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"Free" (price) government services crowd out social cooperation and individual responsibility. However, it seems that mutual help and friendly societies in the XIX century were quite common and were an alternative to the welfare state before the collectivization of "solidarity" arose.

In Italy there is a variety of tight social and economic networks, mainly based on political or religious identity, probably often funded by the government or with strong ties with municipalities. As in Mancur Olson's "Logic of collective action", they provide private goods to the members to justify the cost of collective action.

For instance, there is a catholic organization called Comunione & Liberazione which provides services like a network to find jobs in the galaxy of firms related to the group, a network to find mates inside the movement (despite the obvious problem that endogamy may destroy genetic diversity :-D), a network of schools for the children of the members of the movements, and of course a spiritual/identitarian experience.

Probably such an organization can only exist in a marketless society where relational bonds, other than merits, are of fundamental importance for the career, like Italy.

So, they may be examples of freedom or adaptations to statist distortions, however the bottom line is that such kind of experience is unbearably boring, I suppose.

>>What other examples would you give?<<

Private in-store health clinics which operate outside the established health care paradigm. I blogged on this here:

"Cornuelle has famously argued that while we know much about how a free economy operates, we know much less about how a free society works. "

His work sounds really interesting - I especially like the concept of social sphere, emergence, evolution, in the Hayekian coordination sense, as something both distinct and equal to the market: voluntary social organizations that fulfill an economic role are both part of the social sphere, or "society," which we discuss little in economics, and the economic sphere.

However, I wonder about the term 'independent sector' and also about these examples, given the focus on the nature of the social sphere in society--especially home schooling.

Government need not (and should not!) run schools. However, the social role of schooling suggests to me not the isolation (alienation one might say) of the complete "independent" solution, do-it-yourself home schooling within a nuclear family for example -- there are so many social and intellectual lessons that we learn from engaging with others, discussion, conflict, exchange of ideas, sharing, all so critical to development.

Instead of "home" schooling, think about the potential social-sphere ramifications of these kinds of schooling: "private," "voluntary," "cooperative," "experimental" - I see the interesting work being done in understanding how the social-sphere, or "society" as distinct from economics (morality, altruism, and sharing) have kismet with the "economic" provision using the scarce resources of time, space and matter, (through communication, exchange and discovery), how cooperation is voluntary, and hence social and economic endeavors can work in unison to develop society, resolve problems, and progress our social and moral character.

This is where he seems to be going, which is why he example seemed so off--home schooling, though a nice complement, probably should not be center-stage in our solutions to social problems.

Private neighbourhood associations are the worst. They are the most politically driven, incestuous, corrupt organizations in existence. To pretend they are any kind of a solution is nonsense. Their very charter provides that they may change the rules at any time, for any reason. Imagine suddenly being told you must install a new sewer system because the board has been co-opted by the sewer installer's relatives.

Any time people begin to associate with each other corruption sets in. The goal should not be to switch the power from government to private associations, but to eliminate the ability to have that power over others in the first place. The colour of my house is NOT your business. To those busy bodies who insist on trying to micromanage the lives of others I suggest a move to China is in order. Leave me the hell alone.


That is a fair point, except: what if some people would like to voluntarily come together and set rules for themselves to abide by - each getting the others to make compromises when necessary to create an environment that they all would prefer?

Any group or organization is like this. A company has rules, but people voluntarily enter a contract, willing to abide by the rules because they gain from it--in employment, profits, etc. A fantasy football club has rules. Even a reading group or university has rules.

So, if some people want to join a private community where they agree all to paint their homes white (because it looks nice driving down the white street in the snow, and the few people that would--out of laziness or quirkiness--not paint their homes white even though they also liked the street that way will have to do so, while those that don't like the row of white houses will choose not to live there. In exchange for agreeing to this rule, those folks that would not have painted their homes white will get other advantages from the group (else they would move) such as a rule about garbage or noise that a few white-house-enthusiasts would violate were it not written into law.

As a group, the rules necessary to produce the society they all want are chosen. Societies need rules. But, if its voluntary people can leave if they don't like the rules - and it won't expand and take over too much space unless everyone really likes it. Government, on the other hand, do not require much in the way of public endorsement, because they use force, and they simply take your money as taxes without getting your consent, and hence become big and powerful.

Harvey Birdman illustrates a problem with suggesting "independent sector" solutions to folks: they are already familiar with them, and they're jaded. It's a cliche to say that familiarity breeds contempt, but there you go.

I mean homeschooling? I've never met someone who was homeschooled and enjoyed it. They're usually resentful of the isolation (and stigma, rather more purely "cultural" I'll grant). Liberty makes a good point there.

Non-state, grassroots and independent institutions are what the layperson experiences first hand, and there is no end of opinions on just how they're failing. The perception of failure is clear, the likelihood of even worse failure without the trial and error of independent solutions is ambiguous.

I'm with Harvey on this one; the goal aught to be the reduce the leverage groups (be they private or public) have over individuals, but still promote voluntary cooperation.

Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, Boys & Girls Clubs, The Girl & Boy Scouts, USA Hockey, The Shiners, The Make A Wish Foundation, ETC. All of these and other organizations too numerous to mention make a positive difference everyday in peoples lives. They fill a role that no government could or should do. Yes they may be political and that's a shame but that is what we are.

Private neighborhood associations are really an attempt for governmental orgs to get around state constitutions by pretending they aren't governmental.

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