Re: A response to Rafal Smigrodzki, Part 1

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Dec 26 2001 - 23:00:00 MST

A response to Rafal Smigrodzki, Part 1On Sunday, December 23, 2001 2:35
PM Smigrodzki, Rafal SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU wrote:
>> Not actually. I submit that institutionalized coercive actions --
>> defining element of government -- externalize costs in a way that
>> almost makes it much more likely for government to grow at the
>> expense of society as well as for programs to grow in no relation
>> to their actual benefits.
> Institutionalized coercive action is not restricted to the government.
> Enforcement of informal contracts (as in loan sharking) is also
> coercive and sometimes well organized.

I don't disagree there is nongovernmental instituationalized coercion,
but then you admit that government is a form of this and perhaps the
most pervasive form. An example of the former would be a crime
syndicate. (It's notable, however, that most criminal organizations
usually benefit from some legal prohition, such as against prostitution,
gambling, drug use, and the like. Also, contract enforcement, in itself
is not initiation of coercion. After all, the breaker of a contract is
coercing the other party. For example, if you contract with me to
borrow money at a set interest rate and payment schedule, and then don't
pay me on time at the agreed on rate, you are, in essense stealing from

> Could you provide more details on the externalization of costs due
> to gov't action?

Government doesn't have to sell its services since it can tax (or use
other policies that amount to the same thing), so there's no connection
between the consumer of its services and those who pay for them. (Even
in the case of so called user fees, the government has a monopoly on the
service, so that the buyer is forced to pay.) This is, by definition
cost externalization -- i.e., any time the cost of something is paid
involuntarily by a third party, the cost has been externalized. This
disconnects an essential feedback loop which markets and private firms
have. (To cut you off before you make this argument:)... This is not
to say there are no cost externalizations outside of government. There
are, but individuals and private firms are usually very limited in what
they legitimately can do AND governments exist through such

>> My argument is basically this. Reason and force in society
>> are opposites. If you use force, then you subjugate reason.
> Sometimes you have to use force to subjugate evil (an
> invading army), and to extract payment for services rendered
> (demand taxes for the support of a defensive army)

No doubt. I'm not arguing that retaliation or self-defense are
antireason, just the initiation of force outside those contexts. (I
probably should have been more clear about this from the beginning. I
gather you're not that familiar with the basic libertarian position.
It's not pacifism by any means, but seeks to disallow the initiation of
force in society. Naturally, once someone initiates the use of force,
people have to defend themselves and justice demands retaliate in order
to set things right -- if they so choose.) Taxation, however, is the
initiation of force. Armies and defenses can and have been supported
privately as well as consensually in the past.

>> I don't think so. It's pretty clear in most situations what it
>> There may be borderline cases, but these are typically solved
>> through examining matters more closely AND do not bring
>> social interaction to a grinding halt. For example, if I get the
>> of a restaurant, say, at the same time as someone else, we don't
>> shoot it out to see who gets to go in first.:)
> A couple guys with machine guns sit down in a mountain pass (which
> they claim to own by inheritance from their ancestors). They say they
> will shoot anybody trying to trespass, unless he pays a toll. I don't
> want to pay. They cannot produce a valid title to the land. I ask them
> politely to leave, they refuse and threaten to shoot me. I retreat,
> a sniper's rifle and kill them all.
> Who initiated violence?

What do you mean by valid title? If they have no right to the land,
then you were only acting in self-defense. If they do, then you're a
murderer. Deciding who has the right is the problem. (This doesn't
mean libertarian anarchy of any variety is perfect and will solve all
problems, but I think it will solve many more than other political

What happens, to switch scenarios, if those same guys are members of the
"cannot produce a valid title" to the pass? What if the same outcome
occurs? How does this differ from what we have right now?

