How often in your daily life do you use violence or force to achieve your goals? If you’re anything similar to me, you likely do not do this very often. Most of us don’t rob, mug, assault, murder, or rape to get by in our lives. We generally find violence abhorrent and those who commit it criminal, while sometimes respecting those who refrain to use it, even in the most daunting of situations (I.E. Gandhi). Why do we feel this way? Is it just our opinions that violent aggression is wrong? Do we just find it too messy? In this essay I will try to explain my ideas on property rights and their implications on a much broader scale than of just an individual. I will describe a proto-framework for what I see as important in a just society, or the closest thing to it, including some details about private law, courts, property rights, and self-ownership, etc. I will draw upon comparisons from both modern political-economic systems, and from historical examples.
I should begin by laying out the foundation for property rights, I.E. self-ownership. When we are born, we rely on our parents’ care, and up until a certain age we are barely self-aware. As this self-awareness develops, we attain the capacity for volition, for control, very basically, the exclusive ability to manipulate/control one’s own person or body. From this ability comes the concept of self-ownership. Ownership would be defined as having the exclusive use of something. From this, property rights can be established. Anything you use your body to do is considered your responsibility, you own your actions, and you are the only one who can make yourself think. Therefore, when you engage in labor, usually under contractual agreement with some form of employer or customer (whether formal and on paper, or unspoken and obvious), you own the results. Whatever gains, monetary or commodity, specified to you in that contract, are yours. This topic will be touched on more later on, and I will show how I believe it has any relation to the state. This brings us to the next concept I’d like to introduce to you, the state.
The state could be defined as a group or party of people who have the legal monopoly on the use of force in a given territory. From this Rothbardian definition you can probably foresee my stance on the matter. I strongly contend that state institutions, both historical and modern, have been largely a menace to the human race. A stretching black record of the state can be traced back hundreds, even thousands of years. With monarchy, to theocracy, to democracy, to republic, the groups of people who made up these institutions generally lived at the expense of the people they ruled over, and many times violated their rights. From the divine right of a crown, the theocratic priesthoods, the majoritarian tyranny of democracy, or the oligarchy of a republic, in all varieties and fashions, these groups have pillaged economies domestic and foreign, killed millions through the devastation of war and artificial famine, consistently aggressed against and stolen from their citizens through taxation, and at the end of the day they would all still claim that their authority is legitimate. If the state is simply made up of individuals, then why should they have the legal ability to violate property rights? Why can the state send armed men to my home to take me away to prison if I refuse to fund their destructive programs? I firmly believe that no man, state goon, or a mugger in the street, has any automatic or legitimate claim to any of anyone’s property, this includes all forms of taxes, especially the income tax or any direct taxation of labor, but also the forms of artificial inflation that we see with fractional reserve banking systems, fiat currencies and centralized banks. With this said, I see no difference between muggers and state agents. They both rely on the stolen property of others to exist; therefore they must be concluded criminals, even if the “majority” votes for it to be ok. Crimes are crimes weather the state or the majority deems them so or not. As a regular individual, I cannot steal money from anybody, even the wealthiest man on Earth, and even if I intended to give all of the stolen riches to the poor. We can’t let the ends justify the means, there’s no telling where it will stop. Imagine a world where every person thinks that they’re entitled to a nice car and a $300,000 home.
Before we dig deeper into arguments against the state, I’d like you to just ask yourself three simple questions; 1) does the state derive its authority to violate rights from the people? 2) Do the people themselves have the right to violate the rights of others’? 3) If the people can’t violate rights, how then can they give authority to another group to do this? This series of questions was developed by the philosopher Jan Helfeld, it helps to show the absurdity of the notion that the state gets its power from the consent of the people, or something similar.
There are many varying arguments against the state agency from many different authors, historians, philosophers, economists, and other academics. These people include Albert J. Nock, Murray N. Rothbard, Roderick T. Long, Stefan Molyneux, David Friedman and Robert Murphy. The arguments vary between moral, economic, and pragmatic cases. The short explanation I gave of the state above would be considered, for the most part, a moral argument. An argument that claims that the state fundamentally relies on immoral actions to exist and that without it, there would be a worldwide decrease in human rights violations all across the board. The economic arguments are probably the most compelling, since they show evidence that essentially any government action in the economy is going to have more negative consequences than positive ones. The people that associate themselves with such ideas are generally referred to as Austrian School economists, including Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Dr. Walter Block. While not all of these people would be considered anarchists, most, if not all of them would strongly advocate the government be as small as conceivably possible and that it have no part in the economy.
