But what about…

Always when such a radical new social order as anarchism is proposed there are questions as to how certain vital services will be performed. The most common of these, at least for anarchy, are roads, schools, poverty and pollution. Certain criminal acts are also regularly brought up such as child abuse, domestic abuse, and one I like to call “The Lex Luthor Problem”. Lets examine these problems and see if any kind of solution can be found.

The first question when trying to determine how any service could be provided is to ask “Who gains the most by the availability of this service?” In the case of roads, I can think of several groups that gain from roads: automobile manufacturers, postal carriers, housing developers, and businesses. Automotive manufacturers want the car to be the first choice of the consumer to get from here to there. They would have a huge interest in roads existing, for without them their product is useless. The postal companies need long haul roads to carry the mail. Housing developers can’t sell a house if there is no way to get there. Finally, any business that does not have a road leading to it will not have any customers. Because these roads are the property of a company that can be sued if the road is unsafe, the owners have a real interest in keeping the road as safe as possible. These private roads don’t have to have tolls as the cost of the road can be built into the cost of a new car, a letter, the house when sold, or the goods of the business. There may also be competing roads with tolls, ad supported roads where the road owner sells billboard space on the highway, communities could take up donations to repair roads in the community, and I’m sure many more possibilities exist. Roads are a vital service and have been for 5000 years. I’m sure they can be run privately, at a lower cost, and with greater service by the free market.

It might seem that schools are a trickier problem than roads, but again the market can, and does, provide. Private schools, once freed from state regulation, will flourish, and compete on the ability of the school to educate the students. Without state licensing of teachers, the schools can hire teachers based only on their ability to teach, and without state mandated tenure, get rid of teachers who don’t teach well. This will drive costs down and results up. Further, there will be no restrictions on parents teaching their own children, so we can expect to see the homeschooling movement grow rapidly, especially as the elimination of tax burdens and inflation allows one parent to stay home while the other works. Even more important, the Internet is a vast resource with nearly infinite possibilities for self study. Stefan Molyneux calls himself an Internet Philosopher, and offers his efforts at teaching logic and reasoning free online for anybody who wishes to learn. Wikipedia currently houses very nearly the sum total of human knowledge, researched, referenced, and best of all, free to the public. I foresee internet academies offering huge course selections and charging for certifications becoming quite popular. All manner of learning can take place when men are free to do so in the manner that best suits them.

The poor are an interesting issue. Without the minimum wage laws imposed by the government any person can get any job at whatever wage is mutually agreeable, so unemployment is all but eliminated for those who want to work. Without government subsidies people who want money for nothing will have to go to charities every time they need more money. Most charities will provide not only the immediate needs of the poor person, but aid in finding work, after all the charity wants to get the expense of supporting the person off the balance sheet. Without government restrictions on starting a business, the entrepreneurial amongst the poor can quickly start up a business doing whatever it is they think will make money. There is the argument that people won’t give to charity without the government to force them to, so let’s examine that. The United States, and most western countries are, or claim to be, democracies. If a majority of the people in a democracy support the current program of giving money to the poor, then in an anarchy they will also support it and give money to charity. If the majority of people don’t want the government to give money to the poor, and they do anyway, you can hardly call it a democracy. Seeing as people still give to charity in a democracy, they must want the poor to get money, so they would hardly stop if the government went away. In fact charitable giving is likely to be higher because the people have more money that previously would have been taxed. So not only would there be less need for charity, the charity would be better funded. The poor win both ways and will soon not be poor anymore. There will still be people at the low end of the income curve but I imagine that their lot in life would still be a lot better than it is today.

Pollution is ultimately property damage. Having already discussed how a DRO works I’m sure that it’s easy to see how pollution can be dealt with after it happens. The DRO would also have an interest in preventing pollution. If a company pollutes it is directly liable for all the damage it causes, so the company’s own insurance company would demand pollution controls before offering liability insurance. If a company chooses not to install pollution controls, or carry liability insurance, and then pollutes, it will find itself at the end of a VERY expensive lawsuit, so even without insurance it would have an interest in preventing pollution. Plus, without the government red tape and EPA regulations and paperwork, the pollution controls can be installed cheaper, easier, and more efficiently. Certainly cheaper than paying the damages.

