The Violence And Justice Monopoly

December 10th, 2011   Submitted by Roman Skaskiw

Almost all of us hold two beliefs which contradict a third near-universal belief.  The first is that a state, however else defined, is a geographic monopoly of security and justice.  One cannot appeal a ruling beyond the state, and whatever private providers of security and justice may exist, they do so in pronounced subservience to and supervision by the state.

The second is that monopolies invariably cause high prices and low quality.  Is it so absurd to unite these two self-evident ideas and suggest that states are poor providers of security and justice?

This, of course, rattles to its very foundation a belief most people consider unassailable: that states must invariably provide us, the gray, primitive, violent, purposeless masses, with security and justice — or else civilization itself would plunge into darkness and despair.

Understandably, we fear crime and invaders.  If you could list the names of all the people killed in crimes or by foreign invaders (state-sponsored crimes) in the previous century, I imagine it would fill volumes.  It would be a disturbingly long list.

However, if you listed the names of everyone killed by their own governments, even limiting yourself to peacetime and thereby excluding soldiers, it would fill a library.  The figure surpasses a hundred million.  According to political-science professor R.J. Rummel it reaches 170 million.  Is this the price we must pay for civilization?  Or are we asking a far greater devil to protect us from a lesser one?
A state is actually much worse than a simple monopoly.  It doesn’t merely use violence to eliminate competition and then rely on voluntary patronage as another monopoly might.  It also unilaterally decides the nature and cost of its “services,” then forces its subjects to pay.

In the past, the United States government has decided that invading Iraq, infecting unsuspecting Guatemalans with syphilis, arming Mexican drug gangs, assassinating even American citizens deemed dangerous, fondling travelers at airports, and supporting some of the most vicious and murderous tyrants in history constituted security.  Furthermore, they unilaterally decided the price of these “services” and threatened to kidnap anyone who refused to pay, labeling them “tax evaders.”

The case of high cost and low quality in monopolistic government security is easily illustrated.  For example, if one includes the United States’ nuclear-weapons programs (Department of Energy), foreign military aid (Department of State), and long-term care for agents of government security (Department of Veterans’ Affairs), not to mention Homeland Security and our numerous spy agencies, the U.S. spends more wealth on security than the rest of the world combined.

Over 130 of the world’s 190 countries have a U.S. military presence.  Several wars are underway. Somehow, however, it is never enough.  The military always needs more technology, more support, more funding, more reverence, more benefits.  None of it makes us safer.  We still need to be encouraged at airports to patriotically snitch on our neighbors for the absurdly vague crime of acting suspicious.

Government-provided security is so pathetic that private-security guards in the United States outnumber public ones.  One never hears about mall cops Tasering anyone to death, because they are too busy making money in exchange for providing a valuable service.  Unlike public police, private guards are subject to market forces and would be fired for doing any one of the many things we’ve learned not only to tolerate, but to expect from public police, TSA security agents, and other government goons.  Where do the crimes happen most often? On private property, like shopping malls, protected by private security guards, or on public streets protected by public security?

The justice system is so pathetic that people do not fear a negative verdict as much as they fear participation in the state’s “justice” monopoly.  The threat goes “I’m going to sue you,” not “you’re going to be found guilty” — and understandably so, as participation alone is enough to break a human being, regardless of guilt.

In the rare instances where a correct verdict of damages in a civil case is handed down, the judge then heroically provides the victim with a piece of paper, and the victim must then figure out how to collect restitution.  Private collection agencies attempt to bridge the gap, but take between 30 percent and 50 percent of a judgment and will refuse a job altogether when it’s deemed too difficult. 

Contrast this with fledgling private-justice systems like Amazon.com’s conflict-resolution process.  When a merchant is found to be at fault, their account is debited and the victim receives restitution without ever leaving his home, navigating complex procedures or hiring justice-system experts for $100 per hour.

Private justice systems, like Amazon.com’s, tend to favor restitution and excommunication over punishment.  In our monopolistic, state justice system, insult is added to injury for victims when, after a criminal is found guilty, the victim must pay taxes for the criminal’s food, lodging, and entertainment.  The United States’ incarceration rate is approaching one percent of the population — by far the highest in the world — and yet we are not safer.

One common objection to the idea of private security is the fear that private firms would take over and then use their mastery of violence to extort their customers as well as the clients of weaker firms.

First of all, this perfectly describes the current system.  Do you conduct commerce?  Better figure out how to give our “security company” a cut of the profit.  Earn a paycheck?  About a third of it goes to our security company.  Want to buy a high-flow toilet for your home?  Better not let the security company find out; they don’t allow it.  Want to sell raw milk?  The security company won’t allow that either.  Are you Iraqi, Afghan, Egyptian?  Our security company is going to walk all over you.

Secondly, private security companies certainly have the numbers and training to turn into a mafia, but that doesn’t seem to happen.  They are sensitive to market pressures and would lose customers if they acted abusively.  On the other hand, the corrupt cop is so common, he’s almost an archetype in film and literature.

