Anarcho-Capitalism: A Branden ‘Blast from the Past’


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From: BBfromM@aol.com To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: Re: ATL: ayn rand quote Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 17:40:36 EDT George wrote: << I am convinced that Ayn Rand was essentially an anarchist in substance, if not in name. She was at most a nominal governmentalist. If the conventional meaning of a word is to count for anything at all (and it should), then Rand's ideal "government" is in fact no government at all, but is merely a sheep in wolf's clothing. >> Since you were concerned, rightly, with Nathaniel's statement of the meaning of volition he intended, it is, by the same standard, incorrect to call Ayn Rand "an anarchist in substance." She was not for "nominal" government; she was for *minimal* government -- limited to police force, courts, and defense. Her ideal government IS a government; no anarchist would sanction a national/state police force, courts, and defense. **Ayn Rand said that she was NOT an anarchist.** George wrote: <<How can I make this outrageous claim? I base it on Rand's moral opposition to coercive taxation. >> Ayn Rand was, indeed, against coercive taxation. But she argued that government should be financially supported by its citizens -- in the form, as an example, of a payment when a contract is signed, since government is required to enforce contracts should they be abrogated. Her idea was that to the extent that one uses the services of government, one should pay for those services. George wrote: <<Virtually every defender of government -- from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson to Ludwig von Mises -- has recognized coercive taxation to be an essential component of sovereignty, a power without which no true government can exist.>> With all respect to Locke, Jefferson, and Mises -- So what? Ayn Rand did not agree with them that no true government can exist without coercive taxation, and she presented an alternative. You wrote: << Perhaps when Rand wrote that, she was thinking of some other type of anarchist rather than an anarcho-capitalist or anarcho-libertarian.>> No, she was not. She rejected *all* forms of anarchism, communist, socialist, anarcho-capitalist, and anarcho-libertarian, and any yet-to-be-imagined kind of anarchism. Barbara

Why the hell are you posting an exchange I had with BB over a decade ago? In at least one case I don't think a passage attributed to me was ever written by me all. It doesn't sound at all like something I would say.

If you have something to say, then have the guts to say it yourself.

In any case, you are free to call Rand's completely voluntary agency a "government" if you like. And I am free to call my Bichon a "cat." It has fur, four legs, and a tail, after all, so I disagree with those who insist on calling it a "dog."

Ghs

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"I repeat," I understand the moral reasons why a republic is favorable to a democracy, but like I said the first time, how sustainable is it?

Calvin,

Instead of thinking this through, you're bluffing now.

Wanna see? What are these moral reasons for a republic over a democracy to which you refer?

Care to list them?

And instead of asking how sustainable a republic is as a rhetorical question, you might give some thought to the mechanisms that made it so the USA republic has lasted as long as it has.

I would be willing to go into this, but I don't perceive in you yet the urge to try to understand what you don't, or even discuss an issue as an exchange of ideas. From your stream of posts, I do feel a strong urge to teach others what you have not thought through properly. And that is not interesting.

I will agree with you on one point, but I am going to use my language (so this may not be your point at all). If people abandon concern with ethics in their daily affairs, they will inevitably lose any republic they may have. But from this point on, I agree with the film and not you. Democracy is merely a transition stage to a dictatorship or oligarchy. And in the hands of such people (ones not concerned with ethics), it is a rapid transition at that.

Look at history.

Michael

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Suppose a member of Galt's Gulch committed a crime of passion, say, by killing the lover of his adulterous wife. Would the Gulchers have called a Colorado police force and turned him over for trial, or would they have handled the matter themselves?
George, Using Rand's standard above, geniuses who hold the same rational philosophy would never do that. So the problem would never arise. :smile: Michael
You forget there was a truck driver in there. --Brant turns up the heat

And at least one adulterer. Of course, Hank Rearden was a rational cheater -- what rational guy would not prefer Dagny over Lillian, especially if Dagny looked like Taylor Schilling? -- so maybe he doesn't count. 8-)

Ghs

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George,

I have a feeling Rand was where I am on this. I just simply do what I want and when the government gets in my way, I work around it, legally or illegally if I believe I can get away with it.

