Boundaries of Order

Boundaries of Order

Private Property as a Social System

By:

Butler D. Shaffer

Book Club members' rating

Click any button below to buy or to see prices and Amazon reviews:

Book club members only: click here to join the discussion!


Log in to add to wishlist, library or to rate the book

Summary

Private Property as a Social System

Every once in a while, a treatise on libertarian philosophy appears that presages a new way of thinking about politics and economics. Mises's Liberalism, Rothbard's Ethics of Liberty, and Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed come to mind.

Boundaries of Order by Butler Shaffer is in that tradition, scholarly yet passionate, providing a completely fresh look at a marvelous intellectual apparatus by a mature intellectual who has been writing on law, economics, and history for four decades. It is the treatise on liberty and property for the digital age, one written in the Rothbardian/Hayekian tradition with a consistently anti-state message but with a unique perspective on how the great struggle between state and society is playing itself out in our times.

Its added value is a vision of the completely free society that is idealistic, practical, and thoroughly optimistic. In a throughly-composed work that builds up from foundations all the way through to an inspiring conclusion, he presents a vivid portrait of how human cooperation within a framework of liberty and private property yields results that produce human betterment in every conceivable way. Just as powerfully, however, he shows that right now, even amidst an epoch of despotic state control, we owe all that we love in the course of our daily lives to the institution of liberty.

What's striking is how this is not a book that merely bemoans a bygone era. In fact, Shaffer's view is that the state itself represents a bygone era, ruling with dated ideas over a world that no longer exists. Reality is at once hyper-localized and hyper-internationalized with the two ends of the spectrum connected through digital communication and infinitely complex forms of ownership that never stop yielding unpredictable change.

The nation-state as we know it is constructed to deal with static institutions that are largely mythical, that are not part of our daily lives, and to that extent the state has become an artificial structure governing an artificial reality but with very tangible costs.

What Shaffer argues is that we are living in a world of glorious upheaval, managed in an orderly way by virtue of individual volition and property ownership. The state is not part of this path of progress and only works to impede it temporarily and at terrible cost. Meanwhile, the political is ever less relevant for people in the course of their daily lives. It does not help us accomplish the ends we seek to achieve. In this way, he strengthens the case against the state, and intensifies it in our times: the sheer complexity of the social order stands to utterly defy any attempts to control it.

The life of a society is found in the relations between its individuals and their property-based associations. But property always has a social end, he argues. Our lives are bound up with each other within the division of labor, while our individual interests are unavoidably intertwined. If we are to live as free individuals, we must cooperate with others in voluntary association.

He further discusses the albatross of collectivism and its grave consequences, but he understands the collective in a different way. He views it as a pyramidal model that is forced to fit on a diffuse and changing social order; it relies most fundamentally on violence but cannot achieve any socially useful end. The analysis applies not only to socialism but to all models of top-down management, even that which relies on the myth of limited government.

The state, in contrast, is always working to strangle this life. If a society is to change and thrive, it cannot and will not tolerate the state. The state has no creative purpose, only a destructive one. The great accomplishment of Shaffer here is to crystallize existing knowledge about how society works in real life and to cut through the propaganda on the state to show how the state everywhere operates as an enemy of society.

The book is at once deeply radical and penetratingly optimistic about the future. He helps us to imagine that the withering away of the state will not bring cataclysm but simply more of what we love and what we find useful and less of what we do not love and what we do not find useful. One comes away from this work with an intense awareness of the great dividing line—too often made invisible by disinformation—that separates power relations from social relations.

Here are some excerpts.

"Men and women are discovering in informal and voluntary forms of association, more effective means of bringing about social changes than those that rely on sluggish, corrupt, and coercive political machinations. While members of the political establishment chastise, as 'apathetic,' those who withdraw from state-centered undertakings, the reality is that increasing numbers of men and women are redirecting their energies, with an enhanced enthusiasm, to pursuits over which they have greater personal control. This redistribution of authority is both liberating and empowering, a continuing process that is generating interest—in exponential terms – in less formal systems of social behavior."

"Many people are increasingly identifying themselves with and organizing their lives around various abstractions that transcend nation-state boundaries. Religion, ethnicity, culture, lifestyles, race—even membership in urban gangs—are some of the categories by which people identify themselves other than by nationality. The Internet is helping to dissolve political boundaries in favor of economic, philosophical, entertainment, political, lifestyle, and other criteria by which individuals create cyber-communities with like-minded persons throughout the world. “Societies” are beginning to be thought of less and less in purely geographical terms, and are increasingly being defined in terms of shared subdivisions of interests that do not necessarily correlate with place. Effective decision-making is becoming more personal, with authority moving outward, away from erstwhile centers of power."

