Are Drugs Even Bad?

Obviously some drugs are bad altogether, and all drugs are bad if abused.

But almost no one thinks all drugs are bad, all the time.

Of course caffeine is the prime example of this. Even your most heavily addicted coffee chugging friend is probably not going to pawn your TV to get their fix.

Yea you can still get too wired, or have a headache from caffeine withdrawal, but we have all pretty much accepted that caffeine is fine to be addicted to.

There’s a point to coffee! It kick-starts your day! BOOM. Go. Kick-ass. It is a little luxury, a tiny escape, a methylxanthine comfort. Continue reading

10 Best Quotes From Henry David Thoreau’s Essay “Civil Disobedience”

I won’t pretend Henry David Thoreau’s writing thoroughly interests me, as much as I admire him. Truth be told, I find much of his work boring and wordy. His ideas on government however, are quite interesting, especially coming from someone of his time period. He is among the ranks of abolitionist thinkers, like Josiah Warren, who correctly see in direct slavery the same basic injustices a subject suffers under a government. Continue reading

Is Individuality Necessary for Social Order?

What does it mean to be organized? Usually it means “stuff” is defined based on it’s individual characteristics, and put in a place based on that classification.

We organize our desk by recognizing pens, pencils, and markers as writing utensils, and putting them in the drawer. Then we categorize pencils, pens, and markers separately based on their individual characteristics, and put them on the left, middle, and right. Continue reading

Welcome! Take a Free Book

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First off, welcome to my blog, where you can read about freedom, philosophy, and the future!

I am a writer and mini-farming living on the panhandle of Florida; a transplant from Massachusetts.

And you heard right, I am giving away my latest novella! You can now read my 2016 dystopian thriller “Flight Grounded” for free, just by signing up for my email list.

(I’m not going to send you many emails, only when I actually have something new to share with you. Expect an email about once a week.)

This blog was once geared towards politics and government, but I now write on those subjects for The Daily Bell.

Here you can expect philosophical musings on life, posts about the mini-farm on which I live and work, and my experiences traveling.

Freedom is my passion, and themes of liberation are woven into essentially all my writing. I want to build a future that will only get better for future generations.

My vision is nothing like what we have experienced on Earth before, but I am not pessimistic about the possibilities of changing that trajectory.

Continue reading

What are Rights? Do Rights Exist?

What is a right? Do rights exist? They seem so intangible, yet philosophical constructs can be real.

A right simply defines a state of being; it describes a condition. “Right of way,” is how we describe who has precedence in a driving situation. That certainly doesn’t mean people can’t ignore the concept of right of way, it just serves as a tool for establishing who is liable if a car accident should happen. Continue reading

Human Progress is Like a Marathon…

I try to play devil’s advocate with myself, in order to always move closer and closer to truth in my beliefs. So the other day while running, which is a great outlet for getting the mind flowing as much as the blood, it occurred to me that there must be examples of government advancing civilization at certain times.

It is practically impossible to tease apart all the factors in a society that contribute to its advance, stagnation, or decline. Clearly it is easy to point to the “benefit” government creates in one sector, while ignoring the cost in another sector (for example corn subsidies might be good for the farmer, but bad for the taxpayer). That is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about examples of government force being wielded so as to prevent a cataclysmic catastrophe, or bring about a monumental advance. Perhaps an example would be Chinese government funded invention and discovery of the 15th century.

Now per usual, I have to remind readers that I still do not believe the end justifies the means. Even if I stole $10,000 from my neighbors, knowing they would blow it on booze and cigarettes, and invested it for a return of 20% over just one year, returning $12,000 to them, this would still be wrong. Even if I do know how to manage their money better than them, it is still theft, and it is still aggression to take it in the first place, even if I return it with interest, and even if I buy them something with their stolen money that would greatly improve their quality of life.

But anyway suppose government could advance civilization, on the whole, without harming anyone in the sense that everyone’s life was actually improved in some objective manner. Yes, already a big what if, but considering extreme examples can help define our philosophy. So for argument’s sake say a government has in the past over a ten, twenty, hundred, or five hundred year period “advanced civilization”.

The Marathon to Become Civilized

To run a marathon in just under three and a half hours takes about an 8 minute per mile pace, and this is a respectable marathon time for any amateur. Now, in order to hit the target time, the best way to run it is slightly negative splits, that is, to get just a little faster each mile. No one is perfect, and most people end up varying a bit from mile to mile, but it is hard to hit your target time if you are off by more than about about ten seconds on either side, per mile.

What happens if our marathoner decides to go out with the elite runners, and does a 4:40 first mile? Well he is sure as hell not going to hit his target marathon time of 3:30. Most likely he will have to drop out of the race because he has never sprinted so fast in his life, and his legs now feel like jello. If our runner manages to push himself the rest of the way after that first mile, we are looking at a five hour marathon at best.

