Regarding the State

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James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    You are right that the quote is not that popular with me but not for the reasons you might think.

    My current big issue among strong holders of ideology (any ideology) is that they all seem to set themselves up to win every single debate. It all seems like one big massive instance of cognitive dissonance and a way to easily dismiss anyone who would disagree. I would say the same to people who believe in the Frankfurt School’s view of the culture industry. This is also the reason I loathe the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic especially anyone who would self-consider themselves to be the Guardian Class.

    In my mind, an intellectually honest and sincere philosophy or ideology needs to concede that it can be wrong and does not have all the answers or interpretations. This quote does not.

    Max Weber might not be completely right on the state having a monopoly on legitimate violence but we can also clearly see that there are problems too allowing for too much vigiliante justice with lynchings, mob rule, and all the contradictions and abuses of stand your ground laws. I don’t think society should legitimize revenge. I think society should understand that self-defense is necessary and sometimes the self-defense might be lethal but it should be real self-defense.Report

  2. Avatar clawback says:

    Maybe people regard the legitimacy of the state as a settled question (for the reasons hinted at here) and just get exasperated when it’s dredged up yet again.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to clawback says:

      Can a philosophical question be so truly settled?

      I’ll go further. Ancient and Medieval political philosophy assumed the legitimacy of the state, and focused on examining the ideal form for the state. In the modern era (1600s to 20th century), social contractarianism developed as a prominent–maybe dominant–approach to political theory, and focused in part on defending and justifying what had earlier been an assumption; they felt it necessary to defend the legitimacy of the state in a way that had never seemed necessary before. And then, in the later modern era, you begin to get critiques of the legitimacy of the state in general, from a variety of perspectives. From Marx, critiquing the state as a tool of exploiters, to Jacques Ellul’s Christ-centered critique of temporal power, to libertarians.

      There is a trajectory here that undermines your thesis. A question that was viewed as settled millenia ago has become progressively less settled among those who devote the most thought to the subject. The problem of the legitimacy of the state has not “been” settled; rather, at one time it was simply not thought about, and the more it has been thought about the more problematic it becomes.

      If there is a quintessentially contemporary issue of political philosophy, it is the question of state legitimacy.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Nietzche, too, whom I add not simply to bulk up numbers, but as someone coming from yet a different direction than Marx, Ellul or libertarians like, say, Nozick.

        It is this variety of directions from which the state is being critiqued that seems most important to me. There’s not just a single band of people with a particular oddball perspective who challenge the state.

        Also, in addition to Ellul perhaps I should mention the anabaptists, which takes the beginnings of the Christian critique of the state back to the Protestant Reformation.Report

      • Avatar clawback in reply to James Hanley says:

        So maybe people just aren’t up on — or maybe they reject — the more recent theories. Or maybe it’s that psychological Stockholm thingy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        I suspect that it’s less something like Stockholm Syndrome than our inherent conservatism and preference for ritual and ceremony that make the state something of a sacred institution. It’s not surprising, in that case, that the people who’ve tended to question it, historically, have been the sort of people who either were in the habit of tearing down the sacred, or found anything being treated as sacred but God to be sacrilege (Romans 13 notwithstanding).

        The idea that the state is holding it altogether, and that without it everything would descend into a lawless and cultureless chaos, is a powerful myth (where the term “myth” is not intended to imply anything about its veracity).Report

      • Avatar clawback in reply to James Hanley says:

        I guess I’d think about it more in terms of Keynes’s famous quip about practical men being the slaves of some defunct economist rather than being somehow above intellectual influence. Without judging specific theories on either economics or state legitimacy.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        clawback,

        Maybe any of those three or some other reason entirely. My point is not that critics of state legitimacy are necessarily right, but that the evidence suggests it’s not, as a question of political philosophy, settled; rather, it’s more unsettled now than it was in the past.

        It may conceivably be the wrong issue to be addressing, but serious people are addressing it with serious argument.Report

      • Avatar clawback in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’d agree, James. I just think the Stockholm psychologizing is a little too pat.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        It may be. It’d be good to read the rest of Huemer’s argument there to get a better sense of that, but I haven’t done that yet.

        I do think your Keynes’ reference is a pretty good suggestion, applicable to people of all ideological perspectives.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

        I guess I’d think about it more in terms of Keynes’s famous quip about practical men being the slaves of some defunct economist rather than being somehow above intellectual influence.

        Ironically, vulgar Keynesianism is now a major player in this space.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to James Hanley says:

        ” A question that was viewed as settled millenia ago has become progressively less settled among those who devote the most thought to the subject.”

        Meaning philosophers and (usually) crank/fringe political advocates.
        When you link to Cafe *Hayek*, you’re not in the mainstream of thought.

        And that’s assuming that it was settled. Please note that your statement ‘viewed as settled millenia ago’ is not true[1], since there has been a lot of thinking about this and wars/political struggles over this.

        [1] Except in the useless meaning of ‘there has always been at least one person at any point in time who viewed the current local situation as ‘settled’.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Barry,
        pantsing people does not count as a serious philosophical discussion.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        Ordinary Times
        Where pantsing people does not count as a serious philosophical discussion.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        This is news to me.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to clawback says:

      What I find problematic is not the assumption that some state is legitimate, but the unjustified leap from there to vindication of the status quo. Garbage like “We have decided as a society” or “The people have spoken” or “The social contract.” Just because it’s legitimate to have a state doesn’t mean that the current state is legitimate.Report

      • Avatar PatrickB in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Or, as Karl Marx would have said: “What I find problematic is not the assumption that a free market economy is legitimate, but the unjustified leap from there to vindication of the robber-baron bourgeois status quo. Garbage like “We have decided as a society” or “The people have spoken” or “The social contract.” Just because it’s legitimate to have a free market doesn’t mean that the current economic state is legitimate.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Brandon,
        When was the last time you had to bribe a government official?Report

  3. When I look inside myself and try to see why I accept the state, I think that allowing myself to be ruled by a state gives me certain types of protection. In return for not questioning the state’s legitimacy, if someone takes my house and says its theirs now, I can call upon the state to set things right. Of course, I also give up the ability to take other people’s houses, but on net, I think I’m better off sticking with what I’ve got, loosely protected by the state.

    But I think this is an game-theoretic argument. I’m sure it’s not even my own even though I don’t recall where I might have read it. It sounds like a nice story that preserves my view of myself as a rational agent.

    I accepted the state’s legitimacy even before I knew there was one, and well before I could have understood the argument above. And it’s not like I ever did a calculation to figure out whether on net I would gain or lose houses if I questioned the state. I don’t think the answer would change, but I think it’s important to note that I never even seriously considered the question. I took it as a given because I knew what the answer had to be so as to support what I eventually wanted, which was to support the legitimacy of the state.

    This is a roundabout way of saying that I think loyalty is almost wholly emotional in nature, and just a relative minority go through the work of coming up with rational reasons for that loyalty. I think even those who *think* they are only rationally loyal are in fact emotionally loyal and are rationalizing their loyalty because it pleases their aesthetic sensibilities to think they do things for rational reasons rather than because of emotions or, even worse, habit and imitating the behavior of others.

    It’s these latter two that I suspect is an even better explanation than Stockholm syndrome. From birth, we never see anyone else seriously question the legitimacy of the government. Sure, Rage Against the Machine and libertarians say a lot of things that sound like they question the legitimacy of the government, but it’s obvious from their actions that they do when it comes to how they actually behave. And I think a large part of that is that we just model what everyone else does and everyone else accepts the state as king.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      @ Vikram
      Does your concept/notion of state give you comfort or is it a solution to a possible affliction, like losing a house(or mob rule)?

      Is it a positive feeling or a fear of loss that gives it value?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Citizen says:

        Good question. I think the best answer is that I don’t really think about it much at all. It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think “I feel good/bad about the government today.” I don’t think I’ve ever gone through such a consideration.

        I certainly remember having an unambiguously positive feeling for the state. At least at the national level. I was a cold war baby, after all. That warmth has been cooled considerably as I’ve come to realize that the Bill of Rights have largely just been considered suggestions.

        Still, I think I probably do fall into the “comfort” category rather than “fear-of-loss” one. I’m not really all that worried about someone taking all my stuff.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        For most of my youth I found the notion of state comforting. Comforting in a way the boundaries were established that a people could live freely within.

        After seeing the larger cogs of the clockwork, I find it to be a lie. Like a teacher had repeatedly taught that my blood was green, to one day be wounded and see it spill red.

        It angers me daily as an affliction, to think people are no better than assets under management for the few who wish to rule. I am no Utopian dreamer, but would choose anarchy before I would have a state that would constantly lay hands on or shoot people to govern them.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        then join the killing fields, or the fields of the dead. You assume either incompetence or lack of patience on the part of your fellow humans. I strongly urge you to understand that there are psychopaths out there.

        Can you be certain you’ve never angered one of them?

        Leave out the state, be a dear, do. But hiring mercenaries is still a thing, is it not? And if one man can hire a mercenary to end a grudge, what can a company do? Oh, good lord, they sent in the Space Marines to blow up your server farm! Now, what do you do? Go home and cry?

        … it would be a rather unwarranted assumption to assume that these examples are chosen at random, though I do admit some exaggeration on the part of the “Space Marines.”Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        The killing fields were a socialists dream, he later blamed it on a line of sight problem. To big to see I guess.

        Whatever it takes to become king, be mercs, fine young soldiers, or those drenched in piety. In the end the fields get full.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        “I just want you to think big, Henry”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        that’s the problem with superheros. the fundamental, essential problem. They never think big. That’s why they never get Anything Done. Now, supervillains? They get shit done. Lex Luthor runs a business — many businesses. What does Kent do? He talks with people, writes a story. Small potatoes.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      That’s a beautiful adjunct to the OP, @vikram-bath. Thank you for adding that to the discussion.Report

    • Avatar Lenoxus in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I feel the same way about government and about the source of those feelings. And this would more or less be my answer to the question “Why are you an atheist?”, which might make me a little unusual among atheists (American ones, anyone) insofar as it’s normally a position one has to “arrive at” (possibly like libertarianism/anarchism is), not be unconsiously raised in.Report

  4. Avatar LWA says:

    Outside of academic settings, I’m not witness to any questioning of the existence of a state.

    Challenges to political authority, we see plenty. But I’m hard pressed to think of popular movements that posit any alternative to a state as we know it.

    Can someone point me to some?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA says:

      You mean the people who aren’t thinking about the issue aren’t thinking about it?

      What a brilliant insight. I can always count on you, LWA.Report

      • Avatar Lenoxus in reply to James Hanley says:

        It would be interesting to see an “end the state” peaceful mass movement equivalent to Lawrence Lessig’s super-PAC to fund candidates that pledge to end super-PACs. “Once a sufficient majority of the Anarchy Party wins offices in every state, we dissolve the whole government.”Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to James Hanley says:

        James, that is a point. A few people are paid to think about it, most people don’t, where ‘most’ is a really, really large percentage.

        In addition, these issues actually have been widely debated outside of academia/think tank land from time to time, so the idea of ‘settled for millennia’ isn’t true.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to LWA says:

      There are plenty of non-academic Chomskyans. In fact, most of Chomsky’s non-linguistic writing has been at best on the fringes of the academic, and most of his followers have not been academics (or at least not academics in areas where the state and its legitimacy are at issue). And perhaps the most basic summary of Chomsky’s political philosophy is that every state institution must be justified, and there are very few, if any, that are in fact justifiable.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to LWA says:

      Depends what you mean by popular, there are certainly anarchist groups that are unconnected to academia but they aren’t exactly large or widespread.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to LWA says:

      Are the Zapatista’s different enough to count? They deny the legitimacy of the Mexican state and set up local ‘governments’ that owe more to anarcho-syndicalism than state power as it is commonly understood.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    First, what’s the psychological consensus on the nature of Stockholm Syndrome? Pathological malreaction to a correctly perceived bad situation, or potentially rational reaction to possibly skewed perceptions about a bad situation? Or – potential just plain rational reaction to a bad situation?

    Next, consider the background context to situations of people experiencing Stockholm Syndrome in the settings in which we normally consider the phenomenon (and perhaps consider it pathological). What’s the background – why do we consider people to have strayed from rationality? The background is usually a functioning state with law-enforcement institutions that render the captor a criminal, and give the captive at least a conceivable way to access a greater power who will make it her business to concern herself with this captor’s treatment of you, and bring greater force to bear on the situation to change it (in your favor) than the captor can muster in order to preserve it.

    But what if there were no reliable law-enforcement institutions providing the backdrop to you captivity, but only more potential captors, some better but some worse than your current one? And what if the only way to be sure to avoid coming into worse captivity than you now experience if you escape it into a lawless world of competing would-be-captors is to become strong enough to become a captor yourself?

    Then, what if it were the case that your present captor allows you to roam freely over a swath of territory you can’t travel the length of in less than three days, decide where to make your dwelling and how to make your living on that territory, engage in commerce (albeit taxed commerce) with others allowed to do the same (travel, bargain, etc.), and the terms of your confinement were laid out in a plan you witness to be one that the captor broadly (though not perfectly uniformly) adhere to in his dealings with his captives. You’ve heard of the captor dealing much more arbitrarily and violently with other captives, but you’ve never experienced it yourself. (Oh, by the way, this is a funny captor, as he allows you to freely leave his territory and renounce association with it and thereby be substantially free of his captivity.)

    You know for a fact that groups of captives under other captors have much, much worse terms of confinement. Someone brings up the question of the captor’s legitimacy – of whether we really want to choose to live peacefully under this captor and not resist our captivity. Objectively, that remains a valid question as you remain captives (of a kind), but is it much of a mystery at all why you’d get emotional responses to the idea that are proportionate to the degree to which you suggest (perhaps without meaning to or explicitly dsaying so) that you’d entertain the idea of taking concrete steps to try to change the present order?

    Moreover, at that point, does it still make sense to view that reaction as a product of Stockholm Syndrome? (It might!)

    If you bring up resistance to the state in contemporary America, yes, you get fairly emotional resistance to the idea (largely because of the causes of complaint that have driven people to the most visible instances of resistance in our history). But I don’t think it’s really the case that in the world today you get as much of that reaction as we do here (and there are reasons for that). Reaction would have been different in Egypt in late 2010. It would have been different in Libya in early-mid-2011. And it would have been different in Syria in mid-2012. The prevailing reality of living under this state versus that state matters. The background context matters. The alternatives matter.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

      First, what’s the psychological consensus on the nature of Stockholm Syndrome? Pathological malreaction to a correctly perceived bad situation, or potentially rational reaction to possibly skewed perceptions about a bad situation? Or – potential just plain rational reaction to a bad situation?”

      The consensus, as far as I can tell, is that it’s not really a thing, or at least not a syndrome in any real sense. It’s just that some (not all, perhaps not most) hostages find it easier to cope with the powerlessness by having more positive feelings about the people who have power over them, and those with power over them in turn treat them better. It’s a coping mechanism.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        It would be shocking if the processes of the legitimization of state power had some of those features.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        I was hoping, and figuring, that you’d weigh in on that issue, Chris.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I think reading Stockholm Syndrome or anything like it into the average, everyday unquestioning support for the state is just superfluous. As someone in this thread said, the state is part of the fabric of reality for most people, as it is the only reality they have known. On top of that, the state, even in its most repressive forms, plays on very deep aspects of our psychology: ritual, hierarchy, reciprocity, power, violence, power. There is no need to add a nebulous collection of coping mechanisms on top of these to provide a thorough explanation. It feels a lot like a manipulative rhetorical ploy, in fact.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        James, there is surprisingly little actual research on it, given how often it is invoked in the media and popular culture.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        @chris

        Think we can get a grant to study it? How flexible is your IRB? Mine’s full of uptight people who think individual autonomy and a lack of harm are more important than knowledge.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        James,
        ALL Irbs are like that. Mine was fond of finding issues with any paperwork — there had to be at least three issues before they’d send it back. “change the color” “change the font”

        That’s why most researchers avoid them.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Screw the IRB! You have a classroom full of students. Just say that it’s a teaching exercise.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        @chris
        I have often been tempted to run an American Government class in the manner of an arbitrary authoritarian dictator, just to see if I could get the class to revolt.

        @Kim,
        Not only did you apparently miss the joke, but you’re so dead wrong on most researchers avoiding IRBs. If you’re doing human subjects research and you avoid IRBs you will not be eligible for funding and you will wreck your career. I know your fond of saying outrageously wacky things, but it gets tiresome to those of us in the reality-based community, so could you please knock it off?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        James,
        How provincial. Most research is done by commercial interests, and they aren’t very interested in having IRBs.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Dude, I would audit that class.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        “Dr. Hanley, you gave me a zero on every essay question except the one where I didn’t write anything!”

        “Oh, you want a zero on that one, too?”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        Actually, Chris, I once joked in class that the course I really wanted to teach was “Shit Dr. Hanley says.” One of my students jumped up in his seat, pointed at me with a wild movement of his arm, and yelled, “I’d take that class!”

        My kind of student, obviously.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The State is not a perfect institution because it is created and run by humans and humans will never be perfect. Even you James 🙂

    Again I must stress my anti-Utopianism. Utopia does not exist and there are too many variants of the good life because humans have different desires for any utopia to exist. My version of the good life is very different than my friend Ben’s version probably on many levels. We saw this in Vikram’s post on things vs. experiences.

    I can not think of any real world stateless society that I would want to live in and this includes hippie communes and Somalia. There are benefits to living in a state with a decent enough government.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Does one have to be a utopian to doubt the legitimacy of the state?

      When Rudol Rummel notes that the state killed over a quarter-billion non-combatants in the 20th century alone, plus millions more actual combatants, do we consider him a utopian?

      I get that you’re not a utopian. I just want to suggest that those who disagree with you are not necessarily utopian, either.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        We all know that states are capable of commiting great atrocities but people are still ultimately responsible. The people in charge of the state need to have the intent, negligence, or recklessness to do an act that leads to the atrocities in order for the state to commit them.

        There is also no evidence that an absence of a state would lead to less atrocities against civillians. If the alternatives to the state prove unworkable because of human nature or something else than suffering can also result.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        There is also no evidence that an absence of a state would lead to less atrocities against civillians.

        If I provide you some evidence, will you say “okay, in that one case the absence of a state led to fewer atrocities against civilians but we shouldn’t extrapolate out from that one case”?

        I’m just wondering if I need to google or not.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        Fair enough.

