This is my favorite part. So many people who claim, or seem to have taken inspiration from Rand would, in fact, be "bad guys" in Atlas Shrugged. A nice example is Paul Ryan, who has spent his entire life in politics instead of actually creating anything useful. There are also a number of nice examples of people who would almost certainly be "good guys", but who are Democrats in real life (not that a Democrat can't be selfish, but the GOP seems to have claimed Rand lately). Bill Gates is the most obvious example, right down to getting blind-sided by government regulators in the 90s (whether the regulators were right or wrong, legally speaking, is immaterial here BTW).
Case in point: Rand hated Libertarians.
Some typical examples from the article:
- She called Libertarianism "a mockery of philosophy and ideology"
- She accused Libertarians of "slinging slogans and trying to ride on two bandwagons"
Later, she accuses them of entertaining "amateur political notions" and "rushing into politics in order to get publicity".
She says that Libertarians
- are based on "half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas".
- "spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas".
- "are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable."
- would "like to have an amoral political program"
 - http://iowntheworld.com/blog/?p=113321
Both Ayn Rand and most modern libertarians have little objection to the government provision of public goods like blizzard cleanup. They simply object to the government provision of private goods, such as diabetes treatment.
Diabetes treatment is rivalrous (insulin goes into your vein or mine, not both) and excludible (if you don't pay for insulin, you don't get any).
Everything is as private or public as you make it.
Basically, she hated everyone apart from herself.
No evidence, but my gut says that self-hate was at the root of it all. Arrogance usually masks feelings of inferiority.
She hated people who were doing what she was who didn't put here on a pedestal, that all. This doesn't make libertarianism fundamentally different to her philosophy. It just puts up a mirror to her narcissistic batshittedness.
Refuting her claims and observations may be a bit redundant as they've never been taken seriously outside a very specific circle, but since her ideas have been influential inside that circle, and because said circle is not small in the US, where, quite amazingly, Rand's works are liked even by some adults (it's hard to believe but it's true), you can always shoot some more arrows into that corpse, for whatever good that would do. She does make an easy, and fun, target, and there are all those teenagers you can upset, which is always fun to watch. As to those American adults still fond of her works well into their mid-twenties and even beyond, well, it's best to keep a safe distance from them. Once you do, you might want to go back for a more sober look at Ayn Rand because she was a fascinating person, and her ideas have influenced some of the more colorful branches of American politics. Here's a famous interview she gave Mike Wallace in 1959: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouBZ-YqOnsU
Not every quip or fart deserve serious attention, and Rand's "philosophical branch of thought" would not have garnered any attention at all if not for the popularity of her books among American teens. Her "philosophy" is hardly recognized as such. I am not comparing Rand to Hitler, but the intellectual rigor of their "philosophies" is about the same. Would you consider an offhand dismissal of Hitler's ideas as not befitting a quality discussion? Nevertheless, Hitler's work has had quite an impact on society, as has Rand's, and for that reason, and that reason only, they are interesting subjects of study. No one is supposed to take their "philosophies" seriously, and frankly, hardly anyone does. Taking the time to refute Rand's philosophy is giving her too much credit and too little at the same time; too much, because her philosophy is not considered as such by philosophers; too little because her accomplishments lie away from intellectual rigor, in the realm of successful ideological fervor.
And when have Hitler comparisons, if you think I made one, ever been more apt? ;)
EDIT (if I need to spell it out): It was claimed that an offhand dismissal of a famous "philosophy" is inappropriate in a quality discussion. I then offered a famous example of an entirely different "philosophy", undeserving any serious merit and discussion on its own, and yet important historically for its effect on society. Rand is considered a childish, ridiculous "philosopher", so people rarely take the time to argue with her beliefs as their falsehood is apparent to almost anyone with a pair of eyes and/or ears, but her writings have played a part in recent American history. In no way other than in her intellectual rigor, should Ayn Rand (who, BTW, is one of my favorite historical characters; she was so deliciously cruel and lost at the same time) be compared to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, the SS, the SA, the Luftwaffe or any of their affiliates.
That's almost like vegetarians saying, meat is hardly recognized as a source of nutrition because they don't eat it.
