Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The "What If" Disease

Many statists suffer from the dreaded "What If" disease. This disease afflicts statists who understand the superiority of the market anarchist model and seek to rationalize their denial. It is not known yet whether this disease is permanent. The goal of the afflicted is to pepper the anarchist with hypothetical "What If" questions, ostensibly designed to point out a flaw of the model, but which, in reality, almost always exposes the statist's beliefs for the travesty that they are.

Here are some examples:

* "What if... one company becomes so powerful that it monopolizes everything? Then they would become tyrannical and take over society."

This is a common rationalization. It also exposes the statist very neatly, because we already have a monopoly - it's called the state. His worst-case scenario is exactly what he believes in, a monopoly of power! He is revealing here that he finds his own beliefs undesirable, or is simply lying.

The market anarchist theory answer is that monopolies only arise in a limited set of circumstances: when the resources needed to produce are too rare, when the demand is too low, when only one product is good enough for consumer use. But by far the biggest cause of monopolies, trusts, and other undesirable situations of this sort, is the state.

* "What if... those agencies that have all the guns, decide to bump their competition off... there'll be fighting in the streets!"

By far, the biggest agency of violence is the state. True, there are plenty of criminals going around, but the state brings us war - which is nothing more than generalized violence engendered by the state. Corporations do not go around killing people on the streets, because they are accountable for their actions, unlike governments which can kill with impunity. In a market anarchy, this would not change.

The only thing that stops politicians from declaring war is the threat of nuclear force, because they personally could be under danger from such weapons. This is why they seek to suppress nuclear development in other countries. They know that the more nuclear bombs spread, the least possibilities they have to do war - at least, until a counter is found.

* "What if... people decide to trade with big corporations and give them all the power?"

Actually, we already have this going on right now. For example, people prefer to shop at big chains rather than mom and pop stores. Why? Because the big chains are more efficient, have more buying power and leverage, and thus provide lower prices. People go shop there because they get more. It's as simple as that! If the chains stop providing what people want, people will go somewhere else. The fact that a corporation is big or small does not change the fact that, unlike the state, it is accountable to its customers.


What is missing in all these "What If" attacks? An understanding of the incentives in each scenario, especially the fact that corporations, which are nothing more than groups of individuals cooperating towards a goal of production, are accountable, while states are not.

In the first scenario, the believer fails to grasp that the state is the biggest monopoly of all, and in the most dangerous domain of the economy - force. The state is already tyrannical and has taken over all aspects of society through its arbitrary laws, subsidies, artificial monopolies and trusts, and its deadly grip over education and health care. All that the scenario demonstrates, even if it was realistic (which it is not) is that the worst case scenario of a market anarchy is... statism! And this argument is supposed to convince us that statism is superior?

The other problem is that the scenario is not realistic. There has never been a monopoly in history implemented without government force. This is, in fact, quite an impossible scenario in the absence of severe constraints on resources or demand. Furthermore, consumers have no incentives to support a monopoly, because people know very well that monopolies are undesirable. For example, in Europe especially, there has been a backlash against Microsoft's growing market share - and it was only at 85%! Microsoft could never achieve a monopoly, simply because people don't want to be at the mercy of a monopoly, with higher prices and a lower quality of service.

In the second scenario, the statist is complaining about the power of agencies in a market anarchy. Once again, what he describes is the state: a group that has all the guns and tries to bump off its competition. Once again, what we have, at best, is a worst-case scenario, so it cannot convince us that statism is superior. The operation of statism, in all of recorded history, has been of war after war, when anarchies, while still violent, are considerably more peaceful. Statism is coercion.

In a market anarchy, the incentives for war are greatly reduced. Unlike the state, which can raise money and manpower relatively easily at little cost to itself, any person or group who desires to wage war against others must pay for the cost of weapons, wages and damages. Unlike the state, which can use its propaganda front doors to spread lies and deception in its subservient society, such a person or group must also convince others that the cause is good enough to die for, or at least get maimed for. Finally, unlike the statist system wherein war can be needed to maintain the legitimacy of the state, people in a market anarchy have no legitimacy reasons to wage war.

In short, the error of the statist arguments discussed above lie in their confusion between the state and agencies in a market anarchy. In a market anarchy, there can be no such thing as a state by definition. Individuals in a market anarchy, therefore, are subject to extremely different incentives, ones which are based on personal freedom and responsibility. This means that the total depravity and irresponsibility or the state cannot be imputed to such individuals.

7 comments:

Aaron Kinney said...

Wow Franc, this is good! Its especially an excellent resource for use at essembly. I love how you clearly explained that the statists solution to their monopoly fear is a ..... state monopoly!!! How brilliant! Ive been trying to express these ideas previously but you've given me a great way to explain it now.

Good job!

doinkicarus said...

I'd agree with aaron. That was f*cking brilliant.

Francois Tremblay said...

Gee doinkicarus, I thought you were never going to agree with me. ;)

doinkicarus said...

LOL - no francois, I agree with you on a great number of things. I checked out your other website and I have read more than a few of the articles on there and I'm slowly integrating them with my own constructs - I was writing a tad on my lunch break, and this afternoon when I got home, I sat down & read one of Rothbard's chapters. Surprise: I had very closely synthesized some of his own analysis.

Rest assured, I'm coming around...

Marc Stevens said...

Excellent article Francois.

What I would also point out is a "corporation" in a voluntary society would be very different than what there is now.

Two points:

1. I don't believe corporations could get as large without government.

2. Each person comprising the corporation would be individually responsible for their actions as there would be no "corporate veil" as there is now.

Marc Stevens
http://adventuresinlegalland.com

Marc Stevens said...

Excellent article Francois.

What I would also point out is a "corporation" in a voluntary society would be very different than what there is now.

Two points:

1. I don't believe corporations could get as large without government.

2. Each person comprising the corporation would be individually responsible for their actions as there would be no "corporate veil" as there is now.

Marc Stevens
http://adventuresinlegalland.com

Francois Tremblay said...

Marc, that is very true. The notion of personal responsibility would no doubt be much more present than it is today.