Relying on government to advance civilization is like forcing an 8 minute mile pace marathoner to sprint at random times throughout the race, “because it will more quickly get him to the finish”. And sure, for 4 minutes and 40 seconds of that marathon, it was easy to argue that he was quickly advancing towards his goal. But at what overall cost?

Civilization will naturally progress, and some miles might be slower than others, but government does not get us any closer to our overall goal in any real sense. It may feel like we are rapidly advancing at times, but the hidden costs of that advance are bound to slow progress down later. The monster we allow in government force will always come back to haunt us with a destructive war, genocide, epidemic, or any number of other unintended consequences of allow some people to break the rules of society that the rest of us must live by.

Chinese Versus European Progress

An old article I wrote based on Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel contrasted the centralized authority of Chinese government in the early 1400’s, with the diverse competing governments of Europe in the late 1400’s. China had 400 foot ships going on treasure expeditions as early as 1405, but when a rival faction took over the government, they grounded the fleet, dismantled the shipyards, and made shipping illegal in order to centralize their power. This one decision possibly set China back a thousand years; but it was the same type of power which initially gave China a navy more advanced than would again appear on earth until the 18th century.

Columbus had a 62 foot ship almost a hundred years after the Chinese were sailing to Africa on 400 foot ships. But even though Europe was initially behind in technological development, their progress was steady according to Diamond.

The story was the same with Europe’s cannon, electric lighting, printing, small firearms, and innumerable other innovations: each was first neglected or opposed in some parts of Europe for idiosyncratic reasons, but once adopted in one area, it eventually spread to the rest of Europe…

Europe’s geographic balkanization resulted in dozens or hundreds of independent, competing statelets and centers of innovation. If one state did not pursue some particular innovation, another did, forcing neighboring states to do likewise or else be conquered or left economically behind. Europe’s barriers were sufficient to prevent political unification, but insufficient to halt the spread of technology and ideas. There has never been one despot who could turn off the tap for all of Europe, as of China. (413-416)

I’m using Europe as a “free market” example because the states were competing with each other. But clearly their power was also a government sprint versus a steady pace. Perhaps the Portuguese fishermen who had already discovered North America would have set a different tone for the new world than Columbus’s government funded expedition, and the government armadas which followed.

Maybe working together with the Native Americans in the interest of mutually beneficial transactions would have advanced society naturally so that we stayed on pace to reach our marathon goal. Instead we are still at mile 18 when we wanted to be finishing.

5 Reasons Why the Article “5 Reasons Why I’m Not An Anarchist” is Wrong

I had to click on an article called “5 Reasons Why I’m Not An Anarchist” by Austin Petersen on The Libertarian Republic to see if it offered any new perspective I hadn’t considered.

The article was chock-full of logical fallacies notably the straw-man, red herring, and non sequitur. Petersen’s main method of argument was what socialists use against the free market: “well how would that work?” Austin Petersen can’t think of how private property would work without monopoly government force, so his conclusion is that it cannot. He starts off right from the beginning in a way that makes me question his basic understanding of libertarian philosophy.

1. “Rights are Guarantees”

A right is something that MUST be provided. Any society aimed at protecting natural rights must use some type of force to guarantee those rights. Any mechanism of force used to guarantee those rights have [sic] the same effect as government, no matter what that form may take.

Already his first sentence is so wrong. A right is absolutely NOT something that must be provided. A right is something that occurs naturally. You are alive, so you have the right to live. You are un-harmed, so if someone tries to harm you, you have the right to fight back. You built a home without kicking anyone else off the land, so you have a right to that property.

The reason a right is not something that must be provided is because that right would necessarily infringe on others’ rights, because they will be forced to provide “the right” in a non-voluntary society. If you have “the right” to medical care, that means you have “the right” to force others to provide medical care for you. A real right is expressed in the negative, not requiring action (No one may assault me), not a positive, requiring the action of a third party (someone must make sure I am not assaulted).

Also, needing “some type” of force to guarantee rights does not mean you need aggressive force. Defensive force is the only acceptable type to use in a voluntary society. Governments inherently use offensive force, or aggression, to achieve their ends, including supposedly “protecting natural rights” –which they violate by regulating non-aggressive actions without consent of the governed using stolen money. Well if we don’t have a natural right to not be robbed of the product of our labor, what do we have?

“Any mechanism of force” to retain rights does not have to be a government. Just because something has the same effect as government (or better) does not mean that the thing is a government, or has to be accomplished with coercion, as with government. My gun helps me maintain my right to live. Shooting an attacker protects my right, and does not require government. And contrary to what Petersen later argues, voluntarily creating a defense coalition does not necessarily make the organization a government.

anmemebastia

Then Petersen does what liberals do when defending government welfare. He pretends that if the government doesn’t protect the poor, the poor will have no protection.

