May 2008 - Posts

Objectivism and War

So the other day an Objectivist wrote this gem at their blog:

"On this Memorial Day, I would like to honor the three men of the American Civil War who understood the terrible need for total war: President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, and General William T. Sherman. Their vigorous prosecution of the war preserved the Union, the very first nation founded on the principles of individual rights -- and, at the time, the only such nation. In so doing, they ended the most loathsome violation of rights ever known to man: chattel slavery. Without them, without the brave Union soldiers who fought under them, America would not exist today.*

So thank you, Mssrs. Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman. We are forever in your debt."

While a properly revised view of the so-called "civil war" renders this view highly absurd (since the civil war was not primarily fought over slavery so much as tariffs and secession, the war was essentially a case of the government attacking its own civilian population, Lincoln was a racist who more or less supported slavery and advocated deporting freed slaves back to Africa, Lincoln eggregiously violated the personal rights of both northerners and southerners alike in the process of executing the war, etc.) my concern is more broadly with what has unfortunately become the cliche objectivist view of warfare. Reading the commentary on this blog post by some of the objectivists is illuminating and disturbing.

Objectivists tend to blur the distinction between genuine defensive force and pre-emptive force or outright blatant initiations of force. They view outright invasions of territories as justified acts of "defense" or "retaliation". Due to this warped view of the legitimacy of force, many Objectivists not only legitimize the bulk of wars in America history, they also legitimize our current wars and call for further foreign interventions in places like Iran and Venezuela. This is absolute lunacy! Objectivists have apparently soaked up neoconservative premises with respect to foreign policy. And they have the pompous audacity to do so in the name of "reason", "objectivity", "individualism". Unfortunately, what they are really doing is diving head first into a sea of irrationalism and collectivism.

Objectivists assert that a tyrannical government loses its rights or legitimacy (which is true enough at face value, although all governments are tyrannical and illegitimate in my definition) and conclude that they may be "retaliated" against. From the standpoint of the people tyrannized over by the government, I agree that they can rightfully retaliate against their own government. The problem is that the objectivists draw insane conclusions from a seemingly true premise, as they seem to think that if a foreign government is "tyrannical", this justifies other governments not only "retaliating" against them but invading entire foreign territories and waging total war against not only the foreign governments but the civilian populations. This is an absurd justification for initiating force against innocent bystanders. It also opens up a subjective can of worms in which different governments are treated as being better or worse relative to eachother, and legitimizing otherwise illegitimate governments in the process.

Apparently objectivists have no qualms whatsoever with targeting entire civilian populations. They rationalize this by essentially saying that those within the "country" of the "bad guys" bear moral responsibility for what their government does. This is a blatantly collectivist viewpoint. Someone who just so happens to be born within the territory of a tyrannical government is not responsible for what some powerful men in an ivory tower do. Punishing people for the crimes of others is not justice, it's a monstrous injustice. Blaming and exercising force on entire populations within a territory for the actions of their governments, which they essentially have no control over, is collective guilt. Objectivists are supposed to be the ultimate opponents of collectivism, yet when it comes to foreign policy they appear to be die-hard collectivists, treating entire "nations" as bearing responsibility for the actions of a few powerful men within them. In the objectivist paradime, innocent bystanders can legitimately be murdered in the crossfire of conflicts between governments.

What is the objectivist response to libertarian criticisms of their highly disingenous pro-war views? They straw man libertarians as being pacifists. This is intellectually dishonest. Now, it is true that a libertarian can be a pacifist, but if one is intellectually honest it should be rather clear that what libertarians fundamentally oppose is not all force but the initiation of force and consequentially most libertarians are not pacifists. Most libertarians fully advocate self-defense. The problem is that what objectivists advocate is not self-defense but pre-emptive force and outright initiations of aggression. The accusation that libertarians advocate just sitting there and allowing oneself to be aggressed against by foreign entities is absurd. At least from the standpoint of the average America, they haven't been aggressed against by any foreign people. The objectivist view is totally warped, as it is the America government that is aggressing against the average people within foreign territories. It is precisely those people, the people the objectivists favor attacking, who have the moral right of self-defense.

It is interesting how objectivist premises that are correct in and of themselves at face value can be turned around to critisize objectivists, since objectivism as a political doctrine contradicts its own ethical theory in many ways. What immediately comes to mind is their criticism of altruism, which I more or less agree with myself. It is my contention that objectivists hold an altruistic view of the military. That is, they seem to buy into the nationalistic premise that soldiers (particularly ones from your own country) are virtuous and sacrifice themselves for the sake of our freedom. In this view, our freedom depends on the sacrifices of allegedly brave men in the military and in the state apparatus. In my understanding, the objectivist view of warfare and foreign policy actually contradicts rational egoism, properly understood.

Another contradiction is between the objectivist ideal of government and what they support with respect to currently existing governments. One of the more admirable traits of the objectivist political doctrine is that it is opposed to taxation. Yet the stance of objectivists on currently existing issues fully support making use of tax-funded government institutions like the military. How can people who proclaim that taxation is evil out of one side of their mouths simultaneously claim that tax-funded institutions are legitimate and advocate that they take particular policies? If objectivists were consistant, they would advocate the liberty of anti-war people to refuse to pay for their wars.

But while objectivism is supposed to be about objectivity and reason, consistancy is not a word that describes its political doctrine. The word hypocrisy describes it much better.


