Re: Anarcho-Capitalism Stability

Robin Hanson (
Tue, 25 Feb 1997 13:54:32 -0800 (PST) writes:
>Why do we care so much who patrols, anyhow, so long as we enjoy diverse
>sources of law and freedom of exit? If monopoly scares you, you won't like
>*any* aspect of the free market! ... The provision of criminal
>law (tort, really) may well get bundled with private communities, and thus
>apply uniformly to particular geographic locations. Other types of laws (and
>enforcement mechanisms) will probably not (eg, commercial law, church law,
>etc.) writes:
>We already have a model for an Anarcho-Capitalist defense system for petty
>crime, property theft, and murder. That system is the master-planned
>community with an elected city government. It protects the community well,
>keeps the police responsible to the protectees, and benefits from full
>economies of scale as everybody on the street is a protectee.

O.K., you guys have helped me update my default image of
anarcho-capitalism. So let me think out loud:

We start with large states as we have now, with a "monopoly of force"
within their area, who primarily choose laws to cover interactions
between their citizens, but who also negotiate laws to cover
interactions, including travel, between their citizens and those of
other states. These laws are largely chosen via centralized political
processes, but sometimes they consider the possibility that
disatisfied citizens will move elsewhere.

Then we imagine shrinking these territorial entities, ending perhaps
with urban towers or planned suburbs. Each entity is likely still a
"state" in the sense of holding a monopoly on local "force", i.e.,
fighting professionals who patrol and are ready to respond to calls
for help. But ease of moving between entities and of creating new
such entities keeps entities competitive and hence accountable, by
switching attention from voting with "voice" to voting with "feet".
And the change in scale switches the legal focus to law regarding
interactions between citizens of differing entities, rather than
between citizens of the same entity.

As entity scale decreases, competition should bite first regarding
laws of people and things which are the most mobile and interactions
that most easily cross entity boundaries. Mobile capital should be
respected early, as well as trade across porous borders, while
protecting people with high moving costs against domestic violence on
may happen late. And with sufficient competitive pressures on a legal
issue, territorial entities may be willing to let this issue be
taken over by non-territorial entities.

Given this picture, I see two contrary stability concerns:

TOO LITTLE COORDINATION -- These diverse entities may suffer severe
free rider problems regarding "public" goods such as national defense.
Hopefully donations, social pressure, and the self-interest of large
entities would be enough to get by. But if coordination comes by
refusing to do business with entities that won't contribute, that may
be enough coordination to create the next problem:

TOO MUCH COORDINATION -- In some times and places, such small local
monopolies of force seem to have agreed to leave each other alone to
prey on their "citizens". Coordination may allow them to punish
deviant entities which treat their people nicely and take in refugees.
We need to better understand why this happens so we can work to
prevent it.

Robin D. Hanson