Worshipping the magic hierarchies…

I am always trying to find ways to reformulate issues so they are available to everyone, or at least simpler than usual. I think I can do so fairly easily in the case of Anarchism. At least, whether I succeed or fail, I think this entry will prove of some usefulness in talking about Anarchism.

First, consider what Anarchism is about, fundamentally. Anarchism is the rejection of hierarchies. Every institution in our society is a hierarchy, or was founded on hierarchical principles. A hierarchy can be defined most succinctly as a set of dominance/submission relations between human beings, through which orders are given and obeyed. Whatever the structure of the hierarchy (and there are as many kinds of hierarchies as there are kinds of egalitarian structures), those relations are always there.

To illustrate what this means, take the example of a workplace. There are owners, managers, and employees, with all sorts of levels. There are clearly defined dominance/submission relations between owners and managers, and between managers and employees, the former giving orders and the latter obeying orders. Of course, depending on the size of the hierarchy, there may be a few, some, or many people who both give orders and obey orders, from different relations.

This is not to say that there cannot be cooperation within a hierarchy, but a hierarchy is not cooperative by nature. You can say that you follow the law willfully (thus introducing some “cooperation”), but there’s no consent involved; there’s no possibility of consent because there’s no viable alternative. So any “cooperation” on that aspect is purely artificial. Real consensual cooperation can generally only exist between equals.

Hierarchies do not act. Hierarchies are relations, unlike a person or a machine or anything else that can act. For example, statists routinely argue that without government we can’t do anything, that governments are needed to build roads, stop criminals, and so on. This is patently false: all societies, whether statist or not, have done these things. But most importantly, it is individuals who do these things, not hierarchies. You don’t need a government to build a road, you need engineers and road builders, and raw materials. A “government” is just a set of relations between some people who want to rule (and their constant in-fighting) and the rest of us who are their subjects.

So to claim that hierarchies are necessary to accomplish anything is logical nonsense. It’s like saying that people need to love each other to have sex. Love is a relation, not an actor, so it can’t possibly be a requirement to any action.

The role of a hierarchy is fundamentally to attack individual values and subvert them for the sake of institutional values. That’s all a hierarchy does that an egalitarian system cannot. Why would you support any system that subverts your values? That’s self-destructive insanity. It’s all about treating people as a means to an end, as objects to be used and manipulated. This is pure, unchecked evil.

Egalitarian systems can reproduce the same actions that a hierarchy performs, but without attacking people’s values. If people think a road is a good idea, they’ll finance it and bring it to fruition, and if they don’t, they won’t. No ethical principle can oblige people to materially support an action they don’t morally support. This is merely tyranny, the kind of dull, bureaucratic tyranny to which monarchies and democracies have habituated us.

The weird thing is that we already know Anarchism works at all levels, we don’t like being subjects, we already know that most hierarchies that are gone from our society didn’t work precisely because they were hierarchies, and we already know that equality is demonstrably good. For people to still worship them, hierarchies must be magical. Why hang on to this stupid worship? Only people who have never cooperated with anyone, or have never had any friends, and have bought into the psychological egoism bullshit, would believe that you need to treat people as means to an end in order to accomplish a society.

These hierarchies are ego structures. I call them ego structures because they are made of games conditions, of attempts to satisfy one’s ego by becoming the superior. These ego structures are held together by the mortar of “I’m just following orders,” superiority complexes, competition, and hatred of the structure’s victims through “personal responsibility.” Sick structures breed sick people. These ego structures are themselves unguided and unchecked, moved by purely automatic processes (maximization of profit, maximization of power, maximization of control, keeping people in their place, or even dumb self-perpetuation). Like evolution, they are the result of an ongoing process of mindless, unintelligent design, and so they are evil and bloody.

One argument which I like to use now is to ask people why they believe in some hierarchies and not others. As it happens, very few people in the Western world still believes in slavery, or monarchy. Many people don’t believe in sexism, racism, capitalism, or organized religion. This is especially relevant insofar as it is usually the fact that they are hierarchical (i.e. the fact that some order and others obey, that only some people get to have their say) which is most reprehensible about them. How is it that people can lack belief in these, but not in the other ones that currently exist?

This is all that hierarchies are: the fact that some are rulers and some are subjects, that some are superior and some are inferior, that some are authorities and some are objects of authority. Why would anyone believe that this is worthy of any consideration? Who can believe that this accomplishes anything?

Christians worship hierarchies because they don’t believe the individual alone can have morals, that morality must come from some external source. Conservatives (and moderate liberals) worship hierarchies because they believe humans are fundamentally evil. Neo-liberalists and NWOers worship hierarchies because they enforce economic imperatives. Libertarians and Objectivists worship hierarchies because they believe that hierarchies are a natural result of the free market and that hierarchies are natural. Marxists worship hierarchies because they think people can’t be free without being properly indoctrinated.

All these excuses have been repeated again and again, and debunked again and again, including on this blog. So there’s really no reason to repeat them.

Statists, I issue you a challenge. Prove to me that your hierarchy worship is justified. Prove to me logically, using logical argumentation and, when possible, backed by empirical data, that nothing can get done unless you treat people like cattle. Otherwise, admit that your ideology is nonsense. It is nothing but ego games given total control over human beings.

67 thoughts on “Worshipping the magic hierarchies…

  1. Asher October 8, 2011 at 19:21

    Pure anarchism is the description of human groups consisting of fewer than 120 individuals. In order to operate cohesive units beyond that size you need to have define hierarchies in place, of course, you’re still going to have anarchistic relations within a hierarchical framework, and this is, indeed, why we see anarchism “working”. A world without formal, hierarchical structures would probably only have a few million homo sapiens, at most, and probably far fewer than that.

    The nation-state exists because it is the most efficient and effective applicator of violence, and the result is wide-scale social orders. Now, if you’re really interested in living in social units averaging, say, a hundred individuals, with every other individual regarded as predator or prey, then, I would invite you to try and sell that vision of the world to others.

    That vision, however, is not to my taste.

