Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governments, Sandlines And Me

My politics are a bit... Different. Though I am happy enough to participate in the political process (for much the same reason that fish swim in water), the State has always seemed to me to be coercive at best and inherently illegitimate at worst.

Consider that even as fine a document as the United States Constitution is effectively a contract you never signed, but are nevertheless bound by; while the other party to the contract, the Federal government, consistently finds loopholes, bends, or simply ignores the restrictions supposedly set upon it by that same contract. While this behavior is often (but not always) more polite, less bloody and better-justified than that of, say, a ravaging barbarian horde or a Chicago crime mob, at the heart of it there is no difference: they will do as they please with your life, liberty and property -- and you'll just have to play along. Sure, you can object and the odds are a lot better for you under an honest government than against Visigoths or Capone's gang, but you're still most likely going to lose. There is an inherent problem in government of any sort: if it's big enough to get anything done, it's big enough to crush you.

Because of having reached this conclusion, I call myself an anarchist. Until somebody trots out a magic solution to keeping the individual safe from an entity that makes the laws, collects the taxes, operates the courts and runs the police forces, jails and gallows, the State -- any State -- is simply a collection of thugs with clubs who have learned to eat with silverware and say "please" and "thank you" while they steal from you. That they can do it under the color of law -- some "law" the dimwits, drunks and demagogues elected by a slim majority of your supposed peers have decided to enact -- is nothing more than a slick paint-job over bad Bondo.

Still, it's what we've got, and so I play along with this business of elections and campaigns, even lending a hand; given a set of very bad choices, I'll still opt for the least bad. (As others have pointed out, bad as a representative republic may be, every other system of government is worse)

How does this apply to "lines in the sand?" It's simple. As far as I'm concerned, all governments cross my "line" on Day One. But governments are not like a single baddie confronting one in an alley; you cannot simply shoot them when they try to do you harm. Life can become very inconvenient for you if you even try. So in another sense, I don't have a line in the sand at all. Government, it seems to me, is not a pack of wolves howling at your door, but a flood; and the question is not "How many wolves can you shoot?" but "How long can you stay afloat?"

This is the "anarchism" that leaves me sidelined in the "Three-Percenter" vs. "Prgamatist" debate: a sense that most of our arguments, heartfelt and well-reasoned though they are, come down to fleas arguing on the back of an elephant. Hey, as long as the beast doesn't go tryin' to scratch the itch, we'll be okay -- and if it does, which side you were on won't matter.

28 comments:

og said...

Actually, the government of a representative republic is a tool that we, as a people, are supposed to use to maintain order. If we use it improperly, as we clearly have, we deserve what we get. Are we in a shithole? Sure. Did someone impose it on us as a nation? No, we chose it of our own free will. Perhaps not as individuals, but as a nation, yes, absolutely. Nothing will ever come along which is any better. Ever. if your definition of 'anarchist" is "Someone who dislikes the status quo and wishes for less interference in my life" then I'm an anarchist too, but no conventional definition of anarchist is ever going to fit you, or me. You like order too much, I see it in your writing, your work, your lifestyle. The fact that you work so hard to make sure everything you do is done properly, the fact that you carefully account for everything you do, the fact that your blog is the only one I've ever seen with footnotes on almost every post shows that you enjoy order and organization too much to throw away what we have just because it isn't 100% optimal. If this were true, (and I know some people of which it is true) you'd have packed it in and gone ted kacynscki on us long ago.

I'm not trying to be contentious and this isn't trying to be an argument. I just doan theen tha word means wha you theen it means.

Joe Allen said...

Huh. The US Constitution as EULA: "By accepting this package...."

Carteach0 said...

While I agree with most of your premises, I'm not sure about the last.

It might be time for me to re-read 'Unintended Consequences'. I still think there are avenues to follow should the pleasant ones be closed.

The thing about a 'crushing' government, or any entity for that matter, is that it operates by taking away. Never by building up or making, but only by taxing and taking away.

