Sunday, April 25, 2010 104 Comments

Unarmed combat in the digital armchair

I apologize for the lack of content. I am working on a small deadline.

If you are really desperate for a fix, you can scroll down here and watch me work out, albeit laconically, on some Special Forces types. I get angry and have to use my Sith command voice. Fortunately, there is fire support - unedited:
No one who lived the life described above by 925 (or me, or others) would peddle that crap.

PC-COIN is what you tell children, at least the Surge narrative that was put out. Because Children is who we in no small part defend, and in large part comprise our "elites" and especially the current government. Callous, Callow, sanctimonious, snarky, and so instantly corrupted the instant an offer is made it makes you question the existence of the soul, and whether people are innately good at all or is it just learned behavior.

Or they walk away because "it's too hard." Really that may be the defining statement of this generation of elites.
Fortunately, it's not the defining statement here at UR! And we're as 31337 as it gets. Though not on actual military matters - where we always delegate our judgment to expert opinion. Reserving the right, of course, to choose which experts. I think I see some at the link above.

Anyway. Enough with the real guns and ammo. Let's get back to virtual warfare. Here is an open thread where people can talk about the Canon: Froude, Maine and Carlyle. Collectively, the most dangerous information device in human history.

Or so I'd like to think! But definitely a targeted munition. With one N only, the Canon is a literary device and not a military one. All it is is three old books: The Bow of Ulysses (1887), Popular Government (1885), and Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850). (These are full-view in the US, but may not be in other countries. Alternative links: Froude at archive.org; Maine at OLL; Carlyle at Gutenberg.)

(If you've already finished all three, I am preparing extension packs which will supplement and expand your new historical reality. For further directives from the Flounder - keep monitoring this digital channel.)

When discussing Froude, Maine and Carlyle, or any of the Froude Society authors, it should in general be kept in mind the point of the exercise is not to analyze or (heavens) criticize these writers, but to understand them. We want to understand them because we want to use their minds. We want to use their minds because we have real problems to solve.

How can we use the minds of Victorian thinkers? We can use their minds by showing them the 20th century, and asking them what they think. Since we cannot physically revive these dead white males, we cannot perform this exercise mechanically. It must be an exercise of imagination. Sometimes it takes a lot of imagination. Sometimes - not so much.

For instance, you could ask Froude, Maine and Carlyle what USG has to do in Afghanistan, if it My guess - no, my certainty - is that they would agree with Elihu Root and "Elf." They would be utterly confident in this answer, as am I.

One can reject the High Victorians' advice, of course. There are no mystic gurus at the Froude Society. (Carlyle is definitely channeling something, but it's probably just laudanum.) These great fossil whales of Victorian scholarship are tools for our living brains - not replacements.

And on some subjects, they have nothing at all to say. Froude, Maine, and Carlyle are not of great assistance in, say, the design of programming languages. How can they help you understand the 21st century?

Perhaps not at all. Once you read them, you can say. Take the challenge! Pass through the fire! You are already almost there. You will never be closer. Click the link; open the door. Your credit card will not be charged.

104 Comments:

Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

MM used the same example I often do: this shit has gone so far that progressives have pet dogs pissing and shitting in their houses. they'd rather be pooped on than change their worldview an inch.

April 25, 2010 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 25, 2010 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Col. Gentile was my SCO in 8-10 Cav for the brief period I was there that overlapped with his command.

For better or worse I hadn't the opportunity to deploy with him (I was in another unit during that deployment). But I respect the Col. and am glad to have served under him.

8-10 was part of 4th BCT, 4ID; this unit was built from ground up, trained and deployed in barely a year.

After that he went to West Point's history department. Better him than people who look to the likes of Joe Klein for their history and strategic wisdom.

April 25, 2010 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

Between Carlyle and his biographer, Froude is by far the better writer. We learn by observation, not argument, and Froude's work is an endearingly accessible landscape of human behavior and custom.
Carlyle was obsessed with the idea of a holy grail of politics and government; I imagine Froude as thinking if it were found, we could not keep it. As another Englishman observed, no cause is ever lost because none is ever won.
So I prefer Froude in understanding where we may find ourselves next. Besides which, he is often hilarious.

April 25, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Froude, Maine, and Carlyle are not of great assistance in, say, the design of programming languages.

Really? I'm sure there's some way you can tie them into Nock…

In all seriousness though, I'm a few chapters into Froude (he's just finished covering the conquest/defense of the Caribbean in the 1780s), and it's fascinating stuff. Mostly, that last chapter has reminded me that I really need to read some of the heretical perspectives on the American Revolution that you've recommended.

April 25, 2010 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Mencius sees the message of the past as that strong government works:

But as Froud tells us, page 10: "It was not the crown, it was not the government that fought the battle, it was the people of England who fought it with their own hands and their own resources. Adventurers, buccaneers, corsairs, privateers, call them by what name we will."

From Drake to Raffles, the British empire was built by pirates like Drake and brigands like Raffles, and was ruined by bureaucrats and politicians.

The message I hear the past telling me is that anarcho capitalism works, and strong government does not.

April 25, 2010 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger mquander said...

The link to Latter-Day Pamphlets in the fifth paragraph is broken. Thanks for this interesting line of study!

April 25, 2010 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Here is another sample of Froude not sounding much like a fan of strong government that tolerates no violent opposition and firmly maintains order:

Oh ! England is a pleasant place for them that's rich and high,
But England is a cruel place for such poor folks as I ;
And such a port for mariners I'll never see again
As the pleasant Isle of Aves beside the Spanish main.

There were forty craft in Aves that were both swift and stout,
All furnished well with small arms and cannon all about ;
And a thousand men in Aves made laws so fair and free
To choose their valiant captains and obey them loyally.

Then we sailed against the Spaniard with his hoards of plate and gold,
Which he wrung with cruel tortures from Indian folks of old ;
Likewise the merchant captains, with hearts as hard as stone,
Who flog men and keelhaul them and starve them to the bone.

Oh ! palms grew high in Aves, and fruits that shone like gold,
And the colibris and parrots they were gorgeous to behold,
And the negro maids to Aves from bondage fast did flee
To welcome gallant sailors a sweeping in from sea.

Oh ! sweet it was in Aves to hear the landward breeze
A swing with good tobacco in a net between the trees,
With a negro lass to fan you while you listened to the roar
Of the breakers on the reef outside which never touched the shore.

But Scripture saith an ending to all fine things must be,
So the king's ships sailed on Aves and quite put down were we.
All day we fought like bull dogs, but they burnt the booms at night,
And I fled in a piragua sore wounded from the fight.

Nine days I floated starving, and a negro lass beside,
Till for all I tried to cheer her the poor young thing she died.
But as I lay a gasping a Bristol sail came by,
And brought me home to England here to beg until I die.

And now I'm old and going : I'm sure I can't tell where.
One comfort is, this world's so hard I can't be worse off there.
If I might but be a sea dove, I'd fly across the main
To the pleasant Isle of Aves to look at it once again.

April 25, 2010 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"Mencius sees the message of the past as that strong government works."

I think his point is the paradox of British government: The monarchy let people to liberty. As it became more and more democratic, you see less and less of this.

What was a system based as much as possible on "spontaneous order" becomes a system based on bureaucratized order.

So on the one hand you had a strong personal authoritah and a dynamic society of free people doing all sorts of things, and on the other you have a bureaucratic democracy that is strong in all the wrong ways and weak in the ways that count (to him at least, and he's not alone).

A non-Mencius might try to follow the trajectory and find the sweet spot (where there was parliamentary democracy and a monarch and a lot of personal liberty), and Mencius would point out that sweet spot was an unstable equalibrium that lasted about a century in both America (from Washington to the end of Grover Cleavland, give or take) and England.

Anyhow that would be Mencius' argument: His argument would also be to point out that these people achieving these things came from no kind of anarchy and had ties to and benefits from their government, it's just that these ties were not the shackles we operate under now. (Of course, the Progressive would argue good thing, because look at what they were doing to the poor indigenous peoples of the EARTH!)

April 26, 2010 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Babbling more: Another non-Mencius would point out that this "sweet spot" wasn't so sweet for everyone in that era - not everyone had the sort of personal liberty we're pining for.

Neglecting to recall that is a blind spot.

Presulably we want to maximize liberty (ordered liberty, with that order being as spontanious as possible) for everyone, not just for a subset of the population.

With the caviat that under any system that includes humans, it will have to be denied to some subsets (criminals, the insane, irresponsible dependents/children will of necessity have less liberty - a reversal of today's world where efforts are made to maximize the liberties of criminals, te insane, and irresponsible dependents at the expense of the liberties of the rest of us, and where that is not possible, *everyone's* liberties are to be limited on egalitarian grounds rather than discriminating against any of the above).

But presumably we're not in favor of denying liberty to people just because they're a woman or black. (Knowing in advance that as I write this, some are. But your fight is against the irresponsible/insane/criminal of any gender or race).

April 26, 2010 at 6:47 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Doesn't he contrast Drake with later pirates like Blackbeard and Kidd whom he describes as less respectable? Of course, he also calls them "heroes". Not sure what he means by that.

Also, he notes that "the Queen herself would privately be a party into he adventure" of the Buccaneers.

April 26, 2010 at 7:20 AM  
Anonymous tenkev said...

Porphyrogenitus,

Maximizing liberty is not the goal. Maximizing human happiness or wealth or orderliness or achievement seem like much more worthwhile goals than maximizing liberty. Liberty, I think, is a means, not an end in itself.

April 26, 2010 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

Porphyrogenitus said...

"Babbling more: Another non-Mencius would point out that this "sweet spot" wasn't so sweet for everyone in that era - not everyone had the sort of personal liberty we're pining for."

This ties the person making this argument into defending the position that, for example, Rhodesia was a worse place to live than current Zimbabwe is. Present day Iraq is a better place to be an Iraqi than 19th century Egypt was for an Egyptian?

The evidence seems to support the position that people actually pine for order and not whatever it is that the modern cathedral state provides them (mostly an unending series of ethnic conflicts) and calls liberty.

April 26, 2010 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"Maximizing human happiness or wealth or orderliness or achievement seem like much more worthwhile"

I was answering as if Moldbug was answering and he has focused on wanting a libertarianesque-result at least when it comes to government.

Maximizing human happiness is unmeasurable: One has to have a definitin, and ater going around and around some settle on letting people decide for themselves and thus liberty. But try telling that to Cass Sunstein: He knows better than you what will make you happy, so libertarian policies are right out. The best you can expect is "lab-rat libertarianism".

Wealth maximization is at least quantifiable, and that's the tool by which Moldbug hopes to tame his goverment (which will then pursue libertarianesque policies, he believes, because it maximizes the wealth of the owners). That's fine as far as it goes but one can see several ways in which wealth maximization as the be-all and end-all of *human* existance isn't sufficient: After all, it is *wealth* that is the means, not an end in and of itself.

Also, orderliness is certainly a desirable quality, and it's what one wants government to pursue, though not to the exclusion of all else: A gulag can certainly be made orderly. Spontaneous order is much better, but again it has a *purpose*, and isn't an end in and of itself: Why do you want order? For its own sake? Or because without it life sux and you can't achieve your other ends?

April 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"This ties the person making this argument into defending the position that, for example, Rhodesia was a worse place to live than current Zimbabwe is."

Not really, because you're making the mistake of confusing governments with actual people.

Here I presume you're making the plausibly factually correct argument that Rhodesia was actually a better place to live for a majority of the Black as well as White inhabitants than present Zimbabwe: That while it offered few "political freedoms" to any but white Rhodesians, current Zimbabwe offers no real political freedoms to anyone but Mughabe and his henchmen, and fewer civil and economic freedoms to anyone, and sucks for all but his henchies because anything resembling ordered liberty/spontaneous order has been snuffed out by a regime that has proven to be more brutal than Ian Smith's.

