Government enforces many laws on me that violate my rights, and with which I never agreed. But would a bevy of agencies doing the same thing be better, or worse? by George J. Dance
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Libertarians have historically stood for a proper government. A proper government is one that recognizes and respects individual human rights. Governments have no more rights than people, because governments, fundamentally, are nothing more than people and their beliefs. Governments are justified by the belief that those who violate others' rights are wrong, and it is not therefore wrong to force them to refrain from violating rights. But, since governments have no more rights than people, it follows that it is always wrong for governments themselves to violate any rights.
That is the main line of libertarianism, both academically (e.g., Robert Nozick or John Hospers) and popularly (e.g., Herbert Spencer or Ayn Rand). However, other libertarians reject this conclusion. They point out that, in every other area, the principle of rights leads to a free market: a society where people deal with each other voluntarily, for mutual advantage, and where no one can force another to deal with him without his consent. So why not here? Why do I have to deal with a coercive monopoly, a government? If I wish to protect my own rights, don't I have that right? If a private company wishes to protect me, does it not have that right.? If the company and I deal with each other, by mutual consent, shouldn't that be rightfully our choice?
In this view, the logic of liberty leads to anarchy: "the government that governs least" to the one that governs not at all. Any so-called 'government' would be just one of many agencies selling protection, by its own laws and standards, in the marketplace. Each person would select his own agency, and consent to its laws and standards, by purchase or contract.
Most of which a proper-government libertarian must concede. If Joe is a pacifist, and does not consent to the government's protection, there is no right to force him to accept it. Or if Joe and John both opt out of government protection, and deal with each other by some other law, then they have that right. And if each consents to hiring a private agency to enforce their mutual law on the other, they have that right as well. Since a proper government will be committed to not violating rights, it should not interfere with any of this.
Suppose, though, that Joe suspects me of a crime (under his agency's law) and asks his agency to enforce its law on me. I never consented to this agency's authority; and when the agents come to my door I tell them that. They reply that if I'm innocent, I should co-operate; they'll compensate me for any harm they do. And if I'm a criminal, they have a right to punish me, with or without my consent.
But this response begs a question. I'm not a criminal, but a suspect. Nor do I accept their offer of compensation; I do not want them to compensate me for their harm, but to leave me alone and do no harm at all. So I do not consent. If they then arrest me and search my home, anyway, they can only do so without knowing whether they have a right to do those things or not.
Even thornier situations arise when Joe's agency and I disagree on what the law should be. Suppose Joe is a militant right-to-lifer; and my crime is that, as a doctor, I have performed an abortion (which is a capital crime under the laws of his agency). Joe's agents find clear evidence of my guilt - but, by my (and my agency's) law, that is no crime at all. So does Joe's agency have a right to execute me or not? Yes, if abortion really is murder, no if it is not; but that is a controversial question, answered ultimately by opinion; and I do not want the question of whether I should be executed to depend on anyone's opinion.
In fact, for me to do anything at all, with safety, I must know what is legally permitted and forbidden. In a proper government, that is relatively easy: the government writes down a specific list of actions which violate rights, and which therefore I am forbidden to take: all else is permitted. In the anarchist society, in contrast, I simply cannot know, in any situation, what actions I may legally take in any situation: it depends on who knows about my action, and whatever laws any of them has consented to. Nor do I know, much less consent to, each one's standard of evidence or proof, each one's idea of due process, or each one's idea of punishment: everyone's is different, and I have no idea, at any time, which ones can affect me.
Here is where the proper-government libertarian draws the line. A proper government, he points out, is strictly limited to doing only what its laws legally permit. It may give its police and courts special legal permissions, but it also imposes on them special legal obligations: they should arrest only those suspected of violating a limited number of rights-protecting laws; they should follow a due process that protects the rights of innocent suspects; they should determine guilt only by a fair (and appealable) trial; and they should punish no more than the offence deserves. Anything else would violate rights.
If private companies wish to compete with their own police and courts, government has no right to stop them. If they do so by the government's own standard, it should grant them the same legal permissions it grants its own enforcers. But, by the same token, it can and should hold them to that standard: it can, and should, declare that private companies have the same obligations as its agents: to enforce the same laws, follow the same due process, hold the same fair and appealable trials (appealable to the government's own courts, if the convicted party consents to that), and enforce the same punishments. If they violate that standard, it should use force against them. Anything else would violate rights.
