A response to Rafal Smigrodzki, Part 3

From: Smigrodzki, Rafal (SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU)
Date: Sun Dec 23 2001 - 11:23:36 MST

This is the 3rd part of my response - I am sorry for this balloning of text

> resource in the hands of a few percent of the population,
> has occurred many times here on Earth. What starts as
> a relatively non-coercive system (neolithic farmers easily
> switching to a hunter-gatherer existence) becomes a slave
> or feudal state. You can name Rome, England, Russia,
> France, Latin America and many others as examples.

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).


Latin America, e.g., started off with the Spanish and Portugese empires
and though most of it is now democratic states, the basic social system
leaves much of the imperial systems locked in. Recall the de Soto book
discussed many weeks ago? One of his main complaints is that voluntary
systems in Latin America -- the "informal economy" -- is still largely
illegal. Legalizing it would allow people to do their own thing --
still no correcting all of history, but letting them get on with
bettering themselves through longer range planning, wealth accumulation,
and trade.

### 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.


> 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

### 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?)


> (a very important distinction - I am in favor of the
> inherited wealth redistribution but largely against redistribution
> of earned wealth),

If people earn their wealth, by your lights, can they generally do what
they want with it? If so, then why can't they give it to their heirs --
whoever they choose these to be?

### No, they can't do what they want. E.g. they may not hire private armies
to fight private wars (as in XVI century Poland, not long before that
state's collapse), or build family estates rivaling the state in the ability
to coerce poorer citizens.


> and allowing the > formation of a democracy, which is likely to be the first political > system refraining from beheading thinkers opposing it.

Like France during the Reign of Terror. Democracy in action! Also, democracies and republics tend to be the bloodies in warfare. We have only to look at the American Civil War, both World Wars, and US warfare from the Persian Gulf War to today. Some of this is, no doubt, due to advancing technology, but part of it is also due to the concept of total war. When democracies fight they generally see the whole other society as the enemy -- not just its rulers or military.

### 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?


> So this is my example - unregulated land market in an agrarian > society will result in the destruction of freedom, virtual abolition > of the market and a coercive intervention is warranted to prevent > this from happening. Of course, merely killing the rich is a bad > idea - those who do the killing soon get rich, too, until the next > peasant revolt.

I don't think this will be the outcome for the above state reasons. This scenario has never played itself out without coercion involved at 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.


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".


> Instituting progressive land taxation is an option,

Actually, that would lead to economic ineffiency by not permitting certain voluntary arrangements.

### It would stop exactly the voluntary arrangements which if unchecked, result in the above scenario. ----

Also, the tax money itself will be wasted on something the taxed did not want, further distorting the economy.

### The (land magnates) taxed here want to rule the world - it's good to keep the economy free and efficient by stopping them.


Finally, an agency strong enough to enforce it would be a threat to the society it existed in. There would be no reason to think its power would be limited to just keep your model going.

### Yes, here we agree - a government is a very dangerous beast. Every citizen has to be aware of the danger, and with stupid or immoral citizens (=willing to use the government to get a bigger slice of a smaller pie), results are bad.


> thus protecting > the smaller economic units although in the long run the > development of a technical economy is even better,

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.

----- > allowing relaxation of controls on > land ownership (if land stops being an important source of wealth, > oligopoly control is no longer an obstacle to development). By the > way, I am againt subsidizing small (or any other) farms, the way it's > done in Europe and to a lesser extent in the US.

So am I. However, I'm generally against all coercive interventions in society, from subsidizing small farms to taxing big ones to stealing inherited wealth. I also don't see how a government is somehow better. That just institutionalizes coercion with no guarantee the government won't just grow and grow and grow.

### As I said above, I am scared and distrustful of government, too, but I do believe that the alternatives (barring some very special new technological advances) are worse. And there is one guarantee against the jackbooted gov't thugs - a smart and ethical citizenry. 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.


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