woensdag 11 juli 2012

Openingspleidooi debat 'Staat of geen staat'

Een tijdje geleden heb ik samen met een vriend een debat gevoerd aan het Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte, aan de KU Leuven. De vraag waarover wij moesten debatteren was de vraag of er een staat al dan niet moest zijn. Hier is het openingspleidooi. Voornamelijk geschreven door ondergetekende, maar zeker niet zonder positieve feedback en constructieve kritiek van mijn debatpartner.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your presence and attention. Arguing for the abolition of the state is a challenging task, especially given a world where the dominant idea is a democratic, administrative welfare state. Chances of us convincing you in the next 20 minutes are slim, but if it isn’t impossible, it isn’t worth trying.  
Without further ado, we would like to present three different lines of arguments. We would like to present a moral, an institutional and something we can broadly call an ‘economic’ argument. 
The moral argument is straightforward: If we value equality before the law, a state can never be part of a just society. The state works in such a way that those people who fullfill certain functions in the state such as ‘representative of the people’ or ‘minister’ have different standings before the law relative to others. They have the right to steer the mechanism of power in society. The state is the ultimate example of the mantra: execute power, or be subjugated to it - there is no alternative. The fundamental characteristic of the modern state is control - and it will use you as a means, not as an end, to execute this control. If we truly desire a peaceful world of moral equal beings, we must evolve towards a society where there is no state. Anarchy, despite our intuitive links to chaos, is merely that all men are equal before the law and that this law is not determined by a state, but created out of the concrete problems people have.
The absence of the state - and this is our second argument - is not the absence of rules, of law, or of, something we probably all value above all things, peaceful and just, social cooperation. There will still be legal rules, evolved through a system of customary law based on a decentralized conceptions of rights. 
Anarchy is not defending chaos. It is merely defending that order emerges from bottum up, rather than enforced top down through a centralized organization. People can associate through different organizations to create the mechanisms they find relevant to help their every day life in the sponteneous order that is society.
Let’s not forget: a state can only function if there is a critical mass of people willing to support the system. An anarchy is no different. An anarchy merely has the added benefit that, unlike with the state, power is decentralized and mistakes by those who have some sort of power are limited. Let’s not forget Lord Action’s quote: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And no better example as absolute power as the power to create law and taxation. 
Onwards to our third argument. We would like to defend that an anarchy can have mechanisms of wealth creation, community organizing AND of solidarity with those less fortunate.
First: wealth creation is fairly straight forward. The mechanisms of a market society - that property, entrepreneurship and freedom of contract can create wealth - is relatively well understood. Property rights create prices which can guide entrepreneurs in their decisions to make investments decisions people value in the long run. The invisible hand mechanism Adam Smith described is, properly understood, no stranger to any economist.
Community and solidarity might be harder to argue for, but it all comes down to one basic thing: people - actual human beings - rarely, if ever, create wealth for the sake of wealth. People create value to sustain their idea of the good life and most, if not all, people incorporate in their idea of the good life the welfare of others, including those less fortunate. To put it into a technical term: empathy and sympathy are endogeneous to human behavior. The current welfare state is one of the many mechanism humans can have to translate these feelings into concrete actions of providing means for the less fortunate, but - and this is key - it need not be the only way.
Given the previously mentioned power problems the state has, it is naive to think the state can out perform voluntary interaction to create a real functioning community. We only need to look at the history of the welfare state: the modern, state controlled, welfare system emerged out of the voluntary organizations people created to solve insurance problems as well as issues of solidarity with the least well of. 
People value wealth, community and solidarity. Thinking that you need a state to force people to behave in such a way is not only wrong, but also, given the inherent problems with the state, dangerous.
We hope to have shown you that the state is based fundamentally on inequality before the law and on power, not of peace and justice. It is therefore that we must go beyond the state towards a system of ordered anarchy. 
Thank you for your attention. 

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