As far as I know, there has never been a government to truly live up to its promises, or to solve even one of the many still prevalent social or economic problems. Because of this perpetual failure seen in almost every single state “experiment”, I contend that the best, most rational way to a free society, is through a philosophy called Anarcho-Capitalism, also called Anti-Statism. With this ideology, property and civil rights are strongly advocated and in a purposed society based upon it, they would be extended to their fullest degree. The Non-Aggression Principal, which is an axiom that states it is illegitimate and unjustified to violently initiate force, theft, or aggression onto anybody else’s person or property, would be one of the primary principals in which to live by, a universal claim that applies to all men in all situations outside of self-defense (which there could possibly be a degree of dispute, but this will be dealt with later when I discuss private courts).
If we are to create a cooperative, rational, acceptably peaceful society, I espouse that we must prioritize liberty for each individual, instead of concerning with such abstractions as the “masses”, of “common welfare”, or some other highly decorated rhetoric. If we go the complete opposite direction from Anarcho-Capitalism, to something like collectivistic socialism, where property rights and capital goods aren’t private (they are state, or collectively-owned), we see a potential for horrible economic failure and possibly millions of deaths. This ideology concerns itself with the masses, or the “people”, rather than with the liberty of the individual, with disastrous results. Many Socialist or Communist experiments have led to the demise and impoverishment of millions of innocent people, which can be traced to state failures in “running the economy”, a task that no group of people can ever accomplish. In “Economic Calculations in the Socialist Commonwealth” Ludwig von Mises provides an overwhelming amount of economic evidence to show that socialist economies are doomed to fail, and that as you increase state intervention into an economy, you increase the problems that the society will have. This isn’t simply theoretical evidence, which there is plenty of; there is ample empirical data of the negative results of complete state power that is seen in varying degrees of collectivism.
To see this in action today we can look to the United States’ welfare program, or the social security program, both massive state projects that now are completely deplete of funding, trillions of dollars in debt, leaving thousands of state-dependent citizens. The problem here is not this specific attempt by this specific state, it is consistent with history in that where we see state intervention, we see economic failures and many more problems created than it remedied. The idea of the state extracting resources aggressively through taxation and spending it where they deem fit is totally counter to the non-aggression principal, which economically, translates into the unhampered free market, something that I claim can, has, and does bring wealth and prosperity to a given society. Austrian school economists are also of this view, they advocate a system of free enterprise.
There are many from the United States left, or from Keynesian-type economics, who claim that the free market can have deleterious effects and that state intervention is beneficial and at times, absolutely necessary. While some of these concerns are well founded, I will attempt to explain why they are wrong. One of the first things you’ll hear from a statist in the face of Anarchism is that in a fully private economy, firms will merge to form monopolies or cartels; they will begin to raise prices through the roof, and rule the world. I find this, as do many Austrians, to be untrue. Most of the few monopolies to form in the 20th century U.S., (where there were some vestiges of laissez-faire) such as Standard Oil, either relied on state actions to come into being, or really didn’t do much harm to consumers, and actually drove prices down in some cases. Even before things like price controls, tariffs, exclusive contracts, tax subsidies, tax impositions, guaranteed credit, grants, licensing, minimal prices, permits, patents, certifications, bail outs, and nationalizations were prevalent in the U.S., established companies (like AT&T, or RCA) used state regulation to either create or maintain their cornering of the market by creating barriers to entry for new competition and small, growing businesses. In Standard Oil’s case, their prices consistently went down, so it was not a problem for consumers. In an unhampered free market (free of coercion, not free to do whatever one pleases), a cartel or monopoly will likely create incentives that run counter to their existence. As soon as a group of businesses decide to form a secret cabal to raise prices, it creates incentive for either new competitors, or existing firms to undercut them, and steal their customers, while also taking some of their profit share. It is quite easy to see that at times, the state has bolstered certain business’s market share by inserting obstacles in front of the new competitors that the original firm never had to deal with. To quote the Canadian psychotherapist and philosopher Nathaniel Branden on this topic:
“One of the worst fallacies in the field of economics—propagated by Karl Marx and accepted by almost everyone today, including many businessmen—is that the development of monopolies is an inescapable and intrinsic result of the operation of a free, unregulated economy. In fact, the exact opposite is true. It is a free market that makes monopolies impossible. It is imperative that one be clear and specific in one’s understanding of the meaning of “monopoly.” When people speak in an economic or political context, of the dangers and evils of monopoly, what they mean is a coercive monopoly—that is; exclusive control of a given field of production which is closed to and exempt from competition, so that those controlling the field are able to set arbitrary production policies and charge arbitrary prices, independent of the market, immune from the law of supply and demand.
