No Archons

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Law

Re Wall Street Journal letter-writer Michael Stoken’s discussion of modern Greek anarchists: while in today’s English the word “anarchy” means “lawless,” etymologically it means “leaderless.”  The two meanings are different.

Literally, “anarchy” means “without an archon.”  Archons were leaders of ancient Greek city-states.  But being without a leader – without an archon – is not necessarily to be without law.  The vast bulk of law emerges not from the commands of sovereign rulers but, rather, from the everyday interactions of countless ordinary people as they exchange, intermingle, cooperate, and come into conflict with each other.  Only the most naïve social creationist equates the dictates of strongmen (or of groups of strongmen, such as assemble in legislatures) with “law.”

Reasonable people can and should debate the extent to which centralized sovereign power is necessary to enforce laws.  It’s a grave error, however, to suppose that all commands issued by “archons” are law and that a society is lawful only insofar as its denizens follow the commands of “archons.”  Indeed, among history’s most destructively lawless characters are “archons” themselves – for example, Stalin and Mao.

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{ 108 comments }

John V April 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

“Only the most naïve social creationist equates the dictates of strongmen (or of groups of strongmen, such as assemble in legislatures) with “law.” =Muirgeo

muirgeo April 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm

And only ideologues could be naive enough to believe a libertarian or a communist society could actually work with no leaders.

No I equate the strongman and the people to be one and the same. That seems the best most rational solution when looking back through all of history.

Now the strongest men are not even men… they are corporations. They own the property, the means of production and the policy makers. They make the laws that govern our lives and they inconspicuously tax and confiscate the wealth of the rest of society all under the guise of free market capitalism which is not a belief for them… they know its BS but like religion and sports it controls the masses.

HaywoodU April 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm

That you still stick to this argument after your years of trolling this sight is truly sad.

HaywoodU April 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm

*site.

muirgeo April 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm

You guys have never even come close to a reasonable answer.

J Cortez April 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

“You guys have never even come close to a reasonable answer.”

So says the person on this site who is the most unreasonable.

Dan April 18, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Only the fool believes communism can work in any fashion beyond the despotism that it always leads to, along with the pain and suffering of the masses not favored by the the strongman.

Chuclehead April 19, 2011 at 12:31 am

I think a leader in this context is one who has the use of force, and therefore may issue punishment. There are all kinds of associations that pop up to achieve end with and without leaders and without using any force. A corporation has leaders, but no force, so associating is voluntary and temporary. Our street association is voluntary, but we are able to plow the snow and do holiday decorations and planting without the use of force of law. The tea party movement is a exercise in spontaneous order. Leaders are temporary and voluntary. Like following a truck on a highway. As long as they are leading where you want to go, fine.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 2:28 am

Voluntaryism is an important distinction from anarchism, only because nearly all self-proclaimed anarchists believe marxian class theory. They believe that hierarchy is the central problem of social order, and coercion, usually by way of coercive democracy, should be used to eliminate hierarchy and promote egalitarianism.

Of course marxism is rife with contradictions. Hierarchy is a useful tool for accomplishing organizational goals. Without coercion, in an individualist culture, hierarchy is not a problem.

crossofcrimson April 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

Some ANCAPS don’t have as much of a hangup on hierarchy (as properly understood). Stephan Kinsella has been known to harangue over this point.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 9:45 am

Almost no anarchists are ancaps.

crossofcrimson April 19, 2011 at 9:49 am

“Almost no anarchists are ancaps.”

Not all fruits are apples…

That being said, there are a fair amount of ANCAPs among those lurking sites likes this – I’m one of them.

Of course, most traditional anarchists don’t even consider ANCAPs anarchist. Lucky for me, I don’t give their argument(s) sanction.

John V April 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm

You are so unworthy being taken seriously. What a dumb answer.

Slappy McPhee April 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

And this is why the constant example of Libertarianism = Somalia, used by the left, is so comical.

Don Boudreaux April 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

Yep. Absence of government is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for society to be orderly, prosperous, and free – but nor is it obvious that the EXISTENCE of government is necessary to achieve this happy state of affairs. And, for sure, the existence of government certainly isn’t sufficient to achieve this happy outcome.

