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THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist" 
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Post THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
. . . --Geo Throws Down. The Title box won't let you fill in to the length of the box. Harrumph. Harrumph harrumph.

Issue #21 of The Heinlein Journal contains "Rational Anarchy: An Analysis of the theme given by Professor Bernardo de la Paz in Robert A. Heinlein's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_" by David Wright, Sr.

In this otherwise excellent piece, I am here, with chin out and eye glinted, to dispute a paragraph.

Here it is:

"de la Paz also claims later that Thomas Jefferson was one of the first 'rational anarchists'. This claim, however, appears to be something of an exaggeration, as Jefferson was a Classical Liberal, and his political philosophy matches the definition above only in that he also believed in the 'natural reasoning' capability of the individual".

Ummm, no. No, no, no. Jefferson was a "Classical Liberal", but that is not all he was.

Let's start with an obvious, tho unspoken, corollary with Bernardo de la Paz. Both of them were willing to put their lives on the line for their beliefs. They were Revolutionaries. Bernardo had been "transported" for his beliefs (and there is no reason to think he hadn't expected worse). Jefferson had every reason to think he might have been hung for his during the American Revolution. And maybe even, under the American Republic, jailed at a later date.

Doubt that latter? Read up on the Sedition Laws of the Adams administration, and why they were instituted. They lead to the painful break between Adams and Jefferson that (thankfully) was finally repaired in the last years of their lives. In a nutshell, Adams and his party instituted them to stop pro-French Revolution agitating in the US. Who was prominently on the other side of that agitation? Jefferson.

Is there something about "Rational Anarchism" that demands that kind of willingness to that kind of personal sacrifice and commitment more so than, say, current Republocratism, or traditional "Classical Liberalism"? I would insist there is. The "personal responsibility" component of Rational Anarchism in fact requires that kind of personal commitment in a way that "Classical Liberalism" arguably does not. If the individual is personally responsible, then the individual is. . . personally responsible. Full stop.

Said another way, a willingness to pursure Revolution when the individual thinks it necessary is an inherent and inseparable part of Rational Anarchy. Jefferson's credentials on that point are impeccable.

Let's look at some of Jefferson's other statements, writing for himself rather than whatever discretion "writing for the group" in the Declaration of Independence may have imposed on him.

1). Jefferson wrote that the Tree of Liberty must be manured on occasion with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

2). Jefferson wrote that he'd rather have a country with a free press and no government than a strong government and no free press.

3). Jefferson wrote that in his opinion there was merit in the idea of "sunsetting" every law at 25 years on the grounds that the dead hand of the past should not bind the current generation.

4). Jefferson was a proponent of the idea of "Republican virtue" being seated in the beau ideal of the independant farmer (there are slavery issues here, alas, but while willing to address them if required, I'll avoid them for the moment to avoid lengthy digression).

So, in turn:

1) Is the statement of a Revolutionary. Also the statement that Robert "No Final Victories" Heinlein would resonate with quite sympathetically --it inherently recognizes that no form of government is immortal in its efficacy. It is the statement of a man who is remarkably unnostalgic and unimpressed by the claims of "tradition" on loyalty. It works or it doesn't work --a form of government works or it doesn't work anymore, and if it doesn't, get rid of it without looking back! To have such an opinion, you must be seating the idea of social responsibility somewhere else other than the form of government. That "someplace else" must be individual responsibility for the good of society.

2) It is a trueism of modern economics that efficient markets rely on efficient distribution of knowledge. In other words, you get the best price because you shop around. You invest or you don't invest, efficiently, because of how much information you have. Heck, the laws against "insider trading" are in fact a reflection of the importance of this factor --they are an attempt to say it is "no fair" for some to make money based on information denied to others.

Jefferson's idea here is exactly the same, applied to politics. Information is power. Information available to who? The individual, to whom the concept of "Rational Anarchism" relies. Without a Free Press, Rational Anarchism becomes a much harder proposition upon which to base a whole society.