I consider myself a left-libertarian. To avoid any confusion over what this may imply, I fully support private property, voluntary exchange, money, rent, employment, and so on (or more strictly speaking, I don't advocate their abolition). And I completely oppose the state. I advocate a free market in everything, from clothing and shelter to defense and arbitration. I have a dislike for people like Noam Chomsky, who I feel is largely economically illiterate and confused. I'm not a marxist or a communist or a syndicalist. Some may therefore be thinking, "so what's so 'left' about it? what differentiates you from 'right' libertarians? you sound like any other anarcho-capitalist to me!". I'd like to explain myself in order to make it clear that there is a very real distinction to be made.

Firstly, it is worth exploring how one views power in general. All libertarians, particularly market anarchists, oppose the power of the state. A lot of emphasis is placed on the power of the state and how it effects society. However, in my understanding, while the left-libertarian joins their comrades in opposing the state, they oppose the concentration of power and centralization in general. This includes the concentration or centralization of so-called "private power". While cookie-cutter anarcho-capitalists make brilliant arguments against state power, they tend to specialize so much in doing so that they may neglect the problems with the concentration of "private" power. Their libertarianism is "thin" in the sense that it is restricted to anti-statism.

The cookie-cutter anarcho-capitalist often seems to act as if whatever is "private" is legitimate in all respects. It's almost as if the principles somehow magically don't apply when we are dealing with non-state organizations. But to use a simple example, a gang or mafia may be "private" but it certainly is not legitimate. The left-libertarian views matters more broadly, that is, they apply libertarian principles not only to delegitimize the state but also to any other group of "private" people who violate rights. The left-libertarian's libertarianism is "thick" in the sense that it is more than just a matter of anti-statism, it is more broadly a matter of anti-authoritarianism and anti-centralization. The left-libertarian may additionally oppose corporations, extremely large buisinesses and possibly even organized religion. The left-libertarian sees no good reason why buisinesses should be centralized.

Karl Hess once described "the right" as supporting the concentration of power into the fewest hands possible, while in contrast "the left" stands for spreading it about as much as possible in an equilibrium. "The left" implies "equality of authority" in which everyone's freedom is limited by the like freedom of everyone else - a mere restatement of the non-aggression principle. Using this analysis, right-libertarians are to "the left" to the extent that they oppose the concentration of power in the hands of the state, but they nonetheless are still to "the right" to the extent that they still support private concentrations of power. While the right-libertarian may be consistantly anti-state, they are not consistantly opposed to the concentration of power. They may even fully endorse "private" concentrations of power and portray such organizations as victims of the state.

In short, the right-libertarian or cookie-cutter anarcho-capitalist, while they are likely fully aware and informed of the fact that we don't currently live in a free market or free society, functions as a "vulgar libertarian". What this means is that they function as apologists for big buisiness, corporations and currently existing conditions or property titles. They use free market theories or analysis to legitimize conditions and organizations that came about in a non-free market. They tend to cling to a worldview in which "big buisiness is America's most persecuted minority", as Ayn Rand once stated. They still tend to think of state intervention as somehow being inherently anti-buisiness, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The right-libertarian is essentially pro-buisiness more or less across the board without proper consideration for context. The left-libertarian calls them out on this.

Another difference between the left-libertarian and the right-libertarian is over what they think society will be like in the absence of the state. Cookie-cutter anarcho-capitalists essentially envision a society more or less identifical to currently existing society but without the state. But the left-libertarian sees much more broad implications that would seem to radically alter the organizational structure of a society. The left-libertarian does not think that the results of a free market would mirror current economic conditions by any stretch of the imagination. Left-libertarians may tend to think that free competition would function as a check on the general size of economic organizations, and therefore draconian large buisinesses simply couldn't survive or exist. They may also be tolerant of or more open to possible "socialistic" experiments within a free market, or advocate a signficant increase in self-employment over standard wage-employment.

The difference between the two sides can also be thought of in terms of how one's position relates to the traditions of the anti-authoritarian left, or how one views their own position in relation to it. It's partially a matter of historical context and the political spectrum. Right-libertarians buy into the cliche that socialism is inherently a statist/political system, while left-libertarians aknowledge the existance and possibility of voluntary or anarchistic socialism (in short, all they're really doing is taking an anarchist without adjectives approach). To the right-libertarian, all socialist forms of organization are inherently violent or political systems - all socialism is state-socialism. To the left-libertarian, there is a distinction to be made between state-socialism and genuinely libertarian socialism. The left-libertarian has a much greater degree of tolerance for "socialistic" forms of organization so long as they are voluntary, while the right-libertarian considers all "socialistic" forms of organization to be inherently involuntary.

There's a major difference in terms of where one finds their roots. To the right-libertarian, their philosophy derives from and grew out of the "old right" and the founding fathers of America. To the left-libertarian, their philosophy derives from and grew out of the old libertarian left (the mutualists, the individualist anarchists, the voluntaryists, etc.) and wouldn't exist without them. The left-libertarian sees market anarchism as having grown out of old non-state socialist traditions and is likely to see ideas such as mutualism as not really being that far off from their own position in the grand scheme of things. In contrast, the right-libertarian is largely out of touch with such roots and probably considers mutualists and other more voluntaristic socialists to be enemies. They see little to no connection between these ideas and contemporary market anarchism, where the left-libertarian does.

