The Problems With Anarchists

The anarchist position is that the goal is to have no government, only private businesses providing all services currently handled by governments, including and especially police, courts and military defense.

Each person would voluntarily pay for whatever amount of each service they think they need, contracted with whatever company or combination of companies they choose. Over time, these companies would develop agreements on how to work with each other when needed and would rise and fall individually depending on how well they did at actually providing those services.

Criminals will pay just restitution for their crimes as decided by independent arbitration, and any other penalty that the arbiter thinks is just and will be carried out and enforced by the security company you or any arbiter contracts with.

Civil complaints will also be decided by arbitration with the same understandings.

All of this will be handled via universally and voluntarily accepted just means without infringing on anyone else's rights and no force will be needed or used against anyone but the offending party in criminal cases or losing party in arbitration cases, and no security company will interfere with enforcing the judgments reached by an arbiter or by another security company, who are all held to the highest standards by their contractees.

People would be motivated to interact peacefully because their overriding concern is about maintaining their reputations so that others will be willing to keep interacting with them. If there's a danger, people will voluntarily band together to do whatever it takes to defend what is right and just.

More just? Yes.

Possible? Only if you can successfully get from here to there where you have multiple competing institutions, each of which has to be individually capable of maintaining the strength needed to successfully defend everyone from enemies both internal (criminals) and external (other countries, gangs, mobs, etc.) within their purview for both the current and foreseeable future, as well as the actions of all security companies and all arbitration settlements being universally recognized as definitive and enforceable by all parties that could possibly be involved on any side in any dispute.

But human nature isn't going to change and neither is the rest of the world, even if you could get any part of it to change over.

That is what I see no possibility of, for all the desirability of the end goal, and what no anarchist has made even a stab at actually laying out, step by step, that I've ever read or heard.

I read that these institutions will develop themselves ... but how does the change over actually take place? Saying that it just happens somehow and everything else is going to pause while it's going on doesn't cut it.

I read that everyone will accept the arbiter's judgements and the actions of these security companies as all being beyond reproach, that people are only going to pick companies based on what's right, not necessarily what's best for their own personal immediate interests, that there will be no conflict between these sterling characters and businesses ... but that's not how real people act.

I read that everyone is going to realize what is actually in their own best long term interests and be willing to pay for it ... but they haven't been up until now. What fundamental part of human nature is going to change and what will change it?

In some ways anarchists are a mirror image of the statists. If everything just worked the way it's "supposed" to then everything would be just wonderful.

But it never does. People persist in being the same kind of people they've always been. Reality doesn't change simply because someone thinks that's the way things ought to be.

Accepting the realities about human behavior, desires, and motivations has to be the bedrock of any human endeavor that has even the least chance of success. That means accepting that the bad is just as real and just as basic as the good.

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Paying For A More Perfect Government

The basic ethical ideal of a perfect state is that perfect justice is always perfectly done, but how do we pay for it?

People are not always rational. Miscarriages of justice will happen. Getting the just restitution (and costs) due actually paid by those found liable in civil or criminal cases is not always possible. People want what they want but they often don't want to pay for it until and unless they actually need it themselves.

A person who's never been in trouble with the law or has never been offended against often doesn't put a lot of value (and value judgements are always subjective) into the ongoing operational costs of a justice system. On the other hand, a person who has been sued or charged with a crime, rightly or wrongly, or has been offended against, suddenly puts a lot of value into a justice system that will give them the outcome they want, whether actually just or not.

That's simply human nature.

Accepting all this reality means that there is no perfectly just system possible. It then becomes a matter or looking at the various possibilities and finding the trade-offs that come closest to it.

Voluntaryism is great, but is rarely sufficient.

The general benefits of a justice system are amorphous. They often can't be pinned down to what person gets what value or even what that value is.

A person who owes, whether to the justice system for costs or to the person to whom reparations are due, may simply be unable to ever pay them.

And all of this doesn't even start to consider the ongoing costs of a military capable of defending a given geographical area in today's world.

