Re: Justice and Punishment

Anton Sherwood (
Sun, 05 Apr 1998 00:46:12 -0700

> > From: Dan Fabulich <>
> > People seem so convinced that anarcho-capitalism will collapse into nation
> > states. There's no checks on the powers of PPAs, except other PPAs.
> > What's to stop them?
> >
> > And I ask you again, what's to stop the US military from doing EXACTLY THE

den Otter wrote:
> The same thing(s) that have stopped them in the past, like the fact that most
> soldiers will refuse to kill their own people, including their family and friends
> etc.

And why wouldn't this sentimentality be at least as effective in keeping
smaller, commercially competitive forces in check, as it was in keeping
(say) the KGB honest?

> > den Otter, your state has a military, yes? What's going to stop it from
> > squishing your exquisite statecraft, cutting out the electronic
> > surveillance (at least on themselves) and surpressing the masses?
> Yes, my system would have a military, but this would not be the only armed
> force in the empire. There would have to be several, to provide the necessary
> balance. ...

But all ultimately under the same command, unlike PPAs.

> > Widespread unemployment takes place because wages don't adjust down, even
> > when the demand for labor falls. Minimum wage laws are responsible in
> > part; labor regulations also play a major role.
> We have minimum wage because if you would go much lower people would be
> starving. ...

Who would accept a wage that doesn't pay for the food to supply enough
energy to go to work??

You can't legislate a living wage. You can only forbid people to accept
a wage that you think is too low. How on earth does that benefit them?
How is it better to have NO wages than to be working for less than the
average politician would accept?

> > Moreover, keep in mind
> > that these very same improvements in technology will also make the goods
> > themselves much cheaper, allowing people to accept lower paying jobs and
> > still get food on the table.
> Indeed, automation can make prizes drop, but if stuff gets so cheap you can
> sell it for virtually nothing, then why not give it away for free all the same?

Indeed, why not? The necessities of life may well be given away as
advertising. But let's not tear down a very functional system (trade)
on the chance that such might happen, hm?

> Besides, a lot of people would otherwise simply have to beg to get even
> those couple of bucks in a highly automated world, because virtually no-one
> would want unreliable and inefficient people working for them if they can get
> a cheap, trustworthy and super-efficient robot.

Assuming robots can supply ALL services ...

> > Uhm... how do you measure the quality of a psychological profiler?
> By the number of screw-ups he makes (how many people that were deemed
> "OK" by him turned out to be inadequate ?)

Okay, and who gets to decide which politicians are "inadequate"?

> > And more importantly, why wouldn't the politicians/military add your
> > surveilance-bureaucracy-reducing regulations to the round circular file and
> > oppress the people as they see fit?
> Anyone who wants can spy back, and expose them.
> > How is this more secure than anarcho-capitalism?
> It depends on the "good will" of fewer people.

Oy vey. If anarcho-capitalism depends on everybody's goodwill, so
what? If that's a serious flaw then we're in deep trouble, because
DAILY LIFE IN ANY SYSTEM depends on everybody's goodwill to the same
degree. Every single person in several counties is betting that I (and
the rest of our neighbors) won't steal a car tonight and go burn their
house down.

Where power is dispersed, no one person is much of a threat, and there
are balances to every plausible threat. Where power is concentrated,
the opposite is true.

> > >Also, sometimes good products are suppressed
> > >because they threaten the position of some big powerful company
> > >that happens to operate in the same niche. Only a powerful state
> > >can put these things right, thus achieving a higher level of progress
> > >and product quality for the consumer to enjoy.
> >
> > I challenge you to provide even one example of such "market failures" which
> > was not CAUSED by a powerful state.
> You mean caused by corruption and such, the backing of malafide companies
> in return for bribes? This problem would be greatly reduced by strict surveillance.

Or by taking power away from the politicians; private parties, spending
their own money, have no reason to take bribes.

> Also, putting techophiles in office (at least at positions where it counts) should
> prevent the "disappearance" (into the vaults of some company or the gov itself)
> of breaktrough inventions.

You mean like the miracle carburetor, or the pill that turns water into

> > >> When I "vote" in the economy by making a purchase I am sure to get it, I
> > >> always win.
> >
> > >Unless you buy crap of course.
> >
> > You think it's crap; but if I like it, then I win.
> Sure, but if you like it, it probably wasn't crap in the first place. I meant
> *real* crap, like food so full of conservatives that you'll develop cancer
> over time, or a television set with lousy sound etc.

There are civil remedies for such things. Political control over the
market cannot prevent them; it can only ensure that they happen more

> > >I'm quite sure your PPAs would either
> > >be a minority from the start (the rest being totalitarian clans, citystates and
> > >full- blown countries)
> >
> > Not if it takes place through a slow period of privitization.
> I don't think an initially smooth transition gaurantees anything.
> At a certain point a lot of governments and dictators and who knows
> what else will see the power they had for so long slip through their
> fingers. I'll be damned if not at least some of them would opt for
> very desperate measures to turn the tide...

Indeed, the transition is a delicate period. Best to disarm the
politicians NOW so they won't be tempted. ;)

But I'll take a risky transition to anarchy in preference to the nice
orderly march toward slavery that we're on now.

What if we buy off the politicians? Tell them: "You deserve to be
taken out and shot, but that's a lot of trouble, so instead we're going
to give you all the gold you can carry, and a one-way ticket to any
other continent."

> > >or that many, possibly all, would quickly degenerate into a
> > >flock of hardworking, meek/scared sheep ruled by an elite of enforcers.
> >
> > Maybe, if they like it like that ...
> They may not really like it, but looking through history that appears to be
> the way things sooner or later turn out.

