AnCom & the God of Democracy

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  • #540

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    AnCom & the God of DMCRCY

    Below are five questions regarding AnCom and Democracy for @empifur, and/or @jacob, and/or anyone that would like to take a stab at playing the ‘AnCom’ in the conversation. Below the questions is the dialogue and/or AnCom claims that produced the questions. (PS: Don’t feel like you have to answer the questions. While that that would be nice, you can just speak to the topics using the Q’s as a guide.)

    1. What if an AnCom community votes for AnCap norms?

    2. Wouldn’t there be a nearly infinite (if not infinite) number of decisions to vote on at each meeting? Every new idea, every responsibility, every dispute, every conflict… It just seems (at first glance) to be hopelessly unmanageable?

    3. What’s the difference between AnCom and just a plain old democratic State?

    4. You say ‘community consensus determines truth’ — how do you know that’s true?

    5. AnCom seems to believe Dmcrcy will be benevolent to them — what makes AnCom so sure? (Or are they not concerned with the outcome being beneficial so long as it’s democratic?)

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCom Claim: One ‘must’ use a thing with an eye towards its longevity, with an eye towards maintaining its ability to be used by other people later on. One would not have the right to destroy a thing simply because one is using it (whereas with private property you could ‘rightfully’ destroy it).

    AnCap: When one gets accused of having transformed a thing to the point where no one else can use it, but they deny the charges, who determines guilt or innocence in AnCom?

    AnCom: In an AnCom system, the community decides by voting on it.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCom Claim: ‘Extracting Usury’ is when someone is charging prices for goods and services higher than they otherwise could.

    AnCap: Who or what should rightfully determine how ‘high’ a price ‘could’ be?

    AnCom: A lot of AnComs would advocate for donating ‘surpluses’ to each according to need, which would obviate the idea of pricing. For some AnComs, a competitive market would drive prices towards cost (allowing for the fact that producers will want compensation for their labor, and so will charge a little higher than what it “cost” them when not including their own labor).

    AnCap: Some people will get to be the ones who rightfully judge how much of the fruits of people’s labor is a ‘surplus’, and some people will get to rightfully judge whether the ‘compensation for the labor’ of another group of people is ‘a little higher than’ the ‘cost’, or not. Who are the people that will get to make these judgement calls in AnCom?

    AnCom: The community gets to make these decisions, by voting on them.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCom Claim: Bringing a bread machine into existence in AnCom is worthy of whatever compensation the community votes is appropriate.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCom Claim: In AnCom, the workers who produce a bread machine (or the community in which the bread machine was produced, TBD) decide what to do with the bread machine by voting on it.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCom Claim: AnCom advocates… eliminating the ability of some to… keep more value for themselves than what they actually create.

    AnCap: How do you determine how much value someone has created?

    AnCom: Usurious incomes are incomes beyond the “inherent value” of the thing.

    AnCap: Who or what determines the ‘inherent value of a thing’?

    AnCom: Inherent value is determined the same way that truth is determined: by community consensus.

    AnCap: How does the community come to a consensus regarding the ‘inherent value’ of a thing?

    AnCom: They vote on it.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    AnCap: How does the community vote on all of the above?

    AnCom: Initial AnCom communities and institutions alike will likely be directly democratic with committees delegated as needed for more specific issues.

    As AnCom spreads from initial AnCom communities and institutions, AnCom communities of various sizes will begin to take shape. These communities will have meetings attended by all community members on a regular basis. The initial meetings will naturally involve putting measures in place to ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard equally. The community members will continue the meeting(s), making all the decisions the community needs to make, as a community, together, equally.

    As for coordinating between these communities (let’s call them ‘Houses’), there will invariably be a ‘regional assembly’ — let’s call it a ‘Senate’. The Houses each decide on what positions they want ‘represented’ in the Senate. Then, a volunteer from each House will be the ‘Senator’ that ‘represents’ that House at the Senate.

    Note that the Senator has no platform of her own: the House chooses a platform together — the Senator simply takes that platform to the Senate. (If the Senator is judged by the House to be failing, the House will simply recall the Senator and elect/appoint a new one.)

    Also note this system of delegation isn’t limited to regions: it can go all the way from the Houses through the Regional Senates, and then subsequent ‘Super’ Regional Senates, ultimately all the way to a One-World Global Senate. [And presumably an interstellar Galactic Republic, as this is totally the setup for Star Wars…]

    Common questions at this stage are: does everyone have to vote on everything? Are there time limits on speaking? Is it majority rule, 2/3rds majority, etc.? How do people decide what communities they get to influence?

