Contracts and the NAP

A while back, I mentioned that I think contracts are bullshit. Some day, I hope to get into a full ontology of contracts, but I doubt many of my readers really have much interest in such things. Instead, I’m going to Start a conversation with a few people I know in real life concerning the nuances of the NAP with regards to contracts.

 

Would breach of contract be a violation of the non aggression principle? What about scheduled payments in the future, non-compete, and nondisclosure agreements?

Given that I think contracts are bullshit, I bet most people would assume that the answer I have is simple and straightforward: “no”. Of course, I can never let something be simple. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll just assume the definition I expect to use for the full post on the ontology of contracts and say, “a contract is merely an external explication of an agreement between two or more parties”. In other words, Bruce and Alfred come to an agreement concerning their affairs, say a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement exists as a relationship between the two but, for the sake of clarity (given the human condition), they decide to write the entire thing down and, content that the written document explicates the agreement sufficiently, sign the document to signify their provisional assent to the agreement and the accuracy of the document written to reflect that agreement. Then Bruce and Alfred put the document somewhere where it can be referenced but not altered by either Bruce or Alfred.

That’s a contract, right? It sounds pretty similar to a previous discussion we’ve had. So, lets say the agreement is that Bruce will pay Alfred for services rendered at a certain rate so long as Alfred does not let anyone know some secret Bruce is trying to keep, either by actively communicating that information to someone or letting them figure it out on their own through some form of neglect. Would Alfred be aggressing against Bruce by telling the secret? We can certainly agree that doing so would be dishonorable and vicious, but would it be criminal? Another way to ask would be to say “Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred if he does so?”

I haven’t gone into that issue in full detail yet, either, but the easy way to put it is I stand by Cantwell’s philosophy of paperclips; It is theoretically justifiable to shoot someone over stealing a paperclip. Admittedly, the odds of encountering someone who would both steal a paperclip and allow the situation to escalate to the point of lethal force are statistically negligible and the odds of encountering someone who values the sanctity of one’s ownership of paperclips over the exorbitant cost of a bullet are equally negligible. However, the moral reasoning remains sound, even if the tactical choice would be tolerance.

Why am I talking about lethal force and paperclips when I should be talking about contracts? Well, is Alfred committing a crime against Bruce if he violates the contract? Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred for doing so? Surely, the cost of the secret is greater than that of a paperclip. Even so, I argue that the secret is of a different category than that of the paperclip. Whereas a paperclip is property, a secret is nothing more than an abstraction of an individual’s ideas. The primary historical role of contracts such as nondisclosure agreements is an attempt to use the law to transmute mental things into material things, which can then be treated as property. So, even though Alfred may be dishonorable and breach his agreement with Bruce, he isn’t “stealing” anything from him.

What recourse would Bruce have in such a circumstance? Under the legal fictions currently in place, contracts are largely treated as laws are: if one violates a contract and then continues to refuse to play by the rules of the contract concerning breach of contract, eventually the issue would escalate to an encounter with law enforcement, which if the dishonorable man still refuses to comply, will be killed by law enforcement. Because of this, the current state of contract law is every contract follows the formula “We agree to do these things. If we don’t do these things, someone’s gonna fucking die.” Just like a law.

The same is the case if Bruce does not pay Alfred for his services, just for the sake of clarification.

I am obviously not impressed with this formula. As such, I have been exploring contract theories and trying to figure out the exact relationship between the ontology of contracts and the nature of the NAP. Thus far, I have found two possible answers to the question above, and they are mutually exclusive. As such, I’m presenting this post as a conversation-starter (as is the custom at this point).

Option #1: Contracts are 100% bullshit. In this case, the reality of the situation is straightforward: caveat emptor. If Bruce and Alfred make an agreement that Alfred will do butler stuff and Bruce will pay him at the end of the month and either one fails to do so, it renders the agreement void. If Alfred fails to do butler stuff, Bruce doesn’t have to pay him and if Bruce doesn’t pay Alfred, he doesn’t have to do butler stuff. The reality is that all that exists is the agreement between the two with their honor and social standing at stake.

