The State versus Governance

The anarcho-capitalist or voluntaryist movement has been growing significantly over the last several years. There are many and varied reasons for that growth, and the anti-government speeches by Ron Paul during his nomination run were one of the many, many drivers of that growth. But I think we could do a better job of explaining anarchy.

One of the problems that gets in the way of many people understanding our position is that they confuse the ‘State’ with ‘governance’ or with ‘government’. As I have mentioned many times in the past, there is no one that I know of that wants total chaos. We all want there to be good ‘governance’. I want there to be a ‘government’ of individuals all cooperating with each other in a voluntary manner. There are many social clubs that have bylaws and methods of organizing their affairs in a voluntary way. All churches in this era are totally voluntary and yet have strict organizational principles. In other words, all nation-states are governments but not all government (or governance) is a state.

In a market anarchy there would be governance. The governance of the market anarchy would be by our peers though social and commercial ostracism and/or acceptance. Many people have written about societies that would be governed by competing courts and common law along with defense/security agencies and insurance agencies. These things would help us at the margin were the natural cooperative nature of man would break down and disputes arise, but mostly society arises by humans cooperating to make mutually beneficial trades that enrich our lives.

Of course business is governed by the customer satisfaction, supply and demand, the price signal, profit and loss, and the commercial ostracism of reputation, credit ratings, boycotts and so on. As individuals pursue their rational self interest in a free market there are costs for not being willing to abide by the prevailing group idea of how individuals should act. If you are unwilling to stand behind your product or service then the market can be brutal in punishing you for your lack of caring about your customers. In other words, there are many ways that a decentralized society can organize without a nation-state ramming its dictates down your throat.

Anarchism does not mean ‘no government’ but rather it means ‘no state’. The state is defined as that entity with the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given geographical region. In a purely free market capitalist society there would be no coersive authority ruling over you and all social and commercial relationships would be strictly voluntary. If you had an employer, he would not your ruler but only the other side of a mutually agreed upon bargain.

Voluntarism or market anarchy is the only moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and maintain our modern industrialized civilization. Not just maintain our society but to maximize liberty, justice, prosperity, and harmony far beyond what we have seen so far in any nation-state.

For most anarchists the conflation of ‘government’ and ‘the State’ is probably more semantic than anything and does not get in the way of our understanding each other, but for most non-anarchists this conflating of ‘the state’ with an ordered society can destroy any chance of understanding what we are saying to them. We end up talking past each other.

The mini-archists and statists are correct that there would be chaos if by ‘no state’ we mean no governance at all. But ‘no governance’ is almost impossible in human society. We even see society assert itself in one of the many  failed-state situations like Somalia. The drive of man to make his life better by cooperation with others drives us to cooperate without the need for coercion. The rejection of the nation-state and its violent, brutal coercion does not mean the rejection of voluntary authority or self-governance, but rather the very opposite.

Voluntarists or market anarchists do not advocate rejection of voluntary, private governing rules, nor do we think they would be rejected absent the State. Justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized by mutual cooperation unhindered by the coersive interference of the nation-state and its parasite class. I think that we anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists could do a much better job of communicating that we advocate a well ordered, voluntary society and not some version of the movie ‘Mad Max’.

The ‘government’ we reject is the nation-State government that Proudhon railed against:

“To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

There is a large difference between the brutal, coersive state government that we all know and the voluntary governance that we wish ruled our society.

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9 thoughts on “The State versus Governance

  1. To be Governed is to be ruled, to be part of a top-down society, one with rulers – The State. For strong consideration by those unsure of society without a Government/State and even those favorable, there is the idea of Optimal Social Order “Emergence” that has basis in scientific studies – http://t.co/PmtIsKmYfx YouTube video: Spontaneous order in people, markets, societies, and neurons – and even longer through logical study of human nature.

    Humans need to evaluate much more complexly & highly dependent on the circumstances, rather than just how far away to stay from the next guy or to simply follow hir (him/her), which is all that is necessary for flocks of birds, schools of fish or even people when walking in crowds. However, always getting out of the way when someone is coming at you is not a beneficial strategy long range because it is costly in energy and time.

    Instead, when a certain person continues “coming at you” multiple times, you will best socially preference against hir – disassociate or do not initiate voluntary association. And sometimes in this same situation (depending on the overall power of the person) you don’t “get out of the way”, but rather take a stand and tell hir to “get out of the way”. Social preferencing in large scale, publicly communicated for this larger number of attributes (complexity), has the capability of motivating changes by those behaving counter-productively to others. A public dossier, the documentation about such positive and negative behavior, would form the basis for wide-spread positive & negative social preferencing.

    Preventing a personal dossier from existing or “wiping” one that exists prevents spontaneous human social order from developing beyond that seen in crowd movement.
    [The substance of this comment is contained in http://tl.gd/n_1rm998i%5D

    • “To be Governed is to be ruled, to be part of a top-down society, one with rulers – The State. For strong consideration by those unsure of society without a Government/State and even those favorable, there is the idea of Optimal Social Order “Emergence” that has basis in scientific studies …”

      You missed my point I fear. As a Taoist I am very familiar with the concept of “mutual arising” that was coin of the philosophical real 3,000 years ago. The point I am making is that we govern ourselves individually and in our groups. We can do this through voluntary cooperation. We can do this by picking our group from competing groups. We can do this via non-violent means.

      So, a modern nation-state governs via the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territory, but there can be governance without there being a nation-state. See this example.

