February 22, 2017 at 12:20 pm #136
I joined a private AnCap Facebook group a while back and picked the first post I saw talking about how AnCap is a bad idea and I responded to it with a lengthy defense (like 8-9 pages)… The guy replied, and now for the past 2 months, we’ve been going back and forth in a pretty friendly, sometimes funny, and sometimes frustrating ‘debate’ that, when copy/pasted into a word processor, is currently around 300 pages long.
Now, I’m thinking I want to ‘do’ something with it but not sure what – any ideas?
I have the whole thing in a Google Drive folder, broken into about 18 ‘chapters’ with the Statist comment and my Anarchist reply making up each ‘chapter’. (I can share a link, but I saw in another post that new submitters can’t post links?)
One dream-come-true thing for me would be to have other more learned anarchists/voluntaryists pick a chapter or two (or the whole thing!!) and give me critique and feedback on my arguments and approaches.
The other thing that I think would be interesting is to edit it for readability and turn into a ‘series’ of articles/posts (maybe for this site??) that are basically ‘Conversations With Statists’ with this being the first one. The reason why I think this would be cool is that every conversation with every Statist has some commonalities and it would be cool to see how parallel the convos are. Which would also help highlight the best strategies and approaches to these kind of convos.
(For example: I recently finished ‘A Spontaneous Order’ and it’s unreal how similar the flow of the book’s arguments are to the flow of my convo with this guy… We’ve hit almost every topic in the book, and even used some hypotheticals that were used in the book… Crazy…)
Let me know if y’all have any ideas or just want a link to that folder so you can take a look?
February 22, 2017 at 12:54 pm #137
I would definitely like to read it! I don’t know how long it would take me to read all of it, but I could comment on some of it.
You should be able to post a link. If you post several links at once, your comment may be held in a moderation queue, but then I just have to approve it and it will become visible. I have a couple different plugins installed to combat spam, and I’m still learning how to tweak them properly to let real users through while preventing spambots from registering and posting, but right now they seem to be working successfully, so I went ahead and changed a setting to allow anyone, including new posters, (I think,) to include a few links in their post before the software marks their post as needing approval.
If you have any trouble with making posts, please let me know so I can fix it! I will have to set up a contact page so users can contact me with bug reports even if they’re unable to post on the forum.
Anywho, thank you for posting, and welcome to our forum!
- This reply was modified 1 month ago by Jacob.
February 26, 2017 at 8:33 am #139
I’d like to read it, Roth. You could post a chapter at a time here, or post a link. We could use an “intellectual ammunition department” here.
February 27, 2017 at 2:26 pm #145
Ok, well here goes ‘Chapter 1’! Again, I have a couple ‘goals’ with this: one is just to get feedback on my arguments/approach, and then probably the bigger goals is, could all this back-and-forth be turned into something readable/useful like a blog post or something…??
Also, not sure if this helps (and it prob comes through in my response), but my ‘anarchism’ is of the Mises/Rothbard/Hoppe line…
Alright, so I got added to this group a few weeks ago, and I’ve tried to make sense of it all. It seems like an interesting theoretical idea, and it could probably work relatively well in a small community of a couple of thousand citizens. However, I don’t see how it would work in a large country/economy, especially not with the globalized elements that exist today.
So, for instance, we already know that a big issue in today’s economy is companies moving their production of goods overseas. How would this new society fix that? Sure, the companies wouldn’t get taxed in the new system, but an average worker in China would still cost a lot less than an average worker in the U.S. So it’s still good business to move it overseas. You’d then either maintain that issue into the new system, or workers would need to accept a much lower wage in order to keep companies in their community. Would either scenario really be an improvement?
Second, and building on that, how would people be able to afford to pay for things like education and healthcare? Say you have two children in today’s economy, and you’re barely making ends meet. You then move to a society where you get to keep your taxes, but wouldn’t most of that just go to pay for your kids education anyway? According to a quick google search, private education in America costs between 10-20.000 dollars per year (http://www.capenet.org/facts.html).
Now, it is possible that costs would go down in a free market system, but with that it’s fair to assume the quality of education goes down as well (you get what you pay for essentially). So again, how does that necessarily improve people’s situation in a AnCap society? Would you just return to the system that existed during the middle ages where education was reserved for the wealthy, and poorer families sent their children out to work as soon as they were capable?
Thirdly, and this is more of a theoretical point, so bear with me. How would pensions work in an AnCap society? I feel the logical answer is you pay towards a pension, and then use that once you retire. You either do this through savings, or some form of plan. You then do that based on your individual choice. So that makes sense in my mind. However, my question more relates to what happens to people that don’t do that? Say you never save towards retirement, and you go senile and you’re unable to take care of yourself at 75. Would AnCap then leave him to die, or is there a safety net that would protect him? Again, theoretically, you’d just leave him to die, and hope he serves as a lesson to others, but would it work like that in practice? The same goes for insurance, and healthcare plans. Do you just let people die if they didn’t get those sorts of plans, or do you treat them and then give them a big fat bill (much like how it works some places today)?
Fourthly, and building on that, how would it work with people on disability. Insurance might protect those that get disabled at work (assuming you bother to get insurance that is), but what about people that are born disabled? Would that be the parents responsibility to pay for, or how would that work?
I realize a lot of these questions pertain to extreme scenarios that might not apply to everyone, but to me that’s just as relevant as more grand-scale issues. I haven’t really seen a lot of answers in other posts to how some of these things would be handled. People either just say “the market will provide” like some delusional religious person, or they answer in some wishy-washy theoretical dreamscape about how glorious everything will be if you just remove the government/taxation. So I’d like some proper, practical solutions to how AnCap would fix some of the issues mentioned above. If you don’t think AnCap would necessarily fix these issues, then please elaborate on why people would still be better off in a new system.
P.S. sorry about the length.
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I’ve never really answered this sort of thing in a public forum, so I’m curious to see how it goes over. I wrote this quickly, and haven’t really edited it, so I apologize in advance as I’m sure there are typos, grammar mistakes, etc.:
I applaud you for attempting to ‘make sense of it all’ – the liberty message is so outside of most people’s experience, they reject it out of hand without even giving it a listen.
Regarding the ‘homework’ assignment, I agree it’s not a very persuasive tactic.
But one thing you will find if you continue looking into this topic is there’s just no avoiding the need to ‘read up on it’ so to speak, since you’ll never find any information about this topic in any newspaper, television show, movie, public school, etc. It’s a big idea and the only way to really get your head around it will be (at some point) to start reading.
On that note, perhaps Bastiat’s “The Law” would be a better start? It was written a couple hundred years ago, is a foundational work, and is much shorter in addition to being very easy to read/understand. Maybe put that on your list?
In the meantime, I’ll try to provide some answers for you!
1. “It seems like an interesting theoretical idea… [but] I don’t see how it would work…”
This is a great starting place! Step one is to understand and/or accept the theoretical principle(s). While I could answer this a number of ways, my primary response is (unfortunately) that we simply can’t know how it would work.
At first glance, this could appear to be an argument against the concept of a truly free society. But if you think carefully about it, you can understand why many of us don’t see this as an obstacle.
One way to think about it is to imagine standing with Edison as he (allegedly) invented the lightbulb, or the Wright Brothers as they (allegedly) built the first airplane or Ford and his Model-T for that matter.
Who could have predicted the dizzying array of lighting technologies in existence today, or who could have predicted that the airline industry would work the way it does, or who could have told you how the automobile industry would work?
I don’t believe anyone standing next to Edison et al. could have answered the question “Lightbulbs seem interesting, but how would it work? Candle usage is so widespread, how could you get people to switch? And how do you get electricity to homes and businesses to power the light bulbs? And where would the electricity come from? etc.”
Thanks to the (relatively) free market, ‘how would it work’ has been answered in all of these cases (and many more besides) over time.
Hence the simplistic argument ‘the free market will provide.’
What the question ‘how would it work’ really drives at is: “Should we organize society around utilitarian/practical/pragmatic concepts, or moral/principled concepts?”
If the answer is utilitarian, then the thinking in regard to your point is essentially “We can’t go off and try to build some imaginary thing (like a free society) without first sitting down and figuring out how to draw it up. Until you show me how it would work, I’m not going to get on board.”
But hopefully you can see: if we took that approach with lightbulbs, airplanes, and cars, we’d all still be using candles and carriages because no one could have drawn up ‘how it would work’ in advance.
By contrast, the ‘ancap’ idea is this: start with moral principle and let the chips fall where they may.
Basically, we admit that we can’t know what our society will look like, but we can know that it would be morally correct (assuming our moral principle we’re starting with is morally correct).
Our moral principle is simply this: it’s not ok for someone to initiate force (or threaten to initiate force) against someone else just to get their way. Additionally, what’s wrong for individuals to do is also wrong for groups (because groups are simply collections of individuals).
It’s basically the negative version of the golden rule, i.e., “Don’t do unto to others what you don’t want them doing to you.”
This is the foundational principle (known as the ‘Non-Aggression Principle’) that a truly free, fair, and voluntary society would be built around.
Would a free society be more prosperous than our current one? We think it would be, but honestly, we don’t know.
Would it be safer, more egalitarian, less violent, etc.? We think it would be, but no one can predict the future.
Since we can’t accurately predict the outcomes of any of our actions, ancaps choose to act on principle instead of anticipated outcomes.
Which brings up an interesting point about ‘ancap’ ideas: we’re the only group that’s not promising you a perfect society, and the only group that admits we don’t have the God-like power to predict the future.
I promise you there will still be theft and inequality, there will still be fraud and waste and inefficiency. While I believe all of it would be far less intense than what we see today, and far less intense than in any other society, I’m certainly not expecting any system to make humankind into angels.
See, other systems want you to believe that they will bring about a just, fair, and verdant society – if only the people advocating it were given enough power (and guns and money) to force everyone to live the way they think is best.
If you want the best omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs. If you want the best society, you’ve got to crack some skulls.
By contrast, ancap says rule #1 is no skull cracking.
In conclusion regarding this ‘how would it work’ point, I would say: I don’t know how a free society would work, but I do have some ideas as to what it might look like. I don’t know if a free society would be ‘better’ than our current society in terms of prosperity, egalitarianism, or any of a number of other metrics, but I have some evidence that says it would be much, much ‘better’.
But most importantly, I would say that while I don’t know how it would work, it would be *morally correct* which is something you can’t say about any society in existence today. That is the primary reason for my anarchism: it’s the morally correct position. (My secondary reason is that I *believe* it would also produce the most prosperous, fair, and all around happy society the world has ever known!)
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2. “…companies moving their production of goods overseas. How would this new society fix that? ..an average worker in China would still cost a lot less than an average worker in the U.S. So it’s still good business to move it overseas. You’d then either maintain that issue into the new system, or workers would need to accept a much lower wage in order to keep companies in their community. Would either scenario really be an improvement?”
My answer to the question, ‘How would this new society fix that?’ would be the same as what others have alluded to in previous comments: ‘Fix what?’
For one thing, “If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries, goods must do so. Unless the shackles can be dropped from trade, bombs will be dropped from the sky.” (Hard to think of a truer statement!)
For another thing, you could rephrase the question as: “Should production be ‘allowed’ to move to where it’s cheapest and most efficient to be performed?”
This phrasing highlights something implied in your question: Who is going to use force and aggression to stop people from moving production?
You certainly aren’t going to grab a rifle and go shoot up a company that’s moving production overseas, right? But you want a government to do it for you? How is it wrong for you to do something but it’s right for people with shiny badges and funny hats to do it?
More importantly: is it a bad thing for work to get done where it’s cheapest and most efficient?
Currently, with tariffs and taxes and (erroneously titled) “free trade” agreements, work does not get done where it is most efficient, meaning the final costs of items is more expensive than they necessarily need to be.
You mention a worker having to accept a lower wage. That’s not necessarily a problem if the costs of what the worker likes/needs to buy has dropped dramatically because it is now far cheaper to produce those things.
One example that gets used a lot is this: it makes a lot more sense for maple syrup to get made in Vermont than Florida, and it’s better to grow oranges in Florida than in Vermont. Sure, you could grow oranges in Vermont, but you would need greenhouses, grow lights, more intense irrigation, etc. If oranges were currently being grown in Vermont, you could be looking at some crazy price of like $10 an orange.
But if we shut down the orange industry in Vermont and allowed it to naturally flow to Florida (‘overseas’ so to speak, although this would be over lands…) where oranges final cost would turn out to be more like $0.50 an orange, what happens?
Well, of course, the Vermont orange-growers would be out of a job. That’s thousands of people who potentially have to ‘accept a lower wage’.
But: it’s millions of people whose food costs just went down dramatically. Do we really have to punish millions of people to protect the jobs of a few thousand?
Some would argue that it’s worth it, but I believe those people are viewing ‘losing your job’ the wrong way.
Again, no one can predict the future. Losing a job is in no way necessarily a bad thing. (Anecdotal to be sure, but: I’ve only lost one job in my lifetime, and I’d argue it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Many people who have been fired or laid off will often look back and see that losing their job was a huge blessing, freeing them up to find something more rewarding that they wouldn’t have known about if they had never lost the job.)
Those Vermont orange-growers could find new work in the Vermont maple syrup industry which would expand with the absence of the orange-growers. Now, those jobless people have a new job, and now both oranges and syrup are cheaper for millions of people.
Everybody wins, with the exception of a very small percentage of people. Systems other than ancap would have you punish millions of people in an effort to help a relative handful – and in reality, it would appear they haven’t really been all that helpful to the handful they are supposedly trying to help.
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3. “…how would people be able to afford to pay for things like education and healthcare… private education in America costs between 10-20.000 dollars per year… it is possible that costs would go down in a free market system, but with that it’s fair to assume the quality of education goes down as well (you get what you pay for essentially). So again, how does that necessarily improve people’s situation in a AnCap society?”
You have no idea how proud I am that you brought up a couple other points before jumping to the ‘What about the children?” question, because that and “What about the roads?” are the two questions literally everyone asks when first confronted with the concept of a truly free society.