        I take a traditional social democratic and/or left-liberal response to the issues on the state. Mainly as society changes, the responsibilities of the state must change and sometimes increase and this includes healthcare.

        The scope of the responsibilities of United States government at the time of the early Republic made sense because we were still a largely agarian and pre-Industrial nation. And even back then, there was a large enough political base that wanted to spend money on things like internal improvements to increase trade and economic capacity and industrialization. I think Universal Healthcare is necessary and makes sense in a post-Industrial economy where medicine seems to have advanced more in the last 80 years than it did in the previous 1000.

        I don’t think it is possible to have an 18th century scope of government and 21st century technological benefits.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        What are you referring to Jaybird, medieval Iceland, Somalia or something else?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        @jaybird – the apparent contradiction I’d like to see answered is this one:

        A.) People here (I think) would broadly agree that to really get the mass atrocities rolling, with true economies of scale for killin’ and violatin’, you need the power of an industrialized state marshalled behind it;

        and

        B.) We’ve seen some really awful industrialized killing states in living or nearly-living memory; and yet, even counting the Stalins and Hitlers and Pol Pots of the 20th century, it is my understanding that the overall long-historical trend of a given human being’s risk of death from violence continues to slope downward; and this has occurred not just in spite of the awful 20th C. industrialized totalitarian states I mentioned, but also despite the overall proliferation and expansion of states in general over the last few centuries (there is nowhere I can go on this planet now, and not theoretically be under some state’s thumb).

        I realize correlation is not causation, and the 20th century industrialized totalitarian states may have been somewhat of a statistical blip, but it is at least strongly-suggestive that states may, for all their myriad flaws, prevent more harm than does statelessness, no?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Lee,

        The mechanism of the state is an unparalleled means for mass killing, through the very same capacities that make the state effective at overcoming collective action problems.

        It is likely that those attracted to the power of the state, more desirous of controlling it, are the type to have that intent, in comparison to those who do not have that intent. (That’s not to damn bureaucrats–in general their focus is too narrow to fit that model; I’m talking about those who pursue the top levels, the grand policymakers.)

        On the other hand, it may be that people are willing to do things for reasons of state that they would find horrible otherwise. (There’s a quote from some famous thinker lurking her in my mind, but I can’t find it.) Think of the ease with which we assume the state can take your money or property, while we would rarely condone it if done privately, even for the same ends. Think of the ease with which some of us condone forcing young men to rush into the path of bullets, so long as it is the state commands, and not some private individual. We do see reasons of state as justifications for actions that done by individuals would be horrific, so maybe actual evil intent is not necessary. Think of Arendt’s commentary on the banality of evil.

        As a serious question, have Jews been more helped or more harmed by the state? The Roman state occupied them, the Spanish state expelled them, the Russian state pogromed them, the Nazi state tried to exterminate them. How much of the history of Jewish life and Jewish business has been an effort to escape the power of the state, or at least its attention?

        That’s not to saysuggest there have been no benefits to Jews from the state. It’s to ask how those benefits stack up against the atrocities, and to ask whether such extensive outrages would have been as likely in the absence of such a thing as the state?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        @glyph

        That thought’s been rolling around in the back of my head, too. And if the answer is that the state was necessary to that decline in violence, what aspects of the state were causal?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley says:

        “If I provide you some evidence, will you say “okay, in that one case the absence of a state led to fewer atrocities against civilians but we shouldn’t extrapolate out from that one case”?”

        The problem is that you aren’t arguing against actual deaths, but you’re arguing against potential deaths that would occur from the lack of a state. And potential deaths can be as big a number as we need them to be.

        Of course, if you point to the potential deaths that would occur under state rule, the person can just say “oh, well, a proper Tsar would never allow that to happen!”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        What are you referring to Jaybird, medieval Iceland, Somalia or something else?

        If we are agreed that there *IS* evidence, then I’m good with that.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Hey, Glyph. That’s an interesting point. And, hey, maybe government *IS* responsible for such things as mandating that lead no longer be used in the glaze used to coat coffee cups or plates or whatever and those little rules that are incidentally the cause of violence declining would never have happened without a state enforcing those rules.

        Or even stuff like crime going down because of the increased obesity that follows from people eating in accordance with the food pyramid. (Fat people are less likely to burgle? It wouldn’t surprise me if true!)

        I’d like to think that, as time goes on, we (as a society!) are figuring out which forms of government work best, which laws work best, and which laws we don’t need. But government just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It doesn’t seem to be growing in a smart way, either. It’s just getting bigger.

        If society is improving at the same time, that strikes me as being more of a coincidence than anything else.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        @jaybird

        Even I think that sounds like a pretty damn big coincidence.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        @jaybird – as someone who largely shares your temperamental and/or philosophical leanings, I think we are going to have to do more than say “strikes me as coincidental” when people point out that A.) the most fundamental stated purpose of any state is to protect its citizens from violent death, B.) there are currently more, and bigger, states than there have ever been, and C.) Humans’ statistical risk of violent death continues to drop over time in the aggregate, even with many/most/all of those states Behaving Badly.

        Because to the causal observer, that easily looks like, hey, this whole ‘state’ thing is working out pretty well, overall.

        EDIT: I just realize I wrote ‘causal’ instead of ‘casual’, but I’ll leave it because it kind of works either way.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        I also wonder if we’re ignoring stuff. Like, should we count the violence that happens in prisons? The very violence *OF* prison (taking a person, putting them in a (CINDERBLOCK!) room, scheduling every moment of their day)?

        If we are merely trading violence that counts for violence that doesn’t count, that feels like some shenanigans are going on.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        I don’t know what the link between the state and the levels of violence we have would be, though.

        I mean, let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that we go back to the laws that we had in 1976. Four years later, is it likely that we’d have the crime rates in the US that we had in 1980?

        It doesn’t seem likely to me that we would. I mean… maybe, right? But it’s not obvious to me.

        It seems more likely that the government is doing 1000 different things and 2 or 3 of those things (lead abatement, for example, legal abortions for another) are responsible for crime going down.

        It seems odd to think that we couldn’t have those 2 or 3 things without also having the 900+ other things that aren’t helping (or making things worse)… except… we don’t know for sure that those things are, do we?Report

      • @jaybird

        You’re a step ahead of the debate at the moment. The question isn’t Is bigger and bigger government leading to less and less violence? It’s Did government, somewhere along the line, somehow, lead to/allow for less and less violence? Even if it did, you can still try to identify the two or three things it did that did that, and separate them from the 997 that didn’t contribute. That argument isn’t endangered by this one.

        Btw, I’m kind of with you. I think ithe role of the state in that phenomenon (overall reductions in human violence) is a pretty simple one unrelated to a lot of what it does now (i.e welfare state, drug control ,etc.). I might be kind of a Hobbesian/Nozickian formalist on this, but I really do think that at some point the state just got Leviathan-y enough to scare the crap out of people, and they gradually just slowed down with their banditry and murder against one another because it carried the threat of punishment, and looked for more peaceful, slower ways to get rich. (I could be totally wrong!) Once the threat was established, in many places the amount of violence internally used by the state to maintain it was able to be dialed back (though that certainly didn’t happen everywhere, and there have been resurgences, eg. War on Drugs), while the level of violence used externally increased as returns on it to the state increased (both from capturing resources and from positioning itself as Protector Against External Threats). That is, up to a point where a global cataclysm and a near-armageddon was produced, after which external state usage of force also started to decline as well.

        One interesting question to consider might be how much the correlation between state use of force and overall violence in the world holds. I.e., over the longest sweep, maybe the rise of the state seems to correlate with a reduction in violence. But over a shorter period, might the most rapid decline in overall violence correlate with a decline in state violence (i.e. post-WWII)? If it did, then it might be that the rise of the state correlates with a decline in violence to a certain point, but that other factors explain a much more rapid decline. (Though the existence and legitimacy of the state through that period may have something to do with those factors being at play in the first place… or it may not.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        So now you’ve got me thinking and I went to check the crime stats of Europe.

        http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Crime_statistics

        The murder rates of Greece, Malta, and Austria (!) have gone up in the past few years but, otherwise, it’s gone down.

        So it’s going down in Europe too.

        The part that caught my eye?

        The headline that read “A steadily increasing prison population”.

        Maybe we’re getting better at putting violent people behind bars. Pity about the non-violent people being thrown in there with them…Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        Jaybird,

        I’m with Kevin Drum. We got rid of lead in gasoline and paint. There’s something of a generational effect in that — lead exposure as a kid is for life, as it were — and I suspect immigration levels have an effect (other countries got rid of lead paint and leaded gasoline well after us).

        That’s not all of it, but it’s a huge part of the reason crime has dropped since the mid-90s and keeps dropping, at least here. (Lead’s a great theory — not only is it quite testable, as US states phased it out at different times, but the exact mechanism is known. We know what happens to the brain when lead gets into your system, and we know what the effects of that are — and they’re the sort of problems that make a person more likely to commit a crime)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        morat20,
        yeah, it’s a great testable theory. it’s not /right/ though. it works for the coasts, but doesn’t work for the South.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        yeah, it’s a great testable theory. it’s not /right/ though. it works for the coasts, but doesn’t work for the South.
        Only if you believe lead is 100% responsible, which not even the biggest proponents of it believe.

        The thing is, lead abatement had to have had a big effect. How much of one is harder to tease out (though possible), because we know what lead exposure does.

        It’s like dropping carcinogens into the water supply and seeing the cancer rate go up. There was cancer before, and there’d be cancer that wasn’t caused by whatever we dumped in there, and there might be entirely separate sources of carcinogens in the water, but if we stopped dumping the original stuff into the water the rate would drop.

        Lead’s like that. If it’s there, it’s going to intensify crime rates for whatever generation ingested the stuff. It doesn’t create crime, it doesn’t cause crime — it just makes it more likely to happen. (Basically because, IIRC, the neurological effects are in the whole ‘impulse control’ and ’emotional balance’ areas of the brain — easier to anger, more prone to acting out or on impulse, and with a harder time weighing consequences. Doesn’t make you a criminal, but means you’ve got less holding you back….)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        morat20,
        the timeframe of the south’s intelligence improving doesn’t fit. Also, you’re aware this is mostly air pollution? Like acid rain, air pollution can be quantified, and there’s significantly less of it in the South than in the NE and Coastal wet.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        the timeframe of the south’s intelligence improving doesn’t fit. Also, you’re aware this is mostly air pollution? Like acid rain, air pollution can be quantified, and there’s significantly less of it in the South than in the NE and Coastal wet.
        I think we’re talking about two different things here — I’m talking unleaded gasoline phase-outs and crime rates. (Well, and lead paint too. But mostly unleaded gasoline — where you’d see worse problems in cities, with all those cars, than in the backwoods).

        Crime rates in the South [i]also[/i] dropped in the south on the right timeframe, based on phasing out of leaded gasoline. (Which, as noted, because it was phased out in different states over different time frames makes it possible, if not easy, to do some interesting stuff with datasets. The dataset for crime drops and lead phase-outs isn’t conclusive, but given the suggestive data AND a known mechanism and known neurological effects, it’s pretty solid. We know a firm, causative path between lead exposure and crime. Fingering leaded gasoline as a big culprit in rising crime rates — and then falling ones — is the more speculative, but well supported bit).

        Intelligence has nothing to do with it. Lead’s effect on crime has to do more with impulse control issues, not raw intelligence.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        Lead abatement and incarceration and legalized abortion are all interesting, but they are also for the most part looking at much smaller timeframes than I was originally suggesting with my initial comment.

        Unless we are picking some arbitrary date at which The State Became Too Big And Everything Started Going To Hell, the obvious general argument I see those who accept the concept of The State as a (general) good (if not in any specific case) making is: we have more, and bigger, states than we ever have had in the history of the world; and yet our risk of violent death (in the aggregate) continues to fall.

        I’m not saying that lead abatement etc. can’t be part of that; but it’s only one piece in a (VERY) long-term overall trend. States (en toto) get bigger, violent death risk drops. One line keeps going up, one keeps going down, when we look over the course of centuries, in my understanding (if this is incorrect, LMK).

        Given that ‘protection of its members from violent death’ is the most basic purpose of The State, this would seem to be a powerfully-suggestive (if not conclusive, since we can’t necessarily pin down the causation) counterargument, even taking specifics like ‘lead abatement’ out of the picture.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        If you add the effects of lead abatement with the effects of legal abortion with the effects of increased incarceration with the effects of five or six other things that are about as non-intuitive as lead or abortion (but, jeez, we don’t know what they are), that’d explain the drop in crime.

        We think.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Glyph, let me see if I’m reading you right.

        You’re saying that it’s not just the lead abatement, nor the this, the that, or the cumulative effects of any 5 or 10 policies, but the fact that there are thousands and thousands and the decrease in violence is a result in the shock of seeing the thousands and thousands as much as (if not more than) the lead/abortion/this/that/other?Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        Glyph,
        I was merely talking about the big spike in crime rates and then drop — the last 60 years or so. Lead wasn’t much of a causative factor until we started burning it.

        Whatever effects of the size or nature of the state on crime would be on the background level. Obviously leaded gasoline was not a huge factor in, say, 1910 levels of crime.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Obviously leaded gasoline was not a huge factor in, say, 1910 levels of crime.

        Does the huge spike in crime correlate with the ubiquity of leaded gasoline? (Offset 18 years or so?)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        Does the huge spike in crime correlate with the ubiquity of leaded gasoline? (Offset 18 years or so?)
        IIRC (and you should check Kevin Drum’s blog, as he has a lot of posts with links to the research and is a big fan of the theory), the research (in America) has been mostly on the end of the spike — by age cohorts, crime rates, and using the state-by-state numbers (since not all states phased out at the same time).

        I’m less sure how much study was put into the ramp up, insofar as that’s a lot fuzzier than “Leaded gasoline is no longer legal after date X in this state” so I’d imagine the numbers are fuzzier.

        And yeah, they see a generational offset — that is, it’s lead exposure while growing up that really does the trick, so you see the change in crime rates when they hit their teens and twenties. (Since it’s got a lot to do with brain structure and decision making, it doesn’t exactly pop out of the woodwork when you’re 40. It’s all developmental).

        Honestly the reason I like it as an explanation more than abortion access is simply the purported causative factor has a known mechanism. It’s less likely to be correlative. Add that into states and regions phasing it out at different times, and you can get a lot more powerful data. Even then, I think the biggest proponent says it accounts for at most 50% of ‘excess crime’ over whatever baseline they were using. There’s even good city to rural comparisons you can look at it.

        The abortion explanation seems a lot fuzzier. I mean, I get the logic behind it (and I can believe it’s at least a factor), but I’m frankly more comfortable because the biochemistry and neurological effects of lead are well studied. In fact, I’m fairly certain there was some work done measuring lead exposure in criminals to that supported the numbers on dropping exposure…

        It is a nice handy explanation of where all that super-predator scare stories of late 80s and early nineties went.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        @morat20 – sorry, I didn’t mean to derail you, I think the lead thing is worthy of discussing in its own right.

        It’s just that, per the OP and my initial question to @jaybird , my point was really more about the long-haul big-picture, and the abstract philosophical question “Can ‘The State’ (as a generic concept, not any specific one) be justified”. My strong suspicion is that yes, it can, based on the idea that a thing is what it does, and states on balance appear to reduce chaos and increase order (their aim, or possibly just a side-effect), and this enables more flourishing for more people than would otherwise be the case.

        Things like ‘lead abatement’ can certainly be in the mix as examples, but getting too deep into that one and just a few decades of US history/crime rates, risks missing the forest for the trees IMO (and the OP IMO is a question about the Forest, not the Trees).

        Again, the most obvious argument I can see for that is below. Remember that we are not talking here about decades, but centuries, or millennia.

        1.) In 2014, there are more, and larger states than there have ever been in human history so far as we know; and this is a trend line that has only ever gone up (maybe there was a dip during plagues or natural disasters or whatever, but the overall slope is up, up, up, and looks to continue).

        2.) When we look at all of human history (as best as we can see it), the risk of violent death has sloped down, down, down and looks to continue, even with things like the biggest, baddest modern industrialized killing states doing their level best to kill everybody during the last century. Again, there may be upticks here and there, but the general line moves in the opposite direction from #1.

        3.) This contrast strongly suggests that The State potentially appears to be, in the aggregate, as a concept, and despite many specific failures, fulfilling its most basic mission of overall reducing the risk of violent untimely death.

        It (apparently, in aggregate) does the one thing that most people say it is supposed to do (unfortunately, it also does lots of other things, among them lots of killing and incarceration of humans – and ironically, these other things, may be helping it accomplish the one thing – but that’s not the question being asked, exactly).

        Now, again, I know correlation is not causation. Looking at things like lead abatement and monopolization of force and conflict resolution and etc. etc. are fine and dandy.

        We can and should look at the Hitlers and the Pol Pots and the Stalins and use them as examples of why any given state can be illegitimate, and even to speculate further that The State may be as a concept; but, *if even considering those instances*, more people here in our world of MultiMegaStates are more likely to live to a ripe old age today than ever before, then The State (as a concept) appears to be ‘working’ (or at least, ‘not-not-working’) to the casual eye.

        Of course, we can wave that away as ‘probably coincidental’, or ask for a concrete causal mechanism (which, I fully concede, I have not provided, nor do I plan to), and that’s fair; but I think it’s also fair for those who look around and see always and ever states (with possible exceptions like the dreaded Somalia), to say to us ‘hey, *you guys* are the one making the extraordinary/counterintuitive claim here, *you guys* come up with an alternate concrete causal mechanism’.

        I suggest we go with “people must just be getting inherently nicer, probably”.

        Jaybird suggests looking at the internet as an alternate model, and that’s thought-provoking. I would suggest looking at that same model from two more angles as well:

        1.) The State (or any state) kinda WAS an internet, before there was an internet. The Founding Fathers networked their state nodes together, specified domain hierarchies and transfer protocols between them. It was one way of collectively, cooperatively solving problems and passing data between brains. Not the only way, certainly, but a way, and one that had been used many times before, with their own twists added. Many people here have stated The State is probably inevitable, and I would suggest this is why. The State is just one more brain network, another imperfect hive-mind that emerges when we get together.

        2.) The internet, much like the State, would probably be perfect if not for all these damn people; what with their scamming and spamming and DOS’ing and virusing and trolling and etc., etc. What I mean to get at is, this is one of those scenarios where “The State is Us” people kinda have a point. Hitler found his willing accomplices, a whole nation of them.