While this solution is simple, it does have some complications. For example, the agreement is temporal in nature: Alfred spends a month of his life performing a service for Bruce before not receiving payment or, if paid in advance, Bruce pays a month’s salary before not receiving the agreed upon service. There are a few technologies which can be employed to prevent such instances, but in the words of Sov Tsu: “If you create a technology to solve a moral problem, you didn’t actually solve the problem.” So, instead, I will simply point out the obvious circumstance surrounding contract-violators: if one is living in a society of a reasonable size, there will be little opportunity to violate agreements without destroying one’s reputation and being dishonored or declared an outlaw. These extenuating circumstances are enough to keep a majority of potential frauds at bay, even in our overpopulated cities and towns.

Of the technologies available to increase the effectiveness of social accountability is that of reputation systems (which I generally dislike); one can have an Angie’s list or a yelp which operates much like a credit score: if one doesn’t have enough honor points, you probably don’t want to get into a contract with them. Another is that of outlaw status; if someone violates fundamental social mores, they can be declared an outlaw by the offended parties, which basically puts them outside of the general functioning of society: you breach a contract without making proper amends, you are refused service at many businesses and won’t be defended if someone were to try to rob or kill you.

Or, alternatively, we can look to the free (black) markets that have existed outside of normal contract law since forever and see what technologies exist there. The one that comes to mind right away is that of escrow holdings: Bruce puts Alfred’s payment into an escrow account at the start of the month, to be paid out to Alfred after a month of service, and they place a third party in charge of that account. Another free market device is that of word-of-mouth; someone trusted would have to vouch for the trustworthiness of each party. In this case, Thomas, Bruce’s father, vouched for Alfred and so Bruce trusts him (and vice versa).

There is opportunity for abuse in this resolution, as with any. Reputation systems can be gamed, are open to corruption, and can become oppressive forms of governance as opposed to useful tools for self-actualization. Public shaming is only as effective as a society is homogeneous, culturally speaking. Escrow services work great for payment plans and such, but do nothing with regards to agreements which do not concern direct exchange of goods. This is why self-empowerment, social cohesion, and populations within the Bunbar number are crucial to a truly prosperous society: the natural market functions of such a society drastically mitigate the harm caused by fraudsters and indolence without resorting to the criminal activities of the state.

Option #2: Contracts have a social function and are therefore not 100% bullshit. In this formulation, contracts have impetus insofar as they can be enforced without violation of the NAP. So, unlike laws, I don’t think one could pretend a contract is valid if it were enforced with the same mechanism (“do X, or we’ll fucking kill you.”). If one agrees to arbitration by a third party and consequences for breach-of-contract as part of the agreement, it is conceivable that polycentric legal systems could manage to serve as a lubricant for commerce in societies, both big and small.

This polycentric system of agreed upon contractual obligations (and punishments) and arbitrators is certainly preferable to the monopolized and criminal system currently in-place throughout the developed world. Between the competitive nature of the market for “justice” and the voluntary nature of contracts (in theory, at least), this system would likely produce something resembling courts which maintains a reasonably high level of satisfaction with legal arbitration. Given the versatility of anarcho-capitalist theory concerning polycentric law, I imagine that such competition would demonstrate the forms of contract theory which produce the most utility over time, independent of their truth-value, of course. If I were to venture a guess, of what that would look like, I’m guessing that the theories of Stephan Kinsella will likely produce the most utility as well as most closely reflect the facts of the matter, even if he has more faith in contracts than I do.

There are two problems I see with this position, though. First, the issue of honor still plays an inescapable role in this dilemma: a dishonorable person who will not honor an agreement will be equally unlikely to honor the specific clause concerning retribution or the presumed authority of the courts. Ultimately, then, we find ourselves in the initial situation presented in option #1. Second, I believe the harm-reduction and forward-thinking provided by standard financial and interpersonal practices far outperform any sort of contract and arbitration service beyond that which is contained in standard interpersonal and fiscal practices. What I mean is putting lenders in-charge of their own interest rates and application process will enable market functions to weed out the honorable and dishonorable, as does actually knowing one’s customers, etc.

This obviously didn’t cover all the nuances of contracts and such, but it is a starting place for a discussion. I need to do more research into the old tort systems and read more Stephan Kinsella. For the meanwhile, I propose that contracts are bullshit and one ought to strive to be honorable and surround oneself with honorable people. It couldn’t hurt to keep records of one’s agreements and obligations, though. Really, the approach one ought to take to contracts is the same as one ought to take to any service that is currently monopolized by government: ask “can this service be provided without the intrinsic threat of murder AND does this service have any necessity in a free society?

