Mere Anarchy, Already Loosed Upon the World

Some observations on anarchy by Butler Shaffer on LewRockwell.com. The nub:

I am often asked if anarchy has ever existed in our world, to which I answer: almost all of your daily behavior is an anarchistic expression. How you deal with your neighbors, coworkers, fellow customers in shopping malls or grocery stores, is often determined by subtle processes of negotiation and cooperation. Social pressures, unrelated to statutory enactments, influence our behavior on crowded freeways or grocery checkout lines. If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our employment would be immediately terminated. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives.

Should you come over to our home for a visit, you will not be taxed, searched, required to show a passport or driver�s license, fined, jailed, threatened, handcuffed, or prohibited from leaving. I suspect that your relationships with your friends are conducted on the same basis of mutual respect. In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion.

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  • ||

    Lets break this down a little bit:

    For this reason the process of adjudicating disputes and deciding how to pay for realizing shared values requires a government of several levels and substantial size.

    First, the size of government needed for adjudicating disputes is tiny. I'm not sure how much of our goverment revenue is consumed by the civil courts, but I would guess it is less than 1%.

    As far as I can tell offhand, the civil courts are the only part of government that is involved in resolving disputes between citizens. So, on the basis of dispute resolution, we have justified perhaps 1% of the current government.

    As for "realizing shared values", that phrase certainly covers a multitude of sins. The problem with government, after all, is that it forces you to help "realize" values that you may not share. "Shared by who?" and "Realized how?" are the question begged by this formula. Answers to those questions are likely to lead you to minarchism, at best, with most "social welfare" being funded by voluntary contributions.

    Umm, got news for you, Zathras - the government is an entity entirely separate from me. It may feast on my substance via taxes, and involve itself in my life via regulations, and occasionally even pursue ends that I admire, but it is, indeed, separate and apart from me regardless of its involvement, mostly unwanted, in my life.

  • ||

    The step from minarcy to anarchy is one I have never been able to make.

    "In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion."

    This is simply false. I would argue that the single most important factor in male female relations is the general ability of men to harm women. A 6'0, 215 lb. man treating a 5'4" 100 lb. woman to a nice dinner, being a perfect gentleman, is doing so in the context that, if push came to shove, he has virtually no fear of harm . This is understood implicitly by both parties, and we only have the concept of a 'gentleman' because of this disparity.

    Imagine the male's evolved sense of protection, the nature of many bedroom activities, and so forth. Underlying it all is the basic truth of physical inequality.

    It is a bit childish for some anarchists to pretend that something so fundamental as the physical power relationships between parties in 'congenial' societies don't exist.

  • AnarchyNOW!!!||

    I have an idea! Instead of trying to limit government, how about we piss away 2000 years of political wisdom and instead pursue anarchy! After all, the US is basically Fascist.

    Anarchy, the philosopy of crackpots everywhere! Plato, Aristotle, Socrates - MORONS. Rothbard and some no name losers from the 19th century are smarter and Somalia is a great place to live. After all, Iceland was libertarian and anarchist for 50 years or so (never mind the thralls and all that!) Funny how all these anarchos still decide to live in Fascist USA and not libertopian Somalia.

  • Anarchy Later||

    Note to AnarchyNOW: If you're not good at sarcasm, you shouldn't try it. You just end up looking like an obnoxious moron.

  • ||

    he he he he he he he! That's funny, tpojbhdubtgittdifh.

  • ||

    Jason,

    It's hardly a "step" from minarchy to anarchy. It's really a giant leap of faith in the inherent benevolence of mankind and a wilful ignorance of the results of every instance of true anarchy in history.

    The widespread looting of hospitals, homes, stores and offices in Iraq following the termination of the Hussein government should be sufficient empirical evidence to anyone with an open mind that anarchy and property rights cannot peacefully co-exist, making the term anarcho-capitalism rather oxymoronic.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is so wrapped up in the "anti-state" mentality that they'll dismiss any and all evidence that contradicts their foregone conclusion.

  • ||

    cdunlea:

    Do you mean to say that if driving off without paying for gas weren't against the law, you'd go ahead and do it?? Wow, you must be a real prick, huh?

    As for your divorce court analogy, that is an example of just the kind of coercive goverment interference that the author at lewrockwell.com was criticizing.

  • ||

    What does one mean by anarchy?

    If you simply mean daily activities that aren't governed by strict regulations (e.g. as of yet there's no Federal Department Of Homeland Courtesy telling me I must always say "Nice to meet you" to strangers, but I do it anyway), then sure, even life in Iran might in many ways anarchy. And there's no bureaucracy telling me and my friends how to split the tab at the restaurant when we go out, but we manage to handle it ourselves. But that cheapens the word anarchy.

    Some people would probably point out that, although no federal bureaucrat ordered me to say "Nice to meet you", I was able to deal with this stranger without much fear of theft, battery, murder, etc., because there's a government in place.

    When I think of anarchy, I think of a situation where people have bigger worries on their mind than splitting restaurant tabs and remembering to say "Nice to meet you." I think of places were murder, rape, robbery, vandalism, etc. are running rampant and there's a vacuum of authority to stop it. (Yes, I know, some of our urban areas are pretty bad. And yes, I know, some will say that government in the US is nothing more than mob rule or rule of thugs. Still, the US is far more orderly than Somalia or whatnot.)

    So if somebody wants to argue that anarchy is all around us any time we do something without explicit prodding by the government, then fine. But most people mean something very different: The complete breakdown of all order and a vacuum of power leaving nobody to restore order.

  • ||

    throeau, are you agreeing with joe on this one? It's OK, just a little surprising.

    The logic of the position becomes a religious one though, which is why I find it highly suspect.

  • ||

    Whenever anyone talks about how "anarchy" would mean freedom from coercion, I usually ask them whether they prefer lynch mobs to courts.

  • ||

    Russ-

    I guess I'm sort of taking Joe's stance. When I think of anarchy, I think of "all hell breaks loose", not "nobody from the Department of Homeland Courtesy told me to be polite." Any time I've ever encountered that word it's been in a negative context referring to large-scale social disruption and chaos.

    In general I have a low opinion of people who take a different definition of a word, a definition that is valid but less commonly used, and then use the word in a different way to make it sound like they've figured out something profound. Saying "You probably didn't realize just how much anarchy there is in your life!" (paraphrase) sounds like a major revelation until you find out that the writer isn't talking about all hell breaking loose (what most people seem to think of).

    It reminds me of my first semester of college. For one of my humanities general education classes the TA made a big deal about the difference between sex and gender. It took a while to pin him down and discover that what he meant was really innocuous: "Sex" is a biological term, and the TA was using "gender" to indicate behaviors and roles in society. So a very effiminate male could be (in my TA's jargon) ascribed a female gender.

    So, basically, my TA made a big deal and acted like he was going to overturn our entire understanding of the world. And then he simply observed that some men or women act in a manner more commonly associated with the opposite sex. To which we all gave a resounding "Duh!"

  • Warren||

    AnarchyNOW,

    Then I challenge you to a battle of wits

  • ||

    To be fair, thoreau, Shafer is using a perfectly legitimate alternate definition - anarchy as the lack of a government. You can argue (quite strongly, IMHO) that such a condition would result in the more familiar definition (The complete breakdown of all order and a vacuum of power leaving nobody to restore order), but you shouldn't just assume that the one is equivalent to the other, just because the two things have a common word to describe them.

    joe, the government stooge who used to wear an A pin.

  • ||

    ""Sex" is a biological term, and the TA was using "gender" to indicate behaviors and roles in society. So a very effiminate male could be (in my TA's jargon) ascribed a female gender."

    And, lo, Thoreau of the natural sciences gets a whiff of the desperation of the sociologist graduate student. It is a very hard thing, I would imagine, to dedicate one's entire academic to spouting nonsense and tautologies in the hope that one sounds like an authority on something.

    I hate those guys ...

  • ||

    Shorter JL: "I don't understand what those guys are saying. They must be really stupid.!"

  • fyodor||

    Anarchy:
    1. Absence of any form of political authority.
    2. Political disorder and confusion.

    Shaffer seems to be using the word to mean absence of active coercion (as opposed to potential). But even if all the planet's governments were to dissolve themselves, coercion would not soon go away.

  • ||

    Most things are done without a wrench...therefore wrenches are not useful?

  • ||

    joe:

    That resounding duh Thoreau spoke of has been the ending of every element of sociology discussion or chapter of sociology reading I have ever read. I would cite the absurd amount of text that an asinine concept like 'collective effervescence' has as Exhibit A.

    The goal is to reformulate obvious concepts into a language that they can nit pick so as to justify their existence.

    Another way of looking at it is, no one proclaims more but says less than the graduate student in this softest of the social 'sciences'.

  • ||

    Wrenches are useful... therefore if you can't do it with a wrench you must be cheating?

