Why I Call Myself a Voluntaryist or Market Anarchist – Part I

In my last posts critiquing “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” I pointed out the problem of finding an accurate label for any given political ideology. This especially seems to be a problem for any anarchist views given that there are so many variants that can vastly differ from each other in terms of what each is supposed to implement. The views I happen to hold are no exception to this rule whatsoever.

 

Anarcho-Capitalist. Market Anarchist. Libertarian Anarchist. Stateless Libertarianism. Free Market Anarchism. Private Property Anarchism. Polycentric Law. Hell, allow us to throw in Agorist while we are at it.

 

There are so many words that can communicate things that are so similar that it makes me dislike the concept of labels altogether. All of this was so much simpler when I first decided that there was a better option beyond the typical Liberal/Conservative divide. Deciding that maximum freedom in both economic and social issues was something worth pursuing, the term “Libertarian” was an easy label to adopt when I did so in the summer of 2008. Things became much more complicated in mid-fall of that same year.

 

Boy was that a complicated time in my life. I have no plans to go into great detail here about why, but I will say that coming to the conclusion that government was unnecessary for everyone to live the best lives possible did not make things any simpler. The first term that came to my attention for such a viewpoint was “Anarcho-Capitalism.” Simple enough from what I could tell. “Anarcho” referred to no government and “Capitalism” referred to allowing for private ownership and exchange. Good enough for me I thought.

 

Shortly after that the term “Market Anarchist” started appearing in some of the material I would read online. Fine, I can deal with synonyms even if they might be confusing to newcomers. While I have read before that Market Anarchist tends to be more opposed to economic hierarchies (CEOs and the like), this label seems to be perfectly interchangeable with Anarcho-Capitalist. If there is a distinction between the two, it appears to be too trivial for most people in the radical Libertarian camp to even care. In my next post I will explain why I favor this term over many others. For now I want to cover terms I do not use.

 

Libertarian Anarchy is another term that seems to simply be another way of restating what the first two labels I just covered. The only crucial difference lies in what laws would actually be in place. David D. Friedman noted in chapter 31 of his classic book, “The Machinery of Freedom” that Anarcho-Capitalism is not necessarily the same thing as Libertarian Anarchy. In this chapter he notes that private legal systems could lead to laws that are not necessarily Libertarian. Drug prohibition might still exist for example, but those who want such laws in place would have to pay arbitrators and protection services to actually enforce such laws – meaning that any non-Libertarian law would come at a cost to those who promote such laws. This means that an economic incentive would exist for Libertarian law to be the default view – but such law may not be the norm in all cases.

 

You could say this was the epicenter of the whole “Rothbard vs. Friedman” interpretation of what laws would be in place in the absence of government. The former says we must all agree to Libertarian law and not prohibit victimless crimes in any circumstances while the latter says that whatever laws people are willing to pay for should prevail. I cannot go into detail here about which camp I find myself in, but I will say that in practical terms the resulting differences between the two are probably more trivial than most people would realize.

 

Needless to say, “Libertarian Anarchy” is not a term I favor in part because “Anarchy” is a term people use to refer to chaos. It almost sounds like a pejorative term if you ask me. “Stateless Libertarianism” also seems a little undesirable as a term due to the fact that the average person may have no idea what the term “Stateless” even refers to.  Does this mean no “status” or no government?

 

All of the terms I have covered in this post are labels I would never see myself using to describe my views. In my next post I want to cover some terms that I do find to be much more favorable and explain why.

 

Collectivist Anarchism and the Fallacy of Self Exclusion

A few weeks ago I made a post that gave a formal overview of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against.” The main highlight of that post was describing the five tenets that the book defended which were characteristic of Collectivist Anarchism.**

 

Out of the five tenets, the one which I concluded was the least solid was perhaps the most critical of them all – at least when it comes to establishing collectivist anarchy as superior to anything that supports private ownership. The tenet is as follows: “As Slavery is Murder, so Property is Theft.” To really grasp why this is a logical impossibility, one must define the terms used in this statement.

 

Theft is the taking of property without the owner’s consent. For theft to even be a possible action in the first place, one must recognize that property is valid. Without property, there can be no theft in the first place. The self-refuting tenet of the book is the perfect example of what analytic philosophers call the fallacy of self exclusion. It involves making a statement that undermines one of the premises it relies upon.

 

Some additional examples of this could potentially include, “language is meaningless” (that statement undermines itself by using what it claims to be meaningless – namely language) or “art is the only means of communication” (so if that is the case, that sentence communicated nothing because it does not appear to be art). All of those statements contain a claim that undermines the sentence as a whole – making them self refuting in the process.

 

In short, if this is what distinguishes collectivist anarchism from various forms of anarchy that allow for private ownership of goods, then I think it can be safely said that the logical case for it is completely non-existent. Aside from this tenet in the book, there is another aspect of left-anarchy that undermines itself.

 

Anarchy is widely known to be the rejection of authoritarian rule. Demarcating when something no longer authoritarian would vary depending on the definition, but imposing a means of association upon those that do not wish to operate under it sure sounds authoritarian to me. Someone might argue that free markets “impose” values upon those who take part in it, but these are simply values that prohibit initiating force upon others. No theft, no assault, no murder, etc. If this is “authoritarian” then so is any other system one could possibly imagine that prohibits aggression.

 

To illustrate with a simple example why I hold that collectivist anarchists are far more authoritarian than Voluntaryists, consider the following questions: Would a left-anarchist allow people to associate via free market means? In other words, would they allow people to trade goods and labor when both parties desire to do so, or would they require that they change residency for this to happen?

 

I suspect the answer to the first is no, and the latter would be the case for the second question. Any system that says you must leave your residence in order to “opt out” presumes that whoever is promoting it has rightful authority over the populace in question. In that sense, I would argue that the anarchy defended in the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” promotes precisely what it claims to be against – namely authority over what other people may do.

 

**Fortunately for this post, I actually have a name for what the book advocated. That will definitely save a lot of trouble describing what I am referring to from this point on.

 

Market Anarchy Wordle – a Small Taste of What Matters

On this chilly November night, I decided to give Wordle a spin. This was what resulted from time spent doing so:

 

Market Anarchy Wordle

 

If you cannot grasp what half these terms mean, then it looks like my work might actually become useful for you.

 

The Free Market Alternative to Obamacare: Surgery Center of Oklahoma

In the constant debate about the delivery of healthcare in America, one of the most common talking points espoused by those who want government to play a bigger role is to say that leaving it up to the market leads to increasing costs. But does that make sense in theory?

 

One key counterpoint is the fact that we really never had much of a free market healthcare system to begin with – primarily because the regulations on the healthcare industry as a whole have led to a system that relies almost entirely on third-party payment. This means that instead of patients paying for the cost of their treatments up front like any other good or service, either insurance companies or the government (through medicare & medicaid) pays the cost. As a result no one under such a system has any incentive to shop around for better prices, and healthcare providers have no incentive to cut costs.

 

I could go on about how a variety of regulations that were put in place over the last several decades led to less quality care and higher prices. On top of that, I could even go on about how many of the statistics used to suggest that Canada or other countries with socialized medicine are at best misleading. But for now, take a look at what one center has done in Oklahoma City to use the free market price system to deliver better treatment at a lower cost:

 

 

The differences between what Keith Smith does and the rest of the healthcare industry are pretty straightforward. One stands out above them all: He actually lists the prices of various procedures so patients actually know what they are getting for what amount. Price transparency plays a necessary role in the allocation of goods as well as the lowering of costs. The latter occurs when healthcare providers compete to provide better service at a lower cost – something our current system (with or without the “Affordable” Care Act) does not allow.

Public Choice Theory and the Story of How I Adopted the Views I Have Now

Now that the two-year anniversary of this domain’s registration is over, an even bigger milestone has passed. Four years ago during the night of the 2008 presidential elections, I finally rejected Minarchism in favor of free market anarchism. While the terminology I would use to describe myself has evolved somewhat, the actual means of association between people and resources that I find most desirable has remained pretty stable.

 

I still doubt that laws against victimless crimes are necessary. I am also skeptical of the idea that any problems in the mutual exchange of a free market can be solved by putting trust into an institution that has even more power than the very individuals and organizations it is supposed to police. There is no way in hell I can effectively defend that claim here – a book is in the works that is supposed to do that.

