A recent Facebook post objected: “Libertarians have a stubborn attachment to utopianism.” I initially passed it over, and it was eventually edited to state, “Edit: some libertarians have a stubborn attachment to utopianism.”
Somewhere in this comments an objection to anarcho-capitalism emerged. A defense of anarcho-capitalism did interest me to engage, and I recount the conversation in this article. The most important objection, which I don’t think I have dealt with elsewhere on the site, posits that anarcho-capitalism is unjust because it would fail to provide for the rights of all. This article defends anarcho-capitalism against this objection.
My recounting of the conversation up to the point of objection:
- The post author comments, “OK, so how would a stateless political order be sustained?”
- I posit David Friedman‘s model which is outlined in The Machinery of Freedom.
- In particular, see Chapter 29, Police, Courts, and Laws – On the Market.
- In short, security services would be privately supplied and consumed. In order to minimize costly physical violence, private protection agencies would contract in advance with each other, private arbitrators, and insurance companies.
- I note that anarcho-capitalism is distinct from libertarianism. While Friedman identifies with both, anarcho-capitalists do not need to support the NAP, most libertarians support some centralized state, and Friedman acknowledges that anarcho-capitalist society will not produce a libertarian society under some conditions.
- Notice that anarcho-capitalism is not utopian in that it is robust to rejection of the NAP and to even widespread physical violence.
- The opposition pivots in objection, saying, “Given how absolutely brutal condottiere and other mercenary armies…[anarcho-capitalism] has never never ever ever gone well”
- I respond that anarcho-capitalism has gone well in various times.
- I argue that Ancient Israel as described in the Book of Judges was better off under polycentric judge rule than after the people demanded and received a monarch.
- I refer to Friedman’s discussion on Saga Period Iceland.
- I refer to my articles from June and July of 2014 which address the historical objection to anarcho-capitalism.
- I separately argue that one need not prove anarcho-capitalism directly in order to support indefinite marginal improvements in military privatization, which would seem to indirectly support anarcho-capitalism as well.
- I argue that the federalist formation of the United States is a marginal historical step in the direction of anarcho-capitalism. America has been an amazing economic success, so this can be seen to support the causality of anarcho-capitalism, in whole or in marginal increment, on social efficiency.
- I argue that among European countries, those which are relatively polycentric are also relatively economically efficient. Germany is considered the economic powerhouse of Europe and it is also considered the most polycentric.
- The opposition insists that centralized states are better than a mercenary society.
- I point out that calling anarcho-capitalism a mercenary society is either a misunderstanding or a strawman.
- I further invite the opposition to demonstrate that the army of a central state is other than a mercenary army. The opposition grants that it can be viewed as such.
- The opposition remains unconvinced that anarcho-capitalism would be associated with less violence than a statist society.
- I argue that you remaining unconvinced is your goalpost fallacy, not my issue.
- I further argue that even without our own statist society, society has gotten richer and safer as the military becomes privatized.
- The opposition shifts to argue that an anarcho-capitalist society might be efficient, but it would be unjust. I ask why and they add that it would fail to protect rights for all people.
- I argue that the term rights has multiple meanings. Anarcho-capitalism is arguably better on rights, and even if not better it’s also not clearly worse. See Friedman’s discussion on Sage Period Iceland above which shows that this system is great for property rights.
- I argue that civil rights are morally weightless and so they don’t form a judgment in favor of the state. I argue that a natural right to life is better protected by the safety of an anarcho-capitalist society.
- I argue that in the ambiguous case, where anarchy is only better for a subset of rights, we should still prefer it. This is because the state faces a calculation problem as well as a moral hazard. It is therefore a comparatively poor tool to be used in defining what rights even really mean or how to compare, tradeoff, and weigh various kinds of rights against each other.
- I argue that inequality itself is not immoral, and inequal improvements are sometimes morally preferred. Suppose that two families engage in a conflict. They can choose mutual destruction or settle. Mutual destruction is equal but not morally preferred. The settlement is morally preferred in expectation, even if the burden of the settlement falls in an unequal or disproportionate manner.
- The opposition suggested that Steven Pinker had convincingly argued that the state is necessary for modern improvements in peace.
- I argue that he did no such thing. In highlighting things the state did which improved wealth, he does not argue that they are necessary for such an end. Other institutions may have done a better job.
- Specifically, Pinker argues that the nation-state works because it “makes people worth alive more than dead.” I say markets do this to a greater extent.
- By way of example: health regulations make the cost of living go up. Hold everything else constant and shows the market is preferred to the state for wealth accumulation and flourishing.
- I think Pinker would agree that increased wealth reduces violence and that markets drive wealth, so I wonder how he escapes the deduction that markets would drive violence down further. I don’t actually think he ever argues against anarcho-capitalism anyway. I suppose he would argue that the transition to anarcho-capitalism is implausible.
- A final point could be made, although I’m not particularly excited to mention it, which is that anarcho-capitalism may be inevitable even if it isn’t just. By virtue of being highly efficient, it may become inevitable in the long run. Some would claim that a choice cannot be considered immoral if it is the only available choice.