My contribution to the Liberty Matters symposium on Gustave de Molinari is now up.

Since Molinari’s greatest claim to fame is as the father of anarcho-capitalism, and since my fellow symposiasts were Roderick Long (anarchist), David Friedman (anarchist), and Gary Chartier (anarchist) – under the editorship of anarchists Sheldon Richman and David Hart, no less! – I figured it was incumbent upon me to explain the doubts I have about the anarcho-capitalist program.

In a nutshell, I worry that an anarcho-capitalist society would be considerably more violent, considerably more dangerous, and considerably less friendly to individual liberty than most anarcho-capitalists suppose. This essay focuses on the first two of those problems. I expect that I will take up the third in the discussion that follows.

To be clear, I think a lot of the particular arguments that anarcho-capitalists make are quite persuasive. I’m a big fan of John Hasnas’ work on the emergence of private law, for instance. I think Ellickson is terrific, and I admire the work of Benson,  Anderson and Hill, Leeson, Friedman, Long, Chartier, and so on.

My problem is this. I don’t find the abstract, theoretical arguments for anarchism all that compelling. Certainly not those based in considerations of self-ownership and non-aggression or in the fact that some people argue with each other. But not those based in broadly consequentialist forms of reasoning either.

These abstract arguments are usually supplemented with concrete examples that are meant to illustrate the possibility of an anarchist society. But I don’t find those examples compelling either. Even if we can find one or two examples of “anarchist” societies where things seemed to work reasonably well, we have lots and lots of examples of anarchist societies where they did not. Cherry picked examples are no substitute for aggregate statistical analysis, if what you’re interested in knowing is how violent, nasty, brutish and short life in stateless vs. state-based societies tend to  be. And illustrations of “anarchism” from within state-based societies strike me as even more hopeless. I’m willing to grant that the security forces at Disneyland do a pretty good job keeping blood off their streets, and that private mediation is often more efficient than statist law. But it’s a big jump from there to the conclusion that private security or private law without a background of state security and law would be at all desirable.

Anyway, read the whole thing for yourself and let me know what you think. Friedman, Long, Chartier, Hart, and I will be discussing these matters all month at the Liberty Matters site. It should be a good conversation.

Print Friendly
Tagged with:
 
  • Fallon

    Many anarchists have been relatively where you are in your thinking. The uniqueness of this moment is that it is being played out very publicly involving input from some very big names. Awesome. It would be cool if Hoppe or Kinsella joined in– that would really bring out the LvMI v. SFL angle haha.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there, Matt Z.

    • Sol Logic

      Really? You think it would be cool if more anarchist scholars jumped in? They seem to be the ones most willing to participate. It would be cool if more minarchists jumped in so it’s not just Matt vs everybody. Maybe Yaron Brook or Tibor Machan.

  • http://www.robertsundstrom.eu/ Robert Sundström

    So you think it’s somewhat less violent and much more safer when we have a State that has a monopoly on force and coercion when it in fact, as you can agree, is wrong? I get that you intuitively think that a central institution of law and justice is the way to go but you don’t get that there has to be a group of people writing these laws and controlling these institutions. Should they be democratically elected – elected based on popularity and empty promises? You don’t have to look very far to see how that would end up.
    But come on! Cancer doesn’t cure cancer.

    • jdkolassa

      Oh come on. An anarcho-capitalist society would also require a government. What if you have a bunch of people who decide not to follow your law and also decide that suddenly, black people don’t have rights, and what black people “own” is not property? How do you stop them? By violence? Ultimately, you would have to, if they will not submit peacefully to your legal code.

      Do I think the state has a lot of problems? Yes. Do I think we need to chuck it out the window? No–that will create more problems.

      For what it’s worth, I would rather have one emanator of “force” than multiple points emanating force everywhere.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

        Have you read much anarchist literature?

        • jdkolassa

          I read a bit. And it leaves much to be desired.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            I would highly recommend reading them before making claims like this. They have addressed issues like this. It’s one thing to criticize the responses from the anarchists, but it’s another to bring up this redundant “counter-argument”. Try reading The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer. The best literature on the subject matter by far.

      • shemsky

        I agree that an anarchist society would require some form of government, but it would be government based on voluntary association and support, where a state is built on compulsory association and support.

        • jdkolassa

          Yes, your government will be voluntary. So what happens then if you have a group of people who won’t follow your legal code of private property and individual rights and then aggress against you?

          Either you can try to negotiate, or you have to fight them. And how do you keep people respecting each other’s property in your “government”? Eventually, you will have to restrict their ability to cause violence.

          Read some Nozick, and Bidinotto below. You haven’t really answered the problem.

          • shemsky

            What happens when your government takes 50% of your income to pay for things such as a foreign policy that has caused the deaths of millions of innocent people around the world, kidnaps people and takes them to places where they are going to be tortured, and holds people for years in dungeons where they are denied the right to see a lawyer or be tried before a judge? Some of the taxes your government extracts from you even pays for things that they claim to be none of your business (state secrets). What do you think about that?

            I’ve already read Bidinotto, and he’s not at all convincing.

          • les kyle Nearhood

            That is a valid argument against problems with our present government, it is not an argument in favor of your proposal.

          • Chris Cornillie

            1) Agreed that those instances of foreign policy are morally objectionable. But individual instances of bad behavior do not constitute a theoretical challenge to the moral or practical value of the state or its ability to conduct foreign policy.

            2) If you pay 50% of your income in taxes, you should fire your accountant.

          • shemsky

            My response wasn’t meant as a theoretical challenge to the moral or practical value of the state. It was simply a response to jdkolassa’s “what if” scenario, just as my first response was not arguing in favor of my proposal, but simply differentiating between government under an anarchist society and government under a statist society.
            If you were to add up all the various taxes that an average person pays (state and federal income taxes, payroll taxes paid by an employer on behalf of an employee, excise taxes, consumption taxes), then you might be surprised at how much it adds up to.

          • http://www.robertsundstrom.eu/ Robert Sundström

            You favor a system in which the few writes the laws and enforce them using legitimized (not legitime) force even on those peaceful people living in your area who don’t agree with your system. It can never be voluntary. It seems like you are stuck in the cognitive dissonance. On the one hand you believe that force is immoral but then you believe that we need to cooperate as a society. But cooperation does not mean anything under force – it is just a slave-master relationship if someone forces you to comply with their demands. It is what you want to be protected from.

            Why do you think that people can’t cooperate voluntarily (without slave masters) when evidence taken from everyday life proves that they indeed can and you have no real evidence proving the contrary.

          • B&S

            What “evidence taken from everyday life proves” your point? Every libertarian who has endorsed the view has done so from under the “boot” of the state.

          • jdkolassa

            Sorry to respond so late, but I must say this:

            “You favor a system in which the few writes the laws and enforce them using legitimized (not legitime) force even on those peaceful people living in your area who don’t agree with your system.”

            And you favor a system where, in a dispute, the side with more guns can simply force their wills on the other. It is a system of might makes right. (Oh, yes, please tell me how you will all agree to binding arbitration decisions…but then tell me how even if it goes against the side with more guns and more ammo they will respect it. Really.)

          • http://www.robertsundstrom.eu/ Robert Sundström

            Aight. No, what you describe is the kind of system we already have around the world today – a system of force from top-down. Those with most economic power control the agenda and corrupt politicians (corrupt, which all are) are their proxies – doing stuff because they think they do the right thing and by the rules they themselves have made.
            A minimal state will still contain these elements – someone using force against the majority whether it is regulation or taxation – how are the ones “in charge” going to get salary without robbing if there is a risk some people will not pay? It they decide to grow again then we are once again worse off and people who don’t accept it silenced.

            I want things to be organized bottom-up and that all actions are voluntary, and those ban force sofar as it is not force in self-defense against those who initiate force – physical force against ones property. You should never be forced to even witness in a court and never be forcefuly punished unless there are evidence that proves you guilty.

            Do you simply not believe that people can look after themselves without a benevolent slave master that sometimes might grant the most simple and unsustainable short-time solutions in response to popular demand?

          • jdkolassa

            I agree there are huge problems with the state. But let’s examine your claim with “those with most economic power control the agenda.” Well, let’s see here, in an anarcho-capitalist society….how would that be different?

            You say you “want things to be organized bottom-up and that all actions, and those ban force sofar as it is not force in self-defense” but how are you going to get that? You seem to think that you can declare what your ideal anarcho-capitalist society would look like and that’s how it will be. But history has shown otherwise. As much as I like the idea *in theory* of anarchism, it’s all too easy to see someone acquiring enough resources deciding that s/he is tired of dealing with everyone else and just imposes their will. You can talk of economics and everyone else banding together against this individual, and so on and so forth, but it is largely just wishful thinking. Those who band together can be bribed away. Etc. etc. etc.

            And if you want your society to be voluntary, and to ban force, you will have to stop those people who use force in means other than self-defense. You will basically end up having to have at least an ultra-minimal state.

            It’s a great idea in theory. It’s not really workable in the real world.

          • http://www.robertsundstrom.eu/ Robert Sundström

            What I meant was that the people who enforce the semi-mob rule which is “democracy” and the State have immense power and resources and self-interest that they force ordinary people (the majority) to pay for. The difference in a voluntary world is that no one has any legal right to rob people in their own interest – not even when claiming to do so for the in reality non-existing “common good”. Don’t you agree that force is wrong – unless in self-defense?

            I think that people would come up with ways to protect and defend themselves in such a way that violence wouldn’t be the primary option – but negotiation. Don’t you think so or are you a bad negotiator?

            I’m not a utopist and I can’t talk about any ideal AnCap society. AnCap is about giving people the opportunity to make their own fortune by voluntary means. Anarcho-capitalists or voluntarists only come up with examples on what they might think would exist in such a society. It is like predicting the market and what is going to be the next “iPhone”. There would be crime and some misery but it would be easier to escape for instance poverty without all those regulations that are discouraging or even prohibiting people from taking risks and responsibility.

            You cannot refer to any instance in statist history written by those who won the the battles to disprove anarchism. There are also so many factors, so many variables, that are different from compared to 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 years ago and farther back.

            So what is your stance then? Do you really think that all the competing thieves will join for a common cause, to capture or even destroy the free people? I don’t. Once liberty has been returned no one can take it again without war.

          • Damien S.

            “The difference in a voluntary world is that no one has any legal right to rob people”

            Rob people of what? How is property initially defined and accepted?

            “Once liberty has been returned no one can take it again without war.”

            Fortunately, humans never ever go to war. Oh, wait a minute…

            Your stance makes no sense. You say “once liberty has been returned”. How did it get stolen in the first place, and what’s to stop it from being stolen again?

            “I think that people would come up with ways to protect and defend themselves in such a way that violence wouldn’t be the primary option – but negotiation.”

