Anarchy Is the Solution to the Evil Idiocy of the State, Part II
L: The state’s requirements for self-preservation are why people so often say that the state is a “necessary evil.” It must violate some rights to exist, but people think that the state’s protection and support of civil society, which is a great value, is worth the violation.
Doug: I find the concept of a necessary evil rather repugnant. It’s largely sophistry, usually trotted out to justify some type of criminality. Can anything that’s evil really be necessary? And can anything that’s necessary really be evil?
Entirely apart from that, people say the state is necessary because that’s all they’ve ever known. But it’s not, in fact, part of the cosmic firmament. There have been times and places in history when central authority was so distant, or negligent, that the people did function — and prosper — in what was essentially a functioning anarchy.
David Friedman draws attention to medieval Iceland as one example of this. I recommend his book The Machinery of Freedom for lots of great discussion on how society would work without the dead hand of the state suppressing it.
L: And the reality is that there are all sorts of private institutions that provide regulatory and governance systems, from private cities like Disneyworld, to Underwriter’s Laboratories that puts “UL” seals on electronics they deem safe, to churches, some of which govern their members’ most intimate life functions — all through voluntary subscription.
The Mormon Church, for example, exerts a very significant amount of regulation of the private behavior of its members. I’m not a Mormon, of course, but I’ve lived in predominantly Mormon communities, and I have to say they tended to be cleaner, nicer, safer, etc. I’d say the Mormon religion exerts more control over its adherents than any state’s laws have ever exerted over citizens — but those regulated like it. They believe they benefit from it, and most important of all, they are physically free to leave any time they want.
Not so for the state. This is why I’ve said in the past that the state is not a necessary evil but merely necessarily evil.
Doug: Good example. The Amish and Mennonites provide other examples, although religious communities are entirely too uptight to suit my taste. And UL is a good one too, because people worry that businesses would all turn rapacious if the state weren’t there to regulate them. But electronics producers are not required to get UL seals on their products. They go to the extra expense of meeting UL standards because they know they’ll make more money if their products have the UL seal of approval on them.
L: Best Western hotels are the same way. Best Western doesn’t own the hotels; it’s largely a private regulatory agency that inspects hotels and gives those that make the grade the right to put a Best Western sign out front, which is worth a lot to a small mom-and-pop joint.
Doug: There are lots of private regulatory services. Insurance companies also exert a lot of influence on the insured, who have to go by certain rules to stay insured. And, of course, there’s a huge private security industry used by those who want to protect their assets, rather than call 911 after they’ve been robbed, etc. All by subscription.
You don’t need government for anything; if something is needed and wanted, an entrepreneur will provide it for a profit. And do so far better and cheaper than anything a government could possibly hope to.
The economic arguments for a free-market anarchy are overwhelming. I’m of the opinion we’d already be living with the technology of Star Trek if it wasn’t for the state slowing things down. But that isn’t the reason I’m an anarchist. The real argument is moral and ethical.
L: You know, I keep sending “unsubscribe USA.gov” messages to Washington, but I never get a response.
Doug: Good luck. To them, you’re cattle. They care only so much as you and all the others don’t stampede. Other than that, you exist for their benefit and have as much say in the matter as a steer.
L: Maybe that’s true for most people, but I can still vote with my feet. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. And so have you. Which is why I was looking at property in your neck of the woods in Argentina.
Doug: It makes a lot of sense to be in a place where they have to treat you as a guest, to be courted, rather than an asset to be exploited. Of course, all governments are dangerous, destructive, and annoying. But the ones that are incompetent and disrespected are easiest to deal with…
Anyway, love to have you as a neighbor.
This brings up another problem with the nation-state — it forces obligations upon you. I’m a big believer in being neighborly, but when the state tries to force you into a relationship with other people, it only breeds resentment. I like communities that are self-selecting, where you can assume neighbors share some basic premises about the way the world works.
L: I loved the Estancia. Those mountains would probably convince me if you and your friends didn’t. But anyway, there are a million directions we could take this conversation, a million objections I could raise for you to answer, but I’d like to move from theory to practice. Even to those who agree with you, at least in spirit, this all sounds very theoretical — of no practical consequence since the whole planet, as you’ve observed, is covered with nation-states.
I’ve been your friend for the better part of 20 years, and I’ve worked with you closely for most of the last six of those. I know this is not all theory for you. You live your philosophy. I’ve seen you get up in front of a large lecture hall with hundreds of people and tell them that the whole of the law should be: “Do what thou wilt — but be prepared to accept the consequences.” They laugh or roll their eyes, depending on their beliefs, but I doubt many realize that you are not only completely serious, but that that is exactly how you live your life.
