theory and practice of anarchy

Anton Sherwood (
Wed, 19 Nov 1997 18:14:30 -0800 (PST)

: Anton Sherwood <> wrote
: > ... why did [Euro. govts] take control over transport
: >in the first place?

Arjen Kamphuis writes
: Well (little private theorising here) in the last century, when railroad
: infrastruture was being contstructed, Europe was already a densly populated
: area with a complex society. And most country's weren't truly democratic.
: States were the only ones capable of undertaking such projects and so they
: did. Also in Europe good infrastructure was vital for military reasons. In
: the US there was no Royalty in the classic sense and lotsa more room for
: anybody with a daring idea. All of this is just an 'educated guess' - maybe
: there are historians on the list who can shed a light on this. They
: question why states came into existance in the various form they did and
: what caused the *differences* is relevant to anyone wishing to obsolete
: them, know your enemy and all that ;-)

What makes this dubious is that in England the canals and railroads
were privately built. In fact, if I remember right, they were built
by Nonconformists (non-Anglicans), who suffered certain legal
disabilities (they couldn't have government jobs, for instance)
until sometime in the 19C.

: >: But maybe I still do not fully understand anarchocapitalism. In such
: >: a society, without a state of any sort, who makes and upholds laws?
: >: or is it every person for him/herself?

: >Most law enforcement *is* at the individual level.
: >You have locks on your doors, no?

: Wiil a lock be enough? The only way to prevent criminals to enter my house
: and loot the place (Yes, certain things I own are important to me) would be
: to live in a fortress or to have some kind of weapon to discourage them.
: I don't much like the first option and the alternative would lead to a
: personal arms race between me and anybody that I think might want to hurt
: me. I gues you know the argument... I see no way out of this.

You seem to assume that your opponents are willing to spend unlimited
effort and resources to get at you. In fact, your computer and your
goldfish are worth only a finite amount, and probably far less to
anyone else than to you.

I remember a meal in a restaurant somewhere, when a policeman in the
next booth told his friends (loudly and repeatedly), "Locks are not
meant to stop thieves: locks are to keep honest people honest," i.e.
to remove temptation. I wouldn't go that far (how would I know, I'm
not in the crime business!); it seems to me if you do *anything* to
make the burglar's job more difficult, you reduce the number of attempts.
If the burglar needs costly high-tech equipment to get into your
house, where's his profit?

As for the arms race, experience seems to suggest otherwise. About
a million times a year, an American shows a gun to a potential attacker,
and the attacker flees. Doesn't have to be a big fancy gun, any gun
will do.

: I'm not even going to make a long case about such a society being
: quickly conquered by a society that didn't abolish the cetralised
: state (and thus has a large, heavily equipped army).

I'm glad - because there are arguments against that too, but they're
rather unsatisfying.

: >My dream is to build free institutions *beside* the State, in no way
: >dependent on it, so that if the State should crumble we'll be no more
: >disturbed than if some big corporation - AT&T, let's say - goes out
: >of business. (I don't mean to imply *no* disturbance. If AT&T crashes
: >millions of people will be inconvenienced for a few weeks, but there
: >are other wires.)
: Problem remains how you can garuantee in any way that these institutions
: don't become the instruments of dictators or some such (without any form of
: democratic control). One of the oldest political problems, who will guard
: us from our guardians? But I agree that it's always good to have a backups.

One answer is to have three or more sets of guardians, none of whom has
any institutional dependence on the other(s), watching each other. The
division of powers (legislative, executive, judicial) was intended to
accomplish that, but in practice they all depend so much on each other
that they cannot be called independent - they're not parallel guardians,
they're elements of the same guardian. I don't know just how to beat
that problem.

: This was educational, thank Anton,

And thank you for your patience.

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*