  • ||

    Shaffer's point is somewhat disingenuous, but I don't think most of the people here have read or understood market anarchist theory. We don't advocate a free-for-all society, nor is that what we would expect in the absence of a coercive monopoly of defence.

    - Josh

  • ||

    Right-wing, or free-market, "anarchists" perhaps shouldn't be described as anarchists at all-- they believe there should be governments...lots of them, in fact, to supply a free market in government.

    Institutions resembling governments would exist (and pretty much supply all of the services we expect from government in our civilisation), but would need to be contracted privately, from among an array of choices.

    Left-wing anarchists, I assume, would not concede the legitamacy of such Private Protective Associations...although I know less about this.

    It all seems kind of idling to me. The last thing we need to reform about the way our world functions is the "monopoly on law enforcement" that governments exercise in the civilised world.

  • ||

    I think my New Year's resolution will be to edit my posts. I've had a particularly dreadful day in that area ...

  • ||

    "The last thing we need to reform about the way our world functions is the 'monopoly on law enforcement' that governments exercise in the civilised world."

    So Iraq wasn't part of the civilized world?

  • ||

    Iraq has a government now, and will have one in the future (whether it is one we would admire, or not). I guess I am not sure what point you mean to make, Karl.

    I suppose there is something faintly relevant to a contemporary policy concern here. A lot of Bush critics (both pro- and anti-war) are concerned the administration is dropping the ball in Iraq. We are setting an early dead-line for (I assume) taking American soldiers off routine patrol and other security duties, and tossing it on to an Iraqi regime that has yet to be formed, much less organise courts, police and an army.

    Doesn't the "democratic transformation" of an Arab society require years of creating an intricate materiel and intellectual infrastructure?

    Maybe not?

  • ||

    From the article:

    "Are there murderers, kidnappers, rapists, and arsonists in our world? Of course there are, and there will always be, and they do not all work for the state. It is amazing that, with all the powers and money conferred upon the state to "protect" us from such threats, they continue to occur with a regularity that seems to have increased with the size of government!"

    He never said a world without coercive government would be free from all coercion....so I think several posters here have misunderstood what Mr. Shaffer said. To prevent coercion from criminals, thugs, gangs, etc, contracts with private organizations for protection, and respect for property rights, would seem to be a vast improvement over our current system....which, in fact, uses coercion to supposedly prevent coercion.

  • greg||

    Dan said -
    "Whenever anyone talks about how "anarchy" would mean freedom from coercion, I usually ask them whether they prefer lynch mobs to courts."

    Since the founding of the U.S. I would estimate that lynch mobs have been responsible for about 50,000-200,000 hangings, beating etc. Hell make it 1,000,000, I have no good numbers on this. Also assume that 95%-99% of the lynchings were perfromed for racial, witchery, general anger or other such immoral motives.

    On the other hand the U.S. Courts have placed millions in jail (just since the 1920's) for such devious acts as possesing or smoking marijuana or cocaine.

    Organized power (courts) will always be equally corrupt to petty power (lynch mobs), but the organized power will have much more effective means to eliminating your rights.

  • ||

    Sure I can go to a friends house and the FRIEND won't tax me, require a drivers license fine me or jail me. But if I travel the streets, I may be watched by cameras whose original intent were to simply gauge traffic flow and are now used to to view potential criminal activity, or to catch me speeding, or cut a red light too close. I may travel on a road or highway which has a toll booth- a tax to travel from one point to another. I may be subjected to random road blocks or 'informational road blocks' by local police which inevitably get used to ferret out other suspected illegal activity. And lord knows, if I have to get on an airplane to see that same friend, I'm subject to a whole host of new governmental intrusions all implemented in the name of stopping another Sept. 11.

    No, Mr. Shaffer may not be implementing these intrusions, but I may and in some cases will suffer them once I leave my home to begin my journey to the Shaffer household.

    Paul

  • fyodor||

    matt,

    I'll plead guilty to not reading the whole article, and I'll go ahead and take back what I said about Shaffer defining anarchy as a lack of overt coercion.

    But then, that only reinforces the fallacy of the excerpted quote. We obviously do not live in a stateless society, so how can Shaffer say our behavior manifests anarchy? Okay, it's "anarchistic expression," whatever that means. But he was answering the question of whether anarchy has ever existed. The implication is clearly that our peaceful cooperative behavior is an example of anarchy that already takes exists. I.e., anarchy can exist because it already does. But as long as there is a state, we are not somehow living out anarchy.

    So, does the state help enable this peaceful behavior, or does it impede it and encourage violence? Well, we could argue this all day, but I think the point here (for me) is that Shaffer's "evidence" for an anarchic reality simply does not exist because his example is fallacious. So we're back to square one, arguing over a purely hypothetical situation that has never existed to our knowledge, suggesting perhaps that it cannot exist.

  • Jonathan Wilde||

    That was a great article, but the quote by itself doesn't tell the whole story. Many people in the comments seem to believe Shaffer is saying that personal security, adjudication, and law enforcement are irrelevant without the state. This is wrong. Rather than be left with one monopoly provider you cannot choose voluntarily, market anarchy is putting these services (the defense of 'rights') on the market.

    At the very least, the moral argument for market anarchy is strong, because the state is defined through initiation of violence. And the state has been by far the biggest killer in history. It steals, maims, extorts, cheats, murders, etc at a breakneck clip.

    The "will it work" argument is the biggest question mark for most people, with the biggest objection being the "public goods" argument. The counter argument is best made by David Friedman who argues that good govt is itself a public good because one individual's efforts to create a good govt benefits us all and is nonrivalrous and nonexcludable. Thus it will be underprovided.

    Thus, trying to solve one public good (personal security) with another public good (good govt) is a recipe for failure. And that is ultimately the fundamental flaw with all govt.

  • ||

    Much of history - what people thought was worth recording - deals with the people who tried to become powerful. The beautiful thing about a limited government is that it changes the means to power and the type of power a person can get. Limited government has - ideally - an abstraction (in the form of a constitution, say) in the seat of maximum power, preventing a person from getting such maximum power.

    When a person gets such maximum power it's almost always terrible - death, destruction; when a document has it, it can only prevent things. (Of course, a document can't defend itself very well, and it's power almost inevitably erodes - take the US as an example.)

    The problem I have with anarcho-capitalism is that it has no firm mechanism (that I have heard of) to prevent the aggregation of unlimited power. Competition cannot prevent this. There needs to be an abstraction with monopoly control (the monopoly I am in favor of) over the seat of ultimate authority - you can't trust a person with it.

  • Jonathan Wilde||

    The problem I have with anarcho-capitalism is that it has no firm mechanism (that I have heard of) to prevent the aggregation of unlimited power. Competition cannot prevent this. There needs to be an abstraction with monopoly control (the monopoly I am in favor of) over the seat of ultimate authority - you can't trust a person with it.

    Let me offer an argument to the contrary. You say that you can't trust a person with the ultimate authority. I agree. Look at the 20th century and the 100+ million deaths caused by this authority.

    And yet you say that anarchocapitalism has no mechanism when trying to prevent the aggregation of unlimited power???

    My friend, the state is the aggregation of unlimited power.

    If anarchocapitalism fails, we end up with the state. Big deal - we already have that.

    Further, the key argument to why anarchocapitalism may prevent an aggregation of power is what David Friedman calls 'being on the right side of the public goods trap'.

    In a monopoly system, if a person wishes to spread 'bad law', i.e., law that violates people's rights, kills then, robs them, etc, it is easy. He spends a little bit of time/energy/money and campaigns to his pet congressman (via contributions, etc.) and uses the machinery of the state of spread the bad consequences to everyone. It is a small price to pay that costs everyone in a big way. That is why under a state, good government is a public good and undersupplied. Bad government OTOH is in ample supply and grows with time. The horrors that result are well documented.

    In a system of competing protection agencies, you only buy the law you want specified by the protection agency, and arbitration agencies work the 'friction' between competing services on the market. Thus, if you want to spread a particular 'bad law', you are limited in your power. You can pay a small price to cost everyone else in a big way. Instead, 'bad law' is now a public good, and will be undersupplied.

    This is what Friedman calls 'being on the right side of the public goods trap' although he does a much better job of explaining it than me.

  • ||

    fyodor,

    I think what Mr. Shaffer was demonstrating was that people tend to act civil toward one another even without the threat of the state forcing them to do so. Johnathan Wilde provides a more articulate response than I could give, so I'll defer the argument of whether market anarchy could work to his post.

  • ||

    True, but these behaviors are happening within a structure that includes a government. It is dishonest for Mr. Shafer to brag about how little security work he performs in his daily life, since he has the government performing that work for him, and his political theory contains, at its core, the desire to shift security efforts to the very individuals he commends for carrying out coercive security procedures.

  • ||

    "...he commends for NOT carrying out security procedures."

    ooops.

  • ||

    "In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion"

    This guy has yet to meet my wife!

