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Old 01-08-2009, 10:40 AM   #1
Borodog
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Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

In his hiatus thread WillMagic asked how to get rid of government without violent revolution.

Far from difinitive, but definitely full of insights on this very subject, is Murray Rothbard's Ending Tyranny Without Violence, an essay which examines Étienne de La Boétie's The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. La Boétie could be termed the first Western libertarian philosopher.

Since the long run persistence of any government, no matter how despotic, rests upon the consent of the governed, regardless of how such consent is contrived, government can always be overthrown without resort to violence, simply by the mass withdrawal of consent:
La Boétie was also the first theorist to move from the emphasis on the importance of consent, to the strategic importance of toppling tyranny by leading the public to withdraw that consent. Hence, La Boétie was the first theorist of the strategy of mass, non-violent civil disobedience of State edicts and exactions.
I say "simply", but the rub is, again, that the majority of people consent to their subjugation, oppression, servitude and fleecing. Hence La Boétie sees the main task in the overthrow of tyranny to be simply one of education, and of desanctifying and demystifying tyranny. Rothbards summarizes and emphasizes this, saying:
Since despotic rule is against the interests of the bulk of the population, how then does this consent come about? Again, La Boétie highlights the point that this consent is engineered, largely by propaganda beamed at the populace by the rulers and their intellectual apologists. The devices – of bread and circuses, of ideological mystification – that rulers today use to gull the masses and gain their consent, remain the same as in La Boétie's days. The only difference is the enormous increase in the use of specialized intellectuals in the service of the rulers. But in this case, the primary task of opponents of modem tyranny is an educational one: to awaken the public to this process, to demystify and desanctify the State apparatus. Furthermore, La Boétie's analysis both of the engineering of consent and of the role played by bureaucrats and other economic interests that benefit from the State, highlights another critical problem which many modem opponents of statism have failed to recognize: that the problem of strategy is not simply one of educating the public about the "errors" committed by the government. For much of what the State does is not an error at all from its own point of view, but a means of maximizing its power, influence, and income. We have to realize that we are facing a mighty engine of power and economic exploitation, and therefore that, at the very least, libertarian education of the public must include an exposé of this exploitation, and of the economic interests and intellectual apologists who benefit from State rule. By confining themselves to analysis of alleged intellectual "errors," opponents of government intervention have rendered themselves ineffective. For one thing, they have been beaming their counter-propaganda at a public which does not have the equipment or the interest to follow the complex analyses of error, and which can therefore easily be rebamboozled by the experts in the employ of the State. Those experts, too, must be desanctified, and again La Boétie strengthens us in the necessity of such desanctification.

The libertarian theorist Lysander Spooner, writing over four hundred years after La Boétie, propounded the similar view that the supporters of government consisted largely of "dupes" and "knaves":

The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.: 1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes – a large class, no doubt – each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a "free man," a "sovereign"; that this is a "free government"; "a government of equal rights," "the best government on earth," and such like absurdities. 3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.[60]

The prime task of education, then, is not simply abstract insight into governmental "errors" in advancing the general welfare, but debamboozling the public on the entire nature and procedures of the despotic State. In that task, La Boétie also speaks to us in his stress on the importance of a perceptive, vanguard elite of libertarian and anti-statist intellectuals. The role of this "cadre" – to grasp the essence of statism and to desanctify the State in the eyes and minds of the rest of the population – is crucial to the potential success of any movement to bring about a free society. It becomes, therefore, a prime libertarian task to discover, coalesce, nurture, and advance its cadre – a task of which all too many libertarians remain completely ignorant. For no amount of oppression or misery will lead to a successful movement for freedom unless such a cadre exists and is able to educate and rally the intellectuals and the general public.
There is of course a collective action or prisoner's dilemma (literally, in this case) problem of civil disobedience. Even though minority of the ruling elite could not stand before the will of a united majority acting together, and it would be in the interests of everyone to throw off tyranny, the state has essentially infinite resources compared to the resources of any one individual, and will deal swiftly and terribly with the vanguard of civil disobedience. I believe La Boétie underemphasizes the importance of this effect; he dismisses "cowardice" as a reason for people persisting for generations under tyranny. First, I think that "cowardice" is an overly harsh term for fear that the state will destroy one's life, liberty, property, and family, which those in the state certainly have the resources and will to do in order to preserve their positions, power and incomes, with little to no qualms whatsoever. But more importantly, I think that fear, combined with custom, propaganda and plundered resources, can keep a majority subjugated to a minority, at least if the majority is not too small. Hence roughly a third of working age Americans work for government in one form or another.

Luckily, I believe that the collective action problem becomes more and more unstable over time, as the depradations of the state become more and more extreme and burdensome, as more and more people see through the propaganda and comprehend that the emperor has no clothes, and as more and more people avoid funding of the state through tax avoidance and evasion and are driven into the underground (untaxed) economy. Eventually a is reached where the government does not have sufficient resources to crackdown on the mass disobediance, and everyone knows it.

