Without the state, who will run the emergency services, educate our children, set speed limits and so forth? This is the first thought that usually springs to mind. The former rulers of the Soviet Union and the current rulers of China cannot imagine how a nation could feed itself without the state regulating the situation. For seven years after the end of World War II, Britain maintained food rationing because its rulers had become so used to it, that they could not believe such a complex and important function to society would be able to somehow self-organize all on its own. They have a point - it seems that only chaos theory can explain the miracle of how all the interacting factors in cities the size of London, Bombay, New York or Mexico City conspire to feed all of the inhabitants according to their own tastes and means on a daily basis without any central organisation or planning. It is government from the bottom up, by the people. It is true democracy. Though we rarely recognize or acknowledge the invisible natural government that arises in a free food chain, it keeps our bellies and larders filled with whatever we desire.
And this miraculous stuff isn't just happening in the food industry. Though SOME elements of our society have been regulated and run by a state of some sort or another for more than a few centuries, MOST of that which we rely upon is actually largely out of their hands and working very well. We can take many things for granted from our own natural government. Look around, examine your own life and ask what it is that you can rely on from the progress of society. As well as being able to regularly feed yourself, you are probably able to be clothed, furnish your home, buy materials with which to communicate, sell and trade your skills, read literature, make phone calls, travel from place to place, watch TV or video, work-play with a computer, insure against the risks of life, listen to music, party and do many of the other things we associate with living our lives. NONE OF THESE products or activities were conceived or initially developed by any state - they, together with almost everything we can depend upon with some reliability, emerged from the chaotic interaction of a society made up of many millions of freely acting human beings. The patterns that arise from this chaotic exchange form most of the fabric of our daily lives, and are governed from the bottom up, by the people. It is democracy without the demagogues.
Even a highly complex structure like the international airline industry started off with just two bicycle mechanics pursuing a personal dream. The Wright brothers could never in their wildest dreams have envisioned the scale of the industry that was to follow the invention of their flying machine, nor imagine its effect upon our mobility as a civilisation. Most of this complex industry evolved over the past 90 years from the chaos of our changing culture. No government directive created the package holiday, the bucket shop, or decreed that by the year 1990 we would be able to cross the Atlantic in eight hours for "100, with a vegetarian meal option. It was neither planned nor implemented by a central body using deterministic techniques.* As a result, aeroplane travel has become less expensive, safer and easier to use during these ninety years.**
* One unplanned spin-off of World War II was a glut of trained pilots and cheap aeroplanes which provided a big boost to the airline industry.
** Our biggest fear, and a major inconvenience to travel, is caused by aeroplanes having been drawn into the battlefield between the state and those seeking to unseat or rearrange it with coercion - today's terrorists. We do not often worry about robbers or criminals having a go at the airline industry.
If you search through history for beneficial contributions to society that had their origins in state planning or state programmes, you will find a frugal harvest - things like margarine, radar and fondue.* Do not give the state credit for the progress and order that society created, often after having to overcome the resistance and regulations of the state. The state views most radical changes to the established order as a threat to its existence and still bans or strictly controls possession of computers and communication technology in much of the world. Increasingly, the Western states can be seen to grasp at a greater control of the form and content of the Internet.
*The Swiss national dish, developed to deal with a cheese surplus.
INDEPENDENT - June 1992
Brussels threatens organic farming
Though the state created the original Internet structure as a means of surviving a Russian missile strike at any one computer base, it was society that created the Internet of today, which is fast dissolving the red-lines of national boundaries through global communication. This was never something that was intended by the state to happen, and we must now hope that the Internet is as resistant to legislative attack by the state as it would be to a nuclear missile strike. In over-ruling an attempt in 1996 by the U.S. state to control the Internet, Judge Stewart Dazell stated: "Just as the strength of the Internet is Chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."
The state's governing record on issues of safety and pollution often lags far behind the public awareness that would otherwise prompt corporate and evolutionary change. For decades we have watched the state stifle damning evidence on asbestos, nuclear accidents and pesticide poisoning, and still (11 years on) we are assured that British beef is safe and that nuclear power is economic and manageable. The state is most often to be seen harassing, silencing and even imprisoning those pioneers who seek to raise public awareness of these issues, be they research scientists with unwelcome findings, organizations such as Greenpeace or individuals who wish to express their protest with a freewheeling DIY lifestyle. Their legislation usually follows the change that society is already implementing. Even slavery was already out of practice in half of the United States and most of Europe when President Lincoln waged war on his neighbours in the South, not because they practised slavery, but because they sought to dissolve the common union which had been agreed upon eighty years earlier. Only later in the war did the abolition of slavery became an official cause - to rally moral support and ensure God was on the right side. If 60% of businesses rely upon slaves or child-labourers, there is no climate for any state to ban it. Even today, revelations about prison labour in China or child labour in India come from consumer groups, not our national governments. Consumers can stop it quite effectively if they wish to, and have prompted such change throughout history, often without even being aware of the process.
