Foster Gamble responds to rkm…
I very much appreciate your continued participation in these exchanges, and in particular your rational and respectful way of expressing yourself. This makes useful dialog possible, and I think we may find we agree on more things than we disagree on.
For example, you say:
…We are indoctrinated from early childhood that without the daddy-state all would be chaos and blood in the streets. When I finally went behind that curtain, I found out from a decade of research that just the opposite was true.
I couldn’t agree more. For me, The Lord of the Flies
symbolizes the kind of indoctrination you refer to. Particularly the ending, when the savior turns out to be a Royal Navy Captain, a clear symbol of hierarchical authority, portrayed as benevolence incarnate (the wolf in sheep’s clothing).
I’m curious as to what particular research led you to this insight, that we don’t need an authority structure to have an orderly society.
For me, the most relevant research is what I’ve learned about pre-civilized societies, which manage their affairs on a non-authoritarian basis. In particular the Sioux nation is very interesting, in that they were able to extend their non-authoritarian processes to encompass multiple tribes, and put an end to warfare within their nation of tribes. Our indoctrination includes Hobbes’ famous quip, that pre-civilized life was ‘short and brutish’, which the evidence contradicts, but which Hollywood movies reinforce.
And then there’s Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade
, where she describes evidence for an early European civilization that operated on what she calls a partnership basis, rather than a dominance basis. These societies existed for thousands of years without evidence of warfare. As regards indoctrination, we are taught the story of civilization as it existed in the Middle East, where from early on it was about warring hierarchical states. We are led to conclude that civilization cannot exist without hierarchy.
Also, are you familiar with the work of Elinor Ostrom
, and her book, Governing the Commons
? From her study of various commons, such as shared fishing areas, she found that people are very good at working out cooperative ways of equitably managing such commons. In this case, the indoctrination is symbolized by the famous ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ essay, where Garrett Hardin claims to prove logically that a commons will always deteriorate due to the narrow self-interest of the users. Legions of libertarians accept that theoretical argument as ‘obvious truth’, and base their whole philosophy on it, unaware of the contrary evidence.
Finally, as you know, I’ve been inspired by what I’ve learned about ‘wise dialog’ processes. I’ve seen what is possible in the microcosm, with small groups of people. When people really listen to one another’s concerns, and come to respect one another at a human level, they naturally work together to come up with solutions that work for everyone. Jim Rough calls this ‘choice creating’, and it is very different from what is usually understood by the term ‘consensus’, which is about voting, blocking, and abstaining on proposals.
You also say:
No matter how great the discussion, how do you impose the will of “the majority” on the minority without using threats, fines, imprisonment or shooting? And is that a basis for a sustainable, just civilization?
I am very much in agreement that what is called ‘democracy’ is really a kind of tyranny. And I would go further in my critique. Majority rule would be bad enough, but that isn’t what we have – if we did there wouldn’t have been invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. We have instead a power clique in Washington, who offer us a Sophie’s Choice between bad alternatives every four years. Competitive politics is inherently doomed to corruption, as has been universally demonstrated, wherever it has been implemented, ever since the days of the Roman Republic
Let us next consider your ‘core imperative’, and ‘fundamental moral question’:
What right do any of us have to initiate violence against another person or take their rightfully gained property against their will?
I’m certainly against violence and taking people’s property away, and I think most people feel this way. But there are subtleties to consider: what if someone owes you a legitimate debt, has the ability to repay without hardship, but refuses to repay? Wouldn’t you be in favor of a due-process means of requiring repayment, which would imply taking property against his will? I mention this because one must be very careful in drawing ‘logical conclusions’ from a general principle, like yours above. It sounds good, and there is a general truth to it, but it doesn’t apply absolutely to every single situation. Other considerations sometimes have a role to play.
If we are concerned about the creation a ‘just new world’, and I think we both are, then we need to look at the property-owership regime that exists in the world today. The mineral resources of the world, for example, have been largely acquired over the centuries through military violence, and became the property of corporations and their investors. That is to say, these mineral resources are not the ‘rightfully gained property’ of their current owners, and they were obtained through the initiation of violence. And then there are all the fortunes that have been obtained through bribery and corruption. Those fortunes have not been ‘rightfully gained’.
The whole pattern of property ownership, as it exists today, is to a large extent the result of a long history of violence, coercion, theft, and corruption, on different scales, from the global to the local. There are no simple answers here, but if we want a world without violence and where rightful property is respected, we need to somehow undo the violence and theft of the past, whose residue still exists, embodied in the existing property-ownership regime.
This brings us to a question you raise:
I would like to hear where you would draw the line on what is “the commons.”
This is not a line you or I have the right to draw. It is something that needs to be decided by some kind of real democratic process. For a start, the whole Earth is the commons that needs to be considered: all the petroleum and minerals in the ground, the fish in the seas and rivers, and all the forests and the agricultural land. These are the common heritage of all of us, provided by nature, and the current ownership and management regime, to a large extent, is neither just nor sustainable.
One of the problems with the birth of the USA is that property ownership remained unchanged. A few people owned most of the land, stolen from the natives, and granted by deeds issued by the same King that the Revolution had spurned. The system was corrupted from the very beginning, by the property-ownership regime that was inherited from Colonial days.