>> I would admit that in cases where coercion arises, one can and often
>> must use retaliatory coercion, but this is hardly what you mean.
>> it doesn't even go outside of libertarian thought. For instance,
>> such as theft or assault is obviously coercive. However, do we need
>> government -- i.e., a legal monopoly on the use of force -- to
>> against or prevent crime? Hardly.
> Are you able to point to historical examples of societies where a
> non-monopoly system of coercive actions allowed effective control
> of crime?

Pre-Norwegian conquest Iceland, Medieval Ireland, Anglosaxon England,
and the Old West in the US. these examples are covered by David
Friedman (Iceland), Murray Rothbard (Ireland), and Bruce L. Benson
(England, US). There are others, but I believe someone else on this
list covered them.

> And how about examples of pluralistic systems of defense against
> aggression?

I refer you to the work of Larry Sechrest on using private armies and
navies. Up until the 19th century, when professional militaries became
the rule, privateers and the like were regularly used. Also, the Middle
Ages can be seen as a time when, through circumstances -- the collapse
of governments throughout Western Europe and the various invasions --
private military forces were the rule not the exception in Western

>> I also don't think this is what you have in mind. Your scenario
>> of an agrarian planet that evolves from a free market to an
>> strict oligarchy is something entirely different, BUT it involves
>> the upper classes basically taking over an existing government.
>> I.e., you've already made a monopoly on the use of legal force,
>> so anyone or group who wants power over society -- for
>> whatever reason, e.g., self-defense, social engineering, pure
>> powerlust... -- only has to capture that institution.
> By clever engineering you can make it pretty difficult to capture
> this institution. A demarchy would be my way of approaching
> the problem.

What do you mean by the term demarchy? It seems to me, all existing and
previous governments were captured by or even created ruling classes.
Even current parliamentary democracies are no exception to this.
Special interest groups, e.g., and politicians synergize in them to
extract wealth from the taxpayer base. There's little reason to believe
this would not be the case even with clever engineering. After all,
even with the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitutin, the legal
traditions of England, and so on, all ruling classes have basically
gotten around the "clever engineering."

> The upper classes *will* form a goverment if there is none
> (examples - just name a country or city) (counterexamples?)

See the above examples from Friedman et al.

>> This doesn't mean that anarchocapitalism or variants of libertarian
>> anarchism will never evolve into states. Obviously, the times/places
>> history that have approached pure free markets in economics and
>> (e.g., the American West, Ancient Iceland, and so forth) eventually
>> evolved into societies with governments. However, the process takes
>> longer. I also believe we can learn from these examples to create
>> better institutions -- not perfect ones, but ones that can makes
>> much less likely than in the past.
> It's interesting that you mention these examples of the ungoverned.
> Both were transiently existing (=unstable?)

Iceland's anarchist period lasted about two hundred years. That's
longer than most existing nation states have been around.

> societies, built by settlers
> escaping states with increasing central powers (Norway united by
> King Harald, or whatever his name was), or escaping population
> pressure. Both came from warlike cultures, worshipping military
> prowess,

I'm not sure that this applies to the American West. Most of the
settlers were just there to farm and heard -- they were not warriors.
They also did not come from a warrior culture.

In the Iceland example, while they could be called warriors, they
generally did not fight many wars. If you read the sagas, which are
quite violent, you still come away with the idea of people looking to
settle down -- not to fight.

> well armed but without significant external forces to
> contend with (American Indians were subjugated with the help of
> the government, so you could say that the American West was for
> from an anarchy - it was crucially dependent on external sources of
> military protection and human resources). Hardly the usual kind of
> circumstances, and very transient. As soon as the settlers settled
> in, built homes and businesses, a government evolved. Is it a
> parasite on the healthy chaos, or is it a prerequisite for further
> development?

I admit the American West case is not the best example, but it has many
features of anarchism and, as far as law enforcement and adjudication
were concerned, was anarchic.

> Just a rhetoric question.
> But I agree that institutions need to be formed to prevent the
> unbridled growth of government, acting as a system of checks
> on its power.

