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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Living in Libertopia: Debt Ceiling Edition

These are the first three (of what have by now expanded to over sixty) of my Dispatches from Libertopia. It seemed a good time to re-run them.
I. Wherever government is meant to be of by and for the people, to be anti-government always means to be against the people.

II. Whenever a right wing politician declares all government wasteful, criminal, and corrupt you should pay close attention, because he is announcing his plans.

III. Anti-tax zealots are the ones who think that civilization is the only free lunch.
We're down to nine days left, and yet another breakdown of talks, and apparently the Republicans still can't decide whether or not they want completely voluntarily to destroy their own economy and magnify the misery of this recession for millions upon millions of their own citizens if they don't get more tax cuts for the rich paid for by the further dismantlement of the welfare state.

21 comments:

ian @ paul said...

The anarchist in me can't help but object to both:

"I. Wherever government is meant to be of by and for the people, to be anti-government always means to be against the people."

and

"LXVIII. To dream of smashing the state is always to enjoin the nightmare of feudalism. I do not want to smash the state, I want always to democratize it.".

Both of these claims seem to establish the state-form as the ultimate horizon of democracy and governmentality, as if any movement to uproot or dismantle the state structure would result in regressive and anti-democratic effects.

I think that the existence of soviets, syndicates, encuentros and other non-state forms of democratic organization asserts that there must remain room for radical experiments in post-state forms of social organization. While the focus of these discussions often remain solely on the actions and permutations of the state, radically democratic practices are already always occurring in a multiplicity of social organizations despite the attempts of the state to monopolize this kind of social organization.

I fear that if we limit our actions and thoughts concerning democratization to the contours of the state-form then radical imaginations may remain trapped in the discursive and historical limits of this form.

-i

Dale Carrico said...

any movement to uproot or dismantle the state structure would result in regressive and anti-democratic effects

If we are making theoretical noises, of course not -- if we are resisting tyranny the better to institutionalize more democratic forms, of course not -- but otherwise almost always, yes, regressive it will be.

the existence of soviets, syndicates, encuentros and other non-state forms of democratic organization

Given their historical relation to state apparatuses, I don't agree that these are "non-state forms" properly so-called.

I fear that if we limit our actions and thoughts concerning democratization to the contours of the state-form then radical imaginations may remain trapped in the discursive and historical limits of this form

There is no single one, "the state form," as a historical matter, there are a plurality of institutionalizations of order. Nor are there spontaneous orders, and as both an historical and a theoretical matter. All that matters is to struggle to democratize the institutionalization of order at hand. Radical anarchisms provide good vantages for the critique of actually existing institutions, but no escape from the indispensability of institutionalization to equity-in-diversity.

Dale Carrico said...

Here's another way to put the point -- as a theoretical matter you can see anarchism everywhere (ie, already always occurring), and I see it nowhere (ie, no spontaneous order, order always institutionalized), these logical positions are perfectly complementary from an empirical vantage, they capture the same phenomena perfectly well. But as a practical matter, there are states behaving badly or not and you can struggle or not, to help or resist in the struggles at hand in the terms on which they present themselves. My post was directed to an urgent matter in the real world. You responded with a theoretical point that presumably expresses your radical commitments but aligns you as a practical matter with the rhetoric of the tea party reactionaries against whom the post was obviously directed. That should matter to you enormously.

Kent McManigal said...

"...the Republicans still can't decide whether or not they want completely voluntarily to destroy their own economy and magnify the misery of this recession for millions upon millions of their own citizens..."

They'll decide to join the Democrats in their preferred method of continuing to destroy "the economy" by raising the debt ceiling. Just watch.

But, seriously, do you believe that a debt ceiling would stop them from spending whatever they want to spend? The Constitution never stopped government; why would a lesser law? If I were an unprincipled politician (but I repeat myself) who was in charge of my credit limit on a credit card that I issued to myself and that I forced other people to make the payments on, why wouldn't I continue to raise that debt limit? It doesn't affect me much. Even if I lose the next election (it rarely happens since voters have short memories), I've got a pension that will be funded by those same "taxpayers".

Probably the biggest threat to "the economy" is still the major counterfeiting operation going on at the Federal Reserve.

Dale Carrico said...