This certainly interferes with Joe's right to use force against me without my consent; but as I never recognized Joe's right to use force against me without my consent in the first place, I am not impressed with that argument.
None of which ensures that anarchy will never happen - just that it will happen when, and only when, the citizens want it to happen. A proper government will depend on the voluntary support of its consumers. Either it learns efficiency and accountability (two things it surely lacks now!) from this market discipline, or its consumers will desert it for private police and private arbitrators; and it will have no right to use force to stop them. In which case, the state will wither away (and Karl Marx will have been right about something.)
But that withering will occur by the spontaneous action of the marketplace, not through political action. Tryng to abolish government politically, by violent revolution or peaceful legal euthanasia, would mean doing away with the personal security that the rule of law provides at one stroke, with no guarantees of when, or even if, a new rule of law will emerge. The best that political action can be expected to achieve is one under which anarchy may emerge by market action -- in short (see above), a proper government.
Accordingly, political Libertarians must reject anarchy as a political option, and continue to pursue the goal of a proper government properly protecting individual human rights.
reprinted from Libertarian Bulletin, 22:3 (Winter 2001) Ontario Libertarian Party
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in this article are those of George J. Dance only and
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Any coward who supports abortion has the blood of babies on their hands.
SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.
An intriguing article, George, as usual. This is where, I think at least, that many individualist minded people veer off the cliff and become Rand's "Hippies of the Right". You present a good argument against the mechanics of market-style "anarchy".
That being said, I've always thought anarchists, of whatever stripe, neglect an important person, Caesar, or Lenin.
They neglect the charismatic, ambitious, despotic, megalomaniac who will draw the weak, and the dumb, to him right quick, and laugh at the silly little private agencies that exist(if they would occur at all, a big if), and become Lord, by Force(or by paying off the agencies with stolen loot...or both). I've never heard an anarchist come up will a good argument on how anarchy will not lead to oppression, and dominion.....especially since it always has, throughout History, and even Prehistory.
Indeed, Gorillas are ruled by alpha males.
Perhaps someday mankind will evolve to the point that we truly do reject force, and can have a society without any Government, but that day is so far into the future as to be measured in Eons, if not Ages, rather than years, or lifetimes. As such, the best deal going is strictly limited, but existing, Government. Anything else is lunacy.
Personally, I think we have near Anarchy now......strange that the Anarchists don't like it-it's what they want-Law decided by money and influence rather than Principle.
Not only do other libertarians "reject this conclusion" -- we ALSO reject mis-statements along the lines of that conclusion being "the main line of libertarianism".
The most notable thing about Nozick's work is that anecdotakl evidence indicates that it's the academic work on libertarianism most frequently cited by those opposed to libertarianism -- and well they should, since obfuscation serves their ends better than blatant hit pieces do.
As for Rand -- at the birth of the modern libertarian movement proper in the 1960's (well before the party), Randian students followed Rands principles to anarchist conclusions in defiance of Rand's intellectual dishonesty on this matter. It was PRECISELY their refusal to abide by Rands own refusal to consider the line of thinking her work pointed toward (anarchism) that marked them as outside of her cult of Objectivism in a different movement altogether -- the libertarian movement. Rand herself recognized this distinctive quality of the seperate libertarian movement and disavowed all connections to libertarianism.
The author here promulgates what amounts to a straw man version of the anarchist vision in that he assumes a one-to-one correspondence between Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs) and law codes. This builds into the argument an assumption of the conflict he purports to demonstrate results from statelessness. In the real world, industries free to establish voluntary standards through open and multilateral processes tend to do exactly that.
Furthermore, the unjustifiable assumption that enforcement agencies subscribing to different law codes could not peacefully and amicably coexist inexorably leads to a position I doubt the author endorses -- a single global super-government. After all, if DROs are doomed to not be able to get along with other DROs -- that is to say, if we humans are all robotically inclined to maximise conflict in defiance of self-interest in any situation where conflict is even theoretically possible -- the governments could not co-exist with each other either. There could be only one.
