03 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Anarchism, Is it the right system? + Message from Milton

Essay + Message from Milton

Dear friends,

We all know, from last Sunday, that the world does not have to be anarchic to experience disruption. And some people do insist in disrupting the lives of others for no apparent benefit to themselves.

Therefore, as I wrote in my last email, this Sunday we are discussing: Anarchism, Is it the right system? Hope things go smoothly.

------Milton has asked to share this information with you. If you have any queries and need to contact Milton please let me know.

Os adjunto la información del curso en Madrid que impartirá un amigo mío, Peter González Miller y que explico a continuación, Peter es español y vive en los E.U.:

El PSYCH-K® te ayuda a cambiar las creencias subconscientes que te limitan. Crea un estado mental receptivo que reduce tus propias resistencias a hacer cambios a nivel subconsciente. Así se puede acceder a la mente subconsciente de una manera fácil, como si fuera tu ordenador personal para reescribir tu propio software.

El próximo 5 y 6 de diciembre (sábado y domingo de 9:30 a 18:00) tenéis la oportunidad de asistir a un nuevo curso básico de PSYCH-K®.
El Instructor es Peter González Miller que viene desde Austin (Texas) a impartir el curso.

Lugar: Punto de Encuentro, C/ Jaime El Conquistador 22, 28045 Madrid
Inversión: Euro 300 para el taller de 2 días.
Reserva: topeterg@yahoo.com

Información: http://www.transformomivida.com
Video: Peter González explica qué es PSYCH-K:


Take care



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Anarchism: Is it the right system?

In a way, how we understand a problem determines how we react to solve it. Anarchism, like communism, socialism, capitalism, is a reaction to a very fundamental problem. Some might wish to call this problem income distribution, wealth distribution, and even allocation of scarce resources.

Today we know two things which maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors did not know.

The first is that all these isms do not work, and the second is that human beings are none other than biological systems interacting with our environment.

This means that 1) resources are indeed scarce (there are physical limits to how much resources we can access at a give time, try carrying two hundred boxes of chocolates), 2) the more people there are, the more complex the distribution systems of scarce resources have to be (apart from being self-evident, we can test this empirically and calculate the complexity involved in sharing a box of chocolates with one person or with twenty) 3) The more complex the distribution system is the more evolved our epistemic resources have to be (apart from being self-evident reconsider the box of chocolates and the calculations involved in sharing it with twenty people).

But in terms of biology there are two issues that we have to consider a) at the collective level the scope of the biological system is to reproduce, but b)at the individual level the scope is to survive.

It seems that nature, or the biological collective, has sorted out the issue of reproduction because as far as nature is concerned it does not matter who gets to reproduce, what matters is that there is enough critical mass in the population to keep the collective going. However, the same cannot be said about individual survival. So far individual survival seems to be a chaotic and random process.

The state of affairs at the individual level seems to be that if we put an effort in the preparation and distribution of our scarce resources, which we need for our survival, we feel we are owed a fair share of those resources. Thus, a personal effort in bringing resources to the collective (or society if you want) implies a right to a fair share of those resources and a duty on those who distribute those resources to share them fairly with us.

You will notice that I have been using the word fair quite often. This is simply because the more complex our epistemic state is, the more likely we are to understand and use such concepts as: more, less, enough, equal, not enough, less than, more than me, you have, I have, and similar language that implies moral concepts such as fairness and justice . At the biological level there is no such thing as fairness or justice, what matters are two things: have I survived and have I reproduced before I cease to survive. How we get there, nature does not care.

This of course does not mean that at the biological level, systems do not adopt strategies that from our epistemic advantage do seem to be moral and just. After all, morality and justice, when applied correctly, do have the advantage of benefiting all. But morality and justice are very fragile epistemic systems that can easily be high jacked or innocently misapplied.

At the epistemic level, however we do care how we survive and we do expect fairness and justice to be part of our life. However, anarchism is just another epistemic strategy to deal with this issue of distribution of resources and survival.

A quick look at the Wikipedia article on anarchism will give you the impression that anarchism is a hoch poch of ideas that more or less deal with limiting the power of the state over the individual or the individual as a member of a group. Some anarchistic ideas might go so far as to prescribe and describe the rights and maybe duties of the individual and/or the state in the form of government.

However, it is clear that the central theme of anarchism is the opposition to the present model of statehood and its power over the individual. Many solutions do away with the government or the individual or both. But even anarchists recognize the basic biological system of human beings and the need to prepare and share resources. In other words anarchists, like most other “ists”, do not dispute that resources have to be shared, but disagree on how to share those resources.

