Posts tagged Anarchism

Sartwell, the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence and Actually-Existing Socialism

Crispin Sartwell has a great new article recently at Splice, on “The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence.” Quoth he:

The classical socialism of people like Corbyn and Sanders had been developed, in detail, by the middle of the 19th century. It was designed as a response to the rise of rapacious industrial capitalism, and it specifically proposed to rein in capital by vast expansions of state power, or the annexation of more and more resources, powers, segments of the culture by government.. . . The concrete proposals amount to increased state control of many or even all segments of human life, from cradle to grave.

I think you’re going to need some new ideas, because there’s one breathtaking theoretical and practical problem with classical socialism. It proceeds in massive unawareness of a fundamental principle in political theory and political reality, which I call the principle of hierarchical coincidence (PHC): the idea that, in more or less every case and in the long run, political and economic hierarchies tend to coincide. Economic power leads to political power; political power leads to economic power.

. . . For this reason, and for the most part and in the long run, ever-increasing state power as recommended in socialism will tend to increase rather than ameliorate economic inequality. And though governments do sometimes and to some extent reduce economic inequality, they do so in a situation in which the seemingly intractable political/economic structure is largely produced, held in place, and enforced by these governments themselves. The structure of economic inequality rests to a large extent on political and police power, and certainly couldn’t be maintained without it.

This is the incoherence at the heart of classical socialism: that intensifying political power, at least of a certain kind, will in the long run reduce economic inequality. But if you start nationalizing or socializing various segments of the economy—that is, if you give these powers to the state–you don’t move toward an egalitarian paradise, you simply create a new ascendant class. . . .

–Crispin Sartwell, The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence
SpliceToday, 13 June 2017.

Read the whole thing.

Shared Article from SpliceToday

The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence

There’s one breathtaking theoretical and practical problem with classical socialism.

Crispin Sartwell @ splicetoday.com


What I want to add here some responses to the pat rejoinders that I think are most likely to get thrown out quickly in response to the problem Sartwell raises, but which are really idle as objections to Sartwell’s point.

First, it is entirely idle to point out that state socialism is intended to combat hierarchical coincidence, and if only it could be properly politically implemented, it would tend to reduce inequality more and more and hence more and more make the problem evaporate rather than stabilizing or spiraling out of control. Whatever its theoretical intent, the effect in actually-existing state socialism is entirely different.

If there were some way to implement state socialist programs exactly to the ideological socialist’s specification, without serious political complication, bureaucratic redirection and mission creep, or unintended consequences, then sure, we’d have to hash out whether the total effects of the system tend to reinforce or to weaken the problem of hierarchical coincidence, on net, over short-term and long-term time spans. But there is no such way.[1]

Second, there’s a lesson which many socialists today might take from a point like Sartwell’s, which does represent some progress, but which really goes a lot less far than they might think. In particular, it’s really easy to look at Sartwell’s discussion of the problems posed by increased state economic control, and conclude that the easy solution to the problem is to become an anarchistic socialist, instead of a state socialist. No state, no state power to back up economic power. And of course I’d hardly want to ward anyone off of anarchistic socialism — since that is, after all, what I believe in some forms.

But if you think of the structure of a socialistic anarchy as combating inequality with more or less the same sorts of socialization and collectivization proposed by state socialists — just in the hands of grassroots collectives, administered locally and democratically without state power by the same people who work in them — then I would argue that you have not eliminated the problem of hierarchical coincidence by eliminating the state police power, or by moving from electoral power to social capital as your means of administering the distribution of economic resources. Because, of course, there are such things as hierarchies of social power and prestige, even outside of state structures. Substituting social capital for political power brings some obvious benefits, because political power involves greater institutionalization, more formalized excuses for legitimacy, literally lethal repertoires of force to exert, etc. But the ability to wield social power within collectivized economic institutions, and so to continuously reinforce economic and social power, does not easily disappear even with the removal of the state. It becomes easier to combat; and maybe an easier fight is the best we can realistically hope for. But maybe, on the other hand, the goal should be to make sure that realistic alternatives to existing collective entities, dissent, exit, open competition, and other routes for centrifugal economic and social forces to dynamically express themselves, are firmly incorporated into our economic activities and our socio-economic institutions.

