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Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Defying Leviathan

I used to be a singer in a rock and roll band.

Well, okay, maybe not, but I was a lead guitarist in a punk rock band. I even had my Fender copy tuned so I could play the major rock chords with a single sliding finger, just like those anarcho-punk legends, Crass.

If only our band had possessed some luck, a good manager, a driving licence between us, some money, a van, and a small pet monkey named Brian, we might have made it big. Especially if the lead guitarist had actually possessed any talent.

But, alas, this punk dream faded, as it did for a million others, and my brush with anarchy submerged itself for another twenty years. However, much to my surprise it resurfaced again last year, a little rusty but largely unscathed, when it experienced a depth charge blast from Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s mental mind bomb, Democracy: The God That Failed.

There are few in the world who dare promote the dissolution of all forms of government, especially in the hostile spitting face of a billion state-supporting rent seekers. And of those few brave men, only a tiny handful, mostly Austro-libertarians, possess the requisite economic theory, moral strength, and political knowledge to really frighten all of those state-loving horses. Foremost amongst them is Professor Hoppe, a man in the proper Austrian tradition of being a German speaker by birth, though also a man at odds with many inside proper libertarian circles, as opposed to those Christmas-voting leftist libertarian turkeys who believe the state is the ultimate guarantor of individual rights. Which makes about as much sense as taxman with genuine friends. Proper libertarians divide themselves into two broad camps; Minarchists and Anarchists; those who believe in a minimalist night-watchman state, on the grounds that even though the state is odious and should be limited in every way possible, it is still necessary to provide security; and those who believe that we need no odious government at all, because even security, that last bastion of the coercive apparatus of the state, can itself be provided on the open market.

However, when you educate yourself away from leftist-libertarian socialism, as some of us poor schlepps have had to do, this question of security, which divides the Minarchists and the Anarchists, is like the great family secret you can never find the answer to. It is the mad aunt in the closet, the uncle who should be kept away from his nephews, and the grandmother with the glass eye who does unspeakable things to goldfish. This question of security is simply never discussed. At least, never any place you can find it. You are either sensible, and a Minarchist, or a Barking moonbat, and an Anarchist.

Which is why I am glad that Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe has broken the log-jam and tried to answer this divisive question of security, with his editorship of The Myth of National Defense. Fortunately, as well as buying the book, you can also read the whole of its text online, courtesy of a Mises.org PDF file.

Hoppe has assembled his wide-ranging collection of essayists, and their ideas, around the following pair of double-think concepts:

First: Every “monopoly” is “bad” from the viewpoint of consumers. Monopoly here is understood in its classical sense as an exclusive privilege granted to a single producer of a commodity or service; i.e., as the absence of “free entry” into a particular line of production. In other words, only one agency, A, may produce a given good, x. Any such monopolist is “bad” for consumers because, shielded from potential new entrants into his area of production, the price of his product x will be higher and the quality of x lower than otherwise.

This is contrasted with:

Second, the production of security must be undertaken by and is the primary function of government. Here, security is understood in the wide sense adopted in the Declaration of Independence: as the protection of life, property (liberty), and the pursuit of happiness from domestic violence (crime) as well as external (foreign) aggression (war). In accordance with generally accepted terminology, government is defined as a territorial monopoly of law and order (the ultimate decision maker and enforcer).

Hoppe contends that both principles are incompatible. Either monopoly is good or monopoly is bad. It cannot be both. However, to counter this Minarchists argue that security is a special product, one which defies the first principle, because without statist coercion we would all be wolves at each others’ throats in a Hobbesian world of Homo homini lupus est, suffering from a continual under-production of security. Hoppe argues otherwise, basing much of his anarchistic case on the original ideas of Gustave de Molinari, who predicted in the Production of Security what would happen in a monopolized security system:

If…the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he pleases, you forthwith see open up a large profession dedicated to arbitrariness and bad management. Justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned, according to the power and influence of this or that class of consumers.

The British police, in particular, seem to have taken Molinari to heart. In large swathes of the UK they see their job as being no more than handing out crime numbers, so that victims of theft can claim on their private insurance policies. From recent newspaper reports, the British police can sometimes hardly be bothered to do even that small task. The thought of coming out of their warm cosy police stations, or comfortable motorway police cars, and actually chasing down burglars and muggers is far too much like hard work. It is much better to stay behind a desk drinking tea and processing lucrative car speeding fines. British courts are also a superlative home for the overpaid and the underworked, with the price of justice set far too high for most ordinary people, and some innocent men and women spending years banged up on remand, at Her Majesty’s pleasure, while indolent government justice officers tea-break their tortuous way through endless triplicated paperwork.

Hoppe’s book is divided into four sections; State-making and war-making; Government forms, war, and strategy; Private alternatives to state defence and warfare; and Private security production and practical applications.

After an introductory chapter of his own, Hoppe hands over the baton to Luigi Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri, for a first section chapter on the relative modernity of the state, which they claim has only properly existed since the Florentine time of Niccolo Machiavelli, rather than the dawn of time, as the state’s denizens would prefer us to believe. Thus, having existed only briefly, the state is a concept which has a before. Therefore, it may also possess an after, which we can all happily work towards. They also describe how the state mainly arose as a vehicle for those who wished to become a new ruling class, after feudal times, and how, as free institutions and free markets threw off the ever-increasing strictures of the nation state, this ruling class saw its only hope for survival in the creation of supra-national bodies, such as the European Union, to use them explicitly as a means of controlling the free movements of goods, people, capital, and ideas, while still retaining full control over a coercive and parasitic stream of lovely jubbly taxation income, for themselves, their families, and their friends.

This essay is followed by The Master, the mighty Murray N. Rothbard. Hoppe reproduces one of Uncle Murray’s best ever pieces, which you may have read before, on War, Peace, and the State. This lucid morality tale tells us about how and why the state has killed millions since its Renaissance inception; how and why we can tackle all of the state’s arguments, which it uses to aggress against us in the form of taxation, regulation, and straightforward oppression, as it pursue its own agenda against other states; and how and why we should always try to work towards the maxim that no man should aggress against any other man at any other time, except in the case of self-defence. No anarchist, or aspiring anarchist, should ever leave home without reading this essay first.

The second section of the book then begins with what I feel is the best written essay in the book: Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s piece entitled Monarchy and War, on the dangers of modern democracy. Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of this bitingly acidic tour-de-force, let me just regale you with a few quotes:

Democracy reappeared in a more civilised form in Athens, but when Socrates, in a truly political trial, praised monarchy, he was condemned to death. Remember also that Madriaga said rightly that our civilization rests on the death of two persons: a philosopher and the Son of God, both victims of the popular will.

Top quality.

It will be interesting to see if Mel Gibson makes his next film project ‘The Death of Socrates’. I would love to see it, but I do hope Mr Gibson avoids scripting the dialogue in classical Greek.

Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is particularly caustic about the terrible effects of the French Revolution, with its introduction of mass murder, conscription, and caretaker-king democracy:

It [The Revolution] wanted to bring liberty and equality under a common denominator, something Goethe considered only charlatans would promise. Equality, indeed, could merely be established in some form of slavery – just as a hedge can only be kept even by constantly trimming it.

Now that is an analogy to cut out and keep. If you ever see me using it again at some future date, please forget you ever saw me quote it here first. Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn also thinks one of the worst outcomes of the French Revolution was its export of democracy to the nascent United States, and the subsequent goal of the United States to then make the world a safe place for this same mob rule beauty pageant, otherwise known as democracy:

It was the destruction of the Habsburg Empire that made Germany the geopolitical winner of World War I. Bordering after 1919 on only one great power—France—it was now the direct or indirect neighbour in the East of partly artificial, partly militarily indefensible states. As His Magnificence, the rector of Breslau University, Ernst Kornemann, pointed out in 1926, the time to take advantage of this advantageous situation would come sooner or later. And it came. What Hitler actually inherited from these nincompoops who had dictated the Paris Suburban treaties was not only an internal situation characterized by the economic uprooting of important social layers and the imposition of an unworkable form of government, but also a uniquely profitable geopolitical position due to the division of Austria-Hungary. If Hitler had had any sense of humor, he would have erected a colossal monument to Woodrow Wilson.

You may disagree with what Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn says about the horrors of democracy, but his writing really is wonderfully entertaining.

We then head into what I thought was the most disturbing and contradictory part of Professor Hoppe’s book: Bertrand Lemennicier’s chapter on nuclear weapons. After various mathematical proofs, based on Game theory, the author concludes that nuclear proliferation is a desirable thing to encourage, in terms of world peace. He also believes that the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and other members of the nuclear club, have no intrinsic right to prevent this spread of nuclear weapons.

I found this essay rather jarring, particularly after reading Murray Rothbard’s earlier piece, which states that we should try to remove nuclear weapons from the world as a priority action in every possible sphere, as they are immoral weapons of evil. And even if I could force myself to believe Lemennicier’s argument that various world governments should be the recipients of nuclear proliferation, one shudders at the thought of various non-governmental men, currently somewhere at large in the Hindu Kush, getting hold of such devices. Nuclear mushroom cloud over London, anyone?

I hope and pray that I and my children never live to see that day.

Gerard Radnitzky then puts a firm leather boot into the lie that democracy is more peaceful than any other form of government, decrypting virtually every war of the twentieth century, most of which involved democracies, often in the role as aggressors. This is a wide-ranging chapter which balances theory with reality, but which essentially comes at us with the premise that what democracy encourages is the creation of total war and the deliberate targeting, with lethal munitions, of other states’ civilians:

The democratic method tempts you to expand collective choice, because it appears to be so simple to use and almost costless (a facile mechanical process). It invites you to sin — galloping interventionism. The consequences: Because of the redistributive bias of democratic constitutional rule, it transforms the state into a vast redistributive machinery and the society into the “churning society”—interventionism, welfarism, collectivism—with consequences that go far beyond anything known under predemocratic social choice.

After this heavy, but necessary, opening half to the book, we get to the more interesting stuff. Joseph R. Stromberg talks about mercenaries, guerrillas, militias, and the ways in which they have been combined for successful defence, as in the American Revolution against the armed might of Great Britain. Larry J. Sechrest then writes a fascinating chapter on naval privateering and its warfare for profit, which helped keep the mighty British navy at bay when the early United States spent several decades consolidating its early freedom, mostly through a successful reliance on naval privateers.

