no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

After “Limited Government”, Then What?

November 9th, 2010

This is how I normally enter a discussion about the merits of “limited government”.

Is there really some baseline amount of violence and (admitted) imperfection which is necessary to keep the rest of us from going Mad Max?  In order to prevent crime we must empower a small group of criminals to perpetrate crimes (which is what they’d be if done by any other) and thereby protect us from ourselves?  Do you understand how ridiculous that sounds?

Being so “negative” all the time doesn’t make you welcome in political discussions.Suffice to say that I do not often enter such discussions, because I am usually deafened by the sound of cognitive dissonance.

A common objection is “So what! Governments aren’t perfect.  How will the dread anarchy perfectly resolve all of the problems at which government fails?”

This objection, aside from being a glorious example of shifting goalposts and double-standards, assumes that minarchism is pragmatically superior to any other social organization, and therefore should be praised for its practicality.  Then again, if we can’t come up with a foolproof system for something as relatively uncomplicated as roads then there is zero reason to believe that we can come up with anything even approaching a foolproof system for governance.

The designs of “limited government” are admirable, or at the very least more admirable than the machinations of those who seek omnipotent government.  But I disagree that they’re any more practical than totalitarianism, or pure anarchism or anywhere else on the spectrum of politics. You need only examine minarchism’s historical record with a critical eye to understand that it often gives rise to, or conceals some of humanity’s worst.

The paragon of limited government — colonial America — ruled over and permitted two of the most brutal institutions ever to scar this planet: human trafficking/chattel slavery and the genocide of American aboriginal people and the expropriation of their lands. Excuse me, but I do not find it particularly alarming, that this isn’t exactly the sort of movement that people are willing to rally behind.

But let’s say we get limited government to “work”. I suppose this means all of the good things about colonial America and none of the bad things like slavery, genocide, the disenfranchisement of women and/or non-landowners, etc. OK. Now what?

I’m not putting the cart before the horse. Assume we get there, first. Now what. Can’t we do better than that? Even just a little bit? At some point, the “limited government”, and the structure of social arrangements and institutions of community that would arise in the absence of the omnipotent State, becomes almost in-discernably different from “no government at all”.

I don’t necessarily believe in the “incrementalist” approach, but if followed it inevitably leads here. At that point, would we still be arguing about this? If you hold restrict, threaten, force us or hold us back, well then you’re no better than any of the evil “big governments” you previously opposed. But I don’t think it would come to that. At least I hope it wouldn’t.

And at that point if you let me go my way, well then, Salut! Comrade, you’re an anarchist. You just didn’t know it.

Count Day in Michigan

September 29th, 2010

They’ve always made a big deal about “count day” where I’m from. I’m sure other States do something similar. The idea is that the State uses the attendance count from this one day as the baseline count, and this attendance count is then used when the districts divvy up the State funding available for public schools.

The attendance count for the fourth Wednesday of every school year is used to determine 75% of state funding for schools statewide. It is a crucial day for cash-strapped public schools.

I always thought it was silly, but it’s especially silly now in the 21st century with digital everything. What’s the point of a single “count day”? Presumably every district — every school and every single classroom — has a “count” every day if they’re taking attendance. So using the attendance on a single day as proxy for overall participation and/or attendance in this day and age (c’mon, it’s not like someone has to manually tally all the attendance numbers) is about as retarded as a football bat. And it can easily be manipulated, something which Detroit Public Schools acknowledge through the “incentives” they put in place to get more kids to show up, skewing the numbers in their favor:

In Detroit, count day has become a festive affair in many schools. This year, it will include prizes, giveaways, face-painting, open houses and health screenings to make sure kids — and thereby state funds — show up to school. Parents who send their students for a full day will get a chance to win a Target gift card.

There is no reason to believe that a sample size of one is representative of an entire district’s daily enrollment/attendance. They should use a mean attendance; the average number of students attending school on a daily basis over the course of the year.

Wages, Revenue & Labor

August 10th, 2010

Without ‘owners’ the workers collect revenue from sales. What the workers keep we might consider “wages” in an accounting sense, but strictly speaking, there are no “wages”, there is just “revenue”.

We might suppose that, in addition to probably cutting out the ‘middleman’ (the capitalist-entrepreneur), worker-owners would allocate revenues over their costs of production differently than would the capitalist ‘owners’. For starters we expect that they would either have, or aim to have, vastly different cost structures in the first place. But that’s a digression we need not follow.

So for the moment let’s forget about this and imagine that the workers have just wrested control from the hands of the “capitalists”, and that the cost structures (imperfect as they are) remain at least for the short- and probably for the medium-term.

Aside from beginning to pink-slip all the bureaucrats (how you identify and defenestrate the bureaucrats, I don’t really care) and turning those dividend checks (previously distributed to absentee shareholders) in to coin in the workman’s pockets, what else do they do differently?

The entirety of disagreement between cappies/commies, boils down to what is essentially a difference of opinion with regard to how sales revenues should be allocated.  Is it really that simple?

Maybe, but probably not. Stay tuned.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics