"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oh, Please Let It Stop: Sekulow and Apparent Financial Stewardship Issues

Nothing burns me like hearing that leaders of various Christian ministries are living the big life in big houses with fast cars and swimming pools all paid for by the donations of regular folks.

These men and women get a television or radio show and start taking large salaries or get houses and cars subsidized. The justification is that they'd be making much more in the secular world.

My response: Guess what, good Christian? You are supposedly engaging in a ministry and that entails certain sacrifices. More is expected of you and you are supposed to expect less for yourself.

The latest article in the series of disappointments focuses on Jay Sekulow:

But there is another side to Jay Sekulow, one that, until now, has been obscured from the public. It is the Jay Sekulow who, through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle -- complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

That less-known side of Sekulow was revealed in several interviews with former associates of his and in hundreds of pages of court and tax documents reviewed by Legal Times. Critics say Sekulow's lifestyle is at odds with his role as the head of a charitable organization that solicits small donations for legal work in God's name.

For example, in 2001 one of Sekulow's nonprofit organizations paid a total of $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife. The same nonprofit also subsidized a third home he uses in North Carolina.

At various times in recent years, Sekulow's wife, brother, sister-in-law, and two sons have been on the boards or payrolls of organizations under his control or have received generous payments as contractors. Sekulow's brother Gary is the chief financial officer of both nonprofit organizations that fund his activities, a fact that detractors say diminishes accountability for his spending.

In his defense, he points out that he could be billing $750 an hour at a private firm. If the money is what you value, then go get it in the private sector. Stop the direct mailings and the big appeals to people struggling the pay the mortgage. They don't know too little goes to cover the cases, while too much goes into your residence.

52 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"Nothing burns me like hearing that leaders of various Christian ministries are living the big life in big houses with fast cars and swimming pools all paid for by the donations of regular folks."

So long as you maintain a religious power structure you will of course find it infested with those who are more interested in the power and less with the religion.

You can of course avoid this by not allowing some man made organization to stand between you and the divine, but frankly if you choose to keep tithing you have only yourself to blame when you find out it went to buy caviar instead of crosses.

Hunter Baker said...

T-man, I take my stewardship responsibilities seriously. The people getting my checks are not engaged in the kind of conduct described here.

The church doesn't stand between me and God like some kind of collection agent. The church is a spiritual and physical reality, the true part of which is discovered and known by its love and obedience.

It's not hard to distinguish the real from the unreal. While I'm disgusted by the story, I'm also glad. It's good for people to be informed.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Hunter, I am blown away by the concurrence of your making this point tonight and a former student of mine, Adam Rice, making the identical point (in virtually the same language) in a conversation with me Sunday night - about Jewish non-profits.

Adam's suggestion: let them first show a five year track record as a successful CEO at a for-profit and then we'll consider some proportionality in determining the salary for running the non-profit.

The problem is that most of these organizations are entrepreneurial, founded by that individual. This is no problem, of course, as long as they are productive. What tends to occur, however, is that a combination of burnout and lack of accountability tends to corrupt even the best people. Witness Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Darn, did I do "tends" twice in one sentence? Ouch.

Sorry about that.

Burwell said...

Hunter, et al:

I am very "put out" with Christian leaders who proclaim to be ministering to others but in reality are fulfilling their own desires, be it "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or the pride of life." (I say this one who is in Seminary and desires to pursue law as well.) This is a travesty, but it is sadly predicted in the Bible. On this Tlaloc is correct: where there is money and influence, there will always be those who seek to use it to further their own kingdoms.

My best friend is an AUSA in NC. He was just telling me at lunch today of a televangelist who got "busted" by the feds for similar practices (and for those who are curious, he only told me what was avaliable on the press release, nothing more). Unfortunately this problem is widespread, and does not appear to be diminishing anytime soon.

Matt Huisman said...

Hunter...thanks for the info.

Tlaloc...where are you coming from here? One moment you're telling me that Christians have a twisted view of human nature (that all are sinners), the next you're saying that no Christian organization can escape corruption.

What belief system do you hold that is devoid of the corrupt? What (recognizable) group do you associate with that has mastered virtue? How do I sign on with these folks? They sound pretty cool...of course, once they found out what I am really like they'll have to toss me out...then what hope do I have?

Evanston said...

