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

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Good Word for Lawyers

We in the United States are plagued by the antics of our nation's lawyers, as they and their clients try to game the system for monetary advantage, but it is important to remember the importance of lawyers in protecting the rule of law.

One thing that makes modernity great is the rule of law. Without it, an economy cannot function well, and people are easily oppressed in a multitude of ways. Without rule of law, a society descends into the rule of force. With it, humans can plan on living in a fairly stable society that accommodates rapid change in technology, economic growth, and beneficial social change. Of course, bad government policies and bad laws suppress these good things and create terrible problems, but without rule of law, a society cannot function at all healthily.

Hence it is fascinating to see China's government trying to suppress a growing group of lawyers in that nation who are trying to force the government to enforce the laws fairly and make government agents serve the law instead of other agendas, as recounted in a story in today's New York Times. In China today, one can watch the classic struggle of a society trying to establish the rule of law, with the sitting government as the necessary target of change, as the Times story notes:

Ordinary citizens in fact have embraced the law as eagerly as they have welcomed another Western-inspired import, capitalism. The number of civil cases heard last year hit 4.3 million, up 30 percent in five years, and lawyers have encouraged the notion that the courts can hold anyone, even party bosses, responsible for their actions.

Chinese leaders do not discourage such ideas, entirely. They need the law to check corruption and to persuade the outside world that China is not governed by the whims of party leaders.

But the officials draw the line at any fundamental challenge to their monopoly on power.

Judges take orders from party-controlled trial committees. Lawyers operate more autonomously but often face criminal prosecution if they stir up public disorder or disclose details about legal matters that the party deems secret.

As a result, the government fights back, so that the individuals currently in charge can hold on to their power. The government's main weapon? The law itself:

One November morning, the Beijing Judicial Bureau convened a hearing on its decree that one of China's best-known law firms must shut down for a year because it failed to file a change of address form when it moved offices.

The same morning, Gao Zhisheng, the firm's founder and star litigator, was 1,800 miles away in Xinjiang, in the remote west. He skipped what he called the "absurd and corrupt" hearing so he could rally members of an underground Christian church to sue China's secret police.

The government sees Christians as a particular threat, as the current case indicates. What Gao and his fellow attorneys are counseling, however, is that the failure to fight this oppression will be worse than any likely consequences of fighting it. Their clients are listening, and the people are responding courageously:

"I can't guarantee that you will win the lawsuit - in fact you will almost certainly lose," Mr. Gao told one church member who had been detained in a raid. "But I warn you that if you are too timid to confront their barbaric behavior, you will be completely defeated."

Lawyers such as Gao remind one of the heroic attorneys of past American fiction (and fact), most notably Perry Mason (in particular the feisty Mason of the books as opposed to the domesticated one of the TV series):

Bold, brusque and often roused to fiery indignation, Mr. Gao, 41, is one of a handful of self-proclaimed legal "rights defenders."

He travels the country filing lawsuits over corruption, land seizures, police abuses and religious freedom. His opponent is usually the same: the ruling Communist Party.

The rule of law is at the heart of the fight:

He has become the most prominent in a string of outspoken lawyers facing persecution. One was jailed this summer while helping clients appeal the confiscation of their oil wells. A second was driven into exile last spring after he zealously defended a third lawyer, who was convicted of leaking state secrets.

Together, they have effectively put the rule of law itself on trial, with lawyers often acting as both plaintiffs and defendants."

People across this country are awakening to their rights and seizing on the promise of the law," Mr. Gao says. "But you cannot be a rights lawyer in this country without becoming a rights case yourself."

In watching this struggle, we can learn much about the pressing need to protect the rule of law in our own society:

"Most officials in China are basically mafia bosses who use extreme barbaric methods to terrorize the people and keep them from using the law to protect their rights," Mr. Gao wrote on one essay that circulated widely on the Web this fall.

Of course, we should stop short of characterizing our own federal, state, and local government officials as mafia bosses, given that the use of "extreme barbaric methods to terrorize the people" is absent in American except in the worst fantasies of radicals of both the left and right. Nonetheless, our officials can do much better than they have in respecting the rule of law, and it is up to us to remember that and keep up the fight against the miscreants among them, through the political and legal processes.

41 comments:

tbmbuzz said...

Rule of law is a fundamental requirement for a democratic capitalist system to work properly. The second fundamental requirement is private property rights, which incidentally is under attack these days in the U.S. by courts and greedy legislators. S.T.'s post, as well as the property rights issue can be applied in exactly the same way to Russia. Certain liberal commenters here point to Russia as "proof" that capitalism is a failure; they fail to understand that the problem is not capitalism but rather the socio-political-economic structure in these countries.

Tlaloc said...

"but without rule of law, a society cannot function at all healthily."

Except of course for those 990,000 years when we did just fine as Homo Sapiens Sapiens without any established laws. Or the million years before that, when as Homo Sapiens, we also seemed to get slong fine without any spoken language at all. But if we ignore 99.5% of our history then yes it appears the rule of law is very critical.

Tlaloc said...

"Certain liberal commenters here point to Russia as "proof" that capitalism is a failure"

This country works just as well as proof. Pure capitalism quickly self destructs under monopolistic ventures. Only with significant governmental regulation can a capitalistic system be kept going but then it's no longer a pure capitalistic system now is it?

tbmbuzz said...
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tbmbuzz said...

