Direct Action, Good and Bad By Roderick on July 23, 2010 28 Asset: Feminists strike back in India Liability: Leonard Peikoff embraces private terrorism against American Muslims Feminism, Jove's Witnesses, Left-Libertarian, Rand, Terror
“…Geller’s style of “argumentation” is as emotion-laden and out of control as Rand’s was cool, objective, and rational.”
So… not very?
“I have to say that I am appalled – really disgusted to the point that it makes me want to throw up – that a moral monster of Peikoff’s sort is sullying the name of Ayn Rand with his certifiable craziness.”
Really? I mean, earlier in this very article, Raimondo himself points out that Piekoff’s views on the matter are entirely consistent with Rand’s.
The problem with Randians is that they are Randian. The sane, decent, honest, humane Objectivists are always the ones that stray furthest from Rand’s philosophy (in both method and content), and are almost invariably excommunicated.
Those women in India should use Pat Benatar as their theme music.
The best lesson from this is that you can judge where an anarchist’s sympathies lie by what sorts of direct action he is willing to endorse! Some ancaps would have the opposite endorsement for example.
Yet all ancaps implicitly endorse an unregulated derivatives market that captures nearly a quadrillion dollars into a scheme that incentivizes failure. I’d say it’s not just what you’re willing to endorse, but what you’re logically committed to. Sympathies are irrelevant when your endorsements prompt unintended consequences.
Rothbard once said he would rather be friends with a minimal statist that genuinely cared about liberty and freedom than an anarchist who, while formally believing in it, didn’t really have a passion for freedom.
That derivatives market requires state support to operate.
Is it better to have a creation of the state be regulated by the state? Well in some cases yes. Of course it would be better still for such a creation not to exist.
If you have a public utility company created and subsided by the gov’t for example, it might be better pragmatically to have government regulations for that utility than to just let the managers do whatever the hell they want with it.
The anarchist answer is to eliminate the utility company in the first place. But given its existence, more or less regulation is not necessarily an anarchist concern one way or the other.
How does a market require state support if this state couldn’t see or touch that market? Given that nearly a quadrillion dollars is captured in the derivatives market, if anything, this state is dependent on that market.
Am I for a street hawker’s shell-game that’s advertised as such? Sure. Am I for such schemes that pretend to be otherwise? Nope. Anarchism != pro-fraud. So much for “implicit endorsement”.
Meanwhile, just don’t put money into schemes or ‘markets’ that you can’t sufficiently vet.
Am I for such schemes that pretend to be otherwise? Nope.
The question is not whether you’re for or against them. The question is whether the anarchic system you endorse would (a) prevent these schemes, (b) detect these schemes, and/or (c) handle these schemes before they cause a systemic shell-game.
How could a system that allowed derivatives trading in the dark ever distinguish between the activity of a rational speculator, an insider, and an executive that plans on intentionally burying her company?
You may say that an anarcho-captalist system would allow all forms of gambling: people must be free to make stupid choices. Buyer beware. But what happens when the private derivatives market attaches its tentacles — as it inevitably would given the volume of currency that flows through it — to the price of virtually all goods and services? Then it’s not just the stupid gamblers game anymore, is it? And at that point, does it matter whether the shell-game advertizes itself as a shell-game or not?
No, the question is would the non-anarchic system you endorse prevent infringement on everyone’s self-ownership or would it institutionalize it. An *anarchist* system that ‘allows’ trading in the dark simply means a system in which people put money into such dark schemes at will. “An” is doing some heavy lifting here, too. There need not be *one* anarchic system. Let’s have some where hedge funds are free to run amok, sure, if that’s what people decide. Let’s also have some where by agreement they are *not* free to do so. Great. Let’s have some where derivatives markets are only ‘allowed’ under a system of total transparency, wowzers. Let’s see what works best. Let’s not think we know, going into it, and let’s let other people go their own way, and let’s go ours, so maybe we can all find out.
Fair enough. The question now is whether or not such dark markets produce externalities that impact other systems and what is the potential degree of impact on those other systems. Even if there weren’t such externalities (which there almost certainly would be), shadow trading wouldn’t and couldn’t rule out participants from outside systems. It’s not clear at all how anonymous activity could be limited to a single system.
