Debating Anarcho-Capitalism versus Limited Government

Today I decided to post a comment discussion between myself and a loyal reader, Kerri. She comes from a libertarian perspective, and actually entertains the idea of anarcho-capitalism (versus being against it without reason), which is why her criticisms of the system bring up excellent points about possible negative effects that could come out of having no government, versus a limited government. The following are unedited comments from Kerri, and my responses from a March post called Wars are Started by Governments.

Kerri: Anarcho-capitalism sounds great to me being a libertarian but I also can see problems developing. Let’s take a neighborhood association. There are usually fees associated with living in that type of neighborhood and a president/treasurer who runs it. They usually start because a group of neighbors have similar wants and needs, such as plowing. Things go accordingly as long as everyone is in agreement. Now Joe moves out and Rick moves in. Unlike a condo assoc where you have to sign a contract so you must meet the obligation, a neighborhood association is voluntary. Rick refuses to pay up. But he’s right in the middle of the neighborhood that gets plowed so he benefits. Now Lisa says, well, he’s not paying, so I’m not paying and so on. A libertarian response may be, well, so be it, no plowing. Or move. But civilized people want plowing and most don’t want to constantly uproot, so eventually they will pay and you will have freeloaders in the group unless you forcibly remove them or harass them into moving which should not be legal. The other option is to require that everyone in the neighborhood pay the plowing fee, which is how I’m guessing towns were started because the association expanded. The idea of towns makes sense to a lot of people because instead of constant trial and error by moving in and out, they can choose a town to live in that may have posted by-laws that they can examine before moving in, giving them a pretty good idea of what is expected of them and what will be done for them when they ante up (pay taxes). I would think under anarcho-capitalism towns that tax would be illegal because it’s force, not voluntary. Even as a libertarian, I do like government on a very limited, very small, town by town or state by state basis for it’s practical purpose of living my everyday life and letting the people who choose to run things (every town has them) do their thing and I can get on with my life until I feel the need to become involved which doesn’t involve an 8 hour ride to DC. My issue is with a centralized government that for all practical purposes has no need to be dictating from afar.

Joe: Thanks Kerri, good points. Theres a few ways that this issue could be solved without having to involve government, which at some level still amounts to force (taking the money to be used for plowing) as opposed to agreeing on how to get the neighborhood plowed. One thing that might happen is whoever owns the road would take care of plowing, included in the fee to access the road. When the new neighbor comes in, he would either have to access his land by helicopter, or pay for access to the road, and therefore also pay for plowing, but he would know this ahead of purchasing the home. (and fees for the road don’t need to be a toll booth, it could be a subscription).

But let’s say the neighborhood association owns the road, and buying a house buys you into that road, but that does not include plowing. The neighborhood associations made up of all the original people who all agreed that plowing was worth chipping in on would need those rules to be written into the deed of each home. That way the person buying the house would be required to pay a piece of the plowing costs, based on the product he is buying in the first place: the home, property, and all the stipulations that go with it. This is not force like the town would use, where everyone in a particular geographic area is forced to pay taxes; the option is entirely the association’s in the first place to make the rules (with homeowners agreeing to write rules into their deeds which could make the property harder to sell), and later the buyer, who can look at the deed and see that there is a perpetual yearly fee paid to the neighborhood association which is required under contract if that deed is purchased.

But let’s say there is a small dirt road and 2 people live on it (say, joint ownership of the actual road). One guy decides the road needs to be plowed, so he asks his neighbor for half the money. “No thanks, I drive a jeep!”. Should that jeep driver really be forced to subsidize his neighbors plowing, when he neither wants nor needs it? This is what a town does, just spread the cost of plowing out, versus having only those who want or need plowing paying for it. There are countless ways to cut costs by joining together, as in a town, but with the key difference being agreement instead of force.

And yes, under anarcho-capitalism towns that tax would be illegal simply because they would be initiating force when collecting the taxes. But say I want to start a “town” without force. I just simply need to buy up enough land, and put by-laws into any deed for each parcel of land I sell off, or include by-laws in any agreement for lease or rental. This could be yearly fees in order to cover things like plowing, roads etc., but again there would be no force because everything would be agreed upon in contracts.

Thanks for commenting!

Kerri: Everyone in a town is not required to pay taxes only homeowners because it’s part of the deed. Under anarcho-capitalism this would be illegal whether it was just for plowing in an association because you are forcing the person to accept services for simply buying a piece of property.

And what about beach front? I think it’d be sad if a select few could go and buy up all the beach front and no one else had access to it. These are reasons in my opinion anarcho-capitalism has issues even tho most of it I agree with.

Joe: It would not be illegal in anarcho-capitalism to write a requirement into your deed, and whoever bought that deed would be buying into that requirement. The reason people would not want to include stipulations on their deed is because it would make property harder to sell. So in the neighborhood association you would not be forced to accept the services, you would agree to accept them, for a fee, as designated by the deed which you can choose to purchase or not.

And currently someone could buy up all the beach front, I don’t really see the difference there. Since there would be a market for beaches, what are currently “public beaches” (meaning even the people who never go to the beach pay for them by force) would just charge a fee. I just think any issues that anarcho-capitalism has are already currently present with government, and indeed worse based on the monopolization of force.

Kerri: Isn’t a town just basically a big association? I don’t see the difference between the two. And I personally like the idea even though I might not personally use every single service I sign up for by purchasing the home and agreeing to the real estate taxes, I also want some things like street plowing, water, trash pickup to be dealt with in one lump instead of having a different bill for every service I want. And because town hall is right down the street I feel I have a reasonable chance of protecting my rights so I’m willing to have a little bit of government on a local level but still agree with the basics of AC.

And I think there are stretches of beach front that an individual couldn’t buy in massachusetts, that are under state jurisdiction. You are right though, no system is perfect and our current system of massive government at every level is unacceptable so alternative options should be explored. Thanks for listening

Joe: You hit the nail on the head, you WANT these things, I’m assuming other people do too, so there would be a market for “towns”, they would just be structured without force. The “town government” would allow you to pay for everything in one payment, and choose which ones u want. Some people would choose trash pickup, some wouldn’t. And if the town was structured as I mentioned earlier, with agreements on the deeds so that you would be agreeing to the services and fees up front, then no one could change the rules without your consent, which could happen in a town as it currently stands. So there would be the option of living in the exact same town as it currently is set up, but there would never be any surprises or force involved. The benefit, is never allowing the camel’s nose under the tent, so to speak. If things were structured to exclude force in the first place, it would be much harder to justify one small centralization of government at a time.

And as always, thanks so much for commenting, I really enjoy the discussions we have! 🙂

Kerri: Keep up the good work. Your posts bring up very good points on many interesting and important subjects that I wish more people were willing to discuss!

14 thoughts on “Debating Anarcho-Capitalism versus Limited Government

  1. “in my opinion anarcho-capitalism has issues even tho most of it I agree with”

    Sounds to me like: “in my opinion [not raping people] has issues even tho most of it I agree with”

    “Under anarcho-capitalism this would be illegal”

    Sounds to me like: “in a stateless society, the state would forbid this”

    Great conversation, Joe. The world changes one mind at a time.

    • Hi Derrick,
      It’s funny you bring up my “illegal” comment because you are right. After I posted that I realized it wasn’t what my intent was. I meant, wouldn’t be tolerated. Who wouldn’t tolerate this and how it would play out without rule of law is anyone’s guess.
      Referring to your response to my comment about agreeing with most of AC, the point I was trying to get across to Joe which I guess I didn’t explain well is that we give extra sometimes to make our lives easier. We have jobs, families and other issues so some people don’t have the inclination or the time to negotiate over every service they want and have no problem paying a town tax even if they don’t use every single service. They acknowledge that they use say, 60% of the services personally and are willing to give the extra to have the package plan. This is not force. This is a decision that you make to live in a particular community and even in an AC society this would eventually be the evolution in my opinion. The key factor in any society is staying vigilant to the fact that the control freaks are out there

      • First off, thanks for agreeing to let me post your comments; you put yourself out there and I appreciate it! And I agree I think we would need to stay vigilant over the companies that we give our business to in an ancap society, the difference being we wouldn’t be forced to use any particular business. I do think however, that based on competition, it would be easier to keep the businesses honest, and also that since supply rises to demand, we would see package deals for services, because again I agree, most people don’t want 50 different bills to pay separately. However I honestly think that we would get more and pay less for the services, because of the competition and absence of force.

  2. Great read
    In mass there are only 14 public acess to ocean front , were you have to pay fee to park. I pay tax to fish in the ocean ( license).
    We all pay taxes gas, food,tolls,home owners, public school, excise ( illegal) , taxs are renamed.
    Liberterian would work with our current constution simply read as it is.
    Freedom for all

    • You are describing the control freaks at their finest. Taxing and charging for everything under the sun (literally) is what they do best

    • And just think of all the economic stimulation that would come from how you spent that money if it were not taxed into the pockets of people who don’t contribute.

  3. Good discussion! Slightly off topic- it took a second to figure out what plowing you were talking about. I’m guessing snow? LOL. The only plowing we do around here is on farms. Enjoy the civilized discussion on ancap though!

    • haha I didn’t even think of that! Yep up in Massachusetts we have to have someone plow the roads when it snows every winter.

  4. I’m actually blushing right now over the plowing (snow, it is snow!, lol)
    But a great point is made there. A centralized government can’t even begin to realize the wants and needs of every region throughout this country!

    • That is great, thanks for sharing! It always helps to hear different perspectives. It does seem to me that despite the Founder’s best efforts, it is impossible to design a small government that stays small.

  5. Pingback: Must a New System be Perfect to Replace an Imperfect Reality? | Joe Jarvis

  6. Pingback: Not Perfect, Just Better | Joe Jarvis

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