Moldbug's point s precisely that confusing the "political liberty" of democracy (especially ones like Mughabe's) with meaningful liberty is a mistake.

You don't have to agree with Moldbug to accept the distinction between a government that doesn't interfere with civil and economic liberties (much) and a democratic one that does.

The fact that a lot of people in these areas have come to prefer illiberal* native regimes over liberal* is deplorable and then you get the result you get.

My main own personal side point is that good government, by which people's life and their goods may be most their own, doesn't have to deny them to any of its subjects save the criminal, the insane, and the irresponsible, and then only to the extent needed (I.E. presumably you don't have to lock up all children, and you don't have to treat the petty criminal the exact same way you treat the murderer - which is not to suggest you give the petty criminal a pat on the head and a cookie, either).

I think MM has slipped away from this last part some, which is why I all it my personal side point. I dk to what extent he might deny women liberty simply because they're women, though.

*Using these terms in more or less their original sense, I.E. how the British governed Hong Kong, and yet the people of Hong Kong cheered the handover to illiberal China...while all scrambling to get British or Australian or any sort of passport.

April 26, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

That while it offered few "political freedoms" to any but white Rhodesians,
Rhodesia offered full freedom to blacks. The only political disadvantage blacks had is that few met the qualifications for the franchise.

to what extent he might deny women liberty simply because they're women

Women are not the same as men, and among other things do not like liberty in the way that men do. A legal system that provides greater protection and lesser liberty to women was probably more comfortable for everyone. Going all the way back, the blood money for a (presumably) virtuous woman was equal to the blood money for a noble male, double the blood money for a commoner male, even though the legal status of women was in many ways akin to property.

When the Titanic went down, upper class males died, that washerwomen might live. Were women then so very oppressed?

April 26, 2010 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Doesn't he contrast Drake with later pirates like Blackbeard and Kidd whom he describes as less respectable? Of course, he also calls them "heroes".

Blackbeard was officially a villain, and all politically correct history books say so, and Raffles officially a good guy, and all politically correct history books say so, but Raffles was probably responsible for more massacre, rape, burning, looting, and population cleansing than Blackbeard. I get the impression that Froude was fairly cynical about the political correctness of his day.

Despite the state sponsored mass rapes that Raffles deployed, I am fairly sure that the net effect of such vigorous pacification methods was a drastic reduction in the level of state sponsored rape, by several orders of magnitude.

April 26, 2010 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"Rhodesia offered full freedom to blacks. The only political disadvantage blacks had is that few met the qualifications for the franchise."

Yes, one can design a system where few meet the qualifications when one wants to. That said, we're not really disagreeing here that the vast majority of people in Rhodesia had more personal liberty and were economically better off than in Mughabe's Zimbabwe.

"Women are not the same as men,"

The things you can learn on teh interwebz! You win science!*

"and among other things do not like liberty in the way that men do."

I know a lot of women who would beg to differ, but that's all anectotal I admit. Women these days share (perhap shape?) the larger politica dynamic where everyone wants to maximize freedom for themselves through controling the behavior of others and making others financially support them through gummint-provided goodies ("I can't be truly free until someone else pays for my health care").

There was some Libertarian who got in trouble recently for posting a screed pointing out that, from the point of view of fans of liberty vs. government goodies, things have gone to hell since womyn got the vote.

He was off by a decade, but the correlation does exist. However, if you believe Moldbug, this correlation is not the *cause* of this slide: He never has to reference women getting the franchize when explaining why this took place, and, indeed, if you look at things, it actually began before women got the vote in America and that one decade (the 20s) was but a brief interegnum in the trajectory. One can say (he wouldn't) the slide began after Grover Cleveland left office. Sure, it got worse after women got the vote, but it was getting worse on its own; that wasn't an inflection point in the trendline.

Women are more open to appeals for greater government control, but why is that? Is it because they're women? Or because they're more subject to appeals along the lines of "as a victimized group, you *need* us!" which work to a greater degree on a variety of people, not just women.

*That was a cheeky cheap-shot and quite undeserved. It's not so much aimed at you, though: There are many people on teh web you have to point that out to because they don't know there's a difference between men amd women, having never had the opportunity to experience it first hand.

April 27, 2010 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Renegade Citizen said...

You recently asked who is your favorite Soviet author? Since you brought it up and seem to be into incredibly obscure books (American communities
By William Alfred Hinds)

You might be interested in this online text archive of old Soviet textbooks. I think it will support your case that Communist and Democratic versions of history both have the same heroes and villains up to around 1914.

http://leninist.biz/en/HTMLsupport

April 27, 2010 at 5:56 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

RC,

This looks awesome if a little hard to navigate. Thanks.

April 27, 2010 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Collectively, the most dangerous information device in human history.

Nah. Those are mostly just Protestant blatherers. Scratch them, and they'll ooze the same Lutheran poison that Rousseau refined and handed to the Jacobins.

The most dangerous device is the Catholic Church. It was kind of groggy for a while there, what with that Vatican II crap.

Now that the Church has got its wits back, just watch the Jacobins of all stripes go barking mad at Ratzinger, throwing shit like monkeys and generally going insane frothing at the mouth.

That's how you know he's right. Or, as you would put here: "Dude is badass. Word."

April 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

the best soviet book is Zemyatin's We. It was 1984 and Brave New World, but published in 1921. A brilliant piece of work, and there is no better evidence of the hollowness of the theory that that communism was all fine and dandy before Stalin came along and wrecked the party, the writing was on the wall from the very beginning for those willing to see the awful truth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_%28novel%29

April 28, 2010 at 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

I just read through that discussion. Very good explanation of how and why the modern American military has shut off its own brain.

April 28, 2010 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Huzzah to "Studd Beefpile" for the MST3K "Space Mutiny" shout-out!

Gawd I miss that show. Sorry for the gratuitous completely-off-topic-comment.

April 28, 2010 at 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Jack Burton said...

OMG, PC-COIN!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?src=me&ref=general

It's POWERPOINT's fault!

something something poor craftsman...

April 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Dumb-dumb bullets!

As usual, NYT is behind the curve, not leading it.

April 28, 2010 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

For those interested in other praise of anarcho-piracy, Peter Leeson's book "The Invisible Hook" is supposed to be good. Apparently pirates came up with a lot of the democratic/constitutional methods we use now before they were adopted by actual polities. They gave complete authority to their captain while they were in battle though (afterward the quartermaster served to check him).


Part of Mencius "strong government is better government" shtick strikes me as a No-True-Scotsman gambit. The most firmly ensconced totalitarian dictator is said to be "weak", even though most dictators are never removed but die in their sleep (citing Bueno de Mesquita).

There is an argument that we can't rely on limited government because history shows it tends to turn into unlimited government, but equivalently it appears monarchy tends to turn into some form of democracy or worse. And (citing de Tocqueville) bureaucracy develops over time within monarchical systems even without any democracy.

There's been a lot of debate about historical "sweet spots" for libertarian governance recently. David Boaz has a roundup of responses to his piece that started the argument, though unfortunately it mostly contains rather conventional ones.


tenkev:
I try not to choose terminal ends for people, liberty lets them choose what ends they should have for themselves. I agree with Robin Hanson's rule of thumb: "Give people what they want". If people want something other than happiness (quite plausible, since we are not evolved to be always joyful), give them that which they want instead.


On Hong Kong: I actually heard that the handover prevented an increase in government intervention in Hong Kong, which was still governed by "Perfidious Albion" after all. The Chinese retained most of what made Hong Kong distinctive. I hadn't heard of the residents scrambling to get out.


On women and liberty: John Lott first did the study (though in an interview I can't find at this second he denied that shows it was a bad thing), Peter Thiel then referenced it and caused a bunch of controversy.


Anonymous papist:
Not only are they all Protestant, they all hail from the "Vampire of the Continent". As an Anglophile I don't mind that so much, but I think MacCaulay has a better predictive track record than the pessimists.


Studd Beefpile:
Zamyatin's book does indeed presage a lot of more famous dystopias, but I dock him for being a socialist. Eugen Richter warned about what socialism would be like before it happened. He's a bit like Tom Wolfe, I suppose.

April 28, 2010 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

For my own part (not trying to channel Mencius), I agree with most of what TGGP said, especially with respect to Monarchy.

Mencius' arguments have rested on a story of how limited-government-democracy historically degenerated into absolutist bureaucratic democracy, but he just moves a step back - the monarchies he likes degenerated also.

Frederick the Great who he clearly admires was followed by Prussian rulers that on the one hand continued to grow the state (which he may or may not approve of: He *seems* to like smaller polities, but he also likes Frederick, who conquered), centralized authority under a strong monarch...but then developed the very beamtenstaat forms he deplores. After all, it's no accident that is a German word!

Plus it degenerated, from a MM point of view, into parliamentarianism!

I myself can see various ways in which his prefered model might follow a similar trajectory. After all, there once was a concept of property-owning democracy (only property owners should vote, only they had a true stake/ownership in the country). That failed, I'm not sure why what amounts to shareholder-democracy (his real model) wouldn't "suffer" from that pitfall (if you, like him, consider it a pitfall), among other pitfalls.

April 28, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

IMO this is one of the blinders of his attributing all the structural evils of the world to the US (and, before it, Britain): He then becomes blind to origins elsewhere.

For example a lot of the Germanic influences on the same early Progressives he (and I) have so much trouble with. Wilson didn't get *all* of his ideas just from earlier American and British thinkers; many influences came from Germany - the same Germany which was formed by the Prussia that his ideal ruler Frederick built.

Cameralism then had its flaws, and his failure to perceive that likely means many of them would exist in NeoCameralism.

April 28, 2010 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"The Chinese retained most of what made Hong Kong distinctive. I hadn't heard of the residents scrambling to get out."

There were fears before the turnover, thus the scramble to get passports. I rather well remember this era.

The Chinese did largely leave it alone, though*, and thus people didn't flee.

*There were some tweeks that certain people feared would lead to worse - and I admit I was one - but haven't, and have so far been just what China said they were: tweeks to make the "one country, two systems" work, and nothing more. Of course, history isn't over with, so who knows, but whatever might happen 1) hasn't happened and 2) by now would be dubious to connect to the transition/handover, if any future modifications of Hong Kong's governance prove negative. By now even skeptical people such as I was can see that the people who ruled China at the time understood what made Hong Kong successful better than we gave them credit for. Whatever comes later, good or bad, isn't their doing.

April 28, 2010 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

From the Purple Room: As I have pointed out before, he has confused Frederick the Great with Frederick elector of Brandenburg. Perhaps he would not be a fan of the former if he knew he was not the latter?

April 28, 2010 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

There is an argument that we can't rely on limited government because history shows it tends to turn into unlimited government, but equivalently it appears monarchy tends to turn into some form of democracy or worse. And (citing de Tocqueville) bureaucracy develops over time within monarchical systems even without any democracy.

If we trace the right of Mencius to its roots, concentrated essence of right wingery is the dynasty that arose in the unification of Spain - and in retrospect, it is clear that that was when the rot set in. We see, for example, when Cortez is conquering Mexico, legitimate authority is trying to hang him. We see the conquistadores being condemned for excessive brutality, by a regime that, when it secured control from the conquistadors, proceeded, under a very thin cloak of political correctness, to behave in a way vastly more brutal.

This fits Froude's theory, (that the greatness and heroes of the British empire were the pirates and brigands that conquered, not the bureaucrats that persecuted them) since Spain was conquered from the Muslims by legalized bandits - Charles the Great would give any interested adventurer a title to the lands and people of any Muslim region and a safe haven if he failed. The men who reconquered Spain behaved very much like bandits and pirates, which is to say, very much like the people who conquered the British empire.

