Article

François Tremblay: Dénouement of a Demagogue

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I’ve been called out today by former friend and colleague Francois Tremblay over a Facebook discussion (PDF) started by his wife about human rights. As outrageous and distasteful as I find this situation, (like President Obama being forced to refute Sarah Palin’s mendacities about “death panels,”) I must defend my honor against Tremblay’s slanderous lies (which are now permanently associated with my name, thanks to Google).

  1. Tremblay accused me of claiming “man is innately evil.” This is a lie. I said no such thing. People compete and they cooperate. But competition dominates and people often use deception, dirty tricks, and even murder. It’s a part of nature, and it’s been that way from the day the first single-celled organism divided. Natural competition is neither good nor evil, it is amoral. Only society, reputation and the mutual advantages of cooperation provide us with any moral framework.
  2. Deep in the discussion, I said “People smile at each other while they are secretly working to underbid their associates, eat their friend’s lunch [metaphorically] or bang their other friend’s wife.”  Tremblay responded with one of the most foul attempts at character assassination I’ve ever experienced: he claimed my friends should therefore worry I would steal their lunches or have sex with their wives. He called me a “serial lunch-thief.”

HELL, NO. If I said people sometimes kill their wives, does that mean my wife would have reason to worry I might kill her?

This despicable falsehood is a prime example of the kind of dirty tricks I was talking about in point one. Tremblay has really lost it this time. He is stovepiped with his anarchist philosophy and he’s been living in that echo chamber for many years. He’s way out of his intellectual depth with regard to what is known about evolutionary psychology and anthropology. And he’s also used to getting his way in arguments. Like most of the “let’s-all-sing-Kumbayah” crowd, he is clearly shadow-repressed, and has almost certainly never been threatened in life or limb. He’s never had to fight for his life, nor feel the boot of real repression. He’s spent his life fighting “soft” repression such as drug laws or censorship. But never having been actually stripped of all dignity–and summoned the will to fight back through whatever means necessary–he has no clue of the depravity of which he and all human beings are capable.

I’m not suggesting we all need to experience torture or deprivation to know what it’s like to be human. Far from it. But we do need to realize what’s lurking just under the patina of polite society. Instead of engaging with the nuance of the valuable point I was making, he lied about it and then slandered me. It’s one thing to do something like that among a few friends on Facebook. It’s quite another when you repost the lies on your public website a month later. This is demagoguery defined.

Tremblay’s decision to publicly attack me is also somewhat tragic because it marks the end of a long and formerly productive relationship. Back in the Jurassic period of Black Sun Journal (around 2005) I used to correspond with him and his group of anarcho-libertarians. He was also a prominent atheist activist. So I was invited to be a guest on his wife’s talk show, Hellbound Alleee, and also contributed about a half-dozen commentaries to their Vox Populi project.

At the time, aside from promoting atheism, I was trying to make sense of how we devlop a set of ethical principles while still preserving self-interest. After rejecting a lifetime of religion–which holds self-sacrifice as the essential moral foundation–I toyed with libertarianism and even anarchy. There’s something very compelling about the individualistic idea that no one should be coerced into anything, including paying taxes. No one should be forced into fighting wars they disagree with. Patriotism and nationalism have obvious drawbacks, and strong individuals do a better job at deciding what’s best for them than government does. Governments also have a long and bloody history of injustices. So far, so good. Francois seemed to be a cogent voice for rejecting both God and the excesses of government, things I could agree with.

But then I began to discover cracks in the anarchist arguments. They espcially don’t jive with what ev-psych and anthropology tell us about human nature. Following are four very briefly stated reasons why I now support a liberal global parliamentary form of government and an economy based on regulated capitalism:

Humans have an even longer history of violence than do governments

Evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker has shown and documented that even with all the wars of the 20th and 21st century, human violence is at an all-time low. As we have progressed in our forms of government, both individual and state-sponsored violence have declined. In primitive tribes, if you were male, you had a 15 to 60 percent chance of dying in mortal combat. Today that risk is a small fraction of one percent. We have government and civil society to thank for this startlingly recent increase in the value of human life, and the enforcement of a semblance of formerly non-existent human rights.

