What happens when the police go on strike?

What really happens when the police go on strike? Is it so bad? From The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker, comes a data point (via iainuki)

As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin's anarchism. I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order.

Oh. Maybe it is bad.

This may seem like an odd thing to post on a blog with great sympathy for market anarchism, but I wish to emphasize the complexity, maturity, and depth of the anarcho-capitalist position. We are no "Smash The State / It'll Be Great" utopians. We recognize the need for order, for security, and for people devoted to maintaining these things. We simply believe that these things can be provided better in a competitive market than by a monopoly.

On October 17th, 1969, Montreal did not have a competitive market in security - it had zero firms, which is not a market at all. It did not have market anarchy, it did not have anarcho-capitalism, it had true anarchy - absence of law, absence of order. This is a good indication of the fragility of a monopoly - all it takes is one strike to turn 1 into 0. Or one poor practice, one area of incompetence, or one bribed person to let an area of crime flourish. With several firms, security is more robust.

It also indicates the difficulty and importance of transition periods. It is far too easy for those of us who wish to live in a different world to ignore the current one, and speculate pleasurably about how our alternative might work. But it is tautological that in order to achieve that alternative, we must transition somehow from the present to the future, from the state to the market. And that means dealing with these awkward transitions.

There are many directions the world can go when the state disappears. Not all of them are good. Some of them are downright terrible. Some, we suspect, are quite wonderful. Although I find stable anarchy appealing, that does not mean I am in a hurry to descend into chaotic anarchy. It is important for market anarchists to remember that not all transitions away from the state are good - and for everyone else to see that not all transitions away from the state are bad.

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Patri, You’re right. I

Patri,

You’re right. I should have included something about wealth in my list of reasons. Clearly the richer people become, the less incentive they have to risk that wealth. Starving people have less to lose in going to war than do those with three cars and a new plasma TV. That can’t be all that there is to the explanation, but it would be pretty surprising if there were any _single_ cause of general peace.

Jonathan,

Point taken about (2).

I’m not so convinced about the democracy part (and this would go to Patri’s other claim, too). Although I’m a big fan of democracy, I tend to share some of the classical worries about it, too. Liberal democracies, particularly when endowed with a jingoistic patriotism, still too frequently dive into quite obviously unjust wars. Are liberal democracies better in this regard than monarchies or aristocracies or tyrannies? No doubt. Are they enough better to account for very much of the decline in the frequency of war? Hard to say, but I suspect not. The early history of the U.S. isn’t exactly glowing in this respect. Somebody who is better versed in history than I would have to weigh in here, but I wonder whether the U.S., relative to its size and strength, actually engaged in fewer wars than European monarchies during the 18th C.

Yes, but it has also become

Yes, but it has also become more rare as global military power has become more centralized.

From where do you draw that conclusion?

The first objection could be

The first objection could be handled by, I believe, the common law technique of quantum meruit.

The famous case--the name escapes me at the moment--is when a doctor sees a man dying in the street, unconscious. He saved his life and later attempted to collect a fee for doing so, but the man whose life had been saved refused to pay.

At court, the judge constructed a quantum meruit--deciding that, had the man been conscious, he would have contracted for the doctor to save his life. The man was charged fair market value for the doctor's time.

Something similar seems like it would solve that problem.

Or private protection agencies could agree to pay other agencies if they happened to save one of their own clients--in much the same way I can get cash from a Chevy Chase Bank ATM even though I'm a Wachovia customer.

As to monopoly, whether or not one would arise would depend on the size of natural monopolies. Nozick theorized that competing PDAs would collapse into a monopolistic state. I'm not convinced though--it seems that, at least in populous regions, there would be more than enough demand for several PDAs to operate competitively. It ultimately depends on the economies of scale, so I hear.

No disrespect taken,

No disrespect taken, Scott.
I read chapter 29, and Friedman paints a surprisingly feasible-looking picture of anarchist justice. I do see a couple of big omission however.

Friedman presents reasonable alternatives to the retribution and restitution functions of police, but not the patrol and protection functions. What if a private protection agent sees a non-client getting murdered? What incentive has he to intervene? I could see some kind of insurance arrangement solving that problem, but does Friedman cover this in another chapter?

Also what about the possibility of a PPA monopoly arising? If enough PPAs merged, and the merged firm had enough market share, no amount of good or bad market reputation (which is Friedman's substitute for the laws of a state) could regulate its behavior.

