Bob Murphy Notes that Anarcho-capitalism Will Break Down...

in the presence of any large gangs:

"In particular, there is an enormous 'gang'–the biggest in society–of men with guns (and tanks, bombers, and missiles if push comes to shove) who will throw businesspeople in a cage, or possibly even execute them, for engaging in what otherwise would have been peaceful commerce. This aspect of drug prohibition obviously represents a move away from Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism."

That sounds exactly right: under pressure from violent gangs, even anarcho-capitalist defense agencies that wanted to act in a Rothbardian fashion will find themselves either wiped out, or coming to engage in the same sort of violence as their foes. Of course there is an equilibrium here, and the Mafia in 19th-century Sicily (which had essentially fallen into a state of anarchy with the abolition of feudalism) shows us with this equilibrium looks like.

7 comments:

  1. Gene: Did you just blow me up by pointing out that we can't have anarcho-capitalism in the presence of a powerful State?

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    1. That is a tautology. What you have demonstrated is a much more serious point: in the presence of one large, violent gang, other potential agencies will also become violent. This means that in a world of peaceful Rothbardian defense agencies, all it will take is for a single violent gang to get a little power, and the whole thing falls apart. (Of course, Nozick showed something similar before you, but you have made the point from a different angle.)

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    2. See, it is not that "If there is one large, violent gang" we can't have anarcho-capitalism. The key thing you have noted is that "Once we have one large, violent gang, the behavior of other groups that might be competing with it gets worse."

      And I'm not trying to blow you up: you are absolutely correct!

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    3. Gene wrote:

      What you have demonstrated is a much more serious point: in the presence of one large, violent gang, other potential agencies will also become violent.

      You forgot: "Assuming the large violent gang kidnaps its rivals for engaging in commerce" and "the reason the large violent gang stays in power is that the vast majority of the public thinks it is legitimate."

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    4. Why does "the reason the large violent gang stays in power" matter?

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    5. What math man said: this point seems irrelevant.

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    6. And about the kidnapping: why is that necessary? It won't do if the large filing gang merely shoots them?

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