First, remember that education in America is not free. (There’s no such thing as a free lunch!) Education in America is paid for by money that is gained immorally, i.e., by force.
If I cornered you in a dark alley, stuck a gun in your face, and asked you to give me 30% of your income, you would naturally classify that as an armed robbery and all people throughout all of human history (with only the tiniest of exceptions) would agree that what I’m doing is morally wrong.
Now, if I did the exact same thing but took your money and put it towards educating a child, would that make it morally right?
No, of course not.
But that is how education in America is currently paid for. (Of course, there are several formal letters and visits from people in suits before the guns come out, but adding a few bureaucratic steps to the process only changes the emotive element of the situation – substantively, they are identical.)
So, my first answer is: how would *anything* get paid for in a free society, let alone schools? It’s tough to know, but one thing is absolutely certain: it would be morally correct, whereas our current system for paying for stuff is one of armed robbery.
Regarding your point about the ‘quality’ of education: you are implying the public education system in America is of a level of quality that would be hard to match by a free market. Having attended public schools throughout the Southeastern US my entire life (Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia), I can tell you from firsthand experience: it would take a great amount of effort to draw up a lower quality education than the one I received.
Public schools in America, by and large, are failing. Literacy rates, math scores, etc. have all fallen rather dramatically and in lock-step with increasing State intervention and oversight in public education.
While it may be difficult to imagine how a free market could provide a better educational system, it’s borderline impossible to dream up a worse educational system…
Another key thing to bring up would be that America doesn’t have a Public ‘Education’ system so much has they have a Public ‘Schooling’ system. Schooling and Education are two very different things. You can become extremely well schooled while remaining entirely uneducated (and vice versa).
The American school system was never designed nor intended to ‘educate’ anyone. And on that score, they’ve done a remarkable job – as a generation, Millennials in America are arguably the most highly schooled and simultaneously poorly educated people you will ever meet.
Now, to your point about returning to the middle ages: a lot of people when first confronted with the notion of a free society assume we need to rewind and undo what we already have.
But I would argue that’s neither possible nor desirable.
We’ve come so far, and with what exists today, there’s no reason to think the solution is to turn back to a previous time – the solution is to move forward.
Take for example the free market solution of Kahn Academy. Over one million teachers, a half billion lessons, and nearly four billion exercises. It’s not difficult to imagine how a concept like this could provide a world class education (certainly far better than America’s public system) for every child across the world. (There are endless examples like this one. Praxis is another off the top of my head.)
Something else to consider is licensing. My boss (for example) is a brilliant guy with more to offer young students than virtually any teacher I’ve ever met. And while he’d make a great teacher in his retirement, for free or very cheap, he would never want to go through the laborious process of becoming a licensed teacher, and as such, the public school system will rarely see teachers of his caliber.
This example could be multiplied by millions of well-qualified teachers willing to work for pennies but can’t or won’t because of State intervention.
In conclusion on this point: we can’t know what education (or healthcare, roads, etc.) would look like in a free society (just like we couldn’t have predicted the airline industry at the outset of flying machines), but at least we’d know it would be morally correct – unlike our current society’s solutions.
Furthermore, we can look to examples like the Kahn Academy for a glimpse at what education may look like in a free society.
Ultimately, I believe education would be far better in a free society if for no other reason than it would be hard to make it worse. (Same goes for healthcare.)
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4. “Say you never save towards retirement, and you go senile and you’re unable to take care of yourself at 75. Would AnCap then leave him to die, or is there a safety net that would protect him?”
My primary answer to this question is to ask a question: What would you do? Would you leave him to die?
I certainly wouldn’t. If it was my father, for example, I would absolutely step in to help him.
One thing social security has done is to make generational relationships within families less necessary, which contributes to a general breakdown of the family, the basic social unit of any society. Why put in the hard work of maintaining a good relationship with your kids and grandkids when you can just rely on the State to take care of you in your old age?
But to your point, who would help that man?
His family. Churches and religious organizations. Charities. Non-Profits. There are a number of solutions already existing today.
Best of all, if you weren’t satisfied with the solutions, you would be FREE to come up with your own. (Google ‘police take blankets from homeless’ for a glimpse into how the State prevents us from helping each other right now.)
Letting children or the elderly die in the street is a common argument against a free society and it definitely falls into the ‘What about the children’ category. I’ve always found it to be somewhat of a straw man, since I don’t know anyone who would let a child/elderly person die in the street. I don’t doubt people like that exist, but they must make up a tiny, tiny percentage of the population.
Whenever I’ve witnessed a car wreck, I’ve also witnessed numerous people jump out of their own cars and run to help the people in the wreck (a couple times in the face of great danger). It’s unreasonable to think that without the State, humans would just leave other helpless humans to die.
Americans donated $340 billion dollars to charity in 2013, on top of the 30-40% of their income they paid in taxes. Freed from that tax burden, do you think the charity donations would increase or decrease?
I currently give 10% to charitable causes, and believe me, if my income shot up 35% I’d give even more. (Even if I simply maintained the 10%, the amount I give would still be higher due to the increase in income. Most people donate based on percentages, so that $340 billion in charity would likely jump to the trillions if everyone simply maintained their current percentage income they donate.)
Furthermore, how efficient is the State when it comes to helping the helpless?
We’ve seen how terribly inefficient the State is at making $10,000 hammers and $20,000 toilet seats, and billion dollar jets (just guessing at those numbers, but we’ve all heard the stories – the inefficiency of government is not controversial). What would make anyone think the State would be the most efficient group to give money to for anything, let alone helping children/elderly?
I would argue that $1 given to a charity is the equivalent of giving $50 to the State for the same purpose. The corruption and graft, the inefficiency, the bureaucracy, etc. It sucks up the productive effort of our dollars before they ever make it to some useful purpose.
By contrast, private individuals and groups are demonstrably more efficient (not to mention more accountable) when it comes to charitable actions.
I think this last response also answer the disability question as well.
Hope that helps! Would be happy to answer any other genuine questions you may have, or point you towards some of my favorite educational materials if you’d like?
March 3, 2017 at 8:50 am #146
Thank you for posting the first chapter, Roth! A few comments and thoughts follow…
1) I really like the comparison with technology, regarding how little we can know about how radically different sorts of societies could work. I’m curious what the response from the questioner was.
2) When reading the “outsourcing of labor” question, my brain immediately went to immigration laws, and I find it interesting that you didn’t mention immigration in your answer. I probably would have responded that people would be more free to move around the globe, and so I would expect wages to even out a bit more as employers competed to find the best workers, but this does rely, to an extent, on ancap ideas being implemented on a widescale, rather than just a local one.
I expect that response might make prospects seem even worse if the questioner’s main concern was that people here would loose work or have lower wages, though. My goto response for those sorts of questions is, generally, to advocate for abolition of licensing laws, zoning laws, and other barriers to entry and handicaps on employee bargaining power.
But I think your response was fine as well. You call into question the implied goal of possibly keeping wages higher for a small minority at the expense of jobs for many people overseas, and it seems like the person you’re talking with would sympathize with those living overseas, so it seems like your answer should appeal to them.
3) On education you give an answer pretty close, I think, to what I would have given, pointing to Kahn Academy as a great example of an alternative, pointing out barriers to entry like licensing, pointing out the low quality of the present schooling system… You give a great answer.
4) You give a great answer on pensions and charity as well. I would have mentioned mutual aid societies, but you bring up a good point about family and inter-generational relationships that I probably would have missed.
5) I definitely think your responses could be converted into blog posts or other awesome content for the site! Regarding that, I’ll go ahead and make a request, what do you think of writing a post introducing the Non-Aggression Principle to those who have never heard of it before? I had been thinking of writing an article about just that so I could link to it from my faq page, but, reading your responses I think you may, perhaps, be able to do a better job than I. I like the comparison between the NAP and the golden rule, because the golden rule is one most people are familiar with and so thinking of the NAP as “libertarianism’s golden rule” in a sense might help people grasp the idea, I think.
I still need to figure out how best to run the blog. I’d like to have a pool of people who can contribute, while keeping a way to ensure quality, but I have never had an editor role for a site such as this before, so, it will be an adventure! I also have ideas for other kinds of content to have on the site, but I need to think a bit more on them before giving details…
In any case, I look forward to the next chapter! I’ll see if I can figure out an easy way to accept/solicit submissions for posts to the blog, in the mean time.
March 3, 2017 at 9:39 am #147
I’m pretty sure he ignored the argument on technology (ha!) – he’ll do that repeatedly throughout this whole thing. My take on that is to just let it go – I assume if you don’t respond to a good argument it’s probably because you don’t have a good response.
And we do eventually get deeper into licensing and barriers to entry in subsequent chapters, so stay tuned!
Education/Schooling is one of my ‘passions’ so to speak, so it’s a topic I’m pretty well prepared to talk at length on…
On charity, I think the inter-generational relationships thing probably isn’t the strongest/best argument, so I’m kind of regretting using it. But it’s pretty novel (got it from Hoppe) and few people have ever thought about it that way so I just wanted to give it a go.
As for writing a post introducing the Non-Aggression Principle, I’d be happy to give it a shot! I’ll see what I can come up with over the next week or so and get back with you.
Posting a few more chapters below!
- This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by Roth Bard.
March 3, 2017 at 9:42 am #148
As for writing a post introducing the Non-Aggression Principle, I’d be happy to give it a shot! I’ll see what I can come up with over the next week or so and get back with you.
Thanks! I very much look forward to it.
March 3, 2017 at 10:01 am #149
Thanks for the effort you put into your answers. It’s very insightful, and quite educational (or did I just get schooled? hehe). The reason I bring up issues like this is cause these are the sorts of things people would ask if you were to introduce this idea to them, as you mentioned with the frequency of roads. If you want to get to a social structure where this system is so ingrained entire countries disband, you need to be able to convince people they won’t simply be better off morally, but also financially.
With that, I’d like to rebut a few of your points if you don’t mind. I am one of those millennials that got a meaningless art degree on their first pass around university (currently getting a teaching degree, which is a lot more useful, at least for the time being. hehe). That art degree though, which was psychology by the way, has if nothing else made me a skeptic about human beings. Humans aren’t as giving as you make it seem, I think, and they’re quite content letting people starve, or freeze to death.
Have you ever heard of the bystander effect? It’s a psychological phenomenon where a group of people will be less efficient in helping a person in need, cause they assume others will jump up to help. There was an experiment researchers did at a university, where they would give their participant a test in a room with actors who deliberately did not help. They would then have someone cry for help outside the room. If the participant was alone they were much more likely to get up to help then if they were in a room with other people. The same goes for helping those in need.
People are also quite selfish, so if you said “you can either give 100 dollars to a starving man in Asia and be stuck with your old worn down shoes, or buy yourself a new pair of shoes while letting the man starve” a startlingly high number of people would choose shoes over a human being. The reason comes back to the bystander effect, someone else will fix it. That’s also the reason you might be more inclined to step up for your family, cause it’s less likely that others will provide for them, so you’re required to.
Another thing I’d question is your (as in the system, not you specifically) ability to convince people they’d be better off in this sort of world than the one we have today. There’s a reason one of the core metrics used for the success of a presidency is “am I better off now than I was 4 years ago?” If you can’t convince people they’d be better off, then they’ll never be interested in supporting a new system.
So while I admire your honesty in saying that there’s a lot of unknowns with this sort of system, I feel like that’s also why it would never catch on as a new system. I agree with your assessment of specialized economies (oranges vs maple syrup), but the number of jobs isn’t decided by cost, it’s decided by supply and demand. If there’s a demand for a product, companies will grow/more companies will emerge. Just because taxes go down and you specialize certain things, doesn’t automatically mean that the demand for maple syrup from Vermont would increase (which you kinda see whenever they try trickle down economics).
That’s also the issue with moving jobs overseas. I agree fully that companies should be allowed to do so, and the government shouldn’t artificially sustain those jobs through subsidies and tax breaks, so you don’t have to convince me on that issue, but for someone working at Carrier for instance, your system would’ve lost them their job, while socialism just saved it (at least if you were one of the 800 picked). Which one would you support if your job just got saved? That’s again the difficulty of convincing people that this new system would make things better for them, cause most people prefer that false sense of security they get through the current system.
With education, I certainly didn’t mean to imply the current educational system is good. It’s downright pathetic. However, my concern was more with costs, quality, and how you actually ensure you get an educated population. Through your argument, Ben’s response, and the video I watched on this, I’m quite convinced the cost wouldn’t be an issue. However, I’m not so sure about quality and getting an educated populace.
The thing isn’t to ensure people learn a little about everything, like they do now, it’s ensuring people actually learn a useful trade while still enabling them that choice of how they want their lives to unfold. When I compared it to the middle ages it wasn’t just cause rich people were the only ones getting an education, it was also because they were the only ones given a proper choice in what they wanted to do. If you were the son of a farmer, you’d be a farmer, son of a welder, you’d be a welder, and so on (while the daughters mainly got married off. hehe). If you made it the parent’s job (for the lack of a better word) to educate their children, I think you’d see a lot of people pushed into the family trade.
That obviously happens today as well, but not to the same extent as back then. So I do wonder if you’d see an increase in that sort of practice within this system. I think that would also be likely because children aren’t all that capable of pursuing their own thoughts. Perhaps that would improve if they were given the freedom to do what they wanted, but there’s a reason so many people get degrees in women’s studies and other social sciences (myself included), and it’s because they’re told they can do whatever they want. If you did that from elementary school, who knows what sort of people you’d end up with? I realize that’s an extremely theoretical point, so I’m not really expecting a practical solution, but it was just something I thought about.
For the rest, you’ll get no argument from me on government inefficiency. The amount of waste that goes on is absolutely shocking, and even if we can never replace the system that’s there now, we should all work to fix that waste. 20k for a toilet seat is unacceptable. I also agree that the current system is flooded with flaws, and I have no real interest in maintaining it. However, I’m not that inclined to spend a lot of time on things I don’t think will work. If you think of it like a Kickstarter for instance. If they’re asking for a million dollars on a project only 1 person has supported so far, I’m not about to contribute to it either, cause it’ll never reach funding. Put differently, as one Megadeth lyric goes “If there’s a new way, I’ll be the first in line, but it better work this time.”