So why did privateering die out then? Stromberg concludes his chapter with the riposting answer:

The fact is that privateering disappeared precisely because it was so effective. Career naval officers feared and resented the competition it represented, and those few nations with large public navies wanted to make sure that smaller nations could not challenge their domination via the less costly alternative of private armed ships. These were the primary motives behind the Declaration of Paris, signed by seven maritime nations in 1856, which prohibited privateering by the signatories and greatly hastened its ultimate end.

Whatever the case, the knowledge I gained from this essay certainly helped make the recent Russell Crowe film, Master and Commander, far more entertaining, especially when Captain ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey argued with ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin, about the nature of warfare and anarchy, and how to fight a Boston-built privateer.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel answers another important question in the next highly instructive chapter. If governments are so bad, why do they so dominate the world? Hummel paints an optimistic picture portraying the state as a macro parasite which grew from the revolution in agriculture following hunter-gatherer times, where large bodies of people could produce enough food to carry free riders and wipe out remaining hunter-gatherers through slaughter and the diseases induced by people living in civilised proximity. The rulers of these early states could then introduce religious or secular ideologies to maintain the organic growth of statehood, leading us towards the present day cacophony of worldwide states. However, Hummel surmises that modern states which can lower their statist free-riding burden will become dominant through their consequential wealth-generation abilities and the superior weapons systems which this will also provide. Hence, the state may wither on the vine as such advantages become apparent, especially if just one truly anarcho-capitalist state could emerge with a large enough population to hold all the other states at bay.

No doubt Hummel has the United States in mind, for this torch-bearing role. But with those rapidly growing flat-tax economies in Eastern Europe, who knows where the wind of freedom will blow next?

We then come to the book’s important fourth section, where Walter Block, Professor Hoppe, and Jörg Guido Hülsmann, discuss how the private production of security could actually come to genuine fruition, in a future world based on reality rather than hope.

Block lays open the public goods theorists who insist that only states can provide defence, by taking all of their arguments apart and leaving them wanting. Hoppe then follows up with a demonstration of how reliance on the state for defence has left us in a state of perpetual war, with a continual and a permanently insecure destruction of private property, and how a system of insurance could provide us with a reliable system of both internal and external defence. He also argues why this system would lead to a far more peaceful world than the one we currently have, where airlines are stopped by the state from having $50 dollar guns on their flight decks, so a $400 billion dollar US state defence system can then fail to prevent terrorist outrages involving airliners. If you are going to read just one chapter from this book, read this one.

Hülsmann then concludes this book with how secession, down to the level of the individual, may be the method by which we can reach Hummel’s anarcho-capitalist wonderland.

All in all, The Myth of National Defense is a fabulous book, and one which I can highly recommend even to confirmed Minarchists, so they can refute it at their leisure. Its one drawback is that it does lack the organic unity of the Professor’s earlier book on democracy, mainly because he failed to write the whole thing himself. But just the chapter by Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, alone, makes up for this.

Is it really possible for the state to be removed from our lives and for us to survive to tell the tale afterwards? You will have to make up your own mind, but after reading it myself I can only say one thing:

Ich bin ein Barking moonbat.

Auf wieder hören…

59 comments to Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Defying Leviathan

  • Gazaridis

    After various mathematical proofs, based on Game theory, the author concludes that nuclear proliferation is a desirable thing to encourage, in terms of world peace

    An interesting viewpoint on nuclear proliferation – however there is one big flaw. He basis his conclusion on Game Theory – which (IIRC) assumes that the actors are rational. An amazingly strong assumption to make, given the amount of tinpot dictators in the world, let alone irrational left-wing loonies.

    Proper libertarians divide themselves into two broad camps; Minarchists and Anarchists; those who believe in a minimalist night-watchman state, on the grounds that even though the state is odious and should be limited in every way possible, it is still necessary to provide security; and those who believe that we need no odious government at all, because even security, that last bastion of the coercive apparatus of the state, can itself be provided on the open market.

    To Anarchists – these ‘providers of security on the open market’. To provide security, they would have to have phsyical power (a private army, in essence). What is to stop those providers turning ugly and imposing their will on you? You withhold payment? Theyll just take your house, and you cant stop them. Ask another provider to step in, and theyll probably negotiate turf rights and leave you stuck with your private provider of state oppression. A ‘private provider of security’ is, in essence, a state with a nice name. Seeing as they have the power to ‘shoot yo ass’ if you don’t comply with what they want.

    I don’t believe that the state is neccessary to provide security – I believe whatever provides that level of security is in essence a state.

  • Gazaridis

    Damn. Just realised “I don’t believe that the state is neccessary to provide security – I believe whatever provides that level of security is neccessarily a state. ” makes a much better soundbite. Oh well.

  • D Anghelone

    The private production of security is an impossibility in the anarchocapitalist/moralist world. That security will always involve a geographic area in which not all will subscibe to a defense against a given threat. The defense therefore cannot be made or must be made in coercion of the dissenters. If the defense is coerced upon the dissenters then the entire moralist argument goes up in smoke.

  • Dan

    D Anghelone, your point is premised on the assumption that defense is a public good. It isn’t. You really ought to give these books a shot.

    And Andy, if you haven’t read all ~20 of Patrick O’Brian’s books, you really should.

  • Dan

    And, er, sorry for sounding so bossy!

  • Nate

    The rational assumption in Game Theory is IMHO quite sound. The mistake is in the application of said theory to model interaction between several parties and *assuming* that certain outcomes are preferred when in fact they are not.

    Consider for example that you and I have WMDs. You value life, property, etc. If it is true that I also value these things (or at the very least *life*), then a total annihilation via WMD is unlikely since neither party will gain. However, if I value something more than life, et al then I may very well be able to accomplish my end goals (and maximize my utility gain) by using WMDs. The raitional criterion is applicable because I would be applying the appropriate strategy to maximize my utility. The rational criterion is, in this sense, not the same rational that we use in common conversation.

    Although, I admit, I have not read the essays under review, I am highly suspect of any well constructed game theory arguments that show that WMD proliferation is in fact a Good Thing ™. IIRC, the game theory explanation for mutually assued destruction (MAD) policy during the cold war was constructed based on the (relatively) well-known goals and intentions of both parties. Knowing the utility functions of both parties a priori made the argument reasonable. Without knowing such, before constructing the model, I would be doubtful of said model’s accuracy and, given the stakes, the results could be quite disastrous to human life and prosperity.

  • D Anghelone

    Dan,

    Would I, in those books, find prescriptions such as this from that political hopscotcher, Mr. Rothbard?

    The question is how can be organized a common defense not involving unwilling participants within a geography. It’s like the free-rider problem but, in this case, the unwilling-rider problem. Should Britain have been defended against the Nazis while that was against the wishes of some Britons?

  • Dan

    D Anghelone,

    Well, that’s one question, certainly. The question the author(s) focus on is: are the arguments that there is no way provide security for some in a given area without providing it for all sound? IIRC, they suggest they are not sound, explain why, make a few suggestions about alternative methods with the caveat that it’s a little hard to prognosticate exactly how the market might offer alternatives. Apologies to everybody if my recollection is faulty.

    Also, thanks very much for the link – I don’t have time to read the article tonight, but will do so later. I haven’t read near enough Rothbard to defend him against any charges, even those of hopscotching. ;-)

  • If the defense is coerced

    Defense is coerced??? What does that mean?

  • To Anarchists – these ‘providers of security on the open market’. To provide security, they would have to have phsyical power (a private army, in essence). What is to stop those providers turning ugly and imposing their will on you? You withhold payment? Theyll just take your house, and you cant stop them.

    What would you do if you saw the guy down the street being coerced by his security company ACME defense, if you also subcribed to ACME defense? I don’t know about you, but I would likely switch to Protect-You-Good, Inc. I’d imagine that the rest of the subscribers to ACME defense would likely do the same. If security was a private good, coercive providers would go out of business.

    In turn, what’s to stop a monopolistic govt from taking your house? Nothing. It suffers minor consequences, if any. It does it all the time, in the name of “eminent domain”. It takes your property for the “common good”. It prevents you from taking certain medications for your “own good”. It runs your life because it can and because it suffers no consequences for bad behavior.

    I don’t believe that the state is neccessary to provide security – I believe whatever provides that level of security is in essence a state.

    There is a fundamental difference between a monopoly and a market provider.

  • Dan

    Jonathan,

    I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth but I believe the poster is referring to a situation when a person living in a particular geographic area doesn’t want to participate in a ‘common defense’ scheme, but is forced to subsidize it anyway, the ‘moralists argument goes up in smoke’.

    Of course, no one is advocating this…

  • Julian Morrison

    I’d say small scale security is a solved problem for ancap societies. The harder problem is “national” defense. All due respect to those who describe large private armies, I can’t really see much call for them. They’re expensive to maintain in peacetime, and dangerous to have standing around. I suspect an ancap country would field a largely volunteer/hobbyist army, with a leavening of corporate mercs, corporate convoy-guard ships and planes, and Blackwater-style rent-an-SAS. The main military strength of ancap countries would be the difficulty of pacifying very well armed civilians, and the lack of a central authority who could order surrender.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I dunno. A well armed military which doesn’t give a damn about human rights and procedure can just kill off the entire populace.

    Think about it. Would just a minarch country with well armed citizens stand a chance in hell if their Nazi neighbours simply want living space(lebrasauem, or something like that)?

    Or a country surrounded by other countries which do not share the same beliefs as its own. Much like my own country(a nut in a muslim nutcracker). Are we going to place our fates in the hands of corporate mercenaries who can be bought and about two platoons of volunteers?

    In an ideal world, of course we don’t need national defense. Just privately contracted mercs would do just fine, thank you.

    Therein lies the rub. We don’t live in an ideal world where everybody is perfectly rational and sane. If we use the max satisfaction rule, there’s bound to be some irrational megalomaniac who gets his kicks off getting more power and using his well trained army(which may well be composed of corporate mercs as well; money works both ways).

  • D Anghelone

    Jonanthan:

    Defense is coerced??? What does that mean?

    If you’re within the geography being defended then you will suffer the same as your neighbor when the opponent attacks though your choice was to accept the opponent’s rule without fighting.

    Dan:

    I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth but I believe the poster is referring to a situation when a person living in a particular geographic area doesn’t want to participate in a ‘common defense’ scheme, but is forced to subsidize it anyway, the ‘moralists argument goes up in smoke’.

