How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

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Tom Rogers
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How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

Post by Tom Rogers » Sun May 13, 2018 11:18 am

Libertarians talk a lot about ‘collectives’. The idea is that any collective group that makes decisions on its own account is an affront to individual liberty, as collective personalities embody moral sovereignty over individuals, which is a form of tyranny. In the view of the libertarian, all group-based decision-making must be consented-to, therefore the only groups that are acceptable to libertarians are voluntary associations of individuals.

This is all well and good, but for me it raises a number of important practical questions and dilemmas. For one thing, we may ask how re-collectivisation could be avoided in a society that has a meta-consciously libertarian direction.

We could frame collectivisation as a strict moral-economic problem, i.e. the freerider problem, which would provide a libertarian society with a heuristic basis for avoiding a degeneration into collectivism. Individual and familial autonomy and sovereignty are maintained by restricting services to those that are paid for and restricting benefits to those who voluntarily agree to purchase services. But I would question the general applicability of this premise.

True, in an entirely transactional economy, a freerider who would amorally exploit the resources of others and services paid for by others will not benefit, therefore - in that scenario - services do not become a form of welfare provision unless this is freely consented-to by providers and resource-owners. However, the difficulty, as I see it, is that a freerider can be passive rather than active. In the example of private policing discussed on the other thread, the freerider is entirely passive: he has no choice but to benefit if he lives in a community that is privately policed. Even if he rejects the benefits and refuses to pay for the service on perfectly legal grounds, he must accept the service anyway. In that situation, the passive actor must submit to the wishes of the majority against his will, a moral-political problem.

How do you address the fact that not everybody will wish to participate in services that are, by their nature, of collective benefit?

Or is there within libertarianism an acknowledgement that some services are by their nature social and must benefit everyone?

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Clayton
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Re: How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

Post by Clayton » Sun May 13, 2018 6:36 pm

Tom Rogers wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 11:18 am
Libertarians talk a lot about ‘collectives’. The idea is that any collective group that makes decisions on its own account is an affront to individual liberty, as collective personalities embody moral sovereignty over individuals, which is a form of tyranny.
Nonsense. Liberty is the single most powerful catalyst of collective action and it is precisely for this reason that libertarians espouse it. "Division of labor", "specialization", "entrepreneurship" - these are all cooperative (collective) modes of action ...



Any form of collective action that is based on consensus is automatically compatible with liberty -- the free market can be thought of as a gigantic consensus-making machine.
In the view of the libertarian, all group-based decision-making must be consented-to, therefore the only groups that are acceptable to libertarians are voluntary associations of individuals.
It's called consensus decision-making. A board-meeting is a great example of this form of organization. No one is ever required to attend a board-meeting and anyone is free to leave at any time.

The paternalistic mindset always struggles with this idea because the paternalistic mindset views any kind of group as a kind of de facto family. This primitive tendency comes from the long evolution of the human brain in the Ancestral Environment - a tribal environment. There, the chief is not a chair of a board, he is literally the head of an extended family, a genetic group whose germ-line interests are more or less directly aligned with the whim and will of the chief. That is to say, the tribal chief is the germ-line's solution to the problem of winning the inter-species competition by accelerating evolution on the software level (the human mind and social behavior) instead of at the hardware level (slow spread of genetic novelties through breeding). The chief's decisions - like the interests of the germ-line - may not align with the interests of the individual. But the evolution of the group as a whole is accelerated by the chief's willingness to sacrifice the individual for the greater good.

This stage of evolution has served its purpose and it is no longer useful. With the advent of artificial genetics, artificial robotics and artificial intelligence, we are now able to accelerate evolution by many orders of magnitude over the old world model of sacrificing the individual on the altar of the germ-line. Its time has past and like an elderly grand-parent, it needs to be retired with quiet dignity.
how re-collectivisation could be avoided
As long as the individual has her own appetites, the collective will is not the default. Basically, we're not ants, or bees.
How do you address the fact that not everybody will wish to participate in services that are, by their nature, of collective benefit?

Or is there within libertarianism an acknowledgement that some services are by their nature social and must benefit everyone?
This is the supposed "public goods problem". Steven Landsburg has written at length about this issue - as has David Friedman and many others - and the basic point that gets overlooked by leftists on the issue of externalities requiring the production of public goods is that they are always a symptom of a deficiency in the law itself, usually a deficiency that is created by the very organ that is supposed to be solving public goods problems (that is, the State).

