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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Number.... I've Lost Count

I pretty much quit topical blogging a long time ago, and turned this into a blog primarily on organization theory. But Meir Israelowitz sent me a link to this piece, and Holy Moley, it was just too good to pass up--like shooting fish in a barrel.

Steven Pinkner: "The Moral Instinct"

Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it’s an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of death, has been decapitated in effigy in “I Hate Gates” Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug?

Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history.
"...[H]as been credited." That's a classic example of the weaselly passive voice if I ever saw one.

And most of those "Green Revolution" techniques were developed to be usable primarily on large cash-crop plantations, with subsidized irrigation water, on land from which peasant subsistence farmers had been evicted. So saying he "saved a billion lives" is a lot like saying someone "provided a billion crutches" when he's working in league with the people who broke all those legs in the first place. Yeah, I guess he reduced the rate of starvation among people who were robbed of their own land, on which they otherwise might have been feeding themselves without a problem.

Gates, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers and determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria, diarrhea and parasites.

Hmmm. Let's change just one word: "Capone, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers...."

The "morality" of it depends quite a bit on how that "fortune" was obtained in the first place. And considering that Gates and his partner in crime Ballmer are two of the most odious Copyright Nazis in the world, and that Microsoft's entire business model depends on state measures like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to protect them from market competition, it's fair to say Gates was being generous with stolen money. If you're looking for someone doing something admirable for the Third World, how about the people promoting open-source software in countries too poor to afford Gates' gold-plated turd?

Addendum. A couple of readers suggested I might have been too harsh on Borlaug. I think I hinted (albeit in a snarky manner) that he probably did save people from starvation given the fact that most of the starvation had been caused in the first place by landed oligarchs and latifundistas in collusion with agribusiness interests. But I was probably a bit too snarky, if I gave the impression that he bore personal culpability for the actions of those landed and agribusiness interests, or that he consciously colluded with their crimes in order to enrich himself. So to put it in a less snarky manner, Borlaug may well have been motivated by an altruistic desire to save lives, given the constraints. His worst fault, if that, was probably accepting the existing distribution of power and land as a natural state of affairs, and failing to grasp the potential for small-scale subsistence agriculture as an alternative, absent the sort of thuggery faced by peasants.


Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, the governments involved would have been responsible for the billion deaths, but I don't know if we can fault Borlaug for working with those governments to prevent the starvation.

January 14, 2008 6:14 PM  
Blogger Ricketson said...

Hey Kevin,

I follow your criticism of Gates, but not the criticism of Borlaug. Maybe I'm just sympathizing with a fellow biologist, I think you're being to harsh on him.

In your linked article, you wrote:

"...there is no such thing as neutral, politically immaculate technology that can be divorced from questions of power relationships. Criteria of technical "efficiency" depend on the nature of the organizational structures which will be adopting a technology. And the forms of state R&D subsidy and other development aid entailed in the Green Revolution artificially promoted capital-intensive plantation agriculture"

Even taking that all for granted, I think it's still true that Borlaug, working within the system that existed, succeeded in increasing the food supply and making food more accessible to a number of poor people. If his innovations provided additional rewards to a bunch of thieves, that's a valid criticism of his work and something for future technologists to consider when deciding what technologies to pursue. However, it isn't grounds to dismiss his achievements or vilify him as though he were part of a conspiracy to dispossess millions of farmers of their livelihood.

I don't know if his innovations took the shape they did because of technical limitations, or funding limitations, or if he was just tailoring them for the economic system that he knew. Whatever the case, I don't think that we gain anything by chastising him for his innovations.
We need innovators to help produce the technologies that will support a more just economy. We need them to be aware of the economic realities of independent producers, and we need to connect them to funding that will support useful R&D. If we demonize their mentors and heroes for the sins of being practical and having a typical level of political/economic awareness, they'll just get insulted and our ideas will have no influence on them.

January 14, 2008 6:14 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the comments, Adam and James. I amended the post in response to your concerns.

January 14, 2008 6:32 PM  
Blogger scumble said...

"Even taking that all for granted, I think it's still true that Borlaug, working within the system that existed, succeeded in increasing the food supply and making food more accessible to a number of poor people."

A point I might make here is that this is the frame of reference most people are working from. What is considered "realistic" and "practical" is always withing the context of the existing state capitalist system.

I finished reading chapter 4 of the draft, Kevin, and perhaps your style with these posts downplays your material on how the state capitalist system distorts everything. The reason it is so pernicious is that well-meaning people such as Borlaug assist the system, reinforcing the problems that were created by it the first place.

Perhaps taking this line is better than your traditional ass-kicking line!

However, I view your Vulgar Libertarian watch as more a criticism of the people calling themselves "Libertarians" who speak highly of things that have little to do with a free market, rather than a criticism of people who have managed to at least cause some positive side effects.

However, Bill Gates owes his fortune most directly to the corporate state, given the millions of corporate and government licensees...

January 15, 2008 3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vulgar libertarianism seems to me to demystify ideology. By ideology I simply mean an abstract conception of things that fails to consider the actual particular details. So in this post you note that many of the starving people in the third world had their land stolen from them.

I think you could also argue that classical liberalism is itself an ideology. It sounds very persuasive in the abstract but it mystifies the actual particulars of our society. More fundamentally it sort of says that things are a certain way and given that, our "rights" naturally flow accordingly. It seems to deny that under a different set of condition there might, perhaps, be another, and more preferable, way of organizing our society. So for example in a society of tremendous abundance private property might not make sense. Or at least not in its present form. Or maybe private property would still make sense but for totally different reasons. In any event, classical liberalism or should I say natural rights, by ignoring our actual particular situation, ossifies for all time what is natural, just and so on.

January 15, 2008 10:12 AM  
Blogger Ricketson said...

As long as we're talking about the green revolution and such, here are some potentially useful resources for people interested in small-scale, owner-operated, localized agriculture:

Alternative crops

The Ghandi of Greenhouses.

January 15, 2008 12:35 PM  
Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

While Pinker's points about the Green Revolution and Bill Gates are similar to those made by vulgar libs (and in other writing he'll occasionally cite a libertarian like Hayek or Sowell), I've gotta say that I think that Pinker isn't really portraying himself as a libertarian here. I happen to be pretty familiar with his other writings (more than I really want to) and he's by no means a libertarian.

Pinker's favorite political thinker is Hobbes, and he has a strong law-and-order mentality about the state and the police being necessary for keeping order. A typical quote:

"The generalization that anarchy in the sense of a lack of government leads to anarchy in the sense of violent chaos may seem banal, but it is often overlooked in today's still-romantic climate. Government in general is anathema to many conservatives, and the police and prison system are anathema to many liberals." (The Blank Slate, p. 331)

Elsewhere in the same book, he looks favorably on Robert Frank's idea of a consumption tax to counteract people's natural tendency to overconsume in a free market (p. 303) -- in contrast to the Friedmanesque idea that people know how to spend their own money better than someone else does.

And in a rejoinder to George Lakoff, when dealing with Lakoff's ideas about changing the language about taxes to make them seem less bad, he dismisses that anti-tax right, saying:

"Why should anyone feel the need to defend the very idea of an income tax? Other than the Ayn Randian fringe, has anyone recently proposed abolishing it?"

Louis Menand has an apt description of Pinker's politics as being "mainstream Clinton-era views":

"In general, the views that Pinker derives from 'the new sciences of human nature' are mainstream Clinton-era views: incarceration is regrettable but necessary; sexism is unacceptable, but men and women will always have different attitudes toward sex; dialogue is preferable to threats of force in defusing ethnic and nationalist conflicts; most group stereotypes are roughly correct, but we should never judge an individual by group stereotypes; rectitude is all very well, but 'noble guys tend to finish last'; and so on."

January 15, 2008 2:06 PM  
Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

BTW, another part of the article that's interesting is this, about whether commercial markets in certain activities are seen as ethically repugnant:

"The psychologist Philip Tetlock has shown that the mentality of taboo -- a conviction that some thoughts are sinful to think -- is ... a mind-set that can easily be triggered in college-educated Americans. Just ask them to think about applying the sphere of reciprocity to relationships customarily governed by community or authority. When Tetlock asked subjects for their opinions on whether adoption agencies should place children with the couples willing to pay the most, whether people should have the right to sell their organs and whether they should be able to buy their way out of jury duty, the subjects not only disagreed but felt personally insulted and were outraged that anyone would raise the question."

It's hard not to be reminded of the Walter Block Defending the Undefendable approach of going out of one's way to provocatively celebrate the forms of market activity (blackmail, strip mining, etc.) that are considered the most repugnant by the general public -- or, in contrast, the attempts to justify markets in such areas by dispassionate cost-benefit analysis without dealing with the ethical issue.

January 15, 2008 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah goodness...

when will the vulgar libertarianism end...

Still no one is more vulgar than john stossel.

January 15, 2008 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the word "Free market" is thrown around a lot here. I think you do a really good job of showing that market has been anything but free.

Still I think the "free market" smacks a little of ideology, because it fails to root itself within a specific historical context. Where we are now is a product of where we have been. Technology, the state, class struggle all grew up in this capitalist system. That history will take an abrupt about face to a free market is hard for me to fathom.

That said, I really like your site. And I keep coming back.

January 16, 2008 7:39 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I agree with folks above. As Douglas North points out, trying to change a "natural state" is a mighty difficult thing to do that will often involve violence. Borlaug is a scientist and what he did helped a lot of people out. If he had directed his efforts to toppling tyrants he probably wouldn't have done much good. Pinker isn't a libertarian at all, so he can't really be a vulgar one. I'd also argue that even if Bill Gate's profits were artificially inflated by the state, on net he did a lot of good. It is kind of funny though that back in the day he used to warn about the dangers of intellectual property in software.

January 16, 2008 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's at the least unlikely that Bill Gates did a lot of good, net, because almost nothing Microsoft did was productive in itself. Rather, it marketed stuff that it bought in and made Microsoft-compatible. That approach is probably why it became fashionable to start talking about "innovate" rather than "invent". Of course, it is entirely possible for marketing to bring products out quicker, so there is a small gain from having them around earlier than they otherwise would be, but it can equally work by denying entry points for others. Judging by the tactics used, Microsoft is more likely to have obstructed, net. There won't be much in it either way; Microsoft profits don't really correlate with that side of things.

By the way, in case anyone is interested, I am about to enter an excerpt from Sonia E. Howe's The Drama of Madagascar in the long running comments at Ricardo in the Stables to illustrate a specific case of colonialism introducing a Poll Tax to mobilise local resources.

January 17, 2008 3:05 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


My biggest enemy is matrix reality. And it's reinforced in American politics by the "sensible" soccer mom tendency to take the existing structure of power as a necessary or self-evident, and then just tinker with it to make it more "practical."

Anon 1,

There's an interesting parallel between Austrian and Marxist theories of abundance. Compare Menger's idea of the "non-economic good" (a good so cheap to reproduce without limit that--as the old nuke industry saying went--it's "too cheap to meter") to Marx's idea of the post-scarcity economy of communism. A lot of P2P advocates point out that most information industry is "post-scarcity" in that sense, what with zero marginal cost of reproduction, and that capitalist relations in that sector depend on artificial scarcity through IP law.

adam ricketson,

Thanks for the links. I've bookmarked them for later addition under some link headings on the blog.

Joel Schlosberg,

It sounds like Pinker's attached to some neocon variant of "Democratic Capitalism," with all the "National Greatness Conservative" blockbuster projects thrown in. So maybe it was actually a compliment to call him a vulgar libertarianism (although if it applies to Ron Bailey, it probably applies to him).

I take issue with Pinker's simplistic identification of reciprocity to market exchange. The idea of a "natural price" tied to the ratio of cost or effort, as a part of a general reciprocity-based ethical theory of exchange, derives from even more fundamental ethical norms of "fairness." This ties in, I think, to issues of "thick libertarianism" that Long and Johnson, among others, talk about. At any rate, reciprocity strikes me as more of a leftish, Proudhonian thing than as something I'd identify with Block.

Samuel McNamara,

Stossel is pretty bad. But every time I say "there's nobody worse than so-and-so," I get surprised.

