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How do we get corporations out of government.

Large corperations run our government, thay donate huge amounts of money for which they are rewarded. The government no longer represents the people but rather the corporations. We are supposed to be a representitive republic but our needs are not being represented, the corporations are. This is why I'm in the occupy movement, to try and return to our constitution and excercise my rights. We want the government to represent us and not the corporations, they are not people. Everyone thinks we are there to get money from the 1%, while this may be true for many what I have just written is true for me and most in the movement.


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    Jan 19 2012: The simple answer is that you don't. The more complicated answer is to change the way you think about governance and your relationship to social institutions. A relative handful of people can never, and will never, represent YOU. For instance each national appointed politician in the United States "represents" hundreds of thousands or millions of people. These people do not have the same needs, values, situations, desires, hopes, dreams and expectations. There is not even a plurality amongst them. In fact, an elected politician rarely gets elected by the votes of more than 25% of the people who he actually governs.

    But in any case, they can't possibly be attentive to or even acquainted with a significant portion of those people. Statistically speaking, each human being can have a close personal relationship with at most a couple dozen others and has the maximum capacity to even *remember* a few hundred or so. If you did the math and just worked out that that means of the ~1 million each politician "represents", he can only actually know less than one tenth of one percent of those people and only be well-acquainted with one one hundredth of one percent of those people, you might be getting close to understanding this "one percent" problem. If you then reflected on the fact that the real trick would be making yourself one of those few hundred "known" faces, you'd be edging even closer.

    Now, if it dawns on you that even though they can't keep all 1 million persons on that list of "known personalities" each of those 1 million persons can have the politician on their list of a few hundred "known personalities" you might really start to understand why this system is fundamentally broken. You might even have the right clues you need to point you toward a new and more reasonable goal than "fixing" it.
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      Jan 19 2012: So, Justen. Give us your outline of what you see as an appropriate political system. If your answer is “none” then give your opinion of how things might evolve once the current system is demolished.
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        Jan 20 2012: I am interested too Justin. For the record, any group, private or state can indulge in violence. I too support non violent organisations.

        I may be persuaded Libertarian Socialism may supply a safe and egalitarian model but not Libertarian Capitalism. The problem lies in who would own private property and how would that ownership be protected and controlled. Care to extrapolate?
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          Jan 20 2012: Safety is an illusion. No state in human history has ever solved the problems of crime and poverty. Any system, any person who promises you safety is a snake oil salesman. As for private property, it really depends on what you mean. When the first anarchists and socialists objected to "private property", they meant ownership of land - of pieces of geography defined on a map. I am opposed to that notion. I don't think you can own an abstraction - whether land or ideas. But as to ownership of actual physical things? Yes. You, personally, own the things that you have made for yourself or that you have obtained through voluntary exchange with others. That includes things you put on the ground - houses, gardens, wells, barns, that sort of thing. It's your job to protect your things. You might delegate that job to someone else, and that would be okay with me. You might even ask your neighbors if they'd like to cooperate to protect eachother - that too would be okay with me. Where I draw the line is the point at which you find one neighbor who is not interested and you and your other neighbors decide to accost him at gunpoint and demand that he participate in this venture.

          I suggest that many of the biggest societal problems humanity has ever faced come from crossing that line. One person declares first that he owns something. Sometimes this claim is fair and obvious - a thing he made, or the home he built. Sometimes it is dubious - a thing he found. Sometimes it is absurd - a piece of geography he's never even occupied, an idea he thinks he has originated, a person. In every case, he then makes it someone else's responsibility to protect this claim. If he can convince a large enough gang of people that the claim is legitimate, he has externalized the cost of maintaining his claim; and thus society at large is forced to pay the expense of landlordship, intellectual monopoly, slavery; while the private individual retains the profit.
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          Jan 21 2012: Your right Joanne, this is an interesting converstaion!

          Looks like you or I or even Justen should start a new thread talking about anarchism as a possible alternative. Perhaps many people will get more of an understanding of it and see it as a possible alternative. When it comes to any sort of social change, especially anarchism, an anarchist friend of mines stated that it all begins with "awareness" and "some sort of education about what anarchism really is"....

          I would love to say more about anarchism and clear up some things that I have seen that do not really represent anarchism but the conversation on it is already too long and I do not want to cause more perplexity but thanks for letting me know about it
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        Jan 20 2012: Ted: my first response is, I am not arrogant enough to assume I know the answer to everybody's problems. I just know what's not working. I know that no government has *ever* delivered completely on any promise it has ever made. There has never been a society without crime, without war, without poverty, without injustice. The state promises to deliver these things, but it cannot. In fact if you stop making moral exceptions for the state's actions, you find that it is often the biggest perpetrator of the ills it is meant to solve. Your average modern state commits so much armed robbery that it consumes half of all the productive efforts of its entire population. It engages in so much fraud and embezzlement - primarily by way of inflation and appropriation - that it makes the Madoffs of the world look petty in comparison. Its agents commit so much murder that they regularly rack up more kills than the most prolific of serial killers. It creates so much poverty through confiscation and destruction of private property that all the world's thieves and arsonists are a mere drop in the bucket.

