Fans of my books and radio program know, I am a hard-core libertarian, and I have been since roughly 1992, I worked at Laissez Faire Books in the late 90s, I write books on libertarian political theory, I host a libertarian talk radio show, and I am currently the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah. I love liberty, I live it.
However, with the wave of new libertarians in the Rothbardian tradition coming in the wake of the Ron Paul Revolution (and the subsequent popularity of folks like Stefan Molyneux) I feel it is important to explain why I am no longer anarcho-capitalist (AnCap) and now consider myself to be a staunch ‘minarchist’ in the tradition of classical liberalism.
As I see it, the problem ultimately boils down to the problem that psychopathy creates for peaceful anarchism. Anarcho-capitalism seems totally awesome if everyone plays along and is on-board with accepting the non-aggression principle (NAP). However, what happens when manipulative infiltrating psychopaths emerge? Psychopathy make a state inevitable, akin to the inevitability of gun ownership in light of protecting oneself against gun owning psychopaths.
So, what exactly does government mean? Does it mean coercion at the threat of a gun? Does it mean monopoly? How we define the state will determine the solutions IMO. What happens when two AnCap protection agencies (PA) go to an arbitrator and one tells the other to pound salt? What happens when one PA, through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of smaller PAs, determines that they have more guns and jails than the other one and will simply do as they please? Why wouldn’t M&As and consolidations of power eventually lead to an oligarchy in PA, and ultimately the birth of the state as presented by Nozick?
How would this AnCap paradise be substantially different that the world in which we live where governments compete via war and espionage and competing corporations vie for power via regulatory capture, revolving door politics, corporate rent seeking, etc.? I don’t see how AnCap corporate PAs would be significantly different than what we have now, except their “jurisdictions” would be less geographically based.
Sadly, thinking critically about some of my former AnCap beliefs has lead me to the conclusion that I can’t seem to find a better solution than minarchism (which isn’t perfect obviously). While I’d love for someone to convince me back toward AnCap, I simply find AnCap untenable and more suitable for fantasy role-playing games than the real world, no matter how theoretically pleasing it may sound.
Now from a negotiation standpoint, sure, I fully “get” the AnCap position. Like arguing of the price of a car, the buyer presents one price, the seller the other, and you meet somewhere in between. When arguing with a statist, I love the AnCap arguments because they have to reduce their statism when negotiating against zero. But that is appropriate for the marketing of liberty, not the actual engineering of liberty.
I don’t pretend to see the future as I am a hypnotist by vocation, not a fortune teller. All I know is that with no rules there is no game. I enthusiastically love the rule set implied by the NAP, and I want to play that game instead of a game where without the NAP. It is for this reason why I’d like the NAP institutionalized and protected, just in case some new “innovative” & “entrepreneurial” PA determines that the NAP is somehow limiting their profitability and begins to work against the NAP. I can anticipate AnCap apologists replying, “It’s not profitable to kill or enslave your customers or potential customers.” Well, tell that to war profiteers and human traffickers.
I also anticipate the AnCap apologists rallying against minarchism with, “When’s the last time a ‘limited government’ kept to its limits?” Well all I can say is that minarchism is an ever evolving experiment, keeping the state (i.e., the monopoly on force) small and manageable is much easier in a minarchy than in an AnCap situation.
I can’t find a better scheme than a minarchist state funded via a combination of land taxes and user fees that implements a strict separation of the state and market, akin to the separation of church and state. Because of this separation of the state and market, corporations as they are legally defined today would not be allowed, only partnerships. This would significantly reduce the chances of oligarchy, rent-seeking, and regulatory capture when the craft of lobbying is outlawed.
To the AnCap apologists I counter with the following questions? When’s the last time AnCap happened and wasn’t disbanded or crushed almost immediately? What happens when a formidable state goes against an AnCap paradise? I can clearly see the plight of the Native American or other indigenous cultures when facing an organized state with biochemical agents, black chambers (i.e., intelligence networks like spies and assassins), etc. as relevant here.
Let’s assume that one AnCap paradise doesn’t get instantly crushed, then how does the AnCap utopia provide the services of police and an army without ultimately becoming fascist (i.e., violence in the hands of corporations). What happens to dissenters who don’t believe in property rights (e.g., anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-communists, etc.)?
I just don’t see AnCap solving the problem of what happens when confronted with a crafty psychopath that doesn’t want to play along or isn’t as enamored with the NAP as we are.
I think by having representative appointed to positions via lottery would solve a lot of the problems with psychopaths seeking out positions of power in government. Our politicians would be chosen by lottery and not by voting schemes.
These are the type of problems that I couldn’t seem to figure out a solution that was satisfactory or better than fighting for minarchism that allows for competing judicial systems, police, and army while funding a limited minarchist state via user fees and land taxes.
We must use all tools, inside and outside the “establishment”. For example, voting itself doesn’t really change anything, but neither does “not voting”. For those who have adopted the strategy of not-voting to fight statism, while I understand that voting isn’t necessarily a great agent of change, in fact non-voters have been a consistently larger segment than any political party and seem just as much to blame for perpetuating the establishment as it is, as the the two major parties are to blame.