            For logical clarity one shouldn’t use plurals without explicit quantifiers. What do you mean by ‘people’? All people? That’s absurd. Most people? Some people? Those leave the question of how to deal with the *other* people.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            Those are terrible authors. Bidinotto has some fantasy with a “final” arbiter of justice (who cares about justice so long as there’s a final decision) and Nozick makes the unbelievable argument that a state can grow from a collection of private protection oligopolists. Neither argument is to be taken seriously as a counter-argument to anarchy as a social system.

            Your thinking is so black and white, no wonder you miss the nuance. The options are not “negotiate or fight.” That’s what Rand said and it’s dumb. The obvious solution is to have contractual arrangements already set up in place so conflicts can be resolved WITHOUT violence.

            Any group of individuals in a stateless libertarian society who do not respect the like private property of other members will quickly meet resistance by private firms defending and restoring the property of their clients. A private, common court system would furthermore increase the likelihood of consensus on which laws to enforce.

          • B&S

            If the “private firms defending and restoring the property of their clients” and the “private common court system” have the right to use force to achieve their goals, then in what way are they materially different (let alone better) than the state?

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            They are materially different from a state because a state is a geographical monopolist. I am in favor of a competitive market in the services it offers.

          • shemsky

            I will say one thing about Bidinotto. His article “The GOP’s Foreign Imports”, which I read about 15 years ago, is probably what had about as much influence as anything else in helping me to develop my core philosophy (each and every person is an end in themselves) and pushing me into the libertarian camp. Although he probably wouldn’t like that he helped me to become a libertarian. But his justifications for the state don’t hold much sway with me.

        • les kyle Nearhood

          Your children will not agree with your voluntary association and will become rebellious. Heck they may even become statists. You will have to coerce them.

          • shemsky

            Les, as far as I’m concerned, whenever my children wish to leave the protection of my home and make a life for themselves, they are free to do so.

            When you hand over your sovereignty to another person or group of persons, you are consenting to abide by whatever decisions that person or group of persons makes about your life. In other words, you are giving them the legitimate right to do whatever they want with you. And, as history has shown, they will do it. That, to me, is a pretty good incentive to abolish the state in favor of voluntary government. But if you have a better idea, let’s hear it.

          • les kyle Nearhood

            It is not that I have a better Idea, it is that I think your idea is impossibly utopian. I think that the least amount of government that human beings could live with and not have a situation of the clever and ruthless destroying or enslaving others would be about the level of government that existed in the western territories of the United states in the 1870′s. Anything less structured than that, no matter that it was originally made up of voluntary associations, would degenerate rapidly.

            Just imagine the complexity of running a large city. You need water, power, waste disposal and a fire department at the very least. They have to be organized. I grant you that they could be run entirely by private organizations but even then you would have to have someone to coordinate and to resolve disputes. For instance, it would be quite impractical to have a thousand different water companies all laying their own lines. And when you have that you have a government, and when you have a government you have politics.

          • shemsky

            So you agree with the criticisms of our government that I laid out above (and there are thousands of other things that could be added to that list), and you don’t have any better ideas about how society should be ordered, but you don’t want individuals to have the right to try out their own ideas and see how they work. That doesn’t seem to make much sense. Given that so much of what our government is doing now is causing so much injustice, how will things ever improve unless people are allowed to try a different approach? How about incremental approaches, Les?

          • les kyle Nearhood

            I in no way want to stop anyone from experiments. If you can find a place to set up your society and people to try it, then go for it. I also try to work towards a more libertarian society where I am at, so I see nothing wrong with incrementalism. I just am too cynical about human nature to think that we can make a vestigial government work with anything more than about 100 people. Thomas Hobbes was not 100% wrong.

          • shemsky

            If we want to work towards a more libertarian society, then we should have no problem with people being allowed to opt out of paying for and receiving things they don’t want. If someone doesn’t want to participate in social security then they should be allowed to opt out of paying into the system and receiving benefits from it. The same thing for any other government program. The free rider problem is not a legitimate justification for forcing individuals to pay for things that they don’t want.

      • j_m_h

        Well, I think the theory would be that the AC society has governance but not government in the form of Statist governments that tend to behave as if citizens were actually subjects.

        Whether the theory for AC is close to correct or not is an open question. One thing is clear: There must be a better way that what we have.

      • Brent Spiner’s Right Nipple

        And what if a solitary government decides that black people don’t have rights and can’t own property? Oh wait, that actually happened. And guess what? They rebelled, many of them escaped, eventually it became too much and a war was fought.

        The great thing about polycentric law is that you can choose who protects your rights, and if someone declares that black people should be slaves, you don’t have to listen to them because they don’t have a monopoly on your property.

        “B-But what if people don’t want to follow your law!!!”

        What if people don’t want to buy my product? Same thing. I market it and make it desirable. Maybe I buy someone else’s law.

        • jdkolassa

          So they don’t follow your law, they violated your rights, and your security agencies end up shooting each other because people won’t budge.

          Yeah, gang warfare. No thanks. Or…

          “What if people don’t want to buy my product? Same thing. I market it and make it desirable. Maybe I buy someone else’s law.”

          So what if Security Agency B then markets law that says black people don’t have rights?

          You can’t have a market in rights or law. Markets work 97% of the time. But that 3% is the killer. And that’s where anarcho-capitalism fails.

    • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

      It seems to me that the empirical evidence we have comes from such places as squatter cities (cf. City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City; Shadow Cities by Neuwirth), organized crime (cf. Gambetta’s The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection), failed states (e.g., Somalia), and prehistorical tribal societies. If Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature is right, then yes, stateless societies are much more violent than modern democratic nation states.

      • Sol Logic

        What about medieval Ireland?

  • jdkolassa

    I notice you don’t rely on Bob Bidinotto from the Atlas Society on this, or at least, I haven’t seen him in what I’ve read so far. I know a lot of people knock Objectivists–myself included, on some issues–but I really do think that Bidinotto hit the nail on the freaking head.

    http://mol.redbarn.org/objectivism/writing/RobertBidinotto/ContradictionInAnarchism.html

    “Today, a “legal monopoly” exists to put shady private detectives
    and private extortionists behind bars. It serves as a final arbiter on
    the use of force in society. We all agree it does a
    less-than-exemplary job much of the time; but it’s there. What happens
    when it isn’t? Or worse: when the shady detective or extortionist has
    replaced it, in a marketplace where profits depend on satisfying the
    subjective desires of emotional clients?

    Anarchists say this scenario is unrealistically pessimistic: it
    assumes people are going to want to do the wrong thing. In fact,
    people “naturally” seek their rational self-interest, they declare,
    once government is out of the way. They would try to cooperate, work
    things out.

    Well, if they did, why would they need any agency –
    governmental or private? Why wouldn’t five billion people naturally
    cooperate on this planet without any legal or institutional
    framework to resolve disputes?

    The problem, of course, is everyone disagrees about what his
    rational self-interest is. Ask the Palestinians and the Israelis to
    define “rights,” “force,” “property,” “justice,” “self-defense,” and
    “protection.” Or ask the IRA and the British. Or George III and George
    Washington.

    So, how do we best limit the capricious use of force by those
    millions whom we call “the public”? Let’s compare anarcho- capitalism
    with limited government.

    Under anarcho-capitalism, “the public” is called “the market,” and
    “votes with its dollars” to have its way about the use of force in
    society. In a political system (i.e., under a “monopolistic
    government”), “the public” is called a “political constituency,” and
    votes with ballots in order to have its way about the use of force in
    society.

    But in the latter case, if the government has been
    constitutionally limited, the masses are typically thwarted in
    having their way at the expense of others. They can’t use force to do
    anything they want. As private criminals, their acts are limited by
    the government. And government agents themselves are limited by the
    Constitution. Our Founders were geniuses at limiting power. It’s
    taken lovers of coercion over 200 years to subvert our Founder’s
    system to its current state; and still, our system is far from being
    totalitarian.

    In the market, by contrast, what’s to stop thugs, and by what
    standard? Surely no private company would deliberately handcuff
    itself, with separations and divisions of powers, and checks and
    balances. Such silly, inefficient “gridlock” and “red tape” would only
    make it less competitive. No, a competitive company must be flexible
    to respond to shifting “market demand.” That means the demand for
    whatever consumers may want, anything at all. It can’t tie its own
    hands by limiting itself. After all, some other company or industry
    would always be willing to operate without such moral self-limitation.
    What firm would restrain itself, when the sleazy, unscrupulous Acme
    Protective Service across town is just itching for the same customer
    contracts, and willing to promise clients “no limits?”

    Anarchists proclaim faith that in the marketplace, all the
    “protection” companies would rationally work everything out. All
    companies in the private sector, they assert, have a vested interest
    in peace. Their reputations and profits, you see, rest on the need for
    mutual cooperation, not violence.

    Oh? What about a reputation for customer satisfaction — and the
    profits that go with getting results? I guess anarchists have no
    experience in the private sector with shyster lawyers, protection
    rackets, software pirates and the like. Aren’t they, too, responding
    to market demand?

    If the “demand” for peace is paramount, please explain the bloody
    history of the world.”

    • jdkolassa

      That’s a big longer here than I expected…

      • Guest

        lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

      “If the “demand” for peace is paramount, please explain the bloody
      history of the world.””

      Because some people (statists) clearly do not want peace. They insist on having a third party initiate force on their behalf. The anarchists are the ones leading peaceful lives by example.

      • jdkolassa

        “The anarchists are the ones leading peaceful lives by example.”

        Like the revolutionary anarchists who threw bombs at Haymarket Square.

        Like the anarchists who instigated assassinations in Spain and fought a war.

        Like the anarchists in the Ukraine Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army.

        Like the anarchists in Somalia.

        Like the various extra-legal warlords running around Africa.

        Like any of these anarchists: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_terrorism#Timeline_of_modern_actions

        Yes, anarchists are totally leading peaceful lives by example. Please.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

          What about the billions of people killed by government? You’re making a false analogy. It is worthy to note that, while Somalia isn’t the greatest place in the world, and probably is not anarcho-capitalist, it is better off now than it was with government.

          • http://www.robertsundstrom.eu/ Robert Sundström

            Somalia (meaning the State) will probably not become wealthier without sucking the wealth of other countries with the help and support of their governments who want to invest there. The people there won’t see any improvement in a long time as the government programs delay progress that isn’t in its – the politician’s – interest.
            Governments are not for people and they will never be.
            The ideal would be if people could choose their protectors freely in a free market just like any other subscription service or enforced as voluntary joint initiative within the community. This don’t work under the State however. People judging this idea pretty much, sadly, see it from that perspective. A free-market anarchy enforced by voluntary means is so foreign too people’s propagandized mind that have been taught that governments protect them from “private” entities when in fact regulating them. “Private” is not what these entities really are. They are not responsible to their customers. They are responsible to the State and won’t listen to their customers if they can get away with it – legally.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            Well, I agree with you. I was just pointing out that Somalia is better off now than with a government (which they don’t have right now). They have some kind of common law in effect, I believe right now.

