I'm an anarchist/voluntaryist. However, I've been thinking lately. What do you do when someone harms you? What do you do when someone does not respect the contract they've signed with you? Because you see, I'm a peaceful anarchist. I don't believe in the use of force. But faced with the practical life situation, theory bumps into trouble.
What got me thinking is this: I had a tenant in a house I bought. She had just moved in. They had signed the contract with the previous owner. I took over. She did not pay her rent. I wrote, I tried to contact her. To no avail. She did not even bother to respond to me. She pretended I did not exist all the while living for free in the house that I had paid for.
I cried and felt very upset for months. You feel helpless. I mean I felt like going there and dragging her out by her hair. (!) Of course you do not do such things. And you see, I live in another country, a bit far away, thousands of miles away in fact. It's a bit difficult to just jump and knock on her door. Anyway... In the end, I was compelled to take legal action. She did not bother with the legal notice either. No response at all. After the second legal notice though, she in turn, was compelled, compelled to move out. 'Cause otherwise, the police would have knocked on her door.
I felt like "The big brother does the dirty job for you." I've been paying him for years, so I was okay with it. Now, there is another part of the story. The tenant also took away the furniture and whiteware that belonged to the house. She again doesn't answer my phones or e-mails. I feel stuck. I can go to the criminal court for that as what she has done is at least a breach of trust if not rightout theft, and is a crime with jailtime. I'm sure she will show up then. That's what she did until now. She only responds to legal action. She doesn't respond to the threat of legal action but to the action itself.
By the way, she is a foreigner living in "my" birth country. Anyway... She also owes me 7 months of rent. What am I to do now? Could anyone please tell me? Just forget about all the damage she has done me, just let her “get away with it”, just think as if I donated her that rent money? What do I do? I'm not willing to let her off the hook. She treated me as shit, she doesn't deserve my forgiveness or my generosity. I mean I could have forgiven and forgotten about it had she just shown the smallest, tiniest sign of respect or remorse. No, she prefers to pretend she is in the right. I see that as insolence. And it's not as if she doesn't have the money. There are many more needy people and children out there. I'd rather sue her, pay the big brother his fee for the lawyer and court expenses etc., and then donate that money to an orphanage. Any ideas to help me get out of this dilemma?
Then one night, I came across an excerpt from Robert Le Fevre's “A Way To Be Free”. It was as if he was answering me:
If a band of armed men with the latest devices for mass murder raid an opposing country, we wait to learn who sent them. If they are the minions of some state, we applaud their bravery. If they are acting independently of government, we call them terrorists.
But if we care to be honest, it is the nature of an act that makes it one of terror, not the name of the sponsor.
There was a time in man’s history when such actions may have been necessary and even fruitful. When man lived in a state of barbarism, governments were the barbaric answer to every problem. Kill or be killed, was the rule.
This was at a time when the best techniques for murder centered on the athlete. They benefited the man strong enough to wield a sword and skillful enough to shoot an arrow, or even a bullet. The people who risked life and limb in these contests was limited by the size of the armies of the respective combatants.
That age has passed. Our technologies have marched in the direction of peace, while our politicians continue to gird for war.
“We are the ‘good guys’!” they proclaim. “Those other guys are ‘bad’. For the triumph of ‘good’ we must kill them or they will surely kill us!”
Human gullibility. What we want is a world in which crime never appears. That is impossible to achieve as a totally free society. It will never occur. A few moments’ serious reflection should show that there would always be someone who is angry, maladjusted, emotionally upset, or sadistic. Some of those persons will, at the same time, be cunning and clever. Crimes will occur.
But we are gullible. When a politician announces that he will achieve what we want if we grant him more power, we grant him that power. He will not achieve it, because such an achievement is contrary to the reality with which we must deal.
But our gullibility, our belief in centralized power, now administers the coup de gras to our reason. If we shift the problem to the shoulders of government, then we can shift responsibility. And that is what we want. We can put the problem out of our minds. When a crime occurs, it is now the other fellows’ fault. So we authorize the government to commit crimes which, were we to do them, we would be criminals ourselves. So we change the meaning of words.