Rothbard does not go into it in this piece, because La Boétie does not mention it, but the single most important lynchpin in the power of the modern state is its monopoly of money. The Federal Reserve, for example, is the single most important institution on the face of the Earth, and is responsible for the majority of human misery for the past century. People who do not understand the nature of money, banking, credit, and the Fed, or its historical importance will scoff, of course, but this is true. If the government's money monopoly can be broken, then the back of the modern state is broken; it is over with, done. Metric has already linked to a few speculations on how to break the money monopoly.

I can see other scenarios that complement these ideas. For one, the state is particularly rigid and inflexible. The state moves ever more slowly as its bureaucracies grow, its "goods" and "services" ever more bad and unserviceable, where as the market changes ever more rapidly with increasing technology. The state of course can attempt to utilize this technology to control the citizens, and there is a history of success in this (for example, the seizure of the electromagnetic spectrum has made possible a century of state propaganda), but I believe that market (i.e. decentralized/anarchic) forces will win this battle. Eventually there will come a time when the market is evolving so rapidly that the state cannot cope. The market will flow around the state, over it, undermine it, reveal it to be utterly irrelevent. Combine this with the decentralization of information and the loss of the money monopoly, and the state is washed away in the torrent of the market, no violent revolution required.

/ramble
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:53 AM   #2
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

In before tl;dr

But seriously, it was interesting, nice post boro. In addition to the idea of delegitimising the state there are also the ideas of secession and agorism, as non violent ways to bring about the stateless society.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:32 PM   #3
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

My difficulty with this point of view is that it seems to me that the US Armed Forces are trickier to deal with than the Federal Reserve. There's a chance you could move towards some spontaneous meltdown, but I feel that breaking the state apart slowly into small pieces (such as our 50 states, but perhaps reconstituted somewhat) would be far more effective.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:56 PM   #4
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

Quote:
difinitive
Ouch. :O
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:01 PM   #5
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by Borodog View Post
I can see other scenarios that complement these ideas. For one, the state is particularly rigid and inflexible. The state moves ever more slowly as its bureaucracies grow, its "goods" and "services" ever more bad and unserviceable, where as the market changes ever more rapidly with increasing technology. The state of course can attempt to utilize this technology to control the citizens, and there is a history of success in this (for example, the seizure of the electromagnetic spectrum has made possible a century of state propaganda), but I believe that market (i.e. decentralized/anarchic) forces will win this battle. Eventually there will come a time when the market is evolving so rapidly that the state cannot cope. The market will flow around the state, over it, undermine it, reveal it to be utterly irrelevent. Combine this with the decentralization of information and the loss of the money monopoly, and the state is washed away in the torrent of the market, no violent revolution required.

/ramble
Hear Hear! I only hope it happens in my lifetime.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:03 PM   #6
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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at least if the minority is not too small
Gahhh I am tarded today.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:13 PM   #7
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

borodog, i think it is a tragedy that while i agree more and more with anarchist ideas, you have not directly been apart of convincing me in the least. is your goal to spout idealogy or to educate people?

"Since the long run persistence of any government, no matter how despotic, rests upon the consent of the governed, regardless of how such consent is contrived, government can always be overthrown without resort to violence, simply by the mass withdrawal of consent:"

the spanish Crown dominated the Americas for hundreds of years and used the people as slave labor. could you please explain in what sense the people consented to this happening?
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:20 PM   #8
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

Perhaps it was not clear that I was simply summarizing La Boétie's thesis. The point you make is actually exactly in line with what I said in the OP:

Quote:
There is of course a collective action or prisoner's dilemma (literally, in this case) problem of civil disobedience. Even though minority of the ruling elite could not stand before the will of a united majority acting together, and it would be in the interests of everyone to throw off tyranny, the state has essentially infinite resources compared to the resources of any one individual, and will deal swiftly and terribly with the vanguard of civil disobedience. I believe La Boétie underemphasizes the importance of this effect; he dismisses "cowardice" as a reason for people persisting for generations under tyranny. First, I think that "cowardice" is an overly harsh term for fear that the state will destroy one's life, liberty, property, and family, which those in the state certainly have the resources and will to do in order to preserve their positions, power and incomes, with little to no qualms whatsoever. But more importantly, I think that fear, combined with custom, propaganda and plundered resources, can keep a majority subjugated to a minority . . .
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:23 PM   #9
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

collective action problem? Sounds like a job for government imo.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:26 PM   #10
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

Anarchy is a public good imo.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:31 PM   #11
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

So basically what your saying is if the government gets so bad that the state of California wants to secede from the federal govt it is a way of keeping the federal govt in check.

Things have been pretty bad with GWB, the patriot act, war in Iraq, and the trampling of states rights and I don't think we(US citizens) are even close to anything happening.

The government is going to skate the line and test the tolerance of the people. The only way I can see anything close happening in the US is if the government steps over the line in time of economic prosperity and then the economy goes bad.

People are much less likely to stand against the government in good economic times because why rock the boat??? They may have some of their civil liberties stepped on but they are enjoying prosperity.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:32 PM   #12
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

If the people can easily change the government without violence then why is violence always resorted too?