          • jdkolassa

            “You’re making a false analogy. It is worthy to note that, while Somalia
            isn’t the greatest place in the world, and probably is not
            anarcho-capitalist, it is better off now than it was with government.”

            Are you serious or just trolling?

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg
          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            http://www.observatori.org/paises/pais_74/documentos/64_somalia.pdf

            Benjamin Powell, Ryan Ford, and Alex Nowrasteh did a paper on it. If you have the time, you should read it. And I really do suggest, not to be an asshole, reading some anarchist literature. Again, the best book, in my opinion, is The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer. You can also read the Cato Unbound from March where Huemer has to respond to the objections by positive rights philosophy Nicole Hassoun, and even respond to Tom Palmer, the well recognized libertarian economist. It was a wonderful discussion.

          • jdkolassa

            What about the billions killed by criminals, warlords, renegades, terrorists, death squads, and those not sanctioned or working with a government? Do those lives not matter?

            Yes, many have been killed by governments. That is true. But it is more accurate to say that they were killed by people within the government. And there are many who are killed by people outside the government as well. It doesn’t really work for an anarchist argument, not unless you’re an anarcho-pacifist (which I think is probably one of the two consistent anarchist theories, the other being anarcho-primitivism.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            The point is that many more have died because of government as opposed to terrorism and private murders. I am not even counting the murders that drug cartels do.. which have a cartel because of government, mind you.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

          You’re right, those are all exemplars of libertarian anarchism – which is the type anarchism being advocated by everyone here as well as the point of the OP.

          Libertarian anarchists – those who oppose the initiation of force, and therefore the state as an institution founded on the initiation of force – are the only ones not insisting a third group use violence against other people to achieve their goals. Libertarian anarchists recognize the sovereignty of other peoples’ property as well as their own property.

          • jdkolassa

            You might insist upon it, but let’s try this thought experiment. Person A, with Security Agency A, steals a TV from Person B with Security Agency B. Let the security agencies also represent competing systems of law.

            Person A says he doesn’t have to return the TV to Person B, or submit to Security Agency B and its court, because Person B is black and under Person A’s and Security Agency A’s system of law, black people don’t have rights.

            Then what do you do? Negotiate? Steal back the TV? What? What is your remedy in this situation?

          • shemsky

            What if a black person is living in a state where black people don’t have rights, and are not allowed to leave? What would you suggest then?

          • jdkolassa

            Obviously, in such a situation, they would have the right–and possibly the obligation–to change that state so they are recognized. You know, like what MLK Jr. did.

            That doesn’t resolve the problem within anarchism, however. At least in the state situation, you now have rights being recognized and respected (for the most part). In the anarchist situation? They are still being violated willy nilly and there is nothing you can do about it. Unless you want to establish a state….

          • shemsky

            Then wouldn’t they have the same right, and possibly the obligation, to change the security agency so that the rights of black people are recognized? Everything you’ve said applies equally to the state and to the anarchist security agency. But in the anarchist situation, you have at least one agency that already recognizes the rights of black people.

          • jdkolassa

            From your statement, I am led to conclude that when you say:

            “Then wouldn’t they have the same right, and possibly the obligation, to change the security agency so that the rights of black people are recognized?”

            That “they” is supposedly Person B, and that the “security agency” is Security Agency A. So, basically, you are advocating using force to change the other person’s security agency, and thus form of law they use.

            Forgive me if I have misinterpreted your statement, but how is that not “statist”?

          • shemsky

            If Security Agency A violates the rights of other people then other people have the right to use force to stop them. That’s what I meant by change them. Change them from violating other people’s rights to not violating other people’s rights. If Security Agency A never actually violates anyone else’s rights, then there would be no point in trying to change them, no matter what form of law they use.

          • jdkolassa

            But here’s the problem. Security Agency A is not violating other people’s rights, Person A is. And under Person A’s system of law, which is the form of law protected by Security Agency A and enforced by the courts that Security Agency A contracts with, black people don’t have rights. So in their view, no rights are being violated. What then? You would have to force them to accept your view of rights in order to prevent further incidents. Which would be having a state…

          • shemsky

            The fact that someone else doesn’t accept your view of rights doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right of retaliation if they do violate your rights. Just because someone else thinks they have the right to come into my house and take whatever they want doesn’t mean that I won’t stop them if they try, or retaliate against them if they do. It could be me retaliating on my own, or it could be a voluntary association that I subscribed to that retaliated on my behalf. It wouldn’t have to be an involuntary association such as a state.

          • Cdunc123

            In reply to shemsky

            You are proposing that Security Agency B (the good guys) has the right to use force to change Security Agency A (the racist guys), since Security Agency A’s law is at odds with black people’s rights . But what if it is not profitable for Security Agency B to risk such a confrontation with A? What if Agency A has more guns, or more ruthless goons than B, and B is not up for the fight? What if A has formed alliances with agencies X, Y, and Z?

            But ignore those worries, and suppose that B does vanquish A. How many innocent bystanders were killed in the process? And isn’t it only a matter of time till a similar agency springs up again, and needs vanquishing? Are these perpetual skirmishes really better than life under a state? (You may say that things won’t likely play out like this, but you don’t KNOW things won’t — and why risk it?)

            Moreover, there are other examples possible. Person C has a contract to housesit, say, but goes to the wrong house by mistake. As C is trying the key in the door to no avail, Person D in the house panics and fires a gun through the door, killing C. Relatives of C are understandably upset; they seek justice from Security Agency C (the agency for C and for them); meanwhile Security Agency D (Person D’s agency) defends him on the grounds of self-defense. How does this get resolved in the absence of a common set of laws governing the territory?

            Sure, you may say that agencies will find it profitable to submit to arbitration. But won’t there be a market for bad a$$ agencies who refuse to submit to arbitration (their advertising pitch: “Sure, we cost more than most agencies, but we will NEVER compromise YOUR interests for the sake of mere convenience”; that would have an appeal to certain rich folks). What if either Security Agency C or D is one of those types of agencies? How is there peaceful resolution?

            And these examples can multiply: You run over my daughter with blood alcohol level of 0.07. My agency says that is too high, yours says it is fine. Or: my tree falls and destroys your fence. My agency says it was an act of nature and no compensation is owed. Your agency says all that matters is that it was my tree. Or: I say you and your group of friends are partying too loud next door; you say the noise levels are reasonable. And so on.

            Maybe I am lacking in imagination but I don’t see resolution in a land of private law and private security being any more peaceful or efficient than it is now.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            “But what if it is not profitable for Security Agency B to risk such a confrontation with A? What if Agency A has more guns, or more ruthless goons than B, and B is not up for the fight? What if A has formed alliances with agencies X, Y, and Z?”

            It’s really just stupid to think that everyone is going to start fighting wars. So, I don’t think you have to worry too much about this. It’s just a long drawn out argument that holds no water. I’ll just go through a few brief reasons why it is mostly just paranoia: Business leaders are profit, not ideologically driven (like politicians, countries can afford to make mistakes because they have no investors or people voluntarily paying taxes (business owners have to worry about both), politicians are much better with propaganda (how many people do you know that are wiling to die over their employer? This is a Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog, I thought most everyone here agreed that employers were the bad guys as well), people aren’t willing to murder people without cause (especially if they are in the same region as one another. Also, there are a lot of situations where soldiers themselves refused to kill innocent people), military uses a lot of psychological factors and desensitization (why would a business need to do this? I worked as a corrections officer for Corrections Corporation of America and they were much less harsh than the government counterparts and required much less training), the state employs very harsh penalties on soldiers that don’t fight (whereas someone who just doesn’t show up to battle would just be fired), and lastly, governments have far more resources that are unused (like nuclear weapons and any other weapon that is not utilized often that costs a bunch). Given those reasons we see that it is far more likely that an anarchist society would be more peaceful.

            “But ignore those worries, and suppose that B does vanquish A. How many innocent bystanders were killed in the process? And isn’t it only a matter of time till a similar agency springs up again, and needs vanquishing? Are these perpetual skirmishes really better than life under a state? (You may say that things won’t likely play out like this, but you don’t KNOW things won’t — and why risk it?)”

            Also it’s important to note that you bring these things up, but you don’t compare them to government murders and wars. They’re far more costly because they have nothing really to lose. You also have to explain why one situation like this justifies an entire government that has been known to kill a lot more. It’s kind of like the sweatshop video that Zwolinski has made: one is bad, the other is far worse. So you really take for granted governments goodness.

            “Sure, you may say that agencies will find it profitable to submit to arbitration. But won’t there be a market for bad a$$ agencies who refuse to submit to arbitration (their advertising pitch: “Sure, we cost more than most agencies, but we will NEVER compromise YOUR interests for the sake of mere convenience”; that would have an appeal to certain rich folks). What if either Security Agency C or D is one of those types of agencies? How is there peaceful resolution?”

            People generally wanted to be protected from crime, not the other way around. Secondly, a fire insurance company would not give insurance to an arsonist. It’s too expensive. Can you not see how the two are analogous? Thirdly, imagine if this happened constantly? If a bunch of agencies were getting ripped off because they were not able to protect their customers, you could see how a conflict could occur. Because violence is expensive, it is more likely that the agency would settle than be at the threat of being killed.

            “Moreover, there are other examples possible. Person C has a contract to housesit, say, but goes to the wrong house by mistake. As C is trying the key in the door to no avail, Person D in the house panics and fires a gun through the door, killing C. Relatives of C are understandably upset; they seek justice from Security Agency C (the agency for C and for them); meanwhile Security Agency D (Person D’s agency) defends him on the grounds of self-defense. How does this get resolved in the absence of a common set of laws governing the territory?”

            First, you’re assuming that the law is not in the contract. Secondly, it would most likely be handled by the arbitrator. After all, you said that they are defending themselves on the grounds of self-defense. Thirdly, this is not an act of malicious or malevolent behavior. It was a mistake so it’s not likely that this wouldn’t get resolved at an arbiter level. Lastly, it’s so nice to come up with rare and perfect examples. If I came up with a perfect example to go to war with another country, wouldn’t you point out that I am just coming up with a dream example that is not really based much in reality? You assume that the guy goes to the wrong house, you assume that he’s not friends enough with the people he’s house sitting not to KNOW the house, you assume that someone shooting through a door is enough to KILL, not just injure the man, so it’s easy to see how this is kind of a far fetch’d example with very loose basing in reality.

            “And these examples can multiply: You run over my daughter with blood alcohol level of 0.07. My agency says that is too high, yours says it is fine. Or: my tree falls and destroys your fence. My agency says it was an act of nature and no compensation is owed. Your agency says all that matters is that it was my tree. Or: I say you and your group of friends are partying too loud next door; you say the noise levels are reasonable. And so on.”

            Again, this is what an arbiter is for. It’s also very likely that most private agencies have similar, and coordinating, laws.

          • Cdunc123

            “Again, this is what an arbiter is for. It’s also very likely that most private agencies have similar, and coordinating, laws.”

