Anarchy (was PCTopia)

[From Mike Acree (990204.1440 PST)]

I'm changing the heading since PCTopia has become an exchange about
Clinton. (Aside to Kenny: I'm with you in favoring impeachment,
conviction, and removal for perjury, but I have not appreciated your
style, which is due to earn you an anti-Valentine from Mary P. Given
Christ's response to lepers and prostitutes, it's hard to imagine Him
addressing liberals as you do. Aside to his interlocutors: I've
appreciated your not replying to Kenny in kind. I'm also aware that
impeachment is a heavy penalty for perjury, which is almost routine in
sexual harassment cases. It is still not uncommon for public officials
to be held to a higher standard; one of the Espy defendants convicted of
perjury had 3 months added to his sentence because he was a public
official. I also agree with Bill's suggestion of culpability on
Lewinsky's part.)

Tracy Harms (990202.0800)--

In my view, that chapter [17 of B:CP] mischaracterizes rule of law.

Little or no

understanding is evident for its origins, its nature, its benefit, or

its

rivals. (Excellent elaborations of the concept of rule of law have

been

written by various scholars. I am particularly partial to those of F.

A.

Hayek.) So when I read that chapter I take "rule of law" as having

the

meaning of "what Bill Powers called rule of law at the time of that
writing", and I look for clues as to what he was talking about. I

don't

think he was talking about rule of law in more or less the sense I

think of

it. If he was, his criticisms fail. But again, my guess is that he
wasn't. I think his criticisms are interesting and worthy of review.

But

*what* was he criticizing? I think he was criticizing a widespread
contemporary ideology as to the role of law and government. We should

pay

attention to where the criticism actually fits, and not hold against

Bill a

mistaken use of a label.

I see no indication that Bill was using "rule of law" in an
idiosyncratic sense. As I said in my post to Rick, the phrase is
usually contrasted (favorably) with "the rule of men," meaning that it
is rules defined in advance which are enforced rather than the whims of
the dictator. Enforcement, so far as I can see--or anyone has suggested
in this exchange--entails punishment or the threat thereof, and it was
on that basis that Bill, as I read him, criticized government as not
only feckless but counterproductive. Your post suggests that you may be
the one attaching an idiosyncratic meaning to the term; I'd be
interested to hear what it was.

Rick Marken (990202.1530)--

what do you do with the people in your anarchic
paradise who start to organize a government?

No problem. They would be free to organize any form of government they
wanted, among those who wanted to join. But only among those. I think
I made this point earlier in reference to Robert Nozick's concept of
utopia as a "framework for utopias." But the relationship is not
reciprocal: governments will not allow people to secede; even our own
was willing to fight a ghastly civil war over that issue.

as it is, the world is anarchic by
the same criterion you used as the basis for labeling the clans
of Somalia "anarchic"; it's just a bunch of different _big_ clans
(governments).

Yes, this was precisely my point in an earlier post (990122.1239)--as
yet another illustration that government isn't necessary.

Me:

There are unquestionably many desirable things that can only be
done collectively. Symphonies are an obvious example. All the
players agree to do as the conductor says (within implicit limits),
so long as they remain members. But they have a choice about
participating. _That_'s the key point: whether participation
is voluntary or coerced. Governments by their nature require
us to play. You persist in denying that distinction; I persist
in repeating it.

You:

I think that governments are nearly as voluntary as orchestras;

Maybe I'm confused--did that IRS agent say he was calling me in for an
_audition_?

if you don't want to be a member (of the country or the orchestra)
you leave.

That's just what thousands of Mexicans are trying to do all the time,
but they get discouraged by all of our border guards with guns. Do you
remember the Berlin Wall? The Iron Curtain? The European Jews we
denied entry during World War II? The Russian sailor who leaped to an
American ship pulled alongside and begged desperately for asylum--only
to be returned by the Americans to the Russians? "Just leave"--you make
it sound so easy.

I think people can learn how to
organize themselves in such a way that they don't _create_ extra
mavericks by law (as was done during prohibition and is currently
being done by the war on drugs).

If only you meant what you said. Unfortunately all you mean is that the
laws _you don't like_ create extra mavericks. But you will deny that
the laws you do like, such as the minimum wage, create extra mavericks,
despite the fact that you're "creating extra mavericks" just as much by
making it a crime for me to sell my labor for $4 an hour as by making it
a crime for me to sell heroin. "People who want to control other people
[e.g., employers and employees] seldom admit that they _want_ to, that
controlling people gives them any personal satisfaction, or that they in
any way are to blame for their own behavior. Rather they prefer to
objectify the situation, saying that morality requires control, or logic
requires it, or self-preservation requires it, or scientific experiment
proves its necessity, or the good of society [e.g., "increasing economic
growth and reducing poverty"] demands it" (B:CP, pp. 260-261).