PoliteEdward April 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

Would I be misrepresenting you if I described you as an anarcho-capitalist to my friends? Or perhaps a voluntaryist?

Don Boudreaux April 18, 2011 at 11:35 am

I describe myself as a voluntaryist: along with Albert Jay Nock, I believe that human nature is consistent with an “archon-less” society, but human culture must be such as to support such a state of affairs. It’s not always, or even typically, so, alas.

Scott G April 18, 2011 at 11:48 am

I thought you called yourself a philosophical anti-stater? Why don’t you describe yourself as a libertarian, or anarcho-capitalist or a classical liberal?

PoliteEdward April 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for the answer.

vikingvista April 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I had no idea! Splendid!

Voluntaryists of the world, emerge!

yet another Dave April 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

@viking
Great slogan – it would look good on a t-shirt.

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

Yes and no.

It’s no more comical than crony-capitalism=non-libertarianism.

If we have to justify (and I think we should) non-advocated outcomes that risk emerging as a result of our policy preferences, then you ought to have to justify them as well. I acknowledge the risk of crony capitalism, which is why I’ve always supported not just democratic self government, but constitutional democractic self government with robust federalism so that there is competition between policymakers (rather than centralization) in the most important decisions, and and explicit limits on what policymakers can do. That’s my answer to the very real risk that non-libertarianism might potentially lead to crony capitalism.

Libertarians ought to answer concerns that “you might not want Somalia, but you’re very likely to get Somalia”.

And if you’re not willing to answer to that, then I don’t want to hear any more about crony capitalism, because my response to “but what about crony capitalism!” is exactly the same as your response to “but what about Somalia!”

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Thats downright silly. Your answer to “crony capitalism” is that we should have federalism, limits on “policymakers” (I shudder every time I hear the world “policy”, associated with someone who makes a profession out of making “policy” for other people), and some mumbo-jumbo about “democratic self-government” (sounds like something out of Granma). IE you’ve basically just said absolutely nothing other than “the US constitution”. Obviously that has failed so far in keeping “policymakers” such as yourself, very limited.

This isn’t an argument for anarchism. Its more of an argument against having people like you.

Second, on Somalia. Somalia isn’t a s***hole because its in “anarchy”. Most of it is perfectly in the hands of warlords and various other groups. Somalia is a s***hole because it is poor, like all other countries around it (in fact, it isn’t exactly less developed than Ethiopia or Eritrea, even though they are perfectly happy dictatorships). IE, is one seriously implying that the troubles of Africa, or Somalia etc, are due to a lack of “government”? Or is it, “good government run by people with degrees in policy making!” ; )

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm

re: “Second, on Somalia. Somalia isn’t a s***hole because its in “anarchy”. Most of it is perfectly in the hands of warlords and various other groups.”

Right, and warlords are a quite plausible consequence of statelessness just like crony capitalists are a quite plausible consequence of the existence of a state. This is my whole point.

As long as I’ve gotta account for crony capitalists (and I think it’s reasonable to expect me to account for them), advocates of statelessness oughta account for warlords (particularly because we have fewer actual examples of semi-decent statelessness than we do of semi-decent states).

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

A “warlord” state, is a state nonetheless. Its not “anarchism”. So you argument is that in order for you to account for a real world phenomenon and problem of “corny capitalism”, you have to invent an alternate reality where “warlords” are its opposite.

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

And a crony capitalist state is not a constitutionally limited liberal state that I support, so why am I expected to answer for it?

What’s your point? I know a warlord state is not anarchism. Nobody claimed it was. Warlords are a plausible consequence if anarcho-libertarianism were put into practice.

If you want to absolve yourself from addressing that because you wouldn’t explicitly advocate it, fine. But then you can’t go around criticizing non-libertarian philosophies when their ideal-types are not conformed to in reality.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

“And a crony capitalist state is not a constitutionally limited liberal state that I support, so why am I expected to answer for it?”

