Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Archive: Socialism and voluntary interaction/societies

This debate has been edited from a complicated thread on Google+ - for ease of reading - from user Peter William Lount. To read the thread in its entirety, please click here.

Tris Stock  -  That is not socialism. It may be the common understanding of it within certain circles of US conservatives, but it is has nothing to do with robbing Peter to pay Paul. That would be more akin to what the Republican party has been doing to the economy since Reagan.

Socialism is an economic system in which the means of production are commonly owned and controlled cooperatively; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. As far as I am aware, there is no widely held political or economic desire for such a system in the US.

Jacob Champness  -  To own is to control and to control is to act. Only individuals act. Therefore, only individuals own. There is no such thing as "common ownership" or "cooperative control." So yes, that it socialism.

Tris Stock  -  To own collectively is to control collectively. Democracy is an act of a societies collective will. Therefore socialism is the collective ownership or cooperative control of the means of production.

Jacob Champness  -  Reification of the collective is a logical fallacy. Only individuals act. Only individuals own.

TK Monastyrski  -  If taxation is only voluntary, then who decides what gets paid for? Will then some individuals only pay towards some services while others refuse? How would that work, exactly?

Tris Stock  -  If taxation is voluntary, would it not be easier just to abolish government in its entirety and resort to your own personal form of meritocracy, where charity is given to support the needy as a 'trickledown' effect?

Jacob Champness  -  Yes.

Tris Stock  -  So would that be closer to libertarianism, anarchy or nihilism?

Jacob Champness  -  That would be the voluntary society. Anarchist, libertarian, but not nihilist.

TK Monastyrski  -  Yeah I dunno... that kind of extreme libertarianism seems a little too fanciful. No government at all? I'd have serious doubts as to how anything of any serious nature could be enforced or controlled. To me it sounds like a setup for a free-for all.
Jacob Champness  -  TK, also wanted to refer you to the stateless societies of the highlands of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and and Burma; of medieval Iceland; to 1000 years of Irish tuatha; and to the fact that even in England, police were introduced only in 1829. And a government without police is ultimately a voluntary society

Tris Stock - I have to admit to being somewhat in the dark regarding voluntary societies, or even the functional realities of libertarianism and anarchy, but I do find it an interesting concept that I should give more time to. Btw. I am not convinced I used a fallacy of misplaced concreteness. Again, equivocation and semantics can make 'concreteness' a very subjective bone of contention. We could argue whether collective ownership or cooperative control exists or not until we are blue in the face. I find reification a rather tiresome and insoluble fallacy that only serves to further muddy the waters one is trying to clear.

TK Monastyrski  -  Police as such maybe. Law enforcement and keepers of the peace far predate 1829.

I'll read up on those stateless societies that you mentioned, however it is kind of a skewed comparison. None of those societies could come close to the complexity of modern society.

However, I am curious how such a society would handle, for example, the more common instances of psychopathy; i.e. those who want to attain power and wealth by any means necessary?

Jacob Champness  -  Well Tris, I've never seen a collective. You're a skeptic, I see. Have you ever seen a collective? Measured its mass? Read an academic paper about the anatomy or chemical composition of a collective?

TK Monastyrski  -  What is the mass of an idea?
Also curious as to how severely handicapped people would do in a voluntary society....

Tris Stock  -  "Have you ever seen a collective?"

You can reduce the argument down to its physical properties if you will, but collectives exist in unequivocal terms in many different states. Just as you and I, as individuals, will have different masses, so will coral reefs differ in their anatomy and chemical composition.
Jacob Champness  -  TK, voluntaryists are not opposed to law enforcement or peace-keeping, just public law enforcement and peace-keeping.

How is this society more complex than any other?

A voluntary society would probably require restitution by violators of the right of others, to their victims or survivors. By contrast, a statist society does very little at all to handle such individuals. It generally either entrusts positions of high office to them or makes some half-hearted pretense of seeking to apprehend them after which it moves on, leaving the victims to cope to the best of their abilities and categorically denying them the option of pursuing the aggressors themselves. 

Jacob Champness  -  Tris, neat pics. Lots of individuals who each chose to be where they are and do what they're doing. Coral reefs know better than to tax their constituent organisms.

