Monday, July 31, 2006

Accountability : What's it good for ?

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I've talked a lot about accountability lately - how profit is its signal, and we can only have it in a market anarchy. Let me now close on the topic. What does accountability bring to a society ? How does it make our lives better ?

Suppose that the government passes a law saying that only one company - say, Pepsi - will be allowed to produce and sell colas. This would devastate the market of colas. Where there was a flourishing of competition, there will now be uniformity, and prices will necessarily be higher. No competition within the market means that the monopoly's competition only comes from other markets - bottled water, juice, etc. People will not suffer great price difference between competitors, but they will suffer higher prices if it means they can still get some cola, as opposed to a completely different alternative they don't desire.

Furthermore, this lack of incentives to provide a good product applies across the board. The monopoly is not likely to be concerned by quality or taste as much as it would if it had competitors that people could switch to. In all cases, the quality of cola will be lowered.

The effect of a monopoly in general, therefore, is to reduce the incentives to quality and service, and therefore to make a market worse for the consumer.

However, in this first example there is still a strong incentive insofar as people can just give up drinking colas, and drink other, perhaps similar, beverages. Two possibilities exist here : either the monopoly will expand its power to cover those beverages also, or it will have to compete with them.

Let's take another example, power, which industries and homes heavily rely on - be it electricity, propane, oil or natural gas. It is an essential service. If we nationalize power, what will happen ? Power generation will tend to be less efficient, and prices will tend to be higher. But in this case, the lack of incentives is much worse because there is no alternative. Consumers are, for all intents and purposes, prisoners of this monopoly.

What we can expect from such a scenario depends on who controls the monopoly. We can expect plutocratic interests to have a say in how power is generated and sold. We can expect a lot of laws and regulations preventing efficient use of the resource. We can expect colossal inefficiency. We can expect that in all cases the average consumer will be the big loser (by paying double, or more, what he would have paid in a free market - as well as being regulated to death).

What if we establish a monopoly in the most essential markets of all - order and protection from violence ? Well, if we judge from what democratic governments have brought us in the past century, here's what we can expect :

* Constantly growing sums of money extorted from the population in order to finance the expansion of the ruling class.
* A destruction of value in the whole society through inflationary policies.
* Global warfare and social warfare.
* The spectacular growth of a whole category of violent organizations in society (mafias).
* One of the most ridiculous and unjust justice systems ever invented by man.

In short, such monopolies become the greatest threats to order and protection from violence.

So what does accountability give us ? Accountability makes us all peaceful neighbours, because our well-being depends on how much other people trust us. Accountability ensures that inefficient and morally wrong ways of doing things are wiped out instead of being sustained by force. Accountability makes for an evolving, self-correcting society.

Lack of accountability, on the other hand, gives us nothing but chaos and injustice. Lack of accountability ensures that people will see each other as saps to be exploited. Lack of accountability ensures the collapse of society.

Do I want a monopoly of order, or people who are accountable for the order they provide to society ? To be a statist and answer the former is insane. The question shouldn't even need to be asked. It is, by now I hope, a foregone conclusion that market anarchy is the only moral political system that has ever existed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The inconsistency of statists

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Universality is a profound concept. It points out the inconsistency that lies at the core of statism : if it is moral for a certain group of people to be aggressors in the name of society, then it should be moral for everyone to be an aggressor. If it is moral for policemen and soldiers to wield guns, then it must be moral for everyone to wield guns. If one argues that policemen and soldiers need guns in order to defend themselves against criminals and aggressors, we can equally argue that anyone else can also encounter criminals and aggressors, and thus equally need guns. I discussed this principle in The Moral Razor.

But there is another way in which we can use universality as an argument - we can look at the motivations for a statist's support of a specific civil liberty, and show how they contradict his support for the state. Being for any measure of individual freedom and a statist at the same time is a contradiction.

For example, a statist can be against the War on Drugs. There are many possible reasons for this. He might be against it because it creates more crime. And yet by sustaining the War on Drugs, the state itself is proven to be the biggest generator of crime ! More to the point, the state itself is, by definition, the biggest generator of coercion in a given society, and is nothing more than an organized process of coercion. To support the state is to support coercion itself.

Perhaps a statist may argue that you should be able to do whatever you want with your own body. But if that's the case, then the state has no business regulating abortion, prostitution, immigration, trade, or by extension what I do with my labour (by taking it away in taxes).

The general method here is to find one specific example where the statist agrees with market morality, state the underlying principle clearly and apply it universally, getting the statist to agree on every issue based on the universality of that principle.

Of course, this does not apply to people who only value freedom as a tool of the ruling class. For example, a collectivist might argue that the War on Drugs is evil because the state must be allowed to get the tax revenues from the drug trade. In such a case, one must come back to the Moral Razor to point out how collectivism is fundamentally incoherent.

Misery Index / Your son died for nothing

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Here is the Tax Misery Index, a measure of the total burden of taxation on the individual.

Jeremy from the Project for a New Anarchist Century pretty much hit the nail on the head:

"Our son... died for the freedom of everybody in the United States," Thomas Tucker's father Wes told NBC.

No, your son died for NOTHING. He was in Iraq taking my freedoms and Iraqis' freedoms, and he paid for this with his life. Deal with it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Letting Go of Utopia

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I first came in contact with the ideas of market anarchy from an Objectivist background. This was, obviously, not very fruitful. For one thing, I was sold to the idea that anarchy simply meant chaos and violence (as the media tells us it is). And more importantly, I accepted the argument that government was necessary in order to maintain an objective standard of rights, through codification into objective law.

Now I realize the stupidity of this objection, which basically amount to believing that a ritualized and monopolized criminal gang could ever be interested in protecting rights, or limiting itself to said protection. That makes as much sense as trying to find a "kind lion" who would limit itself to herding gazelles.

So to a certain extent one has to let go of the romantic notion that a perfect society, a utopia (which is to say, a social organization constructed of whole cloth), is possible. However, I don't think that one should abandon objective standards simply because they are unrealistic. To Francis Bacon, I have no doubt that understanding the basic structure of matter was utopian, simply because he didn't have the tools to do so, but yet cannot be any doubt that it exists. Likewise, there is good reason for me to hope that a market anarchic system, left to its own devices, would eventually converge towards the perpetuation of natural rights. In fact it seems to be our only hope in that regard.

