RE: POL: Anarchism vs Limited Government

Billy Brown (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 11:13:30 -0500

Robin Hanson wrote:
> Perhaps we should consider some sort of hybrid. Consider a government
> with only two functions: national defense and meta-contract enforcement.
> Interactions between individuals and most firms would be handled by
> private protection agencies (PPAs). The government would concern itself
> with PPA-turns-into-hostile-army scenarios, and with choice of law
> enforced via a single transferable asset ("money").

How is this better than a dual-level government, where states make the laws and the national government is responsible for national defense and enforcing the constitution? The PPA-based system is likely to have more variety and less actual taxation, which might appeal to some people. However, it would seem to have two important defects:

First, police protection is available only to those who can pay for it. The indigent will have no protections at all, and the poor will often have significant periods of vulnerability while they are between jobs or otherwise having trouble paying their bills.

Second, the PPA scenario offers nothing similar to the protections of a bill of rights. Individuals have only those rights that their PPA agrees to enforce, and enforcing rights costs money. It is not at all clear to me that the market will force them to offer the kind of deal we really want - they can easily collude with each other to fix prices, exempt themselves from prosecution, crush small rivals through assassination/bribery/blackmail, and so on.

Perhaps if we came at the problem from the other direction? We could have a national government that acts to force local governments to respect a substantial body of individual rights, and a large number of local governments that handle law enforcement. Localities could hire private firms to do their police work, run courts, and so on, but the ability to make new laws would remain with elected officials.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I