Humans universally manipulate for power and profit

Nothing particularly surprising there, but you’d be amazed how many people will argue the point. Robert Greene has analyzed this in depth with his power trilogy, The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, and The Art of Seduction. In addition, viewing the world from a gene’s point of view leads to unimitgated self-interest punctuated by instances of recriprocal altruism. This is the thesis of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. Reciprocal altruism is governed by game theory, which gives rise to a great deal of predictability in human behavior. Want something? Appeal to a person’s self-interest rather than expecting them to “be nice” to you. If you can convince someone something you want is in their interest, you’ll get results every time. Regardless of your political persuasion, ignore these principles of human nature at your peril.

It is not possible to “opt out” of society

Libertarians and anarchists often descibe taxation as “theft.” But that would only be true if  a person was entirely self-sufficient, which is impossible. As long as someone derives her living (even in part) from a society, she owes a debt to others who’ve contributed to that success. Then there is the small problem of empathy. You cannot be ethical and allow sick people to die in the streets. Taking care of them costs money, and we must all pay for it. People don’t pay voluntarily, otherwise there would be no street people. You cannot “let” other people go to war for you, enjoy the spoils (recently, oil), then refuse to pay their salaries. Even if you think the war is unjust, people are still bleeding so you can drive your car. You cannot have children growing up without educating them, or you will have to spend a greater amount later building prisons. Thanks in part to Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism for clarifying this social imperative for me.

Without regulation, humans exploit and destroy common resources

The Tragedy of the Commons is well known. The canonical example is a field everyone in a village uses to graze their livestock, but no one cultivates. It’s a metaphor for the thoughtless exploitation of resources for short-term profit that leads to long-term ruin. The most recent example is the dramatically falling water table in India. But the concept covers every form of externality and tort committed by those profiteering at the expense of others or the environment. Without strong government, and specifically global government, we can never get a handle on the commons, which is being fouled with CO2, overfished and exploited at an alarming rate.

There are many other sound reasons (beyond the scope of this article) why anarcho-anything does not work and can never work. Humans are a social, hierarchical species, and we need organizers.

Still anarchists continue with their irrational claims that people will all just somehow naturally work together for the common good, absent external incentives. Dishonest anarchists like Tremblay often play both sides. In the current discussion, he slammed me for saying humans are inherently competitive (”evil”), but in 2005 on BSJ, he attacked altruism itself: “Everyone should realize how loaded the word “altruism” is, and how silly and evil it really is.”

Thanks for spelling that out, Francois.

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Comments (31 comments)

A Social Democrat and a Mutualist duke it out | A Division by Zer0 / August 17th, 2009, 11:11 am / #1

[...] RSS reader recently lit up with a new post on the Black Sun Journal attacking (or defending against?) Francois Tremblay’s calling him out over a Facebook [...]

Francois Tremblay / August 17th, 2009, 11:42 am / #2

darkeros: You seem to be very confused in this discussion. I never claimed to be a philosopher. I’m just a guy. The discussion you refer to was not a philosophical debate but rather a thread on Facebook. I think it speaks for itself: Sean discredited himself thoroughly with little input on my part, and casts a great shadow of doubt on his mental health.

As for “my nasty nature,” you don’t know me personally, and never will, so judge people on what you know and on what they say, not on what other people say.

I recommend everyone to read Division by Zero’s rebuttal of this entry, which he posted on the first comment. Personally I have no interest in arguing a probable lunatic, but he did a great job debunking every point raised by Sean.

ollysk2 / August 17th, 2009, 2:34 pm / #3

Sean — had a response to the points you bring up about anarchism here (staying out of the argument between you and Francois) — but way to long for a comment, so posted at my blog: http://2ksyllo.net/150/the-anarchist-strawman-we-...

Let me know what you think!

