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Sunday

Luke made some thoughtful comments on my recent post about not voting.
The thing I don't get about anarchy is that one apparently never submits to the power of anything. Put that way, this objection makes even me uncomfortable, but in any dispute, someone eventually has to get their way. A man, when convicted of murder by one authority, cannot just decide that he isn't subject to that authority, but to another more forgiving one or to just himself. The morality of the punishment can't depend on the consent of the criminal. So somebody has to impose their will, right or wrong, on someone else eventually, and then how are they different from a government?

Luke, you’re right in the essentials here, but you’ve bookended good premises with conclusions that don’t follow.

There’s a couple of premises that your conclusions imply. First, and Billy hits a solid double off the center-field wall with: nobody has any business putting "The People vs ..." on the indictment., is that authority must be centralized and universal. The rejection of that premise is the core of market anarchism. The second premise is that authority is primarily a question of force.

You use three terms in ways that imply you see them almost interchangeably: power, authority, and will. They are not.

Start with “will", because everything starts with will. One dictionary definition of it, and the one closest to how I will use it here, is: “The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action”. All purposeful actions have to begin with will, with the decision to act. You cannot impose your will, nor can you submit to another’s will. Those are useful terms for a more complex series of decisions and actions, but they cannot literally be done. You cannot fully cause another’s actions, you can only influence him to will those actions himself.

Power is the ability to act. Machines have power, animals have power, and human beings have power. But only human beings have direct will-driven power. Machines have power, but act on the will - and actions - of their designers and operators. Animals have power, but act without will. Only human action is derived from will.

Authority is where will and power intersect, and the point of intersection is purpose and value, i.e. goals. The subjectivity of your consciousness means that only you have the full context of both the values you seek and the conditions under which you must seek them. You have the authority to act on your will simply because no-one else possibly could.

Authority can be delegated, but not given up. Delegating authority means to allow another person to make decisions regarding your resources, on the condition that they do so in order to pursue a goal of yours. This can only be done if the goal and the authority are limited to some sub-context of the full context which you alone can hold. Since you alone have the full context, the root of delegated authority always remains in your own will and your own values, and the resources used to pursue those values remain yours until they are traded for something more beneficial to those goals.

The kind of universal authority Billy cites is an attempt to sever authority from that full context. Authority taken rather than accepted means that the goals pursued are not yours but what the “authority” claims to believe are yours. Authority so taken assumes control of the resources without the requirement that they be applied to your goals.

In your example, a man convicted of murder by some “authority” might decide to submit to a different authority who, presumably would not convict him. The root of the word “convict” is the Latin “convictus”, which is also the root of our word “convince”. A conviction is not an action directed at the defendant, but one that is applied to the prosecution.

A conviction is often called a “finding” of guilt, and that phraseology is telling. A conviction in a legal dispute means that the wronged party is convinced, via a process putatively derived from the facts of reality, that the wrong was done by the person in question. It places no obligation on the defendant. It does place a moral right, if not an obligation, on the wronged party to acquire compensation and or restitution from the offender, even by means of force if necessary.

The offender’s submission to this process is irrelevant. In our legal system, we allow and require a defendant to participate on the practical grounds that it makes a convincing finding of fact easier and less prone to error, but it is not a moral requirement. All that is required is that the wronged party be convinced enough to act. You might think that is a low bar, as anyone can claim he is “convinced”, and thus be allowed to use whatever force he arbitrarily deems necessary. But in fact it is a high bar for a rational person. A hunch is not a conviction; a hasty conclusion based on partial evidence is not a conviction; an emotional reaction to loss or anger is not a conviction.

This is where authority comes in. In our legal system, authority for such matters is taken, not accepted. The courts take the authority for punishment and restitution from the wronged, and they take the authority for protection of the defendants rights from him. This seizure of authority severs the power to act from the will of either party. That is why we have criminal proceedings that provide no restitution to the victims, that impose as the only cost on the offenders that of incarceration or a fine paid to the state, and in which no-one has any responsibility for an incorrect finding.

