"If the distance from minarchy to anarcho-capitalism is so small, who cares? My best answer is that even the smallest government carries a high demagogic risk. Under minarchy, power-lusters will continue to turn to politics - and gradually rechart a course back to big government."

Laying aside the question of what exactly the smallest trace of government might look like or how much power-lust can possibly be permitted, the concession that even the smallest impurity ends up spoiling the whole, does not inspire confidence in any anarcho-capitalist system. From this I would conclude that anarcho-capitalism is the inverted pendulum of social systems with regard to Homo sapiens. Or, that if everyone was a clone of Bryan Caplan then anarcho-capitalism would surely work? Perhaps this explains why there is no record of its existence to date. With a half-life so short, its moment passed unnoted.

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Though of course it would be silly of me to tell someone who has debated orders of magnitude more often than I how to improve, I thought I’d share some thoughts:

First, your blog comments raise a confusion that I think should be avoided. “Small” or “smaller” government has two meanings: a) geographically smaller (eg, Lichtenstein) and b) less powerful (e.g. the US government of 1800.) You seem to think ("The smaller governments get, the more cross-border disputes you’ll have”) Brook is speaking about the former but I believe he really means the latter (e.g. minarchy.)

Now some thoughts on Brook’s Objectivist position:

1. Objectivists have a fixation on GEOGRAPHICAL MONOPOLY. It’s very important to them that only one decision maker exists in any fixed location, so conflict is avoided. The underlying assumption is that, Plato-Form-like, this geographical monopoly is eternal and unchanging. But of course that is ridiculous. The US government geographical monopoly at its founding was much smaller than now. People in the geographical area of Texas, in the span of two decades or so, went from being governed by Mexico to being governed by Texas to being governed by the US. The northern border of the US was disputed (54°40' or fight!). The Oklahoma panhandle was not always Oklahoma’s. So the question comes up: If a person living under one government can find himself suddenly being ruled by the laws of a different government, without even moving, how is that different from switching from Mastercard Defense to Visa Security?

2. Objectivists seem to have great difficulty understanding why government services are not natural monopolies. I’ve found the following analogy helpful: In the 1960s (I would say to Brook “In your childhood…”) everyone (EVERYONE) thought phone service was a natural monopoly. To change phone companies one would have to move to another geographical area. And yet today we can all recognize that one can, sitting at one’s home computer, change phone companies as easily as we can place an Amazon order. Literally by clicking a few buttons. Yet our phone service is not chaotic. We don’t even notice a service difference. The only thing that changes is who we pay our phone bill (our “taxes”) to.

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and many others (I just Googled 42 available cellular carriers) do not fight one another. They cooperate so I can call anyone without even knowing what carrier they use. Just like I can buy things at Niagara Falls without knowing if the seller is a Canadian or US citizen.

Today I can choose to be governed by Canadian law only by moving to Canada. But Canadian citizens can live in the US. Why can’t I choose to stay in my US home and with a few computer clicks become a Canadian citizen? There is still a geographical monopoly. Only now it’s composed of the sum of all the personal property owned by the subscribers rather than a geographic mass seen on a map, a point you made in debate.

In any case, you did a great job and I’m not a fan of Oxford style scoring. It depends far too much on who the audience is and how honest they are. But I thought you might enjoy the phone company analogy.

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I think that your point 13 is not perfectly true, in so far as private actors also pursue power and not just greed in markets. You see a lot of that in bureaucratic firms, where people covet the power to say no and veto changes, meaning nothing gets done unless a long line of people get their backs rubbed. It doesn't get them a bigger pay check or a bonus, but the exercise of power over their coworkers seems to be the main motivation. Probably many will give up resources to exercise power.

I don't know how much that really changes your argument as the desire for power seems to be pretty universal in humans and is just a question of priority (like saying "All humans like money they can use to buy things") but I think it is worth keeping in mind. A lot of successful businessmen have been spending a lot of money for temporal power of late, especially.

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This thread is quite interesting. Back in the 70s, when "early" ancaps (David Friedman, Roy Childs, Murray Rothbard) were arguing with Rand, there were few professional academics who were ancaps. Nozick, of course, argued against it. But a lot of young non-academics influenced to join the movement by reading Atlas Shrugged, were intrigued by the, to them, new idea.

Now, a generation or more later, most (a large majority) of libertarian academics are ancaps but, to judge by these comments, most of the non-academic followers are not.