        Despite everything I have written here, I still feel much more kinship with those who are regularly outraged by what The State (and more specifically, our state) keeps getting up to, and a strong identification with the idea that what the FF’s got right and we should keep striving toward, is the empowerment of the individual in relation to the mob or The State (but I repeat myself). I come to fear more and more that the tree of liberty may be overdue for a drink.

        But when that happens, my suspicion/hope is not that we will go to a state of ‘No State’, but to a state of ‘Better State’.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “There are benefits to living in a state with a decent enough government.”
      undoubtedly. I wish I knew someone living in such a state, I’d ask them to list ’em.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Thought provoking piece, @james-hanley . I wonder how much people’s individual legitimacy is predicated up the state’s legitimacy. Much of how we define ourselves is contextual. If the context in which we define ourselves is illegitimate, than are we somehow illegitimate? People become successful by meeting culturally-defined benchmarks of success. Culture is related to society is related to the state.

    I feel like I’m not making this argument well, but hopefully the point shines through.

    Separately, I will say that I was completely unfamiliar with the idea of the state being a coercive force until I came upon people here and at the ol’ PL site. I simply took the state as a given because that is how it was always presented to me. I questioned certain aspects of the state but never the existence or legitimacy of the state itself. The idea was simply alien to me. Thankfully, it no longer is.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy

      “I wonder how much people’s individual legitimacy is predicated up the state’s legitimacy.”

      I’m not sure I fully understand your point, but if I do, I think I agree. Looking only at my material self-interest, the early 21st-century American state has done pretty well by me. If I were poorer, or of a different skin color, or otherwise differently situated so as to have reason to believe I’m less than a full citizen, and therefore less “legitimate,” then maybe I’d be more willing to question the legitimacy of the state.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Conversely, the mere fact of being confronted by the power of the state can be terribly delegitimizing to the individual.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I don’t think I made my point well. I’m trying to think of an analogy, so naturally I’ll go to sports…

        Alabama football has a vested interest in the legitimacy of the NCAA and the BCS Championship. As such, they are very likely to defend both institutions. If people start to look at the NCAA and BCS as bullshit, suddenly many of Alabama’s accomplishments don’t seem quite so noteworthy. Alabama needs the NCAA and BCS to be legitimate in order to be Alabama.

        Does that make sense? Or more sense at least?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @james-hanley

        Indeed. My hunch is that the perceived legitimacy of the state is generally strongest in those who are most legitimized themselves and weakest in those most often confronted by its power.

        But that is just a hunch.Report

      • @kazzy

        Thanks for clarifying. In a roundabout way, I think we might actually be saying the same, or similar, thing. Or maybe not. At any rate, I don’t really have a quarrel with what you’re saying.
        @james-hanley

        That’s true.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Yes, @gabriel-conroy , we are in the same ball park. My clarification was not meant to correct your interpretation of my point, but rather to make my point less nonsensical.Report

    • Avatar Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

      Interesting idea. I think I’ve encountered this before. Since high school, I’ve identified more with the internet (specifically, internet geekdom) as my culture of origin, even though I grew up in the US. Partially because of the culture of the internet and maybe partially because of that lack of US-backed identity, I’ve found that I question the US government a lot more, and respect it a lot less, than some of my friends. (the ROTC student from a military family stands out in my mind as a particularly strong example of the phenomenon)Report

  8. Avatar Plinko says:

    I’ve never really thought about it as Stockholm syndrome, though Vikram’s last bit on how we rarely/never see people truly questioning the legitimacy of the state definitely rings true to me.
    I do not see that as an emotional response, but actually a very rational thought.

    As James says in the OP, legitimacy as a general fuzzy concept makes sense but obviously defining when “enough” people make the claim is not something easily done.

    For a person of age in a relatively stable, existing system, the heuristic to make a rational guess are pretty straightforward – what are the cost/benefits of accepting/rejecting legitimacy? For nearly all people, the rough computation is going to come out to the side of accepting legitimacy. Rejecting has high costs, some real, some psychic. I suspect the psychic costs of rejecting the state are very high with payoffs small and/or unlikely (at least in the accounting of most individuals). Thus they make a rational decision to accept it.

    My only somewhat snarky answer is that nearly all people wish to coerce/control others. They may oppose whomever is in control of the apparatus today, but the lowest cost method of gaining power over others is to get behind the controls. Destroying the machine itself and starting again will be not only costly but payoff risky at best, even if you succeed in the first part.
    Again, the rational decision is to attempt to gain control of an existing state when you dislike or oppose it’s current operation, not to seek it’s destruction.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    People accept the legitimacy of the state in part because most people know nothing but existence under the state. We can imagine living under a variety of states that range from horrible to ideal depending on what you believe in but few can imagine not living under a state. The legitimacy of the state is furthered because very few people find the left and right alternatives to the staet, anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-capitalism, attractive options for the most part. Anarcho-syndicalism seems way too idealistic for most people at best or a collectivist nightmare at worse. Anarcho-capitalism isn’t popular because too many people imagine that they will be at the mercy of the holders of wealth and power and subject to their whims. Since most people only know of life under a state and find the alternatives to this arrangement unpalatible than people are prone to accept the legitimacy of the state.

    I also think that the state is a natural outcome of the fact that we are social animals. Most humans have always lived in communities with varying degress of voluntariness, whether they communities be families, tribes, clans, monastic orders, or villages. As more and more people come into existence than the communities get larger and more complicated in organization until they reach the level of a state. Very few individuals are able to or even want to live the completely autonomous life envisioned by many anti-Statists. Having nobody to depend on but yourself when things get bad is not appealing or even possible for most people. Most want family, friends, and community to rely on. If you see the state as a sort of super-community, especially in its welfare form, than it is simply nothing more than another community to rely on whenever you get hit by the vagrancy of life. Even without a welfare state, most people could rely on a certain amount of protection of their life and property from the state at most times.

    In short, people accept the legitimacy of the state because they don’t know anything else and find the proposed alternatives at best hopelessly idealistic or completely horrific at worse.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

      People accept the legitimacy of the state in part because most people know nothing but existence under the state

      The fish/water hypothesis, I would call this, and I think it’s very plausible.

      the state is a natural outcome of the fact that we are social animals.

      I absolutely agree. I think the state is almost certainly inevitable, for that and other reasons. I would only caution that this can’t by itself work as a justification because it invokes the naturalistic fallacy.

      Very few individuals are able to or even want to live the completely autonomous life envisioned by many anti-Statists. Having nobody to depend on but yourself when things get bad …

      No, no, no, no, no, a thousand and umpteen times no. I wish to god I could successfully get people here to recognize that anti-statism is not social isolationism. The latter just does not necessarily follow from the former. The vast majority of libertarians and anarchists envision people living together voluntarily, whether contractually or communally. I suppose someone is out there talking about total self-reliance without any kind of community, but I haven’t yet stumbled across that guy. If you can find him, please cite him. Otherwise, maybe think that state != community, therefore anti-statism !=anti-communityism.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

        I can’t really get around the fact that if we somehow found ourselves in a stateless situation we would in very short order find ourselves with a new one. Whether it was by ordering one ourselves or having it imposed on us by others who ordered themselves one we would end up with a state again. That said I remain more interested in keeping my current red snapper than trading it in for whatever is in the box.

        Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to James Hanley says:

        OK, so you envision people living together voluntarily, in a complex global industrial society with complex land ownership and business arrangements.

        Without a state, where everything happens voluntarily.

        Again, where do you see people doing this, attempting this, even positing this, outside of blog posts/ dorm rooms/ Occupy/ Burning Man/ TED talks?

        C’mon now. You get frustrated that people misunderstand your vision, but neither you nor any other person I have heard from can present a coherent and plausible vision.

        How can we possibly understand a mirage, or a chimera?

        And lest anyone think I am just being curmudgeonly- one of the ideas I am quite taken with is the Natural Step Foundation, and the experiments in cohousing and sustainable cooperative communities which are formed and active in Europe. They are sort of a manifestation of the hippie-ish stuff you hear only in the fringe in America.

        But the thing is, these are real tangible things, with actual people in actual circumstances. And while there is a lot of dependence on voluntary cooperation, in the end they are mini states with rules and coercion and all the rest.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        LWA,
        To look at places where folks work voluntarily together in large networks, you might want to check out the Arab Spring. Or Anonymous.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to James Hanley says:

        If no rent seeking is the rule of the land. I want the box any given day, and twice on sunday.

        Excellent comment James.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        OK, so you envision people living together voluntarily, in a complex global industrial society with complex land ownership and business arrangements.

        The number of leading assumptions in that sentence is impressive.

        There’s an imaginary Hanley kicking around in your brain, but I don’t really know that guy.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley, I am not arguing that the anti-statists are all everybody form him or herself self-sufficiency types. Anti-statism does tend to attract lots of people that would like to be more independent of other people.

        But like North said, if the state disappears than its going to reappear fast at least on the city-state level. The comforts and necessities of modern societies require a lot of complex organization and I’ve yet to hear a convincing explanation on how you can run a modern suburb without some form of government to coordinate the different services people want and expect let alone a more complex geographic environment like a major metropolitan system. Even the world’s most wealthy and powerful corporations require many services from the state.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        @leeesq

        I’ve said repeatedly that I think the state is inevitable.

        As to anti-statists who want less dependence on other people, they are usually referring to the larger political level, and not the family, friends and church level. The repeated representation of them as being so individualist as to be against society is overwhelmingly an egregiously false representation, every bit as fallacious as saying liberals are all socialists. We can’t have a good discussion when we begin with such false understandings of others. I’m asking you as someone who I know believes in honest and fair intellectual discussion to not continue using this misrepresentation of others.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        My anti-statism, however theoretical it may be, is motivated by a desire for more, not less, of a sense of community. Sort of like anti-technology sentiments aren’t about being less engaged with the world, but more so. In both cases, it’s about removing the mediator that creates distance and alienation.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Community has a handful of tools for social control that resulted in people saying stuff like “we need to have laws”.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        James,
        there are plenty of anti-statists who have piles of guns and a bunker. And no family nor community to speak of. They’ll be the second to die when the revolution comes, but until then they’re happy.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    As you can probably imagine, there’s a lot I disagree with in both Huemer’s quote and your post, James. Without going too far into the weeds, then, I’ll just start with the big elephant: the very question being posed by each of you is being done in a way that rather rigs the game to ignore the most obvious answer.

    Each of you is, in slightly different ways, asking me to start from a Square One where a lack of any state is some kind of Edenic lost innocence which the state has nefariously snatched from us. You can’t be the victim of Stockholm Syndrome unless you were previously a free and (more) pure individual who has had that purity stripped from you. You snakily dismissed the comment above from @lwa but as I read his point, it’s a rather poignant one: Where are all of these people who don’t want a state? Not a different state than the one we have now, but a state of any kind? Certainly I’ve never met one; hell, every time we have a passer by that attaches this claim to libertarians libertarians go full snark on them. So, seriously, where are these people who Stockholm Syndrome has not un-naturally mutated so fundamentally?

    It would be one thing if I looked around and saw examples of Sate-lessness somewhere — anywhere — that people had to choose from, but I don’t. And I’m not even talking government here, I’m talking anywhere I see any group of people of any age gather in one place for any length of time. People always build some kind of state, even one that is fleeting or temporary, to manage their micro-affairs. Put five random people in a car and have them drive cross country for a week, and by the time they’re crossed the first state border they’ll have established some kind of mini-state that decrees what music they listen to, where they will stop to eat, when the sleep and when they drive through the night. IN might be democratic, or it might be feudal (if one gal owns the car, for example). The one guy that doesn’t like it will be SOL, because the mini-state formed in the car will have made its final decision, and he’ll be coerced to go along with what the car-state was deemed Appropriate.

    To me, the obvious possibility that both Huemer’s and your questions ignore, is that a state (any state, not a particular state) is not something thrust upon people against their will. It’s something that they instinctively set up and perpetuate themselves. If it doesn’t exist, they will built it as soon as there are more than two of them (and sometimes before that).

    Asking the question, why do people accept the legitimacy of having a state in their lives seems similar to asking why people accept the legitimacy of f**king, or wanting things they don’t have, or getting jealous sometimes. Which is to say that it isn’t really about legitimacy at all. It’s about something that’s hardwired pretty deeply. No Stockholm Syndrome required.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Tod,

      I think your wrong on both major points. It’s a question about legitimacy, so no one need pose an eden. And also, if you were born a captive, are you more or less likely to just accept that captivity as normal and legitimate?

      Also, the lack of a mass public movement means nothing. I’m not arguing that the public is questioning the legitimacy of government. I don’t expect that the public has ever been deeply engaged in political philosophy, whether we’re talking about Plato’s era, Hobbes’ era, or today. Any number of reasons have been advanced right here on this page about why people would assume the legitimacy of the state without thinking about it. I’m arguing that when you start to think seriously about it, it’s just not so damned simple and obvious. And even if we think seriously about it that doesn’t necessarily lead to mass demonstrations against the state, because it just not so damned simple and obvious in that direction, either.

      Honestly, if we’re talking about complex philosophical problems I can’t fathom why anybody would think the lack of mass public response has any relevance at all. Where there ever clashes in the streets between supporters of Rawls and adherents of Nozick? Does the lack of such clashes mean the arguments of both are settled and/or irrelevant?Report

      • Well, the question of perceptions about the legitimacy of the state doesn’t just obviously have nothing to do with whether people are out in the streets either, does it? Not that whether they are or not is dispositive to your question, either. I’m not saying it is. I’m saying I don’t think it’s completely clear to everyone what question you’re asking.

        Here, in this comment, you seem to be saying the question is, quite directly, Is it in fact a simple and obvious philosophical question? I.e., flat out, is the state, in ethical fact, justified, or as justified as some seem to act like it is?

        Elsewhere, it seems (or seemed to me), you were asking something more like Why do we get such emotional responses from people when we bring up the question of the justification of the state as if it isn’t a settled question? (“I often puzzle at the assurance of so many folks–both left and right–that the state’s legitimacy is nearly unquestionable, that to even doubt the legitimacy of the state is to show how unenlightened and unserious a thinker one is.”) That’s a somewhat different question (depending on how we understand it.) And even if that is the question, what people are we talking about? The public? Then it might be at least relevant whether there are anti-state movements; it’s at least some indication of how people feel about the state. And there are but at least in the U.S. they’re tiny, so the question really is, why is it such a fringe view among the pubic? (It could be that an important part of the population does regard the state as illegitimate, but sees no point is resisting. But you’d think we’d at least hear from them about their views more if there was such sentiment in large numbers.)

        Or is it, why do we get such assurances from philosophers? Indeed, philosophers are unlikely to be seen out in the streets in either pro- or anti-state demonstrations regards of their views. But, as you say elsewhere in the thread, the topic seems to be pretty much an increasingly wide-open one in academic discourse. I’m not sure how much anyone here really has a sense of how many assurances that it’s a philosophically settled, or in any case obvious, question are really on offer from philosophers who think about the question. I’d certainly be interested in knowing who those philosophers are of they are who you have in mind. In any case, I at this point am confused about where I am supposed to be looking for the assurances you are addressing.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      It would be one thing if I looked around and saw examples of Sate-lessness somewhere — anywhere — that people had to choose from, but I don’t.

      Where is the rapeless society? Where is the society without racism? Without murder or theft?

      “It would be one thing if I looked around and saw examples of rape-lessness somewhere–anywhere–that people had to choose from, but I don’t.”
      What would such a statement mean?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to James Hanley says:

        Not at all a valid comparative statement.

        Very few people actually get raped; most people are not an ethnic minority; even minorities only experience racism as an occasional thing.
        We all can easily imagine a society in which women weren’t raped, or people told to move tot he back of the bus.
        Such a vision is tangible, easily constructed.

        The vision of a stateless society?
        I can’t picture it. Can anyone here?

        And I’m not even seeing anyone paint such a thing. It seems to be enough for them to simply “question” the state, as though the conclusion becomes self-evident.

        So instead of just cataloging every horror committed by a state, lets discuss “if not a state, then what?”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        You miss the point of the comparison, which is that saying “X doesn’t exist anywhere, therefore X must not be an important issue” is logically fallacious. A rapeless society does not exist anywhere, but it is not as a consequence an unimportant concept. Once upon a time democracy did not exist anywhere, but it was not an unimportant concept. Interstellar space travel, so far as we know, does not exist anywhere, but we don’t therefore condemn people for thinking and talking about it.

        As to imagining a stateless society, your inability to imagine it demonstrates nothing but the limits of your imagination. You say nobody’s painting such a picture, but can you honestly say you’ve made any effort to find out if anyone is, and to read them? Chris–whose political views are in so many ways wildly different from mine–has a reading list I’m sure he’d happily share with you.

        So instead of just cataloging every horror committed by a state

        Which is not what the post is doing, but as usual you’re going to red herring me.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to James Hanley says:

        “The vision of a stateless society?
        I can’t picture it. Can anyone here?”

        What do you want to know?Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @ Todd
      “Where are all of these people who don’t want a state? Not a different state than the one we have now, but a state of any kind?”

      That would be me.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      For my part, I want a state pretty much exactly like the one we have now, only without a War On Drugs. I’m pretty sure that the state that emerges from that one change will be significantly better in a lot of different areas (from racism to prison policy to gang activity to tax policy and so on).

      That one policy has poisoned pretty much everything. I mean, it screwed up how used book stores have to deal with inventory.

      (Well, technically, there are a lot of little things I’d also like changed… more SSM, for example, less IRS/TSA, for another… but the former is happening by itself and the latter are careening along, getting bigger all the while. But if there were one thing I could change, it’d be the WoD.)Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Also, great post and better conversation starter. Bumping this up.Report

  12. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Legitimacy is achieved when a critical mass of people find the power of the state securing. That power does not need to bring security to all people, just some critical mass. In the US, I am certain there are minorities who have trouble accepting the legitimacy of the state, as they do not feel secured by it’s power (thanks in large part to the Drug War). As a matter of fact, as we watched the encroachment of the Drug War into more & more of our society, we’ve seen a growing resistance to it (by part or in all). The Drug War is losing legitimacy, and parts of the state are suffering damage to their legitimacy for it. I suppose one could argue our military adventurism is also damaging the legitimacy of the state within certain sectors of the population. Eventually, the state will have to make a choice, surrender some of it’s power, or risk losing legitimacy in large part (& being forced to take actions anathema to a free society in order to maintain power).