And, as an addendum, I should note that most anarchist theorists point the way toward restitution rather than punishment. That puts capital punishment off the table.
Many, myself included, would insist that some crimes are so horrific that there is no justice apart from death for the criminal. I maintain that it is the nature of such crimes that death would tend to arrive over the course of their commission (via self-defense from free and armed victims) rather than after the fact by any sort of legal apparatus.
Brad: Four comments? I'm not going to reply to all four. I would like to reply to them, but not in the comment section. What I'd prefer to do, is quote them all and reply in a new article. (Not today, though; I'm working on another article I'd like to get out before the Barr bomb tomorrow.)
Which gave me an idea, hence this comment: Why not turn your comments into an article of your own? It's as easy as clicking the "Be a Columnist" link attached to this and every article.
Realize that, while this may be old ground for old hands in the libertarian party and movement, it is not for NC readers; I'd venture that the majority have been introduced to libertarian ideas only in the past two years, mainly from the Paul campaign. The more they learn about the underlying ideas, the better.
Just finished reading this about DRO's so I thought I would include it for consideration on this topic.
The Stateless Society and Violent Crime by Stefan Molyneux After Lew Rockwell was kind enough to publish The Stateless Society ([link edited for length]), I received many emails asking the same question: how can violent criminals be dealt with in the absence of a centralized government?
This is a challenging question, which can be answered in three parts. The first is to examine how such criminals are dealt with at present; the second is to divide violent crimes into crimes of motive and crimes of passion, and the third is to show how a stateless society would deal with both categories of crime far better than any existing system.
Thus the first question is: how are violent criminals dealt with at present? The honest answer, to any unbiased observer is surely: they are encouraged.
A basic fact of life is that people respond to incentives. The better that crime pays, the more people will become criminals. Certain well-known habits – drugs, gambling, prostitution in particular – are non-violent in nature, but highly desired by certain segments of the population. If these non-violent behaviours are criminalized, the profit gained by providing these services rises. Illegality destroys all stabilizing social forces (contracts, open activity, knowledge sharing and mediation), and so violence becomes the norm for dispute resolution.
Furthermore, wherever a legal situation exists where most criminals make more money than the police, the police are simply bribed into compliance. Thus by increasing the profits of non-violent activities, the State ensures the corruption of the police and judicial system – thus making it both safer and more profitable to operate outside the law! It can take dozens of arrests to actually face trial – and many trials to gain convictions. Policemen now spend about a third of their time filling out paperwork – and 90% of their time chasing non-violent criminals. Entire sections of certain cities are run by gangs of thugs, and the jails are overflowing with harmless low-level peons sent to jail as make-work for the judicial system – thus constantly increasing law-enforcement budgets. Peaceful citizens are legally disarmed through gun control laws. In this manner, the modern State literally creates, protects and profits from violent criminals.
Thus the standard to compare the stateless society’s response to violent crime is not some perfect world where thugs are effectively dealt with, but rather the current mess where violence is both encouraged and protected.
Before we turn to how a stateless society deals with crime, however, it is essential to remember that the stateless society automatically eliminates the greatest violence faced by almost all of us – the State that threatens us with guns if we don’t hand over our money – and our lives, should it decide to declare war. Thus it cannot be said that the existing system is one which minimizes violence. Quite the contrary – the honest population is violently enslaved by the State, and the dishonest provided with cash incentives and protection.
State violence – in its many forms – has been growing in Western societies over the past fifty years, as regulation, tariffs and taxation have risen exponentially. National debts are an obvious form of intergenerational theft. Support of foreign governments also increases violence, since these governments use subsidies to buy arms and further terrorize their own populations. The arms market is also funded and controlled by governments. The list of State crimes can go on and on, but one last gulag is worth mentioning – all the millions of poor souls kidnapped and held hostage in prisons for non-violent ‘crimes’.
Since existing States terrorize, enslave and incarcerate literally billions of citizens, it is hard to understand how they can be seen as effectively working ‘against’ violence in any form.
So, how does the stateless society deal with violence? First, it is important to differentiate the use of force into crimes of motive and crimes of passion. Crimes of motive are open to correction through changing incentives; any system which reduces the profits of property crimes – while increasing the profits of honest labor – will reduce these crimes. In the last part of this essay, we will see how the stateless society achieves this better than any other option.
