יום שבת, 17 בפברואר 2018

Response to Jan Helfeld's extended remarks (why he is not an anarchist)

In response to my post-debate analysis of “Anarchism Vs. Minarchism, Victor Pross and Jan Helfeld, part 2”, Jan asked me to answer some questions and relate to his extended remarks that he is copy-pasting to every debate he has with Anarchists. The following is my response. Moreover, I have listened today to the debate for a 2nd time, and I was amazed to pick up a lot of things that I didn’t notice in the first listening. For instance, there were some things that Jan said that in first listening, I took as attempts to gaslight (i.e. “don’t be so angry that you can’t think straight”) and in second listening I understand this to be a sincere worry. I don’t think that anarchists like Victor, and other prominent thinkers are clouded by anger, but I still take Jan’s statement as honest worrying and take back my accusation of gaslighting.

I’ll begin with agreeing with him that things not only could be worse, but I am with him on the position that many anarchists are mistaken when they claim it can’t be worse. And I mean it in two ways, one is that the government can become tyrannical, and second is that anarchy can be worse than what we have now. I think though, that the risk of a western government becoming tyrannical is higher than of an anarchist society becoming equally bad, and that is based on my basic understanding of free market mechanisms.

Jan’s conception of anarchy seems similar to a national geographic movie about a cheetah and a lion. In his specific movie, the lion gets to drive the cheetah away from the gazelle it caught, and the cheetah doesn’t get to eat its prey. This cheetah has spent hours waiting to catch the gazelle, she’s spent energy running after it, and now she’s left even more hungry, with nothing to eat. The End. Of the movie at least, because if this national geographic movie was representing of everything that happens in the jungle, then we wouldn’t see cheetahs today.

In an anarchist society, at some point in time and place, situations similar to that of the lion, cheetah and poor gazelle may happen unfortunately. They also happen in a statist society, and not very seldom. And just like the fact that the cheetahs don’t go extinct, and that lions don’t show up everytime cheetahs go hunting, in an anarchist society and under statist society, that “jungle rule” situation is not the norm. Also, it would be wrong to draw too much conclusions about human society by looking at cheetah and lions. They’re lack of ability to think abstractly on the whole situation, and work to change it and maybe invent some technology on the way, make them a bad model for humanity.

In the 2nd hearing of the debate I could understand better what Jan meant in the beginning when he said that under anarchy, there would be so many laws, that it would be impossible to know if you’re breaking one or not. This position is something big and it’s worth exploring and refuting, but also upon 2nd hearing I took notice how Victor wasn’t well prepared for the debate format. Maybe too focused on the rules, he used up his 10 questions in a way that seemed like he’s trying to show Jan how statism is a self contradicting theory, but what he didn’t do is focus on shedding light on the contradictions and errors in the specific ideas Jan was presenting, not knowing which laws to abide by being a big one.

We know that in an anarchist society, everything will be privately owned. Roads, parks, you name it. So let’s take roads for instance. One way things could work in an anarchist society, is that owners of roads will not have 1 book of rules for the road, but just basic rules like direction of driving, no stopping in the middle of a highway, the basics. Everything that is not that basic and where there are different approaches, for instance maximum speed - this could be the responsibility of the DRO of each driver. So for instance, one driver could sign up for a DRO policy that permits him to drive 80mph on a certain road, while another driver may choose a cheaper policy and be limited to 60 mph. One DRO may allow his customers to have 1 bottle of beer before driving, while another may have a more strict policy on alcohol and driving. Everyone will be fully aware of the rules that apply to them, since they sign up with a DRO of their choosing and they’re choosing based on the set of laws they like.

Arbitration, negotiations, financial and other forms of settlements between DROs would not be the norm, as they are expensive. So for instance, let’s say we have a DRO that forbids drinking and driving, not even a zip of alcohol, and another DRO permits his customers to drive after having 1 beer. And let’s say there is an accident now, and the DRO that forbids alcohol is convinced that the cause of the accident must have been the alcohol, and refuses to consider other options. And they want money. Now the more liberal DRO is in trouble. What will they do? Get into a costy conflict each time there’s an accident where the other DRO is involved? Stop letting their drivers drink (a little bit) and drive? No, because they know it’s not the reason for the accidents, and it’s a big market, many people drive responsibly after 1 beer and there is money to be made here.

There are several possible outcomes to that situation. One of them is that the policy that allows drinking and driving will become more expensive, or that the deductible will go up in case of an accident where the driver cannot prove he wasn’t drinking. Road owners may have a say too in the matter, and other DROs who have alliances may as well get involved in the equation. With today’s technology it’s even easier to prove who’s to blame for an accident, and anyways, if A caused an accident and collided from behind into B, it doesn’t even matter to B whether it’s because of drinking and driving or not -- A (his DRO) will have to pay restitution, and A’s premium will go up afterwards.

