Minarchists, What’s Their Excuse?

“… the State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime …. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or alien.” – Albert Jay Nock

“The State … is the ‘organization of the political means’, it is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory ….. The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society” – Murray Rothbard

I think Walter Block argued that healthcare is too important a service to be left to the government to provide. Rather, the private sector, the free market, should provide us with doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceutical drugs, hospital beds, etc. If we must settle with the state monopolizing a service, we should let it manufacture elastic bands, or shoe laces – things we can get along without relatively easily. Anarchists make the same argument for the provision of defence and justice: services possibly even more important than healthcare.

Minarchists are great at disproving government intervention in virtually every area of economic and social life: money, education, healthcare, infrastructure, morality and private life, drug use, international affairs. Yet they seem to think that possibly the single most important aspect of our lives, our personal security, can be managed by the same people that can’t pave a street within budget or on schedule. Minarchists don’t trust the state with chalk and a chalk board but they trust it with M16s and tanks. What gives?

“But defence is too important to be left to the market” some may say. Well, I agree that defence is important. But let’s just use Walter Block’s argument. If defence is really that important than its production should be left to the free market. If the market were left to provide security I would not be so concerned about traffic lights or high tuition fees.

Minarchists will make great arguments about why we should take the state out of various aspects of our lives. They make these arguments to conservatives, liberals, and socialists. “Power corrupts; the state cannot calculate; by their very nature, governments go into debt; it’s a public goods problem; the market allocates resources more efficiently; it is immoral to use force against other individuals”. They have mastery of this rhetoric and yet when it comes to abolishing the state all together they freeze up. Lock down mode. They can’t take their arguments to their logical conclusion. “Well, we just can’t get rid of the state all together. We need it for some things.”

I understand how a layman sees government as necessary an institution as he does. After all, he is indoctrinated with state propaganda from birth. He is told he needs the state to keep crosswalks safe, or to be protected from UV rays. In some ways he is more justified than the minarchist for having the views he does. Libertarians, on the other hand, know the alternatives. They read Rothbard, Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Hoppe. They have access to resources that libertarians 25 years ago would have never been able to find without substantial effort. Yet despite all their exposure to libertarian ideas, they still see the state as either necessary or desirable.

What’s their excuse?

He welcomes all comments, criticisms, and questions.

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31 Responses to “Minarchists, What’s Their Excuse?”

  1. R.J. Moore II says:

    THE ANARCHIST HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY TO COME UP WITH A PLAUSIBLE NATIONAL DEFENSE SCENARIO. No more than any free marketeer has to explain how private energy companies will be better run than Enron.

    If you understand the economics, the answer is clear. If you don't, you have no business holding an opinion at all.

    • Actually, if "THE ANARCHIST" wants to persuade others of the viability of such a world, he does have to come up with plausible scenarios. Though, agreed, best to always remind people that they are only possible scenarios and emergent spontaneous order will arrive at better solutions than any individual could anticipate.

  2. Mark,

    If all this was intended for me, then clearly there’s been a miscommunication along the way. I’m pretty sure, even though you use quotation marks, that I didn’t use the phrase “large scale national defence.” If I did, it would be a major faux pas on my part. I consider such a phrase an absurdity, as I gather do you. You also seem in places to be trying to convince me that I’m being inconsistent in supporting the state for purposes of national defence. That would indeed be inconsistent, if I did so. If I’ve read you correctly, I have no idea how you’ve come to the conclusion I was saying such a thing. For instance you say “to argue that we need a state to rule over us in order to protect us from the possibility of other states invading sounds confused.” Yes, it sounds very confused indeed; which is why I would never say such a thing? As I did said in my first sentence, I am an unapologetic anarchist. No one has to talk me out of the state. Weren’t the last couple paragraphs of my post pretty clear about that?

    Also, I agree entirely with your characterization of the militaries of nation states, but obviously that wouldn’t be what I’d be proposing or endorsing. I am, though, not comforted by the all too common resort to guerrilla warfare as the last bastion of anarchist freedom. What’s the point of creating an anarchist paradise to then be perpetually confined to living in the jungles or mountains because larger scale, more capitalized armed forces find us easy to invade. I realize you were just giving examples of how centralized militaries can be resisted, but way too many anarchists hold this up as some kind of default ideal. Not for me, thank you. Better to be prepared. I don’t want to create an anarchist society only to be snuffed out by a guided missile or burnt to a crisp by napalm. My anarchist society is only going to be viable if it is equipped to meet the actual real time threats that face it. In the absence of the state that is going to require some ingeniously innovative new institutional structures around problems of governance scale, subsidarity and federalism that are never easy and have not been given anything like the kinds of attention they need from anarchist scholarship.