TL;DR: Contracts are bullshit, but they are still an important area of discussion to AnCaps and normies, alike. Insofar as that discussion applies to my project, I guess I’m halfway obligated to write about them. Contracts really seem to simply exist as an external point of reference for agreements, which are relational between two or more parties. As such, whether or not violating a contract or agreement (fraud, essentially) is a violation of the NAP is what is really at the heart of the discussion. I argue that most, if not all, cases of fraud are not actually violations of the NAP and that the old adage of “caveat emptor” ought to be kept in mind. As such, the initiation of force against a fraudster is, itself, a violation of the NAP. However, all the finer points of contract theory are currently beyond my expertise and from what I know of Stephan Kinsella, he would be the guy to read for ideas.

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Ben Shade Interview

This week’s full post is another audio-only post.  As compared to last week, though, I get the feeling that this one has a fair amount more utility to provide most listeners/readers.

It’s an interview with Ben Shade, professional biologist.  He provides is unique perspective on the subjects often covered on this blog.

I think you can probably play this at 1.5 speed, so it’s not quite an hour and a half in duration.

Feudal AnCapistan

This week, we’ve got another audio-only post.  I was asked to refute a very simple claim that anarchism is synonymous with feudalism.  While such a claim demonstrates a lack of economic literacy (which I made a conscious effort to avoid getting into today), I thought it would be worth at least beginning a conversation about, given that I’ve heard it multiple times.  Not only have I heard it multiple times, but it was the argument which I presented in defense of Objectivism against anarchism during my 6-moth conversion from neoconservatism to anarchism.

In this recording, I address a few different reasons why it’s unlikely that feudalism would be the result of anarchism (I ignored the fact that feudalism and anarchism are antonyms and could not therefore be synonymous) and allow for one historical interpretation which could allow for feudalism to emerge, which also effectively explains how we got ourselves into the mess we’re in.

I feel compelled to point out, though, that feudalism is, in many ways, superior to the current situation in most of the globe (Empire included).  Additionally, in the argument presented in the OP (presumably off 4chan) there is an implication that AnCaps don’t care about the poor.  While *some* AnCaps may not, it is not inherent to the belief system of anarchism.  As a matter of fact, I recently addressed just how an anarchist is often more concerned about the poor and more willing to do what it takes to help them.
However, in a truly anarchist (AnCap) society, the only people that wind up poor are those that are unwilling to work (RE: provide a valuable good or service to others) and/or unwilling to maintain healthy relationships with other human beings.  In which case, there is little reason for one to be concerned for the poor, as it is a free choice to be such.

http://anarcho-capitalist.org/wp-content/pdfs/Rothbard%20(Murray)%20-%20The%20Ethics%20of%20Liberty.pdf

Charity: Another Definition

More Definitions? Really? You’ve gotta grant this, at least, when one hears or reads the word “charity”, an idea pops into one’s head which is radically divergent from most other people. I’ve had family members cease speaking to me at thanksgiving for upwards of four years due to this seemingly innocuous term.

Really, though, is charity giving money away, being nice, or the girl you met at the club? Just as I’ve done with honor, justice, ethics, anarchy… I’m going to define a culturally significant term that is vaguely defined at best and likely upset some people along the way.

I’ve previously written on virtue and honor as well as crime, vice, and sin. The common element in each of these cases is the fact that they are performative actions regarding one’s character. If one is virtuous, one tends to do virtuous things, if one is honorable, one tends to do honorable things, etc. So, if one does charitable thins, what do we call them? What are charitable things, anyway?

Typically, I look to etymology and history to inform my understanding of a term. This time is no exception in that regard. However, unlike terms such as “honor”, “charity” seems to be a fairly recent invention. “But right here in my copy of the Vulgate, I see ‘caritas’ something like fifteen times!” Yeah… but “caritas” didn’t have the connotation of “virtuous love” or “philanthropy” until some time in the middle ages; those ideas themselves seem to be something underdeveloped in the ancient world. Rather than fully exploring the philology of charity and losing a chunk of my readership this week, I think it may be more beneficial to simply give a modern definition of the term and demonstrate its role in my understanding of the human condition. We can devote more time to this issue in later posts concerning Scriptural translators’ notes… I have a lot to say concerning that.

If one defines charity as, “maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man”, what results do we get when looking at the term’s use in the vernacular? The least controversial application of this definition, I think, would be when one is speaking of a critical analysis or opinion, for instance “While the author did not pull any punches, his critique of the work was charitable.” In such a case, a “charitable review” would be one that attempts to understand the purpose and perspective of a particular work while also expressing the faults of said work.

