This post is an adjunct to an essay refuting the theoretical basis and practicality of “anarcho-capitalism” or “market anarchy.” It is a reproduction of a discussion on a public area of reddit. I am Sword_of_Apollo and I am debating Liber-TEA, a proponent of anarcho-capitalism.
RobO2112: A truly Objectivist government wouldn’t be in the business of telling people what to do and how to do it; government, as understood by Objectivists, has one purpose and that is to protect the rights of individuals from coercion and fraud, and nothing else. So it’s kind of an odd question. To an Objectivist it would read like, “What would an Objectivist government do with people who do not consent to having their rights protected from force and fraud?” And I have to venture that the answer would be, “nothing, so long as they do not violate anyone else’s rights.”
Liber-TEA: But what if I disagree with the application of that, or I disagree with a particular law ideologically?
Sword_of_Apollo: Then you have to speak, reason, persuade. If the government allows people to opt out every time they disagree, then any criminal can get away with murder by invoking the fact that he disagrees with the idea that what he did should be punished. If the government allows people to opt out at all from its ultimate authority, (even if they have not yet committed a crime) then it has nullified its own ability to protect rights.
If the person sets up laws that are coercive, and the government says, “Oh, we’ll just make a compromise between your laws and ours,” then imagine what kind of destruction would be wreaked on justice.
What would a “compromise” look like between one law system that protects children from honor killings, and another that allows them? The parents get to cut off the child’s right arm and completely destroy her genitals?
Liber-TEA: And what if you can’t persuade me?
Sword_of_Apollo: The person who is right has reality on his side. In the more rational culture that it would take to have an Objectivist government, reason and reality would be much more respected. But if not enough people are convinced to change a bad law or the relevant people are not convinced to overturn a bad verdict, then that’s a shame, but there is nothing more one can do.
There is no way around this problem, even with private governmental agencies. What if an agency can’t be convinced that it is in its long-term interest not to start a civil war? Then a civil war happens and people die. In fact, the problem is magnified tremendously when people believe they are personally empowered to use force however, whenever, and against whomever, they see fit.
Liber-TEA: With DROs, [private Dispute Resolution Organizations] if you don’t like the laws there, you can just go join another one that falls in line with what you like. With your system, you can leave your home, your land that you own, behind to go far away to maybe find something better.
Sword_of_Apollo: You mean the laws and decisions of DROs are not enforced with guns? They’re not forcibly binding on anyone who doesn’t like them?
Liber-TEA: If you signed up, then yes. If not, no.
Sword_of_Apollo: And if someone attacks you without signing up to your DRO?
Liber-TEA: Then you can sue them or theirs.
Sword_of_Apollo: And when they decide not to abide by the judgment of the suit from your DRO?
Liber-TEA: If they agree to arbitration, they bind themselves to the ruling contractually. Breaking the agreement will incur any punishment listed in the contract.
Sword_of_Apollo: They didn’t agree to binding arbitration. What contract?
Liber-TEA: If you refuse to submit to arbitration (and that is the contract I am talking about), then businesses aligned with my DRO, as well as any who deal with you, will probably think twice before doing business with anyone from your DRO.
Might I suggest you research polycentric law before this becomes another 4-day argument?
Sword_of_Apollo: Well, it’s too bad this guy and his little gang is not interested in doing honest business with you or your associates. He’s only interested in stealing from you. So when his gang manages to steal a kilogram of gold from you, he gets to keep it, spend it elsewhere, pass it to his secret affiliates and have them buy things from your DRO affiliates with it.
Observe how economic sanctions have not stopped Iran from conducting a terrorist proxy war against the US and Israel; nor from moving closer to obtaining nuclear weapons. [See: Here.]
Liber-TEA: Your answers have been noted.
Sword_of_Apollo: Indeed, the conflict with Iran started with a theft that went unpunished (beyond economic sanctions): the nationalization of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
Since then, the Iranians have ousted one dictator only to install a worse set of tyrants. Since the new tyrants were installed, Iran has been at war with the US, but we do not retaliate. This merely encourages them.
Liber-TEA seems to think that genuinely coercive measures are never necessary for people’s protection against criminals. If thieves, rapists and murderers didn’t enter a contract with their victims, then economic boycotts would be sufficient to penalize and stop such individuals. One might act forcefully in immediate self-defense against criminals, but no after-the-fact coercive retaliation should ever be used. This position, which one might call “Passive Voluntaryism,” (PV) is absurd.
