Video: Democracies, Republics and other unnecessary evils

Two hundred and thirty six years after a democratic republic called the United States of America was signed into existence by its founders we assembled to consider what our present systems really look like in practice, and discuss some alternatives. Jan C Lester provides his definition and commentary and sets out why he thinks we’re better off with nobody at all in charge.

As a good open minded objectivist (and “closed system” advocate) I should really register my disagreement at this point but I found Jan Lester’s argument for complete Anarchy quite persuasive. Rand’s main objection to anarchy was founded on the idea that, for an individual, having multiple Governments meant that they could not know how a dispute was to be adjudicated and any serious dispute would escalate to into a de facto war between private enforcement agencies.

One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.

However, Frederick Cookinham seems to reconcile Anarchism to Objectivism in his book The Age of Rand, believing Rand to be labouring under a misunderstanding of the anarchic system. He points out that the competing sources of justice in the proposed system are not Governments have different powers and incentives and could not or would not fight such a war.

Rand also wrote:

even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.

During the Q&A on Thursday I was asked “so are you suddenly an anarchist?” Of course, anarchy is a political theory, not a metaphysical, epistemological, ethical or aesthetic theory so it is much narrower. If I were persuaded that anarchism was a better political theory than an objectivist minarchy then I would still be an objectivist, I would simply see myself as differing from other objectivists in the area of politics.

So, am I persuaded that anarchy is a better political theory than objectivist minarchy? No, for the reason that an individual is only free when he knows in advance where his freedom ends and the rights of others begin, and that is what laws should be set down to decide. I have no doubt at all that a company could produce a document containing such a set of laws, but how would they be circulated and enforced in an anarchic society such that every individual knew what choices were open to him and which closed?

  31 comments for “Video: Democracies, Republics and other unnecessary evils

  1. Paul Marks
    Aug 6, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I agree on the need for objective (and specific) law.

    I.E. Law as the attampt to apply in the specific circumstances of time (history) and place (country, nation, culture) the principle of justice – i.e. to each their own.

    The principle of criminal and civil justice may be obvious (for example if someone kills an innocent person by accident that is a civil tort [at least it may be if NEGLIGENCE can be shown), if they do so deliberatly it is murder), but the details of specific law are NOT obvious.

    For example, what sort of compensation should a person pay for someone they have accidental killed? Should they pay more if the person has children to support than if they did not?

    And, for the deliberate killing of someone (murder), should this be punished by the death penality of by a term of imprisonment?

    We can reject (with contempt) the idea that murder should be treated in the same way as an accident (i.e. a civil tort – if negligence can be shown) – murder must be PUNISHED (not just compenstated for), But what sort of punishment?

    It is not OBVIOUS that the death penality is correct – although one may argue for it.

    Ditto with rape and robbery and …..

    What should the PUNISHMENT be?

    The question is can an anarchy have OBJECTIVE LAW recognised by the various “Protection Companies” or whatever.

    There is also, of course, the MILITARY question.

    It may be possible for an ararchy to defend itself against INVASION – but the writings of Rothbard and co are unconvincing.

    Indeed they are writings that show a basic ignorance of military science (and it is a science).

    • Jan
      Aug 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      “I agree on the need for objective (and specific) law.”

      So do I. And a state obscures and perverts the simple, objective, and specific service of law as protecting persons and their property.

      “I.E. Law as the attampt to apply in the specific circumstances of time (history) and place (country, nation, culture) the principle of justice – i.e. to each their own.”

      Insofar as the law is correctly understood as a service that evolves for the protection of persons and their property, then it is universal in its specificity.

      “The principle of criminal and civil justice may be obvious (for example if someone kills an innocent person by accident that is a civil tort [at least it may be if NEGLIGENCE can be shown), if they do so deliberatly it is murder), but the details of specific law are NOT obvious.

      “For example, what sort of compensation should a person pay for someone they have accidental killed? Should they pay more if the person has children to support than if they did not?

      “And, for the deliberate killing of someone (murder), should this be punished by the death penality of by a term of imprisonment?

      “We can reject (with contempt) the idea that murder should be treated in the same way as an accident (i.e. a civil tort – if negligence can be shown) – murder must be PUNISHED (not just compenstated for), But what sort of punishment?”