    The “subsidy” may be your life. Some Hun says you of some geography will submit or you will die. Most of you choose to fight and some to submit. If the fighters lose then all die. The ac way offers nothing to resolve that problem. Or the subsidy may be your freedom.

    The problem of defense has come to framed as war-mongers forcing their neighbors into unwanted conflict. It could as well be said that peace-mongers would force their neighbors into unwanted servitude or slaughter at the hands of an aggressor.

    People like Rothbard assume rational actors and identifiable governing bodies amenable to peace talks. What if the aggressor would sooner eliminate you and your kind and will talk only as a ruse?

  • Charles Copeland

    A brilliant book. note in particular this citation from the introduction:

    “Worse, the U.S. government did not only fail to prevent the disaster of September 11, it actually contributed to the likelihood of such an event. In pursuing an interventionist foreign policy (taking the form of economic sanctions, troops stationed in more than 100 countries, relentless bombings, propping up despotic regimes, taking sides in irresolvable land and ethnic disputes, and otherwise attempting political and military management of whole areas of the globe), the government provided the very motivation for foreign terrorists and made the U.S. their prime target.”

    Don’t miss the Lew Rockwell’s review of HHH’s latest classic at (Link)

    Hope Dale Amon gets around to reading this.

  • Simon Lawrence

    Having a lame neutered goverment has a point – it fills the space, otherwise another, because we still live under conditions which encourage goverment, would spring up, emcompassing all.

  • S. Weasel

    I even had my Fender copy tuned so I could play the major rock chords with a single sliding finger, just like those anarcho-punk legends, Crass.

    And that other anarcho-punk legend, Joni Mitchell.

  • Richard Garner

    D Anglehone wrote “The private production of security is an impossibility in the anarchocapitalist/moralist world. That security will always involve a geographic area in which not all will subscibe to a defense against a given threat. The defense therefore cannot be made or must be made in coercion of the dissenters. If the defense is coerced upon the dissenters then the entire moralist argument goes up in smoke.

    You are arguing that defense is a natural monopoly. However, what was not pointed out was that Hoppe (and Rothbard) uses the term “monopoly” in its classical sense as being a coercive privilege, not in the sense of a single organisation controling the supply of a resource. This latter they point out is impossible on a free market, and so possible only with a monopoly in the classical sense.

    Moreover, showing that defense is such a resource that only a single provider within a geographic area is not enough to prove that the such a provider will be a state. As I said in a post on the Molinari Institute‘s discussion forum, and on Liberty Forum‘s boards,

    “Suppose that you have two gas companies. If one company sells to a whole bunch of people in a specific area, it becomes much more expensive for the other to sell to people in the same area, because its customers become much more dispersed. In the end, it becomes cheaper and easier for everybody in that area to have gas piped by one company.

    This is analogous to what you are saying about police (because, presumably, you aren’t saying that simply the biggest police force is able to beat up all others, and anybody who subscribes to another, as this would give your new state no legitimacy at all). The trouble is that even now we would not have a state in any recognisable sense of the term, because everybody would still have the right to withdraw from the state without the surrounding state having any power to do anything about it.

    Take the example of the gas company. It becomes the sole provider of gas in a specific area. Why? Because it is cheaper and easier for customers to accept its services than those of any other company. They are still free to accept the services of any other company, though, and that is the crux of the matter. If they are willing to pay the higher price and accept the difficulties involved, they could have their gas pumped by a competitor.

    Now what state has ever been like this? It may be cheaper and easier for me to accept the protection of the police laid on by my state here in the UK, but do I really have the right to complain to the French Gendarme that my house has been burgled? It might be cheaperand easier for me not to do so, but I don’t have the right to do so even if I was willing to bear the additional costs. I can’t call the LA county sheriff if my brother gets murdered, can I?

    No state has ever allowed these things, because it is essential to the definition of a state that it have the sole right to interpret and implement the law over its particular geographic area. The gas company or the successful police company do not have this right, regardless of the fact that they hold a dominant position in the market.

    (For anybody that cares, this is an argument against Nozick’s claim that a state can arise out of the free market order without violating anybody’s rights).”

  • Shadow Hunter

    Funny you should mention Machiavelli in your post. About mercenaries he said, “mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they
    are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you
    are ruined in the usual way.”

    As Jonathan Wilde mentioned “What is to stop those providers turning ugly and imposing their will on you? You withhold payment? They’ll just take your house, and you cant stop them. Ask another provider to step in, and they’ll probably negotiate turf rights and leave you stuck with your private provider of state oppression.”

    As another example, I’ve been reading Rubicon lately and long story short. Julius Caesar took his loyal “private” army fought a civil war against the Roman Republic and overthrew the republican government of the superpower of the time and took absolute power.

    We finally have the ability to choose our lawmakers after how many millenniums of struggle. And you want to go back to a system that’s almost guaranteed to become a feudal/mafia system.

  • Shadow Hunter

    Funny you should mention Machiavelli in your post. About mercenaries he said, “mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they
    are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you
    are ruined in the usual way.”

    As Jonathan Wilde mentioned “What is to stop those providers turning ugly and imposing their will on you? You withhold payment? They’ll just take your house, and you cant stop them. Ask another provider to step in, and they’ll probably negotiate turf rights and leave you stuck with your private provider of state oppression.”

    As another example, I’ve been reading Rubicon lately and long story short. Julius Caesar took his loyal “private” army fought a civil war against the Roman Republic and overthrew the republican government of the superpower of the time and took absolute power.

    We finally have the ability to choose our lawmakers after how many millenniums of struggle. And you want to go back to a system that’s almost guaranteed to become a feudal/mafia system.

  • toolkien

    It the core, I believe that I am an anarchist. I agree in principal with what has been put forth. But I can only operate on what I have observed, today and by what I’ve read about in history (through the dirty filter of bias of course). Pragmatically speaking, a State will arise out of the individuals that make it up, in one form or another, regardless of what I think is philosophically correct. As is the problem inherent in individualism I don’t have the luxury of time to go about to every person who makes up the State, with six or seven books under my arm, espousing my theories. I have to live with the basic reality that there will be a State. I can at least try to talk with as many people as I can, through vehicles like this to make arguments for its limitation.

    I point out that if one thinks that a Greater Good will arise the greater the State, I point out that the State, being a fiction or a transparent concept over the individuals it makes up, can only be bounded by the individuals and resources that make it up. Then it’s merely a question of who has rights in what property and why. The use of Force should be used by those who have a clear right in property over those who would choose to usurp it, not in a scheme to make things fair and square based on theocratic or quasi-theocratic notions.

    In the end, I have no choice but to allow ‘them’ their State, I merely try and ask them to think by what right and justification they come to take my property. Quixotic perhaps, but at least is steeped in the real world reality I find myself in versus philosophical ideal. One could say that another could allow for all sorts of indignities to themselves under such a pragmatic approach, I can only point out that I am either a peaceful member of the system, and can work to spread my point of view, or I am in arms against it, with other like minded folk. Thus far I have chosen a peaceable approach. When they come a-knocking for more than the 50% (in total) that is taken as of now, my peaceable approach will put to the test. I will risk that what comes after will be better or worse, no one can guarantee the outcome, but that the status quo is not acceptable.

    Some the founders of the US felt that tyranny was an inevitability. From my observation of the basic structure, and modality, of the associations man makes for himself, despots will arise in any association we create. But we always tend to create associations with each other, so the distilling of despots is inherent in the system, and are inevitable. That creates the inevitable need to regain the right of Force, pit yourself against the system, and attempt to establish a new order that is based more in individualism that the prior order. The more ‘minarchic’ the new order, the longer will be the time span until the next revolution is deemed necessary.

    I can only hope that that when is to happen again, I am in my grave. But that doesn’t seem likely as I have, in probability, 40-45 years to live, and the level of Statism necessary to achieve the goals they/we have already laid out for themselves/ourselves, will require a greater proportion of sacrifice than we already have or know. But as of now I am not inclined to rise against it. We will see what the mid-term future brings.

  • As Jonathan Wilde mentioned “What is to stop those providers turning ugly and imposing their will on you? You withhold payment? They’ll just take your house, and you cant stop them. Ask another provider to step in, and they’ll probably negotiate turf rights and leave you stuck with your private provider of state oppression.”

    I did not say that. I argued against that point.

    As another example, I’ve been reading Rubicon lately and long story short. Julius Caesar took his loyal “private” army fought a civil war against the Roman Republic and overthrew the republican government of the superpower of the time and took absolute power.

    Talk of ‘private’ armies under the control of emperors is nonsensical.

    We finally have the ability to choose our lawmakers after how many millenniums of struggle. And you want to go back to a system that’s almost guaranteed to become a feudal/mafia system.

    The mafia system is what exists today.

    Nobody is saying that private security companies won’t turn on their customers. That is always a threat. But, the more interesting question is whether or not private security companies are more or less likely to turn on their customers than currently existing democratic armies are to turn on their citizens.

    You say that we have the ability to “choose our lawmakers”. Market anarchy is this same princile extended to the individual level. You, as an individual, are allowed to choose from competing lawmakers and security providers.

    It’s much less likely that private security providers will turn on their customers than democratic armies will turn on their subjects. The former are working for a profit. The latter obtain their funding through forcible theft. The modern history of defense is filled with conscription, wars, mass casualties, and governments killing their own members.

  • richard Cook

    I would like to read the part about privateering. From my research privateers were not effective at all and did not keep the British Navy at bay. For almost the entire War of 1812 the American navy was under blockade. Privateers did do ome significant damage, not as ships of war, but by forcing up insurance rates in the English Channel. They were not turners of the tide by any imagination. The barbary states tried the same type of warfare and were sduccessful because Britain, France and the U.S. were too involved fighting each other to give them their attention. After the War of 1812 the US sent a squadron under Stephen Bainbridge to Tripoli and forced terms on the assorted Bey’s and Pasha’s. I think the “big battalions” always win.

  • D Anghelone

    Hi Richard,

    You err in assuming my positions. I’m saying only that your camp no more has the answers to “defense” than does any other camp.

    And shouldn’t people who imagine they have answers to every last thing be statist rather than anarchist?

    If you’re interested, the ifeminists forum is back.

  • toolkien,

    Peaceful submission to those who claim a greater authority to yourself vs armed revolution are not the only choices. A far more successful and moral approach is escape. A large part of the success of early America was the fact that Europeans who wanted to escape the oppressive monarchies could do so in a new frontier where it was expensive for the big governments of the Old World to follow.