A fully privatized law system would be justice for sale to the highest bidder…

…the constitution laid out the means for citizens to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, cruel or unusual punishments, or from things like double jeopardy. It means that while citizens have the right to defend themselves, they must also be defended if they are too weak to defend themselves.

It would not be “justice for sale to the highest bidder” because there would be competing interests. The government is currently selling justice to the highest bidder, precisely because it doesn’t have competitors! With competition, nothing is stopping other companies from taking your business if you sell to the highest bidder. Nothing is stopping other companies from stepping in on behalf of injured parties.

Corporations today buy off politicians for relatively small amounts of money in campaign contributions. A single person or corporation would have to spend too much money to manipulate the multitude of other companies that would be involved in various levels of the justice system. There would be no overarching authority preventing whistle-blowing. With government, the corporations spend a little money to make a lot in subsidies, regulations, or laws. It would quickly become more profitable to simply not be a corrupt company in the law enforcement industry. People would run legitimate businesses because of consumer demand and competing suppliers: no, the free market doesn’t suddenly fail when it comes to the defense industry!

Also, how is the constitution doing stopping unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and keeping poor folks from being “railroaded” into prison? It’s not. But the market would punish police and courts for these miscarriages of justice for the poor, unlike our current system.

Petersen’s definition of a “right” is wrong, he fails to understand the basic nature of what “government” is, and does not distinguish between defensive and offensive force.

2. “…unable to protect its citizens from foreign invasion”

A fully anarchist society with no collective means of defense is at the mercy of foreign powers who have not abdicated such means of survival. An anarchist state is at the mercy of anyone who wishes to expand into their territory unchecked. The Native Americans can attest to this.

The constitution laid out the means through which American society can protect itself. If I band together with my neighbors to form a mutual defense pact, and we call that a constitution, it would necessarily have the same effect as government.

Austin is very confused about the difference between voluntary and involuntary collectives. The constitution is not a contract, because we didn’t sign it. Are you responsible for adhering to contracts you didn’t sign? If you sign one with your neighbors, great! That’s anarchy. If you force the neighbor who didn’t sign to go along with your rules on their own property that is a government.

But again, Petersen says it would “have the same effect as government,” [emphasis added] not: “it would be a government.” I must however assume he is conflating something having a similar effect to government, with something being a government. Otherwise, why would he write a piece against anarchism when his statements support the idea? Voluntary associations would have the same effect as government, but without the coercion. So we can safely bet a voluntary system would yield better results as well; the old, you’ll know the tree by the fruit it bears.

joejarvisinvasionmeme

I’ve talked about this before, why anarchist societies would not be conquered. Basically, without any central control mechanism (government) what is there to take over? An invader would need to force every individual, business, and household to comply, which would be a problem if they were all armed. But if you conquer a country that already has a central oppressive system, you simply get to take over the puppet strings and be done with it: keep collecting taxes for your plunder. Otherwise it would cost more to invade than could be gained.

And of course governments prey on their own people as often as they invade foreign lands; a government is no guarantee that your own government won’t do worse things than the feared invading army. So take your pick of who you want to be pitted against. I would choose a foreign invader who everyone recognizes as an aggressive enemy versus a homegrown monster who you can’t defend yourself against.

In America, under the constitution he keeps mentioning, the “defense” was what originally victimized the Native Americans! Is Petersen simply arguing that it is better to be on the winning side? That would explain the offensive military juggernaut that the military has become today, creating more enemies than it repels.

The idea that we need government to defend a homeland rests on no morals grounds, and at best shaky strategic grounds.

3. “Anarchy means the non-aggression principle is optional”

If you believe in the non-aggression principle… who’s [sic] job is it to enforce it? If someone breaks into your home, and you are unable to defend yourself, or pay for private security, who do you call? If you have a dispute with your neighbor, who (you allege) stole your life savings, how will you sue them or have them arrested to get it back, assuming you might be correct?

Who did they call for protection when the constitution was written, Austin? The constitution was never meant to provide protection, it was meant to allow you to provide for your own protection in whatever way necessary. The government agents almost never prevent a crime, they just do a poor job investigating it, and a poor job bringing the assailant to justice.

What the constitution did provide was a way for the government (with a monopoly on criminal justice) to invade your neighbors home to search it if the same government grants itself a warrant saying the government has sufficient evidence to invade that home. Perhaps a search warrant would still be issued in an anarchist society, but it would not happen by monopoly decision, without any oversight from independent agencies.

I would rather live in a world where a man is still innocent until proven guilty, and unmolested until hard evidence of a crime is uncovered. With hard evidence, an anarchist society and the markets therein could bring justice better than government currently does or can.

