A fascinating Jewish response on anarcho capitalism

I debate with some of the statists in Manhigut Yehudit, or the Jewish Leadership faction of the Likud, led by Moshe Feiglin. I’m the token anarcho capitalist in the group, supported by one other minarchist who is open to anarcho capitalism in theory. I’m at a slight disadvantage since I’m debating in Hebrew but all in all I’m not so bad at it. Aside from the constant male/female grammar mistakes I make over and over again, I get my point across well enough in slightly dumbed down language.

The following is an exchange, my translation, that was absolutely fascinating and opened up new connections between Judaism, Halacha, and anarcho-capitalism. It began when one of the people in the group responded to my contention that the “Right of Return” should be abolished, all land privatized, and immigration regulated by the free market.

One person responded that “Even the most extreme liberals concede that the government must be in charge of the army, borders, and immigration.”

My response, translated from my own Hebrew, was as follows, with a few additions.

It seems there exist libertarians that are even more extreme than “the most extreme” and that I’m one of them. Greetings. They call us “anarcho capitalists”. The label “liberal” grosses me out because the connotation of the word implies forcing “liberal” values on the public like homosexuality and feminism and the like. I am not that type at all. My only value is live and let live, and the Torah and Judaism, for me at least, reflect that value in the most accurate way. And of course I believe in Torah from Sinai as a matter of historical fact.

On that note, it is not the State’s responsibility to raise an army or police force. It is the responsibility of society generally through the free market. How does one raise an army without a government? Very simply. People generally buy insurance to protect their property. So individual people would hire a company or companies that carry weapons and tanks and planes as insurance in order to protect their property from outside threats. It is reasonable to assume that a subscription to a private regional army would cost a lot more money in border cities rather than in the middle of the country.

What do we do if some deadbeat freeloader doesn’t want to pay the army subscription fee because he just doesn’t feel like it? It would be fairly easy to expel him from the regional or local economy without the use of force. The local supermarket owners could refuse to sell him food. Companies could refuse to hire him. The road owners could ban his car from the private roads, etc.

With a  private army, if such a company would allow even a single rocket to fall in an area under its jurisdiction, the army company would pay dearly. The “citizens” would be able to complain vociferously and directly to their army company to do what was necessary to crush the enemy within minutes, or pay the price from the wrath of its customers. No other foreign State would be able to condemn us for any military action no matter how swift and brutal in the UN because there would be no State to condemn in the first place, only a private army company.

So too, if Jews desire to once again live in Gush Katif in Gaza, they would be able to hire a private army company to protect them there and simply rebuild the whole bloc anew. If armies were private, it is needless to say that the destruction of Gush Katif and the Jewish communities in Gaza would have been impossible. It is also needless to say that years beforehand, the Arabs in Gaza would have been either somewhere else, or still in Gaza but quiet, living in peace with a respectable job in some agricultural or construction firm under truly free Jewish bosses.

By the way, the “borders” would be defined ad hoc by virtue of the Jews that live in the cities furthest out from the center of the country. If Jewish armies were private, no tiny settlement outpost would have been built surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Arabs. It would be too expensive to defend. Rather, settlement would proceed in an orderly fashion eastward as more territory in Judea and Samaria were bought up or conquered in a defensive war and settled by Jews, the border expanding slowly eastward.

As for invasions, if an army company on the border needed help from another company to repel an invasion, they could work together on a financial arrangement between companies in the event of a war.

I expected that everyone on the Manhigut Yehudit listserv would consider me crazy and I’d get a “what are you nuts” response specifically from the person addressed in my little essay. I was wrong. Instead, I got this response in a private email from him. Maybe the writer did not want to be stigmatized as even considering ending Tzahal (the IDF) as I have stigmatized myself as the great “liberal” of Manhigut Yehudit, a term which really gives me the creeps:

First of all, thank you very much for your letter. The ideas were new to me so I read it several times. Thanks to your ideas (editor’s note, they are not mine) I also understood the position of the chachamim (sages) in Midrash Rabbah Shoftim that reject the appointment of a king. (Editor’s note, Midrash Rabbah is a compilation of Rabbinic exegesis on the Torah. Shoftim is the chapter where the mitzvah to appoint a King is discussed.) For a long time I thought the chachamim were against appointing a specific persona that functions as king, but in light of your words and rereading the Midrash, it is clear to me that they were describing a governmental system similar to what you describe here. Seemingly, this is also the opinion of Rabeinu Saadya Gaon (9th century Rabbi) and also the Ibn Ezra.

This is all in contrast to the opinion of Rebbi Yehuda ibid, and several chapters in the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) in tractate Sanhedrin that hold that appointing a King is an imperative mitzvah.

You could say that the Bavli is the Torah of the Diaspora and therefore strives for a monarchy in Israel, and the Midrash (written and compiled in Israel) strives for liberty (already being in Israel). This issue also comes up in the ancient nussach (prayer service text) in the silent Amidah where there is no prayer for the Davidic dynasty, but rather a prayer for the building of Jerusalem alone that merely mentions the House of David in passing. As for the practical management of such a system, there is one place in Israel that functions in a similar way to what you suggest, and that is Caesaria. (See here.)