Feel free to link me your favorite educational materials though. I’ll be sure to add it to my reading list.
Thanks for your response!
You mentioned that the reason you bring up issues like this is because these are the sorts of things people would ask. The questions you’ve posed are almost word-for-word questions that I’ve personally heard hundreds of times. Aristotle spoke of the need for government in terms of ‘who will build the roads’ and ‘who will take care of the children/elderly’, so not only am I aware of the questions, I can also tell you that these questions have been posed for literally centuries (if not millennia).
I didn’t find your questions interesting because I had never been confronted with them before – I was interested because you posed them with genuine and sincere curiosity. My guess was that you weren’t aware that these questions have been answered ad nauseum over the centuries, so I was excited to have the chance to give you the answers I myself found to these same questions.
All that is to say: I urge you to not feel like you need to come to a final conclusion on this any time soon. Keep asking questions until you get the full picture of what all the answers look like, then make the call. This could take you months or even years depending on how much time you devote to it. I completely understand you don’t want to waste time on something you don’t think would work, so I would say: spend just enough time to convince yourself there’s little/no chance of it working – until you convince yourself of that, at least remain open to the concept…
With that in mind, let me see if I can respond to some of your thoughts in an effort to help you get some more answers:
1. “If you want to get to a social structure where this system is so ingrained entire countries disband, you need to be able to convince people they won’t simply be better off morally, but also financially… I’d question [your] ability to convince people they’d be better off in this sort of world than the one we have today… I feel like that’s also why it would never catch on as a new system.”
I agree that few people would jump on board simply based on the ‘moral’ argument, but in the interest of brevity, I had to start somewhere. My favorite place to start is with the moral argument, for a couple of reasons.
One is, as I mentioned, because there’s simply no guess work involved with the moral argument as compared to the financial argument. While we believe there is a convincing case to be made for how we’d be better off financially, ultimately, it is a prediction, and no one (that is being intellectually honest) can accurately predict all the outcomes of any given action or series of actions.
Additionally, the moral argument is easier to grasp logically. This system is morally superior to our current system, and morally superior to any system we’re aware of.
Would it result in a financially better positions for most/all? No one can know for 100% certainty.
But, considering that virtually everyone throughout all of human history has agreed that both stealing and rape is ‘wrong’, and there is an underlying moral premise for why rape and theft are wrong (i.e., it’s not ‘right’ to initiate force against an innocent person), then clearly our current system is in the ‘wrong’ and this ancap system would be ‘right’ – at least morally speaking.
So the question remains: can I convince you (and others) that you’d be better off financially (and a number of other ways) in this sort of world we’re talking about?
Again, I believe I can. But it will take some time to do so. To my knowledge, no one has been persuaded of this over night. However, millions of people have in fact been persuaded – over time.
With that in mind, I’m not going to lay out the financial case in this post here so I can instead use this space to respond to the rest of your comments. But I’d be very interested in trying to make the financial case in a subsequent post if you’d take the time to hear it?
. . . . . . . . .
2. “Humans aren’t as giving as you make it seem, I think, and they’re quite content letting people starve, or freeze to death.”
I want to make two points here. The first point is to reiterate what I stated previously:
I wouldn’t be content to let someone starve/freeze to death. My wife wouldn’t be ok with it. No one in my family would be ok with it. No one at my office would be ok with it. No one in my social or professional circles would be ok with it. Based on your comments, you clearly aren’t ok with it.
So, my question is, who are these people that would be ok with it? I can’t think of a single person I’ve ever met who would be ok with it, but it’s always brought up as if the majority of people are ok with it.
I believe it’s a strawman argument, so I’d be interested in hearing your take on how it’s not a strawman argument? (On the other hand, Britney Spears sold like a billion CDs and I don’t know a single person that has admitted to buying one, so I could be wrong…) 😉
My second point is one that I’d genuinely like to hear an answer to as well. I’ve heard a couple different responses to this, but I’ve never found one intellectually satisfying, so I’m wondering what your approach to this would be?
To build up to my question, let’s say you’re right and people are greedy, selfish, and generally willing to step over a dying man in the street if it’s convenient for them.
Put another way, the problem is that a statistically significant portion of humankind is ‘bad’ and we, as a society, need to come up with a solution to mitigate this badness.
What is the solution we’ve come up with to date?
We created an apparatus with a territorial monopoly on the use force (i.e., the State), whose job it is to mitigate the badness of humans by utilizing this monopoly on force.
So here’s the question I’m trying to get to: who do you put in charge of this apparatus? A machine? Animals?
No, the answer to this is: PEOPLE. You start off by saying ‘people can’t be trusted to do what’s right’ and end by saying ‘so we need to put people in charge to make people do what’s right’.
I genuinely can’t grasp how this makes logical sense.
The closest I can come to understanding it would be to rephrase it slightly: “Some people are bad, so we need to put the good people in charge of a system that can mitigate the badness of the bad people.”
Now, that makes more sense to me, but here’s the thing: who ends up in charge under our current system?
Is it the ‘good’ people who end up in charge? 200+ years of US history have unequivocally answered this question in the negative. Our choice for ‘fearless leader’ just recently was between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Neither of these people is fit to rule over a hen house, a dog house, or an out house, let alone the white house. Neither of these people are ‘good’ (as far as I can tell) in virtually any sense of the word. I’d argue they are both fine examples of the very worst sort of people in society. I’d argue that these people are precisely the ‘bad’ people whose existence and wills need to be mitigated against.
Along these lines, here’s one of the main problems I have with our current system, broken into a few parts:
A. Good people have little desire to rule over other people. The very best people in society, therefore, would have little interest in joining and/or rising to the top of our current system. Meaning I see no way for truly ‘good’ people to ever be in charge of the State apparatus.
B. The current system consistently rewards the worst sort of people with the most power. Whoever is the best liar, the best manipulator, the most devious, treasonous, treacherous, the least honest, least principled, and most morally bankrupt people have the absolute best shot at rising to power. Meaning I see our current system as a way to ensure that ONLY the most evil people in society get to decide how society should be organized.
C. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even if a good person managed to end up with some kind of power in our system, how likely is it that they will be able to resist the temptations of power? While not impossible (Ron Paul comes to mind), it is another log on the fire of why we never seem to have good people at the ‘top’ even though we keep ‘throwing the bums out’ every few years.
And this is ‘D.’ in this series of points, but I wanted to highlight it because I’ve never gotten an answer to this that I’ve liked:
The worst serial killers known to man have collectively been responsible for the deaths of around 2,500 people. That’s all-time.
But just a handful of state leaders (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler) have killed (literally) well in excess of a billion people. If you add up all of the worst state leaders in history, you find the number is easily in the tens of billions of dead people.
There will always be bad, murderous people – no denying that.
But what Statists are advocating for is a system whereby a bad person can kill tens of millions people (thanks to the State apparatus that they can get their hands on), in order to protect us from the bad individuals who’ve never managed to kill more than a few thousand people (total) throughout all of human history.
I don’t get how that makes sense?
An old economics joke goes like:
Jim: Hey Bob, how’s your wife?
Bob: My wife? Compared to what?
I’m advocating for a system that would make it literally impossible for anyone to ever kill more than a (relatively) small number of people. I’d still be heartbroken over the fact that serial killers and rapists and thieves would still exist in this new system.
But… Compared To What?
Compared to genocide, never ending world wars, holocausts, nuclear weapons, etc.? Compared to that, I’d take the relatively rare phenomenon of a serial killer, rapist, etc. since we know they aren’t able to rain death and destruction at the scale of a State.
. . . . . . . . .
3. “Have you ever heard of the bystander effect? It’s a psychological phenomenon where a group of people will be less efficient in helping a person in need [than an individual would in a similar situation], because they assume others will jump up to help. There was an experiment researchers did at a university, where they would give their participant a test in a room with actors who deliberately did not help. They would then have someone cry for help outside the room. If the participant was alone they were much more likely to get up to help then if they were in a room with other people. The same goes for helping those in need.”
I need your help here – this argument leaps off the page at me as an argument in my favor, not yours.
You are saying (I think) that people are less likely to help others in a group environment when compared to an individual basis.
For example, why would I fill in the pothole on my street? I pay taxes for that, i.e., that’s something for the ‘group’ to deal with. Why should I help the homeless guy on the street corner? I pay taxes for that, let the government deal with them. Why should I donate to a local library, they already tax me for it? Why should I invent a low-cost alternative for educating children? That’s the State’s job to provide education. Why should I stop that mugger, we have police for that…
My point remains that without a government around, YOU (and many other individuals) would be far more likely to help out. (And you would also be ‘free’ to help others however you see fit, whereas under the current State system, you most certainly are NOT free to help people however you see fit.)
I feel like the bystander effect proves my point, not yours. Am I wrong about that? (Again, I’m honestly asking if I’m wrong – do correct me!)
Something that might be interesting to bring up in conjunction with this would be both the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment, which I’m betting you’re familiar with?
Those both show pretty convincingly how people who, acting under their own individual morality, would never ‘step over a dying man in the street’ (so to speak) suddenly change into relatively sadistic, monster-like creatures as soon as a perceived (but entirely imaginary) authority (like the State) tells them they should do so.
Left to their own devices, people generally will not continually inflict pain (or initiate force) on a stranger for no good reason. But as soon as you set up an imaginary authority figure (like the State, or a guy in a lab coat, or someone with a shiny badge and funny hat) who takes the moral burden off their shoulders because now they are ‘just doing their jobs’, people devolve quickly into a far less civilized state of affairs.
. . . . . . . . .
4. “People are also quite selfish, so if you said “you can either give 100 dollars to a starving man in Asia and be stuck with your old worn down shoes, or buy yourself a new pair of shoes while letting the man starve” a startlingly high number of people would choose shoes over a human being. The reason comes back to the bystander effect, someone else will fix it. That’s also the reason you might be more inclined to step up for your family, because it’s less likely that others will provide for them, so you’re required to.”
I agree people are selfish, so much so, that I would say no human has ever committed any act that wasn’t selfish. (That’s likely a philosophical argument for another day, but ready when you are!)
With that being said, we can either set up a system that ignores this, or we can set up a system that incorporates this fact of life to our advantage.
The system we currently have says people are selfish and greedy, until they cross the threshold of elected office, then somehow they are magically no longer selfish and greedy. This seems like pure fantasy to me. (It seems like people become even MORE selfish and greedy once put into power.)
Your hypothetical question about either buying shoes OR helping a starving man, again, seems like a straw man argument (although I’d be happy for you to prove me wrong!). I just can’t conceive of how this choice would ever be presented?
Besides, even if this situation could come up somehow, ask yourself the following question and tell me how you would answer it – also, how would your friends, family, coworkers, etc. answer the following question: “If you had to choose between buying nice shoes or saving a dying man, which would you choose?”
Who do you personally know that would choose the shoes? I don’t doubt those kind of people exist, but surely you can’t be arguing it’s a statistically significant number of people…?
. . . . . . . . .
5. “…the number of jobs isn’t decided by cost, it’s decided by supply and demand. If there’s a demand for a product, companies will grow/more companies will emerge. Just because taxes go down and you specialize certain things, doesn’t automatically mean that the demand for maple syrup from Vermont would increase (which you kinda see whenever they try trickle down economics).”
I believe you’re correct that jobs aren’t decided by cost, but instead (to a large degree) by supply and demand.
However, supply and demand is in turn (and to a large degree) determined by cost. The lower the cost of something, all other things being equal, the demand will rise. Lower cost syrup/oranges means more demand, which means more jobs.
Conversely, higher costs (e.g., from State imposed tariffs, State negotiated trade deals, State imposed taxes, State ordered regulations, inspections, permits, licensing, etc.) will lower demand, which will reduce jobs.
. . . . . . . . .
6. “…for someone working at Carrier for instance, your system would’ve lost them their job, while socialism just saved it (at least if you were one of the 800 picked).”
I think either you’ve misunderstood the Carrier situation, or (maybe more likely) I have misunderstood it, as I’ve only briefly looked into it.
So, I’m going to try to ‘correct’ you but with the huge acknowledgement that I could be totally wrong! So please do correct me if I’ve misunderstood the situation:
Carrier was offered tax breaks and regulatory relief, and as a result, the jobs remained. That is to say, Carrier only kept the jobs here because the State agreed to dramatically LESSEN its involvement in their affairs.
That is the direct opposite of Socialism.
Lowering taxes and reducing regulations – i.e., moving closer to my system and AWAY from Socialism – is what saved the jobs.
If I’m right about this, the Carrier argument is also in my favor and opposed to your position.
. . . . . . . . .
7. “With education… I’m quite convinced the cost wouldn’t be an issue. However, I’m not so sure about quality and getting an educated populace. The thing isn’t to ensure people learn a little about everything… it’s ensuring people actually learn a useful trade while still enabling them that choice of how they want their lives to unfold… If you made it the parent’s job (for the lack of a better word) to educate their children, I think you’d see a lot of people pushed into the family trade…”
I’d start my response with, again, ‘Compared to what?’
On the one hand, you’re concerned that our system won’t ensure people learn a useful trade.
But on the other hand, you acknowledge the system in place today does nothing to ensure people learn a useful trade, as in your own personal experience.
(BTW I have two art degrees that are borderline useless, and cost me almost as much as a law degree, so I can totally relate to everything you’re saying here!!)
One of your concerns is that people would get pushed into the family trade. My response here is twofold: the same ‘Compared to what?’ argument, plus the same straw man argument ‘How realistic is this hypothetical?
You acknowledge that currently we tell kids ‘you can be anything you want’ and then, thanks to that narrative, they get any one (or two in my case) of a number of useless degrees. Is that a better or worse situation than being pushed into a family business? (I don’t know which is ‘worse’ – my point is just that if this is your ‘worst case scenario’, it sounds pretty mild and hardly problematic.)
