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Government: Who Needs It?
Posted: 13 January 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“cgallaga”]And to your example, what government do we know of that has eliminated or for that matter provably improved upon; rivalry, competition, violence and killing? None that I am aware of.

Er, compare states before the fall of their government with after ... After comes the mayhem, as everyone scrambles to be the next strongman.

Yes, some people want to control other people. This is neither an endorsement nor a refutation of government. The issue is whether or not we can defend ourselves from the winning strongman when he comes to rob and murder us.

Wikipedia and Linux are great ... however, there is something of a government in Wikipedia, a group of people who can lock topics, raise money, etc.

Wikipedia is nothing like a government. There is no coercion involved. We may choose not to use Wikipedia or not to donate to Wikipedia.

On the other side, has anyone had the pleasure I have of comparing moderated with unmoderated forums? The unmoderated forum is just a forum without any sort of government. They’re fine so long as you have six smart, dedicated people there. But once they grow beyond the most modest level, the results are obvious. They become unreadable. Not to mention the spam!

Yes, organization is generally preferred to disorganization. This has nothing to do with advocacy for or against violence in daily human interaction. Pacifist organizations are still “organizations”. Are there a group of people within CFI who will kick down my door, kidnap me,  and throw me into a rape room if I don’t donate for the perpetuation of this forum? If not, the implicit argument of this forum is actively anti-government. Every post made to this forum undermines the position of those who advocate violence as best means of organizing society. This is analogous to sending someone an email with the assertion that computer technology does not exit. 

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Posted: 13 January 2007 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Doug,

And the violence and killing? The point is that you used these attributes to try and refute my comment about cooperative life, but you have failed to even try to show that coerced cooperation of a government improves these things

The other stuff…the improved conditions can be found in many animals, non governmental settings and cultural periods. Primates do have a threat warning system, and many cooperative way of living. They even show care for each other.

Also many ad hoc groups of men have planed, funded and built roads, sewage, water catchments,  hospitals,  burial sites, sanitation and safety arrangements. Look at many of the “illegal” frontier towns of the US westward gold expansion, lawless and free of government in any classical sense, but still cooperative and hugely successful.

Government may be better than not, but to suggest it is better at reducing the baser human acts or better at promoting cooperation, seems a dubious line of reasoning, not well founded in historical or biological facts.

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Posted: 13 January 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]Also many ad hoc groups of men have planed, funded and built roads, sewage, water catchments,  hospitals,  burial sites, sanitation and safety arrangements. Look at many of the “illegal” frontier towns of the US westward gold expansion, lawless and free of government in any classical sense, but still cooperative and hugely successful.

Government may be better than not, but to suggest it is better at reducing the baser human acts or better at promoting cooperation, seems a dubious line of reasoning, not well founded in historical or biological facts.

I think I understand the main argument that you’re setting forth here.  Politics is the study of power at the simplest level.  Government as we know it is just one such manifestation of political influence.  Whether it’s mob rule, government, or Utopian society.  It is easy to criticize our government, I think, because it has an impossible task in front of it.  No one is going to be 100% pleased with its actions, and 100% of the people will never be pleased with any one of its actions.

All in all, our government does provide the stabilizing force to give our society the security to take risks into economic ventures.  For all of its given flaws, I believe it is far better than the lack thereof.  While smaller socialist communities might be more meaningful for the human psyche, they do not enable the way of life we’ve come to understand.  If you wish to argue that our way of life is inadequate, I could understand that criticism as well.  Within reason,  however, you have the right to drop out of society to a large degree or focus your energies where you would.  Barring that, you have the right to emmigrate to a country more suitable to your tastes.  I don’t say this to be obnoxious, but that there are countries still that don’t even afford this basest liberty (ie: N. Korea).

My $0.02.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]And the violence and killing? The point is that you used these attributes to try and refute my comment about cooperative life, but you have failed to even try to show that coerced cooperation of a government improves these things

Well, you have failed to show that they don’t. My argument was that in war-torn areas (and Pinker gives evidence about hunter gatherer societies) a person was significantly more likely to die from violence than in a state. Pinker’s evidence is from archaeologist L.H. Keeley’s book War Before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996. The relevant graph is on page 57 of Pinker’s Blank Slate.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]The other stuff…the improved conditions can be found in many animals, non governmental settings and cultural periods. Primates do have a threat warning system, and many cooperative way of living. They even show care for each other.