Enough of the tea-party caucus has bought into libertopian anti-tax anti-government anti-civilizational nonsense to make it at least a bit of a question whether Boehner can discipline those scoundrels into passing something that can actually pass in time. The Speaker's shift today into blame-gaming is a little ominous in this regard.

But if I were a betting man (I'm not, by the way) I am certainly with you on this -- I, too, expect the limit to be raised. The chaos and cost to America's fiscal situation within the global financial system as it actually exists and to the system itself in consequence (a system of which I am hardly a fan, as it happens, but neither am I crazy enough to believe that a scorched earth is a more promising terrain than the present debased one to get us where I would rather be) should be enough to get all sides to vote to raise it.

Hell, all you have to know is that Wall Street would suffer if the limit isn't raised since Wall Street calls the tune both parties dance to, to an extent that is ugly (although I would add the proviso, that I believe that most of the actually elected actually organized forces that would resist corporate-militarism in a reliable way are in the Democratic Party which is why that is the organized force with which I think we must work to do political good, and within which we must work to render it a better tool for this purpose).

Something in your tone suggests you either think the results from not raising the debt ceiling would be negligible or even wholesome, though. Forgive me if I'm wrong about that, but if you do think that, you're a profoundly foolish and ignorant person talking about something you don't understand, however cheerfully you can retreat into reassuring abstractions.

By the way, in a democracy WE are the government in a profound sense, and when you refer to government as THEY you are expressing profound contempt for yourself and for the citizens with whom you share this historical moment and its many problems. Alone, you are as helpless as the baby you once were, everything you know, everything you are, everything you can do for good is inextricably bound to and arises from your peers. Denying this is a form of kidding yourself, one pampered Americans are too used to getting away with to the ruin of the world. If you hate politicians so much, take over the local party organization closest to your views and change its direction for the better. Participate.

Dale Carrico said...

By the way, your links to the usual tired Rothbardian gold-bug fetishizing, taxes are theft, every public worker is a jackbooted criminal bullshit shows the eagerness with which you want to have your cake and eat it, too... you want to eat off the fat of society's archive, tapping away at your computer and living in a society of laws (however debased and looted by corporate-militarists sucking at the privatizing deregulatory anti-tax teat of your own pet pieties) but pretend you invented it all on your own or could make it on your own like some Randroidal or Heinleinian archetype. Look, if you hate paying your dues to live in a working civilization so much, go Galt, why don't you? Hide out in your Bat Cave. Dig out your survivalist compound... hell, you've already got the battered hat and the shades and the beard with crumbs in it. You're set, dood. Abide. Go to Somalia, go read Hayek to some warlord or play out a pre-informercial Chuck Norris fantasy and we'll see how long your rugged individualism lasts.

jollyspaniard said...

These people want to live in god's chosen banana republic. It's very much a be careful what you wish for situation. However we're talking about people who think the End of the World is a good idea so we're well past point of reasonableness.

I suspect the GOP is engaging in kabuki to keep the highly motivated useful idiots who believe their bs happy enough. They usualy throw these people under the bus when the chips are down so the debt limit may not be a big issue as the hyperventilating talking heads on tv suggest. Unfortunately for them trying to make these nutjobs happy is a suicide pact.

Kent McManigal said...

Dale- You say a lot without understanding what you are saying.

The US is a republic, not a democracy. But both are "tyranny of the majority". I do not consent to the violation of my worst enemy's rights. I do not consent to "governing" him. This doesn't make me "helpless". Withdraw consent and stop being a part of the problem.

I just want to have the cake I baked, so that I can eat and share it, voluntarily, as I see fit. Statists are the ones who want everyone else's cake, to eat without baking their own. If I didn't bake a cake I have no problem buying one from someone else. Pay for what I use, and use only what I pay for. Once again, completely unlike collectivists of whatever stripe.

I can't make civilization by myself, as you say I think I could, but I also know it takes individuals to make civilization, not institutions that feed on theft.

And yes, I am sorry but when you take something through force of threat of force ("arrest", "fines", garnishment, etc.) that belongs to an individual, when that individual would rather not give it up, it is theft. Even if you have a piece of paper saying you have the authority to do it. You can pretend otherwise all day long but it doesn't change the foundational act one iota.

One old furniture-abusing criminal in a black dress was once quoted as saying "taxes are the price we pay for civilization". He had it backwards. Civilization is what humans manage to create in spite of the parasites that feed off the productive people.

