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Politics Test, Part I

I was intrigued by the Politics Test I took yesterday, on several counts:

  1. My own brother made some comment, like, "I laughed when it pegged you as an anarchist." But I am an anarchist, for fifteen years now. "Oh."
  2. Whoever designed it has a reasonable grasp of what we individualists call "anarco-individualism," "anarco-capitalism," "free-market anarchy," etc.
  3. More interesting than #2 is that the predominant tradition of "anarchy" throughout history has been communist and totalitarian (aye, ironic, eh?). In other words, the vast majority of "anarchists," historically speaking, would come out somewhere in the totalitarian quadrant of that test.

The reason for #3 is trivially simple: The only way to prevent the "twin tyrannies" of private property and capital accumulation is through the tyranny of a totalitarian state. But try arguing that with an anarco-syndicalist. It’s not like the, uh, USSR, illustrates my point, or anything.

Here’s another thing: You could spend the rest of your life in alt.society.anarchy reading the hundreds of thousands of posts there over the last 15+ years, and you would likely not get the clarity of what I’m talking about with regard to anarchy as you could from a brief time at Wikipedia. The defining paragraph doesn’t really do a bad job, either.

The term means "being without rule", and is derived from the Latin word anarchia, from Aristotle‘s Greek term αναρχία (αν an- "without" plus αρχία arkhia
meaning "command" or "rule"). Based on this etymology, anarchists are
typically described as rejecting all forms of rule or domination,
including all instances of enforced or representational government and
any concept of the State,
and instead favouring social relations that are voluntarily and freely
established among individuals. While not all anarchists accept this
definition, this is the sense in which the term is commonly used in
everyday speech.

So, historically, those who have called themselves "anarchists" have really misnamed themselves and have conflated the tyrannical force of the state with the validly earned authority of property owners, capitalists, and employers.

What I thought I’d do, for fun, is take the 49 questions of the Politics Test and cover them here, in four parts.

1. The government should subsidize struggling museums, theaters, and artists.

Strongly Disagree.

The only way the government can do that is to take money from people who are otherwise unwilling to provide it (stealing). These places are "struggling" because unlike the hundreds of gainfully occupied business establishments you’ll pass by on your way home tonight, these places can’t seem to provide enough of, or the right kinds of, or the right mix of values that enough people will trade for in order for them to at least break even (forget profit, even). If you enjoy the sorts of art and displays that don’t enjoy huge appeal, then, by all means, support them. Do your level best to convince others to support them. I wouldn’t think of stopping you, even if you happen to think that pictures of Christ submerged in urine are just dandy.

2. I am troubled by the eroding distinction between entertainment and marketing.

Strongly Disagree.

I take the questions to mean: shouldn’t the state step in, establish, and enforce some standards? Of course not. I believe in freedom, after all. And, I happen to think that the pinnacle of entertainment-in-advertising, the Super Bowl commercials, are just grand. In fact, personally, truth be told, it’s usually my main reason for trying to catch the big match when I can (unless the 49ers are playing). If you don’t enjoy that, I’m not going to argue, and I’m certainly not going to force you to watch. I’ve stated the principle (freedom), but on a practical level, I am inundated with commercial solicitations and I’ve found my own ways to filter them out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be exposed to them at all — so I appreciate that some go to such efforts to entice me to take a closer look.

3. Protesters cause more good than harm.

Strongly Agree.

Of course, "good," and "harm" ought to be defined, but I’ll stipulate to the practical limitations inherent in such a test. The fact is that I find the cause celebre of public protestations to be a steaming pile of bullshit 99% of the time. This means that I, with my more conventional values, ought to be perfectly safe. The principle, here, is freedom, applied to speech. The question is a trick, really. The good, as I would define it, is in the exercise of such freedom in and of itself. That means: whether a protestation advocates for values I love or hate, I love the freedom inherent in the exercise even more. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from film, The People vs. Larry Flint: "If free speech can protect a scumbag like me, because I’m the worst, then it can protect all of you."

4. A person cannot be truly spiritual without regularly attending church or temple.

Strongly Disagree.

This is a politics test, so the question is, I think, trying to get at one’s likely position with regard to church and state. But spirituality is a much broader topic than the monotheism of the Christian faith. I find secular humanists to be "spiritual" in the sense that they can be awed by the human condition and potential that’s so much more than glandular squirts of certain chemical compounds. Church is one way in which people attempt to access a sense of life that’s more than the DNA they’re composed of.

5. Something like the theory of Natural Selection explains why some people are homeless.

Strongly Agree.

I think this one’s designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction from religious people who don’t know or understand the theory. On the other hand, I don’t know that natural selection really explains anything of the sort. What I do think is that poverty and irresponsibility tend to beget poverty and irresponsibility. There are exceptions, and anyone can escape any time they want, but when people  behave like animals, then natural selection, a theory that explains non-conscious reproductive selection, is probably as good as any for predicting the most likely outcome.