Furthermore, I just don’t see how getting an education from, say, Kahn Academy as opposed to a State run institution would mean you’d end up being forced into the family trade? I think my problem with this argument hinges on the time period you’re talking about: back then, you couldn’t learn from anyone anywhere in the world – you could only learn from those near you.
So yeah, I think that means back then you would more likely end up in the family trade. But I just don’t see how that analogy would work today? It’s comparing apples to oranges, or maybe more apropos for this conversation, maple syrup and oranges. (I should probably just leave the humour out, right?)
Finally, and definitely most importantly for this point: you said (roughly speaking) that we shouldn’t leave the responsibility for a child’s education in the hands of that child’s parent. I want to ask you, who should be responsible for that child’s education, if not the parent?
Or, put another way: who is better suited to be responsible for that child’s education if not the parent?
All studies show beyond any shadow of a doubt that the number one determining factor in the success or failure of a child’s education is – again, without a doubt – the parent’s involvement in their education. The more involved the parent, the better the education (with the inverse being true as well).
. . . . . . . . . . .
8. “For the rest, you’ll get no argument from me on government inefficiency… waste… flooded with flaws, and I have no real interest in maintaining it.”
I’ll answer this the same way Ron Paul answered the question ‘What do think about the fact that half of Americans don’t pay taxes?’
“Sounds like we’re halfway there!”
. . . . . . . . . . .
9. “However, I’m not that inclined to spend a lot of time on things I don’t think will work.”
So here’s what I would say, going back to what I said at the beginning: no need to decide today whether or not this system will work. You recognize it’s interesting, but can’t fathom how it would work? No worries! Stay focused on the other things that you think have a shot at working, but keep a little mental space and study time available in your life over the next couple weeks, months, or years, to keep circling back to the ancap position.
When something comes up that you are looking into from a political/economic/social perspective, try to seek out the ‘ancap’ answer to it and just see what you think. No single ancap issue/answer/solution will convince you (or anyone else). But the rich and beautiful tapestry the entire system of thought produces is turbo-convincing – but it takes some time before anyone can see the beauty in how it all works together.
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10. “Feel free to link me your favorite educational materials though. I’ll be sure to add it to my reading list.”
Awesome! Likewise, if based on my responses you think there’s something I should be reading, let me know!
I’ll reiterate that ‘The Law’ by Bastiat is beautiful, time tested, well written, and both short and easy to read – great place to start. (And cheap!)
‘Economics in One Lesson’ by Henry Hazlitt isn’t very sexy, and doesn’t have the same effect on everyone, but based on your comments, I think that would be the best ‘big’ book for you to read. (It’s not that ‘big’ and it’s written like a story – fastest, easiest-to-read economics book ever!)
For our views as they relate to current events, you can’t beat Mises.org, specifically the ‘Wire’ (i.e., their daily blog). The Carrier story, the epipen fiasco, etc. It will give you short, easy-to-read, anarchist (at least relatively speaking) views on the topics of the day. Fee.org is a close second. And LewRockwell.com is good for a more aggressive take on things.
For a podcast, you can do no better than The Tom Woods Show. Short, funny, wide ranging, very few ads.
- This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by Roth Bard.
March 3, 2017 at 10:08 am #151
Thanks for the response. To start with, I didn’t mean to imply the issues I brought up where new things. I hadn’t seen a proper answer to any of them from any of the existing posts I’d read up to that point, so I figured I’d ask to get a proper reply. So it might be common questions, but that means I was right in assuming these are the sorts of things people worry about.
While I understand the appeal of a moral argument, the problem is that (contrary to popular belief) there’s no such thing as a moral absolute. No one agrees on every stance of morality. For instance, some people say murder is unacceptable, but makes exceptions for the death penalty and abortions. Now, I don’t really care about either one. If you murder a whole bunch of people, then I say it’s fine killing you, and I don’t really consider abortion to be murder. However, plenty of people would say that any act of killing another is unacceptable.
The same goes for theft. Some makes exceptions for stealing if you really need it, or if it’s a “victimless crime” (i.e. piracy or robbing an insured bank), whereas others say any form of theft is a crime that needs to be punished. As far as rape goes, I agree people think the act of rape is wrong, but they often disagree on what constitutes rape. Just see some of the ridiculous verdicts given to rape offenders, and you’ll quickly see that it’s not as clear-cut as you might think.
The same goes for moral correctness within social systems like this. So for instance, you mentioned in your earlier response that it made sense for some people to lose their jobs if it gave a cheaper product to millions of people (loosely paraphrased). So, following that train of thought, don’t you think it would be quite easy to convince a room of everyday people that it’s fine for the state to take someone’s house if doing so gives a benefit to millions of people? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t agree with that sort of argument, but I do believe you could quite easily make it in a convincing way. It’s why people are so open to the idea of eminent domain and civil forfeiture as long as it doesn’t happen to them.
This kind of goes into people’s willingness to help as well. Right at this moment there are hundreds of thousands of people starving around the world. I was in Washington D.C. last week, and I saw a homeless person on nearly every street. So clearly people have no issue letting people starve or freeze. I don’t think anyone would let someone they know starve or freeze to death, but we’ve all let others die around the world. Not in an explicit way, but definitely through an implicit lack of action.
The shoes vs. the starving man was more meant as a hypothetical, and not a regularly occurring thing. However, it is quite easily applied to a real life scenario. Think of the last luxury good (for the lack of a better term) you bought. This would be something you wanted, but didn’t really need to survive. Mine could either be the game I bought for 20 dollars yesterday, or the trip I took from Norway to D.C., which set me back about a thousand dollars overall. Now, don’t you think there’s people around the world that could’ve used that money for something more beneficial than I did?
That’s not meant to say that people should spend all their money helping the poor, but I’m sure a lot of people could do more than they’re currently doing. So that’s why I say people aren’t nearly as giving for people they don’t know as you think.
To answer your question, “If I had to choose between buying nice shoes or saving a dying man, which would I choose?”, in a sense I’ve made that choice hundreds of times. It might not have been as blatant as someone forcing me to choose between the two, but I have chosen my own comfort and luxury over other people’s plenty of times, and I think most people have at one point or another. That goes for my friends, family, and co-workers as well.
Moving on from that, I can address your questions regarding the bystander effect. I can see why you would think it helps your argument, but here’s why I disagree (that doesn’t mean you’re wrong, just that I disagree with your argument). While your system would have individual responsibility of certain things, you’d still be a group since you’d live in some form of community. As such you wouldn’t be able to avoid the bystander effect. Once you get enough people together, the effect will take place automatically. So it’s not meant as a flaw for your society or anything like that, just a flaw with human nature.
Now, like I said before, if this was a system applied to a small community of a couple of thousand people, you’d probably not see those sorts of issues at the same scale. Small town communities tend to care for their own in a much better way than a big city. However, since you said this is a system you’d liked applied to the entire world, I have to respond with that in mind, hence why I don’t see it really changing one way or another.
In terms of Carrier, while you’re right that tax breaks might move it more in line with a capitalist society, the fact that the move was made by the government makes it socialism in my book. It’s still them artificially controlling the market, which is what this group is against, correct? Not to mention, Trump is selling it as a win for him, which means a lot of those workers will see him (meaning the government) as responsible for saving their job.
With education, you’re right that studies show students do better when their parents involve themselves in their schooling. However, are you sure it would work the same if no one told them what to do? Would an average parent really know how to push their children in useful directions from an early age? Sure, they know how to help them with their homework (which is what those studies are about), but would they be able to make their children consider at an early age what they should spend the rest of their lives doing?
As I said, I’m not sure how it would work within your system. I know it doesn’t work at a university level in our current system, but I’m just concerned that indecision and quantity of useless degrees would just spread down the educational ladder. Like I openly admitted, that’s a theoretical concern, so I’m not expecting for us to resolve it here.
You’re right in your assessment of the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment. Another interesting experiment is the Landis experiment from the 1920’s. It also showed the influence of authority upon people. This also goes for your “state as mass murderers” point, since a lot of Germans during WW2 believed they were just doing their jobs.
To me, that’s more an issue with the state having too much power, more so than the concept of a state (meaning government) is inherently doomed to fail. As a thought experiment, a government sounds like an interesting idea. However, like a lot of thought experiments, it doesn’t work as well within a real life scenario when done incorrectly. You need the right conditions, and apply it to the correct level of the social structure.
In a way, the failures of the current system is exactly why I’m so skeptical about replacing it, cause if you want to replace something, you need to make it better. So if you can’t know for sure that people are going to be better off, you’re essentially arguing for change for the sake of change, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Cause if all you’re doing is replacing one flawed system with an equally flawed system, then what’s the point?
In terms of reading material, I’ll give it some thought and get back to you.
P.S.: I do completely agree with your assessment that there’s no such thing as a selfless act.
I don’t know how often you talk politics with Americans, but generally speaking, by this point in the conversation we would have long since devolved into name calling and petty insults. It’s refreshing to talk with somebody that isn’t constantly trying to be “right” or necessarily trying to “win” the conversation — you’re actually trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
Regarding the common-ness of the questions, I just wanted to apologize if it sounded pedantic — that is not my intention!
I want to get back to your initial post, where you said, “I’d like some proper, practical solutions to how AnCap would fix some of the issues mentioned above. If you don’t think AnCap would necessarily fix these issues, then please elaborate on why people would still be better off in a new system.”
But first, I’m hoping to respond to a couple quick points in your last post with my next few replies.
Then, in the replies following that, I’ll do what I think will be of most interest to you: a rapid fire recap of some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of ‘how it would work’ that we’ve discussed so far and make a small conclusion.
Then, in subsequent replies, I’ll address at length the moral points you bring up — however, I don’t think they’re all that crucial for this conversation, so feel free to disregard if not interested.
And then I’ll finish with these most recent practical issues you mention.
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Quick Point #1: The State Doesn’t Work IRL
You said, “As a thought experiment, a government sounds like an interesting idea. However, like a lot of thought experiments, it doesn’t work as well within a real life scenario…”
That’s music to my ears!
It is clear you are no State-worshipper (thank heavens) and you aren’t opposed to the notion of getting rid of the State — IF — we can come up with some type of ‘system’ that could provide at least some sort of assurance that it would be better than what we have now.
That’s eminently reasonable and very logical of you.
Here is all I’d like you to consider:
We’ve been trying this experiment of ‘The State’ for thousands of years, all over the world, and it never works, not in any of its countless variations. Whatever ‘system’ you decide to advocate for, consider solutions that don’t involve a State.
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Quick Point #2: Replacing The State
I also wanted to mention this important and totally valid concern you have:
“In a way, the failures of the current system are exactly why I’m so skeptical about replacing it, cause if you want to replace something, you need to make it better… if all you’re doing is replacing one flawed system with an equally flawed system, then what’s the point?”
The best answer (as others have said) is to not think of this in terms of ‘replacing’ something bad with something else that may or may not be better.
We’re removing something bad, and… that’s it.
If somebody has been punching you in the face your whole life and one day they offered to stop punching you in the face, you wouldn’t say, “Well hang on now, who’s going to punch me in the face if you don’t? How’s that going to work? Are you just going to go around not letting me get punched in the face by anyone?”
If you got punched in the face you’re whole life, you’d grow used to it. You wouldn’t know how to live without getting punched in the face, since you had never done it before. That would make you scared to try out this whole ‘not getting punched’ thing. But since everyone would be telling you it’s so much better not getting punched, you’d probably go for it.
But, if everyone was getting punched in the face, and it had been going on for thousands of years, I guarantee you people would have all kinds of trepidations about putting a stop to it.
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Quick Point #3: Limited Government
Regarding the milgram and Stanford experiments you state:
“…that’s more an issue with the state having too much power, more so than the concept of a state (meaning government) is inherently doomed to fail.”
This is the ‘limited government’ or ‘minarchist’ approach — i.e., ‘the State itself isn’t the problem, just that they get too big and end up with too much power.’
To that, I just have to say d’er inkje greidt aa gripa aalen um sporden. (Wikipedia told me that means ‘You might as well try to grab an eel by the tail.’)
No government has ever remained limited, and there is no logical reason to ever think one would ever remain limited. By it’s nature, the State can only grow or die. War is the health of the state. The US Constitution gave us the State we have today, or was impotent to prevent it.
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Now, for a recap of answers to what you’re really wanting to know:
“What about companies moving their production of goods overseas? How would AnCap fix that?”
Answer: If the owner(s) of a company were to move their production from one privately owned area to another privately owned area, through the means of voluntary exchange alone, there is nothing broken that needs fixing. No one is using force or aggression against anyone else, it’s the owner(s)’ company, they get first right to determine where it should be located. It’s wrong to initiate force to intervene and tell the owner they can’t move (using voluntary exchange alone), regardless of how ‘right’ you think you are about them not moving.
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“How would people be able to afford to pay for things like education and healthcare?”
Kahn Academy example; teaching license example; the video you watched.
“Ok, I’m convinced cost wouldn’t be an issue. However, I’m not so sure about quality and getting an educated populace. The thing is ensuring people actually learn a useful trade while still enabling them that choice of how they want their lives to unfold. In the middle ages rich people were the only ones given a proper choice in what they wanted to do. If you were the son of a farmer, you’d be a farmer…”
In the Middle Ages, you couldn’t learn anything from anyone anywhere in the world – you could only learn from those near you. That’s just not the case anymore (again, think of the Kahn Academy solution).
“But there’s no one around to tell the parents what to do. Would an average parent really know how to push their children in useful directions? Would they be able to make their children consider at an early age what they should spend the rest of their lives doing?”
There’s all sorts of people that can help the parents be good parents: friends, family, churches, non-profits, charitable organizations, neighbors, etc. etc. etc.
Regardless of the suitability, no one has a better, more rightful claim to the structure of a child’s education than that child’s parent.
[More on this under practical points below.]
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PENSIONS (SOCIAL SECURITY)
Question: “How would State pensions (social security) work in an AnCap society?
Answer: There would not be any State pensions (because that money is illicitly gained via theft), but there surely would be all sorts of private options. With employers, certainly with insurance companies. For the elderly, see next point.