Well, if there are clear negative externalities, then there are clear grounds for having clear legal complaints against the externalizers, even under anarchism. (Or maybe, *especially* under anarchism, where such actors would not have the possibility of state protection against such complaints.) I agree it’s not clear how to keep separate systems separate – I’d guess it’s fairly clear that they can’t be kept entirely separate. But here’s the thing: we don’t have anarchy *now*, anywhere. But we still have these illicit shell games and ponzi schemes (oh do we ever!). If your gripe is that under anarchy, we’d also have illicit schemes – okay, but what’s the difference, on *that* point, then? It seems like weak sauce to argue that under anarchism, we’d potentially have some of the same bad crap going on as we do without it, therefore Hah! anarchism. Who said anarchism solves all ills? On that subject, anarchism isn’t just about what it fixes. It’s also about *not* answering “What to do about crime?” with “Do something criminal.”
What do you think would happen to shadow trading if people regarded the whole market as toxic and stopped putting money into hedge funds, et al? Maybe it’d be really nifty to be able to put gobs of money into a fund that automagically earns 15% per annum till the end of your days, but dang – can’t always get what you want. Would the market survive on its own with just mortgage-backed speculation? Okay, if not, good to know. If so, well, that house might sure be sweet, but oh crap, it comes pre-condemned within the full financial context that 30 year loan exists in. Dang, too bad morality isn’t ouch-free sometimes. Time to look for a loan servicer that treats the loan as just that, and not as capital for demonstrating that playing with numbers != producing wealth (not that this isn’t an important lesson, but no need for everyone to learn by that particular school of hard knocks, any longer). What’s that, there are no trustworthy loan servicers? There are no lenders willing to operate without them? Well dang, guess you’ll have to buck up and save up for it outright, if you really really want it. Maybe you really *need* it. Well, if you must choose but all choices are bad, then it’s not bad to choose the lesser (or is that lessor?) of two evils. Now, what would happen to the shadow market if these things happened? Is it your insistence that something other than anarchism would *be* the lesser of two evils, here?
Well, if there are clear negative externalities, then there are clear grounds for having clear legal complaints against the externalizers, even under anarchism.
Good luck trying to impose rules from the outside on those who can out-leverage you 100:1. You think they’ll comply because you’re morally correct? Or do you plan on prosecuting them? I wonder what kind of arbitration you’ll end up with. I wonder what kind of court system they would agree to meet you in.
Look. If we were starting from scratch, I have little doubt that (non-corporate) anarchism would be the superior structure. And (non-corporate) anarchism is more useful, as a thought experiment/mode of perception, than minimal statism could ever hope to be. But that said, we got what we got. No one in their right mind likes it, but it’s undeniably the starting point.
But here’s the thing: we don’t have anarchy *now*, anywhere.
I’ve argued elsewhere that we have anarcho-corporatism.
If your gripe is that under anarchy, we’d also have illicit schemes – okay, but what’s the difference, on *that* point, then?
My gripe is that, unfortunately, anarchy isn’t equipped to handle these schemes. As much as I hate it, I think all polycentric legal systems fall short on this point. And I’m convinced that the only solution is to channel natural law (specifically derivative positive rights) into a monopolized legal system. I wish it were otherwise.
Is it your insistence that something other than anarchism would *be* the lesser of two evils, here?
Yeah. This backed by the Pentagon. Good news is, as of last week, we got it. Now we just need Professor Warren to head it.
I’m not thinking of imposing rules so much as just not dealing with dirty, rotten scoundrels, and having a robust reporting system to vet persons and market systems. Players with frauds and bad debts in the system just wouldn’t be generally welcome to participate until that business is settled. People forcefully attempting to set themselves up as nobility of the hill can be put down like mad dogs. And sure, that can have problems, too. What can’t. My main concern isn’t so much to make anyone else obey me or any particular rule set as is it to make it known who’s trustworthy and who isn’t, as best as possible. On some days, I might go so far to say that I don’t think force is legit except in real-time response to real-time force. That’d make ‘courts’ more or less responsible only for determining when we have good reason to declare someone a ‘bad faith’ member of society.
I notice you didn’t answer what would happen if people just stopped participating in these schemes. Should I take it you think even people regarding the entire money market fund system as toxic and ceasing to feed them, and maybe even foregoing giant mortgages for the same reason, wouldn’t starve the beast, eh?
So your gripe is that under a system that *is* equipped to handle…uhh…the very problem such a system already allowed, anarchy can’t handle it either? So another variation on “we just haven’t figured out how to make government work *yet*”, then. Alright, maybe. When you get it right, let me know, and I’ll be glad to come take a look.
