TCS Daily


Splinter States

By Arnold Kling - February 26, 2008 12:00 AM

"Building states in pre-colonial Africa was exceptionally arduous. Imposing taxes or duties on reluctant subjects was hard anywhere. But, where rebelling meant no more than walking away to found a splinter community..."
--John Darwin, After Tamerlane, p. 314


(Recently, during a walk -- although not a formal meeting of peripatetics -- a radical proposal was discussed.)

The idea is for libertarians to form a sort of splinter state, or a set of splinter states, within the U.S.

Do you mean like New Hampshire?

No, I don't mean taking over an existing territory. That requires moving there. It also requires libertarians to agree on exactly what a libertarian state should look like, which would be like herding cats.

I'm thinking more in terms of virtual splinter states. People can keep their places of residence, but sign up for different networks of what David Friedman calls "rights protection services." He describes the idea in this chapter.

What would you do about the U.S. government?

I am thinking that we would accept U.S. hegemony, and our virtual splinter states might even make donations to pay for our fair share of the cost of the U.S. military. In general, though, we would try not to pay taxes to any government. We would make donations for the services that we use, but we would not pay for Social Security, Medicare, public schools, government regulatory agencies, etc.

That sounds completely unworkable.

Right. It should. Think of this in entrepreneurial terms. Suppose we were getting together to brainstorm a new business idea. If it sounds to you like a sure-fire success, then either it's an obvious idea that somebody has already done or you are ridiculously naive to believe that it will work. Instead, it should sound like something that is almost sure to fail, because of all sorts of problems that could get in the way. The trick is to see if you can brainstorm ways to solve the problems, so that something that sounds impossible at first ultimately has a chance.

So, are we going to brainstorm ways to make splinter states work?

We can start. We won't get very far in one day. But one way to start is to create a vision for what we want the end-state to be.

The end state?

I am not talking about "state" as in a political entity, I am talking about "state of affairs." Like if we had a software project that was floundering, we might describe the current state of affairs as lots of people bickering and decisions being made one day and reversed the next. The desired future state would be an orderly process for raising and resolving issues.

So let's talk about what's wrong with the current state of affairs, and contrast that with the desired future state of affairs. What are some things wrong now? Say whatever pops into your head.

Tyranny of the majority. Constitution dead. No limits on government. People worship politicians. The media love government and hate capitalism.

Right. And the big problem is that we can't escape. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to get away from government, all you had to do was set out for a new territory. The U.S. national government had very little reach. Transportation was poor. Communication was poor. The Constitution gave lots of powers to states, not the Federal government. It also gave lots of rights to individuals, not to government. There was no mass media.

When did the world become most totalitarian? In the 1930's, when we had mass-circulation newspapers, radio, and microphones. All broadcast media. Just about every government was able to use propaganda to increase power. Everyone thought that capitalism was finished, and some form of socialism or central planning was going to carry the day.

So what will the Internet do? It covers the world. Are we headed toward world socialism?

The difference with the Internet is that you can speak up as an individual. You can talk back. You're not just someone in a crowd, cheering for some charismatic national strongman. You have access to the communications technology, you can use it to brainstorm and to organize.

Anyway, we were talking about the current state and the desired future state. Now, what's the desired future state of affairs?

Individual rights. I shouldn't have to participate in Social Security unless I want to. I shouldn't have to support monopoly government schools. I should be able to run a restaurant that allows smoking or serves trans fats. I just want government, or some private "rights protection service," to protect property rights and ensure peaceful resolution of disputes. Nothing else.

In order to have that, I would argue that you need the ability to "splinter off." Government as an entrenched monopoly is going to expand its powers and infringe on your rights. The key is to force competition. If governments had to compete, they could never expand to the level of size and power that governments have reached in the U.S. today.

What we want, ultimately, is for there to be lots of splintered states in the U.S. Most importantly, we want it to be easy to splinter off and form new states. I'm thinking that these would be virtual states, so that I can live in Maryland and operate under a splintered-off state that covers people in Oregon, Maryland, Florida--whoever agrees to join that splintered state.

