Many Cops, Not None

Arnold Kling makes the classic misjudgement of libertarian "anarchy" in this post about looting:

Lee Harris writes,

To me, the looting came as no surprise: it was a completely natural phenomenon. It was exactly what my own theory of the social order would have predicted. What else should you expect when a civilized order collapses?

Thomas Hobbes probably would not have been surprised, either. I agree with Hobbes and Harris, which is why I am a libertarian believer in limited government and not a libertarian anarchist.

The mistake is to assume that libertarian anarchists want no policemen, rather than many competing police companies - an enormous difference. As Jonathan likes to remind us, the fault is partly due to the misleading term "anarchy", which naturally implies an absence of order.

I don't know any libertarians who are anarchists in this sense - but I do know many libertarian polyarchists, or polycentrists - I am one myself. We don't believe that the world would be safer without law, we simply believe that the service of policing is not immune from the fundamental libertarian concept that competing private companies kick total ass compared to govt. monopolies. Situations like the current tragedy in New Orleans support this thesis, they don't oppose it, as this bit from Marginal Revolution shows:

Government could have commandeered a fleet of buses to help the carless leave town altogether.  (Was it enough to offer to take them to unappealing shelters?)  Some people foresaw the potential problem in advance, but only Wednesday did buses start taking people out of the city.  Neither FEMA nor the state of Louisiana nor the mayor appears to have done a good job.

The news stories about looting by police make this even more clear. As I've argued before, the most basic arithmetic shows you that N goes to 0 most easily when N = 1, and less easily as N increases. In other words, when only New Orleans' finest are protecting the city, once they start looting, there is no one left. If they misestimate the storm, or make bad decisions, everyone suffers. But if there were many competing private police agencies, if one went rogue, you'd still have the others to protect you. You'd have a diversity of opinions about disaster management, a diversity of strategies, you'd be able to see what worked and learn from it, you'd be able to pick the protection firm whose strategy you liked the best.

But the gains are even higher than that, because it's not just about diversity, but incentives. The police departments of New Orleans have a completely captured customer base. They cannot lose their business. Hence they have far less incentive to do a good job - not no incentive, but less incentive. They have less reason to innovate, since they have no competitors to outshine - they need merely do a decent job, not a great one. The same is true of govt. disaster agencies - their reputation depends on having appeared to do what they could, rather than being judged on actual performance. This is the natural consequence of being managed and funded by the govt., rather than by the people you are there to help (or your donors, in the case of agencies like the Red Cross or MSF).

(P.S. Note that this is an argument only for competing enforcement agencies, not for the more radical polycentric notion of competing sets of laws. Please restrict discussion to the former)


Update: Don Boudreaux has more. Share this

We already have competing

We already have competing police companies. They're called gangs.

Absent government, how do you distinguish between the two? How do you ensure that they only enforce a unified code of laws and not, as you say, "competing sets of laws"?

Absent government, how do

Absent government, how do you distinguish between the two? How do you ensure that they only enforce a unified code of laws and not, as you say, “competing sets of laws"?

If you are counting a "gang" as a competing police company -- which you are -- then it seems that not even a government can "ensure that they only enforce a unified code of laws," as few gangs enforce any governmentally-enacted laws, to my knowledge.

So I suggest the question is irrelevant.

We already have competing

We already have competing police companies. They’re called gangs.

How is a state different from a gang?

We already have competing

We already have competing police companies. They’re called gangs.

This makes no sense to me, since the two are very different. Competing police companies are businesses, with customers who have voluntarily chosen to pay them for protection, and who are enforcing the law which legislators have come up with. Gangs use violence to get money, and often have a geographic monopoly over a certain area, where they extort money from people as "protection" from themselves. Let's sum up the differences:

1) Police companies protect you from criminals, not from themselves
2) Police companies don't force you to use their services
3) There are several police companies available to be used, there is no geographic monopoly
4) Police companies enforce the common law, they don't just take whatever they can.

Its worth noting here that government qualifies as a gang under many of these (2&3, and half of 1&2 - they protect you both from criminals and from themselves, and they enforce the common law but also have a lot of say in setting that law).

Absent government, how do you distinguish between the two? How do you ensure that they only enforce a unified code of laws and not, as you say, “competing sets of laws"?

Who said absent government? I was making a very modest claim: that multiple private police forces would work better than a single public monopoly. One could imagine many ways of smacking down a rogue agency, from bringing in the military, to allowing other agencies to attack them, or subsidizing other agencies in defending against the rogue, etc.

How is a state different

How is a state different from a gang?

Seems like a good time to mention The Hanover Street Shoe-Shine Boys.

"What checks exist to stop

"What checks exist to stop them?"

Each other, both as market competition for customers and directly through force if necessary.

"Jonathan Wilde wrote:

"'How is a state different from a gang?'

