I am intrigued by AnCap (Anarcho-Capitalism). The philosophy seems robust: Just let people choose their own government, vote with their dollars, etc…
The thinking behind AnCap goes something like this. If we had no government, then people would contract out security services which would represent them, the customer. These security services would work together to come to some sort of amicable resolution in disputes, since fighting is more costly than peaceful negotiations. Thus, everyone can have the “government” the choose, at a price they seem is fair.
I honestly wonder where AnCappers think government came from in the first place. It’s pretty clear in the history of England how governments emerge and grow.
At first, there were tribes and villages, each independent. They got along more or less ok, since there was a sort of truce between them. Since most people were just interested in farming, raising livestock, and raising families, there was little reason to fight each other. When fights did arise, they would either duke it out or resolve the disputes among themselves. This kind of arrangement isn’t uncommon in the world. In fact, where these arrangements exist, laws are eventually agreed upon and sometimes even people are appointed to execute on those laws.
When foreign powers came to invade England, the tribes would unite, usually electing a temporary king, and thus come to each other’s defense. This worked out great, more or less, until the raids and invasions became so common that it made sense to have a permanent king who commanded the militia and could summon them at will.
Having a permanent king worked even better. Now the king could do things like ensure people had the right kinds of equipment and training, and he could quickly organize them into a command structure and even wage war in different parts of the country at the same time.
It worked great, that is, until they faced a greater foreign threat than they had the resources to fight. Or rather, the king was too weak to call up a large enough army and next thing you know, the French are running England. Had the king had even more power, perhaps England would’ve been able to face the French properly. Regardless, that kind of government was now present in England, whether they voted for it or not.
This is every AnCapper’s nightmare: What happens when a bunch of people get together and decide that they want your stuff, and they aren’t willing to trade? If you can’t muster a large enough army to protect it, your best bet is to accept whatever crumbs they offer you. Perhaps the chains of slavery and servitude will rest lightly on your wrists.
This is why most anarchist philosophies fail. If we lived in a world where people didn’t raise large armies and try to invade each other, anarchy would be a completely reasonable solution. But people *do* decide to do that, they have and they forever will. Unless I’m missing something about human nature, I’m pretty sure that we carry the same genes that Hitler and Napoleon had, and I’m pretty sure any of our kids could grow up to be just like them.
Conservatism has, at its core, an acceptance of the way things actually are. We live in the world we live in. Things are pretty bad when you consider the human condition. None of us can call themselves good. All of us have flaws. We can’t trust any of us to be an absolute leader, lest they abuse that power and harm us. On this, we agree with anarchists: people make terrible rulers, and we should seriously think of ways to get rid of government.
Conservatives also believe that in addition to the material world, there are things like “rights”, “justice”, and “good”. Conservatives believe that we have a duty to secure these things, by force, if necessary. That means, we are willing to kill people who disagree with us in certain ways. IE, if you think it’s ok to murder someone, we’re going to kill you. If you think you can use military force to abuse the rights of people, we’re going to kill you. If you try to make a slave, we’ll kill you.
Obviously, we don’t like to kill, and it is good to give people a chance to change their ways, and we don’t have the power to figure out who exactly needs to be killed nor have all the power to execute them, but ultimately, conservatives are willing to pick up a gun and kill someone when absolutely necessary.
I think this is where we really diverge from AnCappers. An AnCapper, seeing someone enslaved to someone else, might say, “Well, that’s unfortunate. They shouldn’t have let themselves be enslaved. And the slaveowner should really consider if they are getting the maximum value out of the slave by keeping him as a slave. Wouldn’t you both make more money if you entered into a voluntary agreement?”
A conservative would use force to free the slave, even killing the slave owner if necessary.
Or, in the case of a murder in progress, an AnCapper might say, “Gee, they should’ve spent more money on their security detail. I’m sure they would be willing to trade all of their material wealth for their life at this point! They should’ve thought of that before this situation arose.” All the while, they would carefully consider the economic benefit of intervening to protect the victim.
A conservative would kill the murderer.
Because of the nature of the material world, governments exist. Even AnCappers agree that there is an economic benefit to combining capital to form security companies, which are just governments, albeit weak and limited ones.
In the business of making governments, conservatives know that things always go wrong. So we believe in the principles of the Constitution, which is a really good attempt to get all the good bits of the different kinds of government, and keep all the bad bits in check. We know that government is the ideal home for evil people. Therefore, we put these checks in to keep government under control. And then conservatives use the power of the constitution to keep things under control, treating each violation of the fundamental principles as a gross infringement on all of them.
AnCappers suppose that economic forces will keep their security companies under control. They suppose that if one security company becomes more popular than all the others, they would never, ever consider using violence to subjugate the customers of another security company, nor would they exploit their own customers. I mean, if the big security company decided that they were going to raise rates, and if you disagreed or wanted to leave, then they would take all of your assets and force you to continue to subscribe–I mean, why would any company ever choose to do such a thing? I mean, never has any entity that uses force ever used its force to do things in its own self-interest at the cost of others, right? (That’s sarcasm. Entities which use force often use that force to harm others in their own self-interest, frustrating the economic win-win of voluntary trade.)
AnCappers would do well to contemplate what sort of government we should have rather than contemplate what life would be like without government. I value their contributions in pointing out how when choices boil down to simple economics, rational people will make decisions that not only benefit themselves, but as a completely unintended side effect, benefit others. But they do not consider what irrational people will do if given the same freedom that the rational deserve.
In other words, evil is real, and it requires violence to keep it contained. Conservatives are willing to use that violence, and AnCappers hope it would just go away.