Saturday, August 5, 2006

Irresponsibility as an anarchist argument

Being responsible means to choose to do the right thing when the need arises. It also means that one must be judged irresponsible when he fails to do the right thing. And it also means to refrain from attacking others when there is no need to do so - as this is, after all, also a choice.

Commentators argue that we live in a more and more litigious society. I have no idea if this is actually true, but we do seem to have an expansion of litigation into more and more social areas.

Part of this breakdown of the civil society must have to do with the uncivil society - the state. We know for a fact that the corpus of laws grows at an incredible rate, and that the control of the state over society also grows. This must have an influence on how litigious a society is. The more place for the monopolizing state, the more areas exist where the monopolizing law has import on people's livelihood and values. So there is a great incentive for people to try to use or change the law becasue of that expansion, which means there is less interest for people to negociate or arbitrate.

Once again, most social warfare arises from the existence of a source of power and coercion which everyone wants to co-opt in order to "rescue" his value system against other value systems. And democracy provides the tool to enable this possibility. The bigger the state is, the more incentive there is for people to try to co-opt that state.

One can argue from irresponsibility in the simple and direct way that I have discussed in my entry "The Argument from the State of Nature". Suppose that a society is full of responsible people. Such a society has no need of a state. Now suppose a society full of irresponsible people. In that case, the last thing you need is a power structure composed of irresponsible people. Finally, suppose that some people are responsible and some are irresponsible - perhaps in response to bad incentives. In such a case, a state is also undesirable, since it provides an incentive system which encourages irresponsibility.

The existence of the state is a crutch for people who refuse to think for themselves - who have no morality, no purpose, no desire to cooperate with others. Its process is that of coercion, and its result is that of social warfare. People come to depend on the state to provide vital services, to "save people from themselves", to save the failures and the regressives (and no, I am not speaking against "the poor" - there are plenty of poor people who are not failures), basically to tell people what to do and believe.

The state, therefore, is the worst tool to rein in irresponsibility, because such a tool will necessarily be used irresponsibly - against those who are the most responsible and who bear the weight of the cost of "saving people from themselves".

Politicians exploit the existence of irresponsible people to justify rigid controls on your life. Because some people won't plan for their old age, you must be forced into Social Security. Because some people will do strange things if they look at dirty pictures on the Internet, your access to the Internet must be restricted.


Only free people have an incentive to be virtuous. Only people who bear the consequences of their own acts will care about those consequences and try to learn from their mistakes.
Harry Browne, "How to make people more responsible"

Irresponsibility, and the fear of irresponsibility, is a tool that the state possesses and uses in order to expand its powers at everyone's expense. But it is not limited to the state. The concept of "corporation" is another way to divert irresponsibility, by making individual action the burden of a non-existing fictional person. Thus persons in the present are judged responsible for crimes that happened decades ago, before they came to work in that corporation. This is a travesty of responsibility and justice.

If irresponsibility is a tool of the state, responsibility is a tool of the market anarchist - in being responsible in his own life, and in applying the concept of responsibility to social structures and institutions.

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