            But “similar” is not “the same,” and in the gaps is where the conflicts will arise (and with hundreds of thousands of people there will be many gap cases).

            And as for arbitration, there will be a market for arbitration agencies and thus in all likelihood, there will be multiple arbitration agencies — and so the slippage problem just gets pushed a level.

            But I gather that I have too different a view of human nature from you for this dispute to get resolved.

            Here is another question, then: what about the people who are too poor to afford any protection agency services (or only a bargain basement agency)? What about their children? Is it open season on them and their property?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            I think you’re missing the point of arbiters. They decide who is in the right or wrong. The customer is going to get compensated regardless. The arbiter will more than likely decide the outcome of whether or not the protection agency keeps or changes its policies or “laws”. I also don’t know how having competing arbiters will somehow make things more complicated. Might want to explain that a little more.

            I do think that there will be a lot of organizations to pay for others who can’t afford a legal agency. Surely you know of groups like Pacific Legal Foundation or Institute for Justice? They do pro bono work. Is there any reason to believe that groups like this wouldn’t work in an anarchist society?

            I am not sure there is much of a reason to believe that the poor wouldn’t be protected. I will be the first to admit they might not be protected as well as the rich. And yes, in a sense, this is unjust. But again, while we can’t reach a utopia, we can compare the alternatives. Take for example the West Memphis 3. This was a clear and obvious case of a modern day Salem witch trial. 3 very poor boys were prosecuted and convicted despite having very, very poor evidence presented among them. It’s an incredibly interesting case if you ever want to read about it. Funny enough, it was one of O.J. Simpson’s lawyers who came to their rescue FOR FREE (hint, hint) and got the appeals. They were then set free. While this is anecdotal, there are certain statistics that will show the poor are discriminated against very badly in the judicial system. The incentive for companies to service the poor is far stronger than the governments incentive.

            As a side note, it would seem like people would have higher wages in terms of real wages due to less barriers of entry and the lack of inflation (admittedly sometimes there still might be this, but free banking is a much better alternative than a huge central bank right now).

          • Craig Duncan

            Having the poor depend on charity for their personal security surely makes their security…. insecure.

            As for my point about competing arbiters, you rightly ask for more details. Here is what I was thinking.

            Recall that I’ve been focused on gap cases, i.e. cases where Security Agency A and Security Agency B have at least somewhat different rules. So an arbiter can’t arbitrate simply by making sure that the agencies apply their own rules to the case at hand. Instead the arbiter will have to craft a “reasonable” or “fair” resolution in the disagreement.

            It is plausible to suppose that different arbitration agencies will have different track records in this regard; some will tend to lean towards decisions in favor of “the little guy”; perhaps more will favor the rich, as there is more money to be had there; some might favor a very strict view of individual responsibility and be harsh against negligence; others will take a softer, more contextual approach.

            Thus Security Agency A will have some evidence, say, that Arbiter C is likely to favor its side, whereas Security Agency B will have some evidence that Arbiter D will likely favor its side. A possible impasse arises over the choice of arbiter.

            And this is not even taking into account the possibility of one agency bribing the arbiter, once the arbiter is chosen. If an Security Agency is guilty of bribery, who punishes it?

            (Yes, I’m aware that there exists government bribery. But the question is one of comparative effective accountability, the liberal state vs. ancap. I don’t have faith in the “magic of the marketplace” to root out corruption in ancap. But that is another topic.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            Well, luckily i never said that the poor would solely depend on charity. Although, I do think you’re underestimating your fellow humans. Which is kind of a shame since it’s a bit weird to say humans are too selfish to help others when you yourself want to help others. Very odd indeed.

            Your biggest concern seems to be whether or not there can be coordination in the market place. I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand when we see coordination all over the place in the markets. I honestly think it stems from paranoia. And I am not bashing you or trying to sound like an asshole. I used to wonder about the same things. But, for fun, lets look and see if its profitable for agencies to not choose any arbiter.. well, it doesn’t appear as though people wouldn’t want to choose an agency that has a track record of never being able to defend their customers, so that agency has an incentive to work things out or lose customers. The fact that the internet exists compounds the problem for minarchists to argue that companies can get away with screwing people over.

            As for bribery, I don’t think the security agency that were to do it would be able to last in the long term if its found out. It could be the case that they just don’t get caught, but if we are going to argue from ignorance, I’d just say the same about the court system now. In fact, I’d say that there’s even more of an incentive to bribe lawmakers which in turn effects the judicial system. Maybe that’s unlikely or more complicated, so I could just argue that it happens now. In any case, the debate comes to a point where an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object. Nothing can be decided on this hypothetical case.

            However, if you assume that the agency is guilty of bribery, it is probably the case that nobody would want to do business with them. That includes the party being bribed because now that they are found out, their company is also in jeopardy. Like I said, it could be the case that this works in the short term in which nobody knows and we hit a roadblock in our debate because the same could be said about government now OR it is the case that in the long term these firms either go out of business or fix their behavior.

          • shemsky

            What if the common set of laws that govern the territory allows or even requires the kind of injustice you speak of? That kind of thing does happen. Then what is your recourse? Under a pluralistic system, if the security agency you subscribe to starts discriminating against blacks and you don’t agree with it, then you are free to change to another security agency that doesn’t discriminate against blacks. So is anyone else who subscribes to that security agency. Under a state you don’t have that option. You are stuck living under those rules unless you can convince a lot of people to change them, which might be almost impossible to do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            Person A’s agency would most likely have to go to court anyway. Wars are expensive. Plus, this example is not even valid. These agencies are meant to protect property. Not define who is a “person”. I just don’t think that this is a very good example or counter-argument because of its impracticality.

            Besides, you could point to many past racist laws. Or to how the justice system, and even welfare system, has been demeaning people’s of other races. Far worse than the scenario that you put forward. It’s easy to point to all of these “could be” faults when you ignore all of the faults of government.

          • jdkolassa

            Why would they? Security Agency A has their own court they have entered into a contract with, a court that follows their view on rights. They do not recognize Security Agency B’s court and will not go to it. And under their view of law, nothing has been violated. Under B’s law, yes, but what is B going to do about it? Go and steal the TV back? Then Security Agency A defends Person A’s property against Security Agency B. Neither security agency has to get into defining “people” for the purpose of this argument, what happens happens anyways. And if you think they will determine that “wars are expensive” and avoid it, I think you are mistaken. Yes, wars are expensive. THEY HAPPEN ANYWAYS. And don’t give me the usual line about government not having loss-profit feedback. I understand that and get it. But people do not act rationally, they will not make decisions based on economics, and if they think they can kill a man and get away with it, in certain circumstances, they will. Like this one. Just saying “Oh, they’ll see the light and won’t shoot because it will be too expensive” is ridiculous when history has proven, time and again, otherwise.

            And yes, there are many problems with the state. There are many racist laws and the welfare system is extremely demeaning. But that does not lead to tossing the state out the window. That’s tossing the baby out with the bathwater. And I’m not sure how it is far “worse.” In my scenario, there are people who have guns and arms and have defined a certain race as not having any rights to be pillaged at will. That is not going on in America today, as many problems as we have (which I agree are large, numerous, and must be dealt with swiftly if we are to prosper.)

            At the end of the day, if you want your system of rights and private property to survive and work and have everyone respected within it, you’re going to need at least a minimal state to beat the antisocial elements into submission. Even Mises, the great icon for anarcho-capitalists, said this, and indeed he said that proper government was one of the crowning achievements of human civilization. I happen to think he’s right.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

            I’ll post part of what I responded to somebody else:

            It’s really just stupid to think that everyone is going to start fighting wars. So, I don’t think you have to worry too much about this. It’s just a long drawn out argument that holds no water. I’ll just go through a few brief reasons why it is mostly just paranoia: Business leaders are profit, not ideologically driven (like politicians, countries can afford to make mistakes because they have no investors or people voluntarily paying taxes (business owners have to worry about both), politicians are much better with propaganda (how many people do you know that are wiling to die over their employer? This is a Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog, I thought most everyone here agreed that employers were the bad guys as well), people aren’t willing to murder people without cause (especially if they are in the same region as one another. Also, there are a lot of situations where soldiers themselves refused to kill innocent people), military uses a lot of psychological factors and desensitization (why would a business need to do this? I worked as a corrections officer for Corrections Corporation of America and they were much less harsh than the government counterparts and required much less training), the state employs very harsh penalties on soldiers that don’t fight (whereas someone who just doesn’t show up to battle would just be fired), and lastly, governments have far more resources that are unused (like nuclear weapons and any other weapon that is not utilized often that costs a bunch). Given those reasons we see that it is far more likely that an anarchist society would be more peaceful.

            “And yes, there are many problems with the state. There are many racist laws and the welfare system is extremely demeaning. But that does not lead to tossing the state out the window. That’s tossing the baby out with the bathwater. And I’m not sure how it is far “worse.” In my scenario, there are people who have guns and arms and have defined a certain race as not having any rights to be pillaged at will. That is not going on in America today, as many problems as we have (which I agree are large, numerous, and must be dealt with swiftly if we are to prosper.)”

            These laws affect every person of a different race. So in you’re extremely unlikely scenario that somebody’s agency determines that black people are not people, you have to realize that only this company affects the black people whereas laws affect ALL of them. What you don’t like is BLATANT racism whereas the government has much implied racism. It’s easier to swallow when it’s not smack in front of your face, but in the anarchist scenario, even in the unlikely event that there is a company like that, we see the alternative (the government) is a far, far worse one and the anarchist society, again, is far better off.

          • SamLivingston

            If you are a non capitalist-anarchist – YOU will be the one stealing TV in that example.
            So let’s do a thought experiment where the new world consists entirely of various types of anarchists that exist today. Part of them (call them simply anarchists A) will be against property and will be constantly robbing the other part (anarcho-capitalist AC) that is for it. After a while ACs will get so pissed off that they will form their own property protection agency. And then they will build the wall against those other idiots. And then after deciding that those others have too much land and natural resources that they don’t use, ACs will go mideval on As asses and push them out to the worthelsess unsurvivable corners of the world. A’s ofcause will feel oppressed and will constantly try to subotage ACs. So ACs will have no choice but to have some permanent proteciton agency keeing As in check. Lo and Behold Capitalist state is reborn.

    • les kyle Nearhood

      Very good, I am beginning to think that I am rare, a libertarian who does not trust people. I want people to have liberty but I only trust them so far. It is precisely my cynicism which led me to libertarianism. Any system which is too “pie in the sky” (or unrooted in practical reality) will quickly be subverted by the clever and unscrupulous. Then where are everyone’s rights?

      • shemsky

        Les, I don’t trust people any more than you do. And I don’t want people that I don’t trust having a say in how I’m to be governed. And, so long as those people leave me and mine alone, I have no interest in telling them how they are to be governed.