So it may be that some sort of tax is the most just feasible way of distributing those costs.

Then the question becomes what kind of tax.

A head tax would be the most just, based on the assumption that everyone's life is of equal value. But the reality is that many people would be simply unable to pay an equal portion of all the costs associated with even a minimalist government.

So we need a measurable characteristic that will, as justly as possible, also take into account a person's ability to pay. Monetary value of something, especially when we're considering monetary financing of a system, is the next best way.

But how do we determine an objective value for something in and of itself? We can't, since value is subjective. The closest we can come is the value that two people place on something at the time when it is actually transferred from one person to another.

That brings us down to another two choices. The tax can be assessed on the sale itself or, for durable goods or land, an ongoing assessment.

Both of them have significant problems. For a sales tax, who collects it? How do you enforce it? For durable goods or land, what do you do about the fact that some assets depreciate in value over time and other appreciate. Who decides the value at any given time? And, once again, how do you enforce it?

At this point I've got more questions than answers. Some sort of compromise among all the possibilities has to be reached. Some sort of answers have to be decided upon. But I don't feel competent to declare what those compromises and answers *should* be.

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Immigration Wars

No country has 100% free borders. There are two conditions under which people can have their freedom of movement justly curtailed ... either they have been convicted of a crime or in the (much rarer) case that someone has a severe communicable disease. Both of those are causes to keep someone out as well (assuming they aren't coming in under quarantine procedures to begin with for treatment).

However a person's beliefs are their own business. No one is a criminal until and unless they *act*, or in some cases plan an action, that would harm the person or property of another.

If you ask a Muslim in a country where strict Sharia is the law of the land if they approve of strict sharia law being imposed on everyone, it would be surprising if they said no. If you ask most Muslims living here, the answer most commonly *is* no. People self select in deciding where to go.

Even for those Muslims who support Sharia as formal law, most do *not* think it should be imposed on non-Muslims. Nor do they all have the same interpretation of what Sharia law actually covers. There are less than a dozen countries around the world that actually codify *strict* Sharia into formal law. Most countries that implement Sharia via formal law only use it for family courts and secular for the rest or have separate family courts for Muslims and non-Muslims.

For a good overview, go to this survey analysis.

Not one person from any of the countries on Trump's (and formerly Obama's) list has ever killed an American in an act of terrorism on our soil. Not one.

As to social changes, going to America is a far different thing from going to an EU country. It's much easier to get from Africa or the Middle East to Europe - just a few hours to less than a day, depending on where they start from, by boat. Many EU countries have very generous welfare benefits right from day one for immigrants, no matter under what circumstances they got there. Many European countries have turned a blind eye to having Muslim dominated areas where at least some of sharia has been self enforced.

Yes, they dress differently and pray differently, but in essence, how is wearing a hijab any different from an Amish woman's cap? How is a full beard any different from an Orthodox Jewish man's payots (long curls and back hair)? How is praying 5 times a day facing Mecca any different from saying Grace before every meal? How is a Mullah's call to prayer any different from Sunday church service bells? How is Ramadan any different than Lent? How is the violence called for in the latter parts of the Koran any different from the violence being called for in the Old Testament that led to the violent conquest and forced conversions in Europe and the Crusades? The vast majority of people today seem to have no problem separating those parts out and not actually acting on them and so do most Muslims. I'm also no more surprised to hear that an Imam may call for the Qur'an to be law than I am for a Fundamentalist Minister to say the Bible should be the law of the land.

Note: I am *not* saying that we should not give the background people from a region that is a hotbed of terrorism an extra going over. I have no problem with that. I have a problem when people assume (wrongly) that all Muslims are terrorists almost by definition.

The biggest problems I have with Trump's ban is that it also included people who were already legal permanent residents (green card holders) and those who had already been granted a visa as well as exemptions being made and prioritized on a religious basis. I don't really like the blanket ban on new visas or refugees for four months for six of the countries and indefinite in the case of Syria, but I could live with that part of it while improving our vetting procedures.