Another major difference is over strategy and where one thinks their true alliances lie. The left-libertarian is much more likely to be opposed to the political process and consequentially they may not vote, argue against running for office and regularly denounce the libertarian party and reformism. The left-libertarian is a radical and a revolutionary. In contrast, the right-libertarian essentially functions as a minarchist in practise as they regularly participate in the political process, encourage people to participate in it, run for office themselves and advocate reformist strategies. Comparatively, the right-libertarian is a gradualist and even counter-revolutionary. The right-libertarian more or less takes the exact same strategy that a minarchist would, and consequentially falls prey to political oppurtunism and get-liberty-quick schemes.

The difference over where one thinks their alliances are is also significant. Right-libertarians regularly ally with conservatives, particularly paleoconservatives. To the right-libertarian, conservatism is the closest thing to libertarianism on the political spectrum and conservatives inherently are less statist then "the left". They may even views themselves as an extension of the conservative movement. The left-libertarian, in contrast, wants nothing to do with conservatism and sees no reason why it should be regaurded as somehow less statist than "the left". The left-libertarian sees conservatives as hijacking the libertarian movement and employing quasi-libertarian rhetoric to get people to associate their own positions with liberty and free markets. To the left-libertarian, conservatism in the original sense of the term is the polar opposite of liberty, as it stands for the status quo, the romantisization of the past and an endless sea of authoritarian tendencies.

From the perspective of the left-libertarian, sometimes the right-libertarian takes positions on current issues that in fact are conservative rather than libertarian. One of the most common cases of this is over the issue of immigration, in which right-libertarians essentially support restricting people from crossing political borders. To the left-libertarian, this merely grants legitimacy to the state and treats it as if it were a legitimate private property owner. The same is true of many so-called "privatization" schemes in which the state sells "its" property off to a single economic organization, essentially transfering from a state held monopoly to a private monopoly. The left-libertarian is much more skeptical of so-called "free market" reforms than the right-libertarian is, being much more likely to consider them manifestations of mercantalism or corporatism.

Another difference between the two may simply be a matter of cultural traits or preferances. Right-libertarians may often be strict "cultural conservatives" and therefore have traits such as opposition to multiculturalism, feminism and secularism. They may openly praise "the family", "the church" and "the nation". In contrast, the left-libertarian is much more likely to see these things such as multiculturalism and secularism as being good and support voluntaryist versions of them. The left-libertarian may add things such as anti-racism and anti-patriarchy to their agenda, and such things need not be imposed by the state but a result of voluntary efforts. And while many right-libertarians may tend to praise "the family", the left-libertarian may very well be skeptical about the organizational structure of many families and view them as abusive. And perhaps most importantly, the left-libertarian is not a nationalist.

It should be clear at this point what the left-libertarian is not: they are not vulgar libertarians, conservatives, in bed with conservatives, anti-immigrationists, reformists, extreme gradualists, and so on. It is likely (although not necessarily mandatory) that they are not racists, organized religion supporters, nationalists, chauvenists, and so on. The left-libertarian is not an apologist for "private" concentrations of power and corporations. The left-libertarian may very well oppose corporations. In short, the left-libertarian has distanced themselves from conservative traits as much as possible and view themselves as supporting liberty in a much more broad sense than your cookie-cutter anarcho-capitalist does. It is in the context of this much more broad perspective that they are to "the left" of their comrades.

Bob Barr Nominated At LP Convention

So Bob Barr got the LP's nomination at their most recent convention. There is a lot of dirt on this man from a libertarian perspective, ranging from his past support for the drug war and actually being the author of the defense of marriage act. Like all political oppurtunists, he has claimed to have changed his position since then in order to appease the demands of his consistuency. Like all political oppurtunists, this does not mean that he is sincere or that he does not still hold to those positions or would not support them pragmatically.

In the two-party system, politicians usually move (I.E. flip-flop or oppurtunistically change their position) towards "the center" in order to get more support. In the libertarian party, politicians usually move to a more radical position (rhetorically, that is) in order to shy away from their blatantly unlibertarian or even anti-libertarian past. In the case of "Big L" libertarians, this is usually in the conservative direction (their past, that is).

To me, this just proves what I've been trying to tell libertarians for a long time: that the movement is being infiltrated by conservatives and that the party is a waste of time that becomes less principled each year. The libertarian party has become little more than a mini-GOP that some old disguntled conservatives have flocked to out of disillusionment with the Republicans and neoconservatives.

On the other hand, with people like Mary Ruwart aside, the closest thing to a libertarian "left" within the party now is Mike Gravel, who isn't even a libertarian at all in the philosophical sense. Not only is the LP being infiltrated by conservatives, but the "left-wing" of the libertarian party is essentially non-existant. Since I'm a "left-libertarian", this makes me dislike the party even more. 

While I'm not in favor of the party or political strategies at all, putting myself in a cost-benefit analysis mindset for a moment, Mary Ruwart was probably the best option presented (even though she's been chided by the conservative elements of the movement for her position on/against the age of consent, which really should not be controversial at least within libertarian circles). She did get close at first but Barr moved past her by the end of the convention.

If the moral of the story hasn't been made clear to libertarians by now, I don't know what else will get through to them. Clearly the LP and electoral politics in general has not been, is not and never will be a meaningful strategy for liberty. It is has proved to be counterproductive time and time again. Each year, the Libertarian Party waters itself down more and more. Political libertarianism is a cosmic joke.

Does Social Evolution Necessitate Decentralization?