And one could equally well say, looking through history, that sooner or
later people get richer and more free. Every cycle has a top and a
bottom. All we can hope for, I suppose, is to make the top come sooner
and last longer.

> > You misunderstand how PPAs would work. PPAs wouldn't have their own
> > regions exclusively; their regions would overlap with many other available
> > PPAs.
> Initially, maybe. But enforcement groups of any kind are traditionally very
> territorial (like gangs, who have their own city blocks) and I see no reason
> why PPAs would be any different. If you want to offer solid security to
> your customers, than you must be in firm control of the place they live
> in.

Around here, I often see stickers on shop windows saying "protected by
XYZ Security" - some private firm which, when it hears an alarm, sends a
couple of goons. And it's not the same firm whose sticker is on the
shop next door. It helps if such firms are friendly with each other,
but they obviously needn't have all the business in town. If pizza
delivery is competitive, why not police delivery?

> >You wouldn't even have to leave your house to switch PPAs, just pick
> > up a telephone and make a deal. Sure, perhaps your current PPA could try
> > to stop you... but so could the US military.
> The US military don't give a damn about such stuff. And if you want to leave
> the US, that's *fine*. It's getting in that's the problem (well, theoretically
> then).
> Like I said, your military has a pretty good track record when it comes to
> (attempted) coups.

Why would they suddenly become less ethical if they shared the business
with other firms?

> > So could the military in your
> > own imagined government. What's stopping them? How is this more secure
> > than a competitive system?
> Greater size usually means greater stability. To give an example, streetgangs
> fight all the time, while big governments only fight sporadically, and since the
> advent of nukes the major ones even don't fight at all.

How silly of the Afghans not to recognize the advantages of size and

> Also, their conscience (that of the regular soldier) is stopping
> them from turning on their own people.

Do people lose their conscience when they work in the private sector?

A few years ago, Marines at Twentynine Palms (don't ask me why "marines"
have a base in the Mojave Desert) were given a notorious questionnaire
about their willingness to fire on Americans to enforce some chickenshit
law. About one in three (iirc) said yes. They're the ones who will be
chosen as "reliable" when the shit hits the fan.

A few months ago, a boy about 17 was herding goats one evening on the
Rio Grande (border with Mexico), and shot at something. We'll never
know why he fired (rabbit? coyote?), because four Marines sneaking about
- looking for drug smugglers - assumed he was firing at them, stalked
him for twenty minutes (during which he apparently was oblivious to
them) and killed him.

> In my system you could add to that mutual surveillance (the people
> spy back, and, for what it's worth, they have guns).

And what do they use their guns for? Clearly not to discipline corrupt
politicians; that would be anarchy!

> In a more advanced stage of automation the key to avoid tirrany
> is spreading control over the enforcer robots over rivalizing
> institutions (that are unlike PPs part of the same system, more
> like different immune systems in one body than seperate bodies).

Could you tell us more about how these rival institutions are not like
private protection agencies?

> > >Imagine Microsoft as a PPA for ex, providing mediocre yet somehow
> > >"appealing" services and taking out competition left and right by
> > >any means necessary. Such a PPA would become more like
> > >a nation state with every takeover or alliance it achieved.
> >
> > So what? The US military has the means and the incentives to do
> > exactly that; they wouldn't even have to be slow about it, because
> > there is no competing military in the US to stop them. So why is
> > this so much more secure than anarcho-capitalism?
> Because this system has proven itself, and anarcho-capitalism has
> (to my knowledge) yet to give a working example.

Something like it is common in "primitive" societies; indeed the
definition of "primitive society" seems to be "stateless society".

Iceland relied entirely on private enforcement for centuries, and was
generally peaceful. (The sagas, which concentrate on violence, tell of
years going by between events in the bitterest feuds.)

> If it is so great or natural, then why don't we see it all over?

Partly because until recently you had to be very rich to own useful
weapons. In the Middle Ages, of course, the dominant weapon of war was
the armored horseman: no peasant could hope to stand up to him. Thus
power was centralized.

Now, every peasant can afford a weapon that would make short work of a
medieval knight, and weapons that can kill tanks and helicopters are
within the reach (fiscal if not legal) of most of us. If the world
continues to bow down to central authorities, it's partly out of habit.

Where the central authorities are relatively benign, they will probably
last longer; where they are recognized openly as tyrants and thieves,
they will soon be gone, as already in Northern Somaliland.

> > >PPAs and other anarcho-capitalist
> > >goodies may be great in *theory*, but are in fact ivory tower
> > >productions that don't take human nature into account and will
> > >thus fail as have many before them.
> >
> > I'd say the idea that you could check the power of the military simply by
> > designing a new system of laws is the ivory tower production.
> Apparently the system is doing fine even without hew laws.
> I sure don't see any coup d'etats in the USA...

Then you haven't heard about how the politicians have taken to wiping
their backsides with the Bill of Rights? We don't need coups d'etat, we
have tyranny coming in the front door in the name of "national security"
and "protecting our children" and "preventing terrorism" and all that

(Last week I was required to show my state-issued portrait before using
an air ticket. What in the name of little green apples is this supposed
to accomplish?)

> And yes, a system of checks and balances could reduce any such risk
> even further (in fact, that's pretty much what you have with all your
> special branches, secret services, police forces etc.)
> It seems to work OK.

Except for its victims.

"How'd ya like to climb this high without no mountain?" --Porky Pine
Anton Sherwood   *\\*   +1 415 267 0685