    Honestly, I’m undecided which way the state will go on that.

    As for the patriotism, I think that is a coping mechanism, but not like Stockholm. More like religion in my mind. People fall back on the state because the alternative is a scary place. The state is the Devil they know.Report

  13. Avatar j r says:

    I am all on board with the idea of questioning the legitimacy of the state. And personally, I do not view the state as having any particular de facto moral legitimacy. The state gains legitimacy from the ongoing participation and consent of the members of the state.

    That being said, however, I do not find the Stockholm Syndrome comparison to be particularly insightful. Consider this slight edit:

    It is therefore not surprising to find that citizens children tend to identify with their governments parents, adopt their governments’ parents’ perspectives, and develop emotional attachments (often considered ‘patriotism’ ‘love’) to their governments parent. Just as Stockholm victims tend to deny or minimize their captors’ acts of coercion, many citizens tend to deny or minimize their governments’ coercion….

    You can go from making the comparison about citizens and governments to children and parents and the analogy still holds and that is because the analogy is not particularly profound.Report

  14. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There is another thing that bothers me about these debates.

    Every now and then I meet someone who thinks that religion was an evil conspiracy created by malevolent elites to keep people subserviant and under control. Usually these people grew up in strict religious households. The thing about this belief is that you can not prove it or disprove it. We will never learn the true origins of religion. It could be a way our primitive brains and societies found to explain the unexplainable which is more rational than malevolent.

    The same things seem to go over debates about the origins of the state where people claim the state was founded by evil malcontents who wanted to control others. How can anyone disprove such a claim without a time machine and even that might not solve the problem? I think people form states for self-protection and promotion of like-minded ideals and this can go back to the original cave tribes.

    I really don’t understand what is the alternative you are suggesting instead of the state. There are charismatic bad actors in all stages of human history but the problem is that people listen to them. There are also plenty of raving lunatics that never get listened to and never achieve power and influence.

    What is the alternative to the state? And why am I supposed to find it morally superior?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      What is the alternative to the state? And why am I supposed to find it morally superior?

      Boy have I got some readings for you!Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      For Judaism you can get to textual analysis.
      You can pretty conclusively look at the personality profiles of the leaders of the Middle Ages to make a good point on exactly how “good” they were. This doesn’t tell you about “original governments”… but, really, does it need to? The Leaders of the Middle Ages are still around, and still trying to claw their way to the top.

      Plenty of ideas that don’t need a time machine to see the past.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      What is the alternative to the state?

      Well, there’s Marx’s post-state society (not that he ever fleshed that out well). There’s Hutterite communitarianism (although that’s pretty socially restrictive). There are the prospects of charter cities (although it’s not clear to me that they’re not de facto states, or if they can function in the absence of a larger state).

      Or speaking more generally, there’s communal self-governance, which lacks the administrative capacities of the state and the assumption of the legitimacy of violence, such as promoted–or at least described–variously by Elinor Ostrom and James Scott.

      And then there’s the literature Chris would give you, which is probably quite a different set.

      And why am I supposed to find it morally superior?

      Theoretically more voluntaristic and less violent. Empirically…maybe.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley

        I agree with you on the theoretical but I get very hung up on the empirical.

        I love the ideals of Harmony and New Harmony but they failed in reality.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Saul,
        Including the celibacy?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Saul,

        Hence my hesitation on the empirics.

        David Friedman thinks private law enforcement associations would be more likely to negotiate with each other than to fight each other. I look around the world at gangs and warlord societies and I’m skeptical.

        The problem is, to overcome a warlord society you may have to marshall more violence than the warlords, and so you’ve already created a risk of an even worse situation.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        @kim

        I am more for Robert Dale Owen I and II than I am for Rapp. No celibacy.

        @james-hanley

        In the end I agree with North that statelessness probably will lead to a state being formed very quickly by own will or because we are being conquered by outsiders a la ISIS.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        James, have you ever read R.P. Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism? It’s not a perfect book, by any means, but I’ve always looked at it as a great introduction to the issues (particularly for undergraduates).

        You can read it here: http://www.ditext.com/wolff/anarchy.html

        From the preface:

        This essay on the foundations of the authority of the state marks a stage in the development of my concern with problems of political authority and moral autonomy. When I first became deeply interested in the subject, I was quite confident that I could find a satisfactory justification for the traditional democratic doctrine to which I rather unthinkingly gave my allegiance. Indeed, during my first year as a member of the Columbia University Philosophy Department, I taught a course on political philosophy in which I boldly announced that I would formulate and then solve the fundamental problem of political philosophy. I had no trouble formulating the problem- — roughly speaking, how the moral autonomy of the individual can be made compatible with the legitimate authority of the state. I also had no trouble refuting a number of supposed solutions which had been put forward by various theorists of the democratic state. But midway through the semester, I was forced to go before my class, crestfallen and very embarrassed, to announce that I had failed to discover the grand solution.

        At first, as I struggled with this dilemma, I clung to the conviction that a solution lay just around the next con- ceptual corner. When I read papers on the subject to meetings at various universities, I was forced again and again to represent myself as searching for a theory which I simply could not find. Little by little, I began to shift the emphasis of my exposition. Finally — whether from philosophical reflection, or simply from chagrin — I came to the realization that I was really defending the negative rather than looking for the positive. My failure to find any theoretical justification for the authority of the state had convinced me that there was no justification. In short, I had become a philosophical anarchist.

        Wolff, who is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 years old, and a genuine philosophical relic, actually has his own blog on which he’s pretty active:

        http://robertpaulwolff.blogspot.com/Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        Of course, the Daesh (solidarity!) has, to this point, had no problem dealing with states either. In fact, the most successful actors on the ground against ISIS forces have been non-state actors (particularly Kurdish militias).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Chris,

        No, I hadn’t, but I will do so. I’d be interested in seeing how he handles the challenges of trying to justify the state, and why he thinks he can’t.

        In my line of work we tend to just assume the state, and if the question is raised we either refer to our favorite social contract theorist, or we highlight some of the good actions of the state, or we identify it with the community. But none of those is really logically sufficient. And of course we learn more about our own beliefs by reading works that challenge them than by reading works that support them (which is why I find reading standard libertarian works so phenomenally boring).Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        Well, Wolff is definitely not a libertarian.

        It really is an interesting read, if for no other reason than that it raises the problems. And I think it’s entirely possible to ultimately conclude that a.) the state is inevitable, and b.) the state is not justifiable. I mean, mosquitoes are inevitable but not justifiable, right? Some things just are. The reason the state becomes problematic for us is that we feel like there’s something we can do about it: alter its nature, at least, if not eliminate it. If it turns out that no matter what we do, the essence of the state remains intact, then anyone trying to justify its existence is likely asking the wrong questions.Report

      • I’m trying to get my head around what it would mean to justify an inevitable thing.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Wolff is definitely not a libertarian.

        Oh, right. I didn’t mean to imply that I thought he was, but I can see how I gave such an impression.

        I’m trying to get my head around what it would mean to justify an inevitable thing.

        It is inevitable that tomorrow there will 1) be some Americans raped and some murdered. It is also inevitable that tomorrow some Americans will help pick up someone who has fallen down, and some will step in to prevent someone from being harmed. All of these things that will happen tomorrow are inevitable, and some can be justified–defended as legitimate things–while others cannot.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        Oh, I just meant he definitely won’t bore you, or at least not for that reason.

        He’s a Marxist with an affinity for the Frankfurt School, who at this late stage in his life seems to have become a supporter of American Democrats, at least in opposition to American Republicans.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        All this talk about states and anti-states tends to focus on the violent aspects of the state and how presumably anarchism would be less violent. Has any anarchist ever written about how you can fulfill the infrastructure needs of a modern society without a state? Things like roads, sewers, waste management, parks, electrical grids, train systems, air traffic controls, public health, etc. without a state. Modern society is complicated. Running a modern suburban county requires considerably more sophistication than a medieval kingdom because people need more services. I’ve never heard of any convincing explanation on how you run the technocratic aspects of modern life without a state.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley, When does a unit of government become a state? If the nation-state disappears and gets replaced with communal self-government, aren’t those units of communal self-government essentially states now. Its not like city-states are an unknown phenomenon in human history. The Greek City-States and the Italian city-states of the Middle Ages and Renaissance had a lot of the same problems associated with modern, large-scale states. Saying that a unit of government isn’t a state because it exists on a small scale seem ridiculous. Any unit of government is a state as long as it isn’t subject to a larger unit of government.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’ve never heard of any convincing explanation on how you run the technocratic aspects of modern life without a state.

        Without getting into the whole distinction between “without a state” and “a state smaller than the gargantuan one we have now”, I’d suggest looking at the internet.

        How does the internet run without the state telling it what to do?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to James Hanley says:

        “How does the internet run without the state telling it what to do?”

        It doesn’t.

        The state provides the legal framework in which the various private entities act, providing protections for contracts, intellectual property and the like. Its the government that at this very moment is standing guard at the boundaries of https://ordinary-times.com, after all, and would send men with guns to put in cages anyone who damages or tampers with it.

        I know, that’s not really what you meant, but the idea that somehow the internet is entirely is stateless is erroneous. Its like saying Burning Man is free of the state, when it takes place entirely within the space (physical and legal) which the state provides.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Has any anarchist ever written about how you can fulfill the infrastructure needs of a modern society without a state?

        Yes, charter cities (which the supporters claim aren’t states, and which they may be right about, despite my skepticism).

        Also, not all anarchists want a modern society in the way we know it. To assume they are all talking about the world as it is today but without states is assuming too much. Some are, but not all. (That is, some anarchists are anti-modernity as well as being anti-state.)

        Modern society is complicated. Running a modern suburban county requires considerably more sophistication than a medieval kingdom because people need more services.

        Well, now, the more complex something becomes, the harder it is to effectively run through top-down central control, right? Large corporations become unwieldy and so they often spin off parts of themselves or create independent units. A small college can run with one overarching academic division, but larger universities will have separate schools that operate largely independent of each other and with a fair degree of autonomy. Larger countries are more likely to be federalist.

        So in fact it’s much easier to run a medieval kingdom through a central unified state than it is to run a modern technological society that way. Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm is relevant here. To simplify, he argues that firms organize themselves hierarchically to the extent that is more cost-effective than contracting out, and contract out to the extent that’s more cost-effective than doing everything in-house. Cities and states also find it useful to contract out, and often modern government becomes as much about coordinating private production of services as about producing those services directly.

        Take a good look at Wal Mart. Their operations are surely as complex as the operations of some of those small countries that it is so often noted they are worth more than.

        When does a unit of government become a state?

        Hmm. There’s an inevitable complexity of language here that makes this difficult to answer clearly. “The state” and “government” are often used interchangeably, but as your question suggests, they’re not actually identical. Government is the functional arm of the state–the lawmaking and enforcement mechanism. Any particular government becomes a state when it’s sovereign, being subject to no higher authority. (But then you have complexities like U.S. states having sovereign authority, but only in some policy areas, and Native American tribes being sovereign subject nations, which makes no sense but sort of works in a way.)

        If the nation-state disappears and gets replaced with communal self-government, aren’t those units of communal self-government essentially states now.

        Not necessarily. They may be sovereign, but they may not successfully claim a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. If they do successfully make that claim (not just assert it, but have it accepted within their territory of control by the population over which they assert control), and create the administrative apparatus to make it effective, then, yes, they become a state.

        Traditionally, for example, the central plains nations of Native Americans (our stereotypical feathered headdress buffalo chasing Indian) had no state. Decisions were reached communally, nobody had to go along with a decision they disagreed with, and disagreements on important issues just led to fissioning of groups. Fissioning and recombining of what were essentially various size family units was a regular things. My group would go off on its own for a while, then recombine with your group for a while, then we might join another group for a while, then we’d decide we want to ramble north while you’re thinking about heading west, and we’d fission again. Self-governance on a very decentralized scale, with nothing that looks anything like a state.

        Obviously that was a hindrance in combating the American state; yet another reason I see the state as inevitable.

        Its not like city-states are an unknown phenomenon in human history.

        Yes, size has nothing to do with the definition of a state. Liechtenstein, with 36,000 people, is a state. Monaco, at .7 square miles, is a state. The Vatican, even, with less territory and smaller population than either of those, is a state.

        Saying that a unit of government isn’t a state because it exists on a small scale seem ridiculous.

        Yes, but scale isn’t my measurement for stateness, and ought not be anyone’s measurement.

        Any unit of government is a state as long as it isn’t subject to a larger unit of government.

        Yes, but that’s government, not governance, and not all governance is done by government.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        Counterfactual thinking is hard. It’s difficulty is directly proportional to the mutability of the facts to be countered, and that mutability is related to the centrality of the facts in our beliefs about the world.

        Part of the difficulty in conceiving stateless societies is that we try to conceive of our society, in its completeness, and then take away the state, but the centrality of the state in our society makes it highly immutable for us. So as long as we conceive of society as our society, as it is now, or with only minor, accidental changes, we have a difficult time conceiving statelessness.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley, I am even less sympathetic to the anti-modernists than I am to the anti-stastists. Modernism has allowed more people to live pleasant lives than they would have in the past. More children get to live to adulthood, fewer children lose their parents before getting to adulthood, fewer people suffer from disfiguring or deliberating diseases, and more people can express their true selves freely. Without modernity, there is no anti-racism, no feminism, and no LGBT rights movement. All of those required the wealth that modernity provides. Anybody who finds fault with this is monstrously immoral. Anti-modernists should be treated with contempt.

        As to when does a communal self-government becomes a state, my Western inclinations make me thing of the ancient and medieval city-states when I hear about communal self-governments bellow the nation-state level. Those places where states. As a statist, I also think that the state’s monopoly on violence is why we have less personal violence right now.

        To answer an earlier question you asked me, yes Jews suffered under totalitarian states with monopolies of violence. At the same time we, like other minorities, haven’t done particularly well when the state couldn’t maintain a monopoly of violence either. Other people could still do bloody violence on us and we didn’t exactly have the numbers for a proper self-defense. The state and non-state issue is irrelevant for persecuted minorities that don’t have the numbers to safely act in self-defense.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        am even less sympathetic to the anti-modernists than I am to the anti-stastists.

        I hear you. I have both a romantic attraction to anti-modernism and an intellectual disdain for it. It ain’t easy being me sometimes.

        my Western inclinations make me thing of the ancient and medieval city-states when I hear about communal self-governments bellow the nation-state level.

        Ah, your Western inclinations are wrong. Most of those medieval city-states weren’t even republican–being ruled by a prince is not what we mean by self-governance. And while a republican city-state is very fairly described as self-governing, it’s not the only type of self-governing. It’s a self-governing that uses a formal government, with all the apparatus that makes a state. Stateless self-governing has no such apparatus, so you have to imagine something with considerably less formal authority than the Venetian Republic.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley, your gravatar is a robot playing basketball and you have a romantic attraction to anti-modernism?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        The robot basketball player itself represents an attraction to a much simpler time in the past, when the NBA included company sponsored teams, was played in high school gyms by semi-professionals, and a small city like Fort Wayne, Indiana could support a team. The the NBA grew up, professionalized, and big cities like Detroit stole our teams. The next thing you know there were TV contracts, instant replay, luxury suites, and high schoolers signing multi-million dollar contracts. All signs of the apocalypse, my friend, and I’m searching desperately for my cabin in the woods where I can escape the flashing lights, the despotic bells, and the existential confusion of the modern world.

        I wouldn’t try to force anyone else into living that way, though.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Given that most of us grow up in a microcosm of the state called “the family”, I’m guessing that government is something that most of us have never, ever lived without. How many governments had some sort of claim to their relationship being a familial one?Report

  16. Avatar TrexPushups says:

    I don’t believe non-violent stateless regions are sustainable. States are better at military actions and at some point a state will attempt to take over your stateless region; the more successful and prosperous you are the more tempting s target you make.

    Therefore at a minimum you will have to create an armed militia to defend yourself. Even if you succeed you now have an armed organized group. Welcome to your new bosses.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to TrexPushups says:

      This is exactly one of the reasons why I think the state is inevitable. As James Scott points out in The Art of Not Being Governed, stateless areas tend to be in mountainous areas. The terrain makes it more difficult for the state to effectively exercise control. But give the state sufficient technology and it can overcome that difficulty.Report

      • Avatar TrexPushups in reply to James Hanley says:

        Since the state is inevitable this colors my reactions to those who want to eliminate it.

        I see them as saying “let us engage in a pointless slaughter.” Not that I believe that to be their intentions. Just the unavoidable effect of doing what they want to do.Report

  17. You know, over a decade of studying political philosophy and I’m still nowhere near a conclusion on where legitimacy stems from.

    I’m actually starting to believe, in fact, that there is no such thing as legitimacy, per se, and rather the state is an inevitable product of human interaction. Legitimacy is therefore a post hoc creation by humans to try to understand the phenomenon that is created in their lives regardless of their desires and to try to steer it in a direction that makes some sense. Akin to looking for explanations for volcanos or hurricanes.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      It was easier when there were gods. We could point to them and say that they provide legitimacy.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        I was thinking along these lines earlier (comparing belief in the legitimacy of the state to belief in the legitimacy of the gods) and realized that God may be dead, and we may have killed him; but the State we may be stuck with forever.

        Which was pretty depressing. At least when God smites someone, he does it with style.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Glyph and Jay, it is not a coincidence that much of Nietzsche’s anti-statism appears in TSZ, which is essentially an extended metaphor on the death of God and what comes after (and ultimately, before). God for Nietzsche represents the impulses of and for the state: the impulses of the masses, the subjugation of greatness in the interest of the mediocre, the least of us over the best, the ethos of pity and its sister impulse, equality over genius (Nietzsche’s anti-statism was decidedly elitist, almost exactly the caricature of libertarians, but without the capitalism).

        Sometimes, looking at what IS does in areas that it controls, I do wonder if we’re witnessing a sort of replication of the origin of the state out of the religious impulse, though here it is not an impulse of equality but an impulse of domination through the imposition of religious order through violence. It is not that far removed from Ortega’s “sportive origin of the state,” where the state arises from the sporting impulse (as Ortega conceived it, which was basically the impulse to fight other tribes and rape their women), in that what you have is basically a system designed to subjugate women in order to have a monopoly over them (sexually), and a bunch of rules created and violently enforced to maintain that subjugation. God becomes the legitimizing concept, the big Other or transcendental signifier that holds the system of rules together in order to justify the subjugation. The origin of the state in the enslavement of women.

