Friday, October 7, 2011
Hobbes' Mistake - The Rational Case For Anarchy by Sauvik Chakraverti
Published in the Times of India, New Delhi, Saturday,
May 26, 2001
In his classic "Leviathan", written in 1651, the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes established the liberal case for the state. He said that, without the 'mortall god' of the state to hold us all in awe, society would disintegrate, there would ensue "a war of each against all" and life would be "nasty, poore, brutish and short". Since then, liberals in the West have upheld statism - and have encouraged state-building in the Third World. Today, it is seen that almost all the states of the Third World are predatory states, enemies of the people. They are huge kleptocracies which amass and then misuse economic powers and keep people poor. When libertarians talk of the need to do away with states and statism, we are accused, even by our liberal friends, of being anarchists. How do we defend ourselves from this charge?
The fact is: Thomas Hobbes was wrong. Very wrong. The following thought experiment will show how. Carry a tray of ripe bananas before a group of monkeys. What will happen? The monkeys will snatch and steal all the bananas: the Hobbesian war of each against all. Now take another tray of ripe bananas and carry them to a place where there are no monkeys but lots of human beings: Chandni Chowk, Connaught Place, Crawford Market... What will happen? No one will steal your bananas. If they want your bananas, humans will politely ask whether you will offer them in exchange for money. Homo Economicus is a moral creature. Because he has the ability to exchange, which the monkey does not, Homo Economicus does not snatch and steal. He has an inborn morality that respects property rights. In stark contrast, the Constitution of India does not recognise property rights!
Now, hang around in the market a little longer and observe who are the monkeys amongst us. Then you will see the policeman extorting goods for free; you will see the municipal functionary preying on urban commerce. These are the cutting-edge personnel of the predatory state. This clearly shows that: 1) the market is a secular basis of human morality; and 2) power corrupts.
Yet, it is important to note that Thomas Hobbes was a liberal. In Leviathan he does mention that every man would very much prefer to rule himself. We sacrifice some of our freedoms in exchange for the law and order that the state creates. The original cover illustration of Leviathan shows a huge king-like figure wielding a massive sword. A little careful examination reveals that the body of the 'mortall god' is completely made up of little people: the citizens. "Leviathan bears the body of the citizenry," Hobbes says. In predatory states it is obvious that the sword of state is not borne by a 'mortall god'. Rather, it is in the hands of a huge monkey. And its body is not composed of the citizenry; rather, it is composed entirely of little monkeys. Why should the entire Third World continue to suffer this situation? Will not absolute freedom - anarchy - be better?
The word anarchy has a beautiful meaning: no ruler. It does not mean chaos, as the enemies of freedom would have you believe. It means, quite simply, that the king is dead, and there are to be no more kings. All human beings are free and equal. There is no one to lord over us. There is no one with power. Before dismissing this option outright, let us inquire into what forces within civil society will maintain morality and order in the absence of the state.
Under conditions of anarcho-capitalism - no state - all the people will seek their survival in the free market. Statists believe that under such conditions robbery and thievery will ensue, but are their fears based on reality? After all, in a free market, cheating succeeds only in the short term. Every capitalist knows that, for long-term success, he has to protect his reputation. That is why brand names and brand equity matter so much in assuring us of quality. Only those who satisfy customers will succeed in the long run, and that is why morality will rule.
Secondly, in a completely free market, credit will go only to the creditworthy. Unlike today, when political allocation of credit prompts many to not pay their dues, under anarcho-capitalism, everyone will realise that creditworthiness is something to be cherished and carefully nurtured. Free banking will ensure more moral behaviour than politicised banking.
Thirdly, human beings, apart from being economic creatures, are also sexual creatures. This prompts them to raise families. Without a state that will look after them in times of trouble, under anarcho-capitalism, the family will be the main source of support. Families will be strong. Children will be well brought up. This shows that there are only two secular bases of human morality: the market and the sexual union. Not the state, which is a promoter of immorality.
Some will say that the free market cannot exist without supporting institutions. This is true. There must be courts and justice. But law is also an enterprise. Today, the monopolistic state courts system is hopelessly clogged and does not deliver timely justice. Further, it is based on the socialistic disregard for property rights, which cannot co-exist with the free market. We will need property rights to be enforced; we will need disputes to be settled or adjudicated. All this can happen easily under anarcho-capitalism.
Lastly, we will need some form of policing. This must be done because there will be a few thieves, rapists and murderers amongst us: a free society is not a perfect society. But, throughout history, such plunderers have come from outside the city, and the city people have always organised themselves for their own protection. Today, in our cities of joy, entire communities get murdered with tacit state police support. Tomorrow, with self-policing, we shall surely be safer.
