Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Contractual Community


It is often offered that agreement by contract would be sufficient to form a libertarian community: the terms of admission would be spelled out and agreed to voluntarily; the rights and responsibilities are covered; mechanisms for dispute resolution are spelled out.  I would like to raise a few concerns with this idea.

I was prompted to this post via a discussion with Victor July 6, 2018 at 3:37 PM.  The relevant discussion:

Victor: Yeah bionic some sort of private club model could play the behavioral / disciplinary role now played crudely and ineptly by the state. Hoppe's private and privately supervised residential neighborhoods come to mind. If you have a bad reputation you are denied admittance. If you behave badly you get thrown out. Private club based society really encourages developing a good reputation and makes it very costly and inconvenient not to.

bionic mosquito: Victor, I believe for such a "private club model" to remain "libertarian" requires something transcendent, something beyond the values of the living members.

Think about organizational transition; think about all of the think tanks that have lost their way after the founder or first generation has passed on.

The examples are countless and demonstrate clearly, it seems to me, that absent something transcendent - something guiding the leadership beyond the goodwill of the existing members - such "private clubs for liberty" will not last long.

Sure, they all had Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, etc. – in other words, the exact requirements for a “contractual private law society” envisioned by many libertarians: “oh, just sign a contract.”

Yet these “contracts” failed to protect the Mission beyond one lifetime.

The issue: how to stay true to the mission through various transitions, etc.  An example might be helpful:

Ford Foundation: Today [8 November 2015] I’m excited to announce that the Ford Foundation’s two-year transition is over… Back in June, I shared the news that we would focus on combating inequality and that we had landed on a set of thematic areas aimed at addressing what we have identified globally as the five key drivers of inequality.

The initial purpose of the foundation? 

The foundation was established January 15, 1936, in Michigan by Edsel Ford (president of the Ford Motor Company) and two other executives "to receive and administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare."

And how soon did the mission change…the first time?

After the deaths of Edsel Ford in 1943 and Henry Ford in 1947…[t]he board of trustees then commissioned the Gaither Study Committee to chart the foundation's future. The committee, headed by California attorney H. Rowan Gaither, recommended that the foundation become an international philanthropic organisation dedicated to the advancement of human welfare and "urged the foundation to focus on solving humankind's most pressing problems, whatever they might be, rather than work in any particular field...." The board embraced the recommendations in 1949.

So much for the focus on science and education; the focus is now “equality.”

While less relevant, one could also examine the for-profit world.  Why I say “less-relevant”?  The non-profit / foundation world is a world of ideas – an organization is funded and sustained in pursuit of an idea.  Libertarianism is nothing if not an idea.  If there was money to be made in the NAP, why are so few people making it?  So…I see the for-profit world less relevant to this discussion, but will address it.

Victor offers a possibility in the for-profit world:

Big corporations deal with this problem by bidding up the price of good CEO's. Or good CEO's vie for control of companies which have lost their way.

Examples can certainly be offered about CEOs who have changed course from that which even their predecessor had set – Google’s “Don’t be evil” or whatever they said along these lines (HT Nick) is one of many examples, flushed down the toilet when the hypocrisy became obvious to all. 

But this isn’t my main objection to this idea.  My main objection is that this idea is nothing other than restating the need of hiring the right strongman: “if only we elect the right leader.”

In any case, one can examine contracts: this vehicle for a contractual community has a sufficient history worthy of examination.  Anyone with any experience dealing with such matters knows the following about contracts: no matter how detailed, one can never capture beforehand all possibilities; no matter how well thought-out, contracts are modified and revised.

No matter how well delineated, achieving a “meeting of the minds” between two people is often complex enough, let alone amongst a community of people.

Conclusion

At its core, what is a contractual community but a community in which all residents have signed onto the constitution?  And how well have constitutions – a piece of paper – been respected by even those who have signed or drafted it?  In any case, constitutions have virtually always been more effective at protecting those in power from the people as opposed to the other way around.

The longest lasting and most (relatively) libertarian society had law that was supported by something transcendent, something not human and more than human; call it respect for culture and tradition or call it God.  In its place, we have tried constitutions and we have tried strongmen. 

Neither has worked very well at securing and maintaining liberty.

64 comments:

  1. Amen. How do we get a sufficient community back on board that train?

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  2. One way (the only way?) is to have as part of the contract specific and explicit language granting (or recognizing pre-existing?) members enforcement and means to enforce violations by the "management."

    Thanks, Adam and Eve. NOT!

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  3. At the risk of being a broken record, you should really read The Diamond Age. Compared to the non-fiction you regularly review, it’s a quick and light read. Sort of Hoppean sci fi.

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    1. I am remiss in following up with the library. I will try again.

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  4. It's a good write up with a lot to unpack.

    "At its core, what is a contractual community but a community in which all residents have signed onto the constitution? And how well have constitutions – a piece of paper – been respected by even those who have signed or drafted it? In any case, constitutions have virtually always been more effective at protecting those in power from the people as opposed to the other way around."

    I think the initial stages of most contracts, generally speaking, are done in good faith with all parties trying to adhere to them.

    While I agree with your long term prognosis on contracts, Jefferson I think also inherently understood your point and hence his famous comment, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

    My belief is that he saw the need for 20 year resets("God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion."), though he contained it to insurrection. I think the idea of a Constitutional Convention was an attempt to lessen the blood spilled over such a need...and there seems to be a general agreement by libertarians that decentralized(local) rule might be the best path toward whatever degree of having no involuntary governance might be possible.