    It would take pages and pages to tackle every little question, but even if we answer every question you have, keep in mind: this cannot be mapped out entirely beforehand. So in the interest of brevity:

    AnCom is about empowering people and communities to self govern. Variations on what I’ve described above are to be expected among AnCom communities and institutions. The point is that the Community-Senator-Senate mechanism places the locus of power with the people (where it belongs!) while still allowing coordination and organization between communities (across the street and across the world).

  • #627

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    I am responding late, but I want to thank you, @SpoonerBookman, for starting all these threads to continue the various discussions from your earlier post! The only reason I am taking so long to get to them is because I have terrible time-management skills; I definitely want to continue the discussion.

    In the months since my Hopes for A Coalition post, I have learned more about the differences between Benjamin Tucker’s ideas and Peter Kropotkin’s, and between those of modern, C4SS style “left market anarchists,” and those of other “left anarchists,” such as communists, neo-proudhonian mutualists, and so forth. I definitely want to be clear that my own views are not representative of communism, and so you and I will have to rely quite a bit on help from others if we want to learn more about the modern day proponents of anarcho-communism.

    I’ll try and answer the 5 questions you raise here from my own perspective, though.

    1. What if an AnCom community votes for AnCap norms?

    They would simply cease being an AnCom community and become an AnCap community. I would have little problem with this, in and of itself. I will mention, regarding secession, that I would not regard anyone as bound by an agreement that they agreed to be permanently bound by, without any ability to exit the community or contractual relationship in the future.

    I brought up secession and forfeiture of “right to exit” in another thread, but I don’t think I conveyed my position well enough. Since then, I have read a little bit more of Benjamin Tucker’s writing, and made the pleasant discovery that he discusses the exact question in his work, and that I find his position more agreeable than the alternatives that occur to me. He argues from an “egoist” perspective, of sorts, that people who entered into an agreement from which they could never escape should they change their mind, (particularly in the case of joining a community controlled by an institution with monopoly powers over the use of force in a given territory, and in turn forfeiting one’s “right” to secede or otherwise exit the group without physically relocating,) would almost certainly be unwilling to follow through with the agreement, and almost certainly regard such agreements as harmful to the parties involved, even if only after having entered them. In Tucker’s opinion, it would thus never be in the self-interest of any sane human being to abide by such an agreement had they made one, and, in turn, it would also be in the self interest of individuals in a community of egoists to regard such contracts as invalid in general.

    The idea, more or less, is for people to adopt norms that they regard as mutually beneficial, including norms regarding what counts as valid agreements in the first place. To paraphrase Tucker’s terminology, this is more a matter of “expediency” than of “right.” The argument is not really so much that it is objectively morally permissible for people to betray agreements which, according to the terms of the agreement, they can not escape. Rather, the argument is that it is practical for people to not punish others for betrayal of such agreements, and, possibly, to even help them betray such agreements under some conditions. At the same time, it is still practical for people to abide by most other agreements, for the standard reasons known to students of game theory, (reputation, discipline of repeated dealings, etc.)

    I may try to write a blog post about this, if I can make the time.

    2. Wouldn’t there be a nearly infinite (if not infinite) number of decisions to vote on at each meeting? Every new idea, every responsibility, every dispute, every conflict… It just seems (at first glance) to be hopelessly unmanageable?

    I think people could agree, through direct democracy, on general principles by which people could act. For example, in mining camps in gold rush era California, camp members agreed, through a democratic process of sorts, on what sort of rules they would use to determine who could use what resources, and in what way. The principles could be negotiated, and then individuals could apply those principles to specific cases. I think the organizations studied by Elinor Ostrom worked in a similar way, with general rules being agreed upon and then applied. That people agree upon the principles they are bound by, and that they have a real say in what those principles are, and that they can leave the organization if they ever end up having a strong enough disagreement with them, all help incentivize people to continue abiding by the group’s norms, I think.

    I think that I and some AnCaps, like David Friedman, agree that abstract “property” rules help people behave in ways that others in their group will not have a problem with, and help people enter into agreements and relationships that can be mutually beneficial, while also enabling people to “agree to disagree” when need be. I like this specific characteristic of “property,” or of abstract principles and heuristics that groups of people can adopt and change to fit their needs. I agree that if every little decision had to be made through majority vote, much less consensus, in every case and condition, then the system would probably fall apart.

