A response to the "Occupy Movement"

Please read the post "Basic rules and guidelines" before posting comments on this blog.

To view or make comments on a post, you must click on the link at the bottom of the post that shows the number of comments

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bob reinvents anarcho-capitalism?

Hi all,

[My name is Parke. I live in Eureka. I met Bob several years ago at meetings of the Voter Confidence Committee. I think Bob also attended a Ron Paul meetup back in late 2007 or early 2008.]

[This post is a response to Bob's post entitled: The Precepts of Entrepreneurial Humanism.]

In his "Precepts", Bob references the Declaration of Independence. I think it is worth re-reading the central sentence of Declaration of Independence for comparison.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

When I first read Bob's Declaration of Commonality, I was skeptical about points 1-5. They seemed vague enough to be used to justify a wide range of eventual conclusions.

Point 6 is the first radical and distinctive point of the Declaration. "A socio-economic system that truly does work well for most people most of the time cannot be coerced or legislated into existence." This is amazingly similar to the non-aggression principle of libertarian political philosophy: the rejection of the aggressive use of force (or coercion) as a political tool.

In Point 7, Bob suggests that all laws are of the form: "If you DON'T do this, I will hurt you." I would call this a "positive" law, in that it requires a certain action. But there are also "negative" laws, that forbid certain actions: "If you DO do this, I will hurt you."

If you subscribe to the libertarian non-aggression principle, the distinction between positive and negative laws is less important. All just laws have the form: "If you attack me, I will defend myself." Consequently, no law should authorize the aggressive use of force or coercion, and any laws that do are illegitimate.

Point 8 has shades of the Declaration of Independence's claim that "[Governments] deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed".

Point 9 echoes Thoreau's Civil Disobedience: "That government is best which governs least."

In points 10-14, Bob basically (re)invents anarcho-capitalism: the abolition of government (political hierarchy), and the belief in private property and free markets.

Googling turns up an "Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto". The Manifesto is probably not a recruiting document (it won't inspire converts), but it does clearly identify and separate the key concepts of anarcho-capitalism.

Wikipedia also has an article on Anarcho-capitalism.

Point 12 ("The way forward...") describes what I have heard is one of the scenarios by which a society could decide to live in an anarcho-capitalistic manner - namely, that a majority of people in the society would recognize that government does more harm than good, and decide that they would be better off without it. An alternative approach might be to work within the current governmental/political system to repeal the excessive quantity of laws our current government has foisted upon us.

I do see somewhat of an inconsistency in the Declaration of Commonality regarding what the proper nature and role of "the law" (governmental law) is. In 9, Bob writes we should "reduc[e] our body of law and its machinery to the minimum", which implies that we should keep some small amount of governmental law and governmental machinery in place. But then later, in 12, Bob writes that "The way forward is ... not by voting for representatives or legislation", suggesting that he might want to abolish all legislation (and also the governmental machinery that goes with it). How you answer this question determines whether or not you are an anarchist. If you refrain from anarchism, you probably want to encourage citizens to work inside government to shrink it. Alternatively, if you subscribe to anarchism, you might instead just encourage citizens to ignore government on the grounds that it is illegitimate and will eventually go away.

How Bob wants to improve his Precepts and Declaration really depends on what he wants it to accomplish. I might make some minor improvements here and there. But most changes should be driven by what the goal is, and that is not a decision for me to make.

Interestingly, I had dinner with a couple of anarchists in Reno in September. As a result of that discussion, I thought about trying to rewrite the Declaration of Independence not to justify the "instituting of Governments among Men", but rather to call for the abolition of governments, on the grounds that government itself is the biggest threat to our Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Unlike Bob, I never started writing it. If I had, I would have tried to mirror the (linguistic) structure of the Declaration of Independence as closely as possible, in order to highlight the specific differences between it and my "Declaration of Peace and Prosperity" (working title).

My thanks to Bob for starting this blog off with such a substantive post!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Parke, for the in-depth critique.

    The most important point you've made for me is that, as originally written, line 12 is advocates voting with our purchase power to the exclusion of voting for legislation and/or representatives. I do want to work within the existing system, and I will post a revised "Precepts" soon.

    My goal in creating this blog, and posting these precepts, isn't to come up with yet another ideology for people to debate.

    What I want is to come up with some kind of manifesto that sets a basic intention of what we want to achieve in the longer term, a plan of action that fits with that manifesto and gives us something we can start doing here and now, and start doing it.

    I do have some ideas that I think can work within the system that we already have, and tap into the upwelling of discontent manifesting in the Occupy movement in a positive way. I'll post those as soon as I can get them cobbled together in a reasonably coherent way.