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Anarchy in Somalia!
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is the kind of paleolibertarian stuff that drives me up a wall...
Somalia has done very well for itself in the 15 years since its government was eliminated. The future of peace and prosperity there depends in part on keeping one from forming.
Author Yumi Kim then goes on to describe the many-splendored thing that is Somali anarchy, including Somalia's realtively inexpensive telecommunications industry, their private security firms and their service sector which has "managed to survive and grow".

While I'm certainly happy that the service sector has managed to "survive", the same cannot be said of many Somali's. Kim argues that "Somalia is a country based on customary law" and that this traditional Somali system "is capable of maintaining a peaceful society and guiding the Somalis to prosperity". Sounds wonderful!

So, it's too bad that stories like this have to come out on the same day that Yumi Kim tells us of this wonderful experiment in anarcho-capitalism...
Thousands of people have fled the northern and northeastern suburbs of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since clashes between militia groups started over the weekend, a top city official said.
Shame, really, all that violence getting in the way of a burgeoning telecommunications industry. But one resident noted that both sides in the fight "have been buying ammunition in the market", so at least one industry will make out just fine.

In any event, the Mises Institute story ends with the claim that efforts "to construct a formal government" inspire only "fear and loathing in Mogadishu and the rest of the country". But that's directly contradicted by evidence on the ground. Oh, sure, Somali's may fear a single central government, but resistance to a central government seems less about general opposition to government and more about specific opposition to one faction being in control...
"I was attacked by these people [Islamic court militias] and I am defending myself," he said. "These groups are only after one thing - power and are hiding behind Islam."

Abdullahi Shirwa, a member of Civil Society in Action, an umbrella organisation made up of over 12 groups in Mogadishu, however, said the fighting was an attempt by the alliance "to arrest the influence of the Islamic courts", which, he said, has brought a semblance of order in areas they control.
Even in Somalia, people are trying desperately to form a system of government, be it tribal, factional, or religious. Anxious for a single real-world example of functional anarchism, the Mises Institute—and anarcho-capitalists—mistake opposition to a specific government for opposition to government in general. The Somali's aren't fighting over whether they will be governed, but over who gets to be in power.

As a system of ordering human society, anarchism in theory appeals to libertarian ideals. In actual practice, however, it is invariably poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Libertarians would do well to draw lessons about human nature from that fact.
 
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Of course, Ludwig Von Mises was NOT an anarchist.

Too bad the Rothbardian scum-bags are soiling his good name with this nonsense.
 
Written By: Newslinker
URL: http://newslinker.blogspot.com/
True Jon. But there are still good economic things happening in Somalia as the article points out. Look at those as signs of libertarianism working. Look at all the killings and dangerousness as anarchro-libertarianism working.
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
oops, its usually called "anarchro-capitalism" not "anarchro-libertarianism".

so s/anarchro-libertarianism/anarchro-capitalism/
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
Oh, you’ve done it now. Those guys will come crawling out of the woodwork to explain to us all the philosophical consistency and inherent morality and goodness of their system.

They remind me of extreme Marxists who keep telling us communism just hasn’t been done right yet.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
A distinction has to be made between Somalia (capital: Mogadishu) and Somaliland (capital: Berbera).

Somaliland is de facto independent, but no governments recognize its independence. It is safe, prosperous (relatively speaking, by Horn of Africa standards), and stable.

Somalia is the country whose sovereignty is recognized by the rest of the world. It is anarchic (in the pejorative sense of the term), poor, and unstable. Its only asset is the fact that the rest of the world recognizes it and this gives it the potential to one day reoccupy Somaliland with no expectation of opposition from the international community.

The United Nations and the African Union (AU) do not want to recognize Somaliland’s sovereignty because that would jeopardize the long-held view that colonial boundaries in Africa are sacrosanct. (Only once has this position been breached, and that was when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991, a situation that held promise but became destabilized when Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in 1998, starting a border war that cost somewhere from 70,000 to 100,000 lives and is still not completely settled, despite the 2000 Algiers Accord that ostensibly ended the war and set up a mechanism for demarcating the border.)