2. Token rebuttals.
a. Someone lives irresponsibly, I live responsibly. The sick that comes for us all devastates them early and I'm told "since we all get sick, they got sick much earlier due to all the crack and booze, they can't pay because they were grasshoppering it up while you worked, so now you pay". This is an extreme example, but I work in healthcare and I think I'm no stable ground saying that you can substitute cheeseburger for crack and get a majority. Is this how we want to set things up and call it just?
b. Snow comes. I get out my shovel and go help my neighbor. I don't think doing this flies in the face of Rand. I do it because it is right to do in my gut because I know I'm fit to do it and they aren't. I don't think Rand says not to shovel, I think she says it is MY CHOICE to shovel or not and I own that moral choice after I make it. There's still a right and a wrong choice.
That's a false dichotomy. An example of a 3rd option is to put them in an isolation ward, and allow them to simply die if they can't pay for treatment.
When it comes to medical care, the question of how to allocate resources on quality of life improvements is never so simply and black and white.
No it's not, it already happened in New York in the 90's.
To answer your question, no, we can't.
Rand, however, also condemned voluntary communal activities, depending on individual participants' motivations.
E.g. on charity:
"To view the question in its proper perspective, one must begin by rejecting altruism’s terms and all of its ugly emotional aftertaste—then take a fresh look at human relationships. It is morally proper to accept help, when it is offered, not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e., when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver’s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such."
If it were truly merely a matter of voluntary choice, there would be no moral blame on me if I chose to help someone, regardless of my motivations as such. If I were giving handouts out of the apparently perverse reason that someone needs it, Rand would condemn that; in contrast, a libertarian emphasis on choice would mean it's as valid as any other motivation, so long as it's non-coercive. (In the same line of argument, she would condemn me for advocating communitarian policies, because speech, even though it's inherently non-coercive, can be morally stained.)
Overall, though, I like the concepts you're pushing for in 2, though I don't think Ayn Rand would have embraced them. You're looking for someone closer to Elinor Ostrom, who is much less inflammatory and not at all focused on moral questions but also much more thoughtful and interesting.
You'll notice that people rarely start by attacking the works of von Mises or Hayek or Rothbard, because those guys were actual serious academics who knew what they were talking about.
Much easier to poke holes in the eccentric philosophy of one novelist.
Capitalism and socialism are not mutually exclusive in a society.
Simply having a welfare state or some nationalized industries is not socialism. The source of power and ownership of production is still in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
Mises as serious? Hah. But yes, he and the others are attacked less but only because they are less famous. Their ideas are as worthless.
Isn't that communism?
Yes it is. It is a matter of degree. When you have an income tax, you have socialized income. If you have a "workers factory", you have socialized the means of production.
Your first paragraph seemed like you had the right insights, yet you contradicted yourself by the second.
There is no use-value based economic planning today.
Just like Socialism which ruined India.
It would be very hard to argue in favor of pure capitalism or socialism.
Mises: "It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history."
Whelp, you've lost me. The difference in productivity and smartness---as measured by the consistent ability to impact the world---of people is enormous (the additional importance of luck notwithstanding). I'm not sure why you thought you were going to make progress on these deep philosophical issues with a 400 word blog post, but you're even more sunk if you throw in empirical claims that contradict both intuition and the data.
I've also taught/privately tutored CS students from some of the US's best universities. The range in intellectual capacity between the two groups is shockingly consistent. I've had students who attended Stanford who would have been put to shame by some of my "first of the family to finish high school but can't go to college" students.
If Bill Gates hadn't been born to lawyers and bankers, data says he would likely be part of the "average schmucks on the subway".
Successful people consistently underestimate how lucky they are.
Meanwhile mediocre people consistently attribute other people's success to luck. As luck would have it, they are both right and wrong. I am a high school dropout who never went to college, yet I sold 2 companies in the last 2 years. Is my success just a matter of luck, or am I that much better than the average population. Maybe the answer is that neither are that important. What I can say for sure that I work harder than the average population, much, much harder. And that's my general problem with those who champion socialism, they never seem to want to work as hard as I do. Among ditch diggers, there are always a few men leaning on their hoe handles.
