June 4, 2019

Bob Murphy's Peaceful Folly

Economist and libertarian theorist Robert P. Murphy will debate historian and libertarian podcaster Thomas E. Woods on the viability of pacifism in a private property based legal and social order.  Murphy claims that enforcement mechanisms in a stateless society will be largely peaceful due to the incentive structures found in strict liability as well as the discipline of continuous market competition in the absence of state monopoly.

While a libertarian society will predictably be more peaceful than the status quo, the capacity to do violence is necessary to the maintenance of a private property society.  Here are some thoughts as to why this is so.

Sun Tzu:

War is…the ground of survival or extinction…one cannot but consider it…

Von Clausewitz:  

War is politics by other means…


Even if you have no interest in politics.  Politics has an interest in you.

You don’t have to outrun the bear.

The case for a libertarian social order, superior to the status quo, is made relatively easily.  

After all, when chased in the woods by a predatory beast, one needn't outrun the bear, just be faster than the next slowest runner.  So too, libertarian theory need not rise above a Nirvana standard to create a veritable heaven on earth, but simply prove more peaceful and just than a monopoly, state-based, legal order.  

As Hans-Herman Hoppe has rightly pointed out when private property is the inviolable center of legal order the main drivers pitting social classes against each other, while the ruling elite divide and rule, come to an end.  Gone will be the coercive redistribution of private property, in the form of taxation and welfare programs, socialist security pensions, and interventions upon productive industries.

Without coercive transfers from the productive to the parasites of society, people will be rightly incentivized to generate goods and create value for others because they cannot earn their living through political agitation.  Without being able to rely upon the state to give them the loot stolen from others in the name of ‘basic government services', most of the media propaganda will also cease, or at least be pushed to the fringes of civil society.

A libertarian social order will most certainly be more peaceful than things under the present arrangement. However, it is quite another thing to claim that private property can be secured through pacifism and a complete aversion to violence.

To be sure, “rights enforcement agencies” will be compelled through self-interest, profit motive, and the discipline of continuous dealings with their network of contracted relationships to behave responsibly.  An enforcement agency’s insurance company, and that company’s reinsurance agency, will demand risk minimization in their operational conduct.  They will likely resort to peaceful means as their first option while taking enforcement action.

The expansion of economic integration, universal standards acting as a baseline for expansive relations while specialization will allow for greater diversity of dispute resolution bodes well for incentive people to act prudently, knowing peaceful remedies are available whenever disputes arise.  However, those who act impulsively, indulge their greed and envy, as well as those who just “want to see the world burn”, will disrupt the harmony of civilized people.  

Send in the bounty hunters. 

For a time, before I swore an oath to enforce state made legislation, I arrested bail jumpers on behalf of bondsmen.  In some instances, bail bondsmen will go after fugitives on their own.  Other times, they will offer a commission to bounty hunters, based on the value of the outstanding bond they are liable for. 

We bounty hunters only got paid when the fugitive was captured and delivered to the jail.  All the expenses involved in making the arrest detracted from our earnings, so speed and efficiency were essential to profitability. Further, bondsmen would frequently offer the commission to competing bounty hunters, even more so with the passage of time and the prospect of surrendering the full value of the bond as the fugitive’s court date approached.  

Therefore, bounty hunters are incentivized to arrest fugitives quickly while minimizing costs.  Failure to apprehend fugitives responsibly could result in criminal or civil liability.  The first thing we would do when notified by the bondsmen of a bail jumper is to verify the warrant for arrest.  Just because a bondsman believes they have the authority to arrest a bail jumper does not cover bounty hunters if they make an erroneous apprehension.  It is incumbent upon the individual bounty hunters to validate the arrest warrant as part of their operational due diligence.  

Once the warrant is verified, the bounty hunters still must track, find, and arrest the fugitive without committing crimes or violating the property of anyone other than the bail jumper.  Bounty hunters, for better or worse, must comply with all legislation dictating the possession of weapons.  We carried guns, pepper spray, and tasers but, again, we had to generally keep them concealed and avoid causing public disturbances.

To this end, the bounty hunter must resort to a variety of ruses and leverage in order to find and arrest bail jumpers expeditiously.  If the bondsmen were smart, they would hold collateral over the family or friends of the bail jumper.  In many cases, the cosigner of the bail arrangement puts up property equivalent to the bond's value and would often be willing to give the jumper's location to the bounty hunter.  In such cases, the bounty hunters gain an element of surprise and can affect the arrest when the jumper least suspects it, thereby minimizing the likelihood of a struggle.

Nevertheless, despite these potential liabilities, precautions, and risk minimizing tactics, bail jumpers oftentimes physically resist arrest.  They would run, they would fight, they would spit and swear, and we would use the force necessary to remand them into the custody of the court.  

This anecdote from my own life illustrates a fact of human nature embedded within political theory.  People that commit crimes have already exhibited an unwillingness to conform to expected norms of behavior.  Any concept of social organization must contend with this human proclivity.  

The best sword is kept in its sheath.  However…

Granted, in a private property based social and legal order, the incidents of crime and the drivers thereof would be greatly reduced.  One might reasonably envision drastic turns toward cooperation, increased material abundance and drastic advances in social harmony.

Nevertheless, human nature will persist.  Some people will covet the property justly held by another, the disutility of labor will induce some to prefer plunder or parasitism to production, and ego-driven enmity will fuel intraspecies conflict.  Those adhering to peaceful responses to conflict will allow the worst to get on top.    