Nice job with the personal insults based upon your perception of my appearance. I'm sure it takes a "higher education" to be that childish.

If you knew anything about Somalia (beyond what you are told by other government-extremists), you would see that the Somalis are pretty good people (other than the remnants of the former government- the "Warlords"- who are still around the population centers doing their best to continue to act like a functioning State- murder, kidnapping, theft, and all).

Dale Carrico said...

Kent, why shouldn't I just trade insults with you? You just fling out the same slogans over and over again without engaging with anything I ever say. What's the point? Looters, blah blah, government thugs, blah blah, tax slavery, blah blah. You're wrong about everything, your schtick is beyond tired, the tea-tard GOP is the closest you ever get to your libertopian dream, and the tide is turning, you're going down, you're a laughing stock. You clearly can't be reached with reason so I hope to reach enough others to marginalize you and your ilk into relative harmlessness. Ridiculing the ridiculous is always appropriate, it was good enough for Cicero it's good enough for me. So, go to Somalia and show us what a productive dynamo you are, big boy. Blow my mind, captain fantastic, do it up, shatter me, go Galt, get lost, it's not like anybody will miss you.

Dale Carrico said...

Notice that Kent indulges by the way in the usual projection...

The self-nominated "producers" appropriate the historical archive, the commons, their indebtedness to their fellows (usually derided as "parasites," as gentle Kent would have it) and then pretend they create these goods as rugged individuals, as it were ab initio. To an important extent Kent is able to decry the redistribution of wealth via progressive taxation as "looting" only because he denies first of all the extent to which the initial distribution of wealth itself testifies non-negligibly to something like looting.

In King's terms, "We are all caught in an escapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." This is not to deny altogether the justice of an unequal distribution of result given the unequal distribution of effort, luck, talent, desire, and so on that shapes that result. Democracy values equity-in-diversity, not homogeneity, and not all fortunes are inevitably unjust by any means (nor is the lack of conventional wealth the measure of fortune for all of us).

The progressive taxation of those who benefit most from the physical infrastructure and ecosystemic services (public goods and services and commons whose private provision or allocation involve the violent externalization of social costs and risks) as well as those who benefit most from the maintenance and improvement of the ritual infrastructure of laws, norms, codes, and the atmosphere of trust (institutions for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes which must be equitably accessible to function legitimately) on which all private flourishing and for-profit enterprise depend, after all, makes perfect sense.

However, there is no perfect "planned" allocation of a more just distribution (market sensitive socialists took up Mises on this point generations ago, Keynesians never had to, they were already on it). There are and always will be ineradicable and legitimate differences as to what should be valued in respect to what else. This is a dimension of the diversity democracy cherishes after all.

Therefore, the sensible progressive taxation of those who benefit most from society (and among whom concentrations of wealth can imperil the proper function of that society to the longer-term ruin of all) should fund those general welfare programs which function to ensure that the scene of consent to enterprise be as genuinely informed and nonduressed as may be. This outcome is simply defined away by libertopians by fiat -- hence their faith in the "non-initiation of force" usually functions as a rationale for enforced exploitation disavowing the fraud, misinformation, and threat of violence on which it depends to maintain its hierarchy.

Just as libertopians pretend that the market is a spontaneous upwelling of tidal forces of supply and demand rather than a historically contingent tissue of treaties, customs, infrastructural articulations, and police forces, so too they assume initial and ongoing exploitation as "natural" or "merited" and then decry as looting, theft, or force any resistance to the violence of the status quo in the service of equity-in-diversity.

I do not provide these formulations for Kent -- Kent is a clown, Kent is not available to this sort of re-thinking of his reassuring pieties. I provide this for those who read his little snit, take in the slogans (familiar through incessant repetition across the spectrum from libertarians, conservatives, to neoliberals), and are lulled by their familiar into the usual uncritical suicidal haze.

Kent McManigal said...

"...You just fling out the same slogans over and over again without engaging with anything I ever say..."

Exactly the same could be said about you. I do address your points, you simply won't face reality. You deny that an act is the same no matter who is doing it, or what costume they wear.

"...the tea-tard GOP is the closest you ever get to your libertopian dream..."

Hardly. They are not pro-liberty any more than you are. They want a theocracy where homosexuals, drug users, Muslims, "illegal immigrants" (sic), and anyone else who doesn't do what they want is punished. They support unending Empire and "bringing democracy" to people across the globe, even if they have to kill people to save them.