Matt, you're right on -- much thanks to Hunter, and by addressing the central question regarding human nature to tlaloc. I don't mean to pick on him/her too much, just that these (real, or just apparent?) contradictions should be challenged by readers and then defended by the author. Hopefully we're not provocative in the negative sense, just "thought provoking!"

Hunter Baker said...

Burwell, you sent me an email a week ago or so and I've lost it. Please resend. I remember you had a law school question.

James Elliott said...

I think Phil Collins and Genesis put it best: "Jesus, he loves me, so give me all you've got..."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hunter, my observations of such zillionaire-prophets is that their contributors are well aware of the opulence they live in and indeed are happy to tithe their Social Security checks so that they may be a tiny part of helping him rival Solomon and his court.

Now, if a Jim Bakker diddles the help even though it's far more attractive than the wife, ala Bill Clinton, there's a problem. But viewing this materialistically misses the point of the whole deal.

I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Hunter Baker said...

Tom, what you are saying does apply to certain preacher/teacher types who thrive on the "success gospel," but is not representative of what evangelicals expect of their leaders. You look at the way Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Billy Graham conduct their financial affairs and you'll see integrity shining through.

If you read Christianity Today, you'll also know that when these stories come out out, it often spells the end or near-end of a ministry. The community isn't bad about policing itself.

Kathy Hutchins said...

[W]hat you are saying does apply to certain preacher/teacher types who thrive on the "success gospel," but is not representative of what evangelicals expect of their leaders.

My husband and I were alternately perplexed and amused to find that we were very close neighbors of this local high profile Power Gospel couple, who shepherd not one but two mega-churches of the Prosperity Gospel flavor in Prince George's County, star in their own weekly TV broadcast, and maintain a fleet of at least fifteen black Mercedes sedans plated SOFCC-1 through -nn. They have since built a multi-million dollar custom home about a mile away, so the neighborhood's only remaining pop celebrity is a somewhat more secular influence.

Tlaloc said...

"T-man, I take my stewardship responsibilities seriously. The people getting my checks are not engaged in the kind of conduct described here."

You can never know that Hunter for sure.

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc...where are you coming from here? One moment you're telling me that Christians have a twisted view of human nature (that all are sinners), the next you're saying that no Christian organization can escape corruption."

It's not "christian" organizations that are prone to corruption it's all organizations. Any organization of man has only two fates: disbandment or corruption. They cannot remain true to their initial purpose. The only question is if they disintigrate before they become an anathema to what they once stood for.



"What belief system do you hold that is devoid of the corrupt? What (recognizable) group do you associate with that has mastered virtue? How do I sign on with these folks? They sound pretty cool...of course, once they found out what I am really like they'll have to toss me out...then what hope do I have?"

But Matt I'm an anarchist partially for this reason: since all organizations with longevity become corrupt we are better off without them. There is no government, no church, no union, no company immune to this fact of life. As before where you have an organization you have power (because no organization can survive without power to control people) and where you have power you have corruption.

A perfect example I've used before is the southern baptists. It was a church founded on an anti-authoritarian personal relationship with god. Everyone was encourgaed to read and interprete the bible for themselves (completely the opposite of say catholicism which is entirely authoriatrian and all relationships with god come through the church). Then the conservatives took over the bureaucratic structure of the church and established an unbreakable lock on it. The result? It's now an authoritarian "my way or the highway" church, in diametric opposition to what it was originally supposed to be. The church has become irredeemably corrupt. Why did the conservative branch do that? They wanted the power of course. The monetary power, the theological power. And so it goes.

Tlaloc said...

" I don't mean to pick on him/her too much, just that these (real, or just apparent?) contradictions should be challenged by readers and then defended by the author."

By all means, if you believe I'm being inconsistent I welcome your challenge.

Matt Huisman said...

But Matt I'm an anarchist partially for this reason: since all organizations with longevity become corrupt we are better off without them.

Should we disband the local fire department or public utility then? And without organizations, isn't it more likely that corrupt individuals will flourish? Certainly organizations can be corrupted, and large corrupted organizations can do more harm than corrupt individuals or small groups, but it seems to me that you are downplaying the upside of organizations quite a bit here.

As before where you have an organization you have power (because no organization can survive without power to control people) and where you have power you have corruption.