Except of course for those 990,000 years when we did just fine as Homo Sapiens Sapiens without any established laws. Or the million years before that, when as Homo Sapiens, we also seemed to get slong fine without any spoken language at all. But if we ignore 99.5% of our history then yes it appears the rule of law is very critical.

More semantic games. Every single society - primitive or modern - by definition exists within the context of an accepted set of rules.

tbmbuzz said...

So call it a regulated capitalistic system under your semantic games. Doesn't change the fact that it is the only economic system that works to deliver prosperity to everyone.

Tlaloc said...

"More semantic games. Every single society - primitive or modern - by definition exists within the context of an accepted set of rules."

Maybe but "accepted rules" and "Rule of Law" are entirely different things. Nothing semantic about it. Accepted rules are just that: accepted. You and I play poker we both agree about the rules for the game. The Rule of Law on the other hand is enforced. You and i try to play poker on the white house lawn and the Secret Service beats the hell out of us.

Tlaloc said...

"So call it a regulated capitalistic system under your semantic games. Doesn't change the fact that it is the only economic system that works to deliver prosperity to everyone."

Since when has it delivered prosperity to everyone? Last I checked there were millions in america who went to bed hungry. On any given day in 2003 33-37,000 households had one or more members that were hungry for lack of resources according to the USDA. Every day. Personally I can't bring myself to call someone who can't afford food "prosperous." YMMV.

Hunter Baker said...

Great post, S.T. What a fascinating thing it is to contemplate the transformation of China into a nation of laws rather than men. As China and India "mature" (which is a controversial word I know), we will see a great upsurge of prosperity in the world. We will also see a diminished chance of total war. Free and democratic nations do not rush easily into total war with one another.

Hunter Baker said...

Tlaloc, we've finally hit upon the perfect living and vocational arrangement for you. You can become a member of a gorilla clan in a protected wildlife preserve! No language and no rule of law, other than "don't piss off the larger apes."

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc, we've finally hit upon the perfect living and vocational arrangement for you. You can become a member of a gorilla clan in a protected wildlife preserve!"

Some days it sounds pretty good, Hunter, believe me. However I am not a primitivist despite how my argument may have sounded. I hope that we can have the freedom we used to have without sacrificing all technology. I made the point simply to counter the oft repeated but ever false charge that man is a socail animal that has always and will always have a rule of law. The opposite is much closer to the truth, quantitatively speaking.

Hunter Baker said...

You know, Tlaloc, I like your "tone of voice" in this latest reply. Sounds very honest and real. Just something for the "for what it's worth" department.

connie deady said...

Great and interesting post, definitely provides food for thought. Lawyers come in all ilks BTW. Some are money grubbing thieves, others simply play the game. But always at the forefront of law or idealists who fight for what they believe as right, having no other lever than the law, since the mostly lack money or influence of powerful people in high places. It's what makes society persevere.

Matt Huisman said...

Maybe but "accepted rules" and "Rule of Law" are entirely different things.

Tlaloc, while I'm somewhat sympathetic to the point you make regarding capitalism, I'm not sure I see how there is much difference here between accepted rules (AR) and rule of law (ROL). The ROL is merely a formal codification of the AR of society. Both have an enforcement element, the ROL just provides more clarity (don't laugh) and swifter enforcement (seriously, don't laugh) of the rules.

The idea that the ROL is different because it coerces you into accepting rules that you don't like by the threat of force doesn't hold water. Force upholds the AR scenario as well. If I don't want you playing poker on my lawn, you can either leave or I'm going to throw you out.

This is why I've never bought into your argument for anarchy. Ultimately, a good society is dependent on those with force being good. There is no vacuum of leadership/power/force. If it is not occupied by good, it will be occupied by something else.

Tlaloc said...

"Both have an enforcement element"

What is the enforcement method of an "accepted rule"? If you say it is the individual conscience then I absolutely agree but surely you can see where an external control (riot cops) is different from an internal control (guilt). We can disagree on whether the difference is trivial or not but it's unambiguously there.


"The idea that the ROL is different because it coerces you into accepting rules that you don't like by the threat of force doesn't hold water. Force upholds the AR scenario as well. If I don't want you playing poker on my lawn, you can either leave or I'm going to throw you out."

But that's not a case of an accepted rule. Accepted rules are things we both agree to abide by. When we play poker we both agree to use the rules of poker. Should one of us suddenly swich to rummy rules then it is no longer an accepted rule and the game can't proceed. On the other hand you kicking me off your lawn is an example of RoL. You own the property and have the wright of the law (and it's heavy handed enforcement methods) behind you. From that position of authority you dictate what will happen. Nothing "accepted" about it.


"Ultimately, a good society is dependent on those with force being good."

Then no good society shall ever exist. For that reason alone I hope you are mistaken.


"There is no vacuum of leadership/power/force. If it is not occupied by good, it will be occupied by something else."

Let me ask you something, Matt. When you go out with friends to do whatever you and your friends do (see a movie, go bowling, go drinking, whatever) do you immediately set up a heirarchy? Do you establish who is the lead friend and who are his lietenants and who are the subordinantes? Do you use brute strength or call on the police to reslove any argument or disagreement?

Hopefully not. The point here is that people spend a great deal of their time acting in completely non-leadership/power/force social groups. We do this literally all the time. And we take it for granted. They are called "voluntary associations" and they work very well. People choose towork together toward some goal, they mutually agree upon social rules (do we smoke when we hang out, do we swear, do we talk about religion/sex/politics, etc). And then they tend to abide by those rules. If a friend simply can't abide by the rules frequently they either drift out of the group or sub groups form that incorporate the accepted rules that those groups are comfortable with (maybe you can discuss religion with bob and sall but not with Claire and so you avoid the topic when she is around).

