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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5325/a-team-stands-for-anarcho-capitalism/

A-Team Stands for Anarcho-Capitalism

July 17, 2006 by

“The A-team” supports the idea of natural law, rejects the nominalist tradition, rejects relativism both on ethical and epistemological grounds, supports entrepreneurship and free market, praises division of labor and monetary economy, builds its morality on the nonaggression axiom, rejects the necessity for economic regulation, undermines the government itself by demonstration of its failures, and shows how society is shaped by human action.

The “A” in the praised TV series probably stands for anarcho-capitalist.

  1. First of all, the A-team is an illegal, anti-government, underground organization of people who escaped from prison. They are outlaws, surely pay no taxes, and, in most episodes, the US army is chasing them. Are these guys a band of thugs? Not at all. They are portrayed as positive heroes and the government apparatus is portrayed as the institution that unjustly tries to imprison them.

  2. The A-team does not respect positive law, since this statist invention is responsible for their plight. However, the whole series is built on the idea that there are easily recognizable ethical values that cannot be questioned by any human being, even by the state itself. There is no moral relativism, or epistemological relativism, for we exactly know what is right and what is wrong, and our intellect grants us the ability to recognize it. No verdict, no bill, or no general’s will can change that fact. Official institutions can only obscure the nature of things, and nobody has a power to change them. This clearly corresponds to the idea of natural law, so greatly expressed by Bastiat – positive law that denies natural law can have only one consequence: law perverted. Hence the A-team believes rightly that there are universal and never changing ethical values, which should be respected at any time by anyone.

  1. One of the most famous sentences from the theme is the reference to a “crime they didn’t commit.” During the Vietnam War these soldiers were ordered by their colonel to rob a bank. After they finished their job, they found out that their headquarters were destroyed. It was impossible for them to prove that they acted as the colonel told them to. The US government, then, decided to prosecute them for the crime. Here we have another great example how positive law perverts the natural law. When the individuals acting on their own do something wrong, it is considered a “crime”. But if the government engages in such a behavior, then suddenly “crime” is out of a picture. One of the famous examples is of course taxation. The state takes over people’s income without their consent, but if some private individual takes someone’s money without consent, he is considered a “criminal”. This is a classic example of verbal law production and a Hobbesian belief that will can change or create law.

  2. The whole philosophy of the A-team boils down to an axiom of non-aggression. They never initiate a conquest on someone else’s property, no matter what profits that would create. They also never defend true aggressors. Instead the people against whom aggression was initiated always employ them. This feature is completely essential for them to take any challenge. In the episodes they engage in entrepreneurial analysis to find out what is happening, who is responsible for what, and how the aggression was started. Moreover, the A-team is of course acting with the consent of the persons who were attacked–unlike the state, which grants to itself a right to decide for somebody to defend him.

  3. Clearly the A-team is an example of an anarchistic creativity, but certainly of the capitalist version, not the leftist one. The crew’s actions are based on the advanced division of labor – it concerns both the internal organization, and the external, since the A-team obviously uses the external market in order to achieve its results. The clients are mostly people who are not good in the production of security, but instead devote their time to producing something else. With earned income they hire people with comparative advantage, the A-team, to protect their rightful property and lives.

  4. The A-team is a type of anarchist, anti-leftist, organization that relies on economic calculation. In a sense the A-team is a beneficial, efficiently organized firm, which has prices for its inputs and outputs. Every production process requires money capital so the necessary factors of production are bought (guns, oil, people hired, and other resources). In order for the whole process to be profitable the A-team naturally prices their product: the production of security. So forget the idea that it has anything to do with leftist anarchism. This production of security is organized on a completely commercial basis. All economic goods are scarce, so one has to pay a price for them.

  5. The anarchism of the A-team is clearly an Austrian type, not the neoclassical. Of course goods produced by them are priced, as any other useful service. It does not mean that at any times in any place the A-team is acting like a neoclassical firm owner, searching only for the lowest inputs and the highest revenues. As is mostly the case with real capitalists, the A-team sometimes offers its services for a lower price or even on a charitable basis. Hence we see that the crew is a clear example of homo agens, choosing means and ends, not homo economicus, automatically responding to price spreads. In other words, although economic calculation is essential to their proper functioning, there are limits to that calculation. Certain things are valued without reference to market prices.