Ethnically based banditry has obvious problems - the buccaneers that Froude romantically recalls were not in fact all that picky as to who they robbed, and the ethnicity to which they belonged soon came to dislike them, with good cause. The British East India company kept the violence between Britons down to acceptable levels, albeit barely acceptable. Raffles great chest of gold that financed numerous bloody wars and only got fuller in the process belonged to Raffles, not the East India company. To the extent that the East India company was able to monopolistically control the pirates and brigands of which it was composed, this paved the way to crown takeover.

Ethnicity was a weak reed to restrain violence between buccaneers, but the monopoly of the East India Company eventually became the full blown empire, which empire Mencius rather likes, but Froude despises with good reason. Froude compares the empire to the unstrung the bow of Ulysses. Empires have no use for heroes. That which prevented the pirates from praying on Britons, prevented heroes.

April 28, 2010 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

TGGP> The question was who was the best Soviet writer. Pretty much by definition they're all going to be socialists of some variety. IF the question was the best Russian writer, I'd have to go with arch-reactionary Dostoevsky, who was warning of the dangers of Progressivism in the 1860s.

And I'd cut MM some slack on the Frederick question. For more than 200 years, every ruler of Prussia was named either Frederick or Frederick William, and the count started over when they got promoted to King.

April 29, 2010 at 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

james a donald, do you have a blog? I'd like to read it. Most of the other commentators here like tggp and Porphyrogenitus (you should update more) have interesting blogs as well.

April 29, 2010 at 4:36 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

@studd: interesting, sounds like a nice companion piece to Rand's We the Living, which was of course inspired in the same way.

April 29, 2010 at 4:54 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

The problem that needs to be addressed is that the ship needs a captain, and a captain with some clear reason and legitimate ability to sail safely around cape horn. This is the idea of government that has been completely lost. I'm sure there are many methods for selecting a captain and ensuring that he may operate, but the best thing may be if people simply accept that the captain is the captain. In our situation we've gone from arguing about why anyone should be aloud to be a captain by virtue of luck, or birth or ability, to why we even need a captain. We've forgotten that we are traveling through dangerous waters or why we were sailing in the first place. Instead, we choose a fake captain who helps us divide up rations and work while not even acknowledging that there are forces acting upon the ship. Is this the result of democracy? Yes, of course it is. This isn't news to anyone here.

So while I agree with TGGP's no true Scotsman analysis of MM's history, I think it is clear that we should be looking for a way to create a system for finding a captain, as independent as possible, with as little reason to punish enemies and reward supporters as possible. Has there ever been a true absolute sovereign? No. But there is a difference between someone who took power through political maneuvering, and must protect power by doing the same, and someone who generally recognized as the legitimate sovereign for no other reason than the fact that he is.

The problem may be that divine right is extinct as a theory and very probably can't be brought back. Likewise if everybody want to be the king or at least a democratic mini-king, won't people a)sell them democracy and b)buy ideas of democracy? To me these are the questions MM doesn't answer and where I totally agree with TGGP. MM consistently asserts that limited government or divided sovereignty lead to democracy then to socialism because it did (I generally agree). Why doesn't absolute monarchy lead to limited monarchy which puts us on the same path?

Further, MM claims to be against state controlled information. He believes that in an absolute sovereignty world, elite opinion will support absolute sovereignty as a means to gain access to power. Plausible, but what if a second crop of elites emerges without that access to power? Isn't this exactly what happened in Europe with the rise of the wealthy freeholders? Aren't we ignoring reality if we think that the previous elites will not have evolved a way of excluding new elites? The sovereign is now in jeopardy of losing opinion of one or the other groups of elites. Which means there is danger of the process of anti-absolute opinion putting us on the path to democracy. The point being the sovereign is everywhere and always dependent on public opinion.

Sorry, if this was rambling, I refuse to read or edit a blog comment before posting.

April 29, 2010 at 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@josh: yeah, what he said

this comment section is getting better and better

April 29, 2010 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my opinion the emphasis on creating a good system for ONE NATION ignores mencius thinking about a patchwork.. with competing jurisdictions just one libertarianish nation could reverse or make nearly irrelevant a trend of general decline

imagine, f.ex. zealand, the island on wich copenhagen lies as an independent country with dubai style tax laws and third world manual labour workforce

the scandinavian welfare states would in a matter of decades be unrecognisable

the problem is that the arabian ones really are the only ones with both cheap labour and near zero taxes for those who work there ... and no one wants to live there

April 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

The commenters are correct, monarchy does turn into democracy. The problem is that monarchy is not a stable schelling point for the military. It's too easy for the military to switch their allegiance from supporting the king to supporting the mob.

I brought up this point with Mencius before, and his answer was cryptographic weapons locks. See the comment thread here. His solution may be less outlandish than it first appears. The crypto-locks do not have to be perfect, they just have to tip the scales enough to make coups go from very difficult to almost impossible.

Of course, if we're inventing novel solutions, we could also invent ways to make a limited suffrage republic less likely to degenerate. What if we banned political parties and all interest groups? Or banned campaigning altogether?

Imagine the election cycle was limited to one weekend. Perhaps one hundred people would qualify for the ballot. Voters would then get the resumes for candidates, and would rank their preferences. That would narrow down the candidates to ten people. Then there would be a series of television interviews asking questions about character and background ( but not about policy or ideological decisions). Voters would then rank candidates again, and one Congressman would be picked. Candidates would not be allowed to affiliate with parties, receive money from anyone, campaign, make promises. They would simply be chosen based on their resume, background check, and a one hour job interview.

April 29, 2010 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Re. Frederick Confusion: From the point of view of accurate history, and then properly understanding what went right and what went wrong, it's important that he get his Fredericks straight.

From the point of his main theory, it probably doesn't matter which Frederick, William, Frederick-William, or William-Frederick it was: After all, all these dudes were (at the time) "Secure" monarchs rather than insecure Demos-Dictators. But something obviously went wrong and he tends to elide over it.

Re Chuck the Big Admiration Society: One could actually argue that Charles' regime, while allowing/encouraging the freebooting one admires, was where things went off the rails, on two dimensions.

It was he who got himself Crowned as Imperator Romanum. This had two effects: One introduced the Romanesque theory of Absolute Government into Germanic practice. Now, Roman theory-of-government and practice-of-government were always two different things; but, come the Enlightenment and its insistance upon matching practice with theory, and you begin "the slide", the seeds of which were sewn before.

Second, you also get the theory of Univesality - and competition for Universal Hegemony. When there was, as far as the West was concerned, one Universal Emperor and generally one that, while making Universalist claims (after Justinian) *generally* followed law-of-nations practice, that was one thing. After Chuch the Big the preciden was set that the mantle could fall to anyone *and* it introduced into the Kingdoms of west Europe the idea that they could participate in universalist hegmonism - one of the things MM deplores (and usually point to England as the culpit, followed by America). Again, Enlightenment gives rise to the idea that practice must follow theory, and universalist aspirations then justify interventions people deplore (IMO not all of which are deplorabe, but be that as it may).

Back to the Frederick Issue: One can follow the progression back and almost wonder why MM hasn't, like so many before him, settled on the Antonine Period as that period when Good Government under Good Leadership was at its best. After all you had his kind of leaders: Mostly wise powerful leaders (yes they all had flaws) who had a good selection process, producing similar sucessors, until the best of them managed to fsk it up by chosing his son (which led various people to later try to exculpate him from this boneheaded move and create a narrative where Commodus was a usurper, because Marcus couldn't possibly have made such a poor choice. But, alas, he did).

It's just the way of things, though.

April 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Patchwork: Well, first one has to conceive of a system that will *actually* *work* for this patchwork and be stable. I'm not sure he's convincing so far, and thus the emphasis, which even he returns to time and again, on a government that *will* work for one nation. After all, the Hanse wasn't stable either.

Once something is devised that will be stable in the ways he wants it to be and produce good government in the ways he wants it to, it can be applied to whatever.

Patchwork I think works and is wanted for reasons he is not always entirely explicit about. For example, he says under his system the government/ruler/owners will be revenue-maximizers, maximize the laffer curve, &tc. I think in the back of his mind, not explicitly mentioned (that I rememeber seeing) is that with a lot of small polities instead of one large one, there will be tax competition, driving the curve down, so the customers will end up being charged less. Certainly less than they would be/are under a global monopoly or oligopoly where civilized states (T.P.M. Barnett's "Core") can get away with charging monopoly rents for their dubious services (and these states also have all the inefficiencies of oligopolistic corporations, in the form of worstening customer service and bureaucratization).

This is one dynamic that the EU (among other places) has: The big states that want to raise tax rates are always grousing about the "tax competition" and supposed "race to the bottom" inflicted upon them by the smaller member-states.

Still, if you mess up the Captancy and Ship's Charter in some way, all this can go off the rails in any number of ways.

Anarco-Capitalism: On this, despite all his other flaws, I think Nozik explains why this would not be a stable equalibrium. Nor do most people really want to live their entire lives as a society of freebooters, remembering that these people were at least somewhat, um, how to put it? Parasitic.

April 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM  
Anonymous fgf said...

another rambling post attempting to show that monarchies might return and, for a while, be stable:

take a state like dubai with a population small enough that increased land value alone might be enough to buy them off

if conventional warfare can be fought almost entirely with machines controlled by men and women going to offices and this can be sufficient to deter foreign powers from interfering with it (what they already have seems to be enough anyway)

a huge amount of foreign (african/south asian) short term labourers are, as an underclass, will be aligning the interest of the small (white and asian) bourgeoise against they. The proles can be kept from any kind of rebellion by the threat of deportation. A less disgusting alternative to hangings mentioned in some recent post. If someone from the non-native bourgeoise makes a fuss they can be deported, Singapore does this.


secularization of the nation makes it more las vegas and/or san Francisco (add sex drugs etc..) thus more attractive for young professionals

TOOLS FOR WORKING FROM A DISTANCE AND CONTROLLING/MANAGING WORK AT A DISTANCE BECOMES CHEAPER (this seems like a possible game changer that can rob the west of many its top taxpayers)

anyway

could a state like that become, at least, a regional power? could it be stable? could it put a meaningful downward pressure on taxes (including income taxes)?

April 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous fgf said...

I'll never post anything as full g. errors again. Promise.

April 29, 2010 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Porphyrogenitus:
Anarco-Capitalism: On this, despite all his other flaws, I think Nozik explains why this would not be a stable equalibrium.

Nozik's error is to assume that society needs a single set of laws decreed from above by a single authority, and that without such a single authority to declare law, it is war. Thus he assumes his conclusion. But in fact this system has been extremely rare - usually laws have gradually and informally grown out of what people usually get away with, and usually fail to get away with.

See Law in Anarchy

Legislated law is a new innovation that does not work very well, indeed works very badly.

And indeed, the pirates "made laws so fair and free"

April 29, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger jimbo said...

I myself has recently become enamoured of Alexander Hamilton's plan for the constitution:

http://www.usconstitution.net/plan_brit.html

The one place I think he went wrong, is the election of the "Governor" by an "Electoral collage". We know where that led...

April 29, 2010 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"I'll never post anything as full g. errors again. Promise."

Well, good on you if it's a matter of self-improvement but really, if it's for our poor sake's, don't trouble yourself. I post my screeds as-is, errors and all, hoping they'll be coherent anyhow.

"Porphyrogenitus (you should update more)"

After a couple things (starting with the Ft Hood thing) I lost interest in posting on my own poor blog, and hope to get that interest back...soon.