    • Francois Tremblay October 8, 2011 at 20:38

      Nope. Wrong.
      https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/your-ideas-can-only-work-on-a-small-scale/

      Also, you didn’t address anything in my entry. Can you answer the challenge or not? If not, stop wasting my time.

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 00:27

        Um, your “federative” model requires an over-arching an authority to keep the various tribes from depredation. Basically, all you ‘re doing is asserting that because we see people operating with genuine mutuality in various settings that can be universally translated into all human interactions.

        You’re acting as if the free-rider problem can just be asserted away. Sure everyone benefits when everyone cooperates, but any one individual- or tribal unit – will gain even more when they cheat while everyone else cooperates. Your federative system requires some organizing mechanism that addresses the free-rider problem. Look, there’s quite a bit of research that human brains have hardwired cheating-detection systems. Logically, if human beings evolved such systems then it’s pretty clear that human beings are hardwired to cheat if they can get away with it, while expecting others to not cheat.

        You haven’t argued for your position. All you’ve done is assert that it must be possible. Fail

        • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 00:31

          You simply assert that there is a free rider problem, but you don’t even assert ABOUT WHAT. And then you have the arrogance to say that I “failed.” Get outta here, troll.

          • Asher October 9, 2011 at 00:56

            Um, there’s always a free-rider problem. It is inherent in every social situation. Aren’t you even familiar with the vast array of work related to the free-rider problem? Sorry, I guess I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I am referencing a concept that is pretty basic stuff in behavioral economics.

            Humans are hardwired to lie, cheat and steal and will get away with it if they can, and will if there is not some impediment keeping them in check. There are two known sources of such impediments: immediate personal relationships and formal power hierarchies. Of course, they only benefit if lying, cheating and stealing is not the norm for most individuals

            • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 00:59

              That’s not what I asked you, asshole. I asked you what is the area where you are asserting Anarchism suffers from a free rider problem.

              By the way, re-asserting the same bullshit you have asserted in every comment is not proof.

              • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:59

                Everything suffers from the free-rider problem. Hierarchies exist to address the pervasive and unalterable free-rider problem, something that is dealt with altogether differently, and even more effectively, in deep interpersonal relationships.

                The free-rider problem is an inherent one in any social situation, not just in anarchism. You seem to think you can hand-wave it away by repeating the mantra “cooperation is beneficial”. True, but cooperation is most beneficial when you cooperate and i cheat, which is the essence of the free rider problem. You simply refuse to address this. The free rider problem isn’t a feature of anarchism but of the baseline of human behavior

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 00:30

        The response to your entry is that you have a crapload of dubious and unfounded assertions. I gave you a realistic and plausible explanation for the existence of hierarchies. Calling organized hierarchies “magic” doesn’t explain their ubiquity in the human social world.

        • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 00:32

          ANSWER THE FUCKING CHALLENGE OR GET OUT.

          • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:00

            Look, dude, the “challenge” was couched in the most intellectually dishonest, juvenile terms, from the start. “Why do you believe in magic hierarchies” challenge is sorta like the “Have you stopped beating your wife, yet” challenge. There is a vast underlying structure of premises that you are attempting to smuggle into your challenge that you’re attemting to smuggle into the challenge without them being examined.

            You’re just arguing in bad faith – you seem intelligent enough that it is clearly bad faith and not stupidity.

            • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:02

              I am not interested in what you think about my style. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read my blog. So are you gonna keep wasting my time?

              You came here with all the confidence of a proud cock and you still have barely started to answer my challenge. Who’s acting in bad faith, asshole?

              • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:10

                Um, I don’t think you understand the concept of “bad faith”. The fact that I challenge the ridiculous smuggled assumptions in your initial post does not make my comments in bad faith. Pointing out bad faith arguments is not bad faith.

                As for the asshole part … yeah, I don’t much care about that. Assholes tend to get laid a lot more … a pattern I wish I had known and accepted at a much earlier point in life.

                • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:10

                  No… your comments are in bad faith because you claim to be able to answer my challenge, and obviously cannot. Instead, you are just insulting me and wasting my time.

                • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:26

                  The fact that you approach the entire notion of hierarchies with the premise that they are “magical” is intellectual bad faith. I am challenging you on the initial premise and you are responding like a feminist does to arguments that males and females are very different, or like a devoutly religious person does when challenged with the fossil evidence of evolution.

                  I feel like I’m talking to a young-earth creationist.

                • Asher October 9, 2011 at 11:39

                  Um, no, I never claimed to “be able to answer your challenge” *because your initial challenge was in bad faith”. You are simply making sh*t up here. Quote me exactly where I claim to ‘answer your challenge”. You never even managed to make a serious challenge, which is the entire point of my comments. You entire post is a mish-mash of hyper-idealizing about “the way everything ought to be to please my personal tastes”. That’s it. Nothing more.

                  If your position is so robust why do you feel the need to put words in my mouth? I NEVER claimed to be able to answer your “challenge”, what I did point out was that you lacked a serious challenge in your original post.

                  I gave a facially plausible explanation as to why hierarchies arise the common obstacle of free-riding that any social situation encounters. You respond with the internet equivalent of a four year-old girl bursting into tears when mommy tells her she can’t have a pony.

                  And you’re clearly in the top ten percent, intelligence-wise. This should not feel like I’m trying to teach the Critique of Pure Reason to third-graders … but, sadly, it does.

            • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:03

              Also, you dared to use the “you’ll get over it” argument on me. So shut the fuck up. You are a real, grade A, 100% asshole.

              • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:15

                Sorry. I have a strong feeling of embarrassment over the years I deluded myself with starry-eyed idealism, pontificating over how the world “ought to be”. Anarchism appeals to a sub-section of the human population that has a highly uncommon set of personality traits, that we probably share, in large part.

                Most people are not like you. Most people are not like me. However, the vast bulk of the population with their pedestrian personality traits provides the substance out of which human societies are formed. You cannot ideal-ize their types away into your anarchist utopia. I wasted ten years of my life caught up those fantasies.

                • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:17

                  Well thank you for FAKE APOLOGIZING. Now you are calling my beliefs fantasies and utopian. Are you seriously this clueless or are you just a troll?