"This is a good quip, but if you do actually want to see the difference, then I suggest that you visit Mogadishu and decide if our present system of state monopolies on police power is so bad."

That does not address the point of the question, which you lost by snipping the context.

And granted that state

And granted that state police might have few checks in place (Gestapo, etc.) but in a representative republic, this is not a serious concern.

The Gestapo came to power in a representative republic.

This is a good quip, but if you do actually want to see the difference, then I suggest that you visit Mogadishu and decide if our present system of state monopolies on police power is so bad.

It wasn't a "quip". It was a serious question. What is the essential difference between a state and a gang? I'm not saying that they're the same, and realize that there are some differences. I'm asking what you think the differences are.

I'm not sure what Mogadishu has to do with Patri's post. AFAIK, Mogadishu does not have private police forces. Mogadishu is not the America. Bringing up Mogadishu is akin to bringing up the Third Reich as a shining example of democratic republicanism. You throw culture, institutions, and worldviews out the window.

it seems to me that

it seems to me that "competing sets of police" would either tend toward monopoly (as Nozick convincingly suggests) or be the worst sort plutocracy, in which the most moneied people have the best police force and would be best able to enforce their "laws." Would the laws be uniform, or would they vary according to the clients wishes?

As I've said before, having most of these libertarian societies details' spelled out is like reading a reductio ad absurdam argument gone terribly wrong. No offense, it just sounds like a place I wouldn't want to live in from what I've heard so far.

Matt

it seems to me that

it seems to me that “competing sets of police” would either tend toward monopoly (as Nozick convincingly suggests) or be the worst sort plutocracy, in which the most moneied people have the best police force and would be best able to enforce their “laws.” Would the laws be uniform, or would they vary according to the clients wishes?

As I’ve said before, having most of these libertarian societies details’ spelled out is like reading a reductio ad absurdam argument gone terribly wrong. No offense, it just sounds like a place I wouldn’t want to live in from what I’ve heard so far.

Precisely! There is a disturbing assumption present that the privatized police would deal fairly and honestly to enforce a unified set of laws agreed to by the body politic instead of degenerating into bands of highwaymen answering only to themselves. What checks exist to stop them?

And granted that state police might have few checks in place (Gestapo, etc.) but in a representative republic, this is not a serious concern.

Jonathan Wilde wrote:

How is a state different from a gang?

This is a good quip, but if you do actually want to see the difference, then I suggest that you visit Mogadishu and decide if our present system of state monopolies on police power is so bad.

Bearing off on a related note, if you think that the drug war is bad now, just imagine what it will be like when the wealthy can hire their own police forces to enforce their laws on you -- and you have no say in the matter.

And granted that state

And granted that state police might have few checks in place (Gestapo, etc.) but in a representative republic, this is not a serious concern.

State police arguably have fewer checks in place than private police (who at least have competitors) would. Why, then, is this only a serious concern for the latter?

Scott, _Mere mortals

Scott,

_Mere mortals interpret the “rule of law” and mere mortals enforce it. Nothing but turtles here, Robert._

Yeah, that's true, but the pragmatic utilitarian in me wants to point out that, as it turns out, mere mortals aren't doing a terrible job interpreting and enforcing the rule of law. And before I get swamped with people shouting things like _Kelo_ and _Raich_, I'd just like to point out that (a) I agree with you that these were bad decisions, and (b) we should be careful to keep things in perspective. _Kelo_ bad really isn't, in the grand scheme of things, all that bad. Personally, I'd rather be a resident of New London these days than a resident of New Orleans.

Given that our liberal democracy is working pretty well so far and given that, while ancap _might_ work, we've only some pretty theories and some tenuous claims about isolated, inbred, medieval island-nations as evidence that it will, it strikes me as a pretty big act of faith to dismantle a pretty good system for one that might be better and might be a disaster, particularly when one has no real idea what the odds are on either outcome.

Patri: Competing police

Patri: Competing police companies are businesses, with customers who have voluntarily chosen to pay them for protection, and who are enforcing the law which legislators have come up with.

Legislators imply government, which hints at the existence of a state. Competition, with respect to the use of force, would only be less offensive than a monopoly in the presence of a well crafted constitution; but even then, there must necessarily be a final arbiter. Do you advocate—as some do—competitive courts as well?

Brandon Berg: State police arguably have fewer checks in place than private police (who at least have competitors) would. Why, then, is this only a serious concern for the latter?

The ultimate check on the potential malfeasance of government issue cops is the rule of law, which is delineated in the constitution and (onerous?) statutes. But in either case, mere mortals would constitute the police force(s), whether publicly or privately funded.

"any form of governance will

"any form of governance will be subject to the whims of society"

But what does that mean? Try to give it real content. For example, do you mean:

"any form of governance will be subject to the will of the majority"

Is that what you mean? Because if that's what you mean, then you're arguing that every form of government without exception is a direct democracy, including the Chinese empires, Stalin's Soviet Union, and so on.

