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2009-11-01

The Great Anarchy Debate, Redone, Part 2

See Part 1 here.

First, here's Juan's response to me.

Note: Lemuria in blue ink, Juan in green ink

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.
A traditional business requires a government to record who owns the business, and some form of a UCC to determine who has the authority to speak for the business, and under what circumstances.

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.
I would like to pause here to point out that groups formed on each of these lines have existed in the past, and existed in places without a central government. Normally, this is a disaster. Religious mutual aid societies include the Taliban, al Qaeda. Ethnic mutual aid societies include the Hutu extremists that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide. There were several ethnic groups that participated -- and continue to participate -- in all manner of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (herein referenced as DRC).

But let's go with the idea of the traditional business: Wales' Warriors. 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_.
Let me concede one point: over-the-top violence in response to any dispute is not a workable solution, and I apologize for over-simplifying my point in Round 1. Let's think this through in a little more depth.

Let's start with what kind of world exists exactly at the end of this "revolution" you're referring to. If it's a revolt of common people rising up and killing off the government, there are many fine examples of this through history. Whatever the example you want to look at, one thing is very consistent: A currently-sitting government doesn't just step aside and go quietly. There will be bloodshed. In order for the old government to be removed, a miltary sort of organization has to exist to do the dirty work, and generally right after it's over, that body declares themselves to be in charge. Did you imagine that the common man just takes to the street and the military lays down their arms and goes home, while at the same time the head of state, legislature, and courts go quietly back home? That's never happened. It never will.
In most cases where the general population rises up against their government, it's done as an insurgency that takes root. I grant you that a part of this is providing some sort of court and justice system, and some sort of security. The Taliban did this by setting up Sharia courts in areas without a strong central government, and then imposed their version of wahhabist sharia on the population by killing off any remaining government apparatus. The people went along with it because most people just want to make it through their day and don't want to get killed. People who went to the regular courts had a habit of turning up dead.
The Union of Islamic Courts in Somlia did things a little differently. There was no central government to speak of, and they were the first ones to come along and set up something resembling a court and police, and they cleared road blocks and gangs from some of the streets. The people went along with it because this was a dramatic improvement in their daily situation... even though the courts were very uneven in their form of justice, and many of the punishments meted out were quite brutal. Evidence with pictures at this link and with lots of back story available here.
These are instructive to your point about the expense of violence in a lot of ways. First, violence isn't particularly expensive if you're going through a period of military conquest. When you win a battle, you take over the local military armory and the local police station, and you've got some fresh bullets and guns. You've taken over a village, you can just march down to the local marketplace and take what food you and your soldiers need. An AK-47 costs about $20 US across most of Africa. The AK47 bullet is the most manufactured in the world. The M16 is more difficult to come by in Africa, but overall it is the most-manufactured automatic rifle in the world, and the 5.56mm NATO round is used in a large number of applications.
Many thugocracy groups keep their soldiers happy with land grants, drugs, and comfort women.
To sum up, the immediate pre-revolution world would have one of three conditions:
  • Strong central government -- In which case, a stronger military force must arise to remove the previous government, so violence is cheap because I control this stronger military force.
  • Weak central government -- In which case, a military force and a Taliban/UIC style implementation of stronger government and police forces is nessecary to eliminate the previous government. Violence is cheap here because many people are armed to the teeth to protect themselves, because the central government is not capable of protecting them
  • No central government -- In which case, a thugocracy can arise easily, and violence is likely very cheap, as it is in Somalia.
Violence is, unfortunately, cheap. Without a strong, central force to protect you, a thugocracy of some kind will always arise, and the most violence wins every time. History has shown this over and over.

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.
If I can steamroll my major competition in a geographic region, why would I allow a competitor? Why wouldn't I go house-by-house and confiscate every weapon I could find? This not only makes violence cheaper for me, but makes it more difficult for opposition to arise from the population. See North Korea, China, Burma, and Cuba for examples of this strategy working for decades at a time. Thugocracy overrules anarchy, over and over.

I'm going to skip over the next paragraph, as it works better a little later...