    I am quite familiar with the thought of Stefan Molyneux: he's very good on some things and very bad on some others. On this issue, I don't find him especially valuable.

    • mstob says:

      Michael, my post was not directed wholly at you, I apologize for being vague. You did make your belief in anarchism clear. That was not in dispute.
      I quoted you because you brought up the point of anarchists providing inadequate examples of how to defend themselves from invading nation states.
      What I was trying to get across was my scepticism of the claim (and I did not necessarily mean you made this claim) that the maintenance of a highly capitalized, industrial army would be necessary to defend a stateless society from invading nation states. Also, I don't think the only alternative to this would be guerrilla warfare either. Examples might include contracts with third parties living in other states to provide protection in the event of invasion, "scorched earth" style actions reducing the incentives to invade, maintaining extreme liquidity of the stateless society's assets, etc.

  3. mstob says:

    “Though an unapologetic anarchist (though I prefer the term voluntary governance), I agree with Ryan to the extent that I think fellow anti-statists, when we talk about the virtues of private defence, tend to too easily reduce everything to a scale of beat cops and detectives apprehending thieves. If defence is to include protection against large scale “foreign” threats, and the defence agencies are to be equipped to fight wars – with tanks and fighter planes and guided missiles – then there may well be a serious barrier to entry problem; this may well present a natural monopoly situation. I don’t feel as though the anarchist scholarship has done anywhere near an adequate job of dealing with these issues. The Myth of National Defense, edited by Hoppe, I found woefully inadequate on this front. If anyone knows of a better treatment of these valid issues raised by Ryan, I’d love to know about it.”

    I am still unconvinced that what we think of as “large scale national defence” necessarily has to be a service provided by large scale economies of scale.

    We have to remember that the military is fundamentally a socialist institution – it can't calculate, it is inefficient, and cannot allocate resources properly. It has all the negative features of a large top down bureaucracy. Whenever military super powers have tried to invade their less powerful neighbours, they were met with insurgencies, local rebellions, small scale fighter cells and other forms of decentralized, low cost national defence. The most obvious example is the United States military, the most expensive, massive, industrial military in the world being utterly incapable of fighting insurgencies in the Middle East.

    Afghanistan has had a very decentralized state for decades. Parts of Pakistan are likewise ruled by tribes in a system resembling anarchy, let these groups are able to fend off the Pentagon. Isn't this an excellent demonstration of my point?

    Second, to argue that we need a state to rule over us in order to protect us from the possibility of other states invading sounds confused. If you are concerned about states invading, then it seems you admit that you seek to not be ruled over by a state. If that is so, why not abolish the one that presently has domination over you? How does it make sense to put up with certain domination by the state right now, in order to avoid possible domination by an invading state in the future?

    Lastly, to again touch on the point of bigness, I think the present statist form of national defence makes most people think that it has to be provided in such a large scales. We have simply been conditioned by government waste and largess. In reality though, we all know that most “defence” spending, equipment, machinery, and personnel is involved in no such thing.

    Dr. McConkey, I recommend Everyday Anarchy. I linked to it above. A good deal of practical examples in there.

  4. Though an unapologetic anarchist (though I prefer the term voluntary governance), I agree with Ryan to the extent that I think fellow anti-statists, when we talk about the virtues of private defence, tend to too easily reduce everything to a scale of beat cops and detectives apprehending thieves. If defence is to include protection against large scale “foreign” threats, and the defence agencies are to be equipped to fight wars – with tanks and fighter planes and guided missiles – then there may well be a serious barrier to entry problem; this may well present a natural monopoly situation. I don’t feel as though the anarchist scholarship has done anywhere near an adequate job of dealing with these issues. The Myth of National Defense, edited by Hoppe, I found woefully inadequate on this front. If anyone knows of a better treatment of these valid issues raised by Ryan, I’d love to know about it.

    I do think, though, Ryan, that you’re too caught up in the hardware and not looking closely enough at the software. The contemporary state’s means of violence is aided as much by nationalism as it is by armaments. Nationalist mind-fog provides the volunteer soldiers and taxpayers that allow the state’s monopoly of violence to be so effective and relatively frictionless. That ideological infrastructure, though, was built up over centuries of myth making. If what you call the public state were to collapse, it doesn’t follow – in fact is inconceivable – that what you call private states would magically have such a convenient and cost-effective mind control means at their disposal for winning the consent of those required to sacrifice their treasure and blood to make it happen. In fact, for anyone who is interested, I address all these issues in some detail in my book Voluntary Governance: A Roadmap, available in kindle on Amazon.

