Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Road to Anarchy

Some new ideas ignite my passion like a match to gasoline. Sometimes my wife complains because the language I use implies I'm absolutely positive of what I'm saying instead of just stating an opinion for discussion, pushback, and debate. This is a flaw of mine, to be sure, but I do enjoy duking out ideas because I learn much faster talking to really smart people who disagree with me.

I felt this way about Hypermedia APIs and Bitcoin. More recently, I'm digging into Voluntaryism which is really just a friendly name for Anarchy (not the "civil war" version of the word you're probably envisioning... it's amazing how language can be manipulated).

My journey of exploration started with Bitcoin's libertarian roots. From there I realized the truth in the joke which says the only difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is about 12 months (for me it was much less, it seems, though I'm still not sure if I would consider myself an "anarchist"). Things started bothering me. The logical arguments against the need for a state became quite compelling. I've read books, listened to podcasts, watched interviews and videos and all of it seems to make a lot of sense.

The driving force behind my passion and motivation, I think, has to do with the number 260 million. Some argue government action has killed that many people. Additionally, the voluntaryism Wikipedia page lists Jesus Christ among the notable historical figures in that movement. As a follower of Christ, that immediately peaked my interest. I think he had some pretty good ideas about how to structure society and love people as we all want to be loved.

The search for truth is a perilous journey. You may have to question everything you know. You may have to throw out ideas which you previously wholeheartedly defended. This is how humanity progresses forward. This is how we develop moral ways to pick cotton.

In this post I'll attempt to summarize the ideas I've collected from various sources up to this point. I'm beginning to think the state may be irrelevant and voluntaryism may be an effective way to organize society. I'll link below to many of the resources I've consumed over the last few months and will probably add more over time. I really hope you give them some of your attention.

One of the foundational concepts is the NAP: the non-aggression principle. It's a moral framework which argues any human action which initiates violence against another human is illegitimate. Additionally, the concept of property rights arises because without it you're stuck with a logical fallacy. If there is no such thing as owning something, how can one person steal from another since they couldn't maintain ownership of the thing they steal?

The next conclusion I've heard discussed is that if we own our own bodies, then actions like rape and murder are violations of our property rights. If initiating violence is a universally immoral act, why is it one of the things the government and the state is said to be needed for? They have a monopoly on the creation of currency and on the use of violence. Would individuals kill millions of people without the state?

It seems throughout history only governments participate in these activities at such a mass scale. If we believe humans are so evil and corrupt and they cannot be trusted without a centralized authority, then why do we think it logically follows to take a subset of those humans and put them into positions of absolute central authority? These same humans have been shown time and time again to lie, cheat, and steal in order to obtain and maintain power. We have a high concentration of psychopaths, megalomaniacs, and narcissists in political office. They seek out power.

If power corrupts and humans are corruptible why do we create and support systems and structures that centralize power which only increases over time?

In spite of the data suggesting 260 million people may have been killed because of illegitimate rulers, many statists argue against anarchism ("Who's going to build muh roads?"). If the state has always been the provider of bread, the same argument would be made when thinking about privatizing bread production. They say we can't trust the markets to accomplish this or that, but really the market is just a free voluntary exchange of value. Not trusting the market really means we want to initiate force and use violence so our way is implemented instead of what is mutually agreed upon.

There are many who argue a limited government would be ideal. They argue government is needed for things like national defense and justice. Arguments can be made to the contrary (private security forces, arbitration and reputation services, etc), but I think history does a better job of explaining why these ideas may be shortsighted. The smallest governments in the world tend to create the most prosperity. They also eventually grow into the largest governments. If government is a cancer, I'd rather have no cancer at all.

Some define government as a group of people who are given rights no other human has and which are morally unacceptable (such as the violation of the NAP). There is no moral argument which can justify setting up such a structure.

As we learn more about psychology and the way the human mind works, the manipulations in place attempting to justify illegitimate authority become clear. These are mind hacks; propaganda and PR pioneered by people like Edward Bernays.

If taxation, for example, is actually theft, it's quite amazing how we have been programmed to believe it is our moral duty. People mention a social contract, though a contract implies a voluntary agreement. Most people don't know there was no mandated federal income tax prior to 1913. We don't need taxes in order to accomplish social goals. Using violence to force one group of people to give their earned value to another group of people (or worse, to build the war machine) is immoral, no matter what label you give it.