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.
This argument has three giant flaws that come immediately to mind:
First is your argument regarding oppression by police. I agree with your assertion that there are daily reports of police stepping over the line set by the law and by good sense. Police forces are human systems, and there are no human systems which are error-free. I don't agree with you at all that this is routine. There are thousands of traffic stops every day that go off without a hitch. License and registration, you were doing 72 in a 55, here's your ticket, have a nice day. There are thousands of perfectly valid arrests every day where a legitimate bad guy has done something actually illegal and gets punished for it. Pick almost any major city and you can go to the local paper's website and find a crime map. I know you can for Raleigh, NC, and Charlotte, NC. Narrow it down to just violent crimes, if you'd like, and you'll see hundreds of arrests a week that don't even rise to the level of local news -- because the police handle it professionally, quietly, and within the bounds of the law. "Routine" for police is arresting bad guys.

Do you actually know any police? Have you talked to them like they're regular people? They're really not scary oppressive monsters. Most of them want to make a better world, make the streets safe, and they're very patriotic. They see themselves as the line between peace and chaos, the protectors of the innocent, and the teeth behind the law. A lot of them are not the brightest bulb on the christmas tree, I'll grant you, but they try hard to do the right thing most of the time. Every day they put their lives on the line and make the tough choices about who to arrest and who to free, and they know they get it wrong sometimes. Ultimately, though, they're just regular dudes trying to do the right thing and make the world a better place. That is what's routine for the police. If it were, as you say, routine for them to brutalize and oppress people, you wouldn't hear any media reports about it because the press wouldn't be free to report. If the press was free to report and they're out there regularly crossing the line of good sense, you wouldn't just see a few reports a week nationwide, you'd see hundreds of reports a day.

The second massive flaw is the fallacy that because some bad things happen in a particular human system, the whole system needs replacing. Apply this elsewhere:
  • "A surgeon messed up and killed my grandma, therefore we shouldn't let these lunatic butchers cut people open! Down with the surgeons!"
  • "My lawyer didn't let me present my defense alleging that werewolves made me rob that convenience store, and now I have to spend time in a mental institution, therefore we should get rid of lawyers! Down with the lawyers!"
  • "A faulty part in my car's brakes caused them to fail and my leg is broken as a result. These factory workers are a danger to society! Burn down the factories!"
  • "That bag of spinach made me ill. Large farms are the death of us all, we must dismantle the large farms and have each individual grow all their own food! Down with the Green Revolution!
All human systems will have an error rate, and as a result, people will be harmed and a significant minority of those harmed will die. Life's tough like that. All we can hope to do is improve over time.

The third flaw is the assertion that a private force would be better for some reason. Do you really think the Thin Blue Line phenomenon wouldn't exist in a private force? I think I've gone on enough about the many ways an unchecked private police force would easily turn into a thugocracy. I'd say the famous Stanford prison experiment and similar research show that power without rules and checks will almost instantly dissolve into a horror show.
If you don't fight the bad guys, they'll win over time. If you do fight bad guys, you need the good guys to have proper checks in place, which is flatly impossible without a strong central government.

Now comes the really false part of your argument:

I've added some [...] here and there, but I think you'll find the edit quite fair.
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. [....]
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.
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.


This is as false as false gets, my friend. I'm sorry, but the facts don't bear out any of this nonsense. We're getting LESS free over time?
300 years ago, Europe was run by Divine Right theocrats who ruled with an iron fist and answered to nobody but themselves. As Louis XIV famously said, "L'etat? C'est moi!" (The State? That's me!) when he was told he was subject to the law. He used military force to ensure he wasn't subject to the law.
200 years ago, slavery was common in the United States, and only a small minority of the population was allowed to vote. In the 1830s, Andrew Jackson nearly sent troops to South Carolina to settle a political dispute over the power of the federal government to lay tarriffs, and then authored a genocidal policy against native americans.
100 years ago, women still couldn't vote and we had institutionalized racial barriers in this country. Europe was still ruled by a hodge-podge of despots and banana republics
50 years ago, women could vote, but non-white citizens were still second class citizens, women weren't allowed to take birth control pills and domestic violence was basically legal. "One of these days, boom, right to the moon!" was a euphamism for punching your wife in the face... and people laughed.
25 years ago, AIDS was referred to as "Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome" and the president of our country intentionally ignored it and allowed it to spread, hoping it would wipe out what he saw as undesirables. Now, the great civil rights struggle of our generation is taking place to give equal rights to this oppressed group.

I mean, really, are you joking?

I'll admit our last president stepped outside the bounds of the law and did many atrocious things, and the fact that he had a rubber-stamp congress made it worse. Even in the wars you refer to (with the exception of the relatively new war on terror), the side of more freedom is slowly winning. When the war on drugs really began -- the 1930s marijuana tax stamp act -- people routinely got life sentences for crimes that now carry a fine. Did you know the state of Arizona put two people to death for marijuana possession? When it began, the war on drugs was a racist way of rounding up (mostly) Mexicans and running them out of town. For the record, I'm a big proponent of ending the war on drugs completely and allowing people access to all types of drugs, including crack and meth, because the primary danger of drugs comes from the black market, not the drugs themselves.

In the war on sex, the war is over everywhere except Alabama Utah. The side of freedom won. There's an adult shop here in town that carries everything from the most tame to the most extreme, all sorts of DVDs and gadgets. The internet is chock-full of porn and stores where you can order any craziness you could imagine, and several things that would haunt your dreams if you saw them.

The war on immigration is on the way out. The pendulum has swung. Note that there was a fight in congress last year, and even that rather extreme congress couldn't pass anything more extreme than what we have now. I live up here near Canada, and we all joke about the border fence. Why no border fence for the canadians, eh? There are canadians in town all the time doing business and working, so why aren't we worried about them? I think we can agree it's because of skin color. That's sad, but the wheels of justice are slowly turning back to free immigration.


Enough defense, now for offense

The American Republic, from it's foundation, has been a force for freedom in the world. For 1500 years prior to our nation's rise, the world was ruled by despots. Much of the world was convinced that voting and self-governance were impossible. Even our founding fathers referred to this country as a grand experiment. The brilliance of the system is the checks on all types of power. Those checks have been strengthened and weakened over time, but the net result has been to check the power of each branch into an easy equilibrium. The result is a system that takes a really long time to get anything done unless there's a major crisis urging people on. The unfortunate reality is that we often over-step in the midst of a crisis. See Japanese Internment or PATRIOT for examples of this tendency. The good news is that once the crisis has passed and we get clearer heads, the worst over-steps are cured and a few good ideas filter through history. It's often frustrating for activist types like you and I that we can't get the change we want in a faster way, but the totality of our history shows that change is possible, and freedom works. The reason so much of the world has become more free over the past 200 years is that the despots couldn't keep up with us. We so far out-stripped the rest of the world in innovation and productivity that the other nations of the world had to free their people to catch up. More of the world can vote today than ever before, they can choose their leaders, lobby for change, speak freely, and debate ideas that are unpopular and even crazy. That's how the pendulum slowly swings over time.

Now, I'll challenge you to describe more about your ideas than "F--- tha police, man!". Here's some questions for you:
  • In an anarchist state, how will drinking water be handled? You can't possibly have multiple water lines running into your house, that would be monsterously inefficient. How will you know the water coming from your faucet is safe? How about sewer lines? You similarly can't have multiple sewer lines, so competition is somewhere between impossible and impractical. How will this be dealt with?
  • In your ideal state, how will fires be handled? How can you be sure a house won't burn down while two fire control companies are haggling with the owner over price? How will you prevent extortion while a home owner is watching his home burn?
  • In your ideal state, how will property ownership be handled? If there are multiple courts, who gets the final say about where the property line is? How will you be sure deeds, metes, and bounds are genuine? Right now, these are guaranteed genuine because the government keeps the originals.
  • While we're on the topic of government record keeping, how will you be sure who is allowed to transmit on the various bands of the electromagnetic spectrum? What would prevent my local Fox affiliate from transmitting on every frequency and drowning out their competition? What prevents Verizon from transmitting noise on all frequencies except the one they use, effectively disabling the competition?
  • How will securities and exchanges be handled? How do you know who owns which share of stock and which claims are legitimate if you have multiple courts with different rules? How will you get companies to publish true and correct earnings reports and disclosures? Without certainty about earnings reports, how will large enterprises raise the billions they need to operate?
  • And finally... how will pure research and science be funded? Where will the next Hubble Space Telescope come from? There's no profit in the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, but it will answer some of the most crucial questions at the core of being human: How many other intelligent species are there? Is there another Earth we can get to when we outgrow this one? Projects like the Large Hadron Collider have no obvious profit to them, and require the kind of capital investment that governments are best suited to make. Despite having no profit motive and a high price tag, they will show us the structure and function of our entire universe. How will this occur without government?
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to round 3.

*************************************************************************************

And here's my reply:

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.
A traditional business requires a government to record who owns the business, and some form of a UCC to determine who has the authority to speak for the business, and under what circumstances.

No, it doesn't. Contracts are routinely enacted and honored without official involvement of any government. They may be informal, they may not be worked out in board rooms, but they are needed and vital nonetheless. Societal mores are more than enough to take care of informal contract enforcement now, and would become a much more powerful force in PRW. Also, the UCC was only enacted in 1952, so obviously humans were able to conduct business affairs, and conduct them well, without it. The UCC is simply an uniforming standard. Many industries develop uniform standards without the need of their imposition by the government.

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.
I would like to pause here to point out that groups formed on each of these lines have existed in the past, and existed in places without a central government. Normally, this is a disaster. Religious mutual aid societies include the Taliban, al Qaeda. Ethnic mutual aid societies include the Hutu extremists that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide. There were several ethnic groups that participated -- and continue to participate -- in all manner of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (herein referenced as DRC).

While it is true that under some technical definitions, twisted beyond all common usage, and viewed under a bad light, the Taliban and the Hutus could possibly qualify as mutual aid societies, they aren't what I was talking about. The traditional mutual aid society, as defined here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_society), bears little if any resemblance to the organizations you mentioned. Plus, all the groups you mentioned either receive support by governments, have designs of achieving the monopolistic power of governments, or already act as governments.

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_.
Let me concede one point: over-the-top violence in response to any dispute is not a workable solution, and I apologize for over-simplifying my point in Round 1. Let's think this through in a little more depth.

Let's start with what kind of world exists exactly at the end of this "revolution" you're referring to. If it's a revolt of common people rising up and killing off the government, there are many fine examples of this through history. Whatever the example you want to look at, one thing is very consistent: A currently-sitting government doesn't just step aside and go quietly. There will be bloodshed. In order for the old government to be removed, a miltary sort of organization has to exist to do the dirty work, and generally right after it's over, that body declares themselves to be in charge. Did you imagine that the common man just takes to the street and the military lays down their arms and goes home, while at the same time the head of state, legislature, and courts go quietly back home? That's never happened. It never will.
In most cases where the general population rises up against their government, it's done as an insurgency that takes root. I grant you that a part of this is providing some sort of court and justice system, and some sort of security. The Taliban did this by setting up Sharia courts in areas without a strong central government, and then imposed their version of wahhabist sharia on the population by killing off any remaining government apparatus. The people went along with it because most people just want to make it through their day and don't want to get killed. People who went to the regular courts had a habit of turning up dead.
The Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia did things a little differently. There was no central government to speak of, and they were the first ones to come along and set up something resembling a court and police, and they cleared road blocks and gangs from some of the streets. The people went along with it because this was a dramatic improvement in their daily situation... even though the courts were very uneven in their form of justice, and many of the punishments meted out were quite brutal. Evidence
with pictures at this link and with lots of back story available here.
These are instructive to your point about the expense of violence in a lot of ways. First, violence isn't particularly expensive if you're going through a period of military conquest. When you win a battle, you take over the local military armory and the local police station, and you've got some fresh bullets and guns. You've taken over a village, you can just march down to the local marketplace and take what food you and your soldiers need. An AK-47 costs about $20 US across most of Africa. The AK47 bullet is the most manufactured in the world. The M16 is more difficult to come by in Africa, but overall it is the most-manufactured automatic rifle in the world, and the 5.56mm NATO round is used in a large number of applications.
Many thugocracy groups keep their soldiers happy with land grants, drugs, and comfort women.
To sum up, the immediate pre-revolution world would have one of three conditions:

  • Strong central government -- In which case, a stronger military force must arise to remove the previous government, so violence is cheap because I control this stronger military force.

  • Weak central government -- In which case, a military force and a Taliban/UIC style implementation of stronger government and police forces is necessary to eliminate the previous government. Violence is cheap here because many people are armed to the teeth to protect themselves, because the central government is not capable of protecting them

  • No central government -- In which case, a thugocracy can arise easily, and violence is likely very cheap, as it is in Somalia.

Violence is, unfortunately, cheap. Without a strong, central force to protect you, a thugocracy of some kind will always arise, and the most violence wins every time. History has shown this over and over.

What you're referring to is vanguardism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguardism), and you're right- in terms of liberating people, it doesn't work all that well. Groups that use governmental and military means to achieve their ends most often become governments and military. Which is why most anarchists nowadays propose and practice a dual power strategy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_power) and counter-economics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-economics). And yes, while it is possible to do so like the communists, the Taliban, and the Somali courts, we're talking about an Anarchist revolution, and doing so would mean that they were not anarchists. Anarchists could achieve their ends using the tactics of the Taliban about as well as the Taliban could achieve their ends by engaging in marathon games of water polo.

Anarchists are trying to achieve a society that has never existed before, at least to to the extent and scope we aim for. To achieve something that has never existed before, we must engage in tactics that have never been used before, again to this extent and scope.

Government needs the participation of their subjects to function. The political and military class are not very productive- they don't make things, they don't grow things, and they don't sell things. What they do is tax the productive class in order to sustain themselves. If people put their faith and money (or monetary equivalent) into something other than the government, it would collapse like a house of cards. And this can be achieved without widespread violence, without extortion, without theft, and without induced terror.

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.
If I can steamroll my major competition in a geographic region, why would I allow a competitor? Why wouldn't I go house-by-house and confiscate every weapon I could find? This not only makes violence cheaper for me, but makes it more difficult for opposition to arise from the population. See North Korea, China, Burma, and Cuba for examples of this strategy working for decades at a time. Thugocracy overrules anarchy, over and over.

All the examples you mentioned are governments maintaining their own power, or being replaced by other governments. Where are the anarchists?


  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-created 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.
    This argument has three giant flaws that come immediately to mind:
    First is your argument regarding oppression by police. I agree with your assertion that there are daily reports of police stepping over the line set by the law and by good sense. Police forces are human systems, and there are no human systems which are error-free. I don't agree with you at all that this is routine. There are thousands of traffic stops every day that go off without a hitch. License and registration, you were doing 72 in a 55, here's your ticket, have a nice day. There are thousands of perfectly valid arrests every day where a legitimate bad guy has done something actually illegal and gets punished for it. Pick almost any major city and you can go to the local paper's website and find a crime map. I know you can for Raleigh, NC, and Charlotte, NC. Narrow it down to just violent crimes, if you'd like, and you'll see hundreds of arrests a week that don't even rise to the level of local news -- because the police handle it professionally, quietly, and within the bounds of the law. "Routine" for police is arresting bad guys.

    Do you actually know any police? Have you talked to them like they're regular people? They're really not scary oppressive monsters. Most of them want to make a better world, make the streets safe, and they're very patriotic. They see themselves as the line between peace and chaos, the protectors of the innocent, and the teeth behind the law. A lot of them are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, I'll grant you, but they try hard to do the right thing most of the time. Every day they put their lives on the line and make the tough choices about who to arrest and who to free, and they know they get it wrong sometimes. Ultimately, though, they're just regular dudes trying to do the right thing and make the world a better place. That is what's routine for the police. If it were, as you say, routine for them to brutalize and oppress people, you wouldn't hear any media reports about it because the press wouldn't be free to report. If the press was free to report and they're out there regularly crossing the line of good sense, you wouldn't just see a few reports a week nationwide, you'd see hundreds of reports a day.

While it is true that that the police force is a human system, and human error is inevitable, humans quite rightly hold these systems to a standard commiserate with the amount of power they wield. I don't care that much if the third-shift guy at the Taco Bell drive-through gives me a taco instead of a chalupa. Not that big of a deal. The surgeon who mistakes a kidney for a colon? The architect who forgets that pesky load-bearing wall in the middle of the sky-scraper? Those are big deals. And that's nothing compared to the justice system. Given the frankly insane amount of power we give the police, they would need the brains of philosophers, the souls of saints, and other superhuman attributes to be worthy of it. And like you said, “A lot of them are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, I'll grant you, but they try hard to do the right thing most of the time.”

That's just not going to cut it. Regular dudes who want to make the world a better place should not be given the powers of the police. And the reason we're in this situation is the reason anyone uses a product they know is crappy: lack of an alternative. Lack of competition.

I don't know any cops personally, but I do know law enforcement. My father is an assistant DA, and he's a good man, so I know there are good man in law enforcement. That is irrelevant, and good men do not negate a bad system. The people I do know personally are people harassed by the cops. I know people who are now widows because their husbands were LWB (living while black.) I've seen the burns left by tasers, wielded by sadistic incompetents. I know people who are afraid to walk the streets, because they fit a profile of police “interest”. I know the organizers of the local CopWatch, and I know their motivations.

And why should the media report it? That's not the story people want to hear. They want to hear about Law and Order. They want heroic Cops catching the bad guys. Anything else is....upsetting.

The second massive flaw is the fallacy that because some bad things happen in a particular human system, the whole system needs replacing. Apply this elsewhere:

  • "A surgeon messed up and killed my grandma, therefore we shouldn't let these lunatic butchers cut people open! Down with the surgeons!"

  • "My lawyer didn't let me present my defense alleging that werewolves made me rob that convenience store, and now I have to spend time in a mental institution, therefore we should get rid of lawyers! Down with the lawyers!"

  • "A faulty part in my car's brakes caused them to fail and my leg is broken as a result. These factory workers are a danger to society! Burn down the factories!"

  • "That bag of spinach made me ill. Large farms are the death of us all, we must dismantle the large farms and have each individual grow all their own food! Down with the Green Revolution!

All human systems will have an error rate, and as a result, people will be harmed and a significant minority of those harmed will die. Life's tough like that. All we can hope to do is improve over time.

How much is too much? Exactly how many deaths and assaults must a system produce before we should seriously consider chucking it? Exactly how much faith should we have in a system, and how much should that faith be tested, before we stop violently suppressing alternatives to it? Your analogy only works if you let the car industry arrest anyone who attempts to build a car in their garage, or let the factory farms send a SWAT team after the member of a neighborhood co-op garden. That is the evil of government: not that it conducts itself so badly (although it does), but that it allows no competition.

The third flaw is the assertion that a private force would be better for some reason. Do you really think the Thin Blue Line phenomenon wouldn't exist in a private force? I think I've gone on enough about the many ways an unchecked private police force would easily turn into a thugocracy. I'd say the famous Stanford prison experiment and similar research show that power without rules and checks will almost instantly dissolve into a horror show.
If you don't fight the bad guys, they'll win over time. If you do fight bad guys, you need the good guys to have proper checks in place, which is flatly impossible without a strong central government.
The Stanford experiment was of a jail. A monopolistic jail. To my knowledge, no one has conducted an experiment simulating how security would be handled in PRW, although that would be fascinating. And I think a private force would be better for the same reason I think wouldn't enjoy my shoes as much if all shoes were government produced. Competition makes things better. And fighting bad guys does mean you must put your faith and life in the hands of other bad guys, no matter how well-meaning they are. That's letting the terrorists win.

Now comes the really false part of your argument:

I've added some [...] here and there, but I think you'll find the edit quite fair.
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. [....]
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.
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.


This is as false as false gets, my friend. I'm sorry, but the facts don't bear out any of this nonsense. We're getting LESS free over time?
300 years ago, Europe was run by Divine Right theocrats who ruled with an iron fist and answered to nobody but themselves. As Louis XIV famously said, "L'etat? C'est moi!" (The State? That's me!) when he was told he was subject to the law. He used military force to ensure he wasn't subject to the law.
200 years ago, slavery was common in the United States, and only a small minority of the population was allowed to vote. In the 1830s, Andrew Jackson nearly sent troops to South Carolina to settle a political dispute over the power of the federal government to lay tariffs, and then authored a genocidal policy against native Americans.
100 years ago, women still couldn't vote and we had institutionalized racial barriers in this country. Europe was still ruled by a hodge-podge of despots and banana republics
50 years ago, women could vote, but non-white citizens were still second class citizens, women weren't allowed to take birth control pills and domestic violence was basically legal. "One of these days, boom, right to the moon!" was a euphemism for punching your wife in the face... and people laughed.
25 years ago, AIDS was referred to as "Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome" and the president of our country intentionally ignored it and allowed it to spread, hoping it would wipe out what he saw as undesirables. Now, the great civil rights struggle of our generation is taking place to give equal rights to this oppressed group.

I mean, really, are you joking?

I never said that life of the average citizen of the empire was worse now than it was 300 years ago. My life is better in innumerable ways compared to the life I would have lived in 1711. I said that we are now living in an empire. We maintain nearly world-wide hegemony, propped up with “friendly” regimes, financial dependence, and military intimidation. The reasons this imperial period of ours has lasted as long as it has, and has been as smooth as it has been due mainly to two factors:

  1. The development of the free market, as a theory & practice, which has allowed Americans, the West, and many other nations to become enormously more productive with our resources and numbers than previous peoples. Simply put, we have more to give in tribute to our lords, while still living more for ourselves.

  2. The anarchists and their anti-statist fellow travelers. Rome didn't have anarchists. Neither did Charlemagne. The advances in Labor, Women's Rights, & Civil Rights? Take a look, and you'll find a black flag waving in the background. Most of the advances you mentioned are accommodations made by the State in response.


    I'll admit our last president stepped outside the bounds of the law and did many atrocious things, and the fact that he had a rubber-stamp congress made it worse.

    The actions of Bush are not nearly as out of character for presidents as Americans would like to believe. His may have been a trifle gauche, a bit inexpertly done, but the actions themselves all have historical precedent, many of the set by some of our so-called “great” presidents- such as Lincoln and FDR. The continuation of many Bush polices by Obama should show how par for the course they are.

  3. Even in the wars you refer to (with the exception of the relatively new war on terror), the side of more freedom is slowly winning. When the war on drugs really began -- the 1930s marijuana tax stamp act -- people routinely got life sentences for crimes that now carry a fine. Did you know the state of Arizona put two people to death for marijuana possession? When it began, the war on drugs was a racist way of rounding up (mostly) Mexicans and running them out of town. For the record, I'm a big proponent of ending the war on drugs completely and allowing people access to all types of drugs, including crack and meth, because the primary danger of drugs comes from the black market, not the drugs themselves.

    The War on Drugs is not ending. Pot might become legal, heavily taxed, heavily regulated, because the country is going broke right now, and some politicians think they might get a taste of the sweet drug money. And after that? The racist Drug War will still be there. Doctors will still be afraid to prescribe needed pain medication due to fears they'll be arrested as pill-pushers. And all the reduced civil rights and increased police power that were justified by the Drug War will still be in place.

    In the war on sex, the war is over everywhere except Alabama Utah. The side of freedom won. There's an adult shop here in town that carries everything from the most tame to the most extreme, all sorts of DVDs and gadgets. The internet is chock-full of porn and stores where you can order any craziness you could imagine, and several things that would haunt your dreams if you saw them.

    People get arrested, and get major time, for possessing cartoons. Prostitution is still illegal. The battle lines may have been redrawn, but the war is still going on.

    The war on immigration is on the way out. The pendulum has swung. Note that there was a fight in congress last year, and even that rather extreme congress couldn't pass anything more extreme than what we have now. I live up here near Canada, and we all joke about the border fence. Why no border fence for the Canadians, eh? There are Canadians in town all the time doing business and working, so why aren't we worried about them? I think we can agree it's because of skin color. That's sad, but the wheels of justice are slowly turning back to free immigration.

We haven't had “free immigration” in the last 150 years. I don't see it happening anytime soon.

(snip stirring rhetoric)

Now, I'll challenge you to describe more about your ideas than "F--- tha police, man!". Here's some questions for you:

And my simple answer to all these questions: I don't know. I can no more predict how free people in an anarchy would confront the thousand and one issues that make life interesting than I could have predicted a movie about sparkly vampires would be a humongous hit this year if you had asked me thirty years ago. I can think up scenarios, go over the standards guesses, but they would be just that- guesses. This is not how I think anarchy would work. This is how, in some situations, I think anarchy could work.


  • In an anarchist state, how will drinking water be handled? You can't possibly have multiple water lines running into your house, that would be monstrously inefficient. How will you know the water coming from your faucet is safe? How about sewer lines? You similarly can't have multiple sewer lines, so competition is somewhere between impossible and impractical. How will this be dealt with?

    Existing utilities can be mutualized. The mutual-run agencies can split, change, form together, and circumstances warrant. Also, with some variations, living off the grid hydrologically should be just as feasible as living off the grid electronically, which is feasible, when done correctly.

  • In your ideal state, how will fires be handled? How can you be sure a house won't burn down while two fire control companies are haggling with the owner over price? How will you prevent extortion while a home owner is watching his home burn?

We've both seen “Gangs of New York”. That happened over a hundred years ago, and involved Tammany Hall, hardly the epitome of statelessness. Fire prevention is just like any other service: make provisions for it, or don't. Contract out your local fire prevention agency, either singly or as part of a group. Join a local Mutual Volunteer Fire Brigade. Live in a concrete hut. Whatever.


  • In your ideal state, how will property ownership be handled? If there are multiple courts, who gets the final say about where the property line is? How will you be sure deeds, metes, and bounds are genuine? Right now, these are guaranteed genuine because the government keeps the originals.


Nothing you have mentioned could not be done with private entities, who would engender as much trust, if not more, as the government.

  • While we're on the topic of government record keeping, how will you be sure who is allowed to transmit on the various bands of the electromagnetic spectrum? What would prevent my local Fox affiliate from transmitting on every frequency and drowning out their competition? What prevents Verizon from transmitting noise on all frequencies except the one they use, effectively disabling the competition?

The standard answer, which I'll go with here, is to treat the various layers of the spectrum as a form of property, and follow the standard rules of homestead- set up shop, and as long as you don't infringe upon the sections of spectrum already claimed, you're fine. Of course there are a million different details to work out in the details, but the central idea is still sound. This idea is expanded in Telecompetition: the free market road to the information highway By Lawrence Gasman.


  • How will securities and exchanges be handled? How do you know who owns which share of stock and which claims are legitimate if you have multiple courts with different rules? How will you get companies to publish true and correct earnings reports and disclosures? Without certainty about earnings reports, how will large enterprises raise the billions they need to operate?

    If you don't trust your stock certificate to be legitimate, then don't buy it. If you don't trust the publications of a company, don't trade with it. Caveat Emperor. Without a government, trust will become an even more precious commodity. Without the fig leaf and shield of the SEC and corporate law, corporations will simply not be able to get up to as much skulduggery as they do now. And finally, without the propping up by the government, the age of the multi-billion dollar company will be probably be over. So long.

  • And finally... how will pure research and science be funded? Where will the next Hubble Space Telescope come from? There's no profit in the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, but it will answer some of the most crucial questions at the core of being human: How many other intelligent species are there? Is there another Earth we can get to when we outgrow this one? Projects like the Large Hadron Collider have no obvious profit to them, and require the kind of capital investment that governments are best suited to make. Despite having no profit motive and a high price tag, they will show us the structure and function of our entire universe. How will this occur without government?

Two words, one symbol: SETI@Home- http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/ While pure science might be hard to monetize, that doesn't mean it can't be funetized, or perhaps even fanetized. Many high price tags are due not to the inherent price of the research, but the way it is organized. Let people contribute freely on a distributed network, and amazing things will develop. Isn't Wikipedia a massive pure research project?



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