Organization and Conflict: Free Association vs. Politics

[cross-posted at Brainpolice at The Mises Community]


Free association and competition resolves conflict while politics, especially democratic politics, enables and ultimately depends on conflict. All disagreements between people about how to organize can theoretically be resolved through free association, as they have the choice to either disassociate/secede or come to a mutual agreement (in short, to voluntarily intregrate). The result is inherently polycentric/pluralist. Free association essentially leads to increased complexity and smaller social units.In contrast, in a political atmosphere everyone within an arbitrarily and unjustly claimed and controlled territory battles eachother over which particular interest group imposes their preferantial type of organization onto everyone. The result is inherently monocentric or monopolistic. Politics essentially leads to imposed uniformity and very haphazard and blockish social units. It’s inherently a “one size fits all” approach to organization that eliminates competition, and hence all meaningful alternatives.

In an atmosphere of free association, noone may legitimately impose their preferential form of organization on anyone else, either directly (through rulership itself) or indirectly (through democracy). Instead, a diverse array of types of organization and an intricate pattern emerges precisely as a consequence of the lack of a singular imposed power monopoly. An atmosphere of free association could be thought of as being more conductive to favorable social evolution than politics because the increased complexity involved allows for more possibilities, while politics limits the possibilities and therefore creates stagnation.

There would be no reason, in an apolitical society, for there to be conflicts over matters such as what should be taught in schools, gay marriage, the ten commandments on the court house steps, who should be allowed in or out of political borders, who will build the roads, who should own the means of production, what goods and services are allowed and not allowed, and so on. For people would be free to associate and disassociate in order to each get what they prefer for themselves without anyone else being forced into it, and therefore they compete on a voluntary basis.

From the perspective of someone who accepts the principle of free association, they cannot rule anyone else and noone else can rule them. There is no need for them to institutionalize their preferances, for they can persue their preferances by associating with likeminded people, persuasion and intregrating their ideas with that of others. But in the democratic political mindset, one’s preferances must be binding upon everyone and institutionalized. From the perspective of politics, it is legitimate and necessary for there to be a monopolistic standard, and the only alternative would allegedly be complete chaos and destruction.

So long as someone consistantly accepts the principle of free association, it should become rather clear that everyone’s personal and cultural preferences do not necessarily have to lead to conflict and violence, but may instead be rendered rather neutral if not meaningless by merely taking a “live and let live” approach. Socialists, capitalists, primitivists, racists, multiculturalists, feminists, religionists, atheists and any other group among the endless slew of groups out there can all mutually win through free association without any need for coercion.

It is only when politics enters the picture that conflict is institutionalized and enabled on a large scale. Since the alternatives of free association are disincentivized in a political atmosphere, the individual has little choice but to either engage in civil disobedience or asquiesce to the political process and consequentially take a more active role in the conflict. Endless conflict takes place over who will control the reigns of institutional power and what they should impose onto everyone. Political means are inherently opposed to the voluntary or social or economic means of free association.

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