Anonymous 2,

Thanks for the comment. I try to identify the statist elements in historic capitalism, and distinguish them from the free market as such. I think when you eliminate the exploitative features like privilege and state robbery, the "free market" is what you have left. But it's pretty hard to get my mind around. Considering the abolition of just about any particular form of intervention, in isolation, you still get at least a likely order of magnitude difference in things (just imagine the effect of eliminating IP on the cartel structure of domestic industry, and on the profits of the IP-based corporate sectors that dominate the global economy). So trying to imagine the synergistic effects of eliminating all forms of privilege and subsidy is pretty mind-blowing. But I think it's a sound rule to eliminate any form of coercion whose net effect is exploitative, until you no longer need the other forms of intervention whose primary purpose is ameliorative. And then what you have left is a free market, in which I expect the Kropotkinians and Greens would feel a lot more at home than the Misoids.


There certainly seems to be a lot of disconnect between the early Gates (who was at least comparatively innovative and was a little more libertarian on IP) and the late Gates (who is living off one-hit wonders, thinking up godawful crap like Vista and then trying to force people to buy it, and is a friggin' Nazi on IP).


As much as Gates & Co. currently obstruct, they sporadically threaten to do even worse, as with the threat of infringement action against Linux distributors. Of course, it's probably an empty threat, given MS's own vulnerability to patent trolling. Talk about your nuclear options....

January 17, 2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you were not harsh enough with Borlaug. It is the perfect excuse in 'systems' to say I was only working within the system (taking orders for instance), or doing my job.

Biologists and scientists who work for corporations may not be aware of the way their reasearch will impact in the real world, nor what motives drive the corporation but they ought to know.

Do corporations really want to increase Population growth? Most ruling class intellectuals are Malthusians and think there are too many of us, better to kill some of us before we cause too many problems for them.

Agribusiness is a massive problem and these biologists just sustain it.

January 21, 2008 2:54 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Borlaug was certainly wrong in buying into the myth that Third World starvation results from insufficient food production or "primitive" methods, as opposed to the maldistribution of land and purchasing power. Introducing methods to increase output of corporate farming does nothing to relieve starvation caused by the inability of evicted peasants to pay for what's already being produced. And it may even be harmful, in making the corporate cash-crop model of agribusiness even more feasible and encouraging further enclosure and "tractoring off."

January 22, 2008 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pinker once wrote (now I can't remember where) that he was a teenaged anarchist, a follower of Bakunin. He said his views unravelled on the night of the Montreal Police Strike in 1969, when a 16-hour job action by cops led to rioting and looting.

He claimed it shattered his view that humans could basically be good without the state's supervision.

Interestingly, the biggest incident during the strike was the protest/riot between the Taxi Liberation Movement and a local cab and limo company. The Taxi Liberation folks and some of their friends apparently descended on the cab firm's headquarters to protest that firm's City-granted monopoly on picking up fares at Dorval Airport. Things turned ugly, and one provincial police officer was killed.

However, that was the only death of the night. So clearly the removal of government police did two things: First it allowed the small fringe of assholes that exist to a greater or lesser degree in all societies greater rein to loot. Big damn deal; free people can organize to defend themselves against this kind of thing. If the strike had gone on for a month, I guarantee some sort of neighbourhood watch would have the streets as safe as ever.

The other problem was a labour dispute aggravated by government favouritism. Without taking into account the issue of violence, and who started shooting first, it's pretty clear that the Taxi Liberation folks were in the right.

Pinker had his hippy-dippy version of anarchism shattered, and he ran right into a kind of reactionary "liberalism," in the US political sense.

Pinker says he was an anarchist in his teens; I wasn't. I came to anarchism at age 26, and I did it slowly and with a lot of thought. One thing I decided along the way is that it literally does not matter, to my anarchism, whether anarchy in society would or would not function. It's an ethical position: all I can do is live my life as close to anarchist principles as I can, and keep pushing for more freedom, justice and wealth for everybody.


January 26, 2008 10:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

So Pinker witnessed a power vacuum caused by the abrupt non-functioning of the state infrastructure, with a civil society grossly atrophied and distorted by the state, with no advance notice and no counter-institutions to take its place. And on that basis he decided that a society based on voluntary cooperation couldn't work.

And they actually pay this guy to write?