    "My main objection is that this idea is nothing other than restating the need of hiring the right strongman: “if only we elect the right leader.”

    This is an interesting statement for a couple of reasons and I have two questions regarding it:

    #1 Other than an election, is there something in your mind would distinguish a German Middle Age King/Noble from a strongman?

    #2 Was the quid pro quo of the serf and noble/king(monarch) an implied contract, but a contract none the less?


    Lastly,do you think this hierarchy chart is accurate?

    http://feudalisminthemedievalera.weebly.com/nobles-knights-and-serfs.html

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    1. Nick

      “My belief is that he saw the need for 20 year resets ("God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion."), though he contained it to insurrection.”

      Too bad neither Washington nor Lincoln agreed – Whiskey Rebellion to Southern Secession and who knows how many occasions in between. Funny: once people are empowered by a constitution, they seem not eager to give up that power, and will use violence to keep it. So…who did the Constitution protect – not the words of the Constitution, but as demonstrated by the actions?

      “#1 Other than an election, is there something in your mind would distinguish a German Middle Age King/Noble from a strongman?

      “#2 Was the quid pro quo of the serf and noble / king (monarch) an implied contract, but a contract none the less?”

      Nick, it is very frustrating to read these questions from you. One reason I wrote the recent post, “Medieval Libertarianism” was to give you a quick way to catch up to the dialogue here. Read that post, click the links. If you still have questions – to include some demonstration that you read the relevant posts – then we can discuss further.

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2018/07/medieval-libertarianism.html

      “Lastly, do you think this hierarchy chart is accurate?”

      Rarely, too simplistic, and a chart drawn by someone who doesn’t understand competing and decentralized governance. But again, you wouldn’t ask this question if you took the time to read the aforementioned post and clicked the links.

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    2. "So…who did the Constitution protect – not the words of the Constitution, but as demonstrated by the actions?"

      It's a valid point- but I find it difficult to conceive of any part in the world returning to a place where Lutheran Individualism and decentralization via nobility/serf type arrangements using the traditional law system of the time has any chance of reappearing. So in that vain, it's only natural that I might try to look at alternatives.

      There is no perfect contract obviously. Further, there are obvious failures that become more apparent in scale. But if decentralization is a good goal in the hope of increasing libertarian outcomes isn't even an imperfect tool, like a contract, better than nothing? (especially when the cultural roots of liberty no longer exist?)

      "Nick, it is very frustrating to read these questions from you. One reason I wrote the recent post, “Medieval Libertarianism” was to give you a quick way to catch up to the dialogue here. Read that post, click the links. If you still have questions – to include some demonstration that you read the relevant posts – then we can discuss further."

      There was a lot there and I"m still working through them, but I'll say this. Nothing so far in what I've read specifically addresses what I thought were basic questions.

      If you have addressed them, I apologize, but I have yet to read anything that has and I didn't think the 3 questions I asked in and of themselves were that involved. Certainly they weren't intended to be frustrating.

      Don't let it frustrate you, I'll continue to read and obviously you're under no obligation to answer them, especially if you feel you already have.


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    3. "But again, you wouldn’t ask this question if you took the time to read the aforementioned post and clicked the links."

      One other thing I wanted to note, I'm in agreement with you on the simplistic nature of the chart and I accept your argument via prior articles re; the balance of power between the peasants/serfs and the "ruling" class, but I found in particular to be of interest what the Church over the Monarch(even though the text near the chart is filled with some baloney).

      So I can understand your frustration, I'll try to do better in communicating my points and asking relevant questions. Make no mistake though, I've read many of your articles with interest on this topic even though I missed some of the very early ones going years back.

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    4. Nick, thank you for this reply and for showing understanding to my frustration….

      I will offer a brief reply to your earlier questions, while – in the meantime – I will wait if you have others:

      “#1 Other than an election, is there something in your mind would distinguish a German Middle Age King/Noble from a strongman?”

      The king of the medieval period could not make law. His only perc beyond and above his peers was that he was to apply law. He was to apply law according to old and good custom, and his application was subject to veto if the objection could be shown to conform to old and good custom.

      So, the separation of making law and applying law eliminates the possibility of a strongman.

      BTW, sometimes the king was elected – it was not always and everywhere an hereditary office.

      “#2 Was the quid pro quo of the serf and noble/king (monarch) an implied contract, but a contract none the less?”

      Not implied. They gave oaths toward each other, and were obliged to each other to the extent that the other kept his end of the bargain. And it was more than a contract, as God was a third party to the agreement. It was a sacred oath.

      “Lastly, do you think this hierarchy chart is accurate?”

      In the best of medieval law, there was no sovereign. In our modern way of thinking – needing to find a “sovereign” – we could consider the “law” as sovereign in medieval times. Below the law, the king and the Church were both friend and foe (at times, it could be considered that one was over the other, but mostly they just traded places on occasion) – anyone below either church or king could appeal to the other party if one of the two was felt to be violating his “rights.”

      Now, to your other comments:

      “I find it difficult to conceive of any part in the world returning to a place where Lutheran Individualism and decentralization via nobility/serf type arrangements using the traditional law system of the time has any chance of reappearing.”

      First, it seems to me that Lutheran individualism is part of the problem, not the solution. With this said, I don’t see this either. But unless we discuss it and recognize it, we won’t even come close. I think there is a large portion of the population of the west that accepts generally the NAP and also such conservative values.