Crimes of motive can be diminished by making crime a low-profit activity relative to working for a living. Crime entails labour, and if most people could make more money working honestly for the same amount of labour, there will be far fewer criminals.
Those who have read my explanation of dispute resolution organizations (DROs) ([link edited for length]) know that stateless societies flourish through the creation of voluntary contracts between interested parties, and that all property is private. How does this affect violent crime?
Well, let’s look at ‘break and enter’. If I own a house, I will probably take out insurance against theft. Obviously, my insurance company benefits most from preventing theft, and so will encourage me to get an alarm system and so on, just as occurs now.
This situation is more or less analogous to what happens now – with the not-inconsequential adjustment that, since DROs handle policing as well as restitution, their motive for preventing theft or rendering stolen property useless is higher than it is now. As such, much more investment in prevention would be worthwhile, such as creating ‘voice activated’ appliances which only work for their owners.
*However, the stateless society goes much, much further in preventing crime – specifically, by identifying those who are going to become criminals. In this situation, the stateless society is far more effective than any State system.
In a stateless society, contracts with dispute resolution organizations (DROs) are required to maintain any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house or send their children to school. Any DRO will naturally ensure that its contracts include penalties for violent crimes – so if you steal a car, your DRO has the right to use force against you to get the car back – and probably retrieve financial penalties to boot.
How does this work in practice? Let’s take a test case. Say that you wake up one morning and decide to become a thief. Well, the first thing you have to do is cancel your coverage with your DRO, so that your DRO cannot act against you when you steal. DROs would have clauses allowing you to cancel your coverage, just as insurance companies have now. Thus you would have to notify your DRO that you were dropping coverage. No problem, you’re off their list.
However, DROs as a whole really need to keep track of people who have opted out of the entire DRO system, since those people have clearly signaled their intention to go rogue, to live off the grid, and commit crimes. Thus if you cancel your DRO insurance, your name goes into a database available to all DROs. If you sign up with another DRO, no problem, your name is taken out. However, if you do not sign up with any other DRO, red flags pop up all over the system.
What happens then? Remember – there is no public property in the stateless society. If you’ve gone rogue, where are you going to go? You can’t take a bus – bus companies won’t take rogues, because their DRO will require that they take only DRO-covered passengers, in case of injury or altercation. Want to fill up on gas? No luck, for the same reason. You can try hitchhiking, of course, which might work, but what happens when you get to your destination and try and rent a hotel room? No DRO card, no luck. Want to sleep in the park? Parks are privately owned, so keep moving. Getting hungry? No groceries, no restaurants – no food! What are you going to do?
Obviously, those without DRO representation are going to find it very hard to get around or find anything to eat. But let’s go even further and imagine that, as a rogue, you are somehow able to survive long enough to start trying to steal from people’s houses.
Well, the first thing that DROs are going to do is give a reward to anyone who spots you and reports your position (in fact, there will be companies which specialize in just this sort of service). As you walk down a street on your way to rob a house, someone sees you and calls you in. The DRO immediately notifies the street owner (remember, no public property!) who boots you off his street. Are you going to resist the street owner? His DRO will fully support his right to use force to protect his property or life.
So you have to get off the street. Where do you go? All the local street owners have been notified of your presence, and refuse you entrance. You can’t go anywhere without trespassing. You are a pariah. No one will help you, or give you food, or shelter you – because if they do, their DRO will boot them or raise their rates, and their name will be entered into a database of people who help rogues. There is literally no place to turn.
So, really, what incentive is there to turn to a life of crime? Working for a living – and being protected by a DRO – pays really well. Going off the grid and becoming a rogue pits the entire weight of the combined DRO system against you – and, even if you do manage to survive their scrutiny and steal something, it has probably been voice-encoded or protected in some other manner against unauthorized re-use. But let’s suppose that you somehow bypass all of that, and do manage to steal, where are you going to sell your stolen goods? You’re not protected by a DRO, so who will buy from you, knowing they have no recourse if something goes wrong? And besides, anyone who interacts with you will get a substantial reward for reporting your location – and, if they deal with you, will be dropped from the DRO system.
Will there be underground markets? No – where would they operate? People need a place to live, cars to rent, clothes to buy, groceries to eat. No DRO means no participation in economic life.