      “It is not OBVIOUS that the death penality is correct – although one may argue for it.

      “Ditto with rape and robbery and …..

      “What should the PUNISHMENT be?”

      If the culture is a libertarian one, I would answer all this along the following lines (also draft entries from my Dictionary of Anti-Politics):

      restitution If *liberty is to be observed, then *proactive impositions (whether intentional, foreseeable or negligent) on someone’s *person or *property entail that the perpetrator is liable for restitution to the victim (pure accidents are not proactive as there is no responsibility involved). ‘Restitution’ here means somehow restoring things to how they were or would have been; and includes any estimated consequential losses plus anything that is *contractually owed. This is more precise and more relevant to the rectification of an illiberal action than simple ‘compensation’; and it rejects the etymologically bizarre *state *‘law’ conception of ‘restitution’ as a claim to the gains that are the result of a wrong, even when these exceed any loss to the victim. Where restitution is not physically practical, or simply not preferred by the victim, then a restoration of lost value by other means can suffice just as well. This would usually be done in *monetary terms. Some conception of how much is *reasonable must limit any subjective claim concerning the amount of loss.
      Where the perpetrator also attempts to evade paying restitution, which is a *crime in itself, there will be more due to be paid because of the extra imposition of the risk that he might have succeeded in escaping without paying anything. If the extra is a multiple of the proximate, attempted, imposition that is proportional to the statistical chances of successful evasion, then that *risk-imposition will usually be a bad gamble for the criminal; as it often is not with state *justice. For instance, if one in ten shoplifters are caught, the on-the-spot fine can be 900% of the value of the attempted stolen goods (assuming that a 90% chance of losing an item worth, say, £10 equals a 10% chance of gaining £90); plus any similar proportion of reasonable private *policing costs. This is the amount that is needed ex ante to make the shop indifferent between whether or not any particular act of shoplifting will be attempted; but where the risk-multiple is too great relative to the proximate crime it might be considered impractical or inhumane to enforce in full. This is merely using the shoplifting statistics to work out the correct particular restitution due. It is not using the caught criminal to pay for the crimes of others, for the presence of other people can be assumed away as a red herring. We can suppose that there is some automatic method of catching thieves that is capable of catching one in ten. E.g., when a microchip in an item not scanned at a till passes through a first set of exit doors it will close and lock a second set, but not invariably or instantaneously. There are no police and there have never been any other criminals. There are only the *objective tests that show one in ten attempts are caught.
      Thus many crimes should largely cease to be problems to others and become a zero-sum *game among criminals; apart from the policing costs they must also pay for, which might be significant as they are also subject to the risk-multiplier. By internalizing the negative *externality in this way, we will also in principle have optimal *libertarian deterrence: to raise or lower the amount of such restitution would result in more proactive impositions (and therefore less human *welfare, as well). Such risk-multiplier restitution for crimes could ensure that most victims have lost value restored, insofar as this is practical, as long as insurance companies find it *economic to pay out the proximate loss as the price of owning the criminal’s risk-multiplier debt; of which they can then fund the pursuit. But some additional advanced payment for insurance might prove more economic.
      Where no restitution from the, caught and confessed or convicted, criminal is forthcoming or possible or likely, perhaps due to the magnitude of the crime, then a private prison-factory awaits; or possibly the selling of the criminal’s body parts, or gladiatorial combat on pay-TV, etc. The criminal need only pay what he owes. But if he owes more than can be paid, then he is owned as a *slave by, the estate of, his victim. ‘Barbaric!’ the *morally myopic and *politically correct will cry. But what it prevents would be worse. And there is no punishment inherent here; there is only restitution that the criminal made necessary. Punishment is the infliction of some disvalued thing in order to show disapproval; it need have no connection with restitution (but see *retribution).
      It is a politically correct travesty of real restoration of loss to conceive of ‘restorative justice’ as inherently involving criminals meeting victims for the purpose of discussions and apologies. But if that is what a victim wants he is entitled to it, though it would be in lieu of some monetary restitution.