Sure, all social animals, including primates, cooperate amongst themselves. So do humans. So do many insects. So, indeed, do strains of bacteria, fungi and slime molds!

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Also many ad hoc groups of men have planed, funded and built roads, sewage, water catchments,  hospitals,  burial sites, sanitation and safety arrangements. Look at many of the “illegal” frontier towns of the US westward gold expansion, lawless and free of government in any classical sense, but still cooperative and hugely successful.

Er, you’re the first person I’ve ever heard describe the lawless frontier towns of the old west as “hugely successful”. They were squalid, dangerous places, that people got the hell out of when the gold ran out.

The only reason people put up with these sorts of basically inhuman conditions was in order to get fabulously wealthy.

[quote author=“cgallaga”]Government may be better than not, but to suggest it is better at reducing the baser human acts or better at promoting cooperation, seems a dubious line of reasoning, not well founded in historical or biological facts.

Sure. I didn’t suggest that government made people more cooperative—I wouldn’t even know how to gauge such a thing as “degree of cooperativeness”, and I doubt anyone else does, either. But it does allow for more effective cooperation over a larger population. A small group of people can cooperate effectively to build something limited in scope; absolutely. But you need centralized management in order to build something bigger in scale, with more workers. That’s just elementary.

All the classical arguments for government involve the fact that it is necessary as populations get larger. Nobody disagrees that government is unnecessary in sparsely populated areas, where everyone knows everyone else they are ever likely to meet.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Pinker vs truth

Doug said:

Pinker’s evidence is from archaeologist L.H. Keeley’s book War Before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996.

Pinker should read Doug Fry’s book: The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence, Oxford University Press, USA (July 28, 2005)

Indeed, I shall inquire with Dr. Fry on Keeley’s book and get back to y’all.  For the meantime…

“The classic opening scene of 2001, A Space Odyssey shows an ape-man wreaking havoc with humanity’s first invention - a bone used as a weapon to kill a rival. It’s an image that fits well with popular notions of our species as inherently violent, with the idea that humans are - and always have been - warlike by nature. But as Douglas P. Fry convincingly argues in Beyond War, the facts show that our ancient ancestors were not innately warlike - and neither are we.

“Fry points out that, for perhaps ninety-nine percent of our history, for well over a million years, humans lived in nomadic hunter-and-gatherer groups, egalitarian bands where generosity was highly valued and warfare was a rarity. Drawing on archaeology and fascinating fieldwork on hunter-gatherer bands from around the world, Fry debunks the idea that war is ancient and inevitable.

“For instance, among Aboriginal Australians - who numbered some 750,000 individuals before the arrival of Europeans, all living in hunter-gathering groups - warfare was an extreme anomaly. There was individual violence and aggression, of course, but the Aborigines had sophisticated methods of resolving disputes, controlling individual outbursts, and preventing loss of life.

“Fry shows that, far from being natural, warfare actually appeared quite recently along with changes in social organization and especially the rise of states. But Fry also points out that even today, when war seems ever present (at least on television), the vast majority of us live peaceful, nonviolent lives. We are not as warlike as it might seem, and if we can learn from our ancestors, we may be able to move beyond war to provide real justice and security for the people of the world.

“A profoundly heartening view of human nature, Beyond War offers a hopeful perspective on our species and a positive prognosis for a future without war.”

Douglas P. Fry teaches in the Faculty of Social and Caring Sciences at Abo Akademi University in Finland and is an adjunct research scientist in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. A renowned anthropologist and a leading authority on aggression, conflict, and conflict resolution, he has worked in this field for over twenty-five years and has published many articles and books on this subject.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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government

Doug said:

All the classical arguments for government involve the fact that it is necessary as populations get larger. Nobody disagrees that government is unnecessary in sparsely populated areas, where everyone knows everyone else they are ever likely to meet.


There are plenty of arguments (old and new) which say the opposite.  Recall too that anarchists are not anti all governence or institutions or basic structure or order… just against a statist form of government.