      It is only by demonstrating that these two factions (libertarians and conservatives) offer to each other the best hope for liberty that we are ever likely to find liberty again. If we accomplish this, how it is manifest…I don’t know. But we don’t need to worry about answering that question until we get to a point where we should worry about answering that question.

      “…isn't even an imperfect tool, like a contract, better than nothing?”

      I don’t know. The people in the red counties…do they need a contract amongst each other to maintain their values, beliefs, traditions? It seems to me that they just need to act these out every day and shun or expel those who don’t.

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    5. "It seems to me that they just need to act these out every day and shun or expel those who don’t."

      I seem to remember someone writing an article on the role of shunning in libertarian society several years ago, but it never landed anywhere in full form.

      :)

      The whole expelling part...shouldn't there at least be a contract to determine what the boundaries of said cultural determinance start and stop? Further, the question of when violence is justified rears it's head(cue Aquinas). I seem to remember reading someplace that it would have been cheaper for the North to buy the slaves from the South than fight the civil war.(though we know the Civil war wasn't over slavery- but still)

      It seems to me that it would be better to find a path by which people of common culture can create such a community peacefully, like acquisition of land, or even paying off losers that want welfare states to simply go away.

      "I don’t know. The people in the red counties…do they need a contract amongst each other to maintain their values, beliefs, traditions? "

      It might help more than hurt if there's a contract, especially if it's regularly reviewed (which might mean secession at times) and it's application remains small in size and scope, it's voluntarily agreed upon by all members of said county, or town, or neighborhood, etc. Perfection can be the enemy of good.

      I don't think culture alone is enough...even granting the notion of "good law" from the Middle Ages, it had to have an oral tradition(just like the Jews) and there are oral contracts.

      When you refer to "Oath"'s, they are typically applied to a King and/or law....(even if it's oral, but the German's did eventually encode some of it during the Middle Ages)

      I'm using the terms "law" and "contract" somewhat interchangeably. (it could be a logical error)

      I see culture and law/contracts as intertwined, inexorably.(but I could be wrong)

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    6. “The whole expelling part...shouldn't there at least be a contract to determine what the boundaries of said cultural determinance start and stop?”

      I am not so sure. I will offer an example: during much of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was tolerant – in the best sense – of those who held other beliefs. Most of the stories we know of witch burnings and the like came after the Reformation and usually carried out by heretic / Protestant communities.

      Is it reasonable to expect that the Catholic Church sign a “contract” with every individual, stating that the Church accepts heretical ideas or sinful (but not aggressive) acts? It would seem to me that this would be an almost impossible ask of the Church.

      As to your point of oath and oral contracts, yes, I agree. The context of my frustration about this libertarian call for contractual communities: written contracts are complicated things and there are always things left out and loopholes to abuse, if one desires.

      The new neighbor who says “the contract never said I wasn’t allowed to have sex orgies on my lawn” is right – because the existing homeowners never thought such a thing would happen. But now they are stuck with keeping their children in the house and keeping the blinds closed.

      We live almost every aspect of our life without contract, and we do so peacefully. What we lack is ethical leadership grounded in something transcendent – call it God or call it tradition, I don’t care which one you call it. This lack of ethical leadership isn’t solved by contract.

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    7. " The context of my frustration about this libertarian call for contractual communities: written contracts are complicated things and there are always things left out and loopholes to abuse, if one desires. "

      No question, I agree. The issue of moderating ethics, morals, a moral code, they are all keys to sustaining peaceful/voluntary interactions and way back when I admitted on the board if someone insulted my wife I'd punch them in the nose even if it meant I was no longer a libertarian I was looking for someone to make a comment regarding it to make sense of it...but I guess my concern is that if we pound the notion of a covenant community into the ground then that again eliminates another possible tool for decentralization and libertarian outcomes.

      I seem to remember a profound quote years ago on this blog(I think!) by someone who has never appeared again, he had an Indian name if I recall, but basically he made the point that a covenant community could have a disclaimer for a moral/ethic code within it's charter. He actually wrote one in his response that was very good! I wish I could remember where it was. I could never duplicate it, it was written so well- but basically made clear that moral/ethical standards within the community would be upheld beyond the scope of of the contract itself. (ostensibly address "sex orgies on the lawn")

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    8. Nick, whose moral / ethical standards should be upheld? On what basis?

      Try this:

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2017/07/where-theres-smoke-theres-fire.html

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    9. Yes, that's the one!

      Shailesh Saraf- he's never posted again. Too bad.

      "Nick, whose moral / ethical standards should be upheld? On what basis?"

      But that's why we're pushing decentralization, under the assumption that like minded individuals have options based on standards they have in common with others and the more choices, the better chance of finding a "fit".

      We might be getting circular if we consider cultural soil again in this context(chicken vs. egg)...but it's hard to predict when/how these things can come about. (Cheran, Mexico- who'd have thunk it?)

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    10. Nick, this is also why I push for decentralization - in this world, at this time and for many reasons (to include the benefits of industrialization), it seems the likeliest way through.

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    11. As to the clause inserted by Saraf: what does it suggest beyond "the rules around here are too complicated to put on paper; take some time, figure out how we live, and then get along or get out."

      In other words, it relies on the unspoken and even unimplied - I guess it implies that the implied portion of the contract will be revealed over time.