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Pass More Laws, Fix The World. Easy, Right?

This post by James Pethokoukis on the enormous interconnectedness of globe-spanning supply chains, along with David Henderson’s reminder of Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, reinforce the reality that reality is vastly more complex than most people realize.  Indeed, it’s not too far a stretch to say that nearly all mistaken economic notions, dangerous ideologies, and counterproductive government policies are the simple results of people thinking the world to be far simpler than it really is.

The solution is to seize income or wealth from those who have more and give it to those who have less.  Simple. Easy-peasy.

Do you not have as much money as you like, or do you despair that some people have much more money than do other people?  Both the explanation and the solution seem simple.  The explanation for income and wealth inequality is that those who have more have more only because they’ve somehow weaseled an excessively large share of “society’s” wealth from those who have less.  The solution is to seize income or wealth from those who have more and give it to those who have less.  Simple.  Easy-peasy.

Anyone who has mastered simple addition understands that transferring $X from Smith to Jones reduces Smith’s net worth by $X while raising Jones’s net worth by the same amount.  And because wealth simply exists – it’s simply out there – the only effects of any such forcible transfer are simply to make Jones richer, Smith less-rich, and society more equal.  What you get is what you see.  See, simple!

Do you grieve for workers who lose jobs to fellow Americans who choose to buy more imports?  The explanation and the solution are simple: restrict imports.  Jobs saved!  End of story.  Simple!  And the only possible explanation for policies that allow domestic jobs to be ‘destroyed’ by foreign trade is that people in power, who are either malevolent or incompetent, simply failed to pursue the simple solution of protectionism.  It follows that solving this simple problem requires nothing more than installing in high office someone strong and resolute – someone skilled in the art of the deal – who will simply demand that foreigners reduce their sales to domestic consumers.  No more job losses!  Our country is great again!  What could be simpler?  Who needs – indeed, who even notices – complex global supply chains?  Restrict trade and everything we need we will simply produce ourselves.  No prob!

Are people in some foreign lands tyrannized by their own rulers?  The explanation and the solution are simple.  Somehow the levers of state power in those lands fell into the hands of bad guys.  The simple solution is to get rid of the bad guys and replace them with good guys.  And the simple way to replace bad guys with good guys is with physical force.  Further, because we are good guys – and because, when we are abroad, we are always noble – we should simply use the resources at our disposal to dispose of the bad guys and their bad policies.  Quite straightforward, really.

Is the economy slumping?  The explanation and the solution are simple.  Every businessperson knows that the more people spend on the offerings of existing businesses, the more profitable and thriving are these businesses.  So the simple reason for an economy-wide slump is that people aren’t spending enough economy-wide.  The solution is to get people to increase their spending in the aggregate.  Duh!  What could be simpler?

Has some teenager or single mom died of an overdose of an illegal drug?  The explanation and solution are simple.  Drug-enforcement efforts are too weak.  Rev up those efforts and watch not only illegal drug use fall, but currently dissolute and irresponsible people become less dissolute and more responsible.  Simple!

Are some workers paid less than you feel they should be paid?  Of course your assessment is correct, for nothing could be simpler than noticing that some workers’ wages are much, much, much lower than are other workers’ wages.  And wages so low are simply wrong!  The simple and obvious solution is simply to force employers to pay all of their workers wages that are at least as high as you judge appropriate.  Simple!

Do government schools perform poorly?  My gosh, the explanation is simple and plain as day: these schools are underfunded.  To solve this simple problem, simply increase government-schools’ budgets.  Simple!

Whatever your complaint, the solution is simple: give power and authority to the government.

Are some people homeless?  The reason for this misfortune is simple: there aren’t enough homes.  The solution is equally simple: build more homes that homeless people can afford!  (It’s called “affordable housing,” which differs from what too many home-builders mysteriously insist on building: unaffordable housing.)  Why didn’t anyone think of this simple solution earlier?!