The problem is, any checks on government that are internal to
government -- and this includes the typical separations of powers --
will, at best, only slow down the growth of government, but will, in the
long run, be routed. In the interim, almost all of the governed will be
lulled into a false sense of security, since they'll believe, as many
constitutionalists today believe, that they've succeeded.

>> (Her main one being that anarchism = choas. Her more
>> specialized critique of anarchocapitalism is that she believe
>> competing protection agencies would violently battle it out
>> whenever they disagreed on who coerced whom.)
> Won't they? (historic counterexamples?)

The examples mentioned previous. In fact, all the examples became
statist mainly because of encroaching states and not because of internal
conflict leading to a state forming through the biggest, baddest,
meanest protection agency taking over.

>> This is a point of contention and merely asserting what you believe
>> not prove it.
> Until you give an example disproving my belief, I will persist in it -
> presence of innumerable examples supporting my claim is enough
> for me, Popperian epistemology notwithstanding.

But you've provide no examples and I've provided a few.

(What is the comment on Popperian epistemology about?)

>> In fact, spontaneous orders evolve all around us. Even
>> before there can be a government, there has to be a
>> huge degree of coordination.
> No, all you need is having a stick bigger than the your neighbors
> have.

Yes, if you merely wish to rob them, but not if you wish to govern them
in the conventional sense. A government, for one thing, relies on most
of the government not rising up and rebeling against it and not giving
enough resistence to it that governing is in effect impossible.

But back to the spontaneous order thing, this is why the Spanish in
America found some of the Native Americans so difficult to rule. Brute
force can only go so far, especially when the natives would just run
away. One reason for this was that many of the natives just were not
used to the peasant lifestyle. I'm not trying to paint them glamorously
as free nomads, but the point is they did not have that element of
culture necessary to make them easily ruled.

Now, imagine, if you will, that other spontaneous orders had no evolve,
such as markets or language. Any one person with a big stick might be
able to beat his neighbor into submission, but that's it. His power
will extend no further than just that beating and that neighbor. The
fact that other levels of social coordination do not exist would mean
the society itself would be no more than a bunch of people and, since
they don't trade or have division of labor, their wealth would be small.
Yeah, you could beat your neighbor for his piece of fruit, but not for
his bank account or business.

>> I don't Vinge intended it to be read that way either. His short
>> "The Ungoverned" and his commentary on it leads me to believe
>> he think anarchocapitalism is a very delicate situation likely to
>> into statism when the first social crisis hits. I disagree here, but
I do
>> think anarchocapitalism, in order to work, would have to be
>> thoroughgoing and not halfbaked. You can't have things like
>> centralized government control in one area and none in another.
> Who will pay for the eradication of all goverments everywhere?
> What good is a system that can so easily be destabilized by
> "unenlightened" neighbors?

I didn't mean exactly that. What I meant was we need to have complete
anarchism in one area at least -- not, say, deregulating the banking
system, education, and the buying of shoes, but keeping other things
heavily regulated.

As for anarchist societies defending themselves from outside attackers,
I think both Sechrest and Hoppe answer this in a cogent way. I think
anarchist societies can privately defend themselves and do this better
than current states.

> I am sorry, I haven't read the books you mention. Maybe that's
> why I persist in my ways ;-) Can you perhaps briefly summarize
> their specific arguments?

I have been summarizing some of them, but I feel you should at least get
Hoppe's _Democracy -- the God that Failed_ and probably Benson's _The
Enterprise of Law_ for starters. I'd rather you read them and then
commented on them. One reason for this is that I might unintentionally
distort their arguments. Another, is just that I'm trying to do some
other research right now and don't want to get too bogged down here in
this discussion. (You kind of scared me by increasing the replies to
three instead of two or even reducing them to one.:)

Also, would you use plain text instead of HTML in your replies? It
would make it easier for those who can't read HTML.


Daniel Ust
    My "Love in Ancient America," a poem recently published in _The
Thought_, is now at:

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