish, your parenting is broken. So fix it.

Layout and Formatting

I've been messing with the layout and formatting of the site lately. Apologies if you accessed it while it was all jumbled up, and thought maybe a bomb had exploded. Voluntaryists are not bomb-throwers. I think I've settled on something for the time being.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Everything-Voluntary Newsletter

Feedburner, which handles our RSS/Atom feed, has an email subscription service. It creates a daily newsletter of all new posts on the website. This can be subscribed to by clicking here, or the Newsletter tab at the top of the page.

How Can a Free Market Provide What the State is Doing Now?

Guest post by Spencer Morgan.

It's a trap!  The question "show me how the free market will do this" is usually just a desperate attempt to create a diversion from the moral issue surrounding the use of force, and it is most likely not being presented to you by a sincere person likely to accept the idea of free markets if you answer these questions effectively.  I have seen a few exceptions to this, so use judgment.  Here is the essence of what I've found to be the most effective way of responding to this.

If "the state" is undertaking something now, it's probably not accomplishing that goal at all and is even, as is very often the case, perpetuating the problem. This results from the built-in incentive for them to do so.  Good examples of this are the "war on drugs" the "war on poverty" or the education system.  The actions that result in the achievment of whatever goal is being undertaken by the state are still carried out by real, individual people. The difference between a government-managed system and a free market has nothing to do with whether people would come together to achieve their desires, but why they would do so.  To set up a choice between the shoddy way the state is providing something and the total absence thereof, is not a choice among of options that has any relationship to reality.  In a free market people come together voluntarily out of mutual interests or to provide a product or service to fill voluntary economic demand that exists.  If the good or service in question is desired enough by people, it will be accomplished in a free society and most importantly it will be accomplished in the optimal way instead of via outdated models of bureaucratic planning.  When people ask me some variation of this classic question, I just say "people will do it, just like they do now" and go back to the moral issue surrounding the use of force involved in anything undertaken via government action.

One can spend hours learning historical examples of these things being provided without government, and developing complex prognostications of what would arise in the absence of government, but nobody who is too insecure about the idea of freedom is going to be convinced by that.  They don't want the inherent risks of liberty, which are just the risks of life and which the existence of the state does not actually remove.  What the state does for them is it gives them a purely conceptual security blanket in their mind against these risks.  What they're reacting to is the removal of that fictional security blanket, but it is that very concept that needs to go in order for free markets and a voluntary society to be achieved, so it's useless to try to package the free market as a replacement for this security blanket.

The factors that make free markets more effective at resolving problems, are the very same factors which make them harder to predict.  That is their dynamic and fluid capability brought to bear not by some distant bureaucratic committee, but by the millions of free, individual humans able to act on individual priorities.  The reality is that if humans want it and are willing to work and pay for it, it will happen in a free market.  If something doesn't get accomplished in an environment of free economic decisions, this is not to be seen as an indication of a "failure of the free market system" but as a market signal that the goal against which it is being measured was not worth holding as a goal because not enough desire for it exists among free human beings.   If the person you're talking to doesn't value freedom as an end, but merely as a means to achieve something that the planned economy is (or claims to be) providing to them now, move on or help them understand the basics of what liberty is first.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Medicate Your Kids, or Else

Whether or not one believes that ADHD actually exists, it is clear that redefining normal but inconvenient childhood behavior – or behavior resulting from children’s emotional discomfort or physical reaction to the world we’ve created for them – as a mental disorder is exploitation by those wanting to make money. And it is even worse to terrorize parents into complying. Shame on anyone participating in that activity.
by Wendy Priesnitz, read the rest.

Slaving Away in the School Factory

You see, the problem is that unschooled kids have fun. They play. They noodle around inside and outdoors, at home and in their communities, messing with projects, indulging their passions, and generally having a good time. These kids are continually demonstrating that learning isn’t hard work when it is need- and interest-based, and when the learner is in control…that, in fact, learning (not to mention life) is fun, even exciting. They are showing that there is no need for being processed by means of mostly irrelevant prepared curriculum, stressful tests, or long hours spent listening to boring lectures or memorizing monotonous and out-of-context facts.
by Wendy Priesnitz, read the rest.

