Friday, November 29, 2013

Anarchism v. the State: The Debate

As this was the second take on this debate subject, I've added the opening argument from our first video in text form below:

"I was trying to think of a light-hearted observation to make about government to open this up, which is harder than it sounds, given the scale of destruction we'd ordinarily be talking about. There is one fun little story that comes to mind however; Douglas Murray, a young English Journalist, was telling a story about a Canadian politician who was under pressure to solve some minor problem or other, but she didn't have time to deal with it herself, so she delegated the task of solving this problem to her assistant before a trip overseas. Upon her return, she asked her assistant how her task was going. "Well," said the assistant, "I put together a committee to solve the problem," to which the infuriated politician replied "I told you to solve the problem, not to make it worse!"

We all kind of know our government doesn't really work for us; it's corrupt, it produces the opposite effect of what it tries to do, and hinders the work of people who are really doing great things for society. Yet when this hobbled and limping society produces some signs of progress, statists point to this as evidence that government is not merely working, but is in fact necessary for the continuation of such things. How could we have roads, or protection, or equality, or security, or freedom without the state? they ask. The real wonder, of course, isn't how we would manage it without government, but rather how we've accomplished everything that we have with this beuracratic anvil weighing us down, holding us back and poisoning with its groping, grubby fingers everything that it touches.

Before I go any further, I'll give you the definitions of "government" and "anarchy" that I'm working from, as well as three premises that I hope Chris will share with me. The first premise is that freedom is inherently good. It's not valuable because it allows us to do everything else more efficiently, though there's good reason to believe that's true, but is valuable because it is good in itself. The second premise is that coercion is evil. You could rephrase this premise as a restatement of the non-aggression principle if you'd like. The third premise is that any viable ethical standard must be consistent and universalizable, which is to say that we don't hold one standard of behavior for one person, and a different one for another. Freedom is good, coercion is bad, and double-standards are bad--those are my premises. Now, government is an organization that maintains the right to and monopoly on the initiation of force. It is authoritarian by nature, and participation in the government is not voluntary (if it was, it would merely be a kind of club with obnoxious rules). Now, since I won't expect Chris to defend some of the more extreme forms of government like Fascism, but a relatively milder kind of pseudo-democratic republic, I hope he will extend the same courtesy to me by allowing me to defend one formulation of anarchism, which is the following: an anarchist society is a society built upon the non-aggression principle, freedom, and voluntarism.  This is more like medieval Iceland, which lasted completely free of government in the above formulation for over 300 years, and not at all like the anarchy of Somalia, which is not suffering from too little aggression or too much freedom but is in fact a failed state.

By comparison, it would take 238 years to describe everything wrong with the government of the United States. I don't have that kind of time here, however, so I'll see what I can do with five minutes.

For starters, Government necessarily relies on central planning in order to accomplish its goals. This extends to every realm the government has been tragically entrusted to: economics, security, information-gathering, justice, education, infrastructure, and even social values. Central planning is less efficient in allocating resources by limiting input to a small group of people. Even your consent to be governed, the consent upon which all of American government's supposed right to power is built, is condensed into a ritualistic bureaucracy that only nine percent of Americans think actually works to their expectations. Comparing the top-down approach of the state to the bottom-up approach of a free society is to compare Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia. For those of you listening who've read Hayek's "Road to Serfdom," you know the greater dangers of central planning and the quite slippery slope to totalitarianism it presents, a slope that every day our own government gives more evidence for us to believe that we may already be over the edge of.

It's also worth pointing out that central planning usually manages to accomplish the opposite of its stated goal. I opened with Mr. Murray's joke about the Canadian politician and the committee, which demonstrates how the incentives of beuracracies built in such a way so that the beuracracy would vanish if the problem is solved, lead to the problem never actually being solved. Magic. veryone knows where it goes from there; if the problem doesn't go away, then it just proves how important the task-force's mission is and shows that we need to give them more money. This is never how people spend their money in the free market; you don't give more money to the guy who sells you rotten fruit so that he can buy better fruit. It's ridiculous until the state does it.

There's another kind of failure that comes with central planning too, one that comes from giving people peace of mind in the form of complacency with the belief that with government's help, all their problems of organization and security will be ok. In another public appearance, Mr. Murray made a humorous point of differentiating himself from the crazy kinds of libertarians who don't believe in stop signs and traffic lights. That's just silly. Except that earlier this month, reports from the German town of Bohmte, a small city that completely abolished its traffic laws, have shown that when people don't rely on central planning and take responsibility for themselves, crashes become virtually non-existent. The joke's on Douglas.

On a less humorous note, top-down planning has caused incalculable harm by increasing crime and drug problems in its war on drugs, by impoverishing us in its war on poverty, by creepily spying on us and spawning more reactionary terror in its War on Terror, by holding back children's education through the No Child Left Behind Act, by causing more teen pregnancy and spreading STDs through abstinence-only sex education programs, and by catalyzing the biggest economic crash in nearly 100 years, leaving millions of homes foreclosed, in a concerted effort to make sure every American owned their own home. If you sit down for several minutes, you can probably think of another dozen or so examples yourself. That's number one--central planning.