      But what if what is buried in that clause allows shooting a child for stealing an apple....now...talk about going circular!

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    12. "But what if what is buried in that clause allows shooting a child for stealing an apple....now...talk about going circular!"

      And that is truth.

      However, I can safely say that if you or I were to try to establish a covenant community I'm sure there would be at least a reference to specific set of morals or code to assure we welcome people that find that shooting a child over the theft of an apple as abhorrent. We are only limited by our imagination.

      I think Saraf's point was that a predominant culture(Amish, "Christian", etc) can be stipulated even though not possibly detailed with "elders" to adjudicate the fuzzy edges. (we are close to circular/chicken vs. egg stuff again granted)

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    13. Maybe we leave it here, as I am quite dizzy.

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    14. Yeah, me too, I need a break and time to digest.

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  5. Sorry for the 3rd post, but given the circumstances I wanted to work on better communication on my end, for clarity:

    My question about how you distinguish between a 'strongman' and German King/Noble(and the resultant quid pro quo you've described in previous articles) was born out of the nature of their founding structure: That is, conquest, over a failing Roman empire, using mercenaries as well, etc.

    In other words, they established what Rothbard defined as the "state" initially, only to morph into the decentralization and Lutheran individualism you describe for much of the Middle Ages.

    My two questions in this regard are because I'm seeking your opinion on when the initial use of force becomes justified if it produced a libertarian outcome(at what point does a strongman become a king/noble? When he liberates?) and even further, if that libertarian outcome was partially yielded under implied contract conditions.(I've never suggested that your arguments regarding culture aren't valid, I think they are)

    The thing is though, even "good law" which you reference in previous articles, customs, etc. was codified to some extent as these fiefdoms multiplied over time. The lines between "contracts" and "laws" get blurry to me in this regard. Especially if we are to accept the balance of power between peasants/serfs and nobility. (and I have no reason not to accept this)

    So in essence, I'm arguing there were some elements of contract law being applied(to which I'm assuming you may disagree, but maybe not!) during that time period even if it didn't come about initially when the Germans started their conquests.

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    1. Nick

      "Lutheran Individualism and decentralization via nobility/serf type arrangements using the traditional law system of the time has any chance of reappearing."

      And then after some back and forth, and you presumably having read the other article about Medieval Libertarianism, you still persist:

      "only to morph into the decentralization and Lutheran individualism you describe for much of the Middle Ages."

      Lutheran individualism .. for much of the Middle Ages???

      If you're not just playing stupid here, the one big problem is that you've got your chronology all mixed up. Simple rule of thumb: when Lutheran individualism is in place in some parts of Europe, the Middle Ages described here at BM's are already long gone. Period. You're simply a couple of centuries off. As soon as you get that into your grey matter, most other things will fall into place.

      -Sag.

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    2. Sag, remain respectful please.

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    3. “In other words, they established what Rothbard defined as the "state" initially…”

      Nick, we don’t know this at all. The roots of the Germanic people migrating into Western Europe are vague. However, given what we know of their traditions, leaders were followed because a specific leader offered the best possibility of survival for the tribe. To use the word “state” suggests, to me, a ruler who has unlimited authority to make law and enforce law. There is nothing in the Germanic tradition that would support this view.

      “…when the initial use of force becomes justified if it produced a libertarian outcome (at what point does a strongman become a king/noble? When he liberates?)”

      So, I don’t think the history supports the foundation of this question. More relevant, perhaps: libertarian communities will be kept that way by means not deemed to be libertarian.

      “…and even further, if that libertarian outcome was partially yielded under implied contract conditions.”

      If by implied contract you mean the old and good law, then yes. In other words, to the newcomer or rebellious teen the message was clear: “get along with how we do things around here or get out.” Like I said, libertarian communities will be kept that way by means not deemed to be libertarian.

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    4. BM

      "Respectful?" Of what exactly? Sustained feigned ignorance? "Respectful" of a continued disregard for the most basic historical chronology? Same anachronistic preoccupations being repeated ad nauseam in endless back and forths? No BM, I'm just being straightforward here, respecting honest and firm discussion. So with all due respect, if this is how you value a justified attempt to make someone understand some basics for the third time in a row on this subject, then that's fine and fair enough. I think I'll just bow out for now.

      -Sag.

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    5. Sag, Nick has been involved in this specific conversation for a couple of weeks.

      Two weeks isn't enough time to suggest that he is playing stupid, or to use the passive / aggressive "gray matter."

      There have been others here who have been involved for two years and still repeat the same objections. Had you applied such comments to these, I would have just smiled. Heck, I just did the same yesterday.

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    6. BM

      Point taken. Showed some impatience here, I guess. Let's give it a few more months then, without any "unfriendly" asides, before I'll get real Dutchie on this ;)

      BTW, how about some courtesy re: the substance of my comment. Did you agree/disagree with this?

      "rule of thumb: when Lutheran individualism is in place in some parts of Europe, the Middle Ages described here at BM's are already long gone."

      -Sag.

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    7. @ BM

      Thank you for that. I appreciate how you moderate the blog.

      @ Sag

      Look, there's no question I'm still trying to wrap my "grey matter" around the whole topic, obviously with some difficulty.

      But, at the risk of being moderated myself, if I was as much of an ass about some of the misunderstandings you've had on the board here as you seem at times to be with me and other people, anonymously none the less, I might take a moment and reflect on why I'm so quick to point out the failings of others without regard to decorum.

