Gov't NOT Coercion?

John K Clark (
Sat, 25 Oct 1997 09:16:38 -0700 (PDT)


On Fri, 24 Oct 1997 kristen brennan <> Wrote:

>I'm not sure if the Libertarian advocacy is for (1) no government
>globally, (2) personal refusal to obey any outside government

Lack of government is the only option because if they're around you must obey
them. They make you an offer you can't refuse.

>What's the difference between the theoretical large-scale private
>police force and the US government? Just scale?

Scale is part of it but there's more, let's start by considering the question
of corruption. The better job a private protection agency (PPA) does, the
more it can charge. If 10$ more is stolen from me if I stay with PPA #1
rather than switch to PPA #2 then I will stay with #1 ONLY if they charge 10$
less. Each dollar stolen from me is equivalent to a dollar stolen directly
from the PPA. For this reason it is in the financial interest of the heads of
the PPA to keep bribery of employees as low as possible. Contrast that to the
situation today, it doesn't cost the police a dime, regardless of how much is
stolen from me, and they may even make money off my misfortune by receiving
payoff money from the thief.

Now let's talk about how well privately produced law would do in providing
justice. In a government dictatorship one man's whim can lead to hell on
earth, but 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 or republic, 51% can decide to kill the other 49% , nothing even
close to that is possible in Anarchy, even theoretically.

Consider what would happen in Germany a few years ago if law and law
enforcement were driven by market forces. 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.

What about reducing the level of violence in the world? Everybody would have
a reason to avoid violence if possible because the disputing parties would
not want to turn their front yard into a war zone and violence is expensive,
it plays hell with the bottom line. The successful protection agencies would
be more interested in making money than glory or even 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 and just like now even when force is not used the implicit threat is
always there.

What about tyranny, could a PPA become psychotic and take over everything?
It could happen, but it's much less likely than the US Army doing it and they
certainly have the power to do so if they wanted. At the first signs of
totalitarian behavior in a PPA, people could simply stop doing business with
it and switch to a competitor, this would cut off its lifeblood, money.
Remember, doing business with a PPA is voluntary and that gives enormous
power to people, a power that citizens forced to finance the army and police
regardless of their opinion of it, do not have. Also, just like now, PPA's
in a world of anarchy would attract people who enjoy exercising control over
other people, but unlike the police and army of today, it would also attract
people who enjoy making money. Those kind of people are much safer to have in
positions of power.

>Okay, this is starting to make sense to me. Are you saying that:
>1. Libertarianism disallows imposition of noncensensual government.

Yes, although "noncensensual government" is a redundant phrase.

>Technology may offer an economic model that supercedes government's
>ability to enforce noncensensual rule.


On Fri, 24 Oct 1997 Ian Goddard <>

>The scenario you cite is not resolved by every inch of land being
>"privately" owned with every landlord having a set of rules,
>regulations, and rent. [...] You suggest that governments have this
>unique attribute that if you stand on gov't property you are subject
>to gov't law, but the same holds for private property;

With government there is no place else I can go if I don't like it, but I can
always find a landlord someplace who has rules I like, and in fact there is
nothing stopping me from becoming a landlord myself.

By the way, I think Ian is doing us a favor in asking us to examine our core
beliefs from time to time, it's not good to become complacent.

>There are claims upon land and the claimants demand a rent/tax from
>other people who inhabit the areas within the claims. When I got to
>the Earth, every inch was already claimed, so I have to agree to pay
>the fees, try to evade payment, or overthrow the claim.

I will admit that when you're talking about undeveloped land it's difficult
to make an airtight case for ownership based on natural law. If you go back
far enough in the history of any plot of land (except perhaps for Antarctica)
you will find that somebody stole it from somebody else, government land most
certainly not excepted, but we must deal with practicalities and it's
unrealistic to expect the way humans manage their affairs to be as neat and
tidy as the axioms of Geometry. Besides, land is not very important.

The thing that disturbs you is the way resources that were not produces by
human actions, land, was divided up, but that's only a small part of the
wealth or property of the country. In the USA the rental value of buildings
and land is only 13% of the value of all property, and most of that is in the
buildings. Mineral wealth is another 3% and it would be zero is somebody
didn't spend money and expend labor to get the minerals out of the ground.
The income derived from assets that were not the result of human or machine
labor can't be more than 5% and will certainly shrink much more in the
following years.

I don't find the argument convincing that because we can't trace a clear
title to 5% of the world's property that gives government the right to
control 100% of it. Their natural law case for ownership of the disputed 5%
is no stronger than my own, the claim for the other 95% I can only attribute
to megalomania.

On the other hand, the American government did steal the land fair and square
from the English, who stole it from the French and Spanish, who stole it from
Indian tribes, who stole it from other Indian tribes.

John K Clark

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