Category Archives: Philosophy

“Anarcho-Statism” or “A Critique of Leftist Anarchism”

Introduction: Radical Dramas

Anarch

This is a response to a series of youtube videos made by the leftist anarchist “anarchopac”. The main video in concern can be found here. A number of responses to this user have already been made, my personal favorite being being this one by the youtube user “t3hsauce”.

Now I generally think that it’s foolish to get involved in the never-ending political debates on youtube, but this seems to be a valuable opportunity to discuss many of the flaws in leftist anarchism. Anarchopac seems to accurately represent the views of this ideology towards voluntaryism, so let’s see how his arguments stand up to scrutiny. The brunt anarchopac’s argument can be summed up in the following points:

  1. Anarcho-capitalists are statists because they promote monopoly over law in certain areas. Any piece of private property represents a state because within each area of private property the owner can dictate the laws or rules of that region (it is relevant to note that this is a common reason for leftists anarchists to deny all libertarians the title of “anarchist”).
  2. Anarcho-capitalists primarily oppose the way that a state funds certain projects, not what a state does. Anarchopac specifically points to the police and law.
  3. Anarcho-capitalists also oppose states because they represent ways that law can be controlled through democratic means. This in turn threatens the “private tyrannies” of the capitalists. Capitalists will also always be capable of obtaining greater protection (and presumably have a much greater chance of manipulating law and its enforcement) because they have more money.
  4. (Found in this video) Leftist Anarchists are incapable of being either racist or sexist because the anarchist must deem all hierarchy as negative.

We will see that all of these arguments are flawed, although this should not be taken to mean that they are entirely without merit.

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A Plea for Voluntaryism – Part 1

This is part 1 of a multi-part reproduction of Auberon Herbert’s A Plea for Voluntaryism.

Herbert calls attention to the chasm that divides a society when people pit themselves into a system of competition for the place of emperor, autocrat, conqueror – even if that system is based on majority-vote. At heart, it is a system of subjugation where today’s majority subjugates yesterday’s majority and heaps on it all the humiliation and servitude that it was just forced to endure. Though written more than a century ago, Herbert’s words ring as true today as ever. The two-party democratic systems have devolved into a winner-takes-all sweepstakes for temporary occupancy of the Emperor’s seat in the Capitol. It creates, as Herbert says, nothing but a permanent, smoldering civil war.

But an even more terrible price is paid in the violence that it does to our most basic sense of decency. Herbert calls attention to the mutually exclusive relationship of power-worship and religion, that is, “our own personal sense of right and fulfilling the commands of duty, as we each can most truly read it.” The power-worshipper, by contrast, must necessarily be willing to go to any length to protect and expand his power.

pixelfahrenheit20 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

WE, who call ourselves Voluntaryists, appeal to you to free yourselves from these many systems of State force, which are rendering impossible the true and the happy life of the nations of to-day. This ceaseless effort to compel each other, in turn for each new object that is clamoured for by this or that set of politicians, this ceaseless effort to bind chains round the hands of each other, is preventing progress of the real kind, is preventing peace and friendship and brotherhood, and is turning the men of the same nation, who ought to labour happily together for common ends, in their own groups, in their own free unfettered fashion, into enemies, who live conspiring against and dreading, often hating each other.

Look at the picture that you may see to-day in every country of Europe[1]. Nations divided into two or three parties, which are again divided into several groups, facing each other like hostile armies, each party intent on humbling and conquering its rivals, on treading them under their feet, as a conquering nation crushes and tramples on the nation it has conquered.

“Who gave you the right … just because you are more numerous or stronger than they, to treat them as if they belonged not to themselves, but to you?”

What good, what happiness, what permanent progress of the true kind can come out of that unnatural, denationalizing, miserable warfare? Why should you desire to compel others; why should you seek to have power– that evil, bitter, mocking thing, which has been from of old, as it is to-day, the sorrow and curse of the world– over your fellow men and fellow women? Why should you desire to take from any man or woman their own will and intelligence, their free choice, their own self-guidance, their inalienable rights over themselves; why should you desire to make of them mere tools and instruments for your own advantage and interest; why should you desire to compel them to serve and follow your opinions instead of their own; why should you deny in them the soul–that suffers so deeply from all constraint–and treat them as a sheet of blank paper upon which you may write your own will and desires, of whatever kind they may happen to be?

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Law Prior to Government

Narking / Foter / CC BY

This is part 1 of a multi-part series presenting a praxeological theory of the origin and character of law.

One objection to taking a frankly Epicurean approach to moral questions is that society will disintegrate if everybody starts thinking only about himself and his own highest good. In this view, the widespread conviction that public virtue entails a certain amount of self-sacrifice is an essential component of general morality because, without this conviction, society itself would disintegrate into rampant thievery, feuds and general mayhem. In answer to this objection, I will investigate the origins of law – which obviously plays an important role in the integration of social order – in order to show that simple self-regard is not antagonistic to social order.

Law touches every aspect of human behavior. It can be concerned with highly technical matters (for example, in patent disputes) or very elemental, visceral issues (such as, custody of the remains of a victim of a violent crime). It can become mired in questions of metaphysics, science and language. Law is potentially concerned with any aspect of human action and knowledge.

Not only is law unboundedly complex, the discussion of law is plagued by selfish interests. Law is like economics in the sense that Hazlitt says of it:

Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

Henry HazlittEconomics in One Lesson

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TED – Matt Killington on happiness and mind-wandering

I think this is a highly important topic, particularly in the modern environment. Our displacement from the ancestral environment has had many consequences on human behavior and it is my view that mind-wandering is one of the most important to human happiness.