      retribution Intentionally, foreseeably or recklessly to *proactively impose on the *person and *property of another, is to give the victim a similar claim against oneself if he prefers that as part of his *restitution: as retributive restitution. For how can we say that no hair on some mugger’s head must be touched, when a badly beaten victim prefers to take, part of his, restitution as retribution? As long as he, or his agent, is not excessive, then the mugger has no valid assertion of a proactive imposition against him. And *libertarianism only proscribes proactive impositions.
      However, the original *aggression is itself liable to a risk-multiplier where evasion is attempted; which mere lex talionis overlooks. So the retribution can be a multiple of any proximate damage. For instance, a mugger who breaks an arm, might have more bones than one arm broken as retributive restitution. But to blind or cripple the mugger would be to inflict a permanent *disability that is, other things being equal, excessive. It would not be *libertarian to impose to a greater degree than was proportional: that would be to become an aggressor oneself. Though if there is any doubt, it might be better to err on the side of allowing more retribution against the guilty lest they be let off too lightly. That said, most victims, and any insurance companies involved, will likely prefer to take most or even all of their restitution in *monetary terms.

      “The question is can an anarchy have OBJECTIVE LAW recognised by the various “Protection Companies” or whatever.”

      If the culture is libertarian, then clearly yes. This allows some leeway for variations on what is allowed in different private areas (e.g., an Islamic area might enforce different dress codes to those of other areas). But that variety fits the one legal principle of respecting private property.

      “There is also, of course, the MILITARY question.

      “It may be possible for an ararchy to defend itself against INVASION – but the writings of Rothbard and co are unconvincing.

      “Indeed they are writings that show a basic ignorance of military science (and it is a science).”

      The large issue of ‘National Defence’ is probably best kept separate from that of law. I am of the view that both history and theory reveal the state to be a problem posing as a solution. But that is for another talk and discussion.

      JCL

      • Lucian
        Aug 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

        Physical aggression against a convicted criminal would, in my view, violate the non-aggression principle unless the criminal consented.

        The criminal might choose to accept physical punishment in lieu of having to pay restitution & apprehension costs, of course. A criminal who was unable to keep up with his payments to the victim’s insurer might choose to live in a cheap dormitory for a while, so more of his income could go to the victim.

        Or a person might choose to accept the possibility of physical punishment or incarceration as a condition of being accepted as a customer by a particular protection agency.

        • Jan
          Aug 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

          “Physical aggression against a convicted criminal would, in my view, violate the non-aggression principle unless the criminal consented.”

          Physical force is not “aggression” if it is used in defence or to rectify an aggression. A mugger uses aggressive force. His resisting victim uses defensive force.

          • Lucian
            Aug 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm

            Defensive force is only non-aggressive if it is proportionate. If you snatch my mobile phone out of my hand, I am not justified in killing you, though I may accidentally injure you in an effort to retrieve my property.

            Once you have been apprehended and convicted, there can be no justification for harming you physically so long as you agree to (and do) recompense me fully for the loss and all associated costs.

            I disagree that physically harming someone can “rectify” the injury they did to someone else. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      • Jan
        Aug 29, 2012 at 10:44 am

        >Defensive force is only non-aggressive if it is proportionate. If you snatch my mobile phone out of my hand, I am not justified in killing you, though I may accidentally injure you in an effort to retrieve my property.

        Agreed.

        >I disagree that physically harming someone can “rectify” the injury they did to someone else. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        You disagree but without precisely faulting the reasoning in the given account. I cannot see how it is wrong (unlibertarian) to give violent criminals some proportionate physical retribution. On the contrary, it seems wrong to protect them from this.

  2. Aug 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I have two problems here:
    1) The logic of monopoly state law leads to world government
    2) I don’t really understand how polycentric law can work

    Whichever method you go for I’m convinced that a libertarian outcome is dependent on there being overwhelming public demand for libertarian law/ethics. In other words I think that a resolution to this minarchy/anarchy debate is academic.

    • Jan
      Aug 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      “I have two problems here:
      1) The logic of monopoly state law leads to world government”

      I don’t understand this point. We do have “monopoly state law” almost everywhere. How is this leading to “world government”?

      “2) I don’t really understand how polycentric law can work.”

      Real law is about the service of protecting persons and their property (and rectifying any infractions). Anyone can start a business that does this. (I am conflating the various services that division of labour might separate: policing, arbitration, solicitors, barristers, judges, courts, juries, legal insurance, legal experts, etc.). It would work just like any other service.