  • ||

    Judith Martin ... Anarchist!

    Who'da thunk it?

  • ||

    "In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion"

    Yeah right...ask anyone who's been to divorce court how devoid of coercion and voluntary their settlement was. Ask them if they'd make the court-inflated child support payments voluntarily when they know the money is being spent on maintaining a Volvo instead of a Ford.

    Much of our behavior we do is predicated on the consequences of failing to conform to society's rules. Driving off without paying for gas brings jain time; that's why we don't do that, and a number of similar things.

  • ||

    How many "strangers" does Butler Shaffer actually know? What happens when he and they disagree on something important? When he and his friends disagree on something vital?

    There are people able to make their way through life without ever disagreeing with anyone, or who are able to settle all their disagreements equably. This may be because of their strong moral values or placid disposition, or because they are built like Jonathan Ogden. Society as a whole is not composed entirely of such people, however, and the beginning of the need for government arises with the need to settle disputes that the interested parties cannot, or cannot without violence.

    This is not a rejection of people's values, but is instead one of them. Virtually everyone agrees on the need for a third party to adjudicate disputes, and so hardly anyone objects in principle to having to pay for it. Other shared values -- from the enforcement of uniform traffic laws to the desire for clean, safe water and food -- find their expression in shared action: that is, government action that authorized by representatives people have elected themselves and paid for by taxes raised by the consent of same. Resolving disagreements as to what shared values are and what price to set on them is what legislatures are for. Enforcing the authority of the courts and legislatures, in turn, is the role of the executive.

    It is absolutely true that fewer disputes should arise in societies where everyone shares exactly the same values, and will therefore always follow the same rules without coercion. The United States is not such a society now, or will it be in the forseeable future. For this reason the process of adjudicating disputes and deciding how to pay for realizing shared values requires a government of several levels and substantial size.

    Libertarians are accustomed to viewing this government (which according to long European academic tradition they always call "the state") as an entity entirely separate from themselves, as if it had fallen out of the sky. That this view is very far from the commonsense experience of most people goes far to explain why libertarian candidates for public office generally have little success.

  • ||

    Isn't there a government system in place to secure people from entering into bad marriages?

  • Anarchy NOW!!!||

    "Let's extend this analogy to nation states."

    1. Nation-states are not individual human beings, so there is already a suspect premise!

    2. Independent states are always at war with each other, destroying your anology. Meanwhile I can name several dozen nation-states that are not in state of civil war.

    "War is expensive."

    So by your logic it never happens, right? How do you account for the hundreds of ongoing conflicts around the globe?

    "If you read the Declaration of Independence closely, you will realize that it is damn near an anarchist document"

    Damn near....as in damn near pregnant.

    "You realize that the same things you are saying now were said by the skeptics of the 17th and 18th century when the classical liberals wanted to get rid of the king?"

    Nope, even classical liberals understood the need for central order as a bulwark of liberty against the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life in anarchy.

    "Luckily there were people like John Locke who were forward looking and knew that human civilization ought to strive to advance."

    Beyond human nature? Is that what your sacred economic models tell you is the truth?

    "Otherwise, the great American experiment would never have happened."

    It happened because it didn't include anarcho-dumbness in the plans. And as an anarchist, are not you supposed to tell me that the "American experiment" is a massive failure, subverted by the evil Federalists? How you are less free than an enslaved black man or a women in 1776?

    And Yes I also recommend exploring anarchist liturature, to learn how foolishly utopian and narrowsighted it really is.

  • ||

    One of the more amusing responses to "anarchy";

    http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp12102002.html

  • Anarchy Later||

    I also recommend exploring anarchist liturature, to learn how foolishly utopian and narrowsighted it really is.

    This from someone who's obviously read very little of it...

  • ||

    "If anarchocapitalism fails, we end up with the state. Big deal - we already have that."

    I must've heard anarcho folk make this argument (with a straight face, somehow) a hundred times, and every time it blows my mind. The (damn near certain) collapse of protection service markets doesn't yield "the state"; it yields a state. What kind of state? Well, who knows... but "functional though flawed liberal democracy" wouldn't be my first guess.

  • Anarchy NOW!!!||

    "This from someone who's obviously read very little of it..."

    ...if you don't include Kropotkin, Rothbard, Spooner, Tucker, Hoppe, Friedman....

    But if supposing my ignorence is what keeps your faith alive, don't let my response stand in my way comrade.

    See you in Somalia.

  • Anarchy Later||

    I'm "supposing" your ignorance because you claim that anarchists never address issues that they in fact address constantly. If you really have read them, then you have no reading comprehension skills whatsoever.

    (Which is easy to believe, judging from your responses to Wilde. Unless you're just trolling when you say things like "Nope, even classical liberals understood the need for central order as a bulwark of liberty against the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life in anarchy." It's hard to believe anyone could misunderstand his point that badly.)

  • ||

    "functional though flawed liberal democracy" wouldn't be my first guess

    What I'm never quite clear on is which existing governments are supposedly more-respectful of citizens' rights than the United States is.

    We're not "#1" in any one category -- except, possibly, freedom of political speech -- but as an aggregate whole, we're basically the best around (especially in the areas of personal property rights, personal protection, and free political speech). Yeah, we're heading in "the wrong direction", along with the rest of the Western world, but only if you take a short-term view; we're still "freer" than we were 20, or 50, or 200 years ago.

    Which, to me, suggests we aren't the ones who should be experimenting with anarchy. Let Saudi Arabia try it first; we can watch and take notes.

  • Anarchy NOW!!!||

    Anarchy Later is trolling, as he has nothing better to do but speculate on my reading habits. what I get for poking a cultist with a stick!

  • Jonathan Wilde||

    1. Nation-states are not individual human beings, so there is already a suspect premise!

    No, but they do have the same options of cooperation or fighting that individuals do. And there is no big guy to watch over them to make sure they don't fight.

    2. Independent states are always at war with each other, destroying your anology. Meanwhile I can name several dozen nation-states that are not in state of civil war.

    It depends on which states you are talking about. Generally states in the Western world, and specifically Anglosphere states go to war much less often than do states in other parts of the world. But the fact remains that even without a World Govt, states are more often than not at peace with each other.

    So by your logic it never happens, right?

    Show me when I said that.

    How do you account for the hundreds of ongoing conflicts around the globe?

    They happen because the two sides believe their goals are worth the cost of the means, i.e., war. The goal of market anarchy is to raise the costs of war and make it profitable to be at peace. Conflicts and war still would likely occur when a group of individuals believe the payoff is greater than the cost.

    Nope, even classical liberals understood the need for central order as a bulwark of liberty against the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life in anarchy.

    No. What you are describing is Hobbes' view of the state of nature, which is very different from Locke's view of the state of nature. Hobbes thought that life without a big guy to keep everyone in line, there would be a constant state of war of everyone against everyone. Locke OTOH thought that there would be peaceful relations among most people in general. However there would still be fighting from bandits, thugs, poachers, etc and this was the reason that govts were created amongst men.

    Of course neither Hobbes nor Locke could picture competing protection services. The idea, along with modern day economics, was before their time.

    Beyond human nature? Is that what your sacred economic models tell you is the truth?

    There is nothing beyond human nature about this. If your picture of market anarchy is "people living peacefully without protection - shya right!!!" than you probably do think it is beyond human nature. I can understand that.

    And as an anarchist, are not you supposed to tell me that the "American experiment" is a massive failure, subverted by the evil Federalists? How you are less free than an enslaved black man or a women in 1776?

    Actually, the American experiment is successful because it points out that small govt has resulted in much more prosperity and economic growth than big govt. But the small govt has gotten bigger and bigger over time, and that prosperity won't be around much more if the trend continutes. I do wish the Anti-Federalists had won the early battle. We might have an even smaller govt today.

    The slavery argument is a red herring. One can oppose slavery and big govt at the same time.

    And Yes I also recommend exploring anarchist liturature, to learn how foolishly utopian and narrowsighted it really is.

    I seriously doubt you have really "explored" the "anarchist literature". What is utopian is the belief that a small govt can be constrained. What is utopian is the belief that when you give the "big man" the monopoly power to protect us from each other, he won't turn around and kick all our asses.

    There are some great arguments against market anarchy made by among others Tyler Cowen and Robert Nozick, but when I hear Hobbes quoted as another such argument, I simply have to shake my head.

    If you are so sure of your opinion, the least you could do is to prove to yourself that you are right; if you really have an open mind, you should prove to yourself that the ideas in _The Machinery of Freedom_ are totally wrong.

  • Kevin Carson||

    joe and Zathras,

    Most of the people Butler Schaffer invites into his home, I suspect, don't require the threat of death row to deter them from robbing or killing him, raping his wife, and burning his house down.

    And the vast majority of potential criminals are probably deterred from entering his home by the relative difficulty or inconvenience of circumventing commonsense safety precautions he's taken, or by the threat they might be blown away if he's there.