The problem here is that eliminating organizations does not eliminate power (which corrupts). You have said in the past that the Christian view that 'all people are sinners' is a twisted view of human nature. But doesn't your belief that power corrupts lead you to view all humans as corrupt? For we all have power (quite significant amounts actually), and eventually, we're going to fail to administer it properly.

Tlaloc said...

"Should we disband the local fire department or public utility then?"

Eventually yes.


"And without organizations, isn't it more likely that corrupt individuals will flourish?"

Oh no. Organizations are the perfect niche for the corrupt. Getting rid of organizations certainly won't stop people from being corrupt but it will vastly limit the power their corruption has to harm.



"Certainly organizations can be corrupted, and large corrupted organizations can do more harm than corrupt individuals or small groups, but it seems to me that you are downplaying the upside of organizations quite a bit here."

What upside is that?



"The problem here is that eliminating organizations does not eliminate power (which corrupts)."

Here's how I'm defining power: the conscious or unconscious choice to allow an authority to make decisions for you. That's power over an individual. It's true that organizations are not the exclusive form of established power but they are the primary example.



"You have said in the past that the Christian view that 'all people are sinners' is a twisted view of human nature. But doesn't your belief that power corrupts lead you to view all humans as corrupt?"

Oh no. A person can remain true to their beliefs and in so doing remain uncorrupt. OF course if they are in a position of power (by choice or accident) then they are far more likely to succumb. Even then they might withstand corruption.

Hunter Baker said...

T, I think your characterization of the founding beliefs of Southern Baptists is wrong. That is the creation story of the group told by liberals, but the reality is that the SB's stood for the following:

1. Church membership should only consist of those who believe. This is referred to as a "regenerate membership."

2. The Church is not a political organization with a spiritual claim to all the citizens in a geographic area. It is only for those who are voluntarily seeking a relationship with Christ.

3. A church hierarchy is not necessary when the Scriptures are available for all to read and comprehend. Why have a creed when you have the Scripture?

Theologically liberal Baptists have turned those ideas into a free right to believe anything and still be Baptist/Christian under notions of "soul freedom" or "soul competency." In so doing, they seriously de-emphasize the original Baptists supreme fealty to the Scripture and its plain meaning.

Tlaloc said...

Hunter the third tenant you list, by claiming all can read and understand the scripture (and that the scripture is the preeminent source), clearly establishes the faith as being non-authoritarian as I said. Every baptist is expected to have an individual relationship with god, again as I said. Or at least they were. Now they are expected to toe the party line and the Baptist teaching organizations have been purged of those who don't. In other words everyone's interpretation is equal but some are more equal than others.

The problem isn't that I buy the liberal version of the origin of the SBC but that you buy the conservative rationalization for why they killed it.

Tlaloc said...

doh should be "tenet" not "tenant." Stupid malapropism

Matt Huisman said...

Getting rid of organizations certainly won't stop people from being corrupt but it will vastly limit the power their corruption has to harm.

This assumes that the corrupt refuse to organize themselves, because if (when) they do...you're literally dead.

What upside is that?

Let's see...organizations make things that I can't (like just about everything I own)...they help protect my house and family from destruction by fire...they allow me to learn more than I could on my own...etc.

Oh no. A person can remain true to their beliefs and in so doing remain uncorrupt. OF course if they are in a position of power (by choice or accident) then they are far more likely to succumb. Even then they might withstand corruption.

Everyone is in a position of power. We have control over our thoughts and actions...we have the ability to influence others...just because some people don't have as much institutional leverage behind them doesn't mean that they don't have power...and that power corrupts everyone.

James Elliott said...

Everyone is in a position of power. We have control over our thoughts and actions...we have the ability to influence others...just because some people don't have as much institutional leverage behind them doesn't mean that they don't have power...and that power corrupts everyone.

Pardon me, Matt, but this argument relies entirely upon semantics. Insert a synonym for the word "power" in the context of human action, such as "faculty" or "ability," and the whole thing falls apart.

Tlaloc said...

"This assumes that the corrupt refuse to organize themselves, because if (when) they do...you're literally dead."

Anarchism is entirely voluntary, no one can force it on you. And yes there's nothing preventing people form choosing to abandon it. But as far as dead, well lets just say it's not like you have a lot of options in the matter, you will die anyway.



"Let's see...organizations make things that I can't"

Indeed they do and in return you work like a slave to buy the things and support the infrastructure that produces them. It's a trade off not a simple benefit as you seem to suggest.