Where does this convergence come from? From the fact that, untainted by coercive incentive systems, the individual's self-interest will always tend to be close to the self-interest of other individuals. True, people will always have differing value systems, but to a certain extent states exploit this diversity by pitting them against each other within the democratic system. Can people live together with less friction when they are allowed to choose the way they want to live, and thus not forced to battle against other people's competing value systems? I think so.

We can look at case studies from market anarchic systems we observe right here and now. They are everywhere, and yet I don't think we use them as often as we should.

Wikipedia is perhaps the most accessible example of such a system. Anyone can edit articles and participate in the project. People expected, and still expect, pure chaos, just as they expect it of political anarchy. And yet Wikipedia has definite procedures to deal with disputes, and they don't happen often. This is simply because people who participate to Wikipedia tend to agree with the values promoted by the process they have put in place. And so far, even though it has a while to go before becoming a full-fledged encyclopedia, it is very successful.

And what about the most successful enterprise of all of human history, science? In a few centuries of work, with constant persecution from religious and political authorities, the scientific process has turned almost total ignorance and belief in the occult into both a probing of the most fundamental questions, as well as the knowledge necessary to double our lifespan, create worldview networks of information, and generally make our standards of life incomparably superior to that of a mere century ago.

Sure, some people try to undermine the system. And yet these systems work, simply because most people voluntarily choose to rally to the banner of science or wikipedia, and thus share the same general values. And so these people working at counter-purposes usually get little or no time in the limelight, while they are still free to form their own systems. Of course, few people are going to take an Intelligent Design journal seriously, unless they already have a religious worldview, but they are free to listen to idiots.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Japanese selling the concept of "jury" / Teaching economics to kids

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You've got to hand it to the Japanese, they can make the worst immoral shit look like such fun. Look at the new pamphlet they have out trying to put a happy face on their upcoming jury system (saiban-in). Never have coercive justice systems been so fun!

Arthur E. Foulkes tells us how he taught economics to fifth graders in a fun and accessible way.

The first week's "word for the day" was trade.

To illustrate trade, I gave each student a very small, inexpensive gift I had purchased at a Dollar General nearby. I distributed the gifts randomly, then told the students they could trade their gifts (if they wanted to) with their immediate neighbors. Some did. Then I opened the class up to unrestricted trade and said they could trade with anyone in the whole classroom. Many more now traded. When they were finished I asked how many of them had traded because they believed by trading they would be better off. All said they had.

Once they settled down again, we talked about the concept of trade in general. I was impressed with how well they already understood this concept; they seemed to clearly understand that exchange involves giving up something you value less for something you value more and finding someone else with opposite valuations. For good measure, I ended the day by snatching away the gifts of two students and forcing a trade where none had been performed. One student was happy with the exchange, the other unhappy. This allowed us to discuss the idea of a "fair" trade — which I defined as a trade where both parties voluntarily take part. Again, I was impressed with how easily they seemed to grasp this idea as I replaced the items I had snatched away for my "forced" trade.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Happy Child Slavery Day!

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Today is the day where we celebrate extremely skewed power relations­ and abuse... it's Parents' Day!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Accountability and democracy

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In my past entry, I examined how markets implement the concept of accountability. Accountability is a feedback system by which producers have to account for their conduct. In a market, this is indicated by profit. Producers whose conduct is less than desirable are punished by lower consumer demand, and therefore less profits. Protection agencies also provide a more immediate feedback, in cases of fraud and coercion.

The state is obviously not part of a market. It is a monopoly that plays by its own rules, crowding out the most important market of all : force. As a monopoly on the production of force, the state is extremely inefficient and exploitative, like any monopoly. It is also not accountable to anyone, since no one else has the force necessary to halt the state's profit and exploitation (except in rare cases of bloody civil wars).

This is where democracy supposedly steps in. Voting is supposed to make politicians accountable to "the will of the people". This is all very nice when you look at it from such a distance that you can't see any detail. Once you start picking this idea apart, it crumbles easily.

If voting provides accountability, then it should provide a means for the individual to change products. It should provide a means for the individual to stop buying the product. It should provide a means for the individual to choose between a vast variety of products. It should provide a means for the individual to get some kind of restitution for damages caused to him by someone else. And yet it does none of these things.

How can I say that democracy does not permit the individual to change products ? After all, voting lets "people" change the party in power. Well, that's the first problem. The individual is not "people". Voting is a majority rule, not a market. When I choose a different protection agency in a market anarchy, I am taking away a small part of a producer's profit. In a statist system, I can take away no part of the monopoly's profit. At best I am taking away an extremely small chance of one group of politicians reaping that profit against others. Therefore, if there's anything that the state is accountable to, it is to mass movements and popular beliefs.

And since any single vote is relatively irrelevant to the outcome, people have few incentives to make an informed decision. On the other hand, a person who deals with a protection agency is extremely interested in making an informed decision, as much as he is interested in making an informed decision about buying a car or a house. Who has that kind of commitment about voting ?

Compounding this problem is that fact that choices in a statist system is artificially severely limited. Once parties have established themselves in the traditional right and left axis, they will seek to pass laws to prevent other parties from getting in the debates and gaining legitimacy. If you can't get a single-party system, you shoot for an oligarchy.

As a system to give legitimacy to the state, democracy is great. As a means to create social warfare, democracy is great. As a process of accountability, democracy is about as bad as you can get without outright dictatorship. To claim that democracy makes politicians accountable is about as braindead moronic as claiming that a woman is not powerless against a rapist because she can complain to him about mistreatment.

Now, governments do have some incentive to make themselves accountable, insofar as scandals lower the credibility of any government. But political scandals are only one very small part of the whole of state exploitation, a wholly insignificant part.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Big Monuments=Slavery? / Net Socialism backlash

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In a comment on a Catallarchy entry, Scott Scheule asks:

I wonder if the ridiculousness of an ideology is positively correlated with the size of its monuments.