        But it doesn't call these things robbery, fraud, embezzlement, murder, theft, arson; it calls them taxation, economic policy, "kickbacks" and "earmarks" and other nonsense, warfare and law enforcement, eminent domain and asset forfeiture, "nation building". Thanks to the use of these euphemisms these things somehow become different and don't get counted in the statistics; and so we see a supposed net reduction in crime, where what has really happened is just that crime has been redefined and then multiplied tenfold.

        In the end we still have the same problems, and no answers, and no "system". So I counter with: you can't have an alternative system till you have a system to begin with. What that system might look like I'm not sure. I have some ideas, but I'm not interested in the pursuit of the One True Authority, whether religious (a deity) or secular (a state).
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        Jan 20 2012: That said, have you considered the possibility that there is no One True Authority? As human beings, we tend to generalize and abstract so we can think on large scales without getting lost in the details. It's one of our greatest strengths, but it also gets us into a lot of trouble. Take for instance the notion of "crime". What is really a variety of generally defined bad acts perpetrated by a vast number of individuals with unique circumstances and motivations gets lumped into one big category, which we have never clearly defined. We then say we have this big problem, this "crime" problem, and we need a big solution for it, and thus we form a big institution and task it with finding and implementing that solution.

        I contend that what we really have is a lot of little problems (and quite a few non-problems, in the case of "malum prohibitum" crimes). You can only solve a lot of little problems with a lot of little solutions. You can't swat fruit flies with a sledge hammer. Furthermore, a single monolithic institution cannot provide a lot of little solutions. It cannot possibly be sensitive enough and precise enough to do that. The only way you'll even put a dent in any of these little problems is by taking individual, specific, direct action to solve them. David Graeber provides one of my favorite quotes on direct action (I paraphrase): "Suppose your village needs to build a well. In political action, one agitates local authorities who in turn agitate regional authorities to confiscate resources from another village in order to hire a work crew to come to the local village and dig the well. In direct action, one simply digs the well, and dares the local authorities to try to stop it."

        That is actually the way most problems are eventually solved, when they get solved at all. In some places this has come to be called "System D". I'm a big fan of that term.
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      Jan 20 2012: Hi Justin, another reply here, to your other comment.

      1.'I am frequently robbed by private enterprise. I am only ever taxed by government. The difference between the two things, and perhaps the two of us, is that I do not tolerate or make excuses for the latter.' Therefore it follows that you also do not accept being robbed by private enterprise is this correct? So you do not agree with profit, interest, or rent either? If you will at least be consistent then you must concede this.

      2. 'I am more interested in a world where we do not condemn actions by one group, only to praise the very same actions when engaged in by another group. In other words, I believe in equality.' Therefore you must agree that the actions of private enterprise are at least as violent/coercive as the state and that these equally violent, coercive private organisations must also be dissolved?. You do agree that some one can be jailed for not paying debt to a bank, or their rent, do you not? You do really believe in equality?
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        Jan 20 2012: Reply got misplaced, here it is:
        I don't agree that profit is robbery, provided it is obtained purely through peaceful, voluntary exchange. Likewise rent or interest, although I can't imagine many people opting to enter into agreements for rent in a world without state-enforced absentee landlords or for interest in a world without central banks. I can't imagine a world with very large profit margins where costs of industry - protection of property, repression of labor organization, the consequences of pollution, etc. are externalized to the rest of society via the state. In that sense, because I am forced to subsidize these things, or because I am not allowed a sane alternative, the earning of profit and interest and rent at my expense is certainly robbery.

        I agree that all violent, coercive organizations must be dissolved. But again you bring up the false dichotomy of the state vs. the corporation - the old divide and conquer routine. They are all part of the same crowd. They go to the same parties and country clubs, they graduate from the same colleges, when they get tired of politics they go into industry and vice versa. A corporation is a state entity, licensed, regulated, and protected from liability by the state; the state is a corporate entity which provides extortion and repression services for other corporations. Corporations ARE the state. The state IS a corporation. I don't make the distinction.

        And no, I am not in favor of debtors prisons. Or really imprisonment in general except, perhaps, in isolated and particular circumstances. In general I don't think it solves anything.

        But you'll have a hard time breaking up my position on grounds of consistency, and in the pursuit you may miss the larger point I'm trying to make. I would rather you assume that I am consistent, and then only bring up contradictions when I've actually made them, if you please. :)
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          Jan 20 2012: Re this; 'I don't agree that profit is robbery, provided it is obtained purely through peaceful, voluntary exchange.' since you included the proviso, that you would only agree with profit when it is given in peaceful voluntary exchange, then you are actually stating quite clearly that you do not agree with profit.

