RE: POL: Anarchism vs Limited Government

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 05 Apr 1999 12:03:26 -0700

On 4/5/99, Billy Brown 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?

Depends on what "states" are and on what is in the constitution. You could say I'm describing a minimalist constitution with voluntarily chosen "states."

>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.
>... Second, the PPA scenario offers nothing similar to the protections
>of a bill of rights. ... 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.

My minimalist proposal explicitly included PPA "anti-trust", which deals with these collusion/crushing concerns.

My proposal was designed to set aside your "it won't work" objections and see if a core of paternalism remained. Your concern that people won't choose to buy as much poverty insurance, police protection, or bills of rights as you think they aught seems exactly such a core of paternalism. Even when it seems workable, you don't want to let other folks make these choices for themselves.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884 after 8/99: Assist. Prof. Economics, George Mason Univ.