In these discussions, I'm always reminded of that quote by Wittgenstein: "'Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent." Specifically, there is this idea that "Well, your theory is good and all, but guess what, there's still a State and it's still going to produce public goods as people think it ought to, your economic theories be damned!" And this is quite true. But there's no point in having such a discussion because it is just signaling, part of a game-theoretic exchange. It's like dogs baring their fangs before deciding whether to fight or run. The witting pro-public-goods argument boils down to saying this, in other words: "We don't care about the facts of the consequences of our actions, we're going to do what we want to do. We take the fact that we can just keep doing what we choose in the face of its self-destructive consequences to be proof that your theory is bullshit." Like drunk-driving, if the consequences were only self-destructive, we would be happy to let Nature take out the trash, as it were. But since your reckless decision-making affects others, it will not be Nature alone who is pushing back or, stated another way, Nature will be pushing back through the conduit of political/economic blowback, in addition to the well-known natural consequences.

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Tom Rogers
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Re: How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

Post by Tom Rogers » Sun May 13, 2018 8:35 pm

I should make something clear: I am not endorsing the libertarian ideas about collectivism I have outlined, I am merely repeating them for the purposes of examination and critique. The fact is that many libertarians do think in a very rigid and doctrinal way about this. If there is nuance in libertarianism, then that is to be welcomed, but I comment here as somebody who has had exchanges with libertarians in the past in which strict dogmatic anti-collectivist positions have been expounded as if they are the only canonical type of libertarianism. I agree that this approach, which treats libertarianism as an ideology, is naive and misguided, but those who espouse it tend to be very vocal and aggressive in asserting that theirs is the only libertarianism.

That said, as I explained in my original comment above, there is a difference between voluntary associations and collectives. One is consented-to, the other isn't. It follows that co-operation alone is not evidence of a collective arrangement in the sense meant by dogmatic libertarians.
Clayton wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:36 pm
It's called consensus decision-making. A board-meeting is a great example of this form of organization. No one is ever required to attend a board-meeting and anyone is free to leave at any time.
Most collective arrangements must have at least a residual element of voluntaryism in the sense of an ultimatum of disengagement, which may take the form of a simple resignation from the group, or in extreme cases, emigration or suicide. I would say a directors' meeting is an example of collective decision-making as well as consensus; indeed, the fact that directors' decisions are based on consensus is what gives the process its collectivist character, in that, at least in English company law, the general position is that decisions of the directors can be ratified by a simple majority and then bind the company and its agents, officers and employees. It is true that directors can be merely contractors of the company, with the freedom to come and go and not attend decisions, but even when that is the case, it has no bearing on the collectivist character of company governance, an English company certainly being a legal personality in its own right. Furthermore, the consequences of not attending board meetings or leaving board meetings depend on what has been agreed contractually and either way, it doesn't change that the director qua director is subject to the decisions taken in his absence and must carry them out. The only aspect of company governance that is 'voluntary' is the ability to resign, but the effect of even that can be limited in situations such as a residents' management company that runs a block of apartments, stratified housing or a housing estate, where the resigning director is also a resident-member and therefore, so long as he owns a unit on the scheme, still subject to the activities of the other members and directors, whether he likes it or not.
Clayton wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:36 pm
The paternalistic mindset always struggles with this idea because the paternalistic mindset views any kind of group as a kind of de facto family. This primitive tendency comes from the long evolution of the human brain in the Ancestral Environment - a tribal environment. There, the chief is not a chair of a board, he is literally the head of an extended family, a genetic group whose germ-line interests are more or less directly aligned with the whim and will of the chief. That is to say, the tribal chief is the germ-line's solution to the problem of winning the inter-species competition by accelerating evolution on the software level (the human mind and social behavior) instead of at the hardware level (slow spread of genetic novelties through breeding). The chief's decisions - like the interests of the germ-line - may not align with the interests of the individual. But the evolution of the group as a whole is accelerated by the chief's willingness to sacrifice the individual for the greater good.