Matt Crandall

darkeros / August 17th, 2009, 5:15 pm / #4

Wow! and this guy has his own following? is this his usual modus operandi of engagement? abusive name calling as part of an intellectual debate… a ruse to deter his opponent through emotion? or maybe it has more to do with losing from the beginning and therefore emotionally gripped and brought down to the lower levels of human engagement that you are in fact talking about! I mean… who is who in this debate?!?! aren't you the one talking about the dark side of human nature?!?! yet HE IS THE ONE ACTUALIZING IT! Come on Francois! your nasty nature is right on your friggin sleeve! you would be the FIRST to murder for your cause!
Well… if there was a choice to fashion myself after one or the other of these human philosophers…. I would choose the dark side… BlackSun. Thanks BlackSun for staying 'clean' all the way through with an intellectual coherence I can actually follow.

Eat your dark side and no one has to eat it for you. Thanks for the lunch, Francois.

darkeros / August 17th, 2009, 7:10 pm / #5

Actually, Francois… it was you who have cast a great shadow of doubt on your mental health. Sean is not espousing anything new which hasn't been written and ratified by evolutionary biologists and psychologists.

What I 'know' about you, is that you are a dirty player in the game of intellectual debate. You use inflammatory name calling that has no place in an exchange of ideas and yes, life philosophies. I couldn't even follow your train of thought because your emotionally charged debasing insults were painfully ridiculous and completely eradicated any intelligent point you may have been making!

Point for review: your emotionally nasty nature born out through your attacks reflect exactly what Sean is talking about human nature. You took the debate over the line of intelligence into an all out attack, have turned it into a war… and you better believe this is exactly the energy that would have bombs flying.

Psychology 101

BlackSun / August 17th, 2009, 7:15 pm / #6

Olly, I do think you raise some very interesting points. Well written and I look forward to responding.

Tony / August 18th, 2009, 1:02 am / #7

Nothing to do with this argument, but noting your interest in a global parliamentary form of governance (thanks, Google!), I thought you might be interested in a campaign working on an institution toward that end. http://en.unpacampaign.org

mb2p / August 19th, 2009, 12:54 am / #8

Sean,

You may be interested in the following http://lifeafterauthority.wordpress.com/what-is-a...
brief introduction to anarchism, which answers your objections as well as many others.

peter / August 19th, 2009, 6:00 am / #9

The original idea of anarchism, a renouncing of any central authority and the "free association of free people" is a Utopian idea neglecting human nature as one where ALWAYS some will strive to gain power to economic or sexual advantage or both over their fellow men.
This in the end, with an unregulated society, will definitely lead to a dystopia. Who claims otherwise, is either an idealistic "idiot" or a scoundrel biding his or her time.

This anarchy in the end will lead to exactly the opposite - the taking of power by those without scruples, a creation of a new elite with all the attending horrors to secure this power.

It is nice to dream, but following world history for the last sixty years shows that only a democracy with a justice system that really is blind to status, rank and economic power, with politicians representing the populace that are accountable to those who elected them, has some chance of creating a society that is worthwhile to live in and procreate in.
Part of a democracy is also the constraint of those accumulating economic power.

I always strikes me as rather ridiculous to speak of democracy, when the confluence of economic and political power actively undermine a true democracy, where decisions are being made to the benefit of the population, and not just to the advantage of the few who already have economic power and persist in accumulating more.
As a reminder - Fascism according to Mussolini is the total integration of economic and political power, when what is good for the economic elite is the benchmark for political decisions.

America, as has been shown through the outrageous wall street bailouts, seems to be just about at this point.

Tatarize / August 19th, 2009, 12:03 pm / #10

I have often been of the opinion that anarchists and neoconservatives have the exact same goals, but the anarchists are naive.

BlackSun / August 19th, 2009, 6:26 pm / #11

Surveys have repeatedly shown that voters use heuristics (essentially gut feelings) to decide on issues. Only somewhere around 10 percent engage rationally and hold a coherent political philosophy. This explains why political advertising always focuses on feelings rather than facts. It also explains the incredible power of the moderate uncommitted swing voters, who essentially elected both Bush and Obama. Noam Chomsky's thoughts on manufacturing consent are also relevant here.

I support a radical expansion of the constitution, with such planks as mandated balanced budgets and enumerated minority rights. I also think that certain economic policies should be based on real-world computer models, not subject to political tinkering. The more we can base our policies on empiricism and facts, the better off we'll be.

BlackSun / August 19th, 2009, 6:28 pm / #12

I'll take a look. I think it's *unearned* authority we should be concerned about. Authority itself is not bad if it's justified, and there are appropriate checks and balances.

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #13

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #14

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #15

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #16

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #17

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

nostro3797 / August 24th, 2009, 12:59 am / #18

nothing you liars ever say or do means anything:

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/640...

HOW WE WON THE JAMES RANDI MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic….

the objective was simple:

1) to reveal that Nostradamus was a genuine prophet who could predict
the future with 100% accuracy;

2) to demonstrate that prophecy and atheism are not compatible with
each other and are mutually exclusive;

3) therefore dawkins, pz, randi and their skeptic atheist followers
were deluded liars…

and we achieved our MISSION 100%…

http://www.zerotime.com/lostbook/nospre.htm

"For God's mercy will be poured forth only for a certain time, my son,
until the majority of my prophecies are fulfilled and this fulfillment
is complete. Then *****several times***** in the course of the doleful
tempests the Lord shall say: Therefore I shall crush and destroy and
show no mercy; and many other circumstances shall result from floods
and continual rain of which I have written more fully in my other
prophecies, composed at some length, not in a chronological sequence,
in prose, limiting the places and times and ****EXACT DATES**** so
that future generations will see, while experiencing these
****inevitable events****, how I have listed others in clearer
language, so that despite their obscurities these things shall be
understood: When the time comes for the removal of ignorance, the
matter will be clearer still."

UNDERSTAND?

Further Response to Sean Prophet - sent-rif-ick-al-fors / August 26th, 2009, 1:10 pm / #19

[...] Response to Sean Prophet Aug 26 Liberty! The following is a further response to Sean Prophet’s objections to anarchism (too long for the comments).  All blockquotes are Sean’s: I don’t think that morality exists per [...]

Moridin / August 26th, 2009, 3:13 pm / #20

There are some many false descriptions of market anarchy in this blog post that I hardly know where to start. I have enjoyed your blog posts in the past, but this one shows that even secular individuals who claim to stand for reason and evidence can have just as large cognitive dissonance as religious people.

1. Market anarchy (the form of anarchy that Tremblay subscribes to) is not based on the idea that humans are innately good, only that they have the capacity for cooperation and rational self-interest.
2. Market anarchy is not the same as anarcho-primitivism. You can use statistics to show that primitive societies have a much higher rate of violence only shows that people who are primitive do not act rationally or morally. It is not evidence that the State is rational or moral.
3. Market anarchy is based on the selfish gene paradigm, it does not reject it. Market anarchy is based on the rational self-interest of players in the free market that shares the same game theoretical foundation as the selfish gene perspective does. However, as the selfish gene position shows, it is possible to be genuinely altruistic and contribute to others despite having selfish goals.
4. Your defense of theft is irrational. Theft is theft regardless if you can be "self sustainable" or not. Theft is when someone uses violence or the threat of violence to take something that you own.
5. Market anarchy does not mean that welfare will suddenly stop existing. There are many highly successful voluntary charities today. You are actively denying this empirical fact.
6. Market anarchy does not mean that education would be nonexistent. There are free market alternatives here as well.
7. Market anarchy solves the tragedy of the commons. If you value your long term income, then it is clear that you should contribute to growing the field.

I find the following passage especially ironic.

"Still anarchists continue with their irrational claims that people will all just somehow naturally work together for the common good, absent external incentives."

But this is exactly what you think the State itself is! It is just a bunch of people who naturally work together for the common good, absent of external incentives. There are no one that watches the watchers.

"Dishonest anarchists like Tremblay often play both sides. In the current discussion, he slammed me for saying humans are inherently competitive (”evil”), but in 2005 on BSJ, he attacked altruism itself: “Everyone should realize how loaded the word “altruism” is, and how silly and evil it really is.”"

You are confusing the usages of the term altruism here. He does not mean altruism as in the selfish gene version of "helping yourself by helping others" but "doing yourself a disservice by helping others".

"Humans are a social, hierarchical species, and we need organizers."

First of all, market anarchy is not a rejection of social interaction, hierarchical structures or voluntary organization. Second of all, you are performing the naturalistic fallacy. Just because it is natural for humans to be social and hierarchical does not mean that we ought to be social or hierarchical. You think that it is natural for people to be evil, does this mean that you think being evil is moral? I doubt it.

At the end of the day, your blog post contains more fallacies and straw man arguments that I can bother to count. Do you not see that you are arguing exactly the same thing as religious fundamentalists are? They believe that without God, morality cannot exist and people would go around killing each other at random and so on. You believe that without the State, morality cannot exist (if it can, then we don't need the state for social organization) and people would go around acting irrational with no end. The State is your god. When anarchists point out the evils of the State, you, like religious fundamentalists when you point out the evils of the biblical god, try to explain it away. There are more commonalities where that came from.

If you should take away anything from this comment it the following: A central coercive monopoly is not needed for criminal sanctions, the provision of public goods or contract enforcement and that using a state to "solve" these problems is both counterproductive and immoral.

If humans are innately evil, you definitely do not want to have a State, because you are putting an enormous amount of power into the hands of people you yourself have confessed are evil that they will use for violence. Indeed, various governments are the cause of most of the genocides in the history of humanity. If humans are mixed, you also would not want to have a State, because as you said, the evil people would screw the good guys over and take control of the State. If humans are innately good, as you said, no State would be needed. Thus, whether humans are innately good, evil or mixed is irrelevant for the invalidity of the State.

Moridin / August 26th, 2009, 3:24 pm / #21

Market anarchy is not the rejection of authority or regulation, but the rejection of a coercive central monopoly. If you do not even understand the basics of market anarchy or free market economics, why should anyone take your arguments seriously? Market anarchy is not a utopia, but a realistic assessment of the power of free market economics.

If there is always someone who "will strive to gain power to economic or sexual advantage or both over their fellow men", we definitely do not want a State, because you would be handing over a massive amount of political and economic power to people who you know are evil. The old Abrahamic mythology of original sin is still deeply ingrained in your worldview.

Remember that Hitler was elected by a true democracy. He was represented and was held accountable by the populace. This resulted in the Holocaust and WWII with over 55 million deaths. Is this society worthwhile to live and procreate in? It is clear that it is your statism that is the utopic vision that brings nothing but dystopic results, not market anarchy.

BlackSun / August 26th, 2009, 3:40 pm / #22

Two arguments I will not respond to:

1) Being told my position is "religious" and 2) Any comparison involving Hitler.

State authority is subject to checks and balances, so cannot be equated with unfettered action by individuals. Of course the individuals in a government are as corruptible as anyone else. But if they are subject to laws and the Constitution, they are limited in their ability to abuse their power.

I don't think it's useful to describe any human actions in terms of good or evil, but rather to discuss in terms of whether or not something advances a person's long-term self-interest.

I think we have to look at principles of human interaction as holding tension of opposites. Whether we are talking about short term vs. long term interests, state vs. individual, market vs. regulation. No one solution is going to cut it. The power of free-markets is undeniable. But what they have not done is care for the environment, the weak, nor solved the free-rider problem.

The long-term solution is a mix of approaches. Which is why I support regulated capitalism and a social safety-net.

BlackSun / August 26th, 2009, 4:12 pm / #23

I've been very clear that I support "reciprocal altruism." It's the only rational approach. But that doesn't automatically imply that everyone is rational. Some people act for short-term gain, ignoring their own long-term interests as well as the community's. This is not a moral argument, but rather a discussion of people's frequent failure to act in their own interests.

This whole comment really boils down to equivocation about the notion of authority. You equate state authority with unearned authority of individuals. The state can use force because it is bound by structure and subject to the periodic injection of the will of the people. There is most certainly someone "watching the watchers." It is subject to a Constitution. It has three branches plus the media and citizen watchdog groups (Why do you think they call them that?)

Ideas about "taxation as theft" essentially involve the rejection of democratic principles. It rejects the reality that however flawed, our government is an attempt at self-government.

Reliance on charity is spotty, sporadic and insufficient for any notion of social justice. If you want health-care or education to be universally available, (something I support) charity will not cut it.

If you should take away anything from this comment it the following: A central coercive monopoly is not needed for criminal sanctions, the provision of public goods or contract enforcement and that using a state to "solve" these problems is both counterproductive and immoral.

This is a matter of opinion. I have stated my position clearly, and I disagree. I think the anthropological evidence backs up the position of the need for a central authority, and the proper functioning of that authority means it is subject to citizen checks and balances. This points to parliamentary democracy and regulated capitalism as the best solution.

ollysk2 / August 26th, 2009, 5:12 pm / #24

"Ideas about "taxation as theft" essentially involve the rejection of democratic principles. It rejects the reality that however flawed, our government is an attempt at self-government."

Of COURSE anarchists are rejecting democratic principles, because democratic principles are as essentially exploitative as authoritarian principles!

This is what it comes down to Sean - in all of this, I've yet to see you show in any way whatsoever that the State can exist without falling back to "might makes right". Democracy is BASED upon might makes right, no matter what checks and balances you put on it, because in the end, the will of the majority outweighs the concerns of the minority. I very much would like to see a justification for this that doesn't boil down to 'the concerns of the many outweigh the concerns of the few' (since that really is just a much more polite way of saying might makes right).

If you TRULY believe that 'might makes right', then it makes sense you'd support the State. If you don't believe that, then I find it hard to fathom how you can support an organization that uses coercion and the threat of violence as it's central tools of the trade.

And if you DO believe that might makes right, how can you justify opposition to wars of conquest? Cultural colonialism? Even slavery? How can a respect for human rights factor in to a world where society is dominated by an organization built on a 'might makes right' philosophy?

The State is –fundamentally– opposed to individual rights, regardless of whether it's a democracy or an oligarchy, because it is -necessarily- exploitative (after all, if it didn't exploit in one way or another, it'd wither and die). And arguing -for- human rights but arguing -against- individual rights is nonsensical, and you know it - human rights flow from individual rights.

You tell me to opt-out, but that's no different than saying "speak English or get out", or saying that someone born an American has inherently more value and rights than the poor illegal immigrant coming North from Mexico (simply because the American was born on one side of an arbitrary line). It's you saying "the majority of this country has determined this, you are in the minority, so either comply or leave". That is, unequivocally, a 'might makes right' philosophy.

As for the argument for me using State provided services (the base of the 'opt-out' argument), I have no choice in the matter so it's not really an opt-out scenario. The State doesn't allow competing highway systems to arise, both legally and through severe disincentives to anyone who might be interested. The State doesn't allow competing currency, and over the last several years has proven it by arresting those trying to setup alternative currency systems. The State doesn't allow you to practice medicine without asking their permission. These are just a few examples. The State -kills- competition to itself and any services it sees fit to provide (with a few notable exceptions), thus killing off any chance of me opting out. I can't drive without a license from the State; I can't own a house without paying taxes to the State; I can't drive on non-State roads; the alternatives have been smashed, taxed, arrested, and sued out of existence - and you tell me to opt-out?

I suppose I could kill myself, I guess that's an 'opt-out'. But telling me to leave if I don't like it is morally wrong (back to might makes right), and practically impossible (out of the frying pan into the fire, no? From one State to another?).

So I'd like an answer to the following:

1) Do you believe that 'might makes right' is a valid base for society; and indeed that it's a morally acceptable philosophy?

2) If not, then please explain to me how a State can be based on anything other than force or the threat thereof?

Thanks,

Matt Crandall

BlackSun / August 26th, 2009, 6:31 pm / #25

Matt,

I don't agree with the idea of "might makes right." I don't even agree with the idea of "right." As I said, I think people have interests. Sometimes they conflict with others'. Sometimes, short-term interest conflicts with long-term. Sometimes the interests of one nation conflict with another.