3) Again, remarkable unsentimentality for tradition. And a great reliance on the individual of the current day to restudy all relevant issues and take proactive action for the good of society rather than relying on "well, them old guys were smart, they probably had the right of it".

4). The independent farmer of Jefferson's time, certainly in the Virginia he was familiar with (a somewhat different model could be pointed at in New England), was nearly an independant satrapy, close to self-sufficent. This is the ultimate in Rational Anarchy to my view, as it required and expected full understanding of. . . everything. "Specialization is for Insects" can find its pre-cursor here as well.

So, no, it is not an exaggeration to call Jefferson a "Rational Anarchist".

David, my friend. . . I await your rejoinder. :)

P.S. It occurs to me to add that I think that Heinlein was enough of a Jeffersonian to believe that if you think that Heinlein meant to exclude Jefferson from his definition of "Rational Anarchist" then at the very least you don't have a full appreciation of Heinlein's understanding of what it meant to be a Jeffersonian.

P.P.S. I can find further echoes of brutally (arguably) Jeffersonian Rational Anarchy unsentimentality ("the blood of tyrants and patriots") in Farnham's Freehold re the efficacy of having a periodic culling of the race by catastrophe.


Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:09 pm
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
georule wrote:
So, no, it is not an exaggeration to call Jefferson a "Rational Anarchist".

David, my friend. . . I await your rejoinder. :)

P.S. It occurs to me to add that I think that Heinlein was enough of a Jeffersonian to believe that if you think that Heinlein meant to exclude Jefferson from his definition of "Rational Anarchist" then at the very least you don't have a full appreciation of Heinlein's understanding of what it meant to be a Jeffersonian.


I expect that it will take a while for me to go back over my work. It's been a long time since I first wrote this. I will, hopefully, have an answer for you sometime soon.

David


Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:10 pm
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
DavidWrightSr wrote:

I expect that it will take a while for me to go back over my work. It's been a long time since I first wrote this. I will, hopefully, have an answer for you sometime soon.

David


No problem. We'll just blame Bill for laziness.

:mrgreen:

P.S. Yes, that was unsympathetic to Bill --I must have still had my Jefferson hat on there. ;)


Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:12 pm
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
I bow to no one in my sympathetic admiration of Jefferson (and in fact I found to my surprise that when faced with the places and artifacts of the US's founding, it was only the Jefferson relics that brought me to tears). Even knowing all the arguments raised up against him over the centuries - but . . .

It is very, very difficult to consider someone an "anarchist" of any stripe who used the force majeur of the state to effect the Louisiana Purchase, blockade foreign shipping, etc. Whatever Jefferson was -- "Jeffersonian" seems to do it -- anarchist he was not.

And so David's initial criticism seems to me well made.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:55 am
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
Actually, I'd say the Louisiana Purchase was *exactly* Rational Anarchy *because* it was "extra-legal". If I'd thought of it myself when writing the above, I would have added it originally.

A man made a major decision for all society and pushed it through absent any clear authority from an external source to do so. If that's not Rational Anarchy, then I'm indeed puzzled.

There is no explicit Force Majeure provision in the US Constitution. While it may be an ancient concept, and has also gained status in US law over time, the founding generation had understood themselves to have created a limited government, and it was by no means readily apparent at the time that Jefferson was acting legally. He walked out on that limb himself by his own internal compass of what was right to do.

I could agree with you that it is a damned odd place for an Anarchist to be --president of a government. Let's see, perhaps you will remind me who the first President of the Luna Free State was? Apparently there is nothing about Rational Anarchy that prohibits a practitioner from serving in such an office when necessity calls. Prof had the good luck to kick the bucket after a few months (I suspect it was a relief to him, frankly) --who knows what uncomfortable positions he would have been forced into addressing if he'd had the 8 years of Jefferson to experience them?

Btw, generally speaking, I personally wouldn't want a Rational Anarchist as president. I'm more a "Rule of Law" kinda guy myself. But of course extraordinary circumstances do arise from time to time. . .


Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:56 am
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
georule wrote:
Actually, I'd say the Louisiana Purchase was *exactly* Rational Anarchy *because* it was "extra-legal". If I'd thought of it myself when writing the above, I would have added it originally.