Such a monopoly, it is important to note, entails more than the absence of competition; it entails the impossibility of competition. That is a coercive monopoly’s characteristic attribute-and is essential to any condemnation of such a monopoly. In the whole history of capitalism, no one has been able to establish a coercive monopoly by means of competition on a free market. There is only one way to forbid entry into a given field of production: by law. Every single coercive monopoly that exists or ever has existed—in the United States, in Europe or anywhere else in the world—was created and made possible only by an act of government: by special franchises, licenses, subsidies, by legislative actions which granted special privileges (not obtainable on a free market) to a man or a group of men, and forbade all others to enter that particular field. A coercive monopoly is not the result of laissez-faire; it can result only from the abrogation of laissez-faire and from the introduction of the opposite principle—the principle of statism.”
Despite the immense amount of evidenced arguments that would support my claim, only one response is needed to the monopoly-fearing statist. If they find monopolies to be such a frightening prospect, why would a massive monopoly on the use of force be exempt from this fear? Also why would this monopoly somehow be excluded from the problems they claim any other coercive monopoly would bring? I can’t answer these questions with certainty, but it would seem that the people who make such claims are totally lacking of a proper historical context of the state institution. They don’t see in through the eyes of a libertarian, as an invading force infringing on the rights of the people it rules over. They hold a very lovey-dovey view of the state, that it is the ultimate protector of the people it governs, that historically the state is just here to look out for us little guys and poor people, with a few “bad apples” along the way who simply made mistakes, declared a few wars, caused a minor economic panic here and there. If you were to ask Albert J. Nock about this, he would tell you the opposite of such a notion is true. From his 1935 book, Our Enemy, the State, Nock writes:
“The condition of public affairs in all countries, notably in our own, has done more than bring under review the mere current practice of politics, the character and quality of representative politicians, and the relative merits of this-or-that form or mode of government. It has served to suggest attention to the one institution whereof all these forms or modes are but the several, and, from the theoretical point of view, indifferent, manifestations. It suggests that finality does not lie with consideration of species, but of genus; it does not lie with consideration of the characteristic marks that differentiate the republican State, monocratic State, constitutional, collectivist, totalitarian, Hitlerian, Bolshevist, what you will. It lies with consideration of the State itself.”
As you can see, Nock’s historical viewpoint fits in with the claims I had made earlier, as will writings from people like Herbert Spencer, Franz Oppenheimer, and Frank Chodorov.
To give an example of what I’m talking about, I’ll discuss the American Revolution very briefly. While most Americans would tell you that the U.S. revolution was conceived in liberty and from the burning desire of the founding fathers to protect individuals’ rights, I have a quite different view of history. Pre-revolution North America was still a colony of the English Crown. There were several English corporations whom were each granted a charter from the monarchy. These corporations were proto-state institutions whom operated on a territorial basis. They were early examples of what was to come in the colonies. They coined money, regulated trade, taxed, and provided defense. They had the legitimate use of force over a certain territory of land, granted by the English throne, traits we will later see in the U.S. merchant-state.
The economic atmosphere of this period comprised of an array of special interest groups competing for the exclusive access to the land that people labored on (sound familiar?). Colonial America had a very conducive environment for the land speculation profession, given the vast amount of unsettled territory, like a home-steader’s paradise. Homesteading is the notion that a person mixing their labor with a certain area of land creates legitimate property rights for that person. If they can settle and tame an un-owned plot of land, fence it in, make it habitable, etc., they then own that land. The few remnants of feudalism that made its way to the colonies quickly failed, since serfs would just go get their own property to live and labor off of.