"they help protect my house and family from destruction by fire..."

Sure, but you personally have far greater control over whether or not you suffer a fire, and by relying on an external entity you are far more likely to be careless.



"they allow me to learn more than I could on my own..."

Again true, but at the same time as with the drawbacks of the materialism above you are also provided with too much data. It becomes a glut of data without the context to make it information. Trust me nobody prizes learning and diversity more than I do but there are simple limits to what we can as human being absorb and process. These limits are already taxed to their limits by the internet. Think about it with a few minutes research you can find literally any opinion you want spouted off by at least one "expert" on the internet. The pain then comes in the meticulous need for verification, cross checking, and establishing whether the given data is factual or factual in certain ways or outright fantasy.

As I said I prize the access to data highly but it's definitely not a gift without drawbacks. I recommend reading "Technopoly" by Neil Postman for a good overview of how swamped we are in too much data and how it is causing significant social problems.



"Everyone is in a position of power. We have control over our thoughts and actions...we have the ability to influence others...just because some people don't have as much institutional leverage behind them doesn't mean that they don't have power...and that power corrupts everyone."

Well I'm using power in a differt way then you are. I gave you the definition I am using above. By the way you can read more about how I define Power, Influence, and Force here.

Hunter Baker said...

T, they wanted everybody to have an individual relationship with God within the local church, as the Bible establishes. Not some kind of do-it-yourself faith. The Christian faith is of necessity a community faith. I've never understood how hermitism came to be seen as holy.

Tlaloc said...

"I've never understood how hermitism came to be seen as holy."

Well it's a side issue but all three big monotheistic faiths has a hermit like branch. Islam has the Sufis. Christianity had monasticism in various forms. Judaism had the Kabbalahists.

Given that Christianity expressly says that God is everywhere and that it's the church in your heart that matters I don't see why you claim that it must be based around a community.

Hunter Baker said...

Because the New Testament is largely the story of the establishment of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit.

Plus, most of Christ's teachings require community to be lived out.

Matt Huisman said...

Getting rid of organizations certainly won't stop people from being corrupt but it will vastly limit the power their corruption has to harm.

Let's try this again...what is to prevent the corrupt from organizing (and terrorizing) in your system?

Indeed they do and in return you work like a slave to buy the things and support the infrastructure that produces them.

How many slaves spend half their day on blog sites?

It's a trade off not a simple benefit as you seem to suggest.

How many individuals can build their own airplane or television or put out a massive fire? Give me a break, organizations provide tremendous upside.

Matt Huisman said...

Pardon me, Matt, but this argument relies entirely upon semantics.

I may be missing your meaning here James, but I don't think semantics are at play.

Tlaloc has stated that it is twisted thinking to say that all people are corrupt (sinners). Yet he acknowledges that power corrupts (even if he attributes power only to organization structures). My point is that all of us have a (quite significant) measure of power, and power (and the awareness of it) eventually corrupts all of us.

For example, my four-yr old knows that she has her dad's love, and can exploit that by crying when she doesn't get her way. You get the picture. The corruption may be minor, do to the relatively low level of power, but it is still there.

Tlaloc said...

"Because the New Testament is largely the story of the establishment of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit."

I agree, but I see it as the establishment of the internal church, not the external edifice. The external is shallow and unimportant, merely a struture of concrete and glass. Christ had no intention of living in any church but the internal one.

ChETHB said...

t said "Sure, but you personally have far greater control over whether or not you suffer a fire, and by relying on an external entity you are far more likely to be careless."

Surely you jest. Do you honestly think that anyone would really risk their house simply by knowing that a fire department was available to come and minimize the damage? That's like saying now that I have air bags and seat belts in my car, I can drive with reckless abandon since I am not likely to suffer significant injury in case of an accident.

Tlaloc said...

"Let's try this again...what is to prevent the corrupt from organizing (and terrorizing) in your system?"

Oh nothing. But even that is a vastly preferable system than what we have now where both the corrupt and the well intentioned work in organization which serve the aims of the corrupt.



"How many slaves spend half their day on blog sites?"

A better question is why am I in a position where blogging is the best use of my time for 12 hours a day? Slavery doesn't have to be accomplished through chains and whips. See Hunter's earlier post equating all government with slavery for a clear example.



"How many individuals can build their own airplane or television or put out a massive fire? Give me a break, organizations provide tremendous upside."