I agree that rightfully gained property should be respected, and along with that we need a reboot on the definition of what is in the commons, a reconsideration of what is the private property of whom, and an equitable and effective way of managing what is in the commons.
One of the areas where we disagree is economics. For example, you say:
One of the greatest myths is that free-market capitalism leads to monopolies, but that is not what history shows. We have been duped into mistaking state-intervention, managed markets and crony deals for actual honest voluntary exchange. Monopolies depend on the state for enforcement. The free market allows true competition to provide alternatives when prices get too high or service is not optimized.
Given that our political system is corrupt, it is not surprising that many monopolies have been created with the help of state-intervention, as you say. But by no means all of them. The Bell Telephone system, as I understand it, achieved a monopoly in telephony by legitimate means. And Bill Gates achieved a monopoly on the most-used operating system by legitimate means. There is a natural accumulation process, where larger scale gives an advantage in the marketplace, which leads to a still larger scale. This often leads to market-dominance by a single operator, or by a cartel of big operators, and this is not always due to state intervention.
As regards regulation, you say:
I don’t advocate unregulated markets. There would be clear rules against fraud, counterfeit, breech of contract, sales of stock you don’t own etc. – in other words making money honest and contracts accountable. Individuals would be personally liable. But no one would be centralizing control of the economy – which is unnatural and has always led to disaster.
You don’t have an explicit rule against monopolies, or price-fixing, or loss-leaders. You are assuming that the rules you’ve specified are enough to prevent market dominance by one or a few players, but the evidence of history shows otherwise. Would you be willing to accept an explicit rule that prohibits the “centralizing of control, by any means”? Among other things, this would most likely imply a cap on wealth and income, for both individuals and enterprises.
Adam Smith offered an elaborate set of rules for a market economy, in his Wealth of Nations, aimed at preventing monopolies and allowing voluntary exchanges to operate as you envision them. Among other things, his rules disallowed patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Goodbye Microsoft and Apple; goodbye Monsanto and Big Pharma.
My own view is that some aspects of the economy are best handled by free markets, and some are natural monopolies, that should be part of the commons, and managed in some other way than private ownership. My favorite example is the municipally-owned Palo Alto utilities, which provide electricity more cheaply to local residents than does PG&E to its customers in neighboring towns, even though Palo Alto buys its electricity from PG&E. The profit motive is great in its place, but in a monopoly situation it simply becomes a free ride at everyone else’s expense.
However the more important issue is not ‘what are the right rules’, but rather the process by which the rules are created, interpreted, amended, and enforced. This gets us into the question of governance, where we have in the past encountered a number of disagreements and misunderstandings.
Perhaps we are getting closer, based on a recent private exchange of ours. You had responded to my Transformation Project proposal, and I wrote to you:
Thanks for you comments!
Unfortunately, my writing must not have been clear enough, as you misunderstood quite a bit of it. Perhaps it will help if you check out this graphical version of the governance model. There is no coercion in it:
A model of self-governance (slide show)
You then responded in a very encouraging way:
I am delighted to see this…and need to understand it better.
What is your definition of consensus? Is it the same as unanimous?
Is anyone imposed upon against their will if they disagree with the group decision?
What is the source of funding for the process?
Thanks, Richard. I was thrilled to see “Anarchism & real democracy are two sides of the same coin.”
I talked above about consensus and wise dialog processes. A better name for what I favor is Jim’s term, ‘choice creating’. With ‘decision making’ and with ‘consensus’, there are typically a few alternatives on offer, and the task is to choose between them, by one kind of process or another. With choice creating, the group starts with the problem itself, explores everyone’s concerns and ideas regarding the problem, and then works creatively together to come up with a solution that deals with everyone’s concerns, and builds on everyone’s ideas.
That’s my brief description of what choice-creating is about, and I can refer you to more elegant and comprehensive descriptions if you like, by Jim, Rosa Zubizarreta, Tom Atlee, and others. However I don’t think words can really tell the story. For one thing, it is difficult to believe the claim, that groups do in fact find solutions that deal with everyone’s concerns, even when there is lots of disagreement at the beginning. This is so different from our usual experience with groups, that it seems unlikely to be true. But it is true, and it needs to be experienced to understand how it feels and how it works.
I think it would be a very good thing for you to experience a Dynamic Facilitation session. Not just to understand how it might relate to governance, but also to learn about its potential as a powerful tool for use in the Thrive Movement, where you are encouraging dialog about various issues. In addition to all the things your are doing now, re/ dialog, you could bring together ‘representative microcosm’ groups, and make rapid progress on issues using DF / choice-creating.
In fact, let me go out on a limb, and propose something specific, something that is admittedly self-serving, as I would get a lot out of it. I hereby propose that you and I agree on a question to be be explored, and invite ten others to join us in exploring that question, using DF. I’d be happy to do the gopher organizing work, if you provide the funding, which would include flying me to the session, as I couldn’t afford the airfare.
My belief is that we would emerge from such a session with a great deal of mutual understanding and agreement, more than we could achieve by written exchanges. Even more important, depending on the question and the invitees, I think we could accomplish some much needed work, as regards change strategies and new world visions.