Some decades ago the per capita income of South Korea was on par with some of the poorest nations in the world. Today South Korea is a rich nation. Japan was devastated after the WWII, but it experienced an economic miracle afterwards. China was an under achiever in the last century, but in the next decades it will become a superpower. We can talk all day about how equal we are, but not everyone thrives equally, even under the best of conditions.
I can not but held the believe that among individuals, families, nations and ethnic groups, there are innate differences. Differences that are deeply rooted within our genes, we're all thinking beings but not everyone can be Newton, I sure can't. Of course you may beg to differ with me, after all individuals tend to distort the reality to their views. I might have a distorted view of reality, though I doubt it.
There are also extremely productive people and very unproductive people, but I think it's safe to say that a very large percentage of the population falls in a specific productivity window. And the very skilled can "take one for the team" on the issues described here.
But I don't think modern readers of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, et al., are listening to her as a preacher, to apply her ideas to the entirety of their lives, but rather as inspiration for their own philosophy. That is, after all, one reason to read literature that challenges your opinions.
That's why I read and appreciate Rand. It's not because the American Libertarian movement made her a mascot.
Take her introduction to The Fountainhead that she wrote in 1968, years after it was published and became successful:
> It is not in the nature of man--nor of any living entity--to start out by giving up, by spitting in
one's own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity
differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run
down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it.
Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that
maturity consists of abandoning one's mind; security, of abandoning one's values; practicality,
of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be
betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the
dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential.
There are very few guideposts to find. The Fountainhead is one of them.
This is one of the cardinal reasons of The Fountainhead's lasting appeal: it is a confirmation of
the spirit of youth, proclaiming man's glory, showing how much is possible.
By posting this I hope to defend Rand in the sense of helping people realize she does more then what the modern political landscape has created for her. I was certainly inspired by her approach to self, as I imagine countless others have been.
There are a variety of good arguments for socialized health care, but "we all get sick" is not among them.
This article is banal in the extreme, and I'm not sure why it's on the front page.
I disagree. The more specific "we all can get very sick, and being very sick is very expensive" is a very good argument for pooling our resources to make sure that we all get help when we need it.
That said, note the difference between, say, housing projects or food stamps and a traditional vision of socialized healthcare: it is not expected that 90%+ of the population get most or all of their food from food stamps.
I'm a having a little trouble believing the author actually read Atlas Shrugged - in it, one of the productive characters (Ragnar, if I remember right) explicitly lists many legitimate functions of government. One of them is maintaining public roads.
The author also deliberately fails to acknowledge the difference between public goods (blizzard cleanup) and private goods (medicine and financial services).
Near as I can tell, the OP wasn't talking about it either.
By way logic does a libertarian say that e.g. government coercing people to obey quarantines is acceptable, but that the government coercing people to pay for cheap public preventive care (before expensive specialist treatments become necessary) is not?
For comparison, compare laws against punching other people to laws against punching yourself.
a quotation I may have learned about first here on HN:
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
Today's startup scene: Talk about capitalistic excess. Everyone's running around with MacBook Airs and Pros, iPhones, and iPads. The true "rebels" running Android: they're cheerleading for a phone that's backed by a mega-corp with a $300B market cap, so from an excess perspective, not much different.
The culture wants home runs. 9 or 10 figure exits. Built a photo sharing app or game moving blocks around on the your phone? Is $1B for your company really the best way for society to allocate its resources? VC's throw money away everyday on dumb companies that they know will fail; they're just keeping skin in the game knowing that if they do, they'll inevitably hit some home runs.
tl;dr Went all meta on the idea that startup culture that drives HN is capitalistic excess, opposite of socialism
edit "opposite of capitalism" should have been "opposite of socialism"; some grammar
I cannot speak for Randians or Objectivists, but an advocate of a private property society does not have a problem with insurance. Insurance is a perfectly legitimate good that can be provided in markets. It's the whole pay-us-or-go-to-prison monopoly thing that doesn't sit well.
Further, many rich business people are rich precisely because of government privilege, including protections of so-called intellectual property. You'd be hard pressed to name a successful person in modern times who hasn't made or at least maintained his riches because of some special privilege.