    My general disagreements with Ryan’s minarchists arguments, though, are far more and greater. I’ll only mention three here. First, to presume that any one of us can know what will be the result of any future market process – especially one without a state – is hubris at best. The whole point of markets is their emergent, spontaneous, self-organizing creativity. This is of course a well rehearsed story in the Austrian tradition: the variables are simply too vast for any one mind – which is why central planning is impossible beyond a very small scale. As your minarchists Mises and Hayek both argued quite persuasively. So, presuming to predict outcomes, including on matters of market based defence, is cavalier.

    Second, we can speculate all we want about whether or not the stateless society might work, but this is a sideshow to the fundamental fact that the limited state has already failed. It’s an empirical, not theoretical, question. It’s hard to imagine more ideal conditions for the creation of a limited state than existed for the rebel colonies in the 1770s, and the Articles of Confederation were a good start. However, by the time Madison, Lincoln, Wilson, the Roosevelts, Johnson, Nixon and G.W. Bush had their way, the perfect little limited state had become a behemoth that chronically violated the freedoms and rights of both its own citizens and people around the world. The promise of the pursuit of happiness has turned into an Orwellian joke. Any state, by definition, is the institutionalized violence by which some force others to do their bidding. That is just too sweet an offer for too many people; no matter how well intended or planned are any limits, states are cancers and cancers grow. That’s their raison d’être.

    For that reason, third, I have no time for consequentialist and feasibility arguments about the eradication of the state. To me it’s as though we’re in the 18th century and after telling you I oppose slavery, Ryan, you say to me: but there have always been slaves, every advanced society in history has had slaves, you can’t get rid of slavery. And, even if you could, who’d pick the cotton? It would destroy the economy, driving up the cost of textiles beyond the reach of the poor and even the middle class if cotton pickers had to be paid a worker’s wages. All of to which I would say, I don’t care. Slavery is an institutionalization of violence, coercion and theft. It is wrong and must be stopped. I would say that without even knowing that the collective creative genius of the market would actually demonstrate that slavery was an inefficient means of picking cotton; that textiles could be vastly less expensive once fully subjected to market forces. I would say it, because slavery is immoral. You can replace “slavery” with “the state” and “cotton picking” with your choice of economic activity – including provision of defence services – and nothing about the conversation changes for me.

    The state is an institutionalization of violence, coercion and theft. It is wrong and must be stopped.

    • Ryan says:

      Michael,

      Good thoughts. Just to briefly address your three points:

      Regarding "hubris," I don't think it's "hubris" to develop rational expectations and use them to attempt to predict outcomes based on our limited knowledge. Obviously what I'm talking about is what I think/believe, not what I know for sure. The fact that no one knows anything for sure, though, is not a particularly good argument for anarchism. Something that has never happened is obviously non-falsifiable, but where does that get us at the end of the day? To claim that all predictions about anarchy are null and void because uncertainty exists is pretty obtuse, don't you think?

      Second, there is absolutely no empirical evidence that limited states have "already failed." There is good empirical evidence for the fact that limited states have already grown into bigger and more onerous states. Big difference.

      Your third point is a straw-man argument designed to promote the idea that the state is the same thing as slavery. You were right when you said you had no time for such arguments, and neither do I. :) Better to keep things a bit more civil than that, IMHO. Let's face it: The anarchy/minarchy debate among libertarians isn't going anywhere any time soon. You can liken my opinion to slavery if you wish, but I don't think that serves the discussion much. I take your point that you're not convinced by my arguments, and that is fair enough.

      • Ryan,

        Sorry, I missed your post earlier. Hence my tardy reply, which was not due to any lack of interest in arguments about slavery. The thing is, for me these are moral arguments, so I’m not inclined to live and let live as long as I think there’s any intellectual misunderstanding and your post suggests to me a considerable degree of it between us. So, please allow me to clarify a few things. Foremost there is your apparent impression that my slavery comparison was intended to compare slavery to the state or to make ad hominem accusations against your position. Neither was my attention and I’m a little distressed that I expressed myself so poorly. My intention in that paragraph was solely to demonstrate a historical example of the kind of arguments that result from discussions of the moral standing of the state: i.e. confusing them with utilitarian arguments. It was the utilitarian arguments for which I have little time to waste.