I suspect, however, that you mean the following:

"define any change in government as representing the whims of society. For example if the king's brother murders the king and takes his place, then his action represents the whim of society. Then any form of government is subject to the whims of society."

That is a tautology.

The mistake that many

The mistake that many commentors are making is assuming that you can have competing police companies without competing sets of laws. Patri's disclaimer not withstanding, this is not realistic. Agencies are responsive to the controlling organization and in this case, that means the prospective employer with the most money. It will therefore be the wealthiest who determine the dominant set of laws.

Brandon Berg wrote:

State police arguably have fewer checks in place than private police (who at least have competitors) would. Why, then, is this only a serious concern for the latter?

I agree that state police can vary in moral quality, from those of totalitarian governments (Hitler, Stalin, etc.) to those of representative democracies (US, UK, etc.) And yes, Hitler was democratically elected. This sounds like an argument that limited-government democracy cannot be distinguished from totalitarianism. Despite occasional lapses by democracies, this argument does not reflect the realities of life in a typical totalitarian state. Yes, police can be abusive. Does this occur as often in democracies as totalitarian states? No.

Jonathan Wilde wrote:

It wasn’t a “quip". It was a serious question. What is the essential difference between a state and a gang? I’m not saying that they’re the same, and realize that there are some differences. I’m asking what you think the differences are.

I would argue that a gang is a form of government, but as discussed in a previous thread, this does not seem to be a popular definition. Anyway, the difference between a gang and a state is that a state is more formally organized than a gang. The difference between a representative democracy and a gang is that the former is an organized state premised upon majority rule within certain limits and the latter is premised upon naked force with no concern for anything but naked force.

I’m not sure what Mogadishu has to do with Patri’s post. AFAIK, Mogadishu does not have private police forces. Mogadishu is not the America. Bringing up Mogadishu is akin to bringing up the Third Reich as a shining example of democratic republicanism. You throw culture, institutions, and worldviews out the window.

Mogadishu is, I think, what we could have if we had privatized police forces. Since the law would be determined by whatever police force was strongest, it would degenerate into a society engulfed in day-to-day violence on a scale similar to Mogadishu.

Or do you know of a society that has maintained privatized police forces without collapsing into civil war?

Hitler and Stalin, in

Hitler and Stalin, in effect, ran private defense agencies, and look where that landed the Germans and Russians.

Yeesh. Talk about defining away the issue. It's hard to have any sort of discussion on a topic when the basic definitions are changed to mean the opposite of what they normally convey.

Hitler was elected by the German people in a democratic government modeled after our own. He had the support of a large portion of the population. His victims could not choose any other entity for their own protection.

Stalin inherited a communist order from Lenin that was won via bloody revolution. If that was somehow a "market", I'd like to know how. Were the bread lines also markets?

If you want to redefine "private defense agencies" as fascists and communists, that's your prerogative, and a nice rhetorical flourish to reach the conclusion you desire, but then there's not much more to discuss.

That post referred to by Tom

That post referred to by Tom makes this claim against anarcho-capitalism:

"Hitler and Stalin, in effect, ran private defense agencies, and look where that landed the Germans and Russians."

Somebody tell David Friedman that there are better examples of anarcho-capitalist-like societies than Saga Period Iceland. Stalin's USSR and Hitler's Nazi Germany are even closer to anarcho-capitalist ideas. So we are informed.

On this subject, I refer you

On this subject, I refer you to this post.

“The rule of law” is

“The rule of law” is just a euphemism for “we can trust the state to play by the rules.” But it’s at least as valid to say the same about private police (and again, at least private police have competitors to keep them in line).

Fair enough, but aren’t elections a form of competition? Regardless, at the end of the day, any form of governance will be subject to the whims of society. And since direct democracy is loathsome (I’m afraid that anarcho-capitalism would quickly devolve into some form of intolerable expedient democracy), I tend to think that a constitutional republic is the least evil, considering that not everyone is as ethical and moral as one might like.

The ultimate check on the

The ultimate check on the potential malfeasance of government issue cops is the rule of law, which is delineated in the constitution and (onerous?) statutes. But in either case, mere mortals would constitute the police force(s), whether publicly or privately funded.

Mere mortals interpret the "rule of law" and mere mortals enforce it. Nothing but turtles here, Robert.

The ultimate check on the

The ultimate check on the potential malfeasance of government issue cops is the rule of law, which is delineated in the constitution and (onerous?) statutes.

That's a cop-out (no pun intended). "The rule of law" is just a euphemism for "we can trust the state to play by the rules." But it's at least as valid to say the same about private police (and again, at least private police have competitors to keep them in line).

