RE: Voluntary Exchange

From: Smigrodzki, Rafal (
Date: Fri Dec 28 2001 - 17:34:15 MST

From: Technotranscendence []

On Sunday, December 23, 2001 1:23 PM Smigrodzki, Rafal
SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU wrote:
>> Which of these examples started off relatively noncoercively and
>> when?
> See examples above (Native....etc, recently, last 5 000 to 500 years
> ago, and Europe, many thousands of years ago).

Remember, your model is basically that people noncoercively get a
society they would not like -- or most members would not like and that
pretty much amounts to a form of oligarchy.

### You summarized my position very well.


 Is your arguments that each
step of the way, hunter-gatherers moved noncoercively to agriculture and
then to government and then to empire and so forth?

### The first steps were noncoercive, then there was non-government
coercion, then an organized response to it, then a slippery slope of more
coercion and more government, from which we started to emerge only a few
hundred years ago.


And do you also think this means government is okay?

### I am merely saying that the government is not by definition evil (this
is a moral statement). As a factual statement, the emergence of the
government is essentially unavoidable, except in certain limited conditions
we discussed before.

Sometimes, to a limited extent, gov't is OK, even if freedom is abridged in
some minimal way.

> But with no money and no land, your voluntary activities are
> limited. Why should the landowners allow competition if they can get
> away with suppressing it? Their situation is not an argument against
> government per se, but against government as it is now. No surprise
> armed uprisings occur so frequently.

Indeed, but what's your point? Is it that a free market causes this
phenomena because it's being surpressed? If so, this is a highly
unusual attack on free markets.

### I started a discussion with you a long time ago about the need to
control the size of economic entities to protect the free market. We didn't
finish because I got too busy at work, but basically I was saying that the
free market destroys itself if not controlled. This is the same point I am
making in our present discussion, although I focus my attention on a special
type of market, where I think I can illustrate my ideas better than before.
And I do believe that the free market is the morally and economically
superior way of social interaction, so my argument is not against, but *for*
the market (and the government needed to serve it).


If instead, you mean those big Latin American landowners got their land
through a free market, then surpressed it, then this is actually wrong.

### Oh, well, the beginning was different in Colombia and my model, but I
outlined a way for both of them ending in the same spot, and I gave
historical examples of spontaneous land accumulation (not by direct state


Also, what do think the solution is to the problem de Soto has outlined?
More government controls, less freedom, less capitalism? Or his
solution: recognize the property titles, loosen controls, and allow
people to carry out these informal transactions openly without fear of
persecution? If you opt for the former solution, then you'll just
repeat every wave of reform in the Latin America, which only leads to a
new ruling clique and the need for another wave of reforms in a
generation. If you opt for the latter, these people can get on with
their lives and unlocking their economic potential will help even First

### I am all for de Soto. By now you might see I am not pro-government, even
though I claim it's something you can't live without (barring new
technological developments).


>>> Only revolutions and
>>> technical developments break such states, forcing some
>>> redistribution of inherited wealth, as opposed to earned
>>> wealth
>> Not exactly true. Social changes apart from technology often
>> play a big role -- and technology is only one factor among many.
>> Let's no reify it.
> Not exactly, but *mostly* true (or else - can you substantiate the
> claim that, historically, non-technology driven, voluntary activities
> led to the decline of most feudal states?)

Yeap. The fact that the three separate military challenges -- the
Norse, the Hungarians, and the Moslems -- to Western Europe stopped by
about 1100 AD (the Hungarians much earlier, the Moslems much later;
source Ernst Bloch's _Feudal Society_ Vol. 1) allowed villages and such
to start trading again and for culture to spread without fear of raids
and the like. This allowed the rise of cities and the division of labor
and knowledge on which future advances would be made.

### Yes, reduced outside military pressure (thanks to government-organized
defence) will reduce the need for defence and the government (that's why bad
governments are always trying to manufacture some external bugbears to keep
themselves in business).


Note: I'm not saying technology played no role, but just that it's not
the whole shebang. Also, I did not write "voluntary activities," but
"[s]ocial changes apart from technology..."

Another example, from before the Middle Ages. The barbarians that
conquered Rome were not technologically superior to the Romans. In
fact, it was Roman decline that led to barbarian advance. You have to
ask why Rome declined. Did technology do it in? I suspect not. Yet
its decline led to redistribution of wealth.

### Yes, OK, I agree that states and nations change not only thanks to
technology - but very, very slowly.


But you did not adopt some libertarian standard here. You said you are
"in favor of the inherited wealth redistribution but largely against
redistribution of earned wealth." What are the limits of inheritence by
your lights and why do you differ this from earned wealth?

### Inherited wealth comes for free - it's beneficiary didn't have to offer
something to others to gain it (like his father who ran his farm better than
the competition and thus produced cheaper food). It gives no incentive for
work, for change and innovation. And, if the concentration of wealth reaches
a high level, the free market is destroyed. So you need to limit inheritance
to some level, e.g. allowing only transfer of no more than +1 (or +2,
whichever works better) standard deviations more than the average net worth.

After all,
even in your model, someone could, theoretically, earn the whole
planet's land.

### In that case I would try to stop him (I am only "largely" against earned
wealth redistribution).


 What are the limits you place on redistribution
generally and why? I mean why place limits? Why not either have no
redistribution or arbitrary redistribution? By what method do you
decide? (Do you realize too that redistribution by a third party -- a
government -- will lead to distortions and to people wanting to capture
governmental power to benefit themselves or hurt their rivals through

### You ask some very important questions here, striking at the heart of
what is important. I notice that you tend to look at it in a black-and-white
way - either no redistribution at all (absolutely good), or only total
redistributin (absolutely bad). I see also shades of gray, an optimum in
between. But this is a subject for a long post. Later.


