Posts Tagged: the state

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"Politics is simply one group foisting its rules and preferences onto another through the use of physical force. It may appear more or less democratic, more or less liberal, but always and everywhere it is a mere facade covering conquest."

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Moving Along the State-Anarchy Continuum

Consider the characteristic Hobbesian argument for the state: we need Leviathan to ensure, through the use or threat of force, that conflicts are resolved peacefully. (I do not say “justly”—there is no structural way to ensure that the outcomes of any state-based judicial system [or any comparable system in a stateless society] will be procedurally or substantively just, though of course some structures will be more conducive to just procedures and outcomes than others.) …

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Any (Good) Thing the State Can Do, We Can Do Better

The question whether people in a stateless society could respond satisfactorily to a disaster like the BP oil spill is really just a special case of the general question whether people without the state can do the things people attempt to do through the state. It seems to me that the answer is “yes.”

That’s because everything the state purportedly does is actually done by people. Sometimes they act out of fear; sometimes out of the perception that the state is legitimate; sometimes what the state commands turns out to be just what they want to do anyway; and sometimes because they believe that what the state is asking them to do is just what they are morally required to do anyway. But, for whatever reason, they do it.

This fact ought to be sufficient to make us confident that ordinary people, cooperating peacefully, can deal with environmental or other disasters in a stateless society. In what follows, I briefly discuss the purported advantages the state might be thought to possess in dealing with large-scale problems before noting some ways in which people in a stateless society could cooperate to prevent or remedy a disaster like the one currently taking place in the Gulf. …

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The past few years have been the time of Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. If the Seattle movement fizzled out, the Arab Spring, M15 and Occupy have since taken place on an even greater scale. Far from class consciousness being buried in a wave of patriotism, labor activism has come back with a force I couldn’t have imagined, in the form of Coalition of Imolakee Workers boycotts and networked campaigns by Walmart and fast food workers.

The capitalist state and its security apparatus gave it its best shot after 9/11 and still couldn’t take us out, or even slow us down very long. We’ll bury them.

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Can Anybody Ever Consent to the State?

… What then are the counterexamples to be considered? Narveson mentions those who voted in a government election for the party currently in power. Morris, for his part, says that at least some people seem voluntarily to perform acts that seem to constitute consent, and they seem to do so with the requisite understandings. I’d be interested to know whether the performances Morris has in mind are performative utterances like the Pledge of Allegiance or citizenship oaths, where the utterer explicitly declares her support for a particular government, or whether he also means to include other kinds of acts, which have some other purpose but from which consent can reasonably be inferred. But whatever sorts of spontaneous or ritualized performances Morris or Narveson may have in mind, what puzzles me is that, while they indicate these cases as counterexamples to Sartwell’s strong claim — as presented on page 40 of Against the State — neither Morris nor Narveson seems to engage with the direct argument for which the strong claim is the conclusion — as presented on page 50 — in which Sartwell explicitly considers and rejects the claim that these sorts of individual performances could count as consenting to the State’s rule. Thus:

… consent is always compromised by force; the mere existence of effective force dedicated to some end constitutes coercion toward that end, whatever you may think or want. If I consent to abide by the law when that law is enforced by a huge body of men with guns and clubs, it is never clear, to say the least, whether my consent is genuine or not. … It will always be prudent for me, under such circumstances, to simulate consent, and there are no clear signs by which a simulation could be distinguished from a genuine consent in such a case. That I am enthusiastic in my acquiescence to your overwhelming capacity for violence—that I pledge my allegiance according to formula, sing patriotic songs and so on—does not entail that I am not merely acquiescing. … [T]he mere existence of an overwhelming force by which the laws will be enforced compromises conceptually the possibility of voluntarily acceding to them. Or put it this way: the power of government, constituted by hypothesis under contract, by which it preserves the liberties and properties of its citizens, is itself conceptually incompatible with the very possibility of their consent. (50-51)

That is, the standing threat of overwhelming force ensures that any individual performance is made under duress, ruling out the preconditions for any genuine consent. I’d be interested to hear what Narveson and Morris make of this argument for rejecting their purported counterexamples to the strong claim. Unless there is some response to it, then it seems like the attempt to use individual performances as evidence for the actual existence of (at least some) individual consent to the State, which is to say, as evidence against Sartwell’s strong incompatibility claim, is simply question-begging. …

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"The UN’s stated mission is to prevent aggression; yet it does absolutely nothing to restrain the one country whose aggression far outweighs all others in the postwar period — perhaps in all of history. In the past seventy years the United States has invaded more countries, overthrown more governments and backed more dictators and terrorist death squads than any other country on Earth. There isn’t even a close second."

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"Everyday consumer financial security, ensured with the military-grade secrecy used in cryptocurrency, is already technically feasible. Only the government-business alliance prevents market competition from making it economically inevitable."

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Student Suspended for Selling Illicit Full-Sugar Pepsi Out of His Locker

Alberta high school student Keenan Shaw was suspended for two days after he got caught selling an illicit substance from his locker at Winston Churchill his school. Weed? Nope. Booze? Nope. Acid? Nope. 

Shaw says all those treats (and more) are on offer in the school’s corridors:

"I’m not going to name any names, but I know a couple of people selling marijuana, there’s kids selling smokes, there was a kid last year selling meth, as well as a kid selling acid," said Shaw. 

But his drug of choice is full-sugar Pepsi. Commerce in the sweet, sweet drink is banned at his school, which allows only diet sodas to be sold on premises.  …

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"Market anarchists believe that individuals should make the decisions about their own lives—not politicians, election results, or arbitrary laws. Elections are one way that the State legitimizes its usurpations and brutalities. Want to make a real statement? Stay home this November."

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The Maker of Vuse E-Cigs Is Lobbying to Ban Vaping (Updated)

The biggest of the big tobacco companies, RJ Reynolds, which also owns the fast-growing e-cig brand Vuse, is trying real hard to convince lawmakers to ban vaping. That might sound ass-backwards, but it isn’t. The firm is almost certainly hoping to stymie the competition by making sure its disposable “cigalikes” pass regulations but the refillable mods you find at your local vape shop don’t.

Reynolds submitted a 119-document to the Food and Drug Administration arguing to ban “open system” vaporizers and flavored products, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. Those are the DIY mods that come with tanks you fill yourself with the e-liquid of your choice. Reynolds is in the process of acquiring Lorillard, the tobacco company that owns the top-selling e-cig brand, Blu eCigs, though as of now doesn’t plan to keep Blu as part of the deal.

The firm argues that there’s no way to safely regulate the liquid people are vaping or ban flavors that arguably appeal to kids. Disposable e-cigs, on the other hand, come pre-loaded so it’s easy for a company to control ingredients and limit flavors.

That’s certainly true, but it’s not the whole story. Outright banning refillable vaporizers would effectively wipe out (or drive underground) an entire booming industry of flavored juices and personalized mods in favor of big tobacco’s inferior products. (Seriously, those nic sticks are gross.) …