Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

The futility of Anarchy

I've been meaning to write this post for at least a year now, and I can trace back the origins of my thinking to the start of 2010. I've been fighting a slow battle toward the truth. I'll try to keep this post relatively short, however, though that means there will be less justification for my assertions. Since 2010 I've known there are unresolved (at least satisfactory so) problems in every Anarchist+economic model system around. There is good reason to believe some of these problems are unresolvable, if we make the modest assumption that human-like minds will be operating agents.

Let's begin with an easy target: Anarcho-Primitivism. Since there are many uncorrectable problems with this field of thought, I will pick off a few in no particular order.

First is the rejection of technology. Rejecting technology means throwing yourselves to the whims of Nature, the distance you're thrown determined by how much you reject. And we know Nature very well, she is personified as an indifferent alien agent with narrow and non-human goals. The thing we know her most of all for, above anything else, is Death. Death has many causes, but Nature has no interest in protecting us from any of them. We have to do that ourselves. The human species is close, so very close, to finally having the technology to, if not completely eliminate, at least drastically and dramatically reduce the number of individuals who die. Two hundred year lifespans are within the realm of possibility for everyone under 30 right now, and when we reach that point, billion year lifespans aren't far behind.

Therefore if you reject technology, you reject the one chance the human species has at conquering death. This cannot be done unless you have a spiritual belief that death is good because of an afterlife or some sort of eternal soul such that those who die aren't really "gone", or unless you think the human species should die off permanently in which case you belong in a mental hospital before you hurt someone. (Like yourself.)

The second biggest blow to Anarcho-Primitivism is based on economics. Your primitive culture may in fact be happy and harmonious and illiterate, but the culture who does not share your views of rejecting technology will dominate you. In fact, it just takes a single individual who does not share your views. You can pretend you are not playing a game, that you are not competing, and maybe you can fool yourself into really believing it. And maybe you are really right, maybe there really is no game. But once an individual believes otherwise, once that individual begins to make decisions as if there is a game, they will do the natural thing and seek to win. Starting with the same baseline of technology, a capitalist economy that rewards innovation with wealth, status, and power will outperform a stagnant economy that either through cultural homogeneity or an oppressive force discourages innovation. If the second culture actively rejects technology itself rather than just discouraging innovation, they will only get left behind so much faster. Given the asymmetry between a primitivist and a non-primitivist, the primitivist also leaves themselves open to being victims of both sophisticated robbery and general thuggery by those with the bigger guns. They also lack the means to enforce peace.

What I'm going to call for now the Anarchist's Dilemma is well known in many forms. The form I'm going to define it under goes like this: absent a State, how can we solve the problem of mobsters, stupid megacorps, general thugs, et al. "disturbing the peace", creating disharmony, breaking promises and generally causing problems? How can we avoid such things or how can we prosecute such things with a State?

I've given some answers to both before in my attempts at defending Anarchy. I have addressed the problem of crime arising in the first place. If you remove all economic stratification and somehow make people equal in power (by equaling their share of power's currency-of-the-times), you remove most causes of crime. The Tao Te Ching said "If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal." When there is nothing to covet, there is no motivation to deprive your neighbor of something they have. Unless one is a sociopath. The sociopath is ever a problem for a non-violent Anarchist. The big problem with eliminating economic stratification though is that it is essentially a primitivist ideal, and will only hurt the economy and discourage technological growth and in the absence of 100% of the population wanting and striving for this equilibrium, it will be overwhelmed by any society that does not share its views. So unless we rewrite human nature, which we may well do someday, but not today, let's give up this delusion that the grapes can grow without guidance, that men of good conscience will dominate all societies and we'll all get along in peace and harmony. We cannot stop crime from arising by taking away the State, so now we must try and solve this dilemma by some system of punishing crime and deterring it.

I attempted an answer for that as well. Our present state of technology allows for a complicated system of reputation-tracking. This is an additional deterrence to crime--for even just being accused of something can cause people to think twice about dealing with you, and a large series of accusations is evidence enough for many people. Even sociopaths care a little about their reputation. If your reputation page gives me enough evidence to believe you're a thug, I'm not going to deal with you economically and I may even shoot you if you come on my lawn with a mean look! The big problem with this though is that those with low-reputation can find others with low-reputation and form gangs of low-lives, and these gangs may be powerful enough to overwhelm other collections of good people at least temporarily enough to get their desires (or kicks if they're sociopaths). With no higher enforcement, there's only a disincentive to be disreputable if you're not near other disreputable people. So this can work even in the absence of 100% of the population wanting it to work, and follows a basic tit-for-tat model, but it's risky because the good people don't want to band up in counter-gangs (aka police) to fight the bad guys.

This system, combined with somehow getting at least most people to respect each other without rewriting human nature, aren't so bad when narrowly constrained under a wheelbarrow full of assumptions, but the wheelbarrow is unstable. I cannot in good conscience assert the wheelbarrow any more with just the concession that I need only find that one missing screw (by reading Rothbard et al. and generally learning more and more, and maybe doing original thinking) to stabilize it and all will be okay. It is so unstable that it's not salvageable.

