Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why -Not- Anarcho-Capitalism

This is not an argument against anarchy; I have arguments against anarchy, this is not where I am going to put them forward.

This is an argument against specifically the notion of anarcho-capitalism, which is, in short, the idea that -all- government functions can and should be exported to private enterprise, including particularly that of police work.

Let's imagine an anarcho-capitalist society for a moment, shall we?

We have a nice pleasant neighborhood.  Everybody except Sam subscribes to the local Hamsfield Policing Corporation; Sam, who lives in the corner lot, subscribes to the Unity Corporation, a massive policing corporation which services people all across the continent, and which is a popular choice for individuals living in areas with local policing corporations because it refuses to negotiate with them.

Tom comes to knock on Sam's door one day; they've had a longstanding argument about where exactly their property lines lay.  Tom comes into the house, things get angry, and Sam shoots Tom.

Sam calls the Unity Corporation, who come out, investigate, and declare that it was self defense.  Hamsfield Policing Corporation is called by Tom's wife, and Sam refuses to let them in; after talking to the neighbors, they conclude it was likely murder, and demand entry into Sam's home to investigate further.

Who has jurisdiction over Sam?

Either Unity hands Sam over to Hamsfield - which destroys its reputation and the very reason people subscribe to its services - or Hamsfield and Unity face off; most likely, Hamsfield, with more limited resources, will back down.  But in either case, either Sam or Tom are not getting the service they paid for because there is no way to provide it for both.

There is no substantive way to resolve this issue, which is even assuming the police forces are acting in good faith and neither of them are favoring their subscribers over the neighbors.  Anarcho-capitalism does not resolve the fundamental problems government exists to resolve; at best it creates a form of agency-facilitated vigilante justice.


  1. What have you read/been told/know/concluded is the basis principle of anarcho-capitalism? I want a better word. Perhaps we can just call it private security for now?

  2. Freedom.

    What is the basic principle which makes it distinct from minarchism?

    I don't believe it has one. It, loosely speaking, rejects government as fundamentally evil.

    I consider this as wrong, and for the same reasons, as proponents of gun control who regard guns as fundamentally evil.

    Government is a tool; in the wrong hands, it can create evil. In the right hands, AT BEST, it can prevent evil; it cannot do good. The same is true of guns, however.

  3. Your responses in the other thread are consistent with that answer. If it's a correct understanding of anarchism, then anarchism is wrong about itself.

    I have more questions, but first this needs to be cleared up.

    Freedom is the basic emotion of anarchism. Principle: goals are fundamentally desires for particular states of consciousness. Non-violent flavours of anarchist know how ludicrously valuable the good 'autonomy' is. (But, also fragile.)

    The basic principle of anarchy, its attempt to achieve that good, is non-coercion.

    This is something that may be unique to me: I understand what coercion actually is. Though most anarchists get within spitting distance, and indeed I derived it from observing those positions.

    Coercion is imposing your values on someone else.
    More colloquially, it is not leaving alone those who wish to leave you alone, and it is not honouring your promises.

    Evil is coercion. Non-coercion is not evil. And indeed, like I can construct most governments in contract law, I can derive most of every extant moral system out of this basic necessity plus certain contingencies.

    All extant governments are coercive. Your government isn't in principle. But, you also define specific duties for it to have. This can fail two ways. It may be necessary to coerce government agents to get them to carry out the duties. It may be impossible to carry out the duties without coercing someone.

    To anticipate some objections, such as who gets to decide when an imposition occurs:
    Everyone has the meta-value of wanting others to respect their values. Consider the value, "Imposing my values on Alrenous." Either this value is valid as a moral value, or it's not. (If not, I call it preference.) To be valid, it must be morally permissible. If it is permissible, then it must, by symmetry, also be valid for me, but doing the symmetry transformation it becomes, "Alrenous imposing his values on me." I would immediately impose the value of not imposing values, and this would constitute respecting that value. And I have now shown the contradiction. Objective ethics exist, it is based on logical contradiction, and it is coercion == evil.

    Put in the form of a test, any evil act can be shown to imply that the transgressor does not morally object to symmetric violence upon their person.

    Put another way, the value, "My values are more valuable than Alrenous'" implies that, "Alrenous' values are more valuable than mine."

    The following is for illustration. It's to tell you where this logic leads, to give another perspective on it. If you empirically disagree, I'm not interested in defending it.

    The problem with government is that everyone already knows all this at a gut level. They can feel coercion is wrong and they can feel they're coercive. For instance, political formulae are always coercion rationalizations, and these kinds of rationalizations come in a steady stream - often unprovoked - from politicians.
    As a result, all coercive processes corrupt the executors. (Or equivalently, only the corrupt can withstand the pricks of conscience.) Hence, the state of science. Hence, the state of education. Hence, the state of the roads. Hence, the world wars. Hence, the financial system. Hence, mercantilism. And so on ad infinitum. The perverse incentives are a result of legitimizing perversity.

    There's selfishness, and there's active predation. Which cashes out to destroying their true wealth - those particular states of consciousness. Government is fundamentally based on violating values, and yet everyone is surprised when they act parasitical.

  4. Ultimately coercion enters into it whether we want it to or not, however. Your security companies have to coerce people not to coerce people.

    Your security company arrangement, however, has an additional point of failure (the two mentioned for minarchy apply to it, as well): it seeks to ameliorate the potential harm caused by coercive forces by spreading legitimate coercive force (that is, anti-coercive coercion) out amongst a larger number of coercive agents. It turns coercion into a capitalist enterprise, and the agents which are best at it will win. (That's the point of failure.)

    Minarchy, incidentally, suffers a related point of failure: Societal entropy tends towards the accumulation of power. (That is, without strong and deliberate effort opposing the accumulation of power, power accumulates.) A minarchy eventually becomes a normative government.

  5. Your security companies have to coerce people not to coerce people.

    You can't coerce violent agents. Their values don't de-legitimize anything.

    It turns coercion into a capitalist enterprise, and the agents which are best at it will win.

    Anarchy is based on a rule that determines when the capitalist is in fact coercing or not. Unity might have the physical capability, but it directly contradicts anarchist principles.

    The point of failure of anarchism is people being inherently ovinized. If they don't object strongly enough to Unity-like organizations, then when one inevitably over-reaches, it will learn it can get away with it and start a death spiral. If so, that means humans really are inherently evil, as they reward coercion. In which case we're all screwed regardless of not only political formulae, but regardless of anything.

  6. You're getting into linguistic subtleties which aren't well-reflected in reality; violence is violence regardless of who it is directed at, and those who are good at it will be good at it regardless of who they direct it at.

    Even if we don't call it coercion, if we call it something else, you're still establishing a system in which those who -would- be best at coercion, if they chose to utilize it, are being put in precisely the position that they are most able to utilize it, should they choose to.

    People cannot be inherently good nor evil; moral value can only enter into it where choice is involved. Inherent qualities are outside the domain of choice. Systems, however, established as they are by choice, can be good or evil, depending upon what they do.

  7. "violence is violence regardless of who it is directed at, and those who are good at it will be good at it regardless of who they direct it at."

    Moral violence isn't. You cannot commit moral violence on a moral violator.

  8. The skills and material requirements are the same.

    You're constructing a system which encourages the creation of well-armed, well-trained military forces which could potentially be under the orders of a single person, and which has serious geographic advantages over competitors.

  9. Due to endemic threats, there is no system that doesn't encourage that.

  10. On the contrary. Any system which doesn't require the existence of a professional military force distinct from its civilian population. See Switzerland for one example of this strategy, although their particular implementation leaves much to be desired.

  11. Either they have a military capable of repelling or at least deterring Russia, or they don't.

    If they don't, Russia will take them and it's a moot point.

    If that's possible without a specialized military, then the local security firm will find that solution cheaper and will out-compete on that basis.

  12. You presume the possibility of outcompeting on that basis. What is a security company going to charge for once the local population is armed and trained?