Political philosophy begins with the question: who should have political authority and why? Anarchism answers: no one. Popular mythology tells us this is synonymous with chaos and disorder, but there are many reasons to doubt this must be so. In this episode, I argue that anarchism – properly understood – is in fact the correct answer to the problem of political authority; it is the only answer that avoids unjust hierarchies, provides for individual and social freedom, and optimizes for general welfare. This is because, in a word, society is best seen (and run) as a web, not as a pyramid.
Much of my focus is on specifying what I mean by anarchism, and which version of anarchism I’m arguing for. Specifically, I argue that the notion of a free market – again, properly understood – is at the heart of anarchism. At the same time, I argue against “capitalism” as being a confused and rather unhelpful notion, quite removed from the notion of a free market. I also argue against popular libertarian approaches to free markets and anarchism, such as the so-called “non-aggression principle” and property rights. Instead, I zero in on a notion of free market defined as a cultural norm in which monopolies are viewed as unacceptable. Only this definition, I argue, properly communicates what a free market really is and only it provides the necessary conditions for a free and prosperous society. It is, at the same time, a maximally permissive definition: it requires no particular views on interpersonal ethics or lifestyle, and is as compatible with (for example) communism as it is with more familiar notions of “free markets”.…
What gives some people the right to put others in prison? Is prison – and the criminal justice system generally – an ethically permissible method for dealing with criminality?
Individualist anarchist and prison abolitionist Jason Lee Byas goes over the common justifications for the prison system and explains why none of them succeed. Specifically, he covers the doctrines of retributivism (specifically desert retributivism and expressive retributivism), deterrence, rehabilitation, and rights forfeiture, arguing against each. In place of prison, Byas proposes a tort system of restitution. Monetary restitution may not be sufficient to right the wrong of a crime, says Byas; but it is all that the law should mandate, leaving other desired correction or compensation up to community-based initiatives (Byas cites restorative justice as an example of the sort of institutions that can take the place of those corrective aspects of criminal justice that retribution does not address). Byas also explains how a system of monetary restitution can get around problems of class-based inequality (for example, if someone is so rich that they don’t mind having to pay to commit a crime, or if someone is so far in debt that another dent wouldn’t matter). Finally, he explains how violent offenders who pose an “ongoing threat” might be handled in his preferred system.
Economist Bryan Caplan breaks down the law into three components: rule formation, arbitration, and enforcement. For all three, he provides examples of how these are already provided without the state in many contexts. He also explains the theoretical reasons we shouldn’t be surprised to find law provided without the state, usually better than the state does. He goes on to speculate how the law could be provided if there were no state at all. Finally, he considers two common objections: that law without the state leads to chaos, and that providers of legal services in a world without the state will inevitably collude and come together to form a new state.
1:14 – Non-state law that already exists
2:23 – Innovation in the creation of new rules (copyright)
5:11 – Private enforcement of law: private security, ostracism, bonds
7:32 – Private arbitration and private rule formation
9:13 – Benefits of competition
13:54 – Expanding role of contracts
19:03 – Private law without contracts
20:24 – Law without any government
27:34 – Collusion objection and economies of scale
29:27 – Tyler Cowen’s collusion argument from network industries