        However, having said that, perhaps your intuitions served you well, because, even though that wasn’t the object of my point in the last post, I certainly do think that the state is slavery. According to the Fraser Institute (theoretically useless, but of some use as a source of basic data) the average Canadian spends over 40% of his income on taxes. (Including income, sales, import duties and a whole host of hidden taxes, such as on corporations, employment rolls, capital gains and so on. I can't recall the exact list of taxes counted). So, basically, the average Canadian works for two-fifths of his life for someone else’s profit, under the threat of violence, in a coercive relationship. That sounds like slavery to me – even if only part time slavery. It’s true that the proportion of time spent enslaved could be reduced, but not eliminated. Even a self-sufficient back to the lander would still be legally required to pay tax on his land or as part of his rent. And of course if he had to buy things (presumably through barter), such as tools or seeds, he would be legally required to pay sales tax on it. So, even for the supposedly self-sufficient, there’s no escaping the slavery of some degree.

        And an argument that we 2/5-slaves live quite well for the most part changes nothing about the nature of the institutional relationships. In the past, such as Pericles’s Athens, many slaves lived very well. But they were still slaves; a violation of natural law. Also, I didn’t mean to imply that you were arguing for slavery, at least subjectively (though you are objectively). I’m hopeful though that once you recognized the slavery structure intrinsic to the state that you would indeed denounce all slavery, including the state. I don’t consider this an uncivilized argument, but merely objective facts. If you think I have the facts wrong, please point out my empirical errors.

        And speaking of empirical facts: if the most celebrated and ambitious experiment in constitutionally limited government turns into a behemoth leviathan with military bases around the world and the suffocation of freedom through its own civil society, I have to call that experiment a failure. I grant you, it’s only one data point. But it’s not like we get that many opportunities to experiment. We ought to pay close attention to the ones we do get.

        Finally, I have to strongly disagree with your claim: “The fact that no one knows anything for sure, though, is not a particularly good argument for anarchism.” Not only do I think it is a good argument for anarchism, I think it is the moral slam dunk in favour of anarchy. No one can plan society, because no one can have adequate knowledge to do so. Thus, every effort at doing so results, realistically (even if we naively assume the best intentions – a very big assumption), results not in any social good, but merely the realization of some person or set of persons subjective preferences. This is a violation of the liberty (and usually property) of all those who would have preferred to choose differently. Hence, the only moral alternative – which respects individual liberty (and property) – is to allow all to pursue their own subjective preferences, as they interpret their own interests. That we have the arguments, from Smith’s Invisible Hand to contemporary complexity theory, to comfort us about the likely utilitarian benefits of such spontaneous, negative feedback, self-correcting systems, is only a bonus.

        Finally, Ryan, you seemed to take several comments in my last post as personal affronts. I hope you don’t here. It was not there nor is here my intention. On the contrary, I appreciate and respect your aspiration for a civilized dialogue. It is discouraging how often such a temperament is abandoned in these discussions.

        • Ryan says:

          Michael, it's interesting that you use slavery as an example. Mises pointed out (in "Liberalism," I believe) that the eradication of slavery was not a political change, but rather an economic one. Therefore, if I am to accept Mises' argument about slavery, I cannot accept yours. Slavery is *not*, in my opinion, an example of consequentialist arguments promulgating a bad situation. Instead, it's an example of what de Tocqueville called "the gradual development of the concept of equality."

          We will have to disagree about the empiricals of minarchy. To give you an idea why, consider some of the anarchic situations in failed states that have degenerated into bloody civil wars. I don't cite such examples of failures of anarchy, because I recognize that the real problem is bloodlust and the thirst for power, not anarchy. Similarly, I consider growth of the state (the literal opposite of minarchy) to be the USA's problem, not "the failure of minarchy." I doubt we'll change each other's mind on that, though, so we'll probably have to leave it at that.

          As to last point: The fact that I don't know for sure that my house won't catch on fire tomorrow isn't evidence in favor or against a housefire. You seem to be taking some isolated quotes from Hayek and MIses a little too literally, and quite a bit out of context. Using our limited knowledge to predict the future in the face of uncertainty is the best anyone can do. It has nothing to do with anarchy or minarchy, it is reality. Minarchy has nothing to do with state planning. You may be simply talking past me on this point. I'm not a statist.

          • Ryan,

            Sorry, again a tardy reply. I’ve just spent the last week in George Town, Malaysia. A great place! If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, I highly recommend it.

            So, I gather your first paragraph was a response, indeed a refutation, of my argument about the state being a form of slavery, but I have to admit, I didn’t understand it. If you’d like me to, maybe have another go. Sometimes putting it in other words provides a second perspective that brings things into focus.