I recently asked a U.S. ambassador who has served in the region about this topsy-turvy situation (where the successful country is in limbo while the dysfunctional country gets the recognition), and her answer was essentially that we can’t expect diplomacy to be rational or logical. So Somaliland is likely to go on gaining in prosperity while its neighbor and sibling, Somalia, devolves even further into a Hobbesian world where life is clannish, nasty, brutish, and short.

 
Written By: Rick Sincere
URL: http://www.RickSincere.com
It is articles like Yumi Kim’s that prompt me to make the statement, "THIS is why I am not a Libertarian." I agree with the commentor who stated that Anarcho-Capitalists are the equivalent of Campus Marxists. They represent the same sort of moral/intellectual/historical obtuseness of their marxist confreres.

I mean Somalia is a veritable Paradise, it only took the deaths of several hundred thousand of its inhabitants to produce this Utopia.

To be fair to the Libertarian crazies, but also at another level to indict them, Somalia is NOT an Anarcho-Capitalsit paradise, the guns are not UNIVERSALLY held. Militias and clan militias hold the firepower and so there IS exploitation by the well-armed of the UNARMED. And so the Libertarian Anarchists would be right to point out that Somalia is not really a poster child for Rothbardism, as not everyone has an equal say so in the running of the area, some, the well-armed, are MORE equal than others.

And yet, this ought to give pause to writers like Yumi Kim...Somalia IS NOT proof of their theories, because it has a well-armed Elite and a powerless, unarmed mass! but of course, that would not look so good in print, so it’s just best to gloss over that fact. Makes the reality a bit too complicated.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Isn’t the point that you can get cellphone service without a ministry of telecommunications and not that warlords and tribes are "good?"
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
And what of peaceful Puntland on the Horn of Africa? It doesn’t suffer the warlords or the poor excuse for a national goverment. It just gets on with good government despite the sea of international apathy which ever threatens to engulf it.
 
Written By: Adde
URL: http://
Oy vey. I’m reminded of what Tom Palmer once said about Murray Rothbard: he was so busy being anti-state he sometimes forgot to be pro-liberty. These are not the same thing.

This is a case study in how semantic associations can screw people up. When your average non-insane anarcho-capitalist (yes, they exist) thinks "anarchy" he’s thinking something substantially different from Somalia. Matter of fact he’s thinking pretty much of the kind of society we have now, only completely voluntary instead of just mostly voluntary. But Somalia=anarchy has been repeated often enough that some of them have actually swallowed it and now feel ideologically compelled to whitewash Somalia. It’s a pathetic bit of foolishness, all the moreso because they actually had the right of the argument to begin with.

The lazy references to Somalia as a way of sneering off an-caps have always gotten on my nerves, because it’s plain that civil society has never really existed there to begin with. An-caps just want to move civil society in a more voluntary direction, and contrary to the shrieking of many of them what they want is relatively modest. I consider it to be in the realm of the possible, though not the likely.

But hell, they bring it on themselves by choosing such a stupid name. People have mental associations with the word "anarchy" (i.e. "disorder") that don’t really carry the meaning an-caps have in mind. "Polyarchy" is a better term, or even David Friedman’s "radical capitalism." What they (the more intelligent ones, anyway) have in mind is the extension of a Hayekian spontaneous order to the realms of law and law enforcement. As I like to express it, they don’t want no government, just truly consensual government. Is it workable? In principle. In practice? Maybe not, but I dunno and neither do you, and neither do they.

Which leads into why I take issue with this, Jon:

"As a system of ordering human society, anarchism in theory appeals to libertarian ideals. In actual practice, however, it is invariably poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Libertarians would do well to draw lessons about human nature from that fact."

I take human nature more seriously than most people. Which is why I think you’re not taking your own advice seriously enough here when you elide over the fact that government institutions are manned by those same humans. The problem of politics is largely one of crafting institutional arrangements that harness human nature into stable and mutually beneficial orders, and you have to contend with human nature as much as they do. I find these kinds of arguments between "anarchists" and "minarchists" disappointing: it’s not a choice between institutions and no institutions (i.e. Somalia), it’s one between different institutional arrangements.

