Reason magazine, March 2004, Volume 35, No. 10, page 47: David Friedman says that most things done by the government can be done without the government, that the government is a danger to us all because the government might abuse power, that the risks of government are greater than the benefits of government; therefore we should have no government.
I do not think it is possible to have no government. If the government of America was eliminated, each state would be an independent nation. If the state governments were eliminated; cities, counties, and towns would be independent nations. If city, county, and town governments were eliminated; then churches, clubs, gated communities, corporations, etc would be independent nations.
If there was no government, what would prevent club A from raising an army and attacking club B? Most clubs would not want to go to war, but a few clubs might want to go to war, especially groups like nazis.
Spencer Heath MacCallum and Michael van Notten are pleased that Somalia has no central government, but that means that each somali tribe is an independent nation.
A nation is an organization such that the members and assets of the organization are not part of another, larger, more powerful, organization. If a nation is eliminated, then the various organizations which used to be subordinate parts of the nation become independent nations. If there were no nations, then any time a new organization was created, the new organization would be an independent nation.
In order to have no nations, all organizations must be eliminated, and people must be prevented from creating new organizations. But there is no way to prevent people from creating organizations.
So if David Friedman wishes to have no government, he must have no people.
People who want to have no government give historical examples of places with no government, such as medieval Iceland, Somalia 1990-?, medieval Ireland, etc; where there was peace and prosperity. But surely there are other historical examples of places with no government, like early medieval Europe; where there was neither peace nor prosperity.
The book Limon Real, written in spanish by Rigoberto Stewart, translated into english by Spencer Heath MacCallum, published by the Heather Foundation, page 214, footnote 67 is: Joseph R. Peden, "Stateless Societies: Ancient Ireland," The Libertarian Forum, April 1971.
I think it is possible to have a society without a government, but only if there was a culture which included strict rules about how a person should behave, and these rules should be enforced through peer pressure. Nonconformism would be unthinkable. If a person refused to behave, the other people would murder the nonconformist. Such a society would be closed minded and static. The enforcement of the social rules would be as oppressive as a government. Such a society would not be a free society.
In tracking the ghost of bin Laden in the land of the Pashtun, by Tim McGirk, National Geographic magazine, December 2004, page 15; it says that in December 2001 a group of 50 al Qaeda fighters left Tora Bora and sought refuge in Dandar Kili, in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. The village chief advised them to stash their weapons and hide. When they were disarmed, the villagers robbed them and then expelled them from the village. When the people in the neighboring villages heard about this, the people from the neighboring villages destroyed Dandar Kili.
The people from the neighboring villages did not like the way the people of Dandar Kili behaved, and so the people from the neighboring villages attacked the people of Dandar Kili. I am not defending the people of Dandar Kili. I do not approve of robbing strangers, even if the strangers are criminals. I am saying that there is no freedom in this part of Pakistan, even though there is no government. If you want to stay alive there, you must behave the way other people want you to behave. It is a very dangerous place to be a nonconformist. Anarchy does not mean freedom.
In Limon Real, Rigoberto Stewart says that there should be multiple private courts and no government courts. Anyone could sue anyone in any court. The defendant could appeal to any other court. If the two courts disagreed, the case would be appealed to a third court chosen by both parties.
I think this system of multiple competing private courts is based on the book The Machinery of Freedom, by David Freidman.
Suppose a thief was sued for stealing and found guilty. Suppose the thief appeals to a court which favors criminals and is found innocent. Suppose the thief refuses to agree with the victim on which third court should hear the final appeal, so that there can be no final appeal.
Or suppose that a criminal does something. The criminal is sued and found guilty. Suppose the criminal refuses to pay the fine. What can the victim do, file another lawsuit against the criminal? What if the criminal refuses to pay that fine too? Such a criminal would have a hard time borrowing money, but so what? Most people would be reluctant to do business with the criminal, but then there would be less competition, so doing business with the criminal would be more profitable than doing business with other people, and so there would always be some people willing to do business with the criminal for the sake of the extra profit.
And what if many people considered the criminal to be like Robin Hood, robbing the rich and giving to the poor? It is very difficult for the government to catch criminals who have popular support. If the cooperation of the whole society is required to stop a criminal, then a criminal who is supported by part of society cannot be stopped.