The state takes authority and applies it to goals other than that of righting the wrong, and instead to collective goals such as reducing crime, exacting non-productive (and often counter-productive) punishment (“penance”) on the offenders in order to “send a message” or to conform to some fallacious Platonic notion of essential goodness and badness , and protecting its other political goals. These goals, even though they include things like “freedom” and “rights”, are not in full concordance with - and often in outright conflict with - the goals of the individuals they have supposedly derived their authority from. And worse, as Billy points out, they claim to subsume the goals of those who have no interest whatsoever, and for whose rational goals may be actively hindered by the process.

Market anarchy starts with the root of legitimate authority, the individual, and proposes that any and all proceedings remain tied to that authority. And further, that responsibility for actions taken remain with those whose will those actions are a manifestation of. The bar for action by one who has a conviction of another’s guilt is not only that they be convinced, but that their conviction is strong enough, and rationally enough arrived at, that they are willing to take responsibility for the consequences of acting.

Either party may delegate some part of the authority for his part of the process, and for his actions, to another. But he cannot abandon the authority, and thus cannot disavow himself of the responsibility. No state can take either away without committing a crime in its own right. Those parties that accept delegated authority also accept part of the responsibility for the consequences - and they by definition don’t have the full context that either party has - and so they may require a higher standard for conviction.

Even in this scenario, the accused does not have the easy out of just finding another authority who will protect him against the facts of reality. The wronged party can arrive at a conviction with or without the accused’s cooperation, and they can act on that conviction, so long as they have the power to do so, with or without cooperation. This does not imply the wild west, nor vigilante justice. Responsibility means accepting the consequences of one’s actions, but those consequences will come about whether responsibility is accepted or not. Those who try to protect their clients against the facts of reality will incur consequences to their reputation, to their financial status, to their social status, and even to their personal safety. As will those who pursue retaliation for hunches, for hasty conclusions, for emotional outbursts of violence, or that is out of proportion to the offense and goes beyond restitution, beyond righting the wrong.

When there is no one to fob off the responsibility to, rational actors will be very careful about exercising their power, and irrational actors will see their power rapidly diminished, if they can even build it up in the first place. Rational actors will submit, to the power of reason, to the power of markets, and to the power of social pressure - to the power of consequences that are manifestations of reality rather than stolen authority. Irrational actors who choose to submit to none of the above will ultimately submit to the effects of them, and ultimately to the physical power of the rational actors, whether they agree to or not.

It can’t be perfect, but nothing can be. The present system where power, responsibility, authority, and value are all divorced from one another creates an environment that can only deteriorate. Authority can only be taken and used by force or the threat of force. Wrongs done in the name of that authority cannot be righted except through the extremely high cost and terribly uncertain outcomes of a faceless bureaucratic process in which no-one suffers the consequences of acting wrongly, or, failing that, the massive violence of resistance to the state or outright revolution. And every such incident widens the gap between the so-called collective will and the will of the individuals in which authority resides - thus requiring increased force to maintain that stolen authority, and a higher hurdle to overcome for those trying to convince, or worse, to force, the “authorities” to allow their own interests to be recognized and pursued.

Individuals in a market anarchy have all the powers that a present government has with one exception: they cannot use any resources but their own. They cannot arbitrarily claim the resources, nor the authority, of others. Thus, they cannot isolate themselves from the consequences of acting - from responsibility. Because of this, and because force and violence are the most consequential actions a person can engage in, force and violence will for the most part be absolute last resorts, and then, used only when the need to use them is overwhelming. People who accept responsibility for themselves will not commit acts which necessitate a violent response. They will not commit acts which cause people to - for their own protection - shun them or refuse to trade with them. They will not commit acts in pursuit of their goals that, because of the consequences they know are likely to follow, will take them further from those goals.

And finally, market anarchists understand the fallacy of imposing one’s will in any context. No-one can force another’s body to act on the will of a separate consciousness. The only thing that can be done is to create artificial and arbitrary consequences (your money or your life), in order to convince someone to decide, to “will” themselves, to commit a certain action. Individuals do retain the power of force, but the only thing force can do directly is to prevent action, not to cause it. Dump the idea of imposing will altogether, and government is stripped of nearly all of what currently constitutes it’s power and so-called authority.

Comments

Thanks for taking the time, Kyle. Regarding "will," I agree that you can't force someone to change their mind.