A man made a major decision for all society and pushed it through absent any clear authority from an external source to do so. If that's not Rational Anarchy, then I'm indeed puzzled.

There is no explicit Force Majeure provision in the US Constitution. While it may be an ancient concept, and has also gained status in US law over time, the founding generation had understood themselves to have created a limited government, and it was by no means readily apparent at the time that Jefferson was acting legally. He walked out on that limb himself by his own internal compass of what was right to do.

I could agree with you that it is a damned odd place for an Anarchist to be --president of a government. Let's see, perhaps you will remind me who the first President of the Luna Free State was? Apparently there is nothing about Rational Anarchy that prohibits a practitioner from serving in such an office when necessity calls. Prof had the good luck to kick the bucket after a few months (I suspect it was a relief to him, frankly) --who knows what uncomfortable positions he would have been forced into addressing if he'd had the 8 years of Jefferson to experience them?

Btw, generally speaking, I personally wouldn't want a Rational Anarchist as president. I'm more a "Rule of Law" kinda guy myself. But of course extraordinary circumstances do arise from time to time. . .


I have always believed that the lack of codification of powers of the U.S. President in the Constitution is one of the reasons why that office is so inherently powerful. Other than a military coup (or impeachment, which is difficult and tedious), there is little that any branch of Government can do to prevent the President from doing pretty much any damn thing he/she pleases to ignore the law or suspend civil rights. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Roosevelt ordered the indefinite internment of U.S citizens during WWII. There are dozens of examples throughout U.S. history.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:49 am
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
The power of the purse can be pretty limiting.

The reality is the Louisiana Purchase doesn't happen if Jefferson can't bring a majority of Congress along to pay for it. But that he did it on his personal authority and prestige, an authority that was really clear to no one at the time (and still argued about, btw), is clear. Many scholars would point right there for the start of the development of the kind of ill-defined presidential power you're pointing at, but you can't argue backwards from today to say that Jefferson knew he'd get away with it then.

One of the frequent complaints against the US Supreme Court, from that day to this, is that it was/is usually willing to go along with (arguably) unwarranted aggrandisement and expansion of Federal power when faced with a united front from the other two branches. Not always, but usually.

And even when it isn't initially, if pressed over time they will be worn down by death and replacement (the latter controlled by the other two branches). FDR and his congresses did pretty much win, eventually. . . .


Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:06 am
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
georule wrote:
. . . --Geo Throws Down. The Title box won't let you fill in to the length of the box. Harrumph. Harrumph harrumph.

Issue #21 of The Heinlein Journal contains "Rational Anarchy: An Analysis of the theme given by Professor Bernardo de la Paz in Robert A. Heinlein's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_" by David Wright, Sr.

In this otherwise excellent piece, I am here, with chin out and eye glinted, to dispute a paragraph.

Here it is:

"de la Paz also claims later that Thomas Jefferson was one of the first 'rational anarchists'. This claim, however, appears to be something of an exaggeration, as Jefferson was a Classical Liberal and his political philosophy matches the definition above only in that he also believed in the 'natural reasoning' capability of the individual".

Ummm, no. No, no, no. Jefferson was a "Classical Liberal", but that is not all he was.


Being a General Semanticist, I would have to agree that the term ‘Classical Liberal’ (hereinafter I use ‘CL’), doesn’t describe ‘all he[Jefferson] was’, nor does the term ‘RA’, (hereinafter I use ‘RA’), describe all of what he[Prof] was.

georule wrote:
Let's start with an obvious, tho unspoken, corollary with Bernardo de la Paz. Both of them were willing to put their lives on the line for their beliefs. They were Revolutionaries. Bernardo had been "transported" for his beliefs (and there is no reason to think he hadn't expected worse). Jefferson had every reason to think he might have been hung for his during the American Revolution. And maybe even, under the American Republic, jailed at a later date.


