Let governments be a service offered to customers. Let people choose what kinds of laws and regulations they want to live under. Allow experimental government, and we will quickly see the benefits and detriments of various philosophies and systems.
Its amusing but sad that people always seem to come from the same perspective for “solving problems”. Everybody wants to use a top down approach when dealing with borders. People just assume that we need to group people together, even if they don’t like it! So in the U.S. we have parts of Colorado that want to form a new state, we see a piece of California trying to secede, and Texas was once its own country, and entered into the U.S.A. from the position that it could leave if the population so desired. The Kurds never really wanted to be part of Iraq, and borders within the United Kingdom have shifted countless times over the past 2,000 years. So we see these problems and think, how do we divide up who controls this land? But control is the very problem.
I think a hundred years from now people will look back on the debate about whether or not part of Colorado or California or whole states should be allowed to do their own thing, and laugh because of how ridiculous it seems that anyone would try to force people to remain under their jurisdiction, like subjects or serfs. I hope the prevailing notion of that day a century from now will be that of course people have the freedom to move as they like, associate as they like, and live as they like, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.
Because isn’t that really the issue, that governments want to force people under their control? If the Kurds hadn’t been stuck between Iraq and a hard place, they could have just continued their society and lived their lives in relative peace. But Iraq and Iran made promises, broke their promises, lied, and Saddam Hussein gassed an entire city of “his people”. They couldn’t just be left alone?
Or how ridiculous that Denver or Sacramento want to hold onto their population in the outer districts in order for the capital to extract money and labor to fund the government programs, expenditures, and extravagance which mostly takes place in the capital. I think there is a book like that…
Then there’s Crimea, and Palestine, and Israel and it has never occurred that people don’t need to be controlled, or told what to do, or where the borders are, or to whom they are supposed to pay protection money—or taxes if you prefer. It seems immature as a species that whole groups of people routinely use their military strength to force others into their way of life, or their way of thinking, or within their borders.
Who would fight wars if not for governments? Who would enforce borders, and collect taxes, and make up laws that you can lose your life and liberty for breaking, even if there is no victim? Here’s the thing: the guy that starts the war, never fights in it. Sure, sometimes he overplays his hand and kills himself in a bunker, or gets hanged or slaughtered by his own people, but these are more like exceptions to the rule. So in whose best interest is a war? Tell me, who is going to start a war, and who is going to fight a war, if we don’t have government relations to sour, and government force to muster, and government controlled populations to enslave?
War is only in the best interest of those who have something to gain from it, and nothing to lose from it. Only those who can use force without retribution are in that position, and only governments can use force without retribution. Who would be sending men off to die if people were truly free from the initiation of force? What mutually beneficial transaction includes death and destruction?
I’m not going to get into right now how a society could be organized without government, I’ve written enough about that to give you a good idea. I just want people to reflect on the dynamic that we have always seen on earth, governments starting wars with governments and pretending it is in the best interest of the people: the people who die on the battlefield so that the government can say, “see, this is the border” or “these are my subjects” or “no, no, this set of victimless crimes is legitimate, theirs was not!”. And yes, we have certainly had better governments than others; the American government as defined in the Constitution was pretty good, but not perfect.
I once thought of ways to design the perfect government, with the perfect restraints, and checks on its power. I thought of ways to design elections, to form opposing powers, and to decentralize control. This is the “government is evil but necessary” philosophy. Then it occurred to me that nothing evil should ever be necessary. Why keep a beast in your house that would devour you if its chains are too loose, or break?
Would a lion be a great deterrent to crime at your home? Yes, but it might also eat you and your family. A big dog can be just as good a deterrent to crime, and you have control over it. Your dog loves you because you feed it and pat it; you trade food and affection for protection. Protection that will never be turned on you and your family, even though your dog can go anywhere in the house. The lion you feed so that it doesn’t eat you, and it dictates where you can safely walk in your own home. And the lion provides protection only if its chain is long enough, which also puts you in danger. But if the chain is too short, it won’t be able to stop an intruder.
Right now we are a society of lion keepers, and we should be a society of dog owners.
In the past I have discussed Anarcho-Capitalism, the system of organizing a society based on the free market instead of the government. I began by discussing that absent of government there would still be a market for protection, police, and crime investigation, and a free market would provide these things because profit would be available to those who supply security. I discussed how different security companies would interact to avoid chaos, and how based on the desire to live a happy, healthy life, the market (customers) would demand companies which avoid violence in favor of negotiations with other companies based on prewritten contracts, and eventually a third party “arbitration agency” which companies would use to avoid the costs of mini-war, and avoid violating their customers contracts. Essentially there would be a clause in everyone’s security company contract that says the company will not go to bat for you if you actually commit a crime. Since these companies have incentives to solve crimes, they would most likely perform their investigative jobs better than the government currently does.
If you are confused you might want to start by reading the first post I wrote on this subject. But what I wanted to talk about today is the fact that most people never even imagine a society without government. People mostly default to imaging a riot, burning buildings, looting criminals, and widespread death and destruction. This is a pavlovian response that has been conditioned by government and its agents (the media) throughout each of our lives. I started by talking about police because protection is one of our most base needs, so we default to wondering how we would be safe without government. But there are plenty of other things that government currently does, which would also be fulfilled in a free market society without government–and it would be done better because of the incentives a company has to provide a product based on demand, and turn a profit.
Think about the incentives politicians have to provide us with government benefits. Just their jobs, which many “useful idiot” voters provide them time and time again, despite poor performance. What if the entity that was responsible for building roads could go out of business if it did a bad job? In a free market, a better company would take its place. Currently we have to beg and plead for our government to correctly use our tax dollars in order to provide us with good roads. Too many of those dollars are siphoned off by greedy politicians, and well meaning but ineffective government programs.
People want roads, and other people want profits (we all want some degree of profit to get us the things we need in life, it is not a bad thing). The desire for profits makes some people respond to the demand for roads with a supply of roads. Since roads are shared by many people, you may think that the government needs to pay for them, so that everyone could use them. But why not cut out the middleman–the government–and just leave it to the people who need the roads most to build them? Maybe if you live on a dead end street with 3 other houses, you put up with a dirt road because who would be willing to pay for your road? Maybe you and your neighbors put your money together and pave your dirt road at some point.
But you might live on a busy street with businesses; businesses that want people to be able to access them on smooth well maintained roads. Problem solved, now the business payed for something that you will be able to benefit from. Maybe a shipping company teams up with other companies in the area who need to move their goods, and builds a highway. Since they don’t want their money wasted, they restrict access and make it a toll road. Other companies need to use the road, and decide to pay the toll–after all, they have the money to spend on things like tolls, because they don’t have to spend it on taxes. But if the tolls are too excessive, there will be a market for another road to be built in order to compete and drive prices for using the road down.
If the toll roads cause gridlock, road companies may start teaming up with each-other to sell subscriptions. “Subscribe to toll road A company and get access to all toll road B company roads!” because the two companies have a mutually beneficial agreement. “Subscribe to toll road C company now and 50 cents of every dollar you pay for the first 6 months will go towards buying cars for families in need”. “For one low price subscribe to the Toll Road Association and get access to every road in the country”. The free market solves these types of things because there is profit to be gained in doing so. Since no one is forcefully restricted from competing, prices are driven down, and quality up by companies vying for your business. If you are dissatisfied with a company for any reason, there is always one waiting to take your business and give you what you want.
Its a useful exercise to consider different things which the government provides, and think about how they would be provided in a free market. If there is a market for charity, those charities will exist. Right now many people pay their taxes and assume they have contributed to helping others, but the government is really bad and inefficient at helping the poor and needy. Since we do not want to see people starve, be homeless, or left to their own devices if they are unable to take care of themselves, markets would arise to fulfill these things. With all the leftover money not going to government in taxes, people would be much more willing to throw some money towards charities. And even if they were not willing to give up their money to charity, companies that they patronize will see a profit in providing charity, because it attracts customers.
A restaurant may have a free meal program once a month for the hungry. A school would give out 20 scholarships a year subsidized by those enrolled at the school. A security company would offer protection to those who could not afford it, because their customers feel better about themselves when they contribute to society’s safety. The only difference is that these things would be done better, because they would have to be done better to compete. The government takes away the competition by force, and monopolizes certain industries and services, leaving us with no choice if we are not satisfied with the quality and price.
Everyday I hear about another private company dropping their healthcare coverage for part time workers or retirees, because the government has made it too expensive through regulation in Obamacare. At one point those companies decided to offer healthcare to their employees in order to attract and retain good workers, but the government stepped in and has ruined a good situation for a lot of people by using force in the economy. Give anarcho-capitalism some thought. Next time you use a vital government service, ask yourself if that service could be absorbed and improved by the free market. I think that in an honest assessment, you will find that incentives are the key to quality goods and services.
At PorcFest last week there were quite a few people who subscribe to the political beliefs of anarcho-capitalism. Basically it boils down to the belief that in the absence of government, free markets would better organize society, and take the place of every “essential” service provided by the government. David Friedman gave the first talk I heard on anarcho-capitalism, to which I was previously only marginally acquainted. He talked about how agencies would rise out of demand for previously government provided services such as law enforcement in a free market with no government. The following is written by David Friedman on the same subject.
Imagine a society with no government. Individuals purchase law enforcement from private firms. Each such firm faces possible conflicts with other firms. Private policemen working for the enforcement agency that I employ may track down the burglar who stole my property only to discover, when they try to arrest him, that he too employs an enforcement agency.
There are three ways in which such conflicts might be dealt with. The most obvious and least likely is direct violence-a mini-war between my agency, attempting to arrest the burglar, and his agency attempting to defend him from arrest. A somewhat more plausible scenario is negotiation. Since warfare is expensive, agencies might include in the contracts they offer their customers a provision under which they are not obliged to defend customers against legitimate punishment for their actual crimes. When a conflict occured, it would then be up to the two agencies to determine whether the accused customer of one would or would not be deemed guilty and turned over to the other.
As businesses, these agencies would care most about turning a profit, and it would therefore not be in their best interest to participate in mini-wars–they are costly and would turn away customers seeking peace. Since these agencies would be behaving as businesses, they would probably have “advance contracting between agencies” according to Friedman. This would allow most disputes to be settled relatively easily without violence, and in the event that these preexisting agreements cannot decide a particular case, agencies would employ a third party “arbitration agency”. In order for both agencies to agree to use an arbitration agency, it would have to be legitimate and fair in order to build a reputation and therefore a customer base. Likewise agencies investigative proficiency would need to be up to par in order to attract customers. Agencies would still be avoiding “mini-war” with other agencies at all cost, because it would prove destructive to at least one party and possibly both. Engaging in “criminal” actions as an agency would also invite a coalition of other agencies, working for the best interests of their customers, to squelch the “rogue agency”.
Under these circumstances, both law enforcement and law are private goods produced on a private market. Law enforcement is produced by enforcement agencies and sold directly to their customers. Law is produced by arbitration agencies and sold to the enforcement agencies, who resell it to their customers as one characteristic of the bundle of services they provide.
Even if an agency loses their dispute during arbitration, they have still avoided the destruction of their company, and have a reason to back up why their service cannot continue to advocate in that particular circumstance. Obviously market forces would still be at work; if one agency always lost otherwise open and shut cases, consumers would stop buying their product and buy from more effective agencies. Since the risk of the agency having to use resources to defend any one particular person is low, this would end up being an insurance type scenario where law enforcement would not cost individuals that much money.
The resulting legal system might contain many different law codes. The rules governing a particular conflict will depend on the arbitration agency that the enforcement agencies employed by the parties to the conflict have agreed on. While there will be some market pressure for uniformity, it is logically possible for every pair of enforcement agencies to agree on a different arbitration agency with a different set of legal rules.
Indeed, one could have more diversity than that. Suppose there is some small group within the population with specialized legal requirements. An example might be members of a religious sect that forbade the taking of oaths, in a society where conventional legal procedure required such oaths. Such a group might have its own enforcement agency and let that agency negotiate appropriate legal rules on its behalf. Alternatively, an agency might produce a specialized product for members of the group by negotiating agreements under which those customers, if involved in litigation, were not required to swear the usual oaths.
Another benefit is that you would not have to live in a particular geographic area in order to buy from a particular agency, reducing the risk that one agency becomes too powerful and can in essence form its own government. Other agencies would be happy to take customers who do not wish to see any one agency rule an area, and therefore instead of becoming serfs unable to rise up against a government, people are consumers who kill a would be oppressor with the market, simply by patronizing a rival agency.
The same principal could be applied to other things that government provides such as welfare and retirement benefits (for instance unemployment insurance and retirement planning), or highway subscriptions and toll roads. In the end the total percentage of one’s income going to provide these government-like services would be less than the current amount of income paid in taxes, due to competition driving down the costs of the products.
There is so much more discussion that needs to go into the concept of anarcho-capitalism that is not appropriate for merely one blog post. I will be returning to this subject in relation to current affairs to further illustrate its potential effectiveness as a system. When discussing new systems of government (or a system lacking government) I have often heard, “we just need to try something new, that hasn’t been tried before”. Well how about an organized society absent of government? It is certainly an intriguing concept.