"Nozik's error is to assume that society needs a single set of laws decreed from above by a single authority, and that without such a single authority to declare law, it is war."

Not in Anarchy, State, and Utopia he doesn't. He simply takes an underlaying model, what is in effect a "Power Law", and assumes an invisible and not-necessarily-violent invisible hand process will generate a Dominant Protection Agency (or agencies that will then affiliate) which will over time become a de facto monopoly simply because the DPA offers more to its customers (his outline is too long for me to do justice to it here).

This process, as Nozik describes it, does not have to involve war. His "State of Nature" even isn't a Hobbsian one, but one where people cooperate to resolve conflict and justly punish transgressors of natural law. As they affiliate to produce this, it creates a natural de facto monopoly.

To me, even as a process involving an invisible hand process conducted by agencies acting justly (insofar as possible, with only the error factor) it makes more sense as the likely outcome than assuming territorially overlapping protective agencies (Rothbardian/Hoppean) will be a stable equilibrium. (More likely they will make law in the same way Somali Pirates and Warlords make law, or MAFIOSI if you prefer a more European model. "For justice, we must go to Don Corleone").

I find such sharpers a little less heroic than Froude among others, but I do see the romance in them. But idealized romanticization of distant pirates despoiling *other* people than ourselves is hardly clear-eyed. When they're here among us...probably about as much fun as Boyz N Our Hood.

Remember, most of you would not be the pirates or bandits making law: YOu'd be the sheep being sheered, the targets of protection rackets, not the beneficiaries of the same. The Yakuza Code only seems Kewl from the outside when it's a distant outside.

April 29, 2010 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Cryptographic weapons are solving the wrong problem. Dictatorships usually fall because the army refuses to shoot the mob, not because it turns its guns on the dictator. Cryptographic weapons can help prevent coups, which is good, but they can't make the soldiers shoot.

On a broader note, everything decays over time. No matter how brilliantly constructed, ANY institution will, in the long run, tend to get worse. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is unavoidable. The only force that counters this universal trend towards sucking is competition, either by the creation of healthy young institutions or forcing crappy old ones to reform


What separates governments from other institutions is that they posses the lion's share of the guns, meaning that they they can use all manner of shenanigans to to stick around for far longer than other institutions, which means they are, on average, crappier. The only thing that ever really wipes the slate clean for a government is an especially violent revolution (like the Russian or French) or being conquered.

Basically, today's governments are shitty because they are old and sclerotic and consuming ever more resources while producing ever less. The belle epoc was great not because it was dominated by autocratic governments, but because it was dominated by relatively young governments. If you look at the countries that are considered well run today, the ones MM likes, they are almost all either relatively young, like Singapore, or emerging from a revolution, like China.

The trick therefore is to figure out a way to make government more competitive while preventing them from using their guns on one another.

April 29, 2010 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

James A. Donald:
It is actually Cortez rather than the monarchy that better exemplifies Mencius's complaint: sovereignty dispersed to lower-level functionaries, building personal mini-empires within the empire. Crypto-locked weapons are designed precisely to prevent that sort of thing in the military.

For another example of "heroic" banditry, see Yermak's conquest of the Siber region. One of the Cossack chieftains was actually assisting the Strogdanov's in exchange for a pardon of his death-sentence for attacking a khanate allied to Moscow. Peter Turchin's "War and Peace and War" has a good narrative of it. In some ways, his narrative of empires being built by the somewhat entrepreneurial activities of commanders at the frontier jibes with "Imperial Grunts".


Studd Beefpile:
I did actually cut Mencius slack for just that reason in my original comment. And for a non-commie writer from the Soviet period, there's always Solzhenitsyn. Speaking of Dostoevsky, Austin Bramwell's judging of the signalling efforts of various bloggers influential books lists had this to say about Yglesias including "Notes From the Underground": "Yglesias truly shines here. By citing Dostoevsky, the religious anti-utopian, Yglesias shrewdly overcomes the problem that conservatives have not produced great works to rival those of Mill, Locke or Rawls. Yglesias acknowleges the aesthetic power of reactionary ideas — which shows freedom of thought — but ultimately dismisses them with the memorable epigram, “sober thinking about big issues is boring.” An outstanding performance."


josh:
"We've forgotten that we are traveling through dangerous waters or why we were sailing in the first place"
Hey, I resemble that remark! Translating analogies isn't always exact, but I think I would deny we are traveling through dangerous waters and would question the idea that we can ascribe purpose or goals to our situation. Following Kenneth Arrow, there may be no such thing for collective decision making.

April 29, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous April 29, 2010 9:41 AM:
Get a handle.

"in my opinion the emphasis on creating a good system for ONE NATION ignores mencius thinking about a patchwork.. with competing jurisdictions just one libertarianish nation could reverse or make nearly irrelevant a trend of general decline"
I agree on the relative importance of patches vs the internal details of how they are run. That's why I'm a fan of the Seasteading/Thousand Nations crowd.

"the problem is that the arabian ones really are the only ones with both cheap labour and near zero taxes for those who work there ... and no one wants to live there"
I think there are actually a lot of first-world ex-pats who have enjoyed their stay in Dubai.

"What if we banned political parties and all interest groups? Or banned campaigning altogether?"
A number of at-the-time-democratic countries have gone that route, rarely does it end well.


From the Purple Room:
"After all, all these dudes were (at the time) "Secure" monarchs"
The Elector of Brandenburg was a Duke as well as an, uh, Elector. His son (the grandfather of Frederick the Great) was able to style himself King of Prussia though.

I haven't myself read Nozick, but allegedly he treated the existence of a stable protection industry as equivalent to an oligopoly/cartel. There are some critiques of Nozick from anarcho-capitalists here. Make sure to scroll down for all four sections.

Somalia has actually greatly improved under anarchy (people here are probably tired of me linking that). And part of the reason given is the effective rule of law there! Frank van Dunn (who married into a Somali "clan") wrote a book about it called "The Law of the Somalis". Traders from neighboring countries would actually come into Somalia in order to do business in a more orderly environment!


Studd Beefpile:
Mancur Olson has said that the quality of governance declines over time due to the growth of entrenched interest groups, but it seems to me that age of government is positively correlated with quality of governance. Switzerland, the U.K and the U.S are among the oldest now. I'm sure the Chinese government is screwed up in many ways we don't always hear about, it mostly seems great in comparison to how bad it was when the revolution was still in living memory.

April 29, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

Studd-

An army that rejects a direct order to fire on the mob is in mutiny. The idea of crypto weapons is that if an army division is in mutiny. As long as a significant portion of the army is still loyal, the crypto weapons of every group but the loyal group will be shut off, and then the mutinous group will be arrested and subject to military punishment. If the entire army mutinies the government is probably screwed (unless they then hire mercenaries). But the crypto weapons will decrease the likelihood of the mutiny. Knowing that disobeying orders will lead to shutting off of weapons and probably military discipline makes the army faction much less likely to disobey. Will it tip the scales enough to make the chance of a mob revolt insignificant? I'm not sure.


TGGP-

There are already ~195 countries in the world. Even if Romer or the sea-steaders succeed in adding a couple more, what's going to be so different that it will be so much better than the other 195 countries?

April 29, 2010 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"The Elector of Brandenburg was a Duke as well as an, uh, Elector."

No one was *really* the boss of him, though, so he was effectively a monarch. :p

I mean, sure, there was a titular boss of him just like there is a titular boss to whom the Prime Minister is Minister of, but really :p

"Somalia has actually greatly improved under anarchy"

Just because the governing mechanisms of, say, Somaliland, are not internationally recognized does not mean they are anarchy; likewise just because they are not Westphalian States does not mean they are anarchy. Unless one's definition of anarchy is rather broad indeed.

From one of the linked posts:

"Nozick...is making a predictive rather than a moral argument comes"

Julian Sanchez is both right and wrong. Nozick was attempting to illustrate how a minimal state could come to being without violating anyone's rights, and indeed that it would as a result of people's choices. Note that he quite clearly wrote in the same book that no existing State came about that way (so rejoiders to the effect that Nozick thinks that existing States came into existance through immaculate conception are improper).

The better rejoinder of the principled anarcho is on exactly that grounds though: That as Nozick himself acknowledges, no state has ever come into existence in this way and the chance of one coming into existence without violating anyone's rights is infinitesmal at best. They can give the same snide rebuttal that Moldbug gave to the idea of territorially overlapping protection agencies living in harmony.

Principled Anarchos will praise the appearance of the moral State around the same time blue Neptunians appear to govern us angelically.

TGGP speaking of "The Rule of Law"? Will wonders never cease? I thought you said you were a Legal Positivist (but I might be confused. I *am* easily confused*).

Re. Mises Linkdump: I'm half way through another article you liked to, "After Libertarianism", which sets out to demolish Deontelogicical Libertarianism. I'll try to work my way through the Mises parts; as much as I admire the Austrians (and I do), there is probably as much problem with their Deontelogical Anarchism.

I may have come off as seeming too much enthralled with Nozick. If so, I do apologize. There are many problems with him: One of which is you can just as easily use the same logic to construct not a minimal state, but a Maximal State (what does the Nozickian DPA invest its profits in? Lets say it buys land - justly. It begins to develop Gated Communities on said lands...iterate the same way he did to develop his State, and you get, at best, Moldbuggian Absolutism, and at worst Sunsteinian/Hobbsian Absolutism**).

*This is not some snide joke, alas. >_<
**The two are really indestinguishable except for what each hopes to get as a result, I suppose.

April 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 29, 2010 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

From the first link on Nozick:


"He is making the somewhat weaker claim that this will (not can, but will) occur even if everyone is doing his best to act morally given the available information."

THis part is accurate in what Nozick is claiming.

"this argument goes to the question of whether dominant agencies and their clients will, in practice, rationally attempt to prohibit self-help punishment and (crucially) the formation of new coalitions for the purpose of rights enforcement, given inevitable information asymmetry about both the intentions and the reliability of new agencies."

This is probably where a lot of Anarchos attempt to construct arguments that are really counterintuitive as to why neither the clients of such an organization nor the organization would prohibit the use of self-help punishment and procedures of guilt determination that they don't pre-approve.

I think such arguments fail on their face: Even Don Corleone won't let his people be punished without his approval and not react strongly. Even (especially?) your Somali Anarchos (with their wonderful Rule of Law pirate havens) won't let the members of their band be punished by some random person self-help punish one of their members without pre-approval and not respond: If only because to do otherwise renders their voluntary affiliation for that purpose worthless.

Btw, re Anarchy in Somalia: It was so stable that the Islamic Courts Union managed to bop most of the field mice on the head. One of the big pitfalls of any Anarchy is that, whatever a flowery theory one might devise might say, the bigger gang/horde over the hill can come in and do as it will. It took outside intervention, not spontaneously coordinating AnarchoMilitias, to root out the ICU.

Likewise with respect to rule of law, day-to-day violence was rather...extreme.

Warlordism seems to be the sort of model Anarchos here look to as something worthy of emulating. As for my part, I'm unconvinced.

April 29, 2010 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

"Nozik's error is to assume that society needs a single set of laws decreed from above by a single authority, and that without such a single authority to declare law, it is war."

Not in Anarchy, State, and Utopia he doesn't. He simply takes an underlaying model, what is in effect a "Power Law", and assumes an invisible and not-necessarily-violent invisible hand process will generate a Dominant Protection Agency (or agencies that will then affiliate) which will over time become a de facto monopoly simply because the DPA offers more to its customers


Work through the details:

The reason the largest producer of defence and retribution has declining costs is that according to Nozick it can and does legitimately use violence against other defence organizations even if they are doing nothing obviously immoral, but merely have laws that are not the same in every detail as those of the most powerful agency.

