The justification of civil authority

Is really rather straightforward. Unless something is done about them, a society will be plagued by coordination problems.

Therefore, something should be done about them.

In a hunter-gatherer society, what is done about them is tradition. There is a certain way that the ancestors have always done things, that way is preserved first and foremost by the elders of the tribe, and everyone should continue doing things that way. (So, for instance, if hunter-gatherers had roads and traffic problems, they would settle the question of which side of the street to drive on by asking which side of the street their ancestors had driven on.)

But as a society begins to innovate, for instance, by settling down and starting to farm, tradition loses some of its effectiveness in solving these problems: new problems are arising (who is allowed to plant in this field?) that tradition cannot hold the answer to, because they are new.

Therefore, new institutions evolve to solve coordination problems in more advanced societies. One such institution is, for instance, private property, and it is an excellent one at that. But far from being a universal solution to all coordination problems, private property depends upon the existence all civil authorities who can adjudicate just who owns just which piece of property.

The proposed network of ancap defense agencies will be faced with the task of solving just such coordination problems. If they are able to resolve them in most cases, they will be the civil authorities, i.e., "The State" (play scary sound track). If they are not able to resolve most such problems, they will fail, and be replaced by something that can resolve them.

10 comments:

  1. "But far from being a universal solution to all coordination problems, private property depends upon the pre-existence civil authorities who can adjudicate just who owns just which piece of property."

    You don't necessarily need civil authority, just sufficient power of enforcement.

    Suppose a group of people took over all the land in a region, deemed themselves the "property owners" and agreed to respect each other claims. They then successfully used violence against anyone outside the group who attempted to violate their "property rights".

    Haven't they solved this "co-ordination problem" with no civil authority needed, just an agreement among themselves and the power to enforce it ?

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    1. Sure. And if a group of people who lived together all agreed to never do anything bad, and then never did anything bad, they would have done away with the need for law.

      The actual history of attempts to do the above, such as in early New England, fall apart in contentious disputes within a generation.

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    2. In other words, this case is not a solution of a coordination problem, but the hope that one never arises.

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    3. You don't necessarily need civil authority, just sufficient power of enforcement.

      That's kind of what constitutes a civil authority.

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    4. And of course Samson is right here: if they have an enforcement mechanism, and some agreement about how to use it, then that IS civil authority.

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    5. You would appear to be claiming that any stable society based on ancap principles has an implicit civil authority.

      Isn't that just defining the possibility of ancap away ?

      If a group of people agree a principal like:

      "In this territory here are your rights and here is what you are allowed to do to defend them" and those right are based on Rothbardian concepts then this would look like a ancap society to me. But based on what you just said it would actually have a civil authority so not be ancap at all !

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    6. You would appear to be claiming that any stable society based on ancap principles has an implicit civil authority.

      Isn't that just defining the possibility of ancap away ?

      If a group of people agree a principal like:

      "In this territory here are your rights and here is what you are allowed to do to defend them" and those right are based on Rothbardian concepts then this would look like a ancap society to me. But based on what you just said it would actually have a civil authority so not be ancap at all !

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    7. "You would appear to be claiming that any stable society based on ancap principles has an implicit civil authority."

      No, I am saying to WORK it would have to have one.

      '"In this territory here are your rights and here is what you are allowed to do to defend them" and those right are based on Rothbardian concepts then this would look like a ancap society to me. '

      Adjudication, rob, adjudication. How are disputes resolved?

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    8. "In this territory here are your rights and here is what you are allowed to do to defend them"…

      Hmm. It's quite possible that all usage of the word "right" rings hollow of any meaning, instead having turned into a thoughtless repetition (not necessarily you, Rob).

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  2. If they can effectively ENFORCE them then you have a state. Otherwise you have a debating club. But as Gene says, that won't work, and you get Somalia.

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