        Aaaaaand this is what happens when I write comments on an anarchism thread with Nietzsche involved while I watch tennis practice.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Plus whatever number you want me to give you, Nob.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      What is legitimacy ostensibly supposed to be that it might turn out not be, instead being what you describe here?Report

  18. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Hey, everyone, down here!

    I want to make a quick (hah, that’s likely) response to everyone asking “what would the world look like without a state.” Here’s Murray Rothbard’s response to that.

    the anarchist is always at a disadvantage in attempting to forecast the shape of the future anarchist society. For it is impossible for observers to predict voluntary social arrangements, including the provision of goods and services, on the free market. Suppose, for example, that this were the year 1874 and that someone predicted that eventually there would be a radio-manufacturing industry. To be able to make such a forecast successfully, does he have to be challenged to state immediately how many radio manufacturers there would be a century hence, how big they would be, where they would be located, what technology and marketing techniques they would use, and so on? Obviously, such a challenge would make no sense, and in a profound sense the same is true of those who demand a precise portrayal of the pattern of protection activities on the market. Anarchism advocates the dissolution of the state into social and market arrangements, and these arrangements are far more flexible and less predictable than political institutions. The most that we can do, then, is to offer broad guidelines and perspectives on the shape of a projected anarchist society.

    Now to the uncharitable person, that’s easily portrayed as a copout. But let me put it in these terms: If we were to change America today through a constitutional convention, what would the new political structure look like?

    The theoretical possibilities for a new American political structure are vast. The practical possibilities are rather more limited, but still no one could say just what it would be.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

      I am uncharitable because Rothbard is discounting the left anarchist tradition that sees markets as the creation of the states. Most anarchists have historically been just as anti-market as they were anti-state.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Well, now, that’s not what I meant by being uncharitable. I mean that to deride an anarchist for not being able to say just what the structure of society would look like if we eliminated the state is uncharitable.

        Maybe it’s uncharitable to criticize him for giving short shrift to leftist anarchists–I’m honestly not sure–but that’s a different issue altogether.

        (And I’d argue they’re wrong about markets. They might be right if we limit that to capitalism, but there’s too much historical evidence for markets in the absence of the state–before states even existed, really–to begin to take them seriously if they actually mean markets in general, as opposed to meaning capitalism.)Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Even charitably, what is lacking here is not a specific proposal, but even the most fundamental concept.

        In business there is the Elevator Speech- where you have ten seconds to describe your new concept.
        The equivalent in politics is what I call the Come The Revolution speech.
        What problem are you addressing?
        Why is it important?
        Who is the constituency?
        What is the main advantage that would cause us to be so interested as to invest in it?
        Or the fiery rabble rouser version- What is the Devil to be overthrown, and what is the God to be elevated?

        Even at the most conceptual ideal, there isn’t anything here that is compelling. Or at least, compelling to anyone not already predisposed to it.

        I mean, starting with the premise that the state is illegitimate, that democracy and majority rule is illegitimate is a position shared by only the tiny subgroup that identifies with anarchy and few others.

        Further, by scorning the concept of tribe and group loyalty, it alienates virtually every possible constituent it could hope to gather.

        So without a compelling and plausible narrative to hold on to, without a vision of the evil which can be shared by all, all we are left with is the dispiriting tedium of wonkishness.

        We would still have infrastructure, just delivered somehow by another means. Crime would occur, but be handled somehow differently. Property, associations, blah blah blah would all be exactly the same, just somehow different. But better, somehow.

        Its a strange and uninspiring religion that lacks both a God and a devil.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Even charitably, what is lacking here is not a specific proposal, but even the most fundamental concept.

        You say that, but then you go on to say,

        starting with the premise that the state is illegitimate, that democracy and majority rule is illegitimate

        and thereby prove your own opening phrase wrong.

        Even at the most conceptual ideal, there isn’t anything here that is compelling. Or at least, compelling to anyone not already predisposed to it.

        Look at Chris’s link, a philosophy professor who set out to prove the legitimacy of the state and ended up concluding that the legitimacy of the state could not be demonstrated. The difference between you and him? He had an open mind and he was willing to challenge his own beliefs and think deeply about things–to date on this blog, you’ve not demonstrated that you’re capable of even one of those three feats.

        That’s not to imply that everyone who thinks deeply about it will or ought to come to his conclusions. It’s just to say that the primary reason why you in particular are so confident that the ideas are obviously unpersuasive is that you are pre-emptively rejecting them without actually thinking about them.

        Obviously the idea that the state might be illegitimate is exceptionally challenging to your world view. You place such strong emphasis on the group, and the collective rulemaking of the group, and are so generally belittling of emphases on individual autonomy that the illegitimacy of states–if true–would delegitimate a vast portion of your belief system.

        It’s not really any wonder you’re unwilling to give it serious thought. And of course you’re under no obligation to do so. But when you say the ideas are obviously wrong, and obviously not compelling to anyone, those claims derive from your not-thinking about the issue, not from thinking about it; from your intent to reaffirm your own beliefs, rather than to challenge them.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        James,

        I’m personally curious as to the answer to his question. If the state is illegitimate — then what? Say we decide it is. Where do we go from there?

        Besides furious mental masturbating, gedanken style philosophical musings — how’s that affect the price of tea in China? Or does it? Are we just talking “So what if like…” and not really about the real world?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Morat,

        That’s the tough part, isn’t it? But assume for a moment that the idea is true. Even if it changes nothing in the world, we each make choices about whether to try to understand truth or to live a life of illusion.

        I don’t like the life of illusion. It can be damn comforting, that’s for sure, and the truth can be tremendously unsettling, especially when you can’t do anything about it. So I get the attraction of not challenging our beliefs. I’m just not good at living that way myself, for whatever reason.

        That doesn’t mean I think I’ve found all the truths, or that everything I’ve concluded after considered thought is correct. I could be wildly wrong about a vast number of things. But I haven’t simply accepted received wisdom, and I remain open to challenges to the beliefs I’ve adopted in consequence of challenges to earlier beliefs. But to persuade me one has to have a better argument than LWA’s “the people who’ve never spent any time thinking about this believe thisaway” (paraphrased).

        But to ask, ” then what? … Where do we go from there?”–while a fair question–may be too time-limited in scope. “We” may not go anywhere with it. Currently there are too few people who believe it (and again, I’m not persuaded by it, nor persuaded by the opposing claims–I’m in a state of agnosticism, trying to work it out) for much of anything to happen other than people trying, so far unsuccessfully, to get charter city experiments off the ground. Really, about all “we” (those who believe in the illegitimacy of the state) may be able to do right now is to try to persuade others to that point of view. That is, after all, how all revolutions begin.

        But let’s look into a hypothetical future where most people have accepted this truth. What do they do? All we can do right now is speculate. Maybe they can’t figure it out, either, but make all kinds of hare-brained speculations, suggestions, and experiments in what may be a generations-long brain-storming session. Maybe it’s only our distant descendants’ distant descendants who can figure it out. Maybe whatever it is requires a technology we don’t yet have.

        But I think we can be sure that if a critical mass of people believed in the inherent illegitimacy of the state, they’d try to figure it out. They’d try to make changes, and try to figure out a more legitimate (by their understanding) socio-political structure. That’s what they’d “do” with the knowledge.

        And maybe they’d succeed. As I’ve said, I suspect the state is inevitable, so I don’t think they’d succeed in eliminating it. But as I noted above, I could be wrong in my beliefs. Maybe our descendants would surprise me. (In which case I hope they also invent a time machine, so they can take me to the future to see what they’ve done.)

        So, concretely? I can only be speculative.

        Maybe they develop a system of charter cities which somehow manage to never go to war with each other, and where everyone gets to freely vote with their feet, living only where they voluntarily agree to live.

        Maybe they develop some autonomous self-governing enclaves, gaining de facto, even if not de jure, independence from the state through widespread public support for their efforts.

        Maybe they couldn’t figure out how to go stateless, but would decide that if an illegitimate entity is inevitable, the least we can do is minimize it so as to minimize the degree of illegitimate action. So maybe they choose a night watchman state.

        Or, who knows, maybe they’d say fuck it, it’s illegitimate but we like it (kind of like anything seriously reasoning fan of college football). Self-interest does win out over principles with some frequency after all.

        I suspect a variety of approaches, given the natural variability of humans. I wouldn’t find it shocking to see states still exist, but in a more attenuated form for those who like the benefits of stateness, and a mix of self-governing but stateless enclaves and privately owned charter cities.

        But the first step is always to recognize truths (assuming this is in fact a truth, of which I’m not certain) rather than living a life of unchallenged illusions, and only then can we really figure out what we ought to, and can, do with that truth.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’m not trying to persuade anarchists of the legitimacy of the state.

        I’m providing an explanation for why anarchy is so spectacularly unpersuasive to anyone outside of its tiny subset.

        This is why Huemer had to resort to the political equivalent of sour grapes (no one listens to me because they are brainwashed captives!”). He too was wondering why the anarchist message isn’t well received.

        This was the point of your post, wasn’t it? You asked why people are so resistant to the concept of a stateless society? I answered it. Because we enjoy benefits from it, and the arguments against it aren’t persuasive enough to make converts.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “Because we enjoy benefits from it, and the arguments against it aren’t persuasive enough to make converts.”

        Anarchy is not comforting, that’s why it is unpopular. It’s much more comforting to listen to someone telling you what they will provide for you.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        James Hanley,

        My problem is I see the word “The State” and what it conjures up is “Society” — in the sense that the state is pretty much what happens when people interact. The size of the ‘state’ really depends entirely on how many people your daily life is interwoven with.

        The “state” arises in the family unit — rules and use of force and coercion and all that (Parents know best, do the dishes, go to your room, budgets, etc). It’s an inevitable facet of two people whose actual existence cannot help but impact another’s, causing problems, friction, issues to be addressed.

        No man is an island, and I’m afraid the only way to avoid the “state” is to find yourself alone on one.

        So I can see arguments about this state or that state and should it be done this way or that way, but in the end — I live in a world filled with other people. One way or another, we’re gonna settle on rules. Whether it comes from democratic processes, or from the guy with the biggest stick killing everyone who disagrees — it happens. You can argue for less rules or more rules or what the rules should BE….but the state is inevitable, because other people exist.

        Even small ones just hide it. City-states? They had elaborate treaties with other city states — rules and agreements and regulations. And sometimes they settled things with rules and sometimes the biggest stick, but it’s the same thing.

        Turtles all the way up. Or down. And it all boils down to the old saw — my right to swing my fist ends at your face, because that’s the moment I start impacting your life and conflict arises. Decisions must be made, via force or votes or mutual agreement. Rules arise.

        I can’t avoid it in my own family — as long as they exist, a state exists. It’ll exist no matter what i do, so long as I’m not completely alone. Scale up, scale down, the devil’s in the details — but I can’t avoid the state unless I’m the only human around.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @lwa
        I’m not trying to persuade anarchists of the legitimacy of the state.

        Heh, you object that anarchists aren’t able to persuade you, then you decline to even try to rise to the challenge you’re demanding of them.

        Classic LWA.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Morat,

        You’re using a non-standard definition of the state. Sure, if you define it that way, then there’s no escaping the state. But that doesn’t change the fact that there becomes a categorical distinction between the family and that-thing-Weber-called-the-state. We’re talking about that thing.

        If your argument is that France-the-state is not categorically different than Morat-family-the-state, then you’re very far outside the boundaries of the political philosophy debate that’s taking place. You can go there, of course, but it’s not at all clear to me what’s gained by obliterating that distinction. (Even if one sees the family and the state as being along the same continuum, at some point a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind.)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        If your argument is that France-the-state is not categorically different than Morat-family-the-state, then you’re very far outside the boundaries of the political philosophy debate that’s taking place. You can go there, of course, but it’s not at all clear to me what’s gained by obliterating that distinction. (Even if one sees the family and the state as being along the same continuum, at some point a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind.)

        It appears to be the same problem, on different scales. Families are small, clans are larger, tribes are larger still, cities larger still, states larger still, nations larger still…

        But at the root, it’s the same issues. “How do we get along? What do we do when we don’t? How to we handle disagreement? How to we handle things we don’t like? What happens when people do things others dislike?”.

        I think the point is that claiming a state is some other “thing” (because it’s so large!) is creating a distinction that doesn’t exist. You can no more rid yourself of the state than you can your family. It’s a plain fact of multiple humans existing close together. Thinking you can live ‘stateless’ or ‘get rid of the state’ or even imagine a life ‘stateless’ is basically imagining a life totally alone.

        “State” is just the name we give to the rules that get established when people butt heads.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think the point is that claiming a state is some other “thing” (because it’s so large!)

        Friend, I already covered that.

        Yes, size has nothing to do with the definition of a state. Liechtenstein, with 36,000 people, is a state. Monaco, at .7 square miles, is a state. The Vatican, even, with less territory and smaller population than either of those, is a state….scale isn’t my measurement for stateness, and ought not be anyone’s measurement.

        And I gave a definition of the state in the OP–Weber’s definition–that has nothing to do with size. So please don’t tell me that I’m using a definition that is not the one I used and that I have already explicitly rejected, ok?

        Now for my part, I think you haven’t begun to address Weber’s definition of the state seriously at all. His is the standard, the one that nearly every one of these theorists is working from. And he recognizes that there are other political associations that pursue the same ends the state pursues, but what distinguishes the state from those other types of political organizations, is its successful claim to a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a given territory.

        That’s not the family. I suspect nobody in your family has a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force–probably no, or nearly no, physical force is seen as legitimate, and the same is true of my family. Maybe some families see Pa as having some authority to use physical force legitimately, but even so Pa does not have a territory over which he has authority to use physical force legitimately–if he invites you over for a BBQ and you sit in his special chair, against his rules, he cannot legitimately physically punish you.

        If you want to use your own definition that nobody who’s seriously studying this issue is using, be my guest, but don’t think for a moment that means you’re actually addressing the issue they’re talking about. Because by squishing all these political organizations together into one big category, you’re obscuring the very specific distinction that they are focusing on. You’re not looking at what they are looking at.

        If you don’t think that specific distinction–a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force over a given territory–isn’t meaningful, make an argument for why Weber was wrong and why political theorists who’ve made that the standard definition of the state for the past century are missing the boat. Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        By Weber’s definition, the only reason I’m not a state is because another state stands over me. I claim the monopoly on force in my family (by dint of making more money, being bigger and stronger, not that I actually use it. But overpowering my wife or kid would not exactly be a problem).

        As a definition, it’s…kinda pointless. A state comes into existence when number of people > 1. Two people? A state. Because if it came down to force, someone is going to win. Maybe they play rock-paper-scissors, or maybe it’s a fist-fight, or maybe a knife or gun. Force doesn’t have to be used.

        Now maybe Weber’s really claiming a state comes into existence when use of force becomes effectively mandatory by the ‘state’ — but that’s not really any greater than 2 people. (As anyone who has seen a bar fight start can attest).Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Basically, I’m saying a state is inevitable. You have a group of people? Someone will take charge, and that charge will be backed with force — physical or social or otherwise. Because conflict is inevitable (social or physical or otherwise) in any group of people, and the existence of conflict requires rules, judgement, and enforcement.

        I don’t think “stateless” exists as a possible thing for humans. If it ain’t a government, it’s the local gang. The existence of ‘stateless’ is, at best, a very temporary one. (or a very solitary one).Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @james-hanley and @morat20, you may be talking past each other a bit.

        On the one hand, the state most certainly exists as a concept that can be delineated from tribes and gangs and families. While a state must have the monopoly on the use of force to be considered a state, that does not mean that every group that uses force is a state. Further. we can study the history of the development of the state and talk about its strengths and its weaknesses. We can discuss to what extent the state is a legitimate in its claims on individual sovereignty. And we can definitely discuss alternatives to the state as a form of societal organization.

        On the other hand, @morat20’s point is important. If the anarcho-capitalists got their wish and the state were smashed tomorrow, it would only be a matter of time before some form of state reasserted itself. People form loose informal associations that over time tend to morph towards rigid hierarchical ones.

        My own personal feeling is that we can never rid ourselves of the state in any outright movement or revolution, but we may one day simply outgrow it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Basically, I’m saying a state is inevitable.

        Which I’ve said explicitly on this page no less than 4 times, so that’s not a point of disagreement.

        Beyond that, you’re focusing on power, and/or on rulemaking, which is why you are so dismissive of Weber, I think–you still haven’t understood his definition, which is not just about power, but about being the only legitimate user of that particular power that’s in the form of physical force. That means those on whom the force is used admit its legitimacy.

        I can come down to Texas and use force on you, but that doesn’t make me a state. If we swim out to an unclaimed island outside any state’s territorial waters and I exert force on you, I’m still not a state–not unless you accept it as legitimate. That’s a very different thing than me using force that you see as illegitimate. It’s an fascinating question as to why you would accept it as legitimate.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        J r,

        You’re mostly right, but you also leave out the crucial word “legitimate.” No group has ever successfully claimed a monopoly on the use of violence. In every state, every day, non-state actors use violence (perhaps excepting the Vatican). But their violence is not legitimate.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I agree with James re: Morat’s dismissiveness of Weber’s definition. (As well as his entire thesis in this post, fwtw. I’ll get back to that.) This, in particular

        As a definition, it’s…kinda pointless. A state comes into existence when number of people > 1. Two people? A state. Because if it came down to force, someone is going to win.

        strikes me as missing the point Weber is getting at by quite a bit. No one (I would think, anyway) understands Weber as saying that the use of force is sufficient for a state. If that were the case, then I could be a state merely by the use of force to achieve my desires, and so could anyone else. Instead, Weber’s definition tries to highlight (successfully, in my view) not only that the state uses force (to achieve its goals, whatever they are, however noble or repulsive) but that it has established itself as the aggressor of last resort in the *legitimate* use of violence to achieve certain ends. The word *monopoly” applies not to the concept of violence, but instead to legitimacy. So the key words in the definition suggest a more pragmatic (rather than principled – or at least that’s how I understand it) view of things.

        Excellent post James. I read about Humer’s most recent work, comprised in this book I’d guess, several months ago and while his conclusions struck me as radical, I’m not sure his arguments are. It’s certainly worth taking seriously. (Plus, I know the guy, and he’s really smahht.)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Stillwater,

        Ah, I get the distinction. I’m still of the mind that force (whether physical, social, or mental) is pretty much an inevitable outgrowth of any gathering of humans (we are not a hive mind. We are a disagreeable lot) — in fact, the whole concept is an outgrowth of personal freedom.