  • Jon Thompson

    “Even if we can find one or two examples of “anarchist” societies where things seemed to work reasonably well, we have lots and lots of examples of anarchist societies where they did not. Cherry picked examples are no substitute for aggregate statistical analysis…”

    Can’t one make the same argument against freed markets? There are, generally speaking, no free markets yet you presumably advocate for them based on a analysis of their theoretical efficacy in the absence of a corporate influenced state.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Shoenfelt/100000327394374 Todd Shoenfelt

    “I worry that an anarcho-capitalist society would be considerably more violent” That’s hard to believe when compared to the violence of the state. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=540275536016298&set=a.456102341100285.99159.455942847782901&type=1&relevant_count=1

    • Damien S.

      That’s a garbage picture. What’s relevant is the number of non-government murders that would exist in the absence of government. Going by the research Pinker collects in _Better Angels_, the answer is much much higher. The occasional spasm of state violence is as nothing compared to the destructive power of blood feud and constant tribal warfare and raids. Your chance of dying of any kind of violence in the 20th century is at an all time low.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ross.levatter Ross Levatter

    Matt, given that you have arguments, in essence, against part II of Mike Huemer’s latest book–that is, arguments against how anarchists view anarchy might work–do you have positive arguments against part I of his book–that is, arguments morally justifying political authority?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

      Does he have arguments against it? I didn’t read it in this particular piece. Point me in the direction where he does have arguments. I’d be curious to read them.

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      Actually, no! Which puts me in a somewhat awkward position. I think that most of the standard arguments that purport to justify political authority fail. But I also think that a stateless society would look far worse than market anarchists predict. So, hmm.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

        That’s the tension. Once you recognize or accept the moral argument, it becomes difficult to justify or excuse the actions of a state – even on consequentialist grounds which you seem to do. Keep in mind that our knowledge of what a stateless society might look like or how it might function is still extremely limited (thankfully libertarian anarchists have been clear that they do NOT present a “complete” picture or something). Without much knowledge of various institutional structures in anarchy, we should be agnostic about which “system” is better, no? A stateless society could become a cesspool of random Hobbesian violence – or, it could become an enormous cooperative effort by everyone in the market economy. Economics seems to indicate the latter is more likely than the former.

  • Cole Gentles

    If an argument against an anarchistic society can be made on the grounds that there are not enough historical examples of it working out well (an argument that I believe completely misses the point… but I digress), then surely it can be argued that a limited government society will not work either, because, well, there are zero historical examples of it working out well (or lasting very long).

    Therefore, shouldn’t Zwolinski abandon libertarianism altogether in favor of a large state based on his own criteria?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Mittan/721470315 Tyler Mittan

    I think Huemer said it right in the Cato Unbound series that you can’t just pick and choose which societies to compare against. He writes:

    The first argument against anarcho-capitalism seems to be that the situation of Somalia shows what “anarchy” is like. To clarify my earlier response to this: my response is not “theoretical arguments, in general, are better than empirical arguments.” My response is more like this: just as there are different forms of government, there are different forms of non-governmental social arrangements. Those who support liberal democracy do not have to defend the North Korean government, because it is not the kind of government they support. Similarly, those who support anarcho-capitalism do not have to defend other non-governmental social arrangements that are not, and have never attempted to be, anarcho-capitalist. (Why the “attempted to be” qualifier? Well, if the attempt to implement some social system regularly results in disaster, we might fairly take this as a reason for rejecting that social system as an ideal, even if the successful implementation would have been desirable.) While Somalia might be described as a form of “anarchy,” I don’t think anyone would claim that it is an example of an anarcho-capitalist society, nor was there ever any attempt to make it one.

    • Damien S.

      The problem is that those who support liberal democracy can point to a couple dozen liberal democracies as real examples. We don’t have to engage in theory to describe our societies, we can just look. Anarcho-capitalists don’t have the luxury of reality, and so argument must rest on tenuous theory or on the closest examples we can find, which start with “medieval Iceland” and “modern Somalia”.

  • Aeon Skoble

    Matt, you say “Cherry picked examples are no substitute for aggregate statistical analysis” But 1, there are a LOT of examples – see, e.g., Strimgham’s anthology Anarchy and the Law. It’s not just Friedman and Iceland. There are examples across cultures as varied as New Guinea and Ireland, from the middle ages to the 1880s. 2, examples _are_ a substitute for statistics if you’re trying to rebut a modality: the statist argument against anarchism is “that cannot work” or “we simply cannot have minimal levels of social cooperation without the state.” Against those kinds of claims, _any_ counterexample will do as rebuttal, and it’s just icing that there are dozens. 3, as another commenter upthread noted, we don’t have any examples of minimal state libertarian societies or true free (or freed if you like) markets, so if we also don’t have great examples of ancap, so what? And indeed this points to why we don’t need statistical analysis either. Anarchism is a _philosophical_ argument about the necessity or moral legitimacy of the state. Historical examples can be relevant – indeed, very helpful, since when statists argue that “obviously we need the state to make law,” we can trot out Benson or Berman or Anderson and Hill or Friedman or Morriss and say “nope.” But while our ability to do that is important and helpful, the main thing is to do it philosophically. Philosophical defenses of the state, even a minimal state, fail philosophically.

    • les kyle Nearhood

      I don’t see how Ireland at any time period could be used as an example of an anarcho state. There were at any given time kings and warlords who ruled and later the church also had some temporal authority. It was a rather informal society but a feudal one nonetheless.

      • Damien S.

        Critics, of course, would say that rule by a bunch of warlords is exactly what they expect of an anarcho state…

  • http://frankhecker.com/ Frank Hecker

    An interesting argument, which reminds me of Arnold Kling’s review of Mark Weiner’s book The Rule of the Clan. To paraphrase Kling’s own paraphrase of Weiner’s argument, history tells us that decentralized orders are possible, but historical examples of decentralized orders were made possible by social norms subordinating individuals to clans (typically kinship-based), and bear little or no resemblance to imagined libertarian or anarchist societies based on autonomous individuals voluntarily interacting via free markets. As I commented on Kling’s blog, my conclusion is therefore that what might have been done in medieval Iceland or elsewhere is likely not relevant to the possibility of establishing a stateless society as envisioned today.

    I’d also observe that the modern state and the modern economy have co-evolved for some time now, and thus I’m skeptical of the possibility of drastically restructuring the political structure of society without an accompanying fundamental restructuring of the economic structure of society. In the absence of such a radical revamping, I suspect what we’ll see is more of what we’ve seen in the evolution of the Internet: TAZ-style micro-societies in which issues of real-world security are at least temporarily irrelevant (e.g., because it’s a virtual experience and/or we’re all friendly folk) and people can productively interact in the absence of central authority. But then the real world intrudes for political reasons (e.g., fear of terrorists online) or economic reasons (e.g., fear of IP “piracy”) and/or the micro-society grows to the point where internal strife causes problems (e.g., the number of “griefers” hits a critical mass). Then bye-bye anarchy.

    • Damien S.

      Yeah, I’ve long noted that you technically don’t need government to solve public good/tragedy of the commons/multiplayer Prisoner’s Dilemma problems. But the alternate stable solution that works in some small societies and some even smaller econ/game theory experiments is second-order social norms which are as coercively powerful as government. (Second order meaning you punish defectors, and people who aren’t punishing defectors.) Not exactly shiny examples of freedom.

      • http://frankhecker.com/ Frank Hecker

        Yes, exactly. The funny thing is that the modern libertarian vision values individual autonomy and a refusal to be confined by the norms of society at large, relies on a free market characterized by relatively impersonal and (in many cases) quasi-anonymous transactions, advocates borders freely open to all, including people who come from societies where primary loyalties are to one’s own kin, and sees little or no role for a formal coercive state. To me that seems like a society that would likely see a fairly high rate of defectors and cheaters (and supporters thereof), and might struggle to find good mechanisms to combat them.

  • les kyle Nearhood

    The very idea of an anarchic society of more than say 100 people is preposterous. You have to have some sort of rules and where you have rules you will have some enforcement mechanism, and where you have that you have a government!

    Now if you change your name to Minarchist, then you are at least on the right track.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

      “You have to have some sort of rules and where you have rules you will have some enforcement mechanism, and where you have that you have a government!”

      You’re sloppy. You need rules and order, yes; you need a monopolist who makes those rules; no. Libertarian anarchists are not about “doing away” with rules – it’s about consensus and agreement on rules. The state imposes its laws on me. There’s no choice. Instead, I think laws ought to be organic, the product of free individuals in society.

      • les kyle Nearhood

        Is it sloppy for me to say that your words sound hopelessly utopian and not grounded in reality or human nature? Consensus is fine, now I demand that you present to me any example of more than about a hundred people who can reach consensus on much of anything. Then I might be a believer.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

          There are lots of examples. Go look up the Law Merchant – hundreds of voluntarily cooperating merchants simply from the threat of boycott.

          I’m not trying to make you a believer. I’m trying to explain what anarchists think. Because based on your comments, you seem to misunderstand the main point.

          • Damien S.

            So instead of a majority imposing its will via democratic laws and police, you propose a majority imposing its will through the threat of economic starvation. Ah, freedom!

          • martinbrock

            Why do you believe that people not subject to a majoritarian state can or will threaten anyone with economic starvation?

          • shemsky

            I think that he’s conflating the act of refusing to do business with someone because you can’t come to terms with them with the act of imposing your will on someone.

          • Damien S.

            What do you think “threat of boycott” meant?

          • shemsky

            It means that some people are exercising their right to not associate with other people. What else do you think it means?

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            You miss the point as well. Having a majority vote for their preferred laws and programs is magnitudes of order more dangerous to the individual than having all market participants shape the structure of their lives. The market satisfies majorities, as you cleverly imply. It does not however squash minorities. Walmart’s success is due to it satisfying lots of customers (among other reasons); that doesn’t stop other types of stores from satisfying the tastes of people who hate Walmart. Costco, Publix, Target, Kmart – all these exist for our choice. Majoritarianism in politics necessarily means the exclusion of the minority. If a majority elect Obama, you literally have no recourse. This would not be the case in a stateless society.

          • Damien S.

            So companies comply due to the threat of boycott, but boycotting isn’t actually a threat?

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            It’s a threat we’re allowed to make. I’m not allowed to threaten you with violence, but I am allowed to stop sending you money for a product.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            It’s a threat we’re allowed to make. I’m not allowed to threaten you with violence, but I am allowed to threaten you with cutting off my money support. You don’t have a right to make me your customer.

  • matt b

    In terms of the transition from the state to anarchy, what do anarchists have in mind? How do we secure nukes? Who would be free to control them? If a group of religious fanatics wanted nuke to start a war for God, in whatever they imagine him, who would stop them? Are we cool with allowing the KKK to have fighter jets or the Nation of Islam having bombs?

    • martinbrock

      Who are you cool with having nukes? Harry Truman?