      “Whichever method you go for I’m convinced that a libertarian outcome is dependent on there being overwhelming public demand for libertarian law/ethics.”

      Yes, the system you have rests on the dominant culture of what is understood and wanted. No libertarian culture, no libertarian outcome. But the public understanding and desire need not be more than superficial (as it is now with our ‘democracy’ and ‘constitutional monarchy’).

      “In other words I think that a resolution to this minarchy/anarchy debate is academic.”

      I don’t understand that. Whoever wins the intellectual debate will thereby eventually win over the public. Either minarchy or anarchy will then become the new common sense. Ideas rule the world, not interests.

      JCL

      • Aug 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        Thanks for replying…

        I don’t understand this point. We do have “monopoly state law” almost everywhere. How is this leading to “world government”?

        Just an observation more than anything. Governments are cooperating on extraditions, laws are becoming more homogenised, so we are at the international cartel stage at least. I assume this would happen even if they were predominantly minarchist, simply because of globalisation in general.

        [Polycentric law] would work just like any other service.

        I don’t think that law and professional violence are just like any other service. Justice is one area where a cartel or monopoly designed to restrict choice is actively necessary; no-one should get to choose (EG) that my property “is theft” and arbitrarily destroy it. So to put it another way: if polycentric law works, how different would it actually be to state law?

        Whoever wins the intellectual debate will thereby eventually win over the public. Either minarchy or anarchy will then become the new common sense.

        What if the debate is unresolvable simply because we don’t really know what mature outcome an experiment with polycentric law would produce?

        • Jan
          Aug 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm

          >Thanks for replying…

          You are welcome.

          I don’t understand this point. We do have “monopoly state law” almost everywhere. How is this leading to “world government”?

          >Just an observation more than anything. Governments are cooperating on extraditions, laws are becoming more homogenised, so we are at the international cartel stage at least. I assume this would happen even if they were predominantly minarchist, simply because of globalisation in general.

          With states it would be alarming. To the extent that there were a world ‘maxarchy’, then there would be no escape. However, we don’t seem to be galloping in that direction. More to the point, co-operating minarchies look less like a world government and are more reassuring than alarming: minarchy everywhere instead of maxarchy.

          [Polycentric law] would work just like any other service.

          >I don’t think that law and professional violence are just like any other service. Justice is one area where a cartel or monopoly designed to restrict choice is actively necessary;

          I should say that with anarchy it is a service industry that is, in principle, the same as the others. But with a state it is the very worst place to have a cartel or monopoly. You want maximum competition in provision of protection just because it is so important.

          >no-one should get to choose (EG) that my property “is theft” and arbitrarily destroy it.

          1) That has nothing to do with law as a service industry that protects people and property. 2) Your fear describes the sort of thing that state laws systematically do, and by intention.

          > So to put it another way: if polycentric law works, how different would it actually be to state law?

          Market competition in the provision of protection will improve efficient protection. State law is explicitly designed to subvert protection in favour of state interests.

          Whoever wins the intellectual debate will thereby eventually win over the public. Either minarchy or anarchy will then become the new common sense.

          >What if the debate is unresolvable simply because we don’t really know what mature outcome an experiment with polycentric law would produce?

          It is current common sense to underrate the power of theory. E.g., people who think that minimum-wage laws, rent regulation, the law of comparative advantage, etc., need empirical tests have simply not properly understood the theoretical arguments. They are like people who want to test mathematical proofs by counting physical objects. If we have a critical mass of intellectuals, then somewhere they will accept the experiment and one country (or region) will go anarchist eventually. And then we shall all see. I predict that compared to the rest of the world the anarchy would soon flourish far more than British Hong Kong was seen to do. Imitators would soon follow.

          • Jan
            Aug 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm

            Sorry, your italicisation of my earlier text did not paste in. And I see no way to edit.

            [I’ve had a go, Simon]

          • Aug 8, 2012 at 6:15 am

            With states it would be alarming. To the extent that there were a world ‘maxarchy’, then there would be no escape. However, we don’t seem to be galloping in that direction.

            I think you are just more optimistic than me; to me it all looks a little ominous.

            no-one should get to choose (EG) that my property “is theft” and arbitrarily destroy it.