Tris Stock  -  They are collectives all the same.

TK Monastyrski  -  +Jacob Champness First of all, this society is vastly larger than the examples you give, which amount to villages. Furthermore, those villages would consist of a single culture and similar beliefs, not a vast mashup that we have now.
Secondly, those cultures did not have large infrastructures to maintain, or a comparable level of technology, nor any semblance of modern medicine.
That's just for starters. So to answer you question, vastly more complex.

So a voluntary society would require private law enforcement and other emergency services? Previously you said that societies without law enforcement were voluntary societies, which is why I brought it up.

One could argue that coral reefs do indeed 'tax' constituent organisms in that it is a collective symbiotic relationship.

Jacob Champness  -  Tris, I didn't say there's no such concept as a collective. I said there's no such thing. A concept can't act or own.

Tris Stock  -  Do aeroplanes exist, or are they just made up of their constituent parts? Do you exist, or are you just made up of your constituent parts? Taxation has nothing to do with concreteness of a proposed unit. If you want to get reductionist about things, there is nothing, and only nothing. Not even your constituent parts. Quantum mechanics is a bitch.

Jacob Champness  -  I think, therefore I am. Of course we exist.

Jacob Champness  -  Yup we'd want smaller societies for sure. That's easily accomplished. Hard to avoid even. I don't think that the beliefs of the members makes much difference. Much of the vastness of infrastructure is just a side-effect of the vastness of the society, so that should take care of itself. As for the rest, I still don't see that the application of force by a few against the many is helpful. Maybe you can be more concrete about how the state helps there.

No, I said states without police were voluntary. Law enforcement and police are not the same thing.

No, coral reefs don't tax. They just don't.

Jacob Champness  -  TK, I don't claim to be able to answer every question about how things would be if they were different, but the handicap question suggests to me that you're not thinking of the way people really act. Very few people go around victimizing others just because they have the opportunity to do so. People innately understand that it is to their advantage to interact with others in mutually advantageous ways. Those who don't get that don't thrive, as they are generally reduced to attempting to survive through personal self-sufficiency. Which incidentally leaves them in a weak position to victimize others in the future.

Tris Stock  -  "People innately understand that it is to their advantage to interact with others in mutually advantageous ways."

That sounds dangerously like socialism :-P

Jacob Champness  -  No that's nothing like socialism, Tris. I know you're just being cute with that, but there's not a single thing in common between voluntary interaction and state extortion.

Tris Stock  -  I was not being overtly cutesy, despite the :-P. You commit two fallacies here yourself. Firstly, your straw man; I never said that there was anything in common between voluntary interaction and state extortion, nor would I. And secondly your equivocation of socialism, which should be apparent from the straw man, with your statement on what you appear to consider 'voluntary interaction'. The voluntary interaction you gave as an example is a social act by necessity, as is law enforcement or a police force. However you wish to define them, they are the very tenets of socialism as you portray it, but not necessarily as socialism is applied in the definition that it is commonly understood by social scientists.

So the only prerequisite for existence is human sentience? How very anthropomorphically scalar.
It is 7:16am here. I should probably think about going to bed.

Jacob Champness  -  Was thinking, Tris. It might be useful to explore what "own" means to you. I'll grant that you can write anything you want on a title, so if you want to write "society" as the owner there's nothing to stop you. Does that seem like a useful to define ownership? It doesn't to me, but maybe that's where you're coming from.

Jacob Champness  -  I'm tired too, so probably missed your point, but if you want to define socialism as nothing more than people interacting, then I think you should concede that the cartoon illustrates socialism perfectly well.

Tris Stock  -  I guess my biggest problem with all this is, okay, let's make everyone personally responsible for their own actions and no amount of human interaction actually exists in reality (which would apear to be the foundation of your argument +Jacob Champness ). What laws apply to people with personal responsibility? I mean, what is to stop someone randomly arming themselves to the teeth, driving around in a tank and annihilating anyone that gets in his/her path? Let's say that one lucky person manages to extricate this homicidal maniac from his killing spree; to what degree has he broken the law? If the hero judges him for his actions, does he not impede on the maniac's rights of personal freedom and expression? He could just kill him, I suppose, but what is to stop such a hero for killing someone for looking at him 'funny'? What basis has the individual for forming anything approaching law in the absence of a society to which it applies?