Looks like several

Looks like several commenters are ignoring:

"(P.S. Note that this is an argument only for competing enforcement agencies, not for the more radical polycentric notion of competing sets of laws. Please restrict discussion to the former)"

it seems to me that

it seems to me that “competing sets of police” would either tend toward monopoly (as Nozick convincingly suggests)

Convincing? Not so much.

or be the worst sort plutocracy, in which the most moneied people have the best police force and would be best able to enforce their “laws.”

Sigh.

"Another worry is that the rich would rule. After all, won’t justice just go to the highest bidder in that case, if you turn legal services into an economic good? That’s a common objection. ... But under which system are the rich more powerful? Under the current system or under anarchy? Certainly, you’ve always got some sort of advantage if you’re rich. It’s good to be rich. You’re always in a better position to bribe people if you’re rich than if you’re not; that’s true. But, under the current system, the power of the rich is magnified. Suppose that I’m an evil rich person, and I want to get the government to do something-or-other that costs a million dollars. Do I have to bribe some bureaucrat a million dollars to get it done? No, because I’m not asking him to do it with his own money. Obviously, if I were asking him to do it with his own money, I couldn’t get him to spend a million dollars by bribing him any less than a million. It would have to be at least a million dollars and one cent. But people who control tax money that they don’t themselves personally own, and therefore can’t do whatever they want with, the bureaucrat can’t just pocket the million and go home (although it can get surprisingly close to that). All I have to do is bribe him a few thousand, and he can direct this million dollars in tax money to my favorite project or whatever, and thus the power of my bribe money is multiplied.

"Whereas, if you were the head of some private protection agency and I’m trying to get you to do something that costs a million dollars, I’d have to bribe you more than a million. So, the power of the rich is actually less under this system. And, of course, any court that got the reputation of discriminating in favor of millionaires against poor people would also presumably have the reputation of discriminating for billionaires against millionaires. So, the millionaires would not want to deal with it all of the time. They’d only want to deal with it when they’re dealing with people poorer, not people richer. The reputation effects – I don’t think this would be too popular an outfit."

Would the laws be uniform, or would they vary according to the clients wishes?

"In such an anarchist society, who would make the laws? On what basis would the private arbitrator decide what acts were criminal and what their punishments should be? The answer is that systems of law would be produced for profit on the open market, just as books and bras are produced today. There could be competition among different brands of law, just as there is competition among different brands of cars."

As I’ve said before, having most of these libertarian societies details’ spelled out is like reading a reductio ad absurdam argument gone terribly wrong. No offense, it just sounds like a place I wouldn’t want to live in from what I’ve heard so far.

You know, matt, it's not like we haven't heard these same objections time and time again. And it's not like we haven't responded to them every time they've been repeated. It just gets a little old after a while when people assume that we haven't thought of these problems and already developed answers for them. Why don't you try reading a little bit more on this subject before assuming that there are no non-absurd answers to the questions you ask?

There is a disturbing

There is a disturbing assumption present that the privatized police would deal fairly and honestly to enforce a unified set of laws agreed to by the body politic instead of degenerating into bands of highwaymen answering only to themselves. What checks exist to stop them?

Somebody please stop me before I mention turtles.

And granted that state police might have few checks in place (Gestapo, etc.) but in a representative republic, this is not a serious concern.

I guess you missed the link in the post above about looting by the police.

Bearing off on a related note, if you think that the drug war is bad now, just imagine what it will be like when the wealthy can hire their own police forces to enforce their laws on you – and you have no say in the matter.

You've got this exactly backwards. The drug war is as bad as it is precisely because voters do not have to directly pay for their preferences.

Here is David Friedman, writing on this very question over three decades ago (Chapter 31 of Machinery of Freedom, unfortunately unwebbed):

People who want to control other people's lives are rarely eager to pay for the privilege; they usually expect to be paid for the 'services' they provide for their victims. And those on the receiving end - whether of laws against drgus, laws against pornography, or laws against sex - get a lot more pain out of the oppression than theur oppressors get pleasure. They are willing to pay a much higher price to be left alone than anyone is willing to pay to push them around.

Fair enough, but aren’t

Fair enough, but aren’t elections a form of competition?

No.

Or more precisely, yes, in the same way that geese are a form of airplane.

Micha, _I guess you missed

Micha,

_I guess you missed the link in the post above about looting by the police._

I wonder if this really is fair. I did read the article to which you linked, and I noticed the line that read, "Most officers, though, simply stood by powerless against the tide of law breakers." It's not so clear to me that the problem is any worse than it would be in ancap. The same sorts of people who become cops now may very well be private cops. And those same sorts of private cops might well join in the looting. Saying that there is competition to stop them is all very well and good, provided that there is _enough_ competition to stop them. Once looting gets to be widespread, I can't see any reason for thinking that 10,000 private cops will be any better at stopping it than 10,000 monopolistic cops.