The next thing..... there are some people in this world who, once everything they care about is taken away, and they have nothing left to lose, go hunting.

Captcha: 'Mousness'. Not, I think, what we are talking about here.

alan said...

What a government gives, it must first take away from someone else.

It can't make or build anything, only take or destroy.

Everything it does is at a loss.

Rob K said...

That's pretty much how I feel. The sole legitimate function of "government" is to punish acts which are mala in se. There would be no need for any sort of government otherwise.

Popgun said...

Hi, Roberta X;

Extremely well said. I'm going to print this out and think about it some. I think I'm nearly 100% in agreement with you - government is, at best, a necessary evil.

-Popgun

og said...

"sole legitimate function of "government" is to punish acts which are mala in se. There would be no need for any sort of government otherwise."

So, the roads would just build themselves. And the rest of the world could just show up and do what ever they wanted here, and we wouldn't need to defend ourselves from enemies of our freedoms because everyone would just leave us alone because they're nice like that.

No, Government has a bucketload of "legitimate" functions. We, the people of the United states have asked/coerced/forced the government to stray from those "legitimate" functions.

Captcha: "Dahlin". Don't draw any conclusion from that.

Mark Alger said...

Og;

I don't disagree entirely with your imprimis. But still, the state of the nation is somewhat of a sneakwrap contract. I, for one, never got the chance to vote on Social Security or the income tax or a host of other impositions, infringements, and ultra vires initiative taken willy nilly and without so much as a by-your-leave.

MY representative has had standing instructions to obstruct the whole mess and has done pretty well for at least 20 years (Through three incumbents).

So whattaya mean, "We," Paleface?

That said, what do we do about it?

M

og said...

"That said, what do we do about it?"

That is the $64,000 question.

We can do as you have done, and get your elected officials to obstruct the BS. That's one thing. And you do, and have, the opportunity to vote on that. To bitch about something that was voted in before you were born is the height of ludicrousness. Your job is to make it better for your kids, having learned your lesson from the mess your parents made. I didn't get to vote on whether I should have one opposable thumb or five, but that's what I was born with, and that's what I got when I got here. Whining about "i didn't get to vote for it"? Well, your parent's parent's parent's were there to allow it to happen or to stop it from happening. While we're standing here, the things our children will whine about are taking place. What, besides bitching, are we doing about it?

What we got, as I've said, is the second worst possible situation. Everything else is the worst. I spend zero time whining about how I didn't get to vote for this or that or whatever. I spend ALL my time thinking about what I can do to make it better. I'm drawing a blank, other than VOTE.

Roberta X said...

I dunno -- I complain about (and want to change) things that were voted in before I was born, like Income Tax, the direct election of Senators and NFA. Gal's gotta have dreams, after all.

Og makes cogent points about roads and defense, to which I offer that we do not know that The State is the only means by which these things may be created; one might as well suggest mail service or health care could (or, perhaps, should) only happen as State monopolies.

Nor is every anarchist necessarily an agent of chaos. (The word may not mean what either of us think it means). I am all for order; I don't see The State as the sole or best source of order -- indeed, the modern, over-regulated State is a source of lawlessness and disorder, from tax-cheating (both directly and by obfuscation of financial dealings) to speeding.

What am I doing about it? Voting. Writing. Encouraging folks to question assumptions, theirs and the ones other people make for and about them. It's not much but it's something.

I think most people have an emotional need for The State; it's a source of comfort like a night light or a stuffed animal. But perhaps they don't need quite as much of it as there is. Maybe it can't be whittled down to nothing -- but pumping it up until it is everything is definitely moving in the wrong direction.

At one time, many intelligent, thoughtful people were of the opinion that a country had to have a Monarch; government would not function without one. They proven wrong by the citizens of thirteen colonies with some wild ideas about liberty, who undertook a great experiment. Why stop now?

og said...

You speak of the state as if it were some foreign entity. The state is you.

Roberta X said...

True in theory, but IMO incorrect in practice: the State, like Hell, is other people. They've got the individual, any individual, outnumbered.