      • matt b

        It’s a question of risk. I think the current situation is a lot more amenable to peace and security than a world in which anybody, no matter how fanatical and bloodthirsty, can access weapons of mass destruction.

        • martinbrock

          A world in which everyone can access weapons of mass destruction is not a remote possibility, so I don’t worry it. The question is: how do we defend ourselves from the fanatical and bloodthirsty people who can access weapons of mass destruction now? Why would I imagine these people the good guys? Because they won the most recent wars?

          A more anarchic world is not a world in which everyone can access weapons of mass destruction, because most people don’t want to access weapons of mass destruction and don’t want to associate with people accessing weapons of mass destruction. A more anarchic world is a world in which everyone can resist the people accessing weapons of mass destruction.

          • matt b

            Everyone can access Burger king French fries. Well anyone with a buck. Now not everyone wants to but they can. And with WMD’s in an an-cap world, why should we believe that bad people who want them wouldn’t be able to get them just like French fries? I mean they’d be more expensive than fries but since totally unfettered markets work along the lines of supply and demand bad people would be able to get them or make them. And resist how? if some Christian fanatic group gets nukes because it wants a war with Muslims or vice versa how are we going to resist them?

          • martinbrock

            First, I’m not an an-cap.

            Bad people already have WMDs. All people with WMDs are bad people without exception. The question is: how do we dissuade these people from using their WMDs to impose their will on others?

            Good people wishing to influence the bad people with WMDs this way cannot expect to succeed by responding with WMDs of their own, so they must find other means.

          • B&S

            If “resist” means “use violence,” how is that different or better than the state?

          • martinbrock

            I’m a minarchist strictly speaking, so I don’t oppose a state absolutely. I advocate a state that enforces only two universal, human rights, a right to life and a right to associate freely with other people respecting other standards of propriety.

            When I speak of “anarchic communities”, I specifically mean communities that do not kill or hold members against their will, but I don’t imagine many communities behaving this way without some authority requiring them not to kill or hold members against their will. Ideally, this authority is something like a religion threatening misbehaving communities only in the next life.

          • B&S

            I’m not sure you answered the question. A group of people who form a minarchist state that respects a right to life (undefined) and a right to associate freely with other people will inevitably come into conflict with itself, as well as with other societies that do not respect those values. Immediately, that minarchist state faces two choices. Choice A: the right to life and right to free association must yield to physical safety, and the minarchist state ends up with law (both civil and criminal), restitution, punishment (always violent, sometimes lethal), war (always violent and lethal), etc.

            Choice B: the minarchist state does not do those things, and ceases to exist because it is overrun by its enemies, whether foreign or domestic.

            Choice C: condemning those enemies to eternal torment in the afterlife just isn’t going to cut it.

          • martinbrock

            A right to life seems clear enough to me. No one may lawfully kill anyone else, and state agents are not exceptional.

            Free association is not a right to associate with anyone else however you like. It’s a right to associate with others willing to associate with you on terms acceptable to all. A community has standards that members know.

            If a member of my community kills me unlawfully, the community may punish him accordingly, but it may not punish him by killing him or by holding him against his will. Even my murderer may leave my community at will; however, another community may accept him only if he agrees to be confined.

            Different communities have different standards, but practically every community confines murderers. A community permitting murderers to roam freely is full of murderers. If my murderer ends up in this community, so be it, but most murderers prefer confinement.

            The minarchist state protects only persons that a community would kill or confine involuntarily. Other safety is the responsibility of free communities. The state forbids capital punishment and enforces a right of each person to move from one community to another community willing to accept the person.

            Communities have prisons, but prisoners have a right to choose their prison. If I’m a prisoner in one community, and if another community will accept me into its prison system, my current community must release me.

            Communities have borders and defend their borders. No central authority is necessary for this purpose.

          • Damien S.
          • martinbrock

            How is noah’s opinion relevant to my post.

            1. I do not oppose welfare or ignore either real-world institutions or imaginary institutions. You should have any welfare institution that you and others want. If you want common ownership of all means of production and strictly egalitarian distribution of all produce, you should have that. If you want a Rothbardian utopia, you should have that.

            2. I don’t ignore Tamerlanes either, but I will not fight fire with fire. I don’t take for granted that resisting Tamerlane requires becoming Tamerlane. If noah is right about that, then we’re all doomed to being ruled by Tamerlanes, and I just think that’s a shame.

            3. If you believe that the United State is not a Tamerlane, you’re out of touch with reality.

          • Damien S.

            ” don’t take for granted that resisting Tamerlane requires becoming Tamerlane”

            So, assuming that things like taxation and conscription are “Tamerlane”, how would you effectively resist Tamerlane?

          • martinbrock

            I don’t assume that things like taxation are “Tamerlane”. A free community might require able members to contribute to the support of disabled members for example, and this contribution is like a tax. A community might also require members to contribute to the community’s defense as a condition of membership, and this requirement is like conscription.

            Neither requirement offends my libertarian sensibilities as long as other communities may adopt other terms of membership, a market in defense services for example, wherein members may specialize in these services and charge what the market bears. A person with a choice of communities is not compelled to accept the terms of a particular community. No one ever associates with others entirely on his own terms.

            We can discuss asymmetric tactics if you want, but however I resist a particular Tamerlane, I cannot resist the general idea of Tamerlanes by becoming one myself.

          • Damien S.

            But we do have a choice of communities! Very few countries forbid emigration. If it’s hard to get *into* another country, well, that’s that community exercising its property rights, isn’t it?

          • martinbrock

            We have a choice severely limited by states. A state typically forbids its prisoners to immigrate, and it typically does not permit its subjects to diminish it by seceding. A state restricting immigration is like a free community establishing terms of membership, but similarity is not identity.

          • martinbrock

            States severely constrain this choice. A state restricting immigration is like a free community, but similarity is not identity. A state typically does not permit its criminals to immigrate or permit its subjects to secede from the state.

            I advocate a radical minarchy. The minimal state only forbids subject communities to kill members or hold them against their will. The state does nothing else, but it may require a community losing members to surrender natural resources to communities gaining members.

            Communities exercise all other authority over members. The organizing principle in this state is consensus. Rather than joining forces with others to overpower their neighbors to get what they want, subjects of this state choose neighbors who want what they want.

      • B&S

        “Small, anarchic communities presumably defend their autonomy with weapons of limited destruction.” What do you possibly base this presumption on? Every community has an incentive to develop the power, to the extent possible, of dominating their enemies.

        • martinbrock

          The presumption is a matter of semantics. A community dominating people outside of the community, except to defend its autonomy, is not anarchic definitively.

          • B&S

            You admit that an “anarchic community” has a legitimate interest in defending its autonomy. WMD can be used to defend autonomy, through threat of retaliation. Therefore, you admit that an “anarchic community” has both an incentive and a legitimate reason to have WMD.

          • martinbrock

            I admit no such thing. You can imagine an a community only threatening retaliation with WMD, but I doubt your imagination. I imagine a community with WMD imposing its will outside of the community, limited only by communities successfully resisting this imposition with less destructive weapons.

          • nuwriter

            So the worst you can say about a stateless society is that it might be as bad as the status quo?

  • matt b

    The core problem with an-cap is that it is based on the fallacy that under such a system everyone could do their own thing. So right now the state forces us to fund PBS and wars abroad and Medicare and that’s bad. And even if those things were maybe not so bad it would still be wrong to force people to fund them. You just don’t have a right to use force to make dissenters comply with what you say their duties are. So goes the an-cap argument. But under an-cap if I say “You know I think it’s pretty ridiculous that I can’t to a certain beach because some guys went there and “mixed their labour” by building a shack on it so I’m going to go anyway.” Well if that happens I’m beaten by them or their guards and Walter Block is applauding. Or, since some of you may not care about my beach love, I go onto the property of a billionaire to take some vegetables and feed them to a starving disabled man I get beaten. So under an-cap dissenters are most certainly forced to carry out “duties” of total respect for 100 percent property rights they may not believe in.

    • CT

      “and Walter Block is applauding”
      I don’t know Block well at all, but he’d have to be one hell of a nutbar to think nothing was wrong with that kind of situation. In this case though (as with every case), can’t a supporter of the NAP simply state that there are levels of enforcement which are appropriate for every circumstance? For example, I go into your garden to take some vegetables to feed my starving family. You catch me and beat me with a baseball bat even though I was posing absolutely no threat. To me, any sane supporter of the NAP would say that you have violated the NAP by physically assaulting me (hence violating my property) when I posed no threat to you whatsoever. Conversely, if I came to your property and starting lighting your house on fire while your family was in it you’d have every right to come out and beat the hell out of me with a baseball bat.
      Now the problem I have with both sides of the argument is how do you prevent someone from using disproportional force in defending property. It is clear the ‘soft’ libertarians would say that anarchists have no answer to this question. But then again, do the ‘soft’ anarchists have an answer? What’s preventing you (being the billionaire) from calling the cops and having them beat the hell out of me anyway. It happens all the time in our statist society and the cops almost always get away with it. To make matters worse, we don’t have a choice but to fund our corrupt police officers.
      To me, any rational argument for anarchism would have to acknowledge that anarchism would lead to voluntary governments where police would be established through voluntary taxation (and obviously that people would be willing to fund these protective services). Now assuming that most people don’t want the type of police who beat the crap out of someone for stealing a few veggies, you could then argue that people would voluntarily withdraw their monetary support for corrupt police forces.
      Having said that, you can probably surmise that I’m politically undecided.

      • matt b

        Block is a madman. If you read Matt’s post on the NAP in emergency situations, he’s one of the people who believes you are morally obligated to let go of the flag pole. Now the NAP states you have the right to use physical force to protect your property. Presumably rich people will be in the best position to do that and there would be nothing stopping them from being brutal in an an-cap society. Now you say that right now you can just call the cops and they might beat up the guy. But when does this occur? Police brutality is an issue but typically when you call the cops for theft they don’t beat the shit out of someone and in that situation they would be especially disinclined to do so. And remember that right now the cops are not hired directly by people and are accountable, albeit imperfectly, to the general public. In an an-cap society the protection agencies would only be accountable to those who paid them. So if the billionaire goes “Teach this guy a lesson boys” I would say the “cops” in that situation would be far more likely to be totally inhumane assholes than under our current system because they are being paid by the billionaire and have a huge stake in pleasing him.

        • C_T

          This occurs all the time. It’s not as direct as I made it sound but cops beat the shit out of innocent people all the time for all kinds issues including trespassing or destruction of property – public or private. And to be honest, I find it hard to believe that anyone in this day and age thinks cops are accountable to the public. This doesn’t mean that they can’t made to be accountable but I haven’t heard of any convincing arguments as of yet.

          The thing about the ancap society is that the only way I would ever accept to become an ancap is if I could be convinced that there would be some kind of voluntary governments with a police forces.