      Is it because I have contempt for their lack of understanding of an issue, which seems to be in and of itself is a relatively minor thing in the scheme of things, or is there something deeper?
      Like a personal insecurity that drives me to lift myself up by bashing others?

      You seem to have a lot of vitriol for a lot of people here over relatively minor things.

      Now that being said, I actually do appreciate you reinforcing the timeline so to speak even though I think you can work on delivery.

      The issue of the transition from whatever form of German paganism promoting decentralized authority to this Lutheran individualism spurred by the Reformation seemed to be tied together in my mind. The actual definition of the end of Middle Ages is only a little over 20 years separation from the Reformation and my assumption of the appearance Lutheran individualism.

      As I mentioned before the pagan/Christian Germans fell into line with the Church and it happened BEFORE the Reformation. Where did this "individualism" come from? Was it solely a product of the Reformation?

      I do have a better understanding now, so thank you both for that. I just have to think about it all more and try to arrange it better in my head; certainly in my reading the articles by BM on this topic I've missed some things. I probably didn't give some of them the mental consideration required as I didn't pick up during reading them the direction BM was moving towards, so context lacking I didn't read them with what I seem to be getting from a conclusion standpoint.

      It's the reason that most people sometimes have to go back and re-read things(or at least me) in studying complex topics.

      If you always "get it" on the first go, will then you're a fortunate person Sag.

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    8. Sag, I agree with that comment, but with some color: even as the Protestant theologies spread, much of the "tradition" of the Middle Ages remained - albeit without the same foundation, therefore without the ability to sustain.

      In other words, it wasn't an "on / off" event (on either side of Luther driving a nail in the church door). However, the death blow was made - just waiting for the life-sustaining blood to drain.

      In some ways, we could look to World War I as when the final convulsion occurred.

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    9. Was WWI caused by the "individualism" resulting from the ideas of the Reformation, or did it result from the replacement of a "God" centered morality with a morality based on science and reason?

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    10. Royden, I am not sure these two can be presented as either / or. See here:

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2017/05/and-dying-cheer.html

      At the time I wrote this piece, I was not comfortable enough with the issues surrounding the Reformation to include it in the series of events. I would include it today.

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    11. BM

      Yes, it was an "on/off" and here's why not: it is not essential whether or not much of the "tradition" of the ME remained, though you'd have to specify the remaining traditions. Here's why: because the Natural Moral Law as a common framework to appeal to no longer applies and is no longer used after the Lutheran type of post-Reformation individual has taken centre stage and statism is accepted and advocated, even by the types of Locke et al.

      And this to me seems crucial: natural moral law, if we follow Rothbard, turns into natural rights and that combined with the legalism resulting from the slow poison of the Renaissance rediscovery of Roman Law meant the definite "off" for the natural law framework of the Middle Ages.

      -Sag.

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    12. @ BM

      "Nick, we don’t know this at all. The roots of the Germanic people migrating into Western Europe are vague. However, given what we know of their traditions, leaders were followed because a specific leader offered the best possibility of survival for the tribe. To use the word “state” suggests, to me, a ruler who has unlimited authority to make law and enforce law."

      I'm referring to the time in which the Germanic "barbarians" started to encroach upon Roman territory to eventually set up actual kingdom's and interaction with the Church.

      Specifically Rothbard notes "monopoly on violence" in his state definition, which is why I mention it. In order for them to set up these kingdom's in the Middle Ages, they'd have to have it:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_German_monarchs

      I'm trying to understand specifically what you mean about non-libertarian means to keep libertarian communities, where the line is drawn regarding actual physical aggression, etc. et al

      The discussion potentially gets to a place where the argument looks like a Bush moment:

      ‘I’ve Abandoned Free Market Principles To Save The Free Market System’

      Which provided endless hours of fun for libertarians.

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    13. You know...generally speaking, people tie the concept of "liberty" to "individualism"...I'm just leaving this comment here and I'm making no arguments either way. I'm stirring the pot to see what bubbles up.

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    14. Sag, the day after Luther took hammer and nail to the door, almost everyone in Europe behaved the same as they did the day before. A year later this was mostly true and to varying degrees it was true for decades and perhaps longer, although I do not intend to debate a precise date or percentage.

      This is my point, and it is - I am quite certain - irrefutable.

      That the results were inevitable (given that the issues were not resolved within the Church, and this not solely or even primarily Luther's "fault) - via the loss of "Natural Moral Law" - is a separate point, and one with which I agree - as evidenced by much of my writing and specifically noted in my comment to Royden above.

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    15. Nick, the Germanic tribes had no monopoly of violence in any sense of a "state." In any case, if they took law from custom and not from tribal leaders, it is difficult to consider this a "monopoly."

      The Roman citizens, destitute after the fall, preferred giving themselves as slaves to the tribes as opposed to starving in Rome. They didn't do this because the Germanic tribes had a monopoly of violence; they did this in order to live.

      Regarding non-libertarian means...a starting point would be Hoppe, against which many libertarians complain that his society is most certainly not libertarian. Yet, it is a society that will retain its liberty.

      As to "libertarian" and "individual," yes, this is one of the big downfalls in the hope of bringing liberty to fruition. Perhaps connecting the two is a big trick, to ensure we never find liberty.

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    16. The "debate" you invoke is a strawman of your own making BM and beside the point I was trying to make.

