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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Moral Anarchy (Read 3161 times)
zophos
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Moral Anarchy
Feb 26th, 2013 at 1:34am
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I've never identified as an anarchist, and even as I've learned more about the precepts of anarchism and become more sympathetic to it, I remain a minarchist.

I often struggle to express my problems with anarchy, but I recently finished the science fiction book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, about a libertarian/anarchist revolution on the moon.  Here, I read a succinct summary of my problem with anarchism, and a simple solution to that problem:

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A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame . . . as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else.  But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world . . . aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure. [My emphasis]

See, my problem is that despite the well-thought out ethics of anarcho-capitalism, there is no reason (and in fact it would be flat out ridiculous to assume) that all people would share and accept the ethics of the non-aggression principle.  In other words, anarchism is a moral free-for-all; anarchism includes moral anarchy, with different people acting according to widely divergent and incompatible ethical systems.  Violations of the non-aggression principal would be widespread and frequent.

Heinlein points out in this passage that in an anarchist world, the best an individual can do is live according to one's ideals, and associate with those who share them.  Anarchism is non-utopian, non-social.  It reflects the reality that no social system can be perfect, since there is no such thing as a collective social system.  Therefore the fact that anarchism itself fails to "fix" the problems of society is no flaw.  Only the individual can achieve a personal sort of utopia, at peace with the world around him and his total inability to control it.
  

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Bourgeois
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #1 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 3:18am
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That is one of my favourite quotes of all time actually. I love that book!

Prof. Paz is saying that anarchists try to live perfectly...according to their ethics. But, for example, statists don't hold our evaluations. This is a flaw inherent in ANY system, period. For example, in minarchism, what if I believe that there should be "universal health care"? The minarchist tries to live as perfectly as he can against lunatics like this. He tries to resist what is objectively wrong. A minarchist system doesn't guarantee that it will never grow. (And neither does anarchy).

Similarly, when minarchists advocate initiatory force to establish theft and a state, I will try to live perfectly in the imperfect world by resisting them. Prof Paz is merely making a statement of pragmatism as it relates to anarchy. A system of "government" (crime) is also a "moral-free-for-all." Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to strive against immorality.

And, no, libertarian anarchy does not include "moral anarchy."** There is a simple set of morals (liberty) that we will try to impose upon the imperfect world. Simply because this can't happen doesn't mean we shouldn't try. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress reflects the dignity of anti-statists, in the face of all out resistance. Who cares if we fail? We know what is right! Who cares if your friends and family are going to be killed? You should still try to protect them! That's, after all, what the people on Luna had to do in defence of their persons and property.

In adition, I would note, that the ending of the book clearly shows the destruction of the minarchist as well as anarcho-capitalist systems in the face of crazy individuals who want power (politicians). But that doesn't mean Loonie sovereignty wasn't worth it.  “Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom – if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.”
~ Professor de la Paz

**Rather "moral anarchy" is a condition of the world. When Prof. Paz talks about how evil taxes are at the end of the book,*** he is trying to help end "moral anarchy," which is a virtuous endeavour.

***"Comrades, I beg you – do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
~ Professor de la Paz
  

"The government is a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer's teet until they have sore, chapped nipples."

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Bourgeois
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #2 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 3:44am
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Also haven't seen you in a while man! How's it going?
  

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Shiva_TD
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #3 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 4:57am
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zophos wrote on Feb 26th, 2013 at 1:34am:
See, my problem is that despite the well-thought out ethics of anarcho-capitalism, there is no reason (and in fact it would be flat out ridiculous to assume) that all people would share and accept the ethics of the non-aggression principle. 


Thus enters the need for a goverment based upon a social contract to protect the inalienable Rights of the Person from acts of aggression by others. Government itself is an infringement upon the Freedom to Exercise our Inalienable Rights so any infringement must be based upon a pragmatic necesssity to protect a Right and also to the least extent possible to ensure the greater protection.

As a society that is the best we can do as the ideal of a society living in perfect harmony is an illusion.
  
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Bourgeois
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #4 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:09am
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Shiva_TD wrote on Feb 26th, 2013 at 4:57am:
Thus enters the need for a goverment based upon a social contract to protect the inalienable Rights of the Person from acts of aggression by others. Government itself is an infringement upon the Freedom to Exercise our Inalienable Rights so any infringement must be based upon a pragmatic necesssity to protect a Right and also to the least extent possible to ensure the greater protection.

As a society that is the best we can do as the ideal of a society living in perfect harmony is an illusion.

Lol! Because a minarchist state can totally change the condition of "moral anarchy." Tell me that there would be no liberals with a straight face!

There's no reason why people will accept the well thought out ethics of minarchism! Keep in mind that both AnCap and minarchy have modes of enforcement (private enforcement agencies vs. the state) but that neither end "moral anarchy."
« Last Edit: Feb 26th, 2013 at 12:04pm by Bourgeois »  

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zophos
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #5 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 3:00pm
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I've been spending a lot of time on the libertarian reddit page, but I got tired of it - it's all just memes and circle-jerking.