    3. What’s the difference between AnCom and just a plain old democratic State?

    As I understand the “confederation” style social structure favored by some AnComs, the system is usually conceived of as having a few specific features, though in reading various discussions there seems to be debate over the necessity of some of these.

    1) In local groups, decision making would be directly democratic rather than representatively democratic, that is, people in the group would discuss the actions to be taken and the rules to be adopted, and vote on which ones they prefer, rather than voting for candidates who then make these decisions for them.

    2) Sometimes the decision making process for local groups is conceived of as involving consensus rather than majority vote, with formal discussion continuing until some consensus could be reached.

    3) While organization on a larger scale is often conceived of as involving “delegates” being voted on by local groups and sent to a general assembly, the members of local groups can recall their delegates in the system as many AnComs imagine it, (whereas in the U.S. people have to wait until the next election to vote someone out of office,) and the decisions made by delegates are sometimes seen as non-binding, being merely suggestions for the local groups to consider, rather than commands that they have to follow on pain of some sort of punishment. I am not sure what the majority opinion is regarding these two principles, among AnComs today.

    However, the principle of delegate’s decisions being mere suggestions or guidelines rather than commands, which local groups are free to adopt or reject as they see fit, is an idea Kropotkin talks about explicitly in Conquest of Bread. Given that this is one of the most influential books among Ancoms, as far as I can tell, I think it is probable that most Ancoms today would agree with the idea. Possibly not, but I personally hope they would.

    Here’s a quote from Kropotkin’s book that discusses this:

    But this impotence is becoming evident to all; the faults of parliamentarianism, and the inherent vices of the representative principle, are self-evident, and the few thinkers who have made a critical study of them (J. S. Mill and Leverdays) did but give literary form to the popular dissatisfaction. It is not difficult, indeed, to see the absurdity of naming a few men and saying to them, “Make laws regulating all our spheres of activity, although not one of you knows anything about them!”

    We are beginning to see that government by majorities means abandoning all the affairs of the country to the tide-waiters who make up the majorities in the House and in election committees; to those, in a word, who have no opinion of their own. But mankind is seeking and already finding new issues.

    The International Postal Union, the railway unions, and the learned societies give us examples of solutions based on free agreement in place and stead of law.

    To-day, when groups scattered far and wide wish to organize themselves for some object or other, they no longer elect an international parliament of Jacks-of-all-trades. No, where it is not possible to meet directly or come to an agreement by correspondence, delegates versed in the question at issue are sent to treat, with the instructions: “Endeavour to come to an agreement on such or such a question and then return not with a law in your pocket, but with a proposition of agreement which we may or may not accept.”

    Such is the method of the great industrial companies, the learned societies, and the associations of every description, which already cover Europe and the United States. And such should be the method of an emancipated society. While bringing about expropriation, society cannot continue to organize itself on the principle of parliamentary representation. A society founded on serfdom is in keeping with absolute monarchy; a society based on the wage system and the exploitation of the masses by the capitalists finds its political expression in parliamentarianism. But a free society, regaining possession of the common inheritance, must seek, in free groups and free federations of groups, a new organization, in harmony with the new economic phase of history.

    Every economic phase has a political phase corresponding to it, and it would be impossible to touch property without finding at the same time a new mode of political life.

    My own preference for large scale organization in an anarchist society would be for a network, rather than a “pyramid” structured federation. It’s possible some advocates of “federation” would think that the dispute here is merely semantic, but what I mean, specifically, is that not every group in my preferred system would have to work directly with every other group, or participate in a “general assembly” including all the various groups. Rather, in my own imaginary system, groups would make connections with each other, and cooperation would occur through a mosaic of such connections between pairs or smaller sets of groups. A key difference in my own thinking is that I emphasis the need for people to be able to disassociate peacefully if need be, to go their own separate ways, and I think a decentralized network works better for this than a general, all-inclusive organization.

    Returning to your questions:

    4. You say ‘community consensus determines truth’ — how do you know that’s true?

    I disagree with this, though I understand the trouble. I’m an empiricist regarding epistemology, I think of “trueness” as a characteristic held by some patterns in minds when those patterns relate to some other object in a particular way. For example, one pattern in my mind represents my pet cat sitting next to me, and includes a bit of metadata that indicates that the pattern matches the current state of the world. Since my cat is, in fact, sitting next to me as I type this, this pattern is a true belief.