The entire Third World, comprising two-thirds of humanity, is suffering because of Thomas Hobbes' mistake. We must unitedly reject the notion of Leviathan. Statelessness and anarcho-capitalism will make us rich, moral and safe. We will all achieve our destiny. The path we must take is not to reform the state and its institutions, but to do away with them altogether. What is required is shifting the paradigm from nation-states to associations of free trading cities: limiting politics to the polis.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Alternative Nation The Public Administration of Anarchy by Sauvik Chakraverti
Published in the Times of India on 25/04/2002
Statism has failed both India and Pakistan. The future of both nations lies in a completely free market with free immigration. This is perfectly Islamic. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a free trader. The Islamic calendar starts on the date of migration from Mecca to Medina. Islam is based on free trade as well as free immigration. These are also in total agreement with the basic tenets of the Hindu faith which said Shubh Laabh, or profits are auspicious, aeons before Adam Smith laid down the philosophical foundations of modern capitalism. The Hindus also said that the four ends of Man are dharma, artha, kama, moksha. We can all happily and unitedly reject statism and opt for a vast free market. Both nations can reject the Hobbesian Leviathan together – that which has brought ruin, degradation, poverty and corruption to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, peopled by a deeply moral people.
The question does arise: Does anarcho-capitalism have a public administration? To answer that, let us imagine a scenario when there is no state, when there are no rulers, and let us think of ‘what’ and ‘where’ we will have to ‘organise’ things? We will feel the need for collective action mainly in our cities and towns, where people are densely crowded. We will scarcely need any organisation in scantily populated villages. This means that we will have to set up sound municipal organisations.
Now, contrast this with the socialist state’s public administration. Socialist India does not possess a single properly functioning municipality other than the NDMC which services the VVIP class. All talk about local government relates to panchayati raj, as though villages are in need of government. What villages and villagers need most of all is good connections to urban markets. Without roads, panchayati raj is just clientelism of the most perverted kind. As Arundhati Roy says: India does not live in her villages; India dies in her villages.
Hence, if we abolish the state, we will think up a far better alternative system of social organisation based on our needs. We will have municipalities that will focus on garbage collection, traffic regulation and the provision and upkeep of urban roads of good quality: because we will need just these services and nothing more. Today, municipalities run schools! Tomorrow, these municipalities can be run by just a handful of honest public spirited public functionaries, who can ‘contract-out’ the work to competing private firms. In this way, we can build an India and Pakistan of some 600 free trading cities.
This will be the best thing that can be done for our villagers. Urbanisation will allow them to find niches in the market economy and reduce dependence on agriculture. Today, the share of agriculture in GDP is declining; but more people are dependent on it. Poverty is the inevitable result. With urbanisation, rural India will depopulate, reducing pressures on land. Agriculture will commercialise. There will be no need for land reforms. Mere property rights will suffice.
Now, in public administration, as in management, there is no one correct method of organisation. With 600 free trading cities, each can experiment with laws, rules, and systems. This will allow for diversity. Thus, there can be towns like Haridwar where it is illegal to consume alcohol or eat meat but it is perfectly legal to smoke a chillum of hashish. The US local government scenario presents us such a view: the system is not uniform. There is strong mayor-weak council; weak mayor-strong council; there are city managers. The same can be allowed in India. Let the ants decide how to run their anthills. Thereafter, free immigration will force the municipalities to compete for tax-paying citizens. If Karachi offers better public goods at lower taxes than Bombay, it will prosper as more people flock there.
In this scenario, politics will be restricted to the polis, as it rightly should. There will no longer be the politics of empire: no New Delhi lording over Kohima, Kargil, and Kanyakumari. There will also be no small imperialists either: like Kolkata lording over Darjeeling, or Patna over Muzaffarpur, or Mumbai over Pune. It will be each to his own. Without the politics of empire, and without the economics of statism, it can safely be predicted that there will be very little need for collective action on a national level. Inter-city expressways can be provided by the private sector. Without statism in India and Pakistan there would be very little need for a large defence establishment. In either case, cities can contribute to a fund to finance a small force for the region for emergencies. Today, the defence establishment is hopelessly corrupt. After Bofors and Tehelka, the socialist state cannot be trusted to handle even national defence honestly.
Now, cities are not self-sufficient. They procure their needs from outside. Cities have ‘footprints’. In anarcho-capitalism, rural roads will be provided because this will be in the interest of the cities. It is said that every great city sits like a giant spider on its transportational network. Socialists have reduced our cities to blobs of jelly on the map. Tomorrow, reason will prompt us to build nimble spiders, so that the maximum amount of trade can take place at the least cost of both money as well as time. Today, our trucks do 250 km a day compared with 600 km a day in the rest of the world.
The poor will prosper in anarcho-capitalism. With 600 free trading cities, there will be plenty space for hawkers, who are a hounded lot today. Without rent control, there will be no slums; instead there will be a vibrant market for cheap rentals. Any poor villager will be able to opt for a city or town of his choice, shift, and rent a room with a toilet. Urban overcrowding will end as more land is colonised by roads. There will be a huge real estate boom. Land in the villages will also become real estate as cities and citizens spread out, equipped with modern transportation.
We must think we can do it. We must believe in ourselves. We have too long been dependent on the state. We must now believe that we do not really need it. We do not need our rulers. We can manage perfectly well without. After all, Man is a socially co-operative, moral creature.