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2009-10-21

The Great Anarchy Debate, Redone, Part 1

A friend of my acquaintance, and fellow Mallet Assembly alumnus, one Mr Juan Cortez (not his real name), has offered to have "The Anarchy Debate" with me. You know the Anarchy debate: some kind soul rushes in to assure the misguided anarchist that this dangerous silliness could not possibly work, and there's another argument about first principles. This happens all the time, and it can tiresome. However, Juan is an intelligent fellow, so this should be an eloquent debate (at the time of this writing, it is still ongoing), and I needed a typical example of this sort of debate on my site anyway, if only to have something to point in case it comes up again.
The structure of the debate is as follows: Juan writes me a post with his objections to anarchy, I respond to that, he responds to the response, and so on and so forth. The only editing that will be done it changing his details to obscure his identity (He evidently now works in a field where political radical opinions can be damaging to his career), and to enrich the content of the text with links and suchlike. Enjoy.

His first salvo:
Freedom is impossible without government. The Rothbardian idea of private sector police, soldiers, and courts is downright silly. It would lead directly to endless civil war, and here's why: If I am president of a private government system, and you're one of my subscribers, what motivation do I have to obey any concept of moral behavior?

If you were my subscriber and you allege someone had wronged you, and he is unprotected by a private army, I just go over and shoot the place up, rob what valuables I can, and give you some cut of his stuff. You could be in one of my commercials: "John's Security got justice for me! And this plasma TV to boot!"

You might say the other guy could well be one of my subscribers. In this case, I simply take a bribe. No need for evidence, whoever pays me more lives, the other guy dies and I take all his stuff anyway.

You might say the other guy could be a subscriber to another private force. In this case, I would probably do a risk-reward analysis. If it looks like I can get away with going on a quick smash-and-grab assassination mission and I feel it's unlikely the other force could beat my army, I might well do that. In fact, I would probably be particularly gruesome about it to scare the opposing force's subscribers into leaving in droves. Paint "Joe's Security CAN'T PROTECT YOU" in blood on his front door, and rape his wife on the front lawn, something awful like that. This would likely lead to one of the other forces attacking mine, which is the predicted never-ending civil war.

On the other hand, if the other force seems too large and powerful to take on, I might just tell you it's too bad/so sad, but you got fucked and there's not much we can do about it. If you try to unsubscribe and leave me, though, you will definitely be used as an example, see above.

If a bunch of people got fed up and put together their own force, thus trying to leave me in droves, we again have endless civil war.

None of these things happen in a real government because:
1. A legitimate government has independent checking bodies. If the local police get out of hand, the state courts and state police come arrest a few people, install new people, problem solved. If the legislature makes law that's unconstitutional, the courts check them. If the courts get out of hand, the legislature and executive remove some judges and pack the bench with more reasonable sorts of people... This doesn't happen much because of the confirmation process.

2. The monopoly of force ensures that none of these checking bodies gets unreasonably powerful. Congress doesn't have it's own armed forces. The armed forces WILL NOT make war on their own people (ask a soldier). The local police will never be powerful enough to take on the feds.

Freedom without a central force monopoly that has proper checks built in is a contradictory idea, because if this central force does not exist or does not have checks, I can just be a dick and murder/rob/rape my way to power.

For further reference, see Somalia from 1992-present, the Srbrenica Massacre, modern Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, North Korea, and the African World War aka Congolese War of 1992-2005, the Liberian Civil War and RUF/Charles Taylor debacle. When government breaks down or does not have proper checks built in, chaos, rape, murder, and torture ALWAYS result.
My response:
First of all, the idea of an actual traditional as-we know-it business is but one possible option in the world After the Revolution, and not necessarily the optimal one. Other options include mutual aid societies formed upon affinity, religious, ethnic, or vocational lines, or contracted businesses run as co-ops, or the highly motivated individual, and of course Post-Revolution World (which I will now call PRW) would probably have a combination of all these possibilities, plus some more that I can't think of.
But let's go with the idea of the traditional business: CortezCo. You offer your clients protection and security for themselves, their property, and their businesses. And let's say that you are a genial sociopath, with no moral compass, no empathy, but enough foresight to plan for your long-term best interest, and enough charm to not send the casual acquaintance running for the hills.
The first thing that you must realize is that in PRW, you are still not truly sovereign. You still answer to a higher court: the court of public opinion. If I complain to you that my neighbor stole my lawn-mower, you could indeed go over there & bust down the door, cowboy the son of a bitch, and loot the place. And while you may have no moral qualms over what you ordered, you should have some financial ones. Violence is _expensive_.
For one thing, you'll probably lose me as a client. Whatever short-term monetary gain I might enjoy would be more than offset by the hit to my reputation. I still have to live in this town/region/whatever, and even if I'm a sociopath myself I still have my public persona, and nice people you do business with don't order hits on their neighbors. Thus, I could not be associated with anything that distasteful. And of course that's operating on the "I'm a sociopath too" principle. The moral horror of most normal people would cause them to quit you as well.
That's assuming the target is a local. If he's a visitor? That's even worse. Then you have the tourism industry and their forces after you, and that is something you do not want (trust me, I live in Asheville- tourism here is scary enough even without the PRW.)
For another thing, violence would have high operational costs. There's the hit team, their equipment, logistics, backup, intel, etc., etc.,- compared with one part-time process server with a declaration of arbitration, which is the boring, safe, normal, inexpensive way of handling this sort of thing. If the target blows that off, then you might escalate (incrementally), but that would have the benefit of societal approval.
The "Violence is Expensive" principle applies to dealing with another security agency, but even more so. You might, with great difficultly, grow a large enough business that would allow you to ignore any one competitor, but without the government subsidies and protection that corporations currently enjoy, that is arguably impossible. But let's say you do it. Let's say your firm, firm A, is so big you can completely steamroll firm B. What about firms C, D,E, all the way to ZZZ? Firms would likely contract mutual defense pacts against just this sort of rogue incursion. Its just good business. They would likely make a proactive strike against rogue firms regardless of a pact, as thugs are bad for business. That would be good business as well. Of course that protection applies to you as well as your competitors.

I'm not saying the above is inevitable. Change happens, shit happens, and any system is breakable. But it is not a foregone conclusion that an anarchistic system would self-destruct, or that a statist system would perform so much better. In fact when you consider the obvious benefits of anarchy in the PRW- the emphasis on actual victim-based crimes, the elimination of one of the greatest threats to human life & liberty (governments kill, terrorize, and assault far more people than non-government criminal organizations), the benefits inherent in opening up a formerly monopolistic market to competition- the burden of proof is on you that the statist system provides such enormous benefits as to outweigh its terrible costs. Let's examine those costs and benefits, shall we?

1. The police routinely brutalize & oppress people. Routinely. Not a week goes by where there is not another news report abusing his position, quite often with homicidal results. The results? For the ones that actually get reported, and actually get disciplined (a vast minority of the actual cases), its usually suspension. Occasionally (gasp!) they'll get fired. Very rarely will it be jail time, almost never would it be comparable to what a civilian would get for the same misdeed.
(My source for this is Radley Balko's blog- http://www.theagitator.com/- Good stuff.) All this a happens with the silent approval of the entire justice system.
The War on Some Drugs, the War on Some Immigration, the War on Some Terror (not ours), The War on Sex- these and many other are assaults upon American citizens by their own government, not because there is any specific victim, but because someone at some point with overdeveloped morals and underdeveloped brains decided it was Wrong, and people- with the support and encouragement of the government- have been making money off it every since. Every one of the "Wars" I mentioned is a bad, unworking government solution to a government-greated problem. And while these specific problems may seem uniquely American, the same thing happens with variations in every nation-state on the planet. Anarchy leads to civil war? Government _is_ a constant, low-grade civil war against its own citizens .
2. The final stage of governmental life-cycle is the authoritarian empire. That doesn't happen because of a defect in the system- it is the point of the system. Taking different routes for different reasons, all nations drift towards becoming more and more Burma-like. Some may get there quicker than others, some may put a shinier spin on it, some may even promote policies that make the serfs self-managing (see China and to some extent the US), but that is the ideal. This happens because of the monopoly of violence, because monopolies and nation-states are dynamic- they grow. A monopoly of violence eventually leads to a monopoly of everything else.
Concerning the examples you gave, with the exception of Somalia (that's a special case), they are all either very well-developed governments, in the sense that there is a lot of them, or they are multiple would-be governments vying for control. They may have been somewhat incompetent in their execution, but that is a difference in degree, not in kind. All of them wanted a government. Nary an anarchist in the bunch. If you want an example of anarchists actually in charge, try pre-WWII Spain, and the CNT. They did pretty good, and would have continued doing pretty good, if they hadn't lost their nerve, and sided with the communists against the fascists.
But you're right about one thing. When it comes to governments, rape, murder, and torture ALWAYS result. They always "break down" (or fulfill their function a bit too well, whichever), and there are never enough checks and balances to stop it. Its happening right now.

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