Breaking the non-aggression principle does not mean it doesn’t exist, just like violating a right does not mean the right didn’t exist. Austin clearly believes in rights. Well, the non-aggression principle sums up every right. It says that naturally the attacker is in the wrong. The attacker doesn’t have to agree to the Non-aggression principle, but that won’t stop him from being shot, or apprehended, if he breaks it. An attacker might also not agree that you have the right to life, but you can still defend yourself against him, and dole out justice for his violation of your right/ the non-aggression principle.

Enforcing the non-aggression principle would come down to individuals and the people they hire. Vigilance will always be required, like the vigilance that would have been required to retain our rights from the Bill of Rights. But control over government, wielded through voting, is a sham, while the effect vigilant consumers have over the free market is proven.

anmemecircle

The non-aggression principle is a natural law. That doesn’t mean it is never broken, it means the one breaking it is always in the wrong. Remember that Austin doesn’t understand the difference between aggressive and defensive force, but an aggressor does not have to agree to me defending myself.

Things don’t work out perfectly now. Petersen acts like if a neighbor steals your money, the police will clear it right up! If there is hard evidence, the scenario would be no different, except that the profit motive for private courts would make it more fair, since they would be out of business if they weren’t. Currently, you just have to have the right judge: one corrupt person, not a whole corrupt company. Current courts are never defunded no matter how horrible they are. A private court would lose their business if they were unfair.

Then Austin does what liberals do when they argue against the free market and against “greedy businesses”:

In an anarchist state, no one is responsible for defending life, liberty, or property unless they are paid to do so. Crimes such as theft, fraud, breach of contract, or murder could be committed against those who do not have the means of self-defense. In Ancapistan… no one can hear you scream. And no one cares.

Because if something is not done by force, it can’t be done, right? Because the market delivers the best results which lift all ships… but not when it comes to security?

If you understand that the poor will be provided for through voluntary charity in a prosperous free market world, then you should also understand that those without protection will be provided for in a prosperous free market world. And that doesn’t even consider the probability that poverty and crime would be virtually eliminated in a free market world, judging by a comparison of relative poverty among a regions’ poorest members, between current freer market versus less economically free regions.

4. “The Non-Aggression Principle? I didn’t sign sh*t!”

The Non Aggression principle is a social contract… but I didn’t sign it, and neither did the enemies of liberty. Anarchist often sneer at constitutionalists, arguing that they didn’t sign the document, nor did they agree to it. Then they claim that the only thing we need to live in peace and harmony is the non-aggression principle. The only problem? I didn’t sign it. And neither did Kim Jong Un, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or any other statist dictator on the planet. The non-aggression principle is a social contract, but there is zero obligation to live by it. Indeed, it would be dangerously naive to submit to any form of a non-aggression principle, for as soon as one party signs, those who have not could feel free to decline, and everyone who chooses to live life in a pacific state would be easy prey for those who do not live according to that principle.

Wrong again! That is 0-4 for everyone keeping score at home. The constitution is an involuntary grouping, or social contract, because no one alive today signed it.

The non-aggression principle is not a social contract, because it does not force any obligations on you. Not aggressing, or not violating another persons’ rights is not an obligation; like a right, it is expressed in the negative: an inaction. The constitution is an obligation, a positive, requiring an action of a non-aggressive party who did not agree to adhere by it.

Agreeing not to aggress on someone does not mean you agree to be freely aggressed upon! There is a difference between not attacking someone and allowing yourself to be attacked. You don’t have to sign the non-aggression principle, because it is not forcing you to do anything, it is a statement that whoever aggresses is naturally in the wrong. It is not a social contract, because it does not require the consent of both parties. It is a statement: if you attack me, you are in the wrong, and I will fight back.

Also, I suspect Petersen knows, and just ignored, that the non-aggression principle is not a statement of pacifism. I can’t stress this point enough: offensive force, attacking, is what violates the non-aggression principle, NOT defensive force, force used to protect yourself from an attacker.

Just being in the wrong doesn’t mean you will be punished. But if enough people asserted the non-aggression principle, it would very quickly be in every individual’s self interest to adhere by it. They don’t have to, but I also don’t have to follow laws. I will go to jail if I don’t however, and if you don’t follow the non-aggression principle, you might get shot, because you attacked someone!

Also, in many cases the non-aggression principle forbids the basic principle of a preemptive attack for the purpose of self-defense. Anarchists argue that there is “no harm, no crime,” however, if that is the case, then someone pointing a gun at you is not a crime. For if someone points a gun at you, it could be considered aggression, but if they do not shoot, then there is no harm. A minarchist society punishes threats and rightly labels such acts as aggression.