Now that the socialists have lost "Net Neutrality", they are making parody mixes of Ted Stevens (which I do find funny). Sore losers? Lew Rockwell argues that Stevens is not quite as stupid as he sounds:

So there is no reason for regret when we find that a regulator knows less about the internet than the average MySpace maven. We ought not to regret that someone with talent stays in the productive private sector and out of the Senate. What we ought to regret is that the dregs who are on top presume to have power over us. Government is always and everywhere all thumbs. That's one reason its responsibilities ought to be as few as possible.

The irony of Stevens' comments are that they aren't as stupid as they first appear. He was drawing attention to the great failing of the internet, which is that there is no rational means of allocating the limited space that the internet provides for information flow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Accountability in a market

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Accountability is another key concept in the comparison between market anarchy and statism. Markets have accountability, states don't. But to understand this, and to see why democracy does not improve the statist incentives in that regard, we need to understand how accountability works in markets.

Accountability is basically having to answer for your conduct. We want to see fraud punished, we want to see inefficiency removed, we want to see inferior alternatives eliminated. In essence, what we want is some kind of feedback system by which we can select the changes we desire and help eliminate the ones we don't.

In a market, this feedback process is called "profit". Profit is the signal given by consumers in a market that tells producers whether a given product is fulfilling a level of demand sufficient to justify its production. More simply : profit tells us if something is worth making.

All of my actions as an economic agent have a direct influence on other people's profit. The fact that I choose one brand over another (such as one brand of car over another) means more profit for one and less for the other, and so does the fact that I choose one kind of product over another (the subway system instead of a car).

In this feedback system, the producer is accountable to the set of his consumers, as people naturally seek the products that best fit their value profile. Products, and producers, which do not fit that profile are less profitable than those that do. My action of choosing another brand or product has a very small effect on this profit. If many people decide that another product fits their value profile better (perhaps because of higher quality, because of added properties, etc), then profit will go down, and the producers are therefore made accountable.

Obviously, in cases of fraud or defects, the producers must be made accountable in the immediate. People may stop buying, say, tainted meat eventually, but even selling the tainted meat at all is a coercive act (assuming it is advertised as good meat - no doubt there would be some market for tainted meat somewhere). And I think it is reasonable to assume that most people would desire protection from such actions. This is why anarchic protection agencies would no doubt stop such things from happening, just like the state does today.

So there are two levels of accountability in a market : the immediacy of legal order, and the economic shifting of demand.

There are other particularities of market accountability that differ from statist systems. Perhaps the most important process in accountability is the constant competition. In the market process, I am not forced to buy a given product because most people favour it. I may have more trouble finding alternatives, but as long as there is some profit in them, they will exist. It is a lot easier to find a Britney Spears song than a Lou Harrison piece, but they are both there.

Another difference is that in a market, the gamut of choices is only limited by the shelf space of the stores, the number and resources of the producers, and the number of profitable possibilities (and in the case of the Internet, only the latter two).

Once again, it's all about the incentive system. In a market, producers are motivated to provide a product that fits people's value profiles, or at least to pretend to provide such. Since it is in the consumer's interest to buy products which indeed fit his value profile, he will use some of his resources to weed out lying producers (through protection agencies, watchdog agencies, insurance, etc).

It is, of course, important to remember that "producer" and "consumer" are just relational labels which apply to the same private individuals. Anyone who participates in a market is, to a certain extent, a producer and a consumer.

Accountability is implemented through profit. Therefore, people who decry the profit motive are anti-accountability. More specifically, they seek to escape the judgment of their fellow men, or would like for that judgment to be ineffective. They do not wish their ideas to have to compete on markets - they want to have everything now. These people are useless to a free society, and become parasites. It is not a coincidence that priests, artists, scientists (apart from economists), are the first opponents of the profit motive.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Separation of Church and State?

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A priori, there's nothing wrong with the separation of church and state. If we're going to choose between two slave-masters, your average Western state is less cruel than your average religious fanatic (or in the case of the United States, your average religious imperialist fanatic at the controls of the biggest army of the world). I live in Canada, and I have to say, as far as slave-masters go, it's probably the least damageable to my freedom.

However, when you start to look at the concept more carefully...

Ultimately, I can't see how one can claim to want to separate "church" and "state", when the state itself is a religion, as I've extensively discussed before. In structure, at least, they are the same. Statism has considerably less stories attached to it, and less rituals as well, but statism at its core is a watered-down, culturally-adaptable form of religion.

So the separation of church and state is nothing more than a fight to favour one religion over another, because that religion is less violent than the other religion. That's all well and good, but as an atheist I have little desire to get involved in a purely religious dispute.

The second problem is that the idea of the separation of church and state is not an appropriate answer. Imagine there is a marble corridor where throngs of people walk all the time. Plopped right in the middle of it is a live baby, placed on a column. People always graze the column and the whole thing shakes- numerous babies have been trampled to death in the past. So in view of all this, you decide to... try to stop the rowdiest guests from going up the corridor, and hope that no one else bumps into the column, despite the fact that it's right in the middle.

The obvious solution, of course, is to move the damn baby somewhere else. It's not a perfect analogy (for one thing, the state is an active agent of exploitation, not a passive agent), but I think you get what I mean. You've got this gigantic, parasitic, all-encompassing center of power called the state, that everyone wants to get at and exploit for their own ends. All sorts of fanatics try to get that power. So the solution we find is to try to stop the worst group of fanatics, and hope that somehow no one else will abuse it too much? That seems rather absurd. The obvious solution, of course, is to move power where it belongs- to the individual, rather than the collective.

The absurdity parallels the so-called pacifist liberals who protest against the state. It hardly behooves real pacifists to sanction the incentives that make war possible in the first place. But whoever said liberals were consistent, right?

My position is that we should support freedom from religion... ALL religions.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Big Dig

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A post from Obscure on the Graveyard of the Gods:

As some of you may know, The Big Dig is the largest roadway/turnpike construction project in the history of the United State[no 's']. Essentially, the plan was to take all of the expressways and turnpike that ran right through the heart of Boston and move them underground. Well, for more than 20 years this project has spiralled out of control, with a budget taken from tax dollars that grew exponentially over the years. Initially it was estimated at 2.5 billion, with the cost to date around 14.6 billion.

