Re: poly: democracy, etc.

From: Damien R. Sullivan <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 1998 - 13:24:44 PST

On Feb 11, 2:31pm, "Perry E. Metzger" wrote:

> 2) We've had free and fairly pleasant-to-live-in societies that have
> operated without Governments and have lasted for many centuries --
> especially impressive given the overall violence of the worlds they
> were embedded in. Iceland is my oft used example (and rather boring

Arguably Iceland _wasn't_ that embedded in its world, and started losing
independence when Norway began paying more attention to it. Brin
pointed out the existence of thralldom when I mentioned Iceland to him
some time ago.

And what other free and pleasant and stateless societies are you thinking
of? The only ones I know of are hunter-gatherers, which share with
Iceland the trait of near economic equality. Some of the Western
frontier societies might be similar, in _all_ respects. Not having the
same level of equality as primitive societies, but not having quite the
same economy we're living in either.

> documented. These societies have often lasted with their legal
> structure intact for far longer than most modern nation states have
> survived. If you look at Benson's book "The Enterprise of Law",

Iceland lasted 300 years. Primitive societies have lasted for a long
time, but aren't good models for direct imitation. Rome, Egypt, and
China lasted for a long time, with evolution, and much of our legal
structure is Roman.

> 3) I'm not sure what State power really buys people. Certainly it
> doesn't buy safety. We are rather spoiled in that most of us live

Is it possible differnet species of State are being conflated? Yes,
they all have a monopoly on legitimate violence, but can you really
compare the liberal states with most of history when the former clearly
have a good deal of accountability to their populace, in distinction to
the latter?

I think you're seeing States as independent parasites upon society,
whereas my current mental fashion, heavily shaped by economics, sees
them as natural functions of their societies. Which doesn't stop them
from having parasitic aspects, but they can have uses, and can't
necessarily be cleanly excised. Remove one government and a new one may
spring up in the next crisis.

Governance in general -- all constraining social customs, not just
formal states -- may have the function of handling affairs which the
market can't handle well because of high transaction costs. As those
drop markets can expand. The rise in government may be connected with
the rise in positive freedom: there are more things which are now
difficult to do (hence gov't steps in) which were previously
inconceivable and impossible.

But I think one could question whether there _has_ been a rise in
governance, or whether our gov't merely formalizes a subset of the rules
previously bound in family and social custom.

> Again, I'm not sure that the State is really of help here. I suspect

One minimal role of a minimal state might be that of occupying the role of
'state' so that people don't fill it with something else.

> I must admit that in general, though, I've become far more partial to
> the idea of "New York" (where I live) and actually have far more

Oh, there is an extropian in New York City! (I presume.) I'd begun to
wonder. A NYTimes article had made it sound appealing to me. OTOH, the
city gov't has sounded unattractive.

-xx- GCU I'm Color Blind; I Only See Grey X-)

"I suppose the key point to remember in dealing with Florida
landscaping is that at one point it was all a swamp and now that
people have brought in actual dirt (like most species now present in
Florida, soil is not native) it would rather be a jungle and is very
adamant about becoming one in short order." -- Seth B. Noble
Received on Wed Feb 11 21:26:23 1998

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