This episode features an interview of economics professor Edward Stringham from 2015 by Jeff Diest, host of the Human Action podcast (formerly Mises Weekends). Edward is the author of a book called Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life, where he looks back at the history of private legal systems, and in so doing demolishes the idea that only the state can manage and adjudicate human conflicts. Today, Edward gives some concrete, real-world examples of how private governance operates in our statist world. If you’re interested in Rothbardian and Hoppean anarcho-capitalism, you’ll find Edward’s book a great addition to your library, and you’ll enjoy hearing this interview. Purchase books by Edward Stringham on Amazon here.Open This Content
Nobody asked but …
Quid pro quo is Latin for dodge, as in dodge ball aka moving target, aka moving goal posts. Regardless of your particular take on the use of foreign governments to stir up the camps of political opponents, there is a reason why the situation might be called a “constitutional crisis.” My point-of-view is that everything relating to the governance of a people ought to be above board. My suspicion is that the phrase politically above board is an oxymoron, literally impossible, factually impossible. The word “political,” to me, means pretending that things are orderly and principled, when they may not be so. The word “compromise,” to me, signals that there is slippage between “is” and “ought.” The American founding documents specify, we hope, how it ought to be, while self-interested wordsmiths and thieves hide, we fear, how it “is.”
Squabbling over quid pro quo is the same as any other dodge that has been foisted on us since the days of Washington and Hamilton. The disputants cannot even use our own language. They use the dead language of an imperial plutocracy that has been fallen for more than 16 centuries. It’s just jargon, an attempt by insiders to block the understanding of outsiders.
The truth is that our system is run by brigands.
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content
Nobody asked but …
How many times have you heard the demonstrable falsehood, if you don’t like Politician X, then vote her/him out of office — or the inane, vote for the lesser of two evils? Voting, or not voting, is actually the least you can do. If all you do is decide one way or the other, it is the lazy person’s governance. The lazy person chooses to be a slave.
The oligarchs pick the winner no matter what you do. Do you think that anybody left in any current races has not knuckled under to the oligarchs? As I explain it to my granddaughters: you only get to vote for, against, or in abstention re: Mitch McConnell after you’re 18, and then only once every 6 years. The special interests in Kentucky, the USA, and the globe get to influence him, with dollars and promises, 24/7/365 — past, present, and future.
There is debate whether a vote matters. It doesn’t! It is how you live your life that matters. It is in how you behave in the market place.
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content
I don’t mean being the dominant player in a market. I mean here a much tighter definition of monopoly: legal monopoly.
The reason they suck is because they are monopolists. The good news is, this means opportunity to outcompete governments for all the stuff they do badly. (At least the parts that anyone actually wants done).
The challenge of competing with governments is of course that they can kill anyone who doesn’t want to be a paying customer. This gives them a huge customer base.
It turns out, people don’t like to be killed. So they pay government to avoid it. They take the services since they had to pay for them anyway to avoid being caged (or killed if they resisted being caged).
But this provides the opening for competitors.
It also turns out, you don’t get good information about how to make your product valuable when everyone is buying it out of fear you will kill them if they don’t. So governments plod along delivering unimaginably stupid services in unimaginably backward ways with terribly high costs and the worst employees in history.
It’s so bad, in fact, and so hopelessly, systematically deaf to information on how to improve, that people clamor to pay even more money to service providers who can do better, even though they are forced to pay government for their services already.
A customer willing to double pay for your service is a great customer!
Companies that deliver services to compete with government get quick feedback from the market on how to do it well. If they don’t act on it, they don’t survive. It’s very tough out there when your customers don’t have the looming fear that you might kill them. But that’s also what makes real value creation possible.
I am bullish on competing governance services. I love them.
Yes, governments can come threaten to kill such service providers if they don’t stop. But luckily governments move slow, are always trying to figure out the laziest way to maintain power, and often lack the foresight to realize a competitive threat before it’s too late.