          The same goes for rent and interest. When some one can freely choose, they will choose not to pay profit, they will choose not to pay interest, and they will choose not to pay rent. The only way someone can be made to pay these things is through some system of coercion, either a monopoly, or through fraud, i.e the true nature of the exchange is being concealed from one party, or through threat of violence, for example he who does not pay his rent, will be forcibly removed from his house and made homeless, or sent to jail.

          So if you really do believe in equality as you say, then interest, rent, and profit are as equally coercive exchanges as taxation.I am sure you would not pay the interest on your mortgage if you had the choice, neither would I.

          Do you still stand by your statement? Or have you thought of a way to lose taxation but still retain exploitation through profit, rent and interest (expoitation is not a peaceful exchange between two EQUAL parties is it?) ?
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          Jan 21 2012: I am not trying to 'break up (your) position on grounds of consistency,', only to understand it. I too do not like 'isms' and feel they are counterproductive, having said that, I am strongly against the 'anarcho capitalist' movement, because of some inherent neo-facist elements to the theory.

          I am still trying to figure you out.
        • Jan 21 2012: @Justen Robertson Joanne seems to want to fight when she reads certain concepts. My theory is that some of the concepts you and I, and some others are talking about, don't fit into prepackaged social systems. I believe what's happening is that when she hears one idea, that is a core tenet of a particular system she is aware of, she assumes that the other facets of that system are assumed to apply to the writer. While initially a little painful for me, this has been good for me because in 'defending' myself from her, I have discovered at least one system that I know doesn't describe me.

          I have always called my philosophy Traubanism because I had never (until recently) discovered anyone else who seemed to posses so many of the same thoughts. Also, exposure to other people's ideas over these last 10 years has cemented or challenged many of my ideas, to the point where I can be sure that I only a few certainties about what everyone should agree on. Three cheers for the internet!
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        Jan 21 2012: This inability to reply beyond a certain depth in a thread is really starting to bother me :)

        Joanne: I am pretty certain that if I could go out and build a home on a piece of unused land I would do that immediately. I think many other people would probably do that as well, given the opportunity. I can't say with any confidence that *all* people would do that. It seems that even when that was an opportunity not everyone did it, e.g. in early colonial America (there was plenty of space out there not claimed or in use by anybody).

        I also know that the only thing that makes it practical to claim a piece of land you're not using and hold on to it is that someone else is paying for it. It would become incredibly impractical to hire security guards to check in on unused land and harass its occupants if taxpayers weren't footing the bill. Especially if nobody respected that claim and the security guard didn't enjoy any guarantee of legitimacy if he harassed an occupant.

        As to profit, I guess it depends on how you define it. we all seek to gain, to improve our situation. When I plant some seeds, the profit I expect to gain is the difference between the cost of the seed and the value of the crop. There's no objective, concrete way to quantify that difference. If I trade some potatoes for someone else's corn, all I can know for sure is I grew some potatoes, and he grew some corn, and we each wanted the other's product more than the one we had. By exchanging them, we both benefit - thus profit. How is that immoral? I don't think it is.

        I do, however, think that without state-granted monopolies and restrictions on trade and competition, the perceived value differences would balance out more evenly, tending toward energy cost wherever rarity or sentiment did not apply. This all comes down to theories of value. Many people in the world are still operating on the labor theory of value, which is something like unwittingly being a flat-earther. Economics has moved on :)
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          Jan 21 2012: Well Don, I hope to goodness I did not cause you any pain and I am glad you took something from the exhange, anyway.

          Justen, I would like to deal with a couple of the ideas you bring up in your post.

          1.' in early colonial America (there was plenty of space out there not claimed or in use by anybody' Do you acknowledge that most if not all the space that was claimed, WAS in fact in use, it was just not a usage consistent with the encroaching culture who were neither huntergatherers nor semi nomadic? Would you like to qualify this statement?

          2.There are two distinct political ideas here, 'we all seek to gain, to improve our situation.' implies (correct me if I am wrong) accruing surplus, therefore some capital is gained. Conversely this is a straight barter of labour 'if I trade some potatoes for someone else's corn, all I can know for sure is I grew some potatoes, and he grew some corn'. Here there is no capital gain or surplus in the transaction.

          One is an equal exchange, the other is unequal.