First of all you’re not supposed to answer for it. I don’t know where you got that idea. Second, a constitutionally limited liberal state does not necessarily limit the prevalence of “corny capitalism”. Barney Frank also thinks he is constitutionally limited. But what the hell does that mean?

“Warlords are a plausible consequence if anarcho-libertarianism were put into practice.”

This is where your argument falls apart. Warlordism is the use of force to impose your will on a particular region. It has as much to do with “libertarianism” as does Donald Duck.

“But then you can’t go around criticizing non-libertarian philosophies when their ideal-types are not conformed to in reality.”

Thats NOT the point of criticizing “non-libertarian” ideas or practices. And its not about “ideal” states. This argument is like talking with communists who always have the excuse of “well Stalin/lenin/mao/castro/trotsky etc etc weren’t really communists so you can’t be talking about the ideal communist ideology of Marx”. No. But its not an argument of philosophies or ideologies. Its an argument of incentives and outcomes.

Crony capitalism, or whatever else you want to call it (I hate that term personally), exists because someone has an ultimate authority to impose through force, even if limited. So far, its a reality of every system, because it is basic human nature. It is unavoidable. The problem is that it becomes much more prevalent as policy wonks such as yourself become more prevalent; policy wonks which other cultures and ideologies are called “Dear Leaders”

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Alternatively, if you want to just throw up your hands and say “I don’t advocate warlords”, so be it. I know you don’t. I’m not saying you advocate them. But if you do that I’m just going to say “I don’t advocate crony capitalists”.

Both of those statements are perfectly true, but they don’t get us very far in the real world.

carlsoane April 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm

But we are actually practicing crony capitalism in the US today. When warlords start appearing in Wyoming, I’ll start to worry that the government has become too small.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

No. One is a made-up problem, and a mis-identified problem. “Warlords” are simply the opposite of centralized strong-armed government. So Somalia really has nothing to do with the issue, or any issue.

Crony capitalism, however, is real and prevalent, and is a consequence of government abuse. You seem to think people are accusing you or your fellow “policy wonks” of “supporting crony capitalism”. In which case, you have failed to understand the argument.

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

re: ““Warlords” are simply the opposite of centralized strong-armed government.”

And crony capitalism is the opposite of constitutional liberal government.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

“And crony capitalism is the opposite of constitutional liberal government.”

I don’t think so. Not in that the two are not opposite, but that they’re not even necessarily related.

JohnK April 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

If there is a centralized government in a capitalist society then there will be crony capitalism.

Folks who write policy that is backed up with threat of violence will have buddies in business, and what follows is so obvious that it need not be explained.

Brian Bedient April 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

DK, I think you’re really onto something here.

What I’d say is that warlords are essentially just criminal gangs writ slightly larger, or proto-states, and can only support themselves by taking from solitary or defenseless victims. In a stateless society one might expect that it’d be difficult to get rid of them because of the free-rider problem – it is costly to fight the warlords off. If someone else stands up to them, you don’t have to. The equilibrium outcome is nobody fighting and the warlords winning. The textbook thinking on anarchy ends here – we have a state so that we aren’t overrun by warlords, gangs, other states, etc. It’s a necessary evil that we submit to coercion by a centralized authority lest our society fall into chaos.

A clever anarchist would point out here that there are non-coercive arrangements that would result in collective security against the warlords. Indeed, if protection from crime were treated like any other industry, with voluntary customers purchasing services on a market, the agencies providing such services would likely be able to handle the emergence of petty warlords without much uncertainty.

Why is voluntary society so rare historically, then? I think it’s a matter of path-dependence, mainly, but transactions costs also play an important role – it is costly to administer such a firm, to identify who has paid for their services and who has not, and to identify and solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. Before modern society, these costs may have justified (by cost-benefit analysis at least) the existence of a special cost-avoiding institution that didn’t have to trouble itself with obtaining consent before taking people’s resources to provide for collective security, but currently? We have such excellent methods for reducing such costs now, and we are so wealthy besides, that we could almost certainly organize a stable society along non-coercive lines were it not for the prior existence of a coercive state, and therefore the cost of submitting to such an institution, which can steal all our wealth and freedom of action, far outweighs the benefits. As we get wealthier, the opportunity cost of having a state increases, because it is able to rob us more and more, and we are dependent on its services less and less. Once this cost rises above a certain difficult-to-pinpoint threshold, the state becomes more coercive and costly than whatever alternative we might have.