Worse yet, ownership of the State confers very little control of it. In a representative republic, we are at the mercy of those the majority selects to represent us. If they are good, wise and honorable, all will be well; but how often does that happen? Not so much. We're lucky if they are middlin' competent and only small-time crooks. And their jobs are far too secure.

og said...

Correct in theory, and correct in practice. The government began as a canoe, and we each had a paddle. A lot of people paddled in different directions, but as a whole, the canoe went in the general direction of where the most of the people were paddling.

Now, the government is an aircraft carrier. And we still each only have a paddle. How did this happen? We made it happen. Why is it so hard to steer? because it's the giant, ponderous monstrosity we made it. We didn't do it on our own, we did it with the help of the media, who convince us of the need for socialism, and the help of idiots who voted their feelings instead of common sense.

We can still steer the boat, though it requires a concerted effort. Brak got elected with 52% of the vote, which, considering the enormous brute force of the media and the vast number of airheads living on the north American continent, is a tribute to the people who want to steer our boat in the right direction.

If we want to make the aircraft carrier more like a canoe again, we have to do it. Nobody is going to do it for us. And there is no other option. None. People need to face this- No Klaatu is going to show up and fix it for us, no trip through a magic wardrobe will teach us how to make it all better. Period.

It might help if we can find some way to a: get the media back in the business of reporting the news and setting aside their partisanship, and b: preventing the stupid from voting- you should have to be aware of the damned process and the consequences of your actions before you are allowed to pull the lever.

I think this would be a good place to start, and I'm constantly thinking of ways to make this happen, but none of them don't involve cricket bats to the base of the skull. I'm beginning to think the cricket bat is the best option. There are just so many morons.

I have never yet read a comprehensive definition of 'anarchist" that didn't include the words "Communism" and "volunteer". The dependance on those two worde disqualify it as a viable system, in my mind, because I never yet saw a communist system that made ANY sense, and people will just not volunteer unless coerced.

perlhaqr said...

I have never yet read a comprehensive definition of 'anarchist" that didn't include the words "Communism" and "volunteer". The dependance on those two worde disqualify it as a viable system, in my mind, because I never yet saw a communist system that made ANY sense, and people will just not volunteer unless coerced.

Let's start at the bottom.

You've never volunteered for anything unless someone twisted your arm? Or do you consider "enlightened self interest" to be coercion?

I've contributed some small pieces to a number of open source software projects. No one pointed a gun at me, hell no one even asked me to do it, but I did it because I wanted to help and the benefits of having lots of people contribute a little bit of time to making the entire internet run smoother are really obvious to me.It is to my extreme benefit for all of the various open source software packages I use to get better, and I'm capable of helping with that. And I'm damned glad I don't have to write everything from scratch on my own.

I'll agree that Communism is retarded.

As for a definition of anarchist that doesn't include "communism" or "volunteer", have you never heard of the entire branch known as anarcho-capitalism? Anarchism simply means "no rulers". It does not imply adherence to a certain economic model. Hell, Anarchism has room for everyone. The Capitalists get to own their factories and convince people to work in them and pay drivers to deliver the goods, and the Communists get to set up their worker's collectives and live that way. The big jump is that anyone gets to leave if they want to.

As for the final line in your first response, I think the real issue is that Anarchism doesn't mean what you think it means. "Anarchy" is not synonymous with "chaos".

Hypnagogue said...

The quickest way to change the direction of this monstrous canoe is not to paddle ever more furiously against the trend, but to stand up, oar in hand, and start beating the living snot out of the people rowing the wrong direction.

Kyle Bennett said...

perlahqr,

Another label is "agorism", kinda like anarcho-capitalism, but without the implicit assumption of a specific business model.

Roberta, I'm glad to find your blog, just got here from Smallest Minority. I'll be reading.

Bilgeman said...

"This is the "anarchism" that leaves me sidelined in the "Three-Percenter" vs. "Prgamatist" debate"
-Roberta

Well, EVERYONE'S a 3%-er, until they become a Pragmatist...