The foibles and mismanagement of the contractors and state agencies involved are legendary and too numerous to mention. Needless to say, it's been one disaster after another. In other words, exactly what you'd expect from the state: a project run by people accountable to no one.

The last major tunnels were finally opened three years ago admist much speculation that the tunnels were unsafe. Soon after, those fears escalated when severe leaks began to appear in the tunnel roofs; massive flooding causing some tunnels to shut down. It was thought that those leaks could be sufficiently repaired.

Fast foward to this past Tuesday: A woman driving through the tunnel was killed instantly when a large section of roof tiles came crashing down onto her car.

Now, the state is forced to answer questions and try to find a solution. The problem? The state agency (the turnpike commission) chiefly responsible is beyond the reach of the executive branch's power. In the last couple of days, the governor has held a few conferences stating that he cannot do anything because, essentially, the state cannot hold the state responsible.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Analogies against Democracy

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Aaron Kinney instructs us on using analogies to argue against the democratic process.

One analogy I like to use is soft drinks.

I compare the soft drink market to the government.

I ask them: "what if there was only one soft drink brand available to purchase? And what if you didnt like the taste of it? Do you think it would be fair for the soft drink manufacturer to 1) force the market to only offer its product and no others? and 2) force you to buy their soft drink either at a flat rate every week (say one six pack) or as a percentage of your income?"

The answer to this is always "no". I then ask: "isnt the competitive nature of the soft drink market wonderful? You can choose from so many flavors, and prices are low and flavors are great because of competition. Do you agree that competition is Superior?" 99% of the time, the answer I get to this question is "yes".

Then I shoot for the goal: "So wouldnt it be better if the "government" were replaced by competing companies that were 1) unable to force you to buy their product, 2) unable to prevent competitors from entering the market, and 3) totally reliant on consentual consumer purchasing of its products for its market share?

While at this point they often stammer and are reluctant to admit the logic, I have already won anyway. They have hung themselves with their own noose. And its all thanks to soda pop.

As a comment, I always find it weird that people are so adamant against monopolies, and yet see nothing wrong with the existence of the state or "state companies" (or as we call them in Canada, Crown companies). Once again, people are able to reason perfectly rationally about scenarios until they hit the state, towards which they have a total blind spot. All monopolies are bad, but a monopoly of FORCE, the worst thing possible ? Ah, that one's all right.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Find-a-professor / A tax abolished... after only 108 years!

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Find a Libertarian professor at a university near you with this Comprehensive Listing.

How long does it take for the US government to abolish a minor tax? About 108 years.

The Treasury Department said Thursday that it will no longer collect a 3% federal excise tax on long-distance calls and would refund about $15 billion to taxpayers.

The tax was imposed in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War. It was designed as a tax on wealthy Americans, back when phone service was considered a luxury.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Refuting Anarchy vs State Capitalism

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Oh boy, here we go. I've got some personal investment in this. It's no secret for people who have followed me that I used to be an Objectivist. While I was definitely never of the Randian variety (and despised them more than anyone), much of my philosophical thinking was (and is still) guided by a strong commitment to reality and reason, and by extension individualism. Nowadays, "Objectivist" seems to be a slur word, and I don't know why that is. I think people just hate consistency- after all, if someone is perfectly consistent, how can you convert them to your own belief system?

I have realized, over the course of the years, that some elements of Objectivism were actually less than rigorous- its theory of knowledge, the disputes about moral sanction, and political morality (even before I deconverted). It would be rather improbable for an Objectivist to be a market anarchist, so that makes me wonder why people still accuse me of being one. I guess it's an easy cheap shot.

Is the kind of site I admired? Actually, it's been around for a long time, and I did like the site, even though it was run by Randian cultists. But it does not pain me to discuss why their view of anarchy is completely and utterly wrong, devoid of any comprehension whatsoever- just what you'd expect from a cultist.

They leap off the gate screaming and raving, in a big font:

Anarchism is not a form of capitalism; anarchism is a form of collectivism, where individual rights are subject to the rule of competing gangs

Now, this is a common criticism- that we advocate the existence of armed gangs or "warlords". But if they're warlords, then what is a president or prime minister? This is yet another case of Special Pleading. If a person who gives orders to thousands of armed men is a gang leader, then what is a person who gives orders to hundreds of thousands of armed men?

Are they gang leaders because they can decide to use force at any time? Then what about the leader of an army? Declarations of war are not even needed any more... just a suitable blanket of propaganda for a couple months and you can do pretty much anything.

There is no more reason to call a protection agency a "gang" than there is to call an already existing security company a "gang". Both are groups that exist because of their customers. They have no incentive to start shooting people up and encurring both costs to their customers and the ire of the law. And they offer services in a more efficient way than any government organization.

And Objectivists believe in natural rights, so how can individual rights be "subject to" anyone? I assume they mean "the expression of individual rights...", as that would at least make sense. But the statement still doesn't make sense. Are they saying that "competing gangs" take away people's rights? No, that would be the state, which inevitably expands against individual rights because of its inherent incentive system. Why would a private company want to alienate its customers, when it has no state to rely on? This remains unanswered.

We continue with the Special Pleading at the end of their first question:

What you purpose are multiple agencies (what you incorrectly accuse to be private corporations) in the same geographic area, that have the power to use force subject to no rule of law...

Well of course they are not subject to "the rule of law". There is no law! Rather, "the law" is replaced by freely chosen codes of conduct, which are enforced by the protection agencies. This does not mean that the agencies can do whatever they want and shoot up whoever they want. If they did so, their profit would dwindle, and they would be considered rogue by other, more reputable agencies, with the associated consequences.

This specious "no law = no order" reasoning permates the whole page. To wit, the answer to the next question, which is "Why can't corporations exist without government?" (!)