Nevertheless, regarding practical application and the Jewish halachic vision of things, I have a lot to say about such an anarchic system. In the meantime, suffice it to say that this system notwithstanding, at the time when Joshua conquered Israel, he ruled monarchicly, and only after conquering and dividing the land, the path was open for a different kind of governmental regime. We are still in the phase of conquering and dividing the land.

As to his final point, I believe he’s right. This is why I’m involved in “politics” in the first place even though I don’t believe in government. We have to free the country on a basic level first, and then move on to tearing down the rest.

And I must say, I am now seriously considering reverting to the old Yerushalmi version of the Shmoneh Esreh and getting rid of the separate prayer for the House of David in my daily davening.



10 thoughts on “A fascinating Jewish response on anarcho capitalism

  1. On a theoretical level, I am in love with anarcho-capitalist ideas.

    On a practical level….. where (and I will grant you the entire lifespan of homo sapiens sapiens to work with and quote from) is the track record of successful implementation?

    Sometimes beautiful theories must be buried in the face of ugly facts. And the ==fact== is…… all of history supports the proposition that humans – exactly like chickens – need a pecking order within their social order. If they lose their pecking order (become prisoners of war, etc) – they will soon create a new one.

    • Yes, there is always a pecking order of people who will commit violence to be on top. Where Anarcho Capitalism differs is that we say this order of violence should not be legalized.

    • There will still be a pecking order, or hierarchy, but it will be voluntary, and further, their will be many peacefully competing hierarchies. We need peaceful competition in the provision of governance in order to get good governance the same way we need peaceful competition in the provision of cars to get good cars.

      “The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most — for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?” – Thomas Jefferson

      I am convinced the anarcho-capitalist model is precisely “that form of government.”

      I know I’m commenting on an old post, so I wonder if you views have changed any?

  2. as for nusach eretz yisrael check out rabbi bar chaim of machon shilo (google).

    i would ask you to rewrite this as a standalone document on the torah perspective on the army, perhaps in hebrew too. this is the one perspective no one ever hears around here!

  3. Anarcho-capitalists make as absurd pie-in-the-sky arguments as do communists. It’s all based on the “if only everybody will [fill in the blank]” platitude. In reality, everybody isn’t going to [fill in the blank]. That’s why governments exist. That is why laws exist.

    Private companies suffer from the same coups, ineptitude and corruption as governments; probably more. Accountability is an issue that the anarcho-capitalists don’t seem to spend much time on. They imagine that the oversimplified idea of free market supply and demand will be the panacea for every evil that could possibly befall a private organization. One only need to look at the politics in a corporation, shul or any other private concern to see the obvious fallacy in these utopian concepts.

    Privatize all the land? Within what geographical border? Who defines the borders? How do the neighboring peoples work with your idea of properly defined borders? The preceding questions are all ones that democratically elected governments can decide in a peaceful fashion. It doesn’t work perfectly all the time because we do not live in a perfect world. So, to image that privatizing everything will bring about a perfect world is simply a pipe dream as smokey as Karl Marx’s.

    It seems that the goal is to find a sensible spot between the tension of sensible, effective government and personal freedom. Different people, nations, and such have different ideas and methods for dealing with this tension.

    • Sabato –

      Our only argument is the non-aggression principle, meaning that people shouldn’t initiate violence against others. Violence is fine in self defense, of course. This includes theft, rape, murder, preventing consenting adults from doing whatever they want, etc.

      You disagree, it seems. Some people have a right to steal and murder and tell others what to do, according to you, because 50% plus 1 voted that some representative of theirs should be allowed to steal and murder, and that gives them the right to do so.


  4. As for armies, you make the implicit assumption that the army companies have equal power. In reality we all know it’s wrong. I see no reason to assume that the stronger company X would not simply abuse its power and coerce others into doing what they say, or otherwise be annihilated. Now you could say that X’s customers might not be okay with that and they might try to terminate their contract, but X can “convince” them very easily otherwise, since they got the guns. Just like the Italian mafia “convinces” local businesses to pay for protection…

    • There is always a threat of one company getting too strong. Then again, there’s even more of a threat with a public army because it’s all centralized. All you need is one charismatic Ramatkal and there goes a coup. With private army companies, there is much less of a threat of that. The biggest reason is that border armies will be stronger than central armies, but the border armies will have to have their supplies (airstrips, tank fields) in the center to protect them from attack. So things are much more balanced. If one company wants to launch a coup, they’ll have to fight the rest of the companies, chances are nill they would succeed. That, and since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews no longer kill each other as a favorite past time. Wouldn’t happen.

  5. Rafi, you know that this will never happen. You are too smart compared to everything that you face. The masses could never accept freedom because of the responsibility it entails. It is just like the Moshiach. As much as we say 3 times a day that we pray for him to come, can people imagine what it is really like if it happens?

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