You:

I can
envision a government that works without the rule of law; I do
it in the same way that you envision an anarchy that works without
the rule of law; I imagine it.

Me:

In a certain sense, I can also imagine ice sinking in water, but that
doesn't make it possible. I wasn't asking about your fantasies; I was
asking a serious question about what you meant. I meant that I
literally can't even guess what you're talking about.

You:

Sure you were. You were asking if I could imagine (fantasize) a
govenment not based on the rule of law. I can.

No, I assuredly wasn't. I don't doubt your fantasy abilities, but I was
asking for something more thoughtful.

Ok. I admit that you are better at fantasizing anarchy without
the rule of law than I am. In your anarchy fantasy, no one punishes
so there is no need for a "rule of law". All this tells me is
that one can see _anything_ one likes with fantasy; that's what's
so nice (and so dangerous) about fantasizing. I prefer science,
which is just fantasy (models, like PCT) tempered by systematic
obsevation and test.

As I said in a previous post, to _keep_ the discussion from being merely
fantasy and speculation, I have repeatedly offered empirical
data--real-life experiments with a private fire department that's lasted
for 20 years, private urban streets and private highways, whole anarchic
societies that lasted for centuries. You haven't either challenged or
accepted any of them; you've simply ignored them, and now dismiss them
all as my fantasies, so that you can continue to assert that it's all
impossible. That's enough to confirm my earlier impression that you
meant it when you said, "I don't want to find out," and that your
often-stated preference for science bears little relation to your
practice.

A final recap: You said that you had agreed with Chapter 17 of B:CP, at
least on a first reading, but had never been an anarchist. I pointed
out in response that that is self-contradictory, unless you advocate
government without the rule of law. I added that I literally couldn't
imagine what you would mean by that, and asked you what such a structure
would look like. You eventually gave what I take to be an honest
answer: "I don't know." Nothing disgraceful about that; political
theory isn't your field (nor mine). But from the vociferousness of your
opinions, I had assumed for awhile that they had some conceptual and
empirical base; it's a little embarrassing to see at this point how
mistaken I was. There is fortunately nothing fixed about that state of
affairs: if you (or anyone else) should in the future be able to show,
concretely and specifically, how government is compatible with PCT, I
shall remain very much interested. So far as I can tell, there are
logically just three possibilities: (a) Punishment-based rule of law,
however feckless and counterproductive, is nevertheless necessary. (b)
Punishment-based rule of law, contrary to the arguments of Chapter 17,
is _not_ feckless and counterproductive after all. (c) Government, in
some sense besides enforcement of the whims of a dictator, is possible
without punishment-based rule of law. Bill appears to hold (a),
referring me for support to Gibbons; I have explained twice before why I
found Gibbons unconvincing. You (and possibly Tracy?) hold (c). No
arguments have been advanced in support of it (or (b)), and so far as I
can tell it is simply incoherent. I assume this post will prompt
another round of unsupported or vacuous claims, and that will be the end
of this exchange for me.

Postscript on fantasies about anarchy--I confess to having harbored a
rather sad one. As I've tried to make sense of the peculiar nature of
the exchanges on anarchy over the past 2 years, it has occurred to me to
wonder whether PCT was designed as a Trojan Horse: With the word
_anarchy_ never being used, people might not realize what they were
logically committed to until they had already accepted PCT. On that
scenario, I'm to blame for having disrupted the historical timetable, in
having outed Bill as an (erstwhile) anarchist before the theory won wide
acceptance (though that acceptance has been so slow it may not matter
much at this point.) This interpretation doesn't conflict drastically
with the evidence available to me, though I would still be a little
surprised if it were true (hence the fantasy label). For one thing,
anarchy is but one of several radical implications of PCT. Bill has
acknowledged that PCT, like Maturana's theory, comes uneasily close to
solipsism ("Control theory, constructivism, and autopoiesis," LCS II).
It could also be characterized, at least by detractors, as embracing
moral relativism or nihilism. All of the actual positions in question
can perhaps be seen as variations on the theme of there being nobody to
complain to. And it may well make most sense in each case just to
describe the ideas without using labels which, as the example of anarchy
abundantly shows, invite a host of unwarranted and irrelevant
associations. I believe Bill has sometimes made this point himself.

Mike

[Martin Taylor 990204 17:47]

[From Mike Acree (990204.1440 PST)]

As I said in a previous post, to _keep_ the discussion from being merely
fantasy and speculation, I have repeatedly offered empirical
data--real-life experiments with a private fire department that's lasted
for 20 years, private urban streets and private highways, whole anarchic
societies that lasted for centuries. You haven't either challenged or
accepted any of them; you've simply ignored them, and now dismiss them
all as my fantasies, so that you can continue to assert that it's all
impossible.

