Questions about Anarcho-capitalism

Hagbard Celine (
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 19:30:08 -0400

John K Clark wrote:
> In Anarcho- Capitalism, there
> would still be police and there would still be law, but it would be private
> police and private law. PPL's (privately produced law) in a anarchic world
> would have private protection agencies (PPA's) to back them up. Disputes
> among PPA's would be settled by an independent arbitrator agreed to by both
> parties BEFORE the disagreement happened. Something like that can happen
> today. When companies sign complicated contracts they sometimes also agree on
> who will arbitrate it if differences in interpretation happen. Nobody wants
> to get caught up in the slow, expensive court system run by governments. The
> arbitrator would be paid by the case, and because he is picked by both sides,
> it's in his interest to be as just as possible. If he favored one side over
> another or made brutal or stupid decisions he would not be picked again and
> would need to look for a new line of work. Unlike present day judges and
> juries, justice would have a positive survival value for the arbitrator.

My question concerns what we are really advocating here. I see only an
ounce of anarchism in all of it. Where there exists a law, there must
exist coercion, otherwise what is its point? And where there exists
coercion, there exists something doing the coercing. Whether or not it's
a person or a piece of paper, it's government pure and simple. The
profit-motive basis is extremely interesting to me, but
democro-capitalism seems to me just as worthwhile.

Why not just make an all encompassing contract (say, a Constitution)
which one may choose to sign or not. We can name an arbitrator (say, a
Supreme Court) which will interpret the terms of the contract. Anyone
who signs the contract (we can call them "citizens") are also allowed to
live in a certain geographical area (let's call this the U.S.) which is
protected by a large PPA (say, an Army). Those who have signed the
contract and then breach (let's call these guys "criminals") are
correspondingly punished according to the terms of the contract they
have signed (let's call this "expatriation"). Correspondingly, lets also
make an even bigger contract (called the United Nations) to make sure
the U.S. doesn't just decide to enslave the world. Or even better, let's
make a worldwide contract (called Gaia)...

Et cetera.

What is anarchy? Anarchy in the traditional sense is an absence of
government. Just look at the world prior to WWI. Treat each country as
an individual person. There is no world government to speak of, no
international law, merely treaties between nations. War has always
happened, even in the presence of treaties. A treaty (or contract) is
often a sly way of throwing the other party off. The history of
international relations until WWI is a study in anarchy. Accordingly,
the history of humanity is the history of war between nations in an
anarchic system. Regardless, can we make it work?

While I see that it is anarchic, in some sense, to have all people
contracting singly with all others in order to protect themselves, how
can this be desirable? You can't make a contract with every single
person you come into contact with. And if every possible term of the
contract is open to debate (such as whether I may kill you for XYZ
reasons; or if your first-born son will be interest for a three million
monetary unit loan) then people will be required to spend all their time
making contracts. IMO, this is ridiculous. The only real option is a
contract among groups of people. So we're back again to a government.

Contracts is a sticky business. Without an established law of contracts,
this idea won't even work. Offer, acceptance, consideration? That's only
the beginning. What happens when the named arbitrator dies? Or is killed
by my hired thugs? What happens if I forge your signature on a contract
and you forge my name on another? What about a contract of adhesion?
What about unequal bargaining power? What about fraud, duress, or

Et cetera.

It is no solution to pretend that we can include all permutations of
eventualities in a blanket term of the contract. It is similarly inane
to attempt to treat each specifically. There must some things that are
just "understood" as common to all and decent for all.

I sense that what is really desired here is actually a very *LIMITED*
meta-contract for everyone. This would cover the bare essentials (let's
call these life, liberty, and property) and leave everything else open
for debate. But then again, this is not anarachy. So I must be wrong.

IMO, the only certainty in a world where every human relationship is
codified, signed in triplicate, registered, notarized, and vaulted is
total war.

> All parties would have a reason to avoid violence if possible. The disputing
> parties would not want to turn their front yard into a war zone, and violence
> is expensive. The successful protection agencies would be more interested in
> making money than saving face. Most of the time this would work so I expect
> the total level of violence to be less than what we have now, but I'm not
> such a utopian as to suggest it will drop to zero. Even when force is not
> used the implicit threat is always there, another good reason to be civilized.

Ugh. This is Mutually Assured Destruction all over again. This is saying
that total war would not occur, indeed violence would occur with less
frequency. I am quite optomistic about humanity, but this is too much
for even me to say. Again I point to the only example I can of true
anarchy -- the world at any point before WWI. War between nations is our

Furthermore, to me, the preceding quotation suggests that the
profit-motive is the final arbiter. In this situation, what does one
measure one's profit in? Not dollars or francs or rubles, because a
currency would require a large group contract which would "govern" its
value. What happens when a party declares his rubles to be worth more
than the contract stipulates? Send a PPA after him? This is coercion;
this is government; this is not anarchy.

> I'm not talking about justice only for the rich. If a rich man's PPA
> makes unreasonable demands (beatings, sidewalk justice, I insist on my
> mother being the judge if I get into trouble) it's going to need
> one hell of a lot of firepower to back it up. That kind of an army is
> expensive because of the hardware needed and because of the very high wages
> it will need to pay its employees for an extremely dangerous job. To pay for
> all this they will need to charge their clients enormous fees severely
> limiting their customer base and that means even higher charges. They could
> never get the upper hand, because the common man's PPA would be able to
> outspend a PPA that had outrageous demands and was just for the super rich.
> A yacht cost a lot more than a car, yet the Ford motor Company is far richer
> than all the yacht builders on the planet combined.

So then a weapons race among PPA's? Small tactical nukes built from the
Anarchist's Cookbook? I foresee a very convoluted, and profitable
weapons industry -- not exactly world peace, and a waste of valuable
resources which might be used for more transhuman pursuits.

> No system can guarantee justice to everybody all the time but you'd have the
> greatest chance of finding it in Anarcho-capitalism. In a dictatorship one
> man's whim can lead to hell on earth, I don't see how 40 million Germans
> could have murdered 6 million Jews in a Anarcho-capitalistic world. Things
> aren't much better in a Democracy, 51% can decide to kill the other 49% ,
> nothing even close to that is possible in Anarchy, even theoretically .

But in the U.S. republic, there's nothing one idiot can do in four years
that the next idiot can't undo in four years. So eventually the 49%
become 51% and kill the other 49%. We don't really get anywhere, but we
sure as hell bounce back and forth like mad. I like this system because
it keeps the idiots occupied, leaving us free to go about our business
of ascension.

> In general, the desire not to be killed is much stronger than the desire to
> kill a stranger, even a Jewish stranger. Jews would be willing to pay as
> much as necessary, up to and including their entire net worth not to be
> killed. I doubt if even the most rabid anti Semite would go much beyond 2%.
> As a result the PPA protecting Jews would be much stronger than the one that
> wants to kill them. In Anarchy, for things that are REALLY important to you
> (like not getting killed) you have much more influence than just one man
> one vote.

So I should spend everything I have to avoid being killed? How is this
better than a 100% income tax?


Hagbard Celine

Not a clerk of the nostalgia of the declining ruling class.