Visualize this presupposition in actual process

What Nozick describes as the invisible hand of the market is arson, rape and massacre. What his dominant protection agency offers is protection from them burning down your house, murdering your sons and raping your daughters.

By the same argument, a one world empire would be more efficient than states, and would equally be the inevitable outcome of a world of many states, and if Hitler or Stalin had succeeded, that two would have been "the invisible hand of the market"

The declining costs of the largest producer of defense and retribution arise from its assumed propensity to make war on other producers, and from the assumed legitimacy and propriety of such aggressive warfare, from the assumption that everyone will regard such military expansionism as normal, legitimate, acceptable, and desirable, that
they will regard it as a proper function of defence organizations, that everyone will agree that crushing anarchy by military means, by raining fire and steel on innocent peaceful people going about their normal business, is the normal and legitimate function of defense organizations, a proper part of defending people.

April 29, 2010 at 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Wonderful little discussion you kids have got going here. Since you’re talking of Anarcho-Capitalism, I’m going to wade in with a few observations.

James A Donald,

Fascinating stuff overall. I particularly enjoyed your critique of Nozick. On this blog, I’ve argued the importance of the consent of the ruled to letting the rulers get their way. The only reason a protection agency could go from being just another provider of goods on the market to a sovereign bad-ass is through brain-washing its customers into believing ridiculous cant about “the nation”, “we”, the importance of the state and the menace of some imagined threats. Once the masses are brainwashed, the protection agency has a modicum of sovereignty which it uses to establish a monopoly of violence and then enslave its customers. Monarchy, democracy, and totalitarianism are just different flavors of slavery that will emerge depending on historical circumstances.

I see Anarcho-Capitalism as basically positing that if the people were to realize that the emperor in fact has no clothes, that there is no “we”, and that all the statist and nationalist drivel is just cant aimed at empowering the rulers, then they could not be ruled. Protection agencies would simply be market actors who seek to provide a good at higher quality and lower price. If their service becomes unsatisfactory or expensive, they are tossed out. The customers could remove their contract from a firm and move to another firm with bigger guns and cheaper bills. Being a less efficient, powerful and effective protection firm, the removed firm would not mount any challenge to the new one. It would be like switching cell-phone providers, but with less hassle.

Also, the new firm could not just attack and take over the property of the old firm, because without the consent of the customers, it would be looking at running a full-on slave plantation. This is not fun, and more importantly, not profitable. It would bankrupt the new agency to try such a stupid scheme. Instead, they’ll stick to trying to market their services non-coercively.

If people can believe that there is no such a thing as legitimate coercion, they would never grant anyone the right to carry out any coercive act. Everyone would live together agreeing that all coercion is illegitimate and must be punished swiftly by the mob. Anytime anyone goes coercive on anyone, whatever the pretext, they are lynched.

I see this as a potentially stable equilibrium. Which isn’t to say that we’re going to get there anytime soon.

Thoughts?

Prophy,

“Spontaneous order is much better, but again it has a *purpose*, and isn't an end in and of itself: Why do you want order? For its own sake? Or because without it life sux and you can't achieve your other ends?”

An AC would put the shoe on the other foot: what possible justification could there ever be for restricting someone’s freedoms. I don’t need to even think about whether spontaneous order is a mean or an end; coercion is a bad thing and cannot be supported. Spontaneous order is what happens when you get rid of coercion, and so it is good. Whether it’s a means or an end is irrelevant.

April 30, 2010 at 4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TGGP:

“I agree with Robin Hanson's rule of thumb: "Give people what they want"”

I think the only problem with the world come from people thinking they have the right, prerogative and obligation to give people what they want. Who the fuck died and made you and Robin Hanson in charge of giving people what they want? What people want is to not be given anything by Robin Hanson. Pretty much all that the majority of humans have ever wanted in history is to be free of people like yourself and Hanson giving them “what they want”.

I think the problem with Hanson and a lot of today’s crypto-libertarians is that they cannot get themselves to mentally step out of the Cathedral’s royal “We”, which assumes that the college professor, policy-maker, and op-ed writer are all benevolent servants on whose shoulders the fate of humanity rests. It doesn’t; but your retarded policies are what screw everything up.


Josh,
“Has there ever been a true absolute sovereign? No”

Provided you do not believe that his actions were divinely inspired, couldn’t Muhammad qualify as the prime absolute sovereign in history?


Renegade Citizen,

Thanks for this link. I haven’t bothered read anything from it yet and probably won’t, but the awful pain my brains and eyes felt at the awful design made me blissfully happy that you commies are as pathetically incompetent designing a website as you are at establishing utopia. Keep it up! The revolution will come next year. For sure. As soon as you fuckers learn Java!

April 30, 2010 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 30, 2010 at 5:06 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"What Nozick describes as the invisible hand of the market is arson, rape and massacre."

That's not a fair characterization of what he's describing. It's *probably* a fair characterization of what would actually happen...but only if you accept that protective agencies in anarch will be the universalization of such things: Instead of one agency doing it, you have all doing it.

Which is certainly what would actually happen in the Rothbard/Hoope anarchy: Protection Agencies as Protection Rackets is the most likely outcome, as we see from all emergent patterns. You're always really buying protection from the warlords, pirates, and bandits themselves.

"If their service becomes unsatisfactory or expensive, they are tossed out."

The same way the average Somali can toss out his neighborhood warlord, or the shopowner can toss out Don Corleone.

"what possible justification could there ever be for restricting someone’s freedoms."

And I can toss it right back at you: Yes, wat possible justification for supporting warlords exploiting people, piracy robbing them, banditry raping them?

You folks who are waxing poetic about the wonderous anarchy of pirates, bandits, and the like among themselves (in IMO an overly romantic fashion) need to explain why it is acceptable for them not to be coerced but their victims *too* be coerced.

Also, show in these real-world examples that you point to as illustrating your case a protection agency that is not in practice actually a protection racket doing all the things James A. Donald claims Nozik's DPA will be getting away with.

I too think consent of the governed is very important, show how these folks you admire get the *willing* consent not just of each other (the enforcers in their association), but of those they "tax"/"charge" (despoil/rob/loot from as parasites).

April 30, 2010 at 5:09 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

I think for the most part people only act on local information. (Does a marginal change in this direction hurt me or help me). In reality, the world has peaks and troughs (if your going to be a D student, you may as well not bother and just be an F student. It is still better to be an A student. Stupid example, but I hope you get the point). This is the reason that proverbs exist, they evolved to impose constraints that actually improve outcomes. Today our proverbs and traditions are being smashed to bits. The people don't necessarily want what they want.

April 30, 2010 at 5:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lolz, you're all so funny.

In the real world we know exactly what happens when the Anarcho-Pirates sail in and "ask" for a "fee" for their "protection" and you say "no thanks, I don't need it, I'm into self-help" - They beat the snot out of you, take what they want anyhow, and rape your daughters in front of you.

In Somali markets, every merchant in the bazzar knows they've got to let the local tough-guy wet his beak, so they go along "willingly." What happens if one day one of them says "You know, Ahmed, I don't think I need to pay you anymore, I'm into self-help protection"? Ahmed's goons kick his boney ass and wreck up his booth, that's what.

The dude comes in next week and says "Hey, Ahmed, I don't need your protection anymore, I hired Kwame here". Ahmed's goons shoot both of them in the back of the head as an example to others.

Ahmed and his goons make their laws fair and free for themselves, but the merchants and tradesmen who pay them have as much say in it as anyone under MM's absolute ministate.

You're all talking about the same thing and fighting among yourselves like your distinctions matter. They don't.

April 30, 2010 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

In the real world we know exactly what happens when the Anarcho-Pirates sail in and "ask" for a "fee" for their "protection" and you say "no thanks, I don't need it, I'm into self-help" - They beat the snot out of you, take what they want anyhow, and rape your daughters in front of you.

Oh, no. You'll just go across the street to another Anarcho-Pirate-Security-Company and pay them to protect you from the first one.

And then what you've got is gangs and warlords.

Somehow, AnCaps think this is a good thing.

April 30, 2010 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

There's a helpful review of Carlyle himself by GK Chesterton which might explain both he and MM reasonably:
Twelve Types - Thomas Carlyle

Also available for free.

As Gil puts it, sane in his hero worship, insane in his logical monomania.

A perfect hero for a computer scientist.

(Do read it, though - Chesterton is very sharp on people.)

April 30, 2010 at 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

"brain-washing its customers into believing ridiculous cant about “the nation”, “we”"

Genetic interrelatedness, and corresponding commonality of interests, is not imaginary. Those who believe it is fade away, out competed by those who know better.

Count the pure-libertarian/anarchists with large families. Count what fraction of Muslims turn libertarian. About the same fraction as those that turn homosexual - actually you might get more homos.

Denial of kinship is suicidal, and inevitably punished by nature itself.

April 30, 2010 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Devin and Studd

Usually the problem is not the army disobeying the sovereign and refusing to pull the trigger but that sovereign flinching in the face of the mob even as the army tells him (correctly) that shooting is the only sane choice.

However, at its core, Studd is correct --- the problem is that the ones in power refuse to maintain their position.

April 30, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Studd Beefpile:
It's not the number of firms that determines whether an industry is competitive, but whether entry makes it possible to inject competition. That's why ALCOA could obtain market dominance yet still not behave like a "monopolist" (they were actually sued for being too competetive!).


On Somalia:
It's not merely that Somalia isn't exactly a Westphalian state or that their government is unrecognized (or rather, the one the international community tried to push on them failed to thrive), they actually have overlapping jurisdictions. Polycentric/subscription-based law. "As pastoral Somali move throughout their country, their legal system moves with them." That's basically how medieval Iceland (and I think Ireland) functioned.


"TGGP speaking of "The Rule of Law"? Will wonders never cease? I thought you said you were a Legal Positivist (but I might be confused. I *am* easily confused*)."
The "rule of law" is not about what the law happens to be (so it may completely violate what some call "natural law"), but how reliably it is carried out. If the execution of law depends on the whim of those charged with carrying it out, you have the rule of men instead.

Re "After Libertarianism": If I recall correctly, that's a Jeffrey Friedman essay. He's one of my favorites, though I think he could spend his time on better things than the normative philosophy part of political science.

"One of which is you can just as easily use the same logic to construct not a minimal state, but a Maximal State"
Or less than a ultra-minimal state but instead a remedial state. That link also discusses the "gated community" ideal, also known as vertically integrated proprietary communities. John Holbo gives a similar Nozickian argument for the transformation of an anarcho-capitalist state to a modern welfare state here.

I'm not all that knowledgeable about the ICU, but I think a lot of what we've been told about it is bogus. Ethiopia wanted to intervene anyway (they're still dissatisfied with losing Eritrea) and as soon as Washington heard the phrase "al Qaeda" they freaked out, regardless of how substantial the connection was. Recall that this is a courts union, providing law. Since Somalia ist basically all Muslim, their brand of law is going to be relatively popular. They were able to push out the group masquerading as the central government, but that bunch had more international bureaucrats acknowledging their sovereignty than actual Somalis. I think the clans were still providing Xeer when the ICU was at its peak.


Anonymous with "http://pals/" as its url:
So if Hanson and/or I walk into a shop, the shopkeeper doesn't want us to purchase an item? Hanson's rule-of-thumb applies to personal decisions. The rule is primarily based on individual behavior without any other entities coming into it, though it can be scaled up. It's a pretty vague rule though and all sorts of different preferred outcomes could be fit under it, he just thinks that by remembering they boil down to people wanting things we can avoid extra moral principles.

April 30, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

From the Purple Room:
"the average Somali can toss out his neighborhood warlord"
As the article I linked points out, Somali law is not determined by "neighborhood", it's who you choose to subscribe to when you reach adulthood.