      I'll draw a picture of the time frame involved in the anachronism I was addressing, look:

      500-----Middle-----1000-----Ages-----1500 . (the point is Luther, right there)

      Here's Nick's anachronism, a simple impossibility is all:

      "the decentralization and Lutheran individualism you describe for much of the Middle Ages."

      "Much of the MA" would mean what, more than 500 years, before say 1500?

      It's not that hard.

      -Sag.

      Delete
    17. Sag, both you and I have addressed Nick's comment, why do you continue to raise it?

      I have addressed yours - not a debate, just explaining my point. If you find it irrelevant to your comment, so be it.

      Your obnoxious attitude is not helpful toward dialogue.

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    18. Nick, "I'm trying to understand specifically what you mean about non-libertarian means to keep libertarian communities, where the line is drawn regarding actual physical aggression, etc. et al"

      That is indeed the point, that 'line' does not exist. Its a grey zone that defies definition. IMO it cannot be defined because it depends on so many variables that only a neural network can make the decision (violence allowed vs not).

      Unsatisfactory? for some, yes. Others, not so much.

      Delete
    19. BM,

      Thanks for referring me to the earlier post; it's one of my favorites. I read it at the time but didn't recall it during the present discussion. I think you and I have a similar view of western culture and its roots and influences. The blog post in question may actually be partly responsible for my current ideas.

      The loss of “the old good law” may have derived from the loss of the concept of a God granted individual divinity prevalent in medieval Christian thought. Science says there's no evidence for God and thus for a belief in religiously derived value structures (morality.) When the “soul” is stripped from the individual, science and reason can easily argue for an elevation of the collective over the personal. That which is good for the collective is good and even requires sacrifice of the individual to the collective good. This concept is easily sold to the members of the collective (state), convincing them that their sacrifice is to a higher good (the health of the collective.) This belief facilitates conscription of giant armies to fight wars for the collective. It also facilitates the formation of scientifically derived societies, both communist and capitalist, based on collective organization.

      Perhaps, as I think you are suggesting, we need an appreciation of the transcendent nature of the individual. Maybe we need to restore divinity to the individual to reduce the influence of the collective. It seems that increasing individual liberty might require more balance between the influence of the spiritual and the rational. The spiritual may be more rational than we believe.

      Delete
    20. Said Nick to Bionic, "You seem to have a lot of vitriol for a lot of people here over relatively minor things." One could say that Bionic plays the role of 'strongman' among his fellow mosquitoes on here:) Why not ? Every endeavor and enterprise with multiple participants needs someone to play that role. Nietztche tells us the very definition of man is his 'will to power'. That it itself is by no means bad. The entrepreneur expresses his will to power by profiting from providing people what they want. The will to power is only bad when expressed by ganging up in order to rule over others by force as in the case of all political power.

      Delete
    21. Victor, Nick's comment was directed to Sag. But as I value the tone and dialogue and utility of the comments (and it is my site, after all), I admit to doing my share of pruning and trimming.

      Delete
    22. Bionic I think with Medieval Germanic tribes they accepted a king only during time of war. Once the threat of enemy conquest passed the King had to either abdicate or risk decapitation.

      Delete
    23. Victor, in my reading there were kings elected or chosen from among the nobles to enforce the law. I read of this first in Fritz Kern's book - he seems pretty knowledgeable on the topic.

      I suspect different regions at different times had different practices.

      Delete
    24. Nick

      "anonymously none the less.."

      Sorry but I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree here. I used to be able to comment with my Typepad account, visible as "Sagunto," signed Richard (here's an example, now visible as "Anonymous"), but that option is no longer available. No problem. I've used the anon option ever since, always signed with Sag. (for friends) ;)

      As for the delivery, well, you have to believe me that I consider it rather unfortunate but necessary to be upfront and straightforward every now and then. Just to get things moving beyond basics, such as simple timelines (no "small thing" Nick). Also not aware of the vitriol for "a lot of people," as you claim. Just you and your recurring anachronism, an issue that appears to be solved for now. I'd say case closed, let's move on.

      -Sag.

      Delete
    25. Yes, I will ask that we all move on. Thanks.

      Delete
    26. " Also not aware of the vitriol for "a lot of people," as you claim."

      Well, I'm not going to go through all the comment sections to point out all the instances, but here's one just the other day:


      "I actually got the creeps listening to this "man" (perpetual adolescent rather) for the first time. He clearly bought into the late night tavern-Darwinism of "sociobiology," and he's just clueless on the issue. I think types like these as poster boys for libertarianism also go some way to explain the limited appeal. Well, at least he won't pass on his genes." (Sag)



      "Sorry but I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree here."

      "I've used the anon option ever since, always signed with Sag."

      No one knows who "Sag" is, and though it seems you are not a libertarian it does seem that you and I have something in common:

      An affinity for elements of honor society, and honor would seem to dictate that if you make personal attacks as part of your argument that you should sign your full name to them if they are directed to people that are also using their full names so you're not dismissed as merely a troll and people know that you are serious about your attacks.

      Lastly, just for a little context on what you deem as "no small thing"- BM and I had just finished discussing the nature German decentralization as being libertarian in nature in the previous article, I naturally asked about theocracy, and when he started referring to "Lutheran individuality" in the next write up I assumed it was a pick up off our last exchange. That I didn't connect he was arguing that the transition from start of the Reformation was cause for the loss earlier German hybrid decentralization with libertarian themes IS a relatively small thing in my opinion. It’s small because not only as he pointed out to you earlier the change in attitude didn’t happen overnight, but he had also argued previously that the Enlightenment was a major cause- and the relevance to your comment is just that.