Again you are imagining that the aircraft or the tv or the fire department is a benefit without drawback.

Let me give you an example. Consider the police. A great service right? Well sort of. First off the police as a general rule cannot prevent crime, only punish it. Secondly corrupt police organizations do amazing harm. Third because we rely on the police we have a false sense of security and as such often endanger ourselves far more than if they did not exist at all. I've stood with my back to a complete stranger at a dark bus stop thousands of times. Why? because the police could prevented them from slitting my throat? Of course not. I did it out of an imagined air of safety, a lulling of my survival instincts brought on, in part, by the illusion of safety a police force brings.

It's very easy to see any service or technology as being a blessing. Our culture is one of technology worship with little or no regard to the consequences. Learning to stop and ponder both the up and the down sides of a given "boon of civilization" takes a lot of work. That's precisely why what I'm saying on the surface seems ridicuous to you and you want me to give you a break.

Tlaloc said...

"Surely you jest. Do you honestly think that anyone would really risk their house simply by knowing that a fire department was available to come and minimize the damage?"

Absolutely. People take far greater risks because of a percieved safety net than they would if they absolutely knew they were on their own. Or to put it another way (if you have a fireplace in your house) do you imagine you are as absolutely strict about fireplace discipline as say an 1800s settler family? Of course not. They knew unequivicobaly that their survival depended entirely on their own actions. You know deep down that if you happen to doze off without closing the screen that everything will be okay, afterall you pay people to take care of these things, don't you?

See the police example I give above. A huge number of crimes every year wiuld have been easily prevented by people with enough common sense and appropriate caution of strangers.



"That's like saying now that I have air bags and seat belts in my car, I can drive with reckless abandon since I am not likely to suffer significant injury in case of an accident."

People absolutely do drive more recklessly when they have airbags and seatbelts. Furthermore look at SUVs. They are much more likely to get into accidents and to have someone die than other cars the difference is that the person who dies is almost always the other driver or their passengers. A sense of invulnerability leads to recklessness.

Never underestimate people's ability to rationalize their risks away.

Matt Huisman said...

I'm not minimizing the 'downside' of organizations, you are just refusing to acknowledge that there is an 'upside'. If there weren't, why would you expect that they would have ever been formed in the first place?

Tlaloc said...

"I'm not minimizing the 'downside' of organizations, you are just refusing to acknowledge that there is an 'upside'."

No not at all. I emphatically understand the upside of oranizations. However they are balanced out by the downsides and then when you consider the aspect of corruption it becomes a net loss all around.

Matt Huisman said...

"Let's try this again...what is to prevent the corrupt from organizing (and terrorizing) in your system?"

Oh nothing. But even that is a vastly preferable system than what we have now where both the corrupt and the well intentioned work in organization which serve the aims of the corrupt.


But then I could say that your system of anarchy leads us right back to where we are now (if we're lucky). Every day we all start out as little anarchists, free to choose where we go next...and every day, we choose to rejoin our various organizations (including you by the way).

But let's imagine the good little anarchists refuse to organize, even in the face of threatening organizations (gangs/nations)...what would you expect to become of them? Would you expect them to have more or less freedom than they do today?

It's in anarchy that one is truly enslaved — to your own passions and to the passions, often vicious, of other people. Freedom presupposes a moral structure. License presupposes nothing — it disdains any moral order — resulting in chaos. And order can only come through organization.

Tlaloc said...

"But then I could say that your system of anarchy leads us right back to where we are now (if we're lucky). Every day we all start out as little anarchists, free to choose where we go next...and every day, we choose to rejoin our various organizations (including you by the way)."

The problem though is that the vast vast majority of people don't realize that they indeed do have a choice. They can simply choose not to be part of these organizations. And they bear responsibility for the actions of those organizations they do join. If everyone truly internalized this sense of choice and responsibility I'd be immeasurably happier.



"But let's imagine the good little anarchists refuse to organize, even in the face of threatening organizations (gangs/nations)...what would you expect to become of them? Would you expect them to have more or less freedom than they do today?"

The question isn't how much freedom you have but how much you exercise. Every single person in the world is totally free in the only way of any consequence: they can choose their own actions. The vast majority though do not exercise this freedom.



"It's in anarchy that one is truly enslaved — to your own passions and to the passions, often vicious, of other people."