        We’re fans of personal freedom. Fans of free will. We like to do what we want. Which leads inevitably to the problem of “What happens when Person A’s free will negatively impacts Person B?”. (An argument or a fist fight or a war. Sometimes person A chooses to do something else. Sometimes he says “Fish you” and does what he wants).

        Free will and freedom? They clash. Which means force and coercion arise naturally. Which means, ultimately, someone or something becomes the top dog.

        So I get the distinction between the state and family there, but I’m still of the mind that the very notion of freedom and free will forces a state to arise. “Statelessness” is a transitionary state, if it exists at all. So the “Stockholm syndrome” quote is…stupid and inflammatory. Might as well suggest rocket engineers are obviously to beaten down by the harsh mistress gravity to really think outside the box.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Part of the point of Weber’s discussion of the state is that in human interactions violence is inevitable, and the state arises in large part as a mediator of violence, through violence. Like Stillwater said, the point of the state, for Weber, is to be the sole exerciser of legitimate violence to settle, prevent, or punish violent conflicts among citizens.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Like Stillwater said, the point of the state, for Weber, is to be the sole exerciser of legitimate violence to settle, prevent, or punish violent conflicts among citizens.
        I get that. If the state arises because violence is inherent in a society (as free will and choice clash), then I can’t see how “statelessness” can be anything but transitory.

        To put it simply: The state arises in response to conflict between individuals. Whatever else it may do, it is a response to a fundamental facet of human behavior in groups. You can’t avoid the state without changing that behavior (which is unlikely). You can change the type of state, but conflict between individuals is inherent and some mechanism or other must arise to deal with it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Well, several of us have suggested that the state may be inevitable, some have even said that it is undeniably so, which would suggest that any condition of statelessness would be ephemeral. However, if it is indeed the inevitability of violence that leads to the state, the inevitability of the one thing does not necessarily imply the necessity of the other. It may be that there are other responses to the inevitability of violence, responses that lead elswhere than the state, but that have not, for whatever reasons, “won out” in an evolutionary battle with the state. Or perhaps those other responses are more likely to occur after the state, or the conditions necessary for them to arise have not yet occurred. Or any number of other possibilities.

        It is entirely possible that the state is an inevitable response to inevitable violence. The inevitability of violence does not demonstrate the inevitability of the state, however, and so far the only argument I have really seen for the inevitability of the state is that it has historically always shown up in communities with a certain level of complexity. That is a post hoc argument for inevitability, and I’m always wary of post hoc arguments. I’d rather see a causal one that amounts to a predictive model of the inevitable emergence of the state out of increasing complexity, and “violence is inevitable” is not such a model.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Violence is a loaded word. “Disagreement” or “conflict” is actually better. The State is the ultimate authority on conflict — whether it’s what to do about Bob shooting Billy, or whether or not Bob can dump poison on his land (which will drain into Billy’s) or simply what happens when Billy doesn’t pay Bob the money he owes (or whether Billy truly owes it).

        I don’t think you can have people without conflict of this sort (and lots of it), and if you have conflict of this sort, a method of resolution must arise.

        Maybe there is some “non state” version of conflict resolution, but the only ones I’ve heard don’t past the giggle test (the closest is something akin to Iain Bank’s Culture, which is post-scarcity, fairly utopian, and STILL utilizes minimum force and social engineering. Society is just designed, from the way people think upwards, to maximize the notion of ‘Whatever, ain’t my business’)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “Conflict” is obviously too broad. The state is not the last arbiter of any sort of conflict. It’s not the last arbiter in a conflict over who gets the last slice of pizza, unless that conflict becomes violent, in which case we’re back to Weber. It is the only arbiter of conflict with the authority to use violence to coerce parties to abide by its decisions. That, at least, is the Weberian position.

        If the only means of conflict resolution that you’ve heard don’t pass the “giggle test,” as arbitrary, or rather, as loaded as that is, I recommend studying anthropology. There were conflict resolution mechanisms in place before the existence of the state.The state did not arise as an inevitable response to the very existence of conflict, but to conflict in the context of complexity (the complexity that comes with the existence of wealth and property, say).

        Which reminds me, there is a famous model of the origin of the state, famous on the left, at least, of the sort I was suggesting we need above (though of course now antiquated, though not entirely out of favor among anthropologists):

        Thus, in the Grecian constitution of the Heroic Age, we still find the old gentile system full of vigour; but we also see the beginning of its decay: father right and the inheritance of property by the children, which favoured the accumulation of wealth in the family and gave the latter power as against the gens; differentiation in wealth affecting in turn the social constitution by creating first rudiments of a hereditary nobility and monarchy; slavery, first limited to prisoners of war, but already paving the way to the enslavement of fellow members of the tribe and even of the gens; the degeneration of the old intertribal warfare to systematic raids, on land and sea, for the purpose of capturing cattle, slaves, and treasure as a regular means of gaining a livelihood. In short, wealth is praised and respected as the highest treasure, and the old gentile institutions are perverted in order to justify forcible robbery of wealth. Only one thing was missing: an institution that would not only safeguard the newly acquired property of private individuals against the communistic traditions of the gentile order, would not only sanctify private property, formerly held in such light esteem, and pronounce this sanctification the highest purpose of human society, but would also stamp the gradually developing new forms of acquiring property, and consequently, of constantly accelerating increase in wealth, with the seal of general public recognition; an institution that would perpetuate, not only the newly-rising class division of society, but also the right of the possessing class to exploit the nonpossessing classes and the rule of the former over the latter.

        And this institution arrived. The state was invented.

        Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        You’re defining “conflict” too lightly. Conflict might be an argument over pizza — but it can also an argument over property. Over a contract. Over whether or not I can dump trash into the river nearby.

        Person A wants to do X. Person B does not like that — whether Person A is all about same sex marriages, dumping waste, or stabbing Person B in the face is immaterial. There is a conflict. A disagreement.

        And it’s not a one-off. It happens over and over, between various persons. Often times the same basic conflict, the same disagreement. There’s literally two ways to solve this. Either you go with “Whomever is still breathing” or you work out some sort of impartial authority system to call it.

        The State has the monopoly over violence, yes. But that’s only a specific subset of their real power — the ability to render judgement. To be the ‘authority’ on conflict. Maybe it takes the police and jails to keep you from dumping poisons into the water supply, maybe just EPA rules. But the whole “you’re not allowed to dump poisons into the river” thing is a result of a disagreement — between the person with a supply of poison he wants to get rid of, and the person downstream who doesn’t like dying.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The violence, under the Weberian view, is not a subset of the power to render judgment, but what gives it that power.

        And when you distinguish between conflicts over the last slice of pizza and over property, you’ve hit on precisely the point I was making.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The violence, under the Weberian view, is not a subset of the power to render judgment, but what gives it that power.

        And when you distinguish between conflicts over the last slice of pizza and over property, you’ve hit on precisely the point I was making
        Ah, and I see the difference between democracy and tyranny as thus: In a democracy, we recognize that some judgements MUST be made and MUST be enforced, so we created a method to do so and granted them the power to enforce it.

        And in a tyranny, someone had the power to enforce the judgements — and thus began making them.

        I don’t think those judgements are avoidable. If someone lacks the power to make and enforce them, we’ll create them. If only because we’re sick of all the stabbings over waste disposal.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’m still of the mind that force (whether physical, social, or mental) is pretty much an inevitable outgrowth of any gathering of humans…
        So I get the distinction between the state and family there, but I’m still of the mind that the very notion of freedom and free will forces a state to arise.

        As I’ve said, I think the state is inevitable. But not necessarily for that reason. The first states came into existence about 5,000 years ago. Behaviorally modern humans came into being about 50,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans about 200,000 years ago, and archaic homo sapiens about a quarter billion years ago or so. So this state business was a long time achieving its inevitability if it’s cause was interpersonal conflict.

        An alternative theory is that the state arose as a consequence of the development of agriculture. There may have been two different elements of that development that led to the state, one of which is interpersonal conflict. As humans became more settled, conflict may have become sharper and more socially destabilizing because unlike in less settled societies people couldn’t just go their separate ways so easily. Maybe. It’s logical, but it’s also speculative. I’d neither discount it nor rely on it. Chris’s reference to property likely plays into this as well, as property became more prominent in settled societies and is a source of conflict (just ask James Madison).

        The other factor is control of agricultural surpluses as a form of community property, but controlled and divvied out by someone in charge. It’s speculated that this was the real precursor to the state, because through food you can control people. And the conflict resolution and other public goods were effectively the price the state paid to keep subjects from objecting to its control.

        As I said, it’s speculative also. But unlike the interpersonal conflict story standing on its own, the agriculture story makes a lot of sense on the question of timing, as agriculture and the state developed in temporal conjunction with each other.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        ehaviorally modern humans came into being about 50,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans about 200,000 years ago, and archaic homo sapiens about a quarter billion years ago or so. So this state business was a long time achieving its inevitability if it’s cause was interpersonal conflict.
        That’s just a function of size. Prior to agriculture, as you note, people just didn’t band together in large groupings. But even then, in small clans or tribes, they had sharply delineated laws (though they did not call them such) and hierarchy, as well as coercion (social and physical — up to and including exile and death) to enforce them.

        Heck, you see it in animals — pack hierarchy, and enforcement (social and physical, up to and including exile and death) to boot. And all they have to disagree on is sex and food.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        It is a bit ironic that some of the same folks who have, in other conversations, argued that individual rights are largely a function of social convention and resisted the idea that rights can be grounded in natural law are now arguing that the state is an inevitable outgrowth of the human natural history and to even question the state’s legitimacy is an absurd proposition.

        Apparently the state is the alpha and the omega.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        jr,
        to be more accurate, the state is a figleaf by which we pretend that justice and such can exist. That we are anything but the weak in service of the strong, who can hurt or kill us at their whim. I don’t suppose they are the state, but only because it’s become too much bother to actually want to rule. Why rule when you can do what you want anyhow?Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        t is a bit ironic that some of the same folks who have, in other conversations, argued that individual rights are largely a function of social convention and resisted the idea that rights can be grounded in natural law are now arguing that the state is an inevitable outgrowth of the human natural history and to even question the state’s legitimacy is an absurd proposition.
        Or perhaps you’re just misreading us.

        My right to life is only as strong as my ability to keep you from stabbing me in the face, in the absence of a state. My right to property? Only as strong as my ability to defend it.

        Which is why states are such a natural outgrowth, because “killing me” or “taking my stuff” is an extreme example of “We have a fundamental disagreement over how to proceed” and those disagreements only get resolved a handful of ways. Either with the face-stabbing or via some authoritative system set up to make those judgements — and to enforce them.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        That’s just a function of size

        Well, I explained why it is probably more than that. And instead of trying to rebut that explanation, you ignore it as though it wasn’t said, which is what you’ve been doing throughout this discussion, initially ignoring how I defined the state, claiming I was basing it on something I’d already explicitly rejected, and arguing about inevitability as though I hadn’t previously made the same point 4 timed.

        So as you’re clearly not willing to respond to what I actually say, there’s nothing to be gained from further “discussion” with you.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Or perhaps you’re just misreading us.

        @morat20, that is a rather odd statement, especially when you follow it up with exactly the sort of argument that I was pointing out in the first place. You are saying that rights are little more than social conventions to do some thing (honor other people’s claim on property) or not do some other thing (stab someone in the face). And you say that the state is the “natural outgrowth” of human social development. Not sure how I am supposed to be misreading you.

        Just to clarify, I am not, in this comment or the preceding one, trying to argue that this conception is wrong or that some other conception is better. I am just making an observation.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        So as you’re clearly not willing to respond to what I actually say, there’s nothing to be gained from further “discussion” with you.
        If it makes you feel better, you’re not the only one who feels this is going in circles, although I can quite honestly promise I’m not trolling.

        Mostly because I think, as someone else noted, we’re still talking past each other. What I consider critical distinctions you consider irrelevant –and vice versa.

        I guess the best way I can put it is this: The state and the family aren’t the same. But the dynamics in the family are a microcosm of the dynamics of the state, that while the state isn’t “the family scaled up”, you can see the seeds of it even on the micro-scale. The state’s inevitability in the way a handful of related people interact and set up a life.

        The results are different, and not just in scale between the ‘family’ and the ‘state’ — but the driving forces are quite similar. (The inevitable friction of mutual interaction). I also think the clan and tribal structure offers an interesting look at something akin to a transitional — something that’s more than a family, but not quite a state.

        You could probably toss in some of that fun social science stuff — that says the maximum number of people we can really relate to is basically a hundred or so. We’re just not mentally capable (on average) of keeping real track of more than that. (As in “really know them” rather than “make rule-of-thumb approximations”)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        So then your whole argument is something that doesn’t really address anything I’ve said, so far as I can tell.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        So then your whole argument is something that doesn’t really address anything I’ve said, so far as I can tell.
        I’m not sure. I think we’ve gotten lost in the weeds (and, as noted, were arguing past each other. It’s entirely possible neither of us having the conversation we think we are).

        My only original point was that the state, or something close enough for jazz, was inevitable. And you could see why, just looking at family dynamics.

        The specifics of the state evolve with society — but the root cause is, effectively, people interacting. So the state for an agrarian society would be different than a modern industrial one, and a Greek city state different from, say, Singapore. And, say, the ‘state’ of a hunter-gatherer grouping 100,000 years ago would be far different (and barely recognizable compared to modern states) but still arise from the issues of societal interaction.

        The size, complexity, and friction points of society dictate the specifics — but the friction dictates the formation of a state. (Which was my original issue — calling it ‘stockholm syndrome’ is dumb, like saying rocket scientists have stockholm syndrome with the way they’re always obeying gravity. )

        I’m not sure what part of any of that we’re actually arguing about at this point.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        1. You and I agree the state is inevitable.

        2. I don’t see how the state could possibly be anything but a consequence of human interactions.

        3. Weber said that the state didn’t have and ends–purposes–that other types pf political organizations (families, tribes) had, only a unique means, the monopoly on legitimate violence. So, yes, there’s a continuum of uses of power and means of dispute resolution at different levels.

        Whether there is any disagreement between us in all that, I just don’t know.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        3. Weber said that the state didn’t have and ends–purposes–that other types pf political organizations (families, tribes) had, only a unique means, the monopoly on legitimate violence. So, yes, there’s a continuum of uses of power and means of dispute resolution at different levels.
        I’m gonna disagree with him there. The only reason families and tribes no longer have the monopoly on legitimate violence is because it was subsumed by the state to an extent. (Spanking is quite legal. Wife beating was only made illegal surprisingly recently, etc).

        Even then, it’s a nesting doll sort of thing — my city, my state, and the federal government all have the power of legitimate violence over me. As did my father growing up, as I suppose I have over my son (not that we were big on spanking, but it’s certainly legal in Texas).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        You’ve not demonstrated the legitimacy aspect or the territorial aspect. You’re engaging with bits of Weber’s definition, but not the whole thing.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        You’ve not demonstrated the legitimacy aspect or the territorial aspect. You’re engaging with bits of Weber’s definition, but not the whole thing.
        True. I engaged with the part I found interesting enough to say something about.Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to LeeEsq says:

        WRT the family, wouldn’t the territory be world wide. As a child, there was no where i could go where i’d be out of reach of the long arm of my father. No location outside his jurisdiction. You could argue the modern state’s reach is similarly unlimited. While snowden may snicker, Anwar al-Awlaki would agree.

        And wouldn’t my, and my siblings, willingness to accept his ability, as the leader of this “state”, to do me violence, grant him legitimacy the same way I grant legitimacy to the US State.

        All admit this is all a tad above my pay grade, but I’m not sure how the definition provided would exclude this.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

      May I suggest we at least pay attention to current voluntary arrangements?
      I don’t much care if anarchy is going to work in 100 years, after all…
      If it’s feasible now, it deserves consideration.Report

    • Avatar TrexPushups in reply to James Hanley says:

      If we had a constitutional convention today I am convinced that the result would have me hoping that exit visas were not required.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to TrexPushups says:

        We’d end up with one of two kinds of conventions.

        1) One in which we’d end up with constitutional amendments that (more or less) accurately represent what the limits on federal power are and explicitly come out and say that anything that isn’t expressly delineated by the constitution or one of its amendments are left up to either the states or the people. AND (AND HERE’S THE POINT) THIS DOCUMENT WOULD ACCURATELY REFLECT WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW.

        2) One in which our aspirations are written down but, honestly, people would pay attention to them about as much as they pay attention to any of them that aren’t the 1st (in some parts) or 2nd (in other parts). “That’s not what 20 dollars actually means, though.” (As they argue over the 7th Amendment.)

        I don’t know which is scarier, of course.Report

      • If the requirement for adopting the new constitution were the same three-quarters of the states that amendments require today, or even the two-thirds that were required for adoption in 1789, I doubt that a convention could author a constitution that would ever be approved. The South would insist that there be an explicit exit clause. The West would demand that federally-held public lands be turned over to them. Heavily-urban states would demand that federal power be sufficient to enable an EPA with the scope that agency has today; rural states would demand that federal power be limited to the extent necessary to ensure that an EPA could never have that scope.

        In all seriousness, I think the options are likely continue muddling along with the current arrangement, or split the country into between three and five almost independent parts.Report

      • …explicitly come out and say that anything that isn’t expressly delineated by the constitution or one of its amendments are left up to either the states or the people.

        Living in Colorado as we do, @jaybird , “left up to… the people” is an interesting proposition. I have occasional nightmares about a citizen-initiative mechanism like Colorado’s done at the national level. Even under the assumption that such would be purely statutory, I have visions of walking into a polling place and facing a ballot with 150 statutory items on it. Many of them contradicting each other, many of them with purely regional appeal, and most of them drafted so poorly that there are sure to be unintended consequences.Report

  19. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    The stateless society is, I think, only possible if you believe that human beings are fundamentally good and are corrupted by social institutions, and can be perfected by changing those institutions.

    Removing the state does not remove the ability of one person to confer power over others. It simply removes the ability to limit and control that power. In the modern democratic state – as well as in many traditional or tribal states – there are institutionalized rules on what the state can and cannot do.