Where does he come up with this stuff? Of course aiming a gun at someone is aggression; the harm is in the threat! Shooting someone who aims a gun at you is not a preemptive strike. You don’t have to wait until you are punched, if someone is winding up to punch you; they have began the aggression against you. But yes, an actual preemptive strike IS aggression!

Now, what if Kim Jong Un placed a nuclear weapon on the launchpad aimed at Los Angeles… the equivalent of pointing a gun? Is it then moral or ethical to destroy their means of aggression.

Ownership of a non-precision weapon (which means not only a specific intended target can be hit) is de-facto aggression, because it cannot be used without aggressing on innocent parties in the vicinity of the guilty target. It would indeed be defense to disarm a nuclear weapon pointed at your city.

5. “Private Property”

Who defines what is private property? In an anarchist society, there is no commonly accepted definition. Some may choose to argue that intellectual property is private. Some may decide otherwise and begin acquiring that property for their own benefit. Some may argue that they have a right to food, and thus their neighbor’s surplus should be rightly theirs, seeing as how the creek from their property fed the crops next door. The farmer next door might argue that the creek actually belongs to him, since it flows across his fields. The beggar next door might argue that the fields are his, since he has been sleeping in them for longer than the farmer has sown them.

Without a firm definition of what constitutes private property, there can be no reliable transactions between parties. An anarchist society can attempt to define what is truly property, but they cannot enforce it, even if they all agree.

This is Petersen’s best point, but that is sort of like saying gonorrhea is the best STD: they all suck. So his solution to property disputes is to have a third party decide by force? Well couldn’t the same thing be done through arbitration in an anarchist society, but without force?

The difference would be that the third party is performing a service in an anarchist society, and therefore must keep their customers (both people in the dispute) and potential customers (people shopping around for dispute resolution) happy in order to maintain profits. Government will maintain profits (stolen tax dollars) regardless of the outcome, and actually has an agenda of its own, which will often dictate with whom government sides, regardless of who is right or wrong.

We can refer to the non-aggression principle to understand property rights. Are there going to be quarrels? Of course! But the question is, do we settle these by force, or by agreement? Right now, the two hundred some odd landowners regularly quarrel over borders (war), and involve all their subjects at dire costs in human life, and production. By allowing these governments to “solve” our land disputes between neighbors, we allow a whole larger monster that would otherwise never erupt beyond the Hatfields and McCoys.

Is the solution to the stream problem that the EPA owns it? That is where Petersen’s precious constitution has ended us. Is the answer to the hobo in your fields property taxes, in order to exclude the poor and income-less from calling a piece of land their own?

Do we all need to agree perfectly on private property to get along? Nope. Through our free interactions a definition of private property will be developed that is more fair than the one we currently have: we can be sure of it just as we are sure that the market will provide better options for deodorant, restaurants, and grocery stores.

We don’t have to know exactly how private property will be designed. But it will be much easier to be vigilant over the local business that make that call, than to be vigilant over our convoluted statist juggernaut between the local, state, and federal government.

Please check back next week for a complete article on property rights in an anarchist society, as the subject deserves more discussion.

Conclusion: Austin Petersen Doesn’t Understand Basic Philosophical Concepts

It simply amazes me that someone could make so many logical errors, and have such little understanding of concepts such as rights, principles, and voluntary versus involuntary grouping. I don’t know if Petersen willfully ignores the difference between defensive and offensive force, or honestly doesn’t understand the different.

And this is a guy who calls himself libertarian! That means we know he would make all these exact opposite arguments in a discussion with bigger statists than himself. Libertarians argue against the need for state welfare because the free market will raise all ships through trade and charity: Petersen argues that the poor would have no protection without government. Libertarians argue that the second amendment and gun rights are to protect us from our own government: Petersen argues that individual gun ownership could not protect us from foreign governments. Libertarians argue that government is a poor regulator that would be well replaced by a free market: Petersen argues that we need government to regulate private property, regulate security businesses, and guarantee rights (by violating others’ rights in order to pay for the guarantee).

Is this guy even a libertarian? He is seeking the nomination to run for President under the Libertarian Party. If Austin Petersen ever happens to read this, and I hope he does, please know there is an open invitation for a public debate over whether or not we need government.


Fiction helps a lot of people envision a voluntary, anarchist society, so I encourage you all to read my novel “Anarchy in New England,” in order to explore a world without government, and some ideas of how that society might function.

Can Individuals Delegate a Right They Don’t Have to the Government? -Video

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Jan: Can you properly delegate a right you do not have?

Sen. Inoue: You cannot tax your neighbor, but you can authorize me as a senator to vote for programs that will tax your neighbor…

Jan: Then you think that you can actually delegate a right you do not have? …It is interesting to me how the agent can have more power than the principle. If the principles are the people, and the source [of power] comes from the people, the individuals do not have the right to initiate force against others-

Sen. Inoue: As individuals-

Jan: Well, if they get together then all of the sudden they have the right?