Your passions do not enslve you, they are part of you. As for others, well tell me how could you enslave me with your passions?



"Freedom presupposes a moral structure. License presupposes nothing — it disdains any moral order — resulting in chaos. And order can only come through organization."

I'm afraid you are mistaken. While you might say that freedom presupposes a moral structure that moral structure is purely internal and hance it relies on no outside order. Furthermore the equating of anarchy with chaos is common but entirely false. Chaos springs from people who have no self control and who are suddenly bereft of external control, in other words it can only ever be a product of authoritarian structures. Lastly you claim order only comes through organization but this is clearly false. Consider your friend group. When you go out with friends you are almost certainly an orderly group and yet no overarching organization exists. You are orderly simply because you choose to be a decision made without external constraint but purely upon an internal calculus.

Anarchy is exactly the same. It is precisely as orderly as people choose to be.

Matt Huisman said...

The problem though is that the vast vast majority of people don't realize that they indeed do have a choice.

But even those who do realize this choice (for example, you) choose rejoin organizations day-after-day. YOU vote against anarchy every day.

Your passions do not enslve you, they are part of you. As for others, well tell me how could you enslave me with your passions?

Because the desire for personal gain will likely lead me or someone else to force you to be our slave. You keep glossing over this point, as if it couldn't happen in your system...throughout all of history people have been trying to dominate others...your system makes it incredibly easy to do so.

Anarchy is exactly the same. It is precisely as orderly as people choose to be.

Exactly. We organizers have all kinds of mechanisms in place to try an prevent people from taking advantage of others, and you complain that it still can't be stopped. But then you acknowledge that anarchy has no ability to prevent the same trouble makers in from organizing and causing problems in your system, and you have absolutely no ability to stop them.

Tlaloc said...

"But even those who do realize this choice (for example, you) choose rejoin organizations day-after-day. YOU vote against anarchy every day."

My hope is to see the world move toward a point where anarchism can be sustainably supported. We aren't there now, not even close. Yes I do chose to participate in society for now, in the hope of something better later. I doubt very much the world would be ready within my lifetime.



"Because the desire for personal gain will likely lead me or someone else to force you to be our slave. You keep glossing over this point, as if it couldn't happen in your system...throughout all of history people have been trying to dominate others...your system makes it incredibly easy to do so."

On the contrary my system makes it impossible to do so. The only way you can make someone else your slave is with their consent. My way is predicated upon people recognizing that fact. Lets examine a situation:
I and my family are walking through an alley way when you step out with a gun and demand my wallet.

Am I then your slave? No. I am free to choose whatever path I wish, and to suffer the consequences. The only way I become your slave is if I so fear death or loss that I agree to do whatever you tell me to in return for your restraint of violence. I cannot be a slave unless I so choose.

You can of course shoot me. So what? You may be stronger and able to physically tear my wallet from me. Again, so what? In neither case have I in any way given you power over me. You do not make my decisions for me. You may be able to take my wallet but you cannot make me give it to you.

Do you see the difference?



"We organizers have all kinds of mechanisms in place to try an prevent people from taking advantage of others, and you complain that it still can't be stopped. But then you acknowledge that anarchy has no ability to prevent the same trouble makers in from organizing and causing problems in your system, and you have absolutely no ability to stop them."

Consider these two situations:
1) everyone blindly accepts organizations and participates without discrimination. Organizations are vastly cirrupt meaning that nearly the entirety of human effort goes toward corrupt ends.
2) most everyone is anarchistic and focuses on individual goals or loose affilitations. Only a subset of the corrupt form organizations.

How can you possibly believe that #2 is more corrupt than #1?

Tlaloc said...

by the way I'm gratified you find the topic interesting enough to continue discussing.

James Elliott said...

Because the desire for personal gain will likely lead me or someone else to force you to be our slave.

Matt, I'm a tad confused why you focus on the worst in human behavior. Historical example shows us that human behavior is just as likely to be communitarian as it is contentious. Until fledgling societies started merging territories and competing for resources, they were largely peaceful. You seem to view avarice as the sum total of human drives. Isn't that a rather fatalistic point of view?

Tlaloc, I have to say, though, that your point of view strikes me as having to rely upon a little too much of Rousseau's "noble savage" and the efficacy of reason. It's all a little too utopian, you know what I mean? Now, don't get me wrong, I think you're closer to the mark than Matt's apparently Hobbesian point of view, but still tinged with naivete.