The early colonial merchant-state (the only type of state we have ever known) was beginning to bourgeon into a fairly prosperous economy. The somewhat lagging behind English merchant state (coming on the scene later than the U.S. brand because of the existing state already long established in England) began to realize the potential that was held in the U.S. speculator market, and decided that they wanted in on the action. From here they found that imposing harsh taxes and restrictions on land trade and speculation in the U.S. would be lucrative for them, though this did not come without deep resentment from the somewhat wealthy land traders and merchants whom were benefiting greatly from the amount of uncharted, unsettled land. Many of the men that would become the “founding father” statesmen came directly from the land speculation trade. This resentment toward the English state was one of the sole motivators of the U.S. Revolution. While there were a substantial amount of select intellectuals and ideologues of the time that spoke of individual liberties and freedoms, there was still a large influence on the behalf of a kind of special interest group discussed above, each looking to set up, or participate in, a state apparatus in which they could benefit themselves and their associates. Governments get much of their power from owning all of the land within a certain boundary; the people who labor and live on that land are taxed. This has been truth both historically and in modern times.
It is readily apparent that there were some ulterior motives at play here other than that of liberation of individuals. Special interests, from the very beginning, were a vital motivation for a large number of the founding fathers, not individual rights. The constitution, as Albert Nock will also contend, was largely rendered in abeyance within a decade after its signing. Liberty, rights, nor freedom were on the minds of many our highly regarded founding fathers, it was the upper classes of the colonial merchant-state looking for a way to fully establish access to the, until this point, restricted and unsettled territories. In spite of the stories we are told about the valor and glory of the U.S. revolution, it was largely a failure, since the principals claimed to be upheld by the U.S. government, via the constitution, were trampled over as quickly as they possibly could be. Soon after the U.S. revolution, which possibly would more properly be called a coup, we begin to see many factors develop that underpin some of the economic and governmental failures we’ve seen in recent years, such as attempts to establish a centralized bank with fiat paper currency.
The land speculator interests that once motivated the ruling class are now seen in different forms centuries later in the financial market and banks, people involved in the trading of large sums of money, sometimes with bets placed on those transactions. There are strong lobbies in this area as there once were in the land trade. Once laissez-faire gains momentum in a society, it almost always encourages growth of the state and its powers. The more wealth the market creates in a society, the larger the state will try to become. Through increasing taxation and barriers to entry, the upper and political classes are able to increase the state in size and at the same time grant special privileges to corporations and banks. That is what many would call “crony-capitalism”, not the free market.
This brings up yet another argument against the existence of a government, even a limited one. As a market becomes unrestricted, it creates wealth in society, which spurs interests within the state to figure out ways to build up their taxing power and authority to control the economy in their own favor. While I have only focused on the United States in this section, I believe that this story is somewhat common to the way many statist nations’ incentive-structures work. In brevity, the state uses private industry and the tax payer income to get its funding, while simultaneously uses scare tactics on citizens to convince them that they need help, which they then force onto them along with a price of their choosing, which plays into market forces not doing their job, which creates overall economic turmoil, which then causes ever more concerns that justify MORE government intervention, and so on ad nauseam. If left to continue, this may escalate into something of a full-blown economic disaster, with a dilapidated fiat currency, a nightmarish national debt coupled with unfunded liabilities for unsustainable, destructive social “welfare” programs.
So far we have established a couple of fundamental things; self-ownership and property rights are directly related, the state’s use of coercive taxation is fundamentally a violation of those rights, and that consistently the state has had the means, incentives and the mechanism to exploit the people they rule over. I mentioned the importance of focusing on individual’s rights, rather than the “social welfare” or other such abstracted terms which allow the state to justify their immoral actions. Similarly, there are also claims of “social contracts”. These are somewhat baseless propositions, because a contract inherently implies that two or more parties engaged in voluntary consent, a concept which the state has nothing to do with. Being born within in a certain geographical location would hardly count as consent, especially when the only other option is to go to some other country that also has a coercive government that will subject you to the same kinds of things.