            1) That has nothing to do with law as a service industry that protects people and property. 2) Your fear describes the sort of thing that state laws systematically do, and by intention.

            It has nothing to do with the libertarian conception of polycentric law, but I don’t see that unjust violence can be excluded by competition in violence; I’m convinced that a libertarian cultural consensus has to come first.

            It is current common sense to underrate the power of theory.

            That in a nutshell is my problem(?), I rate the power of this theory lower than ardent polycentrists. That is not to say I wouldn’t like to see an experiment or two.

          • Jan
            Aug 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm

            >>With states it would be alarming. To the extent that there were a world ‘maxarchy’, then there would be no escape. However, we don’t seem to be galloping in that direction.

            >I think you are just more optimistic than me; to me it all looks a little ominous.

            The idea of having a world government is not at all popular, thank goodness. Some form of nationalism remains utterly dominant (and is epitomised by all the flags and tears at the current Olympics). And nationalism has the desirable potential to become more harmlessly cultural than dangerously political (like being a Yorkshireman). So while there is an observable increase in highly sinister attempts to crack down on foreign tax havens, etc., national rivalry looks likely to maintain some desirable heterogeneous competition for the indefinite future.

            >>>no-one should get to choose (EG) that my property “is theft” and arbitrarily destroy it.

            >>1) That has nothing to do with law as a service industry that protects people and property. 2) Your fear describes the sort of thing that state laws systematically do, and by intention.

            >It has nothing to do with the libertarian conception of polycentric law, but I don’t see that unjust violence can be excluded by competition in violence; I’m convinced that a libertarian cultural consensus has to come first.

            It is slightly misleading to describe protection agencies as using ‘violence’ (which suggests the unjust and aggressive, violating, use of force) when they would only use coercion (force and threat of force) to defend people and their property.

            There will always be aggressive violence, perhaps. But a more-efficient, market provision of protection seems the best way to combat it.

            The intellectuals first need to reach a cultural consensus on libertarianism. Then it will be tried. But the general population will probably only develop a consensus that it works, or doesn’t, when they see the results.

            >>It is current common sense to underrate the power of theory.

            >That in a nutshell is my problem(?), I rate the power of this theory lower than ardent polycentrists. That is not to say I wouldn’t like to see an experiment or two.

            My experience is that to study the criticisms and replies in the literature, is to realise that market protection services would beat state protection services just as surely as the market beats the state in all the uncontroversial areas.

            We have no practical disagreement, it seems. Quite a tiny area could go fully anarchist. I would see the biggest danger for it as being foreign states. For they would see its success as a significant threat to their own legitimacy—and they would be entirely right. And so they would try to undermine it in every way they could.

          • Aug 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

            We have no practical disagreement, it seems.

            This happens every time I enter into the anarchy/minarchy debate :-)

            However…

            The idea of having a world government is not at all popular, thank goodness. Some form of nationalism remains utterly dominant (and is epitomised by all the flags and tears at the current Olympics).

            If this is true why is Julian Assange holed-up in the Ecuadorean embassy? Why can’t he gain protection from his national government? Who needs an explicit world government when you can have an international cartel that does the same job?

          • Jan
            Aug 9, 2012 at 12:38 am

            >If this is true why is Julian Assange holed-up in the Ecuadorean embassy? Why can’t he gain protection from his national government? Who needs an explicit world government when you can have an international cartel that does the same job?

            The very fact that he can seek refuge in an embassy shows that nation-state competition has not been replaced by world government. And there are probably plenty of countries around the world that would take him in, if only he could reach them.

            Why on Earth should he expect “protection from his national government”? One’s national government is the government from which one has the most to fear.

          • Aug 9, 2012 at 5:41 am

            I’m finding your position a little strange. I’m claiming that nation states are part of a developing cartel which if we extrapolate may become indistinguishable from a world government, not that there IS an actual mature world government… That governments make cartel-like agreements is hardly novel, I give the example of extradition treaties*. The point about Assange is that if there were no cartel-like behaviour between nation states then he would not head for the Ecuadorean or other backwater (ex-cartel) government embassy, he would head for the Australian embassy or the embassy of any other major government**; he clearly thinks that won’t work, he has chosen a tiny government that won’t co-operate with the cartel.

