Thursday, May 18, 2006

What is legitimacy ?

In recent entries, I have discussed exploitation, the model of exploitation that most people hold, and how this gives undue legitimacy to democratic systems. This of course brings up another question : what is legitimacy ? How is it given and maintained ?

This is a vital question for market anarchists, because we see government as exploitation and coercion, while most people see government as a legitimate and noble set of institutions. How does someone get to equate the organized murder of the military, or the organized theft of taxation, as legitimate ?

I think we need to first look at the concept of authority, because authority is what individuals who hold legitimacy claim to have. In the case of politicians and bureaucrats, this is, of course, a vain and hollow claim, much like how politico-scientific or pseudo-scientific hucksters claim to possess the "real truth".

However, there are cases where authority is warranted. I recognize that Stephen Hawking is an authority on the subject of astrophysics, while I obviously am not. Not only does he possess authority but also legitimacy - he is widely recognized as an eminent scientist. So in this case the two aspects co-exist. Despite the debacle of his first election, George W. Bush is widely recognized as a legitimate ruler. However, he has no objective authority to back up this claim, as he is an evil, barely educated, dope-addicted moron.

Now, belonging to a specific segment does not make one automatically an authority. I'm sure some bureaucrats are very competent in what they do and simply do not realize the cause they are serving. Likewise, some scientists can be most corrupt and servile, as the growing class of politico-scientists demonstrates.

Legitimacy, therefore, is a matter of, fundamentally, public opinion. The only reason why we legitimize a soldier and not a serial killer is one of pure public opinion manipulated by the apparatus of government. Authority, on the other hand, is a matter of fact. I'm sure some soldiers are quite the authorities on how to kill people, but all that means is that you are a very good murderer. It does not legitimize them as justified social agents.

Legitimacy and exploitation are closely linked, or to be more precise exploitation links itself to legitimacy, because it is far easier to exploit when the exploited believe that you are acting for their own good.

Scientists have legitimacy without wanting to exploit people. But this is only because science fills an actual need. The exploitative bastard cousins of science - politico-science and sacred science - are a lot more popular than science, because they gain their legitimacy by borrowing the language of science, but have no qualms with adapting their positions to the changing social context.

The legitimacy of the democratic system rests on three main pillars :

1. The illusion of equality presented by the democratic process - that "everyone has a say" and that power ultimately rests in the hands of "the people".

2. The social engineering that public schools, control of the media, the academia, the arts, imprint on the individual from his early childhood on.

3. All the "services" enforced or controlled by government, which lead people to believe that such services couldn't or wouldn't be provided by private individuals.

The main advantage of legitimacy is that the system is never under attack. No one, except us, questions the premises of government. If government is legitimate, then any problem that happens must be the fault of specific people, not of the system itself and its structure of incentives.

This is like a market anarchist saying that a soldier is fully responsible for all the people he killed. Trivially true, but in terms of understanding the situation you are going nowhere. You need to understand the system of incentives, manipulated by government, that led him to accept and follow the path of organized murder. Likewise, it is futile to try to analyze scandals, corruption, fraud, dishonesty in government without looking at its incentives system.

7 comments:

Debbie said...

I have removed you from my blogroll at Right Truth, as per your request.

Have a wonderful day.

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

Francois Tremblay said...

Thanks ! Maybe that'll stem the flow of statist idiots coming on this blog... maybe not.

Brandon said...

You have a beautiful mind. You must submit this to the next Radical Progressive carnival!

Hellbound Alleee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Francois Tremblay said...

I don't know, brandon. The RP carnival is left-wing, I'm not sure they would appreciate an article against the legitimacy of the state.

Brandon said...

I don't know why not...I am left...I am also radical...I also defy labels....my spiritual mothers are Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich....

Anonymous said...

Geez people relax!!