Because we were allowed to fail.

Airlines did not learn to use the hub and spoke system because they were smart (they are) but because they tried everything else and it worked out best.  Sometimes society is grown through genius, sometimes by accident, sometimes by iterative evolution, and sometimes by careful planning.

This is a sort of response to Vulture of Critique‘s critique of my post Heathian Anarchy. You should read the full post as it contains plenty of great information that I won’t be addressing.

     I admit my weakness for SciFi I couldn’t resist posting pretty pictures of futuristic apartments and won’t in the future.  It is often easier to sell an idea with a bit of fiction but one must base it in reality.  Selling utopias is worse than worthless, it is dangerous because it teaches false lessons as well as offering false promises.  One of the biggest problems in West is the the false impression of security.  People assume that the police are there to protect them when in fact there is a low chance that they will actually protect you and equally low chance that they will punish the person that wronged you.  Even when they do catch the criminal the only reward you get is psychological.  Most of the security people invest in is geographical.  You invest in a safer area hoping that by distancing yourself from criminals will reduce your chance of victim hood.  And certainly this tends to work.  Police even seem to operate with more efficiency in areas that are safer and consequentially provide greater tax revenue.  Though that Police operating well in areas which are already innately safer is hardly a mark of their success.

    At the moment armed security is a luxury for those who think they have somethings to loose.  People who want to feel important or keep a buffer between themselves and the riff-raff.  Again the lack of investment is driven by a “free service” offered as an alternative.  If the police are there to protect you for free why invest in security?  Many liberals will argue that we don’t need guns because the state has them.  While I would prefer that a large portion of the population decided to provide for their own security, the U.S. is not what it was 100 or 200 years ago.  Unless the culture changes it is entirely possible that in the future the number of citizens who rely on police will increase.  This might especially may be the case as the police and the State seek to push out other competitors namely continue to crack down on gun ownership and punish those who seek to protect themselves or carve out sovereignty within the state.  So when I choose Heathian Anarchy as a step in the right direction it is because I see it as the next logical step not necessarily the best.  I certainly could describe my perfect version of Heathian Anarchy which side steps many of the weaknesses and this may serve a purpose but then again it might be Utopian.  Any good political system should deal with the real possibility of failure, it should be able to handle bad people, despots and idiots.  It must contain the right incentive structure.  The problem with so much of theoretical governments is that they assume either that some great leader or movement is going to make this perfect scenario.  Many of these scenarios are great and I don’t doubt they are achievable but how do we get there?  We could wait for the right conditions to emerge or fight our entire lives, and either may be noble or foolish.  Part of making a difference is utilizing the tools at hand even if that butter knife wasn’t designed to take out that flat head screw it may be all you have.  This is not to disparage idealists, principals and moralists are important but pragmatists have their place (though I certainly have my own pet ideologies).

     I’ll begin my response with a selection from Vulture of Critique.  Thanks again Vulture for the response.

     “I love anarcho-capitalists, but Heath-ian anarchism is just the state all over again. At best it is what Nock would call “government” – i.e. the basic social cooperation that can give rise to a “state.””

   This is great criticism of Heathian anarchy. It is indeed much closer to the state than most would be comfortable with.  That also strikes me as a great advantage.  To an anarchist or paleolibertarian Heathian anarchy seems to be one psychopath away from despondency, and it is, but to the average non-ideologue it might be a comfortable analogue to the state.  But there are other advantages.  The state has little incentive to protect its citizens and if it fails they have few other choices.  The Fort’s (I’ll mean the apartment-mall corporation and will use this term from now on) reputation is dependent on providing actual security not fake security.  If it fails people will loose the interest in paying a premium for false promises.  On the other hand people have a fairly high tolerance for tyranny.  This can be seen in most countries where despite blatant abuse of power and disregard for the populace the government is given the benefit of the doubt.

   ” The obvious problem for a fortress-mall-planned-community is the same as confronted the USA. Even if it might start out in a eudaimonic form that allowed for a decent lifestyle, it would be very vulnerable to usurpation by kleptocratic elites who would seek to exploit the commoners. So long as the arrangement allowed the customers to exit, they would lose little – but there would have to be a great deal of competition for         customers in order to keep the techno-commercial landlords honest.”

    Certainly any organization which acquires hegemony could descend into despotism.  But the Fort will not be without natural competitors.  There are plenty of substitution goods (just fortifying your home or community) which would be available if its services were sub-par.   Again the system strength is that it can be replicated.  Even if the first second and third Fort descend into tyranny it is conceivable there will be a fourth.  And with that fourth a chance to upset the market and force competitors to straighten up or loose business.  It is much easier to build a competing Fort than a competing country.  Forts do not have to be self sufficient.  They could be but the principles of specialization would encourage them to utilize others services.  The system would indeed work best under people who had grown unaccustomed to the state.  The longer people live away from tyranny the less they are willing to accept it.  Freedoms become more apparent when you have experienced them recently and are deprived.  This is not to say that the first try will work, likely it won’t.  But I suspect hidden in the concept of Heathian Anarchy is a perfectly good transitory private state which could serve as the best paradigm for centuries.

   “The real world already resembles this in some places. Many people live in skyscrapers with armed security guards. Consider Brazil. They have a barely functioning government, poor people living in “Mad Max” squalor, and a few rich folks in high-tech fortress communities. Their high-security capitalist landlords are not building a new, expanding paradigm of more efficient polycentric anarcho-capitalism – they’re just grabbing profits and enjoying luxuries. Even if they expand like Starbucks, they’re going to be in it for their own greed, and that might corrupt them just as surely as patriotism corrupts ordinary politicians and bureaucrats.”

   Again this is a valid criticism and a realistic scenario.  Go watch Dredd for a perfect example.  But if we are going to use examples then I will happily pick up his reference to Starbucks.  Starbucks practically created the market for coffee shops.  Following a rapid nation wide expansion it saw that it had over-expanded.  It had overstayed its welcome on the first-mover advantage and many small local coffees shops began to steal its business.  These shops either didn’t exist or hadn’t done as well, but by selling the idea of a chill coffee shop with “good” coffee Starbucks had created its own market and in some places it was out-competed.  This is not to say Starbucks failed it is still a powerhouse international brand and it continues to grow but I bring up this point that the concept of the Fort will likely, given success, spawn competitors.

    Finally I will make a weak point which has more to do with world views.  Certainly profits corrupt, but their corrupting influence is often enabled by crony capitalism and the state.  The scenarios in which Heathian Anarchy are likely to emerge are precisely those where the state is too weak to fight competitors.  I tend to believe that in the absence of the all to tempting power of the state (either through there being no state or the state being to weak to offer advantages)  business would be more disciplined in their approach.  After all it is not through their own methods companies have sought to exploit their customers.  It is almost always utilizing the arm of the state.  I tend to trust businesses in so far as there are a lack of low hanging fruit temptations.  Heathian Anarchy may seem like the state but it would be unlikely to be as pushy or hegemonic as the state.  The state is socialism of governance.   It is time we allow the market decide which system is best and with any market their will be winners and losers good systems and abject failures.

   Finally if you want some fiction which features systems similar to Heathian Anarchism I suggest Snow Crash and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.  I like the Diamond Age more but Snow Crash is considerably more Heathian and less Anarchist.

One thought on “Because we were allowed to fail.

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