If two people form a union of some description - whether it be to build a road between each others homes to enable better communication and trade of goods, or a marriage in order to sustain your genetic line - in your definition of a voluntary society, such unions do not exist; they are socialism pure and simple. If there is no society with which to engage, what does it mean to say that is a voluntary 'society'. The individual is king, period.

I think what TK raised earlier about the loss of citizenship is a very valid case in point. Do you issue your own passport so that you can travel away from what you consider your land? And why would anyone accept it? Let's face it, if such a 'society' of one tried to enter my 'land' (ambiguity intended) illegally who is to say that I couldn't keep you as a slave? And who could stop me? I am now armed to the teeth and have a tank and a slave. Or is that too much like a society/socialism? Put simply, two individuals that interact with one another necessarily form a quorum or a loose societal form. It is human nature. It is also human nature to be an absolute dick, and with no system of how we are to form societies, individuals will become one of three things; hermits, slavers or slaves. Do not count on the inherent 'good' of humanity - it has landed us firmly with the society in which you find yourself now, remember.

You have no rights beyond what you can get away with, and ultimately become a slave not the society you abandoned, but to every individual that you might encounter in the world. You will have given up all of your rights, short of that which you apply to yourself. I hardly think that constitutes a body of rights on any level. You will have gained autonomy and lost everything else. Sounds futile and lonely to me.

TK Monastyrski  -  Yes and I think this is why functional examples of voluntary societies exist in rather medieval times because eventually I see a tyrant rising among them and taking over. Humans are naturally social creatures and naturally tend to form groups or families or tribes. If one within a voluntary society did wish to commit crime or took action which harmed or endangered the group it would stand to reason that the group as a whole would have to, in the capacity of a social collective, mutually agree upon a course of action.

Jacob Champness  -   TK, Tris I'll answer the whole set of questions, "What's to stop someone from doing something antisocial and violating the rights of others?" like this: There's nothing to stop them from doing that other than their own best interests. Just like in today's coercive society. People don't interact cooperatively with each other because they are afraid of state police. They do it because these interactions are to their mutual advantage and antisocial behavior has disadvantageous repercussions.

People need not agree to any rules for in order to interact peacefully and productively. They need not be saints nor be kind by nature. They need not regard others as equals. They need only realize that their ends are served by making it worthwhile for others to give them the things they need. Assaulting, threatening, and stealing from others is highly detrimental to one's future prospects for mutually advantageous interaction with others, and almost everyone knows that from the age of 5 or 6. That's all that's needed.

Some people will not realize that or will lose track of it, and we would need to protect ourselves from such people in the voluntary society, just as we do in the coercive society. This does not require a single protection agency, and certainly not one the members of which have no stake in successful protection of potential victims, as is the case with state police.

Conversely, in a society whose members accept coercion, there's a significant opportunity to act antisocially without fear of social repercussion, and that is to acquire a position of state authority from which to wield violence against others to force their continued participation in otherwise disadvantageous interaction. Most people's consciences prevent them from pursuing opportunities to victimize their fellows. However some people lack conscience or have only a weak conscience and are thus uniquely adapted to succeed within state hierarchies. Thus highly-placed politicians and bureaucrats the world over are almost universally monstrous human beings.

Finally, TK, there are plenty of relatively recent instances of voluntary societies. I'll leave you to do your own googling for details, but until only about 150 years ago, such societies existed in India, much of the Americas, and yes, in England, where prior to the establishment Scotland Yard, law enforcement was generally at the hands of posses and enterprising "thief takers." And yes, there are stateless societies to this day in South America and Southeast Asia. Sure, they're small societies. So much the better. Sure, they're unable to defend themselves particularly well from encroachment by aggressive neighboring states. That doesn't mean they should give up on their desire for self-determination, nor on striving for the realization of it.

You may determine for yourself to give up striving against your own coercion and that of others, and if so, so be it, but I'm never going to give it up.

I have some other interesting discussions going on, so I'll leave you gents to find your own answers on these topics in further detail if you wish. If given you lots of resources to get started and Google is your friend. Good luck.

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