On the Essential Difference between Utopia and an Anarcho-Capitalist Society

Is anarcho capitalism a utopian vision? Anarcho capitalism is simply the natural state of human interaction. In most normal interactions between people, the state is not involved. Someone says good morning to you. He was not mandated to do so by law, and you are not mandated to respond. But you usually do. Not out of fear of government reprisal, but because that is the decent thing to do. If you don’t, you don’t. You lose your chance for a possibly valuable social connection, most likely to your own detriment.

Almost all exchanges are voluntarily honored with no need of government courts. Almost all salaries are paid as contracted. Almost all exchanges made without involvement of state authorities. The only question is, for those that are not honored, is it best to be resolved through private insurance companies or through government entities?

The answer is private companies.

What is a utopian vision? It is the vision of one man who thinks he knows how all of humanity should interact. He then mandates it by law, because has this idea in his head that will work, but that neglects the very idea of diversity within humanity.  His vision of how humanity should interact is what becomes law. Diversity is outlawed. Anyone who chooses to interact differently is killed or imprisoned. It is Utopia or death.

The only mechanism equipped to properly handle the diversity within human existence is the free market.

Forced communism is a utopian vision. One human believes it will be best for all humans to act this way. He forces it, and most die. A utopian vision gone awry.

Same with forced anything.

The only thing that must be enforced is lack of force, and that must be enforced by competing insurance companies. A true utopian will call on force on a whim, whenever society is not acting exactly as he personally envisions it. An anarcho capitalist society resorts to force only when force is applied in the first place, in order to neutralize it.

In my attempt to get Moshe Feiglin to agree to the principle of anarcho-libertarianism, he has accused me of being utopian. I am not utopian.

I simply believe in the right of every human being not be stolen from or forced to do what he does not want to do.

Whatever results from that, results from that. But the key point is that anarcho capitalism is not seeking an end goal. Only social engineers do that. Anarcho capitalists seek justice in a pure sense. Whatever happens happens, whether it be utopia or not. We have reason to believe it would be the best of all forms of human existence. But we are not anarcho capitalists in order to achieve a certain outcome. We are what we are because we believe it is the most just way to live.

We do not seek utopia. We only seek what is right, given the facts of human existence. And given those facts, government is wrong.

Why I’m an Anarcho-Capitalist, but Love Minarchists

Being an ideological purist, absolutely logically consistent, is easy. Well, not exactly easy, but once you make the commitment to draw your red lines of libertarian logic according to the singular axiom of the Non Aggression Principle (NAP) and live by it, once you make that fateful decision and swallow the blue pill, or the red pill, or whichever Matrix pill it is, the rest is easy. Once the Free Will decision is made so to speak, you’re home free. You go issue by issue, instance by instance, and you sort everything out accordingly with no exceptions. While you may be left with a few difficulties as to what fits where (like does abortion constitute violation of the NAP, or can people voluntarily sell themselves into slavery or not), you are still living by a single principle by attempting to categorize everything into either violence or nonviolence logically, and live accordingly.

In one sentence, there remain zero instances where you are compromising your values, and that both makes you impervious, as well as isolates you into that void of impracticality.

I am an anarcho-capitalist libertarian, which means I take the NAP to the extreme, to its logical conclusion. No initiatory force against the innocent, not by anybody, not even the State. That means no State.

And yet, there are two men in this world who have shaped my thinking more than any other, at least in terms of giving me new direction, and neither of them are anarcho-capitalists. They are both, in fact, minarchist libertarians. The kind that believe in minimum government for the purpose of keeping the bad guys (NAP violators) away and discerning between good guys and bad guys.

Minarchists are always caught in a hopeless logical contradiction with themselves, which they can’t and don’t (usually) deny. They believe in non-aggression, but they also believe that a certain amount of aggression is necessary in order to keep out the aggressors. This infects their philosophy, thinking, and eventually political planning with a true contaminant. An anarchist can just privatize everything in his head and stay consistent. A minarchist…it’s not that easy.

Minarchists have to draw a line somewhere between necessary aggression (a so called minimum) and evil aggression (anything beyond minimum). But there is no logical line to draw, no objective border to trace it. It is a line based only on their own intuition of what must be and what must not be crossed. It is highly personalized, totally subjective, and nearly impossible to keep steady.

For the anarchist, there is no army, only private security companies with clear market tests on what is legitimate and what is not. There is no police, only private insurance companies that take a real market risk every time they arrest someone on a suspicion or a call. And there are no public courts subject to an arbitrary law written by politicians and bureaucrats, only private judge businessmen trying to get a reputation for fairness from all clients involved in a case on every side, with only the NAP to guide them, and whatever other voluntary contract may exist between the parties involved in a suit.

But for the minarchist, there is an army, and every decision it makes must be guided, ultimately, by bureaucrats and politicians making subjective judgement calls. (Should we bomb Gaza? How and with what? How many civilians getting killed is acceptable? When is too much? Politicians have to decide these things, not the market.) There is no alternative because there is no profit motive as there are no voluntary customers. There is a police force operating on monopoly, and the minarchist must draw a line somewhere as to what this monopoly has the power to do and what it cannot do, what is considered abuse. How do you draw the line? You just do. Somewhere. There is a public monopolistic court system, and the minarchist must decide what its powers are and when it must yield to individual liberty.

On each of these issues a minarchist must decide, draw a line somewhere, and stick to that arbitrary line for dear life. There is always a clear and present danger that the line he draws will move, inexorably, to the side of more power, slowly but surely, and grow from there into a monster. This is what happens to almost all libertarian-leaning minarchist politicians at some point. Some sooner, some later, they all fall into statism because the system itself wants power and will vacuum everyone towards that direction with insuperable force.