6. If countries like France are unwilling to cooperate with our military plans, we should treat them as enemies.

Strongly Disagree.

You have to accept the collectivist premise to really answer this question either way. This question is probably looking to identify those with a jingoist sense of nationalism. Individuals, regardless of national origin, should judge and treat all others as individuals, according to their own values. But, given the premise of the question, if you pretend that America is an individual and France is an individual, why would you treat someone as a enemy (qua enemy of the state) because they don’t see things your way? You may wish to disassociate yourself, but that is a far cry from treating them as an enemy, by which I mean: someone you might consider preemptive attack based on their likely threat to you.

7. I feel guilty when I shop at a large national chain.

Strongly Disagree.

Oh God, no. Even if I might not like the quality and service as much as something more exclusive, I’ve got to admire their prowess in distributing so many values to so many people at such low prices. The real answer here is that the large national chains are just exercising their right to invest and use their capital as they see fit, and you, as an employee or customer, can freely associate or not associate. It’s all very voluntary. Of course, I condemn any national chain — or anyone else for that matter — that uses the state to get subsidies for themselves, such as the use of eminent domain.

8. Social justice should be the foundation of any economic system.

Strongly Disagree.

The problem, here again, is that you’re asked to accept the premise that there ought to be "an economic system," by which is meant: a state system of economic manipulation. I believe in free trade, which means: down to the very commodity or debt instrument that traders mutually agree to use as a medium of exchange.  I agree with Ayn Rand: "Capitalism is the separation of the state and economics." As far as "social justice" goes, this is just a euphemism for the idea the state ought to play Robbin Hood and establish force-backed economies that steal from some to give to others in the name of "justice," which, of course is a gross inversion and perversion of both morality and reason. Theft can never form the basis of doing justice.

9. People shouldn’t be allowed to have children they can’t provide for.

Strongly Disagree.

I wish that people would be responsible enough to not have children until they can reasonably provide for them. But I wish a lot of things for people. The bottom line is that no matter how stupid I think some people behave, I have no right and no basis to force them to do anything except to leave me alone. And if I have no such right, then neither does anyone else. And if none of us have such a right, individually, there is no way we magically acquire such moral sanction by forming ourselves into a mob. Of course, if people have children and then neglect or abuse them, then there exists moral authority to intervene, if necessary, though every effort must be made to protect and respect people’s rights.

10. I would defend my property with lethal force.

Agree.

Greg Swann disagrees, but that may come down to the way we interpret the question. I agree that it would generally be disproportionate to kill someone for stealing your car, for example, but what if your life, as nearly as you can tell, depends on your car? So, I’m agreeing, but not strongly. Of course, I have a right to engage lethal force to defend my life, and there I strongly agree. But to great extent, our lives, as we know them, depend on and are all entwined with our property. Stealing some of my stuff isn’t going to diminish my life enough to kill someone over, but there is a line, somewhere, where my life becomes not my life, anymore.

11. The world would be better if there were no huge corporations, just small businesses.

Strongly Disagree.

But I’ll bet you don’t know why I disagree. Even if I hated huge corporations, I’d still strongly disagree, because the only way to not have huge corporations is to use the force of the state to prevent them, such as communists do. And if the state was so oppressive as to do that, the world would surely be a worse place all around, even if you happened to enjoy there not being any huge corporations. It’s easy to advocate "freedom" when all you mean is that people are free to do what you’d like them to do. But what freedom is, really, is a recognition of where your right to action with respect to others, ends.

OK, next up with be questions 12-22. Probably sometime tonight.

Update: Here’s Part II.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

13 Comments

  1. Kyle Bennett on October 1, 2005 at 07:08

    I made a deliberate effort to take the questions at face value – to not read a political issue into questions where none was clearly implied. On the corporation question, I also answered "Strongly Disagree", but not because of any implied political overtones, but because on the face of it, the statement is false. We are far better off for the existence of corporations.

    The test is tainted, as are all tests of this kind, by the need to accept implied premises in order to answer the question at all. For example, my answer to the French questions would be "there is no such thing as France", but of course that is not an option so I chose "Strongly Disagree".

    I differed from you in the defense of property question by answering "Strongly Agree". This question too is far to light on actual context to give a definitive answer, so it can only be taken as "is lethal force ever an option for defending property. It is. It is not the first or best option in most cases, but it is a legitimate option in some cases. I do not accept the usual false dichotomy between life and property. Property is a human being's means of survival – reason is impotent without property that it can act upon.

