Big Brother is... snoozing

At my house in the Poconos, I have had some difficulty getting Internet service. The house is on a steep slope, too steep for a satellite dish to pick up a satellite signal. There is no cable service on my side of the road at present: it would cost me $4000 to have them bring it over.

Finally, I discovered that Verizon could provide me with DSL Internet: slow and primitive, yes, but better than nothing. So I ordered the service four weeks ago... and am still waiting for the delivery of my DSL modem.

After several calls to Verizon, it turns out that their shipping department has repeatedly tried to send the modem via UPS to my PO box. Now, I knew that you could not do this, but apparently the "shipping professionals" at Verizon were oblivious to this fact. And when the modem kept failing to arrive, it did not even occur to them to investigate what the problem might be.

So huge corporations of inhuman scale can be just as frustrating to deal with as huge government at an inhuman scale. Yes, corporations rarely shoot or imprison people: but that is because governments stop them from doing this. We know that cut loose from this check, corporations can be just as violent as can governments.

Now I have great sympathy for the position of the ancaps who are also wary of concentrated corporate power, and who note that such power is enabled by the state. But their conclusion, "just eliminate the state and we will eliminate corporate power at the same time," is simplistic. It is true that, given there is a state, corporations within its jurisdiction must make use of that state to gain the sort of power to which we both object. But if the state is replaced by private defense agencies providing "justice" for money, what in the world is to stop giant corporations from simply buying a legal system that favors them even more than does the present one? After all, while money has quite a bit of influence in our present system of governance, votes still do have some influence. In ancapistan, as it is usually depicted, that check on the power of money has been completely removed.

One ancap commenter here, faced with this problem, dismissed it by saying, "Sure, the rich will get all of the justice under ancap, just like today they buy up all of the bread."

Frankly, this response reeks of desperation: there is a pretty hard limit to the amount of bread that a rich person can consume, but I cannot conceive of any limit to the amount of laws enabling the rich person to get even richer that he might be willing to purchase.

Ancap scenarios seem to envision a world in which, when the state is dissolved, all of the wealth and power possessed by giant corporations simply vanishes at the same stroke. Only under that fanciful scenario would ancap defense agencies actually wind up providing the sort of justice that the "little guy" wants. But I have not seen a hint of a suggestion as to how that corporate wealth is to be made to disappear.

27 comments:

  1. There's a name for Ancapistan's form of government. It's called corporatocracy. Shinra would love it. But didn't Rothbard say that limited liability is incompatible with his system and therefore wouldn't be legitimate? (I really don't even see what's wrong with limited liability/incorporation.)

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  2. Once again, Long's Ten Objections speaks to this concern, #8 particularly (see http://archive.lewrockwell.com/long/long11.html).

    You seem so thorough in your approach to most issues, I'd really love to see your response.

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    1. Well, it seems to me I've clearly answered his #8 in advance above: he is exactly wrong: the only check on the power of the rich (voting) will have been removed in ancap. Instead of "buying a bureaucrat" they will "buy a defense agency."

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    2. In fact, I regard his "defense" of ancap in number 8 as completely desperate! The defense agency does NOT have to "spend its own money": it just has to make the laws favor the rich client!

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  3. That seems to ignore "voting with dollars," as well as the idea that such a method of "voting" would likely make for faster and more effective feedback than ballots against corrupt power wielders.

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    1. And you forget about petitions, whistleblowers, internal affairs, protests, and referendums.

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    2. "Voting" with money does not abide by "one man, one vote".

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    3. Iamallears, have you taken a serious look at the amount of $ that, say, the 100 largest US corporations have to devote to strengthening IP laws, versus the amount you and I and Roderick Long have to weakening them?

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    4. such a method of "voting" would likely make for faster and more effective feedback than ballots against corrupt power wielders.
      What does it mean to be a corrupt official in a system where justice is meant to be for sale or wielded in one's own interest? Not staying 'bought'?

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    5. I think one of Long's major points is being lost here. The rich have great power in any system. One could even say that the anti-an cap fear that "the rich will rule" has already come to pass under the current system. The question is whether sentiments manifested in ballots or real money are more likely to persuade rich power wielders to at least leave some breathing room for the rabble. I think it's abundantly clear that the latter is more likely to be effective, but I'm very open to contrary arguments.

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    6. OK, we have two systems:

      1) Democratic voting, where Bill Gates has one vote and the poor person one vote; and

      2) Money voting, where Bill Gates has one billion votes and the poor person one vote.

      You say it is "abundantly clear" that the LATTER gives the poor person better odds! Let me say that i must be seeing through a glass darkly.

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    7. You seem more intellectually nuanced than to actually believe that Gates doesn't have 1 billion times more of a chance to successfully pursue a given initiative than some poor schlub pursuing a different initiative in a democracy. Goering's quotes on democracy are pretty widely accepted as reflecting reality, I think.

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    8. ...the anti-an cap fear that "the rich will rule" has already come to pass under the current system.

      Hmmm... yes, perhaps, but this would seem to be a 'bug' that advocates of traditional government are very concerned about correcting with many proposed solutions to fix the bug. On the other hand rule by the rich seems to be a deliberately designed 'feature' of the An-cap system. And any objections are just sort of hand-waved away.

      Liberty, Justice, Truth, Knowledge, Holiness and Security are not like Corn, Bread, Iphones, cigarettes... Why would we think that the same sort of institutions are required to create them?

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    9. "You seem more intellectually nuanced than to actually believe that Gates doesn't have 1 billion times more of a chance to successfully pursue a given initiative than some poor schlub pursuing a different initiative in a democracy."

      Coalition, ia? Libertarians can't both argue:
      1) Democracy allows the masses to exploit the rich with confiscatory tax rates; AND
      2) The rich totally control things in democracy.