  6. A-team successes are amazing despite the fact that the government has outlawed them. Moreover, they are not only haunted by the official law, but what is even more inspiring, they are a completely unregulated organization. Think about it – they got no permission from the government to act, no government official is subjecting them to an official statist control, they have no accounting books and no lawyers, they do not have to explain themselves or report to any politician. They just do their job by producing and supplying the goods that are demanded by peaceful individuals. And guess what? Without the government regulation their achievements are unbelievable.

  7. The A-team proves also that the so called ‘free rider’, or maybe in their case ‘positive external effects’, is completely irrelevant for the production of security. Statist theory claims that the production of security should be supplied by compulsory monopolistic measures since all the people benefit from them but cannot be excluded if they decide not to pay. In the A-team there is no problem with that. Of course there are certain individuals who will benefit from their actions despite the fact that they won’t pay a penny. Any security agency is doing a favor to a person respecting property rights even though not every single person of that kind pays that agency. This, however, does not change the fact that the A-team works properly on the voluntary basis and finds its customers without monopolized use of force. They can successfully find the clients without making their services compulsory.

  8. What follows from the above is a pro-market view of the private business and the government production of goods, for the only thing the latter achieves is a government failure. The A-team has to be hired because the government, despite levying taxes, is not able to help individuals defend themselves. Instead of efficiently chasing the criminals, government is more interested in chasing real entrepreneurs. Fortunately the A-team is able to make fools of them, notoriously escaping from their custody with never-ending smiles on their faces. The crew’s chief is Hannibal Smith, great leader, brilliant planner, a natural elite, who constantly smokes his cigar, a symbol of his defiance against the socialist-puritan ethos of our time.


quincunx July 25, 2006 at 2:50 pm

J Crowley there are too many things wrong with your arguments.

It can all be boiled down to the belief that the government can help the poor – whereas in reality it’s policies does nothing but promote poverty. Don’t buy into the rhetoric, but rather examine what gov actions really accomplish, and ask yourself why the trillions of dollars wasted fighting poverty has only brought more poverty.

“And a system that relies upon the self-policing of individuals doesn’t require perfection, either, huh?”


PR July 25, 2006 at 4:10 pm

If we eliminated taxes entirely, do you really believe that people would be willing to spend that money on charity?

How can a society of people who supposedly don’t care about the poor elect politicians who do?

Baby, bathwater, et cetera.

Oh come on. Show me a baby who’s murdered tens of millions of people like modern states have.

Do you really believe the government has unlimited power? That they could say, “okay, all your businesses belong to us, now,” and the public would just comply without question?

If there were another government failure to prevent a 9/11-style attack in the US, then yes, I’d expect exactly that. Only government is consistently rewarded for failing to perform even its most basic function. The bigger the failure, the more powerful it gets.

In other words, taxes attempt to establish a balance with income/wealth distribution that would most likely otherwise be gotten by force.

Wealth redistribution does indeed placate the poor so they won’t question the regime. Progressive income taxes hinder the middle class rising to the upper middle class, thus protecting the moneyed interests that know how to use tax shelters or get lavish government subsidies.

Djur July 25, 2006 at 7:50 pm

Aw, Crowley, lay off the Austrian economagicians. If you take away the rhetoric they hijacked from anarchism, what would they have?

Egodiversion September 12, 2006 at 7:51 am

For the love of life, turn off your television.

Give up your totalitarian ideology

rob September 19, 2006 at 1:17 am

it’s telling that the model upon which this thesis is based is a fanciful fiction.

CRwM September 19, 2006 at 9:01 am

How does this square with the fact that, near the end of the series, the A-Team starts working as government agents under the command of General Stockwell?

How can they embody anarcho-capitalist values and be working for the Man?

