05 Sep 2012

But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?

Economics, private law, Shameless Self-Promotion 110 Comments

I stumbled across this on YouTube. Walter Block says that this essay was one of the best intros to free-market anarchism he’s read (or something like that). And hey–he’s read a lot!

Anyway, the State is lucky I don’t have this guy’s voice:

110 Responses to “But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?”

  1. scineram says:

    Indeed, all market anarchist viewers will see that this is a great exposition on the subject.

  2. Yosef says:

    Bob, in the article you write (I had to go to the text to argue, this man’s voice is too compelling), you write “Now that we’ve focused the issue, I think there are strong reasons to suppose that civil war would be much less likely in a region dominated by private defense and judicial agencies, rather than by a monopoly State”, and you previously cite the civil wars of Colombia, Iraq, and Somalia as examples of government unable to maintain control. But, isn’t civil war ipso facto evidence of a government which does not have a monopoly of violence/power?

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      I would imagine that the two (or more) sides of a civil war do have regional monopolies, and are fighting to gain control of the regions that they each consequently do not control.

      • Yosef says:

        Fetz, my point is that civil war is itself proof that the government did not have a monopoly of violence within the borders of the state. Your saying that another group has a power within a region of the state is exactly my point. A civil war means two (or more) groups have the ability to engage in violence (on a given scale). A monopoly of violence means only one group ( say, the government) can engage in violence. Therefore civil war cannot occur in a state where the government has a monopoly on violence.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          What I was saying is that whoever the parties to the civil war are, they are the defacto monopoly government of the regions that they control. Obviously, during a civil war who controls what region and when will change drastically over time. However, this does not eliminate the monopoly power that the parties to war have over their respective regions at any given time.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          But, yeah. I understand what you mean, it is logically impossible for a monopoly region to be engaged in civil war, because that means there is no monopoly. I guess that I can agree.

          • Bharat says:

            I’m not saying this applies to all cases, but certainly in the case of the United States Civil War, the one State (the US) split into two: the Confederation and the Union. Then these two States fought over territory, each “defending” its claim on the southern territory. That’s how I see it at least. Or is a State no longer a State just because someone or a group of people state they have a claim over it.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Well, there is often a lot of territorial overlap, but yes: when a state fails, competing factions fight to re-establish a new state. Instead of, say, peaceful defense agencies spontaneously springing up.

        The alternative to the modern state (right now, anyway) is civil war, not Bob’s vision (nice though that vision is).

        Bob, by the way, do you have the text of this talk? Nothing personal, but I basically never listen to anyone’s web lectures. I either want to lay down on the couch and watch a DVD of a lecture, when I’m in passive mode, or be active on the web, where I can jump from task to task, skim, write when something hits me, etc. Web lectures just don’t do it for me.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Well, there is often a lot of territorial overlap, but yes: when a state fails, competing factions fight to re-establish a new state. Instead of, say, peaceful defense agencies spontaneously springing up.

          This contradicts empirical history.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “I think there are strong reasons to suppose that civil war would be much less likely in a region dominated by private defense and judicial agencies”

      Yes, if we already posit a stable ancap system, then by hypothesis, it will be stable. The real question is, “Could we ever *get* to a world dominated by such entities?”

      • Matt G says:

        You’re using the word “stable” in two different ways. We did get to a world dominated by stable states, yet civil wars still occur on a routine basis.

      • skylien says:

        For my point the question is this:

        At the moment if I want to choose where I get the services of law and defense from such an “agency” which now is called government I need to travel to a different country obviously. I have to change location. What if I for example just didn’t need to travel but just say cancel my contract which at the moment is called citizenship with say France and contract with Spain a new one?

        Now I and the land I own (if I own any) is guarded by Spain. It is possible now that Spain and France are peaceful, why not in this fictional case as well? Why should the army of France suddenly attack Spain just because they lost one “customer” with his possessions and his land to Spain?

        Your real concern seem to be power vacuum, and I just don’t see any power vacuum in that scenario, do you?

        • Tel says:

          It is very unlikely that France would attack Spain just because of you. The French police would merely come around to your house and demand you pay tax anyhow, regardless of whatever contract you might have with Spain. You could call the Spanish police for help and they would probably shrug and say, “thanks for the money fool” or whatever that happens to be in Spanish.

          The French police would thus demonstrate that they offer a superior product for your needs and transfer the contract on your behalf. That’s how it is with protection, if you really don’t need it, then you really don’t need to bother about paying for it either.

          • skylien says:

            At the moment it is no problem to cancel my citizenship with France and take all my possessions (car, money etc) to Spain. France will not object nor attack me or Spain for that.

            Now I assumed in my hypothetical scenario it was taken just one step further. I also am allowed (by contract or by law from France and Spain) to “take” the land I own with me. If you think this way about it, it actually doesn’t sound that strange. At the end land is just a different kind of property.. So if cultural values would change in that respect, and this practice was common, there is no reason to think war was more likely than it is now. Of course I implied a cultural change in general acceptance regarding this point.

            What in effect I have described is secession. It doesn’t sound so bad put this way, does it? And of course if this was realized we had anarcho capitalism. It’s only one step away.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        The real question is, “Could we ever *get* to a world dominated by such entities?”