Additionally, when one speaks of doing charity or donating to charity, one can see where this definition would apply, if indirectly. If one is compassionate (etymologically: “suffering with”) towards one’s fellow man, they may feel compelled to ease another’s suffering at one’s own expense, even if it is only to treat them with a dignity deserving of a human being at the expense of one’s time and energy. Donating to charity is the same idea, if one step removed from the actual act: one donates to a “charitable organization” so as to aid in that ministry of charity… or, at least, that’s the pretense for it; it could just be an attempt to get a tax break or gain social status. Even in the case of one merely pretending to be charitable (by our definition), they are doing so in order to approximate the appearance of charity as we have defined it.

Even so, why does charity, a modern and loosely-used invention, warrant a role in my list of positive human activities alongside honor and virtue? Would it not be secondary or redundant if one is already an adherent to the non-aggression principle and a pursuer of virtue? Secondary, maybe, but not redundant. I say it is secondary because if I had to choose between an individual who hated me with every fiber of their being but refused to murder me versus a person who loved me unconditionally but felt it would be more humane to murder me, I would choose the non-aggressive asshole over the do-gooder criminal. I just realized this is the easiest way to delineate the libertarian left and libertarian right… but that’s neither here nor there.

Charity is not redundant in the face of virtue and honor. In the same way sin can be considered to be a specific brand of vice, one which is considered less often but can be far more detrimental to one’s happiness in the long run, charity can be considered the equivalent on the side of virtue. Charity is a specific virtue (a habituated act which aids one in the pursuit of happiness/their telos) which is considered less often, or one’s understanding of it is often maligned, but it is crucial to one’s flourishing. This is strange coming from an brutalist egoist/anarchist, isn’t it?

I tend to not write concerning charity for two reasons. The first is that it is one of my weaknesses. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to me… it’s a skill I’ve learned for the sake of bolstering my rhetorical and oratory skills. Charity is also a difficult sell amongst most Objectivists and AnCaps, given the cultural connotation of “giving shit away to undeserving people” and the Objectivist/Capitalist distaste for moochers and looters (which I share). Charity, when defined as above, does not necessitate enabling moochers and may even discourage doing so in many cases.

For example, the effective altruists have had some degree of success in proving that economic principles and employment do far more than just moving money and resources around (they would have more success if they could stop being so statist). The New Work, New Culture movement has also been quite effective in demonstrating an authentic and humane method of lifting the poverty-stricken without subsidizing moochers (they would be more effective if they were to do a little more PR work and learn some Austrian economics). The question at the heart of these sorts of programs is not “how do we get rid of poor people?” but instead “What causes humans to make stupid decisions and how do we provide them with the tools necessary to avoid such decisions?”

These programs are far more charitable and authentic than something so banal and superficial as simply giving money to those that don’t know what to do with it or feeding those that refuse to feed themselves. There is certainly a place for such practices, but such practices must be seated in a much broader framework of genuine human interaction and care. Even communities centered on such ideas, such as Catholic Charities, fail to meet the demands such a framework entails due to a number of limiting factors. Bureaucracy, lack of funds/resources, the crushing onslaught of the disenfranchised overwhelming a small number of volunteers, state regulations… they all serve to inhibit the effective charity of an organization centered on provision as primary care and the supporting framework as a secondary one.

I’m doing my best to avoid sounding like I believe in a silver bullet to cure all ails, but charity can only truly flourish within two concentric cultural movements: a free society and an intentional community within the limits of the Dunbar number. The state and cultural controls exist in such a manner so as to discourage the formation of genuine empathetic bonds between individuals and virtuous behaviors. The slavery of the state aside, a community of sufficient size to exceed the human person’s capability to develop psychological bonds with every member of the community is forced to engage only those that are capable of bringing immediate gains to the individual. Those that are in most need of charity are typically those who have the fewest tangible resources to provide, therefore disincentivizing charity to the poor due to the limitations of one’s mental resources. In a smaller community, however, the very nature of the human mind would compel one to develop a standing relationship with even the most impoverished of one’s community, which is the basis and prerequisite for true charity.

Why does any of this matter to a philosopher or an anarchist? This is barely virtue ethics, barely economics, and would be nothing more than a beneficial side-effect of anarchy. It is important for three reasons. Without charity, one cannot effectively interact with other human beings on an authentic level, which drastically impairs one’s ability to achieve any form of happiness. A common accusation leveled against anarchists and other liberty-minded individuals (which is typically false) is that they “don’t care”. As one would expect, this accusation comes primarily from the left; demonstrating the virtue of charity in its true form would effectively shut down such accusations. Thirdly, charity is absolutely essential to the proper application of justice in a free society.

