2010-10-25

Robert Murphy on Legal Anarchism

Robert Murphy has a good article in today's Mises Daily. He attempts to explain how legal appeals might occur in a stateless society. It is a good effort.

But anarchy is impossible.

In Murphy's world, whenever there are disputes, we could simply present our adversaries to choose from a list of local private-sector judges and make our cases evenly. The problem I have with anarchy is that this assumes everyone wants to comply with the ongoing dispute. What if someone refuses to participate? Well, here's Murphy's answer to that question:
But what if Thad didn't agree to any of the judges on my list? Suppose he recommended instead that we use his brother-in-law, who was actually a car mechanic but, according to Thad, "is a really stand-up guy"? Obviously every reasonable person in the community would see that Thad almost certainly was a thief, and that I was telling the truth. If I went to a reputable judge and presented my case against Thad in his absence, and if the judge agreed with me, then the community would have little sympathy for Thad if I went with professional repo men to retrieve my laptop from Thad's house.
This sounds peaceful enough, except that it is quite a grand euphemism for hiring a gang and stealing back the disputed laptop. Rand often criticized anarchy by reasoning that as soon as there was a legal dispute between what she called "two competing governments," the result was war. In the above quote, however nicely he phrases it, Murphy reiterates her point.

Anarchy would never fall apart as a result of people who can't cooperate with each other. The world is full of people who are happy and willing to cooperate. People are inherently good, or so I believe.

No, the reason anarchy is impossible is because as soon as someone engages in abhorrent behavior, the inevitable result is war. The state exists as a means to prevent this kind of state-of-nature warfare. It surprises me that so many modern "anarcho-capitalists" have forgotten the hard-learned lessons of the Enlightenment.