    The value of things is subjective. In other words, patterns exist in some minds that relate to other objects in particular ways. A person enjoys eating chocolate icecream, for example. That the icecream is “enjoyment-inducing” is a characteristic of the specific person who enjoys the icecream and their relationship to the icecream. To say that “the icecream is good” is, thus, subjective. But, to say that “so-and-so” enjoys chocolate icecream is an objective claim, one which is empirically true or false. People are material entities existing in the real, physical world, they are themselves objects, and thus claims about them are objective claims, and whether these claims are true or not depends upon the relationship between the claim and the object, in the same way that the earlier claim about my cat is true or false depending on the content of the claim itself and the current condition of my cat.

    I believe that people do not always have perfect, direct access to their own internal mental states. It is possible for people to have imperfect knowledge of their own values and desires, and of how their different values and desires relate to each other. It is also possible for their values and desires to change. The process of thinking about what one wants is, I believe, both influenced by the desiring parts of the mind, and influences the desiring parts of the mind. In other words, people can discover things about themselves and what they value, and at the same time also change what they value, sometimes without even knowing they have done so.

    In interacting with other human beings, and negotiating with them, we have to try and balance our various desires with our beliefs about what we can actually achieve. Through this process of balancing and negotiation, people can both figure out ways to maximize their own achievement of their values, and change what the value and to what degree. (Think of a child who is reprimanded for drawing on the wall with a crayon, and who tells themselves, “Well, I didn’t really want to do that anyway,” or of an adult who “quits” their job to avoid being fired or shaves their head because they’re annoyed that they’re going bald.)

    Whether or not things are “valuable,” then, and to what extent and in what way, is an attribute of the people involved and how they relate to each other and the objects in their environment. Value in this sense is discovered, created, destroyed, transformed, and forgotten all through this process of social interaction, of negotiating with others in an attempt to pursue specific internal states within one’s own mind. Determining the value of something in a given context is not as simple as voting on it, one has to know a lot about the intricacies of the social relationships and the people involved.

    Despite the fluidity and intangibility of value, we humans do seem to have an uncanny ability to succeed in achieving value for ourselves in our own, subjective estimates. Further, we do seem to possess some extremely imperfect ability to infer abstract principles about what sorts of conditions, including social conditions, aid us in our pursuits, and what conditions hinder us.

    Social norms can, potentially, give us the ability to achieve more of what we value, if we discuss what norms to adopt and adopt norms that enable each individual to maximize their own self-interest. The situation is like the “bilateral monopoly” game discussed by David D. Friedman here. We can not demand the whole world from others, because others would not agree to norms from which they gained nothing, or, if they did, they would not reliably act in accordance with these norms. We can, however, adopt norms that are mutually beneficial, because others will reliably follow the norms in order to gain the benefits they expect to receive, and in we ourselves will also benefit. Demanding everything probably leaves us with nothing, Demanding nothing also probably leaves us with nothing, but figuring out some system that we can all reasonably expect to benefit from leaves us with something, which is, at least, more than nothing.

    5. AnCom seems to believe Dmcrcy will be benevolent to them — what makes AnCom so sure? (Or are they not concerned with the outcome being beneficial so long as it’s democratic?)

    I think some modern anarcho-communists greatly overemphasize “democracy” as a potential solution. I think of democracy and property as similar; applied in specific ways, I think both can enable people to solve the sorts of coordination and ultimatum games that David D. Friedman talks about in the article I linked to above. But both can also be extremely harmful, if applied in other ways. It depends on the implementation, I think.

    You, (and others,) may find the recent symposium held by the Center for a Stateless Society on Anarchism and Democracy interesting to read through. I confess, however, that I have only glanced through it myself, as of yet. They have quite a number of articles written by a number of authors included in the discussion. Altogether it is probably about the length of a book.

    I look forward to your response to my response!

  • #694

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    3. What’s the difference between AnCom and just a plain old democratic State?

    “My own preference would be for a ‘structured federation’.”

    Help me understand this a bit better: in your view, in a Stateless society (and/or en route to one) various non-State governed groups would likely take shape. And those groups could form whatever kind of communities they wanted to form, and you’d consider it ‘wrong’ for anyone outside of those groups to interfere with what goes on inside those communities — be they AnCap, monarchists, regular old States, etc. — so long as they adhere to two principles:

    1. All groups must vote as to what type of government (or non-government) they will have (even if that decision is to never vote on anything ever again);

    2. All groups must allow secession down to the individual level.

    Is that right so far?

