In the following passages, I will try to provide a novel understanding of the theories of law, social order, and their emergence in society, particularly in a stateless order. So far, those that were fighting for freedom were led astray, due to the faulty basis on which their political philosophy was placed upon. I hope that my writings will provide the liberty movement and all those concerned with the degeneration and decay of our society the tools they need to reestablish a natural order based on individual freedom and responsibility.
Law and order as independent realities in society
I wish to bring attention to a distinction that is often overlooked in political philosophy, namely the distinction between law on the one hand, and social order on the other. Law is usually seen as a set of commands imposed upon the population. That, however, is not what the nature of law is. Law exists even where no one is in a position to impose from above. There is international law, law merchant (law between merchants in different states, now relevant in international trade between corporations), the law of war, etc. In praxeological terms, law is a set of rules people follow in order to minimize conflict with others. It exists between all people in all situations, beyond the scope of legislation. Law is simply a “rule” of interaction people adopt to “get along,” that is, to minimize conflict and to increase certainty, that in turn allows for accumulation of instruments that aid mankind in its quest for dominion over nature.
As law is functional, it adapts to any state of affairs the subject finds itself in. Law, in the praxeological sense, exists between pirates and bandits, and even in the most primitive of societies. In societies where trust is low, law reflects that reality. Harsh punishments for seemingly small infractions can be explained as that effort to increase certainty. It is often said that war has laws of its own. That is due to the fact that wars can be situations of great uncertainty, where decisions need to be made in seconds, and failure to impose harsh punishment on the foe can prove catastrophic. A rancher that puts up a sign “trespassers will be shot” will be more likely to fulfill that promise if he has cause to expect danger form potential trespassers, either towards his property or toward his loved ones. If a head of household has heard of a serial killer in the neighborhood, he will be more likely to shoot any intruder in his house.
In this case, law can be thought of as a “technology,” which is developed in the course of time, and adopted by people to serve their needs. Does this mean that all social progress and retrogression is a reflection of a development and loss of legal knowledge? Consider the case of shipwrecked men on a desert island, one which is incapable of sustaining them. Imagine how law changes in the course of time, from law adapted to civilized conditions, to law adapted to primitive savagery. Consider how boundaries become progressively important, how the smallest insults become a cause for deadly combat, how taboos are ignored when survival is at stake. This is not a result of a somatic, psycho-physiological change. This is a result of a rational adaptation to a new reality. The point is that what has caused this degradation of the shipwrecked society is not a loss of legal knowledge, but a change in, underlying conditions that disrupted the social order.
The underlying reality which allows for social order is the reality that the division of labor creates benefits for all that engage in it. In situations where that is not the case, social order cannot be sustained. Where conditions are such that a gain of one is a loss of another, where there is no utility in cooperation, social relations will be abandoned altogether. The fact that that is usually not the case allows for the development of an ever more complex and sophisticated social order. Society is a product of individual will, and when individuals have no interest in association, the society ceases to exist.
Social order itself is that complex of relationships, both hierarchical and non-hierarchical, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, both consensual and non-consensual, that make civilized life possible. It’s a multilevel system of alliances and treaties that is based fundamentally in trusting that each actor can fulfill his commitment. The function of the social order is the protection of life and property. In other words, social order is produced to allow for those conditions that increase certainty across ever-greater spans of time and space to make civilized life possible. Politics is what we can call the practice of acting upon that social order, by maintaining and disrupting, constituting and reconstituting it. Social order can and does benefit from advances in the legal sciences, but it is not determined by them. Its development is influenced by underlying conditions (the benefits of division of labor, the nature of the actors themselves, the demographics of a society etc), the advances in the legal system.
A more contemporary example of the unique character of social order is that of the right of civilians to carry weapons. While the fact of civilian ownership of guns may have no effect on the legal system in general, it will have a critical influence on social order, both with regard to communities versus the state, and of lawful individuals versus criminals. An armed, responsible population will be able to enjoy greater security, as well as protect against tyranny.