"As social beings, it is natural for us to freely associate with one another for our mutual benefit. The institutional forms that have contributed so much to the disorder in the world are those that have elevated their organizational purposes above the interests of individuals or informal groups. In so doing, they have become institutions, the most prominent of which is the state, with its coercive bureaucratic agencies, followed by large business corporations that align themselves more with state power than with the unstructured marketplace."

"The political establishment no longer enjoys the confidence that earlier generations placed in its hands. Its response has been to increase police powers and surveillance; expand penitentiaries and prison sentences; build more weapons of mass destruction; and create new lists of enemies against whom to conduct endless wars. The state has become destructive of the foundations of life, particularly of the social systems and practices that sustain life. Were its attributes found within an individual, it would be aptly described as a psychopathic serial killer! But its destructiveness can no longer be tolerated by a life system intent on survival."

"The question that has always confronted mankind is whether society will be conducted by peaceful or violent means. Our conditioned thinking, however, has kept us from examining the implications of these alternative forms of behavior. The distinction between such practices rests on whether trespasses will or will not be allowed to occur. It is not that property trespasses can produce violence; they are violence, whatever the degree of force that is used. The property principle—in restricting the range of one’s actions to the boundaries of what one owns— precludes the use of violence. As long as we choose to deny the necessity of this principle, we should cease getting upset over the political and private acts of violence that are the unavoidable consequences of failing to respect the inviolability of the lives of our neighbors."

Summary courtesy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Mises Institute is the premier organization in support of the free market, peace and prosperity. They provide free educational material, books audio books, lectures and courses that free your mind. This site would not exist were it not for the generosity, hard work and dedication of the Mises Institute, its employees, fellows and its benefactors. Books of Liberty is eternally grateful to all of their work and efforts. Please consider supporting the Mises Institute in any way you can.

Great Deals!

Do you want to get this and many other paperback/hardcover books delivered fast and free? Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial or give the Gift of Amazon Prime to someone who'd love it!

The FREE Kindle Reading App lets you read your favorite eBooks on most devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc.). Click here to get the FREE Kindle Reading App.
However, you could read this and countless other books on a brand new Kindle E-reader for less than the price of a cup of coffee per week. Click here to choose your favorite Kindle E-reader.
And the best thing is that most Books of Liberty eBooks are actually available through Kindle Unlimited. Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial to read from over 1 million ebooks and listen to thousands of audiobooks, all for one fixed, low price.

Read or listen for free

Buy elsewhere

Tags

Similar Books

loading

Related Starting Points

Philosophy of Freedom

Within this topic you’ll find a wide variety of books, many of which we hold in the highest regard. These books are also associated with other topics, such as anarchist traditions and practical liberty. All your great libertarian manifestos, books that discuss individual liberty, the non-aggression principle, laissez faire, objectivism, etc. are found within.

Anarchist traditions would be a great shortcut to find books specifically calling out anarchist principles. The name "anarchist traditions" is purposefully broad, because in addition to anarcho-capitalism and voluntaryism, there are books on anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism or other forms of collectivist anarchism, as well as egoism and other schools of thought.

Practical liberty has a hodge-podge of awesome content, from the great anti-war and abolitionist books to theoretical treatises on private defense and private law; from whistleblowing and WikiLeaks to other forms of activism and civil disobedience; from secession to jury nullification and describing revolution and resistance. We’ve even thrown in some interesting "how to" books on affecting change to further one’s activist ends.

The topic of philosophy is closely associated, as many of the books tagged to the philosophy of freedom contain deep philosophical arguments from ethics and epistemology to political theory and religion. A wide variety of ideologies are represented and critiqued within the pages of the books linked here, covering the full political spectrum: whether it is Fascism versus Communism; Neoconservatism versus Progressivism or Liberalism; Nationalism and Nazism versus International Socialism and everything in between.

A note from the curator: You may see throughout the site banners promoting Liberty Classroom. As a very satisfied Master Member, I cannot recommend enough the courses within Liberty Classroom, all of which are imbued with the philosophy of freedom, including How Freedom Settled the West and History of Conservatism and Libertarianism. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our link.


Economics

The economics category, as expected, is very well represented within the pages of this site. Of all the economics books, around half are explicitly Austrian Economics texts, and (with a significant overlap) around half discuss monetary theory. You may search specifically for economic treatises or books about economists; you will find historical or theoretical accounts of financial crises; you will stumble upon recent books on crypto-currencies (like bitcoin), books covering topics like income or wealth inequality, as well as more technical subjects like price theory, monopoly, division of labor, public choice theory and others. Additionally, critiques of Keynesian economics are to be found throughout the books in this category.

Of the Austrian Economics books, the largest portion discuss The Austrian Business Cycle and praxeology or human action, but you will find many covering to one degree or another topics like time preference, capital and interest, subjective value, and economic calculation, to name a few.

