Exploring Society As Peacefully As Possible

Next Wednesday, May 7th, we will be having our monthly meeting at Classic Cup Cafe.

We are asking for your help to fold and stuff the next issue of our newsletter while we grab a bite to eat and discuss local issues.

Please post to this message or send us an email if you can come, we’d like to get an idea of how many helpers we can get! The more, the merrier (and quicker)!

The benefits of Voluntarism are just too numerous to fit into a top ten list! Too many times those who want more liberty are focused on the negative (i.e. “The govt shouldn’t be doing X,” “The govt is making our lives worse”). And also saying that the govt shouldn’t be involved leaves open the question of what will fill the gaps, leaving people to speculate about evil boogeymen running sweatshops, gangs running roughshod, roads falling into disrepair, and tenements filled with uneducated, untreated sick people with no savior. This list is meant to simultaneously asuade people’s fears over the state leaving affairs alone, and to provide a vision of what could exist without the interference.

#13 – Due Process Would Actually Have Meaning

Without a monopoly on justice, there would be no protected classes in the dispute resolution/justice systems. If there were evidence that a party in a case had some influence or relationship to the judge, it would be ripe for another judge to overturn the result. So even if a judge was being paid off by a dirty litigant, there would be an incentive to be as impartial as possible, lest the decision be overturned by a fair court on appeal.

There would be market pressures to ensure that even the most banal procedural requirements of a court were the best practices in the field, to save the litigants money and to improve the reputation of the court. The distribution of fees would evolve toward the most equitable levels for plaintiffs and defendants depending on the validity of the claims presented.

Criminal law, to the extent it it would exist, would focus on restitution and the safety of society – including those who frequent the specific court issuing the judgment and those who seek judicial services elsewhere. To seek more punishment from a defendant than is necessary would open the court up to claims of cruel and unusual punishment of the convicts.

Because competing courts would need to reach decisions that every other court can find tolerable, each market actor would have it in their best interest to disclose their practices and values. This means…

#12 – You Would Know Who You Are Dealing With

To serve customers, someone offering a product or service must meet their demands. They must live and die on their reputation among potential customers. They can’t hide behind laws that require them to treat trade partners equally and stew about them behind their back. They can’t hide behind licensing laws that protect them even though they barely passed the qualifications and don’t really keep up with best practices.

Services like Angieslist and Consumer Reports would compete to provide the best information about providers, employers, and traders in the market. People that don’t meet your standards, professionally or socially, would suffer economically until they learned their lesson.

If you don’t like the owner of a company, or how they act…

#11 – You Could Start a Business to Compete With the Poorly Run Corporations

If you think you can run a business better than some particular mega-corporation, there would be nothing to stop you from competing against them to provide a more desirable product. There might still be a place for massive chain stores, but mom-and-pop small businesses and artisans would find the lack of meaningless and restrictive regulations a great benefit, and to get your business they would have to pass inspection from your chosen rating service, mentioned above.

The policies of your business are yours to choose, win or lose. Which is how…

#10 – Guns Would be Restricted in a Smart Way

You get to set the rules on your property, and business owners get the same leeway. If you want to frequent a bar, library, church, or a friend’s home that allows or disallows guns – that’s your decision. I, personally, don’t trust “Gun Free Zone” signs to keep bad actors with guns from bringing them in. So if there’s not a bouncer or some other means to ensure that everyone else is disarmed and safe, I’m hesitant to give up my right to meaningful defense.

You may have faith in the power of these signs, or faith in anything else, so…

 

#9 – Religious People (and non-religious people, too!) Would be Free to Live According to Their Norms

You get to decide, based on whatever information you have available and trust, how to organize your life. If you believe that there’s some eternal consequences to wearing clothes of mixed materials, you are free to wear 100% cotton. You also must be prepared to bear the material costs of these choices, like all choices for all people. If you decide that’s it’s a sin to fly on a fixed-wing aircraft, you have to bear the cost of renting a helicopter or balloon to fly.

And if you run an organization (either a church or business) where you have employees, you should be free to provide or refuse to provide health insurance or other benefits as part of the compensation for employment that is in accord with your religion.