Governments create monopolies and enable corporations to have powers no individual has and no group of people should have. Without the air of legitimacy governments create, I believe many of the corruptions we deal with today would evaporate. The market isn't free because almost every aspect of it is controlled by central authority. Will there be new problems? Sure. Free markets solve problems better than centralized bureaucracies.

Now onto my personal view: I believe the purpose of a thing is defined in the mind of its creator. If someone builds a table, a chair, or a car, they define the purpose of that creation. If human beings have a creator, that creator has established their purpose. Based on property rights, it follows the creator has absolute authority and ownership of those created beings. I personally believe God, through Jesus, gave up that authority by giving us free will. A good analogy for this would be our own children. Though we created them, and as babies our authority over their life is essential, if we do our job well as parents we will eventually give up any authority over them so they can become completely separate humans.

What if the controlling, domineering human authority we see around us today is actually a myth? What if government is just a system of control? Even in the Old Testament God continually told his people they should not have a king. The king didn't create the people, so what authority could the king legitimately have?

Deep in our very being, we know, even as young children, we were born to be free. Freedom and liberty have to be systematically removed by educational processes for humans to believe in non-freedom.

Anarchy isn't about no rules, no law, or no consequences. It's about voluntary exchange as the basis for human interaction. It's about peaceful parenting to remove the root causes of many of the psychopathic actors we see in society. Epigenetics can even show us what type of early childhood abuse took place in these sociopaths via brain scans. Many of the fears we have about an uncontrolled society could become irrelevant if enough education and support was provided to parents to raise their kids without violence, coercion, or oppression.

Many will dismiss this idea as an unrealistic "utopia." If you use that word, you'll be using the parts of your brain which deal with fairy tales, not logic and fact. It's much easier to dismiss than to rationally consider. The more I learn about it, the more I think it models The Way or the Kingdom of God which Jesus and his early followers were known for.

Unfortunately, it seems atheists are the ones most commonly spreading these ideas of voluntaryism and anarchy while the religious are the ones saluting the flag and calling for people to vote for their favorite candidate as if this time their version of morality will be effectively legislated.

Jesus, arguably one of the greatest leaders and influencers in history, never used violence (the initiation of force) or coercion. Those who followed him did so voluntarily. Unlike what you may have been taught in Sunday School, he also wasn't a pacifist. He made a whip to defend his father's house and drive out the thieves and moneychangers.

Whether you're an atheist, Christian or follow some other religion, you most likely see problems in the world and want to make it better. Thinking differently about government may be the first step towards that better world.


Stefan Molyneux
The Story of Your Enslavement 13 minutes
Beautiful Freedom 18 minutes
Beautiful Freedom Part 2 23 minutes
Everyday Anarchy 3 hours, 44 minutes (audio book)
Introduction to Philosophy (podcast, 18 episodes)
Philosophical Parenting (podcast, 75 episodes)
Murray Rothbard
For a New Liberty 7+ hours (audio book)

Larken Rose
Free Your Mind 2 Conference 2013 54 minutes
(Actually, just watch all his YouTube videos)

Law without Government: Conflict Resolution in a Free Society 10 minutes


John R. Meese said...

Way to be bold, Luke, and be open about the road you're on and why! I totally agree that it's lamentable a lot of Christians tend to fall into statism, intertwining Nationalism with their faith. It's good to see another firm Christian like yourself questioning the status quo.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks John! I've always thought of my blog as what I'd want to chat with someone about if we were catching up (more on that here: http://bestoked.blogspot.com/2011/11/blogging-is-mental-projection-of-your.html ). Since this is what I've been fascinated with lately, this is what I knew I had to blog about. It's a controversial topic and it does feel like I'm putting myself out there a bit. Through this journey, I've already had quite a few conversations with people who really don't understand what this is about (just as I didn't not so long ago). It's amazing to me how mental frameworks can be setup around a word which doesn't actually fit what the word means (I guess I've blogged about that too: http://bestoked.blogspot.com/2012/02/stereotypes-make-you-stupid.html ). Anarchy doesn't mean no law or no rules. It means no rulers, specifically (as far as I think about it), no illegitimate authority maintaining power through violence.

