Answering Ancap Questions
An anarcho-capitalist named “Dennis” was commenting on my blog, and we had a voice discussion.
As a follow-up to that discussion, he left some questions in a comment. I’m going to respond to his questions here.
Do you think it’s just a fluke that every civilization converged upon rules that condemn murder theft rape and assault? Doesn’t that hint at some universal underpinning in our natures? Perhaps something to do with our mirror neurons, our herd/social natures and the empathic brain regions that are required for that? (Another example being our innate sense of fairness that even babies have.)
Do you think it’s just a fluke that every civilization converged on a central authority to enforce those laws?
No, of course it’s not a fluke. Every civilization has to solve the same problems of cooperation. And every civilization solved those problems with the state. Every civilization has laws that solve problems of cooperation. E.g. the law against murder solves the prisoner’s dilemma that exists between strangers: that each might kill the other. The law allows strangers to live and work together, so it enables large-scale societies. Likewise for the other core laws, such as laws establishing property rights and marriage, etc. These solve problems of cooperation. Those laws are part of the overall package of civilization, which includes the state, written language, and math.
Humans have roughly the same emotional structure, although individuals vary. That common human nature is not “good” by your moral standards. We have the capacity for positive and negative empathy, cooperation and competition.
Human nature is selfish, and humans can often benefit by killing other humans, raping other humans, taking their stuff, etc. So, we evolved the capacity for both friendship and hatred, cooperation and violent competition. Societies have to prevent internal violence, but they project violence outward, and societies use violence to impose internal non-violence. We often cooperate to compete. War is a cooperative endeavor.
All civilizations fought wars in which they killed, raped, seized property, etc. Civilization is based on conquering land and establishing a monopoly on violence by the use of violence. War is a human universal. Society is cooperative, but we often cooperate to compete. Society doesn’t eliminate competition. It transfers it to a higher level, so we are competing as a unit with other societies or with nature. At the margins, life is zero-sum. Once an ecosystem is fully populated, one way of life can only increase at the expense of another. That applies to species, societies and civilizations.
So, my understanding of society and human nature makes perfect sense.
By contrast, yours makes no sense. You believe that people are naturally non-violent, but also that humans are violent. You believe that all humans have your moral intuitions at some level, and yet do not share your moral intuitions. You believe that people are selfish, but will not commit violence even when it is in their best interests. Or you believe that violence is never in anyone’s interest, in which case why would we need moral principles to constrain us? Your view is incoherent. Mine is perfectly coherent.
If the majority is evil scum like you suggest, itching to defect in our alleged constant state of “prisoner’s dilemma”, then obviously democracy can’t work, so I guess you favor something like North Korea? Or Stalin’s Russia? Or Castro’s Cuba? But then why do all such less-free places invariably do worse? Maybe we’re not all as dangerous and evil like you claim to be, maybe there’s something to this freedom and free-market and voluntaryism stuff? Something that makes more voluntary socities thrive more?
The majority are not “evil scum”. There is no such thing as evil. Humans are simply selfish. So, they will act in ways that they perceive to benefit themselves.
Democracy doesn’t work particularly better than other forms of governance, but not because people are selfish. It has other problems. The biggest problem is the lack of incentive to vote correctly, which is known as the Paradox of Voting.
I prefer a society that maximizes cooperation, which includes a free market. Top-down micro-management of the economy doesn’t work, because (a) people are selfish, and (b) the calculation problem (see Hayek). A free market only exists when the state imposes the rule of law. There can be no market without the state. My ideal society has a large amount of individual freedom within the rule of law.
According to you, Canada, the US, etc. are not voluntary societies. They are oppressive statist societies. And yet you say that they are thriving. By contrast, there has never been any anarcho-capitalist society. You can’t argue that the state is bad by claiming that some states are better than others.
Also, “freedom” is a spook. What matters is agency: the ability to do things. Alone in nature, there is no coercive state, but you have very little agency. You have to struggle to survive, and are often in danger. In a modern society, you can get food and shelter by working a few hours a day. You can walk down the street without fear of being attacked by animals or people. Most people are willing to trade some freedom for greater agency.
You said you would nuke any group that wants to secede from the current cartel of nation states. So I guess you strongly support a one-world government? Ie. you’re unwilling to risk having some other country on the planet that you can’t control, right? I guess the US should invade China and Russia right?