(Apologies if this late-night ramble is incoherent...)
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
When your average non-insane anarcho-capitalist (yes, they exist) thinks "anarchy" he’s thinking something substantially different from Somalia. Matter of fact he’s thinking pretty much of the kind of society we have now, only completely voluntary instead of just mostly voluntary. But Somalia=anarchy has been repeated often enough that some of them have actually swallowed it and now feel ideologically compelled to whitewash Somalia.
I’m not sure, Matt. I think that situations like Somalia are the inevitable result of the "completely voluntary society" model. Sure, if a substantial majority of people held firmly to the libertarian moral philosophy, anarcho-capitalism would be a sustainable system. But they don’t, so it’s not and it must inevitably devolve to something like Somalia. (or, much more likely, to some form of government)
The lazy references to Somalia as a way of sneering off an-caps have always gotten on my nerves, because it’s plain that civil society has never really existed there to begin with.
That’s not what the author of the article — and the author of the book cited — seems to believe. They make the case that Somali’s already had a civil tribal society.

[anyway, I think the above comments address your objection. If I’ve missed the mark, please re-state and I’ll take another stab]
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
You do understand — right? — that you’re talking about a bunch of culturally neglected children, not many steps up from outright savagery. You understand that, right? This is not anything like an Enlightenment-founded civilized ethics remotely qualified to start building anything like America in any dimension. These people are in worse cultural shape than the Russians, who’ve also never in their entire history stood a rational politics or ethics. These poor wretches clinging to that coast of Africa are a horrible story centuries in the making, and nobody should mistake the fact that they can plug a phone line for the idea that they could manage freedom of a sort that, say, the American Revolution stood for.

Henke thinks that government is the only thing that prevents savages from springing up the way rotten meat causes flies, and I’m sure it doesn’t occur to him how he insults his neighbors in saying it, but I should hope that no one else here might bite this nonsense.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
You do understand — right? — that you’re talking about a bunch of culturally neglected children, not many steps up from outright savagery. You understand that, right? This is not anything like an Enlightenment-founded civilized ethics remotely qualified to start building anything like America in any dimension.
Yes, and that’s why — in the comment immediately preceding your own — I wrote that "if a substantial majority of people held firmly to the libertarian moral philosophy, anarcho-capitalism would be a sustainable system", but " they don’t".

I’d also noted that the article made the case that Somalia already had the cultural background to support an anarchistic society. Ms Kim wrote...
"The traditional Somali system of law and politics, he contends, is capable of maintaining a peaceful society and guiding the Somalis to prosperity."
So, you might be better off taking up your objection with Ms Kim and the author of the book she cited.

In any event, I’m perfectly prepared to accept that a society consisting of a substantial majority of people who hold firmly to a very strict libertarian moral system can pull off anarcho-capitalism. At least, for one generation. As soon as the next generation comes, all bets are off.

I’d love to see that kind of society. But I don’t see it now. Therefore...government is necessary.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon,

Well we already agree that the article is wrong. Lack of a central government is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for an an-cap society, and it makes the mistake of conflating the two. Ethics and ideology is infrastructure, as you and Beck and I all seem to understand. But that still doesn’t justify this conceptual leap:

"I think that situations like Somalia are the inevitable result of the "completely voluntary society" model. Sure, if a substantial majority of people held firmly to the libertarian moral philosophy, anarcho-capitalism would be a sustainable system. But they don’t, so it’s not and it must inevitably devolve to something like Somalia."

I’m not sure how you can say that, because if taken seriously this argument should maintain that all institutional arrangements inevitably break down into Somalia-like ones. (Remember, things like Constitutions are only worth something insofar as people respect them. Otherwise they’re not worth the parchment they’re printed on. But the whole virtue of a Constitution is that it can influence what people want.) Given that this doesn’t seem to be in evidence, we’re left with the question of what makes some political arrangements more stable than others.

