Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Geoffrey Sampson - Why Anarcho- Capitalism is a Non-Starter

An interesting article that appeared in The Journal of the Libertarian Alliance way back in 1980. Sampson makes much the same point I do: what anarcho-capitalists like to refer to as "Private Military Companies" or "Private Police Forces" have already been tried in the real world and found wanting - they're called Mafias and Warlord factions. One has to be naive in the extreme to believe that a body of men with more firepower than others around it would be content to leave those outside their circle at peace to enjoy their possesions, and it is just as naive to expect an equilibrium of forces to rapidly be achieved, or even that when it is achieved, the end result will be anything other than the same old state ACs set out to abolish. People who cling to such follies should examine not just the millenium-long history of feudalism in Europe, but also the 400+ years of feudal warfare in Japan before the Tokugawa shogunate, and also the several occasions in Chinese history when centralized authority broke down, right from the Warring States Period right down to the "Warlordism" of the early decades of the 20th Century.

One might well ask what it is about anarcho-capitalism that bothers me so much that I should repeatedly criticize it, and the answer is straightforward: by putting forward ideas which are so clearly unworkable, anarcho-capitalists help to deligitimize libertarianism as a whole, by providing an easy target in the same manner that hard-left types do for advocates of social democracy. Whether or not one thinks it fair, it is a fact of life that one is judged by the company one keeps, and marching in lockstep with fools and lunatics is a pretty good way to get oneself branded a fool and a lunatic as well.