Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Could I have been wrong all along?

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

Here's a rare kind of post. I'm looking at what might be a crack in the "standard" libertarian/abolitionist/Voluntaryist/anarchist view.

First, the argument:
If no individual has a particular right to do a thing, that right can't be created out of thin air by any number of people joining together or by calling yourselves "government". If theft is wrong, you can't make it right through a majority opinion to call it "taxation" and decide it's OK in this instance.

And I agree.

If you have no right to do a thing to another person, how can you believe that by joining with another person who also has no right to do it, the two of you now magically have the right. Or, perhaps this previously nonexistent right only pops into existence when a dozen people who have no existing right to do it come together. Or a thousand or a million of them.

How can a right which doesn't exist individually suddenly exist just because people joined together?

I've always said it can't.

There's one problem with this reasonable view: Sometimes the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Spontaneous order-- also known as self-organization-- can arise spontaneously after a certain point of more and more of something being added, and create a completely new quality or property no part had before the parts were combined and reached a certain quantity. Yes, that's usually the result of combining somewhat differing parts, rather than more of the same-- but not always. Are rights a property of individual humans? Can new rights which didn't exist before emerge from spontaneous order?

Maybe there is some way you can take a number of people who have no right to commit ritual human sacrifice ("capital punishment") but when they join forces in sufficient numbers this right springs into existence. It sure seems the majority of people believe this is the case.

I don't think so, but I do wonder. And, even if you have the right to steal in the name of "taxation" because spontaneous order created a previously non-existent right from a mob opinion, I can't support it. I won't support it.

So what do you think?

This may just be yet another case of my thinking getting me in trouble with those on my own side, and why I'll never be palatable to the majority-- even the minor majority of liberty lovers.


Writing is my job.
I hope I add something you find valuable. If so...
YOU get to decide if I get paid.


  1. As I understand it, "spontaneous order" is an accumulation of large numbers of single choices that forms a smoothly operating whole; a market. Nobody plans to feed 320 million people and lays down the distribution system, yet millions of individual decisions happily combine to deliver exactly the right amount of sustenance at the right times and places. It's not magic, but it is the invisible hand.

    If I'm right about what it is, spontaneous order is therefore not "greater than" the sum of its parts, it is rather just the sum of its parts. So is a crystal.

    So what do you mean by the term "spontaneous order"?

    1. The market is one example of spontaneous order/self-organization.
      There are other examples, too-- ones not concerning human interactions (here are some examples of both: https://simplicable.com/new/self-organization).
      In some cases (including concerning the market), qualities arise which were not inherent in any individual interaction. That's what I mean when I say the result is greater than the sum of it's parts-- the self-organization adds something to the 1+1=2, so that it becomes 1+1+SO=5. Does the 5 include the right to do things beyond the things 1+1 has the right to do?
      And, no, I don't actually believe it does. I'm just considering.

    2. You've opened a fascinating subject!

      The Simplicable link you gave has interesting examples. I suggest though that all of them show kinds of order that are quite consistent with the nature and properties of the small elements of which they are comprised. As tiny quantities of water freeze, they arrange themselves in shapes consistent with that of the H2O molecule, as snowflakes. Similarly crystals are buildings of zillions of atoms or molecules of a particular substance - or so, if my long-neglected crystallography recollections are right. They, too, reflect the atomic shape.

      The atoms don't exercise will power, of course, but they do have properties and those are exercised during the building.

      I'm going to have to re-read L K Samuels' fine book "In Defense of Chaos" for he has much to say on this. Also Louis Carabini's fabulous "Liberty, Dicta & Force" relates to the subject; a free ebook which I reviewed at http://www.theanarchistalternative.info/zgb/19A009.htm

    3. It's quite possible there is nothing "new" that wasn't an inherent quality of the individual parts. That's not how it is usually explained, but the usual explanations could be wrong (or over-simplifications).

      I read "Liberty, Dicta & Force" after seeing your review. It was good. I also read "In Defense of Chaos" several years ago... I may need to read it again.

  2. I believe what you perceive as the "inconsistency" arises from your allegation "people who have no right to commit ritual human sacrifice ("capital punishment").

    Individuals have an inherent 'right' to self-defense. That extends to incorporate pre-emptive defense against those who express murderous intent or indicate their imminent threat to do grievous bodily harm - using unorganized, individual violence.

    Capital punishment is merely a form of pre-emptive self-defense, expressed through by an organized group of individuals rather than by an individual.

    ... in the NC woods

    1. My example is just one example out of many. I also mentioned theft/"taxation".

      Pre-emptive "defense" [sic] against someone who isn't posing a credible threat* is murder. Doing it in a ritualized manner is ritual human sacrifice.

      The only ethical "death penalty" is carried out at the scene (place and time) of the attack by the intended victim or a rescuer. Anything later is revenge.

      *A credible threat is one where the person is in the process of doing something or is making the threat that they intend to do something and they have the ability to actually carry it out. None of those apply to people in government cages.

    2. Take government out of the debate. Consider the example of person who has murdered and was later captured and caged by one or more individuals.

      If that murderer is judged by the individuals who captured him to be a real future threat to their community, then execution (capital punishment) is pre-emptive self-defense.

      There is no appreciable difference if the murderer is being held in a 'government cage', other than we despise government.

      No new 'collective right' was created to justify the elimination of the perpetrator of the initial injustice.

    3. I never said that it was only bad if government does it.

      You can't justify ritual human sacrifice by pretending it's OK to do it if you aren't government. It's still revenge.

      If YOU want to do it, go ahead and live with the consequences of your actions. Leave me out of it.

      The only time you can really be sure you are killing the "right" person is at the scene of the attack. Anything later and there's room for too much error for me to support. Because if you do kill the wrong person, I would then consider you a murderer. And, by your standard, it would then be fine for me to kill you. No thanks. Too much superstitious "cleansing" ritual for me to accept. If someone is a credible threat, kill him at that time, not later when the treat has passed.

  3. your article raised another question... what is "a right"?

    intangible thingy. but I'll suggest this definition: A "right" is a social pleasantry, which when absent/removed- causes enough anger/indignation that men are taking action to kill and to die, to re-assert their demand that the social pleasantry be acknowledged throughout the social grouping.

    "social pleasantry" - not within an individual, but rather between individuals.
    "when absent/removed" - because when socially 'in place', there is no problem.
    "taking action..." - feelings are not sufficient. deeds, not harsh words.
    "acknowledged throughout the social grouping" - until the remnant acknowledges social pleasantry

    "rights" are things which are created/maintained only through deadly force, vigorously pursued, throughout the social fabric.

    a social situation may or may not adhere to any individuals dreams/philosophies/feelings/world views. but things that will get you killed and will reorganize societies- those social pleasantries become known as "rights".

    rights come from the barrel of a gun.
    either to "take them away", or to "assert them".
    feelings don't matter.

    1. for example-
      china has established the "rights" which they acknowledge the Uyghur communities have.
      the IRS establishes the "rights" which they acknowledge the american people have.
      us cops establish the "rights" which they acknowledge their sheeple have.
      directly through the barrel of a gun.

      as it always has been, and always shall be.
      "rights" are what you are willing and able to make the other team die for.
      willing, and capable.

      they are willing and capable to assert their "right" to your property and your life.

      sucks to have an infestation of blood sucking leeches. but the only way to remove the leeches, is to REMOVE THE LEECHES.

    2. I got a question today on FB about what rights are, and whether or not they are "just a human construct" (which they obviously are). So I'm writing a post about that topic for publishing in the morning.