Again all of this works. You've undoubtedly seen it a million times in your own life but probably never realized you were looking at anarchism in action. Between the seams of society as it were. It's not perfect. Sometimes friend groups implode. But by any reasonable metric it is the most stable aspect of society.

tbmbuzz said...

"So call it a regulated capitalistic system under your semantic games. Doesn't change the fact that it is the only economic system that works to deliver prosperity to everyone."

Since when has it delivered prosperity to everyone? Last I checked there were millions in america who went to bed hungry. On any given day in 2003 33-37,000 households had one or more members that were hungry for lack of resources according to the USDA. Every day. Personally I can't bring myself to call someone who can't afford food "prosperous." YMMV.


I should have said a capitalistic economic system provides OPPORTUNITIES for prosperity for everyone and is the only economic system to do so. If people fail to take advantage of these opportunities due to their life's choices, this is their problem. There are limits to what a society OWES to its population in the way of material goods. A humane society essentially owes nothing more to its population than a political/economic structure with educational opportunities and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

tbmbuzz said...

On any given day in 2003 33-37,000 households had one or more members that were hungry for lack of resources according to the USDA.

Because of THEIR life's choices, not because of the way American society is structured. Furthermore, the USDA data are suspect, based on government accounting policies implemented during the LBJ administration that vastly overstate the poverty problem. For instance, if someone goes without one meal during the day, this is considered "hunger" by the government. American "poverty" is a different beast from the dictionary definition of poverty, which is seen in the rest of the world.

Tlaloc said...

"I should have said a capitalistic economic system provides OPPORTUNITIES for prosperity for everyone and is the only economic system to do so. If people fail to take advantage of these opportunities due to their life's choices, this is their problem."

Do you honestly believe that everyone in America has real opportunity? If that is the case how do you explain the ever widening gap in income between the richest 1% and everyone else but especially the bottom third? Are you really going to argue that bill gates works harder than the poor guy who holds down two jobs?

Your position is based on the horatio alger myths that have never been true about this country. Just as with Soviet Russia it is the elite who have opportunity and everyone else gets scraps from the table- if they are lucky. Blaming the poor for their "life choices" is frankly disgusting. I'm sure all those people chose to have mental illnesses and not to be able to get or afford treatment. I'm sure the homless viet nam vets regret their "life choice" of never being able to really re-integrate with society. And those whiny crack babies really make me mad. How dare they choose to be born addicted to crack and then want you and me to give a darn.

Freeloaders.

Do you ever stop and think maybe this kind of thing is precisely why the GOP is viewed as heartless ogres that would just as soon kill the poor as look at them. Maybe? Kinda? Mull it over for a minute.

There are people born disadvantaged in this country. They are not possessed of the same opportunities you or I are. Not because of any defect of their character or because of their "life choices," but because they are hispanic, or female, or bi-polar, or alcoholic, or gay, or any of a hundred other things that can make opportunities dry up in an instant. These people are real. Some can legitimately be said to make bad choices but not all. Not even close. And obviously making poor choices doesn't preent those who have real opportunities from flourishing regardless (witness Paris Hilton).

Opportunity and life choices are not correlated. Rather your opportunity in life is almost entirely determined by where you started life. My parents were wealthy enough to help me get a college education. That makes me extremely lucky. And I will not use the precious gift of fate to sit comfortably by and cast aspersions on those who weren't nearly so fortunate. And I won't sit by while you do it either.

Matt Huisman said...

On the other hand you kicking me off your lawn is an example of RoL. You own the property and have the wright of the law (and it's heavy handed enforcement methods) behind you. From that position of authority you dictate what will happen. Nothing "accepted" about it.

Then by that definition, 'accepted rules' has never happened. We are constantly, in very small ways, using force/power in our interactions. As long as we're in agreement, things are fine. But when our voluntary association has a disagreement, one of us may the 'heavy handed' enforcement technique of dissolving the association. Now, if that doesn't appear heavy handed it's only because you've accepted it as a reasonable use of force (given the stakes).

That's why I say that anarchy is a fantasy. When the stakes are high enough, we won't agree on the appropriate use of force. One of us won't be satisfied with the other's unilateral decision to 'walk away' from our association - and will act in defiance of the other persons wishes. The only way to prevent that defiance is to use force.

Let me ask you something, Matt. When you go out with friends to do whatever you and your friends do (see a movie, go bowling, go drinking, whatever) do you immediately set up a heirarchy?

Every jr high student knows this happens. Each person in the group has a relative level of power. The difference is that the participants usually choose not to live in a legalistic manner that ruins the experience (because the association is more valuable than any minor grievance).

Tlaloc said...

"Then by that definition, 'accepted rules' has never happened. We are constantly, in very small ways, using force/power in our interactions."

Oh no it happens every day. As before any interaction with a healthy friend group is based on accepted rules rather than a rule of law.


"But when our voluntary association has a disagreement, one of us may the 'heavy handed' enforcement technique of dissolving the association."

Dissolving the association isn't an enforcement mechanism Matt. It's the opposite of an enforcement mechanism. It is a recognition that you disagree and that neither of you can or will try to force the other to agree to your rules. Don't you see how that is totally different? If a poker game was actually done under a rule of law kind of situation the person who switched rules would be punished, the game wouldn't simply end.