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On point 8, Brook is conflating the need for a government and the strong structural incentives for having a uniform basic law in a particular territory. Sure, polycentric law has worked historically, but hasn’t there been a hard core of law common to all the people of a region? In a crowded city, you can’t wait until you know what insurance policy someone has to decide how to treat them, unless you’re planning an extended interaction. Even if there is robust competition for providing security and justice services, I don’t expect them to treat murder or other violent crimes very differently. The differences will all be at the margin, with a strong tendency for them to accept precedents from other agencies's cases, so that people know what to expect. The result would be a core of law that is dependable for all.

So Brook almost has a point. He just failed to connect this point to the idea that such unified law has to be enforced by a monopoly.

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There have been way more peaceful secessions that you could have listed to refute Brook's weird claims. The USSR ought to come immediately to mind. Czech Republic and Slovakia. Many British colonies. Panama and Columbia. Alaska and the Louisiana purchase counts as a sort of secession. I suspect there are more, as I am not an expert and hadn’t thought to make a list.

I’m surprised that you have such an ambivalent attitude toward secession. Which is more likely, that a critical mass of people might accept sympathetic values that cause entire countries change course, or that a critical mass is willing to secede, and the rest are willing to let them go peacefully?

Brook's historical myopia makes me wonder... People seem to think that freedom and markets were the dominant ideology of the 19th century, but is that even close to accurate, even in the US? Was it ideology or some other constraint (gold standard? Low GDP?) that kept governments relatively small, even when run by ambitious power grabbers? Because ambitious power grabbers from that era are much easier to think of than market ideologues with any political power.

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Actually, the specific task assigned to a "_proper_ government" by Rand, as well as her ideas about what constitutes an objective code of rules that such a government needs to defend (i.e. it is wrong to initiate the use of force against the life and property of individuals), don't rule out the anarcho-capitalist conception of the role that private defense agencies/militias play. If we were to _define_ a proper government as an association that performs such a task, then the voluntary defense/arbitration arrangements envisioned by anarcho-capitalists would constitute proper governments.

The problem is not that Rand's argument for minarchism is tautological, but rather that Rand's formal definition of government (a "territorial monopoly of retaliatory force") logically contradicts the task that a proper government is supposed to perform--a territorial monopoly can only be maintained by initiating force against all dissidents within the territory who seek to exercise retaliatory force independently of the government. The moment a government does so, it ceases being proper. As defined by Rand, the claim that a "proper government" can possibly exist is false _a priori_.

This self-contradiction was often the focal point of objectivist/anarcho-capitalist debates in the past, and the typical objectivst response was to claim that the principle of not initiating force was being taken out of context; apparently it is o.k. to initiate force if necessary, and Rand cited a clash of jurisdiction between rival police forces as one sort of contingency that justifies the violation of an individual's autonomy over a choice of retaliatory services (Rand also held that in emergency life-threatening situations, restoring normal conditions takes priority over anyone's rights).

My counter-argument against this is that there is no grounds for any rational egoist to compromise the principle of strict reciprocity in both the respect of individual rights and the defense of individual rights; Rand's exceptions to this principle do in fact imply that all mankind should be forcibly united under one government, and that this global government should be able to use the pretext of a life-threatening emergency to suspend individual rights. It is interesting that Mr. Brook balked at drawing this conclusion from Rand's writings, and Bryan is right to press him on the issue of cross-border disputes.

One might also add that simply establishing where a border between two territorial monopolies ought to be is not a trivial matter. Inter-governmental disputes over who ought to be sovereign over places like Crimea and the Donbas, Gaza and the West Bank, Kashmir, numerous islets in the South and East China Seas, Taiwan, and Korea have all caused wars and threaten to plunge the entire world into global thermonuclear annihilation. The fact that some of the governments involved in these conflicts are somewhat more "proper" than others merely reinforces the point that the principle of monopolizing territories guarantees neither peace nor justice; rather, it incentivizes inter-governmental competition over turf and thus incentivizes war and injustice.

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"Unfortunately, history reveals no strong examples of either minarchy or anarcho-capitalism."

Isn't that the end of the debate?

In recent memory Hong Kong was probably one of the more "free market" states out there and it got swallowed up by its larger neighbor.

Singapore is a similar city state and it requires universal conscription for two years to maintain its self defense. I think we all know about Taiwan.

Ukraine is under martial law, has suspended elections, forbids freedom of movement, and has a draconian conscription regime. I can't imagine an anarcho capitalist Ukraine surviving. Maybe that would be better for the Ukranians though.

Any state strong enough to defend itself it probably strong enough to exploit its citizens. Any state too weak to exploit its citizens it probably too weak to defend itself.