Because of the state's often inadequate setting of minimum "safe" levels for various toxins that are placed into our food and environment we also lose the ability to obtain justice from the original creators of these products when they are subsequently found to have damaged our lives. Because Company X kept to the government standards they do not have to be responsible for the damage their products create. This must, one suspects, lead to less consideration for those long-term consequences when the products are initially introduced, or when the first awareness comes that there may be damaging consequences to their use. In some cases it also leads to heavy lobbying by Company X to persuade the government to overlook negative research about, for instance, some low-calorie sweetener they seek to introduce, thereby giving the product state approval and themselves freedom from liability. The climate is perfect for a "what can we get away with" approach to moral responsibility.
The cost of financing the state's so-called governing service is immeasurably enormous and represents an added-on cost to almost everything we use in life beyond taking our breath. Be assured that all those things which are given to us 'free' from the state are costing us far more as a society than if we were responsible for providing them ourselves. The misrepresentation of health services as being free, in particular, breaks the customer and service-provider relationship that we should have with our doctors, and risks turning them into a near priesthood to the sick and infirm. Many of these sick, meanwhile, have been disempowered to the degree that they no longer feel responsible even for something as basic as their own health. It also makes the "service" highly expensive and creates the controlled market in which drug companies can charge the extortionate prices that include the cost of manipulating and massaging the system.
In addition to the multiple layers of taxation we have the expensive and wasted effort of trying to live under the attack of the state. When things are 'normal,' we suffer the constant 'requirements' of the state that increase our workload: the need to maintain things like VAT records if trying to run a business, to supply statistics to government,* the submissions for permissions that often prove confrontational, extortionate fines for minor victimless offences and so forth. So many of our interfaces with the state are confrontational rather than cooperative. On the world view we also have the costs of rebuilding bombed cities and infrastructures, maintaining our maimed and wounded, supporting the homeless refugees, the orphans and feeding the starving victims of famines that are nearly always caused by the activities of war. Yet we continue to accept this as the price we have to pay for government, oblivious to the naturally arising and reliable patterns that govern so much of our society already.
*It was recently estimated by that the cost to the American economy of tax collection, the actual form-filling, filing, computation, auditing etc. was between 5% and 10% of national income - close to the annual tax revenue of a century ago. For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxation on the Course of Civilization.
We do not have the freedom or finances to govern ourselves under the constant burden of the state. Without this burden, and with the consequent release of wealth back to society, it is neither naive nor idealistic to expect that the problems we rely on the state to manage would be greatly reduced. Products and services would become cheaper, we would have more funds to deal intelligently with our remaining problems, and there would be a considerable boost in positive enterprise and employment as society rose to meet the challenge of providing those services that the state has been mismanaging for decades and in some cases centuries.
We must not allow ourselves to fall into the despair-lined trap of assuming that something is not possible because
it has never been done. A great teacher of mine assisted me over this hurdle when he made two salient points about
the Wright Brothers invention of the aeroplane - points that could apply to most of the major discoveries that have advanced our civilisation.
The answer to the first question is of course no - it was possible to fly but nobody had yet figured out how.
The point that my teacher (Professor Galambos) was making is that FREEDOM IS POSSIBLE even though it may not have existed in our recent evolution.*
- Was it impossible to fly before the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane?
- The Wright brothers did not invent flight by fighting falling.
*A successful free society did thrive like nowhere else in Medieval Europe for over a century at Ditmarschen, on land that farmers had reclaimed from the sea. It prospered without coercive control and taxes, until forcibly taken over in 1559 by the Duke of Holstein's cavalry, having repelled a previous attempt. (Author note: My mother's ancestors came from Ditmarschen)
What we can learn from the second point is that we do not successfully build something by attacking its opposite. You may notice that groups and bodies who set out to "fight" something or launch a "war" on it are rarely successful in their aims, though they may spend vast sums of money and receive much publicity in the course of it. We will not succeed by attacking or fighting the state with variations of its own coercive tools. We can succeed by discovering ways to stop, discourage and dis-empower the state's interference with our own evolution towards more permanent, effective and efficient natural government with no need for "central control."