There are a lot of countries where police protection is very close to being equal for rich and poor people. The difference between the Danish police force and a private company that's primarily interested in protecting its customers and its customers alone should be obvious.
I should hope so. A private company is actually motivated in an effective way to do a great job protecting its customers. Their survival as a firm depends on doing an excellent job. They need to survive in a competitive field in which others are trying to beat them by providing even better service at lower prices.
The Danish police, on the other hand, enjoy job security. As long as they don't mess up too much, they have nothing to worry about. Police officers are much more concerned about keeping their political masters happy than the citizens they are supposed to protect.
I don't know much about the Danish police (though I expect it is amongst the best government police forces in the world), but if American and British police forces are any guide (and those are far from being the worst
in the world), poor people, especially racial minority and immigrants, receive very different treatment than mainstream, middle-classed whites. Not to mention the protection afforded the wealthy and well-connected.
If you are wealthy and white, you have little concern under either private or public police protection regimes. If you are an immigrant, minority or poor, and feel you are getting inadequate protection (or worse - positive harassment) from government police forces - there is nothing you can do. But under private agency regime, you can either group together with your neighbours, or purchase protection from one of several firms competing for your business and thus answerable to you.
Your life is not (or less so) protected, this means your life is "cheaper" in practice. Society would essentially see poor people as more expandable.
Not so much. First, what does it mean that your life is protected? I live in a little village in Kent. There are zero police patrols in my village. The nearest police station is 10 minutes away, though other emergency services often take 15-20 minutes to get here. Does that mean that my life isn't protected, and is thus "cheaper"? Of course not. If I was murdered, my murderers would be sought, and, if caught and convicted, punished severely.
The same principle holds under private security. If a poor person is murdered, his murderers are just as guilty, and suffer just as much of a punishment as those of a wealthier person. At least in theory. And in libertarian legal theory. In the practical world of government rule, the life of a wealthy person is indeed worth more to society than that of a poorer person.
And a freerider problem is born... Since rich people didn't get rich by paying for stuff they can get for free the freerider problem could become a large problem.
First, there is little freeriding here. Sure, some criminals might be deterred by a patrol car. But the main service of the patrol car is to quickly respond to customer calls. And they won't respond to calls from non-paying residents. Since you don't get anywhere near the full benefit without paying, freeriding problem is minimal.
Further, the freerider problem is vastly overstated. We encounter freerider situations all the time. I freeride on other people's TripAdvisor comments. I enjoy and benefit from them, but rarely write one of my own. Same holds for Amazon. Commercial TV involves massive freeriding, as people enjoy programming without necessarily purchasing the products being advertised. Businesses deal with freeriders all the time, and manage.
Finally, if you are concerned about freeriding, look no further than the political system you support. In a democracy, we all freeride the voting choices of others. You "enjoy" the benefit of a democratically elected government even if you don't bother voting. In fact, welfare society is one HUGE freeriding operation, with millions of people living at the expense of taxpayers.
The most respected courts would have de-facto legislative powers, there could be more than one of them but it would all begin to resemble a patchwork of island states (not necessarily by geographical area) rather quickly.
The most respected courts become and stay "most respected" because they rule in line with the sentiments and priorities of society. That is the essence of judge-discovered law (as opposed to judge-made law) of Common Law tradition.
Compare a respected court to a respected dictionary. Would you say that, say, the Oxford English Dictionary "sets" the English language? Of course not. It is an authoritative source on the meaning of words precisely (and only as long as) it defines words in line with their general usage.
There is some resemblance between the benefits of citizenship (in the sense of expecting your government's protection) and those of being a customer of a criminal insurance company. In my favourite model, your insurance company effectively wraps you in a legal bubble of legal rules and procedures to which you agreed as a customer. Effectively, you get the legal environment (e.g. criminal procedures, burden of proof, rules of evidence, etc.) that you pay for.
The key difference between these insurance companies and ordinary governments is the voluntary nature of the relationship, and the ease of switching companies, compared with the coerced nature of government rule, and the great expense of switching countries.
These are demarcated by different governments...
True, but with a lot of overlapping interests. More and more so in a globalizing world.
Voting doesn't cost money and it's hard to track who voted, it's not hard to check who has a subscription with a security company.
It is fairly easy to determine who is going to be politically weak. Pick any dark-skinned person not wearing a suit. Especially if they are not native English speakers.
Husky wrote:Thanks Eran for always writing detailed and thorough responses.
Speaking to you, is like a Rothbard on steroids! I get to weave through all his literature on a anonymous forum (massive score for me!)
Thanks. Having me mentioned in the same sentence as Rothbard is a great complement.
I'm not sure what you were saying here?
Protection agencies aren't in the business of fighting each other, any more than police forces are today. You don't often hear of police forces belonging to two different American towns having a shoot-out, do you?
Protection agencies (again, I prefer a split between private security and enforcement agencies) are in the business of fighting criminals, not each other.
My point was that certain geographical locations would be dominated by a particular protection service, and thus competing agencies would leave the area and operate only in areas where they have a large market share, to avoid disputes and build up a solid client base.
I really don't see why. Consider our society. Most people are law-abiding. There are conflicts between law-abiding people (say boundary disputes between neighbours, or contract disputes), but those are easily handled through arbitration.
A small minority of people are violent criminals. In a libertarian society, those could much more easily be excluded from law-abiding society. For example, streets are private, and street owners can refuse entry to people of suspect character.
Conflict between armed agencies are thus highly unlikely. A firm could never make money defending criminals - that's just too expensive. In fact, one of the best deterrences within a free society is the difficulty for a professional criminal of getting criminal insurance (or protection).
Within the range of services related to property rights protection, most aren't geographically-sensitive. An insurance company can easily handle matters on a nation-wide basis, with regional offices and local branches, just as banks (and insurance companies) do today.
The AAA in the US (or AA in Britain) offer nation-wide coverage by depending (in whole or in part) on local mechanics. A criminal insurance company could similarly rely on either local service providers for first-response, or franchise the business.
Some rural communities might only have access to one company (just as some rural communities only have access to one supermarket today). But in larger towns, not to mention suburbs and cities, multiple providers would be available.
But my point was that this arbitrator would become the state, as certain arbitrators will be more reputable.
That doesn't make them a state, for several reasons. First, arbitrators are passive. They do not initiate action - they have to wait for action to come to them. Is the US Supreme Court the most powerful branch of government? Sure, their decisions are obeyed by all. But very few people would suggest that the USSC is more powerful than the President.
Second, the arbitration field is always open to competition. There may only be a small number of firms at the national/appeal level, but there is a large number of firms hoping to get in on the action, trying to win market share, ready to take the place of any national firm which starts losing its reputation.
Finally, and, from my perspective, most relevant, government is always, by definition, an aggressor. Even if you could fund government without taxes, by its very nature, government will use aggressive force against competitors. If it didn't, we wouldn't call it "government".
An arbitration court, even if it is the only one in the land, is not using any aggressive force. That makes it legitimate in a way that government could never be.
I agree the members could boycott the company if it did something unfavorable, or someone could still start a competing one, but with a respected arbitrator (a network of respected courts) and one dominant protection agency evolves a body resembling a state, which the people would respect, because it would enact favorable policies and laws (or else it would not exist).
Courts don't need to be boycotted. Their business model relies on both sides to a conflict agreeing to their adjudication.
Let's look at your scenario. Assume that in a given area, one insurance company and one respected arbitrator dominate. The insurance company tends to insist on using that one arbitrator, and since that arbitrator is well-respected, people tend to agree.
As long as the arbitrator faithfully follows the NAP, no aggression is legitimised. All aggression is correctly judged to be criminal, and enforcement agencies following opinions issued by the arbitrator get as humanly possible to maintaining a just society.
So far so good.
We start worrying when the collusion between insurance company, enforcement agencies and arbitrator starts to deviate from NAP. Say the arbitrator rules in favour of an enforcement agency that violated the rights of innocent people. Those people feel aggrieved. They take their business to another insurance company, albeit a small one (at least in that area). That insurance company refuses to accept the corrupt arbitrator. Newspaper stories emerge, exposing the corruption. The public may not be convinced that the trusted agency is indeed corrupt, but the stories are enough to make demands for a different arbitrator credible.