          You have 'heard' me debating as a social reformer, someone who seeks to balance the forces of capital gain in society as it exists now, choosing the best model (the nordic in my opinion) and modifying it to a more peaceful sustainable model.You are proposing a society free of govt, free of property rights (am I correct in that assumption) but one where people can still acquire surplus. Surplus or capital gain results in heirarchies, heiracrchies result in exploitation. How will you prevent monopolies and exploitation from forming? How will you protect the weak in your society?
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        Jan 21 2012: Joanne, to your most recent points:

        1. No I don't acknowledge that most of the land was claimed. There were only a few million inhabitants on the entire continent, not nearly enough to occupy and use the entirety of it, or even the most fertile portions. The earth is a very large place and there's space enough for all of us on it even today. I do agree that many of the inhabitants were not nomadic or hunter gatherers. Many had advanced and complex cultures that we're tragically just starting to understand in the past few decades thanks to the thorough genocidal eradication carried out by some of the early conquerors. I don't think it's fair to frame *all* the colonists that way, because many lived in peace and cooperation with the natives; but those who did not I am happy to condemn, for whatever that is worth today.

        2. You and I might be dealing with slightly different ideas of capital gain. I would not necessarily call surplus unequal or unfair - after all, all of us, even today, require savings to weather hard times. It's the lack of our ability to save, largely due to much of our productivity being confiscated, that helps create a situation where most of us are indebted to a few privileged elites. I don't think that the accumulation of some surplus is inherently immoral, nor is the desire to do so. I do find it unrealistic that large accumulations of wealth could occur without the use of force. Both rational extrapolation and the evidence I have at hand suggest that this is impossible and has never occurred where there is no state (and not simply because of rampant crime as statists would have you believe).
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          Jan 21 2012: Justen Regarding this; I do find it unrealistic that large accumulations of wealth could occur without the use of force. Hierarchies and force go hand in hand. How would you prevent the use of force then? (to frame the question in another way)

          Re this; 'I don't agree that profit is robbery, provided it is obtained purely through peaceful, voluntary exchange.' since you included the proviso, that you would only agree with profit when it is given in peaceful voluntary exchange, then you are actually stating quite clearly that you do not agree with profit.

          The same goes for rent and interest. When some one can freely choose, they will choose not to pay profit, they will choose not to pay interest, and they will choose not to pay rent. The only way someone can be made to pay these things is through some system of coercion, either a monopoly, or through fraud, i.e the true nature of the exchange is being concealed from one party, or through threat of violence, for example he who does not pay his rent, will be forcibly removed from his house and made homeless, or sent to jail.

          So if you really do believe in equality as you say, then interest, rent, and profit are as equally coercive exchanges as taxation, are they not?
        • Steve j

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          Jan 21 2012: Justen, you say "I do find it unrealistic that large accumulations of wealth could occur without the use of force."

          I don't recall Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, just to name two people, resorting to force to accumulate large amounts of wealth. No one has ever been forced to buy Microsoft software. There is always a choice.
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          Jan 22 2012: Justin,

          I agree with Joanne and Steve. Wealth by no means requires use of force.

          Take for example, Norway. One of the highest GDPs in the world, highest standards of living (and, interesting potential corollary: one of the lowest crime rates in the world). Not known for using violence to achieve wealth.

          And, Wallstreet Journal reports of a new law in some US states that promote outcomes of building "common good" wealth measurements in for-profit corporations.

          The "muscle" behind this law is that it supports corporate governance that priorities social good, not monetary profits.


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        Jan 21 2012: I find the notion of 'the weak' poisonous and insulting. This stems from millenia of bad philosophy going all the way back to Plato. There are not inherently weak people who need inherently strong people to protect them. You are not weak, I am not weak, the poor are not weak, the repressed are not weak, and the last thing we need is self-declared authorities "protecting" us. We've seen where that scam gets us. "The strong" have a funny way of transforming into cowards and idlers and abusers as soon as they've convinced "the weak" they deserve authority. They have a funny way of sending "the weak" off to die in campaigns of murder and robbery to sate their ever-growing avarice. I don't think there's any strength or virtue in being a thug who, unlike 'the weak', is willing and able to use violence to get what he wants. That just makes one a poor excuse for a person.

        As to whether surplus results in hierarchies, that's a very interesting problem. It seems to, I agree; but the funny thing is that the people on top are never the people who actually *produced* the surplus, are they? The first societies to develop what we'd recognize as modern states were the ones who first developed grain agriculture. As soon as they were able to produce more food than was needed for the population, thereby ensuring long-term stability of the food supply and anchoring them to a single area, governments started to form. But it's never the farmers who become the governors. Those seem to materialize from elsewhere. Often they're not even locals, they're invaders who discover a society they can pillage indefinitely if they only regulate their consumption to roughly the degree of surplus available. It's hard to say for sure since the evidence is so scant and from such a distant past, but this appears to be the pattern that has been repeated through history.

