I find libertarianism personally vacuous because I've heard it all before, and I can predict with great reliability what they will say in a given situation. Watching libertarians debate the finer distinctions of private property is tedious, when it isn't ridiculous (can we charge fetuses rent on their wombs?). I find it a dangerous ideology precisely because it is so simple, so easy to believe in, so half-right.
Date: Mon, 16 May 88 17:15 EDT
From: Michael Travers
To: KFL@AI.AI.MIT.EDU, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: erspert@ATHENA.MIT.EDU, email@example.com
> Please cut down a little on the ad hominem arguments. My mail buffers
> will be happier for it. Please understand that I am at least as sure
> that I am right as you are sure that you are right. Neither of us will
> convince the other by name-calling.
What makes you think that I'm sure I'm right? Only fanatics are
absolutely sure of themselves.
To quote Gene Ward Smith, probably quoting somebody else:
"Logicians are apt to call this an *argumentum ad hominem*. Quite so:
I am addressing *humans*. I am addressing neither dogs nor logicians."
> I have no objection to unselfishness. All I object to is force.
I think everybody on this list find coercive force objectionable. We
just disagree about what constitutes it, how to minimize it, whether or
not it can be completely eliminated, etc. Why not address yourself to
these issues rather than simply repeating your axioms?
> It is not correct to contrast "cooperative transactions with "free
> market" transactions. By your own admission, the free market consists
> mostly of cooperative transactions!
Maybe we are getting confused by words here. What I am trying to get at
is that the market system cannot embrace the variety of cooperative
transactions that make up people's lives. Perhaps we need a word for
cooperative, non-market transactions.
> The only thing which can be
> contrasted with a free market is an un-free market
Wrong, for reasons stated elsewhere. I'm contrasting free markets with
non-markets, free and otherwise.
[Stuff on intercorporate relations deleted[[[[--]]]]interesting but I don't have time]
> No it doesn't, and can't. It shows that cooperation *IS* the selfish
> thing to do, under those certain conditions.
I said as much, in a section that you left out. (Actually, it shows
that cooperation is the individuals best interest[[[[--]]]]not quite the same
> Social engineering - I hate that term. It implies that there are
> social engineers, and the rest of us are subject to their whim.
> Anarchy can be loosely defined as the absense of social engineers.
If you've been following the discussion between JoSH and myself, you
will see that we are trying to come up with methods for anarchist social
design. Your problem is that you can't see the forest (society) for the
trees (individuals). You can't wish the social realm away, so anarchy
requires that everybody share in the power to design society.
> Not necessarily. If one's "victim" is able to communicate with other
> potential victims, the book's arguments still apply. This is the
> function of a credit rating, for instance. Or of Consumer's Reports.
True, and interesting. Consumers' Union is a great example of people
banding together on a completely voluntary basis to increase their
collective power. CU works because they deal in an area which operates
pretty much as an ideal market[[[[--]]]]commodities in packaged units, lots of
suppliers, lots of freedom of choice on the part of the buyer, no
long-term commitments between supplier and buyer.
But when the conditions do not generate an ideal market, things don't
work so nicely. Look at the history of labor unions. They filled a
similar role (individuals banding together to increase their economic
power) but because the labor market is notoriously non-ideal, a good
deal of violence (from both sides) was involved in their birth. This
does NOT mean that labor unions are Tools of Satanic Coercion. It means
that purely voluntary, purely economic solutions work in pure markets,
which not everything is.
> "Defecting" in the book is analogous not to "advantage-taking attitude"
> but to fraud.
I think this interpretation is overly narrow. The analysis applies to
any two-party interaction with a payoff matrix of a certain form.
What prevents the people who run the private court from blacklisting
people for private, illegitimate reasons? Like not being good
Christians? This might constitute fraud if they are promising to
deliver economic information only, but who's checking up on them? I
know the libertarian answer: there will be lots of competing court
systems that can blacklist each other. I don't have a whole lot of
faith in that. Information services have a tendency towards monopoly
since they have economy of scale (once you gather the information, the
marginal cost of distributing it to an additional customer is minimal).
In a monopoly private court, the opportunities for corruption are just
as great as with government courts, but without the minimal recourse
guaranteed by the right of appeal.
Even the present day credit rating system is subject to vast abuses. If
credit companies are not subject to any external regulation, the
individual has no recourse when one of them decides that he's a bad
risk. I don't think they make a very good case for the
governance-by-market schemes of libertarians.
Date: Sat, 14 May 88 16:49 EDT
From: Michael Travers
Subject: Re: What is anarchy?
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, mcvax!cwi.nl!anarchy-list@uunet.UU.NET,
> From: email@example.com (J Storrs Hall)
But you're making the same error again! I wouldn't consider this worth
arguing about, except that the nature of the relationship between
individuals and societies is fundamental to what we are talking about.
You can't think of society as a system of abstract laws with some real
people fitting into the slots of the laws. That's an inadequate model,
although not nearly as inadequate as the "there are only individuals,
there is no society" view that some others on this list espouse.
I guess I should have said "modern democracy". And sure, there are
differences between direct and representative democracies. This relates
to scaling problems (see below).
> Do you not believe it possible to design better systems of rules, customs,
> and concepts for social interaction than what we have now? Is it not
> worth doing until people improve?
Yes, but I believe that people are (in some sense) the sum of their
social interactions, so this is not a great distinction to make.
> As a matter of fact, most of them *do* spend their time making money,
> which is why you will find so many yuppies with libertarian sympathies.
> And why the leftist point of view is over-represented among academia.
> (I'm a natural iconoclast with a liberal upbringing.)
Intellectual communities are naturally cooperative. Scientific papers
are called "contributions", and things are set up so that researchers
must put recognition before pecuniary gain. The academic system is
already being ravaged by market pressures, another reason to be wary of
I find libertarianism personally vacuous because I've heard it all
before, and I can predict with great reliability what they will say in a
given situation. Watching libertarians debate the finer distinctions of
private property is tedious, when it isn't ridiculous (can we charge
fetuses rent on their wombs?). I find it a dangerous ideology precisely
because it is so simple, so easy to believe in, so half-right.
On the other hand, I accept some of its principles. I don't think
people should be coerced. However, I don't think that their notion of
what constitutes coercion is adequate, for many reasons.
I was referring to the proposed system you want to design. In other
words, I don't think you have the right problem definition, and we have
to get that pinned down before we can start designing.
> An architect is one thing, and an architect who forces others to live in
> his buildings at gunpoint is another. Our social architecture should
> be such that people *want* to live in our buildings. If they do not, it
> is we, not they, who have erred.
But of course.
I don't see much substantive difference, just an argument over
definitions. I'm all for study. But presumably if you call yourself an
anarchist you are not pretending to complete objectivity, but have
distribution of power as a central value.
Very few things scale up indefinitely. That's one of the reasons
libertarianism fails: a sufficiently large economic power takes on
political power as well. I don't think you can start by designing a
single system that will allow the whole world to live in happy anarchy.
The things that are possible are mostly small-scale, like cooperative
communities. Another anarchy-flavored system that works on a small scale
is worker ownership of industries.
[There are too many points interleaved discussions here, and the
included text threatens to get out of hand. Where is Eric Raymond's
hypertext news system when we need it?]