You’re not shy, but you’re not a braggart either, so I’ll go ahead and say that I have watched you match deeds to words. You routinely go in “Out” doors, you light up under “No Smoking” signs, you walk through metal detectors with your belt on, you get back on polo ponies regardless of what your doctors tell you, you leave your electronics on when all the other sheep on the airplane turn theirs off… I could go on and on.
The beauty of it is that most of the time, nothing happens. You did exactly as you pleased, hurt no one, and enjoyed life on your own terms. On the occasions when some busybody does confront you, you usually respond calmly and say, “Oh. Well, what should we do about it?” The worst that happens when you are confronted is usually that you end up where all the submissive people put themselves to start with. Sometimes you even fight back. I’ve watched you make fools of airport security guards or take your business to another hotel.
The important thing is that you start out doing what you want, not what the busybodies want. You may end up penned in with the sheep sometimes, but not as often as most people would think. And you start out doing things your own way. I admire the heck out of that.
Doug: Well… You’re Don Lobo, a well-known anarchist in your own right — well known for not cooperating with the state. But, like you, I’m very easy going, and always try to observe others’ rights to the fullest.
While it’s true the most basic law is “Do as thou wilt — but be prepared to accept the consequences,” you can extrapolate that out, as a practical matter, to two others. One, do all you say you’re going to do. And two, don’t aggress against other people or their property. Everybody understands those laws, and you don’t need a corrupt, and corrupting, government to elaborate on them any further, as far as I’m concerned.
The people I like to hang out with, like you, observe those things. Besides that, I find you’re quite good at keeping your cool while questioning minions of the state… maybe you do it just to see if there’s actually a real human in that uniform they wear.
L: Okay, okay, but I don’t want to comment in print on all the things I’ve done. The point here is not to flatter you, or myself, but to point out to people that submission is a choice, not a foregone conclusion. Freedom is something you never get by waiting for permission but by exercising it as vigorously as your creativity and energy allow. By pushing back against the barriers — like when you told the Inn at Aspen where to shove the city’s “No smoking in the bar” rule, and that you’d accept the responsibility if the mayor walked in.
In the most general terms, I think it’s a mistake to think of freedom as a noun, rather than as a verb. And your actions show the world the consequences of doing freedom, rather than waiting to be given freedom.
Doug: Well, that’s true. And, not to pat myself on the back, it’s worth noting that there have been times when I’ve had my setbacks and even a substantial negative net worth — but it was my problem and nobody else’s. So not having any money is no excuse for not taking charge of your own life and living it the way you want to. I wasn’t given freedom by my parents or the government.
L: Hear, hear! So… Investment implications?
Doug: Attitude is everything, and that matters. If you let yourself be treated like cattle or herded like sheep, you won’t invest so as to maximize your freedom. There’s a lot we could say about this, but we’ve gone on long enough. The place to start is with diversifying your assets across political jurisdictions, making it harder for each would-be Big Brother to corral you. This is a rule almost everyone forgets — but it’s the most important single thing in today’s world.
I would like to recommend a book here. Along with Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, I’d say it’s the most important I’ve ever read, and had the most practical effect on my thinking: The Market for Liberty by Tannehill. It describes, clearly and precisely, how a society without government would likely work. Best of all, it’s now a free download from the Mises Institute’s web site. If you understand the basics, you’ll feel much less obligated to support the destructive institution of government — because you’ll know it’s unnecessary.
L: As we covered in our conversations on currency controls and living abroad – and Argentina, of course. What else?
Doug:Don’t feel guilty about finding the lowest-tax jurisdictions for reporting your income, owning property, etc. Shopping with your feet is not only your human right, it’s a positive good for the whole world; the more everyone shops for the least onerous governments, the more governments will have to compete for being less onerous, and the better off we’ll all be.
L: And the easier it will be for people to exercise their freedom as you do. What about trends?
Doug: Just the ones we’ve already covered — but now the need to take action is getting more urgent. I see that the new employment bill Obama just signed has new currency controls buried in its guts. It doesn’t necessarily prohibit anything new. But it has new reporting requirements and penalties. It’s an overture to what’s coming. As Mencken said, nobody’s life or property is safe while Congress is in session.
L: I figured you were right about this being in the cards, but I have to admit it’s started sooner than I thought it would.
Doug: Sometimes I hate it when I’m right. And I still think things will get worse than even I think they will. Remember my mantra: Liquidate, Consolidate, Create, Speculate.
L: No specific investments?
Doug: Nothing looks particularly good to me right now, except gold. If you don’t have a serious position in gold, you should build one post-haste — with as much as possible outside of the U.S.
April 19, 2010