Posted: August 22nd, 2011 by Militant Libertarian
I’d like to consider some objections to my 3600-word tome on how to bootstrap a resilient mutual aid society. Let me know what you think.
Objections to the Membership Model Critique
Here are some objections to my critique of the membership mutual aid society model.
The company’s money could be stored offshore in Pecunix, c-gold, or GoldMoney.
Whatever you might think of those services, it’s still not as resilient as having each mutual aid society (MAS) member keep their own funds. Just because it’s offshore doesn’t mean it is bulletproof. States can seize or freeze, crackers can compromise, you name it. The most resilient solution is for the funds and the accompanying responsibility to remain with each member. That way, if one person’s funds are compromised, it doesn’t impact the whole community.
Seizure of precious metals is a fantasy threat and requires presidential order.
Tell that to the Liberty Dollar. Tell that to a friend of mine who had tens of thousands of dollars in precious metals stolen from him.
Earlier membership mutual aid societies’ opposition to anarchists is irrelevant.
According to David Beito, they also required an unbending respect for the law. 19th and early 20th century MASes did not appear to insure their members against police state criminal charges. This is a unique situation and a unique community.
People don’t lose control of their money because they can choose to buy a membership or not.
Compared to having your own funds and being able to decide to donate $10 to X, $0 to Y and $50 to Z, this can hardly be called having direct control of one’s own money.
Effective legal counsel can solve all or most of the serious problems.
I guess if you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on lawyers, you might be right. But why go to all that unnecessary expense?
All Fortune 50 companies and hedge funds use encryption, so it can be trusted.
Fortune 50 companies and hedge funds are a part of the government sphere. We, on the other hand, are a threat to the government sphere. These organizations already open their books to government. Presumably, a reputable MAS will not want to have the same open books policy.
By holding data on offshore servers, you can avoid the possibility of client lists being seized.
Who has access to such servers? Can they be compromised by government agents? Of course. You could locate the lists on the moon, but as long as someone can access it, that someone can be compromised. Back to square one.
Anybody can be hurt, kidnapped, tortured or murdered at any time, so we might as well not factor state actions into the calculus.
If you can design a more robust model, why not?
It is possible to win a lot of money suing the state. The ACLU and SLPC have done it.
According to Wikipedia, “in 2004, the ACLU and its affiliate, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation reported revenues totaling $85,559,887. Of that total, 87% was from donations and dues from the public, 1.8% from program services, including awards of legal fees, royalty income, and literature sales, and the remainder from investment income and income from sale of assets.”
Without having done much research at all, the SPLC seems to fund its litigation via fundraising and its sizable endowment.
Another example, the Thomas More law center derived 4.8% of its funding from court-awarded legal fees in 2005, according to Wikipedia.
I also found this on Wikipedia: “to the nature of its legal work, the ACLU is often involved in litigation against governmental bodies, which are generally protected from adverse monetary judgments: a town, state or federal agency may be required to change its laws or behave differently, but not to pay monetary damages except by an explicit statutory waiver.
Bottom line: These organizations are not raking in the dough from judgments against the government or its agents.
The state doesn’t actually have an infinite capacity to hurt people.
It has an infinite capacity to hurt any given person that is in its clutches because it can ruin you financially and make you lose your job. In other words, in can take whatever you have away from you. It can zero you out in short order. That’s what I mean by “infinite”.
Insurance on expensive things doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, insurance on a rental car isn’t more than a few dollars per day.
The basic insurance on rental cars appears to be cheap because you only pay for it for a short time. But the insurance for damage that might happen to the car while in your care is expensive. That’s why so many people decline it.
The membership model can work because rich people can be counted on to make donations that will make up the difference.
This objection is an admission that the membership model is financially unsustainable and requires ongoing charity in order to function.
Commission sales are fine because in order for there to be more customers to gain commissions on, there must be good worth of mouth.
This is a reasonable point. But if you can make the incentive to do the right thing stronger and more direct, it’s better.
The Objections: Resilient Model
Here are some objections to my proposed resilient mutual aid society model.
This model derides all uses of trade and commerce.
Quite to the contrary, this model refuses to restrict the normal trade and commerce among individuals. Compare this to the membership model which gives participants only the binary choice of whether to buy a membership or not.
No one profits from this arrangement.
Quite to the contrary, the members profit by engaging in market trading. Also, there is the potential for many for-pay services to grow up around the P2P foundation.
“Mutual aid doesn’t require money” is false.
It is true. In order to be mutual aid, it doesn’t have to involve the use of money. The use of money is optional. When I say, “Mutual aid doesn’t require money,” I mean that it is possible to engage in mutual aid without using money. Hope that makes sense.