Heck, I’d be *happy* to sign on board for a natural-rights respecting and securing legal system that could be kept that way (though the bit about ‘signing on’ is carrying some weight in the “and that’s why it wouldn’t be objectionable to me” department). And maybe it falls under the umbrella of a ‘bad choice’ that nonetheless must be made as the superior choice to all the others. I dunno. OTOH, part of me thinks that maybe it’s best just to be a lone kook in the wilderness.
Yeah, I saw that last week. My main thought is “I’ll believe *if* I see it working”. In the meanwhile, sounds a lot like what I’m talking about re: vetting and letting it be known who fails to honor their commitments, only of course with a statist iron fist behind it. If it turns out it takes an iron fist to know what the invisible hand is doing, again, I’m willing to say well, maybe, lesser of two evils and all that. But it’d be acceptable as a special application of the implications of the right to self-defense and nothing further, of course.
I’m not thinking of imposing rules so much as just not dealing with dirty, rotten scoundrels, and having a robust reporting system to vet persons and market systems.
Doesn’t matter whether you deal with them or not. They’ll deal with the price of goods and services in your system. You already admitted “it’s not clear how to keep separate systems separate – I’d guess it’s fairly clear that they can’t be kept entirely separate.” So whether you and those in your system stay out of those markets, those markets will still stay in your system.
I notice you didn’t answer what would happen if people just stopped participating in these schemes.
Again, it doesn’t take the everyday person’s consent for these markets to run. The so-called “market-makers” would have to abandon the profit-motive in order for the schemes to just go away.
So your gripe is that under a system that *is* equipped to handle…uhh…the very problem such a system already allowed, anarchy can’t handle it either?
No. Forcing — with the strength of the Pentagon — derivatives trading to be made in public would disallow the problem.
I’m not talking about only the everyday person’s participation here – I’m talking of *widespread abandonment* of these schemes – and I’m not forgetting that his has to be done by everyday persons, in aggregate. (I talk about what I do to show what flippin’ *everyone* can do.) Do you think such schemes can self-sustain with enough people simply trading for everyday good and services – you know, apart from people specifically pumping money into specifically scheming money setups? Do you think it’s impossible, in principle, for enough people to just say “Crap, that money market stuff is FRAGGED. I’m outta here.” ? I mean, I guess I’m not sure if you think no matter if everyone went back to family and communal farming plots and used their own non-fiat currency, the fun-with-numbers money-makers would still roll right along somehow – or is it just that you don’t think enough people would ever opt out in sufficient quantity and to a sufficient degree? Right, this is not gonna happen tomorrow – but I see little reason to think it any more utopian than the concept of a well-behaving Pentagon that never plays favorites in any way, shape or form, ever, with anyone or anything.
Do you think such schemes can self-sustain with enough people simply trading for everyday good[s] and services – you know, apart from people specifically pumping money into specifically scheming money setups?
Again, if we were starting from scratch, I’d agree with you 100%. But we’re not. Nearly a quadrillion dollars is already captured in these markets. That’s the situation. That’s the reality. How would you stop these guys by saying, “OK, you take your quadrillion; we’re going to play somewhere else.”?
Do you think it’s impossible, in principle, for enough people to just say “Crap, that money market stuff is FRAGGED. I’m outta here.” ?
Again, in principle, the situation could be Y when in reality the situation is X. I agree with all your arguments in principle. But I’m more concerned with the intersection between principle and reality.
[…]I see little reason to think it any more utopian than the concept of a well-behaving Pentagon[…]
So it’s more utopian to imagine a Pentagon answering to commands by a single person for economic justice than it is to imagine hedge fund managers and banking executives collectively deciding that they have way too much money? Sorry dude, the latter ain’t gonna happen in this world. The former might.
Actually, I’m fine with playing somewhere else if the alternative is doing something criminal in return, instead. Even better, if many others do this too. But when it comes to any sort of ‘we must make them stop’ or ‘they must be made to pay’ thinking…ehh…I’m going to go play somewhere else there, too.
Good, I’m glad you concede that in principle, people could peacably just let it go. But, you don’t think this is ever going to happen. Alright, prolly not. Meanwhile – you think this is grounds for government? Man. Sounds like it’d be a lot easier all around to just go play somewhere else. Maybe they’ll get away with their money – I got away with myself, and it’s all I got. That’s not what you’re after?