Re: Bah Humbug to The Christmas Carol

Skyler, I actually disagree with this conclusion.

A Christmas Carol, to me, has always been about God intervening in someone's life and telling him to turn it around. Scrooge changed his ways because he saw a horrible future if he kept on treating others poorly and taking everything for granted.

The Spirits showed him how his life was going to turn out, but they did not force him. This is a lot like God  giving mankind the freedom to choose the path He wants us to follow (in the Judeo-Christian sense). Charles Dickens was also a Christian, so that's the way I always saw it. I think it was written as a morality tale of what happens when you close your heart and start to turn a blind eye towards suffering.

-ZA

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Voluntary System of the Friends Church

I'm going to be focusing on the voluntaryist side of the Friends (Quakers) instead of the spiritual or religious side due to this being a societal/political blog.

The Friends system originated with the frustration of a man named George Fox who lived in the seventeenth century. He felt a distance from God and he was very uncomfortable with the traditions and rituals other churches performed. He asked several spiritual leaders why he was feeling distant from God. They all told him different ideas to help get connected again. None of those ideas helped.

After getting frustrated with those methods he decided that he should start his own branch of Christianity. There's also a big part which involves God, but I won't go into that here... just know that there was a lot more than his frustration that motivated him.

Fox embraced the ideas that the Seed of Christ is within all of us and we should live according the Bible and according to our own consciences. He also believed, since every person is an individual, that God speaks to us through different ways. He went as far to believe that no person is born greater than another, so leaders are equal to the congregation and they should be treated as such.

This movement, as with all new nonconformist movements, really wasn't popular and the Quakers were persecuted. Because of this belief of equality, the Quakers developed a system where everyone works together to function as a group. The head minister is elected through the congregation, but he doesn't have complete and total control of it. He is just responsible for the spiritual care (counseling, prayer, etc) and for delivering the sermons.

Everything else is controlled by people who are elected within the church. Many people have claimed that churches should be controlled in a monarchical system which should be controlled by a pastor and that it can't function in a voluntary setting. However, in the Friends church I am a part of, there has not been one financial disaster or any cases of corruption within the leadership. Also, the denomination that I'm a part of has been around since 1893.

Now this doesn't mean that the Friends are essentially right-wing because of this. We actually believe that political ideas are something for the conscience to decide, and that it's between you and God.

In fact, one of the most beautiful things about this system is that we respect each other's individual differences while working together in the name of Christ. That being said, the system we have is based on voluntaryist ideals. It's also very hard to be corrupt within this system since it's impossible to take power over everything.

In conclusion, the Friends have demonstrated that it's possible to run things without a leader, besides Big Guns Upstairs, telling them how to do things.

-ZA

Contact and "Like" Me on Facebook (it's the best method to reach me):  The Zen Anarchist

Re: Bah Humbug to The Christmas Carol

There's been some lively discussion on this thread here and here. I'm open-minded, but have yet to be convinced. Feel free to chime in if you feel strongly either way, and please keep it civil and ad hominem-free.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bah Humbug to The Christmas Carol

December's finally here and I've been waiting to post this. We're all familiar with the classic story The Christmas Carol, and how "evil" Ebeneezer Scrooge is. 2 years ago I shared on my Truth blog an essay by Butler Shaffer that completely changed my opinion of this story. Here's what I posted then:
I couldn't believe it when I saw it. A defense of that universally-loathed villain Ebenezer Scrooge. I recently came across this exceptionally written piece and absolutely must share it. I should warn you, however, that reading this may well destroy for you what is regarded as a well-beloved Christmas story. It did for me. No more do I have the same opinions of Scrooge or even Bob Cratchit. Actually, although it's caused me to remove this story from favorites list, I'm glad I've read this piece as it has connected my study of economics with my childhood.
What I didn't pay too much attention to at the time was this part:
The morally culpable wrongdoers in this shakedown of my client (Scrooge), though, have to be the spirits, who trespass, at night, upon the quiet enjoyment of my client's premises to terrify him with previews of his own demise should he not succumb to their demands to part with his money. No more blatant act of criminal extortion could be imagined than that visited upon my client by these spirits.
Much more could be said about this. Their methods, based as they are on violence, should be abhorrent to a civilized person. They kidnap Scrooge's mind and force him against his will to witness several terrifying episodes. When considering that the entire story is premised on a violence-induced and coerced change of heart, it becomes a horrible piece of literature. I absolutely hate this story. It's disgusting and deserving of a place inside a garbage heap among it's fellow refuse.