Oh I so much agree with Le Fevre! He has written exactly my thoughts. It's our gullibility to believe in a central power which can make life good for us, which can make people behave for us. But does it work? No.
Here comes the IMPORTANT part:
Like children, we want to “even the score.” We want vengeance and retaliation. We want restitution from, and punishment inflicted upon the wrong doer.
True. I want to even the score. I want vengeance and retaliation. I want restitution from, and punishment inflicted upon the wrong doer. I want all these; I'm not going to deny it.
The trouble is, naturally, who is going to take that vengeance and retaliation? Who is going to inflict the punishment?
That is the glowing ember of hate that keeps governments alive.
Well... I'm not sure, but could be... But then again, it is very human nature.
Upon thinking... Yes, right. That desire keeps governments alive. We prefer to transfer that right, or rather delegate the dirty work to a higher authority, so we can wring our hands off from this dirty work.
To achieve vengeance, retaliation, to command restitution, and to punish others demands the ability to injure human beings.
Mah! In part yes, in part no. It demands authority. Of course it depends on what you mean by vengeance, retaliation and punishment, but to me, they do not necessarily have to injure someone. I believe I punish my daughter sometimes. But I don't think I injure her. I take care not to injure her. Punishment doesn't always have to be bad. It helps you grow and develop. The problem is finding the right punishment in the right amount.
Or maybe there is no such thing as “right punishment”, maybe I am just fooling myself. But punishment of the wrong-doer is inherent in us. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe it is. We do it believing it's the best response, hoping the wrong-doer will learn and will not do the wrong again. Still, perhaps, it is us doing wrong by punishment.
My opponents at this point can be heard on every hand. “Why don’t you think he deserves to be injured? Look at what he did?”
See the above. I believe Jessika needs to be punished, needs to pay for her behavior. This doesn't necessarily imply she is injured. And besides, as she has injured me, yes, what's wrong if she is injured too? I'm sorry, I don't mind. She didn't care about me, my rights, my needs, why should I care about her?
I carry no brief in favor of the criminal. That is why I carry no brief in defense of those in government. Setting a thief to catch a thief doubles the amount of loot stolen.
Well... Not really again. Setting a thief to catch a thief just rewards one thief a bit but reshuffles the money back to your favor. Taking it from one thief, giving most of it to the rightful owner and giving a part of it to another thief who has done some work to retrieve the stolen money. It's not so bad a deal.
Or is it?
“But look at all the evil deeds that have been committed!” I am urged; “Do you want those villains to ‘get away with it?’”
My answer is: “They already got away with it or they would not be criminals.”
?? Mah! They may have gotten away with it for the time being, then, in the long run, on the final run, they won't be able to get away with it. Sorry Le Fevre, your arguments are not making so much sense at this point. You seem to miss the complete picture.
Nor am I comforted by those who say to me: “you’re right, LeFevre. And government is wrong. So we will set up private agencies of retaliation and restitution (which will be called ‘protection companies’.) Then, when we go after the criminals and force them to repay or we will imprison or kill them, we will be doing ‘good’ since people will voluntarily pay for our services. Taxation can be dispensed with.”
Well... I'm not really for private protection agencies either. I am fine with complete anarchy. But then again, yes, people will be doing that, setting up protection companies. And some will hire them. We want protection. We don't want to feel threatened with our lives constantly. We cannot live our lives, we cannot concentrate on our tasks if we have to think about our protection all the time.
Any agency that carries out the public will to commit violent acts upon other human beings – whether authorized by legal federal or by sponsors putting up the funds – is, by its actions, a form of government.
What do you mean by “violent acts”? What about the violence of others? If somebody commits a violent act on me, am I supposed to just suck it up? I mean I know, there are people who defend that. But I am not of the same opinion. Sorry again... I wish I could be so above it all.
But you are right; if that's the case, we will always have some kind of government. But again as you say, we want retribution. There is the need for revenge. How do you make that disappear out of human nature?
Government is nothing more than a group of people who sell vengeance and retribution to the inhabitants of a limited geographic area at prices made possible by force (either monopolistic or competitive) and charge by those who carry the guns.
This is true in a way. The thing is, government sells vengeance and retribution on a large scale. They designate an evil, on behalf of the people, that large group called the public (whose opinions are not, can not all be the same), and wage war, again on their behalf. That is wrong. But if somebody believes he has been harmed, I don't see anything wrong with him going to someone else, a third party to do the judge on his behalf as the wronged party. That's what I'd be doing. I'm not seeking vengeance especially. I'm seeking justice. Of course justice is a term that depends on people's conceptions. To me, it is about being fair and finding a solution to people's argument, doing the arbitrator.
So the cry continues: “Let us even the score. Then, we can have peace.”
See? That's where we diverge. I may want to even the score. But I'm not crying out saying “Let's even the score.” I am crying out saying “This woman has done wrong, did not keep her word, did not respect the contract she has signed, the society who deals with her has to be aware and has to pressure her to comply with what she has signed.” That's it.
And yes, then, I can have peace.
Let us see about, “evening the score.”
The United States was, to a large degree, wrested from the prior inhabitants by force, trickery, or both. To “even the score,” this land must be returned to its former owners.
Well, of course, all this discourse is irrelevant to my case in point.
But yes, there is a point to that. If you think about it, it needs to be returned. But to whom and by what amount and by whom? Those are unanswerable questions. The people who have perpetrated those crimes are dead. Of course then this makes it that one gets away with the loot once he dies. He, naturally, does not get away with it himself; he leaves it to the offspring who then has no obligation. In a way, this makes you the “lucky” progeny of force users.
The people who have had crimes perpetrated against are themselves dead too. Sure, they too have progeny. The question then becomes if you are responsible to these people. Are you?
Your answer defines your perspective on what is to be done. The same goes for retribution to black Americans for being made slaves. A debate that can go on forever. Many people start life at a much disadvantage. How can we narrow that gap?
I mean, of course, given that we both agree that it needs to be narrowed.
The only answer that comes to my mind is abolishing inheritance. That, if ever can be done, would change the course of the world. What would I do if I knew I couldn't leave anything to my daughter? Perhaps we don't abolish inheritance completely; but limit it to one house and a certain amount of money until a certain age. Or we establish UBI in the first place, and there won't be any need for the money either. Just a house, a place to put one's head in, a place to exist in this world. And the means for survival, a decent life.
But rules are written by the powerful. Why would the powerful change the rules in the middle of the game to their disadvantage? Of course they wouldn't. I feel entitled to what I have because it is in accordance with the rules in place. That's what laws do to you: they give you the impression that everything is fine as long as it is within the law. However, laws need to be re-thought and re-written sometimes.
The world order is all a construct of our imagination. We can change that construct. If only we had the right creative imagination.
Then of course we need to persuade the whole world that this new construct will be much better than the current one in order to change it and set up a new system. That's a most Herculean task. But Herculean tasks get accomplished. Over time, little by little, by repetition and passing on the idea. Just like water eroding huge rocks...
I do not condone what happened and I cannot deny it. But the fact is that those persons performing the trickery and imposing the force are all dead. The wrongs perpetrated cannot be made right. Many of us who live here now are the descendants of some of those persons. Many others are not. But long before the first European settlement appeared on these shores, those holding the terrain stole the same resources from each other.
I agree totally. Force has been used from time immemorial.
And is there an end in sight?
Mmh... I, regrettably, do not think so.
If we are to be fair and honest, the effort to “even the score” must go beyond returning the land. Those of us here have produced nearly everything we have from this same land. Since the land must be restored, it follows that all that has been gained through it must also be returned to the original owners.
Yes, I agree to that too.
Then again, what do we do? We have toiled too, where does all our labor go? To nothing? Perhaps the answer is to learn to share the world and its resources. But can it be done justly? Not possible. UBI (Universal Basic Income) is the closest answer. Just to make sure everybody has at least the basics.
That would mean that every non-Indian in America must be pauperized. Sure, you would not want to see the thief gain at the expense of those he has wronged?
The trouble here, is the fact that the thief has changed. It's the thief's innocent descendants who have gained. So a compromise needs to be done. After all, they are innocent. The expense of those they have wronged cannot be restituted to the specific persons but only to their descendants.
And who are those descendants? That is impossible to pinpoint. Perhaps the best thing would be to agree on a common philosophic viewpoint: Our labor apart, the world we are born on should really belong to us all.
Such a procedure is clearly absurd. We don’t know precisely who was wronged, or how much and how many have gained thereby. What is done is done, however wrongly.
Exactly what I've said before. True. But that doesn't mean we cannot still try to restitute it. It does not mean we just leave everything the way it is. You don't say “Ah, so my grandparents did bad things, but I'm reaping the benefits, I go on reaping the benefits because it's within the rules. You'd feel bad about using stolen money. Or would you?
Consider some of our more current exploits. Consider the bombs we have dropped in Europe, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. That has to be made right, too. Whatever was taken must be restored.
Unfortunately, that damage cannot be restored or undone. The people have suffered the consequences, lived their lives in agony and died. Besides, yes, some want vengeance. If they haven't been able to come to terms with what has been lived, if they haven't dealt with their history and got past it, as in Cambodia and the Pol Pot regime, something needs to be done. It's easy to talk on behalf of others and tell them they need to forget. It's not so easy when it is you yourself. If you can do it, good for you. I sincerely respect and envy you. But I don't think that gives anybody the right to expect the same from others.
It is impossible.
It is impossible. Again, in a way. If people who have been wronged would feel something has been restored and can come to terms to heal their hurt, to soothe their wounds, it is enough. It doesn't have to be total restitution, total restoration. The fact that something is impossible to do totally, should not imply that we do not try to compensate even if partially.
How about the state of Israel? It was wrested from the Palestinians with the concurrence of certain modern governments including our own. Why? The claim was that it had originally been the land of the Israeli. True enough. After they had wrested it from the Canaanites. And before that? The Canaanites were taking it from each other.
The human race, through its various governments, is facing its past and endeavoring to make the past less bloody than it has been. To do so, we must shed more blood. Our present is filled with gore and our future has become aproblematical.
The amount of human life and treasure expended on taking care of the past is destroying the present and putting the human future into eclipse. All in the name of “getting even.”
To me, as I stated above, it is all in the name of coming to terms with your past and being able to move on. So that you can move on. Unfortunately, human nature is so. Past events leave a mark on us. We need to find a way through that hurt.
Still... That sentence needs a highlight: The amount of human life and treasure expended on taking care of the past is destroying the present and putting the human future into eclipse.
Goethe was never more wise than when he said: “Let the dead past bury its dead.”
I agree with Goethe. I wish we could all just live in the present, simply live in the present. Forget the past, don't think of the future. But the past had an impact on us, the future will have an impact on us. We cannot live completely in the past, we cannot shape the future to our desire either. But we are planning creatures. We are also creatures with a sense of justice. Before the dead is buried, that sense of our justice needs to be gratified.
When I recite these facts to those who listen, many respond: “You may be right, LeFevre. Peace is better than war. As soon as I got my vengeance, my restitution, whatever is coming to me or mine, we can stop.”
:) Exactly my sentiments. As soon as I get over this Jessika thing, I'll try my best to make sure I don't get into such a thing again. I might just let people do whatever they want instead of binding them with contracts. Instead of giving me words, I'd say they just present themselves with actions. That's what I should be doing. As everybody seems to make promises and not keep them. It is an almost universal human vice.