I expect some people may be getting the impression that I'm an anarchocapitalist, but I'm not for the reasons Randall Holcombe gives (find it at the aforementioned Mises linkdump).


River Cocytus:
Funny enough, I had the opposite conclusion as Chesterton. It is perfectly sensible to have a low opinion of humanity, and idiotic to put faith in heros. And since Chesterton makes Carlyle an exemplar of irrationalism, it hardly gels with computer-science monomania. What you are thinking of instead is bullet-biting, which I admit partiality towards.

April 30, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@TGGP

I don't know about Iceland but I assure you that "work" is not a word that could be used to describe Ireland before the English invasion. The English invasion was what finally convinced the people of Ireland to stop killing each other (in large numbers) and establish some sort of hierarchy which they then kept.

Details can be found in the Annals of Ulster: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100001A/index.html

Re Somalia,

I don't trust the article you provided. It is possible for Somalia to have internal order with external piracy but I am skeptical. As I am unwilling to actually go to Somalia for first-hand information, I doubt we will be able to come to any decent conclusion on this matter.

April 30, 2010 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Anonymous said...

james a donald, do you have a blog?

Jim's blog

April 30, 2010 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

TGGP said...
It is actually Cortez rather than the monarchy that better exemplifies Mencius's complaint: sovereignty dispersed to lower-level functionaries, building personal mini-empires within the empire. Crypto-locked weapons are designed precisely to prevent that sort of thing in the military.

But Cortez was heroic, bold, effective, competent, and, compared to the empire, humane and restrained. The Empire was incompetent, corrupt, brutal, and oppressive. The message of history is that power should be dispersed into men like Cortez, though not, of course, into men like like Bill Ayers, who is currently the invisible education Czar.

We need an explanation of why dispersal into mini empires like that of Mann's or Ayer's has such dreadful results, and that of Cortez has such good results. One conspicuous difference is that Empire was trying to hang Cortez, whereas Ayers exercises power in the style of the emperors favorite whore.

April 30, 2010 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...
Btw, re Anarchy in Somalia: It was so stable that the Islamic Courts Union managed to bop most of the field mice on the head. One of the big pitfalls of any Anarchy is that, whatever a flowery theory one might devise might say, the bigger gang/horde over the hill can come in and do as it will. It took outside intervention, not spontaneously coordinating AnarchoMilitias, to root out the ICU.

The Islamic Union never gained state power, merely sufficient power to make life hell for everyone subscribing to a different authority. Similarly the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the time of the Taliban's greatest strength, Northern Alliance artillery could and did bombard the outskirts of the capital. If the Taliban do gain state power this time around, it will be entirely because of our state building activities.

The big success of the Taliban, their great success that made people start to consider them a government, was that they sent a suicide bomber newsman with a high explosive camera to photo a Northern alliance hero and leader, and blew him up. These are not the tactics of a gang that “can come in and do as it will”

April 30, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

James A. Donald said ....
"What Nozick describes as the invisible hand of the market is arson, rape and massacre."

Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...
That's not a fair characterization of what he's describing. It's *probably* a fair characterization of what would actually happen...but only if you accept that protective agencies in anarch will be the universalization of such things: Instead of one agency doing it, you have all doing it.

Exactly so. If it is illegitimate for all agencies to do it, then it it is illegitimate for Nozick's “dominant agency” to do it.

Further, what we see in practice it that if the “dominant agency” (for example the Taliban) does it, all the other agencies do do it also, making life bloody, dangerous, and expensive for the “dominant agency”. The Taliban could make life hell for everyone else, but could not stop the Northern alliance and others from making life hell for the Taliban.

April 30, 2010 at 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a story for Moldbug's HNU file.

May 1, 2010 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

""As pastoral Somali move throughout their country, their legal system moves with them."

Ok, so we're setting asside the urban/settled agriculture parts of Somalia (which may be small), and adopting the political structure of nomads as our model. Again, though, it's hardly anarchy, and over history many have tried to make nomadism compatable with settled agrcultural/citified societies, and if you think that it happened without exploitation you'd be wrong, and it too was never a stable equilibrium.

"I'm not all that knowledgeable about the ICU, but I think a lot of what we've been told about it is bogus."

I can't argue with that, but me, *I* don't turn off my skepticism switch: I think the selective evidence and rosey-reports of those who are desperately wanting to find some place that can serve as an example of real-world anarchism are to be treated exactly the same way. Reports of any visitors to a society who go looking to find something tend to suffer from the "Margaret Meade Effect".

I think what these guys are leaving out is probably more important than what the're putting in to fit their vision.

"Ethiopia wanted to intervene anyway"

Which simply begs the question: Instead of having the ICU coming in and thumping the field mice on the head, you have Ethiopia coming in and thumping the field mice on the head, and the field mice of anarcho-paradice unable to prevent it.

" Recall that this is a courts union, providing law."

At the point of a gun. Again, what people are attempting to claim as a model of non-coercive anarchic law...isn't.

"I expect some people may be getting the impression that I'm an anarchocapitalist."

And people may be getting the impression that I'm a Nozickian, simply because I object to mischaracteriztions of his argument. Which actually is an example of what I said above: They see what they want to see, and are blind to the parts they want to be blind to. They *could* knock down the real Nozick with real arguments, but they don't. I don't think this is a concious twisting, a concious creation of a straw man. But it's subconcious, their eye fixing on some thing and then building something in their head, and missing completely the parts that would upset the mental picure they build that allows them to condem his argument in the way they do.

Now, with respect to Nozick himself, it's not worth mentioning *here*, but it's an example of the dynamic with respect to Somalia: USG is predisposed to accept arguments that the ICU will provide a safe haven for al-Qaeda, AnarchoLibs are predisposed to find an anarchoparadise, so their eyes elide over whatever coercion might be happening, because they want to see a place where the central government has collapsed as a place where everyone interacts without coercion. There just happen to be numerous bands of heavily armed men following the instructions of some dude who has claimed the right to collect "fees" and "rents" for his "services".

May 1, 2010 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"The Islamic Union never gained state power, merely sufficient power to make life hell for everyone subscribing to a different authority."

That's my point!
I agree, and reply to Anarchos: This is the AnachoCapitalists model of success?

"If the Taliban do gain state power this time around, it will be entirely because of our state building activities."

I agree here: I *don't* think we should be State-building in Afghanistan. I think that to the extent we were going to get involved after 9/11 we should have let the old King back in Kabul, let him and the Norhern Alliance follow their traditions, and not gotten involved in building a State for the Karzai's of this workd.

However, I don't look at Afghanistan's pastorial clan-warlordism as some sort of model of anarchocapitalism that anyone should want to emulate.

"Exactly so. If it is illegitimate for all agencies to do it, then it it is illegitimate for Nozick's “dominant agency” to do it."

Note that Nozick never says it is illegitimate for all agencies to do it: He says it is legitimate for all to do it. He argues that it will matter more when the DPA does it, because people will run into conflicts involving its clients more often than other agencies. He argues *not* that the DPA (or any other agency) should then tell them to go howl, legitimizing rape, plunder, murder, but that they are then ethically obligated to offer the use of its procedures for deciding guilt and retribution.

Consisely as I can: If there are two PAs, one with 10 clients and one with 100 clients, the 10 will find more occasions where they come into conflict with the 100 and need to use the procedures of the larger agency than the 100 will come into conflict with the 10, if all are trying to beave morally (rather than the 100 trying to take advantage of the 10 just because they're in a dominant position - which I think is what is *likely* to happen. But Nozick is making an argument of how things might evolve *even* *if* everyone tried to behave *morally* - not "if one party behaves morally, and the other behaves like the 4th Crusade"): The two agencies might affiliate, effectively creating one confederation, or the 10 will end up contracting with the larger one, he claims, simply because of convenience and probably economies of scale (the larger one can offer lower fees and/or more benefits).

There are a lot of areas where one can find fault with his actual argument. One being how people behave in real life (and Nozick may not disagree, since he points out nothing like this has ever happened...but then is it useful?) - Nozicks thought-experiment DPA behaves morally, but in the real world, it doesn't. Another is to point out that in the real world Agencies might not entirely deny the use of any other procedures on its clients.

There are historical examples of overlapping legal codes, usually in midieval regimes that governed different religious populations. One code for Jews, one code for Christians, one code for Moslems: All had their own courts and procedures.

However the counter-argument to this is that in each case there was a group in power which by fiat decreed which code would "trump" the others when there was a conflict between, say, a Jew and a Christian or a Christian and a Moslem. There were also Canon Courts for clergy. But, again, one set would "trump" another.

I wouldn't call the middle-ages structure anarchy, though at times it was anarchic - and not always in the good way!

May 1, 2010 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Anyhow, maybe really we're quibbling without having a substantive difference: I agree with you on how a DPA would behave in reality: Just as the ICU behaved or the Taliban behaved or any number of other examples behaved.

And other Agencies would behave as they also behave: Shelling places under someone else's authoritah with artillery, imposing their exactions on non-members/outsiders as coercively as they can get away with, indeed using social and other forms of pressure on their own members to keep them from defecting freely, deciding they'd rather have self-help or contract with someone else (yes, there are situations where mutual agreement can be found. But how "pleased" were the Taliban when/if some villager in the area under its sway said to them "you know, I think I'll get my protection from the Northern Alliance, I like their law better?" "Oh, well, it was nice serving you and I do hope you'll reconsider, we have a fine benefit package, and are considering offering discounts for returning customers"?

Likewise the Northern Alliance if some Joe reconsidered their "services", &tc: There was and will be overt and implied coercive strong-arming in every respect. You'll only be allowed to "change providers" if they want to allow you too, *not* simply by free market choice on your part.

May 1, 2010 at 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Hugh G said...

TGGP: "Recall that this is a courts union, providing law. Since Somalia ist basically all Muslim, their brand of law is going to be relatively popular."

That's mere majoritarianism, a sort of informal democracy.

To demonstrate it is an example of Anarchocapitalist theory, you have to SHOW not that most people under it liked it, but that NO ONE was coerced or intimidated into knuckling under to it.

FAIL!

May 1, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Sorry to reply again but I need to openly adress something that is in the background of replies to TGGP:

"The "rule of law" is not about what the law happens to be (so it may completely violate what some call "natural law")"

This is probably why you see AnarchoCapitalism where it is not, and why people who *claim* to not agree with your underlying rationale actually *do* agree with it, and so see it there also.

It's the normative premises upon which Anarchocap theory is built, which can be boiled down to two statements: 1) No one should be coerced into doing anything against their will and 2) No one should be deprived of anything that is rightfully theirs against their will.

From that follows a set of "Natural Laws", and the idea of Law & protection as a commodity, and thus AnarchoCapitalism.

What this means is no proper authority has any right to compell you to do anything you don't want. It *doesn't* simply mean "only the State can't do that, but anyone else, or any other authority can legitimaely do so."

So, for example, if you are a woman and want to walk around veiled, you can. If you *don't* want to walk around veiled, no authority can *properly* make you do so - not even if "most people" agree that it should be against the law (I.E. that Sharia should be imposed). If two consening adults commit adultery, it's between them and their spouses - and the spouses can freely leave them, but not have them stoned to death.

Once you abandon the foundation of AnarchoCapitalism, which is rooted in concepts I think you reject (natural rights and natural law), you demolish it as a concept and find yourself arguing in favor of all these mechanisms that *do* impose coercion on people, and then you've lost *that* *particular* moral objection to the State as well.