            On the rationality question, I don’t see how you can suggest I’m misrepresenting Hayek and Mises. On the contrary, the articles in which they make their arguments along these lines – Mises, in “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” and Hayek in “The Uses of Knowledge in Society” – are widely regarded as seminal and core papers for each. However, to be clear, not Hayek or Mises or I suggest that individuals cannot plan for their own lives. Again, on the contrary, it is precisely the effort of each individual to plan for their own life that generates the data necessary for the negative feedback, self-correcting system to spontaneously generate the best social outcomes. That, though, is a totally different thing from the presumption that any individual would be so wise or knowledgeable as to plan for everyone else. This I take as basic to Austrian economics and there’s no question I have both Hayek and Mises firmly on my side in that regard.

            On the other hand, where both Hayek and Mises switch sides, over to your position, is in making an exception to that argument as it relates to defence. For some reason, defence becomes one area where supposedly minarchist central planners are capable of deciding what kind, level and cost of defence is good for everyone. To me this is inconsistent and I think the positions staked out by Rothbard, Hoppe, Friedman and Osterfeld, among others, are more consistent on criminal justice. As I did say in an earlier post, though, I’m not persuaded they’ve adequately dealt with defence against larger scale, more capital intensive invasion threats. However, all can rest at ease because partially inspired by this discussion I’ve undertaken a paper to work out some of the key issues involved. Watch for it!

            As for failed anarchies, not sure what you have in mind. Clearly the mere absence of the state isn’t anarchy in the libertarian anarchist sense. However, if we’re comparing, the single greatest example of anarchy in human history is the free market: which, when it has occasionally managed to get free of the state, has done pretty well. Certainly much better than the U.S. constitution.

  5. Ryan says:

    Worth noting that Mises, Friedman, and Hayek were themselves minarchists.

    I can't speak for every minarchist, but in my view anarchists make a very arbitrary distinction when talking about "the state." Whether we have a state-run defense mechanism, or subscribe to the services of private security contractors, at the end of the day we are talking about a "state." Murderers in every society will be brought to justice – welcome to "the state." That mechanism that provides us justice and conflict-resolution is "the state."

    It doesn't matter how that state is organized if it behaves as a "state" at the end of the day. It is untenable to believe that conflict-resolving bodies would suddenly stop behaving as states just because we call a hypothetical society "voluntary."

    Therefore, I have real difficulty understanding why anarchists believe anarchy resolves any of the problems inherent in the state. Within its jurisdiction, every quasi-state would still hold a monopoly. If one wanted to leave that state for another, it would be equally as onerous as it is today.

    Anarchy really just shuffles the deck.

    • Caleb says:

      ". It is untenable to believe that conflict-resolving bodies would suddenly stop behaving as states just because we call a hypothetical society "voluntary." "

      There's nothing hypothetical about voluntary payments, compared to forced taxation. Once this conflict-resolving body shows a profit-and-loss statement, market calculation becomes possible. Surely this would fix some of the inherent problems of a monopoly with ultimate decision-making that sets the price for its "services" unilaterally.

      • Ryan says:

        Caleb, that's a good point, but I think it is couched in the assumption that a variety of producers would rush to fill the absence of the state. I don't think this is a very good assumption. My belief is that, in absence of a state, there would only be a very small number of such producers. We might call them "natural monopolies," much the same as, say, a large open-pit copper mine. The barriers to entry would be so significant it would greatly restrict the number of viable market competitors. Most likely, any given geographic area would end up with a single producer (naturally).

        While this isn't inherently bad, it also nullifies the concept of voluntary payments. A choice between paying or not paying is the same in such a society as it is today: You pay for the benefits, or you relinquish all protection. The producer would have all the same coercive clout that today's governments do, it would just render itself a little differently.

        Once the monopoly was realized, the "private security company" would almost certainly engage in the same kind of statist scope-creep that we've witnessed in the world's democracies over the last 300 years.

        When I read Human Action, I believe Mises was referring to the state in abstract, not as the specific entities under which he lived. For this reason, I believe his work illustrates the dangers and market distortions of ANY state, even a "private, for-profit state," if I may call it that.

        So then the question is why am I a minarchist? I am a minarchist because I don't see the value in dismantling the existing metaphysical concept of a governed society for the sake of being able to call our society "voluntary." States are states, even if hired. They would war. They would grow. They would overreach. Life would not be very different than it is today. Austrian School economists would then take it upon themselves to lament the dangers of the private states, as opposed to the public states.

        But as a minarchist, I can simply argue in favor of restricting any state or quasi-state that exists anywhere, in any form. What we have now is a democratic bureaucracy, which I would prefer to be minimized. Were we to exist in a "voluntary anarcho-capitalist society," I would still be a minarchist – I would still be arguing for the minimization of the state apparatus.

        • mstob says:

          “My belief is that, in absence of a state, there would only be a very small number of such producers. We might call them "natural monopolies," much the same as, say, a large open-pit copper mine. The barriers to entry would be so significant it would greatly restrict the number of viable market competitors. Most likely, any given geographic area would end up with a single producer (naturally).”

          Ryan, what is your basis for this claim? Personally I don't think it is true at all. Just from historic evidence, the standing army seems to be an institution that has appeared only during the times of the states largest growth. The Roman empire had standing armies, and then when it collapsed, as I understand, the economy of scale shrank drastically. Only in the 19th century and obviously in the 20th, with the massive expansion of state power and taxation, did it appear again. Before then armies were much smaller, and took the form of mercenaries.

          To make a generalization, large scale military spending projects are almost always paid for by those who have no interest in paying for the projects themselves – externalized costs. At the same time the state has an interest in maintaining costs of entry into the defence industry high. It does not want people to be able to defend themselves. Witness gun laws and regulations and anti-vigilantism as two simple examples. If defence were to become a privatized industry I think costs of entry would fall drastically. Why fight the Taliban in Pakistan with unmanned aerial drones when you can feel safe with a shotgun under the bed?

          • Ryan says:

            I'm not talking about standing armies. I see the real producers of this kind of market service being security companies, armed transport companies, and reconstruction contractors. Think Halliburton, Briggs, etc. These are already large corporations who are more or less perfectly equipped to supply security services involving a modern array of logistics operations on short notice. In the "anarchy tomorrow" situation, these are the companies who would become our armies and police forces. Because they already have the logistics infrastructure and existing staff – and in the case of Halliburton, it is a large staff indeed – barriers to entry into this market are substantial. The returns to entering the market are low, relative to the start-up costs. For new potential market entrants, I don't see it as being a particularly economical business model. I might be wrong, but that's the basis of my "natural monopoly" claim.

            But my real point is this: It is naive to believe that a private company like Halliburton would behave any differently than Vice President Dick Cheney. I see the anarchist point of view being very head-in-the-sand about this issue. Once "security companies" grow sufficiently large, they will have all the power and incentive to become corrupted as any "State" in the traditional sense.

            Every time I bring this point up, anarchists tell me that "it's better than granting a monopoly of force to the State," but my question is why? Given that every "security company" will have its own jurisdiction, and a monopoly of force within that jurisdiction, how can anarchists seriously claim that these quasi-states would not engage in the same evils of the state as we see it today?

            If we're being consistent in our view of the state as a theoretical construct, I think we can only conclude that a "private state" will share virtually all of the evils as a "public state." Therefore, I see anarchy as being essentially impossible. States are states, regardless of how they're organized.

            So, I am a minarchist because I believe all kinds of states should be of the bare minimum size. In an anarcho-capitalist society, I would still be a minarchist, arguing for a minimal state. I see it as both a more realistic and a more philosophically consistent position.

            But that's just me.

          • Mark Mises says:

            "I'm not talking about standing armies. I see the real producers of this kind of market service being security companies, armed transport companies, and reconstruction contractors. Think Halliburton, Briggs, etc. These are already large corporations who are more or less perfectly equipped to supply security services involving a modern array of logistics operations on short notice. In the "anarchy tomorrow" situation, these are the companies who would become our armies and police forces. Because they already have the logistics infrastructure and existing staff – and in the case of Halliburton, it is a large staff indeed – barriers to entry into this market are substantial. The returns to entering the market are low, relative to the start-up costs. For new potential market entrants, I don't see it as being a particularly economical business model. I might be wrong, but that's the basis of my "natural monopoly" claim."

            Ryan, maybe I am wrong in this, but as I understand companies like Blackwater or Halliburton get most of their funding from governments. Not only are they paid directly by the Pentagon for their services but they also benefit indirectly from government defense spending. Most of their staff is ex-military and have their training paid for by the state. Their staff and CEOs make contacts in government while they are in the army and then use those contacts to win contracts, meet other politicians, etc. I think that if the money funnel of Pentagon spending were to disappear these companies would have to seriously alter their market model.

            It looks like the companies themselves understand this which is why defense spending is lobbied for so strongly, and why we are constantly bombarded with news of alleged threats that have to be tackled by increasing government spending on the military. The military industrial complex understands very well that it would not be able to survive without the taxpayers' dole.

            As for barriers of entry, I think these are too a large extent legal rather than economic, and for that reason, "artificial". Even if the private police departments of the "anarchy tomorrow" were to be very similar to the ones today, I still think their services would be much less in demand comparatively if the various legal barriers to self defense that exist today were abolished: gun ownership laws, limits on self defense, vigilantism, voluntary neighborhood patrols and other things.