    That doesn't mean that any and every concrete theft of any property justifies killing. The key word in the question is "defend". Any use of force to meet a use of force has to be both necessary and sufficient to prevent the agression being addressed. In addition, it has to be worth the cost of whatever is done. Where I agree with Swann, and what most libertarians who bluster about how they would jsut shoot anybody that crosses them are oblivious to, is that there is a tremendous cost, to yourself, of using deadly force. I've never done it, so I can't speak from experience, but I can imagine what those oosts are (legal issues aside), and am not eager to incur them.

  2. Kyle Bennett on October 1, 2005 at 13:52

    I disagree with both of you on the protest question. I chose "Strongly Disagree", but I didn't take into account any question of suppression of protest because the question didn't include it. I did assume that it referred to the kinds of protests we usually see: a group of people chanting and waving picket signs. Mass protests are inherently collectivist. The implied message is that you should listen to them solely on the basis that there are a lot of people who feel strongly about something.

    Not that they can never do any good (the Berlin Wall, for instance, though that didn't really have a lot of effect until the protesters – actually certain individuals among them – began physically tearing down the wall themselves). But because in the abstract they carry with them an implicit collectivism and because in the concrete the vast majority of protests that actually do occur are for collectivist and force-based causes, I don't see them doing anywhere near as much good as harm.

    Its interesting how much the three of us disagree, yet we all still end up in the black.

  3. Greg Swann on October 1, 2005 at 09:43

    I had kind of figured where we might have differed:

    #3: I was storngly disagree, just because suppressiom of protest would be worse IMO.

    #5: Strongly disagree. People are poor because they're lazy. A gentically normal homo sapiens is amazingly capable. If he doesn't achieve anything, it's a choice, not a design defect.

    #10, as you discussed. An example of a lethal property crime would be a car-jacking in an emergency evacuation, as with Rita.

    Maybe a surprise for you: We agree on #11. There should be nothing to prevent huge partnerships without liability limitation, and the communist complaint against big corporations is about organizations big enough to resist communism, not liability limitation.

  4. Doug Wolf on October 1, 2005 at 19:45

    Guys,

    I've been working and flying and haven't had a chance to post much… thankfully I can always count on Kyle to say something to draw me out of hiding. 🙂

    People are poor because they're lazy. A gentically normal homo sapiens is amazingly capable. If he doesn't achieve anything, it's a choice, not a design defect.

    If only that were always true.

    Kyle, I would agree with that statement if you would prepend the word "many" to it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are poor because they are simply poorly prepared (by genetics, by personal disposition, by parental upbringing, etc.) to provide much of anything of any economic value. I'm not for one second suggesting anyone be forced to support these folks… but it the name of personal human compassion, it bears pointing out that a lot of these people are simply lacking one or more of the qualities that it takes to succeed. (It also bears pointing out that everyone gets to define the word "success" for themselves.)

    As government policy, it's a *terrible* idea to suggest that those born without certain gifts should have their plight rectified by stealing it from the rest of us.

    As a personal policy… I urge everyone to have a little compassion, look around, and give someone a hand up when you can.

    Let the misinterpreting begin. 🙂

    — DW

  5. Doug Wolf on October 1, 2005 at 20:14

    Kyle and Rich,

    OK, so you've started a debate.

    Kyle, you mentioned people being poor.

    What does "poor" mean? That turns out to be a suprising difficult question to answer.

    — Doug

  6. Kyle Bennett on October 2, 2005 at 07:18

    Doug,

    That quote is from Greg Swann, not me. However, I agree with him to a point, and with what you said to a point.

    No one (besides those that are genetically defective or severly injured in some way) lacks the skills to sustain their own lives. Everyone's success or failure is a result of their choices. Yes, their is a continuum of skills among human beings, but the most basic definition of success, self-sufficiency, is available to anyone.

    Success as I define it for myself is not possible for everyone (it might not even be possible for me), but my definition of success is not a universal one. Everyone has to choose their own definition, one that fits their peferences and their own skills, not a definition that is given to them by me or by TV comercials, or by the expectations of some segment of society.

    I won't try to define poor. There's no value in doing so. Any atept to define such a term can only be useful in the context of policy decisions, and there shouldn't be any policy decisions even considered that would require a definition of poor as input. I may use the term casually, to make some kind of useful distinction within the context of a particlar conversation, but the term will always have a fuzzy definition that indicates some paortion of the low end of the economic spectrum. The only hard economic class distinction I make is between self-sufficiency and dependency.

    As to giving a hand-up, first, I do not and will not make any of my charitable acivity public. I will not play into the sick premise that doing for others or giving is any indication of moral qualities. When and if I do give to charity or direct assistance to people, it is to further my own values, and nothing more. It is not to impress anyone, or make anyone like me or respect me more.

    Those people I help are those who deserve it, and by that I mean most importantly that they take responsibility for their own success or failure. It is possible to take that responsibility on yourself and still need something that you cannot directly trade value for value for. I subscribe to the benevolent universe premise, and one thing that follows from that is that every person, absent any other knowledge other than that they are a human being, is a potential value to me. As soon as I find out that any particular person is a worthless bum, a criminal or other parasite, or a politician, then he immediately gets put into the category of a disvalue to me.