Of course, what I mean by anarchists recognizing the basic biological system structure of human beings, I do not mean that they go out in the streets with banners and shouting, “we are biological systems”, maybe they ought to. What I mean is that in their ideologies, like everyone else, they make assumptions about human beings, without questioning the philosophical implications of these assumptions. For example, if we are to storm the palace, it is assumed that we can run or walk to the palace, have the energy to open doors and so on. But these are assumptions that we take for granted, but of course we do so either because of philosophical laziness or arrogance. Failure to consider such assumptions could lead to really unintended consequences.

The introduction to Individualist Anarchism in Wikipedia ends this way: Benjamin R. Tucker, a famous 19th century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny." Maybe this quote reflects the gist of individualist anarchism even if some might object that it does not reflect the substance. However, who or what ever is in the seat of government, even the individualist anarchist has to get out of bed in the morning and make his or her breakfast, metaphorically speaking. In other words, even the Individualist anarchist cannot escape the requirements of nature.

But then again what is tyranny? We have a good idea what tyranny was like in the 19th century, but I don’t see how we can arrive from the tyranny of the government to I’m best to govern my life. Some of us cannot even manage a fried egg for breakfast how on Earth are we individually going to manage such things as the defense walls of our utopia against invading organized bureaucrats? This is like saying that because our cars have a mechanical problems, we should give up mechanical transport and start walking to our destinations. Maybe we ought to, but I doubt that we’ll get far.

Social anarchism sees "individual freedom as conceptually connected with social equality and emphasize community and mutual aid." (Wikipedia: Social Anarchism) Individualist anarchism allows private property, but social anarchism, which also includes many shapes and forms of socialism and communism, do not allow for private property. Even still they do not reject the human model I described in my introduction.

Collective anarchism goes a step further, “[it]….is a revolutionary… doctrine that advocates the abolition of the state and private ownership of the means of production, with the means of production instead being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.” In fact a quick look at the cooperative movement in history, which developed independently of anarchism, is indeed a very successful movement both in business and politics.

A more modern business structure is the employee ownership of a company held in trust, for example the John Lewis Partnership in the UK, which owes department stores and Waitrose, is such a system. In this model, the business is owned by the employees, but they do not directly manage the shares of the business, this is done by the trustees. In others words, the employees get the benefits (i.e. profits) of owning the business but cannot sell their share in the business. (see About Us, at the John Lewis Partnership site or Wikipedia: http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/) It seems to me that a lot can be achieved without having to do away with the government, we simply have to do away with the way we consider things. So maybe there is nothing new in extreme anarchism after all.

However, these doctrines look at the world from the de facto situation we find ourselves in, and not from the principle I described in my introduction that the more we are, the more complex the distribution of resources have to be and by a direct causal process our epistemic resources have to be equally more complex. For example, the John Lewis Partnership, requires a rather complex legal structure to survive, certainly more complex than simply taking all the profits for one’s self at the end of the year. And moreover, this Partnership does actually function by considering the needs of all individuals in the business. The issue about the JL Partnership models is whether it can be applied universally.

Private property has always been an issue in politics, and from the snippets I quoted above about social and collective anarchism property is also a central theme in anarchism. The idea behind the rejection of private property is that property should be for the benefit of society or the collective.

Fair enough, but such vague ideas can lead to some ridiculous, if not dangerous, implications. Our blood, our bone marrow, and some of our organs are of great benefit to society, does this mean these biological assets have to be made available to the collective? Should a healthy person be made to donate their blood or their bone marrow just because it can benefit society? Isn’t my blood my own private domain? Some philosophically deficient and incompetent societies, today, go to great lengths to find contexts to exploit individuals of their biological assets. This basically means that the individual in these countries is the property of the sate. (research the subject; hint, Asia)

Taking what there is, is by definition not a sophisticated epistemic resource since this was the strategy used many thousands of years go when the Earth was roamed by a handful of humanoid kind of creatures. Today there are some six billion people on this Earth, and adopting the policy of “just take what you want” is neither fair nor adequate any more. It does not work for the individual nor for the collective.

We therefore know for a fact that neither by reacting against nor by replacing the present centre of power, the power needed to distribute scarce resources by a system that purports to distribute those very same resources more fairly, is also bound to fail. And the answer to this problem is simple: the issue today is not how to distribute resources as was done during the hunting and gathering days, but rather, what resources to make available in the first place. And what to make depends on what the individual needs, first and foremost. Foe example, health care, housing, education, law and order, transport, are some of the resources we need today.

Thus, it is not enough today, not that it was ever enough, to say that the collective ought to own the means of production. What we want to know, and what really matters, is what are we going to do with those means of production, will they be fit for purpose, and how exactly are we going to measure what is a fair distribution of the results of those means for the benefit of those who helped make them? In my opinions these questions do not necessarily lead to models that are incompatible with a market system or differentiation in personal wealth.