(Or maybe that's the other way 'round).

" So in another sense, I don't have a line in the sand at all."

That's smart...keep the bastids guessing.

Billy Beck said...

"Og makes cogent points about roads and defense, to which I offer that we do not know that The State is the only means by which these things may be created;..."

We can do better than that. This "cogent point" simply does not attend rational principles (that means: "they refer to reality") of production, which is a very specific human activity. The fact is that we don't need the state to build roads or anything else anymore than we needed them to make Chevrolets (and we're going to see how that works out) or surgeries (that too) or tennis rackets or anything else. Of course, one of the objections to this line of thought is that roads are a lot more important than tennis rackets. And the answer to that is always a question; "More important to whom?" which must not be permitted to be ignored.

The principal ethical defect of socialism is that it substitutes some peoples' values for other peoples' values. (That's a theoretical matter. The grave political and practical defect, of course, is that it does this by force.) The reason why this will always be destructive to whatever degree that it is applied -- to include roads -- is that it violates reality by insisting that some peoples' minds are subordinated to others'. In the very nature of the human mind and its purpose in human life, this is destructive to every dissident (anyone who does not find the government-offered value to be a value) who is nonetheless compelled by the force of government.

Free people build things, and that includes roads. If they don't build them where some people want them, that is still no warrant to go force them to do so.