No, the contrast isn’t between a well-behaving Pentagon answering to a single person and hedge fund managers deciding to stop playing stoopid money tricks. It’s between the well-behaving Pentagon (and all the necessary attendant appendages to enact the commands delivered by this single sage person) and enough people just getting the hell out of Dodge (wherever they may be).
(Personally, I don’t think *either* is going to happen in this world, my lifetime. That leaves me to acknowledge that there’s all sorts of shit going on that I don’t like, and all sorts of shit that I’ll never know about, and all sorts of people getting away with shit that I can’t stop. That’s no excuse for me – or anyone – to engage in criminal activity, in turn. And it’s no reason to focus on stopping evil rather than doing good.)
Actually, I’m fine with playing somewhere else if the alternative is doing something criminal in return, instead.
You don’t get it. No system — not even an agorist utopia — is isolated from outside systems. Playing somewhere else is no solution. Eventually those tentacles will lower into your system. You’ve already conceded that. So you’d rather be victim than defend yourself? You’ve already been attacked. Is it not just to use statism is response?
Quite right, no (living) system is hermetically sealed. I get it.
If it’s a valid application of the right to self-defense, that allows for some sort of minarchic construct, sure. I’m not sure conceived in that way it should even be objectionable on libertarian anarchist grounds. You could say particularly, it’s a government, but especially, it isn’t. Or something. And maybe I’m down with that.
Here’s the other thing, though. I’m flirting with full-out (individualistic) pacifism. That’s what’s really been going on here.
That, and I may be nuts.
You’re most certainly not nuts. More like principled. I’m just trying to show you an application of those principles you haven’t seen before.
Actually, it’s more like what I would’ve said 10 years ago (not because of this particular issue of out of control shadow derivatives schemes). I know I’m older, but I dunno ’bout the wiser bit.
Now I’m starting to wonder if the self-defense angle doesn’t provide for a sort of compatibilism between anarchism and minarchism, given both the principles at play and their application to the facts of the matter as you’ve shown, even while I’m starting to wonder if my personal approach is one of pacifism.
That makes sense. Pacifism is the only principle that consistently disallows statism. I just don’t see how constant pacifism is a sustainable strategy in this world. I mean, I see how you could stick to it for a lifetime. But it just seems like pacifism would necessarily decrease the quality of life for yourself, loved ones, and unknown others in many instances. If you can argue around that, I’m all ears…
I’ve known that Peikoff hasn’t been worth listening to for awhile. Even that excerpt shows he can’t think rationally. How is a bonfire of any size – or even a bomb – a threat BEFORE it actually becomes an imminent threat ? Unless you dragged somebody to the bonfire it’s just a huge fire. It won’t move by itself.
I wonder if ARI will ever change course.
Not just Peikoff, but Ed Cline also endorses Peikoff’s insane call to bomb a private mosque built near the 9/11 memorial: http://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/dr-peikoff-on-the-nyc-mosque-bomb-it-out-of-existence/
I read some of his mysteries in the 90s or 80s–in fact he mailed them to me in manuscript form for a fee-that’s how it worked pre-Internet, with slim-pickings so you had to read unpublished stuff from people who later turn out to be warmongers and pretend libertarians.
In Peikoff’s podcast, http://www.peikoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/2010-6-28.118_A_01.L.mp3
he says he normally votes democrat b/c he thinks Republicans are the bigger enemy in the long term (b/c of religion) but now he will vote Republican to stop Obama — he analogizes it to the Republicans being like terrorists building a bio weapon, the greater long term danger, but that Obama is like a mugger at your house with a gun to your head–you have to deal w/ him first.
In this podcast he says that the mosque should not be built at 9/11 site even if it’s on private property–because the nation’s right to survive trumps property rights. He says if they build it the government should bomb it with no compensation paid to the owners. He then analogizes this to Howard roarks bombing of Cortlandt Homes in the Fountainhead (illustrating my view that that novel is centered around a horrible act of IP terrorism). And to make matters even worse–at the end he has his podcast minion append a message making it clear that Peikoff does not condone or suggest private action to bomb the mosque–*only governments* have the right to do this. So… basically he takes Bastiat’s idea–that that which one person can’t do, a group has no right to do–and turns it on its head. I mean, if he’s right that the mosque should be bombed, why is it wrong for private people to do it?
Roderick, if you want to claim Rand’s “legacy” for left-libertarianism–you are welcome to it. Jesus.
“Libertarian” Wayne Allen Root (WAR) also jumps on the no-mosque bandwagon: