Answer: we’re normally referring to government/monopolistic regulation when we rail against regulation. Bona fide market-driven regulation and controls are perfectly acceptable.
In the gun debate, sometimes people incorrectly assume that libertarians want zero rules whatsoever against gun ownership. Even as an anarcho-capitalist libertarian myself, I can see cases where there probably should be rules on gun ownership e.g. people with mental disorders. In the stateless society, this may manifest itself via defense/insurance agencies putting in some minimum standards for safety. They might make arrangements with gun shop owners, road owners and other business owners of given towns to put these restrictions in place. It might mean background checks prior to gun ownership, it might mean security requirements for people to ‘check their guns in’ at the door before entering a given building or area, or it might just be an informal understanding / gentleman’s agreement. In any case, I don’t need to spell out exactly how it would work, as the market (the combined knowledge and actions of billions of people) will sort this out for us. So long as people desire to live in a peaceful society, reject the state’s monopolistic political authority and hold the expectation that competing defense agencies will not war with each other – entrepreneurs will seek to make the peaceful free market society a workable reality. See a real world example of what an anarcho-capitalist defense agency might look like in this youtube video: Dale Brown of Detroit-based Threat Management Center is On-Point.
The distinction here is: compare monopoly law making versus polycentric law making. When the lawmaker of the land has a monopoly (like the state does) – it has little incentive to care about how onerous the regulations are or how costly they are to impose. Contrast this with polycentric law makers in the stateless society, who have to balance creation of laws/regulations with the cost it takes to enforce those laws and the cost it takes to put agreements in place with the relevant parties, bearing in mind the risk that customers will switch to another defense agency if rules become too onerous. This shows why the rules within anarcho-capitalism will not be unnecessarily burdensome and will be continually refined such that they actually serve the consumer.
Here’s a quick summary of the day’s excitement in bitcoin-land:
- Leah McGrath Goodman, a reporter with Newsweek thought she had discovered Satoshi Nakamoto by looking up the actual name Satoshi Nakamoto (finding a man named Dorian Nakamoto). The article on the Newsweek website showed basically zero evidence for the claim other than mentioning a quote from Dorian ”I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,”. Essentially, she misconstrued his statement (English is not his first language and she was pestering him) and found other circumstantial clues that pointed towards this man being the actual creator of bitcoin – e.g. that he was a libertarian, that he was an intelligent man, that he liked his privacy.
- Reddit’s r/bitcoin community exploded with anger about “Doxing” Dorian, revealing his personal information such as his car and home. I think this action should be frowned upon, seeing as she essentially painted a target on this poor guy’s back (if he was the real Satoshi Nakamoto then he has a fortune upwards of $400M), when he clearly wanted to be left alone.
- Gavin Andresen tweeted that he was disappointed Newsweek doxed the Nakamoto family. He wrote an open letter on the r/bitcoin subreddit here.
- Further analysis of Dorian’s past indicated that he really wasn’t the creator of bitcoin. See the comparison of Dorian Nakamoto’s writing with that of the bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto’s writing here. Also, compare this with his forum posts or the bitcoin whitepaper.
- Dorian Nakamoto confirmed the misunderstanding in the video by the more competent media AP here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrrtA6IoR_E
- Then, what appears to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto posted “I am not Dorian Nakamoto” on the P2P Foundation Ning forum here. This appeared to be more genuine as it was from an account known to belong to the real Satoshi – however there is a chance the account was hacked. Still, based on the tweet by one of the administrators of the site, the account was at least originally registered using the same email listed in the original bitcoin whitepaper here (though this doesn’t prove much). Ideally, to provide greater certainty that this account is the real Satoshi, it would have been better to a see a PGP signed message using a key known to belong to Satoshi.
So here is what’s most likely:
- Leah McGrath Goodman is a histrionic journalist of questionable integrity who overhyped her story and provided no real evidence for her claims.
- Dorian Nakamoto is almost definitely not Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin.
- The ‘real’ Satoshi Nakamoto is alive and is still keeping an eye on bitcoin, though it’s also possible that the account was hacked and the message was posted by somebody else.
Here is a stupid justification for the state, known as the ‘Love it or leave it’ argument: “If you dislike government, why don’t you go live somewhere else? You should go live in Somalia!”. Here’s a quick breakdown of why this fails:
- It is blaming the victim. Being able to remove yourself from a violent interaction does not magically transform that interaction into an ethical or non-violent interaction. Just because you could leave, does not mean that the state is justified in coercively asserting itself as territorial monopoly maker of law, asserting itself into your life, asserting itself over your property, asserting itself over the fruits of your labour.
- It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that you must either “love it, and stay” or “hate it, and leave”. Other options include: denouncing it, or seeking to peacefully end the state in favour of a stateless society.
- It is begging the question by assuming that the state has political authority. Anarcho-capitalist libertarians are questioning the very legitimacy of the state, so in this context, you can’t use the status quo as an argument for the continued existence of the state. That’s just defining yourself into a victory. If it was really that easy, then why can’t an individual equally tell the state to leave? Ah, I remember now – the state is the one with all the guns, bombs and firepower. However, if “might makes right” is the intellectual strength of your argument, then you don’t have a leg to stand on from a morality point of view. At least be honest rather than masking your violent intent via manipulative reframing.
“Love it or leave it” is a misleading and inadequate attempt to defend the status quo. If Martin Luther King didn’t agree with the Jim Crow (racial segregation) laws of the time, should he have left the country? If you live in a violent neighbourhood, are you ‘implicitly consenting’ to violence committed against you because you don’t leave the neighbourhood immediately? No, obviously not. So don’t use the “Love it or leave it” argument to justify the state.
I’m currently reading through Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority and it’s a great read! Here are a few key points that I really liked:
- Usually when there is some type of agreement, it makes sense that both parties have some duties towards each other e.g. the shop provides me with a good I want to buy, I pay the shop money in exchange. Well when it comes to the state, it would appear that the state has no strong ‘obligation’ to protect us from harm – e.g. if you get injured and the police weren’t there (or say they were there, and failed to protect you), the state does not have to pay you any damages, people just say that’s ‘bad luck’ – and we obviously can’t withhold our taxes. So we as individuals don’t get to not pay our taxes to the state if the state wrongs us, or if the state fails to protect us. Or if you look in the case of the USA, where a court ruled that the state does not have an obligation to the individual, it only has an obligation to protect ‘the public at large’. Well, unfortunately you can’t levy taxes against ‘the public at large’, the state levies taxes against individual people and individual businesses. So this is just attempting to “have your cake and eat it too”. You can’t have it both ways – either you have an agreement where the state is obligated to protect individuals and those individuals are obligated to pay for the ‘service’, or the state is not obligated to protect individuals and those individuals are not obligated to pay the state.
- Look back to how states first formed, it’s not as though there was some kind of explicit agreement where everyone agreed to whatever laws the government made now and into the future, and agreed to give up all property rights now and forever on wards. The states of the world did not gain explicit consent, the states of the world just happened to be the most powerful/violent entity of their area, and hence they became the territorial monopoly makers of law and monopoly taxation authority. Some people like to talk about ideas like implicit consent or the idea that it’s a ‘reasonable deal’, but if you go back to square one – there could not have reasonably been consent. Why? Because you can’t unilaterally impose costs on other people and make dissenters pay a cost to ‘opt out’! It would be like going to your neighbour and saying “I’m going to now claim ownership of your lawn and if you disagree you should hereby cut off your left arm! Ah what’s this, you didn’t cut off your left arm? Well, I guess you consent then!”. Here’s the crucial takeaway point: Go back to square one when these states hypothetically formed, people would have been living on their own land in their own homes and communities – some random group of people who want to call themselves the state claim that they are now the authority of the land. What should the average person have been expected to do in order to dissent/disagree from this assertion of the state’s political authority? Should they have been made to move their land, their home, and leave their job/business/family/friends behind – all just to express disagreement?
The point is not that most people would not consent to the state if given the choice (I’m sure many would consent), the point is that there is no valid agreement in place to begin with.
See this video below: Eight LAPD Cops Who Opened Fire On Women In Dorner Manhunt Violated Policy, where 100 shots were fired into a truck because, literally, they had the thought it was the same color pickup as somebody else’s pickup truck that was threatening to kill cops. I don’t even think it was the same make or model. That’s it. That’s the total justification and thought process that went into this. They were hysterical and shot at anything that resembled a potential threat. The women were injured, and were paid $4.2M taxpayer money and the officers involved were apparently not discharged or penalized.
So to anybody who seems to think that anarchy would be chaos and there would be incredible violence, please observe what the state is doing to people right now. Here are a few questions to consider as you contrast hypothetical free market/anarcho-capitalist defense agencies against the monopolistic state legal/defense system:
- Why is that when gang members do this they go to jail but when police shoot over 100 times into a van at 2 unarmed women, they don’t go to jail?
- Why is that when the people acting on behalf of the state make a mistake, other taxpayers are the ones to foot the $4.2M bill?
- If the LAPD was a private defense agency, would you want to work for this agency?
- If the LAPD was a private defense agency, would you as an individual voluntarily choose to pay/subscribe for its ‘defense services’?
- If the LAPD was a private defense agency, would you as a business choose them to defend your business given their trigger happy nature?
- If the LAPD and the associated legal system was opt-in rather than forced upon everybody, would you subscribe to a system of law that gave unnecessary special powers for some people at the unnecessary expense/danger of other people?
Discussing anarcho-capitalism requires setting up the correct definitions of terms such as “government”. Without this, the discussion becomes too unclear and side tracked. There can be such a thing as having “governance” without having what anarcho-capitalists call “government” aka “the state”. The difference is that under anarcho-capitalism, the governance and providers of law and order are decentralised. If you want to see how this could work, see my earlier post: Privatising the law: not actually a crazy idea.
Defining the state
Hans-Hermann Hoppe has the best definition of the state here: State or Private-Law Society
The state, according to the standard definition, is not a regular, specialized firm. Rather, it is defined as an agency characterized by two unique, logically connected features. First, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision making. That is, the state is the ultimate arbiter in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself. It allows no appeal above and beyond itself. Second, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that unilaterally fixes the price that private citizens must pay for the state’s service as ultimate judge and enforcer of law and order.
These two elements are key to understanding why the state sets up the wrong incentives.
If the state is the ultimate judge in every case, not only will it adjudicate disputes between private citizens – but it also adjudicates disputes between private citizens and itself. So it’s not that I argue blindly “government people are bad and private people are good”, but that the incentives created by a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision making causes abuse of that power. These abuses of power form a cost greater than the supposed benefit from better order in a society ruled by the state. Don’t believe me? See my earlier post, “What are you really paying for?”, outlining horrific things governments have done and are doing such as: drone strikes killing thousands of innocent people or the 262 million deaths at the hands of government in the 20th century.
Read that post, and then explain to me why conjectural violence under anarcho-capitalism is worse than actual mass violence by governments.
Recently saw another great post by Bryan Caplan here: Anarcho-Capitalism and Statist Lock-In
From the wiki article on Path Dependence:
“Path dependence explains how the set of decisions one faces for any given circumstance is limited by the decisions one has made in the past, even though past circumstances may no longer be relevant.”
The point here is in the past, the scale of the economy may have only supported one, monopoly defense firm (the state). Now, the economy/our technology/capital accumulation is at a much more advanced level which may be perfectly able to sustain many many anarcho-capitalist style defense agencies – but we are trapped within an old and irrelevant paradigm where we believe that the market will only support one monopolist defense agency (the state).
I believe it is possible to escape this current statist paradigm through: