English, Translations

Why do we punish? – WORKING TRANSLATION

Why do we punish? Most people do not even account for the existence of this question; for them it is obvious that there are prisons, jails, in which those who have transgressed the criminal law of society are locked up, for weeks or months or years. They stroll past prisons and their existence does not bother them.

Others, whom have asked themselves that question, find it easy to answer. The consciousness of law, they say, requires retribution for injustice. In other words, they place the interest of society at large first and claim that it must protect itself from infringements on its order by deterring crime, by rehabilitating the criminal if possible, and -if this is not possible- rendering the criminal harmless(inactive).

Those who argue thusly presuppose that he, who transgresses existing criminal law, is a bad person, akin to a violator of the moral world order (moral in this sense might carry a religious connotation, as the opposite of ‘vice’), and this society, of which a majority condemns him, is a truly human(-itarian) society. Additionally they presuppose that, as though it is obvious, that rejection and the infliction of harm are the appointed actions to be carried out towards ‘criminals’.

From the bottom of our hearts we deem this to be wrong and ill-fated: a pointless delusion that maintains the existence of inhumane relationships.

It is immediately not true that our law is the one and only law; in fact it protects the propertied classes, it sanctions the current relationships of property, as if they are worth any cost of maintainance.

Self-delusion also lies deep within the conception of the convicted held by the un-convicted. Is is convenient to think like that, that most convicts are of inferior natures, and that most un-convicted are people of a better sort; but truthfully, it is not that easy. And now we are absolutely not underestimating the significance of personal predisposition, we are absolutely not saying that everything a man does depends on circumstance; but we see predisposition and circumstances constantly functioning interdependently, existing in continuous interaction. Imagine, that he who grows up as a neglected child under continuous deficiency of those things that make life worth living, grows up to be a different personality taking different actions than he who grows up under a wholly different set of circumstances; but sharing the same predispositions. Imagine that in all countries the overwhelming majority of convicts, even relative to the size of their population, belong to the non-propertied classes! If crime only stemmed from a lack of social feelings, out of lack of self control, out of malice of the heart, would this then also be true? Do the unbalanced, un-self-controlled, not exist among those who never stand before a judge? And has it not always been apparent that crime rises and falls with societal distress; that in times of crises, as now in years of war, crime rises irresistibly, resisted by no penalty clause? Do we not know that there is regularity, yes a lawful tendency, in the amount of crime and suicide that occur yearly, that we do not face random acts of standalone individuals?

Again: we do not deny that it depends on one’s personal predispositions, whether or not he becomes victim of circumstance; we do not deny the ability of the self-determining individual to deflect the effects of any and all circumstances; but we do deny those, whom have not suffered through misery, the right, to coldly and strictly demand the highest mores of those who have suffered shortages. Put more bluntly; we claim that the most moral demands, if correctly called for, will not always lead to the deference of existing law, those who have criminalized conscientious objection and certain forms of strike; on the contrary we believe that these moral commandments oftentimes require resistance against the laws themselves!

A society, virtually rooted in the struggle of all against all, that raises people with the thought that man has the right to enrich and privilege oneself at the cost of others, and in which the conditions for normal development are withheld from the the majority of people, a society like such surely creates the personal and social causes, from which crime arises ceaselessly. The personal, because they (through malnutrition, alcoholism, housing woes) foster degeneracy; the societal, because they continuously push the disinherited to take, in an almost unconscious form of resistance, through illegal means that which is kept from them through legal means. Whilst they ultimately create the principled fighters against this whole order, those who position themselves in opposition to the whole principle of the current political and economic system, the conscientious objectors, the political criminals, whom all are considered criminals by the leaders of society and whom are punished in accordance.

The right to punish is definitely not held by this society, in which there is a shortage of developmental conditions for the ordinary and of loving care for the abnormal. What the majority of its constituents applies to criminals, is egoist self defense, although in their consciousness it is veiled by many a ruse, such as the enforcement of order and of law. For any more primary(low, primal) reasons man believes it impermissible to steal or to burglar; so we punish. And this intervention in the lives of fellow humans, this confinement lasting months, to protect the proprietorship of a bunch of material goods, this, man finds awfully straightforward.

These cases make up the brunt of our prosecutions; by being guilty of these offenses the majority of our prison-population is formed!

But there are other offenses; crimes of crudity, cruelty, greed, especially of the propertied towards the property-less, sexual crimes, murder, light and heavy battery. Many will claim that in response, to cases of true crime –or rather when dealing with true criminals, or so it seems– , punishment is in any case justified.