    Technology is advancing rapidly with Moore’s Law and individuals today are more empowered than ever to make more and more of their lives free from third party interference. The worldwide flow of information, which laughs at political boundaries, is an excellent example. Cryptography and virtual communities are making voluntary associations without third party interference more prevalent. Digital cash will make taxation very difficult.

    This is a great age for freedom-minded individuals to live in. No longer do we have rhetoric and armed revolution as the only tools in our weapons cache. Escape is more and more a possibility.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Escape? Where? With the shirt on your back and whatever funds you’ve managed to squirrel away into an overseas bank? And what if the ‘protection forces’ where you go to also think that just because they’ve got tanks and guns you’re at their mercy?

    To rely only on mercenaries for defence is suicidal. Constrained by state laws and regulations, they can work. But take those restrictions(the state) away, and some unscrupulous ringleader will note the ripe possibilities hanging in front of him.

    Who cares if nobody hires him? He has the organization, the firepower, the men, and the equipment. He can take what he wants, sell whatever he plunders, use the money to buy even better equipment, and to hell with the rest. Anybody who opposes his army dies, and if they’re armed, well, let’s see how rifles stack up against tanks. For all the rhetoric about armed populace serving as a deterrant to invaders, I find that not reassuring in the least when faced with trained professionals.

    After all, the first rulers in history were probably conquerors lording it over the initially anarchic societies of the day. Throw everybody back into a world without states, and some strong armed ruler will still emerge.

    And if you’re not careful, he(or his competitors) might just take over the world. Then where would we be? Back to the feudal age, that’s what!

  • Dale Amon

    I agree that rationality is the big assumption, and it is one that is only sometimes valid. We could assume the Russians were mostly rational. Their reward was here on Earth, although even amongst them some Communists were little more than meme-carriers, happy to die or see others die for the glorious future. Perhaps imagining their name on the great Mausoleum as the happy millions filed past in their future fantasy world.

    Even worse are the religiously meme-ridden who know they will live forever in paradise. I can come up with some rather interesting scenarious – which I will not discuss publicly – about how such people could defeat rationality.

    It is foolhardy to believe that everyone weighs life and wealth the same as we do here.

    It is also wrong to force the world in its complexity into a simple set of philosophical statements. Self contradictory rules are necessary to a complex world; they just apply to different circumstances and have annoying, unresolvable edges between their areas of applicability.

    That’s why a lot of us end up being Popperian in outlook.

  • Julian Morrison

    TWG says:

    I dunno. A well armed military which doesn’t give a damn about human rights and procedure can just kill off the entire populace.

    That’s a very marginal situation, you have to admit. Most conquerors would pick “peace” if their options were (a) peace (b) a grinding war of asymmetric attrition against well armed and self-organizing civilians (c) scorched earth. From a government’s point of view, captured populace is an asset; absent valuable mineral rights or some such, captured land is a liability. You have to expend people, time, and armed protection in order to return it to an economically productive status.

    Besides, “just killing everybody” is hard. Knowing their fate, people will fight to the last bullet. Sure you can nuke them – if you don’t mind the land being useless for a couple generations, and destroying all the plunder.

    Or a country surrounded by other countries which do not share the same beliefs as its own. Much like my own country(a nut in a muslim nutcracker). Are we going to place our fates in the hands of corporate mercenaries who can be bought and about two platoons of volunteers?

    You vastly underestimate the volunteer spirit. And I’d guess you underestimate the honor of mercs, too. I doubt they’d do much business if they didn’t stay bought.

    Also, in reply to your later comments, I don’t buy the “power vacuum” idea. An ancient agrarian society where peasants barely made subsistence — that was a power vacuum. A productive modern ancap society would not be. A handful of private commandos would be well suited for attacking an enemy (as well as peacetime missions in hostage rescue, piracy interdiction, etc), but they’d be outgunned in aggregate by the populace around them.

  • If you’re within the geography being defended then you will suffer the same as your neighbor when the opponent attacks though your choice was to accept the opponent’s rule without fighting.

    So let’s say ACME defends my house. And you happen to reap the “benefits” for my payment for ACME’s actions. Are you saying that I would be violating your rights?

    And how is this different from a democracy in which an army can fight a foreign power with your “choice”?

  • Escape? Where? With the shirt on your back and whatever funds you’ve managed to squirrel away into an overseas bank?

    To cyberspace. Consider the fact that today, freedom of speech is guaranteed not by laws or edicts, but by fiber optics and routers. Technology has made relying on the government and courts irrelevant. Anyone with an internet connection can basically say whatever the hell they want without a reasonable chance of getting sent to jail for it.

    Now you’re probably thinking, well that’s all well and good, but talking isn’t the same as living. I agree. But, in the modern economy information if much more important to wealth than it ever has been. Cash is a form of anonymous information exchange. Cryptographic protocols that involve anonymous digital cash will allow cyberspatial exchange of services for money without third party interference. The technology is already available today in a crude form to make this possible, but there are still kinks that need to be worked out. As more and more of our lives take place in cyberspace, it will become a redoubt away from interfereing governments. With a significant reduction in taxation, which will only be limited to tangible goods, they will be severely crippled.

    To rely only on mercenaries for defence is suicidal.

    As opposed to relying on monopolistic defense?

    Constrained by state laws and regulations, they can work.

    So the state regulates and constrains itself? I submit that any study of history shows that this is emphatically not the case. Monopoly power results in almost no incentives for just behavior. Look at the 20th century. How successful were these “laws and regulations” created to state to “constrain” the state? Would 200 million murdered by them agree with your view?

    The most effective constraint to human action is the free market and civil society. It is only in those spheres in which good and bad behavior are rewarded and punished with consequences.

    But take those restrictions(the state) away, and some unscrupulous ringleader will note the ripe possibilities hanging in front of him.

    -sarcasm- Yeah, and this never happens with monopolistic governments. It’s much better if your customers are held captive rather than being able to choose you.-/sarcasm-

    Who cares if nobody hires him? He has the organization, the firepower, the men, and the equipment. He can take what he wants, sell whatever he plunders, use the money to buy even better equipment, and to hell with the rest.

    How does democracy prevent this? It doesn’t. If you say it does prevent it through voting, then the effect is even magnified with the market.

    War is expensive. There is a reason that England and France have not had a war in a very, very long time even though it was a regular occurrence back in the middle ages. They could fight a war, but they realize it is expensive and would involve lost lives and lots of sacrifice. Much of the Western world has taken on this culture of cost and benefit analysis. Competitive defense would enhance this even more.

    And if you’re not careful, he(or his competitors) might just take over the world. Then where would we be? Back to the feudal age, that’s what!

    Geez, I thought most libertarians would at least appreciate market forces at work. I guess not. The traditional picture of robust market back by monopolistic government is nearly impossible to break. Libertarians start sounding like socialists who fear that the free market would result in slave wages and subsistent standards of living.

    Governments by market is a step forward in the evolution of societies, not a return to feudalism.

  • D Anghelone

    So let’s say ACME defends my house. And you happen to reap the “benefits” for my payment for ACME’s actions. Are you saying that I would be violating your rights?

    I benefit if ACME prevails – maybe. If the opponent prevails then I will die in the same barrage as you. I may die in the battle regardless of who prevails. Remember that, in this example, I took the “better Red than dead” position and you forced upon me your war. That you did so with a PMO rather than a “state” is irrelevant.

    And how is this different from a democracy in which an army can fight a foreign power with your “choice”?

    In the terms of which we speak…no difference. And that is the point.

  • M. Simon

    You left out the third type of libertarian which in many respects encompasses the other two.

    This is the type who has no reasonble plan for getting from here to there.

    i.e. What we have in almost all libertarian thought is utopianism. Or – in a perfect world this is how it would work.

    When I was more heavily involved in Libertarian politics my wife would often ask me what the plan was to get some libertarian plan or other put into effect. I had to admit that there was no plan.

    Well there was sort of a plan: get Libertarians elected. We got three elected to various school boards and comissions locally. Not a Libertarian peep out of any of them in the public press. And one was a former State Chair. I actually got more libertarianism into the public discourse through my articles in the local weekly paper than our so called Libertarian politicians.

    That and the War and a couple of personal issues made me become an independent with Republican leanings. I figured the Republicans stood a better chance of reforming the party and through that the system than any Libertarian ever had of changing the system.

  • Shawn

    Charles quotes: “Worse, the U.S. government did not only fail to prevent the disaster of September 11, it actually contributed to the likelihood of such an event. In pursuing an interventionist foreign policy (taking the form of economic sanctions, troops stationed in more than 100 countries, relentless bombings, propping up despotic regimes, taking sides in irresolvable land and ethnic disputes, and otherwise attempting political and military management of whole areas of the globe), the government provided the very motivation for foreign terrorists and made the U.S. their prime target.”

    This is one of the primary arguments used by the paleo-libertarian camp. It is of course utterly wrong, and a good indication of the problem that lies at the center of paleo-lib and anarcho-capitalist thinking on national defense.

    In essense, paleo’s, whether libertarian or conservative, subscribe to the view that Islamic terrorism, and threats to the U.S. in general, are the result of our interventions overseas, and that if we just leave them alone, they will leave us alone. I have seen this view expressed al LewRockwell.com repeatedly.

    The basic problem with this line of reasoning is that it presupposes that we CAN leave them alone in any meaningful sense in the first place. Free trade requires the rule of law. It requires a degree of stability. Whether this is provided by the state or privately is neither here nor there. In advocating free trade, paleo-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists are advocating involvement with other cultures and civilisations, involvement that will sooner or later turn to conflict. If I am free to trade with whom I like, I am free to trade with Muslims. And this is the rub. To those legions of Muslims who follow the teachings of Sayed Qutb, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the man who more than any other has provided political Islam with its ideology, any kind of global free trade will be seen as an attempt to undermine the faithful and pervert Islam. Sooner or later, we will be back where we are now. And Muslims will not differentiate between different private providers of security. They will not say, “only this corporation with this security company tried to sell their infidel products in Muslim lands”. Nope. To them we are all Crusaders out to destroy them. It is NOT U.S. foriegn policy that has made it a target, it is America’s percieved role as the primary promoter of globalisation and capitalism. It is these things, globalisation, free trade, capitalism and secularism that motivate them to hate us. This will be true regardless of whether we live in a minarchist or anarcho-capitalist system. Dangerously to say the least, on this issue the people at LewRockwell.com, and most anarcho-capitalists, have their heads in the sand.