            Why on Earth should he expect “protection from his national government”?

            Oh, because that’s what it would normally do, except when that conflicts with its obligations to the cartel.

            You cannot seriously be telling me you think this trend doesn’t exist?

            * or Kyoto; the EU; the UN; NATO….

            ** In fact he wouldn’t even need to do that because the British would never have arrested him for the “crime” of consensual sex in the first place.

          • Jan
            Aug 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm

            >I’m finding your position a little strange. I’m claiming that nation states are part of a developing cartel which if we extrapolate may become indistinguishable from a world government, not that there IS an actual mature world government…

            I am finding your position a little confused. My position is that we are nowhere near this yet and we cannot extrapolate because competition among nation states plus the envies and jealousies of nations will block it. Cartels are inherently unstable.

            >That governments make cartel-like agreements is hardly novel, I give the example of extradition treaties*.

            Extradition treaties as such are not worrying. It depends on how libertarian they are. With world anarchy, I would expect there to be contracts between different protection agencies to hand over murderers, etc. But that cooperation would not appear to amount to a cartel in the economic sense.

            >The point about Assange is that if there were no cartel-like behaviour between nation states then he would not head for the Ecuadorean or other backwater (ex-cartel) government embassy, he would head for the Australian embassy or the embassy of any other major government**; he clearly thinks that won’t work, he has chosen a tiny government that won’t co-operate with the cartel.

            The allegation, at least, is of rape and sexual assault. Assuming no skullduggery, for the sake of argument, it seems proper that people thus accused should not be able to escape abroad. I don’t see how this is “cartel-like”, as pursuing genuine criminal cases across national boundaries is not analogous with conspiratorial attempts to keep up prices.

            >>Why on Earth should he expect “protection from his national government”?

            >Oh, because that’s what it would normally do, except when that conflicts with its obligations to the cartel.

            But insofar as there is a bona fide allegation of a crime against persons or property, such protection would appear to be the corrupt use of political power.

            >You cannot seriously be telling me you think this trend doesn’t exist?

            I am seriously telling you that 1) it is severely limited by dominant nationalism, and 2) it is far from clear that what you assume to be undesirable and cartel-like is always either of these.

          • Aug 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm

            I am finding your position a little confused. My position is that we are nowhere near this yet and we cannot extrapolate because competition among nation states plus the envies and jealousies of nations will block it. Cartels are inherently unstable.

            Some cartels become mergers and acquisitions… Well of course I hope you are right, but the nationalist backlash currently consists of Nigel Farage.

            The allegation, at least, is of rape and sexual assault. Assuming no skullduggery, for the sake of argument, it seems proper that people thus accused should not be able to escape abroad. I don’t see how this is “cartel-like”, as pursuing genuine criminal cases across national boundaries is not analogous with conspiratorial attempts to keep up prices.

            I’m using cartel-like to mean rather more than cartel simply because I don’t have a word for “openly co-operate to do evil”*

            Let’s assume we have whatever we consider to be legitimate libertarian justice agencies operating across the planet: yes they will have to co-operate. They will want to be able to pursue or co-operate-to-pursue criminals anywhere on the planet. But to my mind everyone should be proven guilty of a crime before they face sanction, that means no house arrest and no extradition until somebody proves the (frankly) unprovable allegations that have been made against Julian Assange. No forced court attendance or interviews of any kind whatsoever. This is before we consider the nature of the allegations and whether they correspond to crimes that we would recognise, and that is far from clear to me in his case. If a person is convicted of a crime that their local libertarian agencies don’t consider a crime or by a process they don’t consider legitimate – they would, again – ignore requests to hand that person over.

            But insofar as there is a bona fide allegation of a crime against persons or property, such protection would appear to be the corrupt use of political power.

            As above, I don’t think an allegation is enough for action to be taken but I recognise that that is not the way our current system works. Then it comes down to your view of the allegations that have been made and my impression of them is that they are patently a farse.

            I am seriously telling you that 1) it is severely limited by dominant nationalism, and 2) it is far from clear that what you assume to be undesirable and cartel-like is always either of these.

            The context of this co-operation (if I must call it that) is that the parties to it are the world’s biggest criminals and are far more interested in serving themselves than the rest of us. Under polycentric law this calculation would be different, but the result would still be a function of the zeitgeist.