 

I suppose this would be a good time to describe what my final breaking point entailed because I also happen to be reading a book for the first time that reinforces it. On the night of the election, I was paying special attention to the fact that they all tend to operate around the assumption that 51% of all voters should be able to impose their preferences on the other 49% as well as all those who do not or cannot vote. On top of that, I found myself having a hard time deciding what voters under a Libertarian society would actually vote on; if government is already playing it’s proper role than why hold elections in the first place? Are we supposed to just vote for a candidate that will be more diligent about not infringing on the rights of others?

 

All that seemed a little problematic; especially given the fact that I already knew that government was really nothing more than a major exception to nearly every rule we apply to ordinary citizens. Again, this is an area that I cannot dive too deep into here either but a section of my book in the works will deal with this very issue. To put it simply, there is no ethical justification for government that does not fall back on either a tautology or abandoning it for a cost/benefit approach.

 

Anyways, elections. So given the fact that it was a slight dilemma stemming from elections that led me to finally adopt a Market Anarchist way of thinking, I decided I would celebrate it by actually taking time to read a book I have known about for years but never had a chance to read until now:

 

The Myth of the Rational Voter

This is probably one of the most underrated and increasingly relevant books of all time.

 

So far all I have known about the book is based on an economic paper that summed up much of the book’s thesis. For those of you who feel you might not read the book or would simply like a taste test of what Bryan Caplan has to offer in this area, I highly recommend reading that paper and sharing it with others. Honestly, Brian Caplan has provided a cure for the widely held assumption that our electoral system is something that gives accountability to government and can result in rational policy.

 

Caplan points out that there are a number false assumptions that the general public has on economic issues, and that we cannot expect these to cancel out and be overcome by a small percentage of the voting populous that do know what their doing at the voting booth. On top of that (and this should be pretty obvious), there is very little consequence in actually voting anyway:

 

PBS – “Voting Schmoting” from Tilapia Film on Vimeo.

 

To think that I never even knew the name for this field of economics until earlier this year. It is literally a line of attack on not just specific public policy positions, but the entire notion of having public policy as a whole. If I held the view that government was capable of being a robust institution, I would be in quite the crisis upon seeing this information for the first time. I know I sure was when I pondered it four years ago. Come to think of it, I think it makes perfect sense to share this. Hopefully a few readers will do the same to help get the public thinking more skeptically about the false notion of government “accountability.”

 

Happy Two-Year Site Anniversary

I can still remember that night. As I stayed up late scrolling through web page after web page, I finally made the decision to purchase the web domain where this blog now resides.

 

That same night, the 2010 midterm elections took place. Supposedly an electoral revolution that shared parallels with what occured in 1994 was taking place. Of course, I was pretty skeptical about the legitimacy of that – not because I was in disagreement about a need to reign in spending, but rather because past records of how GOP-led congress handles spending seems to suggest that they might not be so inclined to reduce spending after all.

 

Granted, I understand that this does not vindicate the Democratic party or the present administration from high spending either. I also understand that many of the figures used to understate government spending increases over the past few years rely on some flawed metrics – like using percentages instead of absolute dollars in measuring spending increases:

 

Bush Obama Spending Increase

Technically each percentage of increase in spending over the last few years represents a higher total dollar amount since it represents an increase on a larger budget to begin with, but the basic point remains: Big spending is characteristic of either major party.

 

Like the description on this site’s welcome page (yes – I have very mediocre html skills) states, I paid little attention to the elections. Instead, I finally got around to buying this website and beginning the process of constructing it. Despite my lack of web design skills, I think I have managed to make this into something worthwhile.

 

Which brings me to the actual purpose of this post. Now that I actually have more of a stable routine established, I plan on posting bi-weekly instead of just once a month or less. Perhaps even more often than that if I can, because after two years I feel like I have completely neglected this site, especially after taking time off from YouTube for such a long time.

 

So what can readers expect now? For one, I will be posting semi-drafts of material that will be featured in State Exempt (the actual book this site is based on). Since I started putting notes together for it nearly four years ago, much of my time has been spent on other things which of course include endless online debates that have subsided (for now). Secondly, I do plan on posting on other topics that come up from time to time.

 

These other topics include critiques of various news articles that really strike my attention as well as responses to common arguments I tend to see against Libertarianism in general. You can probably guess what the latter might entail if you have been entrenched in political discussions for a year or two as is. Finally I plan on posting various charts, images, and infographics that I find worthwhile to post as well as (sigh) YouTube videos.

 

Having said all that, here is how the draft material posting will take place. Instead of posting perfectionist attempts at writing excellent drafts, I will simply look at my notes, and hastily type a summary of the material in whatever manner comes to mind – hence the reason I refer to it as “semi-draft” material. Any more effort at professionalism in this process will likely mean that the material will not see the light of day. I really need something to work with to allow me to write the first professional draft. That draft will likely be significant paraphrasing based on reader input; the product of which will be edited once more for grammar.

 

From what I have so far, the book will be divided into five chapters, each of which will be divided into three sections, each section divided into two parts, and finally each part will cover five topics. There will also be some preface material, and a concluding section, among other things. Speaking of input, anyone who is genuinely interested in giving feedback can drop me an email:

 

 http://stateexempt.com/welcome.html

 

 

Property is Theft – and Other Non Sequitors

I am more than willing to bet that anyone that adopts the sort of radical Libertarian thought that I adhere to probably takes plenty of time to research differing ideologies. How else would we even know such esoteric views existed? Here I will present a brief critique of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” by Albert Meltzer.

 

Market anarchy or “anarchy” in any form is far from mainstream. Being one of the few people in the world today that sees that as a bad thing, I decided to take a look at a differing ideology that many conflate with my own: Left Anarchy. Hence my choice to read this book.

 

Well, then again I am far from certain about what it should be called. I suppose you could say I wanted to take a critical examination of “anarchism” in the collectivist no private property sense, but labels do have their limits. Even I have a hard time deciding whether to call myself an Anarcho-Capitalist, Market Anarchist, Voluntaryist, etc. (I think I prefer them in opposite order).

 

Nonetheless, this is the book I decided to take a look at:

 

Anarchism: Arguments for and Against Cover

An Easy Introduction to Left Anarchism

 

The publisher (AK Press) first came to my attention when it was listed on some liner notes for a Rage Against the Machine Album. Not that I really listen to them these days – or find them to be a good source of information on much – but it caught my attention and years later led me to buy the book pictured above. Concise as it is, it did make some points of contention that I disagree with.

 

While it may be possible to critique the whole book with ease (only 100 pages or so), a chapter entitled “Inalienable Tenets of Anarchism” is what struck me as the most flawed part of the book. I would argue that this chapter is also the most crucial to the entire book; if the arguments presented there do not hold water, then the descriptions of “how” people would be organized under such arrangements become superflous at best.

 

Here the book defends five key areas of argument which generally build upon one another:

 

1. That People are Born Free – This can be right or wrong depending on what semantic interpretation you make.

2. If People are Born Free, Slavery is Murder – I think “partial” murder might be a better conclusion about slavery.

3. As Slavery is Murder, So Property is Theft – Here Meltzer’s case falls apart altogether; more on that in a moment.

4. If Property is Theft, So Government is Tyranny – The conclusion is fine, but not by the premise used to justify it.

5. If Government is Tyranny, Then Anarchy is Liberty – Although partially correct it relies on a false dichotomy.

 

So far I have covered in summary what I think is right or wrong about the five tenets Meltzer attempts to make the case for. In the next couple weeks I will go into greater detail about each tenet’s truths and drawbacks. In particular I want to make it clear why the claim used by Left Anarchists and many others on the left (property is theft) commits the fallacy of self exclusion, and does not make a clear case against private ownership.

 

The Most Awesome Infographic on Corn Subsidies Ever!

I recieved an email a month or two ago from someone asking me to take a look at an infographic that was produced for the site LearnStuff.com. For those of you who are already aware of the economic effects of government subsidies, the implications of the graphic will not surprise you, but the degree to which corn subsidies have become a problem will become far more apparent.