I do think there is a point where she would have considered the USA government no longer worthy of being obeyed and this point was portrayed in her novel. Her thing was principles, not USA qua USA.

So I don't believe she would have approved of such a decision being made at whim (or lightly), nor do I think she would have agreed that Galt's Gulch was undertaken capriciously.

In her wording, I believe setting up a parallel government (although this was not the case with Galt's Gulch) would have to be because all objectivity broke down in the regular government and there was no hope for fixing it through the channels established in the charter documents, or something like that.

Maybe I'm wrong, but at this moment, I don't think so.

On another point, I don't recall the deeds and other legal documents attesting to Mulligan's ownership of Galt's Gulch being discussed in AS. But I think it is reasonable to presume an implication that there were some kind of documents on file somewhere in the USA government (within the novel).

Michael

The key question here is: Who is the final authority in ethics? Ayn Rand gave a clear answer: each individual, by using his or her reason.

Rand doubtless had her own idea about when a government becomes intolerable, after which secession (in effect) becomes permissible. But each person should have the right to decide this cutoff point for himself.

Suppose you are enjoying an illegal substance in the privacy of your own home, and armed government thugs break down your door and arrest you, after which you are sentenced to five years in prison for possession of an illicit drug.

Now suppose you are reading Atlas Strugged in the privacy of your own home, and armed government thugs break down your door and arrest you, after which you are sentenced to five years in prison for possession of an illicit book.

The first scenario happens all the time, but it doesn't seem to cause O'ists to denounce the American government as tyrannical and illegitimate. But if the second scenario were to happen, you can bet your booties that O'ists would say exactly this.

Yet there is no essential moral difference between my two hypotheticals. One is as invasive and inexcusable as the other. Both are instances of outright tyranny. But if you happen to disapprove of drugs, as many O'ists do, then you may tend to miss or overlook how tyrannical the first scenario is. But this is not likely to happen if you are the fellow spending five years in prison for minding your own business. You may be there because the government disapproves of what you put into your body, or because the government disapproves of what you put into your mind. But you are a victim of tyranny in either case, and a government that enforces either law should not command any allegiance whatsoever.

If you obey a such a government, you should do so for purely pragamatic reasons, i.e., to avoid punishment. This is the same reason that might prompt you to obey the commands of a thief who demands your money or your life. You don't grant any moral legitimacy to the thief -- you don't somehow "consent" to be robbed -- by turning over your money.

In essence, the current U.S. goverment is nothing more than an organized and very powerful union of criminals and thugs, nothing more. And it has the "protection racket" down pat.

Ghs

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Michael, in a republic, objective law can be enforced without the consent of the majority once it has been established, even if it was originally formed through a democratic process.

Like you said, a lynch mob is democratic, but you can't blame the circumstances for people's reactions to them. Just because a bunch of people are being immoral does not mean that it's okay... If a majority of people are objectively wrong, then surely reality will teach them a lesson.

I'm sorry if my tone has been didactic, but that's not intentional. I'm challenging what's being said here, not trying to correct anyone.

I'm stating that the ideal society has a majority of people who are rational enough to choose freedom. The clearer you can make the ideal, the clearer the path to get there, right?

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In essence, the current U.S. goverment is nothing more than an organized and very powerful union of criminals and thugs, nothing more. And it has the "protection racket" down pat.

George,

I don't think in terms like that.

But this is probably due to our different perspectives. I literally see living under some kind of government as the natural state of human beings as we evolved. So I see freedom emerging from that. Not government being imposed on a natural state of freedom. And this evolution toward freedom is not an on-off switch. It takes time. Lots of time. Hell, the USA had to fight a brutal civil war just to get rid of slavery.

To me, the USA government was an improvement on what had gone on before. And even with its imperfect development, it is still an improvement over the system of kings and queens. I do not believe it is a cartel of thugs and nothing more. (As you know, I am a big fan of checks and balances just for one positive thing.) I do agree there are thugs in the government, though.