When you're grossly outnumbered and have no place to put people you might arrest, what are you going to do? I might break glass for looters, too. They're gonna loot anyway, so I might as well keep people from getting hurt while they do so, no?

Given that our liberal

Given that our liberal democracy is working pretty well so far and given that, while ancap might work, we’ve only some pretty theories and some tenuous claims about isolated, inbred, medieval island-nations as evidence that it will, it strikes me as a pretty big act of faith to dismantle a pretty good system for one that might be better and might be a disaster, particularly when one has no real idea what the odds are on either outcome.

Liberal democracy works better than a lot of things, but has a lot of drawbacks, too. There's no harm in trying to improve it, just as the "liberal" in liberal democracy was an attempt to improve "democracy".

WRT "dismantling" the current system, I certainly don't want to dismantle anything. I'm all about evolution, not revolution.

I think the word "anarchy" evokes such a strong reaction that it's not very useful in communicating ideas. While private provision of security and adjudication existed on a medieval island-nations, polycentric law is all around us. It is simply an extension of ideas that have existed for a long time. The anti-federalists were the ancestors of current day polycentric law advocates. While a free market for law might be the final endgame, it is part of a broader theory of federalism, an even broader idea of pluralism, and a yet even broader tradition of liberalism.

Plus, I think a lot of people misunderstand why the topic comes up so much in libertarian circles (and on this blog). It's not necessarily because libertarians like to dream up utopias any more than non-libertarians, but because the same ideas that apply to polycentric law apply to current form of government we have. When people find through public choice economics that the reason special interests are so powerful is due to the focal benefits/dispersed costs dynamic of the political economy, the question inevitably arises on how to deal with it. The answer some people have come up with is to make law a private good (in the economic sense): make people pay for the costs of poor actions and reap the benefits of good decisions. That leads to polycentric law. It wasn't science fiction or a remote medieval island nation that lead to this, but rather the study of the political economy.

Similarly, the difficulties with central planning and lack of knowledge for authorities far removed from their constituents lead me to prefer local autonomy rather than central authority.

The same reasons for making law a private economic law and local autonomy lead me to support federalism and Raich and oppose the EU. I'd rather have France reject the EU constitution for being too "free market" than for the EU constitution to pass, even though I support free markets.

It isn't a pie-in-the-sky argument that I am making. Or perhaps, the endgame is. But the intermediate steps that apply here and now certainly aren't. It's no surprise to me that one of Angel Raich's lead attorney's is also one of the leading theorists of polycentric law.

Agencies are responsive to

Agencies are responsive to the controlling organization and in this case, that means the prospective employer with the most money. It will therefore be the wealthiest who determine the dominant set of laws.

This is an odd way of describing the relationship between service providers and their customers. Aren't private law enforcement agencies service providers, and those who purchase these services their customers? In a sense, all consumers of services are "employers" of the firm; my barber is my employee, for a short period of time.

Now, understood this way, is it true that firms are responsive only to the customers with the most money? If that were the case, only luxury cars would be built - only yachts, mansions, and caviar. But that does not accurately describe markets as they actually exist. So it must not be the case that firms are responsive only to the customers with the most money.

The difference between a

The difference between a representative democracy and a gang is that the former is an organized state premised upon majority rule within certain limits and the latter is premised upon naked force with no concern for anything but naked force.

What are those certain limits and how are they enforced?

Or do you know of a society

Or do you know of a society that has maintained privatized police forces without collapsing into civil war?

Do you know of a society that has maintained limited government without collapsing into nonlimited government, i.e. a welfare state?

Given that our liberal

Given that our liberal democracy is working pretty well so far

Compared to what?

while ancap might work, we’ve only some pretty theories and some tenuous claims about isolated, inbred, medieval island-nations as evidence that it will, it strikes me as a pretty big act of faith to dismantle a pretty good system for one that might be better and might be a disaster, particularly when one has no real idea what the odds are on either outcome.

Suppose I said to you, a few years before the American Revolution,

While democracy might work, we’ve only some pretty theories and some tenuous claims about isolated, inbred, ancient Greek nations as evidence that it will, it strikes me as a pretty big act of faith to dismantle a pretty good system for one that might be better and might be a disaster, particularly when one has no real idea what the odds are on either outcome.

Sound like a good argument?

Leave it Jonathan to be both

Leave it Jonathan to be both more polite and more persuasive than I. I need to tone down my snark.

...having most of these

...having most of these libertarian societies details’ spelled out is like reading a reductio ad absurdam argument gone terribly wrong.

Unfortunately for those who advocate the existence of even limited government, their reductio ends up as: "You exist to serve society. Now pay your taxes, accept our justice system, or go to jail."

And since matt doesn't fall

And since matt doesn't fall under either of those categories, his reductio goes something along the lines of, "How do you stop capitalist acts between consenting adults in the absence of a state?"