        Again I recommend the book "The Art of Not Being Goverened", James C. Scott, and also "Toward an Anarchist Anthropology", David Graeber.
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          Jan 21 2012: Justin, regarding this 'I find the notion of 'the weak' poisonous and insulting'. Every person is weak at some stage, I myself was very weak once, just after I was born and before the age of four. I am approaching a time when I may be that weak again. I know others who have been sick and could not 'hunt' or 'gather'. There are some others who I know who can never perform these acts, for one reason or another. How do you propose to protect these people in your society, how will they be looked after? Will it be left to their clan, and if there is no clan, are they to be fertiliser or jackal fodder?

          I will read these books with interest, for now I have downloaded Graeber's discussion on debt, which looks interesting.
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        Jan 21 2012: As to how to prevent these things, I think the best way is to refuse to tolerate or support the means by which they happen. The way slavery was abolished in most of the world is informative. Unlike the United States and one other country (I think it was in the Carribean or Latin America, I can't remember off hand), it was ended peacefully. Popular support for abolitionism grew, governments were pressured into ceasing enforcement. They never, or only much later, actually banned the practice of slavery. They just stopped catching slaves for the slave owners. It turns out to be very expensive to perpetrate all that constant violence and manhunting. The only way it's affordable is when everyone else - the public at large - is charged with the expense of maintaining the institution. Even the wealthiest plantation owners couldn't afford to do it themselves while staying profitable; and so they gave up on it. Not because they had a moral change of heart, not because their mansions were stormed at night by torch-and-pitchfork wielding abolitionists. Only because everyone else stopped helping them do it.

        I endeavor to stop helping people exploit me, and I encourage you to do the same. I expect that we'll find that the answer to the problem of prevention can be found in our mirrors. Let's be abolitionists, and withdraw our moral, financial, and physical sanction from exploitation first, by the most efficient and expedient means we can find. That's a big enough task, especially when that sanction is obtained at gunpoint. If that ends up not being enough, let's cross the bridge when we come to it. That's my strategy anyway, and it's working for 1.8 billion people out there.
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        Jan 21 2012: Re: follow-up questions on protection, I think you're making the mistake of projecting psychopathy on the vast majority of the human race. We all take care of eachother because we want to, not because some moral authority sticks guns to our heads and forces us. Only about 1 in 100 people is a psycho/sociopath - i.e. lacking empathy, compassion, or the ability to imagine and appreciate the consequences of their actions on others. Children and the elderly get taken care of by their loved ones; when their loved ones cannot, they get taken care of by those who can. This is the way human society worked everywhere on the planet for most of the past 300,000 years of our existence.

        It's only in the past several hundred years that we have suddenly shirked this responsibility and handed over to central authorities (who, by the way, are doing a disgusting, miserable job of it in most places where they try). But we don't want to feel as if we've shirked our responsibilities, because we still feel compassion; so we project that onto the state and imagine that, by paying taxes and forcing others to do so, we are satisfying that compassionate motivation. I find this all pretty hollow and unsatisfying, myself. I take care of my family directly, and my friends in need directly, whenever I can. The only thing that stops us from caring for everyone are the artificial barriers set up by the very authorities who are meant to be doing this for us.

        The only time the 99% non-psychopaths fail to take care of each other is when they don't have enough for themselves. I am convinced that by removing the barriers and ensuring everyone has what they need to produce more than enough for themselves, the questions of who will take care of who will sort themselves out naturally - because we all want it to happen, and the capability exists, so we will find peaceful ways to do it as we had in the past before rulers came along.
        • Jan 21 2012: @Justen,
          ROFL. Couldn't even get through the rest of this one.... "Only about 1 in 100 people is a psycho/sociopath" This is a good ratio for you?!
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          Jan 21 2012: Yup, me too. You use far to many words to describe something which only needs one word. Facistic. When we advocate something that is grossly un-egalitarian we advocate facism. Dress it up all you want. I like to call a spade a spade too.

          I have lived in lots of different kinds of societies, people care for each other for many reasons. In societies where there is no institutional social care, it falls to social currency and clan or otherwise recipricocity. This is only another kind of currency or as Graeber describes it, debt. Clan recipricocity works well, for example you will never see a Greek person begging in Greece where I lived for many years, you might however see anyone outside of their culture, man, woman, child, the elderly, the infirm, the mentally ill, destitute and begging.

          You expect to convince someone like me, who has direct experience of many cultures, and has some knowledge of how societies are set up and function, that the 'she'll be right mate, they won't starve' is a legitimate workable model? Sorry you have lost me. That sounds far too laissez faire, which is close to a near perfect representation of facism, apart from the peaceful thing, which is only a blind, so long is authoritarian property ownership is left in the model.
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        Jan 21 2012: Anthony: I don't have preferences about facts. Th reality that 1 in 100 people are pathological is unfortunate to say the least, but it is a fact of life we have to deal with. If you're uncertain about that ratio you're welcome to look into it and dispute the numbers, but what we'd *like* that ratio to be (ideally, 0 in 100) is as irrelevant as what we'd like the strength of gravity to be. Anyway, best of luck to you in your efforts.