First of all there would be, in principle, differences per culture but it will level down when troubles strike -- then it is universally everyone for himself. The only difference being how big the trouble must be for this to trigger.
Generic problems observed in practice:
- ownership by everyone means in practice ownership by no one as proven every single day by comparing the same business run by a state or a city or privately -- it is always worse and more expensive
- maybe it is strictly separate subject but in socialism somehow people are expected to be equal; since this is obviously a wrong assumption people will be forced to be equal which is never pleasant for the "better" onces (whatever that means); economically it will include taking from richer and giving to poorer (again, regardless whether these differences would be labeled fair or not and whether the reacher earned it by working hard or the poorer was just lazy)
So, unless your culture isn't aready "trained" in putting the good of the group above individual and, believe me, US population is not, socialsim will not work for you on a long run.
P.S. I wouldn't write this if this article wasn't so painfully stupid -- I'm not calling the author stupid, only this idealistic view. Socialism is NOT about dishing the same stuff to everyone like a storm or a disease. It is a much more complex system that is incompatible with human beings. Maybe permanently, maybe just not right now. It is not wrong, it is not bad on its own. It just doesn't work today for most of us. In addition any stystem that attaches an adjective to the word "justice" -- as in "social justice" -- needs a very, very careful investigation. At least.
>It's a beautiful story for a person caught between childhood and adulthood
I could say the same thing about every religion, I doubt it would get a warm response.
'Twas not ever thus. Indeed, as late as the late 1970s, small companies were still producing new and interesting pharmaceuticals.
Moreover, drugs aren't the only source of cures. Certainly surgical interventions don't generally come from commercial drug companies. And some categories of useful product don't come out of commercial drug companies at all -- their record on new antibiotic development in the past three decades is dismal to the point of near-criminality.
You have no idea, of those government provisions you listed, what the actual costs are. You won't be able to get the most efficient allocation of resources, because it's not a market allocation (people freely paying), but a political allocation.
Oh, and I don't care if a drug company is benevolent. Just that they are free to offer me the goods at a price that isn't rigged (as by regulation of competitors, for example).
If it's a book of lies then why do you care so much? Don't you think for the book to have any effect on you it has to be true, at least in your own opinion.
Without taking a side either way of the AR thing - taking advice on how to live your life from people whose character you detest seems like it might be a bad call. Living your life in the manner they approve of, at least if they did so themselves, stands a good chance of making you more like them.
I don't think both of these can be true simultaneously so I guess I did not get what are you saying right.
The general theme is that things like macro economic theories place fewer constraints on individual action than moral ideologies - and that, provided that the person expounding the moral ideology claims to follow it themselves, your perception of their character counts as evidence for whether it's a good idea for you to accept it or not.
1. In the sense of actively destroying things, nowhere in the book. Maybe he goes kicking around puppies somewhere off the pages, but he does nothing of the sort anywhere in the book. Ragnar Danneskjöd does, but that situation is hard to judge given the details in the book.
Galt did know that he had (assuming you mean the motor), the wherewithal to make the world a better place. But,
a. He believed that doing so would only improve conditions in the short term, since the system in place was naturally errosive. Changing the system and then bringing forth his idea would provide longer term benefits.
b. That assumes he was out for the common good. He wasn't. Doing what you proposed, namely comercializing his invention and "making the world a better place" would have led him through the same agony that Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart went through, trying to keep things together when they were clearly falling apart.
2. I disagree with you that anybody is obligated to do that.
Is there anyone else out there who just loves the book like I do without applying the politics in real life?
This is called being a good neighbor.
2. "Property" cannot exist without enforcement. If you own land and I don't, chances are that I can find another poor bastard who will help me to take it from you.
1. Your body is your property, and you have the right to contract (i.e. agree with another person to use your property in a particular way, for instance as a condition of transfer of property). So the filthy rich person who owns a country--which by the way I don't think is possible, since he probably just planted a flag and yelled that he owns it, which does not make a homestead... but for the sake of argument let's say he does own the country--this guy excludes thousands of people who only have the standing room on which they were born. Do tell me how this guy will eat. I will bet that, through the magic of self interest, the landowner will be happy to contract with the impoverished majority, say, for farming. Now if you're thinking ahead, you already see that the poor folk, if their private property rights are respected, can save their income and trade and sell among themselves, maybe even buy some of that land from the country owner. The historic problem is not that ownership of land existed, but that it was never treated as a private property, or that the individual right to self-ownership and contract were not universally respected.