  2. Mark is right on with his statement “The governance of the market anarchy would be by our peers though social and commercial ostracism and/or acceptance” to describe the mechanism by which a society of total liberty and highest possible freedom would be organized and orderly. I have written about this in detail using the concept that I term “social preferencing”, which is a more complete and complex extension of Mark’s phrase “social and commercial ostracism and/or acceptance”.

    However, Mark errs in attempting to use the word “governance” to describe this social self-ordering mechanism. The harm in using any form of word relating to “govern” is that they all relate to top-down or outside actions upon a person or a group of persons. Instead, Mark needs to study the notion of emergent order to which kittyantonikwakfer refered in her comment above.

    As for words or phrases to describe the organizational and ordering interactions that will enable a stateless society to optimally operate, I suggest “adjudicate”, “organize”, “order”, “arrange”, “direct”, “regularize” or even “regulate” would be better words to describe the actioning mechanism of social preferencing. Trying to use “government” or “governance” for a society with no top-down rulers is like trying fit a square peg into a round hole. It is worse than Any Rand’s determination to rehabilitate “selfishness”, which, at least, has the correct root meaning for what she wanted.

    • “… However, Mark errs in attempting to use the word “governance” to describe this social self-ordering mechanism. …”

      You miss the point. We need to use the word governance since we govern ourselves if we make it out of infancy. We jointly find a way to govern the actions in our various groups and communities that we belong to. We can find a way to govern the rules of the road without a nation-state. If one allows himself to be governed by his emotions there is no nation-state involved; but rather his lack of governing himself wisely. The nation-State does not have a monopoly on the word unless we allow it to have one.

      The Taoists spoke of a “mutual arising” and were totally against the rule of the government of their day. They were not against an orderly society with rules. If we are to communicate with “regular people” and tell them of our belief that a society does not need a State, then we must be willing to properly use words that they know and understand.

      School teachers in primary school can not use the same vocabulary as high school teachers addressing the senior class. We must use words like “governance” and even “government” when trying to win over the statist.

      Ireland was an anarchy, but it had competing “governments” if you are generous with the definition of “government” and do not use it as a synonym for “The Nation-State”. Members of a tuath were not members of a nation-state. A few details here.

      • Mark, I am familiar with the Irish anarchical example, at least since I purchased and read “For a New Liberty” when it was first published after my development from Objectivism to libertarianism to market anarchism. In fact, although we only met and got together in 2000, I and Kitty often note that we both discovered Ayn Rand in 1961. So let me try again to explain what is wrong with your approach with “governance”.

        The root idea of governing or governance, even of self, or others without coercion, is a negative one of restriction. You (and most other market anarchists) fail to base your approach on the essential purpose of all human action which is, instead, the positive one of attempting to maximize one’s lifetime happiness by means of the most far-sighted and widest-viewed personal actions (from Mises’, again wrongly oriented viewpoint, reducing “dis-ease”). This is the conclusion and thesis of my work: Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Interaction at: http://selfsip.org/fundamentals/socialmetaneeds.html, which I would love to have you read in depth and critique.

        Yes, a major portion of all happiness-promoting actions will be regulating, organizing and ordering one’s actions (having liberty does not equate to being libertine), but such restricting is merely for the long-range purpose of gaining more happiness (same as forgoing excesses in general). In other words, all self-ordering mechanisms are but means or tools of rational self-actualization. One of my most important insights in the above named thesis was to understand, explain and justify why maximizing one’s own lifetime happiness will only be possible if, at the same time, the individual lifetime happiness of each other human connected with one are also maximized, and therefore, that a major part of ones actions need to be secondarily other-oriented. *That* is the central point of my Social Meta-Needs thesis, for which I have adopted the old slogan “All for One and One for All”.

        • You still seem to misunderstand the post. It is about tactics and talking to those who see a need for the state. I have engaged those people for forty years now and I know that using the term “governance” or “government” is one we need to address.

          As to Mises, Rothbard, or myself being wrong. Well, we all have our views no don’t we? Maximizing pleasure or minimizing did-ease? Semantic difference at best.

        • “You still seem to misunderstand the post. It is about tactics and talking to those who see a need for the state. I have engaged those people for forty years now and I know that using the term “governance” or “government” is one we need to address.”

          Mark, I well understood the purpose of the post and I certainly also know that the terms “governance” and “government” need to be addressed, since I have been dealing with pro-state people for over 50 years now (if that counts for anything). My point is that adopting the terms of the opposition and attempting to warp them to have a new meaning that fits a stateless society is not a good solution. Furthermore, I have given several reasons for this which you have not addressed.

          “As to Mises, Rothbard, or myself being wrong. Well, we all have our views no don’t we?”

          Yes, that is certainly true even for the statists, but the real question is whether or not such views are true of reality or are the best methods of ferreting out the foundations of human social behavior and of persuading other people, and it is those last which I was addressing when I stated that Mises was wrong in basing praxeology on the avoidance of dis-ease rather than the gaining of lifetime happiness (not equivalent to mere pleasure – see my writings on this topic particularly the NSC, its definitions and annotations).

          “Maximizing pleasure or minimizing did-ease? Semantic difference at best.”

          Not at all merely semantic, but a fundamentally different direction of approach. The first is positive and life embracing/seeking, the second is negative and simply avoiding pain or other forms of unhappiness. It is like the difference between “The purpose of my action is to hit that nail straight with the hammer and drive it right in as quickly as possible OR my major objective is to avoid hitting the hand that is holding the nail (or missing the nail and denting the smooth wood)”.

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