Because this choice of what benefits could be provided by employers is made voluntarily …

#8 – You Would Have Access to Affordable Healthcare

Insurance plays an important market function, but it is no more a necessity for health than is a warranty on your new stereo. It spreads the cost of a potential disaster across many people and over time, taking a premium for the comfort it gives it’s purchaser. If you are living on a shoe-string, you may want to protect against large, unexpected costs. If you have personal savings or are okay going into debt to pay necessary bills, you may choose to go without.

Insurance plans would not be mandatory, but they would compete for your business. They would offer more competitive rates, and would pride themselves on being able to negotiate for the best care from doctors.

With this added choice in insurers, and a more direct relationship with healthcare providers, the consumer would more directly influence the production of technology that meets their needs: cheap tests and treatment for ailments, and more personal relationships with doctors that can holistically treat underlying problems, rather than symptoms.

This dramatic change in the nature of your relationship with healthcare providers would also take place with other professionals that would rely on reputation more than licensing. Which brings us to…

#7 – You Would Have an Education That Caters to Your Life’s Goals and Society’s Needs

While some people may go through their whole life without seeing the inside of what we today call a “classroom,” people would be given the incentive to develop relationships with people that can help them reach their life’s goals.

Being able to read, do math, and write would undoubtably be learned by anyone wishing to do commerce or to socialize on the internet. Beyond these basic lessons, people will learn what they need for their life via new, cheap, market-tested means. There are already freely available college courses in every curricula available online to meet this need.

Further, you would be more free to take an apprenticeship in an industry that anticipated the need for skilled labor. This helps to ensure that…

#6 – Jobs Would be Avilaible and Well Paying

Labor, either skilled or unskilled, is part of the production process that thrives when compensated handsomely. Employers seek to compensate laborers as best that they can to secure the best talent for the position, and would be free to innovate in workplace safety, compensation, and hiring practices.

Today’s goal of “more jobs” is misguided, as who really wants to work endless hours to live? The real goal is for people to be able to make a living with as little work as possible – and this is precisely what the numerous laws on wage labor inhibit. They excuse bad behavior by employers and prop up large, impersonal, employers who treat their employees without empathy for the human condition.

By being allowed to experiment with the production structure of a business without worry, employers would find the most efficient way to make the consumer happiest – leaving the best life for the most people. Part of this efficiency process would ensure that…

#5 – Human Innovation Flourishes

The technological innovations of the last century pale in comparision to the exponential growth that will occur in the future. The discovery of new and better ways to meet human goals will evolve in a safe and distirbuted manner without government involvement.

Specific markets will be able to offer incentives to producers to overcome a lack of patent systems. An innovative health insurer can agree to only cover the treatement produced by a sponsored inventor. An online retailer can agree to only sell authorized copies of an author’s book. Convenience stores can agree to only sell officially distributed Coca-cola, and can advertise their loaylty.  There should be no fear over the compensation of those who develop new things, as there are many ways to ensure that innovation pays beyond the personal satisfaction of innovating.

But that might be enough satisfaction for some inventors or producers. Who wouldn’t want to be the guy remembered in history as the one who developed the means for curing cancer, for making real healthy food available to the world at half the production cost as currently exists, or for bringing the cost of space travel within the reach of the middle-class?

As a result of these innovations… 

#4 – The Environment Would be Healed

With interest rates being set by market forces and with private property being the rule, people would have the incentive to make the most of their land, not just for the short term, but for the long term. In other words, production would evolve to be naturally sustainable.

And with the gains in efficiency made possible by the great inevitable innovations, there would be much less demand to draw resources from the land in an unsustainable manner. You could get more from less. Not only will we get more energy from less coal, sunlight, or fissionable material, but less enegry would be required to satisfy our immediate needs.

The decision to drill for oil, to strip-mine a mountain, or to clear-cut a forest would be made only by the private landowner, who would rationally wish not to do these things if less intesive and less costly options were needed or if less materials were demanded to produce consumer items.

And many industries can turn to the scientiffically proven crop of hemp to produce paper, plastics, ethanols, and oils. These are just the industrial uses of the fact that…

#3 – Cannabis Would be a Smart, Safe Alternative

Industrial, Medicinal, and Recreational endeavors would be much more efficient, healthier, and safer for the user and those around them if cannabis were used for hemp, a medicine, or a recreational drug. Certainly the plant is not a cure-all, but, well, it’s a cure-all. As outlined above, it will replace may industrial crops to better the environment, but current research also shows it’s effectiveness as a replacement for cabinet-fulls of industrial pharmaceuticals, and that recreational users are much better off than recreational drinkers.