“I believe that the anthropological data sustain an anarchist theory of government ... It is one of the universal myths in our modern world, a myth propagated by the state, that particularly seeks to confuse the idea of the state with society ... A society is any group of organisms which interact socially with on another over a prolonged period and, in so doing, envince a degree of mutual dependence and reciprocity ... A society by definition has order and structure and operates with regularized, relatively fixed modes of behavioiur ... Most human societies which have existed had no government, no law and no state ... Conceptions of government and the state and the relationship between them are often confused ... The state has an apparatus of government and this is to some degree centralised ... No state would ever develop if there were no drive on the part of at least some individuals to acquire power over others and at the same time a conditioning of a great majority of the populace to submit to the power of the few ... It is a very common argument that there must be a central organization and control in a society or all will be bloodshed ... In human societies the significance of self-organization is primary and fundemental.  Acephalous, anarchic social organization is widespread ... Individuals interact with the environment and produce as a consequence unintended and ordered results.  The notion that all phenomena require a head or must be controlled by a central orginization is a subterfuge promoted by the state.” - Harold Barclay, The State (Freedom Press, 2003)

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Posted: 16 January 2007 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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more ‘in the meantime’

I said:

Indeed, I shall inquire with Dr. Fry on Keeley’s book and get back to y’all. For the mean time…

I found references to Keeley’s work in Fry’s book.

Fry critiques Keeley fairly well, as does he critique David Buss (whom David Buller also critiques in his Adapting Minds), Michael Ghuiglieri and Richard Wrangham.

On Keeley, Fry says these things (among other things):

1) Keeley relys on bogus homocide rates (re the Semai) though when corrections to earlier work - corrections available to Keeley before he wrote his book -  showed the number to be “extremely” low.

2) When talking about what some thought were “war” wounds on human skulls (which turned out to be caused by the jaws of large cats), Keeley “argues that evidence of warfare has sometimes been overlooked.  As an example, Keeley suggests that despite clear archaeological indications of warfare among the Classic Maya .. he and others largely dismissed such evidence as ‘unrepresentative, ambiguous or insignifant.’ 

“Another example (showing) Keeley’s point - At the awe-inspiring ... site called Monte Alban (Zapotec), huge stones with carved dipictions of human figures can be found amidst the temples of the central plaze. These ... portraits at first were teferred to by the festive name ‘dancers.’  However, in line with Keeley’s point, the obvious facts that many so-called dancers have closed eyes, as in death, are naked, and have had their genitals mutilated combine to suggest that these are the images of the militarily vanquihed. 

“Whereas Keeley is undoubtedly correct in his assertation that archaeoligists in some instances literally and figurativly have turned war captives into dancers, there are also many cases, and probably more numerous instances, where the reverse has occured.” 

Fry talks about these other cases throughout the book.  Keeley is trying to expose peace-thinkers’ mistakes, while ignoring the more abundent war-thinkers’.  Most of the evidence re nomadic hunter gatherers (99% of human history) shows people were NOT very violent or warlike, so contrary to conservative thinkers (Keeley, Pinker, etc), war is not natural for us.  It is a new thing.

3) “After reviewing the archaeological evidence on prehistoric homocides and warfare, Keeley reaches the conclusion ‘that homocide has been practiced since the appearence of modern humankind and that warfare is documented ... in the record (before) 10,000 years (ago).’” 

After Fry show’s how Keeley mixes and matches murder and warfare, he says, “Keeley intermingles .. axamples of individual homocides, sometimes ambiguous cases of ‘violent death,’ and perhaps even nonviolent death due to starvation and disease with the ... examples of warfare, all under the title ‘Prehistoric War.’  Obviously, this can give an impression there there is more evidence for warfare, and older evidence for warfare, and this is really the crucial point, Keeley reports no solid evidence of warfare, anywhere in the world, older than about 10,000 years before present.” 

Fry points out that only when nomadic hunter-gatherers (99% of human history) became complex (centralized) hunter-gathererss or farmers, as in chiefdoms, did we begin to see warfare, and only after the formation of the nation-state did warfare increase dramatically.  He even shows how the Jerico story of 10,000 years ago was not a war story, and that war did not begin (and grow) until about 5-6,000 years ago!  Keith Otterbein has also exposed Keeley for his exagerations.

4) Keeley (and Pinker) are also wrong about the Yanomamo.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 01:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Some of Fry’s argument appears to me to be semantics: something is called warfare if it is done by a centralized society, directed by a state or headman. It is called murder if it is done one-on-one. In that case, by definition warfare began with centralized societies.

But such an argument wouldn’t show that it is any safer to live in non-centralized societies; only that one would die of murder rather than warfare.

