A week before the writing of this article, I wrote another that stated that we should privatize the police. When people hear that, they think of the anarcho-capitalist idea of the same name. The difference between that and mine is monumental.
The AnCap idea is to have communities or, more likely, corporations hire a police force similar to the ones we have now. They would keep the streets free of crime. The problem is that said police would be used to collect rent and would ban squatting. They’d perform roughly the same functions as state police, with the caveat that they’re privately funded. These police wouldn’t be so kind to those on the streets and, with private courts, the people they interact with may get unfairly long sentences.
The idea I present, instead, is one where individuals hire a group to protect their personal property (including their person and their family) from criminals. These security workers would protect the fruits of your labor while you were away. Street and road companies (and cooperatives) would also be able to hire a private defense agency of this kind.
The difference between these two approaches is best illustrated by comparing two thinkers on the issue. On the one hand, the Rothbardian idea of private police imagines a police force similar to the state run version. Tuckerite private defense agencies, on the other hand, defend your personal property without being beholden to corporations or other larger forces. One could lead to a fascist state whereas the other would not.
A society where each business could create its own laws would be open to one business acquiring all the others and establishing its own authoritarian state. Unlike an individualist anarchist society with mutual banks, an AnCap society would not have the infrastructure in place to allow the people to acquire the funds to establish their own businesses, leading to a situation where some people are unable to become associate producers, and would instead be wage slaves.
Alternatively, the only law to govern an individualist anarchist society is what Lysander Spooner called the natural law. This law is known by children, it is known by men and women, it was known by ancient peoples, and it shall be known by future peoples. It is ten words. “An individual shall not violate the property of another individual.”
This natural law would be the only law in an individualist anarchist society. It will be the law the private defense agencies will follow and the law the people will follow. It criminalizes the actions that violate property rights which I call the Six Crimes. They are arson, assault, murder, rape, pedophilia, and theft. The punishment for all but one is compensation and restitution. Murderers (including those who attempt murder) would be sent to a community-owned prison funded through voluntary taxation if they are found guilty after their lawyer argues their case. A jury at the local community-owned courthouse (also funded through voluntary taxation) shall decide what the rate of compensation or restitution is for non-murder crimes after hearing the case.
The private defense agency would be similar to how ADT works now. For a monthly subscription, they’d give you a sign to stick in your yard to let would-be criminals know that your home is being protected by one of a few thousand defense firms. They would also have an emergency contact number that subscribers could call for free and non-subs would have to pay a small fee for. The competition between so many firms would make the subscription and fee low while also having quick response times and better quality service. They wouldn’t kill as that could hurt subscription rates and could also increase their insurance costs.
There is another substitute for the police which we can call the “Watchmen.” The Watchmen would patrol the streets, deter crime, and defend the personal property of the local community. They would be composed of local citizens, funded through donations (thus forcing them to have high quality service), and membership would be voted on by the local community. This will deter any bad apples from getting in. If someone is racist and wants to join, the community can veto them.
An anarchist society would still be defended and wouldn’t be a chaotic mess. It would have low levels of crime and wouldn’t have to deal with the slaughtering of minorities done by the gang of criminals we have the misfortune to call our police force. The free market ensures quality and low prices, and a free market defense industry would provide us with the world class protection we deserve.
The Center for a Stateless Society (www.c4ss.org) is a media center working to build awareness of the market anarchist alternative
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