My best defense of the state is that at the very least, a "good" government (one in which all men are equal before the law, there is an element of participation and representation, and essential liberties are guaranteed and more or less respected by the government monopoly on force) is stable and predictable, allowing economic and personal growth to flourish.  In other words, the tyranny of the state is restrained and not exercised arbitrarily (is it still tyranny if it's not arbitrary?  Perhaps tyranny wasn't the best word - 'control' or 'rule' might be better).  Ultimately, this is the Chicagoan approach to government.  I'm open to the idea of anarchy, but not in the year 2013 or for the foreseeable future.

What part of the book made you think that the anarchist experiment had failed?  Although a functional Congress emerged from the revolution, there was no indication that it possessed the power of taxation or a monopoly on force.
  

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Bourgeois
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #6 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 4:15pm
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zophos wrote on Feb 26th, 2013 at 3:00pm:
I've been spending a lot of time on the libertarian reddit page, but I got tired of it - it's all just memes and circle-jerking.

I agree! It's not very good for discussion a lot of times.

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My best defense of private enforcement agencies is that at the very least, a "good" private enforcement agency (one in which all men are equal before the law, there is an element of participation and representation (because consumers talk with their $$ and by imposing legal liability), and essential liberties are guaranteed and more or less respected by the private enforcement agency) is stable and predictable competitive and efficient, allowing economic and personal growth to flourish.  In other words, the tyranny of the state is nonexistent and not exercised arbitrarily period.

^^Sorry I always do that to you, but...it's the best way to make the point. I can make your same argument with private agencies...basically the point is that you can't reduce your support of government past an assumption that it is miraculously better than the private marketplace (and this is true for all minarchists).

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What part of the book made you think that the anarchist experiment had failed?  Although a functional Congress emerged from the revolution, there was no indication that it possessed the power of taxation or a monopoly on force.

It was definitely the part where the politicians were listing their new "rights" (food, water, electricity, etc.), as well as many other things government "should" do. Also there was definitely an implication that the government had taxation power and was going to continue to grow. Prof. Paz wanted to go from anarchy** under colonial rule ==> true anarchy, but what happened was anarchy under colonial rule ==> very temporal true anarchy ==> growing state. IIRC, it ends in an antithetical way to the libertarian philosophy of the revolutionaries, just like the American revolution did...“Seems to be a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn’t forbidden.” 

**Using the word in a very loose sense here...I'm just talking about lack of local government...obviously Authority restricted free trade a lot in the book.
« Last Edit: Feb 26th, 2013 at 5:37pm by Bourgeois »  

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zophos
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #7 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:53pm
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Let me rephrase then - as the novel implies, anarchism, even of the libertarian flavor, will be chaotic and violent (example: people being "eliminated" for minor personal slights).  We can further imagine real-life scenarios of anarchic violence - what happens when a group of adherents to the non-aggression principal run into a much larger group loyal to the Proletarian Dictatorship, or the glory of jihad?  They get obliterated in the most unpleasant fashion, and tyranny rules the day.  At the very least, a limited constitutional government in the style of many Western democracies creates a society that is bearable and safe to live in, even if that society in underpinned by institutionalized immorality.  I know we've reached this conclusion before - there's a trade-off between anarchic moral purity and statist institutions that minimize (domestic) bloodshed.

As for the book, I suppose I didn't read as much into the ending as you did.  I saw those passages as overt real-world political commentary, rather than a foreshadowing of Luna's future.
  

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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #8 - Feb 26th, 2013 at 11:40pm
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Anarchism isn't the moral guide. The society will determine how they treat each other, one individual at a time.

Heinlein was excellent at explaining most of this throughout many of his sci-fi novels. He did it both, by explaining the side of the individual, and he also used the counterargument of asking a government(that is so violent to its own people) to protect its own people.
  
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Re: Moral Anarchy
Reply #9 - Feb 27th, 2013 at 12:22am
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zophos wrote on Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:53pm:
Let me rephrase then - as the novel implies, anarchism, even of the libertarian flavor, will be chaotic and violent (example: people being "eliminated" for minor personal slights).

Except they weren't mere personal slights. It had to do with the treatment of women who were a scarce resource, and was based on custom. (I'm not saying the specific custom was ancap compatible custom, per se, just that it wasn't chaotic and violent -- there was a lot of order. If you treated women that way, you got eliminated anywhere on Luna basically, which is what you would expect from an orderly, relatively anarchic society).

You and I read the book totally different! I saw Luna's society as having a fair amount of natural order and natural law, that was imposed in a private fashion.

Luna society is fairly anarchist but it definitely wasn't violent and chaotic...just look at the family structure. Heinlein shows how natural order can coexist with libertarian anarchy. (There's a page out there on the internet about Prof. Paz which I disagree with, but even that guy admits that Heinlein wasn't trying to depict anarchy as chaos).**

http://dwrighsr.tripod.com/heinlein/RatAnarch/

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I know we've reached this conclusion before - there's a trade-off between anarchic moral purity and statist institutions that minimize (domestic) bloodshed.

You may have but I definitely didn't agree. I think anarchy is more morally pure and would lead to less (domestic) aggresssion.
  

"The government is a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer's teet until they have sore, chapped nipples."

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