I don’t understand the argument about the Maya. They are universally understood to have been engaged in almost constant warfare, as were most all native american tribes, even long before european contact. To take just one other example, from HERE , Iroquois villages were:

[T]ypically surrounded by a palisade or “stockade.” The palisade was built of tall, upright posts set into the ground, with saplings, and sometimes, sheets of bark, interwoven between them. From the inside and outside, the palisade wall resembled a wicker basket. Villages might be protected by one, two, and even three encircling rows of palisades. The palisade protected the villagers from enemy attack, and kept wild animals out, as well.

There is also an archaeological investigation into the prehistoric Cow Creek Massacre . (500 people massacred in the 14th c.)

Let us also not forget that the oldest known mummy, that of the Bronze Age 榯zi the Iceman, was found to have possibly been murdered:

A CAT scan revealed that 榯zi had what appeared to be an arrowhead lodged in one shoulder when he died, matching a small tear on his coat. The arrow shaft had been removed, apparently by a companion. He also had bruises and cuts on his hands, wrists, and chest. DNA analysis revealed traces of blood from four other people on his gear: one from his knife, two from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his coat.

(From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/榯zi_the_Iceman ; it doesn’t format correctly for me to be able to embed the URL).

See also HERE .

For more data on this see Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century , and page two on Primitive War . There’s a lot of good data there.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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War and Murder et al

Doug said:

Some of Fry’s argument appears to me to be semantics: something is called warfare if it is done by a centralized society, directed by a state or headman. It is called murder if it is done one-on-one. In that case, by definition warfare began with centralized societies.

But such an argument wouldn’t show that it is any safer to live in non-centralized societies; only that one would die of murder rather than warfare.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be happier to live in a society where we’d have to find a way to stop the few who might kill the few over, say, mating or stealing… it’s a better deal than living in a society where the powers that be fight dubious wars killing very many for selfish reasons while lying to the people along the way.  There is no moral comparison between the two kinds of societies.

Here is some of why Fry said to me re Keeley in his email response:

“Keeley does NOT argue that ‘war and violence are basic
to human nature.’ I don’t find the page number in Keeley’s book, but to paraphrase him until I do: There is nothing inherently warlike about human nature or human social organization.  Sorry that I don’t find the page and exact quote now despite some skimming. Keeley, while irritating in places, is not all bad.”

Fry says also that he thinks Keeley purposely leans toward a Hobbesian take on human nature in the way he structures his book and Kieth Otterbein critiques Keeley very well on this.  Fry also thinks, however, that folks do misread some of Keeley by saying he supports the notion that humans are naturally violent or warlike.

Fry continues:
“re: Pinker relying on Keeley: strange because Keeley is very anti
sociobiology, see his section beginning on page 157 called ‘The
Irrelevance of Biology.’  It would be interesting to press Doug for exactly why he thinks Pinker relies on Keeley—simply that war is “old”? 

“Keeley is also very pro-Xingu peace system as described by Gregor
(which I cover also in chapter 2 of HPP).

“(I found the Keeley quote), ‘As these examples and the case of the Polar Eskimo establish, the idea that violent conflicts between groups is an inevitable consequence of being human or of social life itself is simply wrong.’

“However, he does continue: ‘Still, the overwhelming majority of known
societies have made war. Therefore, while it is not inevitable, war is
universally common and usual.’ (p. 32)

“In any case, if Pinker really does rely on Keeley to argue what Doug S.
says Pinker argues, then Pinker has not fully understood Keeley, as
I’ve just quoted.

“Comments:

“1) Wright’s study reviewed in my book finds the majority of
socities to be nonwarring or unwarlike. It seems to me that obtaining
a “majority” is going to depend on whether one includes feud in one’s
definition of war or not, and more generally how one defines war.
Granted, many societies make war. But is Keeley exaggerating when he
says “overwhelming majority”? 

“2) I note with amusement the phrasing: “war is universally common and usual.” Seems to be he is eager to get the “universal” idea in there, even while acknowledging that there are exceptions (and it is not really universal). See the parallel to his exaggeration of the oldest evidence for war by including homicides, etc, as discussed in HPP, and then having to admit that clear evidence of war is not older than about 10,000 BP.” - Doug Fry

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Posted: 17 January 2007 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Barry, I never claimed that humans were inherently warlike (whatever that might mean), or that war was “inevitable”. These are classic straw-man arguments. As to the question,

It would be interesting to press Doug for exactly why he thinks Pinker relies on Keeley—simply that war is “old”?

Pinker is responding to the sort of stuff you mentioned before on this site, e.g., that pre-state societies were basically pacifistic, and that our “Hobbesian” nature (what is this exactly?) only comes from government or state meddling. As you know, this romanticized view comes from people like Jean Jacques Rousseau (who had no knowledge of anthropology), and has been extremely influential. That is the view that Pinker is concerned to refute.