This is a really interesting question with complex answers, and the very complexity of it means you can’t dismiss something resembling a market-anarchist society as being a priori unworkable unless you’ve got some kind of knock-out argument that applies to it but not to what we have now. The one you’ve offered doesn’t really meet that demand since it applies just as well to your own preference for "limited government."

This post by Jonathan Wilde is a good example of a compelling argument by a self-styled anarchist who sees it merely as "federalism taken to its logical conclusion." It’s not conclusive, but neither are the arguments against it. So this dispute is underdetermined by data and has the character of an argument over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
"Therefore...government is necessary."

To you.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Therefore...government is necessary."

To you.
No, to "any society not containing a substantial majority of people who adhere to a strict libertarian moral system". I think I’ve made that abundantly clear. Are you having difficulty grasping the concept here?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I’m not sure how you can say that, because if taken seriously this argument should maintain that all institutional arrangements inevitably break down into Somalia-like ones.
I’m not sure why you think the untenability of anarchism implies that all institutional arrangements are untenable. Human society requires a system of governance for stability. Voluntary cooperation is not ultimately sustainable because there’s too much incentive to break the code and no universal agreement on morality anyway. Current voluntary associations are sustainable because either a) they are backed by a system of government, or b) they attract people of very similiar moral systems. (Amish society, for example)
So this dispute is underdetermined by data and has the character of an argument over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.
Indeed, I cannot prove with empirical evidence that such a society cannot exist, because I cannot set one up to test it. On the other hand, I can draw conclusions from a few facts:

1) Such a system has never existed in any moderately large, sustained society.

2) With very rare exceptions, humans have a tendency to join groups and act in ways that violate libertarian moral systems, but maximize their own utility. (e.g., they vote for welfare programs, vote to limit individual rights in order to increase security)

That’s why I say that — unless you have a society which shares a very rigid libertarian moral system and is capable of passing it on to descendents — anarchism is untenable.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"Are you having difficulty grasping the concept here?"

You have no "concept", Henke. You assert this thing of yours as a value to "society", in blithe ignorance of the fact that values are impossible to "society": it simply does not exist in this context. You do it in cynical ignorance of the fact that there are people who don’t value government, but that’s never going to stop you from advancing the immorality of forcing it upon them.

Your attempt to claim a "concept" is completely laughable when it’s not completely contemptible.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
You assert this thing of yours as a value to "society", in blithe ignorance of the fact that values are impossible to "society"
I can see this is taking the usual path — i.e., Billy argues semantics so he can avoid arguing the merits.

Look, I’m not interested in being insulted by a dimwitted fool, and you’re not interested in engaging in productive debate. So, here’s my deal: I’ll engage you in debate when you want to do so productively, and you can save your righteous indignation for the sort of people who get off on that. Take it or leave it, but spare me the immediate leap to insults on my site.

And that’s a demand.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Ok, that Mises article was just disgraceful.

Having said that, minarchists love to point to Somalia as a proof that a rational anarchy can’t work. But surely the basket-case "states" that share the continent could hardly be held up as proof that government can’t work.

As McIntosh pointed out upthread, civil society is lacking just about everywhere in Africa. This idea that if it weren’t for the Federal Government my quiet neighbourhood would be overrun by shirtless 14 year old kids sporting ammo belts is frankly insulting.

 
Written By: Jay Jardine
URL: http://www.jayjardine.blogspot.com
As McIntosh pointed out upthread, civil society is lacking just about everywhere in Africa. This idea that if it weren’t for the Federal Government my quiet neighbourhood would be overrun by shirtless 14 year old kids sporting ammo belts is frankly insulting.
Again, for what it’s worth, the author of the article made the opposite case — that there was sufficient civil social infrastructure to support anarchism.

You disagree. Fair enough. I do, too. But I see no evidence that there’s sufficient social, ideological infrastructure anywhere to support it. No, shirtless 14 year old kids sporting ammo belts would not soon plague your neighborhood. But the social reaction to anarchy would probably include some of that, as well as some mafia-type organizations, some legitimate protection services and eventually an ecosystem of organizations competing for power, prestige and authority.