The freedom to cultivate, sell, and use cannabis in whatever ways you like, even though others may disapprove, would also extend to any plant, chemical, substance, device, tool, or machine. The only limits are those things that harm or threaten the person or property (not the sensabilities) of others.

With the freedom to grow crops according to the needs of consumers and without artificial subsidy, the agricultural market provides that…

#2 – Food Would be Cheap, Healthy, and Nutritious

Leafy greens, healthy oils, sustainable meats, and all other healthy foods would be able to compete in price with those foods that are too common today, and would be able to reach more people. In general, more people would be able to live healthier with less of their resources going to getting a daily meal.

Aside from clean water, which would also be more available, food is the most important part in a person’s ability to live freely, to stay healthy, and to develop culture surrounding their local produce. The freeing of the food market would allow a great uptick in the personalization of foods, the availablility of ingredients, and the ability for people to make their own diet choices, even on fixed incomes.

And with food choices being set free, the last reason to be a Voluntarist is clear:

#1 – You.

You are stifled in life by all sorts of things that are determined by others. Usually the worst parts of your day are dealing with rules, structures, fines, and opinions that are forced on you without choice. You know how to best govern your checkbook, your social life, your diet, your beliefs, and every other choice that you make.

Certainly you can turn to others for help, and you can cooperate with others to achieve goals that are unattainable on your own. But just like you don’t want to be forced to pay for a war, a faith-based program, a science program, a lottery system, unjust laws, unreasonable land conservation schemes, or anything else, you shouldn’t want to force others to support your projects.

You make your future, by allocating your resources to your goals. You can choose to not spend as much on food this month so that you can start your own art boutique. You can choose to eat into your savings account to buy a new ORV. You can choose to get together with a group devoted to eradicating racism. You can choose to abstain from supporting a local carnival. Whatever you want to do, you can try. Unless it encroaches on other people’s life, liberty, or property, I’m not going to stop you.

There are a few cliche lessons or rules that get thrown around that were either constructed exactly backward in their original formulation, or that have been misinterpreted in the many years since their first formulation. This series will examine these cliches to derive the true lesson from them.

Today’s Exactly Wrong is perhaps the oldest that I have in mind, from the Old Testament. It was written that King Solomon used logic and reason to decide a dispute over parentage, and that this proved that he, as King, could also be the Ultimate Judge for the Kingdom. But Solomon was wrong.

The story of Solomon is used as an allegory to prove that some men (namely, kings and other central powers) have a right to resolve disputes, distribute rights and to do so in whatever psychopathic way pleases them, because they ostensibly know what’s right in the end.

The Story

In the story there is a dispute over who the mother of a small child is, and the King is presented with the two possible mothers and the child to decide the parentage. As the King threatens to bisect the child and give half of the body to each mother, it is reported that one of the women objected and would allow the other woman to take the child while the other woman did no object.

The King takes this objection as evidence that the objecting woman cares more about the child than the other. From this conclusion the King gives the objecting mother the child and is revered as being a just and wise decision maker.

The Common Lesson

The traditional lessons from the story is that the king had a great method to draw out the necessary facts to make the decision and that a central authority has the best ability to settle disputes.

The Other Analysis

The first problem with the story is that the King assumed that the protesting woman’s concern for the child was an indicator of parentage. It is imaginable in the ancient world that the true mother of the child would rather have the child be killed than allow someone else to take custody of the child. This is because the true mother could possibly have more children. The other woman may have also been turned off by the prospect of her false claim being the reason another woman’s child was killed, and thus may object to the killing of the child.

So there are understandable motives for both cases: the true mother objects (and the other woman to stay silent), or the true mother stays silent (and the other woman objects). It is impossible to say if either case is certainly true, and indeed it is impossibly to objectively determine which is more likely because motives can’t be observed, only actions can be.

Thus Solomon was at least wrong in making a final determination based on the evidence of one woman protesting the killing of the child, regardless of whether he was wrong in his ruling.

The second lesson to be learned from this story is that there can be no single authority to resolve disputes, because (for one reason) there can be no absolute certainty the meaning of objective evidence. Whether Solomon was right or wrong in his ruling, there was no appeal to a higher authority or to any other independent authority.

