Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why Almost Everyone Believes in Political Authority and Why This May Change

1. In the paleolithic period, organized brute force was the only game in town in the context of inter-tribal rivalry. Thus, natural selection favored those who were obedient to tribal alpha males. The disobedient were simply killed off.

2. The way to make tribal obedience psychologically bearable and prudentially beneficial was to rationalize it. Thus, the obedient came to view their rulers as necessary for coordinating collective action and/or concerned with the welfare of the tribe. This was the earliest manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome. Again, natural selection favored those who succumbed to this syndrome especially easily.

3. The rulers realized that, being a numerical minority, they need legitimacy to maintain their rule. Thus, they set out to cultivate and strengthen the Stockholm Syndrome among their subjects. The pinnacle of their achievement in this regard was the invention of democracy – a universal invitation to join the ranks of rulers, which decisively blurred the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, and ushered in a system where everyone is expected to feel entitled to live at the expense of everyone else.

4. As famously noted by Lord Acton and infamously demonstrated in the Stanford Prison Experiment, power is extremely corrupting. With the advent of democracy, the corrupting effects of power became particularly widespread, even if not necessarily particularly pronounced. This, coupled with the complementary effects of global Stockholm Syndrome, made belief in (political) authority – i.e., the belief that some people have a right to rule other people – practically universal.

Why This May Change

1. The exponential development of the global Internet culture, intensifying global migration processes, and the rapid development of communication and transaction technologies may jointly result – sooner than most would anticipate – in the dissolution and eventual disappearance of the presently dominant nationalistic, “patriotic”, and other worldviews based on morally arbitrary, tribal divisions.

2. The disappearance of the abovementioned worldviews coupled with the emergence of unprecedentedly effective opportunities for developing grey market entrepreneurship (bitcoin, seasteading, 3D printing, etc.) and the practically universal availability of independent, non-ideological education (MOOCs, private online academies, etc.) would likely lead to the disintegration of the structurally insolvent nation states. All resources under their control could then be auctioned off and transferred into the hands of private entrepreneurs or placed in newly created private equity or mutual funds, the shares in which would be distributed among the members of local communities.

3. Consequently, a world divided into states, nations, and political institutions would be replaced by a world composed of hundreds of thousands or even millions of independent economic zones, neighborhood associations, charter cities, and other forms of contractual, propertarian arrangements integrated through free trade and the global division of labor. With the disappearance of institutionalized, large-scale aggression of states and the balkanizing national conflicts, as well as with the strengthening of a global culture based on respect for individual liberty and property, there would be an explosion of a practically infinite variety of voluntary, bottom-up social institutions, both for-profit and non-profit. The disappearance of the conviction that everyone has a right to live at the expense of others would result in the strengthening of the family bond, the neighborly bond, the professional bond, and the universal, philanthropy-inducing human bond. The human race would not become perfect, but the evolutionary process of technological progress, development of free enterprise, universalization of access to free knowledge, and increasing cultural interconnection would lead it to reject the most irrational and destructive elements of its Paleolithic heritage. Considering a rapid increase in the pace of development of the above processes, all of their consequences described here may, with a bit of luck, fully materialize within the next couple hundred years. Let us keep working towards bringing them about sooner rather than later.

[Reprinted from]

A Short Note on Bitcoin, Stupidity, and Evil

A contemporary example illustrating the difference between stupid and evil: a stupid person calls Bitcoin a Ponzi Scheme and says that this is why it will collapse; an evil person recognizes Bitcoin as a politically uncontrollable medium of exchange and says that this is why it should collapse.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the Austrian Theory of Common Goods

My paper "Non-excludability, Externalities, and Entrepreneurship: An Overview of the Austrian Theory of Common Goods" has just been published in the first issue of the Journal of Prices & Markets. You might want to read it if you are interested in topics such as monopoly, common goods, and externalities.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Short Note on the Legacy of Ayn Rand

Butler Shaffer wrote of Ayn Rand that she "rescued philosophy from its academic prisons, and returned it to the minds of ordinary men and women to assess the conditions in which they choose to live". As I come to think of it, this concise description is right on the spot - I can't think of any 20th century philosopher, let alone any 20th century academic philosopher, who accomplished anything even remotely similar. As far as I'm concerned, for that alone she deserves huge respect, regardless of what intellectual disagreements one might have with her views.

Please Consider Making a Bitcoin Donation

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Living in the World of Statist Quo Bias

Possibly the worst aspect of any form of statism is not that individuals are treated instrumentally and their property rights are regularly violated, but that the vast majority of both the victims and the perpetrators of these happenings consider them as "normal" and "uncontroversial", as if propelled by some form of anthropological necessity. They do not normally think that siding with such a system requires asking oneself very seriously some fundamental economic (do I believe that institutionalized, regularized violence and coercion can generate or safeguard prosperity?) and moral questions (do I condone institutionalized, regularized violence and coercion, especially if perpetrated by myself?), nor do they normally conceive that such a system can be fundamentally contested on the basis of answering such questions in the negative (here is my take on why this is the case).

In other words, the problem is not that the vast majority of statists answer certain fundamental questions in the way that, for various reasons, might be thought of as misguided or wrong. The problem is that they grow into a world view that removes such questions from the ambit of questions worth asking or even thinking in the first place. To put it differently, the intellectual isolation of a libertarian consists not in the fact that he or she is in the minority, but in the fact that, at least as of now, the majority does not even think of the relevant issues in terms of majority and minority positions. This does not make the task of the libertarian hopeless, but it certainly makes it all the more formidable.