Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Non-Aggression Principle Poster, and Explanation

     I have written the following as both an explanation of the above poster regarding the Non-Aggression Principle (N.A.P.), and as a response to a question about contract enforcement in a so-called “Anarcho-Capitalist” (or market-anarchist) voluntary society.

     A Facebook user posted to a libertarian discussion group the following question:

     “Honest question here for libcaps. [that is, “libertarian capitalists”] Are you okay with authoritarian force, so long as it's committed by a private party?
     For example, let's say a private company loans an individual $1,000. The individual makes the payments on time for a while, but then begins to miss payments.
     Would you advocate the company hiring a private police force to show up to the individual's house, and physically extract the amount owed from the debtor, or seize the debtor's property?”

     Another Facebook user responded that anarcho-capitalist libertarians' favored alternative to state police forces, is to allow companies to hire private police forces to do just that; show up at people's houses to collect the debt in person, or else seize assets whose value would cover the amount owed.

     Before I post my response to the original question, I would like to ask something about the question. First off, what is meant by a “private” company or “private” party? If this is a purely libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, voluntary society, then, presumably, a private company or party would be totally unaffiliated with the state or the government. That means the company wouldn't be regulated by the government, nor taxed by it, nor would they have to abide by requirements to obtain licenses.
     Shouldn't this beg the question, “Why would a company choose to use government-issued money – one thousand U.S. Dollars – to account for what its debtors owe to it?” Isn't a voluntary, libertarian society supposed to have competing currencies and competing moneys? If we had the choice of any money or currency in the world, with no government on Earth banning any of them, why would anyone choose to use the U.S. Dollar over a more sound currency?
     The only practical way for the U.S. Dollar, much less any currency, to become a worldwide reserve currency, is through force, imperialism, and conquest. Sure, a voluntary currency could be adopted worldwide, but when the U.S. Dollar has asserted its dominance on the worldwide stage, especially in the guise of the Petrodollar, the dollar's dominance has not, for the most part, been adopted on voluntary terms.
     Wouldn't a voluntary, libertarian society – one of consistent anti-statism – consist of basically a total boycott of the state and all state-affiliated institutions? If it would, then where can I find an enterprise to work with, or work for, which does not accept U.S. dollars, does not pay taxes, is neither regulated nor licensed, nor receives any utilities nor privileges nor protections from the state, nor even registers its property ownership with the state!?
     What kind of stateless society do we have, if all properties are to be registered with the state? Registration does not confirm ownership; it reduces the owner to a mere occupant. That has nothing to do with real private property, and it sure as Hell has nothing to do with either real anarcho-”capitalism”, nor a market-anarchist society, nor a voluntary nor libertarian society, nor a stateless society.

     My response to the original question begins:

     “I'm not a former ancap [“Anarcho-Capitalist”], but rather someone who has given up talking about how AnCapistan [a generic term for a hypothetical anarcho-capitalist society] could succeed, out of frustration with fellow ancaps”

     I began my comment in this manner because around 2011 or 2012, I began to notice that many libertarians were more enthusiastic about the idea that capitalism would be the dominant economic system in a voluntary society, while I was more excited about the possibility of choosing from among many different economic systems.
     Many or most libertarians evidently feel that capitalism – or free markets (which they regard as the same thing) – is the only fully voluntary economic system. Anyone who has read my work from the last 6 or 7 years will know that I disagree.
     This disagreement has led to countless arguments between left-leaning and right-leaning libertarians about how “socialism is fascism”, “socialism leads to fascism”, “the Nazis were socialist”, “socialism killed hundreds of millions”, and “all non-individualist-capitalist ideologies are collectivist and therefore fascist”, against myself, who has been arguing that lumping all of these things together as if they were the same thing, will only make them harder to understand, and, if necessary, defeat.