Social evolution can be thought of in terms of increased complexity. Simple forms of organization are uniliteral and homogenous, while more complexity in an organizational structure implies pluralism. Increased plurality, combined with a finite number of variables or resources to work with, implies smaller units. The more complex that a pattern is, the harder it is to understand or calculate or predict it from a central point or plan. The more simple and centralized that an organization is, the harder it is to keep track of all of the variables involved (I.E. the calculation problem comes into play).

It follows that as the complexity of an economy or society increases, entropy occurs as attempts at central planning fail and become increasingly obsolete methods for organization. Social evolution would seem to point in the direction of increasingly smaller social units and an increase in the diversity of social units both relative to eachother and in terms of their internal nature. This would seem to imply the long-term inevitable collapse of states and large organizations in general as being "unfit" for the proper environment for human developement. In short, at some point the social and economic interactions of people in and of itself starts to outpace currently existing institutions.

While the calculation problem is usually used to show how state-socialism is an impractical failure, it also implies its ultimate demise. And it additionally functions nicely as a much more broad theory of institutional analysis in general that may extend to certain non-governmental institutions. An organization is an organization and the calculation problem is ultimately an organizational theory in addition to being an economic theory. The calculation problem essentially proves that decentralization is more efficient than centralizaton as methods of economic organization. When integrated with theories of spontaneous order and social evolution, the calculation problem starts to have a new and increased significance.

But while social evolutionary and economic theories are very helpful in understanding such matters, ultimately sucessful social evolution depends on the driving force of social revolution and some degree of beneficial change in the general ideological atmosphere. Progress results from sucessful and beneficial deviations from the norm, which in turn implies concepts such as civil disobedience and education. Societies start to stagnate when they become too apathetic to develope and use independant mechanisms to counter the negative and harmful traits of the existing organizational structure. That is, the seeds of sucessful social evolution are to be found as far outside of and as independant from the existing organizational structure as possible.

Free Association Resolves Cultural Conflict

The very existance of state-provided and/or monopolized services is a boon to cultural conflict over how those services are used and who gets to use them, since the individual must pay for them no matter what and has no real alternative to the singular provider of the service (I.E. the state).

For example, there is endless conflict over the public education system precisely because the individual has little choice but to make use of and pay for it. Everyone battles to pressure the state to enforce their particular preferances for education models, since they don't have a meaningful option to form alternative associations with those who explicitly agree with their preferances. Whatever standards are set by the state apply to everyone involved. If someone objects to a particular standard, they have no choice but to pay for it anyways and quite likely them or their children will end up having to abide by that standard and attend those particular schools.

If people were free to persue such services based on genuine consent, then each individual or group with their own preferances would be able to form into mutual associations and hence a more broad and plural scope of options would exist. Noone would be forced into a model or association that they don't desire or to pay for someone else's preferances. If a given group prefers creationism, they could organize into their own associations that teach creationism. If a given group prefers evolution, they could do likewise. If a given group prefers gay marriages, they can form their own associations to provide them. If a given group does not prefer them, they can form their own associations that don't provide them. Such questions would be reduced in significance to a matter of what flavor of ice cream one prefers.

The incentive for such cultural conflict that we currently see in our politically dominated society is removed when people are free to simply "live and let live". They don't have to fight over how to use a singular organization precisely because they have the option to opt out of them and form alternative organizations. People might still disagree with eachother, but their disagreement would not be manifested in such direct hostility and they would not be able to or find any reasonable need to force their particular preferances onto everyone else. The individual can simply disassociate and freely compete with those whom they disagree with. There would no longer be a singular monopolistic apparatus to fight for control over. One can simply patronize or form alternative associations. It's a win-win situation for all.

This does not necessarily imply absolute cultural separatism, as if each group completely isolates themselves from eachother geographically. Free association does not necessarily imply that, for example, all of the Catholics will band together and form an exclusively Catholic community or all of the Muslim people will form an exclusively Muslim community. Such groups can peacefully co-exist and intermingle within a given geographical area or community. Within a single community there may exist a vast multitude of different associations and organizations for an individual to choose from to best suite their personal and cultural preferances.

There is no reason why a single community cannot contain a variety of different social combinations within it that are in free competition with eachother. While each individual social combination may certainly be exclusive, they cannot be exclusive with respect to other people's property and associations. They cannot exclude someone from the community as a whole unless they were the only social combination in the entire community, which is highly unlikely. The implications of free association is actually an increase in pluralism rather than homogeneity. Extreme homogeniety only occurs when there is a central plan imposed onto an entire society, when each respective group has no choice but to conform to a single standard or participate in a single social combination within a given geographical area. It is only when there is an institution such as the state that cultural and economic standards or models can be forced onto everyone uniformly.

In the absence of the centralized and coercive institutional means by which a single plan can be imposed onto an entire community, the natural result would seem to be more pluralistic than it otherwise would have been. Only a coercive geographical monopoly can uniformly control everyone within the territory or exclude people from the entire territory. Once the draconian geographical apparatus of control is removed, there is much more leeway for people to develope alternatives (and hence more plurality) within a given geographical area.

