23 September 2011

Collective Coercion

Collectivists often cite arguments that play on fear and guilt. I have reached a point where I don’t buy this angle any longer, and here I will explain why. I regularly state that human beings are naturally altruistic, and this is clearly apparent in nature too:

The reason why I keep repeating that nature is altruistic is because much collective philosophy comes back to a justification of preventing exploitation in the world. This leads to coercion, even if it is simply an appeal to the inner desire of humans to be charitable. As I also keep repeating it is a fallacy to state that humans are not cooperative in a setting where survival is easy. Quite the contrary, it is when human beings struggle that they do terrible things. All of these points are taken advantage of by statism – put people under pressure while blaming another party and they will fight for the collective. Tell people that they need to be charitable and united against inequality and they will obey, especially when they realise that this is beneficial on an individual basis - people will lay down their lives and give their hard earned money to inflate and protect the collective.

Take World War Two. Many feel that this was about Nazism taking over Europe. While this was a major factor the West was also suffering immensely due to the Great Depression. It could quite easily be argued that countries needed a distraction at home to avoid any unrest, not unlike the sort of unrest we are experiencing in the world today. Countries also needed to make the Germans pay up when Hitler went against the Treaty of Versailles and stopped reparations. World War Two also served as a perfect catalyst to reset the world stage. Well over 62 million died during this event, and of course a smaller population meant a reduction in resource pressure. The Germans themselves went along with all sorts of terrible orders by the Nazi’s, including mass genocide of whole sections of society, such as Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals. Why could make anyone do such things? The answer lies in groupthink mentality. States do not fight wars without citing a collective goal. Many Nazi’s would have believed in the ideology that Hitler elevated, though of course those Germans who did not were snuffed out like anybody else that did not agree with them.

When we put all of this together we get different shades of the same spectrum. Human beings are vulnerable to collective coercion, and thus we do not always think rationally when making group decisions. Furthermore if we are raised to be subservient to authority then people are far less likely to question what they are told. This is clearly shown in studies like the Milgram Experiment, where only a small percentage of those tested did not repeatedly electrocute a person hidden from view. Of course the whole experiment was staged, though 65% of those tested administered the highest dosage to the actor when they got questions wrong – 450 volts! The Prussian education model has also served to solidify the negative impact of human subservience to authority, where children are taught to obey, and rarely taught anything outside of a system that produces workers for the benefit of the economy.

Put this together and there is no true justification for the collective, for any justification is exploitable by tyranny. Furthermore it is false to claim that people need to be forced to obey a collective for the greater good, as though voluntary collectivism is not possible, just like in nature. We do not need to be forced to conform to any ideal, and this why Anarcho-Capitalists and Minarchists support the free-market – because it is self-regulating when left to its own devices. This means that no one has the upper hand, and no one controls the landscape. Only statism can ruin this, and this is why I feel that if we create a Minarchy this will simply result in statism growing larger again over time - like a parasite feeding off its host, convincing them that it needs it to survive.

Of course there are always those that will struggle to work in a free market and Anarchistic world, like the disabled or mentally challenged, and collectivists use this to defend the state and a safety net:

With regards to this video I would first say that it is important to understand that you cannot run a business without giving jobs to those who are best suited for the role. That is why affirmative action helps no one in the long run. As long as people have the same opportunities when applying for a position then the market will do the rest. Any business that does not adhere to this will fail without state cronyism to prop it up. Even the mighty “too big to fail” banks suffered this fate – without the state they would not be here today. In fact without the state they would not have been too big to fail in the first place, leading back to the fact that a truly free market is a self-regulating entity that takes no prisoners when dealing with the exploitative.

This explanation also addresses the arguments in this video involving charitable communities being exploited by those who are less charitable. As I have already stated humans are naturally altruistic, so there is no need for any forced collectivism. A market where everyone can compete on an even playing field will counter any attempts by others to tip the balance. That is why monopolies cannot work without the state – it takes a “big gun” like the state to subdue the masses, and it also takes a lot of time to breed subjugation into the masses via state education.

Thus charity truly is the best alternative in dealing with those who are unfortunate enough to have no one to turn to in times of hardship. But the best safety net in society always has and always will be that link more solid than anything when functioning properly – the family. Family looks after children. Children grow up and look after old relatives. Family looks after relatives who are ill, disabled, or have an accident, and without family there is no foundation for community. This leads us to the ironic conclusion that when collectivists subjugate the family they harm communities. This is why I believe that charity truly begins at home.

This is RockingMrE – over and out!

1 comment:

  1. I think terms like 'naturally altruistic' are slightly unhelpful - but that's largely because I don't believe in altruism (I think it's a conceit that some people use because they think that utility-maximising behaviour is somehow distasteful... which colours their responses in survey-based research, too).

    Empathy, for example, 'seems' altruistic at first blush: there appears to be little direct benefit from expressing compassion towards a downtrodden member of the species (and less still if the downtrodden is a 'lesser' species).

    But an equally-acceptable hypothesis is that, like a peacock's tail, it represents a deliberate survival-penalty that the individual uses in order to 'signal' to potential mates that he (or she) can survive DESPITE being prepared to do things that are not self-interested. In other words... in the mating game, it's the equivalent of Vyvyan's "Wanna see how many pressups I can do?".

    Within groups, it's even easier: there is the prospect of later reciprocity. Thus we might do helpful things spontaneously, apparently without expectation of gain... it's simply an investment in group stability. And if the group also takes this as a signal that you're the sort of member that the tribe should keep around, the likelihood of intra-group (rather than interpersonal, direct) reciprocity increases.

    And almost-lastly, but not leastly... many of us (myself included) can, from time to time, have difficulty properly explaining our own motivations for voluntarily-committed actions - even to ourselves.

    This is especially common when we do things that seem unhelpful to our own narrow ends (e.g., eating a whole packet of biscuits while watching Two Pints: that is just something that happens because of a chain of atom-collisions going all the way back to the Big Bang).

    If asked by a researcher, we grasp about inside our consciousness, looking for a justification: the more 'middle class' we think we are, the more we are likely to condition our response based on what we think the researcher wants to hear. (Neither Bertie Wooster types, nor Ali G types, give a rat's arse what the researcher thinks: it's Working Class Tories who try to please Teacher).

    None of the foregoing argues against random acts of benevolence: far from it. But I think that if we were more willing to say "We do nice things for each other because a sensible thing to do in a repeated intertemporal game", perhaps MORE people would be encouraged to do so (without feeling that one is a bit of a sissy if one is too 'soft', innit?).

    In very much the same way, truth and fair dealing are the best thing to do... not because of some invisible genocidal Sky Wizard or some othersuch fairy story, but because in repeated intertemporal games it's the dominant strategy (moreover, it's Pareto-efficient).

    Terrific blog, by the way... content AND presentation. I'm going use the two handwriting fonts you use somewhere.