Thus it is fair to say that any stateless society will do a far better job of protecting its citizens against crimes of motive – what, then, about crimes of passion?
Crimes of passion are harder to prevent – but also present far less of a threat to those outside of the circle in which they occur.
So, let’s say a man kills his wife. They are both covered by DROs, of course, and their DRO contracts would include specific prohibitions against murder. Thus the man would be subject to all the sanctions involved in his contract – probably forced labour until a certain financial penalty was paid off, since DROs would be responsible for paying financial penalties to any next of kin.
Fine, you say, but what if either the man or woman was not covered by a DRO? Well, where would they live? No one would rent them an apartment. If they own their house free and clear, who would sell them food? Or gas? Who would employ them? What bank would accept their money? The penalties for opting out of the DRO system are almost infinite, and it is safe to say that it would be next to impossible to survive without a DRO.
But let’s say that only the murderous husband – planning to kill his wife – opted out of his DRO system without telling her. Well, the first thing that his wife’s DRO system would do is inform her of her husband’s action – and the ill intent it may represent – and help relocate her if desired. If she decided against relocation, her DRO would promptly drop her, since by deciding to live in close proximity with a rogue man, she was exposing herself to an untenable amount of danger (and so the DRO to a high risk for financial loss!). Now both the husband and wife have chosen to live without DROs, in a state of nature, and thus face all the insurmountable problems of getting food, shelter, money and so on.
Now let’s look at something slightly more complicated – stalking. A woman becomes obsessed with a man, and starts calling him at all hours and following him around. Perhaps boils a bunny or two. Well, if the man has bought insurance against stalking, his DRO leaps into action. It calls the woman’s DRO, which says: stop stalking this man or we’ll drop you. And how does her DRO know whether she has really given up her stalking? The man stops reporting it. And if there is a dispute, she just wears an ankle bracelet for a while to make sure. And remember – since there is no public property, she can be ordered off any property such as sidewalks, streets and parks.
(And if the man has not bought insurance against stalking, no problem – it will just be more expensive to buy with a ‘pre-existing condition’!)
Although they may seem unfamiliar to you, DROs are not a new concept – they are as ancient as civilization itself, but have been shouldered aside by the constant escalation of State power over the last century or so. In the past, desired social behaviour was punished through ostracism, and risks ameliorated through voluntary ‘friendly societies’. A man who left his wife and children – or a woman who got pregnant out of wedlock – was no longer welcome in decent society. DROs take these concepts one step further, by making all the information formerly known by the local community available to the world as whole, just as credit reports do. There are really no limits to the benefits that DROs can confer upon a free society – insurance could be created for such things as:
- a man’s wife giving birth to a child that is not his own - a daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock - fertility problems for a married couple - …and much more.
All of the above insurance policies would require DROs to take active steps to prevent such behaviours – the mind boggles at all the preventative steps that could be taken! The important thing to remember is that all such contracts are voluntary, and so do not violate the moral absolute of non-violence.
So in conclusion – how does the stateless society deal with violent criminals? Brilliantly! In a stateless society, there are fewer criminals, more prevention, greater sanctions – and instant forewarning of those aiming at a life of crime by their withdrawal from the DRO system. More incentives to work, fewer incentives for a life of crime, no place to hide for rogues, and general social rejection of those who decide to operate outside of the civilized worlds of contract, mutual protection and general security. And remember – States in the 20th century caused more than 170 million deaths worldwide – are we really that worried about hold-ups and jewelry thefts in the face of those kinds of numbers?
There is no system that will replace faulty men with perfect angels, but the stateless society, by rewarding goodness and punishing evil, will at least ensure that all devils are visible – instead of cloaking them in the current deadly fog of power, politics and propaganda.
This was a really enjoyable read. I would love to put more of my two cents in, but I just typed a long response to someone else. Tacit consent and expressed consent are at the heart of your argument if I am understanding what you are saying.
i would like to say that i am proud to see people such as you who believe in such a government that involves self rule. im doing an english project on this subject seeing as she let us choose our own subject as long as it involves government. i would like to sum all of your ideals and facts together in a short 3-5 page essay. plz write back on some major points that i can use.