Best answer I can come up with. There is almost always going to be a minority ready for violence before the majority needed for nonviolent secession is ready.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:36 PM   #13
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by rubbrband View Post
If the people can easily change the government without violence then why is violence always resorted too?

Best answer I can come up with. There is almost always going to be a minority ready for violence before the majority needed for nonviolent secession is ready.
I think I agree, without having thought deeply about it, and I think this is pretty insightful.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:44 PM   #14
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by Borodog View Post
Perhaps it was not clear that I was simply summarizing La Boétie's thesis. The point you make is actually exactly in line with what I said in the OP:
k i thought you were presenting your idea and then using the philospher to support yourself... your title, "ending tyranny without violence" is vague. there is more to it i think. are you saying that a government can be changed without using violence against the government? are you saying that when the "depredations" of a govt. become too many people can remove their consent and the government will fall without them suffering through stuff like death?

actually now that i think about it, i don't think your post addresses these considerations, or the ending tyranny without violence, much at all. it is mainly concerned with saying tyranny CAN be ended and explaining how the system functions. response?
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:50 PM   #15
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by rubbrband View Post
If the people can easily change the government without violence then why is violence always resorted too?

Best answer I can come up with. There is almost always going to be a minority ready for violence before the majority needed for nonviolent secession is ready.
i dont understand how you could agree with it borodog. you said there is a prisoners dilemma so tyranny will be overthrown when the masses are ready to do it together. beyond that, rubbrband, could you please explain what you base your idea on?

i mean, look at what you said rubberband, it is true by definition...

why is violence almost always resorted to?
violence is almost always resorted to because people are almost always ready for violence first.
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Old 01-08-2009, 05:27 PM   #16
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by theBruiser500 View Post
i dont understand how you could agree with it borodog. you said there is a prisoners dilemma so tyranny will be overthrown when the masses are ready to do it together. beyond that, rubbrband, could you please explain what you base your idea on?

i mean, look at what you said rubberband, it is true by definition...

why is violence almost always resorted to?
violence is almost always resorted to because people are almost always ready for violence first.
not what I said. i said that the minority is ready for violence before the majority is ready to make a peaceful secession.


The majority might even tolerate/support the violence because it's easier than forming a peaceful secession idk.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:54 PM   #17
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

okay rubberdg, could you please the significance of that?
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:17 PM   #18
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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okay rubberdg, could you please the significance of that?
The OP is about how people can overthrow the government without violence. Seems very possible, but throughout history takeover of the government and violence go hand and hand.

I think that it is entirely possible to do this, so I had to come up with some reasons why it seldom happens. One reason was the government does just enough to keep the people happy and the other of course was that in order for a secession to happen a majority of the people need to be strongly supporting it. Well it seems much easier and plausible for a minority of the people to be ready for a violent takeover.

This being said maybe if the government gets that bad the people really just want violence and want to kill the evil doers more than come to a peaceful end of conflict.
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:19 PM   #19
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

I do believe things have changed now and the rich no longer have a monopoly on the media. The internet has open the doors of communication and allows the lower and middle class much more of an ability to combine their forces. Hate him or love him Obama is an example of this in action.

The new power of information may turn the tide and allow for more peaceful confrontations in the future and violence will not as often be needed as last resort.
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:53 AM   #20
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Originally Posted by rubbrband View Post
I think that it is entirely possible to do this, so I had to come up with some reasons why it seldom happens. One reason was the government does just enough to keep the people happy and the other of course was that in order for a secession to happen a majority of the people need to be strongly supporting it. Well it seems much easier and plausible for a minority of the people to be ready for a violent takeover.
Ive read a book which seemed to be a game theoretical assessment of why inequality exists. Basically, the elites oppress the masses. In response, the masses can threaten to revolt. The elites can choose to either pay off the masses, sacrificing some inequality to protect the rest of their inequality, or they can choose to suppress the masses. If the cost of suppression is too high, then the elites give in.

Of course, there is one recent example of orderly dissolution of a state, when Czechoslovakia amicably broke up into two separate states without violence. Of course, that may just be the result of removing oppression that held the state together.
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:55 AM   #21
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

Sheeple are the tyranny imo.

Most people have an existential fear of freedom.
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Old 01-09-2009, 05:08 PM   #22
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Sheeple are the tyranny imo.

Most people have an existential fear of freedom.
Not necessarily. I think most people are content with the amount of freedom they have now.

Also, on the whole violence thing, remember Jefferson's famous quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants." Here is the letter that quote comes from.
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Old 01-09-2009, 05:27 PM   #23
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants."


no way you can overthrow any form of government without violence imo. thats what makes it a revolution.
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Old 01-09-2009, 05:30 PM   #24
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Of course, there is one recent example of orderly dissolution of a state, when Czechoslovakia amicably broke up into two separate states without violence. Of course, that may just be the result of removing oppression that held the state together.
after they had unwillingly been part of the ussr for so many years it would have been pretty hypocritical of the government to try and hold the country together.
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Old 01-10-2009, 09:39 AM   #25
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Re: Ending Tyrrany Without Violence

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Not necessarily. I think most people are content with the amount of freedom they have now.
Yes which is not very much.
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