2. So people can be crooks? I don't disagree.
The necessary social systems that interlink us all have become overly complex and maladapted in their treatment of individual people, and by stepping back from "must" and asking "why" one begins to see this everywhere. But the only blessed means of change is democracy, and nuanced intellect doesn't win mob consensus - vague feel-something arguments do.
So the idea of taking one's ball and going home becomes very attractive - even if it's just a single croquet ball - because it's the final option available to avoid supporting the broken game. And morally, systems should be setup to make this base case as easy as possible, even if it initially increases costs for the remaining players, for if the system is truly beneficial then it is still in most people's interest to participate.
But the mob has no concern for individuals, so our social systems lack this capability. Going against the grain is tiresome and unproductive, so most people eventually conform to what is demanded of them. And once you've given in, you're likely to stop dwelling on the faults of the systems you support and instead view them in a positive light for what they do accomplish.
I wish I were kidding.
I don't think that's actually true, even though I do the same.
I think it cheapens my character. I believe even if I'm vocal about my feelings about sweatshop labor, that doesn't really matter when I still support it financially.
It really just means that I'm not as good of a person as I'd like to be.
If you pay into it then why would you not take the money? You are being ridiculous.
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Atlas Shrugged'. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” – John Rogers
On the "Right", people often conclude that, because their religion is good, it should be enforced by the federal government. In reality, people can (generally) practice their religion freely through their church so long as the government policies aren't too overbearing.
On the "Left", people often conclude that, because charitable giving and safety nets and community projects are good, those things should be enforced and run by the federal government. In reality, there are many social institutions and mechanisms by which those things might happen (families and communities do many of these things already, and local governments can do many more), and the federal government is only one option and may only be suitable in specific circumstances.
These are generally the kind of hard working working people who get cheated due to office politics, or an unfair boss, or the people who score less marks because the teacher wanted to reward her otherwise favorite pupil.
One of the top reasons why people want to have their own business is because 'working for others' ultimately leads to a situation where you do all the work, while not getting nearly the atom worth the due rewards you deserve. Its not selfish or arrogant or even wrong that such people ultimately take things into their own hands and refuse to put up with being treated unfairly.
When I first read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The philosophy of it looked straight obvious and something that I myself have gone through.
Rand's philosophy is not the case, but rather a effect of a deep rooted malaise where some people find it perfectly fine to cheat. And expect the person to be fine being cheated.
On a side note, I attended a Start up conference a years back here Bangalore. At the end there was open panel discussion as to what makes a better career option 'Start up or a Job at a Megacorp' a middle manager from representing a mega corp called start up founders are impatient, greedy and selfish. This is how bad the situation gets when you put up with unfair treatment, the person cheating thinks it's perfectly ok to treat you unfairly. And more, it is unfair to him that you refuse to get cheated.
Want to prevent the Rand philosophy from spreading, do something that triggers its flow and adoption at the first place. But we all already know that's not going to happen.
"Ayn Rand's philosophy might have worked in an agrarian society when people lived far apart, and couldn't pool their resources."
Agricultural coops were some of the earliest, most intense and long lived Socialism in the U.S. in fact some of them are still going. Building grain elevators, pooling expensive machinery, getting fertilizer and seed in bulk and at a reasonable price, shipping crops to market and trying to avoid getting screwed by middlemen, are things were Socialism had its place.
Atlas Shugged was written for and about railroad barons, industrialist and to a lesser extent Wall Streeters.
Classic Dave, say something that has no basis in fact, and hope no one calls him on the B.S. because he's Dave Winer.
Rand is best viewed as a reaction to the abuses of Russian Communism. Atlas Shrugged is extreme in the opposite direction but offers some good critiques of collectivism as she saw it practiced. Communism was always at the point of a gun, so one of her primary complaints was the the use of force by the incapable to demand things from the capable was immoral. So, it's immoral to force those who have snow plows to plow your road just because you have a gun.