Ludwig Von Mises summarized the foundation of civilization with one word: property.  Property rights form the logical boundaries of social order as well as the norms of expected behavior.  Not only does property create material abundance through production and trade but also the manners of personal interaction more conducive to social cooperation.  

In a private property based order, dealing with violators of expected norms will likely rely heavily upon ostracism as the primary mode of enforcing ‘social justice’.  Being closed off from the benefits of community, credit, and trade are increasingly strong motivators in a technologically advanced, complex, and global economy.  Modern communications allow transferring information about anti-social actors quickly across wide geographical areas.  Therefore, people will be rightly incentivized to conform with socially expected behaviors.

Restitution based justice will keep people working, despite their transgressions, and offer a clear path for returning to the realm of normalcy.  However, persistent anti-social recidivists will be deemed outside the protection of society and its security mechanisms.  

Anti-social actors, not the least of which are those institutionally agitating for hostility to private property, will need to be physically removed from society.  They will likely not go quietly.

Those who cannot use institutions of government, in a supposedly anarcho-capitalist private property centric social and legal order, may even engage in subterfuge and underhanded schemes in order to win public support for the reconstitution of a state-like apparatus.

Mike Gillette's Real Life Defense

All war is based on deception, as Sun Tzu rightly pointed out, and Von Clausewitz reminds us that politics and war are functional equivalents.  Praxeological political theory illustrates that all conflict, or hostile action, exists only in so far that resources are scarce.  In other words, all conflicts are over resources.

So long as people prefer leisure to labor there will be those that will seek to use “political means” to obtain their livelihood.  That is what Pericles implies by saying politics has an interest in you, meaning what you have, even if you have no interest in politics.  Inaction from the peaceful will result in them being overrun by the political.

Rules-based order begins within.

Property is the foundation of civilization.  Cultivating even the most basic resources and transforming raw materials into consumable goods relies upon an exclusive sphere of non-interference.  Original appropriation, trade, as well as gifts and charity rely upon this exclusive sphere.  

Having spent a lot of time in Asia, and Japan particularly, I find it interesting to note how shrines and temples have limited times in which they are open to the public.  These peaceful institutions will kick you out at closing time.  I even had a monk yell at me for idling my car in the parking lot.  When I was in Tibet I was also struck when I saw the lock kept on the door of the pantry that kept even the monks from taking food without permission.

Within the martial arts community, a story illustrates how internal order is essential to minimizing encroachment.  

In the aftermath of World War II the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, largely remained detached from active teaching in his rural retreat in Iwama, approximately two hours outside of Tokyo.  His son Kisshomaru maintained the Aikikai Foundation building but it was mostly being used to house people who had lost their homes due to aerial bombardment.  

In this vacuum, one of Ueshiba’s pre-war students, Gozo Shioda, began teaching Yoshinkan  Aikido in a separate location within Tokyo.  Since Japan’s productive capacity was mostly destroyed from the war and many people were destitute, the Yoshinkan headquarters had problems with shoes being stolen from the alcove where put would leave them before entering the dojo.

While some of the students wanted to post guards and talked of ruffing up the shoe thieves, Shioda looked at the situation introspectively.  Rather than expending tremendous energy on guarding against thievery, he noticed how carelessly and disorganized the shoes were left within the alcove during class.  He announced that such disorderly behavior invited crime and instructed his students to carefully arrange their shoes before entering the dojo.  Neat and orderly shoes in the alcove allowed for easily noticing if anything was out of place and the dojo ceased to have any shoe theft problems.

It is likely that greater order and strict discipline will prevail in a private law society.  This affirms Hans-Herman Hoppe’s assertion that a libertarian, private property based order aligns with conservative values, where institutions that constrain behavior will prevail.  It is more effective to make internal modification that dissuades crime than spend time, energy, and resources on engaging criminals.  This speaks to another dictum from Sun Tzu: “We should not count on our enemy not coming, but on our preparedness to receive them”.

Thankfully, for the thief, the story gives no indication as to what the Yoshinkan members would have done had the criminal been caught.  

Outsource but verify.

The security buyer must remain aware of what their agents are doing on their behalf and reserve the right and capability to expel recalcitrant security providers should the need arise.  Ultimately, contracted security, whether it be to an insurance company, mercenary, or governmental body can only be supplemental to what the individual or organization (like the Yoshinkan Dojo) does for themselves.  The individual right to keep and bear arms, as well as organize security alliances with those they find affinity with, can never be dispensed with no matter how peaceful a society becomes.  

Say what you will about Machiavelli’s cutthroat approach to politics, as a republican theorist, he accurately predated the American understanding that a citizen-based militia, consisting of the whole body of the people, trained to arms, and organized to execute the law, repel invasions, and suppress insurrections, is the natural defense of a free society.

Machiavelli highlighted the problems associated with contracting mercenaries in his Art of War.  These problems pertain to every conceivable libertarian model, whether it be subscription, insurance, or bundled security services.  Delegating the use of force carries with it a risk of slipping under the grasp of tyranny, that consumers ignore at their ultimate peril.  This is why Joe Stromberg posited that the defense of a free society would entail a “rough combination” of mercenaries and militia.

Even while seeking peaceful solutions, the capacity to do violence is essential to securing liberty.

The security of a “free state” can never dispense with an armed citizenry, capable of repelling the ambitions of any would-be tyrants, including the hired help that history has shown, across cultures and geography, tend to morph into rulers.  This is why Machiavelli quipped that good law, nor anything else that is good, can long survive without militia.

That is, the readiness, willingness, and capability to do violence through force of arms is indispensable for maintaining a free society.

Even while seeking peaceful solutions, the capacity to do violence is essential to securing liberty.

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