Right now we have a slow creeping statism in the government that needs to be dealt with. The freedom that the USA has enjoyed since its founding has produced a wealth the likes of which the world has never seen. Obviously, this enriched the government, too. It has had quite a party and it wants more, but the party is coming to an end. We have a system that can check it--and halt the creeping, so I say let's check it. I support efforts that move in that direction (like Glenn Beck, but there are others). It's a fist-fight and a long slog, but since when has that been different?

Within that context, the drug issue is a bit complicated. I am not in favor of drug laws for a host of reasons (most of which are similar to yours), but I would be in favor of keeping an eye on the children of hardcore addicts and punishing people who turn small kids into addicts. (God knows I bought enough crack from the hands of them so I have seen this crap up close. I am loathe to use the word "sin," but it is a sin to string out a young kid on crack.)

I don't accept the implication of hypocrisy (neither for me nor for others) for expressing less intense disapproval of drug laws than I would for censoring reading. Everybody reads. Not everybody uses recreational drugs. I don't have to get all bent out of shape over the drug issue to feel totally correct in disapproving drug laws at my current intensity. I'll vote to abolish them if I ever get the opportunity, but I won't spend my time and energy campaigning for this. At least not at the present. The future may change that, who knows?

There's an old saying I try to follow--I have to choose my fights wisely. I am not eternal. I believe most people who love freedom are similar. That doesn't make one a hypocrite.

Now if you want to talk about people who truly want the government to arrest pot smokers (for starters), yet talk freedom, that is a whole different can of worms. I generally let such people know that we might agree on certain issues, but at root we are not the same animal, that we have some striking fundamental differences.

Michael

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George,

I have a feeling Rand was where I am on this. I just simply do what I want and when the government gets in my way, I work around it, legally or illegally if I believe I can get away with it.

I do think there is a point where she would have considered the USA government no longer worthy of being obeyed and this point was portrayed in her novel. Her thing was principles, not USA qua USA.

So I don't believe she would have approved of such a decision being made at whim (or lightly), nor do I think she would have agreed that Galt's Gulch was undertaken capriciously.

In her wording, I believe setting up a parallel government (although this was not the case with Galt's Gulch) would have to be because all objectivity broke down in the regular government and there was no hope for fixing it through the channels established in the charter documents, or something like that.

Maybe I'm wrong, but at this moment, I don't think so.

On another point, I don't recall the deeds and other legal documents attesting to Mulligan's ownership of Galt's Gulch being discussed in AS. But I think it is reasonable to presume an implication that there were some kind of documents on file somewhere in the USA government (within the novel).

Michael

The key question here is: Who is the final authority in ethics? Ayn Rand gave a clear answer: each individual, by using his or her reason.

Rand doubtless had her own idea about when a government becomes intolerable, after which secession (in effect) becomes permissible. But each person should have the right to decide this cutoff point for himself.

Suppose you are enjoying an illegal substance in the privacy of your own home, and armed government thugs break down your door and arrest you, after which you are sentenced to five years in prison for possession of an illicit drug.

Now suppose you are reading Atlas Strugged in the privacy of your own home, and armed government thugs break down your door and arrest you, after which you are sentenced to five years in prison for possession of an illicit book.

The first scenario happens all the time, but it doesn't seem to cause O'ists to denounce the American government as tyrannical and illegitimate. But if the second scenario were to happen, you can bet your booties that O'ists would say exactly this.

Yet there is no essential moral difference between my two hypotheticals. One is as invasive and inexcusable as the other. Both are instances of outright tyranny. But if you happen to disapprove of drugs, as many O'ists do, then you may tend to miss or overlook how tyrannical the first scenario is. But this is not likely to happen if you are the fellow spending five years in prison for minding your own business. You may be there because the government disapproves of what you put into your body, or because the government disapproves of what you put into your mind. But you are a victim of tyranny in either case, and a government that enforces either law should not command any allegiance whatsoever.