Under capitalism, corporations are the result of a specific contractual legal framework (provided by government), based on the principle of individual rights. Without government, the distinction between public (state owned) and private no longer exists. Corporations cannot exist without individual rights, and governments to protect those individual rights.

Now how exactly is the state necessary for a "specific contractual legal framework"? I wouldn't expect the Randians to know this, but... international businesses and international transactions completely demolish their argument. There is no international government, and yet corporations get along just fine using private arbitration- a specifically market anarchist feature. And corporations have done the same for most of history! The history of business law is one of agreed-upon rules, not of government fiat.

We see some more basic ignorance of anarchy in their next answer:

Have you ever thought what happens when one 'corporate protection agency' disagrees with another? By what method do they solve their dispute? They do it by competition not with dollars, but with guns. They seek to solve their dispute by resorting to force against each other, i.e., a perpetual state of civil war.

Actually yes, we have thought about what happens when a protection agency disagrees with another. It's called "arbitration". Two agencies have no interest in the costly use of violence, when they can settle disputes in advance by establishing a single code to be used in cases involving both agencies. That way, the simplicity of the system remains, and the use of violence is in fact not needed at all.

What the crew is describing here, is international relations. "Countries" do not compete with dollars, but with guns. They seek to solve their disputes by resorting to force against each other. Given the incentive system of the state, that is what we should expect as well!

And it is not what we observe in international business. Corporations do not declare war on each other. Why not? Because war is costly and uncertain, and they also face judicial and retaliative complications even if they win. Instead, they settle their disputes through arbitration. Just like we say agencies will in a market anarchy.

And we end with a laugh-out-loud bluster:

For those who want an illustration of what happens when two 'competing-governments' are arguing with each other in the same geographical area, I give you the libertarian ideal: Bosnia. This is the result of the anarcho-capitalist's ill-thought out nightmare: a species of collectivism, where one is subject to the whims of the tribe or gang in power.

On a micro-level one can observe anarchism in black markets, where drug dealers compete with each other on the same "turf" to "protect" their interests.

I am laughing so hard... do I even need to answer this at all? These imbeciles are stating that a war fought between TWO STATES, and a black market that exists BECAUSE OF THE STATE, are anarchic scenarios! How plain stupid can you get? This is your brain on a cult, ladies and gentlemen.

What you have to understand about Objectivists, is that they are not capitalist in the same sense that anarcho-capitalists are. What they propose is State Capitalism: a system where the wealthy and powerful can exploit the state for their own ends. These people have more in common with right-wing buffoonery than with real economics.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Africa launches DDT attack / Aliens cause global warming

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Great news on the anti-Greenie front- "Africa Launches DDT Attack Against Malaria". Let's hope this is the final nail in the coffin against the Greenie movement's DDT genocide. I still want to see some heads roll, but probably no one will ever have to account for the millions of deaths they caused...

A interesting lecture by Michael Crichton: "Aliens Cause Global Warming". He shows how science is corrupted by politics, and how the global warming scare is part of a long series of such corruptions.

[On the topic of the "nuclear winter" doctrine] Freeman Dyson was quoted as saying "It's an absolutely atrocious piece of science but…who wants to be accused of being in favor of nuclear war?" And Victor Weisskopf said, "The science is terrible but---perhaps the psychology is good." The nuclear winter team followed up the publication of such comments with letters to the editors denying that these statements were ever made, though the scientists since then have subsequently confirmed their views.

At the time, there was a concerted desire on the part of lots of people to avoid nuclear war. If nuclear winter looked awful, why investigate too closely? Who wanted to disagree?

Gee, sounds like a little propaganda piece we know that starts with G and W...

Saturday, July 8, 2006

There is no such thing as an intellectual property right

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I just learned that there is no such thing as an IP right, contrarily to what I thought in the past. It turns out that IP rights do not in fact stimulate innovation at all, and all they do is grant an artificial monopoly power for a time, with the rent-seeking that this implies, as well as the lowered incentives for innovation in the area of expanding production.

An idea is worthless if it is not expressed in a prototype or other concrete form (such as a book, song, etc). Therefore it is that object that is protected, not the idea. The value of an original product still exists, insofar as reproduction is not a costless process, which is the assumption that is not present in conventional models. We also see areas (such as fashion) where innovation is not protected and yet it is still commonplace.

Furthermore, innovation becomes MORE valuable as the cost of reproduction goes down- as the cost of reproduction goes down, price should go down, and thus the profit accrued should go up. Studies have shown indeed that file-sharing, for example, actually helps profits rather than hurt them.

So yea, I'm eating crow on that one. Oh well. It never hurts to admit you were wrong.

Franc's glossary for Market Anarchist theory

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Since I have been defining a lot of things on this blog, and tried to circumscribe Market Anarchist theory as much as possible, I thought I would provide a glossary of terms for fellow MAs. I find that such things are always very useful when discussing or debating, always an easy reference for such things.

I have assembled terms thematically instead of alphabetically. Perhaps this will make it less useful- if so, tell me and I'll put up a version on my web site Simply Anarchy in alphabetical order.

Market: The process of freely trading for a certain commodity (as opposed to state control). The sum total of such trades.

Anarchy: The absence of a state. Any form of social organization which does not include a state.

Market Anarchy: A form of social organization where individuals are free to trade for any commodity, including those usually reserved to the state. In short, a form of social organization where individuals are politically free. The Non-Aggression Principle is a fundamental principle of Market Anarchy.

  • Freedom: Capacity to fulfill one's values. To be free means to be able to fulfill one's values to the best of one's abilities, without interference. There are four areas of freedom: personal freedom, relational freedom, social freedom and political freedom.

  • Trade: The exchange or sharing of resources.

  • The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP): No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, nor to delegate its initiation. --L. Neil Smith

Society: The sum total of all voluntary interrelations between individuals.

State and ruling class: A parasitic organization monopolizing order on a given territory using a process of legitimized coercion (mainly through the imposition of a singular value system). Provides some services coercively and in a monopolistic fashion (e.g. police, military, law, courts, roads, currencies, charity). Statists point to these services as proof of legitimacy, even though these services would be provided far more efficiently and morally without monopoly or coercion. The individuals populating the state are globally known as the ruling class.