    As to Hermann Hoppe I will say only one thing. This is a man who, when asked in an interview why America was invading Afghanistan after Sept.11 said “I dont know”.

    Now how difficult is this. Al-Qaeda declared war on the U.S. in 1998. Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. repeatedly, culiminating in the Sept.11 attacks on American soil. Al-Qaeda’s base of operations and training was Afghanistan.

    So why were we invading Afghanistan Mr Hermann Hoppe?

    He didint know.

    Yup. Theres a man you can trust to talk authoritatively about national defense.

  • Shadow Hunter

    Johnathon,
    1)Sorry I meant Gazaridis, didn’t mean to mischaracterize your argument.
    2)Caeser wasn’t an emperor before he took absolute power. So no it’s not non-sensical.

    You did hit the nail on the head when you said that the question is
    “But, the more interesting question is whether or not private security companies are more or less likely to turn on their customers than currently existing democratic armies are to turn on their citizens.”
    The answer is that they are more likely to turn on their customers and that the system you’re proposing is a very short step to feudalism. I point to places like Haiti, Somalia, and Afganistan as libertopia vacation spots. I know you can come up with historical examples showing various coups by standing armies. In the long run freedom may be a spotty thing. But I think history shows that representative democracy is the best method to ensure some longevity of liberty.

  • Shawn

    I agree with M. Simon. IT’s all very well to sit around talking about libertarian theories of government. But the truth is that much of the public in most of the third world barely knows we exist. As the Libertarian Party has shown, thgird party politics is largely a waste of time and effort, at least in first past the post electoral systems.

    I am basically a minarchist, and though not an objectivist, I pretty much subscribe to Ayn Rand’s views on government. But increasingly more radical forms of libertarianism look just plain pointless to me. Nice in theory, but not gonna happen any time soon. It makes far more sense to work through established center right parties, say through the Republican Liberty Caucus in the U.S. or the ACT Party here in New Zealand.

  • Julian Morrison

    I’d guess: there are so few political “plans” because most Libertarians instinctively realise that they are not into politics at all, they’re into ideas.

    This is why nobody much knows of libertarians. When our ideas become mainstream, they cease to be our ideas. Who nowadays would describe the following as libertarian: abolition of the divine right of kings, freeing of slaves, seperation of religion and state, rule of law? They’d just call them “right”.

  • Charles Copeland

    Shawn writes:

    “In essense, paleo’s, whether libertarian or conservative, subscribe to the view that Islamic terrorism, and threats to the U.S. in general, are the result of our interventions overseas, and that if we just leave them alone, they will leave us alone. I have seen this view expressed at LewRockwell.com repeatedly.”

    Shawn has a point – certainly some of the paleo community do tend to believe that the world would be heaven on earth if only the US stayed at home and cultivated its own garden. And, yes, many Lew Rockwell supporters have repeatedly expressed such a view.

    But there are paleos and paleos. There are paleos who (like me) believe that US intervention almost always makes things worse, in particular when it is driven by the neocon illusion that one can build democracies in Arab countries or that the Iraqi people ‘treasure freedom’ in precisely the same way as we ‘treasure freedom’, or that it is possible to create some kind of ‘Islam lite’ which will be acceptable to the Muslim world.

    Until just over a year ago, we had a brutal, secular regime in Iraq. But at least Iraqi women didn’t have to dress up like ghouls. Now, thanks to the US playing the global Good Samaritan, we are inevitably heading for a brutal, Islamic regime in that country. Welcome to the return of Sharia law.

    Call that a success story?

  • Cobden Bright

    There is a misunderstanding of the way in which democracies ensure general law and order (not freedom per se, but one of the essential qualities for freedom to exist). Countries like the US and UK have law and order because the dominant military power (the armed forces) are ideologically committed to civilian rule. The moment the US or UK army believe in military dictatorship, then it will happen, and the general population will be able to do nothing to stop it.

    Thus there is nothing stopping the armed forces of the UK or US from seizing power and imposing their own dictatorship, except their own ideological commitment to civilian control of the state. We are *already* in a position where liberty rests on the philosophical views of a tiny percentage of society – we are free solely due to the grace and self-restraint of a few army officers.

    Therefore, the arguments of those anti-anarchists who say that a society protected by private security inevitably lapses into military dictatorship are wrong. So long as the people who control these private security companies are committed to the presevation of liberty, and are philosophically opposed to dictatorship, then it will not happen. The idea that they inevitably want to take over the country is as ludicrous as the idea that the current leaders of the government-run armed forces want to take over the country. If the current armed forces can restrain themselves from dictatorial leanings, why can’t private armed forces run by libertarians do the same?

    The problem with state-controlled military forces is that, in addition to believing in a (relatively) free society, they also believe in obeying democratically elected governments without question. If the President says put American citizens in concentration camps, then they do it. Now who do you think is more likely to threaten liberty – a bunch of armed libertarians, or the likes of David Blunkett and Karl Rove during wartime or serious terrorist threat?

    Even if there did emerge a wannabe tyrant, he would be opposed by several heavily armed private companies all committed to the existing libertarian system. The latter would then be able to call on a heavily armed populace to back them up. Do you really think that a private army of, say, 500,000 Americans or 100,000 Brits, would be able to militarily defeat 3 or 4 such companies, backed by 250 million Americans or 50 million Brits, legally armed with machine guns, APCs, tanks, RPGs, privately owned fighter planes and bombers etc? Don’t forget, any “anarchist utopia” would obviously have protection mechanisms in place to guard against the threat of an emerging tyrant – secret assassination squads would be in place ready to take out the leadership of each security company, citizens groups would carefully monitor each company for dictatorial tendencies, there would be spies and moles in each company, and even if this failed the citizenship would be ready at the drop of a hat to raid their HQs. You seem to forget that a libertarian anarchist “utopia” would have a population legally entitled to arm *themselves*. The private security companies are simply a more efficient way to do this. That does not mean the population are as pathetically defenceless as they are in today’s statist hell.

    To be blunt, the fear of a “private dictatorship” emerging is simply the result of a basic lack of imagination, simple inability to conceive of anything different to the current system. You guys are the same as the people who worried that giving people the vote would lead to chaos, or that privatisation would lead to disaster, or that legalising cannabis or pornography will lead to the collapse of society. It is pure reactionary paranoia, based on fear and ignorance and nothing else.

    Finally, I must dismiss the “utopia” critique – in 500AD, the notion of liberal democracy controlling half the world would have been dismissed as ludicrously utopian. This critique has been proven hopelessly pessimistic and defeatist by the passage of time, and the general progress of humanity. Each century the world has usually become more and more libertarian – who is to say that in the future, private military companies run by *committed libertarians* will not thrive and prosper? Do we really think the Perrys and Brians of this world would seek dictatorship if they built up a private security company? Even if they did, the ideological descendants of the rest of Samizdata would be ready and willing to kick their arse. Get a grip people!

  • The Wobbly Guy

    You place far too much trust in humanity and the general intelligence of people. However, I don’t.

    There are too many scenarios and too many meme-carriers(as put by others) for me to trust in anarchy.

    Which is why I would not have made a good one, I guess. Minimal state, for what’s it’s worth. Not zero state.

    You vastly underestimate the volunteer spirit. And I’d guess you underestimate the honor of mercs, too. I doubt they’d do much business if they didn’t stay bought.

    They don’t have to stay bought. They just have to turn into the modern version of pirates and leeches. Not every merc stays as white bread as the Kell Hounds and Wolf Dragoons from Battletech(hey, I run a sci-fi mercenary campaign and half the players keep dreaming of somehow setting up their own personal fiefdoms!!!). Machiavelli’s point about the nature of mercs is still pretty much true.

    In the end, I guess my stance is closest to toolkien’s. A state, no matter where it starts from, will eventually progress to authoritarianism, economically, socially, politically. Then it’s another new revolution.

    Time to water that tree of liberty again, gents. Now, what were those fertilizers? I vaguely remember something about tyrants and blood…

    The Wobbly Guy

  • You did hit the nail on the head when you said that the question is “But, the more interesting question is whether or not private security companies are more or less likely to turn on their customers than currently existing democratic armies are to turn on their citizens.”

    The answer is that they are more likely to turn on their customers and that the system you’re proposing is a very short step to feudalism. I point to places like Haiti, Somalia, and Afganistan as libertopia vacation spots. I know you can come up with historical examples showing various coups by standing armies. In the long run freedom may be a spotty thing. But I think history shows that representative democracy is the best method to ensure some longevity of liberty.

    How can you claim that places overrun by criminal gangs is a libertopia vacation spot? I don’t see any free markets for security, nor free markets in general in those places. The problems there are caused by gangs, i.e., governments.

    History is not a very good guide to best answer my question. Hitler came to power in a democracy and killed of millions of his own citizens. And representative democracies themselves are a relatively new phenomenon over the long term.

    It’s better to look at economic incentives.

    Suppose that in the Age of Monarchs, a classical liberal proposed liberal democracy as a better form of rights provision. The medieval version of the Wobbly Guy likely made a similar argument- “You have far too much trust in humanity and the general intelligence of people to make decisions over government. Letting people vote is a step toward empire. People will just vote to kill their neighbors, enslave them, tyrannize them, etc.”

    Democracy can be seen as an imperfect market. If a president starts an unpopular war, he will suffer consequences as people vote for another guy four years later. He will lose “business” and his job. Yet, the difference between democracy and the market is that this decision can be made by 51% of “the people” and the remainder have it imposed on them by force.

    In a true market for security, a CEO who starts a war that his clients do not support loses customers fast. Wars cost money. You need tanks, soldiers who are willing to take risks to die, aircraft, etc. He cannot simply snap his fingers and declare a war without affecting the bottom line of the company. If he wishes to raise more money than the company has, he will have to increase subscription fees and insurance premiums. If he starts a war that his customers think is meaningless, they will desert him for a different company. His revenues will dry up. The stock will plummet.

    Accordingly, his competitors will have more money to work with as deserting customers join up and pay subcription fees and insurance. If the malignant CEO tries to start an unpopular war, it will be extremely difficult to do so for the very reason that his financial power depends on user fees, not taxation. He can’t just raise taxes like a democratic president can. The effects are immediate, not limited to an election every 4 years.