Daniel, Competitive security

Daniel,

Competitive security markets would necessarily become rivalrous, and without a central state, there’s nothing that would keep that rivalry from becoming expressed in violence, which would be, after all, the natural expertise of such an industry. Think mafia.

One alternative account would be that security firms would attempt to engage in violence when the profitability of such violence exceeds the costs of such violence to a sufficient level.

Then the question becomes one that you are asking: how would the costs of violence that security firms bear and the profits they reap from violence be different from other bodies such as mafias and legitamized territorial monopolies (aka governments)?

Joe, 1. Kings and emperors

Joe,

1. Kings and emperors didn’t realize how costly it is to wage war.

2. It’s easy to kill lots of people really quickly these days.

3. The world is more interconnected via trade and the like.

4. Pax Americana.

I think that (1) is plainly false. While (2) is no doubt true, that doesn’t mean that aggression would be less rare, only that weaker nations would have greater incentive to capitulate quickly. (3) is no doubt a big part of the reason that war is less common. War between the U.S. and China will look far less attractive once the supply of cheap plastic crap at Wal Mart dries up.

I would think that #2 leads to the opposite conclusion: that because it's easy to kill lots of people, it's the large nations that are less willing to engage in acts of aggression. North Korea has less to fear from even the sole remaining superpower US because if it has nukes because the costs of a nuclear strike against the US are pretty much unthinkable for the average American voter. (That also raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about pluralism.) Similarly, it's easier for a determined population to use guerilla tactics to thwart a better-equipped opponent. It's much easier to explode a new car bomb every single day than it was a hundred years ago.

I think it's very plausible that the Pax Americana thesis is at least a partial explanation, as is the possibility of mutually assured destruction.

I think that both free trade and liberal democracy (which is a relatively young institution in the long history of governments) are the best explanations. The former incentivizes cooperation between people of different nations. The latter shifts at least some of the costs of aggression - via the possibility of losing the next election - to democratic leaders. Removing kings and dictators is more costly as it entails assasination, coup, or civil war.

-----------------------------------------------

One argument for protection on the market is to increase the same incentives that make liberal democracy preferable to monarchy - make those who are assigned the task of protection bear even more of the costs of aggression and rewards of cooperation. In other words, make law a private good (in the economic sense). This is what David Friedman calls "being on the right side of the public good trap." I like to summarize it as: "If you like democracy because bad leaders can be replaced and good ones can be re-elected, then you ought to like a market for protection even better."

Yes, but it has also become

Yes, but it has also become more rare as global military power has become more centralized.

Think State. Or if you

Think State.

Or if you prefer, think of the countries of the world at large, which lack a central authority. That lack notwithstanding, violence amongst nations is not endless. It is actually surprisingly rare.

It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the restrained use of force is one of the few (if not only) instances where we should want a monopoloy. As I wrote recently in response to another post...

"the state is necessary for capitalism, and somewhat paradoxically for liberty in general, insofar as the state protects individuals and individual choices. The chief problem with anarchy is not that it is bad, but that it is impossible. “The state” is just another name for a bunch of individuals who use violence or the threat of violence to coerce other individuals. If those individuals have a small effect, they are just called thugs. If those individuals have a large enough effect, they are called “the state". If you tear down one “state", then other individuals, as history has shown, will probably band together to form a new one. The reason why the current dominant Western idea of a state has been so successful in increasing prosperity is that its role has largely been defending individuals from violence, whether that violence is from an armed robber or from the government itself. Western governments have not moved nearly enough in this direction, and they still commit many egregious and unnecessary violent acts themselves (such as, from a libertarian point of view, anti-drug laws, wealth redistribution, and market meddling), but they are about as good as history has had to offer thus far. And without the existence of a state that values liberty and is strong enough to protect it, an illiberal state will always rise up."

Competitive security markets would necessarily become rivalrous, and without a central state, there's nothing that would keep that rivalry from becoming expressed in violence, which would be, after all, the natural expertise of such an industry. Think mafia.

actually , that was probably

actually , that was probably an improvement from everyday Montreal.

It's generally considered

It's generally considered his magnum opus.

There are a few chapters on the website that you can check out: http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Contents.html

Specifically, on the topic we were discussing: http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Chapter_29.html

Hope I didn't come off as a prick earlier, I meant no disrespect.

No. I first learned about

No. I first learned about David Friedman in this blog. I checked out his web site, and he seems to be someone I'd generally agree with, although not completely, as I'm obviously not a complete anarcho-capitalist, although I do consider myself to be a libertarian. Is that a good book to read about PDAs and such matters?