No, the brutality of punishment does not only lie there, that the societal order, which creates the conditions of crime, which itself (by means of of war and economic exploitation) sanctions crime at large, threatens and punishes those whom violate its interests. The brutality also lies in the means of the response.

Think of the criminals, those who really needs rehabilitation. What does punishment do onto them?

The punishment suppresses them, humiliates them, robs them of their last piece of endurance. From the very start of their trial they are seen, in opposition to society, as enemies, outcasts, while they, (also, and above all the degenerates among them) are loners more than any others and more than any others need understanding. Through all of this the inner development, that follows every deed, also every misdeed, is halted. The accused braces himself against his accusers, and his inner healing process is disrupted. In essence a criminal is not treated as a person, but is processed and filed like a case. All that is granted the name of humanity(humanitarianism) is kept from him in prison; he is merely kept alive. He does not even have the oppurtunity to act on his better intentions; and this is why the rehabilitation of the criminal in prison is impossible. The prison cannot rehabilitate.

Can the prison discourage(deter)? Not really. The rise and fall of crime are primarily caused by a wholly different set of causes than by the influence of punishment; as has been shown by the wartime years; it also shows from the great number of recidivists, but above all the whole mechanism of deterrence is immoral, because it views people merely as means.

Then what about rendering prisoners harmless? This term is already shown to be unworthy. And the result of this endeavor is, that many leave prison as more harmful than entering it. This is exactly the barbarity and backwardness: the whole concept of punishment is negative. Arouse in man the good, do what you can to strengthen them, to grow in them all capabilities for positivity and development; but do not work from the premise of making them harmless. And as far as the existence of a few ‘incorrigibles’ among the criminals, in whom no good kan be aroused, whose existence is wholly subhuman, victims of degeneracy – view and treat them as the sick, and think not of punishment, like we punish the insane today.

Yet stronger than any of these goals which man aims to achieve through punishment, still lives in man the ancient principle of retribution, in which revenge has taken shelter. It calls for him who does harm to experience harm himself, it calls for all ‘debts to be paid’, to settle all the scores. The actual criminal law is merely one of its expressions; we find it in all areas of personal and societal life. Exactly this primitive principle, rooted in the instinct of revenge, is what needs to be overturned. And thus we do not only adress the ecxesses of the prison system(1), nor against the prison system itself -its unauthorization and undesirability all too clear to us- nor against the current system of punishment in its entirety. We adress the whole concept of punishment. The relationship between one man and another is not supposed to be like that, that is not how people should position themselves towards others.

In opposition to the old, ancient, doctrine, stemming from the onset of humankind, that evil must be requited with evil, and that he who does evil must be suppressed and humiliated, we pose another principle of life: Do not judge. Do not requit. Do not punish. Do not reward. But seek to create with all the power of your being a human(humanitarian) society, in which the conditions for growth and development are a given to all man; and seek to conquer evil through good, in yourself and others. Crime can only be combated indirectly; not by destroying forces, but by awakening others, through converting that, what started as destruction, into construction.

And reforms, that are currently being carried out in criminal law, do not yet follow from this new principle, thereby they do not fulfill us. Surely it was an improvement when the Child-laws were introduced and the conditional conviction; surely it will be an improvement when man finally feeds prisoners properly, and takes cares of them, when man does all that is possible to raise the endurance of prisoners, instead of having them leave the prison tired and dazed; when man breaks ties with the cellsystem(1); when the public responds to former convicts in a humanitarian fashion. But through all these improvements within the framework of current societ and of current criminal law –not all of them possible– the source of the brunt of crime is not hidden, and the old principle of punishment is not affected.

We on the other hand do not come to you, unconvicted, to raise empathy within you for the prisoners, to request a few meager improvements may be made in the way, in which you brook that they, your fellow man, ought to be treated. We adress you, unconvicted and convicted, with a call on your dignity. Unconvicted; revise your society and your conception of punishment; accused, convicted, ex-convicted, feel free to feel human.

Above all we ask for this: let man not only expect change, rehabilitation, of disposition from criminals. For what disposition shows in our relationship towards them? Is there any sacrifice, solidarity(fraternity)? It could all be so different. In a true Community there would be willingness, to help one another rise above our shortcomings; we would sacrifice any immediate concerns(interests); we would foster mutual understanding and support. We would not, like currently, pay continuous attention to ‘legal interests’, but to people, whom struggle with themselves at all times – we would know that, every time one of our own falters in battle, it is a defect in us all.

