I’ve not posted here for a couple of weeks, which has been for a variety of reasons. Basically, I’ve not had much of interest to post. My AS exams are fast approaching so I’m busy preparing for those, which means that ADFA has not really got started (although a few of us will be going to hear Richard Stallman talk in Manchester next week, which I’m sure I’ll be able to blog about) and it also means that I’ve also not done any particularly interesting technical things. Another factor has been a fiasco involving a website, which I won’t elaborate on.
However, one thing I have been thinking about, is freedom in the wider world (ie. not just software freedom). I have always been a great supporter of peoples freedoms. Every human being has rights, yay for the the Geneva convention etc. Of course, I thought, some rights are more important than others. And we need a government to intervene when different people’s freedoms/rights collide. As far as I understood politics, I considered myself a liberalist – individual freedom is very important, which, in my opinion, includes the rights to be happy, well educated etc.
The government, of course, restricts our freedoms: takes our money and stops us doing things, even when those aren’t harmful to other people. Of course, I have always accepted, and been taught to accept this as necessary to safeguard, other more important rights. However, I’ve recently been made aware by Daniel and Kevin on the libervis IRC channel to the possibility of a stable society without government. The idea being that although every person has fundamental rights (to life, liberty and property), those rights are enforced not by one single monopolistic* organisation, but by the free market. That is, if someone violates your rights you can hire a company to recoup damages off him. Also, people who do immoral things will become known for doing so (increasingly easy in the age of the internet) so people will not “do business with them”**. This concept is called anarcho-captitalism (an-cap for short) or the laissez-faire market.
Anarcho-capitalism, as long as it remained stable, would protect most of peoples rights, in fact most even more so than our current system. However, even if it were to be stable, my main doubt is whether it would discriminate against poor people. I’ve always been a great fan of the public health and education service we have in the UK – the same services for all; but of course, you would not have these without a government and taxation.
The answer to this, I guess, is that all people would be able to afford these services through a combination of charity, sponsorship and providing some kind of service. The last is the kind of idea that poorer people would get affordable healthcare and schooling by agreeing to take part in scientific studies etc, to be monitored. Whilst this idea my actually work, in my mind, the concept conjures up images of poorer people having to earn the medicine they need to stay alive by being human guinea pigs and being subjected to all sort of chemicals. I guess, once again, it falls down to the fact that there would be a free market. People would be able to vote with their feet against the things that they do not like and would be able to support things they do think are right through charity. In fact, I think that if people weren’t taxed, people would naturally be more generous, and unlike the way that taxation works, would donate to the causes that really matter to them.
Of course, one of the other arguments is that in an an-cap society there would be less poverty, so there would not be so much of an issue. However, I am not yet so convinced about this; although lack of government restrictions in this area would be good in many ways.
One of my biggest issues with the practicality of anarcho-capitalism, although a really great ideal, is the fact that it depends on people making thought through choices, preventing any bad things by making the right decisions about who to do business with. I’m not sure if a lot of people are capable of making that decision for themselves, at least not as they are. For it to work smoothly, an an-cap society seems to require better more conscientious people – doubleplushuman.
Perhaps a lot of people would be willing to become more active. In fact a lot of the reason people don’t care now, is because they have the government to look after them, but, as they often point out, the government doesn’t really listen to them. And, one of the greatest things about anarcho-capitalism, is the free choice. If you want to, you can choose your own government (a corporation who will look after you, in return for a tax-like fee), or even establish small idealistic groups. (If you and friends bought a plot of land, no-one would stop you setting up a commune there!) The whole point is, people would have the choice as to how they want to live. A great dream, but one that will take quite a while to achieve (its about evolution not revolution) and one that I’m not even sure is practical yet.
* That’s something that I find really ironic. The fact that I naturally dislike and disapprove of massive corporations which have way too much power and control, and yet, have accepted the government, which is by its very definition a monopoly, without a moments thought.
However, one of the problems you could suggest with a free market, is the tendency for monopolistic businesses to grow. But, monopolies tend to use government contracts and legislation to their advantage. In anarcho-capitalism, it would be much easier for new, smaller businesses to compete.
** When there is no government, “do business” can mean a lot more than trade. If someone initiates force against somewhere else, the majority of a town might forbid him to use there land as a path and he would become an outcast.
So there you have it, another quasi-essay, another splurge of my thoughts on the web. But, for once, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, I’m still trying to work out where I really stand in the messy landscape of real world politics.
However, if you are interested, take a look at the philosiphy of liberty flash animation and there is also the Wikipedia article, and further information can be found here, here, here and here. My thoughts on the issue have been heavily influenced by Daniel’s and Kevin’s blogs.