Many market anarchists continue to embrace the paradigm of the political movement. They believe that the society they favor can only come about when enough people have been persuaded of the benefits or moral correctness of such a society. Thus they seek to build a movement.
I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that there is no market anarchist movement and there is never going to be a market anarchist movement. Better mass marketing of market anarchist principles will not advance market anarchism. Rational evangelism will not convert the masses, or even a critical mass of individuals, to market anarchism.
The entire project of building a movement is misguided and of no use to market anarchists. The impulse to build a movement is collectivist in nature; it is rooted in an egalitarian and even democratic view of society. The idea is that when enough people come to see what is truly in their common interest, they will voluntarily cooperate to secure that common interest. It’s not terribly surprising that many would have difficulty escaping this mindset, it’s not far from the democratic ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers, ideals that we are taught to revere from an early age. But these democratic ideals are not appropriate to market anarchism and they will not advance it.
Did I say there was good news? The good news is that a movement is unnecessary.
It’s difficult to get this idea across to those still stuck with the paradigm of the political movement. They tend to not even hear it. In A Porcupine’s Worth Is His Price I wrote:
advocates of anarcho-capitalism think that to achieve liberty from government
we need to convince a majority or some critical number of people that
anarcho-capitalist society will be better for them than governed society.
Bob Murphy saw in this passage only a “compulsive need”, on my part, “to engage in product differentiation”. He asks “How are these two statements different? You’re claiming that there isn’t some critical number of people necessary to become free?”
I was trying to say plainly that it is not necessary to persuade a critical number of people of the merits of market anarchism in order for people to become too expensive to govern. The question, along with other evidence, persuades me that the message is not being heard. I’m accused of being a fatalist because I say there will be no movement. I’m accused of being a cynic because I say that rational evangelism won’t work. But I’m neither a fatalist nor a cynic. I’m an optimist.
How can market anarchism come about without a movement? This is the essential question that is asked again and again. But the question is almost always asked rhetorically, the person asking is not looking for an answer because he’s already decided that none is possible. So when an answer is offered that answer tends not to be heard, or else it is quickly forgotten.
I asked the same question, looking for answers. And there are answers. That’s the good news.
There is a model of voluntary collective action appropriate to market anarchism. It is business.
A business is not held together by a rational argument persuading individuals to pursue a common goal; a business must primarily appeal directly to the self-interest of employees and customers. A successful business must deliver value to both employees and customers on an ongoing basis.
A business does not require a critical number of participants; in some cases very small groups of individuals can produce dramatic results within the framework of a business.
Consider Assassination Politics. I do not advocate AP because I do not think it would operate as its creator intends; I offer it only as an example of an approach to advancing market anarchism. If AP worked as intended people would become too expensive to govern, since those who sought to govern could expect to pay with their lives. There would be no need to persuade people to use AP; they would use it out of self-interest.
In theory, a small team, perhaps even an individual, could implement the guts of AP. The full implementation of it would require a business, but certainly not a huge business. The project would be quite lucrative, which is why certain individuals would be willing to attempt it. And this business would change the world, assuming that AP worked as advertised. Look Ma: No movement.
AP is not the answer, but it is the right kind of answer. It’s a business.
What kind of businesses can advance market anarchism? Businesses which make people more expensive to govern. Businesses which offer their customers the means to protect their property and their persons from government. One of the highest leverage possibilities is a business that offers its customers the means to shield their income from taxation. Taxes become voluntary to the extent that individuals can avoid them, and when taxes become sufficiently voluntary governments must fail. What is the incentive for businesses to offer such services? Such businesses would be going after a piece of the same massive revenue stream that governments now control, the financial rewards would be immense.
I don’t expect one business to step forward with a turnkey solution for individual freedom. Rather I expect lots of businesses to attempt to carve out their own share of that revenue stream, each of them making people a little bit more expensive to govern. The cumulative effect will be the same.
If you can provide people with the means to protect their property and their persons from government you won’t need to waste any breath persuading them to do so. They will overwhelmingly do so out of self-interest, regardless of their political views.
Government can be seen as an attempt to solve public goods problems by punishing those who defect from cooperating with the collective. The problem with this solution is that we become prisoners of government. Our Prisoner’s Dilemma is that we’d all be better off if we collectively defected from government, but individually we can incur severe penalties for defection.
The solution to the dilemma is to introduce agencies which can reap tremendous rewards for protecting individuals from the penalties government can inflict, businesses, which can reap tremendous rewards for enabling their clients to defect from government without penalty.
Worry about marketing market anarchy when you have a viable business plan.
Forget movements. The business of market anarchy is business.
June 19, 2002
|John T. Kennedy is a software engineer living in Connecticut. He is the editor of No Treason and has written for Strike the Root. John is overbooked and thoroughly spoken for.|