            * A Dictionary of Anti-Politics might be a good place to find a word like this, but I don’t have one – damn. ;-)

          • Jan
            Aug 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm

            >Some cartels become mergers and acquisitions… Well of course I hope you are right, but the nationalist backlash currently consists of Nigel Farage.

            Popular nationalism throughout Europe is what is stopping the EU from becoming a superstate despite all the mainstream parties pushing for it. Farage and UKIP have the overwhelming majority on their side as regards that. And yet most people strongly prefer to vote for a mainstream party (presumably to support the more likely winning team and not ‘waste’ their vote). But if the people are pushed too far, then UKIP will gain votes and the main parties will change policy to win back the votes.

            >I’m using cartel-like to mean rather more than cartel simply because I don’t have a word for “openly co-operate to do evil”*

            The word for that process is ‘politics’. Generally, politicians intend and attempt to do good, but they do evil as though led by an invisible hand. They are fools rather than knaves.

            >Let’s assume we have whatever we consider to be legitimate libertarian justice agencies operating across the planet: yes they will have to co-operate. They will want to be able to pursue or co-operate-to-pursue criminals anywhere on the planet. But to my mind everyone should be proven guilty of a crime before they face sanction, that means no house arrest and no extradition

            I don’t see how house arrest is inherently oppressive. It can be better than being in prison. Extradition is not sanction. It is a form of arrest. You might say that people should have a right to remain free and be tried in absentia. But that would then apply to local cases also.

            >until somebody proves the (frankly) unprovable allegations that have been made against Julian Assange.

            The empirical complexities of an actual case are likely to obscure the principles that need to be clarified.

            >No forced court attendance or interviews of any kind whatsoever.

            I am not necessarily against this (though protection contracts that people accept might include it). But it is not a peculiarly interstate issue.

            >This is before we consider the nature of the allegations and whether they correspond to crimes that we would recognise, and that is far from clear to me in his case. If a person is convicted of a crime that their local libertarian agencies don’t consider a crime or by a process they don’t consider legitimate – they would, again – ignore requests to hand that person over.

            That sounds right. But in a libertarian world, it would be rare. And if it did happen there might have to be a trial in absentia and then, if a guilty verdict, some higher agency to adjudicate between the two that are in conflict (‘war’ being out of the question).

            >>But insofar as there is a bona fide allegation of a crime against persons or property, such protection would appear to be the corrupt use of political power.

            >As above, I don’t think an allegation is enough for action to be taken but I recognise that that is not the way our current system works. Then it comes down to your view of the allegations that have been made and my impression of them is that they are patently a farse.

            Again, I am sympathetic to the right to remain free (unless contractually bound to attend a court, etc.). But that issue is not about extradition as such.

            >I am seriously telling you that 1) it is severely limited by dominant nationalism, and 2) it is far from clear that what you assume to be undesirable and cartel-like is always either of these.

            >The context of this co-operation (if I must call it that) is that the parties to it are the world’s biggest criminals and are far more interested in serving themselves than the rest of us.

            I agree. But the main principle that you have raised (the right to remain free from arrest, etc, unless proven guilty) is not about interstate cooperation as such.

            >Under polycentric law this calculation would be different, but the result would still be a function of the zeitgeist.

            Yes, we need a libertarian zeitgeist if we are to avoid Weltschmerz.

          • Aug 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm

            The word for [openly co-operate to do evil] is ‘politics’.

            I knew you’d say that.

        • Aug 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

          It does seem to me that nationalism is an occasionally powerful emotive force but the intellectual direction is authoritarian and internationally so. People want problems to be solved, and actively desire authority to force others to help. Over time, reason and incentives beat emotional reactions and when it is asked “why not press gang the entire world into soving our problems?”, the dominant idea is that this is okay. See, Climate Change.

          • Jan
            Aug 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm

            Political nationalism is a problem. Cultural nationalism is not. What is wrong with a nation-state is the state.

          • Aug 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

            I do not disagree with what you say about nationalism, but I do disagree that world government is not desired. It is desired, if only for the purpose of restraining the Chinese (from emiting carbon, growing economicaly, or both)

          • Jan
            Aug 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm

            Many politicians want to be able to dictate to China, etc., but I can’t remember any advocating world government instead of nation-states.