What’s more, it’s fairly clear that, aside from a very, very few people, most people actually do want government. So, you’d immediately get the re-institution of government. In fact, that’s exactly what people are fighting over in Somalia right now — who gets to establish the government.

Before you even make the argument that anarchy is possible, you’d first have to make the argument that humans (in general) don’t naturally create systems of government. And you’ve got all of human history arguing against you.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon,

You said: "Sure, if a substantial majority of people held firmly to the libertarian moral philosophy, anarcho-capitalism would be a sustainable system. But they don’t, so it’s not and it must inevitably devolve to something like Somalia."

Let’s remix this: "Sure, if a substantial majority of people held firmly to the libertarian moral philosophy, minimal government would be a sustainable system. But they don’t, so it’s not and it must inevitably devolve to something like Somalia."

Emphasis mine for distinction. I don’t see any appreciable difference between these two arguments.

"Human society requires a system of governance for stability."

I think you’re getting hung up on semantics too here. This is like saying "markets require regulation for stability." But there are all kinds of regulation, and markets tend to self-regulate remarkably well. So "regulation" is a pretty nebulous term and can’t just be taken to mean a particular kind of coercive regulation. Thus it is with "government," too. What human society requires is rules of the game and mechanisms that enforce those rules. No sane person disputes this. What’s up for argument is how those rules and enforcements are best supplied.

"Such a system has never existed in any moderately large, sustained society."

This is taking a pretty myopic view. 250 years ago you could have said the same thing about constitutional republics. Institutions are technology like anything else (they just happen to be a lot more organic), and the fact that nobody’s tried something yet doesn’t constitute an objection. You would have to estabish that it’s theoretically unsound. And like I said, we’re really most of the way there already.

"With very rare exceptions, humans have a tendency to join groups and act in ways that violate libertarian moral systems, but maximize their own utility. (e.g., they vote for welfare programs, vote to limit individual rights in order to increase security)"

Again, this is an argument that applies just as well to any sort of liberal democracy. (Though I would argue that voters qua voters in fact aren’t rational utility maximizers — they regularly support policies that are objectively harmful to themselves, e.g. support for farm subsidies among non-farmers.) Most people are not naturally liberals either, yet here we are.

The process of civilization is one of figuring out ways to harness human nature into stable patterns of mututally beneficial interdependent action. Insofar as it succeeds, it does so precisely because it doesn’t depend on people being angels. You keep insisting that a world where law was provided in a more market-based way would require that, but this is an assertion that is not in evidence. In many ways it’s along the same vector as federalism and your own calls to introduce market-like feedback mechanisms into government — the magnitude is just greater.

The most compelling sketch I’ve ever seen of a radical capitalist society is in neoclassical economist David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom, which I suggest is well worth reading even if it doesn’t ultimately persuade you. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime, but I’m really just trying to transcend this pointless argument because it’s one more piece of squabbling that distracts libertarian types from the actual business of institutional reform toward something we’d all agree was better than what we have now.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
No, shirtless 14 year old kids sporting ammo belts would not soon plague your neighborhood. But the social reaction to anarchy would probably include some of that, as well as some mafia-type organizations, some legitimate protection services and eventually an ecosystem of organizations competing for power, prestige and authority.
If the government dissolved tomorrow, yes. If there was a gradual stepwise evolution instead? Probably not, but like I said we don’t know. As one of my profs likes to say about networking, in politics the correct answer to everything is "it depends."
What’s more, it’s fairly clear that, aside from a very, very few people, most people actually do want government. So, you’d immediately get the re-institution of government.
In my book this is probably the strongest objection in your arsenal: to some degree, people actually like this sort of government. Which is true, but examination of human psychology has brought me to believe that what people want is reasonably malleable, within certain side-constraints. (There are Russians alive who still pine for the days of Uncle Joe to this very day, but we’d hardly say communism was well-suited to human nature.) Would it be possible for a radical capitalist political order to vercome this? I dunno, and that’s really why I’m not comfortable throwing my lot completely in with them. But I don’t rule it out either.
Before you even make the argument that anarchy is possible, you’d first have to make the argument that humans (in general) don’t naturally create systems of government. And you’ve got all of human history arguing against you.
Nevermind that, there’s 200,000 years of human history and pre-history arguing against liberal democratic societies. But here we are anyway.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Emphasis mine for distinction. I don’t see any appreciable difference between these two arguments.
Well, for one thing, minimal governments have existed in the past, and minimal governments provide the monopoly on force, if not the other interests that humans invariably seek.