  • Monopoly: Exclusive control over the production of a commodity by one organization. Monopolies lead to higher prices, lower service, and lowered incentives for progress. The state is the clearest and most widespread example of a monopoly, on many different and vital commodities.
  • Order: The social result of an apparatus by which actions are evaluated and judged. Necessarily implies legitimacy on the part of the apparatus.
  • Legitimacy: General belief that someone's power or authority is justified. Such a belief can be manufactured by propaganda. Legitimacy explains why a serial killer is jailed, while a soldier who kills "the enemy" is rewarded.
  • Coercion: Using force against, or threatening the use of force against, an individual to make him act against his will or agreement.
  • Parasite: An organism that obtains nourishment from a host without benefiting or killing the host.

Statism: Utopian belief system having as fundamental principle that the state is the best (or only acceptable) form of social organization. As for most belief systems, it is mostly transmitted through constant propaganda by the ruling class and the exploitative class, as well as the reinforcement provided by peer pressure and ostracism. Its morality is uniformly of the type "might makes right".

  • Utopian: A form of social organization which goes against basic facts of human nature. Statism is utopian because its imposition of a singular value system on the whole of society goes against the fact that most human beings have different value systems. This creates the endemic social warfare typical of most democracies.

  • Propaganda: A coherent structure of psychological entrapment, having the aim of manipulating people's value systems into serving those who control the structure. In a democratic state, this is achieved by control over money (e.g. through subsidies), education, the media, science and art.
  • "Might makes right": The belief that the need for moral justification can be mitigated or eliminated by the use of force. Statism is a "might makes right" belief system because it claims that the sheer power of the state overrides moral concerns regarding the use of force. The state, in this view, transcends morality in a way that private individuals cannot (e.g. a murderer vs a soldier).

Value system: Hierarchy of values that all moral agents possess, and is demonstrated by their choices. Most people's value systems differ, making the imposition of a singular value system by the state a source of constant social warfare. This is an individualistic concept. One's value system is molded by one's virtues or vices.

  • Value: A class of things that one seeks to gain or keep. In a rational value system, a value is necessary for the expression of all others, forming a self-sustaining system. For example, the value of freedom- freedom is necessary for the expression of all other values.

  • Individualism: The basic moral premise that only individuals can act, benefit and suffer. The opposite of collectivism, which holds that abstract groups or transcendent entities can act, benefit or suffer, necessitating an abstract structure (such as the state) to support these groups or entities.

  • Virtue: A mental habit conductive to moral behaviour. The opposite of vice. Example: the virtue of non-coercion.

Accountability: A feedback system by which we can select the changes we desire and help eliminate the ones we don't. In the market, this is called profit. There is no statist analogue, although voting is sometimes invoked. Accountability is the product of a healthy incentive system.

Incentive and incentive system: An incentive is a path of preferred behaviour induced by a feature of a system. An incentive system is the sum total of all such paths for a given system. Incentives are an important feature of any form of social organization because they hold true regardless of who is in power or a specific culture, and as such they tell us how desirable this or that form is in general.
For example, statist systems have a strong incentive towards war because states can raise the resources needed by taxation and force people to become killers through draft, while market organizations cannot do the same. Therefore we should expect statist systems in general to be more warlike, and perhaps a correlation between state power and war, a tendancy which we observe in history.

Class: A social stratum whose members share certain political characteristics. In statism, we can differentiate between four general classes: the ruling class, the exploitative class, the working class, and the welfare class.

  • The ruling class is the group of individuals who are part of the state.

  • The exploitative class is the group of individuals who are exploiters but not part of the state.
  • The working class is the group of individuals who receive neither the dubious benefit of welfare, nor the morally corrupt benefits of being an exploiter. This represents the largest segment of the population.
  • The welfare class is the group of individuals who are entrapped by the state in a cycle of poverty, and unwittingly repay the state by giving it legitimacy.

Exploitation: The process of restricting people's value expression without their consent, of one's own power, through the use of the power of another, or indirectly through propaganda. I distinguish between three categories of exploiters : first-hand parasites, second-hand parasites, and free riders.

  • First-hand parasites are the individuals who use force directly, those that have the guns, and the individuals who give orders to them (policemen, soldiers, private criminals, politicians, bureaucrats).

  • Second-hand parasites are the individuals who exploit indirectly by benefitting from state power, and depend on state coercion for the maintenance of their status (activists, interest groups, political organizations and parties, unions, corporate trusts, corporations receiving subsidies, corporations benefitting from protectionism, mafias).
  • Free riders are people who would still have a job in a market anarchy, but who use state power to further their aims, while suffering the perverse effects of said power (CEOs of multinationals, politico-scientists and politico-artists, activists, churches, lawyers, doctors, insurers, public school teachers, amateur and professional athletes, and so on).

Democracy: According to statist propaganda, a collectivist method of self-governance, "by the people, for the people". In practice, democracy is the means by which the state secures its legitimacy without needing to surrender any real power to "the people", representing a step down from monarchy, a form of social organization in which legitimacy is an arduous process. It gives the illusion of decision-making to its captive population through the process of voting, which is yet another form of "might makes right", although ultimately a futile one. The main product of democracy is social warfare. As a decision-making process, should be replaced by Informed Consensus.

  • Voting: A democratic ritual in which individuals, called "voters", cast ballots in favour of a candidate or party. Morally, it represents a sanction of state coercion, as democracy is a mechanism of legitimacy.
  • Social warfare: Process by which individuals affiliate themselves to various activist groups and demand laws, rights or privileges. Social warfare arises because of the Tragedy of the Commons: people must band together and get state power to act in their favour before other people do the same against them. When present in a relatively free society, the end result of this process is called the erosion of freedom.
  • Informed Consensus: Process of decision-making where groups of informed individuals come together and take a decision by consensus, with a set of rules and values used to guide dialogue. This can be scaled to as few as two individuals (a couple) and as many as hundreds of thousands of people or more (Wikipedia).

