Thursday, February 11, 2016

Progress in the Debate over Anarcho-Capitalism vs. Limited Government

By Robert Wenzel

I am going to declare that some progress has been made in my debate with Dr. Walter Block over the true essence of anarcho-capitalism.

Dr. Block's response (Walter Block Responds to My Anarcho-Capitalist Post) to my most recent comments suggests that he recognizes that an "over-ruling body" does mean just that, an over-ruling body, and thus, at a minimum, minarchism, which is a subset of limited government, which is a subset of government.

He writes:
Re your latest contribution A Reply to Walter Block on Anarcho-Capitalism to our discussion about minarchism and anarchism. If I’m a minarchist, then so are you. Your criteria for anarchism seems to be that there be “… no over-ruling body that can (en)force rules…” But, you, too, favor an “over-ruling body that can (en)force rules.” For example, how do we get to private property rights in the first place? Suppose I claim the moon, the stars the heavenly bodies, the oceans, the rivers, all the virgin land in Alaska, the Rockies, etc. Surely, my claim is not valid, because I have not homesteaded any of this terrain. But, surely private courts would be the “over-ruling body that can force rules” regarding homesteading.  Suppose I claim property that some people already think is private property. Bob, I now claim the shoes you are wearing. They are really mine. How do we settle my claim, in the absence of an “over-ruling body that can (en)force rules?” Surely, only a (private) court should determine who is the rightful owner of the shoes now on your feet, no?
He is correct in his belief that if there is an over-ruling body there is at least minarchism.

But he is incorrect in his notion that I believe, like he does, that such an over-ruling body is required (although he does slip in the idea of a private court but seems to have a hidden implication that they are following some over-ruling laws).

Dr. Block asks the question, "How do we get to private property rights in the first place?"

This is certainly a more important question for Dr. Block than it is for me. I don't think he realizes it but he seems to have a neocon-ish zest to think his rules on how to determine  private property should apply to the entire planet  universe.

I am far from so adventurous. When I think in terms of a Private Property Society, I am thinking of a society where current property ownership is generally recognized. I am not thinking about some theoretical land where new property is dispersed by some set and necessary standards.

My books, my clothes, my furnishings are what I am concerned about. I am looking to live and own property where  respect for private property is recognized. (To a limited degree we have this in the United States, but the operative word is limited.)

If I decide to buy property, I want to make sure that the people around me have the same respect for private property, that is all. Notice: I am not attempting to drag in some court that has set rules over a region. I am just looking for an area where people, in general, respect each other and mind their own business.

Recognizing that even  under the conditions where property is generally respected that outsiders could still wander in and do damage or disputes could arise  with neighbors, in such an area, I would hire a private security agency to protect my property. If this is a big agency, they would have other clients and say to me,"Look, we will back you up on what is your property, but if you have a dispute with one of our other clients, we want you to agree that we can take this to our private court, where we have the most wise and fair judges in the world."

Now at this point. I can say "No thanks" or because I am reasonable and have checked out to see that the security agency's judges are indeed the wisest and most fair in the land, I sign up.

Notice here: No one is forcing me to use this court and follow their rules, I am agreeing to do so. I don't have to. I can live without the agency and court if I want. Or I can hire another agency and a different court. What if my agency comes up against my opposition who has a different agency? I would imagine such agencies would come up against each other many, many times in  a PPS, so that, if they are profit seekers, they would just reach an agreement that if they come up against each other they would use certain great. wise and fair judges that they have both decided on.

Of course, in my contract with my agency, they would stipulate that when coming up against other agencies, they would have the option to determine how a dispute is resolved in which court, by an agreement between the two agencies.

All agencies would compete to be the wisest and fairest in the land since that is how they would get clients---and compete that their rules are the best. An agency that was crooked wouldn't last long.

Notice again, no over-ruling laws, Choose your security agency by the way it operates with its own clients and rules, and how they operate with other agencies that might have different rules.

And so, without an over-ruling body, a private property society could exist. with respect for the rules set by the property owner paramount and at the core of the basis by which security agencies would agree to protect a property,

If Dr. Block wants to claim that the shoes I am wearing are his, he is free to do so, but he would never win with any serious agency that was competing for customers on the basis of being fair about private property. I would prove (perhaps by receipt) that I acquired the shoes via a legitimate transaction. There would be no agency that would take the case of Dr. Block here since they know they would lose if it went to court. And if he is so rich that he is able to get an agency to represent hin anyway, he would lose before the fair and wise judges.

It is important to understand that my discussion above applies to current property ownership and I am purposely not extending the discussion to new virgin property that does not have any lineage,

It is indeed very possible that many would approve of  homesteading as the way new land should be parceled out. However, I am not convinced that is the necessary method, but that is a much longer discussion for another day. Setting this discussion of virgin property off to the side does not reduce the validity of recognizing current property ownership. If one wants to be technical about it,  I suppose my view of a Private Property Society is thus one where current private property ownership is generally respected--and exchanges can take place from there .

Dr Block also states:
Our intellectual enemies claim that free market anarchism, or anarcho capitalism, would be chaos. You are playing into their hands. Without an  “over-ruling body that can (en)force rules” chaos would result.
But isn't our defense against the charges against free market anarchism detractors that they do  not understand what an anarcho-capitalist society would look like and that it would not be chaos?

That is my defense to those who object to a Private Property Society, such detractors simply fail to see what a Private Property Society would look like and that such a society without an “over-ruling body that can (en)force rules” would not result in chaos.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics


  1. Isn't it interesting that when two (REAL) libertarians debate, that it never gets down to ad hominems. It's about the IDEAS (see Chris Rossini just this week).
    I was discussing BernieCare with a fairly moderate (I thought) lefty and BAM! second exchange turned into "Why you badda badda yadda yadda..." nastiness.
    Maybe we're too nice? Nah. I'd not want to sink down to their level.

  2. You are both minarchists because you make laws that people have to respect private property and you expect them to be enforced. No one has to obey your laws in anarchism.

    1. I am demanding that people respect private property?

      You better re-read my post slowly.

    2. " am thinking of a society where current property ownership is generally recognized."

      Current ownership is established and backed by law. You are taking those laws for granted. Some people will go to violent extremes to get their way and you need to be able to forcibly stop them. If you think you'll be able to sick your private agent on someone you've got another thing coming Robert.

  3. "Anarchism misunderstands the real nature of man. It would be practicable only in a world of angels and saints."
    -Ludwig von Mises

    You are waiting for a world which will never exist. We have to force people to respect life and private property.