The sort of romanticized view of primitive societies described by Rousseau and others comes straight from Genesis: a prelapsarian edenic utopia, followed by a “fall” that involves the gaining of knowledge and sophistication. With sophistication comes sin. It is, illicitly, a biblically constructed historical narrative.

However the overwhelming evidence is that violence and nastiness is a part of our history from the very beginning.

And just so this doesn’t get taken out of context, I am not claiming that humans are “naturally violent” as versus “naturally altruistic”. Indeed, they have both tendencies, and these are evinced in different circumstances. But “violence” has nothing essentially to do with government, state or sophisticated governmental organizations. It exists in all levels and sorts of human society.

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Posted: 19 January 2007 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Cow Creek and Otzi

Doug said:

There is also an archaeological investigation into the prehistoric Cow Creek Massacre. (500 people massacred in the 14th c.)

Let us also not forget that the oldest known mummy, that of the Bronze Age 榯zi the Iceman, was found to have possibly been murdered

Fry says:

“Both these examples, of course, miss the point, if the point is argue
that they show warfare to have been very ancient. Neither case shows warfare before the 10,000 year mark.

“Furthermore, the ice man is a single victim, a 5,000 year old homicide
case. Listing the ice man parallels Keeley’s citing of HOMICIDES and other ancient deaths under the heading “Prehistoric WARFARE.” Keith Otterbein and Raymond Kelly preceed me in calling Keeley to account for this exaggeration of so-called prehistoric warfare.

I guess Doug Smith hasn’t actually looked the “revenge homicide—feuding—warfare” model of lethal aggression that I present in “The Human Potential for Peace.” Saying my argument is “semantics” is a facile dismissal that side-steps any serious discussion of the model and the data.”

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Posted: 19 January 2007 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Let’s say that our ancestors (how far can we go?) were not “warlike by nature”. Does this necessarily proof we couldn’t have “evolved” into more violent individuals more recently? Maybe we were more violent at some point in our past, after which we might have “calmed down” for a few million years. If atavism can affect the rest of our body, why not also our brain, and our behaviour along with it? Let’s not forget that through the process of evolution we are not getting “better”. We are only trying to adapt to our present needs.

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Posted: 20 January 2007 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Does Fry then believe that the people involved in the Cow Creek massacre were a state-level society? Or is he just concerned with dates? And what about the Iroquois? Or the other examples and arguments I have cited?

He knows as well as I that the amount of evidence of any sort about the ways humans died is very sketchy before the last 10,000 years. To that extent, it seems to me the best epistemic course of action is to reserve judgment. But at any rate we do have good evidence that violent death was far from unknown in pre-state societies, and perhaps was even more common than today.

I repeat my claim that the distinction between warfare and murder is semantics when it comes down to the issue of whether or not one would want to live in such a society. Violent death is violent death, equally undesirable under whatever description.

But just to be clear, I am sure there are anthropologically interesting differences between these phenomena, and that they are deserving of study. It simply appears we are talking past one another. I am interested in the simple phenomenon of violent death, and claim that inhabitants in pre-modern, pre-state societies were at least as likely to die from violence as inhabitants in modern societies are.

And then there is the issue of average lifespan, which has demonstrably increased in modern state-level societies (indeed, in the 19th and 20th centuries, due to the advances of modern science) over any pre-modern society.

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Posted: 20 January 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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just two things…

Does Fry then believe that the people involved in the Cow Creek massacre were a state-level society? Or is he just concerned with dates? And what about the Iroquois? Or the other examples and arguments I have cited?


Fry did not say “pre-state.”  It is my (and others, maybe Doug’s) thought that the state is the best case for war-mongering (see anthropologist Harold Barclay’s work), but Doug is talking about ANY centralized power (as in chiefdoms and other NON-namadic hunter-gatherers.)

I repeat my claim that the distinction between warfare and murder is semantics when it comes down to the issue of whether or not one would want to live in such a society. Violent death is violent death, equally undesirable under whatever description.

I’d rather live in an egalitarian anarchist world than in a state.

I will pass your comments on to Fry.

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Posted: 21 January 2007 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Re: just two things…

[quote author=“Barry”]I’d rather live in an egalitarian anarchist world than in a state.

Where exactly are these “egalitarian anarchist” societies, then?

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