You want your private defense agencies?

We have them, and we can see exactly how they operate: they are called drug cartels, and the picture isn't very pretty.

People buying and selling illegal drugs (or sex, or alcohol during Prohibition) are operating in an environment in which they cannot turn to a state to enforce contracts, property rights, and so on. Thus, they must enforce these things on their own. And how do they operate? Largely as lawless gangs.

Look, there is nothing stopping them from following a book by Murray Rothbard in terms of how they behave. There is nothing stopping them from forming agreements with each other as to how to peacefully arbitrate disputes. (Well, except the fact they don't have a state to turn to to enforce those contracts, but that point isn't going to help anarchists very much!)

But we can see how they actually behave instead. That is your competing defense agencies, folks. You've got it, live and in the real world, right in front of your eyes. You just have to have the moral courage to look.

Of course, the anarchist answer to my pointing out the obvious here is going to be "the state," since that is the cause of every social problem. For instance, in analyzing why the Mafia, which is after all he network of private defense agencies, took on the nature it did, Bob Murphy, with all the desperation of a Marxist demonstrating that the USSR was not "true communism," offers the absurd answer "there was still a state!" Even if it were true that it was illegal to set up a private defense agency in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the early 19 century, an assertion for which Murphy offers absolutely no evidence, so what? How in the world did this force different Mafia families to behave violently towards each other? Why, it is almost as if they needed a final arbitrator to whom to take their disputes!

15 comments:

  1. Gene,

    You seem to come back to this same argument -- the details may vary, the essence doesn't -- time and time again.

    My reply to "the drug cartels! The Mafia!" is not just to say "hey, there's a state," but to point out that:

    1) The drug cartels and the Mafia are proto-states (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that states are overgrown versions of drug cartels and the Mafia); and that

    2) All in all, drug cartels and the Mafia probably don't come anywhere close to the same order of magnitude of organized theft, brutality, killing, etc. as the fully formed states they resemble; and that

    2) Actual market-based instead of extortion-based "private defense agencies" are suppressed pre- or early in formation precisely because they'd be effective versus all three sizes/configurations of the gangs you're comparing them to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "You seem to come back to this same argument -- the details may vary, the essence doesn't -- time and time again."

      Yes, because it is correct.

      "The drug cartels and the Mafia are proto-states..."

      In some ways, yes. That is what you will get if you eliminate the state: fighting proto-states. You are almost there, Tom!

      "All in all, drug cartels and the Mafia probably don't come anywhere close to the same order of magnitude of organized theft, brutality, killing, etc. as the fully formed states they resemble..."

      Just look at Switzerland!

      Of course state actors often abuse their power. But the world is far less violent with states than it was before they formed. The evidence on this is pretty damned strong.

      Plus, of course, without states, the proto-states would be doing a whole heap more killing. Which is just why it was so violent before states formed!

      Delete
    2. "Actual market-based instead of extortion-based "private defense agencies" are suppressed pre- or early in formation precisely because they'd be effective versus all three sizes/configurations of the gangs..."

      Evidence beyond sheer fantasy?

      Delete
    3. Actual market-based instead of extortion-based "private defense agencies" are suppressed...

      What the heck makes you think extortion doesn't occur in the market?

      Delete
    4. Gene, believe it or not, I don't think Knappster's answer to you above was very compelling; that's not what I'm going to write up in my response. I'm going to answer you directly on your own terms (whether you think I'm successful is a different matter).

      But on this exchange, I think you were being quite unfair to Knappster:

      =======
      KN: "All in all, drug cartels and the Mafia probably don't come anywhere close to the same order of magnitude of organized theft, brutality, killing, etc. as the fully formed states they resemble..."

      GENE: Just look at Switzerland!
      =======

      Hang on now Gene. It looks like you're saying you get to take the worst examples of private gangs, then compare them to one of the best examples of a State, in order to "prove" that we're wrong for thinking States lead to more violence, coercion, theft, etc.

      Look, following your example here, I could have a blog post, "You want your state-provided police forces? You got it: We call it the Gestapo and KGB."

      Then in the comments, if you brought up the fact that people were awful in general, and that even people in the private sector could be even more murderous than State actors, I would say, "Just look at the Girl Scouts!"

      I'm sure at the end of that, you wouldn't feel we had accomplished much, right?

      Delete
    5. "Hang on now Gene. It looks like you're saying you get to take the worst examples of private gangs, then compare them to one of the best examples of a State, in order to "prove" that we're wrong for thinking States lead to more violence, coercion, theft, etc."

      Nah. I am just noting that there are states in which people seem to live pretty peaceful prosperous lives. That are better than any private gang.

      Of course there are God-awful states. And private gangs that aren't that bad at all. (The Mafia has been credited with keeping my neighborhood relatively free of crime at a time when most Brooklyn was in severe decline.)

      So no, Switzerland was not supposed to support any sweeping conclusion: just to get Tom to think about his statement.

      Delete
    6. I must persist: Gene, the whole purpose of this post is to show us what private defense agencies will look like. You didn't say, "It's theoretically possible they will end up like this, so convince me in practice they will be really moderate and not like drug gangs." No, you said we know what private police will be, we just look at drug gangs today.

      So why are drug gangs the representative of what private police are like, but we have to use Switzerland as the benchmark for government?

      Delete
    7. I too must persist, Bob: you are completely mistaken. I did not use Switzerland as a benchmark for government. Although since I've explained that already, I am not sure why you are persisting.

      Delete
    8. Bob, you and your fellow libertarians give descriptions of what libertarian cities/communities would look like. You yourself pointed to the localism of the Middle Ages as being without a "state". What do you say to people like me who don't really see much of a difference between the cities we have now and the examples you guys give/describe?