Authentic human interaction is an issue I discuss frequently enough, so I don’t feel too compelled to comment on it here. However, “not caring” is a common and typically lethal accusation made against freedom-minded individuals, and it really shouldn’t be. Where a liberal (or a “conservative” which is now just a less-racist liberal) feels as if they care about the poor and therefore feel compelled to regulate their poverty, steal from the less poor in order to give a portion to the more poor, and push economically benighted ideologies surrounding vague concepts such as equality or “charity”. In all reality, if they cared about the poor, they would attempt to understand the circumstances of the poor, both on a personal level and an institutional level. Such research would demonstrate the abject and necessary failure of the welfare state and the pernicious influence of feeding moochers.

A mere historical survey of economics will demonstrate that the poor are, in fact, not “getting poorer” but instead have seen a dramatic improvement concerning material wealth, not just in America, but across the entire globe. This is a result of economic prosperity and the very manner in which the world operates. If one were to allow nature to take its course (a-la free markets) without the stifling effects of institutionalized crime (i.e. the state), the material standard of living for all people would be improved much more dramatically and efficiently. It is the welfare state itself that causes a vast majority of the poverty the leftists claim to care about. This economic argument should be a tool in every AnCap and Objectivist’s rhetorical toolbox.

Happy side-effects aside, a more compelling case would be that charity cannot be an institutional and impersonal function, but instead must be a genuine engagement between members of a community. In which case, bureaucratic welfare programs, free markets, and philanthropic donations do not qualify as charity. Instead, one must get out and do charity themselves. Creating a job market for the less-employable (children, reformed criminals, drug addicts, the mentally ill, the elderly, etc.) which accommodates their particular market deficiencies can be an uplifting and profitable venture for all involved. Unfortunately, the leftists “care” and government regulations actively prevent such forms of charity, which have been consistently proven to be more effective than welfare programs and resource distribution.

As mentioned before, justice is restoration of relationships in spite of interpersonal damages. If one is unable to engage those that have done them harm in a manner consistent with understanding and empathy, justice is impossible. In this way, the virtue of charity is required for justice to be realized. Closely related to justice, as well, is the subject of deescalation of conflict. I’ve mentioned before, if in passing, the importance of avoiding conflicts where life, liberty, and property are at stake. Charity is a useful tool in assessing and engaging in situations where conflict is likely to escalate. This is also the basis of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), which is both an incredibly useful rhetorical tool as well as a useful methodological tool for one to simply engage with the world. It is very similar to both stoicism and epicureanism in a lot of ways.

Remember, anarchism is a philosophy of personal responsibility. Without armed thugs forcing everyone to obey the arbitrary dictates of Leviathan, we’re going to have to learn to get along on our own. A great many libertarians and anarchists have a hard time getting along, this is partly due to the tensions that run high between those who pursue truth and those that are willing to simply do as they feel the urge, but it is also due to the manner in which focus rests primarily on intellectual and martial virtues to the detriment of developing social virtues such as charity.

TL;DR: Charity cannot simply be “giving stuff to people that haven’t earned it” and it can’t simply mean “loving people”, it must be a more grounded and virtuous habit. Thus charity, in its modern incarnation, is the virtue or habit of maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man. This virtue is cardinal among virtues, as it stands in direct opposition to sin, which is chief among the vices of man.

LibPar: Utopia, Utilitarianism, Ethics

 

“So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.” Hunter S Thompson

Rothbard mentioned “Button Pushers” in his work “Do you Hate the State?” If there were an “abolish all government” button, I would push it with such fervor and force I would likely injure myself and those around me. I believe, with a fair degree of certainty, that what would follow would be a relatively peaceful and gradual shift in peoples’ behavior and attitudes such that a culture of responsibility and respect would slowly grow out of our current slavery. However, even if I knew that the result would be an immediate collapse into “the Purge” or “Mad Max”, I would still push the button without hesitation.

