Polystate: a Thought Experiment in Distributed Government
Zach Weinersmith identifies a serious problem in modern society, which he calls the geostate. A geostate is a bounded area of land dominated by a government. The problem with this, as Weinersmith sees it, is that people effectively have no choice in what kind of government they live under. He proposes a new kind of system in which people do not have to be involved with a geostate just because they live in a certain place, but rather may choose from a variety of anthrostates.
These anthrostates are similar to geostates in that they tax their subjects and provide some services. However, subjects may switch anthrostates every year. So two neighbors might belong to different anthrostates. If one anthrostate becomes undesirable for any reason, a person may simply switch to one that is more to their liking. He then defends this polystate system based on the numerous advantages it has over the geostate model.
The most important difference between a polystate and a geostate is not that the latter is location based and the former is not. Continue reading →
The story describes a city that is perfect except for one thing. One child must suffer so that others can be happy. Furthermore, the people who live in Omelas are all shown the suffering child when they come of age, so no adult lives in Omelas without knowing how the system really works.
This is, of course, an apt analogy for statism. Every state exists through taxation, which victimizes at least one person. All states in history have inflicted additional suffering on both those who live in their territory and those outside of it. So Omelas might be considered an ideal state — one with minimal suffering and maximum happiness.
In the story, those who come of age in Omelas do one of two things. Most rationalize the abuse of the child and continue to live their comfortable lives. However, a few decide instead to leave Omelas. In the same way, those who support government are the majority in modern society. They want to live in Omelas and are willing to sacrifice others to do so. A few, however, realize that this is unethical and make the hard choice to reject statism regardless of the changes it might bring.
In his excellent book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer takes a methodical and relentless approach to analyzing whether government is justified in doing things that ordinary people are not. People should not steal, but what about taxes? People should not brutalize potheads, but what about those who become federal prisoners for recreational drug use?
Concluding that government has no such authority, Huemer recommends a system where such authority is unnecessary. He explores the alternative of anarcho-capitalism and shows that even though anarcho-capitalism is not perfect, it is superior in every way to statism. Huemer makes the point that it is important not to compare some ideal anarchy with obviously flawed states, such as the USSR, but to compare the best realistic government with a realistic system of anarchy. (p185)
For those already on friendly terms with anarcho-capitalism, this book is still a worthwhile read if only for its lucid deconstruction of social contract theory. It knocks down each variation of the social contract, which is sure to be useful when talking to the kind of people who heard something about a social contract and assumed the debate was over. Continue reading →