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Anarcho-Capitalism Means Open Market in Retaliatory Force

By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.



I’ve been giving more thought to the whole idea of anarcho-capitalism or as some put it competing governments, and I think more needs to be said about what it would actually mean in practice. I’m in basic agreement with Ayn Rand’s views on anarchy and competing governments, and she did say it cannot be concretize, not even approximately. She gave the example along the lines of Sam having one police force and sending them to Georgina’s house to arrest her for a crime, but she has a different police force and they claim Sam’s police agency has no jurisdiction with Georgina. Some anarcho-capitalists (which is really just plain ole anarchy, when you come right down to it) remarkably claim that such encounters could be worked out peaceably, but I really don’t see how. What if Sam’s police force and Georgina’s police force do not see eye to eye at all – they each have their own views of justice and their own laws they are trying to uphold. What’s to guarantee that things will go smoothly between them? Their jurisdictions don’t overlap, and there is no overriding law to make them come to court to work it out peaceably. I think it would lead to a gun pointed at each other stand-off, with no resolution in sight until one fires on the other.

The whole idea of anarcho-capitalism or a type of market justice system is flawed on the face of it anyhow, since even if one is talking about upholding individual rights according to the best market, we are really talking about an open market on the retaliatory use of force. In practice, this means that he who offers the most retaliatory force for the money will win out. After all, that is what capitalism means, that you get the most bang for your buck – however, this would be literally true for A-C. Imagine that George thinks that Sally did him an injustice, and he really wants to pay her back to the hilt. Why wouldn’t he simply pay a hit man to take care of business? It’s cheap, effective, by-passes delays like court hearings and witness interviews -- just pay your money and we will take care of your little problem! Now even if such a system was set up for mostly rational men in some distant future when reason is on the rise again and the rational men are concerned with real justice, rather than just a quick hit, it would still be cheaper to hire a hit man rather than paying for witness gathering and interviews and court proceedings, so certainly a significant portion of the society would opt for the quick fix (even if not a hit, some form of unsupervised quick justice at the behest of someone paying for the service). And this is exactly what has to be avoided and why we have the legal system we have today.

Retaliatory force cannot be left in the hands of he who pays the highest or lowest price for the service, as it would lead to force running amuck, as each person decides to pay back some injustice (minor or major) at the sole discretion of the payee and the service supplier. Contrary to the claims of the anarcho-capitalists, this would most certainly not lead to some objective form of justice and the retaliatory use of force. When one is dealing in force, one cannot permit it to be left in the hands of those paying for the service or rely on the rationality and justice orientation of the service provider. After all, on the open market, the best by an objective standard doesn’t always win out – what wins out is price and availability and usefulness to the end consumer (by his standards, which may or may not be rational).

The free market works well for distributing and coming up with the best products and services – in the long run, because it is value oriented. Each person purchasing a product or service must judge the value of the goods, and decide to pay for it or not, given his value hierarchy. And if he gets a shoddy product, then he can re-assess the value to him and either not deal with that company or take what he can pay for and leave it at that. No one gets hurt in the process. However, when we are talking about the retaliatory use of force, we are precisely talking about intentionally paying to have someone get hurt, as a repayment for harm done. And if one gets a shoddy service, that means they won’t be so concerned with things like justice and getting the right target. And when one has that type of system operating, then one can clearly see that there would be a breakdown in society as each person pays back his injustices according to his own terms.

So, I am completely against the idea that issues such as justice and the retaliatory use of force should be open on the free market.