    As for when deterrence fails: an anarchist would argue that whatever collective security measures are currently carried out by the state could be accomplished by voluntary association, or by marketable services.

    And don't forget--the large number of murders, assaults, and robberies that DO take place also happen "within a structure that includes a government."

  • Kevin Carson||

    tbone,

    On the danger of aggregation of monopoly power: what Jonathan Wilde said. In a genuine free market, there's a solid cap on how much economic power can be aggregated--and that's the imperative of internalizing all the benefits AND costs of the decisions you make. All the overgrown, centralized, government and corporate organizations we have today reflect the fact that we don't live in a free market. Instead, the politically favored are able to use the government's taxing, spending, and regulatory power to externalize the inefficiency costs of large size on others.

    And Jonathan also answered Dan and AnarchyNow pretty effectively on the potential pitfalls of competition between security agencies. There's a large body of work by people like David Friedman on how economic imperatives would cause competing agencies to work out a modus vivendi of arbitration rules, courts of appeals, etc, between themselves. If you don't buy the arguments, or regard them as too theoretical or unproven, fine; Nozick made a fairly well thought out case against them, for example. But to pretend they don't exist, and that your rhetorical bomb is something original that free market anarchists haven't foreseen or dealt with, is disingenuous.

    AnarchyNow,

    Are you saying Plato and Aristotle WEREN'T theoreticians? Just because they supported the existence of government, and had some arguments for it, does that mean they actually understood what its real function was?

    Somehow, I doubt if the latifundia slaves who lived in the time of the classical Greeks, or the serfs who lived in the time of Aquinas, would be too impressed by the "public order" and "general welfare" arguments of the philosophers.

    It might be relevant to consider that most of those philosophers who waxed eloquent on the self-evident need for government did their philosophizing while living off the labor of slaves or serfs who didn't have a choice in the matter.

  • ||

    Kevin--

    It would be fair to say that Plato's slaves and Aquina's serfs did benefit in some real ways from the political order that moralists and philosophers commended. It can safely be assumed that everywhere, and at all times, those most likely to fall into servitude are the most weak and vunerable (in all kinds of ways-- war-captives; Africans and English prisoners forcibly trasported to an unfamiliar world, etc.)

    In many cases, they would have been arguably WORSE off absent structured societies. The fate of the vunerable has been a concern of government for as long as there has been government-- the proverbial "widows and orphans" is proverbial in American political life, because the Bible harps on them in its most political books.

    Protective associations could almost inherently foster debt-slavery, the abuse of women, children, the elderly and the physically and mentally feeble, and those guilty of finite transgressions.

    These problems have been with us always...and Anarchy-Now does have a point (of sorts) as to how keenly aware even the most cloistered participant in the Great Tradition would have had to be.

  • ||

    A good starting point for "market anarchism" and "polycentric law" (competing security agencies) is:

    http://www.againstpolitics.com/market_anarchism/index.html

    http://www.againstpolitics.com/polycentric_law/index.html

  • ||

    Kevin:

    "In a genuine free market, there's a solid cap on how much economic power can be aggregated"

    I'm not talking about just economic power. You have to assume someone is going to try to take over everything - and be very clever about it. Right now in the US the only way to do it is through the political system, and their power is limited due to the population's belief that the constitution should have ultimate authority. (Though that belief is waning, especially as the constitution expands in both letter and spirit.) As far as I can see, this near-religeous belief in the ultimate authority of something 1) abstract, 2) specific, 3) designed to limit power, has no analouge in anarcho-capitalism. People will be swayed; groups will be played against each other; people will cry for a king, or whatnot; good bye anarcho-capitialism, hello bad news.

  • Libertarian Jackass||

    "If you read the Declaration of Independence closely, you will realize that it is damn near an anarchist document"

    It's not if you read the Declaration of Independence closley, it's if you read it at all: " . . . that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . ."

    Government = an agency voluntarily formed to protect life, liberty and property. The document also implies a right of disassociation that logically extends to the individual level. Does the Declaration of Independence even imply the necessity of a single, central agency for a given territory? Obviously not. How does this differ from market anarchism?

  • ||

    "It can safely be assumed that everywhere, and at all times, those most likely to fall into servitude are the most weak and vunerable"

    Ah, the master race argument.

    More likely the ones who fall into servitude are the ones outnumbered and outgunned. Weak and vulnerable as a group perhaps, but not as individuals. The individually weak generally provide little lasting value as servants in the first place. Kind of the paradox of slavery, you can't beat the price but the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

  • ||

    Russ--

    My example was not trivial. I recall scandals involving free-market anarchists and child abuse (and neglect) during the 70's.

    The world is full of children...and they are vulnerable (forgive my previous mis-spellings).

  • Will Spencer||

    I met an anarchist at a convention in NYC who claimed he didn't believe in individual property rights.

    So, I stole his backpack.

    It turned out that he _did_ believe in individual property rights after all!

  • ||

    Andrew,

    Now you're gonna use the "It's for the children" argument?

    (BTW, misspellings and typos are cool with me.)

  • ||

    Russ--

    Yeah, sure...why not?

    Julian might know something about the scandals I recall-- they played big in the Libertarian media of the time. They involved some Free-Stater types in, I believe, Colorado.

    What sticks in my mind, was the plausibility of the Argument-- that children are debtors. I believe some anarcho-capitalists weaseled a way out of it...but you sensed they were squirming.

  • Anarchy NOW!!!||

    "The problem I have with anarcho-capitalism is that it has no firm mechanism (that I have heard of) to prevent the aggregation of unlimited power. Competition cannot prevent this."

    Yes, the two private "protectiona agencies" start shooting. But is civil war an environment of individual liberty? Welcome to Somalia, libertopia.

    But I don't expect you to even consider my point, because anarchists really belive they are smarter than 2000+ years of philsophical debate. They know than anarchy will give us libertarian utopia, and like all utopians this is a religious belief based on faith. Their economic models are all the "proof" they need.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Are you talking about the New Banner scandal, Andrew? I think that was in South Carolina, and I think the people involved turned out to be innocent of the charges.

    But it's been many years since I read about it, and I could be wrong. Lord knows I wouldn't put much stock in any argument for anarchism that rests on the innate goodness of anarchists.

  • ||

    I'd like to go back to the original point of the article and joe's contrary reply.

    This is only an anecdote, but I think it's so commonplace we don't even realize it happens so often.

    I recently had some work done inside my house. I talked with a few contractors, the one I chose is one I had a slight personal knowledge of - he wasn't a total stranger but we hadn't actually met before, a friend of a friend of a friend, etc.

    Anyway, when the subject came up he asked point blank: "Do you want me to get a building permit? It's totally up to you; if your neighbors make a complaint there may be some legal trouble, but if you don't want to spend the $250 I'm OK with that."

    Think of what that implies. He's not trying to get away with shoddy work, he knows from talking to me that I have many other projects I'd like to do and he's certainly interested in doing additional work. But if he does a crummy job, he won't get any more work from me. Plus it may affect personal relationships. But... the choice is MINE! He's experienced in the work, he knows a permit is not a guarantee of his work, it's a third party remedy at best.

    Of course, I decided against the permit and everything turned out great. When it came time for work on the outside of the house, we both knew that a permit was useless but unavoidable. And of course the local government fucked that up and issued me ONE permit and issued 2 separate and different permits to the inspectors. The work was impeccable, the inspectors inspected for a total of about 10 seconds, which is obviously a joke. We actually spent more time trying to reconcile the differences in the permits! Not only did the government provide absolutely no transactional "security" for me, nor my contractor, nor his employees, the result was typical - good work and satisfaction all around. The only flaw in the whole process was the government fucking up its own permits.

    This is the same government that zoned property for 2-flats and 40 years later the county (a different government) taxed the property with the 2-flats as if they were 3-flats; when the owners of the 2-flats asked to local government to help out and prove that they were not 3-flats because the local government wouldn't have allowed them to be built, the local government told the owners "that's none of our business."

    I won't waste anyone's time with more anecdotes of government bungling. Needless to say, I conduct more business outside of government that with government, and without a doubt the vast majority of bungled transactions and shoddy workmanship have been on the government business. That's because I have no options.

    Government's presence does alter people's behavior, but there is little proof that it promotes civility.

  • ||

    Jesse--

    Anything's possible...God, it's been a lot of years!

    The discussion turned on the assumption that the charges were true: the parents had their kids working, and in harsh captivity. Also, of course, out of school-- which is what got child welfare involved...and that's another classic!

  • ||

    Anarchy challenges libertarians to think about how small can government actually be. Remember, anarchy has no mechanisism to prevent governments. The challange is to keep the governments small and reduce government growth. Duh!

  • Jesse Walker||

    Yes, the two private "protectiona agencies" start shooting. But is civil war an environment of individual liberty? Welcome to Somalia, libertopia.