If you think this even remotely resembles a free society, then I don't know what to say to you.

As for the rest- the more you write the more you expose your utter lack of understanding what you write about. As one example: "...The self-nominated 'producers' appropriate the historical archive, the commons, their indebtedness to their fellows (usually derided as 'parasites,' as gentle Kent would have it) and then pretend they create these goods as rugged individuals..."

Those who produce are not parasites. Those who feed off of the production of others, through "taxation" or appropriation of other property, ARE parasites. People who do this are not my "fellows". I do not pretend I have created this civilization (I already told you this). It takes a great many people, each accomplishing something, to make a civilization. It does not take people confiscating the things the productive people are producing. What is your definition of theft, if it varies so much from mine that "taxation" doesn't qualify?

" "We are all caught in an escapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

Absolutely! But mutuality does not require coercion or theft. It does not EVER require a State.

"... there is no perfect "planned" allocation of a more just distribution..." Right, because you can't "plan" an economy; it just happens through the individual decisions made by each individual person who decides if they want item A more than they want item B. This is perfectly just, and any interference with their individual decisions is completely unjust.

"...the sensible (sic) progressive taxation of those who benefit most from society..." Those you claim "benefit most from society" are those who benefit society the most. By your "progressive taxation" you remove incentives for them to create jobs and innovations.

"...should fund those general welfare programs which function to ensure that the scene of consent to enterprise be as genuinely informed and nonduressed as may be..."

And exactly how do these "general welfare" (no such thing) programs ensure that? No one has the necessary information to make that decision on the behalf of everyone else.

You are being Utopian. It is a statist trait.

Dale Carrico said...

Yes, yes, I'm a mushy-brained liberal who can't even grasp A is A and you're a stainless steel fountainhead of rugged production and innovation.

Let me say thank you, Kent, thank you, thank you for building this gorgeous garden and techno-topian paradise world -- you and a few of your superior white skinned superhuman friends and fellow CEOs -- for the rest of us billions of subhuman parasites to serve you in.

Of course, I think you are far too dangerously stupid to waste time talking to, and apparently you think the same, which is pretty much how I think it should be given how very low an opinion I have come to form of you by now, so why don't we just agree to disagree on all that, is that something you're up for?

And now I'll try to educate, agitate, and organize enough like-minded people to make a world in which people like you are marginalized into comparative harmlessness and you can build your internment camp for me (did I say death camp? I meant happy camp) and let's call it a day.

Leave me, darling, to my miserable jack-booted statist utopianism and you can wave your your big gun around and celebrate the nonviolence of feudalism and the spontaneous order of private security firms to your widdle heart's content.

Dale Carrico said...

The rhetorician in me is moved once again to provide some minimal instruction in the aftermath of Kent's absolutely typical transgressions. Again, this is not for Kent, Kent is a clown, Kent is unreachable, Kent is far too deep down the Randroidal rabbit hole to be saved except by a miracle of a kind that only he could provide himself by now...

Quoth Kent:

[one]

Against my accusation that Movement Republicanism is as close as his market fundamentalism will ever get to real influence in the real world, Kent huffs: "Hardly. They are not pro-liberty any more than you are."

Kent keeps making the mistake of thinking I confuse his particular market fundamentalist catechism for the variation the GOP (not to mention plenty of corporatist neoliberals) spout on about. Kent, it's not that I don't see the doctrinal differences between your sects, my point is what I am actually literally saying to you: the GOP spouts many of your anti-government anti-tax anti-civilization slogans and those slogans have real world impacts, almost always catastrophic, mind you, involving the catastrophic looting of infrastructure, the catastrophic contracting out of public services, the catastrophic deregulation of enterprise, the catastrophic "starve the beast" de-funding of civilization and anti-democratizing concentration of wealth.

It's not that I don't know that many of the assholes who mouth your own pet libertopian pieties often mouth other slogans with which you disagree, espousing theocracy and empire and surveillance and so on, it's that I disagree with you that this matters in the way you think it does. You seem to think this means they have nothing to do with you, but my point is that those assholes are as close as you will ever get to seeing any materialization of any of your world view. Just because GOP assholes differ from your own assholery in certain respects doesn't get you off the hook for the parts of their bullshit they owe to you.