 

Rather than go into heavy details about how that played out, I would like to simply say up front that this is one of the most amazing infographics I have ever seen in my life! Take a look and prepare to be amazed, angered, and awakened:

 

Corn Subsidy Infographic

Subsidies: Taking money from the public at large to skew the level of production of a given good in a manner that creates more problems than it solves.

 

I would argue that the implications of this graphic go far beyond corn subsidies. In fact, just about any handout leads to an overproduction of a given good at a much higher total price (when you include the tax dollars spent in the whole picture) at the expense of other desired goods. In the future I might decide to do a post dedicated to a myriad of government subsidies that exist today, but for now I would like to finish this post off with a final indictment of corn subsidies as well as government interventions in the economy in general:

 

 

I hope the folks within the Occupy Movement take this to heart: The biggest source of corporate power is the very institution they insist on running to for help.

 

Finding Public Choice Theory – Before I Knew the Name

When I first started putting the notes together for State Exempt (the book) a couple years ago, I knew I had to include a chapter on the drawbacks of using democratic elections to formulate policy and allocate resources. In particular, I felt like the problems of using majority rule in a dominantly two-party system were things that very few Libertarian works in general took time to cover. To my knowledge, a brief chapter from “The Machinery of Freedom” seemed to be the only exception (#32 – “And,  As a Free Bonus”), along with the less explicitly Libertarian work, “The Myth of the Rational Voter” by Bryan Caplan.

 

I decided early on that I would focus on two angles of electoral politics: from the voting end (irrational voters and rational ignorance) and the congressional end (two party drawbacks, prepackaged policy platforms, and the actual process of getting a bill passed).  From there I would finish it off in the second chapter by pointing out that the free market would not suffer from the same drawbacks.  My list of  advantages of the market over democracy highlighted the following advantages:

 

  1. Markets are not winner-take-all. Even if the majority of a given population choose to buy goods or services from one producer does not mean that everyone must have that preference imposed on them if they wish to take their money elsewhere. Voting and the resulting use of taxes does not have this trait; whatever 51% of the population says is final.
  2. Markets are not a package deal.
  3. Markets provide instant comparisons. As pointed out in the first point, markets are not winner-take-all. Unlike elections which
  4. Markets are more accurate and responsive. If in doubt, take a look at what happened in the 2000 elections.
  5. Markets allocate through true demand and not political privilege.

 

Of course – contrary to what I originally thought – an entire field exists for this angle of critique against government that I was previously unaware of: Public Choice Theory.

 

I saw the label maybe once or twice over a span of 2-3 years or so before I really knew what it was. From what I remember, I first encountered it on the Wikipedia page for Bryan Caplan, but never bothered to really look at what the label referred to until a month or two ago. Economists have obscure terms for just about any economic happenstance, so I thought this was unimportant for the subject matter I was writing about. But it turns out, just about everything I intend to write about in chapter two of “State Exempt” falls under the realm of Public Choice Theory!

 

This video gives an excellent primer on how Public Choice Theory explains the pervasiveness of high spending in the name of special interests:

 

 

In summary: Voters have little to gain from reducing spending and little influence to do so, while special interests have much more at stake and more say in a given area relative to the few voters who really know what the hell is going on. This applies to more than just higher spending; regulatory capture is another area as well. Now that I know the name for the study of this phenomenon, the chapter I intend to write on it should turn out a lot cleaner.

 

I suspect that my writing in this area will not be limited to a single chapter in my first book. It turns out another book I had in mind for publication about a decade from now could potentially play out as being a giant work on public choice theory altogether – only time will tell.

 

The Next Generation of Private Dispute Resolution is Finally Here: Judge.Me

As busy as I have been over the past month or so, this glorious legal enterprise still managed to catch my attention – take a look:

 

Judge.me from Gisteo.com on Vimeo.

 

Now that we have a cheap private alternative to small claims courts, all we need to do is give this more coverage and hopefully make it possible to use private dispute services such as this for larger cases as well. At a minimum, I hope that one day it will be possible to at least change the nature of our present court system so that instead of taxes, all courts are paid for by user fees only. Secondly, it would be nice if government-run courts ceased to have a monopoly on all dispute resolutions or criminal cases.