Number two, government fights fire with fire. In its moral inconsistency, it does precisely the crimes that it tells everyone else are wrong, and ultimately, we end up as the victims. The state punishes violent crime, but uses the threat of force to accomplish its goals via the military and the cops, and subjects hundreds of thousands of people a year to kidnap, brutality, imprisonment, rape, and even death. It punishes counterfeiting, but prints money at will, currency that doesn't correlate to any value created in the market. Why does it have value? Because we say it has value, and we'll jail you if you refuse to accept it. It punishes and destroys monopolies, while simultaneously attempting to establish itself as a monopoly in various fields. It punishes fraud, but lies, insists on secrecy, and misleads the public. It punishes theft but takes money from us by force through taxation. More elaboration might be needed for listeners who don't believe taxation is essentially armed robbery, but for the sake of time I'll save it for the rebuttal or open discussion portion.

Thirdly, the authoritarian nature of government predisposes its population to the twin evils of apathy and ignorance. One of my favorite quotes from the Supreme Court is from Justice Robert Jackson's opinion in the Barnette decision, an overruling of a decision from three years prior that compelled students to pledge allegiance to the flag--idolatry to the young Jehova's Witnesses and accompanied with the uncannily Nazi-like gesture of the time, arm outstretched in the classical Bellamy salute. In response to the notion that students could not be trusted with the liberty extended to adults, Jackson said the very fact that children are being educated for citizenship "is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes." It is an unfortunate irony that it is precisely "our government" Justice Jackson referenced that was doing what he feared, in the form of the school board as well as the Supreme Court in its previous decision, and all of modern social psychology supports the notion that not money, but authority and obedience to authority, is the root of all evil. Philip Zimbardo's work supports this based on his observations in the Stanford Prison experiment and in Abu Ghraib, Stanley Milgram noticed this in his infamous shock-therapy research, and countless other writers, politicians and intellectuals have pointed this out in various ways. "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." The very existence of government, and the acceptance of its claims to power, underscores this point and undermines its subsequent moral imperative to individual autonomy and free thought.

Finally, while people aren't wholly good or evil, they definitely aren't all the same either. Psychopathy, pseudologia fantastica (what we normally call compulsive lying), sadism and egomania are real things, as are their clinically milder forms in generic character traits, and the coercive power offered by government position attracts precisely the kinds of people we shouldn't want to give power too. Alternately put, if people are good enough to trust with authority over others, than they wouldn't need to be governed in the first place; if they're bad enough to need governing, than you couldn't trust them with the power vested in the State for fear of making a bad situation even worse. This is the foundation of what we now call "Crony capitalism," domination by monopolies led by equally psychopathic executives that can only rise to their positions of extraordinary power and influence with the assistance of corruption in the State. Wall Street, Blackwater, Monsanto, Haliburton, and various other pet companies of powerful politicians demonstrate this point with crystalline clarity.

A side effect of this that we should notice is that the assistance and subsidies provided to these companies also works to stifle legitimate competition. Thorium, for instance, the most efficient and incredible energy source known to man, is currently being actively suppressed as a viable energy source in favor of oil and various green energy projects. It's impossible to guess how much scientific progress we've lost to the interests of big brother's best friends.

In the vein of state power's attraction to evil, our government's adventures in foreign policy is tragic, bordering on grotesque. Thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children have been killed every decade by the American government, even before its metastasis in the last century. The Native American tribes are but a shadow of their former selves, even today, as a result of government action in that era. Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Iran, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, could be added to the list of countries left decimated by the United States' uninvited arrival. We should recognize here that whether such actions were spiritually supported by the country's initial founders and documents is irrelevant; it grants legitimacy to the initiation of force, and the descent into something much more sinister and much more ugly is only a matter of time.

This, unfortunately, is what Chris is forced to defend.

Now, a society based on the non-aggression principle, universal standards and freedom is not an unstructured Wild West, contrary to popular belief. An anarchist state is one that would benefit from unfettered free markets, free and open trade being the ongoing 300-year experiment that has proven to be one of the greatest advances in human civilization.

An anarchist state is one without coercion or forced relationships. Isn't it an old story, about the North Wind and the Sun betting on which could get the man to take his coat off? The harder the wind blew, the tighter the man bundled himself up, but when the sun simply gave a bit of warmth, he took it off of his own free will. Persuasion is more conducive to truth, economic efficiency, and healthy human relationships than force, and a society built around this principle will benefit accordingly. In short, an anarchist society would be one that is more peaceful, more wealthy, and more happy than in any similar community forced to deal with a force that can take away your property, your freedoms, or even your life, whenever and wherever it so chooses. With that, I hope you will overwhelmingly support the motion."

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