    Remove the state, and power comes from other sources; the simplest of these is that the strongest person rules. If you don’t do whatever that person wants, that person can kill you. Or if they just happen to feel like it, they can kill you. (This is also the case in some forms of states.) Organizing society based on limited power, and governments that are expected to work for the good of the people they govern, and can be removed from office if they do not do so, seems better than rule by raw, unlimited force.

    Several people have pointed out, above, that states in the modern era (and, for that matter, the ancient and medieval eras) have been responsible for killing massive numbers of people. The question in response to that is – why should we choose to get rid of the state rather than find a way of creating states that don’t carry out mass killings and persecutions? It’s not like we’re without examples of states that aren’t carrying out mass killings and don’t appear inclined to do so.

    On a mass scale, education and health care have only been provided by states or by religions powerful enough to qualify as quasi-states. Not to mention measure to ensure that food is safe, medications are quality and will heal rather than killing you, means of transport from one place to another, clean water in large urban areas. These things have overwhelmingly improved the well-being of humanity.

    In short, if you want to convince people that a non-state is better than the existing state options, you need to explain:
    1) How such a system would prevent the most powerful person from taking over and ruling by force.
    and
    2) How such a system would provide an equal or better standard of living to the currently-existing one.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Katherine,

      I get where you’re coming from, but let me speak for the anarchists for a moment.

      Many, perhaps most, of the anti-state advocates do not believe in the inherent goodness of people. Murray Rothbard, in the link I gave just above, is explicit about this. It is precisely because they think people are not inherently good (although, pace Rothbard, they don’t think they’re inherently bad, either, but a mixture of the two) that they are unwilling to trust anyone with the powers of the state.

      Their argument is that only the state can coordinate the concentrated use of so much power, and that rather than vainly hope to try to control the state’s “unnatural”* degree of power, the better hope is to not allow such an accumulation of power.

      The strong man can be killed. As Hobbes notes (paraphrased), no man is so strong that he cannot be killed by another, or by several acting together.

      Now I’m rather inclined toward your way of thinking about the strong man, particularly if we consider him in terms of charismatic leaders, who are able to bend others to their will, and become if not a state because they lack legitimacy in the eyes of those they rule at least a quasi-state.

      So I’m not trying to say they’re right about power and you’re wrong. But I do want to set the record straight that they are absolutely not driven by an optimistic view of human nature–rather, by a more pessimistic view, one that says nobody can be trusted with the unparalleled power of the state, so creating one is too great a risk. You can disagree with their analysis and conclusions of course, but we ought to grant them their own assumptions and not claim they believe something they don’t in fact believe.

      _____________________
      *By “unnatural,” I mean greater than is found in the state of nature.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to James Hanley says:

        Thanks for the explanation, James.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        James,
        I am troubled by how these folks don’t seem to notice the accumulation of power in corporations — sometimes even to the point of exceeding a given state’s power (or ability to enforce anything).

        If what someone wants to argue is that we ought to go back to iron plows, etc, — well, that’s one thing.

        But if their policies will simply lead to corporations running the world — what’s the good in that?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        What Kim said. Many anti-statists on the right argue that corporations would be much less powerful in the absence of the regulatory state because they could not use state power to pursue their goals. Lets just say that I and many other people find this argument entirely convicinng because we see plenty examples of corporations and business people behaving badly because of a lack of check in the world today or throughout history like during the heyday of the nightwatch man state in the 19th century. States regulated the economy much less during the Gilded Age but any intervention tended to be on the side of business against workers trying to organize until the 1890s at earliest for the most part.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’m wondering who authorizes limited liability corporations when there is no state? What makes you so sure such things would even exist?

        It’s kind of like worrying that big market teams would take over the NFL if the league’s governing structure was completely eliminated.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        In the absence of a state or government, the business form won’t be a corporation in the strictest legal defintion. There is nothing preventing people from pooling resources and forming a larger corporation-like entity in the absence of the state. Even if they do not have legally-guaranteed limited liability, how could their personal assets be reached in the absence of a state?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        You’re assuming a lot of trust. Why would you pool resources with me when you have no legal recourse against me? The corporation is a creation of the state, from the beginning. This history of companies is one of the best short books I’ve ever read, and makes that clear. Currently I’m reading Vermeer’s Hat, which notes that the Dutch East India Company was created by the Dutch government requiring traders to join together–the state, not the businessmen initiated the idea. York University economist Janet Landa has published several articles on ethnic Chinese middlemen throughout Asia and how they circumvent the state by making business arrangements through extended family relationships, but those don’t really take on the form of a corporation.

        So I think you’re underestimating how much the state is necessary to the existence of the corporation. But if you disagree, then I’d say you must presumably not be one of those liberals who think markets can’t exist without government–because without markets there’s no point to a corporation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        James,
        I got a gun, don’t I? There’s recourse in that.
        More importantly, I see the corporation taking on the trappings of power we currently attribute to the state, so, your fellow Yakuza would punish you (with tanks, if necessary.)Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to KatherineMW says:

      My views are fairly optimistic. Along the lines that 90% of folks are fundamentally good and 10% have power issues.

      Unfortunately those few tend to vie for the levers of control, which typically manifest in the state. The recent advancements in state have created conditions that there is a ladder system for these few. If you knock off the the one highest on the ladder there will be more in the ready to climb to the next rung. (History has also shown that there is little issue with killing swaths of humanity to achieve the next rung.)

      The best way to get rid of the state is not to need it.
      In addressing 1. and 2.

      1. The use of force is a form of rent seeking and if the rule of law provides that the person should be stripped of power to rule over others then this becomes small issue. This was left to the general commons in the past, as state has been corrupted over time it has actually provided sanctuary for these bad actors.

      2. Decentralize. Take much of the money that is leaving the community to support the central structures/mega industry and invest it in long term local infrastructure and local exchange. Investigate what tangible local currency and permaculture would improve. Make a goal of the local community to be more self reliant and aware that it owns the shortfalls of the infrastructure it values.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Citizen says:

        Why do you think that decentralization would be a good thing. Small, decentralized communities have been able to use a lot of coercive power over those that can’t conform to community standards. Either people conform or they leave/get exiled from the community. Its the larger units of power that have broken the coercive power of small communities and allowed people to live more individualistically.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        So more supreme court judges have been removed for behaving badly against individuals than county judges for behaving badly against individuals?

        when you scale up power there is less that can be done about it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        Decentralization also allows problems to be solved at the level of the stake-holders, rather than from top-down. Those solutions are more likely to draw on relevant local knowledge, whereas top-down solutions are more likely to ignore that local knowledge (you can even see that in a small society like my college). An important part of that local knowledge is understanding what kind of solutions are viewed as legitimate by the stake-holders. This has been studied and confirmed repeatedly by Elinor Ostrom and other scholars affiliated with her and IU’s Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis.

        Decentralization also allows voting with one’s feet. The higher up the decisions are made, the more territory they cover, and the harder it is to shop around for more preferable policy sets. This is called Tiebout sorting, after economist Charles Tiebout.

        A third virtue is the opportunity for policy experimentation and playing follow the leader when another polity devises a superior idea. This is the classic laboratories of democracy concept.

        It’s true that decentralization is no panacea. Neither, however, is centralization. So depending on one’s preference ordering of values, either could be preferred. But it’s important to recognize both the virtues and drawbacks of each, which tend to be mirror images.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Citizen says:

        @james-hanley

        One thing I’ve noticed in the wake of Fergusson and other issues is that people on the left tend to think that local government is where the real problems lie.

        http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/ferguson-worst-governments.html

        I generally hear more about corruption at the state and local level than I do at the federal level. Liberals also generally complain about the quality of local politicians as compared to the quality of Congressional or statewide politicians.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Citizen says:

        Law of large numbers. Or at least, there is a statistical issue inherent in any comparison of the federal government to more numerous state and municipal authorities.

        Ferguson’s problems are a microcosm of problems that exist at the federal level, but are so large and all-encompassing that you probably don’t notice them: socioeconomic imbalances that favor certain groups allow those groups to gain an outsized share of the social, economic, and political power in an area, and to create a system that essentially maintains those imbalances. So Ferguson’s police force and government are almost entirely white despite the population being mostly black, and the white folks in power create a system of incarceration, intimidation, and what amounts to monetary theft, a redistribution from the powerless to the powerful, that maintains the imbalance.

        Also, Ferguson has only one ‘s’ in it.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Citizen says:

        James, what Saul said. From the liberal perspective it doesn’t always work out this way. More localized decesion making is capable of being subpar because it is narrowly focused on parochical needs rather than having a broader scope. There are plenty of democratic and centralized governments that manage to do just fine in coming up with solutions to problems in a particular area. When it comes to housing and urban development issues, many liberals thing that decentralization is one factor that gives NIMBYs so much control and the result is a housing shortage. Local expertise is not always the best expertise. Sometimes it very bad.

        The stake-holders argument is just too much like the old British arguments that only the gentry should vote because only land-owners truly have the stake in society.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        Lee and Saul,

        First, what Chris said. Also, I’d suspect, attention-bias. You conveniently ignore the great history of discrimination by the federal government: the genocide of Native Americans, discrimination in the armed services (read up on the Port Chicago disaster and mutiny, for example), the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments, the segregated school district in D.C. set up by Congress, the discrimination against black farmers by the USDA which went on at least into the ’90s, the policy of taking Native American kids from their parents and placing them in white homes, the drug war, discrimination by the FBI against minority and female employees…at the local level these would all become talking points and viewed as all too common, but at the federal level you treat them as aberrations if you even take notice of them.

        You paint a very simplistic picture of the federal government as the benevolent power that clamps down on the vicious locals, but you don’t provide much of a mechanism to explain why it would be so. It happens sometimes because you bring into the decision-making process people from what you would consider more-enlightened locales. But it also works in the reverse because you bring in decision-makers from those less-enlightened locales and they also get to influence the rules that are effective in those more-enlightened places.

        As to other places coming up with great solutions from the top-down for particular places, it’s not impossible, just not as likely as you assume, and I’m willing to wager you’re going on general impressions and haven’t studied many of those issues very closely. I’m reminded of my friend, who wishes American cities would be more like European cities…but his impression of European cities is limited to their well-maintained and heavily subsidized urban cores, and he never sees the suburban slums.

        The stake-holders argument is just too much like the old British arguments that only the gentry should vote because only land-owners truly have the stake in society.

        Oh, lord, Lee, that is just so terribly terribly wrong. The gentry weren’t the only stakeholders in Britain–they actively excluded stakeholders from governance, so the analogy doesn’t even begin to work.

        Yes, when the local level excludes stakeholders, then it’s no good. Whichever level we’re at, stakeholder political equality is a virtue. I wonder if we can find any centralized governments that deny stakeholder equality?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        “when you scale up power there is less that can be done about it.”

        Government is not the only source of power, though. And in places where the government is relatively weak, the corporations simply take over. Where the government is relatively strong, it’s often easier for the corporations to coopt the gov’t.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Kim
        We have never lived in a society where the primary rule of law is no rent seeking, (or at least within recent history)

        It actually has the potential to re-establish free markets from the bottom up. As you mentioned before we just have to choose where our dollars go*.

        *Sometimes I wish you would write on this.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        And if I choose to use my dollars to kill you? You’re looking awful tempting with that gold extraction operation over there, after all…

        You’ve never lived in a place where power is more centralized in corporations, and more decentralized in government. Well, that’s fine. But they do exist.

        Have you read much about Argentina?Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Kim
        I have a few friends that would inquire about my death, as I would theirs.

        Argentina, I probably know more about Columbia.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        assume some competence. you have some friends who would laugh at the ridiculous way you managed to kill yourself.

        Read about Argentina’s money crisis. If you wish to prevent something from going disasterously wrong, you’d better at least know the pitfalls.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Citizen says:

        Re: centralization vs decentralization;

        The smaller the unit, the more easy it is to make decisions and implement them- there isn’t a whole lot of disagreement there. And generally, the easier it is for the majority to express itself effectively.

        But the question is, is that always a good idea?
        What happens when what the majority wants is injustice, as in Jim Crow or Ferguson?

        Which gets back to the notion of the problems with democracy, to which no one has offered an entirely problem-free solution.

        Expand the stakeholder pool large enough, you can get any group to be either in the majority or minority. A majority of white racists suddenly finds themselves in the minority in the state, or nation. What this group sees as justice is overruled by the larger groups notion of justice.
        Which is a very double edged sword!

        Which is why the cosmopolitan scorn for tribe and community identity seems so lacking; We have varying levels of identification- as family, as citizens of a city, or state, or nation; as members of an association or profession, which is trans-state or trans-national in scope.

        I think these overlapping circles of identity and group norms helps to even out disparity in belief systems and help in reaching a consensus about what the shape of justice is.

        We discussed once before about how there isn’t a clear understanding of truth and justice that exists outside of us, independent of our manipulation and yet available for viewing; it always only reflects our understanding and biases. Yet with a wide enough consensus we can approach something that is at least workable, if not perfect.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Kim
        The tangible local currency and self sufficient communities I mentioned above relate in debt and instability of Argentina how?

        Have you ever thought about local conditions? Plenty of people, plenty of work to be done. What gives?

        You must be hitting a strange angle on this one.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        if nothing else, it relates to how to get from point A to point B.
        But, there are a lot of things you can pull from a decent study of “gang activity” during Argentina’s collapse.

        For one, you can quantify the amount of effort that was needed to protect one’s own “gang.”

        As to “local systems” — are you familiar with what the Advantages to Just in Time are?
        Put simply, reducing us back to local self-sufficient groupings is tying a hand behind our back. You won’t be able to compete against actual states. Why does that matter? Well, because it’s very very possible to create something on a small scale — but eliminating all nations at once is … very difficult.

        I think, speaking practically, that without a state — and with the presence of skilled mercenaries and/or assassins, you’re essentially breeding submissive people. That’s been done before, and it hasn’t turned out well.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        @lwa

        Up to the point at which you start talking about tribes, you’re making a very Madisonian argument. Can’t criticize that.

        I don’t, though, understand how tribalism follows from that, or your fondness for tribalism. It’s tribalism at the local level that causes the problems we’re criticizing. Tribalism is a form of faction, what Madison was trying to fracture and minimize. So I’m just not following you on tribalism at all–I see it as one of the greatest failings of human kind, something we want to discourage because by itself it encourages us to think of non-tribal members as “others,” as less than us, even less than human, and not deserving of our interest and concern. It’s the root of racism, the foundation of Israeli-Palestinian hatred, of Catholic v. Protestant violence.

        Those overlapping levels of identity you’re talking about are real, but if we didn’t have that base level of tribalism, we wouldn’t have the problem that these higher levels of identity can help us overcome. Without tribalism (a utopian ideal, probably), without that identity that causes us to distinguish “we” from “them,” we’d probably just look for whatever level of government incorporated all the relevant stakeholders for a particular problem and try to solve it at that level where all affected parties were heard.

        I think I’ve never heard anyone explicitly praise tribalism before, and the people I’ve known who seemed most amenable to it were conservatives, not liberals. So is this your old underlying conservatism poking through again? Or is it something else entirely that I’m missing?Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Kim
        You don’t have to eliminating all nations at once. What you have to do is disengage in a few activities that vacuum dollars out of your local economy.
        Maybe find sustainable exchanges that keep things moving.

        Submissive people? Do we really know where the comfort leads?Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ James
        In the Great Plains the use of tribalism is used in a little different context than how you use it here. It is more open sourced, almost in the way liberals use egalitarianism. You may find a little pushback from that confusion.

        Faction to my ear, sounds closer to what you are describing.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

        Re decentralization…

        This seems to be getting harder and harder for more policy areas. To pick one aspect where I have some experience, consider state budgeting. The political limit on state/local revenues seems to be in the fairly narrow range of 9-12% of state GDP (higher in richer states, lower in the poorer ones), and most states are up against their limit. In a typical state, a majority of state spending is already on programs that have growth rates higher than the growth rate for revenues (eg, K-12 education, health care, transportation). For the last 50 years, the federal government has increasingly been subsidizing those programs in poorer states by funneling money from richer ones (eg, by the Medicaid FMAP matching rate formula). To a considerable degree, the cost of experimenting has grown beyond the ability of individual states to do so.

        Well, that’s not entirely true — states could in theory experiment in the other direction, by withdrawing from Medicaid, or converting state universities to quasi-private schools, etc. I admit to having an interest in watching a state try one of those, just to see how many legislators could hold on to their seats in the next election.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        @citizen

        IIRC, LWA is from SoCal, where tribalism means African-Americans burning Asian-owned stores during riots and Asians shooting back at customers they’ve always despised anyway.

        On the Great Plains, you’re all so overwhelmingly white that tribalism means your ELCA church used to be ALC, and there’s used to be LCA!

        I joke because I don’t understand. Could you explain a bit more?Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        well, I’ll make another attempt:

        tribes are humans
        tribalism is humanism
        humanism emphasizes the goodness of human beings

        Mind you, this may not make sense to linguists or people of the high speak, but in some circles you will find a knee jerk defense of tribalism due to confusion.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        Hmm, I’m stumbling over the jump from the first proposition to the second one, but thanks for explaining.

        I have friends from Iowa and Nebraska and family from Kansas, and I’m half persuaded that the constant wind and the treeless landscape drives folks a bit loopy. 😉Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Citizen says:

        Chris’ comment upthread got me thinking about the ways Weber’s general definition of the state can encompass more than merely the role violence plays in all this. In particular, this

        socioeconomic imbalances that favor certain groups allow those groups to gain an outsized share of the social, economic, and political power in an area, and to create a system that essentially maintains those imbalances.

        got me thinking that a corollary to Weber’s def. could be that the state has “successfully claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of racism”, or has “successfully claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of privilege”.

        I’m not sure our libertarian friends would be happy with those corollaries, but in some sense the state could just as well be defined as encompassing more than merely the legitimate use of violence. At least, insofar as we get past principled and into more pragmatic accounts of where these types of legitimacy arise.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        Huh, that’s something to think about. Weber was explicit about “physical force,” but probably today much more than a century ago we have a better understanding of ways power can be exerted as effectively without actually getting physical. So you may be on to something. It’s one of those things I’d have to chew on for a while, but it sounds like an insight that’d be worth chewing on.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

        I have friends from Iowa and Nebraska and family from Kansas, and I’m half persuaded that the constant wind and the treeless landscape drives folks a bit loopy. 😉

        I have said for decades that from a historical perspective, given all the things that can go wrong wrt agriculture on the Great Plains — early and late snow, tornadoes, hail, floods, droughts — only incurable optimists would stay and breed there. Sane people would leave quickly :^)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Citizen says:

        Now we’re getting all Foucault up in here.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Citizen says:

        Chris,

        Maybe. You’d have to educate me on that. 🙂

        I’m inclined to think James had it right in his response: that there are manymany ways for power to manifest short of violence to achieve certain goals.