One must also not overlook the role ideas play in influencing the social order. A society in which conflictual, or “critical” ideas dominate (those associated with the Marxist Frankfurt school), ideas which see the status and authority of competent men suspect, if not wholly illegitimate, will tend to legitimize and promote alliances “marginalized individuals” make to further their position, while discouraging similar alliances between those of naturally high status. The social order thus created will be skewed towards those “marginalized individuals,” giving them power they would otherwise not have, since organization is a key in dominating the social order. The same goes for a society wherein “democratic” or egalitarian ideas dominate. For hundreds of years politics was deemed to be a prerogative of aristocracy, of those that are most invested in the system and most knowledgeable. That was the position of the liberal Whig Party in Great Britain, even at the time of the French Revolution. That was the position of the French revolutionaries themselves! All those that wish to change the social order need first invent an alternative, and try to legitimize it. Ultimately, what matters is what creates the best outcomes for all, and that can only be a system which allows for the development of social order.
A developed social order is one where there are rules of the game which maximize certainty in social relations (i.e. order as opposed to chaos) and are respected by all the key players, and in which the key players can impose these rules across the system. Good rules are partially a reflection of the legal development, and partially a reflection of the ability of the actors to enforce them. That ability is the essence of the “social order.”
It is critical to differentiate between law and social order to understand radical political action. A mere understanding of what “good law” is is not enough. “Good laws” are, as stated previously, not only a reflection of a proper understanding of legal and political philosophy, but also of the level of trust within a society and of relationships between actors, namely of social order. A strategy that would seek to change the laws without taking the reality of social order into account would fail miserably. This is the case with most “anarcho-capitalist” strategies for achieving a stateless order.
Evolutionary understanding of law and order and the crucial contributions of Ludwig von Mises
In Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises explains how money (a medium of exchange) emerges in an economy. Building on the work of Carl Menger, he offers a definitive proof that money can only emerge as a “market phenomena,” or as a result of actions taken by individuals on their own behalf and for their own benefit. Individuals that discover that a good has good qualities a money should have (durability, divisibility, scarcity, etc.) will be more ready to accept it in any barter transaction. That will make the good more “fungible” (easier to exchange for something else). Another individual might discover that the same good is now more fungible, and be more prepared to accept it in a transaction. That will make the good even more fungible. The logical result of this process is the emergence of a true money, a good which is on one end of almost every exchange in a society.
There is no other way in which money could have emerged. If it would be implemented, it had to be beneficial to all those that would use it. No fiat could ever have made people assign arbitrary value to pieces of paper. What value these pieces of paper now have is a result of inertia, and of their connection with real commodity money (in our case, gold and silver).
So far, this analysis is consistent with the classical evolutionary approach to social relations. We know that the theories on a “social contract,” as well as those of a single central will are inadequate. The conquest theories fail to explain how the conquerors formed a society between themselves. We know now that law and social order must have emerged in the same way money has, recognition of individual actors that it is beneficial to them, and not as a result of a decree, or a fiat.
The first unique contribution of Mises is the explanation of where fiat money gets its value once it is severed from gold. Mises argues that the value of fiat money can be traced back, through a series of regression, to when it was backed by gold. This “regression theorem” provides the key to understanding why law and order still function once they are monopolized by the state, and once they are no longer derived from relationships between individual actors. The legal system of a state owes its authority and prestige to the fact it is linked, through a series of regressions, to natural, stateless law. The more it deviates from the natural law, the less prestige it has, and the more chaos and lawlessness proliferates.