      And when you start citing Nazis to make your case, you've gotten even more desperate than Long!

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  4. Gene wrote:

    "We know that cut loose from this check, corporations can be just as violent as can governments."

    How do we know that? We saw the violence governments unleash on each other during WW2, for example. When have we observed anything remotely like that from unchecked corporations?

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    1. 1) Given the last data points we had, the evidence backs my assertion.
      2) Given human nature: violent, rapacious people exist. They will seek to fulfill their impulses through whatever avenues they can. If corporations, rather than governments, were the most powerful organizations on earth, they would use that route.

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    2. I dunno Gene. I think if someone from NASA wrote in an op ed: "We know that the rover can last for 3 hours longer on the Martian surface when equipped with the solar panel array," 95% of the readers would assume this had actually been observed. Not that the person really meant, "I predict this would happen, and my critics predict it wouldn't," when this difference in predictions is the very thing under dispute.

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  5. In your world view:

    1. Private corporations , rather than wanting to make an honest profit by providing services that people want , would rather use force to divert resources to themselves

    2. Governments have the power to prevent them doing this, and to the extent that governments are elected by voters they will use this power to make private corporations behave in a way that benefits voters.

    Is that a correct assessment of your view ?

    I think this overstates the importance of the use of power and oppression to achieve one's aims over the use of co-operation - but leaving that aside I think your argument is dubious.

    Lets assume that everyone will (whenever they can) use power to divert resources their way. Given this , would they be better off having their interest represented by a voluntary , unelected defense agency or by a compulsory , elected state ?

    It seems likely to me that most people would be better off being represented by the private agency that most closely represents their interest than by the politicians who will likely use some form of demagoguery to manipulate the electorate to arrive at the "lowest common denominator" polices that will get them into power.

    Taking your (apparent) assumption that society is based on a balance of power between groups and not on mutually beneficial co-operation then I think that private agencies are better placed to find this power balance than states which (even when elected) will use force to prevent people from looking after their own interests.



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    1. "Private corporations , rather than wanting to make an honest profit by providing services that people want , would rather use force to divert resources to themselves

      2. Governments have the power to prevent them doing this, and to the extent that governments are elected by voters they will use this power to make private corporations behave in a way that benefits voters.

      Is that a correct assessment of your view ?"

      Wow! I didn't say either of those things, and not even anything very close to them!

      It looks like you're playing, "So what you're saying is...":

      A: I think Israel should be more restrained in Gaza.
      B: So what you're saying is the Israeli people have no right of self-defense and should just lay down and die!

      Whenever you feel the need to rewrite what someone said instead of merely quoting them, you should check yourself, since it is very likely the reason you feel the need to re-write is to set up a straw man.

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    2. Well, you did say:

      " corporations rarely shoot or imprison people: but that is because governments stop them from doing this. We know that cut loose from this check, corporations can be just as violent as can governments"

      and

      "After all, while money has quite a bit of influence in our present system of governance, votes still do have some influence. In ancapistan, as it is usually depicted, that check on the power of money has been completely removed. "

      It does not seem unreasonable to infer from this

      1. That you believe that corporations have a tendency to want to use force to achieve their ends

      and

      2. What restrains govts is the fact they are elected.

      These 2 statements are pretty close to what you are objecting to in my paraphrase of your views Certainly much closer than in your Israel/Palestine example above when there is nothing in A to justify B.


      On my point 1: You have corporations shooting and imprisoning people (if there is not state to stop them). I guess its possible that they are doing this while engaged in making "an honest profit by providing services that people want" and not "using force to divert resources to themselves" but frankly it a bit of a stretch to believe that this is what you meant.

      What exactly do you object to in my point 2 BTW ?



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    3. "Private corporations , rather than wanting to make an honest profit by providing services that people want , would rather use force to divert resources to themselves"

      Nothing in what I wrote had anything to do with what corporations would RATHER do. That might only shoot a competitor as a last resort. Even the Mafia, I think, would RATHER make money honestly: it is just when faced with the prospect of LOSING money honestly, they will shoot someone instead.

      "I guess its possible that they are doing this while engaged in making "an honest profit by providing services that people want" and not "using force to divert resources to themselves" but frankly it a bit of a stretch to believe that this is what you meant."

      You don't realize that, just like the Mafia, they could be doing both? Like, say, Walmart, which both provides goods AND engages in rent seeking?

      "Governments have the power to prevent them doing this, and to the extent that governments are elected by voters they will use this power to make private corporations behave in a way that benefits voters."

      All I said was that in our present system the need for votes CAN act as a check on the power of wealth. I never said it was the only possible check, or that it always worked!

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    4. Fair enough I suppose.

      But I do think that you making a bit of a fuss on somewhat irrelevant nuances.

      The important points are (I would have thought) the potential use of violence itself (not whether this is instead of rather than as well as the desire to make an honest profit) and the fact that elected government can act as a restraint on this use of violence (not whether this is the only constraint or whether its always effective).

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    5. OK, if you had put it THAT way in the first place, I would have had no complaint!

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    6. …by a voluntary , unelected defense agency or by a compulsory , elected state ?

      How is voluntary/compulsory applicable to either of these? I'm really missing it. Is it "voluntary" if a tree falls on my house? Is it "compulsory" if I catch the common cold?

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    7. There's nothing "voluntary" about 'private law' or 'private defence agencies'.

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    8. There's nothing "voluntary" about 'private law' or 'private defence agencies'.

      The thing about the sliding scale of "voluntary" versus "coercive" that libertarians frequently employ is that it never struck me as relevant or applicable. For example, one company ordering parts from another never struck me as "voluntary". It merely struck me as...one company ordering parts for another. Same goes for taxation and "coercion".

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