Tlaloc said...

JE, maybe my last post just before yours will help to illustrate the point but I can emphatically state that my vision of anarchism is not utopian. There will almost of a certainty be struggle and conflict even if everyone learns to follow their conscience because we have differing moral views.

And I for one am fine with that.

I see nothing undesirable at all about two people who each follow their moral code coming to loggerheads.

Our society is unfortunately focused on results when I think the vastly more reasonable focus is on process. A results orientation looks at two good people coming to blows over their views and asks "which one won? Which one lost?" And because it sees only the end result as important it ends up being a net wash: two people each doing what's right for them and yet only one way can triumph.

From a process orientation who wins is irrelevent. The question of imortance is whether they were brought to conflict by each following their moral code or by deviating from it. The conflict then is seen as very positive despite the fact that one or both dies with their goal unfulfilled. It's the process and not the result that maters.

Results focus is inherently self destructive. Life is too full of factors for us to even pretend we can control all but the most trivial results. Something as simple as getting to a meeting on time faces an enormous number of possible obstacle over which the poor employee has little or no control. A results orientation will ask "did you get to the meeting n time?" An unfair question to say the least since it implies pointedly that you should have mastered events outside your control. The process question is "Did you honestly try to reach the meeting in time?" This question is entirely fair since it only asks whether we really tried our best.

James Elliott said...

That was very clear, Tlaloc. Thank you.

Matt Huisman said...

Tlaloc has said that power leads to corruption, and organizations are the source of all power. Therefore, in order to eliminate corruption we should eliminate organizations.

My response is that even if we eliminate organizations we quickly discover that power and its corrupting influence have not disappeared. This is really a no brainer. However, Tlaloc cannot concede this point because it would undermine his entire case for anarchy because it rests on organizations being the 'root cause' of corruption.

The fact that man is corrupt doesn't mean that I believe that corruption is the dominant characteristic of each person or society; it simply means that our fallibility makes it necessary for us to work together to keep the corruption in check.

Matt Huisman said...

On the contrary my system makes it impossible to do so. The only way you can make someone else your slave is with their consent.

Whatever...the point is that in your system I have way more ability to inflict the harm on you than any organization in the current system could.

Humans work best when our structures encourage the good and discourage the bad. We require both, and anarchy is seriously lacking of the latter while depriving us of the full potential available to us in the former.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Tlaloc, it sounds like your idea would be great if we were all like Jesus (Matthew 5:38-45).

That is utopian no matter how you slice it.

Further, your philosophy rests completely on man being perfectible.

For example, the imperfect will try to enslave others, but the perfect will not become a slave.

What if the imperfect tries to enslave the imperfect?

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc has said that power leads to corruption, and organizations are the source of all power. Therefore, in order to eliminate corruption we should eliminate organizations."

No that's not what I said. Power does tend to corrupt yes. And all organizations require power but that is not to say organizations are the only source of power. I gave you the definition of power I'm using: ceeding decisionmaking to an authority structure. That structure could be another person or a law or whatever. Finally I don't believe that it's possible to eliminate corruption rather what I'm saying is that since organizations magnify corruption you can MINIMIZE it by eliminating organizations. Subtle perhaps but very important distinctions.



"However, Tlaloc cannot concede this point because it would undermine his entire case for anarchy because it rests on organizations being the 'root cause' of corruption."

I can't concede the point because it's based on a misunderstanding of what I actually said as above.



"Whatever...the point is that in your system I have way more ability to inflict the harm on you than any organization in the current system could."

Are you joking? Organizations in this day and age have nuclear weapon and you think you on your own are more of a threat to me? Please.



"Humans work best when our structures encourage the good and discourage the bad."

Perhaps but as that is never what organizations do it's a moot point. Were you able to demonstrate a truly uncorruptable organization that would be one thing. Actually there is one: a hive mind. However as far as I know nobody has a working way to make all people part of a borg like collective nor would I suspect would most people accept it even if it were possible.

Tlaloc said...

"That is utopian no matter how you slice it."

I don't see how you say that since I've explicitly admitted there will be conflict. A utopia has no conflict.


"Further, your philosophy rests completely on man being perfectible.
For example, the imperfect will try to enslave others, but the perfect will not become a slave. What if the imperfect tries to enslave the imperfect?"