January 27, 2008 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a similar police strike here in Melbourne in the '20s, which also triggered looting. I also came to a similar conclusion about the differences between that situation and a functioning system (after all, police forces as we know them only came in in the early 19th century, so we have some precedent from the earlier institutions in place before).

But it does give rise to questions about what should be provided and how to get there from here. Not least, there needs to be some analogue of Athenian ostracism to remove people who want to take surreptitious advantage, without that in turn degenerating into crypto-government and/or a means of abuse (e.g. saying "leave or else" to someone with no means of leaving).

In various interactions when younger, I found there were two broad forms of apologia for the police, ones which we can extend to the "global policeman". These are:-

- "you're pleased to see us when you need us"; and

- "how can you expect us to get results you like if we don't have your co-operation?"

The answers are, respectively:-

- "we only need you because you won't let us help ourselves"; and

- "from what I've seen, you don't get results we like even when we co-operate".

I could go into details, but that would produce several long shaggy dog stories - all true. Ejecting a home invader, trying to stop bad drivers near where I lived, getting a deranged Rumanian past security into the West German embassy in London after hours... all these and more have I done with no help from the police.

For what it's worth, it struck me that policemen come in two sorts as individuals, very good and very bad, with the very bad being more a case of damaged virtue than of bad per se, rather like the saying that "a cynic is a failed romantic"; they are showing the vice of despair in an ideal, not of lack of principles.

January 27, 2008 4:52 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I've seen that "you're pleased to see us when you need us" cliche myself, and always been absolutely enraged at how disingenuous (or stupid?) it is.

So we're being "inconsistent" for wanting the cops to do their jobs of protecting us from murderers and robbers, without them becoming murderers and robbers themselves?

I guess the price of getting any genuine protection at all should be our willingness to accept, cheerfully and without complaint, daily stories about Abner Louima, Cory Maye, Katherine Johnson, casual murder by the LAPD street crimes division, planting of evidence in police forces all across the country, the use of plea bargaining and coerced testimony from jailhouse snitches to frame people up without a trial... well, you get the picture.

And we should be so grateful to the cops from occasionally waddlng out of the donut shops to investigate a burglary that we should cheerfully accept the possibility of being tased to death for "resisting arrest" (while in a diabetic coma), or murdered in police custody, as a reasonable cost for their services.

Fuck that.

January 29, 2008 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 'you love us when you need us' notion towards the police. Perhaps therefore there is a truth that maybe an 'anarchist' could be a more polite society because a lot of physically weak/fat smartarses mouth off knowing fully well there's the police and justice system backing them up. Presumably in an 'anarchist' these people would have to keep their yaps shut as they know they'd probably get their heads shot off. Yet these are the same people to complain about a 'police state' when they have to do a random breath test . . .

February 17, 2008 11:18 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


My critique of the "you love us when you need us" argument I made in the post directly above yours could be applied just as well to your restatement of the argument, without alteration. The "you love us when you need us" argument is usually made with a sense of entitlement, or a "boys will be boys" attitude--as if tasering and beating of the handcuffed or unconscious, the planting of evidence, the use of coerced testimony from jailhouse snitches to frame people up, the MURDER of people in no-knock SWAT raids, etc., etc., etc., etc., were something cops had a reasonable expectation of getting away with in return for whatever genuine protection they provide.

Well, guess what? I imagine the police in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union arrested quite a few genuine criminals. So I guess the snot-nosed ingrates who complain about the Gulag and the death camps should just get over it, huh?

Let's get something clear. Arresting real criminals--those who commit genuine aggression against the lives and property of others--is what cops are supposed to be doing. Violating due process rights, framing people up, and torturing people for fun is not a legitimate "perk" of the job that they're entitled to as a reward for whatever genuine protection they provide.

What would you think of someone in a different line of work using a similar argument about their own job? For example, maybe the fast-food worker could say "You're glad enough to receive your burgers and fries from me, so stop whining when I spit in your food." Or a nurse could say "You never seem to complain when you need my care, so you've got some nerve to get all huffy just because I occasionally get a few laughs by slipping a cyanide pill in with your other medications."

We have a right (get that, a RIGHT) to expect those entrusted with power to use that power only in accordance with their duty, and not to abuse it for their own interest. We're not the ones who are whiners for complaining about Cory Maye, Katharine Johnson or Abner Louima. The WHINERS are the cops who think they're being "picked on" because they can't rob and murder at will as a fringe benefit of their job.

