Under anarchy, groups could arise that see no problem with forcing others to do what they want, and such groups may become dominant.  This is not unlikely.  In fact, isn't this the definition of the State?  Isn't this what we see in the USA right now?  Isn't the current State nothing more than a dominant group lording it's power over others? 

Is this really any different than an anarchical system gone awry--a society in which one group has gained superiority of force against another and opted to use that force to control them?  Isn't this evidence against the present viability of anarchy? 

As Robert Murhpy pointed out, anarchy could easily degenerate into warfare if the people in general see no problem with aggression.  And as As John Milton wrote:  "None can love freedom heartily, but good men;  the rest love not freedom, but license."  And Sam Adams would have agreed:  "A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy... While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader... "  And I might add, they may take the liberty of others.  It seems that this is the norm.  States are prevalent.  Maybe this is because of the scarcity of "virtue"  among men.  Men more often love comfort and ease than liberty and responsibility. 

The viability of anarchy hangs on the character and beliefs of the people.  Right now, I can't see it being sustainable.  This does not mean that anarchy is not desirable.  Nor does it mean that the State is legitimate.  It simply means that anarchy is not possible until the minds of people change. 

While the Associated Press blames the disaster in the Gulf on the lack of regulatory oversight, the White House's call for increasing the liability cap on oil companies belies the real culprit in this mess.  Previous legislation capped oil company liability at 75 million.  What reason could there possibly be for limiting the liability of a corporation by law?  While BOP is still on the hook for the actual clean-up costs, which may run over a billion dollars, according to the law, they don't have to worry about any claims brought against them by businesses and individuals who have been harmed.  Thus, the government created moral hazard and encouraged risky drilling and extraction of oil. 

How would things be different in a just society?  There would be no limit to the liability of BP.  They would be on the hook for any and all damages caused to anyone by their mistakes and/or accidents.  Claims could be brought against BP by anyone who was harmed in any way by the disaster--fishermen, residents of the coast, tourist destinations, hotels and other business along the coast, businesses anywhere that depend on Gulf products.   Heck, environmental groups could even try to sue BP for indirect damage to them through the spill's effects on the larger environment and so on their lives.  If BP were subject to such claims and not under the protection of a corrupt government, I'll bet they would be much more likely to think twice before drilling in mile-deep water, or else they would make sure they had safeguards in place.

As it is, however, they had no need to be careful, and they weren't, and the taxpayers (British and American) may even get stuck with the bill, and the mess.

File:Hen 0001.jpg

All of a sudden, the hen sprung into consciousness, looked around at its mindless sisters scratching and clucking, and proclaimed "I hereby declare my independence from this oppressive regime!  No more laying eggs for some biped's breakfast while I have to settle for dry corn and a stinking coop!"   A nearby hen looked up from its work and said, "Oh, get back to work, who are you to question the will of the Farmer?  After all, what would you do without the Farm?  For goodness' sake, we'd all be foxbait or worse without the Farmer and the great System of the Farm."

Another piped up, "Yes, and where would our breed be without the Farm, still hiding in some bush, pecking at sand until our brutish and short lives came to a gruesome and pointless end."

"I," said the rebellious hen, standing up straight, "am an individual, and starting today, I am going to seek my own fulfillment, foxes or not.  Enough serving this stupid farm."

"What are your tiny needs and desires compared with the grand needs of the Farm?," pleaded another hardworking hen as she clucked out a firm, fresh egg, "the Farm is what's important."

"Farm?,"  laughed the rebel, "what is the Farm to me?  What do I know of the Farm's desires and thoughts, if it has any at all?  Ha!  Mindless hen!  The Farm is nothing more than an oppressive farmer and his individual avian slaves, slaves who ought all to do as I, and fly this nasty coop."  And with that, she flapped over the fence and off he went.

As she ran from the coop, she snapped up a fresh cricket from the grass and exulted in her new freedom, foxes and all.

How should we live? 

For God?  For reason?  For others?  For the earth?  For "humanity"?   If we answer any of these, then the next question is, why?  Why should we live for God?  Why according to reason?  Why for others, the earth, or humanity?

