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In answer to a letter asking about libertarianism

A gentleman from France wrote in with some questions about what would happen in a society run under libertarian principles. He had some practical questions and I thought an extract form these remarks might be interesting to some Samizdata Readers. The gentlemen who sent the e-mail did not want to be pointed at books which he would find hard to locate, and thus I answered much by pointing him at various Libertarian Alliance pamphlets on the matters in question, as they are short, to the point and available free on-line (in .pdf format, requires Adobe Acrobat or similar to read).

Q: If there is no government/state then who pays the police?

Not all of us at Samizdata advocate full blown anarcho-capitalist social models. We range from ‘minarchists’ (small state libertarians) who see the role of the state as being security and nothing else, to other hyphenated libertarians across the spectrum between neo-conservative to anarcho-capitalist. There have been some interesting things written on the subject, such as:

Private Police and the Free Rider Problem by Max O’Connor.

Q: Who takes care of pensions?

You do. In the USA and UK (and unlike Europe), private pensions are hugely important and are the reason why as society goes ‘grey’, the EU’s state pensions are, in the long run, completely unsustainable whilst those in the US and UK are still financially viable due to [rivate sector involvement.

Q: Who regulates industries?

In the current sense, no one does. That is the whole point of the laissez-faire capitalism that underpins libertarianism. Much as in the USA there is less state regulation but more civil liability litigation, in a libertarian model, people will sue if others impose costs on them to prevent things like building a chemical plant in a residential area. The state is not the only way to achieve sensible results. As that greatest of Frenchmen wrote: said:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
– Frederic Bastiat

Q: Who decides who the judges are going to be?

There are several interesting pamplets on that subject such as:

Restitution: Justice in a Stateless Society by Christian Michel

Privately Produced Law by Tom Bell

Polycentric Law Versus the Minimal State: The Case of Air Pollution by Adam Chacksfield

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