Association is Exit

I believe that what I have been trying to address in the last few posts with the phrase ‘group ethics’ and ‘group reason’ is related to the idea of ‘informal institutions’. We are surrounded by informal norms of behavior, which we could call informal contract. For example, when you enter a restaurant you do not sign a contract with the proprietor that you will pay for the meal after you have eaten it, but everyone understands that there is a norm of behavior which we can conceptualize as an informal contract.

Though religions have some very definite rules and order to them, they are not formalized logically into a legally legible format. They are legally informal. We see this in ‘Sharia Courts’, where an official translates Islamic belief into legalism, which can then produce a definitive decision and course of action. Similarly, Catholic leadership interprets Scripture into official positions or policy.

The ‘Separation of Church and State’ doctrine was originally formulated to keep the government from attempting to control the informal institutions of the church, whereby it would control both the formal legal framework and the informal belief system. Among the Moderns, it is often misconstrued to mean that the informal institutions of contract known as the church should have no influence on the formal legal institution (the state), but this appears to be absurd to me. Obviously, the dominant ethny within a state will have need to translate its informal institutions of contract (religious belief) into the formal legal contractual system.

This seems to be the system as it has worked in the past: the group, through thousands/millions of interactions over thousands/millions of lifetimes, formulate heuristics and dicta which are opaque yet functional, then those opaque dicta are translated into a format that is legible to the formal legal system, then the larger legal system can cooperate using the clearly formulated rules. So we see a process for fuzzy logic leading to formal logic. This is Church influencing State. I believe that this is how common law came into being. I believe it would be fair to think of common law as crowdsourced law.

Obviously, if we see the formulation of religious beliefs and opaque dicta as inter-generational risk management heuristics, as rules of behavior which have been crash-tested in the real world, then allowing the State to formulate legal rules based on a single human’s intellectual capabilities, and then forcing those rules on the group system, would circumvent the very crash-testing (debugging process) that generates those beliefs and dicta. Yet, here we are. With an elite religious organization, the Progressives, formulating laws through limited human intellects (individual intellects) then forcing those laws on the populace, completely circumventing the crowdsourcing mechanism. This is the central planning of ethics. Mises rightly found that communism cannot work because it lacks the pricing mechanism, which acts as a sort of nervous system to coordinate production, which is why central planning of an economy is impossible. There are too many interactions to calculate centrally, the calculation must be distributed into a crowdsourced multi-node computational network known as ‘the market’. Yet Libertarians seem to agree that central planning of social organization is possible, neglecting that there are simply too many interactions to account for by a central authority.

Crowdsourcing is a form of ‘group reason’. A groups norms of behavior, informal institutions, and religious beliefs are ‘group ethics’ produced by ‘group reason’, and can be viewed as crowdsourced. The failure of the Moderns’ system is in abandoning the debugging process offered by group ethics, in favor of completely theoretical individual reason transmitted from a central authority.

Perhaps, what we need is the ability to formulate the rules of group interactions. This is a very difficult fuzzy logic problem, one that must be solved, or at a minimum articulated. If we can find the rules of the group-reason/group-ethic/group-cooperation system, perhaps we can then overcome the current notion that the opaque dicta of the group are not arbitrary or ad hoc or blindly reigning traditional custom as Rothbard holds, but are instead incredibly valuable, crash-tested, crowdsourced survival tools.

Is there a single signal, similar to the pricing mechanism, which must be allowed to function freely if we wish to have a functional society? I have an intuition that this signal is association. Individuals decide whether or not to associate with one another. The society then organizes itself into functional groups. All societies are comprised of various group associations based on any number of factors: religious, economic, racial, etc. Multiculturalism, diversity, and race- and gender-based quotas are rejections of free association, they are forced integration, forced association. Free association is not voice, it is exit. It is therefore not dialectical.

Mises’ critique of central planning of the market and the price signal was devastating. Neoreaction needs a similar (simple, clear and explicit) critique of central planning of society. The importance of exit is noted in the Reactionary Consensus: the right of exit must be guaranteed. However, this seems like an aside to me. I am coming to the conclusion that exit must be a central tenet, and it must be realized that free association is exit. The resulting conclusion of the numerous *-realisms listed in the Consensus is that exit/association/dis-association must be a top priority for the efficient self-organization of any flourishing society. It is through association/dis-association that individuals move from non-functional or sub-optimal groups to functional groups. I have an intuition that it is the action of the association/dis-association mechanism through which the individuals of a group form a group consensus of norms and behavior which then become beliefs and informal contract, and is the foundation of group reason and group ethics.


5 thoughts on “Association is Exit

  1. I think that many libertarians theoretically agree with the concept of free association: but I think you are right that their theories have neglected the importance (or even existence) of the 'memetic market', thus we see Rothbard's attack on tradition/custom and positive law. He was unaware that society was organizing itself around a memetic market, similar to the economy organizing itself around a trading market. I think that we can make the argument that forced association is similar to price controls, and is just as devastating to society as price control are to trade.


  2. We can further regard these crowd sourced survival tools as a multi-generational investment we could interpret these tools as a normative commons. These commons cost both opportunity cost and biological/economic computation. Breaking these norms is immoral as long as one does not dissassociate one is committing normative, ethical, moral and cultural parasitism ( reaping benefits of crowd sourced tools without paying it back ie transmitting norms). Commons, in this case normative cultural, cannot be maintained without exit and exclusion mechanisms.


  3. Brilliant article. I believe you certainly can make the market-based argument against force association since most libertarians will presumably reject any HBD-based argument. Most, if not all, libertarians agree with freedom of association. The anarchist brand of libertarian will argue that all interactions in 'Ancapistan' would be free association, and that it cannot possibly be forced association because there is no central planning instrument in place.


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