Using a snowstorm is a funny example because I think that is exactly one of her main points. Nature doesn't care about your feelings or what you think you deserve. You will either use you mind to find solutions to problems or you will die. If you choose not to think for yourself, you don't have a right to take from those who do just because you have a gun. So, to answer the article's question, "Who is supposed plow the streets during the snowpocalypse?" Whoever the hell has a snowplow and has the ability to drive it. Probably in exchange for money. That's some crazy talk right there. Did I just blow your mind? It's not "a detail she never seemed to have gotten to", it's just a stupid question. You don't plow streets with Rearden metal. You plow it with a snow plow. Rand's point was that streets didn't get plowed by moochers and people who claimed they "deserved it". It got plowed by every great person that designed a combustable engine and metal and manufacturing processes and ultimately applied their mind to the challenges of nature(snow storms) and created an f'ing snow plow. The point is that it is the human mind is what makes the world work, not whining about your "rights".
As for "great individuals", yes, I think she over sold it a bit. However, very focused productive people applying their minds to problems have more influence and leverage today than ever before. She also spends a lot of time talking about "teaching men to think". So she talked a lot about everyone using their talents to create things, not just the John Galts. There are lots of characters who play bit parts in Atlas Shrugged that are respected in the book. Same for the fountain head. Lets talk about the exceptional though. No Bill Gates may not be francisco d'anconia, but he did have a big influence on the world. Now he is using his money to have an even bigger influence. Just for fun, and in the spirit of Rand, think about the difference between how Gates is spending his money, vs the way the Government has spent it. Compare the way a person that earned his money is spending it vs "looters" that took it from others. Plus, Gates seems less John Galt than someone like Von Neumann or Newton.
I just get really sick and tired of people knocking down Rand strawmen. No, she didn't offer the solution all the hard problems of balancing individual liberty and collective action, but if you read it with some context and think about it for yourself, you may find that she did offer some good ideas about the perils of collectivism and the potential of human ability. If you are curious about Rand, go read Fransico' Money Speech, http://capitalismmagazine.com/2002/08/franciscos-money-speec... and skip this stupid, pointless blog post.
Coming at it from the utilitarian point of view (for sake of argument -- I am not a utilitarian), does it really need to be argued that every humane person should naturally wish to respect individual consent to the fullest extent possible? The only remaining question should be to determine to what extent this is possible. Is there a way to get the road clearing paid for without violating the consent of those who don't care if it's cleared or not?
It turns out that we can form systems whereby this is possible. For example, take a home owners association (HOA). It violates no consent to have contracts that stipulate that you must pay a yearly fee (or "tax") to join the HOA. So there you go, the snowplowing problem is solved, all without any violation of consent.
If you're creative, it turns out that you can solve all of these dilemmas, without resorting to government fiat, which of course can only be implemented by being willing to point a gun at your neighbor's head. No humane person would prefer this, ergo actually humane people would seek more creative solutions.
(Much like "democracy", which actually isn't about voting in your managers every few years then going home.)
A main part of historical socialism is control over production by the producers themselves. Not by "bosses", whose commands producers must obey.
Collectivism vs individualism is a false dichotomy. We can easily imagine that a healthier society cooperates to increase the freedom of its individuals.
Simply talk with mainstream anarchists (anarcho-syndicalists and so on). They typically call themselves socialists, organize collective action like strikes and radical unions, etc. Certainly, anarchists aren't known for supporting the state. :) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-syndicalism)
Your tacit premise is: "Since you didn't show me how to solve every problem, then your general solution is false." This is like blaming calculus for not having worked out all possible calculus problems.
To oversimplify, yes, the difference is that you've consented to the rules. Imagine you and your friends decide to order a pizza and agree to vote on the toppings. That's fine. But it's not fine for a friend to force you to pay for the pizza when you didn't agree to do so.
Your friend consented to the first pizza, but he didn't consent to any pizza after, except insofar as you can say that his remaining a member of the pizza-owners' association represents actual consent.