     But it is not necessary to “defeat” collectively-managed, non-state-affiliated, not-for-profit – that is, fully private - contract enforcement agents, nor security guards. Not as long as the person whom is having “authoritarian force” (as the original question asked) applied against them - in order to exact the debt and recoup what's owed – freely volunteers to be physically restrained or arrested, or have force used against them if they resist, as a potential consequence of failing to live up to something he contractually promised.
     And, of course, there should be a contract spelling this out in the first place. Any contract of surety, contract of trust, financial contract, or contract wherein physical harm or death could result as a consequence, should detail the circumstances in which a person must surrender themselves into custody for non-payment. But that doesn't mean he'd surrender himself to the police, it means he'd surrender himself to a non-state-affiliated debt collection agency, with its own professional recovery team, trained in non-violent means of apprehension, and knowledge of de-escalation tactics, and the ability to explain clearly that the person agreed in their contract to submit to custody if he does not pay his debts.
     But this idea should not be taken to mean that each person must choose a debt collection agency. Nor does it mean that people could be pressured to choose one. At least not in any way that satisfies the Non-Aggression Principle, being that aggression includes coercion, which presumably includes veiled threats, intimidation, harassment, psychological torture, stalking, or even pressure.
     Hopefully this makes sense to the reader. Unfortunately, many self-described “anarcho-capitalists” do not see it this way. This is partially due to their incorrect assumption that when I say that the N.A.P. should be construed to prohibit those forms of covert aggression (really, passive-aggression) in addition to more overt, direct forms of aggression, that makes me a “statist” because I supposedly mean that the government should do something about covert aggression.
     I am not saying that in the least. I am simply saying that – in addition to people not hitting, murdering, stealing from, and defrauding people – we must also not pressure people into “volunteering” for things that they do not genuinely want to do, and feel comfortable doing, without another person nagging them, and taking away perfectly viable alternatives for no good reason.
     That is as clear as I can possibly make it. I hope that my response to the original question asked by the Facebook user, will help elucidate my vision of a stateless, market-anarchist, voluntary libertarian society further:

     “I would answer 'yes [that is, I would advocate the company hire a private police force to recover their debt from the debtor in person], but only:
     1) if the person getting arrested, agrees to be arrested, as part of the terms of his contract. He should not be pressured into accepting violent arrest in any way, he should actively and enthusiastically want that [arrest] to be one of the potential consequences of defaulting on the loan, and it should be specifically stipulated in the contract.”

     By “he should actively and enthusiastically want that [arrest] to be one of the potential consequences”, I do not mean to encourage people to choose to be arrested, nor do I mean that a person should be obligated to submit to the possibility of arrest; quite the opposite.
     I mean to say that if a person would not agree to be arrested as a consequence of not paying his debt, then he should not sign a contract agreeing to be arrested in such circumstances. Only if he really insists that he should be arrested; say, since he's a man of convictions, or very confident about his ability to pay his debt back, or both, or whatever reason.

     But my point is that a person should not sign an agreement to be physically subdued for failing to abide by a contract, unless they are in no way pressured, nor coerced, into assenting to arrest (for example, because there is social pressure to use police violence or violence in general as a response to all problems, or because there are supposedly no non-violent methods of debt exaction, etc.). Assent is not consent.

     I continued:

     “Also, 2) the 'private' agency must not be sponsored by, nor affiliated with, nor protected nor subsidized by, any government, in any way.
     And 3) the private collection or arresting agency must not be required to operate on a for-profit basis. And
     4) the agency, preferably, would not accept any currency issued by a government.

     Additionally, I would urge people not to borrow money in the first place. Also, I would urge people to join into communities and voluntary associations which voluntarily choose [i.e., unanimously] to oppose usury and pernicious lending.
     That way, people who want to make their living from manipulating money, and pressuring people to go into debt, could not be lumped-into any political association, nor economic trust with others without their express consent.
     I don't endorse any bordered, nor geographically bounded, political arrangements, though, except for bioregionalism.

     I hope that I have clearly explained what firms would be like in a totally stateless, voluntary, libertarian society: non-state-affiliated, untaxed, not regulated by the state, not required to get a license nor a permit in order to operate, not required to register its property to the government, not obligated to operate on a for-profit basis, and not required to use government-issued currency.
     It would be hard to justify banning something in a voluntary society, but really, how can you call a society fully anarchist and stateless, if large numbers of people are going around using currencies issued by governments that no longer exist?

     Maybe another post I wrote will explain it concisely. Here's something I wrote to explain how interpreting the Non-Aggression Principle as meaning to prohibit a broader range of coercive activities than previously thought, is not necessarily a call for larger government, nor for any government at all:

     When I say "Usury, exploitation, pressure, harassment, and manipulation are all examples of coercion - a soft form of aggression, and a veiled threat - and are therefore unacceptable",
     I'm not saying "The state should be large and powerful enough to ban these things (in addition to performing the essential functions of providing a military, a treasury and common currency, and designating roads)",
     Nor am I saying "The Non-Aggression Principle is too narrow to encompass these less obvious forms of coercion and soft aggression".