Well, almost insuperable.

As I said, there are two men, both minarchists, who have shaped my life in terms of direction more than any other. One is Ron Paul, and the other is Moshe Feiglin. I disagree with them about a lot of things. In fact I argue with Moshe constantly, pretty much whenever we have a conversation. (Ron Paul I have not had the privilege of arguing with personally.) But what they have in common that no other minarchist politician has (none that I know of) is that they draw their lines of power from within their own personalities, subjective though they are, and they do not cross themNot ever.

The minarchist always has the open temptation to give in to more power, because he allows a minimum in for police, army, and courts. In all of Ron’s political career, he never moved that line. Never. He kept it firm, and no pressure could move it one inch. And though Moshe’s minarchist line is not the same line as Ron’s (lines of minarchy can never be the same because they are all subjective by definition) Moshe’s line, so far, has not moved, despite all the pressure applied by politicians surrounding him like sharks.

Is Moshe’s belief that the State is a “useful tool” placed in the hands of the “sovereign nation” a mistake? Yes. He’s wrong. The State is not a tool controlled by the nation, but simply a weapon wielded by politicians in order to steal from individuals in the nation. The nation is not sovereign, only the individual is, though nations exist insofar as the way we treat and relate to each other as human beings. And I believe a metaphysical nationhood exists in the Jewish people, but that’s a matter outside of political law.

But so what? That’s what he believes, so all that’s left to trust is his intuition. If he believes the State is not being used as the tool he says it should be, he will fight the State, and that’s good. Usually his intuition is right on the money.

It’s easy to be an anarchist. Everything fits into one category or the other. There is no temptation of power because your mission is to abolish all of it in every form. There is no minimum of power that is acceptable, so nothing is tempting once you swallow the pill. Your personality is never really tested because you can just categorize everything logically, from within a system that resides outside yourself.

But being a minarchist is much harder. You have to accept some power and then draw a line. That line has to come from you, your own personhood, your own identity, your own strength, with no logic or anything externally objective to keep it steady, because there is no logic with which to draw that line. It’s all a judgement call. And the longer you can keep that line steady, the longer you refuse to move it within your own philosophical system, the stronger your personhood is. That’s why, as deep as my respect is for anarchists, and I have anarchist mentors who I really love, my respect for true minarchists is of a totally different kind.

Judaism has examples of both approaches, and it is clear to me that God prefers minarchists over anarchists. This is not to say that minarchists are correct. They’re not. But they are what brings the world forward into freedom on a mass scale, much more than anarchists. Anarcho capitalists are the philosophers always in the background. We draw lines in logic and never cross them. Minarchists, the real minarchists that draw red lines in their own blood and never cross them, are the leaders of men. The true intermediaries to liberty.

Here are two examples. One is Eliyahu, the equivalent of an anarchist. Absolutely uncompromising, no middle ground, correct about everything but fired from his job of being prophet. Literally the only prophet to be deposed by God while he was still alive, at least alive on Earth. He couldn’t lead the people spiritually because all he saw were violations and zealously stamped them out. Moshe Rabeinu is the example of the minarchist, totally unconcerned with his own power, didn’t want an internal police force initially or a public court system, just himself, probably because he trusted no one else with power. But a public system was forced on him by his father in law, and he ultimately accepted the idea with God’s sanction.

The successful leader between the two is obviously Moshe Rabeinu. Eliyahu failed.

The other example is more abstract, and that is Parah Adumah, the red cow. The ashes of the red cow purify the deepest tumah, ritual impurities caused by dead bodies. But preparing them, a step necessary for the people, makes you tameh itself. The message being that in order to lead humanity, you can’t rely solely on logical consistency like Eliyahu did. You’ve got to get dirty and then draw your own lines about how dirty you’ll get. The lines have to come from you, something inside you. You can’t rely on an external system to draw them for you. Otherwise, you can’t lead.

What does God want in the end? I believe it’s anarchy, in the end. A system where there is nothing, no power broker at all, between His creation and Himself, where the Jewish people act as a sort of voluntary middleman priesthood for the world, but with no coercive power over anyone.

But in order to get there, we need a בר הכי, some minarchist, and those are not the men who philosophise and draw lines based on an external system. They are the men that draw lines from within themselves and keep them there on the strength of their own personalities alone.

Moshe chides me that that I can’t always see everything from a totalitarian perspective, but that’s the thing. I can. He can’t. Because I’m not the leader. I’m just the theorist, someone to point him in the right direction, maybe. At least that’s what I aspire to. Maybe at some point I’ll perform some function of tearing down something (hopefully the damn Bank of Israel I hate so much), but only at his pace and with his go-ahead.

Let me at it freely and I’d tear the whole damn thing down in a day because my logic is stronger than my intuition. I’m an Eliyahu who can’t control himself if left to my own devices, and my hatred for the system is too acute for me to suffer letting it live a single second if I were ever in the position of being able to tear it apart on my own.

But I can afford to be that way, because I have assigned myself a leader, someone whose intuition I trust more than my own, even though he’s wrong about many things that I’m right about.

And in the end, Judaism forces me to be a minarchist, of a sort. To draw a line from my own personhood instead of from something outside myself. To have just a little intuition of my own. I circumcised my son without his consent, and thereby broke the NAP, the holy of holies of libertarian law. I hated it. I cried. And then even I, the uncontrollable libertarian radical teeming with hatred of the State, drew a line from within to circumscribe power. I did, and will do brit milah, and that’s it. I can’t explain why in any logical terms other than God told me to. And I will not go any further than that into the realm of power over other men. Not ever.

Not one inch.

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.