It also doesn't mean a magic solution to everyone's problems. I think of it as opening the door for much better solutions and removing one of the worst actors in the system today.

Just last year, I thought anarchy meant people throwing molotov cocktails. I've learned a lot since then. :)

Matt McWilliams said...

This is one of the more well-thought out posts I've read on the subject Luke.

I struggle with reconciling my own desire for perfection/utopia/idealism which is best described as a libertarian republic and the reality of the day.

So while I want that, I'd honestly settle for a little less taxes and for no American soldier to die overseas for one generation. Baby steps, I guess.

Digital Currency said...

Great post. I tend to prefer the term "Autarchy" versus "Anarchy." It means "self rule" as opposed to "without ruler." Check out www.CenterForSelfRule.org

Luke Stokes said...

Some things (like human slavery) did have baby step moments, but ultimately, if we believe a system is moral corrupt, it has to be removed. Slavery had to be removed. Heroes like William Wilberforce understood that. I wonder if 100 or so years from now, we'll look back on some of the thinkers today in this space in the same way.

Matt McWilliams said...

Well said Luke. When dealing with a society that feels A, you have to walk through each letter to get them to Z and remember that M is better even if it's not all the way there.

Matt Frost said...

Thought provoking as always, I've found myself questioning some of these things as well. You've provided a lot to think about here. Good post my friend!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Matt! If you dive into any of the resources, let me know what you think. There's a lot of programming in the world today.

Chad May said...

Hey Luke, very well written. Now, about your assertive way of voicing: It is essential. And, I think, definitely a male tendency. I was accused of being a know-it-all often until I learned that when I speak aloud with the same assertiveness as the conversation in my head... people often take it the wrong way. My 16 year old son does this too, and his Mother is convinced he's a know-it-all too. The result is that I tend to make everything aloud subjunctive... which feels a little disingenuous. Hence the need to talk to fellow know-it-alls! :) Oh well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him fire-up a joint once he gets there. Whatever that means.

I welcome Christianity into the discussion, though I don't consider myself a Christian. Everyone is for Love and Compassion... so now we are just making it official... and not just a Sunday sermon.

Funny thing, with many, and sometimes with a Christian twist, people respond to my talking of these subjects with, "But this is Earth. It can't be less painful." And, "We are supposed to suffer until Jesus returns." Well, they may not say precisely, but an inability to imagine something much better stands in the way of the discussion. Young adults seem much more open however.

Personally, I'm glad you are on the bandwagon, and willing to relate your experience unto others.

Larken Rose was my catalyst.

You know, there are few absolutes in this World, right? But, one thing I've noticed is that with people whose political ideas change and evolve, there is a trend towards these directions... you find statists becoming the opposite, but I've yet to find someone like yourself who says, "I gave up and when back mainstream". I think this is because the only thing we can say for sure about the evolution of Human consciousness is that when it does evolve, it goes in the direction of love and compassion, and looks for justification of this as an afterthought. Hence the power of a spiritual leader that teaches love and compassion... which is to say that Jesus is Way Cool. :) And why I believe Voluntaryism is inevitable so long as we don't self destruct before it happens.

People like yourself will make it happen quicker, or less painfully, or prevent its failure to occur, if it does occur. I don't know which part we play.

Either way, you'll have great stories to tell your Grandchildren. Hopefully this will all be a history lesson for them, "Grandpa, tell us about what it was like when everyone was a slave?" "Yeah, and people thought they were free?" and "Did sociopaths really have the most power back then?"

- Chad

Luke Stokes said...

Great comment, Chad! I love this:

"...the only thing we can say for sure about the evolution of Human consciousness is that when it does evolve, it goes in the direction of love and compassion, and looks for justification of this as an afterthought."

Beautiful. :)

I truly hope our children will grown up in a more peaceful, loving world. I too get frustrated at "Christians" who talk about being whisked away to heaven without realizing the God they follow intended to bring his kingdom here to earth. Lots of bad theology floating around related to that one.

I completely agree, Jesus is Way Cool. :)

EclipseGc said...

Hey Luke, great post. I'm sort of glad this is our first online interaction, as it's nice to see fellow Christians thinking along these lines.