You see, I’m a deontologist of sorts. It’s no mistake that my last post was about ethics. Deontology, at least my particular brand of it, is an ethical framework centered on moral absolutes and individual action. In other words, I believe that, regardless of circumstance or outcome, murder, coercion, and theft are categorically immoral. I believe that the ends never justify the means and that ethical reasoning applies exclusively to the decision at hand and not the past or the future. Considerations of goals, intentions, consequences, etc. only enter the picture after the moral absolutes sort out the morally justified and the unjust actions available. Alternatively, after one determines the most desirable course of action based on such considerations, one must verify that it does not violate moral absolutes. This is all a direct result of my broader philosophy, but that discussion is best left to another place and time.

If Deontology Man were a superhero (he’d be Rorschach), he would need an arch-nemesis. This arch-nemesis would be (Ozymandias) The Utilitarian and his sidekick/son, Consequentialist. Utilitarianism is a sterile, mathematical approach to life and ethics. Its goal is to maximize quantifiable pleasure for the maximum number of people. Imagine giving Spock or the T-800 the keys to the kingdom and the directive of maximizing everyone’s pleasure. Best case scenario, you’ll find yourself in a Peter Singer (advocate of murdering retarded kids and granting whales constitutional rights) book; worst case, scenario, you get “The Matrix”, but with more robot sex slaves and limitless cocaine.

What does deontology and utilitarianism have to do with LibPar and utopia? You’ll see, but we mustn’t forget Consequentialist. Consequentialism is a form of utilitarianism which uses the results of an action to retroactively determine whether or not it was a morally good or bad action. In the example of the miraculous “abolish government” button: if my guess were correct, it would be good to push the button and if we wound up with Mad Max, it would have been bad. A lot of people are sympathetic to this line of reasoning; a law can be called a good law or a bad law based on whether we think it improved or detracted from people’s quality of life… but, by that logic, if someone were to have brutally murdered Maria Schicklgruber in the 1700s, it would have been a morally good act, by way of preventing Hitler from ever existing: ignoring, of course, the impossibility of knowing about the possibility of Hitler in a world where his grandmother was murdered. As a matter of fact, I will milk Godwin’s law even further: modern medicine and space travel, invented by Nazis, have saved and improved more lives than those lost or ruined in the Holocaust, so Hitler was a good guy.

Now we have arrived at anarchy and LibPar. I tend to avoid discussions about Liberty Paradise, except behind closed doors with close friends. People like to (incorrectly) brand anarchism as a utopian philosophy and ridicule it as such. Way back in “Towards a Definition of Anarchy”, I explained that anarchism is not a positive, goal-oriented philosophy but instead is a proscriptive moral claim against criminal institutions. Due to the nature of anarchism and my deontological leanings, discussions as to “the ends in mind” when discussing anarchism vs. statism is inappropriate; such discussions distract from the importance of the issue at hand, namely, “How ought I conduct my affairs in this moment?”

That said, I can engage in a discussion of what I expect LibPar to look like, so long as we keep in mind this important principle: the rest of this post is not a discussion of the necessary result of people behaving in accordance with the principles of anarchy, it is an assessment of a likely possibility, based on my understanding of the human condition and experience. LibPar is a fairy tale that, like the utopian visions of democracy, have no influence on the daily actions of anarchists.

LibPar:
In an ideal state of affairs, I would have the “abolish government” button handed to me from on high and I would make every institution proscribed against in “Towards a Definition of Anarchy” vanish overnight. Yes, the world may be rendered chaotic and in a state of violent upheaval. Some, less domesticated, places would likely continue operations as if nothing had changed, while others may burn to the ground… Of course, that’s what’s happening right now, just on a longer timetable. In a less ideal, but more realistic, state of affairs, the message of freedom and responsibility may reach a sufficient number of people and technology may progress to a point so as to enable the widespread adoption of these beliefs in action. Regardless of the specific events which would lead to the formation of LibPar, what would it look like?

Markets:
Firstly, unlike utopian outlooks, I have no specific design for how the entire world ought to work. I expect, in the open market of ideas and philosophies, that a plethora of societies will form worldwide, each with their own distinct features; some will be better suited for perpetuity while others will not. Such is the way of things; without governments to artificially sustain bad ideas, some societies will collapse under their own weight, while others will flourish if genuinely allowed to compete.

This will likely result in different economic models, such as pure capitalism and pure socialism (think first century Catholics, not USSR or USA), being granted opportunities to succeed without the interference of government guns. So will various alternative markets: gift economies, barter and service, token economies, “smart” economies (think blockchains), honor markets… the theoretical options are limitless. Without global market manipulations and capture, we would actually get a chance to see if any of them work in practice. I have a couple that I’m rooting for, but that’s unimportant.

