Morality, social framework and law. {part 2/3}

Having cleared up the confusion about morality and its role, let’s talk about the concept of what I call the “social framework.” The social framework is the natural extension and implementation of individual values into the greater context of society. In an Anarchist society, and even in statist societies to a much lesser extent, the principles regulating the resource vectors and power within that society are the result of individual support and decision. Institutions are created and supported by individuals in order to ease the fulfillment of more abstract values such as justice or equality by breaking them down in concrete rules and resource vectors.

If we stick to a baseline Anarchist society, we can say that the relationship between individual values and the social framework is predominantly one where the former directs the latter. The framework is an emergent property of the co-operative actions of individuals.

However, this is not to say that the relationship is one-sided. Indoctrination is a vital part of any social system, and Anarchies are no exception. The social framework includes not only institutions and written rules, but also mores and their perpetuation, belief systems such as religion, and traditions.

The reason why indoctrination exists is easy to understand: in any system, there are a lot of people who benefit (or believe they benefit) from maintaining any given state of affairs, and therefore who benefit from actively maintaining the beliefs and mores that maintain the given state of affairs intact. In an Anarchist society, indoctrination (mainly in the form of parenting and diffuse sanctions) aims to maintain the social framework in the name of order and habit, while in a statist society indoctrination (in the form of public education, monopolizing markets, control through subsidies, and legal sanctions) aims to maintain and expand the power of the State in the name of order and habit.

In short, the social framework consists of those elements that regulate and normalize the context of social relationships. My addition of “the context of” is very important. From the perspective of a modern Market Anarchist territory, people may assemble and trade in all sorts of different ways (such as what we today call capitalism and socialism). In order to maintain peaceful co-operation between agents, each agent must recognize in the other the right to exist and act, even if they do not recognize it to themselves. As such, while their social relationships may today, from our unenlightened perspective, be called capitalist, socialist, communist, egalitarian, elitist, authoritarian or primitivist, all agents must share the greater context we call natural rights in order to co-operate and effect their chosen values in peace.

More simply, we can call social relationships the principles an agent upholds, and the actions an agent takes, in order to establish and maintain a specific way of life, and we can call the social framework those principles an agent upholds, and the actions an agent takes, in order to maintain and establish social peace and good will. The difference is that social relationships take place within a contractual context, or at least a context of agreement and unity of purpose, while the social framework applies beyond this context.

Natural rights serve a major role in the Market Anarchist social framework because they delimit the classes of actions against which an agent is justified in using violence, and those in which he is not. They distinguish those actions which further the aims of society and those which hinder the aims of society. This is why one cannot understand Market Anarchy without understanding natural rights.

Many Anarchists reject the concept of rights because they associate “rights” with “law.” They have been indoctrinated in the belief that rights are “granted by the State,” and thus refuse to acknowledge rights. This error entails that they are unable to understand the concept of a social framework, and no sophisticated Market Anarchy can exist without such a framework, making their position rather self-refuting.

Natural rights, on the contrary, not only are not granted by the State, but cannot be granted by the State. For instance, I walk on the street, as I always do, with the expectation that I will not be attacked or assaulted. I recognize in myself the right to walk about unmolested, as long as I do not intrude on someone’s closed property or attack anyone else. And most importantly, I also recognize that right in other people. And the vast majority of people recognize that right in me also.

It is important, however, to realize that rights are not created by the social context, but rather derive from our existence as sentient beings. A man on a desert island has no less need for rights than I do. He recognizes his own self-ownership and his right to act, otherwise he would not act, and he would die in short order. My right to walk around unmolested is only an issue because I live with other people, but it is, ultimately, a corollary of my right to free action.

In the next part, I will wrap up the issue of rights, and discuss the concept of the law.

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