The Anarcho-Capitalist/Libertarian debate seems to be doing the rounds again, if this article by Ian B at Counting Cats (thanks to The Devil, my Rss still doesn’t seem to want to pick up Counting Cats) and to some extent the comments at this B&D post.
I’ve been mulling the same thing over in my head for a while, to be honest and had been inclining towards the Anarcho-Capitalist side myself. Firstly, Anarcho-Capitalism just sounds cooler, ha ha. Mainly, though, (taking the USA as a case in point) there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent a state accumulating more and more powers and becoming more and more tyrannical without doing away with it altogether. From small acorns grow mighty oaks, and so on… and the best way to stop our wall of freedom being undermined by the roots of tyranny is to break out the weedkiller…
Coercion. I’d never really thought of it in that way before -still being new at this- but what Ian B is saying does make sense. Not that I accept that society as a whole needs coercion (perish the thought!) but that some individuals in society need coercion. Criminals… robbers, rapists, serial killers and so on. They need coercing into not robbing, raping and serially killing their way across this fair land of ours. So who’s going to do this coercing?
You don’t want the state locking you up and nabbing all your heard-earned, so you’ve done away with the state. Now what? What’s to stop me (and my band of merry men, natch) from locking you up, shooting our kittens and taking your new plasma telly? Well, you might be armed to the teeth, ready to defend you and yours, or you might be subscribed to some rent-a-cop service who patrols your road or place of business. So I come busting in and you shoot me dead or hit your panic button and have Group 4 shoot me dead or whatever, and that’s the end of it.
Suppose though, that you just don’t like me, or I’ve slighted you in some way and you’ve invited me over with the express intention of shooting me dead and claiming I was about to molest your african land snail, or something. Who decides? You might well say, “oh well that’s the risk you take visiting anybody’s house and its just tough” or maybe you envision me having my own private security firm with standing orders to investigate my suspicious death or something, but again you hit some problems… do they have the right to enter your property to gather evidence? Probably not. What if Loomis (the company I hired) come to take you away to their court to try you and Group 4 (your guys) attempt to stop them… shootout? Pistols at dawn? Some sort of deal?
Now it may come to pass that eventually these companies would work out some standards of practice between themselves, much as USB became a standard without government diktats, or maybe they wouldn’t. It seems to me equally as likely that a spontaneous order would organically spring up or that we would end up fragmented, each in our own little castles armed to the teeth and distrustful of strangers.
So, one thing that minarchism has going for it is an independent monopoloistic arbitration system (courts) that anybody can appeal to, and enforcers of the same (police). There’s one other thing that I can see minarchism offering that Anarchism can’t:
Remember these guys? Big-State, nuclear-armed loonies with big, professional standing armies. Maybe not these guys -maybe their successors or others like them- but eventually somebody is going to start eyeing our putative Minarchist or Anarchist nation with envious eyes, and a minarchist nation with minimal taxation can provide a professional standing army and nuclear deterrent while an anarchist nation would presumably make do with a voluntary militia.
So I’m coming down on the side of minarchism, I’m afraid. Eventually, sure, the state will get bigger and bigger and have to be put down with a bloody revolution. It’s happened before, and no doubt it will happen again. I’m pretty sure that’s where the USA is heading. Perhaps that’s just the way it’s supposed to be… endlessly cycling between liberty and tyranny.