I don't think that morality exists per se independent of human needs and values. We can easily agree that there is no morality involved in predation in the natural world. So why does morality enter the picture where humanity is concerned? It's mutual agreement that there are better and worse ways of doing things. Better ways of resolving disputes and getting along. There are actions that create suffering and actions which relieve it. But often it's a question of who's doing the suffering.

I think you'd agree that when you heard about 240,000 people being killed in the 2004 tsunami, it was a shocking and painful event. But I think you'd be much more concerned if you had your little finger chopped off–even though that's a far lesser degree of suffering. So moral concerns are very relative to where you are standing.

The state is legitimized by mutual agreement. It is a balance of competing interests, and it is designed to protect minorities. To the extent that it fails, it is not achieving the ideals it was intended to achieve. But lack of perfection is not a rationale for failing to try.

As for protecting individual rights, often the state is the only force powerful enough to protect individuals from the mob. As with anything, there is a tradeoff for this protection.

I refuse to get boxed into the idea that I must somehow accept that "might makes right." Sometimes it does, as in nature. Sometimes it has, such as in human wars. But as civilization has progressed, people have decided to mitigate force and use other means to compete. That does not mean they have fundamentally become different sorts of life forms. The strong still attempt to exploit the weak. At least now there are some rules to the game, and that moves it much further away from the old model which was pretty much humans preying on one another without recourse. The rule of law, messy as it may be, is better than the alternative, in my opinion.

Simply stating that "opting out" would be difficult is not an argument. Things are the way they are by majority agreement, but not everyone will ever agree. Requiring universal consent for action means you can have no action. All systems of civilization involve such compromises and tradeoffs.

All human interactions are based on force or the threat thereof. Even contractual agreements rely on an enforcement mechanism if either party defaults. Otherwise you open the door to agreements simply being vehicles for deception.

Aspiration toward anarchy is an example of simplistic black-and-white thinking. "State bad, people good." In fact, people are both good and bad, and governments either live up to or in varying degrees fail to live up to the ideals on which they were founded.

Practical government is imperfect, recognizes complexity and the infinite shades of grey present in the exercise of power and in all human interactions.

Matt Crandall / August 26th, 2009, 8:08 pm / #26

Sean: tried to respond to your comment, but too long for commenting system so did a post instead:

http://2ksyllo.net/157/further-response-to-sean-p...

-olly

Moridin / August 29th, 2009, 3:29 pm / #27

I've been very clear that I support "reciprocal altruism." It's the only rational approach. But that doesn't automatically imply that everyone is rational. Some people act for short-term gain, ignoring their own long-term interests as well as the community's. This is not a moral argument, but rather a discussion of people's frequent failure to act in their own interests.

No one is arguing that all humans are rational, just that humans have the capacity for reason.

<blockqute>The state can use force because it is bound by structure and subject to the periodic injection of the will of the people.

No, it cannot. The state is not subject to the will of the people. Most Americans are against the war in Iraq, yet it occurred and no one has been held responsible for it. You are living in a fantasy world, my friend.

There is most certainly someone "watching the watchers." It is subject to a Constitution. It has three branches plus the media and citizen watchdog groups (Why do you think they call them that?)

Who wrote the Constitution? What is the three branches part of? That's right, the government. You are basically arguing that the government watches itself. That is kind of like advocating that convicted criminals guard themselves. The media and citizen watchdog groups could not prevent the Iraq war and are really powerless against the state.

Ideas about "taxation as theft" essentially involve the rejection of democratic principles. It rejects the reality that however flawed, our government is an attempt at self-government.

So you mean taxation is not theft? So I can stop paying my taxes at any time without government repercussions? Without having my property taken fro me? Without getting kidnapped by government mercenaries? I think not.

Again, you keep asserting that the government watches itself, which is as irrational as having convicted criminals watch themselves.

Reliance on charity is spotty, sporadic and insufficient for any notion of social justice. If you want health-care or education to be universally available, (something I support) charity will not cut it.

You also claim that we should view taxation as a form of charity for universal health care and education, so what is it? Does charity work or doesn't it?