Wait to show it to your children until they're old enough to understand how evil and garbage-filled it is. It contains important lessons in this regard. And really, I can't recommend highly enough a reading of this sobering essay by Shaffer.

Skyler.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Says Veresapiens,
If the guiding principle shaping a society was "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (TSNS), what kind of government, legal, and social systems would the society have?

Before we begin to answer that question, we need to review one important aspect of TSNS. If you 'own' something, it means that you have total control over it. If someone takes away some or all of your control, then because they are taking away your ownership, they are stealing from you.

That means that if someone takes any control over your life, they are taking some ownership of your life. Taking ownership without permission is stealing.

People living by TSNS, then, would not make rules, or laws, to control others' behavior. That would be stealing.

People living by TSNS would make rules as to the acceptable use of their own property and the acceptable behavior of visitors on their property. And people living by TSNS may defend their property from unacceptable aggression by others. None of those things would take away others' full ownership of their own lives and property.

If a society based on TSNS would make no laws to control, mandate, or prohibit anyone's actions, then it would have no need for a government. In fact, any form of government, including democracy, would be incompatible with a TSNS-based society.

For a whole society to live by "Thou Shalt Not Steal" as a guiding principle requires a totally voluntaryist social structure - one with no government at all.
Can we get an Amen?!

Re: In an Ideal Nation

I wanted say a thing or two about this piece by Leonard Read.

Though Read was not a complete voluntaryist, you could call him a minarchist, this list of ideals are entirely voluntaryist. In fact, "to buy or not to buy any service or product offered for sale, even if the refusal displeases the seller" applies as much to government services such as law and security as it does to oil changes, shoe shines, and, less virtuously, prostitution.

I have it on good authority that Read new full well that his logic led one to complete voluntaryism (anarchism), but decided not to publicly embrace it. Read, as you may or may not know, founded the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946, an educational institution on all things economics and liberty. I've read their flagship publication, The Freeman, for going-on 6 years now.

In an Ideal Nation

Every person should be free
  • to pursue his ambition to the full extent of his abilities, regardless of race or creed or family background.
  • to associate with whom he pleases for any reason he pleases, even if someone else thinks it's a stupid reason.
  • to worship God in his own way, even if it isn't "orthodox."
  • to choose his own trade and to apply for any job he wants — and to quit his job if he doesn't like it or if he gets a better offer.
  • to go into business for himself, be his own boss, and set his own hours of work — even if it's only three hours a week.
  • to use his honestly acquired property or savings in his own way — spend it foolishly, invest it wisely, or even give it away.
  • to offer his services or products for sale on his own terms, even if he loses money on the deal.
  • to buy or not to buy any service or product offered for sale, even if the refusal displeases the seller.
  • to disagree with any other person, even when the majority is on the side of the other person.
  • to study and learn whatever strikes his fancy, as long as it seems to him worth the cost and effort of studying and learning it.
  • to do as he pleases in general, as long as he doesn't infringe the equal right and opportunity of every other person to do as he pleases.
The above, in a nutshell, is the way of life that the libertarian philosophy commends. It is the way of individual liberty, of the free market, of private property, of government limited to securing these rights equally for all.
Written by Leonard E. Read, November 1954.

(The above was originally titled, "In an Ideal America". I changed it for universality.)