    But I don't expect you to even consider my point, because anarchists really belive they are smarter than 2000+ years of philsophical debate.

    They don't have to "consider" your point? Actually, it's one of the first issues every serious proposal for market anarchy addresses. To disagree with the anarchist answer is one thing, but to pretend it doesn't exist ... well, let's just say it casts some doubt on your claim to be familiar with 2000+ years of political debate. (By the way, it was only a few centuries ago that 2000+ years of political debate had concluded that democracy was a horrible idea.)

    The "Why don't you go live in Somalia?" argument is even sillier. You can make a strong case that the system Somalia has is vastly preferable to most other political systems in Africa -- which is obviously the appropriate comparison to make. That doesn't mean an American anarchist should want to live in a country with a Third World standard of living and a nasty contingent of Islamists, nor that an American anarchy would look anything like its Somali cousin.

    Finally: There are many sorts of anarchy out there, and many sorts of anarchists. Some left-anarchists have sensible things to say (I've gotten a lot out of reading Kropotkin), and some right-anarchists do not (has any libertarian offered more self-evidently specious arguments than Hans-Hermann Hoppe?). Even if you aren't willing to embrace the full package, I recommend exploring the anarchist literature; at a time when the shape of sovereignty is changing radically, it offers some of the best tools for imagining what might come next.

  • ||

    "Do you mean to say that if driving off without paying for gas weren't against the law, you'd go ahead and do it?? Wow, you must be a real prick, huh?"

    Yeah, and fast, too! And he travels alot!

  • Jonathan Wilde||

    I must've heard anarcho folk make this argument (with a straight face, somehow) a hundred times, and every time it blows my mind. The (damn near certain) collapse of protection service markets doesn't yield "the state"; it yields a state. What kind of state? Well, who knows...

    I'm not sure I am part of this "anarcho folk" and I certainly didn't mean to "blow your mind," but you are right - there are different types of states. Americans have been blessed with one of the least malicious states on the whole. However, I see no reason that a minarchist state or "functional though flawed liberal democracy" is any more stable than market anarchy would be. It might be just as "utopian" to believe a limited govt stays limited with the incentive structure arising from a monopoly on violence. And in any case, the same culture of liberty that is necessary to fight the growth of limited govt would be necessary to fight the emergence of a state in market anarchy.

    but "functional though flawed liberal democracy" wouldn't be my first guess.

    Why not? If the history of American Independence has shown anything, it is that liberty is chipped away in bits in pieces, not in swift strokes, i.e., the boiling frog analogy. First, the Articles of Confederation, then the Constitution, then the Alien and Sedition Acts, then the Civil War, then the Federal Reserve, then WWII, fiat currency, Great Society, Drug War, Patriot Act, War on obesity, etc. It has been a gradual loss.

    If at any time market anarchy did exist for a finite amount of time, it would require a culture of liberty among the population. If a state did emerge, my guess is the opposite of yours. It would be under the guise of a minimal compromise, i.e., a "roads authority" or something like that. Then the "roads authority" would try to take over something else, say the power utilities infrastructure, etc. And on and on. I doubt that it would be sudden chaos and "whiskered men with bombs" if the starting point was functional market anarchy.

    Now if I had the power to snap my fingers and make every govt employee disappear, would that result in chaos? Absolutely, and we'd likely end up with another govt worse than we already have. I embrace anarchocapitalism as the most moral system of human interaction possible, but I don't have any wish to create "Anarchy Now!" Rather, I hope for a gradual transition with more and more areas of my life being free from coercion. It is going away from the govt and making it irrelevant through homeschooling, strong cryptography, the internet, hawala systems, etc rather than going through it.

  • fyodor||

    matt,

    "I think what Mr. Shaffer was demonstrating was that people tend to act civil toward one another even without the threat of the state forcing them to do so."

    But again, since the people in his example are living in a society that does indeed have a state, he has demonstrated no such thing.

    "Johnathan Wilde provides a more articulate response than I could give, so I'll defer the argument of whether market anarchy could work to his post."

    I read part of his post but lost interest. I've read arguments for anarcy before, and who knows, maybe they're right? But my only point on this thread is actually reinforced by you when you say, "...market anarchy could work...." Sure, sure, maybe it could. But it's still just theoretical speculation. It was Shaffer's point that it's not just theoretical speculation because, as Doherty put it (apparently in agreement), anarchy is "already loosed upon the world." And it does look good for a moment, and it does behoove us to reocgnize how much human behavior is made up of peaceful cooperation. But as long as these peaceful cooperators are acting in a society with a damn powerful state, the example ultimately fails in its point to show that anarchy already does exist in the real world. That's my only point at this point. Regarding whether anarcy could work, well, sigh, maybe, but I'm rather skeptical. Julian makes a good point why. But, for me, anyway, that's a debate for another day.

  • Jonathan Wilde||

    Yes, the two private "protectiona agencies" start shooting. But is civil war an environment of individual liberty? Welcome to Somalia, libertopia.

    Let's extend this analogy to nation states. Since Mexico and the US are different states and there is no World Govt to keep them from engaging in war, obviously they will be in a pepetual war. Same with the US and Canada. Same with the entire Western Hemisphere. Good thing we have a World Govt to keep all these independent nations from fight each other right?

    You fail to realize two things: that cooperation is on the whole a net benefit for both parties, and that war is expensive. It is the same reason China does not go to war with Taiwan even though it says it owns it. A war with Taiwan could be won by China, but it would be damn expensive. Sure protections agencies may fight with each other, but remember, they want to earn a profit. War is expensive.

    But I don't expect you to even consider my point, because anarchists really belive they are smarter than 2000+ years of philsophical debate. They know than anarchy will give us libertarian utopia, and like all utopians this is a religious belief based on faith. Their economic models are all the "proof" they need.

    If you read the Declaration of Independence closely, you will realize that it is damn near an anarchist document - the whole "consent of the governed" bit. Same with a lot of Jefferson's writings.

    You realize that the same things you are saying now were said by the skeptics of the 17th and 18th century when the classical liberals wanted to get rid of the king? "Yeah right, you're going to repeal hundreds of years of history. You probably think you're smarter than the rest of us." And "but without a king, who will rule? Who shall make the final judgment? Who shall make the law?"

    Luckily there were people like John Locke who were forward looking and knew that human civilization ought to strive to advance. Otherwise, the great American experiment would never have happened.

  • Dr. State||

    True, but these behaviors are happening within a structure that includes a government. It is dishonest for Mr. Shafer to brag about how little security work he performs in his daily life, since he has the government performing that work for him, and his political theory contains, at its core, the desire to shift security efforts to the very individuals he commends for carrying out coercive security procedures.

    Funny, but these voluntary courtesies and interactions seem more common in MacIntosh, Alabama, where the nearest sheriff is 60 miles away in a different town and everyone and their child has a shotgun. Furthermore, it's even more interesting how rare these courtesies can be where the government is most present: urbania.

  • ||

    Years ago I read a short story about anarchy which revolved around a power failure and a city park. It was very well written, detailing the descent of behavior from peaceful to frightful in the span of about 36-48 hours or so. Wish I could remember the title, but in short, for all you anarchists (or wannabes) out there: Be careful what you wish for.

  • ||

    I read that story. I can't remember the name or author either. (Was it a Larry Niven short?) But I do remember there was a young girl who walked through the park wearing nothing but a long red scarf that trailed far behind her. (She was being depicted kind of like living artwork.) She was later found huddled behind some bushes, crying, apparently the victim of some assault. Yet, I don't think your admonition to be careful of what you wish for holds up here. I also remember that in order to enter the park -- where people were free to do what they wanted -- you were not allowed to bring any weapons, but had to submit to the automated, robot security system, which failed because of the power failure you noted, rendering everyone in the park defenseless. In that light, the story was more of a warning against the dangers of surrendering your defense to someone else's control (like the government).

  • ||

    Stephan, you make an excellent point (especially judging from the silence of your opponents in this thread), but I'd like to expand on one aspect of your argument.

    If you could push a button and unilaterally cause the state to cease to exist, and you pushed it, what do you think would happen?

    Since a clear majority currently believes that the state is necessary and beneficial, it seems to me two things would happen: (a) there would be a lot of chaos and rights violations as people competed to form a new government, and (b) the state would indeed be re-established.

    I think a lot of non-anarchist libertarians are thinking in terms of this kind of scenario. This is what happened to some degree in Iraq after Hussein's government was toppled (which some posters here have referred to).

    But if I understand your argument, you're saying that to reach anarchy, the vast majority of people would first have to become convinced of your two points (aggression is unjustified, and states engage in aggression). Whether that will ever occur, and when, is unknown. But 200 years ago, it was uncertain that slavery would ever be abolished. So there is hope!

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    Larrinator:

    >If you could push a button and unilaterally cause the state to cease to exist, and you pushed it, what do you think would happen?But if I understand your argument, you're saying that to reach anarchy, the vast majority of people would first have to become convinced of your two points (aggression is unjustified, and states engage in aggression). Whether that will ever occur, and when, is unknown.But 200 years ago, it was uncertain that slavery would ever be abolished. So there is hope!

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    Bob Bidinotto wrote:

    >Stephan, since you and I have been engaged privately and publicly in this very debate for some weeks (see my essays refuting anarchism, archived on my blog), I don't understand how you can claim that the arguments by anarchists are essentially "moral" in character, but those by proponents of limited government (including me) are purely "utilitarian." You know very well that this certainly doesn't represent the position that I, for one, have been advancing. Regarding utilitarianism: in my latest piece, "The Goal of Law: Justice or 'Utility'?," I explicitly reject utilitarianism as a basis for just law. Moreover, I show that, contrary to your claims, utilitarianism is central to the case put forth by such leading anarchists as Bruce Benson and David Friedman.Regarding ethics: I repudiate anarchism on MORAL grounds. Why? Because every anarcho-capitalist argument I've encountered (and I've sampled very widely for thirty-odd years) entails the tacit endorsement of the PRIVATE initiation of physical force and coercion.Indeed, as seminal anarchist writings make clear, the "legal settlements" and "restitution arrangements" decided upon by private, competing "protection agencies" are ultimately to be imposed, BY FORCE, on all who disagree and "hold out" from those verdicts.This should not be surprising: no dispute-resolution mechanism can possibly work without the power to ENFORCE decisions upon disputants, and upon those who inevitably will decide to "hold out" or "secede" from the arrangement. In recognizing this fact, anarchist theorists are only bowing to reality. However, that's exactly the same "force and coercion" for which anarchists morally condemn governments.But there's a key difference. Under a properly limited government, agents of the law would be constitutionally constrained in their powers and activities. Under anarchism, however, there would be no overriding constitutional framework to limit "market competitors" in their employment of force. The only limitation would be consumer demand.Yet, as I show in my articles, anarchists always disguise with euphemisms their own proposed uses of coercive power. Anarchist luminary Bruce Benson, for example, says that under the system of private dispute-resolution and restitution he endorses, "the victim is obliged to accept what the arbitrator/mediator and/or the commonly perceived rules determine to be 'fair' payments for an offense"; and "in actual restitution-based systems, institutions evolve to prevent victim hold-outs." (Benson, "Restitution In Theory and Practice," Journal of Libertarian Studies, Spring 1996, pp. 79-80.)

    Note the euphemisms: "the victim is obliged...commonly perceived rules determine...institutions...prevent." What he's talking about is nothing less than enforcing private rules and decisions with hired guns.The moral posturing of anarchists notwithstanding, their "private protection agencies" would ultimately be private gangs employing force and coercion...COMPETITIVELY. Their "rules" and "decisions" would be no different in form or fact from those of the Mafia. So the real precedent for anarcho-capitalism, then, is not medieval Iceland; it's Sicily.

    In sum, the claims of the moral superiority of anarchism over limited government are fraudulent. And so are the claims of anarchism's "practical" superiority. By freeing private individuals and companies to employ force competitively, and for profit, in order to impose competing "private legal systems" on the unwilling, anarchists would simply deprive society of the vital legal constraints on the use of force that can only be provided by a constitutionally limited government.

  • Tracy Saboe||

    "Because every anarcho-capitalist argument I've encountered (and I've sampled very widely for thirty-odd years) entails the tacit endorsement of the PRIVATE initiation of physical force and coercion."

    Even if this IS the argument of anarcho-Capitalists -- and I'm not convinced that it is, Can you seriously believe that Private initiation of force would be worse the government initiation of force? At least private initiation of force has to use their own resources to perform this initiation. Public initiation of force has access to other peoples resources as well (through taxes). Therefore governments are able to engage in war because for the most part they're sheilded from the economic consequenses of it. Private initiators aren't. I find no where in Hans Herman Hoppe's works where he condones the private initiation of force. However it's irrelevent. Public initiation of force, or public initiation of force. They're both evil, but public initiation of force is by far more likely.

    I don't claim to be an anarchist, or a minarchist or anything. I claim to be a libertarian, and I'm a bit on the fence about wether or not private court systems "would work." Although competeing private police agencies would be much better then the police state we live in.

    However taxation is theft. Taxation is coersion. This is the contradiction inherent in any form of government. The government is set up to protect your property rights, but it first must steal your property (taxes) in order to protect it.

    This is the inherent contradiction.

    Perhaps if a government was set up where it was funded by donations, or by a state lottery, or some other volentary means of funding the state, then the state wouldn't be coersive. Then you could have your non-coersive minarchist government.

    To me Minarchy, Anarchy, or Polycentric Polyarchy, are all utopian. How in the world Do you expect to limit a governments power once it has the ability to initiate force to collect taxes? How is minarchy any more stable then anarchy?

    Anyway,

    Tracy Saboe

  • ||

    from fyodor's post:
    "Anarchy:
    1. Absence of any form of political authority.
    2. Political disorder and confusion."

    from me:
    1. Absence of political authority does not absent higher authority. The golden rule comes to mind as one such "authority".

    and
    2. How can there be political disorder and confusion absent politics?

    I recommend you get a new dictionary fyodor.

    Anarchy is defined as "no arch over me". The arch represents an earthly master. An anarchist wishes to be ruled by no one, which, I believe, is the natural desire of most thinking people.

    Lack of government does not mean chaos and destruction. Co-existence gives birth to governments, not the reverse. Considering the track record of all forms of government I could easily argue that chaos and destruction are more likely the hand maidens of governments rather than of anarchists.

    Even limited government has failed. Whatever the intent of our founding fathers the Constitutional experiment of limited government and the rule of law has failed in less time than did the Republic of Rome. But then we live in faster times.

    Perhaps the time has come where the whole concept of the necessity of government be revisited. It may be that liberty and government are mutually exclusive.

  • Robert Bidinotto||

    In light of the comments following my previous post, let's recall that the core moral argument by anarchists was not that anarchism is "not as bad" as government; it was that government is inherently aggressive, while anarchism is not.

    Isn't it fascinating, then, that when challenged on an inherent moral contradiction within their theory, anarchists suddenly switch their argument to: "Oh, but government is far worse!" (Says one: "What I find striking is almost every criticism minarchists hurl against anarchy, applies also to minarchy." Says another writer: "Can you seriously believe that private initiation of force would be worse the government initiation of force?")

    Now, now, folks: let's stick with your original MORAL contention. Your MORAL rationale for anarchism is that it does not inherently entail aggression (initiation of force), while government inherently does.

    Specifically, the moral claims of anarchists are that (1) government must compel involuntary taxation to sustain its activities, (2) government initiates force and coercion to outlaw "competing" protection agencies and legal systems, and (3) anarcho-capitalism avoids both moral problems.

    Here are my summary replies:

    (1) There is no inherent reason why a government that's limited only to bare-bones justice functions will require taxation to exist. The necessary services of government--police, laws, courts--could be funded voluntarily, on a fee-for-service basis, along with such supplemental mechanisms as lotteries.

    (2) Governments do not need to outlaw "private protection agencies"--and in actuality, they don't. We already have an abundance of private detectives, security police, mediators, arbitrators, bodyguards, prisons, etc., all operating legally and in parallel to the governmental system.

    However, government does require that all such individuals and agencies conform to, and operate within, a single, overarching framework of law. Why? Because you can't allow "market competition" over the very definitions and meanings of such basic legal principles as "justice," "rights," "aggression," "self-defense," etc.

    You can't have a viable, peaceful society with each competing individual, demographic group, street gang, religious faction, et al., deciding, unilaterally and subjectively, who is a "victim" and who a "criminal"--then claiming the "sovereign right" to ignore the contrary legal claims, rules, definitions, principles, and verdicts of everyone else.

    And that brings us to...

    (3) Contrary to its supporters, anarcho-capitalism embodies an inherent moral and logical contradiction.

    Most of the saner anarchist theorists concede that a "just" agency or even an "innocent victim" has the right to forcibly respond to an "aggressor." But in the marketplace, which is governed solely by profit incentives who will define who is the "aggressor" and who the "victim"? Which "private defense agency" has the final authority to enforce its definitions against those used by other competing agencies--or against individual "hold outs" who disagree--or against all those who proclaim a "sovereign right" to "secede" from that agency's determination?

    When "push comes to shove," the "private defense agency" faces a basic choice. Either (a) it uses coercion to enforce its verdict upon the "hold out" (or upon the opposing "competitor agency"), or (b) it fails to enforce its verdicts.

    If (a), then the "private defense agency" is coercively "eliminating the competition"--that is, it's behaving as a "legal monopoly on force," in exactly the same way that anarchists find morally intolerable when a government is doing it. In that case, the argument for the moral superiority (let alone moral purity) of anarchism's "private defense agency" collapses.