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Brian -

re: “Why is voluntary society so rare historically, then? I think it’s a matter of path-dependence, mainly, but transactions costs also play an important role – it is costly to administer such a firm, to identify who has paid for their services and who has not, and to identify and solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.”

Possibly – but these factors can be explained more simply: emergent order. States emerge naturally to solve these sorts of problems that other institutions aren’t as capable of solving. Sometimes the institutions that evolve aren’t strictly speaking “states”, but they are state-like. Market transactions for this sort of thing might work on paper, but a good understanding of the requirements for market efficiency – particularly what costs and benefits are internalized, externalized, and contractable – points to states and similar institutions that will emerge naturally.

One of the biggest problems with libertarian leaning economists is that they’ve taken “the state” to be some sort of alien or unnatural force that’s antithetical to emergent order in human society. It’s not – it’s the product of emergent order. And in the future when conditions change, when transaction costs are lower or when networking is easier through the internet or when any number of other factors change we may not have or need states anymore.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm

“One of the biggest problems with libertarian leaning economists is that they’ve taken “the state” to be some sort of alien or unnatural force that’s antithetical to emergent order in human society.”

No they don’t. I’m not talking about fringe people like Rothbard, which seems you are talking about

carlsoane April 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Daniel:
You’re mis-characterizing the libertarian position. The problem is not that the state is alien. It is that the state has the power to overwhelm and co-opt its private competitors because of its privileged position.

vikingvista April 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm

“they’ve taken “the state” to be some sort of alien or unnatural force that’s antithetical to emergent order in human society. It’s not – it’s the product of emergent order.”

For “emergent order” to have meaning, it must be distinguishable from something. But here you’ve just defined “emergent order” as “whatever order is”. You’ve made “emergent order” into simply “order”. But we already have a term for “order”.

The distinction, which you fail to make, is designed order. There is emergent order, and there is designed order. There are always elements of both, but those elements dictated by the state are the latter.

brotio April 18, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Why is voluntary society so rare historically, then?

Because Mrs Grundy has always been with us. Mrs Grundy always knows what is best for us.

Mrs Grundy posts under the name, “muirgeo” at this Cafe.

Gil April 19, 2011 at 12:59 am

I think you hit the nail on the head first up Brian Bedient. Namely it’s a Tragedy of Commons/Free Rider things. In other words, when a group is using systematic violence (e.g. an invasion army) then it’s highly unlikely a group of loosely connected people will combine into a hardcore guerrilla force. Rather most people will hope other people will sort out the invaders and as such hope to get the results without having to personally chip in.

However one point that is lost on most Libertarians is that violence can and does work. Ever since some toddlers bop another toddler to get the toy they want regardless if they have right to it figure out that violence does get results. A second revelation is when teenager boys discover girls like winners regardless of how they won. In other words, women do love the bad boys.

Slappy McPhee April 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

DK —

I actually agree with much of what you wrote. The crony-capitalism you speak of, would occur no matter how large or decentralized the government is. The very ability to use force (government or otherwise), happens at every level of society. It occurs in private clubs and in PTA meetings. There will be punishments for deviating from the standards the majority has set. I would just like to limit the scope of which such decisions can be enforced.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Well yes. He is right, in that he hasn’t really said anything that wasn’t already understood when this country was founded. Except that the people who founded this country understood that those prescriptions are never sufficient or self-sustaining.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:20 am

Very good! I do like this response.

Lack of an arbitrary body to settle disputes based on prewritten and agreed upon standards or laws will result in, at the very least, a festering animosity and growing resentment that will not allow for logic and reasoning to rein in future disputes, but settling of scores and reaching satisfaction on a personal definition of ‘fair’.