Daniel, have you ever read

Daniel, have you ever read the Machinery of Freedom, by David Friedman?

I'm not sure your argument

I'm not sure your argument isn't correct, Daniel. I'm just not convinced it is.

Scott, Granted, my argument

Scott,
Granted, my argument is not scientific. It's just something that makes sense to me, so I thought I'd share it. Anyway, I'd be curious to know of any arguments against the existence of Pax Americana (keeping in mind that I'm not saying other factors don't also play a role).

Patri,
Do you think mafia protection rackets qualify as PDAs?

Joe - the spread of

Joe - the spread of democracy and wealth seem like much more obvious explanations to me.

Joe, Why think that American

Joe,

Why think that American might doesn’t play at least some of the same kind of role that Roman might did back in the day?

Because to divine causation from the scant correlative facts and trends I have been presented in this thread seems quite sloppy.

Scott, Surely there is

Scott,

Surely there is _something_ to Daniel's point. There was a time not so long ago when Europeans named wars after the number of years it took to fight them (100 years, 30 years, 7 years, etc.) These days, we measure wars in days (7 and 6 not so long ago) or in hours (100 for Gulf War I). There are several possible explanations for this progression.

1. Kings and emperors didn't realize how costly it is to wage war.

2. It's easy to kill lots of people really quickly these days.

3. The world is more interconnected via trade and the like.

4. Pax Americana.

I think that (1) is plainly false. While (2) is no doubt true, that doesn't mean that aggression would be less rare, only that weaker nations would have greater incentive to capitulate quickly. (3) is no doubt a big part of the reason that war is less common. War between the U.S. and China will look far less attractive once the supply of cheap plastic crap at Wal Mart dries up.

But I'm not so sure why it is that you're unwilling to grant that (4) plays a role, too. Not many would dispute the existence of Pax Romana. But Rome is nothing compared to the current American dominance in military might. Why think that American might doesn't play at least some of the same kind of role that Roman might did back in the day?

The western world after the

The western world after the fall of the Roman Empire and through World War II was very multi-polar. This meant an international military rivalry among near equals. After the Pax Romana and before what might be called Pax Mutually Assured Destruction, European nations ripped each other apart for hundreds of years, jockeying for position. Now the western world is much more stable and peaceful, largely because there is only one global super power. We still need to fear Bin Ladens and Kim Jong Ils, but we no longer need to fear Napoleons and Hitlers, whose exploits led to much greater carnage.

I'm afraid I'm not

I'm afraid I'm not convinced.

I think Scott's example is

I think Scott's example is very strong. The reason is that the incentives to fight are higher for countries than for private defense agencies.

When a country fights, it uses conscripts and taxes. Or more accurately, when the leader of a country decides to fight, he uses other people's resources (although admittedly, resources he could instead spend on gilded chairs and fancy food - so at some personal cost).

When a PDA fights, it has to spend its profits. When an executive at a PDA chooses to go to war, he is spending his own profits, and the profits of all those who work for him.

Furthermore, when a country wins a war, and takes over new territory, it gets to rule that territory. What does a PDA win by fighting another PDA? The other PDA's clients are likely to be unhappy at this aggression, and if it loses, they are going to seek a defensive PDA who can protect them - not begin using this scary aggressive proto-state PDA.

Also what about the

Also what about the possibility of a PPA monopoly arising? If enough PPAs merged, and the merged firm had enough market share, no amount of good or bad market reputation (which is Friedman’s substitute for the laws of a state) could regulate its behavior.

So, the U.S. government, then? If there are no barriers to entry for a business, it should be rather easy for a neighborhood to get together and form their own agency. It would expand out from there, providing an alternative to the monopoly.

Let's say an agency gets particularly uppity. It would certainly be in the interest of other agencies in surrounding areas to band together make sure the new firm doesn't get too big for its breeches.

Daniel - your first concern,

Daniel - your first concern, as Scott points out, is very easily handled. The same is true of most objections to PDA's - it just takes a little creative thinking. Your second concern, on the other hand, is one of the few credible criticisms of ancap.

The question of whether PDAs would merge and eventually become a monopoly is a great one, and I don't know the answer, and I don't think anyone else does either. Ancaps have been thinking and arguing about this topic for several decades, and there are some good arguments as to why PDA's might not merge into a monopoly. On the other hand, there are some good arguments that they would merge. Personally, while I'm very sympathetic towards ancap, I lean a little bit towards the "would degenerate into a monopoly" side myself.

