• AMMDI is an open-notebook hypertext writing experiment, authored by Mike Travers aka @mtraven. It's a work in progress and some parts are more polished than others. Comments welcome! More.
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from tedious fights with wingnuts
  • Honestly the habit goes back decades, well before the web, when I used to have arguments with Eric Raymond (before he became famous) on anarchy-list. Man did I spend a lot of time and energy on that. My defense: I had at least to work to articulate my position. I think it helped wean me off my romantic attachment to left-anarchism (for the simple reason that left-anarchism requires basically everyone to share its values, and that just ain't ever going to happen with these assholes around).
from anarchism
  • In ancient times I used to flame on anarchy-list, which quickly devolved to a constant and tedious battle between left-anarchists and right-libertarians or "ancaps" as they are known today.
from libertarianism
  • I used to spend a good deal of time arguing with libertarians on the internet. For instance, I spent a whole summer in a flaming discussion with Eric Raymond, the canonical internet libertarian blowhard, on the long-defunct anarchy-list email group. I suppose I got something out of this. At minimum, it gave me some practice investigating my own beliefs and the reasoning and emotions behind them. There's also plenty of that sort of thing at my old blog.
Twin Pages


31 Dec 2020 08:34 - 01 Jan 2022 07:48

    • Anarchy-list was an email list for discussion of anarchism, active in the late 80s. Of course it was mostly flaming between libertarians and left-wingers. Most of it is lost, but one of the members (KFL) is a packrat and dug up some old messages.
    • A couple of representative messages below. Note that this is from 1988 and I was already bored with libertarianism back then:
    • 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.
    • While probably no minds were changed by this extended argument, it did force me to articulate a lot of my beliefs and assumptions so probably was a good exercise. I think encountering a bunch of right-wingers cured me of some of my naive left anarchism, which was dependent on having most people in a society agree with its principles.
    • Date: Mon, 16 May 88 17:15 EDT From: Michael Travers Subject: Cooperation To: KFL@AI.AI.MIT.EDU, mt@media-lab.media.mit.edu Cc: erspert@ATHENA.MIT.EDU, anarchy-list@sob.cwi.nl > 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 thing). > 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: josh@aramis.rutgers.edu, mcvax!cwi.nl!anarchy-list@uunet.UU.NET, mt@media-lab.media.mit.edu > From: josh@aramis.rutgers.edu (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 libertarianism. 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?] ^_