        Empirically, territories have had private defense agencies in the past.

        Theoretically, humans can learn and act to create private defense agencies.

        • Ken B says:

          “Empirically, territories have had private defense agencies in the past.”

          Well there’s the Hatfields and the McCoys to start.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Since Ken B. emerged under a world dominated by nation-States, I have yet another argument in favor of anarchy.

            • Ken B says:

              You made a typo Bob. Lemme fix:
              “Since only one Ken B. emerged under a world dominated by nation-States, I have yet another argument in favor of anarchy.”

        • Tel says:

          Yes, for a long time people thought that Smallpox was just something you had to live with, nothing anyone could do about it, etc.

          Now we don’t worry about it — because technology moved forward. Potentially a future technology will also restructure society, maybe the Internet already is doing that. If nothing else, the Internet gives people an alternative to the mindless TV news that has been dominated by statists for 100 years.

          My personal guess is that we will never git rid of government, but with good communications we can organize people to demand better transparency and accountability. When enough people insist on small government, they will get it. Problem is, right now most people actually enjoy their big government.

      • Silas Barta says:

        Did you know that there can be multiple equilibria, and that which domain of attraction you stay in can depend on where you start (or are moved to)?

        Did you know that this doesn’t require assuming that leaving a particular equilibrium is impossible?

        Did you know that you are therefore mischaracterizing the strength of the assumptions Bob’s argument makes?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Silas, Gene thinks he’s on top of a big hill, looking down at us wallowing in the mud. He doesn’t realize that his is a very unstable equilibrium.

        • Ken B says:

          You making a general statement about game theory Silas or claiming a specific proven result about ancaps? Because there are games where your basins happen, but do we actually know this is one?

          [I think it's important to be fair when debating Callahan, so that one side is.]

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yosef but now you’re arguing from definitions. I could say, “There is no crime in an an-cap world.” Then you say, “But what would stop me from shooting my neighbor in the head? You’re saying it’s impossible?!” I reply, “Ah, but in that case, you’d be initiating aggression. So it wouldn’t be a free market, and I’m talking about a free-market world.”

      (Gene, chill, I know sometimes an-caps do argue like this.)

      When a modern nation-State falls into civil war, it shows that modern nation-States–in addition to their other flaws–can’t guarantee domestic tranquility, which is the trump card of people like Gene lately. So Gene et al. can’t simply say, “An an-cap region would turn into civil war.” He needs to say, “An an-cap region would be more likely to turn into civil war than the same group of people who originally find themselves under a State.”

      • Ken B says:

        I took Gene’s objection to be more like how do you know it will remain stable? Starting off stable isn’t enough. Consider imposing communism on a rich country; will it always be so rich?

        More about long term evolutionary stability of the proposed equilibrium in other words.

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, I am arguing from definition only so far as pointing out that you yourself in the quote from the article refer to a monopoly state. And that bring a definition with it. I agree in an an-cap world, there is no civil war. Just as there is no civil war in a state with monopoly of violence. Your argument that an an-cap world is better than a world with state monopoly of violence used civil war to make the case, and is therefore wrong. On the civil war front, an an-cap world is better than a world in which the state has an abundance of power, but not a monopoly. But a monopoly state is also better than a state with just an abundance.

        Btw, I do think an an-cap world is better than a monopoly state (I am not, to use the term in your article, an apologist for the State), but that argument comes from things other than civil war.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I can only repeat Yosef that I “get” what you are saying here, and I find it unhelpful in this debate. Look, suppose I said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to hold a wolverine in the wild.” You say, “Why not?” I say, “Because it will scratch the crap out of you!” You say, “Ah, but in that case, you’d no longer be holding it. You just contradicted your own argument.”

          • Yosef says:

            Bob, from the text of your article, it seems the debate is about the relative merit of an-cap world versus monopoly states, with regard to civil war.

            Let me try it your way. Suppose you said “Eating chocolate is better than eating dirt.” I say say “Why?” And you answer “Because chocolate is brown”. So I say “Ah, but dirt is also brown. So chocolate can’t be better because of that.”

            Low likelihood of civil war is a property shared by an-cap and monopoly state, so how can it be used to argue for one over another?

            • Dan says:

              You’re not really saying much here. The argument is whether a monopoly state is better at preventing a civil war. Saying that once a civil war breaks out then it is no longer a monopoly state doesn’t address whether monopoly states are better at preventing civil wars.

              If we are going to argue this way then I can say that an ancap society can’t devolve into a state because if it became a state then it would no longer be an ancap society.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Yosef wrote:

              Bob, from the text of your article, it seems the debate is about the relative merit of an-cap world versus monopoly states, with regard to civil war.

              Let me try it your way. Suppose you said “Eating chocolate is better than eating dirt.” I say say “Why?” And you answer “Because chocolate is brown”. So I say “Ah, but dirt is also brown. So chocolate can’t be better because of that.”

              Low likelihood of civil war is a property shared by an-cap and monopoly state, so how can it be used to argue for one over another?

              Yosef, within the quote above, you are flipping back and forth between the two claims. “Low likelihood of civil war” means we are starting right now in either a State or an-cap society, and we are wondering which starting position makes civil war at time T+x more likely. That is a sensible claim, and the one I am addressing in the article. One of my claims there was that pointing to civil wars that occurred when starting out with a State is hardly a strike against anarcho-capitalism. I also gave theoretical reasons for thinking that an-cap would be less likely than State to lead to civil war at time T+x.

              But in your dirt analogy, you’re not arguing that way. Instead you are talking about something that is definitionally impossible.

              • Ken B says:

                This is right. But then you don’t walk into the objection raised, in various guises, by Gene, me, Daniel Kuehn (and inferentially Paul Krugman)? How do you get there?

              • Bharat says:

                I thought you were being mean for a second but then I went back and saw it was actually an analogy about dirt.

              • Yosef says:

                Bob, I think my use of “low probability” was a mistake since in my mind I was thinking about it as zero, but wanted to write it a different way, to try to get it across.

                I agree with you! Your article presents an argument as to why a more an cap society would lead to less civil war than a state. But in your article you refers specifically to monopoly state. My point is moving from a state to a monopoly state would also reduce the chances of civil war.

                There are two ideals: An cap world, with zero probability of civil war. And monopoly state, with zero probability of civil war. A state has a positive probability of civil war. Moving toward an cap would reduce the probability. So would moving toward a monopoly state.

              • Yosef says:

                Baharat, I would never think Bob is being mean in that way, because my analogies tend to be far from great. But let me try again!

                Bob would say “I know how to end the civil war in Syria” I would ask “How?” And he would answer “Just allow all Syrians to be free, and associate as they want.” So I would answer “I can also end the civil war in Syria. Give Assad overwhelming power to crush the rebels.”

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Actually Yosef, I have perhaps an even better reply to you: You just “proved” that murder is impossible under a State. After all, the State claims that it has the monopoly on who gets to be killed, and yet there goes a guy killing his ex-wife. So the State’s monopoly has been challenged. Ergo, it’s not really a State. Therefore, murder is impossible under a State. Anarchy can’t say the same, so a State wins.

              • Yosef says:

                Bob. I said in an earlier comment that I was talking about ” the ability to engage in violence (on a given scale)”. Not violence on any level defies the monopoly.

                Also, you seem to be using the terms “State” and “monopoly State” interchangeably. I would not argue that if murder, or civil war happened that it was not a State. I would argue that if civil war occurred it was not a monopoly State. I don’t think the two terms are the same.

  3. Dyspeptic says:

    The “warlord issue” seems to me a bit of a red herring. So far as I can tell, the only historical difference between warlords and democratic officials is that one is self appointed and the other is appointed by a largely ignorant, foolish and docile group known as voters (who are usually not a majority of the population). Interestingly, during wartime democracies often dispense with the trappings of the democratic process and are ruled by elected warlords with dictatorial powers, ie. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Has an unelected warlord ever had more power than FDR had during WWII?

    To me they are all warlords. The only difference is that politicians make dubious claims of legitimacy based on their ability to fool credulous voters and military conscripts/volunteers into doing their nefarious bidding. In a sense the traditional strongman warlord is more honest and forthright because they don’t rely on the mystical democracy flim flam to bamboozle people into violent conflict with complete strangers. In essence my position is that once you remove from the state it’s undeserved supernatural moral authority it’s no different than a warlord or a criminal gang. At least with the latter we are not subject to insufferable pretensions of moral superiority.

    • scineram says:

      According to the doctrine of demonstrated preference arachnocapitalists vastly prefer pretensions of moral superiority to Ali Barkan, Maarouf, Abu Issa.

  4. Ken B says:

    Hmmm. It seems to me Bob you are assuming there is some underlying state or soemthing to define and enforce property rights. nd that these are crystal clear. Take this for example:

    Once private judges had ruled against a particular rogue agency, the private banks could freeze its assets (up to the amount of fines levied by the arbitrators).

    What stops the banks from doing that before the private judge rules? What if another private judge rules or the agancy, based on a differing interpretation of the relevant property rights?

    Or a similar case here, with the notion of legitimacy

    Remember, these would be admittedly criminal organizations; unlike the city government of New York, there would be no ideological support for these gangs.

    But there are counter examples. The New Model Army under Cromwell most assuredly DID see itself as legitimate. As did the confederacy. And once you do waway with the state how can you appeal to the legitimacy of a city government as you implicitly do here?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken B. wrote:

      Hmmm. It seems to me Bob you are assuming there is some underlying state or soemthing to define and enforce property rights. nd that these are crystal clear.

      Yes Ken B., if we assume that the rule of law requires the existence of an underlying state, then we can quickly prove that anarchy leads to lawlessness. But, that’s kind of what the debate is over.

      • Ken B says:

        You’ve missed my point Bob. I am saying that *your* argument, the one you give in that paper, seems to assume that you need an underlying arbiter whose writ runs. And that’s the point of my question about the private banks. What is to stop the private bank from acting absent that private judge, or who will resolve conflicts over the very definition of property rights.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I got your point, Ken B. You are assuming that if someone is able to make “authoritative” judgments on matters of law, that he must be the de facto government or a part of it.

          You are assuming away the existence of anarcho-capitalism.

          Maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re wrong, but you’re not demonstrating anything. You are assuming my system is impossible, then “concluding” that my system is impossible.

          I can’t argue this out with you here. Look at my recent lecture on Private Law if you want to see how I’d respond, in particular the analogies with natural languages or physics.

          • Ken B says:

            I will look.

            I am seeing an assumption in your proposal. Your arguments seem to me stronger when they are cast as being for privatizing the enforcement of previously agreed laws. If all the agencies are bound by a shared legal framework and vary in the vigor and cost of their enforcement I can see your arguments having force. You seem to assume that binding.

  5. Ken B says:

    There actually is in European history something of a partial precedent. For much of the middle ages in some jurisdictions clerics were under ecclesiastical law, not civil law. Englands is a case in point. And for much of the feudal era the royal writ did not run everywhere in England (Lancashire in particular) and cities had charters making them special.

    Now Bob can say they didn’t play by his rules, but absent an enforcer how does he know anyone will?

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I found the discussion of the transaction cost problem at 9:48 a little odd.

    I don’t understand how my side can always be accused of assuming benevolence on the part of government when you then go ahead say what you said starting at 9:48.

    Yes, assuming an ancap world full of ancaps it probably would be hard for warlords to emerge.

    But such a world doesn’t exist. In a non-ancap world full of non-ancaps, liberal, democratic, limited states seem to be able to do decently well at solving the warlord problem. Of course I can’t assume all societies are liberal, democratic, liberal states. They aren’t and I don’t assume that. But I can say that we have historically produced liberal, democratic, limited states that do well despite even worse states being out there (and the number of democracies is growing). This is more than you can say. You have to assume the existence of something that has never existed to get a set of institutions (private arbiters, banks, and electric companies that all have ancap values preventing the rise of criminal organization) to get even close to the stability and the peace that I can point to simply as a matter of history with real people and real differences of opinion.

    To me, the empirical approach to this question is not to just point to Somalia. I agree with you – Somalia ain’t ancap. The empirical approach to this question is to point out that there are no ancap societies. That’s pretty damning evidence that there is not a strong case for the success of anarcho-capitalism.

    Maybe someday, but at this point there is really on solution but to assume a can opener.

    You don’t have to assume can openers with democracy. Real people with a variety of opinions make democracies, and even the imperfect ones have done OK and not just done OK but seem to improve over time.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      DK, for what it’s worth, I think you’ve raised the only decent objection in this discussion so far. That doesn’t mean that Gene et al. are wrong, it just means I think they are repeating objections that I specifically tried to deal with, and they aren’t explaining why my response is wrong.

      Anyway I’ll try to answer you soon. Busy right now. I’m serious, if I never answer you and you still care, please remind me.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Oh: Do you care if I quote from your two comments here “under the big lights,” or would you want to revise them?

        Or, if you want to make one consolidated objection, I’ll quote just that in a stand-alone post and give you my answer.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          Have at – the second was meant to focus the first, not replace it.

        • Beefcake the Mighty says:

          What’s the frequency, Bob?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Nice. I actually have a post scheduled for tomorrow morning on pacifism that you might be interested in too. Not exactly the same issue, but of course related.

    • Dan (DD5) says:

      “The empirical approach to this question is to point out that there are no ancap societies. That’s pretty damning evidence that there is not a strong case for the success of anarcho-capitalism.”

      This is nothing but a logical fallacy – Appeal to Tradition or Appeal to History. When are you going to understand that when you commit logical fallacies in your assertions, that you are also not doing any science either? I guess never!

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        If this is an “appeal to tradition” or “appeal to history”, how is any empiricism possible on any question.

        You do understand that I am arguing a positive point, not a normative one – right?

        Anarcho-capitalism as a system sounds lovely. Tradition doesn’t tarnish the loveliness of it.

        But empirical evidence does help us to understand its prospects.

        It’s not a proof, of course. Empirical evidence never offers a proof. But it’s relevant to consider.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          If this is an “appeal to tradition” or “appeal to history”, how is any empiricism possible on any question.

          Well today’s your lucky day DK!

          Mises and other Austrian philosophers have shown that empiricism, however valid it is for the natural sciences, cannot work for human action.

          Empiricism can answer questions concerning non-teleological, causal phenomena. But for human action, which is influenced by learning and knowledge, which is ipso facto a priori unpredictable (or else we could just use allegedly discoverable formulas that can predict our own future path of knowledge accumulation, and become omniscient demi-Gods in the present).

          Appealing to history is a fallacy when it comes to human action. For example, you can point to my past, and notice that every day last year, I ate a ham sandwich for lunch. If I said to you “Today I am going to have turkey on rye instead”, would it be justified to say “There is no history of you eating turkey on rye. That is pretty damning evidence against the possibility of you eating turkey on rye.”

          But empirical evidence does help us to understand its prospects.

          In the social sciences, empiricism can only ever tell us a unique past that is composed of what humans knew at the time, what their preferences were, and their chosen actions.

          It cannot tell us what is and is not possible, or what we will do in the future. For over a thousand years people believed in flat Earth. If you asked any of them at the time what are the chances of people landing on the moon, if they thought like you did, they would have said “It cannot happen, because it has never happened.”

          • scineram says:

            Maybe someday communism will work!

          • Beefcake the Mighty says:

            Daniel Kuehn gave Major Freedom a rusty trombone. Hence the tension in their exchange here.

        • Dan(DD5) says:

          “But empirical evidence does help us to understand its prospects.”

          You don’t even have any empirical evidence. Historical data is not synonymous with “evidence”. In the fields of the natural sciences, scientific data is collected by conducting controlled experiments. What controlled experiments are you referring to exactly when you assert that you have “evidence”? Second, mere empirical data can never refute a logical deductive theory. That’s why what you are doing is a fallacy. Even if you are right about your historical data, there are other possible explanations to why there were no ancap societies in the past, just like there an infinite amount of new ideas that haven’t been implemented yet, but may be implemented tomorrow or next week or in 50 years.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            ” In the fields of the natural sciences, scientific data is collected by conducting controlled experiments. ”

            Not true at all.

            Although there are economic experiments.

            “Second, mere empirical data can never refute a logical deductive theory. ”

            Sure it can. You’re skipping several requirements for deduction to be thusly privileged.

  7. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Here’s another way to put my previous comment:

    You seem to admit that a pre-existing warlord would be trouble for your solution. You present great reasons why in an ancap society a warlord couldn’t emerge, but presumably a pre-existing one causes problems. That’s the message I got.

    Well warlords do exist as a fact, so you can’t just assume them away.

    How do liberal democracies do? Pre-existing warlords aren’t a problem for us because we have tanks and battleships.

    That’s not perfect, of course.

    But so far, in the world of facts and not assumed can-openers, we seem to be winning the argument.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Private security institutions can have tanks and battleships. I mean, don’t private corporations with government contracts build them now? If they’re truly needed in a free society, then there would be a demand for them.

  8. Daniel Kuehn says:

    To drive the point home further – we might ask ourselves what we can infer from the lack of ancap societies in practice.

    Two things really, but I think only one gets mentioned so I want to stress that we can infer two things.

    The first (this one gets pointed out a lot): Ancap societies probably don’t emerge easily. Since simply assuming an ancap society doesn’t do anyone any good, this is bad news for you guys.

    The second inference: maybe they do emerge, we just haven’t seen one emerge recently (Somalia is not ancap). But maybe it does happen. If that’s the case then it’s clear they don’t last. Perhaps they just fizzle out. Perhaps they turn into other things peacefully. Or perhaps warlords beat the snot out of them.

    The second inference is important too, but I don’t hear it as much. When we observe a stock at a particular time, we need to remember that the inflow and the outflow both matter.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Democracy doesn’t “emerge easily” either. But after some initial trial and error, it typically stablizes into a gradual degradation trend.

      Does this mean that in a monarchist world, late 18th century say, a pro-monarchist would be entitled to say to a pro-democrat “It’s bad news for you guys, just look at what happened in France!”

      History is one thing, but you can’t let it determine what is possible. That would be implying humans cannot learn and change their ways.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        It depends on what you mean by “emerge easily”. It’s certainly not painless or sure. I never claimed that. But there are a lot of democracies around. Its emergence in the modern world has been easy relative to a lot of alternatives. It happens as a historical fact on many occasions. That can’t be said for an ancap society.

        As for the rest of your post – you need to reread my comments. I said that it doesn’t mean it’s never going to be true. It just means we have no empirical basis for it (and I haven’t been particularly impressed with the theoretical bases offered so far either).

        • Major_Freedom says:

          It depends on what you by “depend.”

          Just kidding. I mean really, how often do you say a phrase, then after, presume the term is heretofore not clearly defined? Anyhoo…

          You say democracy emerged relatively easily compared to a lot of alternatives. Well, it also emerged relatively difficult compared to a lot of alternatives.

          Ancap societies have actually emerged relatively easy in many instances. There have been difficult situations for sure, but certainly they emerged more easily than democracy, which is typically preceded by a relatively more violent revolution.

          Finally, we do in fact have an empirical basis for anarchist societies. You may want to look into the research of David Friedman, who devoted a large part of his work to the subject.

          As for the theoretical case, well, I have been VERY impressed by it. For one thing, it lacks a blueprint top down plan, which is exactly what a free society would look like. And for another, the principles involved are just an extension of what most “sane” people already believe (no theft, no violence, no non-owners dictating rules of property to owners, etc), to include not only “civilians”, but “statesmen” as well.

          I am not impressed by any of the theoretical explanations for democracy. They are all based on might makes right, dressed up in more amicable terminologies, typically centering around non-existent “social contracts” and whatnot, which for some reason always end up containing different rights for different people (tax collectors versus those who cannot collect taxes, law creators and enforcers versus non-creators and non-enforcers of law, eminent domain enforcers versus those who cannot seize property, and so on).

          Quite frankly, I think advocating for democracy requires a small, but positive amount, of sociopathology and other antisocial personality disorder tendencies.

          To be totally OK with one group of people, through “representatives”, initiating force against another group of people who are outnumbered by the first, is a sign that one does not have as much empathy towards their fellow human beings, as do, say, anarcho-capitalists who do not want to initiate force against anyone, even those in the minority.

          • Robert Fellner says:

            “Just kidding. I mean really, how often do you say a phrase, then after, presume the term is heretofore not clearly defined? Anyhoo…”

            I’ve never seen him make a comment in which he doesn’t do that.

  9. Blackadder says:

    Both Gene and Dan are willing to grant that if an an-cap society somehow did come into being, it would be stable and wouldn’t descend into civil war, etc. They just think that it’s implausible such a society could ever develop in the first place.

    I’m not inclined to be so accommodating. Even if you were able to establish an an-cap society somewhere, it would get taken over by gangsters or warlords within a generation or two.

    Bob says that in an an-cap state this is unlikely, because would-be warlords can’t rely on taxes and conscripts but have to pay market value for troops and ammo. Traditionally, though, the way armies have paid their troops is by giving them some of the plunder. George Bush may not have had to pay for bombs out of his own pocket, but he also didn’t get to keep the profits from any captured Iraqi oil wells. And of course, once the process gets going, would be warlords can rely on taxes and conscripts, whereas an-cap defense agencies can’t.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Well, I think I’d say “could be stable” rather than “would be stable”.

      The argument improves considerably after you assume a can opener. I am still not entirely convinced it’s a good argument. But my mutually beneficial exchange instincts start to flex their muscles a little and I can start to see a case for it.

      Because let’s be clear about the nature of the can opener we are assuming: it is not JUST institutional. We are assuming things about human nature too.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Et tu, Blackadder? I think you should only comment on Sundays from now on.

  10. Daniel Kuehn says:

    OK, I’m juiced up cuz Bob said I’m contributing good arguments.

    Here’s my suspicion for the best chance of peaceful coexistence: a world government. A federated, constitutional, liberal, planetary democracy.

    The EU an the US seem to show that this is:

    (1.) a natural end-state to predict
    (2.) a stable end-state – we had a Civil War of course but that was really the result of an extended constitutional conflict. It seems hard to argue that we will be prone to civil wars in the future. The EU was slower to develop its constitution so they are likely to avoid constitutional wars (which is really what the civil war was – a constitutional war).
    (3.) Self-correction and improvement over time. Women’s rights. Civil Rights. Gay rights. Liberalism in these sorts of societies evolves and expands.
    (4.) Peace. Maybe you think we are aggressors. But we are less aggressors than we were. Our aggression is receding. Think of Western expansion. We don’t do that now. We war differently.

    I think if there isn’t a disaster associated with climate change we will eventually be war-free (which of course is not to say that we will be free of incidental violence). That will happen when we have a liberal, constitutional, federal world government. That will also focus energies on much more important efforts that will advance the species along other dimensions.

    We may have constitutional wars as that government is established, and they could be very bad.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      By “advance the species along other dimensions” I am primarily thinking of populating the galaxy, actual or practical immortality, and collective consciousness.

      I’m not qualified to say how far off that is, but I’m guessing it will only really advance after we have a world government. I bet we could settle the solar system without one, but we probably need one to push farther.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        And of course collective consciousness is a game changer and could totally throw a monkey wrench into this sequencing.

        Immortality, in contrast, would make the sequencing irrelevant.

        And alien contact could speed any one of these up considerably (mutually beneficial exchange again), or stop everything in its tracks (annihilation).

    • Robert Fellner says:

      “Here’s my suspicion for the best chance of peaceful coexistence: a world government.”

      “Self-correction and improvement over time. Women’s rights. Civil Rights. Gay rights.” These are all issues in which government created the injustice, and then actively resisted the societal changes seeking to undo them. Government is a lagging indicator. This isn’t just a history lesson. This is present today in gay rights.

      “Peace. Maybe you think we are aggressors”

      Maybe YOU THINK! It is a very debatable opinion, so much evidence bakc and forth on whether Iraq attacked us first, or Iran, or Syria, or Libya, or Afghanistan, or Egypt, or Pakistan. There’s just such a great amount of evidence on both sides, that the best I can muster is saying “maybe you think we are aggressors.”

      RPM is just such a good person to continually and perpetually engage and give the benefit of the doubt to people who appear to live in a different reality than the one I perceive.

      “Our aggression is receding.”

      Your model seems heavily biased towards declared wars and woefully inadequate in factoring in other forms of aggression such as the Drug War, inhumane prison conditions, a prison population greater than any ever seen before in the history of the world, the aggression against civil liberties and the climate of fear that creates.

      Just because a civil war with an official tally of casualties isn’t presented, does not mean other forms of aggression do not exist. Your model is abhorrently offensive.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Abhorrently offensive?

        My apologies. I was going for no more than casually offensive.

        I really don’t know what to say to most of this. You clearly have some other abstract sparring partner in mind for most of these. You’d have a hard time putting a lot of this in my mouth successfully.

        If you want to argue with someone that thinks that “other forms of aggression” do not exist, that apologizes for the drug war or inhumane prison conditions, that doesn’t think we act as aggressors in the world, etc., then go find someone with those views. I do not hold those views.

        If you want to argue with someone who thinks that the trend is toward peace and that aggression is receding, despite the myriad problems with the policies of the U.S. and E.U. – someone who isn’t an apologist for those policies and can note progress without whitewashing failure to progress – if you want to argue with someone like that, then come talk to me.

        • Robert Fellner says:

          Hahaha but which version of you would I find?!

          I’ve never seen someone boast over how their total failure to use language to communicate ideas effectively, and a dedicated commitment to being as self-contradictory as possible.

          One has to wonder if anything you write has any meaning, when your response to criticism is always to reply as if what you wrote isn’t “actually what I said or mean!”

          Again, RPM is a saint.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Not everyone does as shitty a job at reading comprehension as your response above. A ton of people have shown absolutely no tendency to misunderstand me.

            And notice I’m not just vaguely unclear. When the usual suspects misread me it always happens to be in a way that makes me out to be making some horrible or indefensible claim. The misinterpretation is never random, in other words.

            That tells me that it ain’t me – it’s you.

            • Robert Fellner says:

              “A ton of people have shown absolutely no tendency to misunderstand me.”

              Your delusion knows no bounds. There have been entire threads with 100s of comments in a never-ending back and forth.

              I can’t believe I’ve actually replied to you more than once, this is embarrassing.

            • Ken B says:

              I second this, and assert the same thing. Posters here have taken my conditionals apart for pity’s sake. I say “A implies B” and they say “Ken B says A”. Happens here a lot more often then econlog or TBQ. I’m not expressing an opin ion on the current spat you guys are ahving, but in general DK is right about this.

      • Ken B says:

        RF quoting DK:

        “Our aggression is receding.”

        Your model seems heavily biased towards declared wars and woefully inadequate in factoring in other forms of aggression such as the Drug War, inhumane prison conditions, a prison population greater than any ever seen before in the history of the world, the aggression against civil liberties and the climate of fear that creates.

        No, this is a pretty clear phenomenon. Take a look at Pinker for details, but even in terms of wars it’s been known for a while that the 20th Century was *less* violent than most of the past, especially the tribal past from what we can By your own criteria the Old South, of apparently sainted memory on FA, was astounding violent.

    • Matt G says:

      Assuming that the trend is toward peace, why do you ascribe this to a particular form of government? What if the causal relationship is the other way around?

      It seems more likely to me that as humanity trends toward peace and prosperity, it demands and evolves less distasteful governments. If the direction of this evolution seems to be in that of personal liberty, ancap is a reasonable hypothetical end-state.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        That’s possible. We may be evolving more peaceful tendencies and democracy comes out of that.

        But people seem to be very similar the world over, and social outcomes seem most highly correlated with institutions.

        Plus people with a lot of different backgrounds seem to be able to come to a liberal democracy like the U.S. and do fine.

        So I think the case is strong that it’s the institutions that are shaping things. but perhaps something else could be going on.

    • scineram says:

      OH FFS, have you heard of this program called the news? It would tell you how the EU is disintegrating.

      • Yosef says:

        As a point of fact, it is the Eurozone that is disintegrating. Granted, this is having an impact on the overall EU, but is not the EU itself that is having problems. The points that Daniel brought up in favor of the EU have nothing to do with a single currency.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Holy crap Daniel, did you just call for One World Government? I’m not even criticizing you, I’m just making sure I read that correctly.

      • Dan says:

        I guess that’s where we differ. I read that and thought nothing of it. I assumed he was in favor of that.

      • Robert Fellner says:

        That’s weird you need to ask for clarification, Bob. DK is known for his direct and easily understood points, Strange you would ask for clarification on a comment as straight forward as:

        “Here’s my suspicion for the best chance of peaceful coexistence: a world government.”

        It’s almost as if you have spent years going back and forth with him and have become so accustomed to his antics that even the most straight forward of comments need to be double checked before proceeding forward as if what he wrote is what he will later claim that he actually said or meant.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Well… depends on what you mean by “call for”.

        I think it’s going to emerge naturally, and I think that’s a very good thing. You will not find me on the street corner demanding a world constitutional convention. I do not think that would end well if it happened today.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          I think it’s going to emerge naturally, and I think that’s a very good thing. You will not find me on the street corner demanding a world constitutional convention. I do not think that would end well if it happened today.

          Ah, the old Hegelian/Marxian “Aufhebung” of history rears its ugly head once again. This time DK claims to be privy to the course of human history through Mind. One world government is allegedly historically inevitable, but at the same time, should not be forced prematurely before a particular stage in human development.

          We can’t force it before Mind (using DK as a prophet) is aware of enough social history to move on to the next stage. The conscious choosing of world government can only take place after a particular “stage” in human historical development. These stages are also known by DK, which is why he says it is a bad idea at the present time.

          DK has Hegelian megalomania on the brain.

          Didn’t Mises refute this Historicism nonsense already? How in the world is early 19th century gobbledygook making an appearance as if it were novel? Someone, anyone, help a guy out.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            You are one strange guy.

            Having some expectations about the future doesn’t amount to Hegel, sir.

            Whatever you mud you can fling at people is good enough for your purposes, I guess.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Strange? Well, perhaps, but then who isn’t? To be honest, I feel kind of relieved when you say I am strange. Anyway…

              Oh, and please don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t mean having mere “expectations” amounts to Hegel. It’s the way you say what you said (plus your other comments).

        • Robert Fellner says:

          I like that you struggle to understand what the phrase “call for” means, and then offer an explanation that consists of the following:

          “I think it is a very good thing, but I won’t stand on a street corner demanding it.”

          And that is an example of a deliberate attempt at clarification on your part…..

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Robert Fellner, I think you might be being a bit too harsh with the Lizard NWO acolyte here. To say, “Are you calling for One World Government?” sounds like I’m asking, “Are you actively promoting it?” I understood what Daniel meant when he replied that he (a) predicts it is coming and (b) welcomes this change, but that (c) he is not personally trying to make it happen.

            However, I actually just meant (b) when I asked, so the distinction wasn’t necessary.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              So to be clear: I too think we are getting One World Government. After all, I believe in the Bible and that’s how I read the last book. But, it’s going to suck.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                Yep, I’m in agreement that one world government is coming, and probably in my lifetime. Unfortunately, a lot of people are going to die in the process, as is true in any process of forming of a state. Different statists fight for power until one state rules, the only thing that is different is the size of the rules region.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                But remember what Palpatine says to Anakin: “…and then we will have peace.” At this time, Gene will say: “I refute you thus, Rothbard!”

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                Blah. My finger aren’t working very well. Hopefully you can find the point in that garbled mess.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                In response to Bob:

                I cannot help but to think of a ship when I ponder the question of world government.

                A ship has many compartments, all that can be sealed by closing the watertight doors to each compartment. The purpose of this is so that if problems occur in once area, it won’t bring down the entire ship.

                Well, I kind of think of it the same way with one world government. If there are problems, they will be projected around the entire globe. There is no way to compartmentalize or limit the problems.

                With multiple states, you at least have that compartmentalization, and if you experience problems in one state, then you can at least move to a safer more preferable state.

                This is why I never understood the push against stateless societies. The statists are so greedy that they can’t even give up one state. Also, it isn’t like they’re losing anything from their perspective. I mean, if the anarchy thing doesn’t work, then you just end up with a state, which is what the statists want.

              • Ken B says:

                “We left a desert and called it peace.”

            • Robert Fellner says:

              Ya, I totally get that. My point is for a guy who is quite sensitive about people misunderstanding him you’d think a deliberate attempt at clarification might, you know, say exactly what you just did.

              As opposed to re-iterating his desire for it, and only able to definitely list “standing at a street corner demanding it” as what he won’t do to help it come about.

              I mean some poor fool might (even after all this!) be unsure if, for instance, he would support/advocate for policies that are likely to increase the possibility of 1 world government!

              I think I’m just going to focus on the oddly high amount of satisfaction gleaned from the “lizard NWO acolyte” comment and be on my way…

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I also think everyone should get some three digit number tattooed on their forehead (we’ll work out which one). And we might have to rustle up Gog and Magog to beat up on Israel.

        • Ken B says:

          “everyone should get some three digit number tattooed on their forehead (we’ll work out which one). ”

          Which forehead??

  11. Blackadder says:

    I suppose it depends on what qualifies as world government. On one level you could say we already have a world government. You use international institutions like the UN, IMF, WTO, etc., which can make and enforce law at least to a very limited extent.

    But if the idea is a world version of the United States or the European Union, then no, I don’t see that happening (nor, looking at what’s happening with the EU, do I think it would be desirable). The natural instinct to divide up into teams is just too strong.

  12. Ken B says:

    Murphy:

    “Low likelihood of civil war” means we are starting right now in either a State or an-cap society, and we are wondering which starting position makes civil war at time T+x more likely. That is [the question] addressing in the article.

    OK Bob, let me see if I can summarize your argument.
    “Theorem: If an ancap society develops it will not only be stable but robustly stable.”

    Lemme clarify. In an ancap society players would have the choice to co-operate or cheat. You contend that in general they will need to co-operate. This is the basis of your claim ancaps can exist: that only strategies with very high rates of co-operation can invade an ancap, that only good co-operators can be an evolutionarily stable strategy. Fair so far?

    You are arguing here that not only that but such ancaps will be more resistant to powerful players or coalitions who decise to defect than will stable democracies. “Robustly stable”. Fair so far?

    Amongst the arguments against you one is that there are no ancaps observed. But robust stability should help an ancap survive. Ancaps should be like blackholes, they should last. This suggests that either 1) ancaps are not more stable in this way or 2) ancaps just cannot form. Fair so far?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What does that mean “no ancaps observed”? I am an ancap. I am observable.

      Are you saying no democratic societies in a world of monarchies would be an argument against democracy being possible?

      • Bob Murphy says:

        But have you reproduced MF? That is the real criterion for the stability of your system.

      • Tel says:

        I had to look that one up, and if anyone else doesn’t understand, all I can say is: don’t look it up!

Leave a Reply