Can you spell out more clearly how it would work? I mean, how can you have people living next door to one another and having different sets of laws?

I can't anticipate every possible contingency. A lot of it would have to be worked out by trial and error.

I don't know. It sounds like what we need to do is go back and fix the Constitution so that we have minimal government. We need to come up with a better Constitution. One that will hold up.

The thing is, libertarians spend all their time arguing theory. Can we make Constitutional government work, which is what you were talking about? Would David Friedman's idea of anarcho-capitalism work, or would it break down? It's all about theory, not about action.

You don't solve everything with theory. You solve a lot of problems with trial-and-error. We need a trial-and-error approach to move toward libertarianism. That's the idea of forming splintered states.

So you're saying we should form splintered states now?

We should be aiming for that. We ought to aim to set up schools, banks, health clinics, and so on that operate without government licenses. Instead, they would have alternative trust mechanisms. We would aim to have businesses that can operate informally, so that they do not withold taxes.

So, some sort of secret utopia, like in Atlas Shrugged?

No, not secret at all. Completely open. In today's society, it's almost impossible to operate in secret. Secrecy means weakness. In order to be strong, you have to be open.

I am thinking more like open, nonviolent defiance of laws that require licenses, paying onerous taxes, and so on.

By nonviolent, you mean like Gandhi?

Well, like Gandhi in the sense that we would be counting on a civilized society not to engage in severe repression. We would have the same idea. Millions of ordinary, decent Americans engaging in peaceful disobedience, making it awkward for the government to engage in repression.

But you know, Gandhi wound up producing a lot of violence. Soon after he started his movement, he renounced it because of violence. And India's independence was extremely violent. Maybe that is because he was dealing with a lot of Muslims. But it also could be that there is a tendency in any revolutionary movement for some sub-group to say, "Hey, we're not getting what we want. We need to start breaking stuff and killing people." If that's the case, then it would be a bad idea to start any sort of revolutionary movement.

What would be some examples of nonviolent activities?

Run a small school without a license. Do some health care services without a license. Run a small part-time business without complying with the payroll tax.

Would you personally be willing to go to jail for doing something like that?

No. Not as one person. Not now. Maybe somewhere down the road, as part of a large group. So, instead of starting out at that level, what we might want to do is look for smaller ways to break laws.

Even that could get you in trouble.

Right. So maybe the first thing we need is an infrastructure of support. An organization that would provide moral support, legal assistance, and maybe even some financial aid for people who get into trouble for doing certain kind of things which are against the law, but which would be legal if we could splinter off and form a separate state.

The idea would be to try to push out the envelope of individual rights by going just over the legal line to exercise rights. Kind of like driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit--once everyone does it, enforcement becomes less legitimate.

But look at speed traps.

True. What this movement would have to do is protect people who get caught in speed traps, meaning arbitrary and selective law enforcement efforts. Whenever a bunch of people are ticketed in a speed trap, you would organize a mass protest. The protest would try to prevent government from being able to collect the fines.

Right now, the way speed traps work is that everybody who gets caught faces the system as an individual. As an individual, you have very little chance. Instead, what we need is a large enough movement so that the legamorons become unenforceable.

How would people know whether anyone will help them if they "push the envelope?"

What I'm imagining is widely-supported disobedience of government infringements. The more open, the better, because secrecy means isolation. Open disobedience, widely supported, would be harder to repress than secret disobedience.

So I'm thinking that we need to develop the support network first. Then we can start coming up with the most effective ways to push out the envelope. We would want to come up with forms of open disobedience that would be most awkward to repress. Those would be forms of disobedience that would enjoy widespread support. The idea is to establish a precedent and a mechanism for people to exercise individual rights without the government having the will or the popular support to crack down. Then you keep pushing the envelope, so that you progressively enlarge the set of rights that individuals enjoy. By the same token, you reduce the number of laws and regulations that government can easily enforce. Maybe eventually you get to a point where there is enough sympathy for people who do not pay taxes so that the government has to be funded entirely by donations.