There are 3 major categories of child abuse we need to look at, physical, sexual, and emotional. First is physical abuse, beating the child, usually by the parents, but occasionally by a hired caregiver. The easy answer, is that the child could press charges for assault against the parent. That in itself is too simple, as a child may not know of his right to do so, but the right does exist. Second, concerned neighbors, doctors, teachers, or other people who become aware of the abuse could file on the child’s behalf. Finally, a child is a human being, and has the same rights as any other person. The child could certainly leave an intolerable situation, and if the child is able to express such a desire and function in the world at large the arbitrators could hardly force a child to return to a situation the child does not want to be in without becoming liable in part for the abuse themselves. While investigation would of course occur when the parents report the child missing, the child is a sovereign individual and cannot be forced to return to their parents. Sexual abuse is a bit harder to define, as what really matters is rational consent. If Alex, a 12 year old, is able to form a rational consent to sexual activity, does so, and then has consensual sex with Jessie, a 30 year old, it is a case of consensual sex, and outside parties have no business getting involved in it. I know this sound frightening and extreme, so let’s examine what we mean by rational consent. For Alex to make a rational decision, Alex must be reasonably aware of the potential consequences of the act, including pregnancy, disease, and social consequences such as shunning of both Alex and Jessie. If Alex is of the opinion that the sex is consensual, and never brings charges against Jessie in arbitration, then the sex is consensual. If Alex is tricked or deceived about the consequences and later bring charges against Jessie, Alex must show that the deception occurred, but would likely be awarded damages if Alex can do so. If Sidney discovers the goings on and brings charges on Jessie in Alex’s name Jessie and Alex would need to establish that Alex consented rationally, thus removing any liability for Jessie, and perhaps offering the chance for Jessie to file charges for libel against Sidney. This kind of system also has no cases where a 17 year old takes nude pictures of themselves and is charged with creating child pornography, or the 17 year old and their 18 year old significant other who have sex the day after the 18 year old’s birthday and the 18 year old winds up on a sex offender list for the rest of their life, even though last week the sex was perfectly legal. The last major category of abuse is emotional. In my opinion this consists of manipulating the emotions of the child in such a way that they are unable to function in the world as adults. Telling a child they have no value and destroying their self esteem before it can even begin to build is just much emotional abuse as handing the child everything on a silver platter and convincing them that the world owes them whatever they want. Neither child is able to support themselves in the real world, and could quite likely force parents to provide for the therapy that helps the child realize this and begin to function. Again prevention beats cure so schools, insurance companies and other interested parties could call in arbitration if they have some evidence of such abuse. It could be the case that schools provide in house psychological counseling for students who want to take advantage of it. In addition because of all these incentives not to abuse in the first place the cycle of abuse where an abused child grows to be an abusive parent  might often be broken, ending the abuse of the next generation before it even starts.

All of the above arguments  on child abuse apply equally well to domestic abuse so I wont repeat them here. In addition, the fact that the state doesn’t control marriage or divorce would make it easier for a person to get away from an abusive spouse. Also a restraining order could be backed up with a security guard at the insurance companies, and eventually the abusive spouses expense.

That leaves us with “The Lex Luthor Problem”, which is basically that a person with massive financial resources could offer a threat to a large number of people if they don’t do something for him. This takes many forms from a power company charging exorbitant rates, a road builder buying up all the land around a community and charging massive tolls to cross, and even a rich individual finding some way to contaminate all the worlds water supply and extort people for the antidote (How one person might be able to contaminate a resource that covers over 70% of the Earths surface I don’t know). In the case of the power company, home based generators running on natural gas would quickly become VERY popular, as would home solar power. New, competing power companies would build lines as quickly as possible, Research into Wireless Electric transmission is going on today and might be the end of this problem. How about the road builder charging the exorbitant rates? He would have immediate problems with smugglers, blockade runners and other individuals crossing without paying, and would have difficulty in gaining the “debts” through arbitration. Also, anybody who came to an investor or potential employee with this business plan would be laughed at, so it’s unlikely the road could even be started. As to our Super Villain with the contaminated water, can you say “rain collection”? Many people, faced with the problem of the tap water being contaminated would collect all the water from their roofs into barrels and boil it for drinking. Desalination plants would work overtime to desalinate enough water to meet the needs of the population, and make a huge profit to boot. The water that had already been bottled, or that was in protected reservoirs would be sold as the market demanded. Multiple chemical companies would pour massive amounts of money into finding an antidote. There is no way this plan could work at all. I hope I’ve shown that the market could deal with “Lex Luthor” quite handily, and I didn’t even get into what the DRO’s would do.

I hope I’ve shown that the market can provide these services, and deal with the criminal problems brought up that seem to fall outside a DRO’s ability. Roads, Schools, Charity and Pollution Control, are all vital, and no doubt can be provided by a free market. Abuse, both of children and adults is vastly reduced, while legal extremes are eliminated, and Super Villains don’t stand a chance. The market is a powerful force, and left to its own devices, can provide anything for which there is a demand. Roads, Schools, Charity, Justice, Safety: these things are desired by all people, such a demand will surely be met by an unhampered market.

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Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 11:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Economists speak of things they call “public goods”, services which the free market would not typically provide, such as lighthouses that aren’t near communities. This Planet Money podcast (and transcript) discuss the concept: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/12/10/131784161/what-should-the-government-pay-for-autopsies-lighthouses . How would you propose maintaining lighthouses and other public goods?


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