And that is why –although we will rejoice any improvement –provided it be a real one–, that is currently being carried out within criminal law and the penal system– our aspirations lie beyond: we ask for radical changes (reversals, permutations, transpositions), no partial improvements; we see the dawn of a new principle: that of a new era, of a fraternal humanity, that will break all ties with the principle of punishment.

August 1919
Clara Wichman

 

(1) Wichman seems to make a distinction between ‘celstelsel’, cell-system, and the prison/incarceration/penal system in general. I believe ‘celstelsel’ refers to the system of punishment where prisoners are kept in individual (or small communal) cells; rather than larger wards. At the first mention of this footnote I translated ‘celstelsel’ as prison system, to make its use more general and all-encompassing. At the second mention of this footnote I translated ‘celstelsel’ as cell-system, as Wichman refered to its abolition as only marginal improvement within the larger framework of the prison system.

Advertenties
Standaard
Articles, English

Bitcoin Must Self-Regulate — The State Can Only Destroy

In the wake of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy filing, more than four hundred of its customers have expressed interest in filing a class action lawsuit against the parent company and its chief, Mark Karpeles. Mt. Gox was the cryptocurrency’s largest marketplace. Although Bitcoin’s functioning is still incomprehensible to many its value is real. Mt.Gox’s losses are estimated at $480 million.

The accusations of fraud and negligence are certainly justified, but a lawsuit might not be the best way to seek justice in the unregulated Internet economy. It’s odd that members of the Bitcoin community, many of whose members oppose government intervention in the money supply, are so easily persuaded to appeal to government legal systems once the situation goes awry. A lawsuit will undoubtedly open up avenues for lawmakers to further complicate use of Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies.

American political activist Samuel Edward Konkin III popularized the term “counter-economics” to describe all voluntary transactions that occur outside of the realm of the government-regulated marketplace. Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, fulfill an important role in this counter-economy by taking fiat money out of the equation entirely. However, to fully sustain the power of the counter-economy we must integrate non-state legal systems into its overarching framework. Instead of running back to the state when things take a wrong turn the opportunity must be used to discuss and develop systems by which businesses in the counter-economy can be held accountable for their actions.

An example of counter-economic regulation comes from the community around the Silk Road, a Bitcoin-based online marketplace for the buying and selling of illegal drugs. A group of its users calling themselves the LSD Avengers ran chemical analysis on acid they bought to test whether they were in fact in possession of genuine LSD, providing other users with a safety standard by which drugs could be ordered and consumed safely. This illustrates how a black market can self-regulate without resorting to the imposition of bureaucratic agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.

Bitcoin itself plays a liberating role in places like Ukraine and Iran, providing a system of payment independent of governments meddling and directives set forth by central banks. It is plausible that if the fate of Mt.Gox is placed at the hand of judges then regulation will follow. Regulation might satisfy our western need for guaranteed illusory feelings of safety. But it will hurt economic freedom in countries with people less fortunate than in the West. This will detract from the revolutionary potential of digital currency.

Currently there is no system by which Bitcoin marketplaces can be held accountable. Resorting to government legal systems might indeed be the only way by which Mt.Gox customers can receive the restitution they deserve. What does have to be kept in mind is that this option is far from optimal. Further talk of government regulation of crytocurrencies will not be a surprising result. In fact it seems inevitable. In the future the digital counter-economy will have to find ways to regulate itself. The ingenious online methods that are bound to come up might lead to insights by which we can regulate our own “analog” communities as well. One day government regulation of the marketplace will be a thing of the past as the self-regulating counter-economy replaces it entirely.

Originally appeared on: http://c4ss.org/content/25158

Standaard
Articles, English

Copyright in Defense of Racism

“You wouldn’t steal a car, you wouldn’t steal a handbag, you wouldn’t steal a television, you wouldn’t steal a movie.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? For years the copyright industry has been telling us that piracy is a crime. However, recently another supposedly heinous copyright crime has been added to the list: exposing racism.

On September 13th the website of anarchist student organization Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS) posted a message affirming their decision to dissociate from one of their subchapters, which had recently been expressing worrying amounts of racism and threats against those of the Muslim faith. S4SS explained their decision by posting screenshots and Dutch-to-English translations of the Facebook conversations of S4SS U Gent’s public Facebook group. [1]

In response to this decision and out of fear of possible repercussions including those carried out by ‘radical Muslims’ one of the group’s racist members lawyered up and filed a copyright infringement claim. The material being claimed as copyright in this case being the racist views procured by the group’s member. That’s right. According to J.D. Obenberger racist views are copyrighted material once they are posted on a “tangible medium” like Facebook. In accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Obenberger claims, the material has to be removed. You may think that no sane person would comply with such a threat but the webhost Bluehost shutdown the websites of S4SS and its parent organization the Center for a Stateless Society.