That will be a great day, when government has to hold a bake sale to build a bomber...or anything else

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85 Comments

That is how I read the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers' works
They wanted a country where the federal Government works on the external objects (basically protecting the various sates that comprise it) and the States work on internal objects (basically managing the various relationships among the subjects within their jurisdiction) so that, because of competetion, the BEST practices win out and are (hopefully) copied by others (States), leading to a better and more perfect Union.

I have not read any of the Founding Fathers stating that the number of States or their boundaries are carved in stone.

"It's all about theory, not about action"
Pray, what GUIDES one's actions, if not the THEORY they uphold?

That is the most moronic statement to come from someone who wants to "change" the Government for the better (ment of the Individual).

Competing "rights protection services"?
Out there in the blogosphere, there is a very good demolition of the argument for the kind of "competing" "rights protection services" that are being promoted in this article.

Unfortunately, I don't have the URL right now with me. Once I get hold of it, I will post it.

I hope your not talking about Mike Hunt's anti-libertarian faq.
That's been quite well demolished.

what's moronic about it.
What guides your actions?

Well, what guides YOUR actions?
Everybody's actions are guided by the theories they have come to accept, voluntarily or involuntarily, whether they know their theories conscioulsy or not.

my mistake
I thought the first line of your post was the quote you were commenting on.

A house divided cannot stand
So what we are saying here is our ideals have no future so lets quit and go take our toys elsewhere?

This advocacy of internal disassembly.

not carved in stone
..but the re-carving is pretty much just as difficult to do:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress

Kling is on crack
It's one thing to advocate some sort of pure theoretical construct.

But to say, "Let's get some suckers to try defying the law like those who refuse to pay their income taxes do!" is quite another and borderline unethical.

I notice how he doesn't put his name forward. He wants -- and expects -- many of you to step forward and sip the Kool Aid. He must be picking up tips from Barak Obamabinsama.

Herding cats to New Hampshire is a whole lot more 'practical', if you ask me.

Fully informed jury association
One way to end bad laws is to not convict people for violating bad laws.

Reminds me of the church
If you read the Sovereign Individual you see the trend from the power of the Church to the nation state to, hopefully, soverign individuals.

Churches still exitst, but they no longer have coercive powers like the state now has.

Nation states around the world are now competing for people.

Many rich Europeans are now moving to Dubai for tax purposes.

Power is not relenquished voluntarily so there will be difficult times ahead as nation states loose their power to the people.

The Money Quote
"libertarians spend all their time arguing theory"

That's the nail in the coffin for any Libertarian (note capital "L") dream of political advancement. The Libertarian Party itself is irrelevant to the actual political process (exemplified by the dismal percentage of the national vote it routinely garners election after election) -- the Party itself is primarily a debating society for eggheaded purist libertarians who get their ideological rocks off bouncing theoretical dogma off each other.

While I identify with and am deeply sympathetic to many libertarian (note small "l") individualist and market-oriented concepts and values (the type which align me with the political Right on the whole), the unfortunate fact is that libertarianism in the purest form which the Party advocates is simply too rigorous an ideology for the masses to embrace. Sadly, there are just too many (otherwise unideological) individuals who happen to like the idea of a nannyist State which will tend all their boo-boos: it means they don't have to expel personal intellectual and physical energy administering those boo-boos themselves. Yes, it's always beneficial when libertarian theory can be advanced for discussion in the public political debate, but I don't have much hope that it will appeal to a populace too engrained with the idea that Government is inherently possessed of benevolence and is superior to the citizenry.

Plus, there's something ironically anti-libertarian about the whole notion of forming a collective coalition (be it political or societal) to advance an "individualist" agenda. Free association is one thing (all those New Hampshire libertarian-types advocating a secession to form their own little colony of think-alikes), but the idea of a Libertarian Party representing some kind of "collective individualism" for purposes of political advancement strikes me as antithetical.

What's more important. Unity or Liberty?
...

Can you have both?
I will argue that we will not have either if we Balkanize.

