François-René Rideau (fare) wrote,
François-René Rideau

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The Nature of Anarchy

As a follow up to What Is Anarchy? by Butler Shaffer, Stephan Kinsella has published an enlightening article, What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist. Here is my take on the basics of Free-Market Anarchism.

Indeed, most people who claim to be opposed to Anarcho-Capitalism don't actually understand the very nature of anarchy and of political power. Most of the time, they can't even disagree with the Anarchist point of view, because they don't even fathom it. They think of laws as magic incantations, that by the mystic power of Democracy, or whichever God they worship, is transsubstantiated into a divine command that modifies the very fabric of the universe. (See my earlier entry in French Critique des Institutionnalistes.) They think they can impose order, and only end up promoting chaos; in other words, they are eristic avatars.

For instance, consider the local troll at the french-speaking Page Libérale, who names himself after Lenin; the concept of spontaneous order is an impossibility to him, because, says he, an order requires rules, and these rules must be defined -- and even libertarianism defines rules. It's always the same confusion between distinct meanings words. Order can mean structure, or command or hierarchy. Quite different things. In turn, rules can be descriptive or normative; and they can even be intrinsic and apply despite their not being made explicit in any description.

Now, there is indeed an oxymoronic contradiction between spontaneous and command. And a command is indeed a normative rule, issued by the holder of a hierarchical power. But as far as structure is concerned, there is no contradiction. There are by definition always descriptive rules; because the utterly unspeakable is utterly irrelevant, and that utter chaos is by definition undescribable, the relevant always can be described. And from a set of intrinsic rules, there always emerge a structure, which by definition is the spontaneous order associated to this set of rules. Conversely, any structure that exists is but the spontaneous order that emerges from intrinsic rules being followed. Spontaneous structure is not something that only happens, by magic, once all commands have disappeared. It is something that always happens, whatever you do. The question is thus not whether such structure exists; the question is to study which structures emerge from which sets of intrinsic rules, and how these structures are affected by normative or descriptive rules. The question is: what incremental change in the state of a system does a hierarchical command introduce? And how does the intrinsic dynamics of the system transmit, amplify or dampen what effects about these changes? Can we identify quantities being preserved (equilibrium through negative feedback) or monotonously modified (evolution through positive feedback) by the dynamics of the system?

Now, neither defining an explicit normative rule nor believing in a explicit descriptive rule is the same as changing the implicit intrinsic rules of the system. Actually, nothing can change the intrinsic rules of the human system; you can only change the state of the system, and only by following the rules. Well, normative rules do not change intrinsic rules of the system (by very definition of intrinsic rules). What they introduce is a meme that will propagate through the sanction issued when breaking the norm, and the fearful anticipation of this sanction. Nothing in the state of the system will be changed by a normative rule but through this sanction. And this sanction has costs, to the enforcer as well as to the enforcee. Commands by a political authority are a special kind of normative rules, that consist in demanding subservience by citizens toward a class of bossy people, at the expense of other citizens being oppressed to cover the enforcement costs -- this agression financed through another agression is what characterizes Political Power. And what it introduces is disappearance of negative feedback toward better management by whoever decides and doesn't pay, disappearance of negative feedback toward better creation by whoever creates and doesn't decide, appearance of positive feedback toward those who can find a way to live off extorted services. All of which can be put in a formal way and mathematized; but it can be better characterized with one word: Evil.

The statists believe that they are above society, and can modify the intrinsic rules of nature by their edicts. They think of themselves as gods, above society, or at the very least as superior humans above the rest of the crowd, apt to rule the inferior and not to be ruled. In a way, legislation is the ultimate blasphemy, the ultimate disrespect for other human beings; it is the delusional hubris of trying to go against the laws of nature. But the sanction of blasphemy is not an angry god sending minions to punish you. The sanction of blasphemy is that your stupid actions have consequences that bite you where you don't expect it; and you don't expect it precisely because you don't understand the law of nature that relates causes to consequences. For instance, statists neglect the costs of compulsion, and its corrupting power upon both those who exert it and those who are victim of it; they achieve some Good they can see and control, but at the cost of a greater, uncontrollable and largely invisible Evil. By legislating more, creating surveillance councils, regulations, inquisitive administrations, they believe they can reintroduce Control; but only at the cost of yet greater and uncontrollable Evil. And the system survives because those who suffer the overcoming chaos are not those who control and benefit from the localized order; and because that local order is the only haven of control and security in a growing chaos, many people seek to extend this haven, thereby mechanically increasing the outstanding chaos. Prohibition of alcohol or drugs doesn't make for much sober people if at all, but it makes for a lot of criminal warlords to control the black market.

The libertarian solution in this regard is to stop considering things in a static way, but to consider the dynamic consequences of choices. An apparent static order that brings but dynamic chaos is not order, it's disorder. Imposing normative rules upon others is evil and adds chaos. Developing descriptive rules that allow to approximate the intrinsic rules of the universe, on the other hand, can help engineer better behavioural strategies. And that's the extent to which libertarian define rules. Rules we define are but immanent laws of nature we seek to discover, not arbitrary whims we edict to change nature and men. And among these rules, there are rules about Law, that is, rules about how to resolve conflicts, and ultimately, rules about what violence is legitimate -- this we call natural law. Not because it's a fact of nature that this law is respected (which oxymoronic contradiction is an utter misconception of the nature of the juridic sphere, and how it relates to the factual sphere); but rather because this law is not naturally respected, and that violations of these laws have natural consequences that can be predicted in their general outcome. And the way that libertarians express laws is in terms of the relationship between liberty and responsibility -- in terms of the feedback between decision and consequences. A domain where one can decide and suffer (positive or negative) consequences is by definition that person's property. When decisions and consequences are desynchronized, when property as a paradigm is violated, then irresponsibility is introduced and things go wrong.

Oh, you may disagree with this vision of things -- though you'll have a hard time arguing an alternate vision. But most people just don't understand this vision of things, so they can't even disagree.

Tags: argument, black magic, dynamism, en, essays, fallacies, libertarian, links, natural law, panarchy
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