When I brought up the issue of private fire departments, I was unaware of
your recent and current example. I was bringing to your attention that
it was once the norm to have private fire departments, at least in the
British Empire, of which North America was a part. It is no longer the
norm, for the good reason that if a house was insured by one fire
department, and another showed up, it would often not put out the fire,
or if a fire being put out by the contracted fire department spread to
the next door house, which was contracted to a different department, the
second house was likely to burn down. People eventually decided that this
was unacceptable, and organized public fire departments paid for out of
taxes.

But there's nothing that stops private fire companies from being
instituted, just as the security system in my house is backed up by a
private security response system in addition to the public police. It is
just not cost-effective to have non-monopoly fire services in a area, and
if you are going to have a monopoly, it's as well to have it either owned
or regulated by some group whose responsibility is to the people served
rather than to the profits of the owner(s). When "the owners are us",
both interests are served at the same time.

... if you (or anyone else) should in the future be able to show,
concretely and specifically, how government is compatible with PCT, I
shall remain very much interested. So far as I can tell, there are
logically just three possibilities: (a) Punishment-based rule of law,
however feckless and counterproductive, is nevertheless necessary. (b)
Punishment-based rule of law, contrary to the arguments of Chapter 17,
is _not_ feckless and counterproductive after all. (c) Government, in
some sense besides enforcement of the whims of a dictator, is possible
without punishment-based rule of law. Bill appears to hold (a),
referring me for support to Gibbons; I have explained twice before why I
found Gibbons unconvincing. You (and possibly Tracy?) hold (c). No
arguments have been advanced in support of it (or (b)), and so far as I
can tell it is simply incoherent. I assume this post will prompt
another round of unsupported or vacuous claims, and that will be the end
of this exchange for me.

Vacuous or not, here's my take:

Control systems exist in an environment in which actions influence
perceptions. The more stable this environment, the more reliably will a
particular kind of action have a predictable direction of influence on
a particular perception, and the more easily will a functioning
hierarchy be constructed. The effects of one's actions on other people
are part of the environmental feedback function, and that includes
whether one's actions are likely to have the effect that other people
deliberately try to disturb your perceptions--take them far from their
reference values, or in other words, to punish you.

If a particuloar action is likely to move a controlled perception
reliably away from its reference value, a positive feedback loop exists,
at least potentially. That action will not normally be used in attempts
to control that perception. Instead, actions that bring the perceptions
reliably toward their reference values will be used.

In an anarchy, one may be able to predict reasonably reliably the actions
of someone with whom you have contracted, in respect of actions about
which you have contracted. Under a rule of law, this level of
predictability becomes available for a wide range of actions. It becomes
easier for people to develop perceptual control hierarchies that work
reasonably reliably than it would be in an anarchy. It allows for the
development of mutual support structures that are _not_ based on
contracts, but on the statistically reliable beneficial effects of
side-effect influences. These can and will occur even in an anarchy, but
it's easier when the environmental feedback systems are stable.

Bottom line, we are dealing with the reliability of the environmental
feedback functions that involve other people, and the effect of that
reliability on the ability of living control systems to build
reliable hierarchies and reliable social structures. It has nothing
to do with philosophy.

I hope that's not too vacuous.

Martin

[From Tracy Harms (19990207.2340)]

Mike Acree (990204.1440 PST)

I see no indication that Bill was using "rule of law" in an
idiosyncratic sense. As I said in my post to Rick, the phrase is
usually contrasted (favorably) with "the rule of men," meaning that it
is rules defined in advance which are enforced rather than the whims of
the dictator. Enforcement, so far as I can see--or anyone has suggested
in this exchange--entails punishment or the threat thereof, and it was
on that basis that Bill, as I read him, criticized government as not
only feckless but counterproductive. Your post suggests that you may be
the one attaching an idiosyncratic meaning to the term; I'd be
interested to hear what it was.

In brief, I see Bill's use of the term "rule of law" as making no
distinction between using legislation (etc.) primarily to establish limits
that prohibit actions, and using legislation to direct actions. There is a
great difference, in my view, between using "law" as a bludgeon to compel
actions and shape choices into certain directions, and using law in the
constrained sense which the phrase "rule of law" traditionally meant. Rule
of law has entailed legally sanctioned punitive threats to communicate what
people shall not do, but also note that those threats are to apply to the
people as a whole and not select classes or subgroups. Furthermore, the
discretion to use governmental action to favor subgroups or to provide
positive direction toward certain actions, as opposed to negative limits
against actions, is prohibited.

Codification in advance is *not* the hallmark of rule of law. It is but
one of many traditions by which rule of law has attempted to resist
arbitrary caprice and other governmental violations of the due rights of
citizens, as understood within the (classical) liberal framework. It is
entirely possible to fit the letter of this tradition while violating it in
spirit. Indeed, a multitude of active American statutory codes could be
nominated as examples.

Tracy Harms
Bend, Oregon