    But anyone who takes responsibility for himself puts himself in a category of a greater potential value to me. Maybe not directly, but I recognize the value of living in a society of value traders, and anyone who takes responsibility for himself will necessarily be a trader of value for value. In that case, there may be a value to me in helping him overcome some situation that was caused either by bad parentage, bad luck, or mistaken but honestly arrived at choices.

    I won't help just anyone even in this category, but I will judge each of them individually and give a hand-up to those that show the most promise, and when I judge that the cost to me of my help is outweighed by the potential value to me in helping them.

  7. Rich on October 2, 2005 at 08:07

    Greg,

    To clarify what I mean about poverty, and why I answered and reasoned as I did, is that genetically, homo sapiens are lazy. That's the starting point. That has been established many time in the anthropology. Primitives only do enough to barely get by (my rough definition of laziness).

    Excess production comes either from Cain's idea, to use your parlance, or from domination and submission; and with the latter, the motivating force is redistribution.

    So, those who are the benefactors of redistribution via domination and submission are really just being their natural genetic laxy seleves, and are selecting and reproduicing in such a way that competes for that redistributive benefit.

    To draw an analogy, one reason they don't want you to feed the wild animals in national and state parks because is that the ability to hunt and capture food will eventually get selected out of the local animal population. Lazy critters are going to mate with other lazy critters, not with a mate that's off killing his latest meal.

  8. Rich on October 2, 2005 at 08:41

    OK, Greg, I don't disagree with any of that. These are people who have embraced the idea of self-sufficiency and independence. It wasn't in their genes. They picked up the idea and ran with it, because they could. My point is just that individuals need to be taught to be individuals, and that's least likely to happen if you're born to slobs on the dole.

    Sounds like your wife and mine would get along just fine. Tell me, do you also require a wheel burrow to retrieve the pounds of main each day from Humane Society, Animal Rescue, et al?

  9. Rich on October 2, 2005 at 11:27

    Hmm, I guess the corollary would be that democrats behave like pack animals.

  10. Greg Swann on October 2, 2005 at 08:55

    I make it a point not to know how much we spend on animals, our own and others. I have to schlep the heavy stuff, and I work out the algorithm for feeding the dogs–surprisingly complex politics; dogs are democrats by nature, but with a pecking order that you must learn and honor. Beyond that, it's her thing. I know it's a lot of money, but I'd rather not know exactly how much…

  11. Greg Swann on October 2, 2005 at 08:25

    I have worked with many genetically defective people who were self-supporting. Even at diminished capacity, the human form-factor is amazingly productive when it is fueled by the right attitude. And the sons and daughters of perfect specimens are bums when they imbibe the wrong attitude. Except at the extreme of disability or the extreme of virtuosity, attitude and commitment is far more important than native gifts.

    Ipse dixit:

    "The truth is," says Terri Bowersock, founder and owner of Terri's Consign & Design Furnishings, "I started my own company because I could not fill out a job application." I have Dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it hard to read and write. Now, we're the largest consignment furniture stores in the country. It goes to show, that if you believe in yourself you can do anything."

    Finally, I myself almost never engage in what others would call charity. I would never give money to another person if I thought I might be feeding that person's self-destruction, and it is very rare for people to seek charity except to feed their self-destruction. OTOH, my wife gives tons of money and time to animal rescue groups. I'm not crazy about this, but I'm crazy about her, so it works out. Plus which, we got Odysseus the Spokesmodel Bloodhound this way, around whom we've built our business model. Bread cast upon the waters. Go figure…

  12. Greg Swann on October 2, 2005 at 17:10

    > genetically, homo sapiens are lazy

    I missed this. Yes, I agree with that 5 x 5. That mammal part of us behaves just like my dogs. It's the rational part of us, when cultivated, that aspires to greatness enough to work beyond the minimum.

    > I guess the corollary would be that democrats behave like pack animals.

    Indeed. The dogs' policy is, "I don't care if it _is_ poison. If he gets a piece, _I_ get a piece." If a group of dogs suffered extreme brain damage, they'd form a labor union…

  13. Sally on October 4, 2005 at 03:26

    Doug wrote above, "As a personal policy… I urge everyone to have a little compassion, look around, and give someone a hand up when you can."
    Doug, because I've read some of your comments here on Rich's site, I would likely be inclined to give you a hand up if needed & if I could provide it – but only because you've shown yourself to be a thought-full person, something that is of great value to me. I would not provide a hand up to the guy holding that cardboard sign on the corner, as he has shown no value to me.
    It's the Rand thing: I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
    A hand up may be a small thing, but I must use discretion in choosing who will receive one from me.

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