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The not for the proposition officially being debated, which was more or less that ancap would be a disaster for humanity. Of course, Brook did not constrain himself to actually defending that, but made many related but not strictly pertinent claims.

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Sure, it just seems like a really dumb debate.

"Would this thing that never existed be the worst thing ever in theory?"

I'd be skeptical of the debates value on more lenient terms, but that is particularly ridiculous.

I'm just not sure what people are supposed to do after they go home from that debate.

I don't think any major state is about to disband its military and police force. Defund the police has pretty much gone down in flames up here. Caplan and his friend Hanania have posts about longing for extra constitutional strongman like Bukele who use mass incarceration to bring down crime. El Salvador before Bukele was a lot like the Ancap failure state of gang warfare that people warn about.

We've had seasteading and charter cities for a long time and I don't think even those people take "let's not have state police" all that seriously. At least I haven't seen that happen and work.

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I read the Peikoff essay, what I got from it, and not knowing 100% of the background but having some basic idea, is that he is specifically repudiating the idea that you refuse to judge other philosophies under the frame of "tolerance" and then pass this off as Objectivist.

I don't see anything specifically in there that says, you can't debate with people who disagree with you or Libertarians in particular (though I'm aware of Rand's hostility towards the LP), what I'm reading is if you are going to claim being an Objectivist, then you have to make a judgement on the philosophy you're talking about in its relationship to one's life. I don't think this means (in fact I'm pretty sure) a declared Objectivist can't associate with anyone who disagrees with them, or debate them, it simply means the philosophy takes a clear moral stand on values and in the context of a debate that has to be made clear. You can't claim to be an Objectivist and then not take a stand on value; it'd be like saying you're a Catholic who doesn't believe in God. Then you're not a Catholic. If you don't believe in the objectivity of moral values, you're not an Objectivist.

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Among the examples of what could have been Anarcho-capitalism, there would not only be Iceland, but also celtic Ireland and Acadia in Canada. There are good studies of these. Acadia and Iceland were richer and safer than countries around in the same period of time

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The State, at least nominally, doesn't exist to make a "profit". I think most people get that it encompasses a geographic area that unites people of roughly similar ethnicities, cultures, languages (or some mix of the above) and acts, at a minimum, in defense.

A for-profit business simply doesn't work that way. It seems like Anarcho-Capitalism takes the worst part of Government, which would be that it gets corrupted and turns into a for-profit extortion scheme, and tries to paint this as virtuous. Profit is "win-win" when FORCE and violence is removed from the equation. You can't have a "free" market if I have the more dangerous mob backing me.

It seems to me that re-wording an ideal State as a "Protection Agency" ignores how these incentives work much the way the writer is claiming Rand idealizes how States work, but with less reason to logically support it. I don't think there's any reason why these companies wouldn't trend to become as oppressive to rights as the most corrupt State. Historically States have successfully protected rights to enough of a degree that we have our modern, skyrocketing life spans, technology, medicine, etc. A condition of Anarchy has not.

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My biggest worry is that ancaps will be used in the same way that theoretical Marxists were used by the Bolsheviks and then the ancaps will forever write, "but that wasn't _real_ anarcho-capitalism!". Specifically, imagine a bunch of cynical politicians using the plausible mantle of anarcho-capitalism to consolidate power and create an even worse corporate tyranny. The theoreticians will proclaim, "No, you're doing it wrong!" and the politicians will deflect, "Politics is messy and we're doing our best."

I'm resigned to the idea that true, functional anarcho-capitalism will only occur on a different planet. I think it's too late to do an in-place conversion on Earth due to lack of sufficient and convenient unowned property (though I applaud the Seasteading Institute's clever attempts at a workaround which so far have run into the blunt force of states). Humans had essentially one opportunity in the 1700s and the American Founders did a decent, though short-sighted job creating something like minarchy. It worked so great, economically, that the government cancer at its heart metastasized into the brutal, worldwide empire of today.

Personally, I think the best we can do is try our best to accelerate private market development faster than the rate of parasitism by the government.

Hopefully, in a few hundred or thousand years, our intellectual heritage will be used to colonize Planet Freedom that sparks a wondrous and unbounded free future.

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Was there that much difference between theoretical Marxists and Bolsheviks? I’m not well read in this area, but my impression is that the theoretical Marxists fell in line with the Bolsheviks right away, and it didn’t require much of an adjustment.

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Rand's basic opposition to anarchy is its rejection of objectivity. Libertarianism is a denial of objectivity. Your comments are non-basic, w/objectivity not discussed, like discussing Hitler's mustache but not his politics.

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