You pretend that this is a abstract exercise playing out among angels on pinheads, but it is playing out in the real world where people can hear the actual arguments and frames used to justify their crimes and who will have no difficulty discerning the libertopian strain in GOP policy and rhetoric that has yielded its measure of disaster. Define your troubles away all you want, these are lives being smashed not high school debating club points being scored.

Dale Carrico said...

[two]

Kent: "Those who produce are not parasites."

By definition, of course. This is the very same sort of gesture that libertopians use to declare market outcomes "non-coercive" by fiat, from which stipulation they go on to trot of cocksure entailments in perfect obliviousness to the empirical failures of their
prescriptions ever to measure up to real world complexities.

And so, by definition, those denominated "producers" according to Kent's parochial preferences in the matter are by definition "not parasites" and so there is no need to inquire further into the conditions under which their production occurs or is enabled. One needs merely to get the Big Bad State and the icky moochers out of the way for the super-producers to do their stuff.

Unfortunately, Kent's magic words do not cause actual reality to conform to his libertopian fantasy. The actual process of production is collaboratory/contestatory and happens in the context of institutions and commons as well as historical archives and struggles.

Just because market fundamentalists are too stupid to grasp these things, and just because they can peddle and promote their wrong but attractively simple alternative to other stupid people in their pocket-universe (as well as to many who find in such views convenient rationalizations because they are pampered and insulated from the consequences of their maurading and mistakes and waste) doesn't make it so.

[three]

"mutuality does not require coercion or theft. It does not EVER require a State"

Of course, Kent is defining as "coercion" and "threat" plenty that does not deserve the designation in my view. But, look, let's go to deeper places Kent is incapable of delving into. People who share the world are actually different from one another, they have different capacities and different aspirations. Their are ineradicable disputes among stakeholders sharing the aftermath of struggles and accomplishments past, sharing the present world opening onto tomorrow. Violence and the threat of violence pre-exist states, state-like institutionalizations of order are responses to the permanent possibility of violence inhering in human plurality itself. Violence is not created by the state and would obviously persist in a world in which everything "statelike" were smashed. Elections provide a mechanism for the comparatively nonviolent succession of ruling organizations, law courts provide comparatively nonviolent alternates for the resolution of disputes, general welfare provide a comparatively legible scene of consent to the terms of private enterprise in complex divisions of labor after the withering away of sacral social orders, public and common goods ameliorate the novel harms arising from externalization of cost and risk in industrial-scaled intervention into ecosystems and mass population, and so on. You can declare by fiat that there are no rational conflicts among people, you can declare their are no problems of harm arising from complex modalities of association, you can declare violence unnecessary by fiat (as if there were not disputes even as to what should count as violence to which institutions must respond), and so on in the usual facile libertopian fashion.

But although free marketeers of whatever stripe -- from anarcho-capitalists to Randroids to libertopians to neocons to chamber of commerce free enterprisers to prosperity gospel muscular baby jesus freaks to neoliberals to corporatist Dems -- can obviously sell these daydreams for parochial short-term profit, they do so to the ruin of the world. And this is because the world is not like your favorite Ayn Rand novel, and the problems and promises of human plurality and social struggle and stakeholder politics and public goods are all real whether you understand them or not, whether you ignore them or not, whether you lie about them or not.

Kent McManigal said...

"...you and a few of your superior white skinned superhuman friends..."

What does skin color have to do with anything? Are you racist?

"...the rest of us billions of subhuman parasites to serve you..."

Parasites do not serve, they take. And, fortunately, the productive humans outnumber, vastly, the parasites. Even some people, acting as minor parasites, are still producing more than they are taking. Probably very few people are "all parasite" or "all producer" anymore. That's a shame. When that changes and more are taking than producing, your Utopian People's Democratic Kleptocracy will collapse.

"...I think you are far too dangerously stupid to waste time talking to, and apparently you think the same, which is pretty much how I think it should be given how very low an opinion I have come to form of you by now..."

I don't think that of you at all or I would have stopped talking. I don't have a low opinion of you; I have a low opinion of the ideas you have bought in to.

"...and you can build your internment camp for me (did I say death camp? I meant happy camp)..."

That would violate my principles. I have no problem allowing people to choose to live in any sort of voluntary society they choose. Even outright communist, if that makes them happy. As long as they allow those around them to opt out without forcing those people to leave their homes, families, and friends. The difficulty I keep observing is that statists rarely reciprocate, but insist it is their way or the highway. To me that is not civilized behavior.