Sen. Inoue: If they authorize the government to do so, yes. If they authorize the government to enter into a war and kill people, that’s a right.

Jan: Where does this right come from if it doesn’t come from the people?

Sen. Inoue: The people through the Constitution.

Jan: The Constitution was made by the people right? So then the people are the source of all legitimate power, so if the people did not have the right to initiate physical force against anybody, then the government cannot have- It seems like there’s a contradiction there as far as if you say that all legitimate governmental power is derived from the people, and you agree that the individual citizens do not have the right to initiate force against other citizens, then it would seem clear that they cannot delegate that right to the government.

Sen. Inoue: Why don’t we just leave it this way, we disagree.

What Jan Helfeld is saying is that if a citizen does not have the right to do something as an individual (like rob their neighbor), then what gives the government the right to rob his neighbor on the citizen’s behalf? If the government derives its power from the people, where does this extra power come from, that the people can never exercise as individuals?

What is so magic about government, that suddenly they can act on an individual’s behalf in a way that the individual could never act on his own? What is so magic about a group of individuals that allows them to rob their neighbor, or initiate force, when said force would always be illegitimate as an individual?

There’s nothing magic about it. It is wrong to initiate force as an individual, and it is also wrong to initiate force as a group, even with approval of the majority. The only legitimate way to take someone’s money (time, labor, wealth) is for them to voluntarily hand it over to you. Otherwise it is theft, even if the government is the robber.

Charity versus taxation is the difference between sex and rape.


“The Greater Good”, Individual Good, and the Collective

Collective: One Word, Two Meanings

Today, we can see the strategy of doublespeak from the novel 1984 being employed. Language is intentionally ill-defined so that people discuss semantics, and never get to the point of a substantive debate. I see this when collectivism versus individualism is discussed.

Coercion has been folded into the definition of collectivism, because most examples of collectivist philosophy have been implemented by force through government (with terrible consequences for both the individual and the group). So individualists, who believe the good of the group does not supersede the good of the individual, tend to shy away from collectivist philosophy.

But I don’t think coercion was ever meant to be part of the definition of collectivism. It was more of an ideal, that the individual might want to, or see value in, subverting his will to the will of the majority. But in order for any actual good to be achieved, it cannot be done by force. Voluntarily joining a collective is much different than being forced into one. Individualists believe in mutual benefit, and a group can give benefit to an individual. Individuals still make up that group however, which makes each individual important.

The Voluntary Collective

The most important thing about a voluntary group, is that you can leave it.

I was walking in the woods one day with some friends. We had been hiking for a while and turned and twisted around many paths when we came to a four way intersection. Not wanting to turn back, we began to discuss which way would be best to take. In fact after some discussion, we all agreed to take the same path. But suppose I thought a different path was better. Should I attempt to force them to take the path I want? Or should they, being in the majority, attempt to force me to take the path they want? Of course not.

In a voluntary group, I am free to leave or stay. In the middle of the woods my options are to agree with the group, or be left alone. I see value in the group, and that is why I submit to the majority. Not because the majority has the right to force their will on the minority, and not even because the will of the majority is necessarily better in some way than the minority. No one claims that groups cannot be of great use and help. But they must be voluntary groups in order to serve this purpose best.

There were many paths to take, and at times we may not have agreed on the “best” path to take. In fact, “best” could have different meanings to each individual. “Best” might mean shortest path back for the person who wants to be done hiking. Best might mean longest path back for someone who wants to keep hiking, or best could mean a yet un-trodden path to another who enjoys novelty.

But let’s say we all had the same general goal, and when coming to a fork, have different ideas on which path to take. Two people want to go left, and one wants to go right. In a voluntary collective, this is not a problem because everyone can split up if they want. But if we joined this collective voluntarily in the first place—we all decided to go hiking together—then we saw value in the group, and that value would diminish if we split up.

So if I am the odd man out, I get to decide if I see more value in subverting my will to the group, than in taking the path that I think is “best”. It might appear that the collective has overruled the individual, and the greater good has taken precedence over the good of the individual. But in reality, the individual decided that it was overall in his best interests to remain with the group, even though that one decision does not seem to benefit him. He could still decide to go off on his own and leave the group, but this too has consequences.

The individual cannot force the group to accompany him in a voluntary collective, and the collective cannot force any individual to accompany the group.

This is in stark contrast to the types of collectivism promoted through politics. They say everyone gets a voice through a vote, but then the will of the majority is forced on each individual. If you are always the third guy who wants to take a different path in a forced collective, you will never have your individual needs met, and always will you be less important than the group.

