Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Tue Jul 08 2008 - 06:02:43 MDT

2008/7/8 Lee Corbin <>:

> Surely, you must admit, it depends on the capabilities of the individuals
> who emerge from the history at a particular point. Probably even
> cultural aspects of their historical situation determine just as much.
> I posit that in many cases the people simply are not capable of self-rule
> or are absolutely too unprepared for it by their own cultural history.
> We also can surely judge that this was the case in many historical societies
> we're aware of.
> Even today in the United States, I see many shortcomings on the part
> of so many individuals that it precludes a completely libertarian form
> of government from functioning here. Americans (and many other
> descendants of western civilization around the globe) are indeed capable
> of quite a bit, but a strict anarchy, minarchy, or perhaps even mild
> libertarian
> society is presently beyond them, I sadly conclude.
> For in too many cases in such a completely free society, collectives
> would simply naturally evolve, and pretty soon any prudent person
> would find it necessary to suck up to the local gang lord or protector.
> In America, we saw exactly what happens in large cities filled with
> recent immigrants (e.g. Chicago in the 1920s) or with people whose
> small town experiences of democracy were insufficient to meet the challenges
> of urban life. It became very easy for criminal elements to
> infiltrate the local law establishment, and even coerce newspapers
> and others into seeing things their way. And today in Los Angeles,
> if you want to really know who controls a neighborhood or controls
> the streets, very often it's by no means the police or any lawfully set up
> organization.

I agree with this appraisal, but I think the problem is at bottom due
to human psychology rather than particular cultural and historical
factors. Utopian projects will fail because they don't take into
account the fact that people are greedy, lazy, dishonest and
inconsiderate. Few people *want* to be this way, but they can't help
it. Like drug addiction, they know that it's bad and they keep doing
it anyway because it makes them feel good. But if they could feel just
as good doing something that in their ideal world they consider
positive, why wouldn't they? There is huge pressure for people to be
good even now that being good is often difficult and being bad can be
so tempting: how much greater would the pressure be if it were just a
trivial exercise to make good more attractive than bad?

To take your particular example, how would the gangsters have managed
to corrupt police if the police had been able to render themselves
immune any temptations they might have been offered? How would they
have been able to keep the local population cowered if cowering could
be turned off at will? How would they have been able to recruit
employees, or indeed how would they have got into the profession
themselves, if it were possible to *just decide* to derive as much
satisfaction from doing something more socially acceptable and less

Stathis Papaioannou

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