It is of some importance here to point out a few of common misconceptions. Firstly, the terms “anarchism” or “anarchy” are not synonymous with “chaos” or “disorder” Anarchy simply means “without rulers”. It’s common for people to miss a single letter in that phrase and think that it means “without rules”, but as I will attempt to show, this does not necessarily follow. Another misunderstood topic is in regard to Capitalism. It is sometimes portrayed as “exploitive” and sometimes conjures images of fat, mustached men, in suits with top hats. While there have been, and still are exploitive businessmen (surely some of them wear mustaches), this is not an inherent or fundamental trait of laissez-faire capitalism itself. In fact, you typically will see this kind of behavior mostly from the breed of corporatist, state-capitalism, that is prevalent in possibly all modern capitalist countries (and even some “market socialist” nations as well). Voluntary trade or employment between two or more parties can hardly be called exploitive, since by definition it relies on consent. This is what laissez-faire (“lay-zay-fair”) is all about, voluntary interactions between individuals and firms. There is much controversy surrounding the issue of creating a market in human organs, the state will not have it because they think it means you are “commodifying” the human body, and that this helps to show how evil capitalism can be. (not to mention, this market could save the lives of a staggering amount of people who both need organs themselves, and who are poor and have organs to sell, possibly to feed themselves and/or their children). But what kind of labor isn’t, in a way, commodifying your own body? Capitalism does not commodify people per say, but their services. All that this means is that their services are valued, that all people have the means to make their own way. This is freedom; this is a critical part of capitalism which allows the market to lead to a prosperous and wealthy society. Businesses can do whatever they please, as can individuals, but we are proposing a system that creates corrective measures and incentives to cooperate through punishing bad behavior, and rewarding good behavior. So sure, a business can exploit its workers, but this business will fail. The Soviet Union wasn’t full of idiots, they just were lacking of a system that “weeded out efficiency”, as Walter Block would say. A person can kill someone, but they will risk their own life in the process, and are likely be punished in some way. Actions have their consequences, and this is what makes individuals so different from one another, bad people do bad things with negative consequences, good people do good things with positive ones, as tautological as it sounds, it’s a very foundational aspect of understanding market forces and the incentives they create for individuals and firms to act in a way that isn’t destructive or harmful to their neighbors, consumers, employers/employees.
If we are to make a comparison between past and potential government actions, where they are free to impose regulations, tinker with and destroy the economy, start wars, and steal money through taxation, to the potential actions of businesses in a stateless society (or even a statist one for that matter), you begin to see the state in a different light. No other group in human history has been able to organize mass slaughters like state agencies have during times of war. No business that is subject to free market forces could ever attempt to provide you with low quality services, send you to off to fight and possibly die in aggressive, imperialist wars, and then deduct the cost of these endeavors, which they decide, directly out of your paycheck! But they’re just protecting our person and property, but waging mess aggression against persons and their property. This sort of logical absurdity is commonplace in the mainstream mentality, encouraged by the mass media, propagated by the faulty economics of groups like the New Keynesians, and maintained by state officials who want to continue living off of the privately-owned labor and production of others.
You might be wondering, what in the world is thing you’re calling Anarcho-Capitalism? Most of us are only familiar with the statist brand of this system, which I have purposed is immoral, dangerous, and has overall negative effects on the populations that are subjected to its actions. Anarcho-capitalism is similar to State-Capitalism in that people are engaged in the production and sale of goods for a profit. There are three axioms you can discuss in regard to free trade (first explained to me by an intellectual named Jeffery Tucker); cooperation, emulation, and competition. Cooperation is the ability for two or more firms to act together in a productive way, which benefits them both. Modern industry is incredibly interdependent on a variety of firms cooperating to produce goods each step of the way, especially high-tech goods. This idea is exemplified in an article called “I, Pencil”, written by Leonard E. Read, which discusses the fact that no one person is capable of creating a pencil and that a large amount of cooperation between businesses must happen in order to bring a pencil into existence. Emulation is the concept of taking what is currently popular in a given market, putting your own spin on it, making it better in some way in hopes of out-selling your competitors. This is all done in rational self-interest, which brings us to competition. Competition, when boiled down to its essence in respect to the market, could be described as firms striving for excellence, trying to provide better services than the next firm. These three concepts are part of what makes laissez-faire capitalism, which would maximize cooperation, such a desirable goal and generator of wealth in a given society.