"That's why I say that anarchy is a fantasy. When the stakes are high enough, we won't agree on the appropriate use of force. One of us won't be satisfied with the other's unilateral decision to 'walk away' from our association - and will act in defiance of the other persons wishes. The only way to prevent that defiance is to use force."

Fortunately then fopr me your objection is based on a misunderstanding. Anarchism doesn't require any respect for another person's wishes only an attaempt to adhere to your own beliefs. What would allow social groups to function under anarchism are accepted rules and thats what we are discussing here.



"Every jr high student knows this happens. Each person in the group has a relative level of power."

Good lord, do you really live like that? Most of us outgrew that phase long long ago, Matt. In my friend groups there are certainly niches that people tend to occupy but they occupy them because they are comfortable, not because they are enforced. A person can at any time change their typical position within the group with no more than a slight period of readjustment.

James Elliott said...

I should have said a capitalistic economic system provides OPPORTUNITIES for prosperity for everyone and is the only economic system to do so. If people fail to take advantage of these opportunities due to their life's choices, this is their problem. There are limits to what a society OWES to its population in the way of material goods. A humane society essentially owes nothing more to its population than a political/economic structure with educational opportunities and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Oh. My. God. As my Marine buddies say, "Semper Fi, f--- the other guy." Only in a different context.

Because of THEIR life's choices, not because of the way American society is structured. Furthermore, the USDA data are suspect, based on government accounting policies implemented during the LBJ administration that vastly overstate the poverty problem. For instance, if someone goes without one meal during the day, this is considered "hunger" by the government. American "poverty" is a different beast from the dictionary definition of poverty, which is seen in the rest of the world.

Sweet baby Jesus cookies on Christmas! In more polite circles, this point of view is termed "Calvinistic." I prefer to think of it as "Neanderthal."

Indeed, government data is suspect, because the formulas for calculating poverty are over forty years old and do not take into account regional variances in cost of living. For example, $19,000 for a family of four in Wyoming is vastly different than the same amount for the same number of people in Santa Clara County, California, and yet both must abide by the same figure for assistance eligibility.

Capitalism has winners and losers
, and it is in order to hide this that we have those Horatio Alger myths that anyone can make it. It is a naturally inegalitarian system that tends to concentrate power in one end. This is why capitalism must never be allowed unfettered reign. Capitalism, as you profess it, results in an oligarchy, an economic feudalism if you will. Capitalism with monitoring and a social safety net benefits society as a whole.

It's not as simple as "life choices," Buzz. You completely ignore systemic influences.

Matt Huisman said...

Dissolving the association isn't an enforcement mechanism Matt. It's the opposite of an enforcement mechanism. It is a recognition that you disagree and that neither of you can or will try to force the other to agree to your rules.

Let's say that we have a voluntary association of people, we'll call them UN. Let's say that some of the members, let's call them US, of the association think that another member is threatening them, and wants UN's permission and possibly even their help to go beat him up. UN says no, and tells US not to. But US decides to do it anyway.

What happens to the voluntary association and the accepted rules? What good did they do?

Tlaloc said...

The problem with your example Matt is that the UN isn't a voluntary association. It's an organization we are bound to by treaty, in other words we made a contract with them saying we would be under their control for certain aspects.

There's simply no way to constue that as a voluntary association. It is a rule of law kind of association (a quite weak one, given). They have power over us.

But lets take the same situation to an actual voluntary association. Again we'll use the friend group example. You and your friends are in a bar. You think some guy is giving you a hard time and you want to beat him up. You ask your friends to help you and they say no.

Where exactly is the problem you see here? You ask what good the acceopted rules have done. Well in this situation they did you personally very little good. But who cares? Part of a voluntary association like friendship is understanding that the others are peers, not servants. If they don't want to have your back in a fight that's their business. If you really need friends who will you are free to try and make some. I don't get how any of this sounds like a failing to you.

Matt Huisman said...

UN told US no, but US attacks anyway. The accepted rules seems worthless - especially to the member of the association being attacked.

(I don't think that I made it clear enough that the person being beaten up was part of the group.)

tbmbuzz said...
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tbmbuzz said...

If that is the case how do you explain the ever widening gap in income between the richest 1% and everyone else but especially the bottom third?

This one is easy. All that is required is knowledge of Economics 101.

The simple fact is that the U.S. produces increasing wealth in the aggregate. ALL strata of society benefit. Since there is a ZERO baseline to the bottommost stratum as far as wealth and income are concerned (I leave it to the astute reader to figure out why there can't be an unbounded negative baseline; HINT: the poorest - those with zero - canNOT get poorer), and there is no bound at the upper end of the spectrum, it follows that in a society producing wealth in the aggregate, there will always be an increasing divergence between the wealthiest (who theoretically can become infinitely wealthy) and the poorest (who are constrained by the zero baseline). This is a completely normal phenomenon in a society growing increasingly wealthy, but is a fundamental concept that eludes most people. In addition, each stratum, no matter how narrowly broken down, is becoming wealthier. In other words, just as the upper 10% is wealthier in real terms from 20 years ago, so is the bottom 10%, another sign of an efficient (and therefore compassionate) economy.

Furthermore, it is a fact that every sector of our society is upwardly mobile. The same people, those who behave normally, that is, seeking to better themselves and their employment, simply do not remain at the same economic stratum, they climb UP the economic ladder. Also, most of the people at the very bottom are first-time entrants into the job market, such as high school or college graduates, or part-time or teenage workers. They do not remain where they are!!!

