A voluntaryist attacks Anarcho-Capitalism

Over at the WeebulTree Blog my good Twitter friend Shawn Gregory had a most interesting post the other day. Seems some anarchist named Aaron Hawkins claimed that all market anarchists or anarcho-capitalists are “bat-shit crazy”. You should follow the link to Shawn’s description of the attack and his answer to it. This post of his may be one of his best ever — high praise indeed for a fellow who always writes so well. But here I will use his criticisms as a jumping off point for a slightly different look at the issue than the one Mr. Gregory took.

The criticisms of anarcho-capitalism by Mr. Hawkins were given as:

  1. There’s no unified set of rules.  For example, what happens when someone commits a crime?  You can take the offender to a private court, but since there are no unified set of laws, how can you possibly know what to expect from one court to the next?
  2. Poor people will be unable to afford justice.  A private court system will be too expensive for poor people to take offenders to court or to defend themselves from unjust prosecution.
  3. Markets are amoral.  For example, if a business can make a product more cheaply using slave labor, there’s no reason for a business not to do so.  In fact, the business would have a marker incentive to engage in such practices!
  4. Privatized security and military forces would terrorize the populations they are supposed to serve.  His chief example of this is the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater – a company infamous for it’s inhumane treatment of Iraqi citizens.
  5. The corporate system is very much like the feudal system of medieval times.  In other words, top-down business models will naturally result in the abuse of workers whose only real choice will be to wander from one corporate oppressor to another.

I would like to make short replies to the five points here today. Perhaps someday in that glorious future when I am blessed with something called “spare time” I might be able to address each point in depth, but for now I’ll have to keep it short. (and sweet I hope)

#1: There’s no unified set of rules

Yes! That is exactly so. The only way to have a unified set of rules is to have a ruling entity with monopolistic control of the provision of protection services. We call that body the “state”. So this guy thinks anarchy needs the state? We have a contradiction in terms here! You can have a state or you can have anarchy but you can’t have both at the same time.

But are a unified set of rules a good thing? Of course not. One size does not fit all. I wrote about common law systems before.

The common law system (decentralized law) is different than our present system in ways that make it much more compatible with liberty and prosperity. The common law judge only makes decisions when interested parties bring a case before him and his decision only effects the parties before him. His decision has to take into account the precedents of similar cases that have been decided in the past that are pertinent to the case before him. These constraints upon the common law court leads to the public having more certainty about what a court will decide — much more certainty than our system today.

History tells us that law (or rules of conduct) arose from everyday life and many, many decisions. This was not a government controlled process but rather a process controlled by all the people making individual decisions. This is society in action. This is competition in action. Decentralized common law type systems can arise and be used even if we are saddled with government, after all, they often arose under a government.  Common law systems are much like laissez-faire free markets in that a natural order arises unplanned by any collective committee. History and common sense tells us that law that arises from competing, individual judges, arbitrators, plaintiffs, and jurors at the local level is far, far superior to laws enacted and handed down from a central committee of rulers.

#2: Poor people will be unable to afford justice.

It is a fact that poor people can not afford justice in America today. Mr. Hawkins seems to think that justice becomes easier to obtain if there is a monopoly on the service. He also seems to think that the poor would not be raised up out of poverty given a laissez-faire free market where everyone can contribute in the free-will voluntary system. But besides all that, the fact is that in an anarchy there would be plenty of lawyers who would help the poor in court for a percentage of the damage awards just like exists today under our present in-justice system. Why does Mr. Hawkins think lawyers would toss away all their business?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has written extensively on the idea of the market providing private law. This post is an example: The Idea of a Private Law Society. A private law society is inherently fair, less expensive, competitive, and more accessible to everyone — including the poor who have little chance at justice now.

#3: Markets are amoral.

It takes a syndicalist to call himself an “anarchist” and haul out that time-worn canard. I expressed my thoughts on “syndicalists” before and invite you to follow the link for a full treatment of that odious idea. But simply put, most syndicalists don’t even know what is meant by “the market”. They misunderstand it and yet make loud and vociferous comments about the market as if they knew what we meant by the word.

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. ~Murray N. Rothbard

Simply, “the free market” is nothing but the voluntary, mutually agreeable exchange between people. It is shorthand for the billions and billions of exchanges that take place every day of the world.  Mr. Hawkins tells us why syndicalism is so odious: he hates the idea of all the people making free-will exchanges without some controlling body dictating how they should do it. He wants a government to order people around in other words.

But what about his contention:

For example, if a business can make a product more cheaply using slave labor, there’s no reason for a business not to do so.  In fact, the business would have a marker incentive to engage in such practices!

Historically, the free market made everyone richer. Slave labor involves force which is illegal in a market anarchy and slave labor is always, everywhere inefficient and non-competitive. Do these syndicalists never read history? It is obvious they never read the Austrian School of economics.

#4: Privatized security and military forces would terrorize the populations they are supposed to serve.

Am I to understand that Mr. Hawkins thinks things are going swimmingly well now? After 200 million murdered by their own governments in the last century he thinks small competing private firms would “take over”?!?  If there were many private security firms all competing for the business of the people who could choose any firm they wanted to, how could one grow to dominate the field? It goes against all historical evidence to suspect that any firm can achieve monopoly status without a government to confer that legal privilege on them.

It is odd that Mr. Hawkins picks Blackwater to use as his “proof”. They work exclusively for governments, mainly the USA to do their dirty work. In a market anarchy where would a Blackwater find a government to fund their evil deeds?

#5: The corporate system is very much like the feudal system of medieval times.

The “corporate system” of the present is more properly called corporatism, fascism, or crony-capitalism. Sometimes our present system is called “state capitalism” which is not “free market capitalism”.

The difference between State capitalism and free-market capitalism is the difference between two parties reaching a voluntary and mutually agreeable transaction or trade, and being held up at gunpoint. State capitalism is the control of corporations by the sovereign government; it is a hybrid form of public and private business. State capitalism means bureaucracy, central planning, and encroachments on our freedom and liberties. Those who stand in defense of free-market, laissez-faire capitalism and against state-capitalism stand in defense of the greatest engine of material prosperity in human history: the real capitalism. Free-market capitalism is the very fount of civilization, peace, progress, and prosperity. ~Stoval

Simply put, corporations are no more than a group of individuals who jointly own a venture. They would have no advantage over any other form of business arrangement in the absence of a government to enforce special privileges for them. The present “corporate system” is odious and oppressive but the present system is brought to you by the power of a very strong central government. Mr. Hawkins knows this, or his is seriously deluded. Whichever the case may be, it is foolish to claim that there would be government enforced corporatism in the absence of a government to do the enforcing.


2 thoughts on “A voluntaryist attacks Anarcho-Capitalism

  1. This may be nothing more than a summary of your discussion, but I think what is illustrated here is just how difficult it is to distinguish the positive and negative aspects in society that are attributible to the state. Therefore it is difficult, even for those who advocate for the abolition of the state, to extrapolate a world without it. I’ve never quite understood the motivation behind the arguments between different anarchist factions. Following the abolition of the state, don’t arguments of ‘political science’ become relatively moot because noone will have the power to institute his conception of what society ought to be?
    Great work as always.

    • It is impossible to predict exactly what a world without a state would look like. We have clues from anarchies in the past and clues from our knowledge of human nature, but clues not blueprints.

      The thing is — some who claim to be advocating for the absence of the state are really advocating for their people to take over and force the rest of us to follow their path. If we end the state as we know it; I want the people to know that allowing the market and society to function without rulers will work out just fine as long as we respect everyone’s private property rights.

      Anyways, good points you make.

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