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ELDERLY, DISABLED, FAILED TO SAVE
Question: “What if some people don’t choose to get insurance, healthcare, save for the future, etc., and then find themselves dying for lack of personal responsibility — do we just leave them to die because they didn’t pull their own weight? What if they are elderly? What about disabled people — people that never had the ability to pull their own weight — how do they get food, clothing, shelter, etc.?”
Answer: Who would take care of this person? Probably, their family. Or, their church. Or their friends. Their neighbors. Charitable organizations. Religious institutions. Non-Profit organizations. And best of all, brand new options that we haven’t thought of yet — once the market is unleashed, there’s seemingly no end to the innovation it engenders. (By contrast, the State is doing a pretty terrible job of taking care of these people — no doubt in my mind AnCap would do better.)
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Question: “People are selfish, how does AnCap deal with that fact of human nature?”
AnCap not only accepts that it’s a fact of human nature — unlike any other ‘system’ — it ALSO integrates it in such a way that it turns it into a net benefit for society.
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PRACTICAL POINTS IN YOUR MOST RECENT COMMENT
1. “…if this was a system applied to a small community of a couple of thousand people, you’d probably not see those sorts of issues… Small town communities tend to care for their own in a much better way than a big city. However, since you said this is a system you’d liked applied to the entire world, I have to respond with that in mind, hence why I don’t see it really changing one way or another.”
The ‘entire world’ is made up of ‘small communities’. Just because the State draws an imaginary invisible line around certain areas and arbitrarily decides some people live in a certain city, or country, etc., doesn’t mean necessarily that those people ‘belong’ together (so to speak).
Necessarily, this new system would take hold initially at the individual level. One would first accept the moral principle and the correlating principle that the State isn’t needed, and try to live their life accordingly. That one person finds others nearby (family, neighbors) who have accepted the same thing. These individuals would then work together to remove State influence as much as possible from their lives. And it would grow from there.
A ‘city’ (big or small) is a relic of the State. Just because I live under the same ‘city’ jurisdiction as another person doesn’t mean I have any real ties to them. A ‘city’ is an imaginary construct, so there is no need to convince a ‘big city’ to change, no need to ‘apply’ anything to any community at any scale. There technically would be no such thing as a ‘big city’ or a ‘city’ at all, relaly. We would just be individuals and individual families with individual private properties, that voluntary group together when we choose to under conditions we all agree to.
2. “In terms of Carrier, while you’re right that tax breaks might move it more in line with a capitalist society, the fact that the move was made by the government makes it socialism in my book. It’s still them artificially controlling the market, which is what this group is against, correct?”
Yes, it is still State intervention, I wasn’t claiming otherwise. But surely you can recognize my point, right?
The State was driving those jobs away with their actions, and when they promised to stop taking some of their actions, the jobs stayed.
My point was just that logically, it stands to reason that if the State stopped taking even more actions, even more jobs would stick around. This Carrier incident is a great demonstration that the closer you move to our position — zero State intervention — the more jobs there will be.
That also demonstrates that the less of the State there is, the more financially prosperous people would be, which gets back to your original point. If you want to see how much better off we’d be financially, you can look to how much better off those Carrier jobholders were once the State intervention was reduced — they’d be even better off financially if State intervention was reduced to zero.
3. “With education… students do better when their parents involve themselves in their schooling. However, are you sure it would work the same if no one told them what to do? Would an average parent really know how to push their children in useful directions from an early age? …would they be able to make their children consider at an early age what they should spend the rest of their lives doing?”
Since this is sort of a 3 part question, I’ll do a 3 part answer.
Would it work the same if no one told them what to do? Are you suggesting the parents live in a cave, or what? We have cell phones, the internet, our own parents, grandparents, neighbors, books, siblings, churches, clubs, etc. What makes you think they wouldn’t be ‘told’ (so to speak) what to do by a number of qualified sources?
Also, why do they need to be ‘told’ what to do in the first place? Who has the first, most rightful claim to what the content, structure, and execution of a child’s education should be, if not the parents?
Should I get to decide your child’s education? How about a team of economists? Maybe a computer?
Of all the things you think could or should be in charge of a child’s education, where would you rank the State? With it’s fraud and corruption, sex scandals, etc. That is who you think can do a better job of educating a child than their own parent?
4. “I’m just concerned that indecision and quantity of useless degrees would just spread down the educational ladder. Like I openly admitted, that’s a theoretical concern, so I’m not expecting for us to resolve it here.”
I would just mention that at least over here, we’re basically experiencing a college debt bubble. The government prints lots of money to ‘stimulate’ the economy because it will make things ‘better’, but they have to ‘spend’ that newly printed money into the economy somehow. One way that new money gets spent is on student loans.
So, banks are happy to write giant loan checks to idiot 18 year olds (myself included) so they can go to any college they want. Colleges can raise tuition sky high because the loans will cover it. And what happens to the banks if (i.e., when) all those loans default in the future? Too big to fail.
My point is, you should be far more concerned about the State’s role in the quantity of useless degrees today than the possibility that children in a truly free society somehow would be worse off. Without government subsidized/backed loans, how many kids would be able to afford these useless degrees?
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MORAL DISCUSSION FROM PREVIOUS COMMENT
1. “…the problem is that (contrary to popular belief) there’s no such thing as a moral absolute.”
This is probably a philosophical argument for another day, because I don’t need you to concede this point in order for me to make my point. But, the following has always been my response to the ‘no moral absolutes’ concept, and I’m still looking for a convincing response:
Isn’t the statement “There’s no such thing as a moral absolute” a statement that claims to be a moral absolute?
Isn’t it a contradiction?
2. “No one agrees on every stance of morality.”
While I disagree that there are no moral absolutes, this little step futher you took here puts us on common ground. Hence, no need to argue the moral absolute question as it relates to this topic (but happy to go into it if you are!).
You may have noticed I kept saying ‘most’ people agree that blah blah blah. That’s because I allow that not everyone agrees on every moral stance.
But, I would argue, and this is sorta crucial, that most people, throughout most of human history, would agree with the following statement:
“It’s wrong for a person (or group of persons) to initiate force (or threaten to initiate force) against another person (or group of persons) that have not initiated force (or threatened to initiate force) against anyone else.”
So first, stop me if I’m wrong about ‘most’ people agreeing to that statement or not?
And if I’m right, my point is that we can’t all agree on everything, or honestly, we can’t all agree on virtually anything. But, the vast majority of people do agree with at least one thing, and the moral proposition I just stated is one of the only things ‘most’ people can agree to.
So, conceding the moral absolute argument, I would just say that if we had to have an organizing principle underlying society, shouldn’t it be the one moral principle we can (almost) all agree on?
3. “If you murder a whole bunch of people, then I say it’s fine killing you… However, plenty of people would say that any act of killing another is unacceptable.”
I wanted to pause here to point something out that wasn’t immediately clear to me when I first heard these ideas. You’re pointing out two different views on killing people, making the case that no system can accommodate for this sort of diversity of moral opinions.
But our system does accommodate both of these opposing views, under the one moral principle mentioned above, even if at first glance it appears otherwise.
The reason is that being opposed to the initiation of force isn’t the same thing as being opposed to force. (That’s a crucial point…)
If you are murdering a whole bunch of people, you are initiating force. Once you have initiated force, there is nothing in the aforementioned principle precluding someone from using force to either put an end to your aggression and/or retaliating against you for your aggression.
On the other hand, if force is initiated against someone who doesn’t believe it’s ever ok to kill — either in defense or retaliation, there is nothing in the aforementioned principle precluding someone from refraining from using force.
Meaning both a pro-death penalty advocate and a totally anti-violence person would both be able to get their way in our society. (They simply wouldn’t be able to use force to impose their way on other people.)
4. “The same goes for theft. Some make exceptions for stealing if you really need it…”
I would argue that the exception proves the rule.
That is to say that a person making the “exception” is acknowledging that the moral principle is inherently accurate, i.e., they agree to the moral principle, and see it as an appropriate rule to live by.
If in a time of need we break with our moral principles temporarily, that doesn’t necessarily mean we no longer agree to the principle, simply that we made a decision to go against it for a period of time.
People will always break with the organizing principle of society, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have one, or that this is the wrong one.
5. “…or if it’s a ‘victimless crime’ (e.g., piracy or robbing an insured bank)…”
I believe that in a truly free society, most (if not all) communities will treat victimless crimes totally differently than the state does. Meaning the people who don’t think victimless-crime-perpetrators should be punished would be easily accommodated under the previously stated moral principle.
As for the examples you gave, I don’t understand how piracy and/or robbing an insured bank is a victimless crime? (If a pirate robs a ship, isn’t the owner of the ship a victim? If a robber knocks over an insured bank, isn’t the insurer the victim? Unless the insurer is backed up by tax dollars, in which case, aren’t the taxed people victims? Am I missing something here?)
6. “…whereas others say any form of theft is a crime that needs to be punished.”
These people are also accommodated for under the moral principle. If you violate the principle and initiate force against someone — e.g., theft — you are the aggressor, and as such, society as a general rule will not stand in the way of your punishment because you violated the single principle.
Hopefully you are starting to see how all of these differing views are only problematic when one tries to force the view on others, as is the necessary case under the current system. In our system, where no one’s views are forced on anyone else, the strife simply vanishes.
7. “As far as rape goes, I agree people think the act of rape is wrong, but they often disagree on what constitutes rape.”
I certainly believe we will never be able to agree on all (or even most) of the tricky issues that come up regarding morality (abortion, vaccines, etc.). But, as you say, we pretty much all agree that at least the basic concept of ‘rape’ is morally wrong.
My point is that while some people may quibble over the details of just how wrong rape is, or what exactly constitutes rape, virtually everyone you can possibly think of pretty much agrees that there is an underlying principle that makes rape wrong. (And I believe that underlying moral principle is the one I’ve stated.)
8. ”…it made sense for some people to lose their jobs if it gave a cheaper product to millions of people (loosely paraphrased). So, following that train of thought, don’t you think it would be quite easy to convince a room of everyday people that it’s fine for the state to take someone’s house if doing so gives a benefit to millions of people?”
No, absolutely not: I do not think it would be easy to convince everyday people that it’s fine for the State to take someone’s house to benefit others.
In fact I think it would be extremely difficult to convince people of that notion.
For example, let’s say you asked me: “How do you convince a room full of everyday people to believe it’s ok for the State to take their stuff to benefit other people?”
My answer would be something like this:
“Well sir, this will be tough to convince people of something so ridiculous, but I believe it can be done. Here’s how we pull it off:
“Build me lots of buildings, mandate that all children must appear at the buildings for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and let me ‘school’ them on how the world works. Then, help me gain control the people’s information and entertainment sources, so I can ensure that only messaging conducive to my aims gets through to them. THEN, after a generation or two, I bet I can convince a room full of people that it’s ok for the State to rob them to benefit others.”
You see, there is a distinction between ‘it made sense for them to lose their jobs’ and ‘the State should initiate force against the few in order to help the many.’
I completely missed the distinction when I first discovered these ideas, kind of like how I missed the difference in Nonaggression and Nonviolence. When I did first recognize it, I thought it was a very nuanced distinction. But now that I fully grasp it, it seems so obvious, I don’t know how I could have ever seen it differently.
See, it made sense for candlemakers to lose their jobs when we came up with lightbulbs. It made sense for horseshoe makers to lose their jobs when cars were invented. And it would make sense for a Vermont-based orange grower to lose their job if no one bought their oranges because the Florida oranges were so much cheaper.
The distinction is that the State-version of your example involves the initiation of force (i.e., the State taking land from people) while the market-version of your example does not (people simply stopped buying the candles, horseshoes, and Vermont-oranges).
This distinction is so important. Basically: there are only two ways of acquiring what you want from another person — by force, or through voluntary exchange. Acquiring what you want via the State is choosing to use force, while choosing the market is choosing voluntary exchange.
9. “Right at this moment there are hundreds of thousands of people starving around the world. I was in Washington D.C. last week, and I saw a homeless person on nearly every street.”
There are actually millions (if not billions?) of people starving right now. We both agree that this is awful, and we both want a system that can cure/prevent this.
But think about it: what does ‘all over the world’ have in common with DC, aside from all the starving people? They are all run by States. Some leftist, some right, some democratic, some not, some new, some old, some capitalist, some socialist, etc. etc. But they are all states.
So, I think we agree that clearly the current system is not working, i.e. starving people everywhere is totally unsolvable by the current State system, considering they’ve had thousands of years to figure it out, with the whole world as their testing ground, and there’s still starving people everywhere.
If you, like me, are genuinely searching for the answer to problems like world hunger, then I implore you to hear this: I think I’ve found the answer… Or at least the closest thing to it this side of heaven. If I’m wrong, I’d like to know. Because like you, I want to see an end to as much of this human suffering we see all around us as possible.
But if I’m right, then we have the intellectual/theoretical answer to the issue right in front of our faces…
10. “I don’t think anyone would let someone they know starve or freeze to death…”
My question wasn’t about letting someone you know die, my question was letting anyone you come into contact with (i.e., ‘step over them on the street’). That is, I still see the original point as a straw man: I just don’t know anyone that would let someone die right in front of them without trying to help — stranger or not.
11. “…but we’ve all let others die around the world. Not in an explicit way, but definitely through an implicit lack of action… [And] to answer your question, ‘If I had to choose between buying nice shoes or saving a dying man, which would I choose?’, in a sense I’ve made that choice hundreds of times. It might not have been as blatant as someone forcing me to choose between the two, but I have chosen my own comfort and luxury over other people’s plenty of times…”
Right, ‘in a sense’ you’ve made that choice. You’ve definitely made the choice… ‘implicitly’…
But in reality, not only have you never had to make that choice, if presented with it — in reality — you would like to think you’d choose to save the dying man, wouldn’t you? So would your family, friends, etc. While you could potentially find someone somewhere that would choose otherwise, you’ll sure have a hard time getting them to admit to it!
More to the point, when you chose your own comfort and luxury over other people’s, would you have preferred that someone had stepped in and forced you to do otherwise, that some person or entity would have stopped you from doing it and instead forced your money to a ‘better’ cause?