          • matt b

            I take your points. The widespread view of “the police are always good and only criminals could object to anything they do” is as scary as it is absurd. But I just think that in an an-cap society you would see a situation of hired thugs as the protection agencies would compete to satisfy the demands of clients no matter what those demands were.

        • C_T

          And when was the last time you heard of a rich guy getting his ass kicked by the cops? It’s always poor people.

    • nuwriter

      This forgoes the question of why would you rather steal than provide some good or service in exchange for the vegetables?

      The billionaire in a stateless society must gain his wealth by serving the needs of consumers. If he’s a vegetable producer, then he’s feeding millions. Why do you not feel the need to pay for the vegetables (which would be much less expensive in the absence of state interventions)? Why would you assume that the billionaire would not want to voluntarily help the disabled man?
      The force you see is not actually there, any more than it is now. Trespassing and theft are in fact illegal.

  • Pingback: Enlaces | Artir contra el mundo

  • Cdunc123

    Cards on the table: I’m not an anarchist, or even a libertarian. Just a curious interloper here.

    I share Matt’s skepticism about the allegedly benign nature of anarcho-capitalism. But I concede that my knowledge of human nature and political possibility is not infallible. So there is a significant chance I am wrong. But by the same token, there is a significant chance that defenders of anarcho-capitalism are wrong. Those defenders should concede that too.

    Given that chance of error, it strikes me as less than wise to propose dismantling the state and risking the well-being of millions of people. Is that really a risk worth running? I don’t think so, and that strikes me as a strong argument against anarchism right there.

    Yes, that is probably an easier argument for me to make than for anarchists to make, since I don’t find the statist status quo horrifying like they do. But I’m still curious as to anarchists’ proposed transitional plans. Surely they don’t call for us eliminating government next week and just hoping for the best.

    So what is the thinking on the transition? Do some anarchists recommend trying anarcho-capitalism first in a small-scale society, like some of those proposed floating cities, and after those experiments have proven successful scaling it gradually up from there? (But how long must the small-scale city experiment run to show success? Several generations, I’d say, since one crucial test for stability is how well a society can reproduce itself.)

    Or alternatively, do some anarchists proposed dismantling already existing large states (the layers of government in the US, say) over the next half century? If so, where to start, and at what pace?

    Just curious. I’m with Matt in thinking it all to be recklessly risky business.

    • martin

      Given that chance of error, it strikes me as less than wise to propose dismantling the state and risking the well-being of millions of people.

      By keeping the state in existence you *also* risk the well-being of millions of people.

      • Cdunc123

        Right. But I’m saying the “devil you know” is the better bet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

      I might get a finger wagging for mentioning him here, but Hoppe has talked about this a lot with regards to secession and re-privatization in his book Democracy the God that Failed. Essentially, the transition has to be intellectual. We have to promote antistatism to the public until we reach a critical mass of people who refuse to cooperate with the state (or deliberately sabotage its operations – like a sheriff who won’t enforce drug laws, lawyers who cheat the state, etc etc.). At the same time, hopefully these communities and regions (maybe texas could be first) would declare their independence and sever economic and legal ties to the United States. This would immediately spur other states and locales to do the same if one could get away with it, why not others. Then rinse and repeat on lower and lower scales, counties from states, cities from counties, until each individual person seceeds from the local govt and you have stateless anarchy.

  • Chris C

    I think the central premise of Matt Z.’s argument is that anarchist thinkers have failed to address the theories of Thomas Hobbes. Human societies have consistently created institutions that allow us to escape the state of nature (anarchy). This is exemplified by the anarchy that characterized Russia after the collapse of the USSR. Sure, it was great that communism was gone, but attempts to create a market society without adequate state institutions led to greater violence, poverty, and governance by mafias than they could have foreseen.

    • Aeon Skoble

      “I think the central premise of Matt Z.’s argument is that anarchist thinkers have failed to address the theories of Thomas Hobbes.” If that’s his central premise, he’s mistaken – the entire point of my book is to address Hobbes. But I’m pretty sure he has read it.

    • Fallon

      Hans Hoppe demolishes Hobbes as well.

  • martin

    In response to the article and Matt Zwolinski:

    By your own account states are rather peaceful. But why not see the state as a type of protection agency? (Not the type libertarian anarchists advocate, but a protection agency nonetheless.) Then we currently have about 200 protection agencies the world over and they get along reasonably well.

    As for Pinker, as I understand – I haven’t read the book (yet) – the staggering death tolls in “anarchic” societies he compares the modern state with are mostly due to tribal warfare.

    I would say that if you compare a nation state to a private protection agency together with it’s customers, the nation state is the one that’s most like a (very big) tribe. So if anything, I would say Pinker’s findings support the idea that private protection agencies would be more peaceful then modern states.

    • Chris C

      Pinker uses data from warring tribes, prehistoric remains, ancient and feudal (pre-state) societies and costars them against modern violence figures. Even with the world wars and communist purges, you are much safer now than you ever were in history. I recommend it, Pinker’s arguments against anarchism are pretty solid.

      • Fallon

        If your only tool is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Empiricists like Pinker employ faulty economics in their histories. Economic reasoning is aprioristic, not derived from experience. It leads them to make absurd claims– like consolidation of monarchical rule led to enabling the growth of the market. Markets grew in spite of centralization. The market– a special form of the division of labor in many ways– can include defense, police and courts within the accountability of competitive property. Hence, Pinker fails by embracing Hobbes as well. this is not to say that consolidation was not partially responsible for pacification. Slavery is pacification too. It is o say that Pinker goes too far in concluding that the state and market have productive synergy. The state is a parasite. But anyways– you are familiar with the differences between the Austrian and neo-classicals, the rationalist v. empiricist angle in economics?

    • Chris C

      Also, there is an advantage to having one state over numerous PPAs. You can more effectively chain down a state collectively with laws and institutions than you can dozens of competing PPAs. And whats the difference between PPAs and the mafia?

      • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

        Private protection agencies would earn revenue through providing customers with excellent quality protection. The Mafia, though they do serve customers, are a consequence of the state. The Mafia specialize in contraband substances – drugs, prostitution, weaponry, gambling, everything the state makes illegal. Without having a state to legislate which industries are illegal, Mafias would disappear. They gain their strength from prohibition. The current situation in Mexico is a long-run consequence of America’s War on Drugs.

        • good_in_theory

          ‘Mafias make money by selling contraband and extortion.’ ‘Take away contraband, and they will no longer be able to make money by extortion.’

          Spot the error.

          • Chris C

            Even if you ended the War on Drugs, there would still be Mafias. Many make their revenues through drugs, but conceptually, Mafias are private protection agencies. PPAs won’t need to provide to quality services because so long as they’re powerful enough, they can simply extort individuals to pay protection.

          • good_in_theory

            You have a typo so I’m not entirely sure I’m following correctly (“need to provide to quality services”), but I think we’re in agreement.

            In any case the basic point is that whether mafias can or can’t sell contraband doesn’t have any logical relationship to whether or not they can or can’t ask you for money to make sure nothing bad happens to your stuff.

            So long as someone has violence and the disposition to use it, they can play might makes right, and that makes them into a state, if they start doing it in an organized fashion successfully to a large number of people.

            At least, it makes them a state for purposes of the vague notion of the state used in these sorts of discussions. Doesn’t make them a state if we’re using state in a more historicized sense.

          • nuwriter

            So in that case, the Mafia simply becomes a level of government -as extorting people for “protection” is a specialty of government.

    • Damien S.

      PPAs seem more like gangs to me. Which are where we also see high violence and death rates.

      A key state advantage is economy of scale. Compared to a small tribe, it has thousands to millions of times more people you can resolve conflicts with peacefully[1]. Compared to a PPA, it has a unified area, not a scattered bunch of customers.

      And if you double your defensive perimter, you quadruple the resources within the perimeter with which to defend it — or to attack others. The bigger the area, the lower the per unit cost of defending it.

      [1] Ideally, you settle disputes in your tribe by having them judged by the elders, or something; tribal violence is just with other tribes. But your tribe is like 100 people, so there’s a lot of other tribes, who live next door. In a large state, you appeal to judges, and there are millions of people you live with under judges, and enemy people may live hundreds of miles away.

  • j r

    It is interesting to me that there are so many comments about the relative merits and drawbacks of anarchism, but no one has mentioned the single most important factor in determining whether it might work: whether or not people want it.

    The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people want, if not crave, a good measure of authority and hierarchy in their lives. This is probably to no small extent owing to evolution. Human beings are social status maximizers. This is why people stand outside in the cold for hours to watch the president get inaugurated or seem helplessly enamored with things like royal weddings and red carpets.

    You can debate the philosophical grounds and justifications of government all you want, but the state is not going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s not because it is some alien force pressed upon us, but because people tend to want it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

      Replace the state with slavery and this argument would have been common 200 years ago.

      • j r

        No. There is a fundamental difference between being a slave and being the citizen of a state. And perhaps most fundamental is the fact that lots of people try very hard to get to the United States to be American citizens. whereas slaves had to be kidnapped and brought here by force.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

          Just because America is a popular destination doesn’t give the state that “rules” over its geographical region any legitimacy. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that everyone who immigrates to the US does so from another state.

          We aren’t slaves in the same manner as African slaves of centuries ago were, but we are slaves inasmuch as we are threatened by coercion to surrender the products of our labor. If taking 100% of a man’s labor is slavery, what does taking 40% make him?

          • j r

            You are not at all reacting to what I am saying. You think citizenship is slavery, great. You are in the significant minority. I’m a libertarian and I don’t agree with you, so you can only imagine what percentile your beliefs are when you look at the entire population.

            It’s one thing if all you want is a little piece of land in which to escape the government (and I would argue that is relatively easy to get). If however, your aim is to smash the state, then your aim is in direct opposition with what 90-something percent of the population wants. How do you propose to make something like that work?

          • martinbrock

            If little pieces of land on which to escape states were easy to get, states would disappear overnight. People would become members of free communities and cease to be citizens of states. In the short run, many people wouldn’t notice much difference, but in the longer run, the statutory uniformity that you take for granted would disappear.

            People would still have all the authority and hierarchy they want, but the varieties of authority and hierarchy would be much greater, so people wouldn’t have authority and hierarchy they don’t want.

          • j r

            If little pieces of land on which to escape states were easy to get, states would disappear overnight.

            That sounds like a combination of wishful thinking and projection. There are certainly many cases of people organized into loose confederations, but that tends to happen when relatively small populations inhabit relatively large areas of land. Anytime people are forced to live in close proximity to one another, a government forms. That’s not a comment on whether that is desirable or not; it’s just a comment on the historical fact.

          • martinbrock

            A government is not equivalent to a state, but you’re right that states form where population density is high. States form because some people are more powerful than others, not only because people wish to be governed.

            You’re also right that I wish powerful people not to impose their will on others. Governments can form without powerful people imposing their will on others, and I share this utopian wish other libertarians regardless of historical facts and regardless of powerful people with conflicting wishes.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mvonguttenberg Mattheus von Guttenberg

            By advancing antistatist public opinion. By showing people the violent nature of the state in hopes they, too, will withdraw their support from that institution.