    Different scenario:

    Let’s say that instead of starting a war unpopular with his customers, the CEO starts a war that is very popular with his clients, most of whom are anti-social individuals determined to enslave the rest of the population. What will happen then? Well, it is likely that the remaining companies have a strong mutual incentive to work together. If they work together to stop the threat of enslavement by the malignant company, they can survive and try to remain profitable in the future. If they do not, not only will they lose profits, they might even lose their liberty. Thus, it is likely that they will come together to overpower the threat. This is much like credit card companies who share information on bad customers for mutual gain, even though they are competitors. Both profit from this exchange even though they are usually business adversaries.

    The remaining companies’ customers will be much more willing to pay more fees to keep their freedoms. They will see the threat and will respond to subscription price increases readily.

    Contrast this to a democracy. If a president starts a war unpopular with most of his citizens, he faces consequences 4 years down the road. If he starts a war on behalf of one small segment of the population to enslave the rest of the population, the rest of the population cannot fight back without resorting to armed revolution, which is disorganized and lacking in the usual military firepower of tanks and jets. The existing means of defense, the government military, is already in control of the president. There are no competitors.

    That is the fundamental problem with monopolistic government – that due to its all-or-nothing nature, a small group can gain enormous benefits at the greater expense of the many.

    I submit that if you are a fan of democracy, and if you find democracy preferable to monarchy, then with consistent economic reasoning, you ought to find market anarchy preferable to democracy. A market for security keeps people much better behaved than a democracy does.

    These ideas are extremely off-putting initially because of their complete foreignness, but I would think libertarians would be open-minded enough to give them a strong consideration.

  • Therefore, the arguments of those anti-anarchists who say that a society protected by private security inevitably lapses into military dictatorship are wrong. So long as the people who control these private security companies are committed to the presevation of liberty, and are philosophically opposed to dictatorship, then it will not happen. The idea that they inevitably want to take over the country is as ludicrous as the idea that the current leaders of the government-run armed forces want to take over the country. If the current armed forces can restrain themselves from dictatorial leanings, why can’t private armed forces run by libertarians do the same?

    I think the argument is much stronger than even that. The picture you are painting is one of relying on the “good will” of private security companies, much like we rely on the good will of high ranking military officers today not to take over a country.

    You are partially correct: democracy relies to a large degree on the good will of the people in charge – the president, high ranking military officers, the supreme court, etc. That is ultimately why democracies self-destruct.

    However, in a market anarchy, we do not have to rely on good will. Economic incentives make it hard, damn near impossible, for security companies to take over large segments of the population by brute force. “Bad” behavior becomes much, much more costly, and “good” behavior becomes much, much more profitable.

  • Dan

    I think Jonathan (er, I think it’s Jonathan) is on the money here. Where will the surplus military capability needed to take over society come from? It will have to come from the company’s customers. If they don’t wish to take over society they won’t pay for it and it won’t happen. If a security company tries to take over society with the resources it already has, it will have to divert those resources from its paying customers, which is either theft or fraud or both. It’s customers will stop paying and seek protection from other companies and reddress of their grievances in appropriate venues.

    I think we’re used to seeing unneccesarily large, taxpayer-funded armies just standing around with nothing to do but get up to no good. Because these armies are the product of monopolist behavior, they aren’t the ‘right’ amount of army for the marketplace, or worse, are raised deliberately for getting up to no good. Competition in this area should prevent at least the first condition from occuring, and possibly the second.

  • D Anghelone

    Thus there is nothing stopping the armed forces of the UK or US from seizing power and imposing their own dictatorship, except their own ideological commitment to civilian control of the state. We are *already* in a position where liberty rests on the philosophical views of a tiny percentage of society – we are free solely due to the grace and self-restraint of a few army officers.

    You’re forgetting the ranks. They must be willing to follow the generals against their own.

  • Shawn

    Cobden wrote:

    “Even if there did emerge a wannabe tyrant, he would be opposed by several heavily armed private companies all committed to the existing libertarian system.”

    How do you know they will be committed to the libertarian system? The problem you mention here with democratic systems and militaries committed to civilian rule, is true (although a minarchist I am not an advocate of majoritarian democracy). But it is just as much a problem in an anarchist system, if not more so. The assumption that private security organisations, or mini-states, will be comitted to libertarianism is just that, an assumption. What if some are not? Or many? Or most? How do ensure they are? You cannot. Because there is no rule of law. There is no agreed standard. Assuming that libertarian principles will be the agreed standard is certainly utopian.

    To quote from Lindsay Perigo’s brilliant demolition of anarchist theory:

    “TFR exists to portray “politics, economics and life as if freedom mattered.” I believe that for freedom to be achieved, limited government is necessary (and that those who participate in it are not “excreta”). I am happy, however, to have the toss argued — to accommodate those, like Rex, who believe that no government is necessary; to provide what he calls “a rare outlet for polemic of just this kind.”

    Because it shows up the fact that he’s wrong …

    “I know of no anarchist,” Rex writes, “who ever proposed that society be constituted without agreed standards, even if these were crystallised into one simple maxim such as ‘you are free to do what you like except interfere with someone else’s freedom,’ nor have any of them ever suggested that we stand idly by if our rights are abused by others.”

    This raises a number of questions. What if this “simple maxim” is not the “agreed standard”? Why should it be? Why shouldn’t the Mongrel Mob’s maxims be the “agreed standards”? How are “freedom” and “rights” to be defined? If someone, acting on a different definition from mine, proposes to abuse my rights, who stops him and on what grounds? Of what does “not standing idly by” consist — blowing him away? It is in answering such questions that one encounters the inescapable need for government.”

    I challenge those advocating anarchism to read the whole article: http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/18/18perigo.html

  • Shawn

    In response to Charles, I respect that not all paleo’s share the same views, and on immigration and cultural issues I am firmly in the paleo camp. But to use your own point, there are interventionists and there are interventionists. I agree that neocon beliefs about spreading freedom and democracy are dubious at best, but my support for the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are not based on those beliefs. My support is based on the view that in order to defeat political Islam and its terrorism, we have to engage them, fight them, and defeat them on their own ground. Iraq was simply the most convenient place to do this. Muslims respect little more than strength. If we show strength by winning in Iraq, we will do far more to convince them that waging terrorist war against us is pointless than hiding and waiting for them behind a Western “wall” of strong border control and restrictive immigration policies, valuable though those things are.

  • How do you know they will be committed to the libertarian system? The problem you mention here with democratic systems and militaries committed to civilian rule, is true (although a minarchist I am not an advocate of majoritarian democracy). But it is just as much a problem in an anarchist system, if not more so. The assumption that private security organisations, or mini-states, will be comitted to libertarianism is just that, an assumption. What if some are not? Or many? Or most? How do ensure they are? You cannot. Because there is no rule of law. There is no agreed standard. Assuming that libertarian principles will be the agreed standard is certainly utopian.

    Others may be making some sort of assumption along these lines, but I am not. I do not think a market for security requires that everyone agrees with libertarian principles. Nor do I think all private security companies will be committed to libertarianism. Just like in the modern democratic world, there are people who will want to injure, kill, and enslave others. My views are based on economic incentives of how people act, not on any sort of belief that there will come a day when everyone has the non-aggression principle tattooed on their left asscheek.

    A fundamental economic outcome of all monopolies is that the benefits to a few are borne by costs to many. This has many different names in different versions of economics – rent-seeking, public choice theory, externalizing costs, special interests, etc. Modern democratic monopolies externalize the costs of violence onto others. Thus, they have little incentive to engage in libertarian behavior, and a lot of incentive to engage in aggressive behavior. Alexander Fraser Tytler saw this hundreds of years ago -

    A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

    Private companies have limited means of raising capital. They have to do so by convincing people to give them money in exchange for goods and services. Monopolies do not share this burden. In the united states, if I want to see a doctor, he has to be licensed by the AMA. I cannot see a doctor who has trained differently and is willing to charge less money. The physician monopoly imposes costs on everyone even though a narrow special interest group, AMA-licensed physicians, gain. Their special-interest profit comes at the diffusion of costs across the whole of society.

    Modern democracies are the same way. They do not have to compete for customers. Their ‘customers’ are essentially held captive within their territorial monopolies. It is expensive for individuals to ‘switch providers’ – to pack up all their possessions, move to a different country, learn a new language and culture, leave friends and family behind, etc. If it was economically free to move, i.e., if there was some way for people to move without these high costs, countries would likely compete over clients. There would be ‘jurisdictional arbitrage’ over tax rates, stability of currencies, privacy standards, victimless crimes, etc.

    Private competing security agencies are simply a way to have this process without having the customers move. Rather than packing your bags and moving to a more preferable country with a whole new set of laws and institutions, you simply call up and subscribe to a different company with its own set of laws and institutions like changing phone companies. When companies have to compete for clients, it becomes in their best interest not to enslave their own clients, or to engage in war with other clients. If they try to injure, enslave, or kill their own clients, their clients will flee to competitors. There will be a demand for competitors services, which will raise prices for competing services. Those competitors will make money. It is unprofitable to engage in non-libertarian behavior against your own clients. They have plenty of options.

    If a private security agency wants to start a war against other agencies, again, it will be very costly. They have to pay for tanks, soldiers, smart bombs, aircraft, missiles, artillery, etc. They will have to pass on these costs to clients in the form of higher subscription fees and premiums. Their stock, if it is publicly traded, will suffer. There will be much incentive to not engage in war, since the bottom line depends on it. I’m not claiming that war will never happen. Sometimes, the private security agency will indeed conclude that the high costs of war are worth the potential payoff. What I am claiming is that war will be much less likely than in a democratic system because of market constraints.

    Contrast that to monopolistic democratic agencies. When modern democracies try to injure, enslave, or kill their own citizens (Drug War, taxation, licensing of physicians, etc), their citizens cannot leave for a competitor. Or rather, it is extremely expensive for all the reasons mentioned earlier, to move to a competing democratic agency, i.e., say Costa Rica. And rather than suffer the consequences of non-libertarian behavior such as normally happens in the free-market, not only do they not lose revenues, they actually profit. It is just like AMA-physicians gaining profit by holding a gun to my head preventing me from seeking competitors who are offering me cheaper rates. It is profitable for monopolistic democratic governments to engage in non-libertarian behavior because it supports an elite privileged class who no longer have to rely on free-market interactions (BATF agents, IRS agents, AMA-licensed physicians, public school teachers, etc) off the spoils of war against the citizenry. It is no wonder that modern monopolistic democratic governments enage in so many Wars on their own citizens – on Drugs, Terror, Obesity, Digital Pirates, Pollution, SUVs, etc. It is no wonder that Tytler was so precient about the nature of democracies.