February 18, 2008 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well since you're a anti-guvmint type then I s'pose the only obvious solution is to privatize the police force. Presumably if private cops were found out to engage in nasty activities way outside their field of enforcement then the consumers would quickly take their money elsewhere causing that particular business to crumble or at least work very to try and regain their customer base if they can? On the other hand, if we're talking anarco-capitalism how does a private system of law enforcement work? If A commits a crime against B then why would A submit to B's police force, court system, jails, and, really, B's laws? A real totally private and realisable (for the anarcho-capitalist) law enforcement is for every one to define their own private laws and sort out their own entanglements just like in the Wild West movies.

But as I pointed out there before there are some who (hypocritically) like to criticize the police force in their spare time yet these people are quick to rely on the police if they get themselves in danger. Similarly, I implied that, as in a Wild West movie, what if you only had to rely on your wits to keep yourself out of danger? Would it not make sense, in an anarcho-capitalist society to be as polite as possible because there's nothing stopping another guy from kicking the shit out of you or even killing because if you engage in smart-arse or threatening behavior towards him? Perhaps a criticism of the concept of a police force is invalid because it give some people unfair protection/privileges over others - private or public? That the police force, as we'd know nowadays, was created in 1871? That there can be those who act aggressively or irresponsibly towards others knowing that the other person will be arrested in a way that nobility once harrassed the peasants knowing they faced dire consequences if they dared touched the nobleman?

February 26, 2008 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, "...if we're talking anarco-capitalism how does a private system of law enforcement work?" builds in your own assumptions. The short answer is, it doesn't - because that's not what you do. You exclude people who aren't playing straight, you don't set up a policing system by another name. Heinlein explored this in some of his fiction, e.g. "Coventry".

"...I pointed out there before there are some who (hypocritically) like to criticize the police force in their spare time yet these people are quick to rely on the police if they get themselves in danger" - that's not hypocritical, that's making the best of a bad job in the face of an imposed necessity - and, since the state itself imposes the necessity, it deserves no credit for silver linings in its clouds, even if they are silver. See my earlier discussion.

"...police force, as we'd know nowadays, was created in 1871?" - no it wasn't, it was created in the late 1820s (e.g. Metropolitan Police Act 1829).

"...there can be those who act aggressively or irresponsibly towards others knowing that the other person will be arrested in a way that nobility once harrassed the peasants knowing they faced dire consequences if they dared touched the nobleman?" - you don't know much about that, do you? Feudal privileges existed for all classes, and the system was self-policing in that respect from noblesse oblige - the aristocracy made sure that things like that were kept under control, so they didn't piss on their own door steps. There were exceptions like Edward I's behaviour as a young man, but they were rare because few were as immune as him.

February 27, 2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


On the market anarchy question, PML has anticipated part of my answer. The whole point of a private, voluntary enforcement operation is to minimize costs--whether the service is provided by a business firm or a mutual defense association. Any private entity will either exclude the highest-cost, most quarrelsome customers or raise their rates to reflect the cost of protecting them. Any such entity, likewise, will seek to minimize costly and unnecessary conflicts with other entities as much as possible, by working out common venues for appeal ahead of time (and by excluding coverage for cases in which their own customer is clearly at fault).

David Friedman gave the example of the Jerry Garcia people's militia having an exclusionary clause for denying protection to members who committed adultery with the wife of a member of the Wrath of Jehovah Covenant Community in the neighboring theocracy.

The general idea is that voluntary associations for mutual defense, whether businesses or legacy bodies descended from former local governments, would work out a libertarian common law that reflected the local majority consensus.

And I repeat, it's not "hypocritical" to criticize police abuses while relying on them for protection. It would make about as much sense for a clerk at Safeway to say "You hypocrite! Oh, sure, you complain when I spit in your face and stomp your groceries in the parking lot, but you never complain about my ringing up your purchases and bagging them for you." Abusing the customer is not a "perk" one gets in return for serving the customer--the idea is to do your job properly all the time, without shoving a plunger handle up the customer's ass.

February 28, 2008 10:08 PM  

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