When a central authority has taken dispute resolution into it’s monopoly, the results can not be disputed anywhere else. In this story, the office of the king has been told to be just and wise. But this is a history of the kingship written by the “winner”. One can easily imagine a similar story written by members of a society without a king where multiple dispute resolution agents come to differing decisions, and only when consensus is reached among the parties is a final ruling issued. This would then be written as a ‘proof’ that distributed justice is wise and just and any singular arbiter is insufficient for justice.

The last lesson to be briefly mentioned is that the King does not have the moral authority to threaten the life of a child. Even if the parties consent to bringing their decision to him, this does not grant him the authority to use any force on the parties or anyone else outside of making and enforcing their ruling. The king may have a legitimate claim on some of the extravagance in their area, but they do not have the legitimate moral authority to take the life or property of anyone without thier consent.

Conclusion

Who knows whose child was threatened by the King. It is impossible to verify the veracity of the story itself, let alone the correctness of the decision made therein. But the real lesson to be learned is that individuals should not be blinded by the pomp of a central authority in its prowess in dispute resolution or any other thing. People should take their disputes to people that they trust, and they should object to any behavior by these agents that is violent or unjust, including leaving the option open to get a second opinion about the dispute.

Today, and the 22nd of every month from here forward, is deemed “No Violence Day” in Detroit. According to this article http://www.freep.com/article/20120822/NEWS01/120822009/-No-Violence-Day-Detroit-honor-murder-victims-tonight, there are groups calling for people to abstain from the use of violence, at least for one day, and will hold a vigil for the victims of violence.

While this is a noble call to peaceful action, it overlooks much of the violence imparted on the people of Detroit. Are the police being chided to not arrest peaceful people? Is the city being told to have a one-day tax holiday? Are the businesses in Detroit free from prior-restraints on how they conduct business?

Inevitably, the call for no violence focuses only on person-on-person violence that has not been sanctioned by city or state bureaucrats.

Without eradicating all violence, the people living violent lives will not have any incentive to stop their personal violent behaviors.

The Green Party’s candidate for President, Jill Stein, is running with a catchy slogan and specific planks for what she wants to bring to the nation. Looking at these goals fairly, I must agree that they are desirable. But the only way that they can be successfully implemented is through adopting the libertarian mindset.

The Only Way to Win is to Sell Your Vision

Before I get to the criticism, I must laud the Stein for actually putting out a solid view of what she wishes to see. We don’t see this from the Democrats or Republicans, and usually we don’t see this from Libertarians. The latter Party generally doesn’t promote a plan like this because the thinking goes that they want to get into power to limit what the government does, so making bold statements about what they wish to help materialize by winning an election is antithetical to their purpose.

The Libertarian Party needs to change their marketing, however. They are suffering under a popular opinion that they are just a “third party” and that they just want to ruin everything good that the govt does. The only way to change their public perception is by appealing to what good they will promote by limiting the government. Specifically, they could adopt the entirety of the goals of the “Green New Deal” and go into why their methods of the free market and personal responsibility will work better in practice  than any program instituted by another party trying to use the force of govt to bring about these goals.

The Goals of the Green New Deal

From Jill Stein’s site:

First, we will guarantee the economic rights of all Americans, beginning with the right to a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work.

Second, we will transition to a sustainable, green economy for the 21st century, by adopting green technologies and sustainable production.

Third, we will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that it serves everyday people and our communities, and not the other way around.

Fourth, we will protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our government and our economy finally serve We the People.

These are all laudable goals that, with some reasoned analysis, promise to improve the lives of everyone. So even if you bristle at guaranteed living wages, mandated sustainable technology, a strongly regulated financial sector, or even the word “democracy,” there are ways to view these goals as noble.

The first thing to do is to recognize that well paying jobs, sustainable technology, financial structures that are free from fraud, and a responsive regulator for the economy are not objectionable. These are great things that benefit everyone.

But how do they come about? Can I go around with a gun and tell every employer to pay their employees what I think that they should be paid? Even if they comply, where do the resources come from, and why weren’t they already being allocated to this end? And if they don’t comply, is it right to shut them down and deprive the consumer of their products or to jail them for not hiring everyone that needed a job?