These two elementary economic facts escape the grasp of most journalists, academicians, politicians and other power brokers, which is why there is a plethora of economic hogwash abounding today, such as the economic tripe constantly spewed out by liberals-socialists. (See the examples just in this thread).

Honest readers can pursue these elementary concepts further by simply reading some articles by Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, who can express these ideas far more eloquently than I. Here's a start: Dead End Jobs


For the record, my parents emigrated to this country as WW2 refugees, penniless and not knowing the language. They were able to make something of themselves and succeed without ONE PENNY of welfare. How? Hard work, education, and basic morals. You libs ought to try these sometime. Call me all the names you want, I couldn't care less about the phony moral pedestals you place yourselves on (and insist on reminding everyone of it).

Tlaloc said...

"UN told US no, but US attacks anyway. The accepted rules seems worthless - especially to the member of the association being attacked."

Why are you so focused on security? Not every accepted rule is there to help protect us. I really don't understand this tangent you are on.

Tlaloc said...

TBMBUZZ you make a series of contradictory statements. You claim the bottom of the pyramid is constrained to a zero baseline and also insist they are both getting wealthier and have social mobility. These are contradictpry statements and yet you make them one right after the other without any apparent sense of irony.

Matt Huisman said...

Why are you so focused on security? Not every accepted rule is there to help protect us. I really don't understand this tangent you are on.

I don't know how well I'm doing it, but I'm trying to make the point that there are instances where the stakes are high enough that you cannot simply walk away from a disagreement and dissolve a voluntary association. I believe that you seriously discount how dependent you are on real force (or really good people) in order to uphold any accepted rules.

What do you do if I decide to bully you - beat you up and take your stuff? I'm not playing by the accepted rules, but you're not able to dissolve your association with me.

Tlaloc said...

"I don't know how well I'm doing it, but I'm trying to make the point that there are instances where the stakes are high enough that you cannot simply walk away from a disagreement and dissolve a voluntary association."

I certainly agree that people may come to disagreements severe enough that simply walking away isn't an option. I disagree that that somehow justifies having a rule of law.



"What do you do if I decide to bully you - beat you up and take your stuff? I'm not playing by the accepted rules, but you're not able to dissolve your association with me."

I do whatever it is I think is the right thing to do. If I'm a pacifist I let you or I run away. If I'm not I may run away or fight you. I think you are getting the impression that voluntary associations are the end all and be all of anarchism. I'm sorry if I made it sound that way. Rather VA is simply a small part of anarchism, the part that explains how individual anarchists can choose to work together toward a social goal without compromising the anarchism.

Matt Huisman said...

I certainly agree that people may come to disagreements severe enough that simply walking away isn't an option. I disagree that that somehow justifies having a rule of law.

Whether a ROL is justified or not does not matter here. What does matter is that left unchecked, the opportunistic person or gang will see that using force is an easy way to get what they want. And some people always seem to want a little bit more.

The default position is that force is always present, it is merely restrained by the nature of the person/community that has it. All it takes is one person to push the envelope, and then either the whole community will either turn a blind eye to injustice, cower in fear or find a way to enforce the AR.

The only hope for anarchy is that you'll have an entire population composed of really good people. Good luck with that.

Tlaloc said...

"What does matter is that left unchecked, the opportunistic person or gang will see that using force is an easy way to get what they want."

Oh sure. But now imagine this. You live in a small voluntary community of anarchists. One member of the community begins to try and dominate the weaker members. What are you going to do? Well maybe not you but some members of that community are going to get together and teach the problem maker the facts of life in a rather painful manner. If he doesn't lear then he's going to be forced out and he better hope he can survive on his own. This is how voluntary communities police themselves. You see it on forums where the moderators are against banning. Trolls come in and cause problems and soon are mobbed by people flaming them. The main difference is that while in a forum the troll cannot really be harmed in real life the bully most certainly can.



"All it takes is one person to push the envelope, and then either the whole community will either turn a blind eye to injustice, cower in fear or find a way to enforce the AR."

No there's a difference in how a voluntary community polices itself and how a rol community is policed by others. It's that pesky difference between internal and external again. It's also a difference between having a set way of doing things and reacting to a specific circumstance.



"The only hope for anarchy is that you'll have an entire population composed of really good people. Good luck with that."

Well in a way you are right. Since the only meaningful definition of good as I see it is whether people try to follow their own conscience. In that regard you are right, and that's why I don't want anarchy right now. People have been trained to think of their conscience as subordinate to the RoL for a long time now. We need to undo that. Once people are ready to (again) follow their conscience they'll be ready for Anarchism.

As I've said repeatedly my view of anarchism is not utopian. People will fight. Some will kil each other. The difference is that there will be a lot less of it because of the lack of nation states and religions going to war with each other and that in general when they kill each other it will be for what they believe in rather than for a flag, or an economic system, or a vision of god.

Matt Huisman said...

Well maybe not you but some members of that community are going to get together and teach the problem maker the facts of life in a rather painful manner. If he doesn't lear then he's going to be forced out and he better hope he can survive on his own. This is how voluntary communities police themselves.

So what you are saying here is that force is required to uphold the AR of a community, but that it is somehow different than in the ROL community. If it is different, it only a matter of scale. What is the real difference between a lynch mob and storm troopers?