While it is possible to have a working libertarian society, it is unlikely to be very civil for very long, at least until the population is decimated by individuals acting out on on their own senses of justice and generations hav adjusted for this scenario, but is still likely to degenerate into factions and tribal grouping.

I am likely to surmise the return of the wild west or towns/cities reminiscent of the Puritans.

Sam Grove April 19, 2011 at 1:27 am

What do you think you know about the wild west?

What if it was not as portrayed by Hollywood?

dan April 19, 2011 at 1:46 am

Now, now… simma down…. While I expect challenge to any of my assertions, I do not expect hostility from the Libertarian group for not towing the line………This has usually, been the M.O. of Leftist Progressives, in my experience.
I hope I have been clear in the past on my intentions, here. A type of Education.In case you have missed it……… I do not and will not protray myself as being some intellectual with multiple degrees or even one degree………….. The ‘Wild West’ was as much as books have lead me to believe, lacking much in authoritative order from a legislative body. Justice dealt with at the hands of non-ordained men and often lacking an official trial, in contrast to the settled Eastern regions

dan April 19, 2011 at 1:55 am

And, I cannot extract the hostilities between Natives and settlers as a variable in the equation.
I would also agree with another post on the improbability of a Libertarian society or a type of society free of a governing body to hold off an invading army. While Guerilla warfare may ensue, the invading army, well trained and equipped by a centralized govt is likely to prevail and hold the territory, informally.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 1:58 am

“I am likely to surmise the return of the wild west”

I wish. I’m tired of all the incivility we have today.

dan April 19, 2011 at 2:02 am

I struck a nerve.

And of the ablility for a likely undisciplined army of banded together individuals to fend off a modern day army absent of a ‘SuperPower’ who intervenes?

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 2:37 am

“And of the ablility for a likely undisciplined army of banded together individuals”

Why don’t you throw “drunken” and “naked” in that list of adjectives too? Let’s just think of all the ways in which we know for sure people would NOT organize themselves for the defense of their lives and families? What’s the use of a straw man, after all, if it isn’t easy to knock down?

Everyday Anarchist April 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Statist America vs stateless Somalia is not an appropriate comparison. An appropriate comparison would be statist Somalia vs stateless Somalia.

vikingvista April 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Exactly.

muirgeo April 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Yes maybe Somalia is comical but isn’t it also a bit comical that you can’t point to any society that runs on libertarian principles. NOT ONE. If it works so well don’t you think society would have evolved that way such that almost all the most successful societies would be run in such a fashion. IMO the feudal system basically is the natural result of setting up a society in a libertarian fashion. Likewise the next closest thing occurred with the industrial revolution which culminated in world wide revolutions as so many people are left behind in any system that approaches any form of unregulated market system.

You guys seriously believe a libertarian society would be the best possible with absolutely no supporting evidence. It’s a belief based on faith alone. What evidence does exist suggest libertarianism if adopted would basically result in a very unstable society. Why would 90 % of people settle for a system that basically favors 5 or 10% with such lope-sided rewards and privileged?

Methinks1776 April 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Why would 90 % of people settle for a system that basically favors 5 or 10% with such lope-sided rewards and privileged?

Good question, fool.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

“but isn’t it also a bit comical that you can’t point to any society that runs on libertarian principles. NOT ONE”

The principles of limited government, individual liberty, rule of law and property? Sounds like America when it was founded. But you’re right, I can’t think of one ;)

Daniel Kuehn April 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Can’t double dip buddy. If you want to claim a constitutional liberal state that provides for the general welfare, you can’t simultaneously claim anarchy and libertarianism.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“Claiming anarchy”? “constitutional liberal state that provides for the general welfare”?

You’re a master of meaningless phrases, aren’t ya?

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:33 am

Time to pull federalist papers and statements from Madison in regards to the attempted misleading by libby’s on ‘general welfare’.

Arcaster April 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

“If it works so well don’t you think society would have evolved that way such that almost all the most successful societies would be run in such a fashion.”

Is society done evolving?