I’m not arguing that it’s impossible for humans to have a strict libertarian moral system. It happens all the time. Theoretically, it could be possible for a sufficient majority to have that system and operate successfully within an anarcho-capitalist system. But theoretically it could also be possible for them to have a relatively altruistic, collective moral system and operate successfully within a communist system. The fact that neither have happened in any large, sustained human society is interesting and instructive.

Your argument is that we definitely need a system of rules and an enforcement mechanism, and that a market-oriented government could provide these. Theoretically, if enough people shared your moral system, I’d agree. But one aspect of goverment is that it has a monopoly on the legal initiation of force. In the absence of that monopoly, it seems to me that humans will simply deploy the tool of initiation of force in their own dealings, with a commensurate devolution in human society. That’s precisely what’s happening in Somalia, and many third-world countries where government doesn’t necessarily extend into every area.

Call it a "proliferation of force" problem for society, and the only society-wide solution we’ve yet to find is government. A "mutually assured destruction" strategy, wherein individuals know that an unduly large initiation of force will be met with a larger initiation of force from society (via government, the social agent) Conversely, a government knows that an unduly large initiation of force against the people will be met with a (potentially) larger initiation of force against the government. (see: Revolutionary War, coups, etc)

The trick is to balance these out, lest we get an unstable balance between private and public initiations of force. Neither, after all, can be trusted with a clear advantage over the other, lest the MAD strategy be eroded.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"Wah."

Punk.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Hey, remember that time you told me not to email you again, but I did so once more anyway? And you took umbrage at my violation of your property rights? Well, apparently, that umbrage was entirely unprincipled. You don’t seem to have much difficulty violating my demands regarding my property.

I’m not terribly surprised, but I thought it’d be amusing to point and laugh at your deep dedication to principle.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Well, for one thing, minimal governments have existed in the past, and minimal governments provide the monopoly on force, if not the other interests that humans invariably seek.
Ah ah ah, hands off those goalposts. Your argument was that radical capitalism isn’t sustainable, but how many "minimal governments" (whatever you consider that to be) do we see nowadays? Would not this same argument imply that your idea of a "minimal government" is unsustainable too?

Besides that, it’s not clear that humans invariably seek a monopoly on force (let alone whether this is even desirable, which I’m not entirely inclined to believe; name me a monopoly that doesn’t abuse its power): if that were true, wouldn’t we have one world government by now?
Your argument is that we definitely need a system of rules and an enforcement mechanism, and that a market-oriented government could provide these. Theoretically, if enough people shared your moral system, I’d agree.
If I believed that a radical capitalist system required that a significant majority held a "strict libertarian" moral philosophy, I wouldn’t waste my time even thinking about it because that’s a non-starter. One of the best things about a market system is that it doesn’t require people to agree on everything, from deoderant to art to religion. All that’s necessary is broad agreement over the basic norms needed for markets to function (respect for property and contract, etc), enforced by some set of rules, even though there’s plenty of room to quibble over details.
But one aspect of goverment is that it has a monopoly on the legal initiation of force. In the absence of that monopoly, it seems to me that humans will simply deploy the tool of initiation of force in their own dealings, with a commensurate devolution in human society.
The first sentence is a tautology. What’s legal is defined by the government, so pretty much every government use of force is ipso facto legal. That said, you’re correctly touching on the fact that the challenge of a radical capitalist system is to construct a stable institutional arrangement such that people will be deterred from initiating violence against eachother. You brought up MAD, which is a good example. The trick is to make the initiation of violence so costly that nobody sees it as worthwhile. A "checks and balances" system within a government monopoly is one way to do this, but there are other possible ways. Can this be done in a stable manner? Would it be superior? I don’t know, but we haven’t got adequate reason to assume the answers are no.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Ah ah ah, hands off those goalposts. Your argument was that radical capitalism isn’t sustainable, but how many "minimal governments" (whatever you consider that to be) do we see nowadays? Would not this same argument imply that your idea of a "minimal government" is unsustainable too?
Absent some massive change in social morality, I think a permanently limited government — of static size and scope — is probably impossible. The goal, in my opinion, is to limit it, not to reduce it to a perfect size permanently.