If the ICU can do it, why not a State? If the ICU can have women flogged for not wanting to comply with Sharia law, then why not a State? If the ICU can enforce clitorectomies and the like, why not a State? If pastorial nomad law can enforce these things, and/or enforce your father giving you in marriage to your cousin wihout you having any choice in the matter, why not a State? ("The State sucks at it, while these guys are better at it!" is one answer, I suppose).

May 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Oh, and piracy practiced on outsiders is still coercive violations. Unless one adopts the morality of the 4th Crusade, where what matters is they made law free and fair among themselves and it didn't really matter how many filthy outsiders got run through, were looted, raped, had their baby's heads smashed against pillars, or were subdued.

"Why, look: They came up with a charter, free and fair among themselves, for dividing the spoils, and only obeyed their leaders in wartime, and half the time not even then. As for the bloody Greeklings they lorded over, we will ignore them in the equasion: They have no rights we need to consider. Taking their stuff against their will, raping their women, killing them, that doesn't count in our calculus."

But that ethos also ignores the feuds among themselves, stabbings, killings, and actual rapatiousness that went on among themselves. Dittoes re Somalia, where I can say with no doubt whatsoever that I will be *factually* contradicted, that at least half of the population is absolutely ignored in the "free and fair" making and application of these "laws", and quite probably a much higher proportion is coerced and intimidated into going along.

To the exent to which Misean liberty-oriented folk turn a blind eye to this and end up supporting laws such as these - which they would never gush over in admiration if it were inflicted upon them - they discedit themselves.

May 1, 2010 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

And then what you've got is gangs and warlords.

Somehow, AnCaps think this is a good thing.


Compare what the mafia charges, to what the government charges. Plus mafioso are so much more courteous and civilized than cops and bureaucrats.

I would expect the service I would get under anarcho capitalism to be at least as good as mafia service, and probably a lot better.

May 1, 2010 at 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is possible for Somalia to have internal order with external piracy but..."

Lolz, even on it's own terms, these guys have gone from "nobody should be exploited against their will!" to arguing "people have the perfect right to join together and exploit others!"

Not a very edifying argument: It becomes "might makes right, as long as I imagine I'm one of the pirates, and not one of their victims".

Their only argument against coercion becomes "It's immoral 'cause it's being done to me, when I'd rather it be my gang doing it to others!"

May 1, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Plus mafioso are so much more courteous and civilized than cops and bureaucrats."

In real life, or in movies?

You have personal experience, I'm sure. Also with legbreakers and the like, no doubt, and their form of courtesy.

May 1, 2010 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Porphyrogenitus said...
Oh, and piracy practiced on outsiders is still coercive violations. Unless one adopts the morality of the 4th Crusade, where what matters is they made law free and fair among themselves and it didn't really matter how many filthy outsiders got run through, were looted, raped, had their baby's heads smashed against pillars, or were subdued.

Anarcho capitalists expect that most people will end up insiders - eventually. War is a nasty business. The point of anarcho capitalism is that we can end a war short of the situation where a single organization is absolutely dominant, imposing law on all others, but itself unrestrained by any law.

The process by which a state makes itself supreme is invariably horrific, for example Sherman's march to the sea or the conquest of the Philippines. Anarcho capitalism could do no worse, hence to complain that the process would very likely involve a fair bit of arson, looting, slaughter and rape is special pleading. You are making Nozik's implicit argument: that it is OK for the “dominant agency” to massacre loot and burn, but not for the others to do so.

The truest peace is not that a single entity gets to use warlike means and no others, but that no entity gets to use warlike means - and to deter all entities from using warlike means, necessarily requires the threat of war or warlike means.

May 1, 2010 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

TGGP> I never meant to claim that the absolute number of competitors was the same as the amount of competition. As you pointed out, even monopolists face some competitive pressure. I would say even that right to entry isn't that important. Old firms can be reformed, they just usually aren't. What is really important is right of exit, and that is where states are most lacking. If you had to choose your car company at birth, GM would be in much better shape than it is now financially, but probably be making much shittier cars.

Newt and Devin> It's important to remember that armies are not unitary actors. There are several ways an army can mutiny. The classic example is the upper tier of the military leadership (the generals) ousting the civilian leadership and installing themselves. More common is part of the military (the colonels) ousting the other parts and the civilians. These sorts of revolts are usually led by second tier leaders who are powerful enough to command troops directly, but outside of the inner circle in the capital. These are the sorts of situations cryptographic locks help prevent.

However, it's also possible that the soldiers themselves refuse to fire, or are ordered to stand down by either the generals or the colonels. This is what happened in Russia for example. Yeltsin stood on a tank and they didn't shoot him. Cryptographic weapons don't really help this situation because they purely negative, i.e. they can prevent the use of force, not force the use of force. While in theory if one division refuses to fire you can order in a second one, I can't imagine this working very well. The soldiers in division 2 probably won't be much more enthusiastic about killing civilians than division one, and they will mostly likely be extremely unhappy about shooting defenseless fellow soldiers. As long as you have soldiers, you need them to believe in their orders. This problem can only be solved with robot armies, so bring on the Cylons!

May 1, 2010 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Anonymous said...
"Plus mafioso are so much more courteous and civilized than cops and bureaucrats."

In real life, or in movies?

Personal experience, which is consistent with the evidence presented by governments in charges brought against organized crime in the US: The fees that they were accused of charging were extremely low, and they were protecting clients who actually needed protection, because their clients had valuables that the government would not protect.

That they were accused of providing better and cheaper service than the government's, is consistent with greater respect towards customers.

Similarly, we see in the Hakayit Abdullah, that the old style brigands of the British East India Company who were willing to use dreadful means in the pursuit of personal profit, such as Raffles with his chest of gold, were more popular with the natives than the new style bureaucrats who sincerely believed they were on a mission to uplift and civilize.

Organized crime, unlike individual crime, is necessarily composed of individuals with the virtues required by an efficient organization. By and large government, for example your local police force, is not, rather, they more resemble those engaged in individual crime. When people collaborate in the pursuit of profit, you just get better people.

May 1, 2010 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"Anarcho capitalism could do no worse, hence to complain that the process would very likely involve a fair bit of arson, looting, slaughter and rape is special pleading."

Not on my part: I thought Anarchos were making the argument that these things were intrinsically wrong and should be avoided, and any institution built upon them was illegitimate.

"The point of anarcho capitalism is that we can end a war short of the situation where a single organization is absolutely dominant, imposing law on all others, but itself unrestrained by any law."

Point to any situation, actually existing situation, where this has happened and resulted what you claim to want: Non-coercive law for everyone involved. Not non-coercion for men with guns and coercion for everyone else, the situation we have now which you say you deplore, and then later admiring pirates, brigands, mafiosi, &tc.

"The truest peace is not that a single entity gets to use warlike means and no others, but that no entity gets to use warlike means - and to deter all entities from using warlike means, necessarily requires the threat of war or warlike means."

An equilibrium that I would argue, and that actual history bears out, is unstable at best.

"The fees that they were accused of charging were extremely low, and they were protecting clients who actually needed protection, because their clients had valuables that the government would not protect."

Well, I can tell here you're being selective (as well as using...euphemisms): One set of thieves protecting another set of thieves is not a situation where everyone's property is protected, for example.

Note you're also talking about a situation where, for better or worse, the rents that can be charged by this organization is limited because there does exist a higher authority, however flawed.

May 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"we see in the Hakayit Abdullah, that the old style brigands of the British East India Company who were willing to use dreadful means in the pursuit of personal profit"

Not exactly respecters of property or persons, these examples that Anarchos cite. Thus it's hard to believe they wouldn't develop in the same way so many do as they accumulate power.

The assertion rests upon a fond dream of a stable equilibrium that results in people's rights not being trampled.

1) I think we're quibbling between each other a bit much, because it's not as if I'm here because I admire States as they are.

2) The Anon who said that there's no real distinction between what the Anarchos here want and MM's vision seems to be correct. He wants small polities which will provide good customer service because there is competition for customers, and which authority is as - I hesitate to use the word "informal" since it's not right - Mafias. He believes as you do that if a equilibrium is reached with patchworks competing for customers, they'll provide better customer service (and, as I commented earlier, charge less for their services) than current bureaucratic States which love us so much they intrude into every aspect of our lives (again, somehow I seem to have left you with the impression I'm a fan of this...I'm not).

He's just a bit more explicit in recognizing what it took a lot of push to get from you. And he insiss upon retaining terminology that is odious to you.

IMO the ICU episode in Somalia and the Taliban episode in Afghanisan, among other places, are illustrative: Not of what should be normative, but what will actually happen - one or more groups will become dominant and push on others, they may then degenerate and get pushed in turn. The equilibrium will not be stable and none of these groups will be non-coercive. "Everyone will be brought in" like both you and Nozick state, but not without coercion: force, intimidation, and the like. I note again that about half of the population or more is apparently invisible to almost all of you (guess which half?) when you point to this or that as a real-world example.

Btw, in some ways you peeps are trending, in the examples you use, towards an endorsement not of anarchofreedom, but of communitarianism, where this or that community (say, a pastorial one that overlaps with some others territorially) maintains control. This is enforced in a lot of ways that I can see people here are turning a blind eye too (though this is less a critique of your points, since you at least noted what the ICU made life like for many).

Lost apparently very fast is the idea that "self-help" will remain among the options: Everyone will have to join some agency or be exploited. From that it follows that if you are in a weaker one, the stronger will push you to the wall and no one will do anything about it. You can see just how such a situation would tend towards Dark-Nozickism, at best Oligopoly and at worst the result that both you and I decry and see as the likely way a Nozickian State would come to pass in the real world (regardless of what he describes in his theory).

If self-help wouldn't suffice, because all these harms would be inflicted upon you and no one would stop it, then why would a small agency suffice? If a small agency wouldn't suffice, why would a medium agency suffice? Stronger ones would push them around in this conflict you describe. The only things that might stablize it are geographic, and then there would be conflict at the edges (to call them "frontiers" makes it seem too territorially based, where it might not be), and testing any time one felt they got stronger or another weaker. After all, the ICU grew from nothing. A equilibrium could always be overturned and the war would never really end.

Btw, have you ever seen "Yojimbo"?

May 1, 2010 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Hugh G said...

Porph, you poor naive fool, you don't get it: The anarchists don't care if half the world is reduced to the status of helots, as long as the groups doing it don't call themselves a State!

That's why you're banging your head against a wall. Your long comments will never impress them because if it's not a State doing it they JUST DON'T CARE.

Their examples are all you need to know that!

"Special pleading" indeed.

May 1, 2010 at 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was impressed by the long comments of Purple Genitals - I thought they were right on the money - but then I'm not an anarchist.

May 1, 2010 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

I think that remote controlled robots with guns throw a huge kink into all current theories of politics and no one has worked out the full implications yet. history can be described as the politician, the priest, and the banker all making their appeals to the man with the gun (so to speak). each offers a justification for the use of force, popularity, ethical, and monetary. we've seen a shuffle of faces but the man with the gun has remained. this is about to change.

TGGP: "I think I would deny we are traveling through dangerous waters"

what about the great filter? we're approaching a few existential threats (tech wise) that may very well take concerted action to get through.

May 1, 2010 at 5:20 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

I've read about one third into both The Bow, and Latter Day Pamphlets.

I'm at a loss to see how these works and the tradition they embody can be of use to us today, in the post-democratic age, when all powers rooted in tradition have been cast aside, and don't even exist "underground," so to speak. They don't even exist to themselves.

It's not as if a revolution of some nature could restore a power or tradition that no longer lives, that has itself been "converted" to democracy. Every possible king has abdicated, and you couldn't find one to put on a throne if you had the political power to do so.