The scenario we talked about was relatively small, and you suggested that it could be handled by a loose association. But doesn’t the sophistication of the enforcement need to grow with the level of the problem? You want the level of problems to stay small by eliminating the large institutions that initiate large conflicts, but I don’t see how you can stop them from forming. The cat is out of the bag, and relatively small groups of people have figured out that they have the ability to wreak havoc on a scale that is orders of magnitude higher than it used to be 10, 100 or 1,000 years ago. Lynch mobs are no longer good enough.

Ultimately, the level of the problem is determined by the ‘goodness’ of the population and the amount of harm a troublemaker can inflict. Institutions, with all of their flaws, are more essential now than ever.

No there's a difference in how a voluntary community polices itself and how a rol community is policed by others.

Again, I see the ROL as merely an explicit codification of what the AR are and the force that supports it. ROL and AR are the same in the sense that they regulate their communities. Theoretically, the ROL model is superior because it promotes clarity and consistency and fairness - which are all lacking in the AR model. The fact that the ROL model outsources the enforcement is only a difference in implementation and efficiency.

People have been trained to think of their conscience as subordinate to the RoL for a long time now. We need to undo that.

It would be interesting to develop this further, because I think we would have some common ground here. But this has been going on a while, and I’d rather finish up by dealing with the fact that force mechanisms are required to support any community system – and that AR and ROL (when adjusting for population size) are virtually identical.

Tlaloc said...

So what you are saying here is that force is required to uphold the AR of a community,"

No it doesn't have to but it is certainly the most likely path. Alternatively the community might pick up and move away from the offender. Or they might simply tolerate him. Or they may find that simply shunning gets the message across. They have a variety of options but being relaistic I understand that smacking a jerk is a pretty typical response for most humans.



"What is the real difference between a lynch mob and storm troopers?"

A world of difference. A lynch mob (as ugly as it may be) is violent because they believe violence is called for. A storm trooper is violent because someone else tells them to be. That's night and day. Furthermore the members of a lynch mob have a wide variety of options in how to deal with things. But a storm trooper is always a storm trooper. It's their career.



" You want the level of problems to stay small by eliminating the large institutions that initiate large conflicts, but I don’t see how you can stop them from forming."

It all comes down to educating people so that they choose to think for themselves and act according to their beliefs. Look as I've said 99.5% of human history had no organizations to speak of. People were educated into believing they were needed and now they are ubiquitous. There's absolutely no reason they can't be educated back the other way. Just as you at a very basic level have been conditioned to accept authority your great grandkids could be conditioned to automatically reject it.

If obedience becomes a taboo then those large scale organizations cannot exist.



"Institutions, with all of their flaws, are more essential now than ever."

I'm curious what large scale problems have institions ever prevented?



"Again, I see the ROL as merely an explicit codification of what the AR are and the force that supports it."

Ah, but a codification means you are writing it down. It is no longer an organic internal part of the people involved but becomes static and unchanging.



" Theoretically, the ROL model is superior because it promotes clarity and consistency and fairness - which are all lacking in the AR model."

It certainly does treat all situations the same, but should it? Considering that no two acts are ever identical what sense does it make to laud treating them identical as a virtue?

Put it this way, what if your workplace decided to create a single formula that was used to evaluate all employees and determine whether they got raises, got promoted, got nothing, or got fired. Would that make you happy? Of course not because there is no way a formula can be put together that would adequately take into account all the important details. You completed three tasks and Joe completed 12? Sounds bad for you but were yours more important? Long term or short term? And in what way do you guage importance? It'd be a disaster, no less so than our system of laws has been.



" The fact that the ROL model outsources the enforcement is only a difference in implementation and efficiency."

Oh no it's much much more than that. An internal enforcement is inherently accepted as legitimate because it comes from within. External enforcement is inevitably seen as unjust and attentuates the mental connection between offense and punishment. I have several writings on this topic if you want to explore it more. The simplest example is the speeder. They speed but because the enforcement (trafic cop) is external they resent it and associate the punishment with getting caught rather than with speeding.



"It would be interesting to develop this further, because I think we would have some common ground here."

Sure, keep it in mind and we can come back to it another time.

Matt Huisman said...

A world of difference. A lynch mob (as ugly as it may be) is violent because they believe violence is called for. A storm trooper is violent because someone else tells them to be.

The storm trooper believes the same thing as the lynch mob. They're just more professionally trained. Both are guided by societies principles for how to deal with troublemakers - there is little difference in why the force in either scenario is sent.

Furthermore the members of a lynch mob have a wide variety of options in how to deal with things. But a storm trooper is always a storm trooper. It's their career.

In the ROL society, you don't call in the storm troopers until they're needed, same as in the AR. And the troopers exercise a lot of judgment on their cases - they're hardly automatons.

I'm curious what large scale problems have institions ever prevented?

How would you have stopped Hitler? I know, I know - other institutions created the problem.

It is no longer an organic internal part of the people involved but becomes static and unchanging.

What? I suppose we can send all those lawmakers home then. Nothing new to do.

External enforcement is inevitably seen as unjust and attentuates the mental connection between offense and punishment.

I'm sure this is true, but this is not the point. Both systems have enforcement mechanisms that need to be scaled to the level of the trouble they face. The reason the ROL uses the storm troopers is because the threat requires that we go pro and because the rest of us are too lousy and too lazy to form posses. Do you really want to be on ambulance duty at 3am twice/month?