Right: According to statist propaganda, a whole category of arbitrary laws and privileges united by a common concept (e.g. "the right to health care", "animal rights") that are owed to a group for no specific reason. In reality, a natural principle of social progress, derived from the value of freedom. A right is possessed by all individuals, and stops when the rights of another are infringed.

  • Right of self-ownership: Principle that all individuals should own their own bodies.
  • Right of action: Principle that all individuals should be free to act in any way desired.
  • Right of property: Principle that all individuals should be free to own things other than their own bodies.
  • Progress: The expansion of our capacity to act (that which freedom acts upon).

Equality: A statist code-word used to imbue legitimacy to the democratic process, and push the doctrine of social justice. In reality, political equality means that all individuals should have the same rights. Statist systems are inherently unequal, as they are predicated on the existence of a ruling class which has the right to make an arbitrary code of laws, impose it by force, steal people's resources, and so on.

Social justice: According to statist propaganda, a vast forcible redistribution of resources by the state in order to enforce "equality". In reality, the market is true social justice, where you receive resources and popularity proportionally to the perceived value of your contributions, and give proportionally to how you perceive other people's work. That is the only just social principle.

Capitalism, State Capitalism: Can variably designate an economic system based on markets, or an economic system where the most economically powerful take advantage of the state's power in order to extract advantages over everyone else.

Communism: An economic system where both political and economic power are vested in the ruling class. Nothing more than State Capitalism taken to its logical extent.

War: Murder on a large scale committed in the name of the state or against it. The murderers who participate in it are called "soldiers".

Perpetual war: A (mostly metaphorical) war whose victory conditions are unattainable, usually because the goal is a nebulous concept or for whose opposite there will always be a demand (e.g. "poverty", "terrorism", "drugs").

Law: A monopolistic construct of the ruling class, designed to further its interests and enforced by its monopolistic courts. In order for the state to maintain its monopoly on coercion, anyone who breaks these rules is declared a criminal, and thus deligitimized in the eyes of the people.

Immigration: The action of crossing an arbitrary line which delimitates the territories that each state can exploit. As as problem, it is entirely manufactured by the states themselves. There is no reason to think that people separated by an arbitrary line cannot be part of the same society, and in our modern world, such an idea is grossly outmoded and absurd.

"Agencies", "Protection Agencies": The terms I use to designate companies which offer a code (replacing the monopolistic law), and protection services following that code, to their customers.

DROs: Dispute Resolution Organizations. Term used by Stefan Molyneux to designate private courts, which also preside over arbitration.

Arbitration: In general, a form of justice where both parties designate a person whose ruling they will accept formally. More specifically in Market Anarchist theory, arbitration designates the process by which two agencies pre-negociate a set of common rules in anticipation of cases where a customer from each agency is involved in a dispute.

Arguments for Market Anarchy

Burden of proof: Logic dictates that the burden of proof be put on the positive claim. In this case, while common belief dictates that the anarchist has the burden of proof, it actually belongs to both parties. Both are making a positive claim about social organization. Furthermore, most statists make the same claim as the anarchist (i.e. that markets should exist) but adds an extra claim (i.e. that the state should exist), therefore the statist has an extra burden of proof. Statists are incapable of shedding this extra burden, which makes this a powerful argument, if you can get an honest statist to admit that he's making a positive claim.

Moral Razor: A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons). Can also be called "universality". Argument made by Stefan Molyneux.
Examples: Gun control is invalid because it sets one principle for one group (state exploiters)- you can have guns- and another principle for the rest of us- you can't have guns. Taxation is invalid because theft remains criminal in all other instances. If it is just for some people to steal in the name of the "common good", then it should be good for everyone. And so on.

Geometric Argument: Consists of setting up a fictional scenario involving three people on a desert island, pointing out that statist behaviour in such a scenario is immoral (such as taxation- two people deciding to steal a third's resources because they think he has too much) without noting that it is statist behaviour, and expanding the situation in numbers until you reach the "millions of people" stage, at which point you reveal the statist analogy.

Argument from the State of Nature: Consists of examining every possible alternative about the nature of man and showing how the state is undesirable in all these alternatives. For example: if everyone is born good, then we don't need a state, if everyone is born evil, then the state would be evil as well, and if everyone is a mixture of good and evil, then a state only gives an opportunity for the most evil to wield power over the rest of us.

Semantic Argument: Consists of pointing out the conceptual absurdity of concepts such as "state", "country" and "citizenship", and showing that statism is literally meaningless. A favourite argument of Marc Stevens'.

Argument from Freedom: Consists of explaining the value of freedom, and demonstrating how Market Anarchy is the system most conductive to freedom.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

TV-friendly "anarchists"

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There are some people and groups who claim to be "anarchists", and yet who fly the black flag of violence and coercion. Who call themselves "socialists" and "syndicalists". Who reject people's individual choices and progress.

This, to say the least, is a pitiful contradiction. An anarchist is someone who desires a society without government. That is the universally accepted definition. And government is nothing more than the process of legitimized coercion. Therefore there cannot be an anarchist who supports legitimate coercion (and no one thinks of himself as a "criminal"), who calls himself "socialist" or "syndicalist" (since these positions require a government to exist), or who rejects people's free choices.

These so-called "anarchists" are therefore something else entirely. But what?

This phenomenon is present in other areas. Just look at religion. Christians have managed to manufacture a whole "Satanic ritual abuse" construct out of thin air. Satanism is not about child abuse, it is a philosophy of life. Nothing about it encourages child abuse. And there is absolutely no evidence that this "ritual abuse" is actually taking place, apart from the testimonies of the faithful and memories manufactured by unscrupulous therapists. It is a Big Lie instigated by the authorities in order to smear the name of a competing religion, same as they have done to witchcraft throughout the ages, and now do to atheists also.

Could these "anarchists" also be a fabrication of the authorities to smear anti-state movements and paint them as a violent unruly mob which only desires chaos? That seems like a good possibility. These "anarchists" have about as much in common with anarchy as teenagers who sacrifice their cat have in common with Satanism. And yet the media has substituted real Satanism for this kind of exhibition, because crime and violence sells more than philosophy. The same applies here also.