The most obvious difference between state-capitalism and its stateless counterpart is that Anarcho-Capitalism advocates the abolition of the state agency. Individual private property rights will be of utter importance in this system, especially when it comes to conflict resolution. You may be curious as to how this could happen in the absence of the state. How would people solve their disputes without a monopolized court and legal systems? Is it possible? How will property rights and contracts be enforced without the centralized authority of a state? These are very reasonable questions that I will attempt to provide an answer for, or at least provide enough information to kick start your own thoughts and ideas on the matter. I will do this in part by presenting a potential dispute between two parties who have a large disparity in wealth; it also indirectly deals with free market environmentalism. Beforehand, I should introduce the concepts of Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs) and Private Defense Agencies (PDAs). DROs would be similar to a modern private arbitration agency, or court, that would attempt to resolve disputes in a fair and just manner. The most effective, fair, and experienced judges and representatives would be chosen by the market by people’s interactions with them and the degree of satisfaction they received from the services they purchased. This way, customers would have a way of knowing who is reliable and competent, and who isn’t, by the reputation of the company recorded by Rating Agencies, which I will cover shortly. Similar private arbitration firms exist today for disputing parties from different countries with different laws. The verdicts of these courts are not enforced by the guns of a state, but in a nonviolent, non-authoritative way that deals mostly with incentives to stay in business. As well as this potential scenario, I will also try to address some common objections to this idea overall.
In this proposed stateless society, everyone would have the same amount of power, the same rights, the same moral traits and characteristics, the same amount of authority. DROs or PDAs would not have any more power to actively infringe on others’ rights than any individual would have in a situation of self-defense. With this said, I’d like to give an example of a situation where these agencies could resolve a fairly complicated dispute in a variety of ways, most involving non-violence.
A corporation is polluting a river upstream from your property, the business owns the portion of the river they are dumping into, but the pollutants are making their way to your property, thus infringing your rights. Pollutants are destructive and can decrease the value of your property. You are far less wealthy and have no means or capacity to stop them on your own. You then would call your DRO. The DRO will make attempts to contact the business to inform them of their violation of your property rights. It’s likely the agency will require the plaintiff (you) to provide ample evidence or proof of wrongdoing. They will present this to the business. If the business complies, then the issue is resolved. If the business either disputes the claim or ignores it, there are further measures that can be taken. The conflict might interest the business to then contact its own arbitration agency to then attempt to resolve the dispute. If the business simply ignores the original attempt at resolution, a PDA would then be called in to resolve the matter. If absolutely every other attempt at civil discourse fails, (which the agency would likely pursue, since violence is very costly and harmful to their business’s image of legitimacy, etc.) the PDA would enforce the decisions of the arbitration agency to defend the property rights of the plaintiff, which must be proven to have been violated. If the courts decided so, the defendant could pay damages to the plaintiff. If someone didn’t have enough money to pay, they could work off the debt. This entire issue would be recorded and put into a public database, free for all to see. This brings us to a new concept, rating agencies.
Rating agencies, which could be structured similar to the modern credit rating system, would record the disputes or conflicts between all varieties of groups and individuals who engage in contractual agreements, especially firms offering services. If a business were actually willing to ignore the claims of a plaintiff through a DRO to the point of violent enforcement of the plaintiff’s property rights, the business in question would have a highly negative rating, and would ensure them less customers and thus fewer profits. The incentive to resolve disputes in a civil manner is in place. This relies on the fact that people prefer not to interact with a person or firm who they think might attempt to harm them or their property in some way, and would instead avoid them. The same right a man has to defend a person being assaulted on the street is the right that allows a man to employ a defense agency to enforce his rights when or if violated. Therefore it can be concluded that this is not the type of legalized coercion that is found with the state, but a way for less powerful individuals or firms to protect themselves from would-be criminals or predators. A defense agency would not find incentive in aggressing against innocent people on behalf of a high paying, wealthy customer, since this would also end up in the rating agencies’ databases, and likely cause them to lose any future business with reputable characters who wish to avoid exploitation.