Tlaloc said...

"The storm trooper believes the same thing as the lynch mob."

You can't be sure of that. It's his job whether he agrees personally with it or not. He has acepted an authority teling him to kill at their command, his conscience is irrelevent to that relationship.



"Both are guided by societies principles for how to deal with troublemakers - there is little difference in why the force in either scenario is sent."

No the lynch mob is guided by their individual beliefs while the storm trooper is guided by an authority figure. Societal principles apply in neither case.



"In the ROL society, you don't call in the storm troopers until they're needed, same as in the AR. And the troopers exercise a lot of judgment on their cases - they're hardly automatons."

I'd say you have a very limited knowledge of what riot troops actually do and the real world scenarios in which they have been employed the world over. Believe me that they are very often called in when not truly needed. Furthermore if they are not automatons it is only because we lack the techniques to make them so. Our boot camp facilities and training programs for riot cops use brainwashing techniques to make them as close to automatons as we can get.

I'm not exxagerating that at all. Study brainwashing techniques (repetitive chants, disruptions to sleeping and eating cycles, shared manual labor, and so on) and you'll find those techniques correspond precisely with how soldeirs and riot cops are trained.



"How would you have stopped Hitler? I know, I know - other institutions created the problem."

How dangerous would hitler have been without the might of germany behind him? No danger at all.



"What? I suppose we can send all those lawmakers home then. Nothing new to do."

Okay not strictly static but shanging on a timeframe so slow as to be effectively static compared to human thought processes. Surely you acknowlege that you are able to quickly process information and various circumstances of an incident in moments when it would take legislators decades to do the same legally.



"I'm sure this is true, but this is not the point."

Oh I think it is. The reason you need those storm troopers is because the association between activity and punishment becomes so attentuated that people quickly lose any real self control. Things get worse and worse the more you try to enforce a RoL precisely because a rule of law is self defeating.

tbmbuzz said...

TBMBUZZ you make a series of contradictory statements. You claim the bottom of the pyramid is constrained to a zero baseline and also insist they are both getting wealthier and have social mobility. These are contradictpry statements and yet you make them one right after the other without any apparent sense of irony.

What pyramid are you talking about? I didn't say anything about pyramids. Your response shows that you can't even grasp the simplest of economic concepts. Nothing at all is contradictory in what I wrote, nothing.

Matt Huisman said...

He has acepted an authority teling him to kill at their command, his conscience is irrelevent to that relationship.

If you put it that way, what is the difference then between the gun that the lynch mob member uses and a storm trooper (aside from the fact that the storm trooper is way cooler)? He's merely an extension of the force society agrees to apply - a little more impersonal than a lynch mob, but basically the same.

I'd say you have a very limited knowledge of what riot troops actually do and the real world scenarios in which they have been employed the world over.

I've been using the term storm trooper to refer to all levels of societal force, primarily the local police. The local cops, detectives, DA's have almost as much lattitude to make decisions as your lynch mob, and have way more oversight/restrictions on them then your group. You may not like how they conduct themselves, but then, I might not like your lynch mob.

How dangerous would hitler have been without the might of germany behind him? No danger at all.

This is my biggest complaint about your argument. You assume that Hitler can't happen, apparently because it will never occur to anyone that if they marshal resources they'll have power to get more of what they want.

Suppose your lynch mob gets pretty good at dealing with troublemakers. The more they do it, the more confidence and power they have. Next thing you know, you've got Sheriff Hitler causing problems. There's an infinite number of ways for something like this to happen.

Surely you acknowlege that you are able to quickly process information and various circumstances of an incident in moments when it would take legislators decades to do the same legally.

These kinds of judgments that you desire are made in the ROL system all the time. To the extent that they are not, all you're saying is that you would prefer the current ROL to be less rigid then it currently is. You want the enforcement arm to have more discretion.

Let’s go back for a moment to the lynch mob. You like them because they have discretion. Say you rounded up a posse, but they exercised some discretion and didn’t follow through on the troublemaker to the extent you thought fair. You form a mini-posse and go rough up the troublemaker again. Now the original troublemaker has a grievance against you, and he rounds up a posse and smacks you around a little bit. Are you really that surprised that the societies of the past chose to create institutions to prevent these types of Hatfield v McCoys scenarios from happening?

I understand that the current system has issues - guess what, so will yours. People always seem to find a way to be a pain in the behind.

Anarchy solves nothing.

Tlaloc said...

"If you put it that way, what is the difference then between the gun that the lynch mob member uses and a storm trooper (aside from the fact that the storm trooper is way cooler)?"

Indeed an apt comparison, now do you mean to tell me that you actually support a system that converts people into the equivilent of a soulless mindless object to be used?



"The local cops, detectives, DA's have almost as much lattitude to make decisions as your lynch mob, and have way more oversight/restrictions on them then your group."

Of course they don't. Cops operate according to laws or are supposed to. That inherently limits their reponses to a given situation. As far as oversight and restictions those are always overcome and diabused by the corrupt. Certainly I don't need to point out incidents like the rodney king beating to get this point across.



"This is my biggest complaint about your argument. You assume that Hitler can't happen, apparently because it will never occur to anyone that if they marshal resources they'll have power to get more of what they want."

Lets be clear here we are talking about establishing anarchism by educating people to have a deep mistrust of organizations and a trust in their own faculties and personal morality. Under those circumstances it should be virtually impossible for a person to do anything even remotely like what hitler accomplished.