      To chalk up loss of this decentralization to one simple occurrence, whether it be the Reformation, Luthern Individuality, or the Enlightment is not seeing the big picture and in the scheme of things my lapse is small.

      Further yet, this is all speculation, even if the arguments appear sound it’s no guarantee of truth. In fact, stripping out history this is a problem logically:

      How can we push “decentralization” as a solution when it follows that “individuality” was a cause of the loss of liberty, given that decentralization itself is promoting a form of individuality, even on a communal basis?

      So I still have my doubts, but I continue to be willing to read with an open mind, and comment from time to time...as long the dialog is respectful and meaningful.

      Delete
    27. Nick, please let's move on. This disagreement need not drag on endlessly. There will be plenty of opportunities in future threads to continue the dialogue in a respectful manner without rehashing these recent events.

      Delete
  6. In this post I think you hit upon a soft spot. Implicit vc explicit.
    Implicit contracts just work, explicit contracts invite free-riders.

    It does not matter how simpel the explicit contract is (e.g. NAP). Any explicit contract will in due time invite free-riders.

    And given the nature of the libertarians -high intelligence & some way past the neutral point on the autistic spectrum- libertarians seem to reject the idea of not being able to explicitly state 'the law'.

    They may object 'but rien, we have laws now', and that is certainly true. We also have free-riders - a lot of them. But we cannot get rid of the free-riders by replacing the law with a more simple law. The only way to get rid of free-riders is to allow the law to change from time to time. If a certain group of free-riders gets to big: change the law, or add to it.

    Btw about those institutions that keep changing the initial purpose, Vox Day has an expression for this: Any institution will drift to the left if not explicitly guarded against.
    This -in a nutshell- is the problem of western culture.

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    1. Rien, I think the issue is implicit contract based on what? Conditions that are generally accepted in language that is commonly used, or some artificial criteria?

      It is often offered: you sit at a restaurant, are served and then enjoy a fine meal. Now comes the bill: is there or isn't there an implicit contract? Based on what criteria?

      The more that common culture and tradition govern, the less that "law" needs to be passed. Implicit contract based on common culture and tradition? I can accept such phrasing.

      Delete
    2. Yes BM, implicit contract based on culture and tradition. Backed up by the willingness to go to blows to enforce it.

      The only thing that can hold back the blows is the willingness of other people around you to help.

      And: If you act like a jerk, you will find that you don't have the same contract as a good looking well behaved lady. This is why the contract cannot be explicit.

      Delete
  7. Google's founding vision was ingenious: Provide a free lookup service to people. Pay for it by selling ads targeting people by what they search for. That free lookup service, btw, grew into more and more free services of which this very blog is an example :)

    My understanding is that where it started to go bad is when Google grew to the point that it began to run up against governments regulatory agencies. It is at that point it made its Faustian bargain - or one could say it made a calculation that it had no choice but to make such a bargain - or it understood if it didnt its competitors would.

    The point is it is the very existence of political power which exerts a corrupting influence on free enterprise. Absent political power, private companies would ultimately be under the control of the consumer. The CEO of a private company ultimately works for the consumer. His strongman status is always tenuous, provisional, tied to performance. And the great company leaders are not tyrants at all. They are individuals of great vision like Steve Jobs. They are great motivators like Bill Walsh who understand its not about them, its about the team. And above all they are realists, able to make accurate calculations about the future.

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    1. You might want to look into the history of when and how this saintly company took a wrong turn. They knew where the road led, well before they made any such promises.

      In any case, the specifics don't matter; it isn't so that absent government everyone will play fair or never pull a bait and switch (a phrase that long precedes any "state" assistance).

      Delete
  8. No serious libertarian thinker has ever ‘offered’ that agreement by contract would be sufficient to form a libertarian community. Prove me wrong?

    . . .

    “My main objection to covenant communities is that this idea is nothing other than restating the need of hiring the right strongman: “if only we elect the right leader.””

    How (on earth) could covenant communities possibly equate with hiring (or electing) a strongman? (Why elaborate on lesser objections only to bring up your main objection and then not explain it?)

    . . .

    “No matter how detailed, one can never capture beforehand all possibilities; no matter how well thought-out, contracts are modified and revised.”

    Old and good law can never capture all possibilities, either, so why not object to old and good law as well? What’s the difference?

    “No matter how well delineated, achieving a “meeting of the minds” between two people is often complex enough…”

    And yet it happens millions of times a day, everywhere, all over the world, non-aggressively, thanks to the concept of *contract*.

    . . .

    “What is a contractual community but a community in which all residents have signed onto the constitution? And how well have constitutions – a piece of paper – been respected by even those who have signed or drafted it?”

    A constitution that everyone has signed onto can be considered a contract. You say all such constitutions have failed, but: can you name a single constitution that fits this definition of contract?

    . . .

    “The longest lasting and most (relatively) libertarian society had law that was supported by… respect for ...God. In its place, we have tried constitutions and we have tried strongmen. Neither has worked very well at securing and maintaining liberty.”

    And yet this vaguely libertarian-ish society supported by respect for God, as you yourself seem to grasp, DID NOT LAST. So that idea -- your idea -- is clearly a failed one. Taking what we can learn from the experience is a great idea, but clearly one or more concepts need to be added, dropped, or modified. One concept that needs to be added to your old and good law, your respect for God, and so on, is the idea of *contract*. It’s a blind spot in your philosophy and it would help you with your struggle if you were to examine it more carefully. Insula Qui at zerothposition has done great work on it, I recommend his series on Anarcho-Monarchism, Part IV in particular.