      Delete
  2. Gene, I want to say that I am still agnostic on this point, and I see the points you are making.

    If you have the time and some muse maybe you can answer those points:

    1: When you compare the business of producing and selling alcohol during prohibition and after, then we see that during prohibition it was violent, afterwards and before it was not. When it is forbidden then obviously mostly people with the lowest morality and no scruples take care about this and their negative character qualities are for sure increased once they assume that illegal role (I really think Breaking Bad demonstrates this really good). When it is not illegal all can do it then this necessarily takes a different dynamic. So analogous if the state forbids (certain) private security services then of course it is violent as well, since you need a specific character to operate in that underground. And we should not forget that there are even private security organizations like bodyguards who are not running wild. Of course you can argue that is because of the state… But then aren’t you making the same “excuse” only that according to you "all" the good comes from the state?

    2: There is a lot of private arbitration going on even within states: http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Private_dispute_resolution
    Why would people do that if they rather prefer to shoot each other? Is this no indication that it could work and that those same people could fund PDAs who work rather with contracts and not guns? But those people currently are monopolized by the state.

    3: States themselves are in a relationship with each other that is anarchistic. They don’t necessarily fight all the time with each other (E.g. Norway and France for example), so why shouldn’t it be possible to have this with more smaller states or even no states? Where is the logical stopping point? Or is your own answer to this that: Well, as you can see states already fought a lot against each other and even if people and their culture/behavior matured recently so that conflicts declined a lot especially as a result after the horrific wars of the 20th century, the best way to avoid this was a single world super state?

    I am not a 100% sure but wouldn’t your logic lead necessarily to a one world super state? If not then other factors/dynamics are at play here which need to be spelled out and their limits, else they obviously would lead to the other extreme, which was anarcho capitalism.

    I think that most of the violence is independent of the actual setup of institutions, but is caused by, as you called it already in the other post, the human heart (I would say to be broader: the culture people have). A violent ignorant racist people will not be nice even if it is a the perfect democracy. Institutions can at best intensify or somewhat lesson those characteristics. The biggest influence the institutions have in my view is via allowing economic prosperity or not, since the material well-being has a huge effect on how violence-prone people are.

    Due the reasons given above I think it is very hard to point at specific incidents and situations in history and say, see this proves this or that. Culture, knowledge and wealth changed dramatically over the centuries…

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am really sorry for my bad English. I am quite often so deep in thinking about the issue that I just can’t concentrate on how to write it properly which makes my English even worse… I rewrote it a bit. If you like you can just exchange it or post it as a whole additionally, or if you think the other one was clear enough just leave the other one and don’t release that one… A kingdom for an edit button.

    Gene, I want to say that I am still agnostic on this point, and I see the points you are making.

    If you have the time and some muse maybe you can answer those points:

    1: When you compare the business of producing and selling alcohol then we see that during prohibition it was violent, afterwards and before it was not. When it is forbidden then obviously mostly people with the lowest morality and no scruples take care about this and their negative character qualities are for sure intensified once they assume that illegal role (I really think Breaking Bad demonstrates this really good). When it is not illegal all people can do it and then this necessarily takes a different dynamic. So analogous if the state forbids (certain) private security services then of course it is violent as well, since you need a specific character to operate in that underground. And we should not forget that there are even legal private security organizations like bodyguard services that are not running wild. Of course you can argue those are nonviolent because of the state, but then aren’t you making the same “excuse” in reverse, that according to you "all" the good in that respect comes from the state?

    2: There is a lot of private arbitration going on even within states: http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Private_dispute_resolution
    Why would people do that if they rather prefer to shoot each other? Is this no indication that it could work and that those same people could fund PDAs who work rather with contracts and not guns? But those people currently are monopolized by the state.

    3: States themselves are in a relationship with each other that is anarchistic. They don’t necessarily fight all the time with each other (E.g. Norway and France for example), so why shouldn’t it be possible to have this with more smaller states or even no states? Where is the logical stopping point? Or is your own answer to this that: Well, as you can see states already fought a lot against each other and even if people and their culture/behavior matured recently so that conflicts declined a lot, especially as a result of the experiences made with those horrific wars of the 20th century, the best way to avoid this was a single world super state?

    I am not a 100% sure but wouldn’t your logic lead necessarily to a one world super state? If not then other factors/dynamics are at play here which need to be spelled out and their limits, else they obviously would lead to the other extreme, which was anarcho capitalism.

    I think that most of the violence is independent of the actual setup of institutions, but is caused by, as you called it already in the other post, the human heart (I would say to be broader: the culture of people). A violent ignorant racist people will not be nice even if it is the perfect democracy. Different institutional setups can at best somewhat intensify or lessen those characteristics directly. The biggest influence it can have in my view is indirectly via allowing/impeding economic prosperity, since the material well-being has a huge effect on how violence-prone people are.

    Due to the reasons given above I think it is very hard to point at specific incidents and situations in history and say see this proves this or that view. Culture, knowledge and wealth changed dramatically over the centuries…

    ReplyDelete
  4. States themselves are in a relationship with each other that is anarchistic.

    Context drop. Anarchism is a system between people, not states. This makes about as much as saying we have anarchy between people everyday. In other words, it makes no sense at all.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Are private defense agencies incompatible with a state?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Samson,

    I disagree. The technical relationship is completely the same. Otherwise please tell me the difference(s).

    ReplyDelete
  7. It seems my response has merely convinced my fans that I'm awesome and Gene's fans that I still am missing his basic point, but anyway, here it is.

    ReplyDelete