The “greater good” never matches your individual needs. That is how individuals suffer in forced collectives. In a voluntary collective, any “suffering” on the part of the individual is entirely voluntary, and as such cannot be seen as suffering, because they have made a choice that the value in the collective is worth more to them than the fruition of their own goals as an individual.

The “Greater Good”

What is ironic is that modern collectivist philosophies ignore that a group cannot exist without individuals. Yet collectivism is sold as promoting the greater good. Well, the greater good for who? If individuals in the group suffer, what greater good is being accomplished?

In a voluntary collective, that is for the individual to decide, and the “greater good” still has an individual impact. Walking around the woods, I may not want to be alone for fear of danger. So the greater good is having a large group that can come to the aide of an individual; it is a trade. An individual joins a group as an insurance policy, knowing that he might have to at times “suffer” to help another individual. But the “greater good” is something felt by each individual: it was worth it for each individual to sometimes give priority to others, so that others will sometimes give priority to that individual when he needs it.

In a forced collective though, the choice is not your own, and therefore there is no greater good. Greater good does not exist coercively, it cannot, because some individuals’ good will always be subverted to other individuals’ good. Therefore it is not a “greater good” in any sense, it is simply some benefiting at the expense of others; a majority good.

The Mongolian Horde Example

A Mongolian horde is on its way to plunder an area. One town decides to build a wall, and not let anyone out. They force some people to man the walls in order to protect the town. The Mongolian horde comes, and though many on the wall die, the town survives. Coercive collectivists would say this is a win for the greater good: the survival of the town.

But there is no greater good, there are individuals who benefited from forcing some to protect their town, and there are individuals who died protecting the town, and got no benefit. Individual good for the survivors, individual bad for the dead.

But outside this town many others decided to group together in order to protect themselves from the Mongolian horde. It is understood that some will die, but each individual takes on that risk voluntarily, because he decided grouping together is more likely to lead to survival, not only of the group, but of each individual. The Mongolian horde attacks, and this voluntary collective has the same results as the forced collective; they suffer causalities, but the group survives.

In this instance, there was a “greater good”, because each individual got to decide what was best for him. It is true that some still suffered while others benefited, however the assessment was made by each individual. The collective was created by each individual doing what was best for his own good, according to his own assessment of the available options.

Final Thoughts

Individuals, acting in their own best interests, can come together to create a greater good in a voluntary collective. What is called “greater good” in a coercive collective however, cannot be broken down into good for every individual; inevitably some benefit, while some suffer. In the coercive collective, there was no individual assessment of benefit or detriment; it was decided by force who would benefit and who would suffer. So what the coercive collective calls “greater good” is really individual good for certain individuals, at the detriment to others.

What the voluntary collective calls “greater good” was the best option for each individual given the circumstances, and decided by the individual. In that sense, voluntary collectives can only attain a “greater good” by consensus of the group. If there is no group consensus, there is no greater good. When a voluntary group cannot reach a consensus, it simply splinters into smaller groups that can.

Whenever someone is forced into a group, there can be no greater good, because the individual suffers at the hands of the group. Even if the group benefits, this is not a “greater good”, it is a segmented good.

In forced collectives, anything can be considered the “greater good”, since the only requirement is that some benefit. In voluntary collectives, the group will either agree on what the greater good is, or fragment into smaller groups, which will agree on their version of the greater good for the group (or the individual if no group matches their goals).

But through force, “greater good” does not exist.

Human Power Imbalance Causes Poverty and War

Imbalance of human power could be pinpointed as a major cause of human suffering. When power is lopsided, for instance because of Kings, Emperors, or Dictators, what we often see is war, poverty, and genocide. Throughout history strong-men have risen to conquer, and subjugate. They had more physical power than others, and this imbalance was expressed through war and enslavement. Peace and growth are things that occur when each individual’s power is balanced with his or her peers.

This would mean that each human has individual power over their own circumstances; they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When there are not arbitrary rules set by governments, this gives balance to power. When any particular person, or any particular group of people cannot use force to compel others against their will, balance occurs. As soon as control is taken out of individuals’ hands, the human power imbalance rears its ugly head, and society is disrupted by one form of man made disaster or another.

A monopoly on force is by nature an imbalance of power. If government is allowed to initiate force without recourse for the victim, this is an obvious asymmetry of power. It is argued that we need this inequality in order to better organize society, but there are always losers in this dynamic. Some will sit for decades in prison because those who wielded a monopoly on force decided that marijuana was bad. Some owe tens of thousands in fines to the EPA because extra-judicial power was given to an unelected body which now makes up rules without democratic ratification. Businessmen have been convicted of crimes without victims under anti-trust laws, sat in prison, or killed themselves on the way. We may feel like we live in a just society, but only if you ignore the casualties of power imbalance. You can read about them every day in the news when police officers shoot innocent people to death with impunity.