Why The State Can't Discriminate

My position on racial discrimination and segregation is essentially based on the following premises: (1) on a personal level, I'm opposed to racism (2) however, if an individual legitimately owns a given piece of property, they have the liberty to exclude other people from using that property (3) that being siad, in terms of hiring employees and a buisiness owner's relationship with customers, racial discrimnation and exclusion in general is suicidal in the long-term if said buisinesses are in free competition with non-discriminatory or less exclusive buisinesses (4) therefore, a free market process itself will tend to weed out the racists over time and (5) the proper solution to the issue is social or economic and should be persued through more direct action - civil disobedience, social pressure, education, mass-boycotts, out-competing the racists, the discriminated groups forming their own organizations, and so on.

However, this is only in the context of discrimination of members of the lay public. What about discrimination or exclusion by the agents of the state? Should the exact same logic be applied to the state? I'm compelled to say "no" because the limited principled defense of the liberty of the discriminator is predicated on the requirement that they justly own the property to begin with, and the state does not legitimately control the territory. If the state is exclusive or discriminates, it would be doing it with stolen resources, what are in fact the very resources of the victims of the exclusion or discrimination. To try to come up with a libertarian defense of state discrimination would be to make the error of treating the state as if it were a legitimate private property owner, which would legitimize nationalism. I'm not sure if this error should be considered a manifestation of "vulgar libertarianism" or if it deserves another term in its own right.

If the state enforced discrimination as being mandatory within the territory or discriminates over who is allowed to use state property and services, what we would have is institutionalized segregation. The state would be asserting control over how other people use their own property and excluding people from use of what is actually not justly owned by the state agents or possibly even what is really partially the product of what was stolen from the person being excluded. To varying degrees, this is more or less what the individual states did during the period of blatant institutionalized segregation in America. The state did much more than defend private owner's right to be exclusive, since the state was exclusive itself and widened discrimination into community-wide and state-wide legal precedents which essentially established discrimination as a norm.

Of course, when institutionalized segregation gave way at least partially to intstitutionalized integration, the federal government started acting as a discriminator in other respects. It started creating and enforcing precedents making it mandatory to be inclusive and also to start to be more exclusive towards other groups. To some degree, some non-racist people have ended up being persecuted by anti-discrimination or forced integration laws, which has merely added fuel to the fire and made people more sympathetic towards racism. And affirmative action is mandated discrimination all the same, only geared towards different groups. Anything remotely resembling a racial quota is discriminatory and in fact racist to the core.

Immigration controls and political border enforcement are essentially institutionalized segregation, though not always based strictly on race. Some people try to defend a closed border policy on the basis of private property rights and by comparing the nation to a home. But such an analogy is fallacious and highly misleading. The state's agents do not justly control the entire territory. And the entire nation is not "ours", we each own individual plots of property within it. While an individual who justly owns a given piece of property may legitimately exclude others from use of it, they do not have the legitimate authority to demand that their neighbor do the same. Noone can legitimately exclude people from other people's legitimately aquired property. And this is precisely what the state would be doing by trying to exclude someone from entering the entire "nation" and effectively outlawing individual owners from allowing others to use their property. It also would constitute a barrier to entry to unused/unowned property.

The implications of treating the state as a legitimate private property owner are very totalitarian when it comes down to it, and of course such a view inherently legitimizes the state. If the entire territory is legitimately controlled by the state, then everything within it can be used and distributed however state agents want, and everyone within it may be treated as pawns. But the fact of the matter is that state institutions are a product of the mass-expropriation of land (which eventually manifests itself in the coercive territorial monopoly) and intergenational extortion (which eventually manifests itself as taxation). In a certain sense, the state is merely a gigantic and institutionalized case of absentee landlordship. Everyone within the territory produces everything while the state claims a piece of their production and excercises control over everything as if it were the legitimate ownership of the entire territory.

This is why the state must be treated as a criminal organization, a criminal organization that has stolen everything that it controls. The only difference between the state and other criminal organizations is that it is highly centralized, enjoys a massive territorial monopoly and has an ideological cloak of legitimacy. In order for justice to truly be served, the victims of this criminal organization have every right in the world to take back what was stolen from them and their ancestors. Such a criminal organization should not be defended as if its agents are at liberty to determine how stolen property is used, and as a consequence it is absurd to try to legitimize such a criminal organization excluding people from using what was stolen from them or what currently has no legitimate owner at all.

Anarchism and Democracy

As I have argued before, democracy in the sense of majoritarianism or a political system of phony oligarchal representation inherently violates liberty. I have also tried to emphasize that all states are inherently exclusive and out of the control of "the people" at large by the very nature of such an institution.

But there is also a third and more pure or original sense of democracy that is in fact the very embodyment of anarchism. The concept of participatory democracy is quite anarchistic in that it emphasizes unanimous consent and leaves the individual the option to opt out of associations or organizations. Instead of delegating power to another person to act within an oligarchy that effects everyone else, as is the case in representative democracy, participatory democracy involves individual representation of themselves based on much more direct means that gives the individual an actual voice in matters that effect them.

If democracy is understood as meaning control by "the people", then what can possibly be more democratic than a society in which the function of governance is literally absorbed by "the people" as a whole, I.E. a self-governing society? What is anarchism but the most consistant realization of this principle, in which the individual may choose their own destiny through freedom of association? And what is a free market but a manifestation of participatory democracy in people's economic decisions, associations and organizations?

The moment that an exclusive oligarchal apparatus of control is imposed onto any segment of "the people", the fundamental principle of democracy is violated. The only way for democracy to meaningfully come to fruition is in the absence of rulers, when people are given the option to opt out of associations or organizations and to persue their preferences without having a system imposed on them from above. Instead of a single individual, family or aristocracy ruling over an entire society, each individual in the society must be treated as a sovereign or self-ruler.