There is a saying that getting anarchists to work together is like herding cats. Making an army out of cats is pretty well impossible. All you have to do is stop conditioning the cats to think they are dogs.



"These kinds of judgments that you desire are made in the ROL system all the time. To the extent that they are not, all you're saying is that you would prefer the current ROL to be less rigid then it currently is. You want the enforcement arm to have more discretion."

We are talking light years apart. No formulaic system can handle what an individual mind can. Again return to the example you didn comment on of a single formul used to evaluate every employee. It's be a tragedy JUST LIKE OUR SYSTEM OF LAWS HAS BEEN.




"Are you really that surprised that the societies of the past chose to create institutions to prevent these types of Hatfield v McCoys scenarios from happening?"

Surprised? No, not at all. Society has been established for only one purpose and that is to create a false order. People like order it seems nice. But it's a lie because it's only the surface that is orderly. You may have gotten rid of the small family feuds that seemed so bad but in the bargain you got world wars and race riots. Hardly a good trade wouldn't you say? I'll take the Hanks and the McCoys anyday over the trench warfare of the first world war, the millions of deaths of the second world war and (god forbid) the possibility of total extinction with a real nuclear exchange eternally hanging over our head. Somehow a few hicks with rifles seems real damn nice, doesn't it?



"I understand that the current system has issues - guess what, so will yours. People always seem to find a way to be a pain in the behind."

Of course it'll have problems but the scale of the problems will be so much smaller as to seem trivial.



"Anarchy solves nothing."

Well it solves the problem of war. Even if that was the only benefit it'd be quite a selling point.

Matt Huisman said...

As far as oversight and restictions those are always overcome and diabused by the corrupt. Certainly I don't need to point out incidents like the rodney king beating to get this point across.

And your lynch mob will of course never become corrupt.

Lets be clear here we are talking about establishing anarchism by educating people to have a deep mistrust of organizations and a trust in their own faculties and personal morality.

You are asking people to ignore that working together for mutual gain is mutually beneficial. Even you acknowledge that voluntary associations are good – so where does a voluntary association end and an organization begin? You may as well be asking people to not be tempted by material possessions – because anyone who is will see that partnering leads to more stuff and will be willing to make the compromises required to get more. You’re starting to sound religious to me.

Surprised? No, not at all. Society has been established for only one purpose and that is to create a false order. People like order it seems nice. But it's a lie because it's only the surface that is orderly.

I think this is very insightful. I know you won’t like this, but Christians say the same thing. You just cling to the hope that this can be remedied by a solution that is more improbable than what we believe. We both know that your solution will never be implemented, we’re just arguing over whether it would even work if it was – and I’ve got history on my side. You suggest that we functioned for most of time in something similar to anarchy – and yet we ended up in our current state. It couldn’t last – why would you expect that it would the next time around?

You may have gotten rid of the small family feuds that seemed so bad but in the bargain you got world wars and race riots.

Again, you are right on target. But what you are really saying here is that there is something fundamentally wrong with mankind, and the only way to control it is to restrict their capability for harm by limiting their social and technological progress. The problem is that this approach doesn’t address the false order within man, and because of this it is highly unlikely that we will be willing to let ourselves be restricted in this way. Your system requires a means of changing our nature – wait, maybe you are religious!

Tlaloc said...

"And your lynch mob will of course never become corrupt."

Individual members may of course become corrupt. It's possible that all of them will become corrupt, but the difference is that there are no institutional features which once corrupted remain forever. There are only individual people who may or may not be corrupted but who do eventually expire.



"You are asking people to ignore that working together for mutual gain is mutually beneficial."

No I'm not. I'm just pointing out that the benefit of working together can be had without the formation of organization and authority structures.



"Even you acknowledge that voluntary associations are good – so where does a voluntary association end and an organization begin?"

With the word "voluntary." There is no authority structure there are just individuals who act in their own interest and with a recognition that working together is mutually beneficial. Compare that to a factory in which there are rules, there are security guards, there is a management (authority) chain. It's worlds apart.



"You may as well be asking people to not be tempted by material possessions – because anyone who is will see that partnering leads to more stuff and will be willing to make the compromises required to get more."

Possibly. I suspect that once really educated and once they can see what they are choosing to give up in favor of stuff that very few would make that sacrifice. I may of course be wrong, in which case frankly our species deserves this road to hell we are on because we are unfit to live freely. I have never said that anarchy was unavoidable or even likely. I have said that it can be much more healthy than what we have now and I think humans have the potential for it.



" Again, you are right on target. But what you are really saying here is that there is something fundamentally wrong with mankind, and the only way to control it is to restrict their capability for harm by limiting their social and technological progress."

No I disagree. It's not that people are fundamentally wrong so much as we are leading a life that leaves us unbalanced. If a person gets wildly trashed every nght they are sooner or later going to do something awful to themselves or someone else. That's not a fundamental problem with them so much as with the lifestyle they have chosen.

Mankind has been getting stoned on authority for the last ten to twenty thousand years. As a result we've done some terrible things. Again it's not a fundamental problem with us but with this lifestyle we've chosen. Anarchism then is the sober life away from authority.



" Your system requires a means of changing our nature – wait, maybe you are religious!"

Except again we were anarchists for 99.5% of our existence. And even in our modern life we experience a fair amount of anarchism. Our nature would seem to be anarchistic but it's getting smothered in madison avenue and governments, and traffic cops and splashy ads on TV.