So far for it being impossible to live in anarchy, because there are too many DROs with too many laws. Basically, to say that it won’t work, because you can’t see who it will work, is a classic fallacy of “Argument From Incredulity”.

Next issue is the conception that DROs with little firepower will have to kowtow to DROs with big firepower. This in fact is true, but it’s not a problem in an off itself. The DROs with little firepower can still choose to which big DRO to kowtow to.

And now to the extended remarks. This piece is full of assumptions which are not supported by facts and logic, only by more assumptions. In it, Jan baselessly assumes DROs won’t go after gangs of criminals unless to directly protect a specific customer, so they’ll let murderers, rapists and terrorists flood the streets, and only act when a customer is in distress. I think there are better business strategies, but Jan baselessly assumes DROs will be managed by stupid people I guess. Think about it. If you were a potential customer, and the DRO would tell you “we don’t go after rapists and serial killers, we only act when their attacking you” -- would you buy their service? What if another DRO told you that they DO go after criminals in the area, and provide pro-active security, wouldn’t you prefer to contract with them over the former?

Next is the fact that Jan baselessly assumes DROs will be weaker than today’s state police (“an arms race between criminal gangs and defense agencies”). While some statist use the “free rider” argument to support their position that it would be difficult to fund DROs, Jan presents no theory to support his assumption that DRO’s will be weak.

And then comes civil war. Jan probably thinks of past civil wars where two statist groups were fighting over the control of the state. What he doesn’t get is that if a society refuses to be “governed” by a gang with monopoly on the use of force, then no group can win the control over the public. Also, even if we accept that indeed, there is some risk that two DROs will go to war, it’s a very low risk, and even though it’s higher than the… ok... about zero percent (0%) risk that today’s police will go to war with… hmmmm… there is no other police force to go to war with.

But why isn’t there? Oh, it’s because if you want to start your own peaceful police force, and just offer safety and protection from murderers, rapists and burglars…. The state police will go to war with you. So let me just take back what I wrote in the previous paragraph, because the risk that the state police will go to war with another police is not just high, it’s an absolutely certainty. Just test them. Declare publicly that you’re starting your own competitive police business, and see who starts the aggression.

And then come mini-wars. Jan has go one David to say that “sometimes” defense agencies will fight. The next sentence in the extended remarks is a conclusion that this will end in mini wars. But Jan needs to clarify what he assumes here, how many DRO will go to war? What kind of DROs? Will it be the ones with big firepower? small firepower? A big one against a small one? Jan is jumping into conclusions here. If two small DROs go to war, this may very much end in someone breaking a leg, someone losing an eye, and two companies gone bankrupt. Jan must present a valid theory why a conflict between DROs will lead to a mini war, what he exactly means by mini war, and why they won’t chose mediation, negotiation and compromise. War costs money. Warriors get paid way more than clerks, and if they get injured or die it’s millions in compensation for each, and it becomes even harder to hire new ones. Not a great business strategy this mini war thing. Why assume the most successful business people will do such a stupid move, and that this will be the norm? Why assume that? It’s nothing but a scare story, because there is no theory given to support it.

Jan's position that when more than one organization has fire-power, then there's a risk of mini-war and thus, it is better to have just one organization with firepower - is refuted by the answer he gave Victor's 6th question, regarding global government. According to Jan's logic, having one global world government is the solution to wars. But Jan doesn't want a world government, because he says people should be able to escape from one bad government to another. Well Jan, that's the exact reason more than one police is needed too.

Next after simple mini-wars we get the other DROs to become involved, and your life will be miserable according to Jan. You see, someone fights with you over a parking space, all the sudden it’s a slippery slope and everybody’s life is ruined in this city. You know that this is a logical fallacy, and not a valid argument right Jan? It’s called “Slippery Slope”.

Ok, we’re done with wars now and Jan talks about how crime rates will rise because with governments you have protection, and without governments, not everybody gets that wonderful protection that we all have now. But wait a moment, am I protected by the state against murder? No. Having my car stolen? Well, if you consider “protection” to equal being allowed to report a crime after it happened, and having almost nothing done later, than the conclusion that this will end in more crime is invalid.

And now finally come the tanks, guided missiles and drones which we’ve all waited for. Criminals will get tanks, and tanks create more victims than handguns. Makes sense no? Jan is convinced that DROs will let their customers sell tanks and guided missiles to criminals. I mean, look, if there are tanks and guided missiles to buy, there’s a factory that produces them, and the DROs must be the biggest clients, so no, a factory that will sell a tank to a gang of criminals will lose the sell of 100 tanks to a factory that doesn’t, and the criminals with a tank will have to face DROs with 100 tanks.