If you obey a such a government, you should do so for purely pragamatic reasons, i.e., to avoid punishment. This is the same reason that might prompt you to obey the commands of a thief who demands your money or your life. You don't grant any moral legitimacy to the thief -- you don't somehow "consent" to be robbed -- by turning over your money.

In essence, the current U.S. goverment is nothing more than an organized and very powerful union of criminals and thugs, nothing more. And it has the "protection racket" down pat.

Ghs

Ah, the conservatives as Objectivists.

--Brant

Rand too but much more Alan Greenspan

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In essence, the current U.S. government is nothing more than an organized and very powerful union of criminals and thugs, nothing more. And it has the "protection racket" down pat.

George,

I don't think in terms like that.

But this is probably due to our different perspectives. I literally see living under some kind of government as the natural state of human beings as we evolved. So I see freedom emerging from that. Not government being imposed on a natural state of freedom. And this evolution toward freedom is not an on-off switch. It takes time. Lots of time. Hell, the USA had to fight a brutal civil war just to get rid of slavery.

To me, the USA government was an improvement on what had gone on before. And even with its imperfect development, it is still an improvement over the system of kings and queens. I do not believe it is a cartel of thugs and nothing more. (As you know, I am a big fan of checks and balances just for one positive thing.) I do agree there are thugs in the government, though.

Right now we have a slow creeping statism in the government that needs to be dealt with. The freedom that the USA has enjoyed since its founding has produced a wealth the likes of which the world has never seen. Obviously, this enriched the government, too. It has had quite a party and it wants more, but the party is coming to an end. We have a system that can check it--and halt the creeping, so I say let's check it. I support efforts that move in that direction (like Glenn Beck, but there are others). It's a fist-fight and a long slog, but since when has that been different?

Within that context, the drug issue is a bit complicated. I am not in favor of drug laws for a host of reasons (most of which are similar to yours), but I would be in favor of keeping an eye on the children of hardcore addicts and punishing people who turn small kids into addicts. (God knows I bought enough crack from the hands of them so I have seen this crap up close. I am loathe to use the word "sin," but it is a sin to string out a young kid on crack.)

I don't accept the implication of hypocrisy (neither for me nor for others) for expressing less intense disapproval of drug laws than I would for censoring reading. Everybody reads. Not everybody uses recreational drugs. I don't have to get all bent out of shape over the drug issue to feel totally correct in disapproving drug laws at my current intensity. I'll vote to abolish them if I ever get the opportunity, but I won't spend my time and energy campaigning for this. At least not at the present. The future may change that, who knows?

There's an old saying I try to follow--I have to choose my fights wisely. I am not eternal. I believe most people who love freedom are similar. That doesn't make one a hypocrite.

Now if you want to talk about people who truly want the government to arrest pot smokers (for starters), yet talk freedom, that is a whole different can of worms. I generally let such people know that we might agree on certain issues, but at root we are not the same animal, that we have some striking fundamental differences.

Michael

Drugs laws are only one example of current governmental tyranny. There is no natural evolution toward freedom; if anything, governmental societies evolve toward statism. The U.S. is a good example of this. As the historian Arthur Ekirch argued long ago in The Decline of American Liberalism, the U.S. has been on a statist path since ratification of the Constitution. By eighteenth-century standards, the government became tyrannical long ago.

The Civil War was not fought to abolish slavery; that was merely a byproduct. It was fought to "preserve the Union." The North had four slave states, and Lincoln's sacrosanct Emancipation Proclamation was a cynical war measure, one that did nothing to free slaves in areas of the South controlled by Union troops. Lincoln made is very clear that those rebel states which rejoined the Union would be permitted to keep their slaves.

Yes, Lincoln was anti-slavery, but he was an extreme gradualist and a Free Soil type.. During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln predicted that slavery would die out in around 100 years, which means that slavery would have ended in 1958, if Lincoln had had his way.

In any case, as Ayn Rand said, the lives of other people are not yours to dispose of. Whether or not you approve of drugs is irrelevant to this issue. People have a right to ingest whatever they like into their own bodies. Any government that does not recognize the right of self-ownership on this fundamental level does not understand the principle of freedom at all. This is as basic as it gets.