Government is essentially just a social market, so it’s subject to market forces — i.e., dynamic, not static.
Besides that, it’s not clear that humans invariably seek a monopoly on force ... if that were true, wouldn’t we have one world government by now?
I think we don’t see a one-world goverment, because we generally have little forceful interaction—cultural conflict, especially—with people in other areas.
One of the best things about a market system is that it doesn’t require people to agree on everything, from deoderant to art to religion. All that’s necessary is broad agreement over the basic norms needed for markets to function (respect for property and contract, etc), enforced by some set of rules, even though there’s plenty of room to quibble over details.

But don’t you see, "respect for property and contract" is precisely that libertarian moral system that does not appear to exist. At least, not in a "state of nature".

People don’t have to agree on a lot to engage in commerce, but they do have to have some agreement on norms — or, at least, be subject to enforcement — to allow a market to exist. Voluntary exchange will not occur where one party sees an advantage in involuntary exchange.
The first sentence is a tautology. What’s legal is defined by the government, so pretty much every government use of force is ipso facto legal.
Natch. Better: "one aspect of goverment is that it has a monopoly on the [socially tolerated/accepted] initiation of force."
The trick is to make the initiation of violence so costly that nobody sees it as worthwhile.
Correct. And I could imagine that being done temporarily via a market mechanism, but how do you ensure that society continues to support that mechanism? Any market mechanism will depend on the moral uprightness of its operators and the willingness of society to reject any social changes that accrue advantages via a salami-slice erasure of principle.

As soon as society and/or the business operator changes their values, the ancap system dies. But if a society was that libertarian in the first place, any government would be, too.

[bear with: I’m tired, rambling and too tired to be coherent this morning. Apologies]
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"I’m not terribly surprised, but I thought it’d be amusing to point and laugh at your deep dedication to principle."

Here’s what, punk:

It might take me a while to figure it out, but for, you, I’ll do it: I’ll open my blog to your comments alone. If I can work it out, you will be the only one ever to post a single word there except me.

And then I’ll beat your ass bloody with your own stupidity.

Now, let me know if that works for you, son.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
You can even do it in e-mail. Send word.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I’m not sure why you’d think I want to comment on your blog. I can think of no compelling reason to do so. If I want to respond to something you’ve written, I’ll do it on my blog. If you want to debate something I’ve written, you’re more than welcome to do so civilly and in a productive manner. If you merely want to insult me — as seems to be the case — you’re welcome to do so on your blog, but not on mine.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net


Fallacies - Ambiguous Collective
by David King

To commit this fallacy is to use a collective term without any meaningful delimitation of the elements it subsumes.

"We", "you", "they", "the people", "the system", "the general public", and "society as a whole" are the most widely-used examples. This fallacy is especially widespread and devastating in the realm of political discussion, where its use renders impossible the task of discriminating among distinctively different groups of people.

The term "society as a whole" is an assertion that a group of people somehow becomes an entity endowed with attributes other than those attributes possessed by individuals in an aggregate. It would be better to use the expression "composite" than "as a whole" as this preserves the awareness that the group is merely a collection of independent elements.

Social problems are difficulties resulting from the interactions of groups of people. Before a social problem (or indeed any kind of problem) can be solved, it is imperative that the problem be precisely identified. To identify a social problem, you must delineate precisely the groups of people who are involved in that problem. The Ambiguous Collective fallacy prevents this identification.