I even tried one such screw I thought of independently, but of course it's not enough; it is to relax the constraint of pure anarchy. (Which is why I call my system Anarchy!) The idea is to allow groups to form for various purposes (innovation, security, etc.) but these groups should be temporary and their members should want to dissolve themselves. This again assumes most of the population feels a certain way, so it is untenable. And molded into something that might work, like distributed democracies (we have had those with some city-states), I just find myself back at the State once again. The devil cannot be escaped. Is it really the devil? Embrace him and find out...

I also thought nanotech could provide a way to achieve freedom from desire, but energy is not free. Black hole real-estate will be prime, and if it's not adequately defended, wars will be waged over it. In billions of years when the last stars are burning out especially, there will be very few resources for any beings even if they have nanotech. Nanotech solves our immediate desires but anyone who can see the far-game can derive the best strategy to play now. No, nanotech will only solve certain ethical problems, it will not solve the problem of whether some people need a State to govern them or not.

I accept the need for a State. Some humans are no better than feral animals, the State provides protection from such creatures by keeping them subdued or eradicating them altogether. Does the label "Anarchist" apply to me anymore? I don't think so. But now I'm wondering if it ever did. The term is lacking in dimensionality, it doesn't accurately express my views and certainly didn't three years ago. Authority, leadership, obedience, sovereignty, and power are separate things that are unfortunately complected in the word "government". Let alone the matters of ethics and the government's role in ethics. I am anti-authority, but not anti-leader nor anti-command. I am anti-blind-obedience, but obedience itself need not be blind. Sovereignty is a necessary concept in a spatial universe with individual actors that may have two different goals for how to purpose a particular space. (In other words we need a State.) Power goes with responsibility, they are two sides of the same coin. Trying to reject one but keep the other is as hard as separating a quarter's head-side from its tail-side with your bare hands. It creates an immense opposing force. I am in favor of power wielded responsibly and responsibility backed by power. If you want individuals to have any form of individual responsibility, they need to have an equivalent amount of individual power. It is so human to be irresponsible, though. It is safer to put more power in a small government that is responsible for many, than to put more power in individuals with no higher force to guide them back to responsibility when they stray.

Anarchy is futile, both the lower-case and the upper-case.

So what's left? Democracy? Republics? No. These systems of governance are horrible monstrosities, especially the modern forms. Churchill was wrong.

I think I've become fully infected by the moldbug. I'm starting to fancy myself a royalist. I'm continuously being beaten with the raw sense of the view that I can no longer just pretend it's a plaything to be considered when playing devil's advocate. Neocameralism has become my academic view of proper governance as a system, and as proper policy, many "universal truths" in today's sick society need to be swept away.

Some policies that have become my academic views of late (but since these are my academic views after all, not my real Singularitarian views, you may take these as being similar in spirit to devil's advocacy but put forth with a little more "I want you to believe this too" than a standard devil's advocacy has): Structure the State as a publicly traded corporation. Allow one to voluntarily sell themselves and their children into slavery (with emancipation of the children at a certain age, like 16, 18, or 21, and other certain requirements for slave-owners like making sure the slaves are literate). Let the State use its most powerful weapons in whatever conflicts it finds itself in. (MAD works well when the powers are matched, but when one power completely dominates another, restraining the former is just prolonged cruelty to the latter in disguise of humanism.) Let the right of conquest be observed. Let eugenics become commonplace. Let the State deport the various "undesirables" it finds itself with.

And more. Have I become a monster, at least academically? Perhaps. But it's at least a refreshing view on the world. You won't find anyone on t.v. expressing similar things.

Posted on 2012-09-04 by Jach

Tags: Anarchy, government, non-violence, philosophy


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Jach January 18, 2013 04:26:59 PM I still look at crypto-anarchism fondly. I still believe in many of its ideals. I would like to live in a crypto-anarchist society. But the mental disciplines required are not for everyone, and the method of "kick the bums out" doesn't work because the bums outnumber the mentally disciplined, and without a strong power to protect the crypto-anarchist society, it is subject to brutes. Where would this strong power come from? It has to be either embedded within the society, which is to say everyone has enough mental discipline, or else it must come from outside. Power is conserved: in a stable anarchy everyone has equal but insignificant power, which altogether sums to the power one would hold if they had a King.
Anonymous October 01, 2013 11:49:24 AM > I accept the need for a State. Some humans are no better than feral animals, the State provides protection from such creatures by keeping them subdued or eradicating them altogether.

The thing is that the (formal) State _IS_ the animal.

When you are examining anarchy and worry about 'evil mega corps', 'warlords', 'sociopaths' and such things.. groups of people willing to use violence for a end you have to realize that the State is, in fact, who these people are.

