Re: Private Property and Capitalism
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 08:55:43 -0400

Regarding libertarianism, QueeneMUSE writes:

> When I endeavor to come up with solutions, and hear mostly "oh it will go
> away by itself" or " free market will take care of it" or , it can't be
> than it is ( which may be true, but its hardly comforting , productive or
> seductive ) I think it's no wonder only small percent of people will become
> Libertarian. There just arent enough hard plans.... how do we get there??
> specifically?
> I suggest looking into the challenge of how to create* a utopia, not MORE
> fingerpointing....

This question has certainly been in my mind since I've been actively
contemplating libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism in a more focused fashion
these last couple of years. Writers on this List and those referred to in
the basic extropian bibliography do two things very well and, to my mind,
convincingly: (1) They use the basic concepts of libertarian
anarcho-capitalism to make cogent analysis and criticism of the current order
and (2) they paint a detailed picture of how a truly anarcho-capitalist
society would function, complete with PPAs/PPLs, reputation agencies and the
like. The thing that seems to get less attention and seems less well
thought-out is the intermediate realm of getting from number 1 to number 2,
i.e. starting from the world as it is, how an anarcho-capitalist social order
would actually be implemented.

The development of agoric anarcho-capitalist social orders in truly new
territories isn't that problematic (although it will involve lots of hard
thought and work) and the "getting there from here" issues aren't nearly so
acute in such situations. The anarchic spontaneous order of the Net seems to
provide a wonderful example of this and I would thus add virtual worlds to
the list of space and ocean "real" territories to which QueenMUSE refers
where the "homesteading" basis of classical liberalism will work for an
initial allocation of property and personal rights. Establishing a Web
domain is a fine example of this phenomenon in practice. I make and announce
my place in the Web, others either respect limitations on this space (they
don't hack my pages) or, if they don't, I enforce my rights through
reputation (complaining to the hacker's ISP) and/or increased vigilance and
security measures on my own part (firewalls, counter-hacking retaliation,
etc.). By and large there is no state action in any of this and, at least so
far, it seems to work just fine. Whether this agoric order holds up to
increased activity with growing bandwidth, commerce and social life on the
Net will be a fine test of our anarcho-capitalist ideas.

We all look forward to testing these ideas in the "real" environments to
which QueenMUSE refers. My current thinking leads me to believe that if and
when groups such as ourselves have the physical ability to migrate to new
"real" environments, we will decide to set out ahead of time basic
contractual constitutions as grounds from which anarcho-capitalist regimes
can spontaneously grow. As I've written here before, I look to the
"transhumanist diaspora" as a "laboratory of agorics", with different
communities experimenting with different basic constitutions: Some will have
none at all, some will have minimal constitutions, others will have fairly
articulated sets of ground-rules. Assuming a full-blown Drexlerian
Singularity, the immediate post-Singularity period will thus be a golden age
of constitutional thinking and practice.

Which leaves the question of what happens to the "real world" that the
"colonists" leave behind. Do we concentrate on implementing our
anarcho-capitalist ideas in new virtual and real territories and not concern
ourselves with the Old World? Or do we attempt to develop step-by-step plans
of action to implement these ideas here? Or is this even necessary? There
appear to be two basic lines on this question. One school of thought,
discernible in the Crypto-Anarchist Manifesto, seems to contemplate a natural
"withering away of the state" in the face of a free Net and strong
encryption. This idea assumes that the new order that will develop within
the "Free Net" will naturally supplant the key social functions of the state
and that, more or less violently, the current order will lose its grip over
people. The other line of thinking looks to the establishment of functional
and territorial enclaves ("exclaves" in "Expseak"), islands of liberty, in
which individuals develop anarcho-capitalist systems incrementally, slowly
converting the legal governance of the activity of their lives from
state-based to consent-based legal systems. (Note the resonance of this
dichotomy with two other similar such divisions: The "grace" vs. "works"
division in christian theology and the socialist/marxist question of whether
the proletarian revolution needs an active leadership.)

If the "natural withering" school is right, we don't need to do anything: The
growing power and functionality of the Free Net will simply eat the state for
us. The second idea presents significant challenges. By definition,
incremental libertarianism has to work without coercion. At each step, the
regime of liberty has to be superior to its alternative, because free
individuals must choose to abide by the agoric, libertarian order, rather
than look to the state as a source of legal and social authority. Being good
capitalists, we view this on-going choice of systems in economic terms: Which
is better (i.e. more profitable) for me today, acquiescing in the statist
legal and social order, or living and working under this newly-freer anarchic
regime? It is, perhaps, the problem often discussed here with regard to
"design by evolution": Each step has to be better than the last and no
individual change can cripple the organism (cause a reproductive

There are real examples of "incrementalist" processes. The growing use of
private regimes of commercial dispute resolution (e.g. arbitration) is
perhaps the best known and most impressive. Those social activities
currently governed by state-sponsored criminal and tort law present stronger
barriers to incrementalism. Commercial private law lends itself to
bilateralism and transaction-specific implementation; criminal and tort
"transactions" do not. I have yet to see any convincing proposal for an
incremental implementation of private criminal or tort laws.

Which leads to a question (assuming anyone has read this far!) Is anyone on
the list aware of cogent plans or proposals for an incrementalist
implementation of criminal or tort law?

Greg Burch <> <> or
"Justice: A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State
sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal
service." -- Ambrose Bierce