And granted that state

And granted that state police might have few checks in place... but in a representative republic, this is not a serious concern.

This may be the funniest thing I've read all week. The astonishing level of naivete required to make this statement is both frightening and hilarious.

In order to make that statement I'm pretty sure you have to never ever ever read the newspaper. Best to avoid all historical accounts of any kind as well.

nmg

Micha, Republican forms of

Micha,

Republican forms of government (as opposed to Greek democracy) were extant at the time of the revolution and at least prior to the founding of the American colonies (the Netherlands Republic, the Venician Republic, the Swiss Federation) so the analogy isn't quite apt. But I agree that it is unpersuasive to rely on either the age or size of old polities that engaged in ever-more-limited statism, or on the fact that the proposed alternative political system is "theoretical," as indeed the US system was rather theoretical and novel despite European experience.

Micha, perhaps the

Micha, perhaps the Democratic party could incorporate that into their platform. "Absent a broadly comprehensive set of federal powers we cannot continue in our mission to stop all capitalist acts between consenting adults. "

nmg

Competing police companies

Competing police companies will behave more like private lawyers. They represent interests of their clients but they cannot break the Law. Also, different police companies may address different markets.

In computer science we distinguish between functional and non-functional requirements. Functional requirements tell the relationship between input and output under ideal conditions. Non-functional requirements give the necessary tradeoff between time and memory, security and speed and cost etc..

Some people might want police to come to their help immediately and even when there is only a slightest risk of crime against them. They will be ready to pay for that. Others may prefer to own weapons in their self-defense and thus may prefer not to pay extra to get speedy help.

All police agencies will enforce the same law but will address different market segments based on different tradeoffs.

The same goes for private courts. They are nothing but private arbitration mechanisms. They cannot violate the Law. But based on a contractual agreement between two parties can provide a different levels of services. For examples, two high-tech companies may want to sign an agreement for joint development and afraid that if some disputes arises the ordinary court might take too long to resolve the dispute. Thus, they may agree to take all the disputes to a private court agency which specializes only in high-tech cases. Furthermore, the high-tech companies might agree to pay a fine if one of them decides to appeal the private court's decision to the state appeals court. The appeals court, run by the state, can look at the record of the trial and can decide if re-trial is needed in a state trial court.

The state court and police provide the same-size-fit-all services. And therein lies most of the frustration.

Micha has replied as I

Micha has replied as I would, Joe.

the worst sort plutocracy,

the worst sort plutocracy, in which the most moneied people have the best police force and would be best able to enforce their “laws.” Would the laws be uniform, or would they vary according to the clients wishes?

This was already addressed to at least some extent. But, note the existance of gated communities, private security agencies, etc. The rich have already got better protection. The rest of us can't afford it because we're compelled to pay for a police agency not of our choosing. And when you pay those security guys enough, you can get them to do things like carry concealed weapons when/where they shouldn't. (And pay the lawyers to try and get them off the charges.) So they've got the varied laws, too.

Micha: Aren’t private law

Micha: Aren’t private law enforcement agencies service providers, and those who purchase these services their customers?

Ashnish: Competing police companies will behave more like private lawyers. They represent interests of their clients but they cannot break the Law.

Private law enforcement would not be problematic if in fact all parties involved operated under a common Law (federalism or not). The problems arise when there is a dispute over which rules apply. This is amplified in the absence of a final arbiter, wherein such disputes are invariably solved with violence. For example: suppose that Christian evangelicals, militant Muslims, Marxists and classic liberals each have competing police forces in a given city. Theoretically speaking, all but the classic liberals would resort to coercion to implement their ‘private’ laws, to the detriment of the others. It seems to me that, for all of its faults, publicly-funded polices—assuming the existence of a limited, unambiguous, ‘liberal’ constitution—is the lesser of the possible evils. That said, since pluralism is a practical reality, there will never be perfect liberty or security. The goal ought to be achieving a reasonable balance, with deference given to liberty.

Roderick Long had a response

Roderick Long had a response to the final arbiter notion, which I'll quote -- you may or may not find it persuasive:

One common objection – this is one you find, for example, in Robert Bidinotto, who’s a Randian who’s written a number of articles against anarchy (he and I have had sort of a running debate online about this) – his principal objection to anarchy is that under anarchy, there’s no final arbiter in disputes. Under government, some final arbiter at some point comes along and resolves the dispute one way or the other. Well, under anarchy, since there’s no one agency that has the right to settle things once and for all, there’s no final arbiter, and so disputes, in some sense, never end, they never get resolved, they always remain open-ended.