I think the anthropological evidence backs up the position of the need for a central authority, and the proper functioning of that authority means it is subject to citizen checks and balances.

Correlation does not imply causation. You are committing a basic logical fallacy. The rise of Nazism correlates with an increase in health care. This would, according to your position, be an indication that Nazism is needed for proper health care, which is absurd.

Moridin / August 29th, 2009, 3:35 pm / #28

If you refuse to acknowledge that your position advocates a form of original sin and that there are counter examples to your belief in the omnipotence of democracy (Hitler was elected by a democracy, which shows that democracy is not a guarantee for freedom), then your position is as blind as that of creationists who refuse to see the holes in their worldview and the evidence for evolution.

But what they have not done is care for the environment, the weak, nor solved the free-rider problem.

The government is the biggest polluter, the biggest mass murderer of the weak (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Bush all wielded government power) and does not solve any economic problem.

BlackSun / August 29th, 2009, 4:33 pm / #29

Moridin, you have Godwinned the thread, not once, but twice. This is an unacceptable debating tactic.

Then you're engaging in equivocation regarding the word "charity." I already said charity doesn't work, which is why we need taxation to take care of the weak if that's the kind of society we want. Taxation is neither theft nor charity. It's a rational voluntary measure by majority agreement. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with the amounts or spending choices.

I'm not going to keep going down this road, because you are playing both sides and creating circular arguments. The principle of separation of powers in government is well articulated. So is the rule of law. You think you can now come along with a few flippant arguments and demolish those traditions, you can't.

Simply calling government "a bunch of criminals" doesn't make it so. Fortunately, we still have "due process."

Majority rule is imperfect. Not everyone will be happy. Which is why it's important to articulate a broad category of minority rights. Unfortunately that doesn't include stopping every war or government action you disagree with. The Iraq war resolution was achieved by deception. The people who pulled that off are now out of power. Sometimes maturity involves understanding that in human affairs there are battles that are winnable and battles that aren't. The more money is involved, the more effort that goes into such trickery. If you take the longer view and accept incremental progress, you find things have been improving–even when it comes to fighting corruption.

I feel a great sense of hope when thinking about the achievements of someone such as Ted Kennedy who fought for and won a large number of minority rights and humane improvements. In my opinion, this is the kind of leadership that is required to build a better society. It's extremely slow and frustrating, I agree, but far better than simply declaring all governments a failure and all lawmakers criminals. Yeesh.

lkamp / September 20th, 2009, 3:39 pm / #30

You guys may be done with this conversation but I am new so I will just post late.

Beyond the technicalities of how anarchy might work vs. a societal model, It seems there is a basic point.

Any way you look at it, Anarchy has to be a step backward in the evolutionary timeline. Our genes have one basic purpose, to reproduce. Humankind has never succeeded in reproducing as well as it does now, after the formation of societies and governments. Government and state is our next evolutionary step, it is how we we will survive. With that being said we will have to tweek the balances within those formations in order to continue.

Sean you mention needing organizers, by organizers do you mean leaders? I see the problem with governments being the leaders(and a few moron citizens here and there). The Human genes that push us towards our own self interest are constantly at odds with the needs of a group (power always corrupts). We always seem to need/want a leader but it inevitably becomes our downfall. I wonder how we will overcome this.

BlackSun / September 20th, 2009, 6:30 pm / #31

I think accountability and transparency are key for leaders. But also an engaged citizenry. People want things to work well, but they often don't want to think about it. Let someone else make the decisions. This is where it all breaks down. And that's assuming we're talking about an educated society, which in many cases we aren't.

Critical thinking skills must be taught beginning in elementary school. Unfortunately, whenever this has been tried, it gets the kids questioning everything and stirs up the parents who demand the classes be shut down. School boards and elementary school curricula remain incredibly controversial because education literally controls the future. Which is why you have Christians home-schooling. They know their world view has no chance against a true education.

We're going to have to be willing to take a long hard look at ourselves if we ever want to build a society that works. Things are broken because someone or group of someones wants it that way. But the answer is to evolve toward something better. Not throw it all out the window. That would indeed be a step back.

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