There will still be crime in this society, but there will be preventative measures in place which would help to decrease the amount of overall crime. A defense agency, which is not much different from an insurance agency in regard to incentives, has complete interest in reducing the amount of risk of criminal aggression there is for their customer. This means they have incentive to ensure crimes are not committed against you. You could contract them to provide (just as a broad example) “crime insurance”. The company would have an interest in helping to prevent any crimes committed against you, since the process of dealing with a dispute is much more time and resource consuming than taking preventative measures would be. All sorts of crimes, even bigger-scale white collar crimes, would become far less common as they are today, since what we currently have in place, quite outrageously I might add, does nothing to ensure criminals are not prevented from committing crimes, but only punished on the taxpayers’ dime in state prisons. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are at least 1,612,395 people incarcerated in the United States, likely a low estimate. About 1/4th of these “criminals” are non-violent drug offenders who engaged in a victimless act to break unjust, racist laws that are arbitrarily chosen by decree of the state. The punishment techniques still employed in these prisons are borderline medieval and really do nothing to repay any losses that the criminal may have incurred on their victim; they in fact do the opposite since many prisons are tax-payer funded. Maybe the worst effect of this is that about 50% of incarcerated individuals have children, who now are missing a parent.
Jails or prisons in an anarcho-capitalist society would likely be private and considered debtor’s prisons, where the criminals would work off their, quite literally speaking “debt to society” and pay some form of restitution to their victim. There are nearly endless ways in which market innovation can vastly improve upon these services and rehabilitation techniques, which currently and historically have been provided at extremely poor and stagnated quality from various state or government institutions.
There is opposition to this idea for a few varying reasons, one being that the laws in this society will not be uniform to begin with, and that this will cause a lot of problems with enforcing the verdicts of different courts by different defense companies. To that I’d have to point out that it isn’t uncommon for market forces to make uniformity when needed, and diversity when not. To take a few minor examples, things such as ATM cards, DVDs, power outlets and plugs are typically standardized when they potentially could have all developed incompatibly with each other. The reason this doesn’t happen is that market incentives drive against it, that standardization in certain areas is desired, there’s no reason why this would be different with private law. As disputes get resolved by these private agencies, common rules would be laid out. It’s likely that each firm would somehow agree on some certain general rules. This cooperation might not come in a totally active way, but possibly a passive one through the process of a multitude of disputes being resolved, and the resulting verdicts of those used for future reference. It must also be mentioned that laws/rules from nation to nation, from one home owners association to another, or between two businesses, in many cases, aren’t uniform. This doesn’t mean that these groups will be engaged in warfare in the streets when they reach a disagreement, disputes between groups that each hold different rules are generally resolved in a non-violent way, the other option is much more costly and time consuming.
There is another argument, commonly made by the Randian school of thought, that there must be a pre-existing legal system in order for a market to form properly. Though this seems to be a good point, this is not how things seem to have happened historically. Somehow those lawmakers and politicians have to eat, acquire clothing, a home, really any kind of material possessions. There must be some form of market that predates the state legal system, though the two develop alongside each other. In this society, it’d be no different since the legal system is PART of the market.
The claim that these defense agencies are going to disagree so strongly on certain issues that it will compel them to go to war with one another is somewhat absurd. First of all, war is an extremely costly endeavor; the only time you will find a group of people ready and willing to go to war is in the government, where the funding for the war in question comes not from their own pocket, but from the public, the tax payer. So considering the fact that war is extremely costly in a material, economic, and humanitarian way, it’s also very costly to your image as a business, which in this society is of vital importance. If somehow this business wants to fight their own private war with their own (and investors’) money, they will certainly not last very long as a business. Nor would it be likely that they would or could attempt to pillage the society for all of its wealth, since the rest of the people have their own means of defense, and likely could stop them in their tracks. This is not the story with how government works; they can pillage society all they like as long as they make the right promises to the right people. To call upon a dichotomy commonly discussed pertaining to business and state, even if I were somehow compelled to choose between a state agency as defined above, and a monopolized industry on a good/service, always will I choose the monopoly, since a monopoly on a good couldn’t possibly live up to the destructive force of the legalized, legitimized monopoly on violence that defines the state. To bring down a monopoly on a good, you don’t have to rally thousands of people, educate them and persuade them to take on your beliefs, or attempt some sort of coup de tat or revolution. These things are reserved for the sacking of a state. An organized boycott, a whistleblowing media campaign about the unethical practice of a company, rating agencies, and other free market forces would probably be sufficient to bring down even a large monopoly or cartel within an industry.
