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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10844/molinari-the-man-of-the-hour/

Molinari, The Man of the Hour

October 15, 2009 by

Perhaps there was a time when people could regard the government monopoly on police and courts as benign, part of the “night watchmen” state advocated by the old-time classical liberals. But the march of the police state has changed that: we are more likely to understand that the state’s “security” services are the gravest threat to liberty we face. In that sense, Molinari is the man of the hour.

{ 9 comments }

Michael J Green October 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm

“If, on the contrary, the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he pleases, you forthwith see open up a large profession dedicated to arbitrariness and bad management. Justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned, according to the power and influence of this or that class of consumers. The protectors engage in bitter struggles to wrest customers from one another. In a word, all the abuses inherent in monopoly or in communism crop up.”

This was the article that converted me to anarcho-capitalism. I still find it the most persuasive essay for liberty, and I might just pick up a copy or two.

Ribald October 16, 2009 at 3:44 am

I can find many irksome points of contention in Molinari’s essay on security. For instance, the commonly-accepted notion that people naturally make the mistake of being risk-averse is opposed to the notion that they make the right choice when purchasing services that alleviate risk. Consumers always pay a premium. For security, that premium can be quite high indeed (freedom, perchance), and any security provider that does not accept the consumer’s heedless generosity need not bother to continue his business.

As Molinari states,”The sense of justice seems to be the perquisite of only a few eminent and exceptional temperaments.” Every security provider needs his own security, and it would be silly to imagine that he did not provide it himself. Therefore, what else could there be but a market of providers subject to no authority, competing with each other in the manner of Cain and Abel?

His words regarding monopolies are particularly interesting. Isn’t it commonly held here that monopolies produced by the market be allowed to stand without interference? If said monopoly acquired a security firm to guard it from violent takeover and did not magically dissolve itself, there is no reason to think it should not last for a very long time indeed. (As I read on, I found it increasingly difficult to believe Molinari is adequately skeptical of his own deduction to make such observations).

He proceeds to dispense with this zinger: “Just as the monopoly on security logically had to spawn universal monopoly, so communistic security must logically spawn universal communism.” Never mind all that competition in places where the government has a monopoly on security. It must be just a transitional stage (which happens to last hundreds of years).

In ages past, governments did rely upon God as the higher authority from which their power came. Now? Now it is consensus, something Moe (as I’ve begun to call him in my mind) could not reasonably have come up with as an alternative, given its rarity of use. He considered it? Rejected it? Hmm.

“If there is no unanimity, if there is still dissension after the debate, the majority is in the right, since it comprises the larger number of reasonable individuals. (These individuals are, of course, assumed to be equal, otherwise the whole structure collapses.)” That’s kinda like the free market, isn’t it? Unequal actors compete freely and the result is unchallengeable (if you contest it, you must have lost already, right?). Does it make sense for Moe to dismiss one process for producing unfairness and not hold up the proposed alternative to the same standard?

Of course, in the process of consensus, the parties are assumed to be equal in voice, whereas in the free market, they are plainly not equal in finances, and are never assumed to be. If people are generally reasonable, then the assumption of equality usually harms the few who are unreasonable. In the free market, no assumption is made and those who are most wealthy wield control over the process. Are we to assume that it is the wealthy who are also the few who have a sense of justice?

Moe seems to conflate practical authority with moral authority when he says “The moral authority of governors rests, in reality, on the self-interest of the governed.” and following that with the threats made against those opposed to the powers that be. There is no practical authority without enforcement, but moral authority is not the same by any means. Moral authority comes from the will of people to follow the law *without* the threat of force, even when they disagree with the law.

He then proceeds to analyze the consumer – security firm relationship, coming up with this gem: “In the event of an abusive rise in the price of security, the consumers would always have the option of giving their patronage to a new entrepreneur, or to a neighbouring entrepreneur.” Yeah…right. It’s not inconceivable that they would ransack their clients’ property and leave at the first sign of a consumer revolt. When you’re charged with enforcing the terms of your own contract, you can violate those terms with impunity.

Better yet, what form of advertising might prevail in such a world? That’s correct: rob and steal from those who aren’t your clients! Not only do your competitors suffer, but you can let your clients in on the take.

In making his case, Moe lets loose with “They would be careful not to allow themselves to be protected by men who would unscrupulously attack the persons and property of their rivals. If some audacious conqueror tried to become dictator, they would immediately call to their aid all the free consumers menaced by this aggression, and they would treat him as he deserved.” In so doing, he inadvertently makes a case as strong for government as he does for any anarcho-capitalist ideology. Of course, we recognize that this is not the case. They do not always rise up and throw a menace off their backs just because he is oppressing them. History is littered with the remains of cruel nations that fell not by popular revolt, but from slow decay and external threats. There are also cases of the rebellion Moe describes. There are also cases of civil war, in which the acting government actively attempted to prevent wars that the citizenry began. The record is mixed when it comes to mass protest and revolt.