Dunbar Number:
The human condition is such that we have the capacity for a limited number of meaningful human relationships that one person can maintain at any given time. Anarchist societies will have to reflect this reality in some way. I expect the most likely way the Dunbar Number will be expressed is that such societies will consist of a few hundred or a maximum of one or two thousand. Such a small population also helps prevent the rise of criminal institutions and most considerations delegated to the state in slave societies will simply not be present in a small enough population. Additionally, genuine human interaction becomes essentially unavoidable, the inverse case of urban environments. The essential quality of the Dunbar Number is that, in a community of appropriate size and density so as to promote human flourishing, you would know everyone by name.

Recently, a friend asked me how a small community marketplace could solve moral issues that people generally turn to law to rectify. The example in question was that of strip clubs, which we both find morally objectionable, but not criminal. The Dunbar number, and small community is the way I think the issue naturally gets solved. Stripper Stacy becomes a lot less fun when you know her parents, she lives down the street, and she knows you and the three other dudes that visit the strip club outside of the club. Also, statistically speaking, Stacy is likely to be the only one in the community that would be willing to be a stripper, which would make it more of a small-business-out-of-your-basement kind of operation, which resembles a strip club solely by way of the vicious nature of the specific service. It does not necessarily mean that the service goes away, but it certainly mitigates the impact on the community as well as making a coercive and violent law regarding it superfluous.

Intentionality:
With a population so small, such a community can be centered around a common goal or ideal. Closely tied to the market of markets, there is an infinite number of possible intentional communities: Catholic parishes, hippie communes, AnCap fiefdoms and marketplaces, farming co-ops, tech outfits, brony conventions, and Amish fellowships all come to mind as possibilities. Some may last longer than others, but as long as people are wiling to experiment there will always be a diversity of intentional communities. These societies already exist around the globe, they land all along the anarchist/statist scale, but as a proof-of-concept, they have demonstrated that such a community can flourish over an extended period of time. Ideally, I would like to live in a familial tribe centered around a certain philosophical bent, pursuit of virtue, and self-sufficiency, but that is neither here nor there.

Mobility and Intercommunication:
Simply put, communities of such small populations and of diverse ideas could only be sustainable themselves if mobility from one community to another and the ability to form new ones is a possibility. Additionally, if a community consists of only a few hundred people, the gene pool may get a little shallow without exchange of populations between different communities. Of course, such migration is inevitable if people trade with, communicate with, and travel to other communities. This will rely on technologies similar to the internet, if not the internet itself and technologies like trucks and boats and such… but we’ve had such technologies for a while now. It’s not too much a concern. Really, freedom needs to be open-source, which would allow for exchanging good ideas between communities and the opportunity to copy what works and improve on what is available.

Security:
There are a multitude of ways that an individual can render themselves “secure”. One such manner is with the proper tools and training (AKA guns and the ability to shoot them), another would be a nomadic lifestyle, another would be remoteness (if no one can be bothered to seek you out, they can’t bother you), another would be to position your hippie commune such that it is surrounded by radically isolationist militia-type communities… the list of possibilities is longer than I can come up with on my own. What is important is the ability for individuals within an intentional community to defend themselves from others in their community and those around them.

Sustainability:
I don’t mean the liberal socialist environmental bullshit, but instead focusing on options which are either cost-neutral or renewable. An example would be making sure one does not deplete the surrounding ecosystem or raw materials (growing hemp permaculture rather than resorting to deforestation and mass agriculture for paper, textiles, construction materials, etc.) or carefully managed hatcheries separate from the native population of fish, or nuclear/passive power generation as opposed to fossil fuels. Not for any pie-in-the-sky theories about preventing global warming or whatever, but because reliance on sustainable resources and infrastructures eliminates the spectre of “the tragedy of the commons” as well as eliminating the need for state institutions built for subsidizing irresponsible industrial practices.

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Remember, anarchism is a philosophy of moral action and personal responsibility, not some utopian attempt at a global Galt’s Gulch.  If you think it is, you’ve confused anarchy with the Libertarian Party.  The point of this post is to assuage those who find anarchy to be too short-sighted and not utilitarian enough, to tell them that there is consideration applied to an ultimate goal, even if it is secondary to simply doing the right thing.  The goal isn’t to eliminate struggle or conflict, but to mitigate the damage that the human condition can do to human flourishing at large.