As the idea of a free society spreading around, libertarian and anarchist activists are faced with a difficult question: what is the best way to achieve the real liberty? Some of them prefer to persuade people, to build voluntary associations and to change the social fabric of society through peaceful means. However, these efforts do not often pay off. Is the way of peaceful activism really viable? Can a free society be built just by convincing people? Some other activists choose a different path and engage in politics hoping to change the system from inside. But politics requires substantial financial and organizational resources. And still others have decided to bring matters to the streets. But how can somebody become free by way of violence?
The following strategy could possibly offer another solution.
(translation to English, abridged and adopted)
1. Evolution not revolution
On the road of humanity to freedom, democracy is a dead end. It is the most sophisticated form of a violence based society. The illusion of choice created by elections is able to deceive any proponent of liberty while at the same time the coercion by a democratic state inevitably creates new adepts of this coercion. In essence, elections is a legitimate revolution. But freedom cannot be achieved by a revolution even legitimate. On the other hand, freedom cannot be achieved by illegitimate ways too. In order to overcome democracy and to move towards liberty, the following points should be considered.
1. Liberty needs evolution, not revolution. Destruction does not create, it can only give way to the new when the new has already been created. Evolution is the emergence of new within old.
2. Proponents of freedom cannot transform democracy by political means. They oppose politics because politics is always coercion, which means that even if they successfully grab the power they will have to forcefully convert everybody into their vision of liberty.
3. Everybody has their own vision of freedom. The scientific theory of the "correct" or truly free society does not and cannot exist. Only practice could prove the correctness of social ideas. Democracy is not able to create such a practice due to its inherent coercive essence.
4. The only way to overcome democracy is through the creation of new social practices alongside it. This will give people a real choice instead of a fictitious freedom provided by democracy. The choice of a social practice is an instrument of evolution because a new society will emerge within the old.
5. The new social practices should begin with a new ethics because ideas that drive evolution of society are ethical. To build a society is to build its ethics.
6. The new ethics, by its very nature, could not endorse violent actions. However it should encourage voters to influence the state to reduce its pressure on the new social practices.
2. The ethics of liberty
The idea of freedom is essentially the idea of ethics. That does not mean that freedom has an ethical value in itself. Freedom is a precondition for the existence of any ethics. Correspondingly, freedom just like its opposite, violence, can be used both for good and for evil purposes. But logically, freedom ultimately corresponds to only one specific form of ethics, the ethics of public social contract. This is because freedom is only possible by voluntary agreement, the agreement itself is only possible by trust, and the trust itself is only guaranteed by ethics. Therefore, the ethics of liberty is ethical norms which the participants of the public contract have to agree among themselves to be free. And, at the same time, they follow these norms because they are ethical people. Thus, ethics becomes a precondition for the existence of any social freedom.
Let's speculate on it. The highest human value is the human. But this value is not sufficient for a sound moral system. Because for every person, he is of highest value, without any morality. Morality is what value a person gives to others. It is obvious that freedom is possible only within society which provides both the necessary conditions for human existence and guarantees for a prosperous future. Therefore, the ethics of liberty would have to find the right balance between the value of man and the value of the collective. So, the basis of the ethics of a free man should be honest and voluntary considerations of the interests of other people each of which is the same party to the contract as he is. Therefore, one can assume that in order to strike the balance with others a free man follows these rules:
1. He does not practice or tolerate physical violence, including indirect (threats, orders); this includes both individual and collective coercion, abuse of power and forcing by majority,
- but of course except for self-defense and security.
2. He does not practice or tolerate covert (theft, embezzlement, fraud, cheating, rip-off, deception), psychological (blackmail, pestering, nagging) and informational violence (distortion, suppressing, misrepresentation, brainwashing);
- but of course he is open to and trusts only those who adheres to the same principles.
3. He does not practice or tolerate economic violence (vandalism, free-riding, unfair advantages, exploitation); he admits that:
- natural resources are originally unowned (belong to everybody);
- property is a social contract, any form of property is possible;
- only fair and open competition should be allowed.
4. He clearly separates the public and the personal spheres of society and honors the right of everyone to behave in his private life as he likes, including (but not limiting):
- following any customs, traditions, beliefs;
- having different family values;
- having different moral values (eg. [to/not to] give to charity).
5. But he prohibits any conflicts of interest between the personal and the public spheres, including (but not limiting):
- corruption, collusion, bribery, back-room deals, kick-backs;
- nepotism, cronyism, kinship and any other personal connections in public companies or structures;
- concealment, covering up;
- tips, gratuity for "personal" service.
6. Accordingly, he does not practice or tolerate moral and emotional violence, any attempts to forcefully extend the moral of the personal sphere on entire society;
7. He recognizes a similar person in anyone who may have different cultural, religious, sexual and aesthetic preferences and is able to cooperate with them (to trust and negotiate).