So what’s the answer to that? Well, I think that there’s an ambiguity to the concept here of a final arbiter. By "final arbiter," you could mean the final arbiter in what I call the Platonic sense. That is to say, someone or something or some institution that somehow absolutely guarantees that the dispute is resolved forever; that absolutely guarantees the resolution. Or, instead, by "final arbiter" you could simply mean some person or process or institution or something-or-other that more or less reliably guarantees most of the time that these problems get resolved.

Now, it is true, that in the Platonic sense of an absolute guarantee of a final arbiter – in that sense, anarchy does not provide one. But neither does any other system. Take a minarchist constitutional republic of the sort that Bidinotto favors. Is there a final arbiter under that system, in the sense of something that absolutely guarantees ending the process of dispute forever? Well, I sue you, or I’ve been sued, or I am accused of something, whatever – I’m in some kind of court case. I lose. I appeal it. I appeal it to the Supreme Court. They go against me. I lobby the Congress to change the laws to favor me. They don’t do it. So then I try to get a movement for a Constitutional Amendment going. That fails, so I try and get people together to vote in new people in Congress who will vote for it. In some sense it can go on forever. The dispute isn’t over.

But, as a matter of fact, most of the time most legal disputes eventually end. Someone finds it too costly to continue fighting. Likewise, under anarchy – of course there’s no guarantee that the conflict won’t go on forever. There are very few guarantees of that iron-clad sort. But that’s no reason not to expect it to work.

It's a very quick and unfulfilling answer, but I think it raises significant points that bear thought.

matt: it seems to me that

matt: it seems to me that “competing sets of police” would either tend toward monopoly (as Nozick convincingly suggests)
spall: Convincing? Not so much. [links to irrlevant Randy Barnett article]

The article you linked doesn't contain the words "police", "monopoly" or even "law." I'm unsure how that even approaches a refutation of Nozick's claim. It would be truly an astounding feat for him to refute
the idea that "“competing sets of police” would... tend toward monopoly"
without once mentioning "police" or "monopoly." Now I'm really intrigued.

“Another worry is that the rich would rule. After all, won’t justice just go to the highest bidder in that case, if you turn legal services into an economic good? That’s a common objection. … But under which system are the rich more powerful? Under the current system or under anarchy?

that'snot a good argument. The present situation sucks bad.

But, under the current system, the power of the rich is magnified. Suppose that I’m an evil rich person, and I want to get the government to do something-or-other that costs a million dollars. Do I have to bribe some bureaucrat a million dollars to get it done? No, because I’m not asking him to do it with his own money.

this factor is mitigated by the fact that people have a voice in government which is free and as such can countervail money power like that by voting in organizaed factions. It's devices like these that allow people to push for labor rights despite heavy business and (therefore) money opposition. Again, this point is relevant to our other thread's argument though, about why rich people would seek free government money because it's cheap.

“Whereas, if you were the head of some private protection agency and I’m trying to get you to do something that costs a million dollars, I’d have to bribe you more than a million. So, the power of the rich is actually less under this system.

that proof only considered taxed money. It doesn't consider other goods like free speech, equal protection under the law, the right to privacy, etc. all of which would become purchasable commodities under a free market system and would be unevenly distributed among the general populace. That certainly gives the rich more power.

any court that got the reputation of discriminating in favor of millionaires against poor people would also presumably have the reputation of discriminating for billionaires against millionaires.

who wrote this crazy stuff... lew? Why should we assume this? It may be the case that courts are made of elites naturally biased toward rich people, millionaire or billionaire.

They’d only want to deal with it [the biased courts] when they’re dealing with people poorer, not people richer. The reputation effects – I don’t think this would be too popular an outfit.”

um, okay. So Millionaires would only go to courts biased against the poor when they are up against the poor. Well that makes me feel better. Rockwell just proved that Millionaires would not be discriminated against in court against Billionaires. He also acts like he doesn't even understand the argument (maybe he doesn't) which is just crazy considering how often you poor bastards have heard it ("You know, matt, it’s not like we haven’t heard these same objections time and time again.") The argument is that the poor will be unable to purchase lawyers with working knowledge of the legal system while Billionaires will and as such who gives a shit whether the court is biased? The court can be as fair as you want- it will fairly rule in favor of the party who argues according to the law.

“ The answer is that systems of law would be produced for profit on the open market, just as books and bras are produced today. There could be competition among different brands of law, just as there is competition among different brands of cars.”

sure, and then the person with the biggest police force will enforce their brand of law against people with smaller ones. You just looked at me wrong, which you can't do in my law book and so I suppose that my private army will cut off your ear (the punishment in my law book) unless you have a comparable army which can enforce your laws. Oh you're poor and you don't? Well this is certainly a wonderful fucking libertarian utopia, ain't it?

You know, matt, it’s not like we haven’t heard these same objections time and time again.

oh really? You've read Nozick before? I didn't realize...

And it’s not like we haven’t responded to them every time they’ve been repeated.

not very well, apparently, given the quality of the material you cited.