Ghs

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The proud legacy of libertarian anarchism. The Looneytarians Ted Kaczynski is an “Ayn Rand anarchist.” There are seven references to anarchy on this page. The word capitalism appears once.

Would you like me to post some caricatures of Ayn Rand? This would be very easy to do.

This is childish.

Ghs

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Michael,

I think one reason why many Americans, including many O'ists, find it difficult to think of their own government as tyrannical is because they associate tyranny, or despotism (the words were normally used as synonyms), with some Caligula-like character, i.e., an evil monarch or emperor ruling with a cruel hand in a non-democratic society.

Yet, as you probably know, the fear of "democratic despotism" was common among America's Founders, and their view of democratic despotism did not fit the evil-monarch caricature.

The best prediction of the form democratic despotism would take appears in Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835-1840). Near the end of the second volume, in a chapter titled "What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear," Tocqueville says that despotism in America would "probably have a different character" than the despotism associated with the Roman emperors. Although democratic governments "might become violent and cruel at times of great excitement and danger," these incidents will be relatively rare. Instead, democratic despotism will be "different from anything there has ever been in the world before" -- so different, in fact, that "our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories." Tocqueville continues:

So I think that the type of oppression by which democratic peoples are threatened will resemble nothing of what preceded it in the world; our contemporaries cannot find the image of it in their memories. I seek in vain myself for an expression that exactly reproduces the idea that I am forming of it and includes it; the old words of despotism and of tyranny do not work. The thing is new, so I must try to define it, since I cannot name it

Tocqueville continues with a remarkably accurate prediction of what democratic despotism would look like:

Above those men arises an immense and tutelary power that alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyment and of looking after their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-sighted and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like it, it had as a goal to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary it seeks only to fix them irrevocably in childhood; it likes the citizens to enjoy themselves, provided that they think only about enjoying themselves. It works willingly for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent for it and the sole arbiter; it attends to their security, provides for their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, settles their estates, divides their inheritances; how can it not remove entirely from them the trouble to think and the difficulty of living?

This is how it makes the use of free will less useful and rarer every day; how it encloses the action of the will within a smaller space and little by little steals from each citizen even the use of himself. Equality has prepared men for all these things; it has disposed men to bear them and often even to regard them as a benefit.

After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always believed that this sort of servitude, regulated, mild and peaceful, of which I have just done the portrait, could be combined better than we imagine with some of the external forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.

...Under this system the citizens quit their state of dependence just long enough to choose their masters and then fall back into it.

This is similar to the "voluntary servitude" discussed by Etienne de La Boetie in the 16th century, and it resembles in some ways Rand's notion of "sanction of the victim."

Ghs

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In any case, as Ayn Rand said, the lives of other people are not yours to dispose of. Whether or not you approve of drugs is irrelevant to this issue. People have a right to ingest whatever they like into their own bodies.

George,

This is where these discussions always go--with insinuations that people who don't agree want to enslave everybody, so they need to be reminded that they don't own human beings.

But since you made this insinuation and totally ignored a point I brought up, let me ask it openly.

Do you believe people have the right to get young children addicted to hard drugs like crack cocaine?

That is de facto slavery--and I know because I've seen it. With vastly shortened lifespans to boot. The dealers use these kids as runners because kids don't go to jail.

Should I now insinuate that you approve of enslaving little kids because you preferred not to address this issue?

I don't believe this kind of rhetoric is productive, nor do I believe it persuades anyone of anything.