Jobs and the Distribution of Wealth

The first plank of the Green New Deal wants to promise everyone “willing to work” with a living wage. This would be a great plank for an employer to have in their Articles of Incorporation, but fails on many levels when forced by a third party onto employers.

The only way to increase the number of jobs available and the wages employers can bear to pay is by increasing the resources that employers can spare to devote to paying their labor force. This can’t be done by funneling money to employers or by taxing them if they fail to meet some arbitrary quota. The only way that employers can justify spending more on labor (creating more jobs or increasing the pay of existing jobs) is by increasing their productivity, profits, and gains from capital.

Letting the market reinvest the gains from trade will only improve the lives of those employed on the market. They will pay less for consumer goods and will have less intensive jobs that will be more focused on capital maintenance instead of manual labor. Even if the richest employers don’t hire more employees with their money, but spend it on “lavish” consumer items like big houses, fancy gardens, and yachts, this will reallocate resources from their profits into areas where employees are more demanded, more useful, and help create more wealth for everyone involved.

Creating enough jobs that pay well enough to be desirable is a great promise to make. But only people that have those products and services that are efficient uses of the scarce resources of the world can afford to provide them. Limiting their decisions on who to employ and for how much will only harm the price system of the employment market, forever distorting what the best paying, least costly jobs actually are.

Sustainable Technology

Why did the electric light outpace whale-oil lamps? Was it subsidies and mandates set forth by governments, or were people free to choose on the market which product better met their needs for a price they could afford?

To reach this goal, Stein proposes shifting money from subsidizing old “gray” technology, toward new “green” technology. She doesn’t propose just letting people spend their money the best way that they see fit. While I agree that the subsidies to oil producers should be ended, I can’t agree that they should then be given to another group.

Why not? Why isn’t it a good thing to subsidize what is seen as the “next big thing”? Well, for one, it will promote a quicker shift from old technology to new than the market could bear. The market will all of a sudden be producing a ton of solar energy, but people may not be in a position to use it at their homes or in their cars. There will be a harm done to the poorest people that have built their personal production structure around having $4 a gallon gasoline to power their outboard motors who can’t afford to switch to a costly electric alternative, even with a savings of a hypothetical $1 per day’s travel.

Worse yet, subsidies to emerging technology will hamper the development of the MOST sustainable technologies. Imagine if Edison were given a subsidy that cut $.10 off the production cost per bulb produced. He likely would have reached some stage of experimentation where he could have made a profit from selling a substandard electric light made with resources that were not best equipped to satisfy consumers. This could have led to a shortage of bamboo or some other fiber-producing natural resource that was employed to meet the subsidized demand. But without subsidy, the metallic tungsten was chosen as the single best conductor in the filament, instead of a wasteful, but nearly equivalent, wood fiber.

So If you want the best technologies to flood the market as fast as possible: stop the subsidization of every technology!

Finance, the 99%, and an Economic Bill of Rights

The third plank encompasses a wide range of economic reforms, referred to as the Economic Bill of Rights by Stein, that, like the other planks, are noble goals but are unattainable through government mandate. In Stein’s summary:

For this reason, The Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that recognizes our rights to an economy that serves people. This means that everyone willing and able to work has the right to a job at a living wage. All of us have the right to quality education, health care, utilities, and housing. Each of us has the right to unionize, to fair taxation, and to fair trade.

The bold sentence, as formatted in the original, can only be a true free market. The basis of the study of economics, human action, easily leads to the conclusion that only when free people are allowed to exchange freely is there an economy controlled by the people. If there is any type of third party “referee” that claims the authority to oversee these billions of transactions, there will only be distortions from what would occur freely.

Stein may claim that these distortions are needed to provide everyone with a job or to build a “green” infrastructure. But once this third party has any authority over the free trade of people, the economy is entirely controlled for the ends of this authority. This means that the direction that the economy will turn will be toward meeting the goals of the third party.

The argument from Stein might be that the third party’s goals will be the goals of the people, as the third party in her case is a democratically appointed government. The first problem with this is that if a majority of people wish to see a new direction for the economy, why do they need the government mandate? They should be able to freely associate among themselves to effect the changes they wish to see through voluntary coordinated action.

Related to this critique, what of the people that can only survive, that can best use their resources, in a manner that contradicts the government mandate? They will be made worse off and they will be given the incentive to waste resources rather than preserve them.