> So what is better - a feudal system, or a democracy (on average)?
> What percentage of young men in a mature democracy are killed
> in wars
> started by the democracy, as compared to kill ratios in feudal or
> slave states, and the ungoverned tribal societies?

It would be much higher than kill ratios for modern democratic states
(and I include all the spawns of democracy in this).


### Sorry I don't believe it. On a per capita basis, and controlling for
technological differences and population density, popular democracies are
least kill happy. And total war was common throughout history.


>> I don't think this will be the outcome for the above state reasons.
>> This scenario has never played itself out without coercion involved
>> every step.
> It did again and again - with coercion spontaneously developing as
> the main modality for social control, only much later mellowing to the

> level of modern US.

Coercion, especially government coercion was involved in the modern US.
Give other examples, don't just assert.

### Pre-Hispanic South American cultures - initially just groups of free
hunter-gatherers, became settled farmers, and spontaneously developed
states. It is a self-catalyzing reaction - just a little bit of coercion, a
family scuffle, catalyzes more and more violence, and at some point results
in the formation of a state.

Polynesians. Ancient Egyptians. Everybody.


>> Note also what you're implying: we need to give up freedom to protect
>> freedom.
> The only truly socially free man would be a lonely man. As with
> investing money, so it is with freedom that you have to prudently give
> away some, to get more in return. With the emphasis on "prudently".

Who decides what's prudent?

### E.g a group of randomly selected adults with high IQ, replaced every
couple years by another group, who have to vote on everything again.


  How do you know?

### I don't.

  What happens if you give
up too much?

### You are screwed.


 Why not allow people to decide what to do voluntarily?

### Because they end up giving up or losing their freedom anyway.


How would you impose your views?

### I would build an army out of stout like-minded fellows, and just wait
until some rich, undefended folks get attacked by brigands. Soon I would be
freely elected to be the king (this would be the price for beating the
brigands). No coercion on my part, except against the bad guys.


Inside the confines of your model, but only with your unrealistic
assumptions. For example, a tax on land would make it easier for the
biggest owners to pay, but not for more marginal ones.

### Didn't I say "progressive land taxation"? To support the little guy and
control the big ones?

If you offer the tax would only be on the big guys -- or on farms over a
certain size -- then you prevent the potential for economies of scale to
be tested as they arise. In effect, you make for less social wealth
production, hurting the whole society. (What are the huge farms going
to do with their land, btw? Look at it? They'll have to grow and sell
or they won't be able to sustain themselves or continue the expansion
you assume.)

### A valid objection. Adjusting the tax brackets to prevent very large
estates from forming (the ones that stifle competition) but not stopping
small and intermediate ones would be needed. You might monitor the total
agricultural output, and adjust taxes to maximize it.

This has to be done empirically.



(Once people find they can vote to get what they want, rather than work for it, what do you think will happen? Well, just what has happened!)

### It is a valid point against democracy. I support demarchy, although even a democracy is better than the feudal system, or anarchy. In general, voting for too much freebies tends to bite back quickly and the electorate learns well.


>> But you haven't shown why this wouldn't happen spontaneously. After >> all, most people want better choices and those who can give them to >> them often make a nice profit. Why would not this dynamic provide? > > Why, you haven't described in detail (and with historical examples) > how the spontaneous process would happen.

Simple. Have a free market in your model. If people have varying tastes, resources, and talents, then people will compete to provide each other with goods and services. Since those who succeed are rewarded and those who fail are not, resources move into hands better able to use them -- the innovators, the competent, and so on. If members of the later group become lax, resources move into more able hands -- i.e., there's no standing still if you want to be on top or stay in business.

This is exactly how markets have progressed in reality.

### You are preaching to the choir here. Except that the context of your (quoted) remark and my question is different - I was pointing out a case where a spontaneous process either is ineffective, or results in the development of a coercive state, proving my point.


Also, science moves by basically the same model -- individuals spontaneously come up with new theories, experiments, and the like. Others decide if they want to accept them. There is no command economy like socialism in scientific progress. Nor is there any democracy. You don't vote on whether Einstein's STR or GTR was right or wrong. (In fact, those who believe STR or GTR wrong have their venues and continue to write, speak, debate, publish, etc. There's no need for suppression of even wrong ideas.) Imagine if science were done by vote instead of the free acceptance or rejection of ideas. If ideas and even research programs were a matter of voting, I think science would come to a screaching halt and Eleizer would have to forget about his work -- or campaign for it and hope he can get a majority to agree.

### That's why science works. I wish ethics and politic had the same guidance from empirical data which keeps the physical sciences on track. Then we wouldn't have to bash each other with impeacheable details of history.


And there is one guarantee > against the jackbooted gov't thugs - a smart and ethical citizenry.

I submit if you have such a citizenry, you don't need a government.

### If absolutely all (or at least 95%) of the citizens were smart and saintly, indeed, there would be no need for the government and its coercion. Reality is different though, wouldn't you say?


Also, absent such a citizenry, how do you prevent the unethical and the stupid from becoming part of or supporting the government? It would seem like you are on the horns of a dilemma here.

### You can't make silk purse out of a sow's ear. If the majority is stupid, nothing will work, whether anarchy, socialism, or capitalism.

Luckily, there are enough good men (and women) to allow some rather nice societies to form.


> The only basis for coercion is the need to protect innocent life-wish, > protect truth, and protect freedom - all of these are code phrases for > very complex memes, which I would be happy to discuss, if you wish.

Fire away!

### Tomorrow.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:32 MDT