        Joanne: I'm not sure you have a rigid definition of fascism. It doesn't mean "things I don't like or find distasteful". It is a system of governance defined by strong nationalism, subjugation of the individual rights and needs to those of the state, and an economic policy of subsidy of private business with state-appropriated resources along with strict regulation and control of competition in favor of state-privileged entities. You might some variants of that definition depending on where you look for it, but that is the essential character.

        There are other things that we both agree are undesirable that are not unique fascism - authoritarianism, hierarchy, domination, poverty, human suffering; but it is not productive to simply label everything undesirable "fascism" and be done with it. It doesn't solve any problems or answer why they're undesirable or how to put a stop to them. And whatever you think about laissez faire, it is certainly not fascism any more than communism is. It is true that fascists like to use various words like "laissez faire" and "socialism" and "community" when it serves them, but they'll label themselves with whatever words they think are most effective in gaining our sympathies. Propaganda is another core aspect of fascism, after all - necessary in creating a false sense of national identity and solidarity.

        Anyway, as we're going around in circles here at this point, I'll bow out. I may read any further replies, but I probably won't respond to them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
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          Jan 21 2012: Actually certain communist movements fit a definition of facism quite well too. 'authoritarianism, hierarchy, domination, poverty, human suffering,' and chronic un-egalitarianism DO fit within the wide definition of facism.

          What I find interesting, is that anarchists, along with people who advocate all branches of democratic socialism, or even democratic capitalism, will all discuss any aspect of their model quite openly. Laissez Fairists, (if you prefer the kinder term), on the other hand, will always side step the key issues of authoritarian property ownership, and care for the needy.

          If you look back at your answers, I have asked you direct questions along these lines several times. You have evaded neatly each time. Why is that? People who advocate facistic models, deep down, know it is wrong, know it could never work, know it would produce a horror world of tryanny and repression. The reasons for advocating these kinds of policies, are not to produce a better world, a more humane, peaceful world, usually there are other reasons, I find.
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      Jan 20 2012: Justen - It’s Tim not TED! I’ve been mis-identified before. And am always insulted that anyone would construe any form of kinship.

      Your comment “[the] modern state commits so much armed robbery that it consumes half of all the productive efforts of its entire population” is a refrain I’ve heard many times. The implication being that we could live twice as well if we just eliminated the state. So why not prove it? Choose a region of the world. Collect a group of like minded individuals. And show the rest of the world what is possible.

      Now, I know it may be difficult for you, personally, to pick up and leave your home and do this. But the fact that it hasn’t been done makes it very questionable whether your theory is true. You are right, your line of reasoning has a great deal of coherence to it. But without observable application it is hard to put much faith in it.
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        Jan 20 2012: Sorry about the name Tim :) I guess it's easy to get "Ted" stuck in your head around here what with all the giant red logos.

        "But the fact that it hasn’t been done makes it very questionable whether your theory is true."

        Actually you're wrong on several counts. It has been done, and continues to be done, from the small scale to the large all over the world. James C. Scott wrote a great book focusing on Upland Southeast Asia, which has never been under any kind of effective government rule in the 7000+ years it has been inhabited by humans (the book is "The Art of not Being Governed: an Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia"). There are tribal cultures that have maintained a stable customary law system for thousands of years all around the world (compare this to the average 300 year lifespan of a state). Several anarchist anthropologists and sociologists have written very interesting books about them; David Graeber is one of my favorites.

        In modern times there have been anarchist enclaves, communes, and effectively stateless regions all over the world practicing a variety of different decentralized systems of governance. One of the best modern examples is the Mondragon region in Spain. Another notable modern enclave is Freetown Christiana, although in the past decade it has suffered increasing incursions by government.

        Of course there was the pre-modern american wilderness, which was stateless and/or polycentric for centuries until the United States, Canada and Mexico eventually swallowed it up (and which was not so wild, see "The Not So Wild, Wild West"). And there was Iceland for over 300 years in the Middle Ages. Ireland practiced a polycentric customary law system for around 1000 years.
        (to be continued)
        • Jan 20 2012: Although I am not now nor have I ever been Tim, I do have to answer your post. First of all the examples you give are small rural or socially marginalized groups. How are they examples of what you would do with our society? And for example, your Mondragon example is a tad faulty. See this website for some interesting descriptions o f their governance: http://www.justpeace.org/mondragon.htm

          They might be a cooperative, which I have no problem with , but the certainly do have governance and rules.

          Because all of your examples fall into clan or at best tribal societies, how do these principles, fit into our complex society? Do we break everything and everyone down into tribal bases? Actually every society retains personal, family, clan, and tribal structures though we don't call them that. Our society is a complex social construct. Once complexity had intertwined itself, it is really difficult to undo it. Of course my zombie apocalypse example below would be one.