A free man does not have to be a fighter, a hero, a tribune or a saint. Everyone of flesh and blood can be free if he wishes. The depicted speculative norms will certainly need clarification and approval of the participants to the contract but the starting point probably looks like that.
3. Ethical community
Ethics is the norms of relationship, so any ethics requires a community of individuals sharing similar norms. That is, the idea of ethics is the idea of community. Therefore, every proponent of liberty has to realize his true identity - the honest and decent man - and to unite with other decent people. This union has several practical purposes:
1. A decent person will not be able to keep his morality among violence, corruption and social freebie lovers. Thus, the association is a necessary condition for the collective morality. Affiliation with the community is both a statement of fact and a declaration of intent.
2. The community will allow for crystallization and refinement of ethics, for finding its most correct forms and for making it more and more perfect.
3. Membership brings personal benefit. Decent people need to communicate not only on intellectual but also on economical level. The awareness of partner's honesty builds trust, confidence and reduces the costs of business transactions. The community generates a sort of "moral capital" helping survive in the middle of pervasive violence.
4. Thus, the community of good people is objectively a source of further growth of freedom - they improve the quality of their public sphere and attract more supporters, which ensures the continued success of the community.
5. Only association can create an example of a new social practice.
Why is the public sphere mentioned again? A community of decent people is not a place for personal relationships, it is not a family circle or a group of friends. It is a place where strangers interact and it is ruled by the laws of personal success. This is very important. The community does not consist of accomplices. This is neither a secret organization, nor an order of regime fighters, nor a mutual aid fund. This is a prototype of a future public sphere of whole society. But personal relationships do not go away, they simply exist in another dimension - in the personal, completely separate sphere.
Because benefits of ethics and freedom are always questionable, it is worth to elaborate a little more on non-practical reasons for creating such a community.
1. It is impossible to eradicate violence only by convincing people, rationally or ethically. In a world full of violence, very few would want to abandon it in the name of an abstract good. A trusted community gives people a real choice and is able to provide the conditions for the emerging freedom.
2. By advocating ideas of freedom, its current proponents are actually trying to implicitly establish a public contract. But the ideas of non-violent social change require explicit consent and real followers - i.e. real people and a real community.
3. By entering into the community, people symbolically adopt the new public contract which otherwise can not be institutionalized. This fact alone makes every new member formally free. This contract delegitimizes the state power.
4. The contract cannot include only narrowly understood non-violence. It requires the rejection of all forms of coercion otherwise it could never be respected - one form of coercion sooner or later leads to another. But the total rejection of violence is possible only in a society and only in a non-personal sphere. Freedom means a situation when one can trust a stranger. Hence a community is the only way to this situation.
The success and prosperity of the community is the common goal of its members. This goal, however, does not require binding sacrifices, limitations of rights, a guiding social body or other forms of coercion.
4. Other ethics
The use of ethics for the betterment of society as well as attempts to portray its adepts as the best, faithful and so on, are of course not new. That is why it is important:
1. To distinguish ethics of liberty from other ethics aimed at reforming the public sphere of society;
2. To explain and to raise awareness about their shortcomings.
For the sake of clarity, let us consider the three general groups of ethics.
1. Ethics of violence (eg utilitarianism)
Any power morally justifies its existence by the good it brings to its subordinates. Moreover, it suggests that society cannot even exist without power. For it is known that a rational person always striving to have a free ride and only coercion can put everybody in the most advantageous position for all. However, the power always sees the good from its subjective self-centered point of view, which results in inevitable discrepancy with the expectations of people. In the extreme forms of utilitarianism, such as communism, this difference can reach the level of insanity. In the case of moderate utilitarianism, the common good promised at the time of fictitious contract with people (elections) never matches the result, which causes disappointment of the voters and the loss of legitimacy by the time of the next election. The lies of utilitarianism create an endless "democratic cycle". Justification of violence cannot lead to a better society. The true common good demands an open collective agreement, which is impossible without the ethics of liberty. Proponents of lies and politics should apply them only to their "rational" followers. They have no right to impose them on people with conscience.
2. Ethics of sacrifice / duty (eg religion, deontology)
Unlike utilitarianism, religion compells to sacrifices not by the lies of common good, but by the moral coercion and irrational appeal to the unknowable supreme entity or its substitutes (God, virtues, moral imperative, natural rights, etc). Due to these qualities, religion is losing to the ethics of liberty where ethical behavior is the result of a free and informed choice of a moral agent. Historically, religion was the first ethical attempt to improve and organize society. In those days there was no clear understanding of differences between the personal and the public spheres that is why all religions mix the ethics of personal relationships with the ethics of public life. This is another reason why religion cannot purport the ethical modernization of society. Its role is at best limited to the personal sphere - congregation, local community or family.