It's what the aggressive use of violence evolved into. When thugs and evil people choose to rule over other people they will, eventually, create the State.

It is currently the most effective way to control people and extract economic benefit from your rule over them. You create a institution of slaves controlling slaves.

You rule over one slave group and allow one slave group to exploit and control other slaves in exchange for tribute and taxes. Think about the ancient caste systems and how they evolved into the Monarchies and such things.

When the Monarchies were overthrown or otherwise neutered by the economic/merchant classes the people that overthrew them just created variations of the same types of State governments. This allowed them to control 'lower classes' for their economic benefit, but mostly it is just because the system of State Government is all the knew. Any form of government was simply something foreign to their experience.

The proof of these statements is realized when you examine history and up until the 1700's or so most of humanity existed in various forms of anarchy. Anarchy, in this manner, as defined as 'Government without the State'. Various tribal relationships, nations, culture, commerce, all these things were commonly practiced without any need for 'The State' all over Asia, Northern Europe, North America, and most other 'primitive' areas.

This ended when the European States, and their descendants, learned efficient ways to transport, supply, and support military abroad. Before that Empires consisted of mostly controlling valuable trade routes and the capitals that grew up around them.

Eventually ships allowed the empires dominate coastlines and eventually railways and other forms of mechanization allowed them to penetrate fully into the larger land masses and dominate them. etc etc.

So the problem for Anarchy is not really 'How do you defeat or otherwise suppress criminals (as defined by people who aggressively use force) without the State'.. it is simply 'How do you defeat or otherwise suppress criminals'.

Remember that 'Democratic' or 'Republic' State governments are just a extension and evolution of other State governments. They are variations of a type, not a different form of government. ('Pure Democracy' is a bit different, but it has problems all it's own). The control that people think they have over State governments via the voting booth is largely a illusion.

The State _IS_ what happens when you let criminals take over. If you solve the problem of criminal suppression then you solve the problem of the State.

How do you do it?

Well it starts and ends with the realization that economics can only support a tiny minority as the exploitative, criminal ruling class. The State must struggle between maintaining control yet allowing enough freedom for positive economic growth.

'The State' is effect just a machine made up of people. A evolved form of 'slaves exploiting slaves'. If you can convince people to simply 'Withdraw consent' then you can destroy their power structure. The now-classic 'What if they started a war and nobody showed up?' statement illustrates that perfectly. What if people just stopped paying taxes? How long could the tax collectors continue to threaten people with violence if they don't pay up if the tax collectors have no economic basis in which to support their continued activities?

What if everybody just said 'No'?
Jach October 01, 2013 12:58:41 PM "What if everybody agreed with each other and did the same thing?" is the general counter to the problems when trying to imagine a society without government. The problem with this counterargument, if one accepts it to begin with, is that it's an example of a fully general counterargument. Plus it still leaves me confused. Okay, sure, there will be no violence if nobody decides to commit violent acts. The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club. What does this tell me about the world we're currently living in? How do we get from point A to point B? What about the very real existence of certain facts about human nature and human action that get in the way of such conveniences as "if you convince everyone, it'll all be fine!" How do I convince any human, even those with cognitive defects like sociopathy, or merely just people with IQs of 80, to go along with me? I agree that if there were no conflict among men, there would be no need for governments, but evidently there is conflict. There are also zero-sum games all over the place, and bad-outcome prisoner's dilemmas when you get rid of an authority to enforce cooperation.

I don't accept that governments are necessarily organizations of bad people. Louis XVI was not a bad person. Neither was Dr. Francia.

The caste systems didn't evolve into monarchies, monarchies arose from the natural power of the father. I also disagree that the people's consent is what matters, and I think any government that declares that it gets its power from the people is a bad government. From the same link: "The judgment of the multitude in disposing of the sovereignty may be seen in the Roman history, where we may find many good emperors murdered by the people, and many bad elected by them. Nero, Heliogabalus, Otho, Vitellius, and such other monsters of nature, were the minions of the multitude and set up by them. Pertinax, Alexander, Severus, Gordianus, Gallus, Emilianus, Quintilius, Aurelianus, Tacitus, Probus, and Numerianus, all of them good emperors in the judgment of all historians, yet murdered by the multitude."

> The proof of these statements is realized when you examine history and up until the 1700's or so most of humanity existed in various forms of anarchy. Anarchy, in this manner, as defined as 'Government without the State'. Various tribal relationships, nations, culture, commerce, all these things were commonly practiced without any need for 'The State' all over Asia, Northern Europe, North America, and most other 'primitive' areas.

I strongly disagree with this use of wordplay that draws a distinction between States post-1700 and States pre-1700 among other hidden inferences. If you can say what you mean without using the words 'State' or 'Anarchy' or 'slave' or 'criminal' or 'proof' we could maybe have a more productive discussion... As it is I'm not really sure what you mean past this point due to the wordplay. I can guess but I'd rather your point be made explicit.
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