You're violating reality when you try that, and that can only blow up in your face sooner or later, even if it takes more than two hundred years.

~~~~~

The "anarchy" / chaos distinction is crucial. Hit that hard whenever possible. I'll leave it alone now.

It's nice to meet you, Roberta.

Ron said...

no conventional definition of anarchist is ever going to fit you, or me. You like order too much...

Anarchism is not "no order"; it is merely "no government". Anarchy equals chaos is a false equivocation.

If the government disappeared tomorrow and my car broke down, I'd still likely take it to a mechanic. I'd still have plans and so would others.

Less said...

It might help if we can find some way to a: get the media back in the business of reporting the news and setting aside their partisanship,

With the rate that newspaper companies are folding, blogging seems to be a very good way of getting the word out on the street.
(Except for that partisanship thing...) Look at China - the averge Joe there isn't reading the "offical" [toilet] papers... They're plugged-in, baby!

b: preventing the stupid from voting - you should have to be aware of the damned process and the consequences of your actions before you are allowed to pull the lever.

This is what is interesting, though - there are a lot of well-educated people that pulled the lever for Obama and understood the consequences of their actions. There are a lot of backwater hicks out there that pulled for the "guy that ain't black" and understood the consequences of their actions.

Reality is that I'm seeing a lot of weepy-eyed college liberals in Chicago and Madison fretting over the overwhelmingly "centrist" posture that Obama is taking. I wonder if they'll vote their hopes, dreams, change and lollipops in the future - Once burned, twice shy, right?

Rod Smith said...

Hey, this is good stuff! Glad I found ya :)

Roberta X said...

Welcome, welcome!

Fair warnion' -- I tend to the empirical and to letting people, severally and each, make their own mistakes.

There are plenty of other people who are more traditional, more conservative in the original sense of the word and it is well to remember than any stable culture relies upon them to be the flywheel (or perhaps the gyroscope) that keeps things steady. Without them, without that desire for the familiar and the usual that we all possess in some measure, anarchy is chaos and nobody builds the roads. We may never step in he same river twice but most of us have a favorite restaurant we've visited many times.

Government is one tool to preserve order; it's not the only one. But government does not necessarily maintain the established order and can even act to change it in ways good or ill.

Ron said...

Hi Roberta, I like you, too. So, and with respect, you write:

"without that desire for the familiar and the usual that we all possess in some measure, anarchy is chaos and nobody builds the roads."

How could we ever be without an attribute that we all possess? Ergo: the roads will get built and anarchy is not a correlate or an equivalent to chaos.

That said then, "There are plenty of other people who are more traditional, more conservative in the original sense of the word and it is well to remember than any stable culture relies upon them to be the flywheel (or perhaps the gyroscope) that keeps things steady" rightly presumes the existence of stable, steady folks to be the flywheel. Good. Glad they're here. And, as you wrote: they're plentiful.

But what you wrote still doesn't supply a reason to accept being pushed around by them. Ever. Besides, when it comes to creating chaos, I'll offer that most societal and economic true chaos is created not by anarchy but instead by imposed, fiat order.

But government does not necessarily maintain the established order and can even act to change it in ways good or ill.

Understand this about "the will of the people": it either exists anyways without government (since one can presume folks who want something a certain way will at least try to act accordingly) or it doesn't exist at all because the phrase, when used as a description of state/government, necessarily couches an assumption that some folks *don't* want things that way.

And: "ways good or ill" to whom?

Ron said...

...and I'm wandering around your blog getting really impressed by your sheer skill with words. You play a mean keyboard.

Roberta X said...

Flattery! ;)

Where were we? Oh! Traits that contribute to the stability of a culture and the tautology that the individual desire for stability is reflected in the culture. Alas, a sufficiently unstable culture can turn that sour -- think of Vichy France (Stockholm Syndrome?) or the mess in Somalia as two extremes.

If the "established order" stinks out loud, the number of people who start smashing for the sake of smashing (or for whatever they can grab) and those who will accept any system promising order despite severe drawbacks will grow.

Does this suggest some minimal amount of government (or some adequate substitute) may be, if not desirable, nevertheless necessary? Seems to me it might.

Kyle Bennett said...

I'm not quite through my first cup of coffee yet, and I'm in that weird 50/50 asleep/awake state where my right brain seems to be in charge...

So here we have a bunch of anarchists, and others, who have sniffed out some "fresh meat" - and a *woman!* to boot - and we're all orbiting trying to figure out which camp she's in, and trying to entice her into ours like French Quarter hucksters shilling their wares to eager, unsuspecting tourists.

I suspect, Roberta, that you'll hold your own center. And I like the "flywheel" metaphor alot. Can I steal it?

Oh, and, my particular anarcho-rama really is the best on the block, just what you're looking for. Just step right up, come inside, free drinks for the ladies, you won't regret it...

Terry North said...

Very briefly,

the State -- any State -- is simply a collection of thugs with clubs who have learned to eat with silverware and say "please" and "thank you" while they steal from you.

A state which binds itself violates the principle, "no one may be a judge in his own cause". In short it is impossible. Government employees (elected or not) will always seek to expand their powers.

If you want a good solution, the best I've come across is a sort of neo-monarchy at Unqualified Reservations. Be prepared, though - the author is both erudite and loquacious.

Farm.Dad said...

"Og makes cogent points about roads and defense, to which I offer that we do not know that The State is the only means by which these things may be created;..."

Roads , Defense , Cheap food ( see http://frankwjames.blogspot.com/ for a better listing on the .gov subsedys than i can give ), ect..
Point is that the " Public Good " depends on whom defines it . Ill submit that the voters should define it , however ill also submit that we should change the eligibility of voting from citizen( or other depending on acron in your area ) to " Any Citizen who actually pays taxes ( i dont mean anyone who gets back more than they paid inn, no matter the " paycheck deduction" , I mean folk who are actually taxed ) to pay for the stuff that the .gov wants to do . Let them legeslate what they want but in this e-communicate days there is no reason the actual taxpayers cant take an active role in funding . Tarheart denied funding for bloomie , and on the flip side atf has no fund to restore gun rights for folk wrongly on the prohibited list . The folk who actually pay bills are not much on "entitlements" but are big on charity and helping folks who need a hand up . I am minimally successfull myself and i resent a lot of handout programs when i could give the same money to someone who is trying .
As far as the 3%er issue goes well while everyone has been paying userous prices for ar 15s ill just note that tooling has not gone up a bit for my mill and lathe lol .