Get in the ring

13 rounds of argumentation with Billy Beck. The topic: voting.

I don’t see how one can be a libertarian and vote for anybody at all, period. Look: I don’t have a right to get together with my friends and determine with them how to dispose of your rights. Any sensible person would call that a conspiracy. Nobody has that right

So I tell him what I think, and back and forth it goes. We end up just about where we started, in disagreement. Oh well. (Like I thought he would change me or vice-versa. You never know, though.)

A good argument. I feel a bit bad about hijacking the UO thread like that, but the argument was more or less on topic. It is reasonable to hash out whether or not voting is morally acceptable, and if so, what sort of voting strategy is moral, before proceeding with any sort of libertarian-democratic entente.

I'm quite certain that voting to prevent or mitigate an already-existing rights-violation is morally acceptable. What I'm still thinking about is whether there's any way to stretch the notion of defensive voting to a strategy of voting for gridlock.

Watching the Watchers

In anarchy as it is typically described by anarchocapitalists, many protection agencies compete for customers. One of the protests I often run into about this, especially for those first encountering the idea, is what keeps the agencies "nice"? Why can't they just violate their customers' rights?

I often see other anarchists emphasizing "exit" as the means for the customers to control the agencies. The analogy into our world of markets is good, but not great. You can see how, if the agency is somewhat nice to begin with, this would work. And in fact, if you're the sort of person that anarchy appeals to, you'll be immediately attracted to the idea of wielding that sort of power over your government. But... this still assumes the agency is nice enough to let you exit.

What if your agency is not nice? What if it turns rogue, and enslaves you? They've got the guns, right? What about company towns?

One answer to this is simple: in the real world you can't truly guarantee anything. If you set up an anarchy “wrong”, then abuse can happen. But this is not a problem unique to anarchy; states also have the seeds of tyranny in them. Even seemingly nice democracies, like Weimar Germany.

However, let us take some hope from the world of states. Consider all of the inventions men have invented to rein in the state. I would argue that none have been fully effective, but some have had real effect. I am thinking here of these:

  • democracy
  • human rights
  • civil rights - habeas corpus, trial by jury, etc.
  • constitutionalism
  • armed people/militia
  • federalism
  • separation of powers
  • church/state separation
And there's probably others I'm not recalling just now. These are the stuff of the basic civics class.

OK, so here's my big idea: all of these state-limitation techniques could be applied to anarchic protection agencies. None of them rely on the state being a state per se; that is, none of them require a monopoly on legitimized violence. Rather, they could be applied by any “government”.

Put another way, the agencies in ancap are weaker than states. Any institution which serves to rein in the state, must also serve to limit ancap agencies, unless somehow it relies on the monopoly of coercion. Furthermore, in ancap you add a brake that is far, far more powerful than any of those above: exit. Exit alone won’t do the trick, I don’t think. But exit, along with all of the sorts of nice-state tricks we’ve invented so far, will.

In my opinion, ancap has not worked thus far for several reasons, not least of which is it is hard to get going. I analogize it to an arch: very stable once set up, but not likely to just happen. Rather it requires “scaffolding”, and states by their nature won’t allow the “scaffold” to be kicked away.

However, there may be another reason why ancap hasn’t taken over yet: it requires a certain level of technology. I think, at minimum, it requires technologies only invented during the Enlightenment - those listed above.

My Offerings

I did a week of guestblogging over at Unqualified Offerings. I supposed I should link the writing I did, so's I can find it later if I want:

  • a post on Cuzan's idea that we're always in anarchy
  • a metareview of Derb's review of POD
  • a snit at the tendancy to ignore genetics and extrapolate from correlation to causation
  • a comment on a Rothbard article, suggesting that it be read mindful of Free Software

You might also look at the week in general for other postings' comments, since I was pretty active in jumping into many of the threads.

One minor little story about the UfOing worth telling. I like to know who's writing what I am reading before I start. UO (and many blogs) don't do that automatically. It's fine for a solo blog (like this) to elide bylines; there will never be a guest blogger here unless I find myself strangely being read enough to matter. But in a group blog (as UO was, for a week) I find it annoying to have no bylines. In my first post, I explained this, and I posted my name at the top. Without any further prompting (from me, anyway), my co-bloggers for the week adopted the practice! Anarchy in action.