Wow, two years since the last update! Here’s what’s up.
My plans to pump out a revised version of CCL, given the failure of a “purist” libertarian/anarcho-capitalist version, has been delayed indefinitely because I am busily writing a book that contains a chapter of related content, and my views continue to evolve. I won’t mention what the book is about, but this chapter will include what a governance structure without a traditional state could look like—one that based on direct super-majority democracy (not representative democracy), and is specifically designed to achieve desirable outcomes as opposed to being ruled plutocratically (purely by markets, which gives the most “vote” power to those with the most voting instruments…dollars).
Generally speaking, it would involve a central legal document (or documents) with polycentric legal modules, and a structure oriented around 21 worker councils, each from one of the 21 divisions of the economy according to ISIC 4 (here). The worker councils largely replace the role of both unions and federal regulatory agencies. A general assembly or council of one member from each worker council operates as essentially a 21-member executive board. To what end? To operate on behalf of the whole as necessary. Policies or decisions/actions that affect the entire citizenry/population must be passed by direct 2/3 vote of citizenry with 1/3 quorum. All decisions made by any official are subject to veto power by the citizenry.
All firms (even defense contractors) are “privately owned”; however, they cannot be majority owned by anyone other than workers or clients. To use the same example (defense contractors), this would obviously mitigate much or most of the horrifying effects of the military-industrial complex, since there is no board responsible for increasing shareholder value, nor is increasing shareholder value necessarily the point; it’s all up to the workers and their clients (perhaps, soldiers? Perhaps all citizens? Wouldn’t it make sense if “public” companies that serve everyone in a society be co-owned by each member of that society? How many wars would occur if soldiers, and not profit-seeking capitalists, owned the defense corporations of their workplace?)
Anarcho-capitalists and neoconservatives don’t like the word “democracy” or what it is (recall Hoppe’s work, countless other neofascist publications, and centuries of fascist activity that terminates in social oppression). This is also true for a division of “individualist anarchists,” which contrast with “community” or “democratic anarchists,” but I’m getting ahead of myself…
A Few Things
The last two years have been radical in terms of learning about economic history and theories of social organization. I couldn’t possibly catch up curious readers (whoever strange people you are) of all of that. But I will try to provide a few thoughts.
The last post from two years ago summarized the collapse of the original CCL plan. A legal system for a stateless society based purely on property rights and markets could actually “work”—its just that the results would be as bad, or even more oppressive, than that under, say, a relatively boring social democracy nation-state. This is not so much a theory as something we can observe presently (compare and contrast child poverty, literacy, suicide, average median wealth, employment rates, health, happiness, freedom, etc. between the most capitalist countries and social democracies) and throughout history (compare what life was like under anarcho-capitalist cities, like early New York under the Dutch West India Company, or vast tracts of land larger than much of Europe, in Canada under Hudson Bay’s Company, etc. These are examples your David Friedmans, Thomas Woods’, and others will generally ignore).
As I mentioned in earlier posts, the problem is concentrations of power—economic as much as political. This is why anarcho-capitalism is the flip side of statism, and both terminate in war, social oppression, the loss of individual freedoms, etc. etc. If you don’t think I’m right, we might reexamine the failures of both Bitcoin (where .01% of owners possess 27% of total supply; where the lightning network is the Fed-like middle-man Bitcoin was supposed to remove, controlled by the private company Blockstream, and is no longer even called a currency in competition with fiat) and SeaSteading (which has predictably gotten nowhere, and like the yacht industry, has never been designed for the ordinary person seeking refuge from state oppression).
Perhaps the most significant division within anarchism, then, is between the individualists and the “democrats.” That is, between (A) those who assert that each individual has inviolable rights and absolutely no duty towards anyone else (and therefore all forms of democracy and organized, collective action are wrong, since it imposes on the individual or at least must ignore what some individuals want), and (B) those who assert that (A) is impossible and undesirable so long as people are social creatures and only exist in society, and that collective action is, in fact, the only way to avoid collective oppression from above; a few resistors in the street is nothing against a tyrant with government machinery, but millions in the street, and subverting from within the state (or whatever) and subverting within the economy, cannot be ignored.
Organized resistance to oppression and injustice requires organization. That means collective decision making. That means elections—or (far worse) forced unanimity. Those workers who have already developed non-extractive, collective organizations (e.g., worker cooperatives) have already tested various mechanisms for such collective action, and supermajority direct democracy is one of if not the most simple and effective. Simple majorities are faux and dysfunctional, as the decision could be determined by the difference of 1 vote, or, determined by the margin of error itself. Unanimous consent is likewise dysfunctional, fake and unrealistic; they mask differences, which ironically, is part of what makes us individuals. Supermajorities, however, such as 2/3, 3/4, or even 3/5 generally avoid the hazards and problems of these boundaries. They provide a high standard for change that motivates cooperation without incentivizing absolute conformity, and also provides more cohesion to the group.