In a genuine anarchic or market democracy, the individual "votes" with their choice of associations and voluntary economic interactions. Their "vote" does not coercively determine who anyone else will associate with, what organization(s) they will join or what goods and services that they will buy or sell. It is the individual's explicit consent that determines these things for themselves. If they are displeased with a given association or organization, they may exit the relationship as they please and persue alternatives.

It is strictly in this sense that I feel safe in proclaiming that "democracy is liberty".

The Paradox of "State's Rights"

One of the most well known American legal traditions is state's rights. State's rights is essentially the idea that each individual state should retain its sovereignty or independance from the federal government. The idea is that each state may have its own varying laws and precedents that the federal government may not supercede. It's as if each state is thought of as being its own nation in and of itself, and before the formation of the federal government this quite literally was the case. Afterall, each American state is roughly the size of an entire European nation, sometimes or even often larger. The idea of state's rights would not have been formed if it weren't for the establishment of a larger apparatus, a federal government that each state is supposed to be a part of.

The idea of state's rights can be used in two basic ways: to stop the federal government from forcing a law on a state, or to stop the federal government from removing or defying a state's law. In other words, state's rights can be used to oppose federal laws and to support state laws. The former function of state's rights can be used to delegitimize and defy the federal government. But the latter function of state's rights presents a problem if one is trying to abide by an objective standard of justice, for theoretically state's rights can be used to uphold and preserve a state's unjust law. To be clear, this does not mean that the federal government is any more justified, but it does show that state's rights is an inconsistant standard for justice since it can be used to legitimize state governments.

From a libertarian anarchist perspective, none of the governmental entities in question are legitimate. The federal government doesn't have "rights" and neither do the states. Only people have rights. The doctrine of state's rights is problematic in that it may leave free reign for state governments to do just about anything. It may function to limit the powers of the federal government, but it does nothing to limit the powers of the state governments. In other words, it sets up a double standard of justice between the levels of government, and for this reason it may lead to some ugly results. It seems inconsistant for one to proclaim that the federal government may not do X but the state of Ohio may. Either X is right or wrong, hence the precise entity or people engaging in X is entirely irrelevant. It matters not if it is 100000 people, one person, France, America, Ohio or Kentucky that is enforcing X.

For example, it seems absurd for one to proclaim that "it is illegitimate for the federal government to impose drug prohibition laws, but the states may impose drug prohibition laws". This would shift debate on the issue from a matter of the justice of drug prohibition itself to a matter of which entity or level of government may prohibit drugs. But for the libertarian anarchist and the proponent of ethical consistancy, that is entirely irrelevant. Drug prohibition is illegitimate altogether as a matter of principle, and therefore it would be no more legitimate for the state of Ohio to enact and enforce such laws then it would be for the federal government to do so. State's rights is problematic to the extent that it is used as a mechanism to legitimize the laws and policies of state governments in defiance of rational principles of justice. It could theoretically be used to legitimize anything a state does that is not explicitly prohibited by the constitution, and the question of what the constitution prohibits the states from doing is rather open ended to begin with.

The issue of integration and segregation is often debated about in the context of state's rights. The fact of the matter is that while the federal government most certainly engaged in an injustice by establishing forced intregration, state's rights was used to legitimize and sustain forced segregation. It's a lose-lose situation no matter which perspective one approaches it from. If the federal government is allowed to impose a ban on discrimination that encompassed all of the states, then property rights are violated. On the other hand, if the states are allowed to make discrimination legally binding or obligatory within their territories, then property rights are violated. Both forced segregation and forced integration are illegitimate, and both the federal and state governments are illegitimate. To the extent that state's rights was used to preserve the power of the states to have a policy of forced segregation, it was an incredible injustice.

State's rights is only useful to the extent that it may stop the federal government from enforcing an unjust law on all of the states, so that there is at least some possibility that certain states will not have that law. This helps avoid a "one-size-fits-all" approach being shoved down the throats of the entire country. It certainly is potentially more beneficial to have more variance between the states so that there is at least some possibility for one to persue alternatives. However, internal to each state, the exact same problem presents itself. An individual state may still enact and enforce an unjust law. And with respect to smaller entities within the state, it is likewise a "one-size-fits-all" approach. The counties and cities have no choice but to be herded into a uniform model by the state. So why not continue the principle and have "county's rights" and "city's rights"? If it is followed through consistantly, one eventually stops at individual rights, the only real kind.

The advantage of state's rights that is commonly pointed out is that one has the ability to "vote with your feet" between each state in order to persue alternatives. This makes a certain level of sense. However, is this not merely the exact same thing as the "love it or leave it" sentiment that is usually applied to entire nations? When people object to their own nation's way of doing things, sometimes they are told that they can just move. But this retort avoids addressing the problem and only begs the question. In short, it assumes the legitimacy of the nation-state to begin with. But from the viewpoint of the libertarian anarchist who rejects the legitimacy of states, the burden of proof is on the state or those defending it to justify it. If the individual is truly sovereign and legitimately owns their property, then they should not have to move. Rather, the state should stop coercing them and trying to claim partial control over their property. This is true of smaller state entities as much as it is of large nation-states. If states do not legitimately control their territories, then state's rights is a very inconsistant creed.

