Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Meaninglessness Argument

I have been extensively discussing political concepts from the market anarchist worldview. This is an exercise in giving meaning to these terms by looking at the facts of reality. However, we also have to look at the flip side of this equation, which is that the political concepts used by statists are completely meaningless.

Start with the concept of "government". From the statist perspective, "government" is a transcendent entity which impartially imposes a standard of law. This is, of course, pure fantasy. A "government" is just a group of individuals whose use of force is self-legitimized, and is really no different from any other group of individuals. These individuals can no more be impartial and impose a standard of law than anyone else can - which is to say, not at all. So the idea of a transcendent political unit is meaningless.

This individualist deconstruction applies to a lot of statist concepts, such as country, community, culture, common good, public interest, public goods, the people, social contract, the law, democracy (as a mode of social organization), the majority, the party, corporation, parenting, and the list goes on and on.

Some of these terms depend on "government" for their meaning, and given that "government" is meaningless, they also are. The term "country", for example, depends on the territory upon which a "government" uses its monopoly. Since there is no such thing as a government, only a group of thugs, then we should not give any credance to the notion of a country either. In an anarchic world, borders would be determined by economic agreement, not by arbitrary diktat, and would be subject to consumer demand.

This last point does justify the terms "community" and "culture" in an anarchy, to a certain extent, since people would form voluntary groups based on common values. But in a statist world, these terms are meaningless collectivist abstractions. They are merely attempts to burden individuals with common beliefs. As Stefan Molyneux says, "culture is the scar tissue of government exploitation".

"Common good" is the most egregious example of a meaningless statist term. There is no such thing as a good apart from the individual who benefits from it. There can be no such thing as a common good because everyone has different values and different ideas on how to fulfill them. The only thing "common" to them all is how the oppression of the state prevents them from expressing their values fully.

Another category of terms is the loaded terminology of government functions such as "law and order", "social security", "homeland security", "public schools" and "national defense". In all cases we can reduce the little they actually mean to "exploitation".

A finaly category is duckspeak (a rote, automatic form of speaking without thinking) words such as "freedom", "equality", "altruism", "cooperation", "social justice" and "security". I have debunked many such statist conceptions in my series on the Liberalism Resurgent FAQ (see for example "Debunking statist concepts - Equality"). The common thread between them is that they are based on a conceptual interaction between the terms I have already examined. "Social justice", for example, presumes the existence of a "government" able to impose a form of "law" which favours the "exploited". In market anarchist terms, the only way to make sense of this process is to believe that a group of thieves can somehow forget about its own interests and use some of the money they've stolen to help others. And this is, of course, total nonsense.

In all cases, we must remember that believers obviously do not hold these terms as meaningless. But the illusion of meaning does not make reality. Rather, we should properly say that they are inter-subjective constructs, which means that they are built out of group agreement. This group agreement is cultivated by the ruling classe through its propaganda machine. The only debate within that group agreement is not whether these concepts are valid, but rather how these concepts can best be implemented. In conceptual terms, there is very little difference between a conservative and a liberal, between a fascist and a communist, only differences of degree.

The role of this mass of meaningless terms is to exclude from the individual's cognition the possibility of understanding the reality of the situation. A linguistic prison may not have iron bars, but it is much better, and much more economical, at holding people prisoners. Your concepts are your worldview, nothing less. This is a phenomenon well known to religious leaders and cult leaders as well. By suitably changing language, you can make people believe that there is no salvation outside of religion, that no one can help them but God, that their cult is the only source of good in the world.

Another use of loaded or meaningless language is isolation. In the case of a cult existing in the context of a larger society, the new language isolates him from the larger society. In the case of the state, the opposite is true : language isolates the independent thinker from the larger society. A market anarchist is automatically isolated, if he is to be consistent at all and assume the conceptual consequences of his position, because he uses words in a different manner than everyone else.

Because of this isolation, some have suggested that we should refrain from reclaiming terms, that we should rather work within the linguistics of statism. I think this is a fatal mistake. Our concepts are our worldview, and if we surrender our concepts to the enemy, we have alraedy lost the war. Whatever gains we make from there are completely illusory. If we are to explain market anarchy at all, then we have to do it from a consistent perspective. We must present a market anarchist model of society which rejects coercion and exploitation in all its forms, and praises voluntary action in all its forms, regardless of their statist conceptual categories.

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