An antecedentless pronoun is an example in the singular of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy.

I often challenge those who commit this fallacy to eliminate from their discussion all general collective terms, and each time they want to use such a term to use instead a precisely delimiting description of the group the term is intended to subsume. Very few people are able to do this.

I suspect that quite often an Ambiguous Collective is used as an attempt to make a flimsy idea seem more significant or more valid by making the entities it refers to seem larger or more important.

One reason this fallacy is so prevalent and difficult to deal with is that it is built into the English language. Consider the question "Do you love anyone?" The ambiguity involved here arises from the fact that the word "anyone" can denote either of two completely different meanings:

1. An individual, specifiable human being. A single, particular person, in the sense that there is some one person whom I love.

2. A non-selected unitary subset of the human race, in the sense that I love whichever person happens to be in my proximity.

Here are some examples of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy:

"Last November, 77% of us voted in favor of term limits."

In this statement, who exactly are the "us"? The speaker wants to convey the idea that term limits are very widely supported, but if in fact the 77% refers only to those who voted, the supporting subgroup may well be a quite small percentage of the total population.

"We need to train doctors to teach us how to get and stay healthy."

In this statement, who are the "we" and who are the "us"? Is the speaker trying to promote socialized medicine by advocating government control of the medical schools? When he says "we need to" does he really mean "the government should"? And is the "us" merely a subtle way of saying "me"?

The economic sanctions against South Africa provide an example of the consequences in real life of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy:

"I imagine you support your government’s sanctions against South Africa?"

"Of course. Every decent person does."

"What about disinvestment of American business from my country, you are all for that too?"

"I campaigned for it on campus. I never missed a rally or a march."

"Even if it means a million blacks starve as a direct consequence? Your plan is similar to trying to convert a country by withdrawing all your missionaries and burning down the cathedral. You forced your own businessmen to sell their assets at five cents on the dollar. But it wasn’t the impoverished blacks who purchased those assets. Overnight you created two hundred new millionaires in South Africa, and every one of them had a white face! That’s maliciously stupid! We would be grateful to you if your efforts had been failures!"

Perhaps the most widely-known example of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy is the statement:

"Government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

In this statement "the people" has three distinctly different meanings: One group of "the people" (the victims, or producers) are ruled by another group of "the people" (the bureaucrats, with their action arm, the police) in order to achieve the goals of yet another group of "the people" (the politicians).
 
Written By: Mike Schneider
URL: http://
I think we’re all aware that "society" is not a single unit capable of making decisions. Society is the aggregate of individuals. If you want to argue that I should make the case that the decisions of the aggregate of individuals will lead to a certain outcome, fine. Semantic quibbling does not change the outcome, though.

If I were to say that air "feeds" a fire, you could also point out that I was technically incorrect. It is, after all, oxygen molecules that "feed" the fire, and air is made up of more than just oxygen molecules. You could point that out, but I can’t see why you’d care to do so except as a diversion.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Henke:
Absent some massive change in social morality, I think a permanently limited government — of static size and scope — is probably impossible. The goal, in my opinion, is to limit it, not to reduce it to a perfect size permanently.

Monarchies actually have a better track record than so-called democracies at keeping structurally small, relatively speaking. Of course, a monarchist government and state is still just that — a government and a state. I’m not sure which is more ridiculous: certain ancaps pretending that monarchy is anarcho-capitalist, or certain ancaps pretending that cleric-warlord-gang rule is anarcho-capitalist.

McIntosh:
Nevermind that, there’s 200,000 years of human history and pre-history arguing against liberal democratic societies. But here we are anyway.

Look again. In no "liberal democracy" are the majority of decisions made by the majority of the people. In no "liberal democracy" is classical liberalism actually practiced with anything approaching consistency.

If an "anarcho-capitalist" society existed, it’d be the same way: in name only. Perhaps it’d actually be ruled by militias, gangs, and clerics. Wait a minute! Look at the title of this thread...
 
Written By: Roland
URL: http://

 
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