To talk about ownership of the means of production, whether owned by the state or even the private investor, is of no consequence to the problem of why we need to change the present system of resource distribution. But this should not come as a surprise since ownership of production by itself does not address our needs. And as I have tried to set out we, as a biological system, have very specific needs.

Maybe the problem ought not to be seen as should the state have the power over us or over our scare resources or even our means of production. But rather the question we ought to be asking ourselves is this: how much power does the state require to bring about the resources we need?

Moving from addressing the means of production to addressing the needs of the individual, the issue of ownership becomes rather irrelevant compared to the issue of what are our needs. Take for example the matter of organ transplantation. The model today is to harvest organs from donors after their demise. There is even a growing industry of harvesting organs from exploited people, unfortunate people, poor people and certainly people who are not street wise when it comes to certain unscrupulous organizations.

But by harvesting organs (of dead people), in other words by relying on the old, very old, model of the hunter gathers, we have channeled most of our resources in this medicine and technology and not in a technology that can replace our key organs without having to resort to the benevolence of dead people. To put it in another way, why can we buy a 100 euro television set but not a lung or a heart at an equally reasonably price?

The issue is not that it is much easier to make a t.v. set than to find a replacement for a heart or a lung; although it might probably be the case. But rather, we have put more resources in making t.v. sets available at a cheap price, maybe even at the detriment of finding a heart replacement.

And how does ignoring the government, or maybe forcefully removing the government, help the poor peasant in some God forsaken country in Asia whose only choice is by much to be exploited by the organ harvesters? Harvesters who, I repeat, are only there because we are more focused on the means of production and not the needs of the individual.

Of course, I’m not saying that we should only focus on our biological needs, and forget our wishes, desires, whims and impulsive acquisitions. On the contrary, all experiments in social manipulation based on the theoretical collective failed to satisfy both needs and wants. However, whatever the ism we happen to be practicing a healthy dose of efficiency in running our means of production could release more resources to invest in both our needs and wants at the same time.

For example we know that automobiles use fissile fuels very inefficiently. Any major savings in this area could release enough resources to other worthy causes. The problem today is not that we are consuming more, but that we are consuming more things that are inefficiently produced and function inefficiently.

And although there is always some redundancy in a system, whether it’s an open biological system or a man made system inefficiency goes beyond the necessary redundancy. Consider this mental experiment; let’s say we want some chocolates. We can buy a box with eight chocolates in it, twelve or a whopping 36 chocolates. An example of redundancy would be buying the twelve chocolate box and you eat only ten; an inefficient purchase would be buying the 36 chocolate box and only eating twelve of them. Maybe this is a bad example because someone who is prepared to throw away twenty four pieces of chocolates need their head examined. But you get the point.

In fact many ideologies do not address this point of efficiency. For example all this cheap but useless stuff coming mainly from the orient today, no doubt tomorrow it will be another region, is an example of inefficiency. What’s the point buying a very cheap shirt for three Euros if it comes apart as soon as one puts it on? Of course, inefficiency is not only the domain of the Orient, European and American governments are masters in this practice: defense research that comes to nothing, event halls that cost millions that are not fit for purpose, mountains of wasted food, and so on.

Although I am very critical of anarchism we have to agree that this set of ideologies has highlighted in a forceful way the importance of the individual, the excesses of state power and even the need to cooperate. Of course, their methodology might not always be the best possible option or even an option in the first place.

Let me conclude with an example of what I mean. Take the ultimate expression of individualist anarchism, free love which is a “…….sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual's self-ownership.” (Wikipedia) Even if for the time being we do not consider the issue of how to get a prospective lover to say yes, something which the anarchists have failed miserably, why is it that today we do live in a world were free love is practically du jour?

It certainly did not come from ignoring the state or religion, although there was some of that, and certainly not from nationalizing the contraceptive industry. Free love is possible today because it was finally recognized that sexual matters were private and affected both men and women, and secondly by having the intellectual ability (epistemic resources) to create contraceptives and antiviral drugs.

Of course, we’ve known all this for quite some time now, but evolution is slow and cumbersome at the best of times, even if it is the only option we have. After all it was some two thousand years ago that Jesus Christ, in his usual succinct and clear way, thought us the principle, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Wikipedia) But it is only now that we can openly talk about separating the state from religion.

Maybe it is about time that we started to think of the principle, “Render unto the Individual the things which are the Individual’s, and unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Take care


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Anarchism, Is it the right system? + Message from Milton

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