I agree.

georule wrote:
(snip)


georule wrote:
Is there something about "Rational Anarchism" that demands that kind of willingness to that kind of personal sacrifice and commitment more so than, say, current Republocratism, or traditional "Classical Liberalism"? I would insist there is. The "personal responsibility" component of Rational Anarchism in fact requires that kind of personal commitment in a way that "Classical Liberalism" arguably does not. If the individual is personally responsible, then the individual is. . . personally responsible. Full stop.

Said another way, a willingness to pursue Revolution when the individual thinks it necessary is an inherent and inseparable part of Rational Anarchy. Jefferson's credentials on that point are impeccable.


No. Classical Liberalism doesn’t demand that kind of individual responsibility, neither does it preclude it. So, even though Jefferson exhibited that kind of individual responsibility, it doesn’t necessarily make him an ‘RA’. He could simply be a dedicated ‘CL’.

georule wrote:
Let's look at some of Jefferson's other statements, writing for himself rather than whatever discretion "writing for the group" in the Declaration of Independence may have imposed on him.

1). Jefferson wrote that the Tree of Liberty must be manured on occasion with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

2). Jefferson wrote that he'd rather have a country with a free press and no government than a strong government and no free press.

3). Jefferson wrote that in his opinion there was merit in the idea of "sunsetting" every law at 25 years on the grounds that the dead hand of the past should not bind the current generation.


I agree with these, but again, I don’t see that ‘Classical Liberalism’ precludes these kinds of statements.

georule wrote:
4). Jefferson was a proponent of the idea of "Republican virtue" being seated in the beau ideal of the independant farmer (there are slavery issues here, alas, but while willing to address them if required, I'll avoid them for the moment to avoid lengthy digression).


I am afraid I don’t quite see the relevance to the discussion, but, truthfully, I am not sure just what it means :oops: .

georule wrote:
So, in turn:

1) Is the statement of a Revolutionary. Also the statement that Robert "No Final Victories" Heinlein would resonate with quite sympathetically --it inherently recognizes that no form of government is immortal in its efficacy. It is the statement of a man who is remarkably unnostalgic and unimpressed by the claims of "tradition" on loyalty. It works or it doesn't work --a form of government works or it doesn't work anymore, and if it doesn't, get rid of it without looking back! To have such an opinion, you must be seating the idea of social responsibility somewhere else other than the form of government. That "someplace else" must be individual responsibility for the good of society.


Now, we are coming closer to what I consider the main difference between what an ‘RA’ believes as opposed to the ‘CL’. Not all ‘RA’s are necessarily revolutionaries. True, Prof was, but under other circumstances, he wouldn’t necessarily have been. An ‘RA’ can operate under any or no government and much of what an ‘RA’ does normally doesn’t need to approach revolution, but simply disobeying those laws or principles that he disagrees with, (always with the recognition, hopefully, that the cost of doing such may be heavy.) A ‘CL’ favors government which doesn’t limit the ‘rights’ of the individual, whereas I don’t see that ‘RA’ says anything about ‘rights’. True, it was in another of Heinlein’s works, but I think that DuBois’ lecture on ‘rights’ in Troopers might be appropriate here.

I think that this is the basic differentiating point between a ‘CL’ and an ‘RA’. The ‘CL’s believed in the ‘inherent rights’ of the people and strived to form governments which gave maximum freedom to the individual to exercise those rights. ‘RA’s may wish to do that also, as Prof tried and failed, but such is not a requirement. As I said above, an ‘RA’ can operate under any or no government, but he must be willing to pay the cost of exercising the decisions that he makes.

georule wrote:
2) It is a trueism of modern economics that efficient markets rely on efficient distribution of knowledge. In other words, you get the best price because you shop around. You invest or you don't invest, efficiently, because of how much information you have. Heck, the laws against "insider trading" are in fact a reflection of the importance of this factor --they are an attempt to say it is "no fair" for some to make money based on information denied to others.

Jefferson's idea here is exactly the same, applied to politics. Information is power. Information available to who? The individual, to whom the concept of "Rational Anarchism" relies. Without a Free Press, Rational Anarchism becomes a much harder proposition upon which to base a whole society.