"...you can wave your your big gun around..."

That would be irresponsible and I don't do that. There are rules to the safe handling of firearms, and that violates them all.

"...Kent is far too deep down the Randroidal rabbit hole..."

While I enjoyed reading Atlas Shrugged, I am most definitely NOT an Objectivist or a "Randroid".

"...the GOP spouts many of your anti-government anti-tax anti-civilization slogans..."

The GOP is not any of those things. They LOVE "taxes" as long as they get to use them to pay for "border patrol" or the military or their farm subsidies, or whatever other big government program they like. And they like a lot of them. Now, I just think the GOP has a different idea of civilization than I do, as do you, but I don't see them (or you) as anti-civilization. You just advocate some things that make civilization a lot harder to maintain, and more fragile.

"...as close as you will ever get to seeing any materialization of any of your world view..."

Really? I am seeing it now. In my own life. Just because my neighbor might not respect my liberty doesn't mean I seek to violate his.

There will always be bad guys trying to harm their fellow man. Right now the majority work for The State, but if you can't be free under a State, you couldn't be free in a free society either. Someone will always provide you an excuse to act like a slave.

"...these are lives being smashed..."

This is why it is important for people to understand that government gives power and false legitimacy to the worst of those who seek to do the smashing, without the risk of being a freelance thug. Yes, it is real; it is happening now. And it is completely unnecessary.

But you are right, this is not a high school debate. Keynesian "economics", just for one example, is destroying lives even now. And because statists are caught in the trap of thinking this way, the disaster is being "solved" by doing even more of the same that caused it in the first place. People are dying due to this sort of delusion.

To be continued...

Kent McManigal said...

Part 2...

"...they are pampered and insulated from the consequences of their marauding and mistakes and waste..."

Those who do the "marauding" are among the parasites and will get no sympathy or assistance from libertarians. Those who make mistakes can be helped by charity (a libertarian concept) better than by welfare. And those who waste might be helped once or twice, but if they don't learn, then life will be very rough. I believe you are projecting again.

"...defining as "coercion" and "threat" plenty that does not deserve the designation in my view..."

Coercion is making someone do something they don't want to by using physical force, or the threat thereof, or by using deceit to get them to do what you want.

A threat is making known your intention to use coercion. A legitimate threat is when that intention has been made and the one making the threat has the ability to carry it out.

Theft is taking property, through coercion, threat, or deceit, that belongs to another, because he traded his time or other property in order to obtain it, when that person would rather not give it to you.

"People who share the world are actually different from one another, they have different capacities and different aspirations."

Exactly! That is why "one size fits all" statism is doomed to failure every single time it is imposed!

"Violence and the threat of violence pre-exist states, state-like institutionalizations of order are responses to the permanent possibility of violence inhering in human plurality itself."

Yes, again! So why set up an institution that attracts those who seek to employ that violence without consequences?

"Violence is not created by the state and would obviously persist in a world in which everything "statelike" were smashed."

I never claimed differently. I am simply saying it is foolish to give that violence a veil of legitimacy. Let people defend themselves (and their neighbors) from those thugs without facing legal barriers that punish the good guys.

"You can declare by fiat that there are no rational conflicts among people, you can declare their are no problems of harm arising from complex modalities of association...

Why do that? Of course there are rational conflicts among people. There doesn't need to be a monopolistic institution to settle those conflicts. And if that institution is one of those concerned with the conflict it is a conflict of interest to allow that institution to adjudicate the dispute.

"...you can declare violence unnecessary by fiat..."

Never said that. Self-defensive violence is often the correct response to being attacked. Violence is neither good nor bad- it depends on whether the violence is initiated or as a response to initiated violence.

"And this is because the world is not like your favorite Ayn Rand novel, and the problems and promises of human plurality and social struggle and stakeholder politics and public goods (sic) are all real whether you understand them or not, whether you ignore them or not, whether you lie about them or not."

Yep. And many of those problems are completely manufactured by the existence of The State, and the best way to deal with this reality is NOT to violate the life, liberty, and property of those around you.

Dale Carrico said...

Kent, are you flirting with me?

Kent McManigal said...

Well, no, but would it bother you if I were?