There is no extant anti-democratic tradition still alive, save for the ideologies orbiting fascism. Authority and personality, top-down command, respect for tradition -- all that culminated in the battles of the twentieth century when traditionary forces stood up where kings had abdicated (or sat on their thrones as figureheads). The anglophone world smashed up that budding tradition, and smothered at birth a potentially long lasting institution, authority, one worthy of the name, willing to stand security for the future of civilized nations.

Today all that is verboten, needless to say. Electoral politics is not going to produce a Frederick the Great under any circumstances, least of all in the present American and European slide toward Balkanization.

That's one more thing we cannot learn from these Victorian works. They cannot teach us anything about life, power, governance, etc., in a multicultural setting, with full suffrage, ethnic voting blocs, total social alienation and distrust, individuals withdrawn from any semblance of community, and uncivilized ethnic groups organized powerfully for identity politics.

These works can tell us nothing about a world dominated by PROPAGANDA. Powerful, non-stop, reality-creating images. Not just commercial advertising, but ideological advertising. Television, cinema, popular music, etc.

Let's not even mention the effects of the internet and social networks, blogs, which we can as much fathom today as we could predict the effect of television in the 1940s and 50s.

Another thing these works cannot teach us are the rudiments of actual human nature, human psychology, everything evolution has taught in the century after the Froude society's cutoff date of 1923.

Those are just a few reasons these authors can't be a guide to anything possible in the present world.

May 1, 2010 at 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think that remote controlled robots with guns throw a huge kink into all current theories of politics and no one has worked out the full implications yet"

Why stop there: What about nanobots? Just disassemble your enemies!

jkr: "Authority and personality, top-down command, respect for tradition"

Carlyle wasn't for those Monarchs even. By his era he already thought them SHAM, in need of replacement.

I think the Froudean approach is to believe that once the SHAM Democracies are knocked off their perch too, old forms will re-emerge under the new technological circumstances. Moldbug is always mixing traditional forms with futuristic forms.

The problem remains selecting the right sort - and keeping it from degenerating over time into the decayed counterpart.

May 1, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no extant anti-democratic tradition still alive, save for the ideologies orbiting fascism.

Uh, I guess that's true if you don't think COMMUNISM is an anti-democratic tradition. Castro, Kim, and the ChiComs, that's over a billion people right there.

Saudi Arabia... not Communism, not Fascism, not Democracy.

May 1, 2010 at 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir M. said...

jkr:
I'm at a loss to see how these works and the tradition they embody can be of use to us today, in the post-democratic age, when all powers rooted in tradition have been cast aside, and don't even exist "underground," so to speak. They don't even exist to themselves.

Well, most people would strongly disagree with your pessimistic descriptions of the modern civilization. As has been the case in every post-Enlightenment age, people today view the present order as the historical pinnacle of freedom and justice, and the entire past as dark ages of ignorance and oppression, in which nothing was valuable except insofar as it pointed and led towards our present enlightened state. Reading the works of old authors can help shake these firmly entrenched biases, even if it cannot point to any present alternative to the reigning liberal consensus.

For example, you can decry the "total social alienation and distrust" and "individuals withdrawn from any semblance of community," but typical modern people will scratch their heads wondering what exactly you might mean by that. Peering into the past through the works of people who actually lived it might be the only way for them to even begin to understand what extremes of social atomization we've reached in the meantime.


There is no extant anti-democratic tradition still alive, save for the ideologies orbiting fascism.

These ideologies have also been fundamentally democratic. At their peak, they did present an alternative to liberalism, but their power ultimately rested on mob acclamation, not custom and tradition.

The last vestiges of any viable non-democratic political tradition in the West died when Bolsheviks took over Russia and WW1 victors forced the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. (By then, the Monarchy had already adopted many democratic elements, but it did a miraculous job in preventing the ever threatening menace of ethnic mob politics, which has subsequently drowned its quondam lands in vast rivers of blood.)

May 1, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir M. said...

Also, another comment on this statement by jkr:

Another thing these works cannot teach us are the rudiments of actual human nature, human psychology, everything evolution has taught in the century after the Froude society's cutoff date of 1923.

Don't underestimate the power of experience and common-sense perceptiveness of the old authors. A lot of the stuff that "evolution has taught us" about human nature in recent decades is either still suspect, or merely recapitulates what was well known long ago, but unfortunately buried under modern ideologically driven prejudice and fashionable pseudosciences of Freud, Marx, and similar ghastly characters.

As a side note, I'm right now finishing the "Bow of Ulysses," and I'm struck by the common sense of Froude's reflections on Darwinism, which look odd in our age where evolution has become one of those issues that everyone has a passionate opinion on, but few have any accurate picture of. Today, our intellectual elites consider belief in Darwinism as a litmus test for not being a dangerous religious fanatic, but they completely ignore the nihilistic implications of Darwinism that are equally fatal for their cherished liberal and universalist creed as they are for traditional religion. In contrast, Froude tells us the plain truth that the change "from the faith which built the cathedrals to evolution and the survival of the fittest" is hardly good news, even if it brings us closer to the truth.

May 1, 2010 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...
"Point to any situation, actually existing situation, where this has happened and resulted what you claim to want: Non-coercive law for everyone involved."

Saga period iceland is a pretty good example, as was the wild west, for example San Francisco back in the days of Leland Stanford

Obviously law is going to be coercive. Someone burgles my house, has to be dealt with violently. I want to be able to personally cut one of his hands off, and do so through proper and public channels in the sunshine, or hang him from an oak tree in the midst of a crowd of my neighbors as Leland Stanford did. That is pretty coercive.

I don't want non coercive law for everyone involved. I want coercive law for everyone involved, instead of some superior people having a special privilege to use force in way that ordinary people may not use force, making law voluntary for themselves, while they get to make their own laws interpreted the way they like them compulsory for everyone else.

May 1, 2010 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

James A. Donald wrote:
"The fees that they were accused of charging were extremely low, and they were protecting clients who actually needed protection, because their clients had valuables that the government would not protect."

Porphyrogenitus said...
Well, I can tell here you're being selective (as well as using...euphemisms): One set of thieves protecting another set of thieves is not a situation where everyone's property is protected,

If you have ten thousand dollars in cash or gold, police will not protect it, and are more likely to rough you up and steal it. Possessing stuff the state is apt to steal is does not make you a thief. If you complain, they will charge you with money-laundering-child-pornography-tax-evasion-drug-trafficking, but one thing they will not charge you with is being a thief.

Organized "criminals" punish thieves. Police protect thieves, when they are not thieves themselves.

May 1, 2010 at 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James A. Donald is right: If stuff falls off the back of a truck and into your hands, its yours, ya know? And the coppers will try to steal this stuff wot you stole fair and square from ya!

So ya needs some guys wot'll help protect your property from da gummint.

Wot ya don't needs, see, is, say Brinks Security: They'll only protect yer stash if you have some sort of title to it other than "hey, I founds this stuff from da back of a truck, see? So its mine."

May 2, 2010 at 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Hugh G said...

Anon: To be fair to Mr. Donald, I think he's talking about the money he earned selling kiddie porn, not the other noble enterprises you crudely bring up.

May 2, 2010 at 7:41 AM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Anon:

We're talking about the West. If so-called communism lingers on in the third world, its mere symbolism.

May 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Vlad: I don't deny the value in reading these works for an average liberal arts graduate. I only said they don't point the way to a solution to our present morass.

What I meant by social alienation has to do with life as lived in modern multicultural settings. Reference "Bowling Alone" or reviews of it.

I would go further and say that since the demise of the church as a community organizing institution, there is no actual civic life outside small homogeneous towns.

The European right of the 20s-30s came to power democratically, although it was largely a one=or-the other TOTAL election, set with street brawls and para-military apparatus, between communism and tradition. AFTER the election, 'true elections' if ever there were any, and save for WW2, these parties would have become powers, institutions, traditions, fit for being a ruling class in the West. Look what they did with the social problem in the short time they held power. United the classes, gave the masses a dignified place in society, without smashing up and overturning every stone from every other one.

As far as the Romanov and Austro-Hungarian monarchs, they were long sitting on an ethnic powder keg ruled by a Germanic stratum, whipped up into a fever of socialist and ethnopolitics by poor social conditions, weak show-piece monarchs, and underclass rebellion stirred largely by non-Russian asocial elements.

For my purposes, I'm mainly referring to conditions and realities in Europe-proper and its outposts, i.e. the Anglosphere. Russia is not a part of western civilization. Neither are Arabian royalty or China's ruling junta. There is no point of comparison or reference between one civilization's stage of development, world outlook, and another entirely different one's.

May 2, 2010 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

ANON,

"I think the Froudean approach is to believe that once the SHAM Democracies are knocked off their perch too, old forms will re-emerge under the new technological circumstances."

No doubt they will, just as something was once forged, with much blood and sacrifice, out of the original chaos of prehistory and the various mass movements of tribes and peoples. To put it dramatically. That's not quite something we can select, rather it will select itself. But at some point between now and the next two centuries, I'd wager that the bulk of our current political class will find their heads on pikes, with natural forms of law and order taking their place.

May 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Anonymous 6:59,

Speaking of sham kings, here's an extract from Thus Spake Zarathustra you might find refreshing,

"This loathing choketh me, that we kings ourselves have become false, draped and disguised with the old faded pomp of our ancestors, show-pieces for the stupidest, the craftiest, and whosoever at present trafficketh for power.

We are not the first men- and have nevertheless to stand for them: of this imposture have we at last become weary and disgusted.

...Fie, to stand for the first men among the rabble! Ah, loathing! Loathing! Loathing! What doth it now matter about us kings!"

"There is no sorer misfortune in all human destiny, than when the mighty of the earth are not also the first men. Then everything becometh false and distorted and monstrous.

And when they are even the last men, and more beast than man, then riseth and riseth the populace in honour, and at last saith even the populace-virtue: 'Lo, I alone am virtue'"

http://nietzsche.holtof.com/Nietzsche_thus_spake_zarathustra/IV_63.html

May 2, 2010 at 7:55 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

And how, mencius, do we find our king in this late, democratic age?

"I myself, to be sure--I have as yet seen no great man. That which is great, the acutest eye is at present insensible to it. It is the kingdom of the populace.

Many a one have I found who stretched and inflated himself, and the people cried: 'Behold; a great man!' But what good do all bellows do! The wind cometh out at last.

Our to-day is of the populace: who still KNOWETH what is great and what is small! Who could there seek successfully for greatness! A fool only: it succeedeth with fools.

Thou seekest for great men, thou strange fool? Who TAUGHT that to thee? Is to-day the time for it? Oh, thou bad seeker, why dost thou--tempt me?"--

Thus spake Zarathustra, comforted in his heart, and went laughing on his way.

May 2, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger LFC said...

I have not read this comment thread. I did, however, read MM's comment on Abu Muqawama to which MM points, the one in which MM suggests erecting a gallows in Kabul to hang certain unnamed Afghans, refers to "Pashtoons" [sic] who drive recklessly, and implies that the problems attending U.S./ISAF operations in Afghanistan arise b/c people do not know who Eldon Gorst was and are insufficiently acquainted with the historiography of the British Empire.

This comment by MM on Abu Muqawama is of a piece with virtually everything else I have read by MM. He seems almost incapable of making an argument, as opposed to stringing together a series of assertions whose main quality is the air of superiority with which they are delivered. MM uses terms like "conquest" ("we need to conquer the civilians") without bothering to indicate what he means by them (except "hang everyone," which I suppose he could mean); and his general mode of proceeding seems to be a mixture of ex cathedra pronouncement and smug implication that he is wise and almost everyone else is foolish or ignorant or stupid. No wonder he likes certain of the Victorians (no J.S. Mill on the list, though. Hmm, what a surprise.)

May 7, 2010 at 10:11 PM  

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