If so, then of all the people or entities you could think of that you would want to step in and force you to spend your money differently, where does the State rank on your list?
Surely if you concede the State’s wastefulness, inefficiency, and corruption, then you would logically have to concede that even if people should have money taken from them to be to put ‘better’ causes, the agent for this shouldn’t be the State. (I’d rather put a bunch of 7 year olds in charge of it than the yahoos in US congress.)
Just because people, when given total control of their own income, might not do enough to help others, you’re saying that the best thing to do is give control of at least some portion of our income to the inefficient, wasteful, and perpetually corrupt State and let THEM decide which ‘better’ causes your income should go to?
12. “Think of the last luxury good (for the lack of a better term) you bought… don’t you think there’s people around the world that could’ve used that money for something more beneficial than I did?”
But honestly, yes, of course, someone somewhere definitely could have spent my money better than I did, just like I totally could have spent your thousand bucks better than you did. 😉
But that begs the question: who is best positioned to determine how your money gets spent?
Should it be me — do I get to tell you how to spend your money? Maybe it should be a team of economists that decides where your money goes? (But then, who gets to pick the economists?) Maybe a computer program could decide where your money goes? (But then, who gets to program that computer, though?) What if we just put all of our money in a big pot and then split it up evenly?
Who has the best, first claim to the fruits of your labor?
Should it be you, or does someone else have a more rightful claim to your money than you do? (Just like with rape: who has a more rightful first claim to your body than you?)
Ultimately, our system says that — for better or worse — YOU get first rights to your income. You can use as much or little of it as you like for whatever purposes you like (so long as you don’t violate the aforementioned principle).
Which is why I say ‘for better or worse’ because yes, I totally get that some (maybe even ‘many’) people would choose to do nothing to voluntarily help their fellow man with no expectation of return.
But in our system, if I invent a device that improves millions of lives, then I would be handsomely rewarded for doing such a super nice thing for the world. Whether I did it out of the goodness of my heart, or I did it because I’m greedy and selfish and just wanted the money doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference — millions of lives are better off in either case, I get paid in either case, everybody wins, regardless of my greed or lack thereof.
Unlike socialism, fascism, communism, blah-blah-blah-ism, our system is the only one that actually accounts for our broken human nature, meaning we account for weasly little greedy, uncharitable people.
Basically, not only do we recognize the greed you’re so worried about — we’ve figured out a theory that would turn this seemingly antisocial behavior into a benefit for all of mankind. (A remarkable intellectual accomplishment if you ask me.)
14. “While your system would have individual responsibility of certain things, you’d still be a group since you’d live in some form of community. As such you wouldn’t be able to avoid the bystander effect. Once you get enough people together, the effect will take place automatically. So it’s not meant as a flaw for your society or anything like that, just a flaw with human nature.”
Great point, I wasn’t thinking of it that way.
But, I think it’s safe to say, no matter what system we are talking about then, this issue will be present. I would argue that current system only exacerbates the bystander effect (‘Not my job, I pay taxes for that…’) whereas our system of individual responsibility would mitigate the bystander effect.
How good would our system be at handling the bystander effect? Compared to what? The State? I think our system would do just fine compared to the State.
March 3, 2017 at 10:34 am #152
Wow, 10 word pages. You’ve outdone yourself this time. hehe. I do debate a lot with people online, and I always try to do so in a respectful manner. Of course, some people just deserve to get trolled, but that’s a different matter. hehe.
Regarding the state, I’m certainly open to the idea of getting rid of it altogether. However, all I’m saying is that it’s [not] necessarily in the best interest of a population to do so. As you said, if I could become convinced otherwise, then I’d be more supportive of it. As far as “government never remained limited”, I’d say look at Switzerland. They’ve had a comparatively limited government for the last 400 years, and have remained one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. I’m sure they have some waste as well, but compared to my own country of Norway for instance, their efficiency and social structure seems a lot better. So I am convinced that a state could work if done under the right circumstances. The problem, as you’ve correctly pointed out, is that the temptation of abusing the power you get from something as powerful as the state is too much to handle for a lot of people, so it tends to expand simply by virtue of human nature.
Interestingly though, a lot of states (meaning countries rather than governments specifically) fell apart when their citizens didn’t feel like their best interests were being preserved. If you look at the collapse of the Roman empire for instance, and the subsequent thousand years of war within Europe, a lot of that happened because it never managed to stabilize to a point where the citizens of a city/country felt like they were benefiting. Sometimes entire countries fractured because citizens felt like that was a better way for them to be better off financially and socially. That’s not related to your argument per say, but just another point regarding how humans often work.
With outsourcing, as I said before, I think we agree on the foundation of it. I was more asking in terms of other people’s concern regarding their jobs. For instance, if you assume as you said that it becomes cheaper to produce things in America once you remove the state, then wouldn’t it become even cheaper in countries like China and India? So wouldn’t people still lose their jobs to outsourcing? The answer I’ve heard to this from other people is that it would become so cheap for people to start new companies that even if old jobs went away, people would just make new ones. That, as I said before, does depend quite a bit on demand for a product. There will also always be limits to how many jobs you can get within a specific market while also being a profitable company. If everyone became a postman for instance, imagine how cheap you could get your mail delivered, but simultaneously how unprofitable it would be to become a postman. See my point?
To me, this also relates to your Carrier point. If you get rid of the state, those jobs might still move cause it would now potentially be even cheaper in Mexico, or some other place in the world. Cause as cheaply as you might be willing to perform a job, with a free, unrestricted market, you can pretty much guarantee that there’s someone out there willing to do it for even less. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, quite the contrary. The market shouldn’t be as restricted as it is today, and outsourcing is simply a natural extension of that view. However, I don’t think AnCap would solve outsourcing in that sense, which I feel is your point. Correct me if I misunderstood though.
With education, I think we’re arguing slightly different things. You seem to think I’m arguing that the parent shouldn’t decide over their child’s upbringing, that they’re not qualified to give their children advice and council, and that’s not my intention. What I’m saying is that not every parent is qualified to teach within certain topics. This argument was related to home schooling, not education within AnCap as a whole. The video I watched on this said that within AnCap you could home school your kid, or you could even decide to not give your child any education at all. Within that scenario, how do you maintain the best interest of the child? Cause wouldn’t the child be better off learning something rather than nothing? Admittedly a small aspect, but since he brought it up, I did as well. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.
With that said, may I ask you a personal question? You said “Who has the first, most rightful claim to what the content, structure, and execution of a child’s education should be, if not the parents?” My question is this. Would you be able to give your child (don’t know if you have a child, but in this scenario you have one. Mazel tov) a education you feel is worthy of them? Would you be able to decide on the necessary content, structure it in such a way that they learn most of it, and execute it in a way that they benefit from? Cause I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t. At best I would be qualified to pick what I deemed to be a good school for my child, but I wouldn’t be able to give them a strong education. So to answer your question, I think the parent has the right to choose where their child goes to school, but not everyone has the skill to actually teach their child. As I said though, I feel this relates to a minor aspect of schooling both within our current society, and the suggested new one, but still relevant enough to bring it up.
Finally, to answer your question about “who should decide the education of my (imaginary) child?”, my short answer is whoever is qualified. My longer answer would be what I deem to be a quality educational institution. I have always been a supporter of private schools, as I feel they deliver much better results than public schools. So I don’t think the state should decide what my kid learns, but I do think schools managed by people with experience and qualifications within teaching should be. My influence over my child’s education would then be to decide which school they go to, and help them with their homework.
Expanding onto your points about university and how the cost of university would stop this sort of indecision in your society, didn’t we already agree that the cost of university would go down in AnCap? If so, couldn’t you then theorize that you’d see an increase rather than a decrease in the amount of useless degrees? If it’s suddenly possible to get a degree cheaply online for instance, wouldn’t people be more inclined to do so? I suppose you could also theorize that without some form of student loan, people would be inclined to enter the work force as early as possible rather than spend time studying, but wouldn’t the educational demands of a job be similar? Would it be a lot easier to learn how to be a doctor for instance, or would you still need a proper degree to do so? Suppose working while studying is the obvious answer to both, but that brings it back to the argument about the limits of certain types of jobs within any market.
Moving onto the charity thing. Cities as we think of them now have existed long before the state as we think of it today has. Rome for instance was a major metropolitan area with thousands of citizens (which was a lot back then) long before it became the capital of the Roman Empire. So even if you removed the state, you’d still have large gatherings of people that you might class as cities.
Moving onto morality, I will happily discuss moral issues with you. Who doesn’t love a good philosophical argument? So you asked whether saying there’s no moral absolutes is a moral absolute. Thereby proving the existence of moral absolutes, and rejecting the initial argument itself, and here are my thoughts on that.
A moral absolute presents something as objectively true. Something that applies to everyone along the same lines, without exceptions. So for instance with stealing, a moral absolute (i.e. the biblical “thou shalt not steal”) does not allow for interpretations. Now, how does the statement “there’s no such thing as a moral absolute” differ from this. Well, it’s an interesting question. I do think you could class it as a contradiction, but only because it’s actually not possible to make an argument for an actual moral absolute.
What I mean by that is that you could list any sort of moral absolute that you feel is applicable, and someone would likely be able to come up with a scenario where breaking that rule would be permissible. However, you wouldn’t be able to come up with a scenario that would disprove the statement that there’s no moral absolute, meaning you wouldn’t be able to come up with a moral absolute that someone couldn’t make an exception for. So in that sense, you could rephrase my statement as “the only moral absolute is that there are no moral absolutes.” Isn’t philosophy fun?
To move onto your other point regarding force, instantly I can think of examples where people would deem it acceptable to initiate force against someone that haven’t already initiated force. Most of them relate to preemptive strike (ever seen the movie Minority Report? That’s basically how a lot of people think about it). For instance, a lot of people would deem it acceptable to punch someone in the face if you thought they were about to punch you in the face. Even though they haven’t actually done anything yet, down they go. Same with the concept of self-defense. A lot of self-defense takes place under the assumption that something is about to happen, rather than something that has happen. “It was him or me”, means that I had to shoot/punch/kill him, otherwise he was gonna do the same to me. There have certainly been cases where people have gotten off criminal charges when they sought out a conflict and then claimed self defense later. Perhaps most prominently in recent memory is the George Zimmerman case, as he followed Trayvon Martin rather than just leaving him alone. He could’ve avoided the scenario altogether, but went looking for trouble, found it, and then claimed self defense, which a jury then accepted. So that’s a real life scenario of usage of initiatory force being accepted.
In terms of different views being accepted within your society, I think I some additional information here. So do you mean that if I (someone who doesn’t believe in the death penalty, for the sake of argument) get murdered, then society will respect my wishes and not murder my killer? Whereas if you (someone who does believe in the death penalty) get murdered, then society will respect your wishes and kill your murderer? So are you basically saying there’s no set parameters for punishment?
As far as the exceptions though, it actually disproves a moral absolute, as I mentioned above. An absolute cannot have exceptions, cause then it’s no longer an absolute. Not to mention, exceptions are often made for things that are inherently flawed. So people acknowledge that it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, so they make exceptions for it, like they do with theft in certain aspects. It’s also why people get different punishments depending on how harshly they broke this supposed absolute, even though this is not inherently a part of the absolute itself. As far as the absolute would be concerned, any violation of it requires the same punishment.
For the victimless crime section, first off I meant the other kind of piracy (intellectual property, downloading, etc). Second, it’s victimless in the eye of the perpetrator, not the victim, which is an important distinction. So someone might agree to the notion that stealing is wrong, but if they don’t think their actions have a consequence, then they don’t consider it stealing, which is the mentality of a lot of people that download movies and such.
For the record, I only made these arguments with morality in mind, not necessarily how it would function within an AnCap society versus our current society. As I said before though, I’m interested in hearing how punishment would work if it depends on the views of the victims. If I was a criminal, does that mean I could commits acts of violence against people without receiving any form of punishment, as long as I do it against those who don’t believe in the punishment of the crime I committed?
Haha, yeah, my wife was like, ‘Do you really think that guy is going to read 10 pages from a total stranger?”
I apologize for the length, but if I’m being honest, I’m writing this primarily for me – just trying to see if I really do understand my beliefs so well that I can defend them thoroughly. I’m continually reexamining them, trying to get closer to the truth. If I’m on the wrong path, I want to know about it!
Also, I wrote that last chunk of replies while watching ‘Magnus’ about the Norwegian chess prodigy? Thought it was outstanding, seems like a really cool guy (despite the hardship he faced at the State public school! 😉 )
Now, let me see if I can keep this under 10 pages. No promises…
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“Switzerland has maintained a comparatively limited government.”
Dang it, I don’t know enough about Switzerland to refute this. But, here’s my guess at what the refutation would look like:
If you took an average person living in the geographical area of Switzerland 200 years ago and compared it with someone that lived there 150 years ago, 100 years ago, 50, and today, and you could plot a graph of State imposed taxation and regulation on that average person at each point, I’d be shocked to find out the graph lines are stable or point down, towards less State intervention.
I’d be willing to bet that the State’s influence and impact on the average person in Switzerland is much greater today than 200 years ago, i.e., it has grown, if not continually, the overall trajectory is towards larger State control.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“…if you assume… it becomes cheaper to produce things in America once you remove the state, then wouldn’t it become even cheaper in countries like China and India?”
To reiterate previous answers: there likely wouldn’t be an ‘America’, a ‘China’ and an ‘India’ since those are arbitrary, fictional boundaries dreamt up and decreed sacrosanct by the State — without the State, people in all those areas would no longer be ‘American’ or ‘Chinese’.
They’d just be people. Just free people freely exchanging things with each other.
So the direct answer is technically, no, products wouldn’t become cheaper to produce in other countries because ‘other countries’ don’t exist.
But in the spirit of your question, YES, some/much work would get done more cheaply and efficiently in other locations rather than the locations they are currently in as a result of State intervention, meaning they would likely migrate there.
And your question is, ‘What would AnCap do to prevent this?’