3. Ethics of egoism (eg objectivism, contractarianism)
Objectivism tries to explain the ethics of a free society by the need of selfish gain. But of course it is unable to do so. Truthfulness and honesty cannot be explained by selfishness, rational or not. Even a "constrained maximizer" cannot trust his partner because the time and other preferences of another person are outside of his rational understanding. In contrast to the ethics of egoism, the ethics of liberty supplements the motive of personal gain with reasonable, responsible and conscientious consideration of partner's benefits, and with a higher sense of communality and affinity. Only that makes mutual trust and moral social behavior possible. By combining the personal and the collective, the ethics of liberty ensures a long-term personal and collective success that is impossible in a society of pure, contractarian, "objective" or any other rational selfishness.
The ethics of liberty is the minimal common ground for different views on freedom and justice, adepts of which unite and build the public sphere of a new society. The ethics of liberty gives people the freedom in searching paths to freedom. With the common ethical basis, their specific preferences for the systems of practical goods (the traditional, aesthetic or religious) are irrelevant. The practical implementation of a true social contract becomes possible. Ethics descends from the heights of philosophical speculation to real life, because the source of ethical norms is not moral absolutes, faith or logic but the consensus of free people.
5. Practical implementation
It is not necessary for all participants to gather in one area. On the first stage, creating a virtual organization is enough. All that is required is a well protected system based on digital certificates. Each member of the community will have his own node in the system. As ethics and trust are the primary assets of the system, it makes sense for the root certificates to belong to well-known people, and to base the admission of new members on recommendations. Regardless of the technical details, the real relationship in the community is "peer to peer". People who betrayed the trust may be expelled, suspended or forgiven if they are able to justify their acts by pressure, violence of regime, etc. In the end, even decent people still live under pervasive coercion and therefore ethical failures are objectively possible. However, to preserve the common trust all such occurrences should be accounted for.
Is the expulsion from the community violence? It would be strange to answer "no" but it is true. Ethics cannot be compelled to. The expulsion is the result of deception upon entry into the community. Contrary to the extreme individualism, this kind of community also has "a right". The collective has the right to ostracize its members who violate ethical norms adopted by everybody. But this "right" does not require a moral authority, because there is no subject of it. It is enough that the community members themselves see the violation, discuss it and decide to no longer consider an apostate their associate. Denial of trust is the right of a collective. In practice it is accomplished by certificate revocation. People who issued the certificate are themselves interested in its revocation otherwise a shadow falls on them. Nobody is forcing nobody. Ethics is not result of coercion, it is an internal need. Expulsion is the only way to organize a society completely without violence, only on the basis of trust.
Existence among the pervasive violence inevitably raises a question of the limits of permissible deviation from the ethical norms. It is possible that the community will temporarily allow:
1. Activity, ethically questionable (within certain limits), but carried out under duress that is impossible to avoid;
2. Activity ethical, but made illegal by a state law.
Clarifications will be constant. Likely, the participants will be discussing and continually looking for common ethical norms.
On the other hand, the associates are interested in expanding the community, in unification with other similar communities. Therefore, the participants not only communicate, conduct business, pick up employees, etc. among the same good people, but also look for supporters, particularly in the areas of justice, policing and business. They extend the community and make it more efficient, autonomous and self-sufficient. They help other people to realize their integrity and the new identity. And when the community expands enough, moving to a compact area of residence becomes more realistic. It is going to facilitate contacts and a future economic activity.
6. Community money
When the community has grown so that it may become economically viable, the next phase comes - a direct economic activity. Perhaps these activities will cause attention of authorities so it is important to stay within the law as much as possible. However, it most likely will not succeed. In this case, Community enters into the economic struggle with power, which in principle is no different from any other struggle - counteracting power requires no ethics but heroic morale. Therefore, the following steps require further discussion, assessing the conditions of their possibility and probability of their success, and a separate general agreement. Community should also take measures to protect its communications from outside surveilance.
First of all Community needs its own money. While under the pressure of a state this is impossible, in reality money is just a product of trust. That is, the idea of money is the idea of ethics. Therefore, in the first step Community will be able to introduce an intermediate instrument of exchange. Let's call it "community credit" (CC). What is it? It's IOU to exchange values (ie goods and services) on credit. CCs are backed by state money that each participant wishing to exchange contributes to a common treasury. Community selects a responsible committee, let's call it TC, which registers the community as a non-profit organization and deposits the collected money on a bank trust account. The new organization conducts no external economic activity and regularly pays taxes on the interest earned on the account.
