PrivateLaw (ThoughtStorms)

Scary stuff from RobinHanson : http://hanson.gmu.edu/regprivlaw.html


Roderick T. Long defending AnarchoCapitalism : http://www.lewrockwell.com/long/long11.html

Couple of responses to his points (using same numbers) :

1) Why no mention of democracy and voting as possible legitimizers of the government? This is the source of the moral authority that sets modern government apart from an arbitrary bunch of neighbours. Now, this whole process and the alleged legitimacy may be open to dispute. But Long can't just ignore it altogether and assume elected gov. is the same as a hereditory dictatorship.

2) It's clearly true that government isn't the only way to get some of the three desiderata. But no demonstration that anarchy would improve on the situation. In fact Long pretty much admits that.

3) I think there's a contradiction between what Long says in answer to Locke's second point and what he says in answer to Nozick in 10. He describes Locke's worry like this : "power-of-enforcement problem. He thought that without a government you don’t have sufficiently unified power to enforce. You just have individuals enforcing things on their own, and they’re just too weak, they’re not organized enough, they could be overrun by a gang of bandits or something."

Long's response turns this into a question of whether the community can co-ordinate sufficiently to repel external attack. But I read Locke (in Long's words) as worrying that there won't be a big enough consensus to punish wrong-doers within the community.

Later on, in answer to Nozick's worry that this cartel will be able to freeze everyone out. he says it’s unlikely because the very incentives that lead you to form the cartel also lead you to cheat on it – because it’s always in the interest of anyone to make agreements outside the cartel once they are in it.

As I understand, Long is trying to have things both ways. In 10 he says : don't worry. A group of law-providers can't co-ordinate well enough to become de facto government. And in 3 he says that a group of law-providers can co-ordinate well enough to effectively punish wrong-doing. But the same incentives to break the cartel (there's profit to be made trading with outsiders) are incentives for breaking with, say a punishment by boycott. (there's profit to be made trading with a convicted con-man)

4) There's just a huge assumption that the cost of one protection agency fighting and unfairly plundering another is too high to be worth paying. I don't see any argument for this.

If it was always true fighting was costlier than negotiation then why don't we see such peaceful anarchies springing up in places like Afghanistan and Iraq after the government is toppled? There's definitely short-term advantage to be had in cheating and plenty of evidence that people don't look far beyond the short-term.

5) In what sense can you "go on forever" once you've failed to convince the electorate to vote a government that will change the law in your favour? In fact, this process bottoms-out at a very definite place : when the whole electorate is brought in to help ajudicate. It's because Long never thinks about the electorate as a legitimate source of authority that he doesn't consider that here is a very appropriate final authority.

6) I say MarketsAreEmbedded in social / cultural and political decisions. I'd agree with Long you don't need this to be government in any recognisable sense. But the initial impetus must come from outside the market.

7) Same as 4). Organized crime as we have now in the "west" may be a product of government imposition and the BlackMarket. But warlords and gangs of brigands may very well thrive in non-governmental situations.

8) Interesting point that the government affords some bias in favour of the rich. But equally there will be some claims which simply won't be financially worth enforcing and therefore their holders won't be able to sell them. These people will be too poor to be protected. Justice will become a luxury for the rich.


See also :

N.B. The word "privilege" is derived from Latin and originally meant, precisely, Private Law!

It was what the aristocracy had in feudal times - they were " a law unto themselves".