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Competing Security/Police Forces Under Anarcho-capitalism

People disagree. All the time. Consequently, people setting the policy for security forces will have disagreements.

It will be in their interest not to fight each other. They'll try to agree. But agreeing can be hard. People try to talk things out and come to an agreement a lot, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. So, some disagreements will be resolved without a big hassle. But there will be some others that won't get resolved so easily. The security forces will either need to peacefully co-exist, side by side, *while they disagree about some things*, or there will be violence.

One way to try to solve this problem is not to have multiple security forces. If there's only one game in town, then there can't be any disagreements! Problem avoided. Right?

No. People will still disagree. The difference is that people who disagree with the only game in town have no good options. They'll be forced to monetarily fund a security force that is operating in a way they disagree with, rather than one they approve of more. That's bad! It's not nearly as bad as frequent gun fights in the streets would be, but it is quite bad.

Anarcho-capitalism wants to get rid of that badness. It wants disagreements not to be suppressed. Not expressed violently either. We need something else: a system that is responsive to people's opinions, and non-violent. Allowing multiple security forces, and having people choose which to subscribe to, has the "responsive to people's opinions" part covered much better than having only one security force that everyone subscribes to whatever they think of it. It harnesses the power of the market, so that security forces that please customers prosper, and ones that are not responsive to customers fail. Of course the market doesn't do that perfectly, but it does it better than anything else.

That leaves the violence issue. How will violence be averted?

Let's think about how violence is averted today. Here is one story of how it works: People do disagree with the Government about all sorts of things, like whether marijuana should be treated as similar to cocaine, or not. But they aren't going to take out a gun and do something violent about it. They would be up against overwhelming force. There are disagreements within the Government too. But for any given thing, when it comes down to it, there is always *one law* about who gets their way, and overwhelming force backing up that law. Sometimes the answer is complex, and involves multiple people and even voting, but there is always one unambiguous outcome backed by overwhelming force.

So the general idea is: for any given issue, there is some ultimate authority, backed by overwhelming force. That is how we avert violence. No one who disagrees wants to fight over it when they'll just lose really badly.

If there were a dozen security forces, and none had overwhelming force, there would sometimes be situations where two forces disagree, and taking into account their allies, they are roughly evenly matched. Close enough the outcome is in doubt. So will they fight it out? How do we make damn sure they don't?

First of all, pretend for a moment *you* are in charge of a security force. Would you want to fight it out? Would that be a temptation? Or would you bend over backwards to avoid it? I know I would want to avoid it.

Now let's consider again the story of how we avert violence today. Is it really because there is one clear law everyone follows? No, it can't be, because sometimes the law is ambiguous. Sometimes we have situations the law makers didn't foresee. Our real system involves people making judgment calls, and it's pretty adaptable. Now, those people making judgment calls sometimes disagree. Think of the 2000 election where people disagreed about counting votes. That could have been a serious problem! It could have turned violent! The country was split fairly evenly about which President they wanted. But it did not turn violent. Why? I think the most important factor, the thing that reliably averts violence, is that just like you and me, the people making those decisions did not want violence. It was more important to them to avoid violence than to become President, or get their way. They were willing to bend over backwards to avoid violence. Everyone involved on both sides was so averse to violence that it never came close to violence. I think the fact that people hate violence is a much larger factor than the threat that if they fought they would lose badly. Americans care more about what is right than which side is more powerful.

Why will security forces by run by people who are any less averse to violence than average American is today? In fact they will be run by people who are even more averse to violence, and better at avoiding it, than the average American today. If I have the choice between subscribing to a security force that has that kind of leader, and one that doesn't, it's obvious to me which to choose. And it would be obvious to most people.

Alright, now let's suppose the security forces are run by decent people who are eager to avoid violence. Not just because it'll save them money, but also because of morality. But still they don't agree. What will they do?

I'm sure there are multiple possible good solutions to this problem. Here is one: They will bid money.

Elliot Temple on March 24, 2009

Comments (4)

Can you explain more?

Excellent post. But I think you left us hanging with your last sentence. Maybe deliberate as you are planning a follow-up. Anyway I hope you can expand on how the bidding process would work.

Also I'd also be interested in your thoughts on private justice and punishment under anarcho-capitalism.

Anonymous at 10:23 AM on March 25, 2009 | #1750
It's in _The Machinery of Freedom_, IIRC.

In short, bidding is better than voting because you can't re-use your votes that way.

In other words, suppose uptight Christians have a 60% majority. Right now they can win every vote when they want to ban something, 60 to 40.

But suppose it was bidding money. Then they'd only have the money to win 60% of the bids, and 40% of their attempts to ban things would fail.

Bidding rather than voting makes you actually pay to restrict other people. If you don't want them to smoke pot are you really going to pay a higher monthly bill for that?

And if you are willing to pay, that's fine. If it's worth $100/month to you that no one smokes pot, and it's worth $50/month to pot smokers to smoke pot, then you can both win by paying them $75 a month. You both come out $25 ahead. If it's really worth that much to you that they don't do it.

Punishments should not exist, except in the sense of self defense. Jailing someone prevents them from committing another crime, but punishing them only harms them. Jails could be made for-profit. Inmates work for their room and board. Inmates could even choose their jail, based on which offers more appealing jobs and wages (and internet access), as long as they choose one with adequate security.

What is a crime, what courts decide if a person did it, and what is done to the convict could be negotiated between security forces, via the bidding.

Anonymous at 10:33 AM on March 25, 2009 | #1751
Maybe that wasn't quite clear. One security force says "we want pot smoking to be legal, and if you'll agree, we'll pay your security force $10,000 a month which you can use to lower your monthly fee, so your customers get some compensation for not having the law they want."

then the other force says, "no, our customers value it more than that. we'll pay you $20,000 a month to agree for pot smoking to be illegal".

and it goes back and forth, and whoever offers more money (based on considering it profitable to do so. having the law their way, rather than the other way, is worth more than that to their customers) gets their way. the money they bid goes to the security force that doesn't get their way, and is presumably mostly used to lower monthly fees.

so, the bid winner pays something less than the absolute max their customers combined value it at. the bid loser wouldn't bid higher because this value is higher than the sum total their customers value it at. and so everyone wins, either paying less than the value to them to get their way, or being paid more than the negative value of not having the law their way.

- Elliot

Anonymous at 10:39 AM on March 25, 2009 | #1752
Wouldn't the people who get compensation for not having the law the way they want still not get what they want? They might not want to pay that much money, but also not want that law.

I suppose it's still better than the current system and other alternatives.


Anonymous at 6:40 AM on May 5, 2009 | #1758

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)