The Power Problem...

and how anarchocapitalism doesn't eliminate it.

Some anarchists of my acquaintance were worked up over this video, and, of course, saw it as an indictment of The State. (By the way, my judgment on the incident was that the police were completely in the right and Farrell completely in the wrong until the cops lost it and began pounding on her van and trying to shoot out her tires. In fact, you can see the first cop was in fact very, very patient with her for quite a while.)

But it is odd, because it is not apparent how creating Ancapistan tomorrow would do anything to lower the probability of something like this happening the day after tomorrow. Consider the following points:

1) There would be speeding laws in Ancapistan. We can easily see this by looking at private communities, which happen to surround me in Pennsylvania. Every one of them that I have been in (and that is quite a few, as my daughter has had swim meets in many of them) has posted speed limits, and usually lower speed limits than would similar public roads.

2) There would be people to enforce those laws. Again, there is always private security in these communities. And although today they are not often armed, that is because they can call armed backup when they need it.

3) The security force would have procedures for how to comply when its personnel stop you. (For instance. their policy might be, "Pay up this minute," a harsher policy than the New Mexico police follow.)

4) When you flout those procedures, they would get angry.

And note that these competing defense agencies will have different philosophies on how to deal with these problems.

In Murphyland, the defense agents would apparently just talk nicely to you and let you be on your way if you refused to cooperate.

But in Rothbardville, recall, they are allowed to torture you to get you to confess. And in Blockland, they can kill you just for stepping onto their property without permission.

So there is a good chance Oriana Farrell might have been much worse off if she had been stopped speeding somewhere in Ancapistan and behaved as she did.

The problem is that people with power might abuse it. And that doesn't go away by pretending there could be a world in which power doesn't exist.


  1. Rothbard's system is, in my opinion, highly idiosyncratic and quirky. It strikes me as a states'-rights-run-amok approach to politics. Understanding it like this lets me call BS on the whole system. Don't like the laws of where you live? Then move, they'll tell you. And honestly some of the scenarios outlined seem more like petty tyrannies (i.e., monarchy for Hoppe, theocracy for North, etc.).

    1. "states'-rights-run-amok approach to politics"

      Can you elaborate on this a bit more, it's very unclear whether you're talking about politics or political philosophy, which is an important distinction in understanding what you're saying. For example, Rothbard was fully supportive of engaging in politics to try to whittle down the central state, but his political philosophy was entirely anarchist (i.e. anti-state). It's a bit hard to say that Rothbard's conception of anarchy has anything to do with states' rights, because he entirely opposed the state (and states). However he--like myself and many other anarchists--believed that decentralized state-government is preferable to the current order of chaos. That is a practical vs a theoretical consideration.

      "monarchy for Hoppe"

      Hoppe doesn't support any state system (including monarchy), he's a staunch anarchist. In his book *Democracy: The God that Failed* (which is typically the source for such claims) he clearly makes the case that monarchy isn't a just system, but that democracy certainly wasn't the progressive shift that people think that it is, and that in contrast, monarchical systems are better at protecting libertarian property rights. He was contrasting one to the other, but clearly not supporting either.

      I've come across this claim many times, and almost always it is some interpretation of the above-mentioned book of essays. My typical response is two-fold: 1) Did you actually read it? and if they did, 2) Did you understand his argument. Unfortunately, many people didn't on both counts.

      "theocracy for North"

      Now this may very well be true. He is a Christian Reconstructionist as far as I know, so that would lend support to your claim. However, I've never read any of his work but a handful of articles. I've spoken to him only a few times and have friends that are friends of his, but the topic never came up in discussion. I am not even entirely sure if he is a libertarian. I do know that there are many claims about things that he's supposedly said, but that the evidence presented as proof of these claims is pretty shoddy (good examples of this are those on his wikipedia entry, whose crappy citations are generally the same used in other articles and blog posts). Gene or Murphy would probably know far more than I do on this, and I would certainly value their opinion.

    2. Joseph Fetz says: "Can you elaborate on this a bit more"

      The Rothbardian idea would be that if you don't like the rules of where you live, then move somewhere else. So, yeah, this sounds very much like conservatives' states' rights ideal. One which I very much hate.

      It should be clear to anyone that Rothbard's system IS NOT anarchy. It's just its own quirky little system of marketized governance.

      Joseph Fetz: "Hoppe doesn't support any state system (including monarchy), he's a staunch anarchist."

      Not unless it's on "private property". I can smell it on him, Joe. "Bonds of kin and family". C'mon. It's pure corporativist natavism.

      Joseph Fetz says: "Now this may very well be true. He is a Christian Reconstructionist as far as I know, so that would lend support to your claim."

      Christian Reconstructionism=Theocracy!

  2. Found something for you: This guy is a libertarian.

  3. Gene, suppose we started with a single world dictatorship over the whole earth, and then somebody proposed secession to move to a system of 100 different states where citizens were free to migrate. Did your post here just prove that people should expect the same treatment in both systems?

    1. "Did your post here just prove that people should expect the same treatment in both systems?"

      Um, really, WTH? I am comparing a traffic stop in THIS system with a traffic stop in ancapistan, as described by several of its theorists. In Blockovia, Farrell could be shot just for accidentally wandering on to a road: we know this, Walter has told us so. In Rothbardia, she could be tortured to confess a crime: we know this, Rothbard told us so.

      And we know a "routine stop" did not pan out so well for Trayvon Martin when faced with a private security agent. In fact, we could list scores and scores of private security agents acting really, really badly (think worker's strikes in the 19th century, Bob).

      I have not been proposing a world-wide dictatorship so WTH does how things would be under such a system have any iota of relevance to my post here?!

    2. I suppose the kind of "logic" going on here is similar to this: I used to eat 20,000 calories a day. I was very unhealthy. But when I shrunk that back to 2000 calories a day, I felt much better. Therefore, if I ramp back to only 200 calories a day, imagine how great I will feel!

    3. Gene I asked you a simple question. You don't have to come back and put "logic" in quotation marks like I'm 5. I think you're committing a serious mistake in this post, but I wanted to make sure my reductio would work first, so I was checking.

      I take it from your response that you agree such a response to my hypothetical dictatorship question would be silly?

    4. "I take it from your response that you agree such a response to my hypothetical dictatorship question would be silly?"

      Bob, I already see where this is going. See my calorie example. No, because 200 "defense agencies" is better than 1 does not mean 200,000 are going to be better than 200.

    5. Oh, and note: my post is very strictly addressing this particular situation. Even if you shown that *in general* 200,000 agencies would be better than 200, that would not answer my contention here, which is that *this particular lady* very likely could've been treated just as badly or worse by private security.

  4. I want to continue with this, Gene, but is there a different video you saw? Did you just see the 1:30 news story, or is there more? I can barely tell what's going on.