Michael

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In any case, as Ayn Rand said, the lives of other people are not yours to dispose of. Whether or not you approve of drugs is irrelevant to this issue. People have a right to ingest whatever they like into their own bodies.
George, This is where these discussions always go--with insinuations that people who don't agree want to enslave everybody, so they need to be reminded that they don't own human beings. But since you made this insinuation and totally ignored a point I brought up, let me ask it openly. Do you believe people have the right to get young children addicted to hard drugs like crack cocaine? That is de facto slavery--and I know because I've seen it. With vastly shortened lifespans to boot. The dealers use these kids as runners because kids don't go to jail. Should I now insinuate that you approve of enslaving little kids because you preferred not to address this issue? I don't believe this kind of rhetoric is productive, nor do I believe it persuades anyone of anything. Michael

No, I don't believe that people have a right to get children addicted to hard drugs like crack cocaine. But I do believe that a woman, pregnant or not, has the right to ingest whatever she wants. A woman does not lose some of her rights by the fact of becoming pregnant.

I am not talking about children here, just as I am not addressing the problem of children when I speak of the right of people to smoke cigarettes or to drink liquor. My theory of rights is not based on a Disneyland model.

I suppose you wish to pin me down on the issue of "crack babies," which is not the same issue as addicting children to drugs after they are born. My approach to this is the same as my approach to pregnant women who drink or smoke or consume other products that might harm a fetus and ultimately cause harm to an infant: This is none of the government's business. Such actions may be highly immoral, but there are ways of dealing with such problems other than by calling in the coercive power of government to regulate what a pregnant woman may and may not do.

Ghs

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I think one reason why many Americans, including many O'ists, find it difficult to think of their own government as tyrannical is because they associate tyranny, or despotism (the words were normally used as synonyms), with some Caligula-like character, i.e., an evil monarch or emperor ruling with a cruel hand in a non-democratic society.

George,

I can't speak for many Americans, but I can speak for myself.

The issue is not an impairment of my imagination. It is looking from a different perspective.

I don't look and say just because I don't have it all now, this means what I do have is not valid. And just because power-hungry people don't roll over and get out of the way, but instead try to increase their power, that they are winning hands down. I do see push-back and I do see when it works. It just doesn't work in a gotta-have-it-all-now or nothing manner.

I look at now, and I look at before. I see vast improvements in standard of living, huge increases in lifespan, a booming population increase all over the world and so on. I see I can pursue many things that would have gotten me in all kinds of trouble before. Hell, for an easy example, a person can make a few clicks of a mouse and see all the porn he wants to--for free--from the comfort of his own home if he wishes.

And he has access to information that people never had under former tyrants. The problem now isn't isolation and censorship. It is learning how to deal with manipulation. That's an improvement from my big-picture perspective.

So I find it difficult to say the government is nothing but a pack of thugs.

I also don't see history moving in a straight line. It goes back and forth. Progressivism, for instance, is about 100 years in the making. That's not very long on a big-picture scale. Considering the amount of resources available on earth because of the explosion of capitalism, I would say that it's a miracle the power-mongers didn't manage to take over everything and make slaves--real slaves doing back-breaking work--out of us all.

I see all this, then read someone telling me I lack the imagination to understand that government telling me what to do in my private life is a form of tyranny.

I will not respond in kind and say people like you lack the imagination to see the big picture. I think you do see it. But, from what I see, we disagree on how important it is in evaluating the current expanding USA government and counter-movements like the Tea Party.

I don't believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket and I do believe people--many good people--are working to change the course of government right now.

Michael

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I think one reason why many Americans, including many O'ists, find it difficult to think of their own government as tyrannical is because they associate tyranny, or despotism (the words were normally used as synonyms), with some Caligula-like character, i.e., an evil monarch or emperor ruling with a cruel hand in a non-democratic society.
George, I can't speak for many Americans, but I can speak for myself. The issue is not an impairment of my imagination. It is looking from a different perspective. I don't look and say just because I don't have it all now, this means what I do have is not valid. And just because power-hungry people don't roll over and get out of the way, but instead try to increase their power, that they are winning hands down. I do see push-back and I do see when it works. It just doesn't work in a gotta-have-it-all-now or nothing manner. I look at now, and I look at before. I see vast improvements in standard of living, huge increases in lifespan, a booming population increase all over the world and so on. I see I can pursue many things that would have gotten me in all kinds of trouble before. Hell, for an easy example, a person can make a few clicks of a mouse and see all the porn he wants to--for free--from the comfort of his own home if he wishes. And he has access to information that people never had under former tyrants. The problem now isn't isolation and censorship. It is learning how to deal with manipulation. That's an improvement from my big-picture perspective. So I find it difficult to say the government is nothing but a pack of thugs.