However there is the excellent argument that ancap is worth trying, because if it does degenerate, it will degenerate into what we have now - a state. And I buy that. And I'm also optimistic that being aware that this is a big issue may help solve it. People in an ancap society can watch the PDA industry carefully, publish data about relative size of PDAs, etc. They can experiment with different ways of preventing the amalgamation (I have some ideas about that myself).

But it is a genuine concern, and despite being a big fan of ancap, I would discount anyone who blows it off.

However there is the

However there is the excellent argument that ancap is worth trying, because if it does degenerate, it will degenerate into what we have now - a state.

Moreover, if Nozick was right, it will degenerate into a night watchman state, which libertarians favor.

I'd just like to ditto

I'd just like to ditto Patri's point...

...that while many libertarians simply advocate the abscence of government, I (and I think most other CTLY contributors) advocate for something, not merely against:

- a competitive market for law, security, and adjudication
- institutions, worldviews, cultural foundations that allow them to exist

And if those things aren't present, lack of monopolistic government will simply yield chaos.

What if a private protection

What if a private protection agent sees a non-client getting murdered? What incentive has he to intervene?

If I hire a police patrol, I'd like for it to dissuade crime in general in my immediate vicinity, not merely crime against me in particular. I want criminals to know that if they do anything untoward near me they are likely to be caught and punished. Why? Many reasons, both selfish and altruistic.

Some selfish reasons: A criminal allowed to commit crimes against others may eventually get around to attacking me or somebody I know. Also, if my area is perceived as a high crime area that will lower my property values and prevent nice businesses and people and jobs from showing up near me or wanting to do business with me.

Some altruistic reasons: I care about my neighbors too. And people in general. Or perhaps I care about the principle of "justice" and want to see good conduct rewarded and bad conduct punished.

In addition to Machinery of Freedom -- which you should read and will find answers a lot of your objections -- I also recommend a book called The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without The State by Bruce Benson. It focuses on the degree to which we already have experience with private provision of "public" goods. Both the US and England have had periods in which a lot of policing was private, and we can look at how that worked. For instance, groups of businesses would contribute to post a bond that would pay to prosecute thieves if one were caught. (Even today, most businesses in the US are protected by private competitive security services, and there are more people employed as private cops - think mall security - than as public ones)

There was a time not so long

There was a time not so long ago when Europeans named wars after the number of years it took to fight them (100 years, 30 years, 7 years, etc.) These days, we measure wars in days (7 and 6 not so long ago) or in hours (100 for Gulf War I). There are several possible explanations for this progression.

From what I've read about the actual fighting, technological and political/economic/social changes in the ways Europeans fought wars shortened their durations. Improvements in transportation allowed the movement and coordination of armies on shorter timescales. Improvements in both farming technology and financial instruments gave states the ability to keep large, professional armies in the field year-round. Increasing state power gave states the ability to marshal larger portions of a society's resources, decreasing the amount of time societies could fight before one of them broke. Changes in political/military practice (Clausewitz became famous for expressing the doctrine of "total war," but in practice he was merely describing the change, not creating it) made politicians and generals pursue decisive victories with more vigor.

This isn't a comprehensive list, but more or less, the same changes that transformed Europe from a group of agricultural feudal monarchies into industrial autocracies made it possible for states to put more effort into war, which made it more decisive and thus shorter.

Gavin, I'm not sure that I

Gavin,

I'm not sure that I see how your second point is consistent with your first. If the insurgency gets _worse_ when insurgents are better armed, then why would the danger be _smaller_ when everyone can possess a MiG?

If the general population is

If the general population is unarmed or poorly armed with respect to the PPAs then the situation will degenerate. If ordinary citizens can possess any weapon a PPA has (assuming they can afford it) the danger is much smaller.
For evidence, consider that 20 thousand 'insurgents' are costing $100 billion a year to keep under control. All they have are 1960 era weapons. Imagine if they had more advanced stuff...

Doesn't this story just

Doesn't this story just illustrate one of the major problems with monopoly: that if the monopoly decides not to provide you with whatever it's supposed to be providing, you're totally screwed? I understand that many commenters here believe that a government monopoly on law enforcement is the best way to go, but what do you do when they decide not to protect you any more? Do you have any options?

links for 16th of June 2005

links for 16th of June 2005
Measuring Shared Information and Coordinated Activity in Neuronal Networks I wish i'd been to college here the story of how a novel got conceived (in a pub), written (at work), finished (to impress a girl) and published (blind luck?) 'Our relationsh...