  2. Asher October 8, 2011 at 19:25

    I just remembered the concept that I was trying to place: Dunbar’s number.

    You might find it interesting. Anarchism works through immediate personal relationship, of which a relatively small number can be managed by any one individual. Beyond that, human cooperation requires abstract, rule-based mechanisms to coordinate social behavior, and that is, by definition, hierarchical.

    Yeah, I was an anarchist in college, too. Hopefully, you’ll get over it.

    • Francois Tremblay October 8, 2011 at 20:38

      Fuck you. Get the fuck off my blog, you asshole.

    • Gomi October 8, 2011 at 21:19

      Anarchism requires ” buy-in,” not hierarchy. Abstract, rule-based mechanisms aren’t by definition hierarchical, but they do require people to actively participate in the structure of their own governance..

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 10:57

        “Abstract, rule-based mechanisms aren’t by definition hierarchical,”

        Then they collapse due to cheating. Everyone cooperating is better than no one cooperating. But, best is everyone else cooperating but me.

        It’s called the free-rider problem.

        • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 11:48

          In economics, it’s called that. In game theory, it’s expressed through the Prisoner’s Dilemma. And hierarchy isn’t the only solution to it. Neither is immediate personal relation. Those are the simplest and oldest solutions, yes. But not the only ones.

  3. Gomi October 8, 2011 at 21:25

    I think there are acceptable and valid emergent hierarchies. Temporary and emergent meritocratic hierarchies, where someone with the experience or knowledge takes control of a situation and relinquishes it at the end.

    But it’s when those hierarchies become codified and locked in. When hierarchies become caste layerings of political power. That’s when it’s no longer anarchism.

  4. Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:06

    “but a hierarchy is not cooperative by nature.”

    This is a complete load of crap. The fact that two people are cooperating within an organized hierarchy with formalized lines of command does not make it any less cooperative. You are attempting to smuggle in a notion of cooperation that defies the plain meaning of the term, which is simply to work together. If two people occupy differing positions of authority in an organization and work together for a common goal that is cooperation.

    Cooperation simply mean to work together for some goal or objective. That’s it. Autonomy is tangential to cooperation.

    • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:10

      So in your mind, two people need to order each other around in order to cooperate because…?

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:17

        cooperate – to work together. Yep, as simple as that. A general and a foot soldier cooperate to kill enemy soldiers, and the fact that they occupy different positions of power within a hierarchical organization is completely tangential to the fact of cooperation.

        • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 01:18

          … and again you do not answer the question. I give up, dude.

          • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:20

            hierarchies creates scaling efficiencies that are logarithmic in effect.

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:19

        Ordering around produces scaling efficiencies.

  5. Asher October 9, 2011 at 01:45

    Let’s talk sex. In human populations, which males are or are not getting access to sex is predicated on the extant social hierarchies I know lots of men who would like to have sex on a regular basis but are not, and this is due directly to the particular structural hierarchies in place. Of course, the intrepid anarchist would counter that hierarchies should just be dismantled and everyone should just be allowed their own autonomy to determine their sexual outcomes.

    Of course, it’s not that simple, because there is a basic biological human sexuality.

    I once encountered a brief glimpse of that sexuality when I met a man who had been in a “free love commune” near Portland for almost two decades. The commune averaged about 80 women and 20 men (Dunbar’s number!!!) at any one time. How could this be, you might ask? Only twenty men? I mean, men love sex so they should be flocking to this commune with their obviously undersexed women. Not quite so fast. Outside the constraints of socially-enforced monogamy, which is inherently hierarchical, women tended to gravitate to a select group of highly charismatic and gregarious males. The ratio always hovered between four and five to one, because the additional males didn’t attract female sexual attention, and, since, men are quite interested in sexual attention, they found no reason to stay in the commune if they weren’t getting sex.

    Of course, a very large part of human hierarchies involve male competition for access to sex. Men aren’t going to sit around and hope they’re in that 20 to 25 percent of men who naturally get female sexual attention, they’re going to create hierarchical structures that alter female sexual selection.

    As an aside, it’s interesting to note that, in mammals, sexual dimorphism is correlated to what percentage of the males “naturally” breed. In humans, as measured by dimorphism, this would predict a state of nature to result in about 25 percent of all human males receiving all the sexual attention from females.

    Fortunately, for that 75 percent, humans are capable of organizational hierarchies that can dramatically alter that calculus.

  6. Gomi October 9, 2011 at 07:19

    Hey, Asher…

    First, hierarchies don’t exist to address the free rider problem. That’s certainly not an anthropologically correct origin or reason for continuation.

    They exist as a coordination and control system, all the way back to the birth of agriculture. Not to say they’re the only viable coordination system, but that’s what they’ve been, not exactly a solution to the free rider problem. That’s coincidental.

    Secondly, why can’t an anarchy address the free rider? You (and Francois) seem to be making the common mistake that an anarchy is inherently without rules. As a political and social philosophy, anarchy is not the same as chaos. And, if we accept there are rules, why can’t those rules address the free rider?

    Unlike Francois, I wouldn’t say hierarchies are magical. They’re a perfectly reasonable response to a series of social needs. The difference is whether they’re the only solution, or even the best solution for the individuals in that society.

    (Oh, and I’ve been an anarchist since before college, and I’m more than ten years past college, at this point. So you can leave your snide insinuations of immaturity aside.)

  7. Asher October 9, 2011 at 10:54

    The free-rider problem is ubiquitous in the human world, so, while hierarchies do not exist solely for the express purpose of addressing them hierarchies that do not handle the free-rider problem don’t last very long.

    Yeah, rules can exist without hierarchies … provided the relevant social unit consists of around one hundred individuals. It is very important to remember that notions of “rights” are the product of civilization, which is the product of millenia of hierarchy. Reminds me of Nietzsche’s snide quip that “the Noble Savage wants [her] rights”.

    You want to walk around in a modern society where you can potentially interact with thousands of people on a daily basis without fear. Hierarchies provide the structure that makes this possible. Barring hierarchies, you’d be stuck relying on a social group of around a hundred with whom you had close and long-standing interpersonal relationship. Everyone else would either be predator or prey.