So what do you call people who use coercion, and nothing but coercion, to dictate to other people how they should live their lives? What do you call people who pass and viciously enforce laws respecting personal behavior -- laws that have ruined millions of lives? Well-intentioned but misinformed? I call them thugs.

A late libertarian friend of mine spent over 12 years in prison for two separate convictions on drug possession. I doubt if she would have agreed with your optimistic assessments. As she used to say, if you want to see the "bowels of the beast" -- i.e., what the government is really like -- spend a few years in prison. You are reduced to the level of an animal fighting for survival, and you emerge with your life in shambles -- and all this because the state disapproved of your drug of choice. If this isn't tyranny, then tyranny has never existed.

I see all this, then read someone telling me I lack the imagination to understand that government telling me what to do in my private life is a form of tyranny.

I never said anything about lack of imagination. My standard of tyranny is the same standard used by America's Founders -- those men and women who fought a violent revolution to free themselves from a British government that was far less oppressive than the U.S. government today.

Suppose the U.S. were to outlaw all tobacco products. Would you regard this as a tyrannical measure? Probably not, given that you don't regard the prohibition of other substances as tyrannical. But consider what Tocqueville, who was anything but a wild-eyed radical, said about the prohibition of tobacco in Connecticut c. 1650. He called the law "silly and tyrannical."

Today, Tocqueville is more admired by conservatives than he is by libertarians. Yet he did not hesitate to call the prohibition of tobacco "tyrannical." Thus it is not imagination that you lack, but historical perspective on what "tyranny" has meant in the classical liberal and libertarian tradition.

I will not respond in kind and say people like you lack the imagination to see the big picture. I think you do see it. But, from what I see, we disagree on how important it is in evaluating the current expanding USA government and counter-movements like the Tea Party. I don't believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket and I do believe people--many good people--are working to change the course of government right now. Michael

None of this is relevant to my point. Perhaps the tyranny of the American government can be reversed. I'm skeptical, but I hope I'm wrong. But we are still dealing with a tyrannical government.

As for outfits like the Tea Party, when those people decide to tackle unpopular issues like drug legalization, then I will admire and support them. But so long as many of them oppose legalization, I will call them what they are: hypocrites who oppose some kinds of governmental oppression but advocate others.

Ghs

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When a government forms, the people are very involved, then it's like a boat being untied from a dock... they drift apart and the people and the government are completely detached from each other.

If the people don't control their government, who keeps the government in line (a constitution can be used as a guide, but I don't think it's an absolute safeguard)?

Michael, in response to #83, I wasn't talking about crowds. Does your ideal society have a majority of rational people, or is a rational few that keep things running smoothly?

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George, since I don't think there's any useful information in history pertaining to this, how does any society move towards a stable form of anarchy?

I can't even imagine Americans now living in an anarchic state; the people alone would need a long transition period to institute the sort of agencies required to replace the government, let alone how long it would take to abolish the powers that exist currently.

I have no idea, though. What have you imagined as the course towards anarchy or anarcho-capitalism? (considering both the fight against the powers that be and the social learning curve)

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I never said anything about lack of imagination...

George,

Sure you did (my bolding).

I think one reason why many Americans, including many O'ists, find it difficult to think of their own government as tyrannical...

The reason people don't agree with you is because of their inferior imaginative equipment.

That's what I get from your argument.

Is my understanding of your words wrong?

Michael

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George, since I don't think there's any useful information in history pertaining to this, how does any society move towards a stable form of anarchy? I can't even imagine Americans now living in an anarchic state; the people alone would need a long transition period to institute the sort of agencies required to replace the government, let alone how long it would take to abolish the powers that exist currently. I have no idea, though. What have you imagined as the course towards anarchy or anarcho-capitalism? (considering both the fight against the powers that be and the social learning curve)

The path to an anarchistic society is the same as the path to a Randian limited government. Get to the latter destination, which includes denying to government the power to tax, and an anarchist society will naturally tend to evolve after that point. But neither goal is feasible.