In the end, Moe’s essay is mere wishful thinking, without any recognition of the problems that might emerge in the “free society” he describes. As is common of thinkers of his caliber, he uses one truth in one context and its opposite in another. Men are generally unjust one moment, and the next, they won’t allow anyone loot and plunder in their name. In one moment, the threat of force is an evil in the hands of the majority, and the next, it is a legitimate tool in the hands of the majority seeking to fix the market to their own sense of what is right. It is the quality of argument that comes from believing oneself right, then inventing a world that agrees.

Anarchism needs better advocates.

K Ackermann October 16, 2009 at 8:51 am

Ribald – Excellent comments, and well written.

I cannot see how the privatization of security does not result in state-like authority.

How can it be the final arbiter in moral authority?

What are the qualitative differences in justice afforded by a wealthy person, and a poor person? Is there a unified coda of justice? I would think there would have to be, and that would imply… what? That a progenitor authority exists long enough to write a coda, and then goes away knowing that it has accounted for everything forever and ever?

What kind of client might a private security company pursue? I would imagine some would get by very well with just one client… say the largest bank. What would such a firm do for their only client? I would imagine just about anything it asked. Anything could be justified as a threat after a while. What would they care about stepping on anyone else. They would single mindedly only care about their client.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that in no time, the most organized and lethal criminal enterprises are in fact security companies being funded and directed by their captors.

mpolzkill October 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

In Ackerman’s imagined scenario he describes what we have today, minus the consent of millions which comes from the delusion of representation; minus the power of the gang to tax and the additional difference that we would have the legal right to fight against any unwanted protection rackets. There will always be criminals and criminal gangs; the point is in consistently opposing them. He continually refuses to see (or claims not to see) any of these distinctions because he is a devoted state propagandist.

K Ackermann October 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

mpozkill – I clicked on your name because I was going to let loose on you in your world, but then I saw what was there, and I got the creeps.

Your writing is getting real small and tightly spaced, brother. It’s starting to resemble a wall of tiny words.

When you write passages such as:

The feeling of existential unrest, the desire to know, the feeling of being moved to question, the questioning and seeking itself, the direction of the questioning toward the ground that moves to be sought, the recognition of the divine ground as the mover, are the experiential complex, the pathos , in which the reality of divine-human participation ( metalepsis ) becomes luminous. The exploration of the metaleptic reality…

Do you… never mind.

K Ackermann October 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

I found some more words for you…


The isometry group acts transitively (since we can translate in t,y,z, and using the fourth vector we can move along x as well), so the spacetime is homogeneous. However, it is not isotropic, as we shall see. It is obvious from the generators just given that the slices x = x0 admit a transitive abelian three dimensional transformation group, so a quotient of the solution can reinterpreted as a stationary cylindrically symmetric solution. Less obviously, the slices y = y0 admit an SL(2,R) action, and the slices t = t0 admit a Bianchi III (c.f. the fourth Killing vector field). We can restate this by saying that our symmetry group includes as three dimensional subgroups examples of Bianchi types I, III and VIII. Four of the five Killing vectors, as well as the curvature tensor, do not depend upon the coordinate y. Indeed, the Gödel solution is the Cartesian product of a factor R with a three-dimensional Lorentzian manifold (signature -++).
It can be shown that the Gödel solution is, up to local isometry, the only perfect fluid solution of the Einstein field equation admitting a five dimensional Lie algebra of Killing vectors.

mpolzkill October 16, 2009 at 11:23 am

That wasn’t me, Ackerman, but thanks. I’ve been studying Eric Voegelin and posting parts of what I’m reading for my one YouTube fan. Frightening…hmmm. Funny, that was Voegelin describing classical philosophy vs. today’s climate of opinion and you are in desperate need of understanding what he is saying. And go ahead, let loose on there, I’m all ears.

Mike October 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

To paraphrase Jefferson, there needs to be a revolution every so often. I think this would be just as true with anarcho-capitalism as the starting point as with a night-watchman state as the starting point.

If revolution (or secession) ended in either of the above, I would be overjoyed. But I would not expect the situation to last for millenia.

Mike October 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

For clarity I want to add, “ended” above should be “resulted”. By “ended” I was referring to the immediate result.

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