Isn't better to sell our ideals or are we conceding defeat to the Roy's of the world?

The Constitution was 'Balkinization'.
What was great about the US Constitution was that it allowed states to do more than the federal government could, if they desired.
Under the federal system, no one was condemned to live in a state that went too far.

Now there is no where left to run except maybe WY or SD.

sometimes, but not if it's forced
The roy's of this world will never surrender until they control everything.

If we adopt their strategies, then we have lost before we start.

The real dichotomy.
Those who want to be left alone and those who want to control others.

(And there may be a third group, those who want to be controlled.)

And doesn't it all stem from accepting responsibility for your actions or not accepting responsibility for your actions?

very well done
This pretty much echos my thoughts on this. It really does seem antithetical to the whole Libertarian ideal.

Don't you mean 'jury nullification'?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification

FIJA
"The role of our jurors is to protect private citizens from dangerous government laws and actions. Many existing laws erode and deny the rights of the people. Jurors protect against tyranny by refusing to convict harmless people. Our country's founders planned and expected that we, the people, would exercise this power and authority to judge the law as well as the facts every time we serve as jurors. Juries are the last peaceful defense of our civil liberties."

http://www.fija.org/index.php?page=staticpage&id=1

Social Security, etc.
I recall hearing once that the Amish and similar groups have carved exemptions out of the Social Security system. Is this true? Does it offer a model for your desire to be free of that system?

The Contradiction in Anarchism
http://rous.redbarn.org/objectivism/Writing/RobertBidinotto/ContradictionInAnarchism.html


Excerpt :-

In truth, what the anarcho-capitalist objects to is not government, but the fact that gives rise to the need for one: the need for outside, impartial observers to objectively evaluate and control the uses of force in society.

Without a philosophical consensus, "competing agencies" (driven to maximize profits by satisfying their paying customers) will offer opposing, rival social factions any interpretations each wants. Definitions of "rights" and "liberty" and "justice" will become as much a matter of "competition" as will the methods, personnel and procedures each agency will offer to provide. And which agency will attract the most customers? Of course, the one that "gets results" by best satisfying consumer demand: i.e., the one which can impose its own definitions of "aggression" and "self-defense" on competitors.

After all, would you hire an agency that couldn't adequately protect your own interpretation of your rights? Consider the justly-maligned profession of defense attorneys. They'll defend any client for a buck, using any argument, any tactic to boost their chances of winning, truth be damned. (When people today say, "I need a good lawyer," do they mean "I need a pillar of integrity" -- or do they mean instead: "I need a guy who can win for me"?) Would anyone argue that it is merely the fact of "government courts" that make these shysters possible? Don't you suppose that they would find similar employment in a totally privatized system, in which the "sovereign consumer" reigns?

Anarchists say this scenario is unrealistically pessimistic: it assumes people are going to want to do the wrong thing. In fact, people "naturally" seek their rational self-interest, they declare, once government is out of the way. They would try to cooperate, work things out.

Well, if they did, why would they need any agency -- governmental or private? Why wouldn't five billion people naturally cooperate on this planet without any legal or institutional framework to resolve disputes?

Anarchists proclaim faith that in the marketplace, all the "protection" companies would rationally work everything out. All companies in the private sector, they assert, have a vested interest in peace. Their reputations and profits, you see, rest on the need for mutual cooperation, not violence.

Oh? What about a reputation for customer satisfaction -- and the profits that go with getting results? I guess anarchists have no experience in the private sector with shyster lawyers, protection rackets, software pirates and the like. Aren't they, too, responding to market demand?


If the "demand" for peace is paramount, please explain the bloody history of the world.

Even if 99 percent of "protection agents" behave rationally, all you'd need is one "secessionist" outlaw agency, with it's own novel interpretation of "rights" and "justice," tailored to appeal to some "customer base" of bigots, religious fanatics, disgruntled blue collar workers or amoral tycoons with money to burn. Do anarchists care to argue that outlaw agencies -- given our current intellectual and philosophical "marketplace" -- would have no such constituencies? Dream on.