Bonnie and Clyde, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were all serial criminals that were stopped, not by economic sanctions, nor by someone’s act of immediate self-defense, but by police arrest or gunfire after the fact. Some criminals, like this guy rob many banks without being caught or killed.
Now a “PV-ist” might argue that, under anarcho-capitalism, people would be better armed and protected by security guards, and would thus stop serial criminals early by immediate self-defense. But it would be horrendously inefficient and stressful on people to do this, because criminals often use deception and attack vulnerable people at vulnerable times. Everyone would have to be armed to the teeth and constantly on their guard. There would probably have to be at least one armed security guard for every 30 people. (For comparison, San Diego, one of America’s safest high-population cities, has a police department with about 2,100 sworn officers. They police a population of 1.3 million people, meaning that there is one police officer for every 622 people.)
Beyond inefficient and stressful, such a system would be unjust by design: Anyone who initiates force deserves retaliation and punishment. But if someone managed to steal from someone or kill them, and the victim couldn’t immediately capture or do harm to the criminal, then the criminal has initiated force with impunity.
If a single woman can’t afford a couple of personal security guards to guard her 24/7, she would have to carry a gun with her everywhere she went. If she is assaulted, raped or robbed, she can’t have anyone track down and punish the perpetrators. Similarly, every bank would have to have the atmosphere of a wartime military encampment, with armed guards standing ready to shoot. This would be the only way to deter and catch bank robbers.
But, even assuming such a PV society were practical, there would be no institutional structure in place to stop DROs from using force whenever they want. There is nothing to ensure that passive voluntaryism is the only policy that DROs or other people abide by. Considering the greater efficiency of hunting down criminals, rather than passively waiting for them to strike, I’m sure just about everyone would want DROs to retaliate for force after the fact. But if DROs or their associates do this, then they become Private Governmental Agencies, (PGAs) and they are subject to the refutation I give in my main post on anarcho-capitalism: An Objectivist Refutation of Anarcho-Capitalism (Market Anarchy).
The link to the actual thread on reddit is here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Objectivism/comments/1sgqc5/what_would_an_objectivist_government_do_with/
How to Show That Taxation is Robbery
Wealth is Created by Action Based on Rational Thought
What Caused the Financial Crisis: It Wasn’t Capitalism or Deregulation
Why Healthcare in the US is So Expensive, and What Can Be Done About It
I had a very similar argument with an anarcho-capitalist. I essentially said (what you said) this, “Bonnie and Clyde, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were all serial criminals that were stopped, not by economic sanctions, nor by someone’s immediate act of self-defense, but by police arrest or gunfire after the fact.” He responded saying that his DRO would legitimately be able to arrest and use force after the fact because the justice of such an action could be objectively determined by reference to the non aggression principle which all people would be subject to in his society. I asked how such a thing could be enforced if there wasn’t a government and he said with his DROs! I said if we simply lifted all laws and governments now that there would be total chaos because people would make their own DROs who didn’t give a damn about the non aggression priniciple. He agreed and said that he advocated essentially creating an island and only allowing in people who agreed with the non aggression principle (and a number of specifics that people who agree with NAP in the abstract disagree on in practice like abortion, pedophilia, etc.). I was at a loss at this point in the argument. Of course, it is quite fanciful to simply say, “we will make an island” or “we will start our anarchy on another planet”, but I didn’t know how to respond because starting an island IS something people have considered doing and is actually feasible. If we had a society where everyone agreed the use of force as illegitimate, of course individuals could still change their minds at one point, but his argument was that the overwhelming benefit everyone would evidence every day from not having violence and force used as well as the fact that violence is a learned trait (which many psychology studies have shown) would mean that it would be extremely rare and taken care of easily by DROs.
An excerpt from a comment I made to a response on my blog: “…the state’s power is largely artificial. Even with a law that is partially objective, it is ultimately made up of people making judgement calls. In anarchy, it would be the same: people making judgment calls. In history, there are cases of competing defense contractors that didn’t engage in the scary strife that people would expect. Why not have a privately run sheriff’s office and court for our town? But now I would have to ask, does that constitute a “government” according to Ayn Rand, or a freely contracted system?
This is why I am still somewhat agnostic on the issue. I have trouble throwing out the notion that some really interesting forms of anarchy are [plausible].”
Pingback: Obiektywistyczne odrzucenie anarchokapitalizmu - Obiektywizm.pl