I would like to apologize for being unbending in my advocacy of individual liberty. I sometimes let my emotions get the better of my judgement. I think individual liberty is critical for civilization because individuals are the "atoms" that make up civilization, and anything that hurts an individual will ultimately hurt civilization as a whole. Therefore it is too important to fail to defend anytime it is under attack (as I see it).

Believe it or not, contrary to the standard caricature of a libertarian, I love people and this is why I stand up for liberty.

Sometimes, though, I should slow down and ask questions rather than give answers.

So, in that spirit, are there instances where you believe it is right to throw the first punch; to "start it" (as children say) or to "initiate force" (in libertarian terms)?

Dale Carrico said...

You don't care about liberty more than I do, we just disagree about what liberty substantially consists of and requires for its flourishing. You definitely don't have to apologize for passionate advocacy, hell, if you let yourself learn a little you don't even have to apologize about being so dangerously wrong about everything.

About throwing the first punch -- I was trained in nonviolence via the King Center in Atlanta and engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience there in the 90s, I teach courses on nonviolence and critical thinking and the critique of violence in everyday life at Berkeley. So, I don't believe in throwing the first punch, but I am always pleased to ridicule the ridiculous (which some would regard as aggressive in its way).

Kent McManigal said...

Ridicule is not aggression. "Sticks and stones..." and all that. No one has a right to not be offended. And punching someone for ridiculing you makes you the bad guy.

If you refuse to initiate force, then you are over halfway libertarian already.

Dale Carrico said...

If by "libertarian," Kent, you mean "anarcho-capitalist," you couldn't be more wrong. If you mean by it something more like Ian -- who raised the first objections in this thread -- you probably wouldn't be too far wrong.

I'm a sort of democratic socialist, I guess. The fact is I have no problem with private ownership or well-regulated market exchange, especially the more they occur in the context of [1] equitable access to institutions for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes, [2] a scene of consent rendered legible by general welfare affording actually informed actually non-duressed consent, and [3] the socialization of commons and public goods to ameliorate tendencies to the externalization of cost and risk arising from industrial modes of production, so, frankly, it seems to me I might rightly be called an advocate of a democratic organization of capitalist economy, of a capitalism made to express the non-violence libertopians incredibly claim to discern in it in its present plutocratic vestigially feudal form.

Be that as it may, I have no doubt my advocacy of single payer healthcare, public education, and basic income in the service of the scene of consent and socialization of key modes of production prone to externalization amounts to democratic socialism in most construals of it, which is also fine with me.

I do think radical forms of commitments to democracy and non-violence (and I hold both of these myself) end up meaning something close to what many self-identified anarchists mean by "anarchism." Sometimes the words really do seem to get in the way. Given the plasticity of these terms I can easily think of people who would properly see their own politics in mine but think of themselves the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, radical democrats, social democrats, democratic socialists, secular democrats, pluralists, multiculturalists, anti-militarists, non-violent activists for social justice, market socialists, environmental justice advocates, Greens, queers, punks, civil libertarians, and, yes, anarchists.

But I do think there are problems with too many anarchisms -- and your own, Kent, most of all. Market fundamentalists, market libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, neoliberals disavow the artifice of the so-called natural market as well as the duress, fraud and exploitation that stratifies market transactions you are apt to declare "non-initiation of force" through the facile expedient of pretending "initiation" begins several steps beyond when much of the nasty action actually is taking place.

More generally, I think much that get declaimed about under the heading of state-smashing would much better be articulated in much more specific and situated ways that sound like resistance to violence and inequity and unaccountability in existing institutions and practices, and so look to me more as efforts at tinkering, reform, democratization of governance than smashing The State (which in that monolithic characterization may not exist any more than God does, given the separation of powers, federalization of governance, patchwork of jurisdictions, interplay of private/public/cultural apparatuses subsumed under that heading in any case).

If one must be theoretical about it (and I'm a theory-head, after all, it's okay) I would say, with Arendt, that politics is prior to social theory, and that plurality is likewise prior to mutual aid and co-operation, or more precisely that plurality is as much about the ineradicable problems of disputation and structural violence as about the real promises of mutual aid and voluntary co-operation and that this takes us to the institutionalization of order before it takes us to the wholesome democratization of government.

And so, all in all, even if it offends my left-anarchist friends sometimes, I still must insist that I do not want to smash the state, but to democratize it.