“Why would 90 % of people settle for a system that basically favors 5 or 10% with such lope-sided rewards and privileged?”

Many people in that 5 or 10% got that way by offering a service or product that people valued more than the money they exchanged for said service or product. They made everyone’s lives better while earning their “lope-sided rewards.”

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

The feudal system was not of the libertarian-like model.

90% settling a system that favors 5% to 10% …… Which is why there is huge rebuking of Obama and dem policies …. Obamacare is precisely that…. Affirmative action is precisely that…..income taxes is precisely that (over 50% no longer pay income taxes)….. Socialism is precisely that…..

crossofcrimson April 19, 2011 at 8:29 am

“Yes maybe Somalia is comical but isn’t it also a bit comical that you can’t point to any society that runs on libertarian principles. ”

In a related story, not being able to point to a successful democratic society before one was formed would have apparently provoked your outright opposition to it.

Dan S April 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

The desire for leaders begets the desire for heroes to clean-up the mess which leaders make on our behalf. And to paraphrase Matt Ridley, any system which requires heroes is fundamentally flawed.

mmortal03 April 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I’m curious, which Ridley book you are referring to? I interpret your comment to mean that one shouldn’t hold in high regard the idea that we can vote in a new round of “heroes” into Washington and have them solve our problems. That being said, might your paraphrase here also be a critique of a stateless society? If your definition of hero is “one who sticks his neck out for a moral cause”, wouldn’t a well-functioning stateless society also require that there be everyday “heroes” who choose to give to charity and help the less fortunate?

JohnK April 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

Those who will use force and fraud to get their way are not people who will follow society’s law unless there is threat of violence for violating it.

They need a strongman is needed to keep them in line.

Except that they tend to become the strongman or one of his henchmen.

Then who keeps them in line?

Everyday Anarchist April 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

That’s the dilemma statists face. If people are good, then there is no need for rulers. If people are evil, then the rulers will be evil.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:37 am

Men are not angels and are in need of an arbiter , but the very men who arbitrate,who are not angels, require limitations on their judgements and guidance (agreed upon standards).

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 1:23 am

You are working your way into an infinite regress.

dan April 19, 2011 at 1:29 am

Just regurgitating the Federalist #51.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 3:04 am

“Just regurgitating the Federalist #51.”

Never turn to Madison, or his brother in crime Hamilton, for logical answers. He’s the one who got us into this mess.

Who limits the arbiters? Who limits the limiters of the arbiters? Who limits the limiters of the limiters of the arbiters?

Will the arbiters, divided and at odds, limit themselves? Whatever their disagreements, they all agree to promote the arbiters. That’s hardly a benefit to the non-arbiters.

There is no solution to the problems of monopoly, other than competition.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 3:18 am

See , there I appreciate the less condescending response. Thank you.
I may agree with you on Libertarian aspects but am not convinced that our current system cannot be salvaged.

JohnK April 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

“Who limits the arbiters? Who limits the limiters of the arbiters? Who limits the limiters of the limiters of the arbiters?”

In a system where there is Rule of Law the arbiters limit themselves based upon the Law. In the case of the USA that Law would be the Constitution.

But when the limitations on the arbiters are interpreted so broadly so that they may as well not exist, you get Rule of Man.

Which is the system we have in place now.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm

“the arbiters limit themselves based upon the Law.”

I know the Monopolists promised–even put their hands on a Bible and swore publicly–but clearly the incentive to keep one’s promise is considerably less influential than the incentives inherent in Monopoly.

Madison designed for us a system that ultimately depends upon Monopolists keeping their promises not to pursue their own interests. Madison was not a wise man.

JohnK April 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm

v v – That’s why I like the Heinleinian bicameral legislature where one house writes legislation and the other’s sole power is to repeal it. Madison’s vision was for the judiciary to do that.

Now the judiciary’s role is not to strike down legislation that violates the constitution, but to clarify, interpret and defend legislation against those who support the constitution.

vikingvista April 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Heinlein’s model wouldn’t work. It would be in the best interests of both houses to come to an understanding for the expansion of the Monopoly of which they are both a part. Madison thought he could establish a Monopoly, and overcome its obvious abuses by pitting its members against one another. But that can’t work, because they all have one thing they can agree on.