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, aims to protect the copyrighted material of individuals on the internet. It sounds like a noble goal if one accepts the notion of intellectual property. But far from achieving noble outcomes it has served to create a dangerous and expensive legal atmosphere. Ted Gibbons says “Google notes more than half (57%) of takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.”[2] But that is Google, they have the money and the experience to fight legal battles. Now imagine a smaller firm or even an individual providing his own hosting fighting continuous Federal lawsuits. It’s impossible.

This is why even mentioning the DMCA to a webhosting company makes them panic and causes them to shutdown websites on a moment’s notice. J.D. Obenberger claims on his own website that, “If you write the request for a takedown on a leaf of stale cabbage in magic marker, without stating any reason or offering any proof … most of them will take it down fairly immediately, within hours, because they are more afraid of you and your attorneys than they are of the posters.” It is therefore not the content of the law that matters. The threat of its use is enough to make otherwise peaceful people cower in fear as if they were the perpetrators of the worst kinds of aggression.

Thus, by abusing the threatening legal atmosphere set forth by the DMCA, racists can now force anyone who exposes them to comply with their demands. Whether or not the DMCA covers this particular situation explicitly is beside the point, the results are the same. This is how the state insulates racists from the social consequences of their actions. Anyone who values internet freedom should see the threats made by J.D. Obenberger, Bluehost’s compliance, and the copyright laws set by the state as an attack on that fundamental freedom.

[1] Knapp, Thomas L. “Copyright Nazis. Literally.” KN@PPSTER. N.p., 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
[2] Gibbons, Ted. “Google Submission Hammers Section 92A.” PC World Magazine New Zealand. IDG Communications, 15 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.

Standaard
Articles, English

Can EPIL Avoid the Neo-Liberal Trap?

On the 28th of September four European classical-liberal and libertarian parties signed the Utrecht declaration and covenant of European Classical liberal and Libertarian parties which provides the foundation for the new European Party for Individual Liberty (EPIL). The coming years will show if the EPIL can bring a new perspective on the principle of liberty or serve as the ultra-capitalist wing of neoliberalism.

The liberal ideology in Europe today is confined to what can best be described as neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism has become the driving force of modern day European corporate capitalism. It provides markets for the functioning of capital-intensive industry by limiting competition to a small number of large firms through regulation, licensing and subsidy.

Both those on the left and the right will likely protest my robber-baron description of the European economy, arguing that most European countries in fact have extensive social safety nets. Whilst this is true one must realize that the welfare state is an essential cog in the corporate machine. In a free market corporations would be driven by competition to pay workers a higher wage so that they could organize healthcare themselves through cooperative efforts. Instead, by socializing the costs of social services to the taxpaying public, large businesses reduce the costs of their own internal functioning. Far from being generous, neo-liberals and social-democrats alike have learned to hand out crutches to those whose legs have been broken by the system they created.

Here lies the trap that has secretly been set for the classical-liberals. They can either choose to denounce the social safety net as system of anti-capitalist sentiment, thereby receiving the appropriate title of corporate lackeys. Or they can identify the social safety net as a set of necessary crutches that ameliorate the destructive tendencies of corporate privilege and monopoly which hide behind neo-liberalism.

I hope they choose the latter. For too long free market rhetoric has been used to prop up the power of corporate capitalism without paying attention to the intricate web of privilege on which it is based. Instead of joining hands with conservatives and getting rid of “hippie socialism” classical-liberals should call for an alliance with the radical left. Together the radical left and the classical liberals can rid Europe of the privileged political and economic elite.

Such an alliance has recurrently been sought by classical-liberals. One of the earliest of European classical liberals, Gustave de Molinari wrote in 1848:

“What is the common goal of economists [ed. Classical liberals] and socialists? Is it not a society where the production of all the goods necessary to the maintenance and embellishment of life shall be as abundant as possible, and where the distribution of these same goods among those who have created them through their labor shall be as just as possible? May not our common ideal, apart from all distinction of schools, be summarized in these two words: abundance and justice?”

The American classical-liberal movement, libertarianism, also has a long history of forming alliances with the left rather than with conservatives or neo-liberals. Famous libertarian Murray Rothbard worked together with the New Left in the 1960s. His economic critique of the corporate state, based on the work of classical-liberal Ludwig von Mises, provided for much common ground with the New Left. Even though libertarians and the New Left disagreed over certain economic issues they saw eye to eye on issues like corporatism and war. This agreement could not be found with the conservatives and neo-liberals on the right.

