One of the hottest arguments among the circles of freedom movement is the issue of protection and justice in a free society. One can easily observe a huge schism between libertarians who prefer to call themselves as Voluntaryists, Anarcho-capitalists, or simply Anarchists and those libertarians who prefer to call themselves as miniarchists. On the other hand, we have Objectivists who claim that a government is must for the protection of capitalism and freedom and they also offer an insight about what the government should be, or what should be ‘The Nature of Government,’ which is a great article written by Ayn Rand.
Ayn Rand explained that ‘A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws,’ as she defined a government as an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce rules of social conduct in a given geographical area1 . Obviously, at some level, it seems that Ayn Rand was analysing Thomas Hobbes’ leviathan theory of social contract and its criticism by John Locke. However, Ayn Rand exclusively stressed that the government should be voluntary, or the government financing should be voluntary. Her idea resembled with the idea of will theory of contract espoused by Lysander Spooner, the American individual anarchist lawyer of 19th century who claimed that a contract cannot be accepted as valid unless all parties involved agree to that contract voluntarily. Lysander Spooner explained why a supposed Social Contract cannot justify coercive governmental actions such as taxation because it will allow the government to initiate force against anyone who doesn’t voluntarily wishes to fund the government and to enter into such a contract. In his essay No Treason, Lysander Spooner2 explained that it is the role of the government to pursue the citizens and to offer them such services that will prompt the citizens to willfully fund the government and in absence of voluntary acceptance of every citizen, a social contract can be considered as a legitimate contract.
Ayn Rand emphasized over the voluntary nature of the social contract and hence she gave the idea of voluntary taxation as she said, “in a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary”. In order to explain the idea of government in a free society, she said,
The principle of voluntary government financing rests on the following premises: that the government is not the owner of the citizens’ income and, therefore, cannot hold a blank check on that income—that the nature of the proper governmental services must be constitutionally defined and delimited, leaving the government no power to enlarge the scope of its services at its own arbitrary discretion. Consequently, the principle of voluntary government financing regards the government as the servant, not the ruler, of the citizens—as an agent who must be paid for his services, not as a benefactor whose services are gratuitous, who dispenses something for nothing 3 .
While any freedom lover will agree with the concept of voluntary taxation, which in fact is oxymoron because Taxes, by definition, are coercive in nature; I find it a little confusing. If the government is a servant, and if citizens have a right to either to pay or not to pay for its services, then why cannot citizens have a right to choose the best servant? In a free society, I feel that there will be a place for competitive governments; or, there won’t be any place for any government at all and the law will be dealt as a service offered by Private Defense Associations. Many libertarians raise issues and opposition against the concept of private defense system and often their opposition is not well reasoned.
Recently, one of my Facebook friends raised such an issue against the idea of private defense organization or Anarcho-capitalism or Voluntaryism and asked that if justice & liberty are to be commodities, service of which can be purchased in the market. Shouldn’t a poor man have as much recourse to justice as a rich man? Is this possible in a ‘market for justice’? Why would any PDA defend a person who cannot pay them? What stops a rich person from looting the beggar on the street?
The question begets critical thinking and not emotions. First we need to realize that why a person is poor especially if he is not disabled, or unfortunate. In a free world, the possible reason of poverty can be laziness and unproductiveness or a person and there are certainly a lot of such people in current world. However, the current political and economic scenario of our world offers a definite incentive for people to remain least productive as they can always depend on various social welfare programs, social security, free healthcare, free education for all, and a lot of similar ill policies. My friend, who is a miniarchist, agrees that governmental interventionism and social welfare schemes are the root cause of poverty in masses. He realizes that in order to maintain the control over the ruled, the rulers impose baseless emotional policies on them which seem to be helping poor and alleviating poverty in masses, but actually work in reducing the producing capacity of an individual in general and society as whole. This is why when I asked that if poor should have equal recourse to justice, why they shouldn’t have equal recourse for healthcare or education, he responded, because justice and protection of liberty is different from healthcare, housing or food. If the former 2 are guaranteed, the other 3 will automatically follow for productive people.
There is a contradiction in his answer. He realizes that governmental monopoly over various sectors of economy hugely reduce productivity and causes malpractices, corruption, ineffectiveness, and fiscal scams. Yet, he fails to realize that same issue of monopoly of government and lack of competition makes the law and protection sector virtually ineffective. He is also ignoring that fact that in current situation, the government extorts a huge amount of taxes from citizens through its interventions in economic activities and it certainly spends a huge amount of that collected taxes to ensure justice and protection. Yet, poverty in masses is a huge problem. One can easily understand that while there is a monopoly of government to offer protection and defense for poor with a huge resource obtained through coercive taxation and interventions in economic sector, it is actually failing to provide protection and justice for individuals and that rather; the state or government is actually robbing the citizens of their individual liberty. If a huge government with utmost resources to provide protection and justice is failing, how can one expect a small government with lack of resources to offer proper protection and justice for everyone?
In a voluntaryist free society with private defense associations or systems and with no governmental taxation and interventions in the market, the competition of market will prompt private defense associations not only to offer best and practical justice, protection and defense services; they will also be encouraged to offer excellent services for least possible cost. Such is the nature of market competition as it promotes service providers to provide best, most honest and cheapest services for their customers so that they may attain more popularity and customers.
Another thing is that in any society, free or otherwise, a poor person requires least resources for his protection and defense, while the rich person requires a lot more. This can be understood by the fact that a rich person demanding proper protection for his wealth and diamonds he has kept in a personal locker will have to pay much more than a person asking for protecting his bag of flour in his house. A Private Defense Association will have to employ better protection techniques, devices and men to protect a rich man than it will have to provide protection for a poor person. That is, the price justice for a poor man will be much less than that of a rich man. In fact, most of the Private Defense associations will willingly offer free protection and judicial services for Poor People and unlike in the case of monopoly of government over initiation of violence, they won’t be exploiting the richer people to offer that protection. That is, the private defense market will offer complete support and charity for the poor people, who certainly will be minimal in a free society and this support won’t be based on shenanigans and compulsions of altruism. Rather, this support will be based on the positive compassion and charity of individuals towards their fellow individuals. Private defense associations will probably help poor, disabled, and unfortunate people by offering free services and protection as it will help them to attain more popularity in masses. Furthermore, no individual will prefer to associate with such a PDA that is corrupt, exploitative, immoral and discriminatory against its customers. Thus, any PDA will have least incentive to act loose while protecting the liberty and rights of a poor individual in support of a corrupt and exploitative rich person.
Market for justice and protection will also prove to be an excellent way for common citizens to remain vigilant against any immoral activity by any PDA and it will offer a continuous check for private defense associations to improve and be more honest, loyal, and sensitive towards their customers because in such a scenario, the private defense associations will certainly be the servant of the customers while the customers will have the right to opt for the best service provider. I will take on the issue of vigilance for protecting individual liberty and a few more issues about market for justice in my next article.
- The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights [↩]
- American individualist anarchist, political philosopher, Deist, Unitarian abolitionist, supporter of the labor movement, legal theorist, and entrepreneur of the nineteenth century, Wikipedia [↩]
- Government Financing in a Free Society, The Virtue of Selfishness, 118, Ayn Rand [↩]