Each participant receives CCs according to the amount he has contributed. Then the participants can make exchanges by using CC as ordinary money (or entirely on credit) except that CC is purely electronic. Administrative costs are covered by the interest earned on the trust account, and the rest of the interest is distributed accordingly to the account balances of the participants. Whoever happens to have a negative balance would himself pay the interest. The members can also contribute additional amounts or withdraw from the common fund.
From the perspective of a state there is moneyless (mutual credit) or barter exchange within the organization, that is or will be made illegal. However, the nature (and the fact itself) of each transaction is known only to its direct participants and payment of state taxes is in accordance with accepted in Community rules. It should be noted that Community can be qualified as a charitable or religious organization. Ironically, these definitions correspond to the essence of the community as an organization based on ethical ideals.
The community money is similar to local currency or that of local exchange systems (LETS), but fully backed by the real value which is kept intact. As the backing of CC, the community can also use foreign currency or a basket of currencies. The more diverse the backing, the less the participants will be dependent on state economy.
As the system grows, CC relies on a national currency less and less. When the domestic market of Community is sufficiently self-contained, the exchange rate of CC can be made floating, and TC can start to manage the supply of CC depending on the state of community economy.
7. Community development
Life of the community will sooner or later put before it a number of issues.
1. Economic activity within the community will be based, as the community itself, on high ethics - honesty, transparency and impeccable reputation will be the norm. Advantages of such market over the government and oligarchic coercion is obvious. Real-world companies, especially those not benefiting from a state, will start "moving" into the community. There will be a need for the rules of definition and registration of the different kinds of property. The participants will be able to organize production of goods, services and ideas, support culture and social life. They will choose themselves formal regulation of economic activity or lack thereof .
2. Inevitable disagreements about contracts and other matters will require the establishment of arbitration, justice and other courts that will serve as the basis of a new judicial system. One can hope that it will be a system of free competitive courts with a new, common and case law though based in part on the existing one. Although this part will definitely undergo verification by the ethics of liberty.
3. Another important aspect of the community will be functions of security and protection. Violence could permeate both from outside and from the sphere of personal relationships that is fundamentally non-formalizable. Security agencies will probably appear, the community will develop a code of their conduct and may be establish a commission to oversee them. One can hope that with the high ethics of the participants, gun ownership will not be required.
4. A separate item should be the right of inheritance. Since inheritance is the cornerstone of any systemic power, a constant source of injustice and an extreme case of mixing the personal and the public spheres, one could hope that the participants would show prudence and find ways to phase it out. Money left over after the death of the participant may be used for the benefit of Community. Especially because as it grows there may be legal conflicts with the state for example about real estate ownership. The community will inevitably have its own registry of property titles that does not coincide with the state one.
5. Surely there will be people who would want to benefit Community. Although the ethics of liberty never compel people to do that, it cannot prohibit doing so. Charity, donations in some common funds, volunteering, etc. will certainly contribute to the unity of the collective, improve its strengths and raise its prospects. The community will find ways to reward or otherwise acknowledge the contributions by its members to the common cause. One can assume that while the free people will prove to be more helpful and generous than the ones currently enslaved by the state, their help will come to others through personal relationships, not affecting the work of public institutions.
The rules of the community, whatever they happen to be, will be based on consensus, ethics and common interests, and not on interests of majority, minority or whoever manage to enact them into the law. The community will eventually find ways to solve all possible problems but if the participants could not come to terms they would always be able to separate and organize new communities. For example, there may be libertarian and syndicalist communities. And even communities with their own democratic governments.
8. Further evolution
Communities with different internal organization may be able to live together, peacfully proving to themselves and their neighbors their advantages. People will be able to actually choose a way of life - not by electing the government but selecting their kind of freedom. A time will come when the communities would not just exist alongside the state. They would compete for the hearts and minds just as it happens in the nature. And as a result of this natural evolution there will be at least one loser - the state.
At first, the communities will absorb the best, most capable and active, and then they entice a critical mass of people - those 10-20%, who morally and culturally shape every society. After that, the state will be no more. It will die a natural death because there will be something better next to it. Then the communities will encourage general public into their ranks as well as people with no morals and principles. At this stage the communities will be able to prove their real strength. A community that was effective while it consisted of only the best, may well be non-viable when filled with real people. However, the correctly organized communities, ones where their ethical foundations are combined with the institutional arrangements to preserve these foundations intact, will definitely survive. This will obviously require the codification of ethics and its introduction into the legal domain, as exclusion from the communities will now be complicated or impossible.
The death of the state would raise the issues of territorial demarcation between communities, which can occur by mutual exchange of territory. But in principle, nothing prevents some people from engaging in different communities and some communities from remaining pure virtual.
At the last stage the communities, or perhaps the societies, will exchange the remaining money on CC and declare the latter a new currency backed by only trust and respect. One can also hope that by this time, the ethics of even the most ordinary people will improve significantly and the adepts of violence will disappear as a species.
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