Somewhat more feasible would be the development of local anarchistic communities, if those communities were somehow able to shed control by the federal and state governments. Early American townships, especially those in New England, are a good historical model of this. Technically, American townships during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were under the political jurisdiction of Britain, but there was no realistic way for the British government to control them. These townships then developed their own courts and legal systems, and their populations were small enough so that citizens could frequently vote directly on particular laws, instead of relying on representatives.

Thomas Jefferson and many other eighteenth-century Americans regarded the highly decentralized system of townships as the bulwark of American freedom. During the 1830s, Tocqueville credited local townships with the "spirit of liberty" that he found throughout America.

Unfortunately, the development of autonomous townships isn't likely to happen either, unless American governments, state and federal, were to suffer a complete breakdown.

Ghs

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I never said anything about lack of imagination...
George, Sure you did (my bolding).
I think one reason why many Americans, including many O'ists, find it difficult to think of their own government as tyrannical...
The reason people don't agree with you is because of their inferior imaginative equipment. That's what I get from your argument. Is my understanding of your words wrong? Michael

Yes, your understanding of my words was mistaken.

Ghs

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That the human race collectively is materially progressing, especially since the industrial revolution, doesn't vitiate one bit the rise and expansion of government. The Constitutional Convention was mostly a disaster making possible if not inevitable the war between the states and other expressions of tyranny still piling up.

--Brant

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I suppose you wish to pin me down on the issue of "crack babies"...

George,

You suppose wrong.

I'm on record several times saying the rights of a human being in the stage between conception and birth are for the mother to administrate.

As much as I deplore crack babies and I do think that is a sin, it is not a government affair. Not because it's wrong. It is. But because of the government's lack of standing (in my conception).

In that spirit, I have no issue with people who try to persuade a woman that producing a crack baby is a horrible idea and will lead to highly defective development of the human being she is carrying. I say let them preach up a storm.

So what do you call people who use coercion, and nothing but coercion, to dictate to other people how they should live their lives? What do you call people who pass and viciously enforce laws respecting personal behavior -- laws that have ruined millions of lives? Well-intentioned but misinformed? I call them thugs.

I do, too.

We disagree in that I don't believe this is the sole characteristic of the current USA government. You are on record saying that you do believe it is.

A late libertarian friend of mine spent over 12 years in prison for two separate convictions on drug possession. I doubt if she would have agreed with your optimistic assessments. As she used to say, if you want to see the "bowels of the beast" -- i.e., what the government is really like -- spend a few years in prison. You are reduced to the level of an animal fighting for survival, and you emerge with your life in shambles -- and all this because the state disapproved of your drug of choice. If this isn't tyranny, then tyranny has never existed.

Obviously I disapprove of this and I support those who oppose it.

It's just not the cause I choose to promote among the many that need promoting.

And I refuse to look around me and say that because a terrible injustice like this happens in our society, everything about the current government is rotten.

For an easy example, I happen to think the checks and balances currently in play with the Obamacare power-grab and the Supreme Court is proof that our Founding Fathers provided a strong structure. It's one of the glories of the American form of government.

As to perspective, here is an example of my perspective. It may not appear like it, but I believe this perspective is a fundamental in identifying the world around us.

I don't agree with everything Diamandis says, but I do agree with his big picture outlook. The things he mentions are not produced by tyranny. They are the product of people with enough freedom to put their ideas into reality. This is one of the reasons I reject the scope of calling the USA government nothing but a pack of thugs. There are thugs but there's a lot of other stuff, too. Under a government of nothing but a pack of thugs, you just can't get the stuff Diamandis talks about produced. It's existentially impossible.

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(Sorry about the huge space before the video. This is something within TED's embed code and I've noticed it before. I just don't feel like trying to figure out what to delete right now. Maybe later I'll deal with it...

Michael

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