In a second line of reasoning, this central authority, with its goals of sustainability and full employment, will not have a real-time feedback mechanism to give it signals as to whether the plans are good or bad. The political system will give some feedback, but it may be irrational and it will definitely be postponed until election season. We might be given “sustainable” technologies, but would the present costs be worth the transition? How could it ever be proven that the given sustainable system really outpaced the productivity of a free market?

On the other hand, the free market gives instant feedback through the price system, it tells each participant the costs of switching to sustainable technologies and the costs of continuing on an unsustainable path. It guarantees that each individual will be able to find the best pay for their labor in a way that minimizes waste and economic and environmental degradation.

Lastly, as in all economic calculations, you can never seek to maximize the entirety of two opposing measures. The costs of full employment will eat against the ability for maximum sustainability, the costs of increasing sustainability will use resources that could be used to maximize wages. There must be a balance between the two, and the “best” balance can only be found through the use of free markets for labor and sustainable productivity, and allowing for interest groups to use their own resources to push the costs and benefits of these two scales in the direction that they wish to see. If a monopoly agency were given the power to push these costs around, there will inevitably be waste and corruption for the benefit of the people in charge of the monopoly and at the detriment of the people it is supposed to represent.

Economic Democracy vs. Political Democracy

The last plank of Stein’s platform wants to “…protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our government and our economy finally serve We the People.”

Again, a free market is the only way to have governance and the wider economy to be in service to all the people. A political democracy will not serve everyone. It will serve the majority voting blocs, the biggest donors, the people that grease the wheels most heavily for the power brokers in charge or seeking to be in charge. The minority blocs, the poor, and the people with new, radical, ideas will be marginalized. They will not be free to put their views out into the marketplace, to seek a governance structure that works for them, or to disengage from an economy that keeps them poor.

An economic democracy (maybe a new term) is one in which you vote with your actions. You can devote your life and your property to those things that you value. You can donate to organizations that subsidize (from your resources) the most promising new technologies. You can create institutions that help the poor and disadvantaged find the best way to succeed in the world to help them escape from poverty and repression. You can flatly give away some of your resources to people that just need (in your subjective determination) just need a one-time handout.

You can do all these things without government, and you can do them better. Once you pass responsibility for achieving these goals to a central monopoly there can only be sub-optimal outcomes. There is no way around the economics of central planning vs. free individuals.

Ends vs. Means

In the end, I can agree with Stein on her vision for better lives for the disadvantaged. I can agree that sustainable technologies are preferable to wasteful ones. I can agree that a system that is responsive to the demands of the people is needed. These ends are great. But the means she proposes to go about getting there are flawed and counter-productive. Even if they succeed politically (i.e. they are adopted by the rule-makers of the current system), they are destined to fail in action to reach the goals they set out to accomplish.

So I offer an alternative: Freedom. And a political alternative in the Libertarian Party. Those who wish to see these goals actually be reached should be wary about mandating them into existence. They should instead be acting to tell the government just to get out of their way so that the members of the Green Party can actually start to implement programs on their own (untaxed) dime. They should bring their great visions to the Libertarian Party and the wider liberty movement.

And the Libertarian Party should meet them halfway. The leadership in the party should start to promote positive goals that they wish to see, not just talk about limiting government and taxes. They are leading with the wrong foot. Start with a clear vision for the future, and then, once you have related why people should support you, you give them the technical details of how you see your plan working. Only after people are sold on your vision will they even consider reducing the size and scope of government as a means of getting there.

I want you to be able to get what you want out of life, to have the codified rules that you wish to have, to have the ability to give people jobs that you think they should have. We can disagree about the best use of our resources in exactly the same way we can disagree whether a house should be painted red or beige. But the best way to settle these disagreements is to allow each person to do what they will with the property they have, and to let others do the same. That’s the basis of philosophical libertarianism, but it shouldn’t be the first sentence out of a libertarians mouth. It should be offered to Greens, Democrats, Republicans and even Communists as the only way we’ll ever know if their ideas will work or not. Go and try them. Just don’t force me along. If you succeed, I’ll join you on my own volition.

Shameless Plug

So no matter your goals for your life or society, the means that you use to get there should be non-violent and part of the free market. Otherwise you are lacking a key measure of success: prices. No matter who you are or what you want, the only way to get it and see it last is by supporting libertarian ideas. If you want a government ran by the ideas and leaders of just the Democrat Party, you need to get the central monopoly government out of the way. Libertarians aren’t going to stop you from joining an organization that requires its members to institute a social safety net and to only employ people for a centrally determined minimum wage. The same is true if you want to see a government ran by the people and ideas of the Republican party. The only thing stopping you is the central monopoly government.

Put Libertarians in charge of the central monopoly, and you’ll be free to escape from the people trying to control you from the other side of the aisle. You’ll be able to try your system for sustainability or economic regulation without interference from people who want to see it ran in another way. Trying to vote for the government itself to adopt your program will only dilute your program and insulate it from feedback. You’ll never know how much better it could have worked once it is diluted by the political system, ran by a wasteful bureaucracy, and forced on people that don’t want to be subject to it and will rebel against it.

Vote Libertarian to achieve YOUR great goals, no matter what they are.

This is a second article triggered by a quote shared to me on Facebook. The first article, Law and Liberty, directly addressed the quote. This one will focus on why Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO) persist, and why they may not be the best procedural rules for all groups.

RRO were developed by Brigadier General Henry Robert in order to facilitate parliamentary meetings in social groups. These procedures were based on the procedure in the U.S. Congress but were meant for non-legislating bodies.

On their face they are meant to formalize procedure to facilitate better meetings. Further, Robert intended them to standardize the different procedures used by groups throughout the nation.

But nowhere is the effectiveness of RRO actually demonstrated. There are no studies in sociology showing that groups better achieve their goals by adopting RRO as opposed to any other procedural rules.

Why do they persist?

RRO persist for a number of reasons. First, they are not altogether “bad”.  They somewhat ensure that decisions get made and that member’s outlooks and concerns are heard. But they seem to do this in a cumbersome way, where it takes an expert to know the ins-and-outs of the particulars of the procedures and those without this knowledge are prone to lose their voice.

But there’s also other factors, like the prominence of Henry Robert himself. He was a ranked General and a member of many civilian societies. He was the first to the scene with a manageable system that could be implemented in nearly any organization. Thus even today the RRO persists due to the influence of a privileged man injecting them into many groups and through his efforts to try to normalize procedures for all organizations.

Efficiency

Many groups do not use RRO. Businesses and more informal social groups don’t adopt them in favor of procedures, whether formal or informal, are more prone to promote quick resolutions and profitable results.

There are also many other formal procedures that can be found on the internet. But these are not as widely adopted among organizations, for whatever reason.

RRO have always struck me as unruly and top heavy. As stated above, they seem to favor the individuals who are well versed in the rules, regardless of the merits of their proposals or assertions. They also seem to favor the “leaders” in the group, for as long as they are hesitant to acknowledge dissent, they can use the rules to move the meeting onto new topics with a heavy fist.

In this light I’d propose a route of further study to those in sociology and the study of institutions. Take any number of procedural rules, and maybe even a control group that has no formal rules, and give them to disparate groups. Give each group the task of achieving certain goals, measurable and controllable, and see which procedure-set best achieves.

In this way a real set of procedures could claim to be “efficient” (as RRO proponents claim, but do not prove).

To Each Group, It’s Own Rules

But even if a set of procedures is found to be most efficient in reaching certain goals, this by no means proves that they are “best” for reaching any subjective goals any group may have. Each person and each group should be free to choose the rules to which they are subjecting themselves. Only in this way will competing groups be able to evolve new procedures to adequately handle the problems in running group meetings.

Lastly, Robert’s concerns about standard rules for all groups is misguided. Each group has a particular characteristic of members, goals, competitors and environment. While standardizing their rules may make someone like Robert happy (because he was in multiple groups and wanted one procedure for all of them) – it ultimately will hurt the development of rationally chosen procedures that best promote the interests of the groups they serve.

 

 

In a pair of articles today, I will focus on Robert’s Rules of Order. In this post I will focus on a quote from the author on the cover page to the printed Robert’s Rules (RRO). This post will deal directly with the quote, while the next will focus on the efficiency of Robert’s Rules.

Law and Liberty

The quote was recently republished by my lovely and talented sister Lindsay on Facebook, in a post wishing a team from Michigan luck at their Parliamentary Procedure competition. I also wish them luck, and hope that their hard work has paid off, and that they are proud of the results (whatever they are) because they know that they did the best that they could to prepare.