Nowhere is it indicated that all ‘RA’s want to base their society on their beliefs. In fact, Prof specifically grants that others may not share his beliefs, (founded on his ‘Rationalism’). And a Free Press is a sine qua non of ‘CL’ or so it seems to me.

georule wrote:
3) Again, remarkable unsentimentality for tradition. And a great reliance on the individual of the current day to restudy all relevant issues and take proactive action for the good of society rather than relying on "well, them old guys were smart, they probably had the right of it".


I believe that I have already covered this.

georule wrote:
4). The independent farmer of Jefferson's time, certainly in the Virginia he was familiar with (a somewhat different model could be pointed at in New England), was nearly an independant satrapy, close to self-sufficent. This is the ultimate in Rational Anarchy to my view, as it required and expected full understanding of. . . everything. "Specialization is for Insects" can find its pre-cursor here as well.


Yes, I can see how it might be the ultimate in ‘RA’, but it is not a necessity as I pointed out above.

georule wrote:
So, no, it is not an exaggeration to call Jefferson a "Rational Anarchist".


David, my friend. . . I await your rejoinder. :)

P.S. It occurs to me to add that I think that Heinlein was enough of a Jeffersonian to believe that if you think that Heinlein meant to exclude Jefferson from his definition of "Rational Anarchist" then at the very least you don't have a full appreciation of Heinlein's understanding of what it meant to be a Jeffersonian.


That’s very likely, but I still come to the same conclusion that it is ‘somewhat of an exaggeration’ to call him an ‘RA’ especially in the context of the specific definition by Prof.

georule wrote:
P.P.S. I can find further echoes of brutally (arguably) Jeffersonian Rational Anarchy unsentimentality ("the blood of tyrants and patriots") in Farnham's Freehold re the efficacy of having a periodic culling of the race by catastrophe.


I don’t agree that such are necessarily a part of ‘RA’, and, in fact, in light of what I have said above, they are not as likely to be a part of it.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:34 am
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
Well, I won't say I don't see the argument to be made on the other side here (tho I'll respond at more length this weekend), but given the author chose to put that contention in the mouth of the avatar of the position, I think it is at least as valid an exercise to point out at length what he might have seen to make him do so, as it is to brush him off on that point in a few sentences.

I'll re-read the piece to see if you actually clarify what you see as the differences between a CL and a RA (i.e. what would an RA do that a CL wouldn't?).

It seems to me the willingness to engage in Revolution, or other strenuous forms of civil disobedience, personally at great risk, when personally determined it is indicated, is a pretty major point in that discussion. If you don't agree, then feel free to offer an example where you think you could say "Ahha, he must be an RA because a CL wouldn't do that".

A CL may or may not, even if he thinks it is necessary to achieve the world he thinks is required. An RA *must* --that not all RA end up being Revolutionaries, if they really are RA, should only be because they don't see a Revolution as required in the given circumstance.

There are plenty of CL who think things are going to hell in a handbasket, and doing not all that much about it. A real RA does not have that option --if things are going to hell, it is *his* job, personally, to un-hell them. Edmund Burke, a CL for sure, might possibly have given the best near encapsulation of RA --"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing". See, the CL thinks that a good man *can* "do nothing" in those circumstances. The RA thinks it is *required* for the "good man" to *do something* if he wants to maintain his "good man" status as an RA.

Frankly, the thought of a densely populated world full of RA scares the bejebus out of me. Constant civil war. A sprinkling of them for "yeast" is about all a dense population could stand.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:00 pm
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Post Re: THJ 21: Jefferson denied "Rational Anarchist"
I'll roll this one along the floor for conversation. . . .

Where CL and RA have commonalities, there are still differences in emphasis.

A CL is trying to create/maintain the conditions where he and his fellow citizens can exercise their rights.

An RA is trying to create/maintain the conditions where he and his fellow citizens can fulfill their responsibilities.

That, often, the same conditions are required for both does not change the difference in emphasis.

Your average Libertarian (honorable exceptions, of course) is a heckuva lot more interested in talking you into the ground about his rights, but usually much less so about his responsibilities.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 2:14 pm
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