When I sent the second notice to pay, along with a warning for evacuation, Jessika evacuated the house in a hurry. Her lawyer advised her to. Knowing that she'd have to evacuate in the end, he probably thought I'd forget about the rent if Jessika moved out. Because apparently that's what the point is for house-owners generally. They want to get rid of the problematic tenant. Sure, I wanted that too. But I also want to be respected. See, that's the word I use, and it's the correct word. Not vengeance, not restitution. Sure, it will be an enforced respect. But it will be, in the end. I will make her respect the word she gave. Through courts, through governmental force. If I can of course. She may choose to live a fugitive life. Avoiding any fiscal existence. Thing is, her being a “foreigner” makes her vulnerable. If she wants to keep on living in Turkey, she has to put in money into an account to show she has the means to take care of herself. The moment she does that, the money would be confiscated through the court order. However, she can easily opt out, choose to leave Turkey and get away with it.
I wish Jessika had talked to me instead of her lawyer, or talked to me after talking with her lawyer first. But talked to me before moving out of the house. She should have made sure I'd be willing to let her off the hook if she left the house. I'm sure her lawyer knows she owes me that rent. I'm just not sure if she knows it or if she prefers not to know it. Either way, I want the acknowledgement that I am in the right, that she owes me that money. I want to prove it to her. It's not vengeance, it's not restitution. It's a cry for respect and understanding.
On that basis, governments will never stop. Their furnaces are fired by human hatred and the lust from vengeance – the desire to “get even.” This is the human malady. It is the father of terrorism and the mother of the modern state.
Yes, I called it a vice, you call it a malady. That's fine too for me.
Ah no. You were calling the desire to get even the human malady. Well... I don't know about that. Maybe... You may be right. Maybe it is. Or, if you call it “seeking justice” instead of “getting even” it does not seem to be a malady. Just human nature.
The way you put things, makes a difference. If you call it vengeance and restitution, it sounds bad. But respecting one's word, acknowledging a right are good things, if you ask me.
War is the luxury of barbarism, a luxury that civilized life cannot afford. It comes down to you and me in a very personal way. Have you ever been wronged? I have. Indeed, if you have managed to absorb much of the foregoing, you have the story of some of the times I have experienced injury at the hands of others.
Okay but... Can civilized life afford people who break their words? Can it afford the “angry, maladjusted, emotionally upset, or sadistic” people that you stated would certainly be existing within the society? Can it afford to let them be the way they are and let them harm others? What's more, let them harm others without inducing any harm to themselves??! Does that seem fair to you? Does it seem logical even?
Perhaps it is. Perhaps one day I will give a different answer to these questions. Perhaps one day I will say “Away with the concept of fairness or logic. This is the world we live in.” But that day is not today. Today, I still hold on to those as virtues.
Perhaps one day I'll say “Forgiveness of even bad intentions is the ultimate virtue we all should possess.” Again, that day is not today.
Nopes, I cannot say “We should let people be. Whatever they be. We should let people do. Whatever they do.” Not today.
I am told constantly that the desire for vengeance is an unavoidable characteristic of our kind. It has become a characteristic, but it is not inevitable. Infants are not born with a thirst for vengeance. They learn it. Let them be taught something else.
Again... Desire for vengeance... That's the way you put it. You should say desire for justice. It is an unavoidable characteristic of our kind. And I'm not sure it has to be avoided. The only thing though, what justice is needs to be decided and agreed upon.
Now you say “Infants are not born with a thirst for vengeance.” But at the very beginning you said “Like children...” You said “Like children, we want to 'even the score.' We want vengeance and retaliation.” So decide: Are we like children who want to even the score, are the children like us and need to be taught something else or do they lack that desire of vengeance?
Children want to grab things from each others' hands. Children do not know how to share. It is us who teach them to be civil. Should we not be doing that? I wonder what they would learn if we did not interfere at all? Would they mature over time and grow those traits we value, or would they live in a state of nature as Hobbes predicted that all men do?
The answer to that question is open to anyone's guess.
How much we, as the mature, can impose any virtue is another question open for debate too.
The truth – and I have tried to tell it – is that I, too, have wronged others. I haven’t intended to. Nonetheless, it has happened.
I probably have done it too. The important thing is, I did not intend to either. And I always tried to talk and discuss and come to an agreement. Only then, only if it didn't work out, do I resort to “violence”, violence in the sense of going to court to impose a fine on the wrong-doer.