  3. Jan
    Aug 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    “Two hundred and thirty six years after a democratic republic called the United States of America was signed into existence” by its founders …”

    Except that the founders saw themselves as deliberately choosing a republic instead of some form of democracy.

    “Rand’s main objection to anarchy was founded on the idea that, for an individual, having multiple Governments meant that they could not know how a dispute was to be adjudicated and any serious dispute would escalate to into a de facto war between private enforcement agencies.”

    I do not see how having multiple protection services is having “multiple governments”. Competing protection agencies going to war seems as likely as competing supermarkets going to war.

    “One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.”

    Different protection agencies will have various conflict resolution procedures, possibly calling in a third agency to be the final arbiter in any otherwise-unresolved dispute. They are businesses and want to avoid violence because it is bad for profits. (All this is thoroughly discussed in the anarcho-libertarian literature.)

    “However, Frederick Cookinham seems to reconcile Anarchism to Objectivism in his book The Age of Rand , believing Rand to be labouring under a misunderstanding of the anarchic system. He points out that the competing sources of justice in the proposed system are not Governments have different powers and incentives and could not or would not fight such a war.”

    Right said Fred!

    “Rand also wrote:
    even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.”

    In a libertarian anarchy, there is one simple objective law (or legal principle): you can do what you like with your own person and property as long as you do not thereby proactively impose on (i.e., aggress against, trespass on, initiate interference with, etc.) the persons and properties of other people. If you do, then restitution will be due.

    There is room for some clarification, perhaps. But compare that one, objective, guiding law (or legal) principle to the legislation that Westminster and the EU produce: often incomprehensible, unbelievably verbose, collectively unknowable, endless, subjectively interpreted, and often inconsistent –not to mention flouting liberty and destroying welfare.

    And it is “an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates” competing protection agencies to achieve the efficiency that only the free market is capable of producing.

    “During the Q&A on Thursday I was asked “so are you suddenly an anarchist?” Of course, anarchy is a political theory, not a metaphysical, epistemological, ethical or aesthetic theory so it is much narrower. If I were persuaded that anarchism was a better political theory than an objectivist minarchy then I would still be an objectivist, I would simply see myself as differing from other objectivists in the area of politics.”

    That would look like a partial rejection of Objectivism to me—and to most Objectivists too, I strongly suspect.

    “So, am I persuaded that anarchy is a better political theory than objectivist minarchy? No, for the reason that an individual is only free when he knows in advance where his freedom ends and the rights of others begin,”

    Is that not simply where his (non-aggressively-acquired) property ends and the property of others begins?

    “and that is what laws should be set down to decide.”

    Anything more that is written will be details and footnotes that most people will not need to know.

    “I have no doubt at all that a company could produce a document containing such a set of laws, but how would they be circulated and enforced in an anarchic society such that every individual knew what choices were open to him and which closed?”

    Because people would understand the one basic law and know that further details could not legitimately flout it.

    JCL

    • Aug 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Taking “objectivism” to mean Rand’s particular optinions and writings, then yes it is a partial rejection. This is nothing new, Rand thought that gay people were disgusting and I don’t, at least not particularly. Nor do I smoke, eat out regularly, use speed, or have trouble crossing the road etc.

      More substantively, I believe many topics require important clarifications. A topical example would be fractional reserve banking, which many libertarinas would ban outright, yet does not represent a fraud at the individual level.

      (comment edited)

      • Jan
        Aug 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm

        “More substantively, I believe many topics require important clarifications. A topical example would be fractional reserve banking, which many libertarinas would ban outright, yet does not represent a fraud at the individual level.”

        Yes, we are obliged only to theorise until such time as a real anarchy can give us some empirical results.

  4. Lucian
    Aug 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting discussion.

    For a helpful look at how polycentric law might work in practice, check out the set of three youtube videos called “Law Without Government.” The first one is at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khRkBEdSDDo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    The videos suggest that competing protection agencies would be more humane and more effective than monopoly policing, for the simple reason that protection agencies would respond to consumer pressure whereas monopoly police respond to political pressure. Law itself would also, at the edges, be defined by consumer preferences.

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