Oops -- did I say "outlaw?" Under anarchy, there is no final determiner of the law." There would be no final standard for settling disputes, e. g., a Constitution. That would be a "monopoly legal system," you see. That's because anarchists support the unilateral right of any individual or group to secede from a governing framework. (After all -- wrote anarchist Lysander Spooner a century ago -- I didn't sign the Constitution, did I?)

Granted: there are many, many problems involved in limiting government to its proper role of being a protector rather than violator of individual rights. There are big problems in staffing and funding such an institution in ways that don't contradict its end. These problems arise largely because there is no social consensus over the philosophy to underpin government.

But that problem is not solved by simply throwing all definitions and uses of force in society onto a free-market auction block.

So, to borrow from Patrick Henry: I know not what course others may take; but as for me, I'll take my chances trying to create or reform one agency, rather than a host of "competitors," each backed by the likes of The 700 Club, the Islamic Jihad, good-ol'- boy bigots, Detroit street thugs, South L. A. rioters, graying New Dealers, animal rights activists, welfare rights activists, LaRouchies, Greenies, the GOP, the Democrats, United We Stand, the NRA, the Black Muslims, Libertarians for Life, the Association of Libertarian Feminists, atheists, Christian Scientists and god only knows.

No. I was talking about Robert J. Bidinotto
See my post titled "The Contradiction in Anarchism".

Thank You
..

I know. That is the tragedy
But I think the intentions of the Founding Fathers are unmistakable. They WANTED to have States that can experiment with various models of Governance.

Coercion or persuation
"In fact, people "naturally" seek their rational self-interest, they declare, once government is out of the way. They would try to cooperate, work things out. "

The key difference is people would choose to work things out, or not choose. They would not be coerced.

The issue is not government or no government, it is the ability to choose whether to submit to such a government. Just as you choose to buy a house with an association or not. Or you choose to live in the city or in the county.

At one time in the world, people had a choice. Now all we have is coercion.

"But that problem is not solved by simply throwing all definitions and uses of force in society onto a free-market auction block."

Says who? And where is the evidence?

this is no different
then the argument that unless govt intervenes, one company will eventually buy up everything.

Evidendce
In nature, organisms cooperate to thrive. The mitochondria in your cells are not really you. They are a separate organism that found a way to cooperate and survive. The bacteria in your gut also cooperate. Viruses and other bacteria that want to take over, use coercsion, are attacked.

In the macro world, coercive societies are failing to prosper.
Churches can't force people to attend yet many are growing. The US Marines can't force people to join, yet they seem to be able to attract enough volunteers in spite of high standards and dangerous work.

The evidence that persuasive methods increase liberty and propserity and coercive methods decrease liberty and propserity suggest that more persuasion is better than less.

Judge Judy
She has booming business in free market rights protection services.

Credit card companies have an excellent method of punishing bad behaviour with their credit scores.

Unfortunately
Those of us who want to be left alone are lousy leaders. Those that seek to rule may not be better at leading but they have the desire.

I think we are in for a long decline unless we can get our own rand of leaders.

McCain is already apologizing to Obama for using his real name.

Obama is no leader, he is another Jimmy Carter.

Yet the media will not allow us to attack him, otherwise were racists, ect. The RNC has already stated hands off Obama.

What a winning strategy?

Strategies
The strategy is to sell our ideals to the public. Were not going to win with a RNC that is jellyfish and McCain.

If I could run West I would but where to now?

Yup, Jury Nullification
Now they have an organization dedicated to it.

Cool! If I join, I can get my butt kicked off at jury selection process just by bringing it up!

I do not know for sure about the Amish
But the Hutterites have done so by piggybacking on the farmer's exemption of the 1970s. I imagine that the Amish and Mennonites have done the same.

You should try to get on a jury if you support FIJA.
How else can you stop bad laws?

Need another Carter (Nader) before we get another Reagan(?)
All conservatives should vote for Nader and trust that the beauracy is so inept that he won't be able to do much damage before 2012.