The real bear case against competing upstarts is that they will succeed, get tired of competing, and morph into one of the many fat sloppy formerly-private rent-seeking appendages of the government. Yuck.Open This Content
It is beyond any measure of denial to assert that the American experiment in “limited government” – “constitutional” or otherwise – has proven itself an abject failure. The US government is the largest, most expensive, and most powerful cabal on the planet. And it shows no signs of reversing course.
But for the true believers in minarchism, it gets even worse. Consider the original idea behind the “United States”: A loosely confederated group of smaller sovereign governmental entities – all more or less modelled after the overarching federal one, each with a constitution and bill of rights. There are currently 50 of them, in addition to the special federal District of Columbia. Plus two overseas commonwealths, and three semi-autonomous territories.
Notwithstanding a few uninhabited islands and sandbars dotting the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean that the US federal government lays claim to, that equals not just one, but 57 separate experiments in “limited government.” We could also include all various municipalities contained therein too – counties, cities, towns – and then we’d be talking “limited” governmental experiments almost beyond number.
In zero of these cases have governments remained constrained by the pieces of paper ostensibly designed to do so. This is not to say that residing within one of the more egregious cases – such as Commiefornia, New York, or Marxachusetts – is entirely equivalent to living in South Dakota, Alaska, or Wyoming. Only that none of them have refrained from or been immune to their endemic nature: Growth. They have each of them expanded in scope and power over time – and continue to do so. Never contracting or downsizing. And ever at the expense of the individual.
You might, as a dedicated government apologist, try to excuse one, or two, or even half a dozen such failures as unfortunate anomalies plagued by corrupt politicians and judges. Maybe. If you wanted to be charitable. If you were stretching to clutch at straws in a desperate defense of the idea known as political governance.
But 57? Or the countless thousands and thousands of lesser subdivisions within those examples?
If the greater federal historical example of America does not dispel the minarchist “limited government” myth for the fantasy that it is, then all of the smaller examples under its very own rubric surely do.
“Small government” has never worked out. And it never will.Open This Content
Part 1: Removing Yourself
I have long been of the opinion, as a Voluntaryist, that there are only two legitimate ways of voting: With your money, in terms what products and services you choose to buy (outside of taxation, of course, where you are effectively given no choice), and with your feet – choosing where you prefer to live, all things and circumstances taken into consideration. It follows, then, that most libertarians of whatever stripe gravitate towards locales where, at least, the politics and general presence of government are not as aggressively antithetical to the basic enjoyment of life as others. For example, at present, I am seriously considering getting out of Vermont sometime during the next few years, and taking up residence in Wyoming – where taxes are both less numerous and lower, the cancerous hysteria of gun control has not yet taken root, and where there is still a rural, low-population environment (not to mention one almost certain to contain a higher percentage of like-minded people). In short, all the things Vermont had once upon a time, and no longer does.
There is certainly nothing wrong or immoral about wishing to improve one’s circumstances by choosing to go and live somewhere else – so long as one has every intention of paying one’s own way rather than leeching from whatever Welfare State may exist in one’s new chosen location. There is nothing wrong with wanting to cohabitate amongst one’s own “tribe,” as it were. Having libertarians (and even a couple of conservatives here and there…maybe) as neighbors is always preferable – to me, at least – than being surrounded by roughly 70% Democratic “progressive” lefties who are almost sexually enthralled by Marxism of every conceivable variant. Surely, the former promises a better life. So, I’ll be investigating that – thoroughly and in full – over the next couple of years. You’ll likely hear from me more on that as things unfold. Stay tuned.
Part 2: Removing Others
So now suppose I’m living my new life happily in the Big Sky Country of Wyoming, enjoying that big boost in freedom that was rapidly dying back over my shoulder there in Vermont…and before too long, the same kind of leftist disease begins to take hold within Wyoming’s Forever West political system.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe has this rather blunt commentary to make about just such a situation: “There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.”
