Friday, December 26, 2008

Children in market anarchy or anarcho-capitalism

I read David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom last week, and found it very interesting. He discusses politics, law, and order in terms of economics. Most people project values and analysis onto a political system, but Friedman advocates that even laws be bought and sold on a market. I hadn't really ever considered structural political analysis before, so I'm still new to this, but I'm intrigued.

The ideas are certainly potent, but the theory seems a bit rough around the edges. One thing that troubled me was the problem of assuming responsibility for children in the face of abuse or other crime from their own parents, or for that matter, protecting any people who are not capable of acting for themselves, such as the disabled. This problem was what motivated me to inspect The Machinery of Freedom in the first place, and I first read the chapter on youth, which I found to be woefully inadequate. I later came up with what I think is a pretty sound solution, in part from the economic reasoning laid out elsewhere in the book.

Here's the problem. In a state of market anarchy, personal protection is provided by profit-seeking private companies, contracted by individuals voluntarily to protect them, but children can't contract a defense agency for themselves to protect from abuse or other harms from their parents.

One thread on the Internet didn't really provide a solution, but that's probably because idiots tend to pontificate online, except for yours truly of course. From that thread, Murray Rothbard sounds like a sociopath. Apparently he assumes that children would be the property of their parents, and so slavery, abuse, and murder of children by their parents would be legal and children would have no recourse for such harms. I haven't read Rothbard yet, so I can't assess his actual premises or conclusions, but this sounds like a mischaracterization from an opponent of Rothbard. I'm intrigued that this hasn't been addresses adequately, or that I haven't found anything adequate. Like I mentioned before, I came up with a solution. I'm optimistic that I'm adding to the theory of market anarchy.

The chapter in The Machinery of Freedom about the rights of youth is, as I mentioned before, woefully inadequate. Friedman doesn't actually address how the rights of youth could be protected, but instead just assumes that if a particular situation were dire enough for a child, they would run away permanently and would realize self-ownership. This isn't convincing to me, because I think any legal system should provide recourse against any and all violations of rights. I'm also theorizing on the assumption that any child should have their rights protected fully, since they are, of course, humans. If you disagree with that, you're probably a sociopath.

Some libertarians like to promote social ostracism as a panacea. This is good for lots of things, but where rights are actually violated, I find this patently absurd. Walter Block's solution is also unsatisfying to me.

In the current system of government, nothing can be done about abuse or murder that isn't known about, and it would be the same in market anarchy, so I'm not offering an improvement to the current system in this regard, although I don't think anyone actually objects to market anarchy on these grounds.

So what's my answer? Under a state, individuals with state power assume responsibility to administer justice for abused or murdered children, and it would be similar in anarchy, with individuals seeking justice with both the privatized legal system and orphanages. Here is where I draw on Friedman's economic reasoning for allocations of laws on the market. I believe that the court systems would evolve such that people would contract their protection agencies and their courts to enforce laws protecting children from their own parents. Child abuse may or may not be rare, but I'm sure that it's rare enough that either consumers or protection firms would absorb the tiny additional cost necessary to enforce such laws. Government politicians and the police aren't morally different from the people who would live in market anarchy. The impossible, left-wing theories of anarchy assume that human nature is different, and I think such left-wing anarchy would be dystopian. Anyway, in market anarchy, the same vast majority of society that finds crimes against children unacceptable wouldn't be any different, and that majority would still act to deliver justice, only without a state. Firms and courts that sought to protect abusers or murderers of children could not exist because the cost structure of a firm would prohibit it. It would not be possible to organize and unify enough sociopaths to contract with any particular protection firm or court that would find such crime acceptable.


Stefan Molyneux, MA said...

I wrote about this in my free book Practical Anarchy, available at :)

Mike Arp said...

Great write up!