          • B&S

            Are you seriously equating slavery to taxation?

          • nuwriter

            “The Tale of the Slave”
            from Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and
            Utopia, pp. 290-292.

            Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.

            1 .There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master’s whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

            2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

            3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

            4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

            5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if
            some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

            6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

            7. Let us pause in this sequence of cases to take stock. If the master contracts this transfer of power so that he cannot withdraw it, you have a change of master. You now have 10,000 masters instead of just one; rather you have one 10,000-headed master. Perhaps the 10,000 even will be kindlier than the benevolent master in case 2. Still,
            they are your master. However, still more can be done. A kindly single master (as in case 2) might allow his slave(s) to speak up and try to persuade him to make a certain decision. The 10,000-headed monster can do this also.

            8. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the
            right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to
            adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They
            then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.

            9.In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure.
            After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him
            about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

            They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

            The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?

    • j_m_h

      While I agree there is an element of truth in the claim that human nature has some attraction to hierarchy and social status I think you’re over selling the point. I suspect that for every person that’s enamored with the social elite 4 or 5 simply yawn and scratch their heads in wonder at the behavior.

      Similarly, I think most people accept strong government because that’s what they have grown up with and have been told is necessary. Most actually live quite well without an actual government intervention into their lives, without the need to police or the courts for the most part. In fact most from a practical, every day view, consider both government and the police a problem — perhaps necessary to control other people.

      To the extent we go to court it’s either misdemeanors/traffic or small claims courts that most people will have experience with. Small claims, and tort in general, is largely covered by common law rather than government made/statutory law.

      • B&S

        No one (or close enough to no one as makes no difference) “live quite well without an actual government intervention into their lives.” Certainly, to the extent this conversation is intended to discuss people living in the United States, or any other western democracy, there are exactly 0 people living without government intervention.

        • j_m_h

          In terms of my daily life I, and the people who live in the neighborhood have nearly no interaction with police (they don’t patrol the area except to issue traffic tickets). To the extent the area civic association gets involved in our lives it’s to argue against growth policies in the area that the county is interested in pursuing.

          We don’t run around stealing or vandalizing each others homes or property, we don’t assault or rob each other. We do sometimes get together to deal with bad weather situation — lots of snow needing to get cleared from our street from county plowing the road ours runs into.

          That was the point. We seem to do a pretty good job of establishing rules to live peaceably with one another without any explicit government intervention. The claim was not that government doesn’t exist or that the current laws don’t exist. The mere fact that governments and the laws they have imposed exist doesn’t lead to the conclusion that they are producing the peaceful setting in my neighborhood. I suspect the same can be said about many if not most neighborhoods.

          • Damien S.

            If homes in your area were broken into, would owners call the police?

            If the police announced that they weren’t going to patrol the area, or respond to calls from it, and that crimes committed there wouldn’t be prosecuted, what do you think would happen?

          • j_m_h

            Again, that’s largely beside the point I’m making. I’ve already conceded the existence of government provided police in this situation.

            Now to address your suggesting that they are essential for maintaining peaceful interactions within the neighborhood, in the very few cases that I’m aware of yes, the police were called. They also did not a) prevent the crimes, b) did not recover the goods or capture the vandal. In face private insurance ended up providing the protection from harm — at least to some extent.

            I’d also point out that people in my neighborhood either rely on both their neighbor not robbing them and doing a little watching if they are away. I don’t think any expect their neighbors to put themselves in harms way for them.

            Many also subscribe to various security services to monitor both their homes and themselves.

            So it appears that while the neighborhood will avail themselves of existing policing services they clearly augment those public services with private services as well, or engage in a form of self-production within the community. This certainly opens the door to the possibility of relying on private provisions rather than the monopoly provision in a certain area of policing. Post-crime investigation could be performed by private agencies just as they provide investigative services for things like marital distrust, checking up on business partners and the like. Or, in the case of know persons bounty hunters still exist.

            This gets back to the distinction between government and governance. Once we realize that the problem is largely one of compatible governance rather than monopoly government one can start considering alternative arrangements for a large society like the USA. I think it’s way too early to suggest the verdict is in.

      • B&S

        Also, “common law” is government made law. It is just made by judges, rather than executives or legislatures.

        • j_m_h

          Not really. Common Law was originally customs of the locality and traveling judges in England would gather information about the local customs before handing out a judgement.

          The more modern judge-made law is a bastardization of concept. The concept of stare decisis is a useful concept but it should not be used in a new case unless it’s clear that the prior decision was made based on the local customs.

          It would be expected that as population became more mobile and communication among populations improved that we’d see some convergence in customs — one hopes in adopting customs that improved the social life of the people. That type of legal and judicial evolution should not be expected to be imposed by a judged making the decision on his/her own. The judge should not succumb to that temptation bu that’s what the profession appears to have done.

          It’s also true that we don’t have a common law setting for most of our social interactions – for the most part they have been codified by a central government at some level and the idea that people based on their customary interactions — how they actually think they should interact as well as how they react to their interactions — doesn’t exist now.

    • martinbrock

      Free association permits people to have all the authority and hierarchy they want.

  • steven sobieck

    Not convincing in the least. Ever heard of moral hazard? It’s inherent in government, and greatly affects rational decision making by lessening or elimintaing negative consequences.
    All your objections/examples invole situations where government created or exacerbated the problem. Could any anarchist group have hundreds of private military bases around the world? Our standards of living have increased INSPITE of government, not because of it.
    Some serious statist cheerleading, your article was.

  • Sheldon Richman

    Matt, I certainly hope you were not intimating that I was editing in an anarchistically biased manner.

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      If my argument fails, it’s all because you deleted that comma. I’ve got your number, Richman.

  • Christopher Morris

    Here’s the historical record. In late medieval times there were lots of forms of political organization: empires of different kinds, free cities and leagues of cities, the remnants of feudalism. There were lots of elements of anarchist social organization. Yet, within a few centuries, the modern state conquered and displaced all. The historical record does not seem friendly to anarchy, however many models with folk theorem cooperative equilibria one constructs. Anarchist communities don’t see able to survive faced with statist neighbors. That’s not encouraging.

    CM

    • martinbrock

      I can’t dispute the history, but past is prologue. Will states always dominate? Will a single super-state ultimately dominate? I don’t pretend to know, but I prefer to believe otherwise.

      Anarchy occurs when any group of a few hundred people or more can resist the impositions of any other group of any size. The question is: what sort of technology permits this occurrence? When this technology exists, anarchy exists.

  • sbozich

    The problem with anarchism is there is no due process because there is no authority to define due process.
    Rather, so long as my “private defense company” is bigger than yours, I win.
    Anarcho-capitalists are just reject liberals who don’t fit in with that crowd because they don’t have sufficient contempt for individual liberty.
    It doesn’t make them any less delusional.

  • http://twitter.com/PaulHughes7 Paul Hughes

    I find it funny that we’re still having this debate after all this time. Prior to the advent of network/p2p/decentralization, and soon enough tools of radical abundance like cheap solar and 3d printing, there was some merit to the skepticism Matt Zwolinski brings up, namely the perceived need for some kind of centralized law enforcement. But law enforcement becomes unnecessary when sufficiently networked collective intelligence, otherwise known as stigmergy, can outwit sociopaths at every turn. I’ve described how this can work in greater detail here:

    http://enthea.org/writing/innovating-our-way-to-a-peaceful-and-liberating-anarchy/

  • http://plenarchist.wordpress.com/ plenarchist

    Zwolinski is generally correct but I believe that not only is anarchy possible, it can only be possible as a state. So, I’m a pro-state anarcho-capitalist.

    I think anarchy is both attainable and sustainable but only via the voluntary anarchic state. Keep in mind that the word ‘anarchy’ means ‘no rulers’ – not ‘no state.’ Can a voluntary state exist that has no rulers and maximizes individual freedom? Yes, I think it can.

    Stateless anarchy makes no sense to me because without *just* law “might makes right.” Believing that this would not be the outcome without humans first having fully evolved into socially moral beings is wishful thinking at best.

    Can a *stateless* society – no laws of course – exist that upholds the NAP, self-ownership, private property and be peaceful and just? It is extremely improbable because by definition the stateless society has no definition. Out of this condition, a new government will likely emerge and there’s no knowing what malevolent form it will take. If stateless anarcho-capitalism is natural to mankind, we’d be living in one. Man’s nature is still primal to a great extent and the stateless society relies on what Spencer described as our Moral Sense to be dominant.

    Since the stateless society depends on man’s nature to give it definition (no guiding principles of law to do the job), we can be pretty confident anarcho-capitalism wouldn’t be the result. Confident enough that I’m not willing to gamble my well-being and that of my family’s on it even though I’m *very* sympathetic to the idea. And if the no-staters can’t convince many (maybe most) self-identifying libertarians, how do they expect to convince more than a few of the remaining 90% of everyone else?

    The answer I think lies in the voluntary anarchic state with laws that abolish rulers and government. A state where you “rule yourself and no one else” in accordance with the enabling laws you have consented to live under. A state in which political power is equally shared and justice equally dispensed.

    Such a “transitional” state we can expect to eventually render itself obsolete as a state as people come to rely less and less on the courts to resolve conflict having been allowed to evolve into socially moral beings (culturally i.e. learned – I don’t mean biologically). The state will then over time morph into a de facto stateless society naturally as the machinery of the state becomes unnecessary.

  • Ashley Scoble

    The way i see it is, no man should be governed by another man or group of people. I dont understand why people need a protector, protect yourself. Human’s have become weak and we are getting weaker and weaker as time goes by. If we can’t live together without random killings and complete caos then we dont deserve to walk the face of this planet. Other animals manage to survive without screwing up the planet and killing (except for food), There i was thinking we were the more intelligent ones. Every man, women and child should be completely free and if you dont survive then you dont survive, simple as that. Only the weak would dissagree with this because you would acctually have to survive with your own skills and not have it handed to you on a plate. Any moron could get a job, get paid, go to a supermarket and eat, Wheres the pride in that? what about this dead dear hanging from a tree, bleeding out, That you were stalking for the last 3 hours and now can proceed to skin and and cook? Thats pride, Thats how a REAL man should feel. No such thing as a real man now-a-days though.

  • http://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/ PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    “My problem is this. I don’t find the abstract, theoretical arguments for anarchism all that compelling. Certainly not those based in considerations of self-ownership and non-aggression or in the fact that some people argue with each other. But not those based inbroadly consequentialist forms of reasoning either.”

    Has Matt Zwolinski read Michael Huemer’s “The Problem of Political Authority” since writing this? I find Huemer’s “common sense morality” argument for anarchism very compelling.

  • Pingback: Seven Cheers for Murray Rothbard | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

  • Pingback: Seven Cheers for Murray Rothbard | World Liberty News

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.