I don't believe in government, I don't believe in using force. But it seems that be it people be it big companies do not do the right thing by just your saying even though they know perfectly well what the right thing to do is. I don't have neither the time nor the desire to go find a lawyer to file a lawsuit against this cruise company for example. But if that is the only way to make them admit that it was wrong of them to charge us that fee, I will create the time as the desire to “correct” the wrongs is much stronger than any undesire. (It's just like the urge to align a tilted painting on a wall. It's automatic, it's instinctive.) I did my best, tried over and over again to avoid getting involved in a lawsuit, I always do that. But it seems it never works, it ends up being only a waste of time as in the end I need to resort to law, the higher threatening force of government. It's a shame. I really do not wish to live in this world. Unfortunately, this is the only world at my disposal at this point.
Perhaps we can define government as a body given permission the use of force and violence in order to enforce norms.
If we care to be honest, few of us can claim no wrongdoing. Presuming, of course, that we have matured enough to attend school.
True. I don't think anybody can claim that. It most probably would not be right if we did.
But I'm sorry... I still cannot bring myself to accept to let her go. Yes, it would be letting her get away with it. And I'm sorry, I didn't get away with so much, I didn't treat anybody like so shit and there has to be some sort of compensation and “justice.” Unfortunately, that you achieve through punishment and taking away one's money is a very good form of it.
You don't believe in force. Good. Neither do I.
But how do you avoid using force? Especially when you've got it, you've got the power.
Lara, my five year-old, wants to hit me. Am I going to allow her? Am I supposed to play the victim and bear her “even though tiny, can be heavy” fists?
Yes, I did that. I let her hit me. I let her hurt me. But she is a child. And I told her that she shouldn't get the lesson that she can do such things, that she can hit people and that they won't be hitting her back. Because they will. That's the nature of the world: Action, reaction.
I let my daughter hit me, okay, but she is my daughter. I'm not going to let Jessika hit my balls. Besides, my daughter does not yet know social norms and ethical behavior, she's, hopefully, going to learn. Jessika is an adult who is supposed to know about these norms and consequences.
Later on, Le Fevre says: “I break off all relations with government.” Okay, great! I would love to do that too. However, the government does not break off its relations with me. I'm still obliged to pay taxes, I'm still forced to send my child to school etc. etc.
Le Fevre says: “I will not ask for government help, guidance, advice, money, or emolument of any kind.”
Okay, this is great too. But tell me... If I did not resort to government help by sending those legal government notices, let alone getting the rent she owes me, how would I have had the tenant out of my house? How? Tell me. Besides, I'm not supposed to resort to force myself either. How do I get somebody who is not keeping her promise out of my private property? For these people believe in private property.
Whereas I, I even told the tenant I didn't really believe in property; I said that she could use the house as hers, just take care of it and give me any amount she saw the house was worth to her. I told her she didn't even have to pay the money to me, she could pay an orphanage or any other charity. That way she could see it as helping someone instead of paying her debt to me. She didn't even bother. With all my good will and intentions, I tried.
Le Fevre nicely says: “I will live up to every contractual agreement I voluntarily enter into.”
But he doesn't answer how to solve the problem when somebody does not live up to the contractual agreement they voluntarily entered into? Unfortunately, life doesn't work out so nice and neat. People are less than perfect. If not the government, who enforces norms? Or are we not to enforce any norms at all? But anarchy does not mean lack of any rules. It only means no ruler. So again, it all ends up in the question: Who is to oversee that rules are followed?
Update two weeks later: Or the other option is to let go. To accept loss. To move on. Perhaps I should be trying that next time. Or better yet not to get involved in such troubles in the first place. Avoid all conflicts if you can.: By not getting involved with people. By making every expectation clear, by not giving out anything for free, by not doing anybody any favors, by getting paid in advance. That's the way to a sane life for me.
Isolation is the answer. A voluntary exile. Retreat to one's peaceful corner. Of course if lucky enough to have one.
I do have one.