I think I have settled at least a few things in my mind. In my original question I was wondering about criminals escaping justice even though that obviously happens with a government as well. With both market anarchy and government, whether justice is delivered depends on the ability of the rational to act on their conviction ("...the physical power of the rational actors"). I don't think that either the market or a government guarantees that they will have the ability, even with all of the negative esteem that would be generated by the improper use of force in a market. (There certainly isn't enough negative esteem generated towards government today, when it's still possible to correct some unjust laws if not the fundamental assumption of authority.) The difference is essentially that a government, in presuming to act for everyone and barring anyone else from acting, systematically severs the actions of the rational from their convictions like any use of force. That the government drifts into other abuses of power like regulating businesses is just a consequence of the fact that the rational people can't actually withdraw their authorization without punishment.

According to this argument, a moral private agency would never prosecute a criminal if the victim hadn't delegated his authority as necessary. It's just between the two of them, and the fact that a thief or murderer is on the loose is not actionable until he attacks a client. But is that really just? What if the victim can't delegate because he's dead or won't because he's irrational?

I had some other questions, but I'm answering and erasing as fast as I write, so I think that's about it for now.

Posted by Luke at Monday, April 21, 2008 11:10 AM

Luke,

Yes, if you have an irrational and irresponsible populace, you can't get a rational and responsible society, government or no. There's no guarantees, but it's better to keep authority and responsibility together than it is to separate them.

"the fact that a thief or murderer is on the loose is not actionable until he attacks a client."

An important point here is that it is a great fallacy of our society that punishment has anything to do with responsibility. None of this is about punishment. Nobody pays a debt to anyone by sitting in a prison cell, and nobody is held responsible for anything by being incarcerated or executed.

Punishment is an arbitrary consequence, it has nothing to do with responsibility. Punishment is revenge, it satisfies blood-lust without anyone having to get their hands dirty.

All of this is about restitution and self-protection. We seek restitution from an offender due to our right to be made whole again (to the extent it is possible), not to punish the offender. That he has to bear the cost of that restitution may or may not serve the same function as punishment, but it at least compensates the victim and reduces the offender's resources - his ability to do further harm.

A killer on the loose certainly is an actionable circumstance, in two ways. First, there is no higher authority to fob off the responsibility of determining what actions you may take. You may morally take any action you are willing to be responsible for. A rational person will not kill someone lightly, even a presumed murderer on the loose. He will demand of himself a high certainty - a conviction - that it is morally justified, at least on the practical grounds that he may find himself subsequently accused of murder and require a defense, if not to protect his own integrity.

Second, actionable does not imply force. You have no moral claim on restitution from an escaped murderer (of someone not related to or otherwise associated with you), but you do have a right to protect yourself. There are many ways to do that short of force. You may refuse to do business with him - not let him into your store, or fire him if he is in your employ, or not buy from him if he is running his own business - you may refuse to associate with him. The less interaction you have with him, the less the chance that he can harm you. If the responsibility is yours, you will take the necessity of these measures seriously.

Again, this is about protection, not punishment. The effect of your self-protective mechanisms may (and probably will) have a punishing effect on him, but that is not the purpose, it is a side effect. The other effect, assuming enough people are rational about self-protection (else, see the first paragraph in this comment), is that his means of action will be severely reduced. In this way, irrationaliy is marginalized even when not perfectly eliminated.

Finally, your point about the "dead men delagate no authority" is useful in that it reveals a value that will likely be demanded in the market. I can't say what form the satisfaction of this value would take, but one example would be a form of insurance, where you pre-delegate the authority while you are alive, to be invoked in the event of your death (or incapacitation), along with a designated beneficiary to get the proceeds of any restiution claim. Again, the responsibility for "convicting" your future murder is yours if it is anybody's.

And "the market" is a broad term, it encompasses all kinds of purchases, trades, barters, donations, cooperation, and the like where people expend some value to acquire a greater value. There's a lot of room in there to try a variety of means to solve a problem. There's no question that a rational anarchist society will have problems that need to be solved, the claim is that they have better means and resources with which to solve them, and a better moral alignment of costs and benefits, than does a state.

Posted by kylben at Monday, April 21, 2008 01:25 PM

Oh, and Luke, feel free to ask more, now or in the future. I can't say how quickly I'll respond, but I find such exchanges valuable.

Posted by kylben at Monday, April 21, 2008 01:27 PM

"Individuals in a market anarchy have all the powers that a present government has with one exception: they cannot use any resources but their own. They cannot arbitrarily claim the resources, nor the authority, of others."