          The historical examples you give do talk about pluriform societies, but ones that were not united in any way and they still had sometimes very strict tribal rules for governance. (See any good book about Mexican or Central American pre-columbian society). Historically, they were not without governance, but without complexity.

          The so called anarchist communes you mention, yes did rebel against general societal rules, but most of them again had very strict internal social governance. Rather than being examples of "your theory being true" they are excellent examples of exploration on the edge of society. Most of them eventually broke down or break down, because sooner or later they do have to deal with larger societies around them.

          Short of total anarchy, which is by the way what I think most libertarians think they want, there is no way to untangle complexity to follow the examples you cite. Unless of course you totally withdraw from this society, thereby losing influence in it.
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          Jan 21 2012: Justen, I am hugely interested in anarchy, and its possible applications in contemporary society. I am very excited by these models, and there ARE existing societies. You are right Michael and Tim, they are usually small tribal communities which sadly often do not stand up to an encounter with a more militant neighbour, nevertheless, I think we can learn a great deal from these systems and possibly even extrapolate a workable model for a large group.

          My problem is with concepts around property. If you think you can preserve an anarchist model, which is essentially peaceful, and still retain monopolistic systems of capital gain, you are not talking about anarchism, you are not even talking about peaceful exhange. It IS by its nature coercive. Can you please clarify your stance on this point?
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        Jan 20 2012: But I think your charge is somewhat disingenuous in that you must know that every square foot of land on the planet is claimed by some state or other in word if not in effect; and that they don't take kindly to secessionists, revolutionaries, and scofflaws like myself. Even if you personally don't agree, governments are happy to send in armed men to murder every man, woman and child in any community that dares to reject their rule. Even though I don't personally like the folks at Ruby Ridge or Waco, I remember the lesson. I also remember the war the Zapatistas have been fighting for more than a decade now, and I remember what happened to Chechnya, and I know how people are being treated right now in Egypt, and I know what happened to the Argentinian syndicalists.

        None of these examples are perfect or ideal, but then, show me an ideal state.

        Anyway what you're asking really is whether I'm willing to offer myself and my family as martyrs, and to that my answer is no. But I don't need to go off somewhere else to practice my ideas. I can do that right here, from my home.

        You may have noticed the article I linked earlier which identifies "system D" as the second largest economy on earth. 1.8 billion people, all practicing anarchist principles (if often without the baggage of ideology). We are doing this. It's already happening, and it's already making a positive difference in people's lives.

        As another example, you may take notice of the fact that there are free and widely available tools that allow you to communicate privately using encryption that no individual, group or state has ever demonstrated the capability to break (such that many are attempting to prohibit it). It delivers what the state has promised, but cannot give you: perfect privacy. This was no coincidence. The cypherpunks (crypto-anarchists) gave you this technology.

        The thing is this is not a hypothetical; I'm not talking about the future, I'm introducing you to the present.
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          Jan 20 2012: Thanks Justen. You’ve given me plenty of interesting topics to research. I don’t see any link to “System D” though. Can you point me to it?

          Your reference to "The Not So Wild, Wild West" brings up an important point. Won’t some form of government always emerge?

          But I definitely agree with your argument that we need to avoid concentrations of wealth.
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        Jan 20 2012: Michael M: all very good questions and points. When one discusses statelessness, one must not make the perfect the enemy of the good (what is "pefect anarchy" anyway?). Of course whenever you get two people together rules emerge. We want to be able to predict each other to some extent so we can get to doing what we do best - working in abstractions. This is all fine.

        My standard of statelessness is only that you have a real, effective choice between systems, and between system and no system. As long as this is the case, you have a laboratory, you have evolution, you have emergence. Or rather, to the extent that you have choice and flexibility, you have opportunity for those things. Where you have rigidity and hierarchy and social ossification, you do not have the opportunity for change.

        A fallacy frequently committed by statists is to ask for an example of a society that looks essentially like their own, minus an overbearing government. I believe this to be wrongheaded. You'll never have such a thing. A state is required for the concentration of wealth and power and the trampling of individual rights and needs that lay the groundwork for your multinational corporation, for your advanced military, for your national highway system. A better question is whether those things are desirable, or what something more desirable and more effective at serving individual needs might be.

        That doesn't mean we need to eschew technology and civilization to get freedom. I'm of the opinion that only technology and civilization provide the surplus of wealth necessary to sustain a parasitic criminal organization like a government - not the other way around. So while you need a state to concentrate power and wealth, you cannot concentrate power and wealth until there is power and wealth to be had. I'm more interested in keeping the technology and the civilization and avoiding the concentrations. The best answer I have for you there is: we're working on it, and making progress.
        • Jan 23 2012: Justen
          Your major fallacy is this one, and frankly the upon which your whole argument hinges.