And for those interested in currency or money, whether sound money or fiat money, you will find books arguing the benefits of the gold standard, debates on inflation and deflation, banking, central banks and the Federal Reserve specifically.

At the heart of the free market system of unregulated, voluntary trade stands capitalism and its emphasis on private property. Unsurprisingly, a large collection of books are available on this subject, many of which outline quite clearly the fundamentals and the outcomes of capitalism, especially in contrast to other economic systems like socialism. Additional related topics, such as free trade, decentralization, risk, uncertainty, and the market process can be found in such books.

A note from the curator: Liberty Classroom provides courses like: Austrian Economics Step by Step, two courses on the History of Economic Thought, and What’s Wrong with Textbook Economics, to name a few. With courses like these, how can you not become a fan of Liberty Classroom? I know I am.

And would you like your homeschoolers to learn economics right the first time around? The Ron Paul Curriculum homeschool program covers 12th grade economics from teachers you can trust. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our links.


Critique of the State

Shedding more light where once was dark, this topic includes a wide array of critiques surrounding the function of the State, but mostly around policy critiques and warfare. As it relates to the State’s functioning, everything from central planning, coercion and government expansion through to propaganda, taxation and the act of voting are discussed.

The State apparatus and its institutions, the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other alphabet soup organizations – they are all brought to account together with their counterparts in the military-industrial complex and the deep state. The Supreme Court, criminal justice system and the prisons are not immune to critique. And the filth of politics and lobbying are described in great lengths.

Policy critiques cover everything from abortion to welfare. It all starts with state intervention in the affairs of private individuals and foreign intervention (which includes the seemingly benevolent foreign aid) in the affairs of other groups of people. More specifically, US foreign policy and US military intervention are popular policies to critique.

Some of the other more common topics include: drugs, eminent domain, environmentalism, poverty, protectionism, muh roads, slavery, and other forms of public policy. Needless to say, these and other policies lead to ridiculous levels of government spending, itself a valid topic to critique.

And of course, the most destructive activity perpetrated by the State is warfare. The wars abroad and at home are discussed at length. Of the ‘traditional’ wars, World War I and II and the so-called American ‘Civil War’ (always in quotation marks) feature in the most number of books, some of which include discussions on genocide and war crimes. But then there are also the wars on amorphous, undefined entities, such as: the war on drugs, which leads to domestic violence, militarization and a police state; and the war on terror, which brought us torture, more terror and the ever-increasing drone warfare.

A note from the curator: The State is thoroughly critiqued within Liberty Classroom and the Ron Paul Curriculum homeschool program. In full transparency, I have no direct experience in homeschooling but I have heavily researched Ron Paul’s program and found it to be an outstanding alternative to the public school system (a system where you would never hear a critique of the State).

I am a very satisfied Master Member of Liberty Classroom and have taken the Introduction to Government course that is available through the Ron Paul Curriculum. Between this course and others available through Liberty Classroom, you can’t get a better or more thought out exposition critiquing the State and all its failures or faulty premises (and in a way that is suitable for the younger ages too). I’ll disclose that Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our links.


Cultural Issues

Legal and political issues aside, it is often the cultural and social issues that are upstream from any legislative action. Especially in a democracy, politicians know that to get reelected they need to tread a fine line and take a stand on topics that are culturally in vogue. Books providing cultural analysis or ones that talk of the social order are numerous within our site.

These books include racism, sexism, feminism and other such social justice issues relating to discrimination, freedom of association, freedom of speech, human rights, or political correctness. The topics of popular culture, American culture and Western Civilization are also represented.

Observations from many writers on these issues are provided through commentary and opinion and often investigative journalism leads down an interesting path, shedding light on these and other topics.


The Law

We find topics about the law, laws and legislation, justice, law enforcement and judicial systems fascinating, especially when combined with anarchy, as this seems to be one of the last bastions on the road to understanding an anarchist system and how legal order and property rights would be maintained.

Administrative law, regulations, and licensure as we know them today are artefacts of the State that are critiqued in our featured books, but so are dozens of other legislative issues, such as: labor laws (child labor, labor unions, minimum wage), issues relating to the US Constitution or the Articles of Confederation (e.g. the commerce clause, nullification, fugitive slave laws, gun control / second amendment), civil rights issues, Obamacare, Prohibition, and even earlier established legal concepts, such as the Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus.

A note from the curator: One of the reasons I am a very satisfied Master Member of Liberty Classroom is that I have access to courses like US Constitutional History and others featuring topics related to the law. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our link.


Other classifications

To make things easier to find, we created a few groupings that allow you to narrow down certain topics that include a large number of named individuals, geographical locations, or geopolitical entities. We created the topics: people and groups; areas and nations; economists; and politicians (who, within it, include also nation state leaders and US presidents).

And if you want a book that seems to have a wide variety of topics, you may just want to filter with the word smorgasbord and see what books come up.