As discussed extensively by philosopher Hans Hermann Hoppe, insurance companies are the natural agencies for providing security services, together with indemnification for lapses in security.  This would put them under financial pressure to keep people as genuinely safe as possible.

Furthermore, just as life insurance doesn’t cover suicide, and fire insurance doesn’t cover arson of your own property, security insurance would not cover instances of violence precipitated by a client.  Market pressure would thus have an effect on consumers of security as well.  It would become expensive to live as a violent, criminal person.  Such people would find themselves increasingly marginalized.  They would find themselves at risk of becoming “outlaws” in the original definition of the term: not convicts, but people declared outside the protection of the security system.

Open war between security firms is unlikely for the simple reason that war, without a population of slaves from whom you can endlessly steal, is very expensive.  Economic pressure would encourage peaceful resolution.

Competition between security firms would increase quality of service and decrease cost.  Competition for services between consumers would encourage a peaceful, harmonious society.

This is indeed a radical idea.  The few crude, imperfect approximations of a free market for security and justice include Medieval Iceland and the “Not-So-Wild” West, which, if you exclude the government-led Indian Wars, had a lower murder rate than most modern U.S. cities.

The missing innovation preventing a more secure, just society is not any type of weapon or instrument of mass surveillance (as often depicted in movies).  The missing innovation is capitalism and the free markets which go with it.

Don’t look for it to happen in the United Sates.  Over 300 million people competing for control of the brute force of law to tell one another how to live is a recipe for disaster.  As Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have said, “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner.”

Look instead to small countries.  Look to the Monacos, Singapores, Liechtensteins, and Luxembourgs of the world.  It will happen not for benevolent impulses, but for selfish ones.  It will happen when enough people realize how much richer and safer they can be, and recognize the tremendous capacity of free people to solve problems by cooperating.

To paraphrase 19th-century French philosopher Frederic Bastiat: Just as we don’t need a witch doctor’s hooks and blades to aid our physiology, we do not need a government’s bullets and bayonets, Tasers and prisons to aid our social being.  We come into this world whole, fully able to grow into its challenges if only we are free to do so.  Faith in liberty is an act of faith in the creator, whether nature or nature’s God.


19 Responses to “The Violence And Justice Monopoly”

  1. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent article!! I hope it gets shared far on wide on facebook because the picture of the monopoly man coupled with the title is a perfect attention getter.

  2. PericlesNo Gravatar says:

    Free individuals create prosperity and then the statist terrorists come in to loot them. Look at that murdering psychopath Obama claiming to own 300 million people and their earnings. Government needs to be exterminated from Earth in order for conscious humans to live happily. There is nowhere to go on this Earth where you can be free of the terrorist organization called government since they have space-based weapons and unlimited fiat money to fund huge armies of stupid public schooled and tv-watching psychopaths. Moving to small city-states is your best way to achieve a bit more freedom. 300M voting parasites will always vote for their own and everyones enslavement. Voters are the worst “people” on Earth-no different than muggers and rapists.

  3. michael varholyNo Gravatar says:

    Tried to share via Facebook and the picture was some kind of motorcycle company add ?

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I know. It’s a really stupid glitch in the facebook software. Instead of it knowing to link to the article’s first image, it links to one of the images in the sidebar.

      It’s a well known problem in the blogging community, and there is a WordPress plugin that is suppose to address the issue, but it doesn’t. At least I couldn’t get it to work. If anybody knows how to fix this please tell me because I hate how it currently is!

      The only way to get it to show the correct image is if you share it from Daily Anarchist’s facebook profile, and not directly from the article. Lame, I know.

  4. For more criticism of the state monopoly, look up Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

    Also, the “Not-So-Wild West” has been written about by historian Tom DiLorenzo and others.

  5. Felix ThommenNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent article to make people think the unthinkable, i.e. that the state is not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

  6. AnonNo Gravatar says:

    A monopoly on the use of force psychologically acts as a pacifier to people. Why? Because once a referee comes into a violent competition, the parties no longer think they’re sitting ducks for putting their guns down. So they do.

    The term “monopoly on the use of force” is also an inaccurate way of putting it. Remember, you are completely exempt from any type of prosecution and even encouraged to use force if you feel an imminent fatal threat to yourself or anyone within your home, front porch or in some cases even your vehicle regardless of whether you’re on your property.

    I know you all love your circle-jerk logic and credit everything good to “free individuals” and everything bad to “gubmint”, but you cannot deny these effects of government. They’re positive. Today there is less violent deaths among humans than there has ever been in history. EVER.

    So stop being such radicals, please. Pick up a book and ignore anyone who criticizes you because its “too mainstream”.

    • I disagree with you about the peacefulness of today’s world. Can you cite a source?

      Historian Tom DiLorenzo has written about the not-so-wild west, finding it had a lower murder rate than more modern-day US cities. Incidentally, private security flourished on the frontier. Wagon trains and mining camps had their own constitutions. Most of the violence associated with the “wild” west was the government sponsored violence of the Indian Wars.

      When you claim how peaceful the world is today, I wonder if you’re taking into account the government sponsored wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the Philippines, and Somalia. Are you taking into account our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate?