Also, with Nader, a third party candidate, both parties will oppose him in Congress.

Bidinotto and Rand
Taking a quick survey of Bidinotto blog and reading this make me wonder why they disagree?

Socialism is winning and those who support free markets and free enterprise and limited government should work together to end socialism before attacking each other on minor points.

Is it religion? Rand was atheist and Bidinotto apparently is not. So?

Damage Control
I am not sure I can sign up to this idea. I have heard several say it but regardless of who is in power they can do a lot of damage.

I think McCain is the best loser of the bunch and that is not saying much. I am terrified of Obama. The guy is a empty suit.

My brother is a cop
...so it is usually a complete waste of time when I go in. Citizens in my county have the high privilege of being called for jury duty once PER year given the low ratio of citizens to immigrants is where I live. I know of people who de-register to vote because they are sick of the hassle.

And do they just ask me to fill out a form asking me if I have a brother who is a cop? Nooooo. The Federal court did, and they don't bug me anymore. But the state superior courts just haul you in and waste your time sitting to be called for the inevitable "thank you for serving now get lost...blah, blah, blah" speech.

Otherwise, I would do it just for the reasons you recommend. Might still get me kicked off a civil trial (I always get called in for criminal ones though) if they ask me about FIJA or jury nullification.


Trust inertia
The benefits of bureaucracy.

Splintered Philosophy
Is it a good thing that the socialists, I mean democrats, are splintered into Nader, Obama, Clinton?

Or the conservatives are splintered into socialists and theocrats?

And for the classical liberals, does that mean they are reaching a critical mass where they can fight each other?

Or is the US Constitution and the USA so diverse that it can withstand all the bickering?

The KEY FACT is, there will ALWAYS be somebody who resorts to COERCION
OK. There is ALWAYS a POSSIBILITY that somebody will resort to coercion.

How the society deals with such an eventuality is the KEY issue.

Anarchists have no answer to that.

If you want to argue that there is no such possibility, that is your privilege.

The difference is, FORCE is unlike any other COMMODITY
Even if ONE company buys up everything, it is irrelevant, as long as the use of FORCE is under objective standards.

In nature, some organisms are FOOD for other organisms
Lambs are food for the wolves.

You are assuming that every organism wants to "thrive" and everybody's goal is prosperity.

I am sure you heard the saying "It is better to be a master in hell than to be a slave in paradise".

You are wishing away the fact of human nature.

EVERYBODY has the potential to do EVIL things at ANY TIME.

not really
you have one group who wants to use force to get you to do their bidding. Sometimes you call this group govt, sometimes you call it something else.

Under anarchism however, you are permitted to hire your own company that will protect you from the force initiator.

Or defend yourself, a basic right.

Solution, more force.
One person trying to use coercion won't get very far if all the rest have resources to oppose such coercion.

When bullies form gangs, anachist volunteers can join together and oppose such coercion.

Anarcho-capitalists are not opposed to self-defense or joining together for common defense. But it is a voluntary association.

Voluntary association for self-defence.
Herd animals stay in herds so only the weak get picked off.

Fish school for the same reason. Are they forced into such actions? Only for survival.

Humans can choose whether to join together or not for common defense and have done so for thousands of years.

But when those voluntary associations are taken over by tyrants and people are forced into service and even forced into initiating violence on behalf of such tyrants, the modern state was born.

When one tyrant is evil, he can magnify such evil through the power of a state. Better to limit the power of the state to minimize the evil that men do.

Under anarchism there is NO final authority; hence talk of "permission" is meaningless
Everybody just does whatever they want to do and can do.

And (human) nature being what it is, some groups will come to dominate.

That is what the article talks about.

Joining together to define what is meant by "common defense"
When one "voluntary association" defends itself from another ("voluntary association"), how does a third party like Marjon decide who is Right?

Leave alone, for the time being, the how of imposing the third party's view of what is Right.

But what are the facts that give rise to Rights (equally applicable to each member of the Human race, under objectively defined self-evident contexts)?

That is what the article says anarchists are evading and you are also circumventing.

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