If there were some high risk case of conflicting interests between a business and a judge, or anything of the like, the disputing parties could each delegate a trusted representative to speak on their behalf, such as a lawyer. To further distance the arbitration from the people involved, the two delegated representatives could agree on a judge of their own choice, rather than the actual disputing parties, as to further ensure conflicting interests are not forces that would potentially influence an arbitration of a dispute. The disputing party and their representatives could all decide on a judge, or each could select their own judges who would have to reach a verdict together to resolve the dispute. Jurors could be selected from the customer base of the dispute agency, and they could be offered price premiums or deals so they would show up. Endless potentials for solutions would be available in such a system, things that the market would surely provide if people saw it beneficial. These services are denied to us presently, thus the court system further stagnates, things like plea bargains are at an all-time high, and justice has never been further from being provided. While this brief explanation may not answer every objection, it does provide an idea of what this system would look like, and hopefully give some insight as to how it would work.
But surely we need some form of government, you might say. Surely we would all perish if there weren’t a monopoly on the construction of roads. Claims like these are consistently made by statists of all breeds. They believe that society will crumble without the firm authoritative hand of the state to guide us along and help us to spend our money. This sort of argument really holds no water against criticism. Austrian economists like Mises and Hayek speak about something called “spontaneous order”. This is the idea that people in a free market will usually find ways to order themselves according to their rational self interest in what they believe is best for them, their wants and needs gauged by producers and entrepreneurs, and fulfilled (depending on the freedom of the market environment).
The question is not what form of government we need to implement, nor how large of one, the question here is truly weather we, as a society, want freedom, or slavery. Do we truly own ourselves, our actions, and the fruits of our labor? Does all of our rightly-gained property truly belong to us, or are we in perpetual debt to a group of people who claim legitimate jurisdiction over this property? They’ll tell you that it’s a voluntary interaction, but try not giving it to them and see what the result is. They’ll send armed men to your home, throw you in prison at best, and shoot you at worst. Imagine if the state, instead of providing welfare to the poor through taxation, mandated that all welfare recipients would be expected to extract the money from citizens the way the IRS does through taxation. Would this really be much different from state “wealth redistribution”? I would have to argue that no, it wouldn’t be. Extracting rightly gained property from non-consenting individuals is theft; it always has been and it always will be. It doesn’t matter what veil of benevolence you drape over it, nor how many “social contracts” you claim I’ve signed, the state is an immoral, impractical, and overall destructive institution. Consistently the state has aggressed against foreign and domestic citizens, minority groups and lower classes. To continue existing, they will always have to do this. They rely on the exploitation of the masses. Next time you’re watching the news and hear about the latest news in politics, I hope you think about what you’ve read here.
In a brief amount of time, and in a fairly topical manner, we’ve covered self-ownership, property rights, the immorality of the state and of taxation in regards to those rights, a short explanation of the U.S. Revolution, and the basic workings of a proposed private legal system. I also addressed a variety of objections made by potential statists. I attempted to lay out these ideas in a basic, straightforward way in this piece and hope you give them equal respect as you would give to anyone else’s. The vast majority of us will agree that we would like our property rights to exist and be respected, yet wouldn’t hesitate to disregard everything I’ve just said. It is this sort of logical inconsistency that I’d like to try to target and correct. Before I close, I’d like to call upon one last quote from the late, great, Albert J. Nock, a true champion of the radical American anti-statist tradition, from his book, Our Enemy the State; where he discusses
the inevitable collapse of any state institution.
“Our pride resents the thought that the great highways of New England will one day lie deep under layers of encroaching vegetation, as the more substantial Roman roads of Old England have lain for generations; and that only a group of heavily overgrown hillocks will be left to attract the archaeologist’s eye to the hidden debris of our collapsed skyscrapers. Yet it is to just this, we know, that our civilization will come; and we know it because we know that there never has been, never is, and never will be, any disorder in nature – because we know that things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be.”
Anarcho-Capitalism isn’t just some theoretical ideal; it’s a genuine long-term goal to reach for. Societies come and go, their systems tried and tested. Many have failed, some have flourished, but none have ever been truly free. Some day on the horizon I would hope to see some of the ideas discussed here implemented and experimented with, I believe positive results would quickly show. In the simplest terms possible, this is just a matter of taking your inherent, inalienable rights and going all the way with them, extending them to their logical end. It is realizing where our principals actually lead us, not flinching or being frightened away from them, and retaining them with an iron-clad grip. In all hopes of a bright future ahead of us, in spite of the current world situation, I hereby conclude my introduction to Anarcho-Capitalism, a consistent philosophy.
– Will Porter