I've been on this road to some degree for quite a number of years now. If I could suggest http://www.amazon.com/The-Moon-Is-Harsh-Mistress/dp/0312863551 this set a bit of a framework for my thinking on Anarchy at a rather early age (middle school-ish), and I've been questioning the world around me ever since. In principle we agree, in practice you have to have some framework around a lack of rulers because the desire for no (as you say) illegitimate rulers, while a fascinating topic in general, leads to a point where the illegitimate rulers are all you're likely to end up dealing with. You need as large a society as possible to participate in the project for it to succeed otherwise you will end up with warlords capable of amassing thousands (or more) in an effort to illegitimately rule.

The fundamental problem can be expressed thus: Only if all participate in the experiment can it's success be guaranteed. Just because you can set up a community (or 100) of responsible anarchists ruling themselves doesn't mean you don't have to deal with other government types. If, for example, a government of the type we currently participated in chose to invade those communities, amassing a relevant defense would be HIGHLY situational. In short, we can probably agree that what you propose is likely the best option for the people for so long as they can maintain that government (or lack thereof) but just as the advantage of that style of governing is personal liberty, the advantage of our current governmental style is federal power, and that's a SCARY thing when it gets rolling.

I don't say all this to dismiss you because I think you're right. I say this to point out that every type of government has its strengths and weaknesses and military power would tend to be an "evolutionary" benefit that most governments are likely to pursue (even at the expense of personal liberty). If you want a government of the type you describe, you need a defense greater than the offense which can be mustered in this case. We cannot simultaneously dismantle all illegitimate rule.

Luke Stokes said...

Very cool!

One thing I've noticed when talking to people about these ideas is they sometimes think "without rulers" somehow means without rules or laws or structure. That's not what it means but I find it telling for how deep the word association and mental programming goes. There are (and have been) solutions to these problems without a central group of people with a monopoly on the use of force. Medieval Iceland, being an example: http://mises.org/daily/1121

You might enjoy the Beautiful Anarchy videos from Stefan Molyneux. He addresses some of your concerns and explains how governments invade other governments to get the tax money. If the people within a geographical area independently protected themselves and paid no taxes (though they would pay for protection services if governments didn't have an often corrupt monopoly on such things) the incentive for outside invaders would be low.

I don't think it's feasible or practical to throw out the whole system overnight. Otherwise it would be replaced with another system of control and coercion. The change starts in the mind. As people begin thinking differently and removing the mental malware (see Larken Rose's presentation), governments will eventually become irrelevant, especially if peaceful parenting starts removing the next generation of psychopaths.

jnabz said...

so sad, but so true:

"Unfortunately, it seems atheists are the ones most commonly spreading these ideas of voluntaryism and anarchy while the religious are the ones saluting the flag and calling for people to vote for their favorite candidate as if this time their version of morality will be effectively legislated."

great read luke. pura vida!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks! Pura Vida indeed!

Hendy Irawan said...

You made many points, so it'd be unfair to refute your entire article based on one point only, since it'd be necessary to address each point individually.

However, I could provide a suggestion which would narrow discussion in a meaningful way...

"If taxation, for example, is actually theft, ..."

You associate government with taxation. While we can see this practice in life, that depends on the government in question.

For example, in Islam, there is Zakat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakat), which "Today, in most Muslim countries, zakat is collected through a decentralized and voluntary system where eligible Muslims are expected to pay the zakat based on worship and love of God.[17] Under this voluntary system, zakatcommittees are established, which are tasked with the collection and distribution of zakat funds.[18] In a handful of Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the zakat is obligatory and is collected in a centralized manner by the state.[17][19] In Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, the zakat is regulated by the state, but contributions are voluntary.[20]"

An important point to take home is "refusal to pay Zakat has no specific punishment by Sharee'ah law in life; punishment is delayed to the end time[35]"

Meaning, it should be possible to have state, laws, and still voluntary "tax".

Another point of yours:

"religious are the ones saluting the flag and calling for people to vote for their favorite candidate"

I'm not pious, but I consider myself part of those religious ones. 100% of the time I don't vote for "my favorite candidate" but "the least unfavorite candidate". (i.e. the principle of lesser evil). In reality what I do is the same (vote for that guy/party/etc.) but the underlying principle is radically different.

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