    So to get back to the original point, no, I do not think a market for security requires agreement among everyone on libertarian principles. Rather, I think such a system forces people who engage in non-libertarian behavior to fully pay for the costs of their behavior (unlike modern monopolistic democracies) and rewards people who engage in libertarian behavior (unlike modern monopolistic democracies). Such a society would be much more libertarian than a modern monopolistic democracy, not because people carried around copies of Atlas Shrugged in their pockets, but because it would be in their self-interest to engage in libertarian behavior.

  • “I know of no anarchist,” Rex writes, “who ever proposed that society be constituted without agreed standards, even if these were crystallised into one simple maxim such as ‘you are free to do what you like except interfere with someone else’s freedom,’ nor have any of them ever suggested that we stand idly by if our rights are abused by others.”

    Then he has likely not read anything by David Friedman. Friedman does not propose any maxims or constitutions or anything of the sort. Rather, he believes any and all laws, including non-libertarian laws, should be bought and sold on the market.

    This raises a number of questions. What if this “simple maxim” is not the “agreed standard”? Why should it be? Why shouldn’t the Mongrel Mob’s maxims be the “agreed standards”? How are “freedom” and “rights” to be defined? If someone, acting on a different definition from mine, proposes to abuse my rights, who stops him and on what grounds? Of what does “not standing idly by” consist — blowing him away? It is in answering such questions that one encounters the inescapable need for government.”

    No, the market can answer those questions. “Rights” and “standards” and “freedom” do not need to be defined by some bigshot any more than “cellphone” and “food” and “shelter” need to be defined by some bigshot.

    I challenge those advocating anarchism to read the whole article: http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/18/18perigo.html

    I read the piece and was not impressed. He sounds like the typical minarchist who agrees with libertarian ethics but has never considered the economics of law.

    The arguments lie in the economics of the costs and benefits of violence and law. Markets for law make aggression expensive.

  • And let me just add as a response to those who believe that the way to a libertarian world is through politics. I have known people who have spent their whole lives trying to influence political parties, create their own party, affect policies, etc. Some of them have been with the US Libertarian Party since its inception in the 1970′s. They go to the rallies, make the phone calls, hand out buttons and fliers, wear the funny hats, etc. Yet, their thirty-year cause has been largely ineffective. And they become frustrated, depressed, and bitter.

    To me, they are like the alchemists who tried their whole lives to turn lead into gold, but never succeeded. The problem is not their efforts or skill, but the reality they are dealing with. Lead could never turn to gold based on the nature of atomic structure, and politics can never bring about a libertarian world due to the nature of the economics of law.

    Politics does not work. It is fundamentally anti-libertarian, for the same reasons that a system of private competing security agencies is much more libertarian than a democracy ever will be. In politics, it is profitable for the few to profit at the expense of the many. It is a result of monopoly economics. The incentives of democracy are too skewed to create a libertarian world through political means.

    For all those who think they are going to elect politicians that are going to make the world freer, stop wasting your time. Democracy does not work and is economically fundamentally anti-libertarian. Your efforts will be much more effective outside of politics.

  • Julian Morrison

    Jonathan Wilde: democracy does work to at least this extent: if the public becomes more libertarian, eventually the government will too.

    The mistake most political activists make, is trying to put the cart before the horse. Politics doesn’t push culture. Culture constrains politics.

  • Jonathan Wilde: democracy does work to at least this extent: if the public becomes more libertarian, eventually the government will too.

    I have to disagree. Even if the public was 90% libertarian, the remaining 10% can still diffuse the costs of aggressing against the 90% through the political machinery.

    The proportions are not 1:1 as you seem to imply. The reason is that voting is not the same as using dollars. When I buy a car, I give up a certain amount of dollars and receive all (or nearly so) the benefit. I drive the car. It is mine and not anyone else’s.

    When I vote for a ‘good’ politician, there is a certain amount of costs involved with knowing issues, gathering info, etc, but the benefit to me is also a benefit to everyone else. I cannot capture all the benefit. There is less incentive to vote for ‘good’ government for this reason.

    When I vote for a ‘bad’ politician, there is a cost to me is ‘bad’ consequences and the effects are felt by everyone else. It is rational for me to be ignorant of the issues and effects of the policies of the politicians I am voting for. Thus, ‘good’ government, i.e., libertarian-friendly govt, in a democracy is undersupplied.

    Democracy diffuses the costs of poor decision making and aggression among the entire population, unlike the market. If I buy a crappy car, I pay the entire costs. If I vote for a bad politician, we all suffer.

    There would have to be near 100% agreement on libertarian ideas a monopolistic govt to become libertarian. And even then, any slip below that level will start the cycle of perverse incentives of democracy back.

  • Julian Morrison

    No, I don’t agree. Libertarian government is absent because it’s unpopular. Democracy reflects rather than causes people’s envy, bossiness and paranoia. It tends to lag a few years behind the culture, and it tends to exagerate the influence of the noisy over the numerous, but neither effect is huge. In my experience, the typical Briton is the same sort of soft-socialist as the present government.

  • I agree that culture reflects politics to a large degree. And thus, blogs like Samizdata and my own blog are helpful in influencing politics. However, concluding from that that the reason libertarian policies do not exist is largely due to lack of a libertarian culture is failing to into account the perverse economic incentives present in democratic governments.

    If 45% of people buy Dell’s, 40% buy Compaq’s, and 15% buy Macs, it is likely that those same percentages prefer those computer brands. The same is not true in a democracy because whereas dollars spent can reflect relative demands in the free market, votes do reflect the relative demands of voters because of the all-or-nothing nature of democracy.

    For example, if I as a libertarian wanted to be a physician and believed that the AMA-licensed monopoly was an immoral cartel, what are my options? I could try to bypass the AMA monopoly by starting my own school of medicine which used different training methods and approaches. Likely, this school would be shut down before it opened due to pressure from the AMA and public outcries about standards. If I tried to fight this through democratic channels, I would need a team of lawyers to argue in the democratic courts on my behalf. I would need to hire public relations people. I might try to buy TV commercials arguing on my behalf. I would need to send donations to the Democratic and Republican parties to try to influence policy. This would all be very costly. I may win in the end after many years of struggle, but it would be very costly.

    Yet, if I really, really wanted to practice medicine, the most easy and inexpensive path to take would be to simply go to a AMA-approved medical school and not bother with trying to change the system. The incentives created by the AMA monopoly corrupt even the most libertarian hearts. A libertarian who wishes to practice medicine even though he believes the AMA monopoly to be immoral has a many orders of magnitude greater incentive to simply join the corrupt monopoly himself instead of changing the system. The reason is that the monopoly creates a one-size-fits-all system.

    If instead there was a free market for medical standards in the US, his incentive would be to start his own school because he could freely compete for customers’ dollars from the start rather than have to change the entire system.

    In the same fashion as medical standards, law is a monopoly in democracies. If I as a libertarian want to change laws, I have to hire a bunch of lawyers to argue in the courts. I would need to hire PR people, buy advertising, donate to the major political parties, etc. If I succeed in making society freer by spending $100,000 of my own money, everyone benefits perhaps $10, including myself. I am not able to “capture” all the benefit for myself. This makes the incentive to make society freer relatively weak. Instead, it is much easier for me to spend those $100,000 to make society less free. Rather than fight the AMA monopoly to make everyone better off, I could gain much more if I instead imposed more monopoly standards. Those $100,000 could net me $1,000,000 at the cost of $10 to everyone in society.

    Which do I have a greater incentive to do – spend $100,000 to benefit everyone in society by $10, or spend $100,000 to benefit me $1,000,000 at the cost of $10 to everyone in society? Is it any wonder that democratic governments are beholden to hundreds of special interest groups all seeking to create laws to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us? Is it any wonder that corporations have a much greater incentive to join the corrupt system than to fight it? Is it any wonder that there are no more libertarian heroes?

    Instead, in a free market for law, different firms could compete for customers by offering more efficient laws and less intrusive laws. There would be competition for reducing overhead, making enforcement cheaper, not engaging in useless wars, and true customer satisfaction. No longer would a small minority be able to impose costs on the rest of society at a profit to themselves. No longer would illibertarian individuals escape the consequences of their own actions.

    Democracy corrupts the souls of freedom-seeking individuals. Even in a libertarian cultured society would statism prevail due to the economic incentives inherent in democracy.

    Democracy sucks. It’s time for libertarians to acknowledge this and stop the pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone that turns democratic lead into libertarian gold.

  • Shawn

    “I do not think a market for security requires that everyone agrees with libertarian principles. Nor do I think all private security companies will be committed to libertarianism.”

    Then lets be clear that an anarchist society is NOT a libertarian society. Nor for that matter is a majoritarian democracy. In fact anarchism and majoritarian democracy have one thing in common. They both end up as a form of mob rule.

    A libertarian society is one based on the universally enforced non agression principle. It is a society based on the rule of law. Individual freedom CANNOT be upheld and defended on assumptions. And assuming that people will behave in a libertarian manner, or that they will behave solely in their own self interest, is utopian. It is basing my freedom on nothing more than wishful thinking.

    As human history shows, people act on all sorts of motivations, not just self interest. In an anarchist society we would end up with all sorts of competing ideologies (as in fact we do now), many of which will not be committed to freeedom. And what will determine which ideology prevails? Guns. Thats all. This, as Lindsay Perigo makes clear, is NOT a society based on individual freedom, it is a society based on might is right. Sooner or later, the people with the most fanatical ideology, who manage to get the most powerful and unscrupulous security agency on their side, an agency that thinks being a monopoly might be a cool thing, and they will take over, and any individual and any business that disagrees will be destroyed. The end result of anarchism will always be fascism.

    This is the genius of real libertarianism, that it rejects both majoritarian democracy and anarchy in favour of a society based on the universally enforced principles of limited government, individual freedom, the non initiation of force, and voluntary free trade. Nothing else can truly give us the basis for a free society.

    This does not mean a libertarian society will be perfect, nor that it will not face threats from within and without. But it will be in a far stronger position to defend real freedom against its enemies than either the mob rul of democracy or the might is right of anarchy.

  • Shawn

    I should have included this in my previous post.