In a test-case, an out-of-town arbitrator is consulted, and finds that the local respected arbitrator was indeed corrupt. Very quickly, that arbitrator loses business. Competitors come in and offer their services, repeatedly making use of the test-case to promote themselves at the expense of that arbitrator.
Worst case scenario is that the local enforcement agency, in collusion with the corrupt arbitrator, refuses to enforce contradictory opinions. They are sued, and either cooperate (and are found guilty by out-of-town arbitrator) or exposed for the non-cooperating, rogue agency that they are. Either way, the public quickly realises this is a rogue agency. Those aggrieved appeal to out-of-town agencies. Judgements are issued against the agency, but also against its employees. Their bank accounts are frozen. Services might be terminated. The insurance company that provides employees of the rogue agency with liability insurance cancels the policies. Employees, fearing that they would be considered criminals themselves, leave in droves. Shareholders see the value of their stock plummet. The CEO is fired. A new age begins.
Thus, the firm offering this will become dominant in that geographical location.
Indeed. But only as long as its actions are deemed legitimate by the greater society. As soon as they stop being deemed legitimate, forces from the rest of society can be brought to bear upon them.
Now let's extrapolate the resulting situation: communities would adhere to a set of rules, put in place by one dominant legal system and enforced by a dominant protection agency. This body of governance very much resembles a state, despite being kept alive by voluntary actions.
It has certain characteristics of a state - uniform legal convention within a given geographical area, enforced by one agency. But so what? It would different from a state in the morally-relevant sense. It doesn't engage in aggression.
In fact, if people so choose, a region can have many state-like attributes. Beyond uniform law enforced by a single agency, it can also have uniform currency (issued by a dominant bank), uniform set of holidays (adopted by convention), dominant language, uniform school system (provided by a dominant school chain), uniform health-care provider, and even a flag and anthem, celebrated during the annual "Freedom Day" commemorating independence from government rule.
Each of those separately, not to mention all of them in combination, can be viewed as government-like. I have no problem with that. As long as none of those dominant organizations engages in aggression.
As soon as they do, their victims can appeal to arbitration and then enforcement from outside the region. If the region is powerful enough to repel the forces of the rest of society, the situation cannot be helped, but wouldn't have been any better under government. Even if the rest of society is governed by a disciplined minarchy, the region could effectively declare its independence.
If the region isn't powerful enough, forces from the rest of society could intervene on behalf of those aggrieved parties.
My point was private law and the use of people's justly acquired property to set laws could undermine the foundation of the NAP. A small state that enforces the NAP dodges this problem (although this model, of course, has problems of its own) by making sure the NAP is universally accepted - forcing people to accept it.
I don't understand your point. If the bulk of society accepts the NAP, effective mechanisms exist to punish and deter violators. If some people violate the NAP, enforcers from the rest of society will force
them to comply. If the bulk of society doesn't accept the NAP, a democratically-elected government won't safeguard it either.
If your government isn't democratic, there is no mechanism for ensuring that its leaders will continue to respect the NAP, especially when it isn't in their interests to do so.
You seem to be engaging in the nirvana fallacy, whereby government operations are assume to be perfect (or, at least, well-intentioned), while private operations are treated with suspicion. If you applied the same standard of scepticism to both private and public enforcement mechanisms, I think you will see that the private ones come up ahead every time.
By relative enforcement I mean the fact that private protection agencies and courts would be of a higher quality for some people, thus protection from aggression would not be equal for everyone.
Indeed. The key normative principle of libertarianism is that people have a right
to protect themselves. Not that they have a right to expect others to protect them.
Protection is, has and will never be equal. People care about themselves more than they care about others. Always had, always will. Thus people are willing to pay for more protection for themselves than for others. Wealthier people can afford better protection. If not from government police, than from private security or personal body guards.
Would you prefer a system in which private security is prohibited (like private medicine in Canada used to be) to bring everybody to a lowest common denominator? If not, you accept different levels of protection for different people.
The best government can do is (claim to) guarantee a minimal level of protection for everybody. But that can easily be accomplished through a combination of charitable donations, mutual aid, and the effects of being able to sell your claim to others.
If a rich man threatens one of his menial labor employees by saying to him, "Give me a sex-sandwich with your wife and daughter or you're outta-here!", is the employee equipped to handle the situation. The threat of unemployment is too greater risk to him, so he allows this disgusting act. If protection was available to everyone, he could sort the situation out. In this example, the employee's bank account determined his worth before the law.
Technically, a minarchy won't help your employee either. The rich man hasn't engaged in aggression. But let's analyse the situation. The employer is under no obligation to provide employment. The employee is working for that employer because that is the best option available to him.
Remember "Indecent Proposal"? People have their price. There are very few sex acts that I would refuse to engage in for sufficiently-high compensation. I believe the same holds for many people. The value of employment to your employee, for him to accept, must not just be higher than any alternative, but also higher than the sum of that alternative employment and the cash amount he would normally charge for a "sex sandwich". Before the demand, he was a lucky guy indeed to have such great employment offered him! After the offer, he isn't quite as lucky. But he can always leave. By not leaving, he is indicating that the employment, together with the cost of the "sex sandwich" to him and his family, is still greater than any alternative open to him.
In practice, of course, a man known for making such offers will quickly acquire the animosity of his employees, and probably society at large. There is a reason we outlaw such acts today - most people find them morally unacceptable. A man won't stay a profitable employer by engaging in behaviour considered outrageous by most members of society.
Feel free to present your objection (morally) to that principle.
Gladly. First, even if government was voluntarily-funded, it would still be guilty of aggression by virtue of prohibiting competitors.
Rather than seeing a state emerge by an "invisible hand", why don't we use the invisible hand in the opposite direction? Start with your minarchy, but make the rule that enforcement agencies, so long as they abide by the NAP, can operate freely. Combine that with prohibition on taxes, and, if society values a single trusted enforcer, you can have an effective government (as discussed above) without NAP violations.
So as not to break the continuity, I will continue to address the main topic of this post, and will get back to land-value-tax at the bottom.
If violating the NAP is never legitimate, and private courts (and protection agencies to enforce its laws) are supposed to frame their laws adhering to the NAP, then what would stop a court and [private protection] service enforcing its laws from gaining mass popularity (plus the combination of landlord-like rules using justly acquired property) and setting laws that violate the NAP, but due to the company's mass popularity, nothing can be done i.e: a government.
I have started by stating that an anarchy can only be stable if the NAP is broadly accepted. If it isn't, as in the example you give, in which an NAP-violating agency enjoys broad popular support, anarchy is doomed. But then so is a minarchy. And a constitutional democracy. Each of those is based on certain constitutional restrictions on the powers of government. And none of those restrictions can survive a popular will to the contrary.
In a minarchy, such a situation is impossible.
Only if you believe that the minarchy can be operated by angels, immune from popular influence.
Otherwise, your minarchy relies on land-value-tax. But what if an income tax becomes very popular? What will stop your government from adopting it?
If the population under the minarchy supports banning Marijuana, what would stop the leaders of the minarchy from enforcing anti-Marijuana policies?
Correct, but a code of law and confluence of protection agencies, would effectively make marijuana illegal, if the vast majority wanted this (e.g: "I'm only doing business with court A, they prohibit marijuana and I am scared of the substance as it destroys communities). Thus landlords react (they want business!) by advertising marijuana-free communities.
I don't understand your point. Is it that (legitimate) Marijuana prohibition can be very wide-spread, or that legitimate Marijuana prohibition will, if sufficiently popular, become illegitimate prohibition?
If it is the former, I would say, so what? This isn't a bug - it is a feature. Because while I have no problem with Marijuana use, there are other activities which, while not technically aggression, are undesired. Cruelty to animals, for example. Having a mechanism that allows society to effectively "enforce" wide-spread ethical views is a good thing. Most critics of libertarianism use the supposed absence
of such mechanism as an argument against us.
If it is the latter, my previous answers hold. If a desire to violate the NAP becomes sufficiently popular, it would be adopted by a minarchy as well. In fact, assuming your minarchy is a democracy (is it?), it is enough that 51% of the population wish to violate the NAP (say through illegitimate Marijuana prohibition) for the law to pass. In an anarchy, it would take much more than 51% to achieve similar blanket prohibition.
If the bulk of society wants to prohibit marijuana, it can be [successfully] prohibited using justly acquired property, coupled with a [distorted] code of law that prohibits it, coupled with protection agencies looking for business (and thus enforcing this code of law).
If you smoke marijuana and are arrested, you're a small fish in a large pond; you are a prisoner, you have been aggressed against, yet it was all legitimate as that was the prevailing code of law.
Under the same conditions ("the bulk of society wants to prohibit Marijuana"), what's to stop a minarchy from doing just that?
Poelmo wrote:They could literally require you to eat shit or give away your kidney, as long as it's in a contract that you signed out of desperation.
Surely the problem then isn't what they can are cannot require you to do, but the fact that you found yourself in such a desperate state as to agree to either of those, right?
Let's not take our eyes off the ball. If people are desperate, giving them more options to resolve their desperation is a good thing, not a bad thing. A better alternative is to keep people out of desperation. For example, by dismantling the vast array of costs, restrictions and outright prohibitions on various ways of making a living.
Hell, you could take in hungry orphans and have a rule that any kid who gets food and shelter under your roof owes you $1 billion, binding these orphans into debt slavery for the rest of their lives.
For most libertarians (and thus for dominant arbitration firms under a libertarian society), that wouldn't be allowed. The contract won't be enforced. Plus, no wealthy society has ever lacked facilities for providing decent care for orphans.
An evil billionaire who owns the roads around a housing block could decide not to the people out of their housing block and he could block food shipments to them as well. Societal condemnation would be the only thing guarding against this and we know from history that that's not very comforting.
1. Not true. No housing block would ever be populated without contractually-guaranteed access rights.
2. The problem is much worse today. An evil billionaire can easily buy the city council, and get them to evict all the residents of the housing block. Heck, [url]it happens all the time[/url]
If 70% of society agrees with the NAP and 30% doesn't Libertopia will crumble while a state can easily uphold a law that has 70% support.
No state can survive if 30% of the people believe its government to be illegitimate. Watch Egypt today.
You are confusing the NAP with ordinary laws, over which disputes can easily arise. Instead, you should think of the NAP as the Constitution.
While many people objected to the Constitution when it was first proposed, the fraction of Americans who believe government based on the Constitution is illegitimate
is tiny indeed.
They may have radically differing ideas about what the Constitution means, but as long as they agree on how such differences are legitimately resolved (US Supreme Court decisions), such disagreement do not bring about the downfall of society.
The same would hold in a libertarian society. People may have differing ideas about what the NAP implies in specific situations. But as long as they agree on how to legitimately resolve such conflicts (e.g. by appealing to a mutually-agreeable arbitrator), society's stability is not at risk.Land Tax
Husky, if you made it thus far, here is my opinion on land tax.
First, as taxes go, land value tax is relatively economically benign. If we had to have a tax, land value tax would be at the top of my list.
My objections to the tax are both pragmatic and principled.
Pragmatically, land value tax is hard to assess, and enforcing it requires the creation of an intrusive bureaucracy (albeit not nearly as bad as that required to collect income tax or even property tax).
Land value tax also deters investments in homesteading new land. Other things being equal, I'd invest more in exploring for ways of making economic use of unimproved land if I know I will enjoy its full fruits, rather than being taxed.
Finally, LVT also creates perverse incentives. The value of (unimproved) land I own depends on the presence of attractive facilities in my neighbourhood. As an owner concerned about the tax, I have incentive to deter others from moving near me, stores opening up, schools being established, etc.
As a matter of principle, LVT is unwarranted. Unimproved land isn't owned by humanity - it is unowned. If I find a corner of the world in which no other person has previously had any interest, and put the time, money, effort and risk into improving it to the point that it is economically productive (homesteading it, in other words), by what right do YOU or anybody else take part of the value I created?
You could argue that you are only taxing the unimproved value, but while the value of the unimproved land was zero before I identified it, once identified and developed, even as unimproved land
it had acquired value.
Free men are not equal and equal men are not free.
Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.