Most people want justice and are willing to pay for justice. So if there was no government to provide justice, then entrepreneurs would probably find a way to sell justice to people, such as by selling theft insurance or by renting space in a private community which provides justice. But not everyone wants justice. Criminals want injustice. So some entrepreneurs might make a business out of selling injustice to criminals. For example, a private court which favors criminals would be popular with criminals.
If there were no government courts, only free market private courts, then the free market would provide justice because there is a demand for justice. But the free market would also provide injustice, because there is also a demand for injustice.
If a thief cannot be convinced to obey a court order, then the court order can only be enforced through violence. If a group of thieves is organized and armed, then it will require much violence to punish the thieves; and this will be expensive. If the group of thieves can become large enough, organized enough, and armed enough; then it becomes so expensive to punish the thieves that it becomes impossible to punish the thieves.
Therefore criminal gangs must be prevented from becoming too large, too well organized, and too well armed. Small, growing criminal gangs must be destroyed before they become too powerful.
Law and order will fail if a criminal gang becomes more powerful than the government. If there is a powerful government, then moderately powerful criminal gangs can exist without destroying law and order. But if there is no government, then even a small criminal gang can destroy society.
There must be a government, and the government must be powerful enough that it is impossible to create a criminal gang more powerful than the government.
Anarchy appeals to some people because there is no possibility of the government committing acts of violence against people. But sometimes it is neccessary for the government to commit acts of violence against criminals.
The less power the government has, the easier it is to create a gang of criminals which is too powerful to punish. If there is no government, then it is too easy to create a gang of criminals which is too powerful to punish.
If there was no government, and if there was a powerful gang of criminals, then the powerful gang of criminals would probably practise extortion. The powerful gang of criminals would promise not to attack people who paid protection money. The powerful gang of criminals would probably suppress competing gangs of criminals. The protection money would become taxes, the suppression of competing gangs would become justice, and the powerful criminal gang would become a government.
Any society without a government would be in constant danger of acquiring a government.
In a community with no government, every intelligent person would know that he could become rich and powerful if he established a government with himself as the leader. Many people would try to make themselves dictator so they could become rich and powerful. And so a community with no government would be subject to frequent violent attempts to create a government.
The rumors I hear from Somalia suggest that is exactly what is happening there.
If you are sick and you go to a doctor, if the doctor does the right thing, you will be cured, but if the doctor does the wrong thing, you will die. The best a doctor can do is to restore you to health. The worst a doctor can do is to kill you. Government is like a doctor. If the government has good policies, then people benefit. If the government has bad policies, then people suffer and die. Anarchists say that we should eliminate government to eliminate the possibility that the government will have bad policies. Should we also eliminate doctors to eliminate the possibility that doctors will provide the wrong treatment and kill patients?
I think we should encourage good doctors and discourage bad doctors, not eliminate doctors. I think we encourage good government and discourage bad government, not eliminate government.
A free market rule of law republic provides peace and prosperity, which benefits everyone. And yet, some people choose to become criminals, even though crime undermines the peace and prosperity. Why do criminals undermine the system which benefits them? Criminals conclude that the benefits they receive from crime are greater than the benefits they lose by damaging their society. The anarchists seem to believe that anarchy will benefit everyone, therefore no one will try to undermine an anarchist society, that no one will choose to become a criminal. I think this assumption is incorrect. Every society has criminals. I predict that in an anarchist society, there will be people who try to abuse society for their own profit, even though such abuse will damage the society which benefits them.
Think about how many people hate capitalism and freedom, even though they benefit from capitalism and freedom.
It is not possible to have a society where no one wants to be a criminal without mind control or very strict and oppressive peer pressure.
Furthermore, I think the criminals in an anarchist society will make intelligent efforts to evade punishment.
I think the anarchists should try to think like an intelligent thief. An intelligent thief wants to steal as much as possible with as little risk as possible. The anarchists should ask how can a thief steal as much as possible with as little risk as possible in an anarchist society. The anarchists are thinking like overconfidant watchmen, admiring the strongest parts of their antitheft defenses. A real thief would look at the weakest parts.