The quote in question here is “Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty.”

I can sympathize with the sentiment of the quote; it essentially means that any people that wish to cooperate must agree to some set of rules of interaction so that the group can function and the individuals can reap whatever benefits they hope to accrue from membership in the group.

But the quote itself doesn’t explicitly relate this sentiment. It says that “law” is necessary to maximize “liberty”.

Does Law Generally Secure Liberty?

My first issue with the statement is that it seems to excuse totalitarian states in making whatever laws it wishes, for without them there would be no liberty. The quote doesn’t distinguish “good” laws from “bad” ones.

Certainly a structure of rules is needed to secure liberty. But there are rules that can explicitly inhibit objective liberties (Jim Crow laws, misogyny laws, sedition laws, prohibition laws), or those that can inhibit liberty as a secondary effect of their implementation (those that “chill” speech without prohibiting it, those that harm people economically, thus reducing their ability to exercising their liberty, or those that subsidize certain things and make it more expensive for people to exercise their liberty in choosing non-subsidized items).

Thus there is no general “law” that secures liberty, some laws reduce it even if others secure it. The only true law that secures liberty is the one that prohibits one person’s intrusion on another’s liberty.

In a group that wishes to conduct an organized, focused, efficient meeting, the law that secures liberty is a law dealing with order. This does not mean that ANY law will do to make sure that the group is well-functioning. Some laws may stifle member’s of the group’s opinions while bolstering the opinions of others. Some laws may fail to address particular needs of some members in the group. Some laws may outright disregard the will of the members of the group to favor the will of the leaders of the group.

So even to adequately address the singular goal of liberty, law itself is necessary but not sufficient. Certain laws will detract from and others will promote liberty.

Whose Law and Whose Liberty?

My second issue is that the quote doesn’t say who makes or should abide by the law, or whose liberty is being secured by it.

A number of persons that come together voluntarily to form a group indeed need to discuss the rules, or law, of the group: what determines membership, what the goals of the group should be, how the group should be funded, and how the internal discussion of the group should take place. Formulating these rules is essential to securing the liberty of the members of the group as far as their goals of participating in the group are concerned.

But does the same remain true among the general population? Is a singular “law” necessary to secure everyone’s liberty?

In this situation, the mere formulation of a singular law binding all people is a restriction of liberty. There will never be 100% consensus on what the law should be, and those people who disagree with any particular law are being inhibited from exercising their liberty.

Even assuming that some law could be applied to all persons and secure all liberty, the matter remains of who decides those laws, and who decides whether they are truly securing liberty.

As liberty is an inherently subjective matter, no person outside from yourself can measure how much liberty you have. This directly implies that no lawmakers can measure any aggregate or particular “level” of liberty in a population under a law.

There are certainly some indicators of whether a particular law promotes or inhibits liberty (such as economic well-being, imprisonment rates, studies of self-reported happiness, or employment or census data). But these cannot be studied in any meaningful way as they relate to particular changes in law. For in the human sociological sphere, no variable can be isolated and tested upon in repeated experiments.  See Mises on the epistemological problem.

So since no man or group of men can know that their formulated law can truly be good or secure liberty for the people bound by the law as contrasted to a world without their law, any law that binds all persons is a reduction in liberty. This is at least true in the fact that those who disagree with the law are not at liberty to opt-out and selected a new formulation of laws that are more appealing to them subjectively.

Conclusion

The quote implies that law, generally, is the precursor to liberty. But law, by definition, is a restriction on certain liberties.  Some parts of law are good at securing liberty (like prohibitions on force and fraud), but others can actively inhibit liberty. This is direct evidence that the quote is at least misstating the purpose of law or rules.

But most important is that law cannot precede liberty. If a person is bound into a law, all liberty has been lost. Instead, liberty is the precursor to law. People are free to choose which laws to follow and which to ignore. Only natural, or scientific, laws are unbreakable. If a group of people wishes to exercise their liberty to join a group which abides by a certain law, they are free to do so, whether or not those laws further enhance or actually impede their liberty. But the opposite is not true. An actor bound by a law has lost certain liberties, even if others have been guaranteed by it. And since the choice of what is important to an individual is made subjectively, any given actor may feel that some other set of laws my better serve liberty.

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