        I was actually inclined to think that what I said leads to a more expansive view of what “violence” entails than I otherwise thought, something very much amenable to Weber’s original conception and a view which libertarians’ (not that this refudiates your suggestion) are already predisposed to accept.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Citizen says:

        Still, for Foucault, power is part of (perhaps the most basic part of) the substrate of social reality. It is not concentrated in coercion, which is at its core violence, but instead ubiquitous, part of the very fabric of the social world: socialization itself is an manifestation of power. Language is manifestation of power. Truth itself is a manifestation of power.

        Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its “general politics” of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Citizen says:

        Chris,

        Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, of course I do. I’m just not certain that the only way to arrive at the conclusion that power manifests in other ways than the purely physical violence is “Foucaultian.”

        Maybe that’s a trivial point. I dunno.

        The language part I’ll give him props on. But I think that he’s primarily identifying symptoms at that point, rather than causes.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Citizen says:

        You certainly don’t need Foucault to get there, but if you find a discussion of non-coercive power, chances are it came through Foucault, at least indirectly. If you find a discussion of discursive power, it almost certainly did. He changed the way power is conceived in a way that now dominated much of the discussion of it in many contexts.

        Of course, he got there via Nietzsche, so you could start there too. However, a thorough analysis of power as something way more basic and encompassing than just coercion is Foucault. You don’t have to agree with him, but your channeling him regardless when you see power as a discursive reality.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Citizen says:

        I wanted to link to this last night, but I was on my phone, and lazy:

        The Subject and PowerReport

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        re: centralization vs. decentralization

        Generally speaking, the decentralized solution will be more efficient at solving the local problem, but will necessarily be less generalizable particularly because it’s optimized for the local problem.

        When the local problem is truly local, there’s an efficiency gain with no attendant generalizability loss. That is to say, if only a small number of localities have a particular problem, you don’t gain enough by trying to come up with generalizable solutions; let the locals figure it out.

        When the local problem is repeatable, there’s an efficiency gain at the local level but a generalizability loss if you don’t have coordination between the various localities that share the problem, which can mean you have an overall efficiency *loss* due to replication of effort or standards difference, etc. This doesn’t show up in the local budget, which can make it a pernicious problem to track down.

        When a local problem is merely an incidence of a truly general problem, any efficiency gain at the local level is probably massively outweighed by a generalizability loss if everybody is solving the same problem in an entirely different way.

        Finally, you have problems that are in many ways both national, regional, **and** local, depending upon how broadly you define the problem.

        Take the case of building codes. The building code in California is different from the building code in Florida.

        To some extent this is *highly desirable*, because the major exception scenario in California (having the foundation fall out from underneath you due to earthquake or mudslide) is very different from the major exception scenario in Florida (having the roof fly off in high winds due to a hurricane, or the first floor fall in because of flooding).

        The sections of the building code that deal with those exception scenarios would be hugely stupid to share between California and Florida.

        On the other hand, the other 95% of the building code (electrical wiring, pipe sizes for interior plumbing, etc) is generalizable across the entire nation, because piping sizes being standard enables a plumber to pack up in California and move to Florida and know that the standard size for a faucet hooked up to city water supplies is 5/8″ instead of 1/2″ or whatever.

        On the gripping and, of that 95% of the building code that is generalizable, a substantial portion of it doesn’t *require* a top-down approach to “fix”, because “people who build houses” will settle on a standard pipe size on their own without too much trouble.

        On the other gripping hand, some of the problems that *are* local can also *still* have generalizable solutions, due to technology advancements or whatever.

        Generally speaking, the federal government works best when it works in an audit capacity, overseeing how states perform their governance. It works well when it mandates solutions to inter-state squabbles.

        It works far less efficiently when it tries to interact with all of those governance models using uniform models, because you wind up having to generate and entire branch of the government just to figure out how their assistance should be parceled out.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

        Finally, you have problems that are in many ways both national, regional, **and** local, depending upon how broadly you define the problem.

        Someone should do a post that speculates about the pros and cons of a regional layer in the US — bigger than states but smaller than the country as a whole. This term the SCOTUS is going to hear two western water cases, at least one of which will involve resolving a conflict between state law and a federal law that says the feds should abide by state law to the extent feasible. None of the justices appear to have taught or practiced west of the Mississippi for 40 years or more. I’m at least uncomfortable about that; what do the lawyers around here think?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        We do that at the administrative level in many areas of the government.

        FEMA has regions, for example (California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and the other Pacific Islands bits are IX, the southeast is IV). I think in the case of many bureaucracies the layers at which the regions are assigned are administrative rather than aligned with what I’m talking about here, which in some cases can lead to exactly the sort of multilayer problems I’m alluding to. Like, if building codes stretched between Nevada and Hawaii we’d have equally good earthquake resistance but there would be a lot of Nevada homes strengthened to withstand Pacific storms they’d never see.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

        @patrick
        But those are administrative regions — they don’t get to set policy. Here’s an example I often use. The US has three power grids, defined geographically. Each is in a quite different situation with respect to resources for generating power, how the population which consumes the electricity is distributed, etc. Increasingly, the population in the Western Interconnect is anti-nuke, anti-coal, and pro-renewables. A bunch of states in the Southeast, part of the Eastern Interconnect, are pro-coal and (to some extent) pro-nuke [1], in part because they have miserable renewable resources. I can point to a variety of studies which I believe demonstrate that the national policy on electricity markets is designed to work well in the Southeast, but makes a western heavily-renewable strategy much more difficult. This is a case where the regions need to be able to set policy at a higher-than-state level, not just administer it.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Kat,
      “If you don’t do whatever that person wants, that person can kill you. Or if they just happen to feel like it, they can kill you. ”

      This is not terribly different from the present day state of the world. Granted, the “strong” person generally needs active complicity of someone else to not take the blame, if it’s bonafide murder we’re talking about. But rape? Blackmail? Active coercion of any sort? All those are free and clear, easy as pie. IF you’re rich enough.

      Hell, we have organized places that coordinate child rapes. Think about that for a moment, and then ask yourself if that damn state is providing anything more than a fucking figleaf.Report

  20. Avatar LWA says:

    @james-hanley
    I was channeling Jonathan Haidt’s arguments in the Moral Sense, a book I liked because it confirmed my own biases so very well.

    But seriously, you can’t think of anything positive about tribal identity? The love of country, the fondness for ethnic identity, cultural belonging, religious tradition, none of these have any positive aspects?

    Even allowing for all their terrible destructive power, the various groups we belong to either by birth or choice, I think they have a lot of benefits to bring out our better selves.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA says:

      No, I think they are much more dangerous than beneficial. There’s nothing wrong with liking certain cultural things. But identifying with them, in the way that leads people to think of us vs. them is bad.

      Look at my comment to Citizen, above. It’s a joke, but were I more tribalistic it could be serious. I strongly dislike a lot of cultural aspects of the south, a place where I feel like an alien, and that makes it a struggle to not have a reflexive tribalistic dislike of southerners. There is nothing good about that.

      If you want belonging, a sense of community is great. If it takes in the tinges of tribalism it’s going sour.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley , @lwa : I would posit that psychologically, the church, and by this I mean the local congregation, fills the role previously (as in pre- agricultural revolution) played by the tribe.

        Although I’ve “converted” to atheism I have to admit to a sense of loss, perhaps even a bit of alienation, in no longer being attached to the faith community of my parents, grand-parents, and great grand-parents as well as the larger ethnic community. Dutch may not seem like much of a unique culture but it was sort of cool to look at the church rolls and see half the names starting with the “Van” prefix and the big pulpit Bible in Dutch (not that I could read it).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Dutch may not seem like much of a unique culture

        I invite you to my wife’s favorite website: Stuff Dutch people like.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to LWA says:

      @lwa , I find it interesting how your most strident disagreements with @james-hanley occur when you are advocating for decidedly conservative values. You’ve read Haidt, you must realize this, no?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Road Scholar says:

        I began my political life as an ardent Reagan supporter.
        I am still predisposed to conservative values, but support the New Deal as a tried and true tradition, against the radicalism of the contemporary conservative movement.

        Bruce Bartletts recent piece about how Obama is a 1970’s era Republican could just as easily describe me.Report

  21. Avatar J.Hemenway says:

    While it may have been mentioned already in the comments (i haven’t had time to read them all), could the legitimacy of the state originate from the first state we encounter- parents? It occurred to me after reading the “running the class as an authoritarian dictator” comment. I had a step father who ran the house as such until I revolted. There is much loyalty to family and I can see a easy transfer of subordination from the parents to the state especially since the parents yield to the state.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to J.Hemenway says:

      Strict father and nurturing parent.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J.Hemenway says:

      I’ve been thinking about this, and while I admit I have no idea where this cultural/phenomenal property of “legitimacy” arises, I think you’re quite likely correct that it originates in a psychological rather principle-based or perhaps even pragmatic-based view of things.

      At least, all those guys making a mint’s worth of cash pushing candidate X are banking on, anyway.

      Hume was right again. (Take that Chris!)Report

  22. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    Max Weber defined the state as having “successfully claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of force,” but he wholly begs the question of how a state manages to reach a position where its use of force is accepted as legitimate.

    The state and the law or legitimacy are in effect two names for the same thing, or two different dimensions of the same thing. Where your “legitimation” (or “successful claim”) is, there is your “state,” which is what Weber’s definition also says. The Professor is correct that Weber “wholly begs the question,” or in other words that his definition is circular. The implication is not, because it cannot be, that legitimacy itself is “illegitimate” – which is what the anarchist seems to say, but cannot really mean – because where your il-legitimacy is, there also is your legitimacy, or your “state,” though not necessarily a “modern” “political-administrative” “state apparatus.”

    As others have pointed out above, though have tended to express as an inevitability in the realm of human nature rather than as a simply definitional matter (an inherency of the concept), as soon as we have any form of community – which can and has even been conceived as a “community” within or as the mind or personality of an individual – we have a “state”: a “status,” a “structure,” a “stability.” That these words are all based on the same “st-*” root is not random coincidence, and there is much more to be developed on this subject and on the construction of identity, individual and collective, in language, but I fear it will lead to the kind of “abstract” speculation that the Professor will profess to despise even as he demands it. So, rather than attempt to explain the matter, I’ll simply assert that the human-collective mass society produces a complex and elaborate identity that constructs the individualities that or who collectively construct it. This relationship is also circular – either of its two principal terms could come first – because it is the same state-legitimacy circle expressed in different words.

    As for emotionalism at the disruption of this relation. It might derive from exasperation: We stop at the stop sign, and do not feel we have the time to re-construct the history of traffic law in the interest of assessing the moral rightness or wrongness of our doing so. In the world of overflowing abundance and satisfaction of all needs, we would perceive no lack of time, but we would also not have any good or bad reason to be on the road. If the disruption of the relation is perceived as “serious,” that is the same as saying that it is perceived as a serious threat to the “self.” Such a threat might produce a call for “violent coercion,” or, in rare cases, for a citizen’s arrest or act in “legitimate” “self”-defense.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      The state and the law or legitimacy are in effect two names for the same thing, or two different dimensions of the same thing.

      It is certainly the case that questions of legitimacy only arise in the context of authority or something like it (I’m not sure heirs are authorities; perhaps questions of legitimacy arise with any claim to an exclusive right to something, or an exclusive relationship with something, be it an inheritance or the use of violence), of which the state and the law are two instances, but I’m not sure this means that the state and the law are legitimacy, or that legitimacy is the state or the law. Certainly it is possible for a law or institution to be illegitimate by any sense in which the word is used. If that is the case, then the two are mutually separable in practice. Unless for every potentially legitimate state or law there is always a higher state or law that determines its legitimacy, which sounds like a strange hypothesis.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

        @Chris: “Certainly it is possible for a law or institution to be illegitimate by any sense in which the word is used.”

        To the contrary, an “illegitimate law” is a contradiction in terms except precisely in a pragmatic sense that coincides with a logically subsidiary sense: as when we say that a particular law or piece of legislation was illegitimately enacted or enforced. It could be procedurally illegitimate or it could be thought to violate moral law, or both, but all instances it is a claim of violation of a higher or, alternatively, more fundamental law/legitimacy.

        “Unless for every potentially legitimate state or law there is always a higher state or law that determines its legitimacy, which sounds like a strange hypothesis.”

        Even more strongly to the contrary: The necessity of a higher/more fundamental law (or fundamental norm, essentially that which is not to be questioned) is not a strange hypothesis at all, but itself the fundamental “constituting” “law of laws” for us, and expressed in that prior notion of the illegitimate law or the illegitimate particular legislative act, which we (can) consider to be “illegitimate” by virtue (only, necessarily) of its violation of a higher/more fundamental/prior/transcendent “legitimacy.” In this sense the state is the actuality of legitimacy or legitimation. In this sense “the” state is never illegitimate: “State” in this sense is that which is legitimate or has been legitimated… as that which legitimates… etc.

        To say the same thing, “a” state (or law or set of laws or institutions) may be declared illegitimate, but the declaration will and must always be in favor of, or implicitly “constitute,” another greater/better/more fundamental/worthier “state.” Or, in our tradition we “constitute” the “state” including its particular “institutions” in relation to a set of more fundamental/higher laws. (At some point the notion implies or insists on a set of effectively unquestionable laws of grammar and semantics or interpretation.) To “constitute” the “state” or the “institutions” of the “state” is to speak in another circle (thus all the “st-*”‘s): To “con-stitute” is put together the “statutes” of the “state.”

        We tend to treat “statute” and “law” as synonymous, though the difference in connotation is interesting to consider. A statute for us is tied to the/a particular state: I think it’s flimsier, an artificial product whose “status” is implicitly revisable, as is, for that matter, the “political-administrative state” itself as it happens to be constituted. “Law” seems to point to custom, real acceptance, morality, nature.

        So, at the risk of repeating myself but I hope to a clarifying effect, when in common speech or in loose political speech, we or the anarchists speak of an “illegitimacy” of “the” “state,” we or they are always implicitly invoking a higher/more fundamental “legitimacy” and a better “constitution” of “a state,” the state that would derive “legitimately” from the true “legitimacy.” Only “a” state or mere set of “institutions” may be or be found “illegitimate.” “The state” or, so to speak, “state-ness” is still an underlying presumption and inherent necessity under any concept of il/legitimacy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Yeah, this is where we just disagree. I see legitimacy as discursive, rather than Platonic: something to be arrived at, rather than something existing prior (not necessarily temporally, but logically, ethically, whatever) to that for which legitimacy is to be determined. Perhaps this is itself such a principle, but it is one that simply says all principles that come after it (again, logically, not necessarily temporally) are yet to be determined.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

        Not sure we really see the matter so differently, Chris. I’m not saying that legitimacy or particular realizations of it (legitimations) are or can be prior to law (not saying they can’t be either). I’m observing that legitimation as a potential is inherent in any position in favor of or against any particular legitimation. The process of discovering “what will count as legitimate” or “what will be inducted into the set of legitimate things” that I think you are calling “discursive” would be very much part of this notion in most interpretations, or anyway I don’t see why discovery of the necessary implications of the law contradicts the notion of possibly necessary implications or for that matter would be possible without it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I think I follow, then, but I’m not sure it makes much sense to think of this as “the state,” unless any organizing principle that can be applied to human relations can be called “the state,” which rather makes “the state” a useless term. The state is not just an organizing principle or collection of such, but the implementation of such. Legitimacy is then the extent to which the implementation conforms to our organizing principles.

        A state that diverges from those principles, not necessarily because others hold different principles (modern states are so complex that it is entirely possible that the whole conforms to no person’s principles, or behaves in ways unforseen and undesired), is illegitimate to some extent. And to the extent that it is impossible to implement some organizing principles in the form of or through a state, as a concept defined largely in opposition to other means of implementation (say in small tribes or collectives), any state is illegitimate.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

        “The state” might still be a useful term if used consistently and precisely. The question was its relationship to “legitimacy.” In the quote that the post cites, the implication is that power takes on an undeserved appearance of legitimacy, but we can instead propose that the relationship works (or also works) in the opposite direction, or that legitimacy generates or is able to call upon power – or “right makes might” or at least “perception of right also makes might.” The anti-statist has other problems with the Weberian “modern state,” of course, and anti-statists have different problems, but, rather than call upon the Stockholm Syndrome, we can consider that the reason “that citizens tend to identify with their governments” is that government and identity produce (and re-produce) each other, meaning that the government or the political administrative state or any state will naturally and necessarily reflect the citizens’ identities already, or that governments tend to conform to their citizens’ or subjects’ “perspectives” (which include self-defining/-limiting perspectives on the status of citizens or subjects), or that government originates in “emotional attachments” and follows the demands of “patriotism” – and that “every nation gets the government it deserves” – and that the problem for anarchists and other anti-statists isn’t that an alien power has taken the people hostage, but rather that as far as the people as they really are are concerned, the anarchists et al are an alien power. So the hostility that Prof Hanley describes would be a reaction to an interruption – the anarchist’s interruption of the people’s admiration of its own image in the mirror of the state. This last part reminds me that we’ve only scratched the surface of the emotional reaction to interference in “political eros” on the one side, and have ignored the often also emotional – often quite savagely expressed – jealousy of revolutionaries or outsiders regarding the supposed unjust “attachments” of those who spurn their advances.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        So the hostility that Prof Hanley describes would be a reaction to an interruption – the anarchist’s interruption of the people’s admiration of its own image in the mirror of the state.

        Narcissism does so hate to be challenged.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      @ck-macleod “As for emotionalism at the disruption of this relation. It might derive from exasperation: We stop at the stop sign, and do not feel we have the time to re-construct the history of traffic law in the interest of assessing the moral rightness or wrongness of our doing so. In the world of overflowing abundance and satisfaction of all needs, we would perceive no lack of time, but we would also not have any good or bad reason to be on the road. If the disruption of the relation is perceived as “serious,” that is the same as saying that it is perceived as a serious threat to the “self.” Such a threat might produce a call for “violent coercion,” or, in rare cases, for a citizen’s arrest or act in “legitimate” “self”-defense.”

      That was most excellently put.Report

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