In From Upstate New York to the Horn of Africa, by Spencer Heath MacCallum, Liberty magazine, May 2005, page 33; Spencer Heath MacCallum says societies should be organized like a hotel, where there is an owner who provides services in exchange for fees. Hotels can provide any services and charge any fees they want. If customers do not like the services or fees of one hotel, the customers can go to a different hotel instead. Spencer Heath MacCallum says You don't find hotels taxing or drafting their guests ... to fight a hotel across the street.
But the government does not allow hotels to fight wars. We cannot assume that a hotel which is independent of all governments would behave in the same way as a hotel which is subject to a government.
If a hotel attacks and destroys the hotel across the street, then the hotel would have less competition and could earn higher profits. So a hotel has an incentive to attack other hotels. So perhaps would make war on each other if there was no government to stop them. Furthermore, the hotel which attacks first would have the advantage of surprise, and so hotels might rush to start wars so they could attack first.
If I owned a hotel which was independent of all governments, I would insert a clause in the standard customer contract which would say that if the hotel was attacked, customers would be required to help defend the hotel, and that the possessions of customers would be taken without compensation for use in defending the hotel against attack. Then I would advertise this clause, so that everyone would know about the clause, so that no customer could say they were unaware of the clause, and so that any enemy would know about the clause and might be hesitant to attack the hotel. Hopefully the clause would deter attack and would never need to be used. I think that hotels which are independent of all governments would reserve the right to draft and tax their guests in extreme circumstances.
I agree with Spencer Heath MacCallum that local governments should compete for residents and investors similar to the way hotels compete for customers and investors. But I think there needs to be a central government to enforce the rules of competition. That is what I call competitive federalism.
The only way to find out for sure if anarchy will work is to try it. I have no objection to anyone trying anarchy, as long as they do not force me to participate in their experiment. But if they try to abolish my government, then they are trying to force me to participate in their experiment.
There is no world government, so anarchy already exists in international relations. The result is trade barriers, high military spending, and occasional wars. If the anarchists think this is good, then what are they objecting to? If the anarchists think this is bad, then why are they in favor of it?
Also, international law is becoming more significant, which suggests that international anarchy is changing into a world government. I think this is evidence that anarchy tends to change into government.
Once upon a time there was no government. Our ancestors gave up anarchy and established governments. History shows that anarchy tends to be replaced by government. If anarchy was established in the future, then sooner or later anarchy would be replaced by government, just like in the past.
If government is abolished, I predict that some people will organize themselves into criminal organizations and steal from other people. The other people will organize themselves into self defense organizations to protect themselves from the criminal organizations. The criminal organizations will form alliances, merge, and grow to become powerful enough to overcome the resistance of the self defense organizations. The self defense organizations will form alliances, merge, and grow to become powerful enough to resist the criminal organizations. There will be arms races. Some criminal organizations will sell protection, and will become more like the self defense organizations. Some self defense organizations will attack other organizations before the other organizations can attack them, and will become more like the criminal organizations. The self defense and criminal organizations become nations. In the end, the anarchist world will look just like the world we already have.
Government is a neccessary evil. We need a slightly evil government to prevent the creation of a very evil government.
In Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable, by Randall G. Holcombe, The Independent Review, 2004, no. 3: 325-42; Holcombe says that anarchy will not work. There is a rebuttal to Holcombe in Is Government Inevitable?, by Peter T. Leeson and Edward P. Stringham, The Independent Review, spring 2005, pages 543-49. Both of these articles are probably available from the Independent Institute's web site. I think the rebuttal is unconvincing. Leeson and Stringham give a list of societies which existed without government, but the examples are all low technology societies with little division of labor.
There will always be disputes where both parties believe they are right, and believe it is an injustice if the judge decides against them. They may believe that they should reject any decision against them because that would be accepting injustice. For example, blacks versus whites in jim crow america, or israelis versus arabs. These disputes cannot be solved unless someone imposes a solution by force. The only person who can impose a solution is the person with the most powerful army. The ultimate court of appeal for all judicial decisions is the person with the most powerful army. If there is no government, the person with the most powerful army is probably the most violent warlord. If there is a government, the person with the most powerful army is the government. We need a government so the ultimate court of appeal will not be a warlord.