    My insinuations of immaturity were more directed at the tone of the post rather than the substance.

    • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 11:39

      “The free-rider problem is ubiquitous in the human world, so, while hierarchies do not exist solely for the express purpose of addressing them hierarchies that do not handle the free-rider problem don’t last very long.”
      And an anarchy that doesn’t address it wouldn’t last very long, either. That’s true of any system.

      “Yeah, rules can exist without hierarchies … provided the relevant social unit consists of around one hundred individuals. It is very important to remember that notions of “rights” are the product of civilization, which is the product of millenia of hierarchy. Reminds me of Nietzsche’s snide quip that “the Noble Savage wants [her] rights”.

      You want to walk around in a modern society where you can potentially interact with thousands of people on a daily basis without fear. Hierarchies provide the structure that makes this possible. Barring hierarchies, you’d be stuck relying on a social group of around a hundred with whom you had close and long-standing interpersonal relationship. Everyone else would either be predator or prey.”
      Yea, yea, Dunbar’s number. Y’know, for someone who taunted Francois for acting like a college kid, you’re sure wedded to that concept. It’s like you just took a class and now think it applies to all the questions in the world. I was like that in college too.

      However, there are many concepts, like contracts, meta-judicial arrangement and various other systems that allow parallel and equal organizations to mediate their interactions without violence (or a hierarchy).

      “My insinuations of immaturity were more directed at the tone of the post rather than the substance.”
      You can try and change it now, but your insinuations were directed at anarchism being an immature philosophy. I’m sure you were initially goaded by Francois’s rather offensive style, but you didn’t direct the insinuations at his tone.

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 12:16

        Two things here: anarchism is a philosophy that suits the tastes of a rather small fraction of the species. The differences between those who understand and appreciate anarchism and those who cannot originate in genetically heritable traits. I am one such person who appreciates anarchism, as it appeals to me personally – if everyone were similar to me in temperament and personality we’d live in a anarchist near-paradise.

        Adhering to anarchism after one grasps that it does not meet the life-needs of ninety-nine percent of the human population is not what I’d call immature. Solipsism is a much better description. You’re committing the fallacy of generalizing from your own immediate perception of the world to the human population as a whole.

        Frankly, after breaking out of the anarchist bubble I found that nearly every anarchist I encountered evinced Francoise’s reaction. It was like challenging the divinity of Jesus to a Christian, only multiplied a hundred-fold You seem to be exceptional, but you gotta ask yourself why you adhere to a philosophy that seems to attract fanatics like Francoise. Something that produces hideously inbred reasoning that insists that either the world conform to it or be worthy of destruction has some serious flaw. My bottom line is that anyone who starts from the idea that “the world must be such and such” and then proceeds to try to impose it on reality is someone best ignoring. If they squeal too loudly the next step is public mockery.

        Public humiliation keeps the troops in line.

        As for me being “wedded” to Dunbars number … I feel like I’m talking to a feminist who scoffs at me for stressing the massive differences between men and women. No, it really is that big an obstacle to the world you want. I am not applying the concept to every social phenomenon I see. Dunbar’s number circumscribes what is possible: if you want social units beyond one hundred, one-fifty, tops, you’re going to have to accept hierarchies. Period. What those hierarchies look like and where borders are drawn between hierarchies is completely orthogonal to Dunbar’s number.

        Also, the reliance on the principle of non-aggression has one major flaw: it assumes the possibility that people are naturally non-aggressive. They’re not. People get a kick out of being cruel to others, in inflicting both emotional and physical cruelty, and, no, this isn’t a product of hierarchies. People are naturally aggressive and expansionist, and require a positive assertion of obstacles to keep these appetites in check. Those two sources are a) interpersonal relationships b) hierarchies. If you want to have stable social units beyond around one hundred then you’re going to have to accept hierarchies.

        Finally, I’d point out that you have a hidden premise, which is “non-hierarchy good, hierarchy bad”, ignoring that there is a vast array of differences between different hierarchical structures. You are starting from an ideal, the world ought to be such and such, and proceeding to impose it on reality without asking whether or not there are insurmountable obstacles to your ideal’s implementation.

        • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 13:24

          “Adhering to anarchism after one grasps that it does not meet the life-needs of ninety-nine percent of the human population is not what I’d call immature. Solipsism is a much better description. You’re committing the fallacy of generalizing from your own immediate perception of the world to the human population as a whole.”
          Actually, I’m a panarchist. Which means that if you want to live under a hierarchical system, you can, and if I want to live under a non-hierarchical system, I can. Because, I’d prefer not to be forced to adhere to a structure that doesn’t meet my needs any more than those 99% should be forced to live under a system that doesn’t meet their needs. But great assumption you’re starting from.

          “Frankly, after breaking out of the anarchist bubble I found that nearly every anarchist I encountered evinced Francoise’s reaction. It was like challenging the divinity of Jesus to a Christian, only multiplied a hundred-fold You seem to be exceptional, but you gotta ask yourself why you adhere to a philosophy that seems to attract fanatics like Francoise. Something that produces hideously inbred reasoning that insists that either the world conform to it or be worthy of destruction has some serious flaw. My bottom line is that anyone who starts from the idea that “the world must be such and such” and then proceeds to try to impose it on reality is someone best ignoring. If they squeal too loudly the next step is public mockery.”
          There are fanatics and idiots in every philosophy. There are violent Buddhist extremists, fer Pete’s sake. Like you point out about hierarchies, anarchism isn’t simply a single system, but a vast array of different systems. So, while my philosophy and Francois’ don’t match, they’re still both anarchist. Nice try, but try again.

          “As for me being “wedded” to Dunbars number … I feel like I’m talking to a feminist who scoffs at me for stressing the massive differences between men and women. No, it really is that big an obstacle to the world you want. I am not applying the concept to every social phenomenon I see. Dunbar’s number circumscribes what is possible: if you want social units beyond one hundred, one-fifty, tops, you’re going to have to accept hierarchies. Period. What those hierarchies look like and where borders are drawn between hierarchies is completely orthogonal to Dunbar’s number.”
          No, you’re going to have to accept organization and rules. Unless you can prove that power imbalance, as demonstrated in hierarchy, is the only way of successfully having a system of organization and rules, I still say you’re throwing around the concept without understanding how it applies to your argument. Dunbar’s number doesn’t prove the need for hierarchies, so it doesn’t really fit into the argument, and your continued reliance on it is sophomoric.

          “Also, the reliance on the principle of non-aggression has one major flaw: it assumes the possibility that people are naturally non-aggressive. They’re not. People get a kick out of being cruel to others, in inflicting both emotional and physical cruelty, and, no, this isn’t a product of hierarchies. People are naturally aggressive and expansionist, and require a positive assertion of obstacles to keep these appetites in check. Those two sources are a) interpersonal relationships b) hierarchies. If you want to have stable social units beyond around one hundred then you’re going to have to accept hierarchies.”
          Again, you’re basing your argument on the assumption that only hierarchies can supply the necessary order. I never relied on non-aggression. I never said anarchism has to be peaceful, any more than any society in human history has relied on people being peaceful.

          “Finally, I’d point out that you have a hidden premise, which is “non-hierarchy good, hierarchy bad”, ignoring that there is a vast array of differences between different hierarchical structures. You are starting from an ideal, the world ought to be such and such, and proceeding to impose it on reality without asking whether or not there are insurmountable obstacles to your ideal’s implementation.”
          You might want to check your reading comprehension, Asher, because I actually explicitly stated that hierarchies are a reasonable solution to societal needs. So much for your “hidden” premise.

          Learn to read and argue logically, Asher. I’m not a “tear down the government, all hierarchies are bad” kind of anarchist, as much as you apparently live in a fantasy world where all anarchist are bomb throwing juveniles. I, however, have always preferred distributed and cooperative social structures, as robust and adaptive. So, I’m an anarchist. Try to argue with what’s written, and not the strawmen you construct in your head of the fantasy anarchist you want to argue with.

          • Asher October 9, 2011 at 13:37

            Alright, so, lets say that you have your own little corner of the world governed by this ordered anarchy. Now, let’s say that this other part of the world containing hierarchies looks at you and decides that you are ripe for conquest. Also, let’s say that this non-anarchist part of the world is far more efficient and effective in the application of violence. So, how does the anarchist part of the world propose to forestall conquest by the non-anarchist part?

            As I once said to a pacifist, “you keep calling yourself a pacifist and I just might decide that you’re right for conquest”.

            Also, you are confusing rules and organization. The first are guidelines that circumscribe expected behavior in various settings, the second IS hierarchy. Organization IS hierarchy, that IS what it IS. However, not all rules of behavior originate in organization/hierarchy. The other source is interpersonal relationship.

            • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 15:16

              “Alright, so, lets say that you have your own little corner of the world governed by this ordered anarchy. Now, let’s say that this other part of the world containing hierarchies looks at you and decides that you are ripe for conquest. Also, let’s say that this non-anarchist part of the world is far more efficient and effective in the application of violence. So, how does the anarchist part of the world propose to forestall conquest by the non-anarchist part?”
              What a corrupt thought experiment. Let’s change it up. Let’s say you have your hierarchical corner of the world. Also, let’s say the other part of the world is more efficient and effective in the application of violence. How would you forestall conquest? Because, if you’re starting from the assumption that they have inherently superior military capacity, then it doesn’t matter your system of government, because you created a thought experiment doomed to failure.

              Now, if you were to set it up honestly, and it really was my ideal corner of the world, then my corner would be filled with a federated collection of many differing and mutually internally competing systems, all behind a common agreement to defend and protect each other. And, since this is my ideal, it would be filled with people who are likely armed and very likely willing to do violence to protect themselves and their allied friends.

              So, given an honest scenario, where the other side isn’t automatically stronger, and it really is my ideal, I’d say we have a good shot, fighting for home and family.

              “As I once said to a pacifist, “you keep calling yourself a pacifist and I just might decide that you’re right for conquest”.”
              Well, I’m not a pacifist, and I’ve practiced some form of personal violence nearly daily since I was an early teen, so you might want to try another strawman.

              “Also, you are confusing rules and organization.”
              Um, no, I’m not. I’m mentioning them as a common pair, but I’m not confusing the two. For someone who claims to be so handsome, charismatic and skilled at argument, you really suck at this.

              ” The first are guidelines that circumscribe expected behavior in various settings, the second IS hierarchy. Organization IS hierarchy, that IS what it IS. However, not all rules of behavior originate in organization/hierarchy. The other source is interpersonal relationship.”
              There are many forms of organization besides hierarchical ones. For someone who decided to get specific about the definition of cooperation, you’re being awfully sloppy, eliding these two concepts together.

              Maybe you should check a dictionary before you start talking?

              • Asher October 9, 2011 at 16:44

                That last comment reminds me of an intro to ethics class I took freshman year, where the TA was discussing a problematic term in a study group. One girl raised her hand and suggested we just look in a dictionary. The TA grimaced, looked at her, and sneered that anyone who went looking for meaning in a dictionary had no business being in a philosophy class.

                A dictionary is to meaning what tee-ball is to Major League baseball; if you need either you’re not playing in the big leagues and won’t be for many years.

                Also, I’ve pointed out that hierarchies are probably the most efficient and effective means of applying deadly violence, which is why nation-states are ubiquitous. I’ve noted this explicitly at least three times with no response. Your federation of anarchist tribes still runs into the free-rider problem, all tribes win when each cooperates for mutual defense, but each individual tribe wins more when all the other tribes cooperate except it. You haven’t addressed the free-rider problem at all but simply transferred it from the level of the individual to the level of the tribe.

                Finally, your shaming language is amusingly similar to my interactions with feminists who think that shaming a man automatically wins them the argument. You argue like a chick.

                • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 20:04

                  “That last comment reminds me of an intro to ethics class I took freshman year, where the TA was discussing a problematic term in a study group. One girl raised her hand and suggested we just look in a dictionary. The TA grimaced, looked at her, and sneered that anyone who went looking for meaning in a dictionary had no business being in a philosophy class.

                  A dictionary is to meaning what tee-ball is to Major League baseball; if you need either you’re not playing in the big leagues and won’t be for many years.”
                  Huh, I was just taking a page from your playbook with the whole “cooperation” bit. I guess falling back on literal definition doesn’t work, does it? Thanks for admitting you can’t argue in the big leagues. Try again.

                  “Also, I’ve pointed out that hierarchies are probably the most efficient and effective means of applying deadly violence, which is why nation-states are ubiquitous. I’ve noted this explicitly at least three times with no response.”
                  Hierarchies are good at organizing mass violence, which is different than simple deadly violence. But, yes, you’re very right. Oh, but then you might remember something I said way back when about emergent hierarchies? Ever heard the concept of the war chief?

                  ” Your federation of anarchist tribes still runs into the free-rider problem, all tribes win when each cooperates for mutual defense, but each individual tribe wins more when all the other tribes cooperate except it. You haven’t addressed the free-rider problem at all but simply transferred it from the level of the individual to the level of the tribe.”
                  We’re back to free rider now? Okay, here’s a solution for you: “Those who do not contribute when they are able to contribute, on a consistent and marked basis, after warnings and interventions, are no longer part of the anarchy, for failing to pay for the services and benefits they take from the society.” Scale as necessary, from the individual to the federation. Basically, no one is above another in power, but all are beholden to the basic contract of the society they agree to upon membership. Essentially, you have to pay to live in an anarchy, with commensurate input as what you get in output. Details of that can differ depending on the nature of the anarchy that implements it.

                  “Finally, your shaming language is amusingly similar to my interactions with feminists who think that shaming a man automatically wins them the argument. You argue like a chick.”
                  Hey, I’m just using the condescension and snark you started with. I let you set the tone of discussion. Again, this is a page from your playbook, so don’t bitch at me when you don’t like it.

                  Also, isn’t “you argue like a chick” just as much an attempt at masculinity shaming? You really do suck at this, don’t you? If you can’t take what you dish out, then maybe you shouldn’t play. Grow up and play with the big kids or go home.

  8. Asher October 9, 2011 at 11:48

    Look, anarchism appeals to a rather uncommon and peculiar personality type, one that needs a high degree of personal autonomy and individuation. I happen to be one of those, which is why anarchism appealed to me for several years. Okay, I’m very good-looking and physically-fit, which is a big deal in sales – bear with me. I’m also extremely eloquent and can spout off facts, figures and anecdotes supporting my positions, ad inifinitum. So, after years of preaching anarchism, I found that my masterful presentations only appealed to .. those who were already anarchists.

    Why? Because anarchism simply doesn’t address the objective life-needs of any more than five percent of the population, although it’s probably closer to one percent. Now, if the world were populated by the types of life that frequent blogs like this then we’d already have an anarchist society, no one would even need to argue for it.

    If you’re interested in stopping the predatory over-reach of the state and so-called crony capitalism anarchism is a dead-end.

  9. Asher October 9, 2011 at 12:28

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_fallacy

    Several years ago, I thought I’d originated the brilliant converse of the naturalistic fallacy. Unfortunately, it had already been coined. Basically, most anarchist types seem to typify this kind of reasoning, although feminists are, by far, the worst.

    Ought does not logically imply is.

    There’s a great essay from about fifteen years ago by Jeffrey Friedman titled “What’s wrong with libertarianism”. Now, even if you never subscribed to the various strands of anarchism he addresses, the essay is a brilliant address to any type of thought that begins from an idea and seeks to impose it on reality.

  10. Asher October 9, 2011 at 12:58

    Here’s an interesting tie-in: consider the Amanda Knox murder trial. The evidence was open-and-shut. The low-IQ unemployed drifter with a history of violence did it. Such an individual is incapable of operating in an anarchistic world, and, so, hierarchies are the most efficient method of keeping men like him away from people like us. Now, can I protect myself through intricate personal defense contraptions and by carrying a firearm at all times? Sure, but the state is far more efficient and effective.

    Now, older versions of Knox and Sollecito probably are decent candidates for competently functioning in anarchistic settings, but they need to remove themselves from the vast bulk who aren’t capable of such functioning, such as Rudi Guede. What mechanism do you propose? Let’s say you have a federative system where the Rudis of the world are grouped together and the Gomis and Francoises are grouped together. What possible benefit can the first group provide to the second? The answer is so little, that the second will simply seek to avoid the first, but the converse is not true, so, the Rudis will seek to impose themselves on the Gomis.

    Hence, aggression and conflict.

  11. […] A great post on hierarchies. […]

  12. Asher October 9, 2011 at 13:25

    Here’s a thought experiment.

    Anarchist intellectual (AI) selects out a completely random twenty-one year male (21M) and has the following conversation

    AI: The world would be a far better place if everyone universally accepted the non-aggression principle as the defining human moral creed.
    21M: Um, how does that get me laid

    And your response is … be specific how the non-aggression principle helps the average twenty-one year-old male in his primary quest for sexual attention from females.

  13. Asher October 9, 2011 at 13:41

    It amazes me how similar this feels like debating a feminist. There seems to be a different anarchism for every anarchist and a different feminism for every feminist. The difference between the two of us is that I am not starting out from an ideal premise about how the world ought to look and you are. You have your own peculiar notion of what “anarchism” means and navigating that would probably entail thousands of hours of conversation.

    This is why I referred to sustained notions of anarchism as solipsistic and not immature.

    • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 15:22

      It’s a common mistake to think anarchism is a single, monolithic philosophy. But, like it’s opposites in statism, there are many flavors of anarchism, because there are as many non-state methods of organizing society as there are state methods.

      So, just as you might run into a communist, a federalist, a monarchist or a republican, you might run into a panarchist, an anarcho-socialist, a mutualist, an individualist or a collectivist (and many more, on both sides of the equation).

      People have different ideas about how the world should be. You’re no different. We all have our ideals, our preferences for society. That’s why we vote for different candidates or different parties.

      Don’t try and pretend this is something critical about us in particular.

  14. Asher October 9, 2011 at 14:10

    I would also point out that you are commenting, seemingly approvingly, on a blogger whose leading slogan is “do no harm”, making my assumption of the non-aggression principle eminently reasonable.