  1. [1]You might say, “but the lack of immaculate conception is a problem for any duty proposing serious changes to the political system — including libertarianism, including market anarchism, including everything.” And you’d be right. It’s a really serious problem for any form of reformist libertarianism, and a major explanation for why it often degrades into standard right-wing business regulation politics. Anarchism doesn’t eliminate the problem; but it ameliorates it, precisely to the extent that the anarchist deliberately breaks from political strategies that open up the largest opportunities for political complication, bureaucratic redirection and mission creep, or unintended consequences. But if solving the problem were easy, revolution would be easy, and it’s no surprise that it isn’t.

The Self-Confidence Argument

Some of you know that I am a philosophical anarchist. This conclusion is controversial: most people think that states can in principle have legitimate political authority over the people in them, and that some states really do. So no state can have legitimate political authority is a conclusion in need of some argument to justify it. I’ve tried looking at the issue a couple of ways in a couple of different places. But those are both arguments that start from within a pretty specific, narrow dialectical context. They’re intended to address a couple of fairly specific claims for state legitimacy (specifically, individualist defenses of minimal state authority, and defenses of state authority based on a claim of explicit or tacit consent from the governed). Maybe a more general argument would be desirable. So here is a new one. It is a general deductive argument with only five premises. All of its inferences are self-evidently valid, and most of the premises are either extremely uncontroversial logical principles, or else simple empirical observations that are easily verified by any competent reader. I call it The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism.[1] Here is how it goes:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true, then no state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

Q.E.D., and smash the state.

Now, of course, just about every interesting philosophical argument comes along with some bullets that you have to bite. The awkward thing about the Self-Confidence Argument is that if it is sound, then it also seems that you can go through the same steps to show that this argument, The Self-Confidence Argument For The State, is also sound:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is Some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If Some states have legitimate political authority is true, then some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. Some states have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ Some states have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

. . . which admittedly seems a bit awkward.

It’s easy enough to figure out that there has to be something wrong with at least one of these arguments. Their conclusions directly contradict each other, and so couldn’t both be true. But they are formally completely identical; so presumably whatever is wrong with one argument would also be wrong with the other one. But if so, what’s wrong with them? Are they invalid? If so, how? Whichever argument you choose to look at, the argument has only four inferential steps, and all of them use elementary valid rules of inference or rules of replacement. Since each inferential step in the argument is valid, the argument as a whole must be valid. This also, incidentally, provides us with a reason to conclude that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is a concrete application of a basic logical principle, justified by the concept of deductive validity itself. Sound arguments must have true conclusions; validity just means that, if all the premises of an argument are true, the conclusion cannot possibly be false. Premise 3 is a simple empirical observation; if you’re not sure whether or not it’s true, just check down on line 9 and see. Premise 4 is a completely uncontroversial application of disquotation rules for true sentences. And premise 5 may seem over-confident, perhaps even boastful. But if it’s false, then which premise of the argument are you willing to deny? Whichever one you pick, what is it that makes that premise false? On what (non-question-begging) grounds would you say that it is false?

See also.

  1. [1]I owe the idea behind the form of this argument to a puzzle that Roderick Long gave me a couple years ago.

We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn

Shared Article from studentsforliberty.org

I’m Just Asking Y’all to Burn It Down

In a recent Students For Liberty blog post, my fellow campus coordinator and close friend, Wade Craig, wrote of how the torch in SFL’s logo represen…

Kelly Kidwell @ studentsforliberty.org


Fire is bright and full of power. Fire is ungovernable and unafraid, passionate and even angry. Perhaps most importantly, fire has no masters. To become truly free, we lovers of liberty need to push for radical, meaningful change. We must channel our inner fire to burn down that which keeps us from living as freely as possible.