          • Mark Mises says:

            "But my real point is this: It is naive to believe that a private company like Halliburton would behave any differently than Vice President Dick Cheney. I see the anarchist point of view being very head-in-the-sand about this issue. Once "security companies" grow sufficiently large, they will have all the power and incentive to become corrupted as any "State" in the traditional sense.

            Every time I bring this point up, anarchists tell me that "it's better than granting a monopoly of force to the State," but my question is why? Given that every "security company" will have its own jurisdiction, and a monopoly of force within that jurisdiction, how can anarchists seriously claim that these quasi-states would not engage in the same evils of the state as we see it today?"

            A few points here…

            Assume we do get rid of the state and people are allowed to organize defense and protection on a voluntary basis. It is true that a state can always arise all over again, and start monopolizing services and extorting taxes. If this were to happen anarchists would only try to get rid of that state all over again! It seems to me that the argument that we should not abolish the state because another will take its place is defeatist. So what if another state rises up? Even if there is a 1% chance that a stateless society will maintain itself, should we not try to aim for it? Even if it only lasts a year? We can say we tried.

            Furthermore, it is true that security companies could grow and try to take over, but at the very least they would not have the moral and ideological backing that they have today. With the abolition of a state in the past, and someone trying to take its place, people would realize that this private defense provider does not represent "the will of the masses" or "the divine will" but is rather just a group of thugs trying to take control and earn some cash the dirty way.

            I especially recommend Everyday Anarchy by Stefan Molyneux, for various arguments on why it would be difficult, once a state was abolished, for someone to try to take its place. More than half the book is devoted to that subject.

            http://www.freedomainradio.com/free/books/FDR_5_P

          • Ryan says:

            Mark, good points, all-around. I think you are right about Halliburton et al being mostly government funded, so that is an entirely fair point. I think in the "anarchy-tomorrow" scenario, those are the companies that would take over, but a gradual process might be more favorable to security competition. So good points there.

            Regarding my "defeatist" position, I might not be making myself clear. I'm not saying that "anarchy is dumb because the state will reappear." What I am actually saying is that anarchy is literally impossible because all state functions and jurisdictions exist regardless of how they are organized. You can call it "anarchy" if you like, but we are still fundamentally discussing the mechanisms of the state.

            In other words, I don't think anarchy even addresses the problems of the state. I think anarchy simply "presses the reset button" and invites us to begin anew. It may happen in my lifetime or it may not, but jurisdiction will never truly be "optional," and so governments will never truly be "voluntary."

          • mstob says:

            Ryan, don't you think that there is a difference between a group of people voluntarily agreeing to pool their resources to defend their homes, resources, family, friends and belongings, and mutually agreeing on a given set of rules to abide by when dealing amongst each other, and a system where those same people are forced to hand over a given payment for protection to one person, are not allowed to seek protection from any other individual under threat of force, and the rules of conduct are agreed upon, without consultation, by the person taking in the money?

            It is true that the services provided, the payment mechanisms, prices, and other external features of these two systems may in the long run work out to be the same, but fundamentally one is built off consent, and the other off oppression.

          • Ryan says:

            Mark, of course I agree with you. I wouldn't suggest that our ideals are different.

            The situation you just described still requires that a number of people be granted a monopoly of force. The only difference seems to be that you had some choice as to who has that monopoly. Now imagine that your situation is allowed to exist for 5 more generations. Does the 5th generation still retain the same choices and the same level of consent that you had? Of course not. By then, the system is already well-entrenched.

            What I am suggesting is that this "system" is The State.

            To me, Minarchism means accepting the fact that certain monopolies of force and conflict resolution are always granted to specific groups in any society – even a supposed "anarchic" one – and that it is the duty of the people to rein-in the state at absolutely every turn, to stunt its growth and to stay vigilant against its tendency to expand itself at the expense of our liberties.

          • mstob says:

            Ryan,

            Under a free market/voluntary social order, I don't really see why a "monopoly" for justice has to be assumed. I may hire one company to protect me in events where I might be facing bodily harm, but hire another one to investigate home invasions. I might hire a different third party to arbitrate disputes I have with businesses while seek out another arbitrator for personal/civil disputes. Furthermore, why assume that any of these contracts/agreements would last for 5 generations, or even 1 generation, or even 5 years? Any one individual could have any number of different legal/justice/defense firms serving him in different areas of the market. Not only that, he could constantly be seeking better services due to fluctuating market prices and quality. That hardly seems like a situation vulnerable to monopoly.