Some say, sure a few people get the short end of the stick, but society as a whole is better when some people have more power than others. Many will argue that inherent inequality, as in, people having to follow arbitrary rules of government,  actually helps balance society. Well these arguments are all theory, because we have never actually tried true equality; we have never seen a society where everyone is equal, and no one has inherent power over another.

No society has existed without some form of governing body that in the end gets to use force without retaliation, because of some sort of coalition they have formed. What I mean by coalition, is that even when an individual has nothing personally to gain by initiating force in the name of their superior, they will do it because of the imbalance of power. Neither they, nor their victim have the power to retaliate against the governors, and therefore the victims of the power imbalance become the soldier acting on behalf of the governors, and the civilian victim who the governors wish to initiate force against.

Coalitions to respond to the initiation of force are a form of balanced power, since one would have no power to exert his authority at will, only to respond to a violation of their rights. Agreements between individuals for mutual benefit would give them help in exercising their rights when another victimizes them.

So if the argument against free interactions absent of force (where people must come to agreement or go their separate ways peacefully) are all theory, then so must my argument be that this equality and balance of individual power would lead to more peace and stability. And in so much as I have no pure example to show the benefits of a society organized without government, the argument is indeed theory. But I would ask on what basis does the theory rest that we need some authority to have more power; that some people inherently must have less power, and somehow this inequality leads to peace and prosperity?

This argument can only be based on examples of governments under which peace and prosperity have occurred. When these examples are taken in a vacuum, it does seem that one could argue government was a benefit. But when these examples are compared to examples of societies with more poverty and war, government is a constant, and must be taken into account as such. We then see that smaller less intrusive government without arbitrary power over individuals characterized the peaceful and prosperous examples, and larger government with more centralized and arbitrary power gave way to war and poverty. The larger the imbalance of power, the more human suffering occurs. And monopolies on some power have always given way to more power.

It is also necessary to separate peace and prosperity. Relative prosperity for the time was achieved under Genghis Khan, yet it would be tough to argue that peace was also achieved. And relative peace has occurred under particular tribes, but no such prosperity in terms of increase in the quality of life was ever really achieved (and though a lengthy discussion could be had on whether the quality of life of these tribal peoples was actually “better”, for our intents and purposes I will use shorter life spans, higher child mortality, and lack of material comforts as a benchmark for “lower quality of life”).

Some examples of huge imbalances of power would be Dictatorships like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China where the state had way more power than the individual, and tens of millions of people were murdered. The Inquisition carried out by the Catholic church was the result of the religious leaders gaining too much power over individuals, and resulted in widespread torture and death.

On the other hand, the quality of life in Great Britain steadily rose over the centuries after King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, stripping ultimate power from the King and distributing it among the feudal barons. Gradually Lords spread this power to their underlings, because it was in their best economic interest to do so, and as the individual had more control over his own affairs, Great Britain became prosperous and peaceful compared to the centuries before the Magna Carta was signed.

Then the tradition of the common people having rights was taken even further, and government was even more limited (power was even more balanced) by the Constitution in America. The wealth of individuals and quality of life in America exploded as power was arguably the most balanced in human history. But over the centuries the government centralized, and control of the individual eroded so that we are now at risk of seeing the first decline in quality of life since the country’s birth, even though America is still one of the freest societies in terms of personal liberty.

Believe it or not we are living in probably the most peaceful period in human history, and we got here because the natural rights philosophy which founded our country with the Constitution went the furthest of any society in creating true equality between individuals (even though it took some time for that philosophy to be put into practice, as in ending slavery).

But we risk throwing away all the prosperity and peace that has been achieved simply because we continue to allow centralization of authority and more government control. This means fewer and fewer people must consent before we are thrust into war, and that individuals have less control over their own economic outcome. The imbalance of power has made war more likely with just a few individuals able to involve millions in their wars, and has limited the personal gain that can be enjoyed by working hard, since the government has power over a growing percentage of resources individuals earn.

We have not yet allowed the imbalance of power to get to the tipping point which will throw humanity back into widespread poverty and war, but you must remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A little imbalance between elites and civilians might take a while to show especially if we ignore the daily examples of victims of that imbalance, though in America still relatively few and far between.

The easier examples to see of unrest caused by inequality of power are in other countries like Egypt, Syria, and Libya where power has been lopsided for quite some time. It should be obvious that the less arbitrary control people have over each other, the more balanced power is, the better society is as a whole, and for the individual.

The best society would see equal inherent power of each individual; anyone who initiates force can expect to be met with force, and anyone who has force initiated against them is free to respond with force. This method of societal organization creates a market for justice when force is initiated, and will therefore make initiating force a bad personal decision in terms of the outcome for the individual, and therefore this balance of power will lead to more peace, and more prosperity.