This model is reactive, not pro-active. And, $30,000 to bail out Schaeffer Cox can’t be raised in a heartbeat using this system.
I think a hawala system could be used to overcome the fundraising delay. That said, this is a legitimate criticism. It’s a point to work on. At the same time, I would rather have a resilient system than one that has $30,000 of people’s precious funds exposed to the risks already discussed.
Money is necessary to get people out of jail and to defend someone from criminal charges. It’s ridiculous to pursue a money-less solution.
The resilient model is not a money-less solution. It simply encourages people to keep their own money and to use it in only the ways they precisely want to.
Trust, or social capital, can be replaced by money and contracts.
Contracts have ways out. Social capital, if not honored, can result in a black mark on one’s reputation. Social capital is the more effective motivation.
This model isn’t robust enough to handle the millions of people being victimized by the state.
It absolutely is – if they start forming relationships, investing in each other and are willing to pay it forward. If not, then nothing is robust enough.
This model fails for people who aren’t part of the liberty community already.
Not true. Anyone can pick up this model and start plugging people, or communities, into it.
Social capital is socialist, communist and collectivist.
Social capital is just another form of asset. If you think socialists, communists and collectivists want assets to be held in common by one central authority, then the resilient model is the opposite of that. The resilient model suggests that all assets be held by their rightful owners.
The problem with egalitarian systems is that those who cannot get involved don’t actually get to be equals.
This is not a problem unique to egalitarian (or P2P) systems. If you can’t get involved in something, it doesn’t matter of what kind of system it uses.
The resilient model can not benefit from endowments, collection of assets, etc.
Actually it can. Nothing precludes individual members from growing their wealth, banding together to grow it and/or then sharing that extra wealth with people who submit mutual aid requests.
This model implies that anyone currently not in the liberty community should be excluded.
This is incorrect. The resilient model does not exclude any one per se.
When PayPal and Western Union are used to transfer funds in a moment of crisis, the fees are exorbitant. You can transfer money more cheaply and more quickly using the white market banking system.
This is a reasonable criticism. Of course, to collect any payments online costs 2-5%. Wire transfers cost money or checks take several days to clear. Moving money is rarely free. Champions can mitigate these costs in a few ways:
- by having PayPal debit cards. All funds sent through a chipin can immediately be withdrawn via the card at an ATM near you.
- by using a form of hawala that might not even exist yet. Hawala is an ancient form of sending money that transfers funds from one place to another in minutes.
- by using Bitcoin. A local person who trades in or will just make a one-off purchase of Bitcoin for FRNs will be required.
This model excludes the possibility of working with the white market banking system.
Actually, the model itself doesn’t specify any specific form of payment handling. Just that champions will decide how to handle an individual aid recipient’s affairs if they are not available. In other words, the market decides in this model.
Use of chipins, Paypal and Western Union can also be blocked, just as a big organization’s funds can be seized.
While true, since we are many, if one member is blocked, it doesn’t threaten the entire network.
Traffic analysis can defeat any anonymity gained from using anonymous or throwaway email addresses in the resilient model.
This is a reasonable criticism. As mentioned in the original article, there is market opening for someone to work on this problem. A combination of existing technologies will likely provide very good anonymity for those who seek it.
In the resilient model, no one is paid to champion someone else or tell their story.
This is not necessarily true. The champion’s compensation is between the champion and the person seeking aid.
Champions in the resilient model may not be reliable.
Any market player may not be reliable, but that’s what having a market is about: enabling other market players to displace any unreliable ones. It is simply not a problem.
The master MAS mailing list is a single point of failure and could disappear overnight if the owner stopped paying for it.
This is why I suggest in the original article that there be multiple master MAS mailing lists. Of course, it is in the interests of the MASes to see this doesn’t happen, so the lists might be joint ventures among multiple MASes.
Requests for mutual aid in the resilient model are only filled after group discussion and approval.
This is completely false. Requests are filled at the discretion of individual members. There is no discussion or approval phase, unless individual members decide to engage in such before making their own individual decisions.
Unpopular people won’t receive aid and peer pressure will conspire to thwart individual freedom.
Last I checked, there is no individual freedom (or right?) to receive mutual aid from your peers. This is easily fixed through market action. If it happens, the dissenters simply form their own MAS.
Social capital can be erased by murdering people.
An interesting point, but if people are getting murdered left on right, we’re beyond mutual aid!
There will not be enough champions or funds to handle all the cases.
This is a pure market function. If the market doesn’t champion or fund something, then that might just be the best decision.
The resilient model can only help a few.
Not by design. It all depends on what the individuals are willing to do. The model has no limits.
George is a communist.
If you have any additional objections, I would love to hear them in the comments.