            Now, I am not saying that is how the market would develop, but I don't see why you are considering a static, "well entrenched" model over a constantly fluctuating, one.

          • Ryan says:

            Mark, every volunteer firefighting force and community watch program has a jurisdiction in which it acts. These are little monopolies, too. Conflicting jurisdictions is a branch of legal study called "conflicts of law," but without law, there is only conflict in these situations. That conflict has to be resolved, and it's not always pretty when it gets resolved. Take Afghanistan's warring chieftains for example.

            You can say I'm making assumptions, but they are assumptions based on real-world evidence. I concede that I don't know for an absolute fact what would occur under an anarchic scenario, but my beliefs are based on what I've seen about the real world, not about the theoretical possibility of alternate courses of action.

            Let's put it this way: If anarchy were implemented and everything you would like to see happen definitely did happen, then I, too, would be an anarchist. As to your original question, "What's my excuse?" the answer is my observations about the real world lead me to believe that most of what you would like to see happen probably will not.

    • Check the audio by HHH – Mises was pretty close to an anarchist – far more than Hayek and Friedman wasn't really in favour of a free market, given his support of the Federal Reserve System.

    • mstob says:

      "Worth noting that Mises, Friedman, and Hayek were themselves minarchists."

      This is true, but what I meant by this point was that minarchists have a sound understanding of various arguments that demonstrate why government is inefficient, immoral, unproductive, etc. but at the same time think that it should be granted a monopoly in the production of a legal order. It seems inconsistent.

  6. lemoutongris says:

    i see it more as a necessary evil.

    Despite all its inefficiencies, I still have difficulties imagining a society where there is absolutely no state. For such a thing to happen, then there has to be absolutely no borders. Because in our modern world, there are *some* crazy states whose religion tells them to conquer, submit or kill anyone who doesn't think like them.

    Until there are no borders, we need to put our efforts together to defend our borders, and to administer justice. I was told it work in the Middle Ages, but what about today?

    • Mark Mises says:

      “Because in our modern world, there are *some* crazy states whose religion tells them to conquer, submit or kill anyone who doesn't think like them.”

      I agree that there are people out there who want to do serious harm to us, but what makes you think that having a state makes us more secure than not having one? Your statement seems to, in my mind, presuppose that having a state would put us in a better position to defend ourselves from outside intruders. I don't take this view for granted. This is the whole Walter Block argument all over again: I think the security of Canada is too important to be left to the government.

      Furthermore, I am still not entirely convinced that our government is not crazy, and willing to kill or put us into submission if it had the chance.

      Stefan Molyneux and others have made a good point that governments often go to war with each other to gain control of each others' tax base, military command, resource monopolies, etc. If Canada had no central, tax collecting, military administering, civilian hoarding government, what good would it do for any other nation to invade? What would that occupying nation take control of? What capital city would they occupy?

      The most powerful military power in the world can't even control Afghanistan, or Iraq, or a jungle in South East Asia. How can they try to control virtually two thirds of North America? The rocky mountains? the prairies? The woods of British Columbia? Can you imagine any sane power trying to occupy and control these parts of the world?

      • lemoutongris says:

        That's why I want to keep it to defend borders, NOT invade other countries.

        as for invading us : even without a government, we have so many resources worth taking. I seriously doubt the richest entrepeneur could afford having enough people defending his property against, say, jihadists

        • mstob says:

          But what better way to encourage a group of people with access to weapons to start wars and invade other parts of the world than to give them a monopoly of gun ownership and the sole decision to decide when they can use those guns? If you are so concerned about limiting the power of the state, how else can you do it?

          Would Tony Soprano not eliminate his enemies if they were left weaponless and convinced by his propaganda that they are morally wrong for trying to defend themselves?

          As for the resources, those are not "our" resources. "We" don't have those resources. They belong to individual owners that would take the steps necessary to defend them. (In the case of Canada I imagine most of our natural resources are actually unowned) But if you genuinely think that jihadists are a threat to Canadian resources why, with an understanding of Austrian economics, would you assume that a monopoly of defense, would be better at defending them than a free, competitive, market? Do monopolies provide better shoes, or food? Why would it be different with defense or legal systems?

          • lemoutongris says:

            I never said guns should be restricted. But up to what point can private citizens defend themselves against invaders when there are still countries wanting to invade others?

            Unless all borders are abolished, then we still need an army. Unless, of course, there are examples of countrieS without any army that are perfectly functional and inudstrialized

    • R.J. Moore II says:

      In 1930 you would have had difficulty imagining the internet. Just because you (or I) are too dumb to figure it out doesn't mean the government can; and it doesn't mean the market can't.

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