None of this is meant to imply that the federal government should be given more powers. On the contrary, it is meant to imply that the powers of all levels of government are illegitimate as a matter of principle and that libertarians should be more skeptical towards the creed of state's rights than many of them tend to be. State's rights is a very inconsistant and moderate form of decentralization, a vain attempt to simulate free association and competition through large and arbitrary political units or territories. In comparison to the level of decentralization that anarchism entails, a regime of state's rights is still fairly authoritarian and centralized. Perhaps the traditional model for America is not nearly as decentralized as some libertarians would like to think.

Resolving Anarchist Conflict

Conflict between the socialist oriented and market oriented camps within anarchism can get very tedious. Many anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists appear to emphatically claim that market anarchism isn't truly anarchism, that opposition to private property and capitalism is a requirement for one to be an anarchist, conflate currently existing political and economic systems with a free market and sometimes even defend welfare states as if take the edges off of the alleged evils of capitalism. Some anarcho-capitalists appear to get baited into functioning as vulgar libertarians or they generally associate themselves too closely with contemporary conservatism and therefore end up defending currently existing corporatism as if it is the result of a free market, claim that all forms of socialism are statist political systems, defend paleoconservative positions on issues such as immigration and romantisize feudalism and colonial America.

The bulk of the debate between the two sides consists of a language barrier, semantics and quibbling over property. There is a language barrier over terms such as capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchism and libertarianism to the point where any true meaning is rendered obsolete. Each side suspects that the other side are merely authoritarians in disguise, and sometimes the suspicion is entirely justified (with some social anarchists functioning as state-socialists and some anarcho-capitalists functioning as conservatives). The more that each camp acts foolishly intolerant and monopolostic, the more likely they are to be pushed back into the statist paradime due to reactionary sentiments, leading to the use of political means to dominate against their alleged enemies. Sometimes they spend more time critisizing eachother than they do critisizing contemporary statist ideologies.

Capitalism has different connotations to the various camps. Some consider capitalism to be the current system, some consider it to be separation between labor and ownership, some consider it to be private ownership of the means of production or the extensive use of capital and some consider it to be a spontaneous order resulting from the voluntary and mutually beneficial interpersonal relations between people in the absence of a central planner or state through a process of free trade relations and competition. Socialism has different connotations as well. Some consider socialism to be worker ownership of the means of production, some consider it to be state ownership of the means of production and some consider it to be some sort of egalitarian free market. There are nearly endless semantics over the meanings of the terms which avoids a real discussion and debate about the actual principles that people advocate. These semantic conflicts even exist within each respective camp, as some market anarchists have abandoned the term capitalism.

Etymologically, anarchism simply means "no rulers". Anything that is without rulers is therefore anarchic by definition. Any philosophy that is opposed to rulers is an anarchistic philosophy by definition. Whatever additional features they may have is only a matter of flavor. On a fundamental level, all anarchists of any type oppose the institution of the state. Anything else that they may support or oppose beside the state is comparatively inconsequential, although it is of course true that non-state institutions may sometimes qualify as examples of rulership. So it does make some degree of sense to say that anarchism is more than mere consistant/radical anti-statism, even if one wants to quibble that such institutions would qualify as states anyways. One way to put it is that anarchists are opposed to crime or plunder in general as a matter of principle, and more large-scale manifestations are merely the institutionalization of crime or plunder. In either case, there is no reason to ostracize people who truly do oppose rulers from the anarchist movement just because they have perhaps a somewhat different flavor than one's particular camp.

The issue of property is the main area of conflict. The property debate has been going on forever. Some social anarchists seem to think that private property is either a product of the state or inevitably leads to a state. Private property may be thought of as either a legal construct or a form of exploitation that precedes and leads to the formation of states. Of course, one cannot logically hold both positions at once, since that would be like taking both sides of a chicken/egg debate at once. Market anarchists tend to define private property in terms that should actually appeal to a socialist, which is that legitimate private property is the product of labor - a labor theory of property aquisition. How can a socialist oppose labor when that is supposed to be their forte? If consistant to their principles, the market anarchist does not support all legal private property titles, for they have an independant standard of justice in property aquisition that would delegitimize currently existing conditions. In short, they oppose the currently existing legal construct. The vulgar libertarian, however, does fall into the trap of defending all or some illegitimate portion of currently existing private property titles and buisiness arrangements.

On the other hand, complications arise over the value of labor, as social anarchists tend to cling to some kind of labor theory of value. This is problematic because it doesn't adequately take into account the labor of the enterprenuer, the dynamic nature of prices and the factor of time in general. Contemporary market anarchists usually have discarded the labor theory of value for a subjective theory of value and theories of time preferance. However, if one observes individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker who still held to a labor theory of value, it would seem to be that case that the such people thought that a free economy would naturally reflect a labor theory of value. So in this sense classical individualist anarchists are entirely supportive of laissez-faire and only disagree with more contemporary market anarchism in terms of what they think the outcome of a free market would be. More contemporary individualist anarchists have merely modified the position in light of changes and improvements in economic theory. If one takes a 19th century individualist anarchist and merely substitutes the subjective theory of value in place of the labor theory of value, one essentially has a contemporary market anarchist.

Diehard social anarchists oppose what they consider to be private property. They often make a distinction between personal property and private property or between possessions and property. They tend to have a principle loosely based on "use" of property that is supposed to be more limited than the extent of control and amount available to the individual that private property allows for. It would seem that there is a threshold of requirements for property ownership with perpetual use at one end and perpetual ownership in the absence of use on the other. If they are pushed and in a logical state of mind, the social anarchist will not tend to condone a standard of perpetual use and the market anarchist will not tend to condone a standard that allows one to hold a title to blatantly abandoned or unowned property, for each of those standards leads to endless absurdities and may justify clearly wrong and exploitative scenarios.