    • Francois Tremblay October 9, 2011 at 14:26

      Actually, it’s “do not impose harm,” which is entirely different. Furthermore, the NAP is invalid, for reasons I’ve discussed in my book, the main being the impossibility of defining “aggression” without some notion of consent, which I introduce in the word “impose.”

      • Asher October 9, 2011 at 15:41

        Both formulations are attempts to impose ideas on reality, i.e. foundational moral principle. I fail to see much difference in terms of functional application, as they are both simply propositions that one can take or leave. The problem is that someone who generally agrees with you on the basics will already accept this, but it will do nothing to actually convince anyone to switch sides, see my earlier reference to Friedman’s essay. Rhetorically, all you’re doing is hopping from one problematic term, aggression, to others, consent vs. imposition. One problem is that by undergoing various acts we give implied consent that is readily interpreted by others in regards to what a person can reasonably expect.

        Consider the issue of so-called date rape. Now I am sure that there have been people who have gone out on a date and then aggressive rape occurred. That being said, there is a vast gray area of when does consent occur and can/when is it rescinded. I am certain that there have been instances of what large portions of the population would consider inappropriate coercion that have wound up facilitating a real, normal sexual relationship, i.e. marriage and children. I would argue that the subsequent creation of a family retroactively implies enough consent, and the fact that others would disagree simply points to the problems of definition.

        What is consent to one is not consent to another, and there is no neutral arbiter. Changing from one problematic term to another does not solve the problem.

        It reminds me of the early Wittgenstein’s project to reduce philosophy to the attempt to provide fixed and unambiguous terms to better assist science in unraveling the mysteries of the social world in the same way that physical scientists made discoveries about the physical world. Of course, he went on to utterly reject that conception of philosophy.

    • Gomi October 9, 2011 at 15:27

      “Approvingly?” Well, sure, from a position of ignorance, I could see how you might assume that, but Francois and I have strongly butted heads on a number of issues. Not least of which is the “proper” form of anarchism.

  15. Asher October 9, 2011 at 15:55

    Let me approach this by relating my own personal experiences. I pretty much live an anarchistic life, which I spent carving out for myself. The various extant hierarchies rarely affect my lived experience. I’m self-employed, with no employees. I have no debt. I would wager that my subjective, lived experiences are roughly similar to what I’d get under “anarchy”. So, at this point, even if I were to intellectually find anarchism appealing, why would I have any interest in implementing anarchism, as defined by you. I mean, you explicitly acknowledge that anarchistic experiences can co-exist with hierarchical experiences, which is pretty much a description of my life.

    Dude, under your description of anarchy, we’re pretty much already there. Anyone who wants their own little niche of anarchy can get it with a little hard work. Yeah, sure, it’s not open to everyone, but then it’s doubtful that it would appeal to anymore than a small segment of the population, anyways.

    We already have all the anarchism anyone could already want!!! Time to shut this blog down and more onto more pressing concerns.

    • Francois Tremblay October 10, 2011 at 00:13

      “Time to shut this blog down and more onto more pressing concerns.”

      Anarchism is a pretty pressing fucking concern. Antinatalism is a pretty pressing fucking concern.

      Time for you to shut down your stupid comment war and go away.

      • Asher October 10, 2011 at 22:48

        I don’t see how a theoretical framework that attracts a tiny fraction of the human population has any practical application. Remember, you’re getting this from someone to whom anarchism has great and immediate emotional appeal, and who was an anarchist for several years.

        • Gomi October 11, 2011 at 05:46

          Anarchy as bomb-throwing chaos doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, that’s true, but that’s more an image than a substance problem.

          How about self-governance, high individual liberty and strong communal ties? That’s the kind of thing that appeals to a lot of people.

          Like I said, anarchism is a broad field. As broad as all the different flavors of statism. Just as some people aren’t attracted to federalist systems, some aren’t attracted to different kinds of anarchism.

          Which, subsequently, is why there’s a philosophy like panarchism, which allows those who want to organize along anarchist lines to do so, and those who want states to have them. However, panarchism is technically an anarchist system.

  16. Asher October 9, 2011 at 16:52

    Here’s another issue: have you ever noticed that anarchists tend to be overwhelmingly male? Let’s say that you have an anarchist niche in the world that is 80 percent male.do you really think that 75 percent of men are willing to go celibate for the sake of avoiding hierarchy?

    The world is a relatively easy place to understand and is comprehensible to the majority; accepting that it does not conform to one’s juvenile, masturbatory fantasies seems available to a relative few.

  17. Asher October 9, 2011 at 17:02

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/10/humans-see-dominance.html

    There’s a fascinating post by behavioral economist Robin Hanson on hierarchies and the history of human evolution. It appears that the human brain is hardwired to comprehend and navigate hierarchies, as the hierarchy regularized what was generally expected of an individual in any particular situation. Hierarchies were more efficient and effective at creating order and stability.

  18. lordmetroid October 10, 2011 at 07:03

    Who cares about efficiency? Hierarchies are a root of evil, I for one do not want efficient evil.

    • Asher October 10, 2011 at 22:44

      Statements like these are not going to convert anyone. “Hierarchies are the root of evil”… why do I feel like I’m listening to a religious fanatic. Personally, I find the concept “evil” pretty much played out, so, it holds little meaning for me. I have pretty much heard everything under the sun described as “evil”, and when a term gets that malleable it pretty much ceases to function as any meaningful signifier.

      As an amusing aside, I have gotten several of my friends to start referring to anything they dislike as “racist”, since the term pretty much means “that which I dislike”; e.g. I consider large feet on women racist. Eh,, good times.

      • lordmetroid October 10, 2011 at 23:54

        You are an idiot, consider yourself ignored from here on!

        • Asher October 11, 2011 at 00:10

          Not sure how the comment was idiotic. I pointed out how you simply offered a rigidly dogmatic proposition, which is unlikely to sway anyone to your positions – anyone who is going to accept your position probably already hold it. I wouldn’t consider you an idiot … just a dogmatist of the first order. Next, I pointed out that the term “evil” has no common currency, that it is simply thrown around to express general dislike, and that it no longer conveys any real substance. Finally, I related an amusing example of how using words, such as “racism”, as a weapon against some group to demonize them leads to the erosion of that word as anything besides a weapon.