But the lie is always grounded on impression and stereotype. People imagine that Satanists, as the opposite of Christians, are very evil people, and therefore that is the stereotype that sticks. What do people say when you talk about anarchy?

"But criminals will be free to roam the streets and create terrible chaos!"

When your average Joe hears about anarchy, he imagines a system of chaos and dissolution, and that is what he is served on the telly. He sees these pretend "anarchists" who are violent and don't seem to follow any morality whatsoever. At the same time, these "anarchists" present statist ideas, which appeals to the viewers as well.

For the longest time, it is this stereotype that I had in mind when I thought "anarchist". I thought that anarchy was an ideology of violence and criminality. How could I not, when what the statist authorities present to us is our window to the world?

What is the solution? Should we debate them? Not at all. Should we denounce them? Not at all. The best solution is to ignore them, just as we would ignore any other puppet of the state. The least attention we give them, the least we contribute to the problem.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Where are the riots?

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New Jersey's government is shut down. Where are the riots that statists told us must happen without government?

I'm waiting...

Any time soon now, the people of New Jersey will become monsters and resort to pillaging, raping and killing.

Any time soon...

Still waiting...

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Markets in everything / Net Socialism fails... so far

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Even though this is fictional, I still get a kick out of it: Extortr, the blackmail site. And why not? Hopefully, one day we'll live in a world where there are no taboos and no reason to blackmail, but until then, why not exploit it?

Good news- so far, Net Socialism is failing to pass through the excreting apparatus of the US government. And here is a good recent article against Net Socialism: "The pretense of knowledge".

Sunday, July 2, 2006

The illegitimacy of the state

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A week ago, the Liberty Papers had an entry on "The Legitimacy of Government", describing the necessary conditions for a government to be legitimate. Like any other pro-state libertarian argumentation, I'm sure it is written with the best of intentions. However, the idea itself is absurd. There can be no such thing as a legitimate government, insofar as all governments are an attack on the freedom and rights of their subject individuals, and the incentive system of all governments is such that they must eventually expand beyond their "set" boundaries.

Nevertheless, Brad Warbiany believes that a piece of paper (a constitution) can set boundaries to a monopoly of force. This is absurd, especially given the failure of the American Republic- but par for the course. His main thesis?

Whether or not a government is legitimate rests on one very simple basis: whether the overwhelming majority of people living under that government recognizes its legitimacy.

When the notreason folks ask us minarchists and classical liberals where our own government draws its legitimacy, we tell them that it draws its legitimacy from the fact that the vast majority of our populace has agreed that it is legitimate.

The ignorance betrayed in these two statements is baffling. With a democratic government that controls education, the media and the incentive systems, how can the vast majority of the populace NOT believe that their government is legitimate, regardless of its actual merits? Is there any government, whatever its horrors, that is not believed as legitimate? Is the best argument for a system, widespread ignorance and state conditioning?

No, surely the best argument for the legitimacy of anything, is the free choice of individuals. Not conditioned belief!

And what of those who do not agree that the state is legitimate, such as myself? Do I have less rights than someone who is incapable of breaching the conditioning of the state, by virtue of not "getting along with the flow"? Should I, then, be subject to the way the vast majority of people want to live their lives? Mob rule is a disgusting moral principle, regardless of the size of the mob.

The lesson of this story is: if you're a libertarian and yet feel the need to defend the state, don't show yourself for a fool. At least try to address the inherent immorality and injustice of your position. Is that too much to ask?

Intelligent Design vs Intelligent Government

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People who have not bought into religious propaganda, do not think Intelligent Design has much legitimacy. Despite the best attempts from fundamentalist quarters to force Intelligent Design on the impressionable minds of our children, the dogma has so far been met with a tepid welcome, and IDers are scrambling to change their plans.

And yet, there is one equally ridiculous idea that persists in our schools, our media and our culture - the dogma that order in society cannot possibly be the result of natural interactions, but rather must be created and sustained by transcendent design. This dogma, we can call "Intelligent Government".

Granted, the comparison is not quite fair. For one thing, our interactions in society are designed, if only because they are the result of human action. This is why I used the term "transcendent". It is not the idea that human planning is needed that is ridiculous, but rather the idea that one central, coercive organization is necessary for social order.

There are many similarities between Intelligent Design and Intelligent Government. Belief in Intelligent Government is a mark of scientific ignorance, more specifically ignorance of economics, just like belief in Intelligent Design is a mark of ignorance of biology. The power of free markets in economics is completely uncontroversial, and the debates mainly revolve around the existence of intermittent "failures" of markets. In biology, the truth of Neo-Darwinism is also completely uncontroversial.

Another marked problem with both dogmas is that intelligence is not on display. The design we see in nature is definitely not intelligent, and lists of basic engineering blunders in the human body and other animals can be found on many sites (here are examples from Wikipedia and Seed Magazine).

Likewise, government intervention never manifests any sign of basic intelligence - from American foreign policy creating its own enemies, to a War on Drugs that targets the least deadly drugs, protectionism which "protects" people by keeping them in menial jobs and making products more expensive, a War on Poverty that implements laws against the poor, and a welfare state that keeps people in poverty by denying them savings, nothing governments do ever correspond to the facts of reality. This is, of course, because government intervention serves ruling class values, never the values they claim to fulfill.

Intelligent Design tries to make its case by showing that there are things in nature that natural processes simply cannot account for. This is an argument from ignorance.

Intelligent Government is quite the same. Its advocates routinely point to things in society such as roads, police and charity, and argue that because they see no way for these things to happen in a society without government, government must be necessary. This is no less of an argument from ignorance, but an even more outrageous one because we already know from history that every single thing they invoke came, at one point, from the interactions of private individuals, not government. Furthermore, government is parasitic in nature and depends wholly on private expertise, and as such there's no possible reason to assume that such expertise would not exist without government.

The most obvious argument against Intelligent Government, however, is not part of this analogy : how can the use of force for exploitation possibly bring order ? As the most prominent form of criminal agency by far in any society, it seems rather that government is the opposite of order. "Intelligent Government" is a hollow farce with even less credibility than the religious dogma of "Intelligent Design".