Indeed, is your life not ideal?  Is the world imperfect?  The explanation for much of this sad reality is that other people are not behaving in ways that would make your life and the world better.  It’s oh-so-plain to see.  If only merchants would lower their prices.  If only employers would raise the wages they pay.  If only investors would build that new factory in my town rather than elsewhere.  If only those people from far away did not come here and offer to work at the same kind of job that I now hold.  If only the police would get tougher on criminals.  If only our elected leaders would not be out-bargained by foreign leaders.  If only our military were better funded and not restrained by misguided isolationist sentiments here at home.  If only corporations would put people ahead of profits.  If only corporations didn’t spend so much to influence the outcomes of elections.  If only….  Whatever your complaint, the solution is simple: give power and authority to government officials who promise with great earnestness to “solve” whatever problems you, as a voter, instruct them to solve.  These officials, adequately armed and provisioned, will simply roll up their sleeves and attack the problems directly – simply – and fix things.

What could be simpler?

Republished from Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. Boudreaux


Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University, and a former FEE president.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Why You Can’t Have It All

Not every desire of every person can ever be fulfilled, no matter how big an economy grows. The basic fact of essential scarcity is the bedrock of all economic thought.

That means you always have to decide what you want the most with the necessarily limited means available at any given point in time. You can't have it all.

"Solution" is the word usually used when someone asks things like "But how do we solve the problem of poverty?" or "What do we do about all these people who can't find jobs?"

As long as poverty is defined as a percentage of a certain level of income, it can never be "solved." As long as jobs are defined as doing only the work you want to do and only at the pay you think it's worth, it can never be solved.

On the other hand you can ask questions like "How can we best reduce the number of people who live in poverty through on fault of their own?" or "How can we do the best job of getting the price of homes or apartments down to where more people can afford them?"

Notice that neither of those questions imply that poverty will be completely eliminated or that everyone will be able to live anywhere they want. But those are not "solutions," those are tradeoffs.

Unintended consequences are simply secondary or tertiary effects that weren't seen or thought of at the time you take an action. There are almost always unintended consequences with any action taken. Sometimes very minor and sometimes not. But at least when actions are taken by private individuals the people who can be hurt are relatively localized and few in number. When the government does it *everyone* gets hurt.

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When The Executive Orders

One of the most common methods Obama has used to make things go his way are through Executive Orders. It's also one of the scariest things that Trump is going to have at hand when he's sworn in. But where did the President get that power anyway?

The origins of modern Executive Orders lie in the War Powers Act of 1917 during WWI. That enabling legislation gave the president the *temporary* "emergency" powers to immediately enact laws regulating trade, economy, and other aspects of policy as they pertained to enemies of America. But they explicitly *excluded* that power from being able to affect Americans directly, but those powers were never rescinded after the end of the war.

Then, under FDR in 1933, the War Powers act was amended to allow those same, essentially legislative making power, to operate directly on Americans.

That is the legislation behind the fact that Executive Orders (and later judged to include Memoranda and Directives) are treated as law. It has nothing to do with the Constitution, as the Constitution says "*ALL* legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."

The power granted to the Executive branch was only to carry out that legislation, not make it, as well as deal with foreign affairs (although without Senate consent, no treaties are valid) and as Commander in Chief of the military, to grant Reprieves and Pardons, and to make appointments to the courts, ambassadors, ministers, consuls, etc. when consented to by the Senate.

As executive types of power are the most common type of overweening authoritarian actions, it was intentionally made very weak and dependant on the Legislative and overridable by the Judicial branches. It was NEVER intended to be authorized to act on its own domestically without explicit legislative authorization.

It's one thing to lay out how a specific piece of legislation is to be enforced, but it's an entirely different thing to *create* regulation with the force of law out of whole cloth.

Past infractions do not justify present or future ones. Although forgiven in retrospect as it having been done for a "good" cause, much of what Lincoln did during the Civil War was outright unconstitutional. For that matter, so was the Louisiana Purchase, as it was presented for payment as a fait accompli, and several other significant actions taken by presidents essentially on their own.

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