If that is so, is it enough that we discover what the natural law is, and have the state implement it? This brings us to the second crucial contribution of Mises. In Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, he explains what is known as the “calculation problem.” Socialism abolishes the market for producer goods. Where there is no market for goods, there can be no prices. Where there are no prices, there can be no calculation. There is no way to calculate cost, and, therefore, no way to economize. This means that a socialist system would be completely irrational. To fail to understand this argument is to fail to realize the immense complexity of society. There is no way to understand what a conflict-minimizing legal system would look like, short of letting it play out. And it cannot play out under a state, which is a monopolist on legal and political matters.
A happy circumstance, so far, has been the fact that there are many states, all with their own peculiar political and legal systems. Like international currencies, once one of these legal systems steps too far out of line it is punished, in the case of bad legal systems, by capital and human flight. States that more closely resemble the natural order of things become richer, more powerful and more influential, and thus the ideas and mores popular among their population tend to spread to other states. There is also the more direct fact of conquest and colonization, which can, in certain circumstances, promote natural order. Yet, if the order between the states is damaged to the extent that the states start assembling into empires, with the final end in a world empire, the last mechanism that imposes natural discipline on the system is lost. Even now we are witnessing an empire which tries to impose its ideal form of government, only to turn everything it touches to waste. As the world socialist state would collapse from the chaos it generates in material production, so would a world empire, from the chaos it produces in legal and political affairs. The lack of discipline imposed by nature allows for a proliferation of all sorts of degenerate practices, which are a sure sign of an approaching collapse of civilization. There is reason to believe that even the most radical libertarian program is not sufficient to establish a natural order in society strong enough to prevent the decline. It seems that ethnic and especially religious ties play a crucial role in the natural order, although the particular mechanism is not well understood. That is why it is not enough for liberty-minded people to advocate for libertarian principles, or a libertarian constitution. They must necessarily advocate for decentralization, secession and individual independence, a fact that was recognized by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, as a realistic, right-wing libertarian.
Natural law and natural order
The term “natural” signifies, at the same time, that which is, and that which ought to be. Especially, that which is stable, sustainable and which produces good results. In political philosophy, the term “natural” is associated with that which emerges form free, undirected individual interaction, as opposed to central direction or planning. The natural, stateless order is opposed to the arbitrary order of the state monopoly. The natural law is opposed to the artificial, “man-made” legislated law.
Most of the liberty-minded thinkers understand the importance of the natural law. Few understand that natural law can only give desirable outcomes where there is a strong capacity for a developed natural order. Hopefully, all reasonable people recognize that, in certain locations, the abolition of the state would almost immediately lead to chaos. Hopefully, all recognize that without a robust natural order it is impossible that a stateless society would defend itself from a state actor. The importance of decentralization for the creation and maintenance of natural order has already been mentioned. Yet, there are also challenges.
Consider this example. Most liberty-minded people, and many of those concerned with the decay of natural order, would consider a state of affairs in which there are many smaller, sovereign states that better reflect the culture and the will of its inhabitants, rather than one national, imperial or supranational state. That is the strategy advocated by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and other realistic right-wing libertarians. Yet, to advocate for secession is often to risk foreign conquest. If a number of smaller states were able to repel an attacker as efficiently as one large state, there needs to be an understanding between them that they will come to each others’ aid. In other words, there would need to be a developed natural order between these states, that would be based upon trust. Any secessionist movement must consider the question of natural order! And especially that movement which fights, ultimately, for the secession of individuals from monopolistic government. To ignore that question is to relegate the liberty movement to obscurity.
It is clear that we have relied on two faulty premises, which endanger the basis of the liberty movement itself. First, is that the state is able to mimic natural law. The second is that a successful secession is always a desirable outcome. In light of these facts, a study of natural law should be the first priority of all liberty-minded people.
This is the primary question Ordonaturalism (from Latin “ordo naturae,” natural order) seeks to answer. That is, how we can (re-)create the natural order among ourselves, in our own communities, so that we can challenge the artificial, destructive order of the state, and, in time, to make it obsolete. There are steps each of us can take. You can start organizing within your community today. Ultimately, your freedom is your responsibility.
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