I jokingly said I would nuke your imaginary city. Of course, there is no such thing as an anarcho-capitalist city, and there never will be. A city requires a central authority to impose the rule of law. So, it’s just a silly thought experiment which deserves a silly response.
I do support world governance, because humanity has problems that require global cooperation to solve. Yes, the anarchy of nations has problems, such as war, the cost of preparing for war (prisoner’s dilemma) and tragedies of the commons. There are also global-level threats, such as asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes, etc. So yes, we would ideally have some form of global governance to create global cooperation.
That doesn’t mean I support “Eat the bugs, live in the pods”, or some other meme notion of a tyrannical NWO.
As an aside, I’ve never seen a principled argument for rejecting governance on one scale, while accepting it at another. The Alex Jones types accept the nation-state, but reject global government. What is the rationale?
Instead of murdering a peacefully seceding ancap group for fear of it spreading nuclear pollution or something, why didn’t you first consider peaceful sane ways to resolve your fears - maybe with agreements to randomly inspect each other’s places for radiation - similar to the way Iran currently allows 3rd party inspection of it’s sites? What do you think of US’s original secession from the British Empire? Do you think that bloodshed was necessary or unavoidable? You don’t think the Brits should simply have allowed Americans to peacefully opt out of their empire?
There is no way to have a treaty with an “ancap group” because the ancap group has no way of enforcing the treaty on its members. A bunch of anarchists is not a society. It cannot make agreements. A big society could permit a small experimental society to exist within it, but it would require some policing by the big society. It would just be a special area with different laws. And there’s no benefit to the bigger society, so why do it?
I think the US’s secession from the British Empire was short-sighted and unfortunate, but in the long run it didn’t make much difference. After any such war, you can always say “They shouldn’t have fought at all” about the losing side, or “They should have fought harder”, but that’s just Monday AM quarterbacking.
Will you teach your kids that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, that they can steal and kill if they really want to, but ig to just make sure they don’t get caught? And I guess you’ll marry a similarly amoral wife, someone who doesn’t value heroism or nobility, just an amoral opportunistic girl, right? “Heroes” are just cringe fictional people, right? Just fantasy. According to you, we’re all spineless violent animals, unworthy of admiration, unworthy of freedom, right? Adam Back isn’t a hero right - you need to keep him enslaved, for his own good right?
Yes, and this is not hypothetical. I tell my kids that there’s no such thing as good or evil. I don’t lie to my kids. Yes, my wife also doesn’t believe in objective morality. This really isn’t a big deal. Being amoral is like being an atheist — it means you don’t have a delusion. It doesn’t mean you run around killing people or whatever. You live just like everyone else, and have pretty much the same moral intuitions as everyone else, but you don’t believe that those moral intuitions reflect some objective moral truth.
This seems to be an appeal to consequences fallacy, based on the false assumption that belief in morality is what prevents people from committing violence. This is not consistent with your stated belief that people have some type of “nice” or altruistic instincts, which presumably would operate regardless of an explicit belief in good and evil. But you have already said that most people support evil (statism). So again, your view is incoherent, while mine is perfectly coherent.
Morality is a delusion that collective values are objective. Collective values are tacit agreements, not objective moral facts. See “What is Morality?”.
Yes, heroes are mostly found in fiction, not reality.
We’re not “spineless violent animals” — that’s your moralizing rhetoric. We’re animals, and thus selfish and have the potential for violence. We’re not magical beings.
Adam Back is not a hero, no. He’s just another selfish human being doing his thing.
Doesn’t bitcoin throw a wrench in your tire spokes? Every gov opposes it, it undermines statism, it’s purely voluntary and peaceful, it’s spontaneous organization. Somehow people are mysteriously converging on the most ancap money - the most voluntary money - the hardest soundest money - it’s anarchic organization and it’s thriving.
No, bitcoin doesn’t pose any problem for my worldview. It’s a meme asset with no practical uses. It doesn’t function as money any more than Tesla shares. Even if it did, that doesn’t contradict anything I believe, or pose any problem of explanation. I never said there can’t be spontaneous organization. Lots of things emerge bottom-up. Language is a much better example than bitcoin. And of course bitcoin doesn’t undermine statism. That’s absurd. States aren’t collapsing because people can buy and sell tokens on the internet.