So we will see what path the EPIL will follow. Will they aim for corporate capitalism freed from the chains of a social safety net and the regulation that keeps its initial privilege in check? Or will they realize that true laissez-faire involves not the dominance of capital intensive corporations but instead a competitive economy of equals?

It might turn out that supra-national politics do not allow for the radical second option. If so, I urge classical-liberals to re-evaluate the use of politics. Instead the true route to liberty might bypass parliamentary politics altogether in favor of direct action and building alternative institutions much like the anarchists who trace back their history to the classical-liberals of the 19th century.

Standaard
Articles, English

Rape is not Success

When I talk about rape culture I don’t mean to say there’s a secret male conspiracy to oppress women, I don’t mean to say that men are consciously promoting rape, I don’t mean to say men think rape is good. No. This is what I mean when I talk about rape culture:

rape success

In an important football match Bayern Munchen completely obliterated Bayern Munchen 4 to 0. They, however, did not rape them. Rape is a vile crime in which victims are left physically and emotionally broken and traumatized. It’s a crime that makes potential victims fear for their lives as they walk down the street at night. It’s a crime that must, in no way, be normalized by equating it with success in a football match.

By using rape as an edgy tool to get laughs and facebook likes you are creating an atmosphere in which rape is funny, trauma is neglected and victims are told to ‘man up’. Although this might not be the implicit goal of individuals promoting rape culture, it is what it eventually leads to.

You didn’t totally rape your last exam. Your parents did not rape you when they made you stay home during a party. Bayern Munchen did not rape Barcelona. Rape is not success.

Standaard
Articles, English

The Corruption of Cooperation

David Cameron, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, promised to support a referendum deciding on the UK’s future within the European Union if and when he wins the general election in 2015. Politicians across Europe react negatively to Cameron’s speech by citing their support for the Union’s economic, social, and political cooperation. My question to them would be: Why must this cooperation be directed by a centralized power?

The concept of cooperation is misunderstood by many. Cooperation is based on the realization of individual actors that a peaceful and joint venture is beneficial to both parties. Having a leader in this case could arguably be more beneficial but delegating all decision-making powers to one actor hardly seems to be a necessary prerequisite in order to call something cooperative. Yet pro-Europe politicians maintain the opinion that a centralized institution is necessary to foster interdependence. Either this means individuals are too dense to realize the benefits of cooperation or that there is no actual beneficial outcome to be attained. Either way, calling this situation ‘cooperation’ is very troubling.

Supra-national politics is not the only area in life where the meaning of cooperation has been skewed. Apologists for capitalism rightly claim that economies require cooperation between labor and capital. However they continue by saying that owners of capital must receive exclusive decision-making powers to make the cooperation fruitful. The same principle exists in our culture’s view of romantic unions. No matter if you’re gay or straight there is always the question of, “Who wears the pants in this relationship?” We thus arrive at the worrying conclusion that the concept of cooperation has been entirely corrupted by viewing the delegation of authority as a prerequisite for its existence.

Although it is unclear what Cameron’s own opinion on the matter is – whether he would vote to stay in, or get out of, the European Union – it is clear that he dislikes the direction in which the EU is heading. He says, “Put simply, many ask, “Why can’t we simply have what we voted to join; a common market?”” After all, the European Union is based on the European Economic Community, often known as the Common Market by the English-speaking world. If there are benefits to cooperation between governments and individuals across national borders than the only acceptable function of the European Union would be to help governments and individuals realize these benefits.

Of course this whole issue would be irrelevant if there weren’t national economic- and migratory-borders to start with. However, this idea is conveniently left out of the discussion for obvious reasons.

It also brings up another issue of supra-national organizations: whether they eliminate borders or rather expand them? On a related note: Are the anti-EU sentiments of many Europeans a sign of a new anti-authoritarian movement or merely symptoms of fervent nationalism? These are the questions we should really be asking. How about a referendum on them, Mr. Cameron?

Translations for this article:
Portuguese, A Corrupção da Cooperação.

Citations to this article:
Christiaan Elderhorst, The Corruption of Cooperation, Centre for a Stateless Society, 01/25/13
Christiaan Elderhorst, The corruption of cooperation, Dhaka, Bangladesh New Nation, 02/13
Christiaan Elderhorst, EU — The Corruption of Cooperation, Baltic Review, 02/08/13

Standaard