To reiterate previous answers: “Nothing” because:
Why would we want to prevent work from getting done where it’s cheapest and most efficient? Allowing this would be the thing that is best for all general human welfare. Anyone opposed to this is saying that they are in favor of making the world a worse place to live in.
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WHERE DO JOBS COME FROM
“New jobs depend on demand for a product.”
To reiterate my previous answer:
Demand for products depends in large part on prices. Forcing work to be done where it is more expensive or more inefficient than it otherwise needs to be means forcing up the cost of that product. Which lowers demand for the production, which lowers the amount of jobs. If you want the most amount of good jobs for the largest number of people, reducing the State — ultimately to zero — is the best way to do it.
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I think the key distinction causing trouble here is the small – but crucial distinction – between “Who is QUALIFIED to teach my child?” And “Whose RIGHT is it to decide what type of education my child should receive?”
You said, “At best I would be qualified to pick what I deemed to be a good school for my child…”
That’s all I’m asking for!!
The ability to pick what I deem to be a good ‘school’ for my child.
Whether that’s my home, or simply ‘nature’, or a neighborhood-based volunteer school, or a privately funded ‘traditional’ school, or some brilliant new solution the market provides if/when the State is removed from the picture.
(Kahn Academy, for example, among others: I just make sure they stay on track, help with their homework, etc. – just like parents have done for generations…)
I’m saying that you have the first, most RIGHTful claim to choose the education for your child.
Now, if you don’t feel you are qualified to make any decisions about your child’s education, that’s fine in an AnCap society: you have the freedom to relinquish all say-so over your child’s education to some other entity. (I can’t imagine any rational, sane, loving parent that would do that, but there would be nothing precluding you from doing it.)
But if – like me and most loving parents – you would like a certain degree of control over your child’s education, from picking the school all the way to teaching your child exclusively, it’s all good in an AnCap society as well. (AnCap presents an endless number of win-win situations like this. When I called it ‘beautiful’ earlier, I meant it!)
I believe I am qualified to steer the course of my child’s education to some degree, and I’d like to exercise my rightful claim as captain of that ship. That doesn’t necessarily mean I am qualified to execute the education I’d like my child to have (nor do I have any interest in doing so).
Being opposed to State-dictated ‘schooling’ doesn’t mean being opposed to the concept of a ‘school’.
AnCap societies very well may have buildings with teachers and principals, ringing bells, chalkboards and desks, where parents send their children to get educated. (I doubt it, but there’s nothing precluding from people coming together to make this happen.)
There is no reason to think kids wouldn’t still be taught math by math teachers and grammar by grammar teachers in AnCap society.
My wife is a ballet teacher. She works at a State-provided school. If all State schools disappeared tomorrow, you know what my wife would be then?
A ballet teacher.
People would still pay her to teach their children, they just wouldn’t pay the State who then (wastes a bunch of this hard earned money and then after they’re done wasting it takes the leftovers and) pays her.
There were ways to get a good education long before State schooling was created, and there would be plenty of ways to get a good education long after it. The State is not a necessary – or desirable – factor in educating children.
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Would people get more useless college degrees in an AnCap society, and if so, how would an AnCap society fix this?
I don’t know if people would get more useless degrees, but as I previously argued, without State subsidized student loans, those degrees would likely be much more expensive than they are today, and since as the price of a good rises the demand slumps, my expectation is that fewer people would get them.
However, even if there are more useless degrees in an AnCap society, my response to what would AnCap society do to fix it would be:
Fix what? If you want a useless degree, who am I to stop you? You’re achieving a useless degree is an initiation of force against no one, and as such, there’s technically nothing wrong with it.
Unless of course, you believe it’s your job to rule over other people’s lives, using force to dictate to them how they should live. But I don’t think that’s my job (or anyone else’s).
AnCap society allows people to live their lives how they see fit (so long as they don’t interfere with others ability to do the same), even if people decide to live their lives in ways some people would consider ‘useless’.
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INITIATION OF FORCE VS SELF DEFENSE
I’d implore you to slow down on this one, because you’re missing another small – but crucial – distinction.
You claim that “…instantly I can think of examples where people would deem it acceptable to initiate force against someone that haven’t already initiated force.”
Yet you give no examples. Let me explain them one at a time:
“Most of them relate to preemptive strike (ever seen the movie Minority Report?)”
To reiterate previous points: no one can predict the future (as Minority Report concluded, if you’ll recall). Therefore, a ‘preemptive strike’ is a contradiction in terms, it’s simply aggressive force justified by the lie that some person(s) are capable of predicting the future. (When you say ‘that’s the way a lot of people think about it’ I would respond that is simply a lot of people believing the lie that the State has told about its ability to predict the future.)
“…people would deem it acceptable to punch someone in the face if you thought they were about to punch you in the face. Even though they haven’t actually done anything yet, down they go. Same with the concept of self-defense. A lot of self-defense takes place under the assumption that something is about to happen, rather than something that has happen. “It was him or me”, means that I had to shoot/punch/kill him, otherwise he was gonna do the same to me.”
Right, and to reiterate my previous responses: it’s wrong to initiate force (or THREATEN to initiate force).
If someone threatens to punch you in the face (verbally, non-verbally, etc.) then they have ‘threatened’ to initiate force. If you manage to swing first, that does not make you the aggressor.
“There have certainly been cases where people have gotten off criminal charges when they sought out a conflict and then claimed self defense later. Someone goes looking for trouble, finds it, and then claims (dishonestly) that it was self defense, and a jury then accepts — which happens all the time — that’s a real life scenario of usage of initiatory force being accepted.”
If someone initiates force, then lies and says the other person was the aggressor, and then gets away with it in court, then that is a clear cut demonstration of the failures of State-provided dispute arbitration services.
Conversely, it does not demonstrate that people accept the use of initiatory force. The fact the person had to lie about their initiation of force in order to get let off just confirms that principle is in fact accepted.
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DEATH PENALTY & ANTI-VIOLENCE ADVOCATES LIVING IN HARMONY
“So do you mean that if someone who doesn’t believe in the death penalty gets murdered, then society will respect their wishes and not murder the killer? Whereas if someone who does believe in the death penalty gets murdered, then society will respect their wishes and kill the murderer? So are you basically saying there’s no set parameters for punishment?”
Am I basically saying there’s no set parameters decreed from a tyrant that all humanity must live by or else an armed gang of thugs will step in and impose those parameters on you by force?
Yes, that is what I’m saying.
Some groups of people will likely establish a death penalty amongst themselves for certain crimes. Other groups of people would likely establish a pact to never kill anyone under any circumstances.
Like all issues, there is a wide spectrum of belief regarding this, and as a result, there would likely be a wide range of (probably small, homogenous) communities representing various points along the spectrum. You’d be free to make arrangements to live/trade/etc. with any of the groups you’d like, and refrain from living/trading/etc. with any of the groups you’d prefer not to. This is the answer to your question
“I’m interested in hearing how punishment would work if it depends on the views of the victims.”
Hopefully you can see from the above points that ‘society’ wouldn’t make the decision of how to punish your aggressor after you’ve become a victim – the arrangements you made before you became a victim would determine the protocols for how an aggressor against you would be handled.
“If I was a criminal, does that mean I could commits acts of violence against people without receiving any form of punishment, as long as I do it against those who don’t believe in the punishment of the crime I committed?”
Then the act of violence isn’t really a crime, and you’re not really a criminal. You can’t assume your a criminal first, and then therefore assume whatever acts you commit are crimes simply because you decided in advance they would be.
For example, some people are sexually aroused by having violence inflicted on them – so, not only might you not be a criminal, you might have found yourself one of those newly created, free market provided jobs we’ve been talking about… (That got real weird real quick, but I think it covers the point.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You asked this question: “A moral absolute presents something as objectively true. Something that applies to everyone… without exceptions… [and] does not allow for interpretations. Now, how does the statement ‘there’s no such thing as a moral absolute’ differ from this?”
But unless I missed it, you never answered the question.
My understanding is that the statement (‘no moral absolutes’) is making a morally absolute claim (a moral claim is a claim about morality, right??), in direct contradiction to the claim itself.
You yourself said, “An absolute cannot have exceptions, cause then it’s no longer an absolute.” If ‘no moral absolutes’ is no longer an absolute (because the claim itself is an exception), that opens the door for their (necessarily) being some moral absolute.
**If you can’t explain how the claim isn’t claiming to be a moral absolute, I would argue the exception to the claim is the claim itself, meaning it can’t be true, meaning their must be at least one moral absolute, i.e., ‘there are no moral absolutes’.**
“…it’s actually not possible to make an argument for an actual moral absolute… you could list any sort of moral absolute… and someone would likely be able to come up with a scenario where breaking that rule would be permissible. However, you wouldn’t be able… to come up with a moral absolute that someone couldn’t make an exception for.”
As we’ve discussed, if someone makes an exception to the principle that stealing is wrong (e.g., steal a loaf of bread to survive the day), they aren’t saying stealing is right. They are saying stealing is still wrong, i.e., they definitely still agree to the moral principle and are not making an ‘exception’ to the principle – the are just simply admitting that they sometimes do what is wrong.
And similarly, and I think more to your point: just because someone makes a standing exception to a moral principle (e.g., it’s ALWAYS ok to steal if you really really really need to) doesn’t necessarily mean that the moral principle is wrong.
The principle may be right, and the person may be wrong… Which leads us to this statement:
“So in that sense, you could rephrase my statement as ‘the only moral absolute is that there are no moral absolutes.’”
What just happened here is we veered into the question of, “What is Truth?”
You say, ‘The only moral absolute is that there are no moral absolutes.’
My question is simply, ‘How do you know for sure that is true?’
March 5, 2017 at 5:06 am #154
There’s definitely a lot there we could comment on. Kudos to both of you for the in depth, and civil, discussion!
I think the way I, personally, would continue the conversation, (at the point you’ve reached so far in what you’ve posted), would be to suggest specific ideas for activist projects. I might ask them to try out bitcoin, or try joining or helping to create a mutual aid society, or try contributing to an open source software project, or something similar. Perhaps if they see libertarians trying to do specific things to solve those different problems, they might be interested in helping out, or at least they may find it more likely that some solution could be found?
Maybe not, but it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to come up with ideas for activist projects myself. I think it could help to build on the abstract ideas to the point of actually creating something in the real world. Even failed projects could at least show that we’re serious about changing the world.
But, of course, that sort of thing is difficult, and costly. The next best thing might be to suggest reading material that discusses historical examples of groups that acted in line with libertarian ideas. If you haven’t already suggested it to them, the person you’re talking with may like David Bieto’s book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.
In particular, there’s a chapter in the book on an orphanage called Mooseheart, founded about 100 years ago, that I think could help convince them that voluntary institutions could provide educational services at both decent quality and price. I was rather amazed, myself, at what they were able to accomplish. The orphanage was kind of like a city of children, complete with farmland, it’s own water supply, and a lot of other infrastructure. Looking it up, I see that the place apparently still exists, though I don’t know how many children live there now.
On the “moral absolutes” part of your discussion, I want to ask, what makes the claim that “There are no moral absolutes” a moral absolute itself, rather than just a claim about moral absolutes?
March 6, 2017 at 11:43 am #155
“…suggest specific ideas for activist projects.”
Oh man, I went a totally different route, although I like the idea. Again, I was trying to test my ability to answer the ‘intellectual’ side of things (even if I got repeatedly sidetracked and forgot about this goal more than a few times…).
“…suggest reading material…”
I did make some suggestions for reading, but one thing that’s probably not clear is that some of the initial responses to his post were telling him to read various books, one of which was like 800 pages and he had made the comment that there would be no point in researching something so obviously flawed, i.e., he’s not going to waste hours of his time reading long books unless he thought it was even remotely feasible. I was hoping to convince him it’s not obviously flawed and that it’s worth his time to look into it.
“…convince them that voluntary institutions could provide educational services at both decent quality and price.”
I believe the Kahn academy example worked on him, i.e., he acknowledges it could offer better education at a lower price. Weirdly, the conversation gets way off track regarding this: his concern became that free market education solutions would make education TOO cheap! (What a horrible problem of the free market, right??) It was such a shocking turn of events that I completely misunderstood him and took a while to get back on track… Kind of embarrassing actually.
“…what makes the claim that ‘There are no moral absolutes’ a moral absolute itself, rather than just a claim about moral absolutes?”
I think the word ‘no’ makes it an ‘absolute’ because ‘absolute’ means roughly ‘not qualified or diminished in any way; total.’ And because it’s a claim about morality (right?), that makes it a ‘moral absolute’. You could accurately (I believe) rephrase ‘there are NO moral absolutes’ as ‘morality is ALWAYS relative’ – I think that highlights the moral-absolute-iness of the phrase. (I’m pretty open to having my mind changed about this, so feel free to take a stab at it! I always thought morality was relative until somebody pointed this argument out to me – I’ve never been able to successfully argue against it… Yet…)
I believe I have the whole convo with the guy organized now – I’ll see if I can just share a Google Drive folder in my next post.
March 6, 2017 at 1:39 pm #156
Alright, here’s the link to the whole thing:
Chapters 1-4 are posted above, so if you want to pick up where you left off, open Chapter 5…
March 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm #159
I shall take a stab at it. Let me know what you think.
I would start by unpacking the claim a little more. Imagine that there are properties of “rightness” and “wrongness” that different actions, people, situations, etc. can possess, the way physical objects can possess properties like temperature, conductivity, momentum, or location.
We could then say, “I can’t find any kinds of actions that always possess the property of ‘rightness’.” Saying this would be an action, but the claim doesn’t say that the act of making it is always right or always wrong, so it doesn’t contradict itself, as far as I can tell. One could even say, “There are no kinds of actions that are always, necessarily, morally right.” The claim does indirectly refer to itself, it says that the act of making the claim is not always, necessarily, morally right. But that’s no logical contradiction, because the claim never says the act of making it is always morally right.
