Has freedom been tried?

Steve Witham (sw@tiac.net)
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 22:52:01 -0400

Phil Goetz writes:

>You are speaking from theory. In reality, I don't think anyone has yet
>shown that a society without compulsion can compete with other societies
>in the real world.

Looked at scientifically, what Phil is saying is, we don't have any data
points for *exactly zero* compulsion.

However, we do have lots of data about *different levels* of compulsion,
and guess how it correllates with quality of life?

> I am aware that there are some good ideas floating
>around about [defense, education, money supply]. But
>until they have been proven to work, it's silly to get indignant about it.

Let's separate some issues:
1) Would anarchy be better if we could make it work?
2) How can we get rid of the hard-to-get-rid-of kinds of compulsion?
3) Is it silly to get indignant in the mean time?
4) What are people getting indignant about in this particular letter case?

1) If you prefer data to theory, freedom seems to correllate with quality
of life in vast amounts of practical experience across the world and
through history.
2) As Phil says, freedom has to be actually *achieved* by ideas and work.
3) "Don't get indignant" is like the "Stifle your feelings and
discuss in logical, emotion-neutral terms" nerd meme I've discussed
here before. How nerds convince themselves to conform. I believe in
at least trying to be polite, but in the privacy of my own heart I'm
pissed at jerks trying to tighten the screws and bring the world a
little closer to a concentration camp, whether out of evil or out of
daisy-eyed-foolishness--but fool-Nazis make me the more pissed...In
case you want to talk about how I feel. But leaving that aside,
4) The particular case is the idea of *adding* a new compulsion that is
not one of the hard-to-get-rid-of cases like defense against war.

>Maybe you have a "right" to absolute freedom from the interference of
>others. So what? It's irrelevant if it's impractical. It's childish
>to get upset because you don't have something that you can't have.
>Maybe we can build these Utopias, but only with a complete restructuring
>of our society and culture. Just grabbing at "rights" willy-nilly will
>probably not do it.

Besides the *general* "oh shucks it's no use hoping" message here, Phil
seems to be saying specifically that incrementally improving things is no
use. I can't disagree with you more, Phil. Every little bit of freedom
counts, as does every bit of compulsion. Your pessimism about anarchy
doesn't justify more government intrusion. We don't have to wait to make
things better. We don't have to make things worse while we wait.

>And it seems to me you should allow, in your broad formulation of rights,
>that people have the right to build communities as they see fit, including
>ones that use compulsion, as long as they allow people to leave those
>communities. If there are no non-compulsory communities out there for you
>to go to, well, that's too bad, but maybe it's evolution in action.

Well, no. No one has a right to come into a place and build their
"community" by violating the (narrow?) rights of the residents.
Once again, your idea of "broadening" verges on passively accepting
whatever happens to be going on politically. But the steamroller of the
state doesn't need a broadened idea of "rights" to justify what it does.
That's not what the idea of "rights" was invented for. Rights were
invented to defend the individual *against* "the community".

Phil, you seem to imagine this positive thing called "the community" that
is not raw state power--yet uses it. I say there's no such nice thing.
There is people getting along like neighbors, doing things as neighbors--
that's true community--and there's the state, a social corrosive. In
between are people who confuse the two and do bad things with good
intentions. All of us who don't know how to achieve perfect anarchy
right away can be considered in that middle category. We are cooperating
with evil because we haven't yet learned how to stop. But we can at least
refrain from the things we know are wrong.


sw@tiac.net           Steve Witham          web page under reconsideration
"At the latter I was informal, at the former I wore my suit,
 I wore my swimming suit."  --Kate & Anna McGarrigle