Fascists, anarcho-capitalists, and individual anarchists (…and others) object to direct democratic organization at home, at work, in society, in the economy, and in governance, for two major reasons: (1) it’s wrong in principle because it violates the sovereignty of the individual. It requires compliance of all participating members. That is, it requires that all members agree to submit to the will of the group whether or not they are in favor of it. This means individual rights could be violated, if asserted and contradicted; (2) the results of direct democracy could be wrong; just because most people approve something doesn’t mean it’s right.
These are not altogether illegitimate concerns, but they remain fundamentally naïve. Survival, simply existing as a species, requires a baseline degree of deference to others and to the group. There is no person, ancient or otherwise, who could survive if they simply did what they wanted regardless of what another thought or did. Tribes and countless children would have starved and disappeared (for ruining the hunt of Buffalo, or getting run over by a truck in the street for not listening to Mom). Individual rights exist and some of them are sacred, but all of them are not absolute. Property rights, for example, are always contingent on those who define, enforce, or ignore them. One day black people are “absolutely property,” the next day, they “absolutely aren’t.” Katharina Pistor’s work is absolutely essential for anyone reading this.
This leads to a second problem. If the majority of people don’t define the rights that will be recognized and enforced, then a powerful minority will. How is that better? Hayek said “I want plans by the many, not by the few.” OK, so how does leaving all policy, legal, and economic decisions to a small group of representatives, or landowners/capitalists, or wealthy family, achieve that goal? It doesn’t. How does allowing one or two CEOs determine the price of insulin for millions of diabetics achieve that goal? It doesn’t. How does leaving all the choices as to what to produce, how to produce it, when and where to produce something to a single CEO or board (whose members may not have even worked at the company) achieve that goal? It doesn’t. What if most people actually controlled governance structures? What if medical patients and workers controlled the medical industry? What if workers controlled their own businesses? A radical idea, evidently!
Ruth Kinna in her excellent, seminal work The Government of No One: The Theory and Practice of Anarchism goes into far more detail into this discussion that I have here, and without arguing for any particular conclusion. Her work is essential reading for the anarchist, philosophy, economic, and political community simply because of its deep and wide knowledge of all its varieties and twists and turns—something I wish I knew about before walking through the muddy pot hole of Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism.
Once again, this isn’t just a theory. Switzerland, for example, exhibits direct democracy and it works far better than leaving decisions up to power and profit-hungry politicians. (Is that surprising?) In our own work at private businesses, we have voting apps on our phones to organize meetings or sometimes (if we’re lucky) to even set policies that affect us and others. Why should the rights of transgender kids or black people or women or immigrants be determined by a small group of old wealthy white guys in Washington DC? Why not put that power in the hands of you and I, on our phones, and control the governing apparatus ourself, so that it actually is “our government”? Wouldn’t that largely eliminate the lack of consent that characterizes and taints the state to begin with?
This brings me to another complaint: libertarians and anarcho-capitalists will rarely, if ever, confess to overestimating the evil of the state. After the 20th century and the 50+ million deaths under governments, how could anyone? Well, you actually could, simply by observing how the other 100+ governments around the world never did anything even remotely like Moa’s China and Stalin’s paranoid repression. There are countless countries that never erected gulags and labor camps. Dozens of governments never (and perhaps will never) bomb brown people to profit oil companies. If all states are the same and will ultimately terminate in the same results, as we are repeatedly told…why don’t they?
Imagine if we applied the same logic to capitalism: the horrors of the British East India Company, Dutch East India Company, the wars produced by the military industrial complex and oil companies around the globe, and then said, “this is how all private businesses will terminate. They’re all fundamentally the same.” I don’t think that argument would be accepted.
I’m not making a case for the state. It’s a plea for realism. Canada doesn’t have gulags, no matter what Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, and the Freedom Truckers say—Canadians probably never will have gulags. That shouldn’t surprise us.
That’s all I have to say for now, other than, well, “libertarians completely lost their mind about COVID and I’m glad I’ve completely disassociated.” About economic history, I have too much to say but have some thoughts on it here. If you want to get lost in high-quality, ground-level economic history, I highly recommend these books. I promise they’ll be interesting and challenge you, if not blow your mind (as they did mine):