This stage of evolution has served its purpose and it is no longer useful. With the advent of artificial genetics, artificial robotics and artificial intelligence, we are now able to accelerate evolution by many orders of magnitude over the old world model of sacrificing the individual on the altar of the germ-line. Its time has past and like an elderly grand-parent, it needs to be retired with quiet dignity.
I see you acknowledge that tribalism is an evolved response, not designed, however you link it to what you call a 'paternalistic mindset'. This mindset, if it exists, has not caused tribalism, so whether a tribal and territorial imperative still serves any purpose may be beside the point if it is the way people are. But assuming people can change and become non-tribal, then we have to consider whether the new technology and know-how you refer to would and could have that effect. You have not explained how it could. Why shouldn't technology have racial and tribal biases that reflect the essential human condition acknowledged?
Clayton wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:36 pm
As long as the individual has her own appetites, the collective will is not the default. Basically, we're not ants, or bees.
While I do think that certain hominin types are ant-like and gravitate towards pronounced forms of collectivism, ants and bees have nothing to do with the particular point here. In my example, I refer to the problem that a private police service for a community by its very nature will involve the provision of a service to people who have not consented. Unlike with, say, a private fire service, the provider cannot pick and choose who to police.
Clayton wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:36 pm
This is the supposed "public goods problem". Steven Landsburg has written at length about this issue - as has David Friedman and many others - and the basic point that gets overlooked by leftists on the issue of externalities requiring the production of public goods is that they are always a symptom of a deficiency in the law itself, usually a deficiency that is created by the very organ that is supposed to be solving public goods problems (that is, the State).
I will look at those links, but my point was that the moral-economic heuristic is possibly inadequate because not all free riders are active. What has been framed as a problem of economics is in fact a problem of political economy: collectivisation occurs because some people must have the benefit of public goods whether they want to or not. Thus, a truly private economy would either have to accept socialised provision in some areas or would have to radically alter the way that services are provided to ensure that economic activity is entirely voluntary.

However, I do accept that your argument addresses the private policing example. As I think you are saying, one of the reasons a market for private security patrols arises at all is due to deficiencies in state provision, and I accept that the analysis cannot stop there: the argument goes deeper and is whether an entirely private economy would remove or minimise the type of crime for which police response work exists. If we are positing an economy of independent property owners, then I am willing to accept that it would and therefore the need for policing services would be nil or minimal.

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Re: How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

Post by Anarcho-Conservative » Sun May 13, 2018 8:59 pm

In my honest opinion, collectivism and any other types of group think should be avoided at all costs.

We as Libertarians should not be ashamed to show the whole world that we are individuals with fresh ideas about how we as a society can prosper without the need for a state that has always rejected 'thinking outside the box' and would rather just keep the status quo whilst citizens suffer because they don't know what tomorrow brings.

We are all different people and it is that individualism that defines who we are and how we see the world without being told what we can and can't say as people are too 'offended'.

There is nothing wrong with belonging to groups but it doesn't mean to say that we should think the same without thinking over it is right or wrong.

Our brains are programmed to interpret what we see as we experience new things and it is that programming that defines us as individuals as we all go through different experiences.

The state may say that we are just sheep to follow those who are of 'higher intellect'. I say breakaway from it and challenge everything we see and before long, people will rise to it and those with 'higher intellect' will be exposed as cowardly fraudsters who can do nothing to us but accept defeat!

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William
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Re: How Does A Libertarian Society Avoid Collectivisation?

Post by William » Mon May 14, 2018 11:16 pm

Some random thoughts:

-A key phrase may be "methodoligical individualism": that is a tool to analyse the world, not a metaphysical cliam

-the "custom", habit, tradition, or whatever you may call the plethora of knowledge that is pre- and/or trans- rational and often inarticulate that make up the bulk of our interactions of individuals, personality and acknowledging the culture, institutional and limitations of "purely rational"/cartesian analysis.

-understand that what was built are "robust systems" that can take a lot of stress and Jermaid's and "crisis" type minds from our own individual minds or others are to be largely ignored unless we have direct skin in the game and/or put our abstract thoughts out in open systems where they can be tested, scrutinized, utilized, and judged outside of our own judgments
I have come to feel strongly that the greatest service I can still render to my fellow men would be that I could make the speakers and writers among them thoroughly ashamed ever again to employ the term 'social justice'.
F.A Hayek

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