The only reasonable answer to this question is that to do so will increase our own sense of fulfillment.  What other reason could there be?

Why does God's will matter to us?  Why does reason matter to us?  Why do others, or the earth, or humanity matter to us?  Is it not because living for these things produces in us a sense of fulfillment?  If not, why else? 

To claim to act without this self-interest is to claim to act without reason.

Reason demands self-interest in all things.

But this does not imply what is typically called "selfish" behavior.  On the contrary, "altruistic" behavior can be the source of great personal fulfillment.  If I live for fulfillment, I will love, show compassion, live with honor, take responsibility, work hard, delight in the beauty of nature, cultivate relationships, fight for justice.

I will be a hedonist, in John Piper's sense of the word when he advocated "Christian Hedonism"--living for the pleasure found in a relationship with God.  I will live for the pleasure of living (loving, working, caring, protecting, fighting, striving, relaxing, beholding), and for nothing else.  What else is there?

To live this way is to be truly human.  To live any other way is to be a slave and an automaton.

Some think the internet is harming our ability to think and read deeply.  For example, Nicholas Carr wrote in 2008:

The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

Carr went on with anecdotes of folks who can't read books anymore and blame the internet's affect on their ability (or desire?) to concentrate.  He also pointed to a study of the research habits of "virtual library" users suggests such research is dominated by "horizontal information seeking", where "people view just one or two pages from an academic site and then `bounce’ out, perhaps never to return. The figures are instructive: around 60 per cent of e-journal users view no more than three pages and a majority (up to 65 per cent) never return."

There is no doubt the potential exits for such changes, and the ease of information gathering that the internet provides may facilitate this kind of superficial research (actually I think it is the explosion of the volume of information that has caused this--we simply can't fully process it all), but the internet does not cause the problem any more than having snacks in the house makes you fat.  We don't need to be a "mile wide and an inch deep".

I skimmed journal articles and abstracts in my thesis research, only reading deeply the most pertinent articles.  The difference is I no longer have to waste as much time "wandering the stacks".  It takes self-discipline to sit down and read a good book or scholarly article, but the internet does not prevent that.  In fact, it makes such books and articles much more accessible.

I am more interested in the possible effect on memory.  Is our memory becoming "external"?  I am reading Dan Simmons sci-fi classic, Hyperion, and I was struck yesterday by something M. Silenus said:

The datasphere was a constant delight that first year - I called up information almost continuously, living in a frenzy of full interface.  I was... addicted to raw data...  I could imagine Don Balthazar spinning in his molten grave as a I gave up long term memory for the transient satisfaction of implant omniscience.  It was only later that I felt the loss--Fitzgerald's Odyssey, Wu's Final March and a score of other epics which had survived my stroke now were shredded like cloud fragments in a high wind.  Much later, freed of implants, I painstakingly learned them all again.

Is it possible that we could rely too much on information stored on the internet, that this could somehow be harmful?  I am not sure.  It seems possible.  We no longer need to memorize things, knowing that they are always just a click away.  I suppose on the one hand this may be a good thing.  If our brains become used less for storage and become primarily processors of information, maybe this will enable us to process more information more quickly.  Maybe we will become more efficient in progressing intellectually and technologically.  But could it be a bad thing?  Are there disadvantages to external memory?

One obvious disadvantage is that we may not always have access to this external memory, either because we are away from a computer or there is a power outage or whatever.  But is there another, deeper, disadvantage?  I don't know, but I doubt it.  It seems to me that the location of the information should not really matter, except for its logistical impacts.   Why should internal memory be important?

I am somewhat concerned with these ease with which digital information can be manipulated and changed.  The Ministry of Information will have a much easier time retroactively changing history in our digital age.  Even classic books could conceivably be changed in a totally digital environment.  But these are practical issues, not related to fundamental thinking skills or the working of our minds.

It seems to me that thinking skills need not be harmed by the Web.  In fact, with our minds as processors, the internet would seem only to expand our horizons. 

What do you think?