          A state is required for the concentration of wealth and power and the trampling of individual rights and needs that lay the groundwork for your multinational corporation, for your advanced military, for your national highway system."

          Governing states existed long before these two things emerged. If you say a priori "states trample individual rights", something that you will not be able to back up historically, then I suppose you might be correct. However, states do not a priori trample individual rights and again governing systems develop even in most of the "anarchist" or communal groups you hold up as models. In fact many of them had very strict hierarchies and did their best, usually through social not legal controls to demand conformity. The mere fact they were "outside of" or deemed themselves "outside of" statist society, does not mean they actually were non statist, they were in most cases non-conformists which is not the same thing.

          There are huge examples, even the one you mention about slavery, where governments did seek after individual rights. Our own Constitution, for good or ill, does that.

          On your idea for individual or familial experimentation, that is fine. Have at it. However, you want everyone to produce their own food? That is a complete impossibility in today's world. It is not the question of enough land it is a question of arable land, food habits, food distribution and the ability of everyone to to go back to that lifestyle. While you claim not to be a Luddite, I wonder. While you might be able to accomplish that on a very personal scale, in today's world it simply does not scale up.
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        Jan 20 2012: Tim, here's the article I was referring to, re: system D: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/28/black_market_global_economy?page=full.

        About whether governments will always arise, I think it's a funny question. I'm convinced that for the foreseeable future there will always be people who prefer violence and theft to hard work and cooperation. Some of them will be charismatic, and so will form gangs. Some of those gangs will call themselves governments, as they have in the past. The only real question is how many of us will choose to cooperate with them, and to use their euphemisms for their actions. I am comfortable with this reality. Mountain lions want to kill me, raccoons want to get into my trash, foxes want to eat my chickens, and gangsters want me to work so they don't have to. There are ways of dealing with all these things, and usually shooting at them or giving them what they want is not the best or cheapest solution.
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        Jan 20 2012: I agree that we need to avoid concentrations of wealth, I agree that decentralisation is one way of doing that, and has other benefits too, I do not agree 'safety is an illusion' Justen. I have lived in a country with low or zero crime, and one where for decades, no one has suffered below the poverty line. Its cynical to suggest these things are not achievable.
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        Jan 21 2012: Joanne: I'd like to know where this country you lived is. I've never heard of it. I've seen places with very low crime, and relatively low wealth disparities. I think there's better ways to do this then to provide the means, through complex systems of state privileges, regulation and taxation, to concentrate wealth and then to take most of that concentrated wealth back away and redistribute it. This sounds a little Rube Goldbergian to me.

        As for capital, I don't see anything inherently wrong with one person who has a surplus to lend it to another person in order for that person to better himself, on the expectation of recovering it later. I don't see any problem with people agreeing to that if they choose to. I don't even really see a problem with agreeing to give back much more than what you originally borrowed, if that's what you really want to do. But as you say, the current reality is that there is a vast amount of coercion and very little actual choice and we must not make the mistake of using idealized scenarios to justify present realities.

        I also am not a fan of the undue focus placed on the role of capital in a 'capitalist' system. To me this makes as much sense as calling a system 'receptionistism' or 'machinistism'. There's a big difference between capitalism and market anarchism, even though capitalists would like to pretend or imagine that the present system is a natural and desirable outcome of non-coercive market economies.

        For a deeper exploration of these ideas I suggest "Markets, Not Capitalism". It's been put much better by others in the past and present than by me, and the book collects many compelling essays spanning several hundred years on the subject. Naturally, it's available for free online, or in dead tree format if you prefer form a number of vendors.
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          Jan 23 2012: "Markets, Not Capitalism" looks like a fascinating read. Wish this conversation would last till I get through it. Thanks Justen.
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      Jan 22 2012: Justin,

      Disagreed. It is entirely possible to. Agreed, not easy. But possible.

      In the US multiple and powerful movements are engaging and making meaningful progress. It can seem like one step forward two steps back, but progress is occurring and there is more to come provided people continue to put the "force" of multi-sector, mulit-path and sustained energies behind it. Like corporate spreadsheets, it is a "numbers' game.

      Unlike corporate spreadsheets, large numbers of people mobilizing against corporate greed can and does work.

      From the Grape Boycotts of the 60s to Occupy Wallstreet of late, corporations, when citizens get moving in loud and large numbers change. Smart corporations and civic leaders get on the citizen bandwagon.

      Such disruptive contagions of grassroots pro-integrity innovations are happening and will continue.

      Those who keep running spreadsheets numbers games, instead of jumping onboard might well be left coughing up dust, perhaps, as they are trying to explain their un-American behaviors to the judge ruling on their collusion and corruption cases.


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