Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anarchy and Minarchy

"Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a king can."
--Benjamin Martin (The Patriot)

Anarchy is self-rule. Anarchy is not lawlessness. It is people ruling themselves with no government intervention.

Minarchy is rule by a formal government of limited (MINimal) scope. Minarchists such as Bastiat confine the proper scope of government to helping individuals protect their interests from aggression by others. This suggests three legitimate roles for minarchical government: to protect individuals from domestic aggressors, to protect the country against foreign invaders, and to provide a judiciary for resolving legal disputes.

The founders sided with minarchy. Jefferson wrote that effective government design helps secure people's natural rights. The framers subsequently crafted a Constitution that defined the limits of central government.

A counter-belief, one voiced by many Antifederalists, is that it is impossible to constrain centralized government to constitutional limitations. Over time, government will find ways to grow beyond its legitimate boundaries. When it does, government becomes aggressor rather than defender.

How would anarchists provide for protection against aggression and for resolving disputes? Rothbard, Block, and others suggest privatizing everything--including police, military, and the courts.

While I understand the rationale, and am more sympathetic to these arguments than previously, I'm not there yet. Privatizing police and military seems plausible. However, it is difficult for me to see privatizing courts. The problem that plagues today's courts is that they are subject to interest and discretion. It is hard to see how that changes with courts in private hands. In fact, it is easy to envision interest and discretion escalating in the private court scenario--due to human tendencies to seek more for less.

It seem more reasonable to ground public courts in natural law rather than in positivism. Ways to do that include employing super-majority or unanimous decision rules when rendering legal opinions (as juries do) that make it harder for factions to flourish, and to encourage processes of nullification and secession when confronted with judicial activism.

The law, it seems to me, is one thing that must remain public (side note: the origins of the word "republic" come from Latin concepts of "public thing" or "public matter").

That said, I am increasingly sympathetic to the possibility that the anarchists may be correct. It may be practically impossible to restrain the State's hunger for power. And to be sure, minarchist designs have not been durable throughout history.

Of course, anarchical designs have been less durable yet.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

Will not the possibility exist of a private court that may turn venal and dishonest, or of a private police force that turns criminal and extorts money by coercion? Of course such an event may occur, given the propensities of human nature. Anarchism is not a moral cure-all. But the important point is that market forces exist to place severe checks on such possibilities, especially in contrast to a society where a state exists. For, in the first place, judges, like arbitrators, will prosper on the market in proportion to their reputation for efficiency and impartiality. Secondly, on the free market important checks and balances exist against venal courts or criminal police forces. Namely, that there are competing courts and police agencies to whom victims may turn for redress.
~Murray Rothbard