     I'm saying "These things are wrong, and the state - being based on the monopolistic hoarding of the legal right to commit acts of violence in order to do something about it - can only make things worse, and increase abuses, and increase violations of the N.A.P., and that's why the idea that the state could handle military, treasury, or roads, was flawed from the start".
     I'm not calling for more enforcement, nor am I calling for more state violence, nor for expanding the size and scope of the federal government, nor of any government. Non-for-profit, non-state-affiliated firms can enforce people's wishes to ban these practices, if people insist that they be physically stopped from doing things they agreed not to do. No state necessary.
     All I'm calling for is for people to notice when they're coercing or pressuring others, and to stop themselves. And to know that assent is not enough. Enthusiastic and informed consent - as well as mutual benefit - must be our standards for judging whether an interaction or transaction is voluntary.

     The previous sentence should help explain why I included prohibitions on “one-sided deals” in the poster. This is not to say that gifts should be prohibited – because one could argue that only the receiver benefits from a gift – gifts are not one-sided deals, as long as the gift is not given with the intent of manipulating nor shaming the recipient, nor with the intent of pressuring the recipient into reciprocating with another gift.
     But, of course, there's nothing wrong with reciprocation, either; in fact, mutual benefit and voluntary participation are equally valuable components of a transaction which is voluntary on the part of all people involved. It's just that people shouldn't pressure others into reciprocating, because that defeats the point, and the spirit, of giving gifts. A gift should be given out of the genuine kindness of one's heart; not to manipulate people.
     And manipulation is one of the kinds of coercive behaviors which I feel should be prohibited by the Non-Aggression Principle (because coercion is a soft form of aggression).

     I do not intend to imply that it would be possible, nor even that it should necessarily be our specific goal, to eliminate all pressure from the world. Indeed, it would, no doubt, require some degree of pressure to convince people that coercion is bad, when they refuse to believe in it.
     But I mention this argument only to disprove it. The above argument willfully blurs the distinction between peaceful, rhetorical argumentation, and coercive, veiled threats. Any student of Hans-Hermann Hoppe or Stefan Molyneux – and their anarcho-capitalist-beloved “argumentation ethics” and the “against me” argument – will know that the first person in a debate who resorts to issuing veiled threats against the other person, loses the debate.
     Molyneux explained that, the way he understands argumentation ethics, to call for any form of violence – even state action and state enforcement – is to lose the debate, and concede defeat, because it is to admit that you can't win the argument without calling on the state to force your debate opponent to submit to the idea that you're proposing or defending.
     I, for one, agree with Molyneux's assessment, that that idea is part of morality, and part of the Non-Aggression Principle. The lesson of this is that we must all refrain from issuing veiled threats when we try to convince others of our ideas. To do otherwise is to admit that the only argument in your arsenal is “because I said so”. I hope that that will help enlighten the reader as to why I included issuing ultimatums in the list of prohibited activities under the N.A.P..

     For those interested in the details of how voluntary contract enforcement would work in a stateless society, I recommend reading any political theory written by Samuel E. Konkin III, Robert P. Murphy, or Roderick T. Long. I would especially recommend reading those articles which concern dispute-resolution organizations (D.R.O.s), how D.R.O.s would interact with one another, how people and companies would choose who defends them both physically and contractually, and how private law and private security could replace state law and state security.
     For those interested in topics related to the non-violent apprehension of criminals and debts, I recommend reading anarchist literature concerning the abolition of prisons, studying claims that the gulag system had humane aspects, watching the prison reform scenes in Michael Moore's 2015 film Where to Invade Next, studying non-violent resistance, and following the advice in the Lord's Prayer that we be forgiven our debts "as we forgive our debtors".

Image Created on December 20th, 2018
Image Originally Published on December 20th, 2018
Image Edited and Re-Published on January 11th, 2019

Explanation Written and Added on December 27th, 2018
Post-Script Added on December 27th, 2018
Post-Script Edited and Expanded on January 11th, 2019