There is no substitute for competition. It is the ONLY solution to the abuses of monopoly. When all competition is violently suppressed, monopolistic abuses will most definitely follow.

carlsoane April 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm

JohnK:
When a child has a mother who always cleans up his messes he ends up acting more irresponsibly than a child who has to clean up his own messes. Might the same incentive affect the behavior of a house of government that does not have to clean up its own messes?

anton April 18, 2011 at 10:48 am

While one word for “absence of centralized power” is “anarchy”, a much better one would be the greek word “isonomia”: a society governed by general laws equally applicable to all.

vikingvista April 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I recognize one law–the law of agreement.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:42 am

Unfortunately, in the US we do not have equal application of laws. From the recent, I am sure used before, waivers on Obamacare to affirmative action, and so on…..

Scott G April 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

Always glad to see another book recommendation. Anyone care to list their top five favorite books in the same genre as the book recommended in this post? I’d like to read more books in this area.

Don Boudreaux April 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

A Must-Read book in this genre is David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom (first published in 1973, but since revised). It is a gem among gems.

See also Yale Law Prof. Robert Ellickson’s 1991 book Order Without Law – a great book, but one that is misnamed, for the theme of Ellickson’s book is that order (I would say “law”) can and does exist without legislation.

DG Lesvic April 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Defining the free market as anarchy condemns it right from the start. It is not anarchy but a self-governing process, and, interference with it, with government, not itself government, but anti-government.

“Anarcho-libertarianism” is a distraction from the real problem. We don’t have to figure out how a pure free market would work, for it would figure that out for itself, nor convince the majority to live in it, any more than to shop in the same store with us. We just need the freedom to do so ourselves, to shop and let shop, live and let live, each in whichever shop or community he prefers.

So the problem is not the majority’s unwillingness to live in a free market, but to let others do so, not the fear that the non-aggression principle wouldn’t work, but work too well, against its own aggression, plunder and redistribution; and, the task, then, not to show the majority that the market could work, but that its redistributive interventions in it could not.

David Friedman once discussed that issue with me, behind closed doors, but won’t do so any more, out in the open.

DG Lesvic April 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm

And, by the way, his father also commented on my theory.

He didn’t like it because it wasn’t mathematical.

And that is the real and only purpose of mathematics in economics, as a pretext for avoiding real issues.

DG Lesvic April 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

And, of course, as a barrier to entry, and license to practise economics.

Mao_Dung April 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm

The crackpots always come out of the woodwork. It is when they are given respectability and vast power, like Rep. Paul Ryan, is when I worry the most.

vikingvista April 18, 2011 at 9:39 pm

“It is not anarchy but a self-governing process”

You clearly didn’t read DB’s post.

DG Lesvic April 19, 2011 at 12:22 am

What is that supposed to mean?

DG Lesvic April 19, 2011 at 12:25 am

Oh, sorry, my mistake. I thought DB was Daniel Kuehn. Of course it was Don Boudreaux. No, I read it and agree with it.

I always agree with DB.

Scott G April 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Thanks Don. I just bought both Ellickson’s and Benson’s book.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:47 am

I can see hoe the market can find order minus an authoritative body legislating regulation, but I do not see how social order is maintained void of the many losses of personal liberties and lack of civility to address grievances.

E.G. April 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I don’t quite understand the point the author of the letter is trying to make about Greek anarchism, or why he is necessarily relating it to the Greek communists. The Greek communists are not anarchists. The “anarchist” elements in Greece are the remnants of the typical Balkan “bandit gangs”, something not necessarily related to crime, but rather to groups of peoples and villages operating outside the Ottoman system for centuries. At least, the mentality is still there.Not everything in modern Greece today is romantic. Often, its some banality of recent times.