It just gets a little old after a while when people assume that we haven’t thought of these problems and already developed answers for them.

and yet this thread is full of people arguing over the law question, and for some reason you're not all up in their face for discussing it.

Why don’t you try reading a little bit more on this subject before assuming that there are no non-absurd answers to the questions you ask?

You know I just read the stuff you reccomended me. I suppose now I can assume that there are no non-absurd answers to these questions, if those are your best shots.

Matt

I like having you around,

I like having you around, Josh.

Katrina: We Clearly Need

Katrina: We Clearly Need More Police ....
Companies, that is. We need a competitive market for law enforcement and disaster relief, and this is something that is clearly seen in the wake of the Katrina disaster. Patri Friedman, over at Catallarchy, has a good post on this...

As a short addendum, the

As a short addendum, the kernel of Randy Barnett's "Whither Anarchy?" article is that Nozick's justification of the state rests on natural procedural rights, yet no such procedural rights exist. Or, at least, Nozick would have to leave Lockian principles (on which he relies) to get procedural rights.

Ironically, Randy Barnett's defence of the state in Restoring the Lost Constitution relies on a constitution which has procedural assurances of producing prima facie just laws. Put another way, the government has to write a rule it can't break. Hahahaha! Tried that!

One more thing (in this increasingly long addendum), Miller said that there is no duty to obey the commands of the state, just because the state so. But there might be a duty to contribute to redistributionist programmes. I don't think this gets you to a government, since there could be competing redistributionist programmes.

- Josh

"Competing police companies

"Competing police companies are businesses, with customers who have voluntarily chosen to pay them for protection, and who are enforcing the law which legislators have come up with."

Sounds a lot like the Mafia in Palermo, Italy to me: "You pay us, and we''l protect your business against crooks."
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maffia#The_Mafia_in_Italy : "The main source of exports, and thus wealth of the island from which the Mafia sprung was the large estates of lemon and orange groves that rise from the walls of Palermo up into the hills surrounding the city. The Mafia was initially involved in the protection of these estates, the landowners needing the Mafia for protection, and the Mafia needing the landowners' political connections to operate freely."

When you write about 'customers who have voluntarily chosen', you make the Hayekian mistake of not seeing the point where you cross the line between 'choice' and 'necessity'.

Robert, I will admit that

Robert,

I will admit that companies act more rationally than individuals do; I didn't think that's what you were trying to argue for.

My response to that is, so far as worrying about the irrationality of individuals, I'm not sure how you can avoid the problem. The reason that companies can be relied on to act rationally is because they are in competition with one another for profit. If one acts irrationally, others gain its marketshare, and the irrational one goes out of business.

However, if you want a monopoly, you eliminate this process. You eliminate the incentive towards rationality.

Jonathan, _Perhaps I’m

Jonathan,

_Perhaps I’m making connections where there are none, but this is a process that’s been evolving for a long, long time, from pure democracies to republics to liberalism to the federalists/anti-federalists to separation of powers to hayekians to modern day public choice economics._

This is the sort of thing that keeps me intrigued. Indeed, on Friday night at the end of the first bottle of wine and just before the bourbon comes out, I can just almost sign on to the picture that you paint.

Certainly I'd agree that nation-states do provide some evidence for polycentric law. I suspect, though, that history is not moving in the direction that you state. Nation states certainly do manage to get along without any sort of central authority, but I'd submit that these days, nations are getting along better at getting along precisely because they are moving (slowly, I'll admit) in the direction of centralization rather than in the opposite direction. I tend to think that in another 100 years, rather than more decentralization, we'll be much closer to something like a world-wide government.

Indeed, it strikes me that things like Balkanization don't usually lead to more peace. Now I'll be the first to admit that one cannot just stuff different groups together and form a working government that is superior to whatever the groups had individually. Iraq today (and much of the mideast generally) is pretty much proof of that.

At the end of the day, though, I'm just not all that sure that order and less centralization are really all that compatible.

Scott, To answer your

Scott,

To answer your question directly, I would argue that the existence of a state monopoly on the use of force bears more heavily on the decision to seek private arbitration by companies, as opposed to that of rank-and-file individuals, because of (among other things) the relative degree of education and/or the mindfulness of the potential consequences of not engaging in peaceful negotiations.

My point is that one ought not to assume that reason is equally distributed among any general population. I’m admittedly working from the assumption that those in a given company (those who are in a position to make decisions) are generally capable of acting in the company’s best interest, Enron notwithstanding. When push comes to shove, I think that Joe Sixpack would be more inclined to violence, rather than arbitration, as a means of conflict resolution.

The question I gave was:

The question I gave was: "How does the existence of the state bear on whether or not individuals or companies would agree on an arbiter?"

You responded that people are sometimes irrational and it's foolish to rely on their good will. While true, I don't see what it has to do with the question.