A hurricane develops over the Atlantic, a thunderstorm over the midwest.  A dust devil whirls like a dervish across a vacant lot.  A flock of starlings dances, amoeba-like in the sky.  A hive of bees finds the best nectar sources.  A colony of ants finds food, establishes trails, and builds its nest.  A colony of termites builds a mound several-meters-high, filled with an intricate network of tunnels and chambers.  All without direction.  All without centralized control.  Order emerges from chaos.  Structures crystallize from the interaction of particles or individuals with their environment and each other.  These self-organizing processes are striking and beautiful demonstrations of the fact that order and structure do not require planning and control.

Ecosystems, ecologies, and economies, arise from similar, undirected process.  Great structures developed from uncountable interactions between individual animals and humans.  Ants, bees, and termites act according to simple rules that are preprogrammed into them.  These rules, like the rules of Conway's Game of Life, generate the amazing structures and organization that we see in the behavior of the colonies.   

Rakkur Crowley and I discussed these ideas recently on his radio show, including several specific examples of how these kinds of processes work in the biological world.  It turns out that these self-organizing processes constitute a powerful argument for the voluntary society.  Ants and termites do not produce their marvelous structures through central planning and coercive control, but only through the application of simple rules, by individuals, as they respond to each other and their changing environment.  Individual ants see no further than their immediate surroundings, and yet structures much larger than themselves are produced.   Likewise, humans have developed rules that govern our interactions with each other and our environment, and as in the case of the ants, these rules produce intricate structures and organization (e.g. language, common law, free economies), all without the need for central planning.  This is Adam Smith's "invisible hand" at work.  Individual acts of self-interest (self-interest is the primary "rule" that governs human action) result in grand structures that are beneficial to the whole of society.    If it were not so, time would have eliminated the (ultimately) self-destructive behavior (the rule would change).

The general process is the same in ants and humans, but the result is different. The individual ant acts according to it's genetic programming.  The ants simply act in a way that increases the likelihood that their genes will be passed on.  In ants, this self-organizing process has led to "communism" or "collectivism", a society in which the individuals sacrifice themselves for the "good" of the whole (worker ants are sterile females).  Because their fathers come from unfertilized eggs, the female worker ants are more genetically related to their sisters than they would be to their own offspring, and so their famous altruistic behavior ensures a greater likelihood of the survival of their genes. The genetics of humans don't work that way, and so communism has not arisen in humans apart from within small family groups and through coercion.  As the famous ant researcher, E. O. Wilson said, "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species."  In the case of humans, as in most other animals, competition is most conducive to success of the species. Free human economies are actually more like ecosystems in this respect, and no less self-organized.

In the case of humans, the outcome is predictable.  Because every individual acts in his/her own self-interest, the overall structure must also be in his/her interest, since it is simply the sum total or embodiment of all of the individual, self-interested actions.  As Ludwig von Mises wrote,"In a game there are winners and losers. But a business deal is always advantageous for both parties. If both the buyer and the seller were not to consider the transaction as the most advantageous action they could choose under the prevailing conditions, they would not enter into the deal."  Every action, every exchange leaves the actors better off, according to their estimation.

Those who would have humans be ants are deluded.  As Flew wrote of Smith's "invisible hand":

"Like so much else in Smith, the argument here begins from an uncynical yet coolly realistic appreciation of our htum.an nature. Any political economy for this world must treat people as we are, not as we might become, yet will not. As George Stigler said in a volume of bicentennial essays: The Wealth of Nations is a stupendous palace erected on the granite of self-interest.” It is indeed.  Scottish granite, and erected also on Scottish self-reliance. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self- love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his feflow-citizens” (1 (ii]). "

Of course, the self-interest of man need not be "selfish", either.



Bonabeau et al. A model for the emergence of pillars, walls, and royal chambers in termite nests.  Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B (1998) 353, 1561--1576.

Sumpter, D. J. T. The principles of collective animal behavior.  Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B (2006) 361, 5--22.

Theraulaz et al. The origin of nest complexity in social insects.  Complexity (1998) 3, 15--25.

Theraulaz et al. The formation of spatial patterns in social insects:  from simple behaviours to complex structures. Phil.  Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A (2003) 361, 1263--1282.