There will be no theft in market anarchy?

You're describing market anarchy as a system when it's really a circumstance, the circumstance where a monopoly of force is absent.

Posted by John T. Kenndy at Monday, April 21, 2008 06:59 PM

John,

I guarantee that people will steal things in market anarchy. They just won't be able to credibly claim a public mandate to do so.

"it's really a circumstance, the circumstance where a monopoly of force is absent."

You left out "...and where markets are present". Otherwise, we could just use the term "anarchy" without modification.

A market is a system. Market anarchy is both a circumstance and a system.

It's a dirty little secret of anarcho-capitalism that it is assumed that somehow capitalism will dominate. There's no guarantee that it will simply as a result of the absence of a monopoly of force.

I think it will - the logic of division of labor, the need to trade to accumulate value, and the need to do so without force is unavoidable and leads inexorably to some kind of markets - but it still depends on a rational, responsible, and informed populace who have learned the hard lessons of the alternatives.

But if you want to talk about nothing more than blind circumstance, leave capitalism and markets out of it.

Still, there's a value to making the distinction, particularly when talking to people solidly invested in the paradigm of one universal system that all are compelled to participate in. It's not *a* system, or *the* system, it's a circumstance that allows for multiple, ad-hoc, and changing systems, the concrete form of which we can't know in advance, but which will presumably all have the characteristic of voluntary trade in common.

Posted by kylben at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 04:50 AM

"I guarantee that people will steal things in market anarchy. They just won't be able to credibly claim a public mandate to do so."

The current claims of public mandate are credible?

In market anarchy I can easily imagine market law arising in the fashion that David Friedman describes. Individuals hire various force agencies for protection and force agencies hire abitrators - private courts - to reach peaceful settlements with other agencies. Eventually you reach the point where things very similar to public mandates may arrive. If the market for drug prohibition is strong you won't just have random individuals interfering with the drug trade, powerful force agencies will do so on their behalf. Thee will be a kind of public mandate and individual will be somewhat protected fromm the consequences of their choices.

"You left out "...and where markets are present". Otherwise, we could just use the term "anarchy" without modification."

I thought of including that, but markets usually arise naturally. We add the use the phrase market anarchy to explain but we don't expect to see anarchy without markets.

"A market is a system. Market anarchy is both a circumstance and a system."

Okay, markets are natural systems as opposed to designed systems. I think you're describing market anarchy as a designed system, a plan or an agreement. It's the natural result of an absence of a monopoly of force.

"I think it will - the logic of division of labor, the need to trade to accumulate value, and the need to do so without force is unavoidable and leads inexorably to some kind of markets - but it still depends on a rational, responsible, and informed populace who have learned the hard lessons of the alternatives."

These are exactly the circumstances that require people to cultivate virtue. And hardly anyone cultivates virtue that's not required to achieve their ends. In general people don't become more virtuous because they are exposed to ideas of virtue. The become more virtuous when they need to in order to survive or thrive.

Lack of a monopoly of force means for practical purposes that there will be a market for force.

Posted by John T. Kenndy at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 02:37 PM

"The current claims of public mandate are credible?"

Of course. Hundreds of millions just in this country believe it, expect it, and demand it. What part of "credible" or "public mandate" does that leave out?

"Thee will be a kind of public mandate and individual will be somewhat protected fromm the consequences of their choices."

At which point the "anarchy" part of it has been undermined to some extent, if not also the "market" part. So the tree might need watering again. Eternal vigilance, and all that. It won't work on autopilot.

"I think you're describing market anarchy as a designed system, a plan or an agreement. "

No. I'm describing market anarchy as an anarchic circumstance in which markets have become the dominant form of social organization. (Please don't nitpick "dominant").

Everybody assumes that systems imply design. I can't help that, and I don't know how to discuss it without people bringing that baggage into the discussion. I've written about the distinction before, but it's quite cumbersome to weigh down every discussion with all the disclaimers necessary to - maybe - get people to drop it even for a moment.

"These are exactly the circumstances that require people to cultivate virtue. "

That's the theory.

"Lack of a monopoly of force means for practical purposes that there will be a market for force." (...and anything else of value.)

That's the rest of the theory. Is there a disagreement here?

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 03:26 PM

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