Clayton –

Monopolization of a Water Supply

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

A charge occasionally levied against libertarianism is that a vital natural resource, such as a water supply, could be monopolized by an astute businessman, who could then hold society hostage with the threat of cutting off its ability of replenishing its bodily fluids. This is a most curious attack upon capitalism, because it touches upon a fundamental aspect of the system – property rights. Property rights exist for the very purpose of resolving the problem of scarcity. The “water-monopolizer” attack, then, attempts to suggest that scarcity discredits private property – when scarcity is the very problem property rights exist to resolve! [1]

Let’s unpack the water-monopolizer situation (WM henceforth) and analyze it from two different sides.

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Human Nature and Social Order

Nomadic Lass / Foter / CC BY-SA

I have already discussed human nature as it relates to the self-discovery process. In this relation, human nature is approximate. As it is a description of the behavior of humans generally, it must necessarily admit of exceptions in the individual case. Outliers (e.g. a sword-swallower) are less interesting for this analysis than humans qua humans. We can truly say, “Honey bees collect pollen.” This is a true fact about honey bees, even if the odd honey bee has a derangement that causes him to fly in circles and never collect a bit of pollen. It is clear that collecting pollen is part of honey bee nature. We can list many such facts that are also true in the same sense about humans, even if there are pathological exceptions. These facts can be called human nature.

A description of human nature can only be constructed by empirical means. We have to go out and see what humans actually do in order to say what human nature is. A quick thought-experiment shows why this is the case. It is easy to conceive of an alien race that is intelligent and acts purposively. But we can imagine that the physiological facts of this alien race may be extremely different from our own. It might employ means of communication, locomotion, metabolism and reproduction wholly foreign to our ability to conceive. We can set some extremely general outside limits on what kinds of facts must be the case even of an alien physiology on the basis of physical and praxeological laws but there are not many other details we can conceive a priori.

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Human Nature and Self-Discovery

In this post on asocial action, I began to analyze the meaning of Crusoe’s right ends under the condition of islation from any social interaction. The task of developing detailed, specific recommendations to Crusoe in his lonely search for happiness can be reduced to the specification of the attributes of human nature. I do not mean that once we have settled on certain facts about human nature that these facts are then determinative of the ends that Crusoe must choose. The fact of variation between individuals means that any attribute of human nature in regards to right ends is subject to individual exceptions and outliers.

Crusoe can employ science in his search for the correct or best schedule of ends which will eliminate suffering and bring about a condition of satisfaction. However, the deductive method fails because it can only take ends as arbitrary givens. The science of evolutionary psychology is an inductive method which we can use to begin giving specific, detailed answers to the question, “What should Crusoe do?”

In their book, Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, Miller and Kanazawa explain the foundations of the science of evolutionary psychology in four principles, each in contravention to what they call the Standard Social Science Model:

People are animals… there is nothing special about humans… Evolutionary psychology recognizes that the same biological laws of evolution apply to humans as they do to all other species.

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Social Action and Social Norms

solidether / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Every acting being has a morality, that is, has preferred ends and acts on those preferences. The ultimate end which lies behind every action is that end which is never a means to any other end – this ultimate end can be called satisfaction, happiness or pleasure.

Social norms should not be confused with asocial morality, that is, the correct choice of means to the attainment of the ultimate end. Of course, the majority of the problems associated with attaining satisfaction are social in nature. It is fairly straightforward for Crusoe to build a shelter in order to get relief from the elements which, in turn, will bring him satisfaction. The branches of a tree will never retaliate against him.

But it is more difficult to attain satisfaction through social relations. For instance, think of your parents, friends, spouses, employers, employees, bill-collectors, police, judges, Presidents, and so on. These people are all imposing their will upon you and resisting the imposition of your will upon them. And, unlike tree branches, they have a memory, they can connive and they retaliate or even aggress.

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Asocial Action and Right Ends

deflam / Foter / CC BY

It is safe to say that the vast majority of moral rules – explicit or otherwise –concern interpersonal interactions, that is, social behavior. However, it will be advantageous if we can analyze the bare logical structure of moral language and moral behavior without the complexity of social interactions, at least initially. Murray Rothbard recommends the Crusoe thought-experiment for this purpose in his Ethics of Liberty:

One of the most commonly derided constructions of classical economic theory is “Crusoe Economics,” the analysis of an isolated man face-to-face with nature. And yet, this seemingly “unrealistic” model, as I have tried to demonstrate elsewhere, has highly important and even indispensable uses. It serves to isolate man as against nature, thus gaining clarity by abstracting at the beginning from interpersonal relations. Later on, this man/nature analysis can be extended and applied to the “real world.” The bringing in of “Friday” or of one or more other persons, after analysis of strictly Robinsonian isolation, then serves to show how the addition of other persons affects the discussion. These conclusions can then also be applied to the contemporary world. Thus, the abstraction of analyzing a few persons interacting on an island enables a clear perception of the basic truths of interpersonal relations, truths which remain obscure if we insist on looking first at the contemporary world only whole and of a piece.

Murray RothbardEthics of Liberty, ch. 6

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Moral Language

chrisnicolson / Foter / CC BY-NC

What is good? What is evil? What should I do? What should I not do? These questions are questions about morality, or ethics. There are at least four levels of connotation at work in moral language:

  • A value-laden expression of an individual’s own sentiments about a particular kind of human behavior (distaste or preference).
  • A value-free description of prevailing social norms.
  • A value-free assessment of the suitability of specific ends to bringing about an individual’s satisfaction (in the technical sense of this term).
  • A value-laden assessment of the correct resolution of a dispute

Moral language is complicated by the fact that human language tends to mash together the different connotations in ways that make it difficult to keep track of what exactly is being said.

Consider the proposition: “It is wrong to engage in homosexual sex.”

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