David - thanks so much for your work. You're a great writer. That said, though I agree with most of your premises, I strongly disagree with your conclusions.

You say that "there has never been any way to disentangle politics from economics and there never will be. There are no neutral, pre-existing economic facts, as such propositions are always underlied by normative philosophical questions of yours or mine, of how we define the rules." That's true. Our laws form a kind of basic substratum in society - a set of rules or agreements that are more or less fair (often less). Of course business does not live outside this domain, but it doesn't need to - that's not what a healthy disentangling of the two would look like.

Before the separation of church and state, religion and law were always entirely entangled as well. There was a time in Europe where, if you lived within a principality where your prince was Catholic and then became Protestant, you would have to convert as well. The church and the state were entirely tied together. It was the same in early colonial America, and only a few radical thinkers thought the two should be separate. Today they are separate and that's a mark of significant progress (though of course we are always in danger of reverting to a theocracy, we've nonetheless evolved towards greater individual freedom). As Thoreau says in Civil Disobedience: "The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?" We are making progress towards freedom, though it's slow and halting. The fact that churches still have to obey laws doesn't mean that they can't be separated in a healthy way. They have been in what is, at least, a rudimentary way.

And of course we could separate business and government - there is nothing stopping us except for our own lack of will and vision. Yes, they have evolved together over centuries and millennia, but that doesn't mean they need to continue.

You tie business and government so tightly together, but why? Is it really true? Yes, at the "senior level" some people do move between the two. And of course, more often they don't personally move between the two but instead have an army of lobbyists do it for them and enact their wishes. But nonetheless, the functions of business and government ARE fundamentally different. Businesses produce goods and politicians produce laws that should protect people. Unfortunately, the separation between the two is messy and mostly nonexistent, but they still have two entirely different functions and SHOULD be kept separate. We just have to develop the will and vision to separate them.

One other important point. We don't just need to separate the church from the state, but all of culture from both the state and the economy. Is it not terrible that the state runs our schools and fights over "the truth" that shall be taught? Why aren't the teachers free to teach according to their own conscience? And perhaps there is a degree of separation between medicine and the state, but it seems to shrink more and more daily (and of course medicine is entirely tied in with business). Journalism is probably the easiest example. We would be horrified if the government ran the newspapers, and we are rightfully horrified at how much the media goes along with the government to start wars and the like - they are tied together, though not "officially" - and of course they are often beholden to corporate interests, or will see their advertising revenue disappear. But of course we should be fighting to separate them further and shouldn't throw up our hands in despair. There was no edenic period when these things were naturally separated. We are only coming to see that they should be separated over the course of time.

We need anarachism - but only in the realm of culture. It's in our thinking, believing, and expression (in religion, education, science, medicine, art, journalism, etc) that we should be entirely free. In our government, we should be truly democratic. Economic and cultural institutions should have no say. It should just be a society of equals, of peers, making the agreements that they believe are right for them. And our economy should be a kind of socialist/capitalist mix. It should encourage freedom to take initiative, but not indefinitely, not once the initiative-taker is no longer serving the public good but their initiative has grown antisocial (There is a difference between small business owners that are there to meet the needs of the community, and the CEOs of huge corporations just trying to reap as much profit as possible before the planet burns). The economy is meant to meet needs and should be fundamentally social, and really Smith and every other economist would agree with this: that the point of the economy is to meet people's needs, and as many needs as possible (this is why Reagan and others justify their economic policy by saying "all boats will rise" - I've never seen an economist argue that the economy should serve a few people and everyone else should starve. They're just disagreeing on the way to make all boats will rise. And of course many, if not most, are disingenuous and don't care if people starve.)

Does that make sense? That picture of a healthy separation of societal functions was most extensively described by Rudolf Steiner at the turn of the last century. It's called "social threefolding." It's not a picture of utopia, but of what is today and how we need to work in order to bring society towards health. We just need the will and the vision. (But the fact that these functions exist and have always existed, Thomas Piketty, Levi Strauss, Mircea Eliade, and many others have described. I wrote an article about it here: https://thewholesocial.substack.com/p/societys-open-secret

Thanks so much for your work. All the best!


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You say there can be a separation between business and government just as there is a separation from church and state, but 'separation of church and state' itself is a mirage. In the UK, the Queen is still the head of church and state, even if it's more figurative than literal. In the US, 6 supreme court judges are about to revoke the rights to bodily autonomy of 166 million women for religious reasons. I still remember a time fairly recently when a woman was forced to remove her hijab on a public beach in France because it was 'offensive to secularism,' which is already laughable without there also being hundreds of pictures across the internet of French nuns still in their religiously motivated garb enjoying a nice fun time on the same French beaches. The Church does not let itself be separated from the State, no matter how much we like to pretend it is. It will be the same with business and government.

There will be no cultural anarchy without political, economic, and societal anarchy. To think otherwise is centrism.

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Hey William - thanks for replying. It seems that, from your examples, you agree that serious progress has been made in the separation of church and state (for instance, the fact that the Queen is only a "figurative" head of both the church and the state in the UK). And yes, as I think I pointed out - the progress is halting and we do revert back all the time (like your Supreme Court example... there are plenty of people all over the world who would love to un-separate church and state and go back to theocracies). But do you see that as the major trend of our time? Do you think that's where we're going? I'm assuming you think we've made significant progress since the priest-kings of ancient Egypt, and that modern democracies aren't simply the same thing as modern theocracies like Iran or Saudi Arabia. So I'm not sure if I get your point... are you just saying that it will be impossible to make further progress in such directions?

And what do you mean by "There will be no cultural anarchy without political, economic, and societal anarchy. To think otherwise is centrism."? I don't really understand that. Could you unpack it a bit? Thanks. I appreciate the conversation.

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Your first comment to the article expresses the view: "Unfortunately, the separation between the two [business and government] is messy and mostly nonexistent, but they still have two entirely different functions and SHOULD be kept separate. We just have to develop the will and vision to separate them." To reach this view, you used the separation of Church and State as an example of two things once inexorably bound together that are now considered separate, your point being that if those once unseparated forces could be separated, so too can business and government. Indeed, it's reminiscent of another Le Guin quote, which may be the origins of your thinking. My point, however, is that your view is naive.

I do not agree that serious progress has been made in the separation of church and state. I do not think our Tech Giant CEOs or our Presidents or our Prime Ministers or our Supreme Court Justices or our Ayatollahs are all that different from the priest-kings of ancient Egypt. Different religions, different buildings, different beliefs--same boot. The dictates of the few deciding the lives of the many.

But, even if you don't agree with that, you make some interesting statements in your most recent comment, "the progress is halting and we do revert back all the time," and "there are plenty of people all over the world who would love to un-separate church and state." Indeed. Lucky for the Queen, figurative and literal are different sides of the same coin--what, really, will be all that different for her if someone ever flips it? But that might be too conspiracy-theory-like for you to accept.

Let's talk about the Supreme Court, then. If the highest court in the land is governed by a majority of people who believe religion should govern the laws of the state, is there a separation of church and state? It doesn't seem like it to me.

And, indeed, your other examples are also interesting to inspect. Iran is, believe it or not, a democracy. They have a President, who is democratically elected. Your claim that it is a theocracy comes from this other, extra-power, the so-called "Ayatollah," who also rules the state. I see that difference between 'modern democracies' (your somewhat bigoted term) and Iran. However, I do not see a difference between myself and the people of Iran, since we must both labor under the similar illusion that our vote has any control over our lives, since we must both live beneath the oppressive boot of a state. I also do not see any difference between myself and the people of Saudi Arabia, though the state their church has latched itself to is a monarchy, not a democracy.

The point is, though we can claim that a sign of progress is the separation of church and state, we have proof positive throughout the world that while a state still exists, it will always be prone to take-over by a religious right-wing political group. It is happening currently in the US, it has happened in the past, it will always happen while states still exist. Why, then, do you believe a separation of 'business' (which is the church of capitalism) and 'government' (which is the state of liberalism) will yield any better results? To me, anarchism means understanding hierarchies build hierarchies, that to dismantle one we must dismantle them all.

That is why "there will be no cultural anarchy [a response to your original statement, "We need anarachism - but only in the realm of culture."] without political, economic, and societal anarchy." That is why I think your response to the original post is centrist.

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