Burning it down means freeing oneself from the chains of the State and the culture that allows it to thrive. It means questioning everything, not accepting things as they are, but trying to discover what they should be. Burning it down means challenging oppression, rejecting the idea that people need masters, and taking control of your own life. It means loving fiercely, living virtuously, and speaking out against injustice. Burning it down means taking the rage that you have at those that steal, murder, and enslave without recourse, and channeling that rage into something constructive. It means innovation, learning, and even a little dancing. Burning it down means spreading liberty like wildfire.

Forest fire, though it may seem vicious, is an important ecological process. It destroys the old and the outdated, and makes room for succession forests, which become vibrant ecosystems, full of new life. So too must we destroy the State, eradicate oppression, and make way for complete liberation. The time has come for liberty-lovers to shift their focus from policy-making, getting out the vote, and cautiously stepping towards small government. Let’s burn it down already!

–Kelly Kidwell, I’m Just Asking Y’all to Burn It Down
Students for Liberty Blog (17 November 2014)

How Intellectual Property promotes the progress of science and the useful arts (cont’d)

Fun fact: So under the current copyright law, almost all books held under copyright by their original authors stay under copyright for the entire life of the author, plus 70 additional years after the death of the author. For works of corporate authorship, the company that owns the copyright holds it for either 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. To put that in perspective, Paul Avrich’s books on the Russian Anarchists (published in 1967) Voltairine de Cleyre (published in 1978) will become available in the public domain in 2,076 CE — just over 10 years after the invention of warp drive and First Contact with the Vulcans.[1] But at least we’ll be prepared, because the first episode of Star Trek will have finally come out of monopoly a few years before, in September 2061.[2]

Abolish Intellectual Protectionism.

See also.

  1. [1]N.B.: Or, you can pirate a copy of The Russian Anarchists from Libcom now.
  2. [2]Assuming that large media companies make no efforts before 2061 to extend corporate copyright terms even further. Which they almost certainly will.

CFP: “Libertarianism and Privilege,” for Molinari Society’s 11th Symposium at the APA/Eastern Division (27-30 Dec. 2014, Philadelphia)

Can you hear that? It’s the Call for Abstracts. Your abstracts. The Molinari Society is putting out a Call for Abstracts for our 11th annual Symposium at the APA Eastern Division meeting, 27-30 Dec. 2014, in Philadelphia. Send us an abstract for a paper by 26 May 2014:

Call for Abstracts

for the Molinari Society’s Year 11 Symposium to be held in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting, December 27-30, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Symposium Topic: Libertarianism and Privilege

Submission Deadline: 26 May 2014

In recent years, “privilege” has become the default model for most of the Left’s critical discussion of structural oppression, resistance, and challenges to social justice. Critical discourse today recognizes many forms of structural social privilege, including white privilege, male privilege, and privilege based on heterosexuality, gender identity, and economic or political class. Privilege is said not only to touch on political power but also to have interpersonal and epistemic dimensions – informing social interactions and cultural expressions, and raising concerns about the position of social critics and limitations or distortions of knowledge.

In addition, the relationship between libertarianism and privilege has begun to attract increased interest, both within and beyond libertarian circles. Libertarianism has been described both as essentially an opposition to privilege, and as essentially a rationalization of privilege. Does libertarian theory have the resources to address questions of structural privilege – especially those forms of social privilege that do not appear to derive from state action? Should it address such questions? What unique insights or contributions might it offer to critical discussions of privilege? How might an account of structural social privilege modify or develop libertarian approaches?

Abstracts should be submitted for the 2014 Symposium by 26 May, 2014. Submissions from any point of view are welcome. Please submit an abstract only if you expect to be able to present the paper in person at the Symposium. (Final papers should be of appropriate scope and length to be presented within 15-30 minutes.) Submitting authors will be notified of the acceptance or rejection of their papers by 31 May, 2014.

Submit abstracts as e-mail attachments, in Word .doc format, PDF, or ODT, to longrob@auburn.edu.

For any questions or information, contact Roderick T. Long at the above email address.

–Molinari Society (3 May 2014), Call for Abstracts

Submit to the anarchists!