It’s time for a contradiction, and it’s not a little contradiction like would you steal an apple if hungry? Yes. Actually No. No, this one is a big contradiction on an essential element in Jan’s entire premise for government. Jan says that he would never rely on charity for his freedom. I tend to agree with him here. But wait and see what he says in the next sentence. Ready? “I think your chances protecting your liberty and property are greater by socially organizing with people that are willing to pay”. Never rely on charity. Socially organize with people that are willing to pay. Never rely on charity. People willing to pay.

Jan considers the american experiment a great success. Yes, it has deviated from limited government to some degree (that it is not limited anymore) but it’s still a success, compared to North Korea, we’re great! The “limited” part of the “american experiment” failed miserably. Admit it already Jan. Jan thinks the government gives us all a great life, it gives us liberty. But that’s like saying “every rapist out there is protecting women from rapist-murderers, and thus, rape is successfully providing a great life, compared to... being raped and murdered.” Jan, your fallacy here is “false dichotomy”.

“The more security agencies there are , the more probability there will be more conflicts” says Jan, as if more conflicts is necessarily a bad thing. It’s not. It’s a good thing! It means a lot of people will be appropriately represented, and won’t have to suck up and surrender to the tyranny of dominant political groups. And more scare stories: “and one of the parties will resort to physical force”. And actually, the number of conflicts would not increase, because conflicts exist today like when millions of peaceful cannabis users are being hunted by the police. What Jan calls “conflict” is actually what I call “two sides of a conflict being represented and find a win-win solution”. Jan says more conflicts make business and investment less likely, but it’s incorrect as under anarchy you don’t get “more conflict”, you just get “better resolution of conflicts”. Anyhow, it’s such a generalized statement that it’s a waste of time to try to refute. For such a generalized statement a huge burden of proof is needed. Needed and missing.

Time for a short history lesson. According to Jan, governments caused us to progress from hunter gatherer societies. But the truth is that the progress was not because of government, in fact, ruling classes formed only because there was progress in agriculture that enabled specialization and the concentration of resources. Jan points at the lack of much progress in the “Icelandic anarchist experiment”, but that’s like implying that if I open a bookstore and I go bankrupt, then capitalism has failed. And let’s set something straight here, there was no “Somali anarchist experiment”, only a failed experiment to make a government in Somalia.

Jan says that these “anarchies” had very high levels of predation and poverty, But Somalia wasn’t an “experiment in Anarchy”, and Jan didn’t present any theory as to why creating a ruling class in the pre-neolithic period would result in more safety to the hunters and gatherers. Just more baseless assumptions. The only valid example Jan gave was medieval Iceland, and comparing it to modern USA is like comparing apples and oranges.

Jan says that government was instrumental in the increased progress; for example, irrigation canals. He forgot to say “roads” I think. By the way, this is an Argument From Incredulity fallacy, again… implying there is no was irrigation canals would get built without a ruling class. Jan says it’s “difficult to predict exactly what kind of defense agencies there would be under anarchy and how they would operate”, but that’s odd, as he already said he knows how everything will play out: One DRO will initiate a mini-war, the rest will join. Simple. No?

White power groups, Black power groups, Islamic power groups and even pedophile power groups -- Jan says if these groups will have sufficient military power, nobody will mess with them. But really? I rather tend to think they would also not mess with each other, and not with the rest of the world which would consist of many more power groups. “Which ones would go broke and how long it would take them to go broke is difficult to predict” says Jan, but it’s really easy actually -- If your business plan is to start a war, it’s actually quite easy predict you’ll go broke, and fast. Paying a group of people to go to war is thousands of times more expensive than settling conflicts financially and contractually, which is the win-win method.

Towards the end of his extended remarks, Jan calls us to take some social responsibility and Vote. Only that voting doesn’t help, government’s violence is always growing, because for a political power group it’s much more worthwhile to fight for resources from the government, then for the rest to defend. Voters have to pick 1 thing they value, and give up on 9 others.

Jan believes that if you don’t run for office, don't vote, and don't discuss any political public policy, you’re shirking your social responsibility. But that is untrue, as those of us involved in creating crypto-currencies and in other forms of agorism are doing quite a lot to defend our freedoms. Jan says that if the government will become more tyrannical, the anarchists who refused to vote and participate will be to blame. But actually, the blame is on those spreading false hopes. It can take 10% of the population to put an end to the ruling class’ tyranny, the USA government cannot imprison 30 Million agorists, with 10% of minarchists you’ll get a government that keeps on growing, like a man who does a strict diet for 1 day, followed by 9 days of binge eating.

Jan thinks his work is contributing to freedom. Reality is, spreading false hopes and scare stories is not a contribution to anything good, but I do appreciate his ambition. I think what limits freedom the most is not minarchists like Jan, but anarchists who lack that ambition and industriousness that people like Jan, and I, and also politicians, video gamers and criminal gangsters have. I think what limits anarchism the most is that those who love freedom don’t yet organize as effectively as those who don’t care about it.

Continue: An honest discussion with Jan Helfeld is impossible, here's why