Freedom-Maximizing Societies (WAS: RE: what if microsoft disobeyed the breakup?)

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 10:07:57 MDT

Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> antitrust legislation merely changes the market to one where it evolves
> to satisfy those willing and able to bribe the government into breaking
> up their competitors. In an anarchy, everyone will be armed, so nobody
> has a monopoly on force, and nobody can force others to their bidding.

Well, here I am, stuck in the middle again. Oh, well.

In a pure anarchy everyone can resort to force, so a free market can not
operate. Instead, groups of thugs will band together to disarm and prey upon
less aggressive individuals. Groups of concerned citizens will then band
together for mutual protection from the thugs. These armed groups can easily
overcome any resistance an armed individual can offer, so most individuals
will join one in order to protect their freedom. But once that happens the
groups become big enough to need organized leadership, and what you have is
essentially a lot of tiny little states. From there it usually only takes a
few generations for the little states to merge into a few big ones, and
you're right back where you started.

In a more advanced conception of anarchy, with PPAs and privately produced
law, you actually start out at the second stage of the reversion to statism.
You can wrap them up in all kinds of paper protections, but ultimately none
of it means any more than a paper constitution - the natural tendency is for
the groups that specialize in violence to mutate into full-fledged states,
and market mechanisms are inherently incapable of stopping this decline.

Now, history does suggest that a population which vigilantly guards its
freedom can resist this decline. However, the evidence also indicates that
it is unrealistic to expect such vigilance to last more than a generation or
two. After a few decades people begin to forget that freedom isn't something
that happens all by itself. Then private spending on weapons and training
declines, public opposition to the growth of government is replaced by
support for nice-sounding legislation, and the stage is set for the rebirth
of big government.

In practice, I think the best course is simply to make government as small,
as weak, and as well-designed (in the sense of resistant to changes that
would make it grow) as possible. With a bit of care it seems feasible to
handle everything that is now done by state and local governments through
voluntary market mechanisms (including a market for good local governments).
Only a few high-level tasks (like policing the interactions between local
governments) have to be centralized in a traditional state, and these
functions are relatively resistant to the forces that typically drive the
growth of the state.

Billy Brown

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