    “No, the market can answer those questions. “Rights” and “standards” and “freedom” do not need to be defined by some bigshot any more than “cellphone” and “food” and “shelter” need to be defined by some bigshot.”

    Of course they do, otherwise they are not rights and standards and freedom in the first place. If freedom is whatever I want it to be, than freedom can be slavery, freedom can be submitting to Allah, freedom can be found only in the collective. When something as important as freedom is left up to the market alone to define then we are not talking about freedom in any objective sense, we are talking about subjective opinion. The same for rights. And the bigshot we are talking about in libertarianism is a universally enforced constitution and the rule of law.

    “The arguments lie in the economics of the costs and benefits of violence and law. Markets for law make aggression expensive.”

    So what? Do you seriously believe that a group motivated by radical Islam, as just one possible example, give a shit about the cost? Do you really think any group that motivated by an ideology that says they are right and everyone else is wrong, that no cost is too much to bear for the cause, that death in the service of the cause is something to desire, is going to be restrained by market principles?

    “Oops, Ahmed, I have just learned that bringing the infidels to submission is going to put us over budget! And that it is going to cost us dearly in time and lives!

    Oh no Abdhulla! Well we might as well just go home and watch Friends.”

    If anyone else believes this, I know some nice land for sale in Afghanistan.

    Again, our choice is not between democracy and anarchy, our choice is between democracy, anarchy and libertarianism. Only libertarianism is based upon objective individual freedom and the non-agression principle. Democracy and anarchy are just mob rule based on subjective opinion.

  • Shawn

    A final note, then I’m on holiday for a week. Market principles are wonderful things. I believe in voluntary free trade, and I beleive that, as far as goods and services and property are concerned that the voluntary market is the best mechanism of exchange and should be left to itself.

    But it is simply wrong to go from that to believing that something as centrally vital as freedom can be bought and sold on the market. The market is a mechanism of exchange, it is not the determinant of all that is human, of all human value.

    Unless human freedom is objectively defined, and protected universally in a given society by the rule of law, then we can kiss it goodbye. This true regardless of whether the system is democracy or anarchy.

  • Then lets be clear that an anarchist society is NOT a libertarian society. Nor for that matter is a majoritarian democracy. In fact anarchism and majoritarian democracy have one thing in common. They both end up as a form of mob rule.

    That is not the case. Mob rule works because there is a central machinery to be corrupted by the mob. Security on the market decentralizes power so that no central machinery exists.

    A libertarian society is one based on the universally enforced non agression principle.

    That is much more likely in a private security market, because aggression is expensive without a central machinery to corrupt.

    It is a society based on the rule of law.

    Do you really think that there is some sort of rule of law that exists in modern democracies? Do you think that the fact that tax rates approach 50%, nanny statism rules our lives, Constitutions are shredded daily, the panopticon state grows, and victimless crimes are punished with years of jailtime means that some sort of rule of law exists? Any notion of a rule of law in democracies is thoroughly shredded by John Hasnas if it is not already by simple observation.

    Individual freedom CANNOT be upheld and defended on assumptions. And assuming that people will behave in a libertarian manner, or that they will behave solely in their own self interest, is utopian. It is basing my freedom on nothing more than wishful thinking.

    I agree. And that is the exact reason believing democracy guarantees freedom is utopian and wishful thinking.

    As human history shows, people act on all sorts of motivations, not just self interest. In an anarchist society we would end up with all sorts of competing ideologies (as in fact we do now), many of which will not be committed to freeedom. And what will determine which ideology prevails? Guns. Thats all. This, as Lindsay Perigo makes clear, is NOT a society based on individual freedom, it is a society based on might is right.

    All of your fears are the very reason you should not have a monopoly control personal security. Monopolies cater to might make right ideologues. There is no way any monopoly can guarantee individual freedom.

    So what? Do you seriously believe that a group motivated by radical Islam, as just one possible example, give a shit about the cost? Do you really think any group that motivated by an ideology that says they are right and everyone else is wrong, that no cost is too much to bear for the cause, that death in the service of the cause is something to desire, is going to be restrained by market principles?

    As I stated before, there is always a chance that private security companies might go to war and try to take over other companies. Yet, it would be difficult to do so because the others would have reason to join together and fight them, because they want to stay profitable. They have to fight and face the consequences of their actions.

    Under a monopolistic govt though, the fanatics have a much easier time because they can simply grab control of the monopoly and force the rest of the population into submission. This is precisely what has happened in Iran in which most of the population is against the Islamist rules, but cannot fight back because the fanatics control the govt. This is precisely the same problem in much of the Arab/Muslim world. Those who hold Secular Islam and subscribe to Western Values cannot subscribe to their own law and security services. Otherwise, it would be much, much harder for the fanatics to play out their non-libertarian instincts. In a world of polycentric law, radical Islam would be much weaker than it is today precisely because a group of clerics and religious nuts would not be able to control entire societies.

    Market principles are wonderful things. I believe in voluntary free trade, and I beleive that, as far as goods and services and property are concerned that the voluntary market is the best mechanism of exchange and should be left to itself.

    But it is simply wrong to go from that to believing that something as centrally vital as freedom can be bought and sold on the market. The market is a mechanism of exchange, it is not the determinant of all that is human, of all human value.

    Is there any reason why law and security should not be goods left to the market? How are they different from other goods? Why, when monopolies have failed to provide adequate qualities of other goods, should law and security be left to monopolies?

    The usual answer given, and the one you are given, is that they form some sort of ‘framework’ for the rest of the market, or that they are ‘objective’, special goods. Most of the time, this argument comes from people who are simply very intimately familiar with their surroundings and find the ideas I am defending very strange. That’s understandable; I made the same arguments when I first heard them. Yet, these answers sound like many of the answers given to nanny-staters who decry pro-market reforms – “How can we trust businesses to provide health care?” “Health care is not like other goods, it is different and too important to leave to the market.”

    Rather, health care should be left to the market precisely because it is vitally important. And freedom should be left to the market precisely because it is vitally important.

    Unless human freedom is objectively defined, and protected universally in a given society by the rule of law, then we can kiss it goodbye. This true regardless of whether the system is democracy or anarchy.

    I usually hesitate to use the term “anarchy” for this very reason; people automatically think it means “no law” or “no security”, which is definitely not what I am defending. Intead, I prefer to use “private security” or “polycentric law” or something like that. I think that to have a true “rule of law”, a market is needed. Otherwise, law becomes corrupted by the monopoly control, just as it is today. Law needs to be bought and sold at the margin to see what kinds of law are most beneficial. There needs to be competition for law to determine which law is “good” and which law is “bad”. Security needs to be on the market, so that the market can determine the ‘right’ amount of security. Otherwise, centrally planned monopolies cannot rationally allocate resources or centrally plan the appropriate methods and amounts of security.

    BTW – you do realize that any society that upholds the non-aggression principle with full fidelity will have competing security companies and courts right?

  • Shawn

    “That is not the case. Mob rule works because there is a central machinery to be corrupted by the mob. Security on the market decentralizes power so that no central machinery exists.”

    Whether the machinery is dentralised or decentralised makes no difference. The mob can take over either.

    “Do you really think that there is some sort of rule of law that exists in modern democracies? Do you think that the fact that tax rates approach 50%, nanny statism rules our lives, Constitutions are shredded daily, the panopticon state grows, and victimless crimes are punished with years of jailtime means that some sort of rule of law exists? Any notion of a rule of law in democracies is thoroughly shredded by John Hasnas if it is not already by simple observation.”

    To make it clear, yet again, I am not advocating “modern democracy”, so what is your point? I am advocating a libertarian minarchist system.

    Now, repeat after me:

    Minarchist libertarianism is NOT the same thing as current majoritarian democracy…

    “All of your fears are the very reason you should not have a monopoly control personal security. Monopolies cater to might make right ideologues. There is no way any monopoly can guarantee individual freedom.”

    There is no ANT system can guarantee anything. There are no guaranteees in life. But a minarchist libertarian system is far more likely to protect freedom than either democracy or anarchy.

    “Is there any reason why law and security should not be goods left to the market? How are they different from other goods? Why, when monopolies have failed to provide adequate qualities of other goods, should law and security be left to monopolies?”

    Law is not a “good” in this sense, as in goods and services. Law is how we define our society, it is the principle by which we define and protect freedom. In a LIBERTARIAN system law is the mechanism by which we create a free society. This is why law cannot be left to the market. The market is fine as far as subjective tastes are concerned, such as whether I like hamburgers or chinese food. But freedom, which is defined and protected by law (in a LIBERTARIAN system) is not a matter of subjective opinion, and left to such will end up not being freedom at all. Law and freedom must be based on objective principles, and objective principles are universal. Now it may well be true that nanny staters use the argument to claim that welfare and health care must be provided by the state, but this can be shown to false by the application of objective reason, as it can also be shown that “goods” and law are not the same thing.

    “I usually hesitate to use the term “anarchy” for this very reason; people automatically think it means “no law” or “no security”, which is definitely not what I am defending. Intead, I prefer to use “private security” or “polycentric law” or something like that. I think that to have a true “rule of law”, a market is needed.”

    I dont think that anarchy means no law or no security. I DO think that it means no freedom, as freedom cannot be objectively defined and defended in an anarchist system. “polycentric” law is not law, but subjective opinion masquerading as law.

  • Jonathan Wilde

    I want to continue this discussion, but it is nearly off the front page, so I will send you an email.

  • Anonymous Coward

    Shawn writes:

    I challenge those advocating anarchism to read the whole article: http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/18/18perigo.html

    I read it. My favorite paragraph:

    Galt’s Gulch, in Atlas Shrugged, to which Rex repairs for vindication, may not have had an organised government, but its inhabitants, remember, were a small, invitation-only elite of the brightest and the best who had temporarily retreated from the world pending its inevitable collapse. Its immigration policy was decidedly unlibertarian!

    Clearly Perigo doesn’t understand what “libertarian” means — the policy in question is in fact imminently libertarian! It is precisely the libertarian immigration policy!

    It is clear from her non-fiction writing on the subject that Ayn Rand did not see a government-less state as a permanently viable model for the world itself.

    But why should anyone care what Ayn Rand believed? It’s equally clear that, say, Murray Rothbard disagreed (and had a better argument than mere opinion, too!)

    You called it a “brilliant demolition of anarchist theory”, but it’s just a lame rehashing of common misunderstandings, and serves to “demolish” only Perigo’s stature. I’m very disappointed!