JGB September 19, 2006 at 3:22 pm

No wonder this was and still is (for the most part) my favorite television show. Great analysis, yes. And as for the Dude’s briefcase,…

David September 19, 2006 at 7:16 pm

“rejects the necessity for economic regulation, undermines the government itself by demonstration of its failures”

how about “undermines capitalism itself by demonstration of its failures” – or would you like to argue that capitalism is inherently perfect?

if any system that is not perfect is undermined by its impurity then you cannot consider any real world system to be anything other than flawed.

can any system be considered perfect?

it would appear to me that those two arguments juxtaposed would lead to an internal contradiction thus invalidating the whole position …

Stanisław Kwiatkowski January 29, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Brilliant gentelmen, absolutely brilliant. Ahh, as usual: from an old tv show to Austrian economics.

1. As for all the comments about A-Team beeing just a tv show or serving eventually under the orders of general What’shisname – I’ve got news for You guys: it’s a little hush hush, so don’t tell anybody – we know!
Mr Machajs’ article is a little bit of a joke, didn’t You notice? Ah, don’t think twice about it lads;)

2. As for the evergreen: AnCap/AustrianEconomics vs Socialists/Statists/Monetarists (even YOU can find something fit for you:):
If You are trying to get in an argument with Austrian school economics read Mises first. Read Nozick, read Rothbard, read Bastiat.

Oh, you did, did ya? Sory then. Then You must know there is no flaw you could find. You found one? Congratulations, there’s a Nobel Prize waiting for you at the reception office…

Let’s be serious for a moment. Theoreticaly there is nothing wrong with the AnCap model. Practically you say? Well, since you don’t trust pure logic, you’ll have to wait with practical conclusions for a laissez fair state (because, of course, You don’t know any moments in history, when “laissez fair” has been a respected principle, do you?). And then how a minarchistic state will function. And finally AnCap. But don’t worry, You will have an occasion for empirical studies. Trust me on this one;)

ps. If you agreed with what is in the parenthesis, you should be doing some reading on your history as well;)

domain March 28, 2007 at 5:53 pm

thanks good site and webmaster

zBA June 12, 2007 at 2:56 am

Mati Machaj is my Hero, too!

von Boyeck June 12, 2007 at 3:04 am

Mat Machaj is a hero to us all!

von Boyeck June 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm

How do you pronounce ‘Machaj’ ?

constant reader August 7, 2007 at 1:55 pm

m as in Mises
a as in Alabama
ch as in Hero
a again, like in rothbArd
j as You

or in the IPA transcription mA:hA:j

[ps. I can be such an idiot when I don't think]

dave January 17, 2009 at 8:03 am

The A-Team was an anti-leftist group while working for the government, but they were an anti-government group while working for the people.

They didn’t jive with the anti-leftist agenda of the government.

What they wanted to do was help the people, when they discovered the government within the government wasn’t helping the people, but helping itself – they did what was righteous, by truly helping the people using all of their training.

They did what they were told they were trained to do. Help the people.

Guy Segundo March 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Aviation may be a passion of mine for many years, thanks for the post.

Renegade Division June 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm

@J Crowley

By the way, I think one of the main current purposes of government is to ensure that those with wealth can keep most of what they have without the neglected, poverty-ridden masses finally banding together out of desperation into formidable forces and robbing them of everything they have.

Dude it doesn’t matter what you say the govt’s objective is, for all I care govt’s objective is to ensure that if god exists then ensure everybody goes to heaven or if the dark lord from lord of the rings or harry potter is rising then to ensure he doesn’t rise.
The problem is govt cannot do anything to achieve those goals, in fact they are achieving the exact opposite of these goals, yet you continuously talk about how govt takes money from A who has plenty and gives it to B who does not have it, and viola look how both are better off.

The problem you continuously miss is that if there are two people who can receive money from A, those are B and C, C receives it through the govt handout and B receives it through voluntary transaction A does with B(like B dances for A voluntarily and receives the money from him, or produces food for him or cleans up his yard).
Some clever left-liberals have quipped it as ‘trickle down’ prosperity, but seriously, why do you hate someone like B so much who will be making money by providing real service to A, rather than govt taking it from A and handing it to C?

The fact is, you never even bother to consider all the people who are really willing to work to lift themselves to riches, you fail to see that when you constantly redistribute wealth, someone like Buffett and Bill Gates would hardly be affected by it, who are really affected are rarely seen, and those are the middle class people who become poorer by this wealth redistribution.

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