I think the phrase, “There are no moral absolutes.”, seems problematic because it is ambiguous whether it is saying that there are no absolute claims about morality, that no sorts of actions are always morally right or wrong, both at once, or something entirely different. Rephrasing it to specify the second meaning, that no sorts of actions are always morally right or wrong, eliminates the paradoxical quality of the first meaning.
At least, I think I’ve got that right. The logic is a bit tricky, so I may have unknowingly erred somewhere.
But, I’d like to point out, as an aside, not knowing how to refute an argument doesn’t mean one is logically compelled to accept the argument’s conclusions. One can always say one simply doesn’t find the argument convincing, even though one can’t refute it presently. Both claims and their negations carry burdens of proof, an inability to prove a claim’s negation is not the same as an ability to prove the claim itself.
One of the things that bothers me about philosophers like Murray Rothbard is that some of their arguments are, to coin a phrase, “argumentum ad gordiam” arguments, (“gordiam” being an allusion to “gordian knot”.) I mean that somewhat tounge-in-cheek, but basically it seems like they make arguments that have a murky appearance of sensibleness, just enough to satisfy those who want to agree with their conclusions, but are so vague and convoluted that it’s too difficult to figure out what they’re specifically trying to say to conclusively refute them. If one tries to unpack the different claims the argument discusses, the vagueness of the argument can make it possible for them to claim they’re being straw-manned, and any request that they explain themselves more clearly can be responded to with an assertion that their argument is already clear enough, and its correctness is logically self-evident.
I’m thinking in particular of Rothbard’s argument near the beginning of Ethics of Liberty that life is the ultimate, objective standard of (moral) value. (His argument, for curious readers, is, as far as I can tell, that any logically self-consistent person who claims that life is not the ultimate, objective standard of value would simply commit suicide, and thus they would no longer be around to argue with Mr. Rothbard about the affair, so Rothbard must be right.)
But I think the idea may apply here as well. As I said, I think the phrases, “There are no moral absolutes,” and “Morality is always relative,” are vague about what they’re discussing, and need some unpacking in order to puzzle out whether any contradictions are present. Self-reference makes logic complicated, and combining that with vagueness can make arguments seem appealing when they don’t really hold together. One must be careful not to accept such arguments simply because one is unable to untangle them well enough to refute them conclusively, one need not prove a claim’s negation to consistently withhold assent from its affirmation.
Like you, I’m open to being shown where I’ve made mistakes in what I’ve said, if I have.
On that note, I will have to continue reading the chapters in your google doc. Thank you for sharing them!
March 13, 2017 at 11:46 am #161
I think you hit the nail on the head with this:
“I think the phrase, ‘There are no moral absolutes’ seems problematic because it is ambiguous whether it is saying that there are no absolute claims about morality, that no sorts of actions are always morally right or wrong, both at once, or something entirely different.”
Like you said, you could rephrase it like this: “no sorts of actions are always morally right or wrong.” I believe that solves the issue of the initial phrase (‘no moral absolutes’) being a contradictory statement.
But then, it’s not really addressing ‘absolutes’ anymore, I don’t think? Are you saying the new phrase is still talking about moral absolutes? Because it sounds like it’s talking about ‘sorts of actions’ which I’d argue are a whole different thing from ‘absolutes’.
I think all that is to say that my rebuttal would be:
Changing the phrase to specifically refer to categories of action DOES fix the contradiction problem I have with the original statement, but it doesn’t really get us an answer to the question of whether or not there are any such things as moral absolutes, I don’t think…?
March 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm #162
I think you’re right. What is a “moral absolute”? That seems to be the next question. Since the question came from your discussion with your acquaintance from facebook, it may help to ask them if they think the phrase “no sorts of actions are always morally right or wrong” captures what they were trying to say by the phrase “there are no moral absolutes.”
Anywho, I’m glad you think my wording fixes the contradiction issue you have with the original statement.
This goes slightly off track from your facebook conversation, but I had a discussion with Hogeye a little more than a year ago about metaethics, and I’m curious what you think of it. It’s quite long, but if you have the time to read it in the near future, I’d be grateful for any comments you might have!
March 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm #163
Nice, excited to read the metaethics thing! Should be able to get all/most of the way through it tonight. 😀
As for the Fbook convo, I actually tried to get away from the moral absolute argument as quickly as possible because I thought it would derail a closer look at the AnCap ideas he initially brought up. I think I did that relatively well by just pointing out the difference between the NAP and a moral absolute, i.e., the NAP is a ‘principle’ that ‘most’ people agree to – not an absolute… He seemed pretty cool with that and we mostly moved on from it. (I did get a ‘haha, touche’ from him in Chapter 13 when I tossed it back at him in response to him saying that f**king people over is always wrong…)
I’d like to go deeper on the moral absolute thing, BUT, let me read y’alls convo first so you don’t end up having to re-explain anything that’s in there…
March 23, 2017 at 7:42 pm #216
Hey, finally got a chance to read that ethic/morality debate you had!
There’s so many topics to choose from to talk about, I’m not sure where to start. Or where to end it, for that matter… With that in mind, I basically just picked out some general thoughts/comments/points that I thought were interesting and wrote up three little mini-essays about the whole experience.
No idea if it’s what you’re looking for, but I enjoyed writing it… 😛
. . .
From the earliest civilizations to today, I’d argue our differences of opinion regarding morality have caused a lot — if not most/all — of the trouble in successfully organizing society in such a way that people can not only survive but also thrive.
As far as I can tell, there are really only a couple ways we could deal with these differences of opinion: (1) use any means necessary to get everyone to agree to a particular ‘morality’ (which would include ‘no morality’), or (2) maybe we could just figure out a way to live where differences of opinion regarding morality (or anything at all for that matter) cause little to no strife or conflict.
Nearly everyone is desperately advocating for the first option: they want everyone to agree to a certain morality — specifically, their morality — and anyone who disagrees, well, they get the horns.
But I’ve long been convinced that the second option is totally the way to go. (Sounds like Bill is convinced to.) It would seem that if we could just agree to only have voluntary interactions, our individual moralities would have fairly benign consequences.
. . .
In a voluntary society, the question of the bird-damaging Hopi children isn’t a question of anyone’s morality, it’s a question of: Who owns the birds?
If the birds belong to the Hopi, then they can do what they want with their property (so long as they don’t initiate force against anyone). Regardless of anyone’s moral thoughts on it, society ‘should’ deem this ‘right’ if society wants to not only survive but thrive.
Same if the birds are owned by nobody, they should be considered fair game (pun intended?) in the eyes of society, regardless of anyone’s ‘moral beliefs’ to the contrary.
If the birds are owned by someone other than the bird-damagers, then it should be considered by society ‘wrong’ for them to damage the birds (unless they’ve entered into a voluntary agreement with the bird-owners to do so).
. . .
Me, personally, unless the birds have been ‘homesteaded’, I believe there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster way up in the tippy top of the clouds, and that Flying Spaghetti Monster shoots rainbows from His meatballs, and He owns all un-homesteaded birds. And therefore, I believe it’s wrong to damage His property like that — morally speaking.
However, I completely get that a lot of people think that believing a Flying Spaghetti Monster owns everything makes you a frickin crazy person. So, while I personally believe it is morally wrong to damage birds, I would still prefer to live in a society that allows bird-damaging (in the sense detailed above) because I don’t want the ability to impose my beliefs on anyone else BECAUSE I don’t want anyone else to have the ability to impose their beliefs ME.
(But of course, you don’t think I really believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster, right? But you get my point? People who do would pose far less of a problem.)
Basically, my personal beliefs on morality — like all beliefs — would have little to no consequences on other people in a voluntary society, and therefore, differences in moral beliefs would finally cease to be one of the primary sources of (and certainly the most popular rhetorical cover for) strife and conflict in society.
March 24, 2017 at 12:25 am #219
Thanks for your comments! And for reading the discussion.
I think I come close to agreeing with you. In a voluntary society I think moral disagreements could cause less conflict. Practically speaking, I think you, Bill and I would advocate for much the same solution to such conflict.
I hesitate to treat a purely voluntary society as synonymous with a purely propertarian one. I think that might be the only place where I part ways with your comments. I think property norms are complex, more-so than Murray Rothbard accepted in Ethics of Liberty, and I think different groups of people could live by different sets of property norms without any particular set of norms being the obviously “correct” set. Thus, I’d like to have a notion of “voluntary” that doesn’t presuppose any specific set of property norms, if it’s possible for us to come up with such a notion.
I recently read an article by Elinor Ostrom, Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems, that mentions research on different sorts of norms of resource management used by different groups of people. In one part of the article, she says:
After working for several years with colleagues to code cases of successful and failed systems, I thought my next task would be to undertake careful statistical analysis to identify which specific rules were associated with successful systems. I had not yet fully absorbed the incredible number and diversity of rules that the team had recorded. In 1988, I spent a sabbatical leave in a research group organized by Reinhard Selten at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University. I struggled to find rules that worked across ecological, social, and economic environments, but the specific rules associated with success or failure varied extensively across sites. Finally, I had to give up the idea that specific rules might be associated with successful cases.
My takeaway from her article, (and from other works on property in the American Old West, and the debate among self-identifying libertarians over what does or doesn’t count as property), is that it might be easier to come up with a concept of “voluntary association” or “non-aggression” that doesn’t take any detailed property theory for granted than to demonstrate the superiority of any particular set of property norms. Perhaps different people could live by different sets of norms, or rules, and when conflicts arise they could find some sort of middle ground through negotiation. I think different sorts of rules might suit different people.
I haven’t developed these thoughts very thoroughly yet, so I don’t hold a very strong opinion on the subject. I also acknowledge that trying to come up with a property-theory-independent non-aggression-principle is difficult, and that I may be biting off more than I can chew.
I think I would prefer living in a society where individual ownership was predominate anyway, so I think I would have more work to do trying to persuade communists or mutualists to agree to some sort of middle ground than I would with lockeans or rothbardians, but I do think property is too complex an idea to accept Rothbard’s specific set of norms as preferable without some discussion.
As an aside, I think the fact that I’m not fully convinced of the “correctness” of any theory of property is one of the reasons I think of myself as a “moral skeptic”, actually, because it leaves open a lot of questions about how exactly to apply the non-aggression principle.
Anyway, I was curious what you would think of the discussion, and I hoped reading through it might help you with your own thoughts on moral absolutes and moral relativism. I’m glad it at least provided some food for thought! 🙂 And, like I said, I think we basically agree on how to reduce conflict; though we may emphasize different starting points.
March 28, 2017 at 9:54 am #224
I just read chapter one. Good job! A few comments:
For the jobs moving overseas objection, I would have give a more economist-oriented answer – that it is virtually indisputable that free trade leaves society as a whole better off, even though certain minorities of displaced workers become temporarily worse off. This objection seems to fall into Bastiat’s “that which is not seen” fallacy. Statists see the (few) displaced workers, but generally ignore the many many people who can now buy better and/or cheaper goods.
You did well in dispatching the false dichotomy: “You’d then either maintain that [moving production to where it is cheaper] issue into the new system, or workers would need to accept a much lower wage in order to keep companies in their community.” You pointed out that displaced workers (like buggy-whip manufacturers) could and likely would get better jobs, jobs where *they* enjoy a comparative advantage.
You answered the government vs. free market education question well. I would have pointed out that the US had a better education system than Europe before “Prussian system” schooling became popular, and that the Prussian system was instigated in the late 1800s as an anti-immigration program to indoctrinate foreign “papist” immigrant children. I would have pointed out that the roving tutorial system of the American Colonial south worked splendidly, and that modern distance education (online) is quickly making Prussian “herd them all together, provide Pavlovian bells, and train them to become good citizens, proles, and cannon-fodder” approach is already losing. You hinted at this with your Khan Academy example.
You answered the pension and charity question well, also. I would have added some historical data, not only about mutual aid societies (as Jacob suggested), but also local poor houses, local churches, and such voluntary organizations that have been effectively killed or suppressed by government rob-and-redistribute “welfare.” Also, we should point out that medical care was cheap, a minor portion of total expenses, before the government cartelized it in the 1910s. Most people do not realize that free market health insurance was $2 per year (!!!) circa 1900. Even with inflation, that would be about $200 per year in today’s money. In short, government cartelization (“regulation”) had raised the cost of medicine to many times its market price. Here’s one of my favorite essays: http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/library/HowGovernmentSolved.html
March 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm #226
Comments on chapter two:
The bystander effect is more of an argument against statist centralized collective control than pluralist individualist choices. The State is notorious for ignoring, discriminating against, and even exterminating minorities. The even more indirect actions of rulers and legislators allow even *more* denial of responsibility. Furthermore, as a psychologist you are no doubt familiar with the Milgram experiments (authorities ordering subjects to gives electric shocks) and the Stanford Prison “experiment.” I just webbed a book, “The Problem of Political Authority”), which covers the psychological aspects of libertarianism and statism (of various degrees.) http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/library/PPA/1-6.html
Roth Bard, you made a great point that if people are too evil/selfish to do something voluntarily, then they are even more unlikely to do it through monopoly aggression – through statist means. I have a slide about that from my talk. http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/talk/p26.html.
You are right that the moral argument is not sufficient to convince people to “go anarchist.” There are two questions that should not be confused. There is 1) “Would a stateless society be good (better than statist society)? And 2) How do we get there from here? Note that Mr. Statist is (kind of) stipulating that anarchism is a good goal, when he moves on to ”How do we get there when most of the financial rewards will not go to current anarchist activists, but instead to a future freed society? This is the public goods problem that David Friedman has pointed out. The double equilibrium (like driving on the left or right side of the road) where both statism and anarchism are equilibriums, and once one is established, it is hard to get to the other.
I like the way you are undermining Statist’s assumption of State solipotence, and how you are making the comparisons of anarchism to statism for his concerns. “Compared to what?” Right on! I like your ‘power corrupts’ and ‘scum rises to the top in statism’ points. You offered good recommendations for further reading, too. Some wavering statists might like “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression,” or “For a New Liberty.”
“The Law.” http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/library/thelaw.html
“For a New Liberty” https://mises.org/library/new-liberty-libertarian-manifesto
Here’s my books page: http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/books.html
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