As for the topic of the Don’s post, it is interesting to note the level to which people outside of the US (if you think you have a problem here in the US, you have no idea how far less this notion has penetrated than elsewhere), have an absolute belief in the need for leaders, management and guidance from the top. They don’t even do it consciously. I was having a conversation with someone from my country the other day, on the topic of local mayoral elections, to which I expressed that the problem was not one party or another but that these people have way too much power over us. His reply was “so you’re saying that we don’t need leaders? But who is going to manage us? Where are we going to get our ideas?” Ughhh…I knew there was a good reason I left that place.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 12:52 am

I agree on the point of of individuals in other countries who believe in ‘leaders’ to govern, but they go too far into viewing these leaders as parental units who always know what is best or are privy to complicated information far too beyond the capacity of the ‘children’ (the governed) to address.

Dano April 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Somalia does have a government: http://www.hiiraan.com/news2/2010/nov/somali_prime_minister_unveiled_his_cabinet.aspx

The deputy prime minister is a GMU grad.

Doc Merlin April 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

“Deputy Prime Minister-ship posts are given to three competent newcomers. Hon. Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, an Oxford educated and highly regarded politician from northern Somalia (Somaliland) will be Deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister.”

From the link you posted.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 1:12 am

Violence does work? To bring about a type of order? Sure, but not an order which would emphasis civility or advancement of society like that we have seen .

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 2:17 am

Don’t most libertarians believe violence is necessary to preserve liberty?

Dan April 19, 2011 at 2:20 am

U tell me.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 2:26 am

Not much into settling ownership dispute of a sheep by duel.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 2:43 am

“Not much into settling ownership dispute of a sheep by duel.”

I don’t know anyone who is. And yet somehow you think that would be the order to emerge. People voluntary organize to accomplish goals they don’t want. With that as the foundational nonsense of your understanding, it is no wonder you “think” the way you do.

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 2:40 am

“U tell me.”

Okay. They do.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 2:58 am

My, my. I have been thinking incorrectly. I have been thinking of the biggest contributor to this site as having patience.

I am quite unsure of the order that would emerge. I am not convinced that the order to emerge would be one unlike areas of Detroit.

What type of order is likely to emerge than. As another has condescended to me, allude to a Hollywood portrayal, if you will.
Would you say that a libertarian society is likely to put forth a military as disciplined and equipped, as the US, to deter enemies from plundering the region?

vikingvista April 19, 2011 at 3:14 am

As equipped? I certainly hope not. That phenomenal level of waste and overkill would be unlikely to happen if people could choose how to spend their money.

As for discipline–young people voluntarily engage in highly disciplined endeavors all the time. Discipline is not a creation of the state.

Nor for that matter, is the survival instinct.

Dan April 19, 2011 at 2:31 am

Humor me. What do you suppose the likelihood of matching the tech and/or industrial advancements in a libertarian society?

Dan April 19, 2011 at 3:22 am

That is …… Matching today’s level of advancements with a libertarian society? Or better?

Dan April 19, 2011 at 3:26 am

Discipline on that same level?

KD April 19, 2011 at 4:05 am

Speaking as a big fan of video games, the Fallout series is an interesting hypothetical world without archons, especially how it came to be.

Gil April 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

Then again I couldn’t imagine Starcraft without Archons. It’s a shame the Dark Archons don’t appear in Starcraft 2.

John Kannarr April 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

He sat at a table, and the light of his lamp fell on the copy of an ancient document. He had marked and crossed out the contradictions in its statements that had once been the cause of its destruction. He was now adding a new clause to the pages: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade …”

- Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Count among the contradictions and failures of that document, the Constitution of the United States, such vague clauses as “provide for the general welfare” that have allowed for the expansion of centralized power and the development of the welfare state and crony capitalism. Some people will always try to gain by force that which they can’t honestly earn or create, and the easiest and safest way to do so is to use the power of the unconstrained state, always claiming to act for the benefit of the common good, of course.

Ken April 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm

To commit the really big crimes, you need a state to back your play.

vikingvista April 20, 2011 at 9:41 pm

True. People accept a state to suppress crime, but what it instead does is take crime to a whole new level.

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