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    1. Ever tried negotiating a complex contract - one sufficient enough to cover all contingencies regarding your liberty? Wait, how about one about 1% as complex, say a contract to buy a professional sports team?

      But wait! Ever get a few hundred or a few thousand people to agree to the terms - and have a meeting of the minds? This happens a million times a day for you?

      Never have one of those few hundred or few thousand people say..."you know, that isn't what the terms meant to me"? NEVER?

      Heavens, why does someone as skilled as you waste time commenting here?

      As to lasing...or not...1000 years plus or minus is the longest lasting example example I have found. Maybe you have a better example? Some libertarian wet-dream to be found only in fantasy?

      As to the idea of contract being my blind spot, maybe you missed the word "oath," one that I have used - oh, I don't know - maybe ten thousand times; something far more meaningful than contract, given the environment of the time.

      Yes, I will take you seriously, you serious libertarian thinker, you.

      Delete
  9. Mises posted an essay about the Supreme Court being too powerfull. Indeed, the battles for sitting a new justice makes a mockery of the concept that we are a nation of laws and not of men.
    What if, the Constitution explicitly stated that a majority of State Legislatures can override a SCOTUS decision. All States must vote override or not. Abstention is a no override vote. An override must voted within a year of the SCOTUS' decision to be overturned. All it takes is one State to override and, then, all other States must convene an override session.
    It will also help a bunch for Senators to, again, be appointed by a State's legislature and sibject to recall by their respective legilature.

    The point is that a contract/covenant must be explicit in stating how signarories can challenge the agents hired to implement the agreement.

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  10. The point of your post was to refute libertarians who offer that agreement by contract would be sufficient to form a libertarian community. I pointed out this is a strawman as no such offer is being made by any serious libertarian. My point stands.

    Your ‘main objection’ to covenant communities is that they are no different than hiring/electing a strongman. While you explain your lesser objections in some detail, you don’t account for this one. My question as to why this this equivocation is legitimate remains unanswered.

    You complain that contracts can never capture all possibilities, and I pointed out that neither does old and good law, and asked what the difference was. My question remains unanswered.

    You said a meeting of the minds between two people was difficult and I simply noted the factually accurate point that it happens millions of times a day.

    You equate a covenant community with constitutional ones and I pointed out that for a constitution to be a contract, all parties would have to sign on to it and asked for an example of a constitution that is like this. My question remains unanswered.

    I pointed out that your idea of a libertarian order did not last. This is factually accurate. 1,000 years or 1,000,000 years, it failed. We need to learn what we can from this, the best example we have, and move forward.

    I have ‘negotiated’ a few contracts for deals at least 1% as complex as buying a professional sports team. It was difficult, but as the example of buying professional sports teams demonstrates, not impossible.

    And no, I’ve never got a few thousand people to agree to the terms a million times a day -- nor did I claim anything of the sort.

    Continually in my business I hear, "you know, that isn't what the terms meant to me!" That’s why we have terms in our contract for what to do when someone says “you know, that isn’t what the terms meant to me!” It’s one of the least complicated portions of the contract.

    “Heavens, why does someone as skilled as you waste time commenting here?”

    Why does someone who considers themself a Christ-follower think it’s ok to talk to people this way?


    “...maybe you missed the word "oath," one that I have used - oh, I don't know - maybe ten thousand times; something far more meaningful than contract, given the environment of the time.”

    Yes, I have missed how your use of the word “oath” (that doesn’t appear in you post) relates?

    “Yes, I will take you seriously, you serious libertarian thinker, you.”

    How very Christ-like of you.

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    1. “I pointed out this is a strawman as no such offer is being made by any serious libertarian.”

      Of course, I didn’t use the word “serious,” so your charge is a strawman. If you apologize for opening your entire rant with a strawman argument, then I will consider continuing this conversation; it really depends on how I feel about the sincerity of your apology.

      After all, beginning with a false accusation is not very Christ-like of you.

      Delete
    2. My indicating that you said ‘serious’ when you did not say that was indeed a false accusation, and was wrong of me: I am sorry for my behavior. I should not have put words in your mouth – I don’t like when people do it to me and I know I shouldn’t be doing it to other people. My apologies.

      I thought my assumption that you were not addressing un-serious and/or non-libertarian thinkers was a safe one, so I just want to add as part of my apology that inserting the verbiage into your claim wasn’t done maliciously (if that helps at all) as I really assumed it was a safe interpretation of what you were saying. Regardless, working off of something you didn’t actually say is wrong even if the intention wasn’t malicious and again, I apologize.

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    3. Thank you, Spooner.

      You ask some very good questions and raise some points worth further discussion. I will do my best to work through these. It might take a day or two, and depending on how extensive my reply is, I may write a new post (with a link here so it isn't missed).

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    4. I'm glad to hear that BM, Spooner has made excellent arguments and the fact you two were able to reconcile is great. I look forward to seeing further exchanges.

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    5. Agreed, Nick. I look forward to BM's reply to Spooner's arguments.

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    6. Here you go:

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2018/07/for-spooner.html

      Delete
  11. Pirate Code
    https://infogalactic.com/info/Pirate_code

    ReplyDelete