It doesn't require perfection simply to acknowledge that you have a choice as to whether you ceed power to another. It may seem like perfection compared to our current state but it's not. A very flawed person may still be an anarchist, trust me on that score. It relies only on a change of perception not a perfection of character.

Matt Huisman said...

Finally I don't believe that it's possible to eliminate corruption rather what I'm saying is that since organizations magnify corruption you can MINIMIZE it by eliminating organizations. Subtle perhaps but very important distinctions.

But you can't stop others from organizing in your system. And I'm saying that the corrupt element within me may not be able to resist the temptation to organize and dominate you (we may use fists, guns, nukes, etc.). You will in turn either choose to organize yourself or suffer the consequences.

"Humans work best when our structures encourage the good and discourage the bad."

Perhaps but as that is never what organizations do it's a moot point.


Sure they do, it just never seems to last...however, when they don't they eventually get swept away by other organizational forces. Just because they don't get destroyed the moment they go bad, doesn't mean that we don't have some ability to police ourselves (again, your system has none).

Tlaloc said...

"But you can't stop others from organizing in your system."

And I already answered this. here's what I said-

Consider these two situations:
1) everyone blindly accepts organizations and participates without discrimination. Organizations are vastly cirrupt meaning that nearly the entirety of human effort goes toward corrupt ends.
2) most everyone is anarchistic and focuses on individual goals or loose affilitations. Only a subset of the corrupt form organizations.

How can you possibly believe that #2 is more corrupt than #1?



"And I'm saying that the corrupt element within me may not be able to resist the temptation to organize and dominate you (we may use fists, guns, nukes, etc.). You will in turn either choose to organize yourself or suffer the consequences."

And again I've already answered. The consequences don't exactly worry me. you can't control me unless I chose to let you. Besides which I have little faith that corrupt people can form organizations that would be stable without some true believers along for the ride.



"Sure they do, it just never seems to last...however, when they don't they eventually get swept away by other organizational forces."

I'm afraid my view is nowhere near as optimistic as yours. Can you give me good examples of these corrupt organizations being swept away and replaced by something better? Usually by the time the upheaval is over the new is as corrupt as the old: witness the french revolution.



"Just because they don't get destroyed the moment they go bad, doesn't mean that we don't have some ability to police ourselves (again, your system has none)."

My system doesn't need any police mechanism because there is no system to police. By avoiding the organizations you negate the extreme abuses that might require policing in the first place.

Matt Huisman said...

How can you possibly believe that #2 is more corrupt than #1?

Because level of corruption defined in #1 is overstated, but more importantly, your notion that only a subset would form organizations, and that their ambitions would be tame is preposterous. Again, how do you think we got to this point? Because people like you have decided that anarchy is a bad deal.

The consequences don't exactly worry me. you can't control me unless I chose to let you.

And this bizarre logic applies in any situation, anarchy or organized. If you really believe this, you would never be upset about anything.

Besides which I have little faith that corrupt people can form organizations that would be stable without some true believers along for the ride.

This from the man who says that all organizations are corrupt, are unstoppable, and are the cause of all pain on earth!

Tlaloc said...

"Because level of corruption defined in #1 is overstated, but more importantly, your notion that only a subset would form organizations, and that their ambitions would be tame is preposterous. Again, how do you think we got to this point? Because people like you have decided that anarchy is a bad deal."

I'm afraid not Matt. The vast vast majority of people have no idea of the possibilities. They've been so coddled and so manipulated and the subject of so much fearmongering that the idea of living without their surrounding artifices seems inconcievable. They forget that human society is in fact an abberation. Our species is a couple million years old while modern social orders are barely 12-15 thousand years old.



"And this bizarre logic applies in any situation, anarchy or organized. If you really believe this, you would never be upset about anything."

No not at all. The point is that I accept that the absolute worst thing that can ever happen to me is for me to violate my moral code. Death is a very distant second. Consequently the idea of facing possible harm from others under anarchy doesn't scare me much, especially when I'm at atleast as much risk in modern society.



"This from the man who says that all organizations are corrupt, are unstoppable, and are the cause of all pain on earth!"

I've never said organizations were unstoppable or the source of all pain. You are being silly and resorting to reductio ad absurdum attacks to avoid dealing with the concept.

Matt Huisman said...

Well, I think we've argued this as far as we can. I always enjoy the back and forth. See you in the next post!