    If so, what are the other principles (if any) that all groups adhere to in your theory?

  • #729

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    “My own preference would be for a ‘structured federation’.”

    Now hold on a second, you put this in quotation marks as if it is either something I said or a paraphrasing of something I said, but it is not what I said.

    What I said was the following:

    My own preference for large scale organization in an anarchist society would be for a network, rather than a “pyramid” structured federation. It’s possible some advocates of “federation” would think that the dispute here is merely semantic, but what I mean, specifically, is that not every group in my preferred system would have to work directly with every other group, or participate in a “general assembly” including all the various groups. Rather, in my own imaginary system, groups would make connections with each other, and cooperation would occur through a mosaic of such connections between pairs or smaller sets of groups. A key difference in my own thinking is that I emphasis the need for people to be able to disassociate peacefully if need be, to go their own separate ways, and I think a decentralized network works better for this than a general, all-inclusive organization.

    Someone on facebook has, since I said this, explained to me that they think of an anarchist “federation” as a network, and it sounds like the way they imagine it working is similar to a system I would greatly prefer over our present system. However, in what I said in the present thread I was attempting to distinguish between a “pyramid structured federation” and what I am advocating for, which I call a “network.”

    1. All groups must vote as to what type of government (or non-government) they will have (even if that decision is to never vote on anything ever again);

    2. All groups must allow secession down to the individual level.

    Nope. I shall clarify presently:

    I think of voting as a potential solution to “multilateral monopoly” style “games” or situations, of the sort David Friedman described in the linked article. If I am in a group of people and we’re trying to agree on something, it may sometimes be useful for us to just take a vote and go with what the majority votes for. Even if I’m in the losing minority, it may still be better for me that the group be able to come to some decision rather than no decision. I imagine people in such a group simply using a vote as a means to get as much of what they personally want as they can, because they imagine their options to be either going with the decision of the majority or ending up in a stalemate and getting nothing.

    Voting is only a drop in the bucket as far as possible solutions to these sorts of problems. I, personally, think it could be quite useful, and if I join an association formed to defend the members from aggression I would want to join an association that used some sort of voting system to decide on the rules we all had to abide by, because I think this may be a way for the group to make decisions that I could be ok with, I expect to prefer being a member of such a group rather than a group where, for example, one person decided all the rules.

    I do not require organizations to have this sort of structure in order to consider them anarchistic, however, nor do I threaten to intervene through force if anyone joins other sorts of groups. Voting is not a requirement, it is just my preference for my own club.

    The possibility of secession down to the individual level, however, is a requirement. If someone joins a group and, as part of agreeing to be a member, gives up their ability to exit the group later on at no cost to them beyond sunk costs, (e.g. if they must physically relocate to exit the group, or if they can only exit the group by dying,) then I would not recognize the contract as valid. In such a situation I would, probably, refrain from interfering through force so long as the person who had entered the agreement continued acting as though they were a willing party, (as I could not liberate someone who did not want liberated,) but if and when they decided they wanted out of the agreement I would either help them escape the group or, at least, refuse to help the group force him to stay or act in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

    There is a threshold problem, here, if we do not force people to keep promises like this, then when, if ever, do we force them to keep promises? Where do we draw the line between a valid and invalid agreement or contract? I would answer that it would depend on the terms of the contract and on the circumstances under which a person could exit an agreement. More usefully, I would advocate for adoption of social norms that I thought I would personally benefit from the general practice of. Social norms according to which it is ok to force someone to keep a promise may benefit me under some situations, but not under others. It may even be the case that I would benefit from such a norm under most situations. Under some extreme situations, however, I would expect to be harmed by the general practice of such norms. “Voluntary slavery,” or a promise to do another’s bidding for the rest of one’s life, and “Voluntary government,” or a promise to obey the dictates of a group of people until one moved away to somewhere outside a geographical area the group called its territory, are two situations in which I suggest you, I, and most other people would gain more from treating these contracts as invalid and non-binding rather than valid or binding.

    Goodness I talk a lot.

    I’m in the midst of another discussion that touches on the questions I’ve talked about here, (I actually came back to this thread looking for a link, but it looks like I didn’t provide the link I was looking for,) and I may try to write a post on this topic of secession and the capacity to exit. I know I’m slow, but I am indeed still thinking up responses.

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