Now this is not to say, first off, that Wyoming is a strictly “libertarian social order” to begin with. More accurately, it might be characterized as predominantly conservative Republican in flavor – with some inevitable libertarian blandishments as a consequence. That stated, conservative and libertarian camps both, I would think, have a mutual vested interest in seeing that leftist ideology does not gain serious ground or take root in the Wyoming landscape. Such concern can be quite correctly characterized as nothing more nor less than self-defensive in nature: People who are paying few and low taxes, enjoying virtually unrestrained gun rights, and relishing most or all of the trappings of rural rugged individualism do not want these conditions to be reversed or undone – most especially not at the hands of some Marxist-inspired brigade of self-styled do-gooders who believe with almost religious fervor that they’ve come to the unwashed lands to teach the heathens how to live a better, more civilized life under full-on socialism.
So for the conservatives, the solution to this equation is very easy: Out come the pitchforks, and away we go. For the libertarian camp though, there’s a bit of a problem.
Unlike all forms of statism, libertarian ethics demand tolerance. Unlike libertarianism, however, statism requires force. I think you can see the quandary this seems to present.
And I’ll repeat a line from above: Such concern can be quite correctly characterized as nothing more nor less than self-defensive in nature.
Ever since my awakening as a libertarian some 25 years ago now, I have spoken with probably a couple of thousand leftists – from garden-variety Democrats, to hardcore Marxists. Out of all of them, I have come across maybe two who I sincerely believed when they told me that they did not wish their views or economic system to be imposed on others by force. One of them even used the term “libertarian socialist” – which made me laugh derisively at the time. But I’m older now, and no longer laughing. I think that’s a valid term to describe such a philosophical position. I also think, through experience, that scarcely one in a thousand leftists possess a viewpoint of such benign integrity. The overwhelming majority of them are more than willing to use whatever level of violence and brute force they feel is necessary to bend you to their will – to force you to be subjugated to their ideas whether you agree with them or not.
And I will say unequivocally that these are the leftist elements about whom Hoppe is spot-on correct. Those who would agitate and proselytize for the dismantling of a libertarian socio-economic environment – which, no doubt, would have likely taken tremendous efforts and sacrifice in order to build in the first place – in favor of mandatory economic regulations, taxation, gun control, redistribution of wealth, etc. – such individuals must indeed be “physically separated and removed” from the midst of a region or territory which has managed to construct a libertarian society.
As would, for that matter, anyone from any ideology that sought to reinstitute involuntary political governance in any form.
Legitimate self-defense, after all, should never require apologism.
That said, it is the even smallest potential for “libertarian socialism” that causes me to distance myself somewhat from Hoppe. That one-in-a-thousand leftie who just wants to live peacefully in a commune with his or her buddies down the road – so long as their chosen lifestyle and preferred economic models are kept among themselves and other willing participants who are free to leave at any time – is not and should not be considered a problem. So long as, being the phrase of paramount import here. Hoppe’s absolutism lends itself too readily to a total witch-hunt mentality otherwise. Thus, allow me to offer a revision of his above maxim, more in line with purist libertarian sentiment:
“There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists who agitate for political and economic control over others in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.”
Liberty, sovereignty, and autonomy are key elements of my own personal vision. Not living as a slave to a bunch of parasitic politicians and soul-sick bureaucrats, as the Left would have us do – all the better to control, manipulate, and dominate us to death. It is a vision worth both projecting and fighting for, I think, especially in the face of a world bent on ever-increasing authoritarianism and control.
I’m thinking I may be able to do that more effectively by physically removing myself to a different geographical locale, surrounded by a different culture. We’ll see. Life is strange, and can take many unexpected twists and turns.
Should I get there, however, when I do, I’ll then be prepared to defend my place, person, and property in it. Not with indiscriminate prejudice against others whose philosophies I find abhorrent, but with a more finely targeted and focused sense of just what is absolutely necessary in order to do so.Open This Content