Perpetual use is an absurd criteria for ownership, for it would imply that as soon as one parks their car somewhere then it is no longer theirs and therefore someone else may expropriate the car for themselves. In short, it would justify theft. On the other hand, there are problems with titles to ownership of property, particularly land, that has blatantly been abandoned or neglected by the person with the title to ownership and while there simultaneously are actually other people who actually actively labor upon it. Intergenerational or perpetual ownership over property that one makes no use of yet others do leads to fuedalism. Surely future generations of people should not be bound to a nullified claim of ownership by someone else, some rich aristocrat who no longer contributes in any real way to the upkeep of the property or makes any use of it at all. In order to resolve the issue, some process of identifying or clarifying whether or not the property in question is abandoned by its original owner would make sense. It should be noted, however, that this does not necessarily justify the claims of the geolibertarians, who erroneously conclude that private land ownership is illegitimate and/or there should be collective land ownership as a universal standard.

When the absurdities resulting from the idea of perpetual use are pointed out, the social anarchist will often proclaim "general use" to be the standard for ownership. But general use is very vague, leaving open a range of possibilities. It would seem to be the case that what constitutes general use would have to be agreed upon or arbitrated, quite possibly varying from organization to organization and/or community to community. If this is conceded, then the only real difference between the two sides is a matter of what type of voluntary precedent one personal prefers. So long as each side remains at least passively tolerant of the fact that perhaps different communities or organizations of people will have somewhat different standards, then there is no reason for conflict. Free association resolves the problem. If a standard objectively ends up being more sucessful and efficient through voluntary interactions, then it will tend to win out in the dynamic and evolutionary process of trial and error that is inherent in free association and competition.

Social anarchists demand worker ownership of the means of production. If consistant to the principles of voluntary interpersonal relations, the market anarchist has no choice but to support the liberty of individuals to voluntarily form worker's collectives and opt out of or secede from other particular organizations. If the social anarchist is likewise consistant, they have no choice but to support the liberty of individuals to voluntary form into employer-employee relationships and opt out of or secede from their worker's collectives. If one is forced into or out of such associations through force or the threat thereof, then they would effectively become slaves. So long as neither side actually forces anyone into their prefered organizational structures, each side can mutually persue their desires without infringement upon others. In a sense, the key question to ask is: can I opt out of your organization/community/society? If not, then it is no different than a state. If so, then there obviously is not going to be absolute uniformity in terms of what particular organizations and types of organizations people choose to participate in, as everyone is not identifical in their preferances, traits and abilities.

An interesting cunundrum to present a social anarchist with is, "I want to be a wage slave, I want to work for a boss, so what do you do if I truly do choose to enter into a contractual relationship with someone for wages in exchange for my labor? Why can't I rent out the products of my labor if I sincerely want to? What if I want to opt out of the worker's collective and look for an employer?". If an individual is truly autonamous, then noone may legitimately force them out of this personal association or force them to remain in a particular association, whether it is a single individual or "the majority" or "community". Likewise, an individual should have the liberty to opt out of an employer-employee relationship and voluntarily organize with others into worker's collectives or other types of organization. One must recognize the liberty of even a single individual to secede from an organization. So long as one does not have any genuine debt or contractual obligations withstanding, they should be able to exit the association and persue other ones. That's precisely how free competition works, as undesired and inefficient modes of organization become obsolete by people's choices not to associate with or participate in them.

Forms of organization that are considered to be socialistic are theoretically possible options in a free market. This is something that some people from both the anarcho-capitalist and social anarchist camps seem to not want to aknowledge, each for different reasons and from different perspectives. The consistant proponent of voluntary interpersonal relations has a certain kind of tolerance that allows for those who disagree with them to opt out of their prefered organizations and voluntarily form alternatives. It's essentially a live and let live perspective: don't force me into your community or organization and I shall do likewise. Call it whatever one wants, the law of equal liberty, the non-aggression principle, decision-making in proportion to the degree that one is effected, etc., it's all essentially the same thing. Within the confines of the general principle, anything additional is only optional or preferential.

Philosophies and ideas in general evolve over time, and this is just as true about anarchism as it is about anything else. The economics and philosophy behind anarchism have evolved, sometimes into territory that is very market oriented. There is a progression and tree of sorts that can be traced from the most original anarchists to currently existing factions, including market anarchism. Mutualism can be seen as progressing to individualist anarchism and eventually into contemporary market anarchism, so claims that market anarchism has no place within anarchist tradition is false and ignores the variance that has always existed within the general movement. To try to cling absolutely to every single aspect of an obsolete theory from centuries ago starts to make one rather conservative, and in this sense some social anarchists have become blind traditionalists who are unwilling to modify their ideas in the face of new information. On the other hand, contemporary market anarchists should have a lot of appriciation for early anarchist tradition and be willing to see what they may have in common with more socialist oriented anarchists. They should understand themselves in historical context and aknowledge that certain segments of their philosophy wouldn't exist without those who came before them, the Proudhons and Bakunins and Tuckers and Spooners.

There is no rational reason for there to be the degree of conflict that currently exists between the different camps of anarchists.