RE: POL: Anarchism vs Limited Government

Billy Brown (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 17:44:22 -0500

Robin Hanson wrote:
> What subtle schemes/problems do you have in mind that would not be
> handled by my proposed "PPA anti-trust law"? (Shemes that can make sense
> of your concern that no bill of rights is guaranteed, or that
> the poor won't buy enough police.)

I think I've done this before, but here's a short sampling. I'm not going to include the full reasoning behind each point here - if you think I'm wrong about a particular point, let me know and I'll fill in more detail.

  1. IMO, normal competitive forces will give you markets with a fairly small number of relatively large PPAs. This is an important starting observation, because it is a different situation from the hustle-and-bustle of a million tiny startups that many anarchists seem to envision.
  2. The nature of the law enforcement business makes it easy for PPAs to create geographical monopolies and cartels, even if they can not resort to large-scale violence. The problem lies in the fact that in order to protect your own customers, you have to be able to enforce your laws against some other PPA's customers. The inter-company negotiations arising from this situation will strongly favor the company with the largest market share, and the advantage will grow in proportion to their market share advantage.
  3. PPAs are not immune to creeping authoritarianism - especially if they are monopolistic. Over time, I would expect all PPAs to gradually eliminate their vulnerability to civil lawsuits, levy opt-out fees on their customers, and generally engage in all sorts of slimy double-dealing. In the absence of some exterior balancing force, they will eventually exempt themselves from criminal prosecution and start looking for ways of extracting additional money from their customers (and everyone else they can get away with targeting).
  4. The consequences of even a momentary lapse in coverage are catastrophic. If you don't have PPA coverage, the local SlaveMart outlet can send a goon squad over to collect you, your wife and your kids the instant the family policy expires. In a private law regime there is a market niche for institutions that take advantage of such lapses, and coverage information must necessarily be public, so this sort of thing is not going to be a rare occurrence.
  5. The customer is at the mercy of the PPA, not vice versa. If your PPA wants to shut you up, all they have to do is cancel your policy and give SlaveMart a call (or take care of you themselves, if they prefer). You are only as protected as your PPA is willing to let you be.
  6. A private law regime with dozens of PPAs, each with multiple law products and complex inter-company enforcement contracts, would be a legal regime far more complex than the one we now live in. In order to know what is legal, you would have o know your own legal code, the codes of all the people you interact with, and all of the relevant enforcement contracts (and keep in mind, the very meaning of words like 'contract' can change depending on who you are signed up with. As a result, no one will have any idea what laws are supposed to cover a given interaction. The lawyers will love it, but how do the rest of us even do business?

That's really only a start, but it should give you the flavor of the kinds of things I am concerned about.

Now, lest it get lost in the shuffle, this does *not* mean that I favor our current Statist regime. I'm not quite ready to join the bomb-throwing brigade, but I can see where I might be tempted if I were still young and naive. When I express skepticism about anarchy, it is mostly because I can see more reliable ways of securing the same degree of freedom through limited government.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I