    If (b), however, then the agency's pronouncements are toothless and impotent. In that case, all that anyone need do to evade the private agency's criminal laws, verdicts, and sentences is simply to ignore them.

    To repeat, it's really either/or. Either "private defense agencies" enforce their laws, or they don't. If they do, then they're coercively imposing their private legal systems on their competitors--and there goes their claim to morality. But if they don't enforce their laws, then criminals will remain free to prey with impunity upon innocent individuals--and there goes the neighborhood.

    Anarchists simply cannot tap dance around this contradiction by such subterfuges and dodges as claiming, "Oh, but governments would be far worse than private agencies"--or "Historically, limited governments never remain 'limited'."

    Again, the moral case for anarchism is not that it is LESS BAD than government, or that governments HISTORICALLY have not acted properly. The basic anarchist claim is that anarchism is inherently non-aggressive, while government is inherently aggressive.

    But both claims are false.

    There is nothing "immoral" or "aggressive" about an institution having the final authority to render and enforce just verdicts, according to objective procedures and rules of evidence. That verdicts, by their very nature as final legal decisions, must be enforced against "outlaws," is not "aggression," but defense: the organized social defense of the rights of innocent individuals against their victimizers. And that final enforcement of legally rendered verdicts necessarily precludes further "competition" or "secession" by dissenters, is not "aggression," either, but simple reality: an unenforceable "law" is only a suggestion.

    Experience tells us that criminals do not respond to suggestions. And experience also tells us--or most of us--that to protect individual rights, society needs a single agency that retains the ultimate power to enforce justice for all.

    I've said my piece. For further elaboration, see the following essays on my blog:

    "The Goal of Law: Justice or 'Utility'?"
    "The Contradiction in Anarchism"
    "Contra Anarchism, Part I"
    "Contra Anarchism, Part II"

    --Robert Bidinotto

  • Robert Bidinotto||

    Stephan, since you and I have been engaged privately and publicly in this very debate for some weeks (see my essays refuting anarchism, archived on my blog), I don't understand how you can claim that the arguments by anarchists are essentially "moral" in character, but those by proponents of limited government (including me) are purely "utilitarian." You know very well that this certainly doesn't represent the position that I, for one, have been advancing.

    Regarding utilitarianism: in my latest piece, "The Goal of Law: Justice or 'Utility'?," I explicitly reject utilitarianism as a basis for just law. Moreover, I show that, contrary to your claims, utilitarianism is central to the case put forth by such leading anarchists as Bruce Benson and David Friedman.

    Regarding ethics: I repudiate anarchism on MORAL grounds. Why? Because every anarcho-capitalist argument I've encountered (and I've sampled very widely for thirty-odd years) entails the tacit endorsement of the PRIVATE initiation of physical force and coercion. Indeed, as seminal anarchist writings make clear, the "legal settlements" and "restitution arrangements" decided upon by private, competing "protection agencies" are ultimately to be imposed, BY FORCE, on all who disagree and "hold out" from those verdicts.

    This should not be surprising: no dispute-resolution mechanism can possibly work without the power to ENFORCE decisions upon disputants, and upon those who inevitably will decide to "hold out" or "secede" from the arrangement. In recognizing this fact, anarchist theorists are only bowing to reality. However, that's exactly the same "force and coercion" for which anarchists morally condemn governments.

    But there's a key difference. Under a properly limited government, agents of the law would be constitutionally constrained in their powers and activities. Under anarchism, however, there would be no overriding constitutional framework to limit "market competitors" in their employment of force. The only limitation would be consumer demand.

    Yet, as I show in my articles, anarchists always disguise with euphemisms their own proposed uses of coercive power. Anarchist luminary Bruce Benson, for example, says that under the system of private dispute-resolution and restitution he endorses, "the victim is obliged to accept what the arbitrator/mediator and/or the commonly perceived rules determine to be 'fair' payments for an offense"; and "in actual restitution-based systems, institutions evolve to prevent victim hold-outs." (Benson, "Restitution In Theory and Practice," Journal of Libertarian Studies, Spring 1996, pp. 79-80.)

    Note the euphemisms: "the victim is obliged...commonly perceived rules determine...institutions...prevent." What he's talking about is nothing less than enforcing private rules and decisions with hired guns.

    The moral posturing of anarchists notwithstanding, their "private protection agencies" would ultimately be private gangs employing force and coercion...COMPETITIVELY. Their "rules" and "decisions" would be no different in form or fact from those of the Mafia. So the real precedent for anarcho-capitalism, then, is not medieval Iceland; it's Sicily.

    In sum, the claims of the moral superiority of anarchism over limited government are fraudulent. And so are the claims of anarchism's "practical" superiority. By freeing private individuals and companies to employ force competitively, and for profit, in order to impose competing "private legal systems" on the unwilling, anarchists would simply deprive society of the vital legal constraints on the use of force that can only be provided by a constitutionally limited government.

    That is the only kind of government we should be fighting for--not a social arrangement for which the moral and practical case is not even theoretically coherent.

  • ||

    So many seem to misunderstand the core of Shaffer's comment. Political anarchy speaks of the structure of social institutions which arise in a society without an institution that claims and enforces a monopoly on the use of force. Cooperative interaction has its roots in mutual beneficience. It is mutually beneficial to cooperate. Even if it is of more benefit to me to coerce and steal from you, the probability that I will interact with you in the future is the dominant feedback mechanism affecting my decision to cooperate or coerce. Please read Robert Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation. He uses the Prisoner's Dilemma as the basis for a series of experiments using computer programs.

    Cooperation and civil relationships in society are not caused by a framework of coercive government. They are caused by a combination of mutual benefit and the probability that the actors will meet again. Private services such as Consumer's Reports and Credit Ratings and such serve the purpose of increasing the information available to you about individuals with which you have no history of transactions. Thus increasing the likelihood of mutually beneficial cooperation between actors who are unknown to each other.

    Despite anyone's objections without government people would still cooperate with each other. Claiming that life would devolve into lawlessness and pure non-cooperative competition sounds great but describes conditions that aren't based in reality.

  • ||

    Robert says: ... who will define who is the "aggressor" and who the "victim"? Which "private defense agency" has the final authority to enforce its definitions against those used by other competing agencies ...

    This very problem exists today, since we do not (yet) have a world state. Suppose there is a conflict between an American and a Englishman. It might be a commercial dispute, or one is accused or murdering the other in (to make it more difficult) Germany.

    How is this handled today? Which country's definitions are used, where is the case tried?

    Obviously, all these contingencies are spelled out in treaties (which are just contracts or agreements between countries).

    The same would occur in anarchy -- actually, this situation is already occurring within an instance of anarchy today.

    When people are choosing their protection agency, they will consider both how disputes between members of this same agency are handled, and how disputes between members of this agency and other agencies are handled (that is, what contracts they have in place with the other agencies).

    If Robert is consistent, he should advocate a world government, to eliminate the current state of anarchy that exists between nations.

  • ||

    Robert says: Under a properly limited government, agents of the law would be constitutionally constrained in their powers and activities.

    Isn't it painfully obvious that the American Constitution is a huge failure? It might have slowed the growth of government for a while, but it is dead letter today, with no more than historical significance.

    The reason this occurred is obvious -- and the result predictable: the constitution is interpreted by the very agency that is itself supposed to be restrained by it. So of course, over time, the Supreme Court is going to interpret the constitution in such a way as to grant more and more power to the government.

    Why would it do this? Because it is itself a part of this same government, and as the government's power grows, so does its own power.

  • ||

    Robert says: There is no inherent reason why a government that's limited only to bare-bones justice functions will require taxation to exist.

    The question is not whether the government requires taxation; it's whether the government is authorized to tax. I think the answer is an incontrovertible yes.

    Once you grant to government a geographic monopoly of ultimate authority and decision-making power, there is no way to prevent it from taxing -- even if it begins as a voluntarily-funded entity.

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    My reply to Bidinotto's latest post:

    >In light of the comments following my previous post, let's recall that the core moral argument by anarchists was not that anarchism is "not as bad" as government; it was that government is inherently aggressive, while anarchism is not.

    Isn't it fascinating, then, that when challenged on an inherent moral contradiction within their theory, anarchists suddenly switch their argument to: "Oh, but government is far worse!" (Says one: "What I find striking is almost every criticism minarchists hurl against anarchy, applies also to minarchy."Now, now, folks: let's stick with your original MORAL contention. Your MORAL rationale for anarchism is that it does not inherently entail aggression (initiation of force), while government inherently does.

    Specifically, the moral claims of anarchists are that (1) government must compel involuntary taxation to sustain its activities, (2) government initiates force and coercion to outlaw "competing" protection agencies and legal systems, and (3) anarcho-capitalism avoids both moral problems.

    Here are my summary replies:

    (1) There is no inherent reason why a government that's limited only to bare-bones justice functions will require taxation to exist. The necessary services of government--police, laws, courts--could be funded voluntarily, on a fee-for-service basis, along with such supplemental mechanisms as lotteries.(2) Governments do not need to outlaw "private protection agencies"--and in actuality, they don't. We already have an abundance of private detectives, security police, mediators, arbitrators, bodyguards, prisons, etc., all operating legally and in parallel to the governmental system.

    However, government does require that all such individuals and agencies conform to, and operate within, a single, overarching framework of law. Why? Because you can't allow "market competition" over the very definitions and meanings of such basic legal principles as "justice," "rights," "aggression," "self-defense," etc. You can't have a viable, peaceful society with each competing individual, demographic group, street gang, religious faction, et al., deciding, unilaterally and subjectively, who is a "victim" and who a "criminal"--then claiming the "sovereign right" to ignore the contrary legal claims, rules, definitions, principles, and verdicts of everyone else.Most of the saner anarchist theorists concede that a "just" agency or even an "innocent victim" has the right to forcibly respond to an "aggressor." But in the marketplace, which is governed solely by profit incentives who will define who is the "aggressor" and who the "victim"? Which "private defense agency" has the final authority to enforce its definitions against those used by other competing agencies--or against individual "hold outs" who disagree--or against all those who proclaim a "sovereign right" to "secede" from that agency's determination?When "push comes to shove," the "private defense agency" faces a basic choice. Either (a) it uses coercion to enforce its verdict upon the "hold out" (or upon the opposing "competitor agency"), or (b) it fails to enforce its verdicts.If (a), then the "private defense agency" is coercively "eliminating the competition"--that is, it's behaving as a "legal monopoly on force," in exactly the same way that anarchists find morally intolerable when a government is doing it.If (b), however, then the agency's pronouncements are toothless and impotent. In that case, all that anyone need do to evade the private agency's criminal laws, verdicts, and sentences is simply to ignore them.To repeat, it's really either/or. Either "private defense agencies" enforce their laws, or they don't. If they do, then they're coercively imposing their private legal systems on their competitors--and there goes their claim to morality. But if they don't enforce their laws, then criminals will remain free to prey with impunity upon innocent individuals--and there goes the neighborhood. Again, the moral case for anarchism is not that it is LESS BAD than government, or that governments HISTORICALLY have not acted properly. The basic anarchist claim is that anarchism is inherently non-aggressive, while government is inherently aggressive.There is nothing "immoral" or "aggressive" about an institution having the final authority to render and enforce just verdicts, according to objective procedures and rules of evidence.Experience tells us that criminals do not respond to suggestions. And experience also tells us--or most of us--that to protect individual rights, society needs a single agency that retains the ultimate power to enforce justice for all.

  • ||

    I congradulate you, Mr. Kinsella, on winning the debate for anarcho-capitalism.

    Some thoughts:

    It is reasonable and consistent to say "my reason for being in favor of anarchy is X. But, even if X were not true, Y is a sufficient justification to espouse anarchy."

    It might have been nice if the entire body of argument which establishes and reinforces the position were presented at once, and it might be convenient to deal with one argument at a time, but there is nothing logically wrong with bringing in the second argument at any time, so long as they are not presented as being both the same argument or it is asserted that argument 2 provides logical support for argument 1. I find that Mr. Kinsella did not attempt to do this.

  • ||

    The Larry Niven story alluded to earlier was called "Cloak of Anarchy", in Niven's own words he wrote it to explain why he was not a libertarian. He said that it was to show why anarchy is the least stable of social situations, that reason being, according to him, that it falls apart at a touch.

    What I have always found interesting about the story is that it bears a strong resemblance to a story by Robert Heinlein entitled "Coventry" which is about a community set aside from the future society, within which it enforces no rules, an idealistic, but simple-minded person is banished from this society for the crime of punching someone in the nose. Once inside Coventry, he discovers that instead of a loose confederation of rugged individualists he finds and existing power structure, including a government that fines and taxes him and orders him to do honors to them.

    The two stories make an odd comparison, especially when you consider that Robert Heinlein is one of the most libertarian writers in the culture. In "The Heinlein Interview" he mentions to J. Neil Schulman that writing "Coventry" came at a kind of turning point for him, when he considers that he may have become more interested in political theory. A state that instead of punishing you just said "I divorce you" seemed more just to him. It preserves individual rights to life, conscience and rights to decisions of disposal over one's self.
    But Heinlein's most explicitly libertarian statements come from the mouth of the wise old man character in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" Dr. Bernardo de la Paz. "A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals."

    Anyway, I also very much like Gino's analysis of "Cloak of Anarchy".

    Yet, I don't think your admonition to be careful of what you wish for holds up here. I also remember that in order to enter the park -- where people were free to do what they wanted -- you were not allowed to bring any weapons, but had to submit to the automated, robot security system, which failed because of the power failure you noted, rendering everyone in the park defenseless. In that light, the story was more of a warning against the dangers of surrendering your defense to someone else's control (like the government).

  • ||

    Could all this "anarchy" talk be much ado about nothing, or not much? Perhaps.

    If libertarians (rightly) take the philosophical position that all coercion is inappropriate, does that imply that libertarian political analysis necessarily implies advocacy of "no state" tomorrow? No, is my answer. Unwinding the State may well require an acceptance (if not support) of various government taxing, spending, and regulating functions for some time, perhaps some functions, in perpetuity. Nor is there any onus on libertarians to spell out a timeline OR an end game, at least not as a matter of POLITICAL discourse.

    Myself, I advocate more freedom, not less and less coercion, not more. Advocating POLITICAL anarchy is a waste of time, IMO. I suspect few disagree, even philosophical anarchists.

    Philosophy can be helpful in helping us think about the universe, but it's not necessarily helpful in helping us develop a POLITICAL point of view.

    Bob

  • ||

    Mr. Bidinotto wrote:

    "However, government does require that all such individuals and agencies conform to, and operate within, a single, overarching framework of law.

    Why? Because you can't allow "market competition" over the very definitions and meanings of such basic legal principles as "justice," "rights," "aggression," "self-defense," etc."

    This seems to be counter-historical. Isn't today's emphasis on individual human rights, even in the restricted form allowed by contemporary states, the product of theoretical reflection and comparison to competing systems of laws and customs in various societies in Europe and others that were known to Europeans? Many theorists drawing on knowledge of competing systems of law and respect (or lack of it) for individual's elaborated the modern view against that of the more primitive view, namely of slavery, suttee, barbaric punishments by mutilation (nose, ears, hands, etc...) and other atrocities done in the name of justice or ancient customs.

    I would say that it is the mechanism of monopoly, not competition, that enforced denial of human rights in societies around the world. If the past few millennia were absent warring territorial monopolies that basically farmed human beings in order to survive, perhaps competing theories and practices would have evolved/discovered the libertarian definition of human rights much, much sooner.

  • Far||

    I recently published my take on the nature of (Free-Market) Anarchism.

    To summarize, my take on anarchism is that most people don't even understand the nature of the juridic sphere. They often confuse law (normative rules to synchronize social action) and fact (things that actually happen or doesn't). They can't distinguish descriptive rules (how we understand that things are) from normative rules (how we organize to adapt to things that are). They think that a "public" body edicting normative rules will magically change the intrinsic rules of the universe.

    Political Power is blasphemy.

  • David Heinrich||

    I disagree with Stephan Kinsella's (understandable) pessimism that anarcho-capitalism can ever be realized. I believe that it can be, as did Rothbard.

    The thing to remember is that anarcho-capitalism does not have to be realized everywhere, universally, and absolutely. Fundamentally, a State is any territorial monopoly on the use of violence. Perhaps there will always be some territorial monopolies like such, but that does not mean that the whole face of the Earth needs to be infected by States.

    As an anarcho-capitalist, at the moment, I would be happy if there were just one anarcho-capitalistic society. As Konkin points out in *The New Libertarian Manifesto*, the way to achieve anarcho-capitalism (agoism, as he calls it) is essentially by small-scale secessionist revolutionary movements, using "counter-economics". Konkin explains the evolution of an anarcho-capitalistic world backwards -- starting from the collapse of the last remnants of States, and working back.

    It should be noted, that contrary to what one ignornat poster said, Ancient Iceland existed in a state of extreme *minarchy* -- *not* anarchho-capitalism -- for approximately 300 years, *not* 50 years. As David Friedman points out, it was because of the small remnants of a State that existed in Ancient Iceland that the system collapsed. Ancient Ireland, however, could be classified as a purely anarcho-capitalistic system. It existed in such a state for 1,000 years, despite repeated and brutal attempts by the war-mongering British to conquer it.

  • David Heinrich||

    summarily, regarding my optimism on the possibility of anarcho-capitalism, if a system as inherently evil and obviously ridiculous (unworkable) as Communism could be brought to bear over all of Russia by Lennin and some nutcase followers of his, we shouldn't give up hope that anarcho-capitalism -- a truly moral and workable system -- can be implemented.

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