          Truth, the old saying goes, is the first casualty of war, and, if truth is read as “meaning”, then, by extension, meaning is also an early casualty of war. So, when we turn a word like “evil” or “racism” into a weapon to diminish our opponents those words will be reduced to nothing more than weapons of destruction. So, the words “evil” and “racism” have become nothing more than weapons that are used to diminish and belittle those we consider our enemies – objects to be obliterated.

          Now, I’m hungry because my girlfriend just went to the store and got me chicken for dinner.

          Chicken is racist. And, of course, you know what I mean by that.

  19. Asher October 11, 2011 at 13:07

    So, let’s start this over. For me, moral concerns are just one category among many in which I evaluate what I want from my experiences in the social world. I obstinately refuse to accept that morality is the final arbiter of everything. After perusing some of FT’s archives it seems pretty clear to me that he attempts to view every minute aspect of reality through a moral lens. Gomi … I’m not sure.

    Gomi, I did direct a comment to you that I thought your panarchism is already largely achieved. Your basic argument seems to be that some people might want an anarchist environment, while others might prefer hierarchies. This certainly seems to reject a universally morally-binding anarchist ethical code that applies to everyone, equally, at all times. So, why do we have so many hierarchies? Well maybe that’s what the vast majority prefer, which brings me back to my “so many flavors of anarchism” point. By your definition of anarchism you may be the only anarchist who has ever existed, and this possibility is the source of my hypothesis regarding the very limited practical applications of anarchism.

    I mean, if your philosophy is so intricate, complex and specific I fail to see how it has any application at all. At some point, it just looks to the rest of us as if you’re making it up as you go along.

    By my personal measurements, I already live a life relatively free of active meddling by hierarchies. My perception is that FT, and to a lesser extent Gomi, want to greatly expand their (sometimes?) moral crusade for anarchism to a much larger circle of humanity. By my calculation, that moral crusade threatens the little niche of anarchism I have carved out for myself.

    So, does your “anarchism” belong in the category of ethics or aesthetics? If ethics then I would invite you to read Friedman’s essay on what’s wrong with libertarianism, where he points to the two distinct justifications for any moral system of thought. Advocates of any systemic theory of how the way world ought to look and/or be run tend to jump back and forth between two distinct justifications: consequences and absolute moral right. Most tend to start from the conclusion that their system, over time, will overwhelmingly tend to better general human outcomes than the present state of affairs. However, since a system of thought can never account for the entirety of reality they encounter examples of contradictory outcomes. At this point, they jump to a justification based on some absolute moral right, but the two justifications have completely different sources of origination. If I recall, Friedman called this “filling the gaps”.

    Anyways, food for thought.

    Finally, note that I am not rejecting ethics, just pointing out that it is currently very overrated in the current state of affairs.

    • Gomi October 11, 2011 at 14:56

      “Gomi, I did direct a comment to you that I thought your panarchism is already largely achieved.”
      Not really. Try living somewhere without government control. Try staying where you are and shifting allegiance to a different state. What we have isn’t panarchy. Panarchy is meta-anarchy. Anarchy at the highest organizing level, with lower organizing levels left to the choice of the individual. We don’t have that right now.

      “This certainly seems to reject a universally morally-binding anarchist ethical code that applies to everyone, equally, at all times.”
      I’m a relativist, to a large degree, and I can’t know that my ethical code is truly better for someone than another code. Therefore, as I don’t want what I may perceive as a bankrupt ethical code forced on me, why should I force what might turn out to be a bankrupt ethical code on someone else?

      “By your definition of anarchism you may be the only anarchist who has ever existed, and this possibility is the source of my hypothesis regarding the very limited practical applications of anarchism.”
      Actually, there are a ton of panarchists. Also, I don’t exclude others from my definition of anarchism, as they’re all non-state organizing philosophies, and therefore anarchist. This is why I keep saying anarchism is a broad field. All it really means is a system without the state, in simple terms. And, just as there are dozens and hundreds of ways to organize with a state, there are dozens and hundreds of ways to organize without one. There are many flavors of anarchism because it describes a very broad concept.

      “I mean, if your philosophy is so intricate, complex and specific I fail to see how it has any application at all.”
      Mine is no more complex than organizing with a state. Think of all the intricate details needed to organize a state. All the specific choices needed for that population and that terrain and that culture. Social organization, in general, is very complex. Anarchism isn’t necessarily any more complex than anything else. Just different.

      “My perception is that FT, and to a lesser extent Gomi, want to greatly expand their (sometimes?) moral crusade for anarchism to a much larger circle of humanity. By my calculation, that moral crusade threatens the little niche of anarchism I have carved out for myself.”
      “Lesser extent?” I don’t think you understand what panarchism is. The basic point of my philosophy is that your little niche is your little niche. That’s your choice, and you’re the only one who can (or should) decide what organization you live under. If a different flavor of anarchism is forced on you, then panarchism is violated.

    • Gomi October 11, 2011 at 15:01

      Here, try this… Think of panarchism as governance agnosticism. It doesn’t attempt to prove statism or anarchism, instead taking the stance that the individual should have free (truly free, as in without pressure or social programming) choice in how they live.

      All governance theories can exist in parallel, tried out and experimented with by large numbers of people. What’s found to succeed, thrives. What fails disappears. It’s a political free market.

      So, you can live in your little niche of pseudo-anarchism (because, really, just like privilege, if you’re living in the society, you’re not actually free of its hiearchies). Your life, your choice (provided you well and truly have a choice).

  20. […] Worshipping the magic hierarchies… Why hierarchies are immoral… “Hierarchies are natural!” […]

  21. […] the best way to combat it is by presenting an alternate and more credible narrative (such as my reframing of anarchism) and by presenting an alternate […]

  22. […] if is done by some important leader such as “head of the A.’.A.’.” This is worshipping a hierarchy, not rebelling against it. So it’s not concerned with wrongdoing at all, but simply gossiping […]

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