      It is true that our rulers permit us to use some (not all) types of defensive force, however this is narrowly supervised by the state. I think it still fits the definition of a monopoly.

      I’ve never criticized anything as being too mainstream, and I read a lot of books — but thanks for the suggestion. I’m not sure what you’re beliefs are, but for you, I recommend “Economics in One Lesson,” “Ethics of Liberty,” and “Democracy, the God that Failed.”

      • AnonNo Gravatar says:

        Roman,

        Please don’t confuse what I said with peace (I could argue that as well but I don’t haven enough sources). I said “Today there is less violent deaths among humans than there has ever been in history. EVER.”

        This is very, very factual and in the U.S. we have a ridiculous incarceration rate which has seemingly lowered violent crime.

        Thank you for your book recommendation, my sources regarding today being the least violent time in history (which it is), can be found many places, but a vast amount of data is demonstrated in Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Yes, “government sponsored wars” are taken into account and all the data shows violence has been in a steady decline for thousands of years going back to estimates of violent deaths in primitive societies (your anarchist utopias) by archaeologists based on forensic data.

        There shouldn’t even be a question of whether or not violence is at an all time low for Humans. Its a question of why. Of course, confirmation bias will most likely lead groups like the one on this site to conclude it can be credited to all but government.

        Anyway, on my original point I said the “monopoly on the use of force” is proven to reduce violence and it is a great thing as long as there’s transparency in it. This is why its important to film cops and the military. This is why its important to have free press so that we can start huge fiascos and get people fired for abusing their badge/uniform. There is nothing wrong with a badge providing special privileges. There’s just something terribly wrong with a malicious human behind behind it and no doubt, we Americans fight back when that happens.

  7. I don’t think there are fewer violent deaths than ever before. It’s a pretty bold statement, especially because there are more people than ever before.

    But even if you only claim that there’s a lower murder RATE than ever before, it’s contradicted by the work of historian Tom DiLorenzo. Do you have a source to back up your claim?

    • AnonNo Gravatar says:

      That’s fine; you’re just proving that anarchists are like religious fundamentalists. The cosmic microwave background radiation means nothing to them just like vast amount of academic studies show that violent deaths are lower than ever in history.

      Obviously, my friend, I am not saying there are less violent deaths as an absolute number. That would be absurd because about 30,000 years ago, a few thousand people dying would be the maximum humans can sustain without going extinct. Yes, if you read my main source I provided it corroborates just what I said about violent deaths and in context (who cares about some hack MIT professor and dozens of other top 100 public intellectuals alive today, right?).

      The work of your HISTORIAN DiLorenzo says nothing about humanity. He has one data point and you extrapolate everything from that? Come on, man. Empirical data sets. Learn them.

    • AnonNo Gravatar says:

      And I apologize if I come off aggressive or douchey. I just have gotten a bit passionate about the studies I’ve made that clearly demonstrate anarchy as a failed system of self “government” because I almost fell into it years ago. Today there’s nutjobs like molyneaux who have a small following of around 50,000 which is somewhat significant to me for the same reason (although not nearly as concerning) as the 80 million evangelicals we have in the U.S.

      I believe the majority of Christians in the U.S. are benign for the most part. They’re just fans and they ignore huge chunks of the bible because they, at some level, recognize that society is impossible to live in under those conditions.

      So I appreciate that probably 95% or more of Anarchists are benign in their beliefs and are completely peaceful. They’re just fans of the dogma. I still, however, feel compelled to say something somewhere regarding what empirical data shows.

      Please forgive me for any offense I may have caused you.

  8. I”m not familiar with that book, but if it’s true, (contrary to what I’ve read) then lets hope that government and its pointless wars withers away so that violence continues to decline.

    • Again, I’m not concerned with that book, but it’s hard to reconcile your claim of an increasingly peaceful society as we emerge from a century which saw well over a hundred million people slaughtered by their own governments. Professor RJ Rummel estimates over 170 million. The black book of communism looks only at socialist governments and estimates over 100 million.

    • AnonNo Gravatar says:

      Can you point me at the “contradictions” you’ve read? And please note that it is not a contradiction if its simply a study of the 20th century, for example. You would have had to read studies based on all of human history so at least 5,000 years and then found that the species has become increasingly violent (lol – it hasn’t).

      You asked for a citations and I provided you with an MIT professor’s work that took years to collect and you’re not “concerned” with it? I see.

      • I’m actually very interested in that book. It sounds fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation.

        I guess I have two main reactions:

        1) Without yet reading the book you recommended, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” I’m skeptical that violence is decreasing because of the following:
        - the mass slaughters which occurred last century at the hands of governments as documented by Robert Conquest, RJ Rummel, and the Black Book of Communism.
        - The not so wild, wild west.
        - The changing face of war as Europe moved from Monarchy to Democracy. See the essay “Monarchy and War” in this collection.
        Though, on the other hand, commerce does make people peaceful, and commerce has spread over the world like never before. I’m curious what points your MIT professor makes.

        2) Suppose it is true that violence is decreasing (I do hope the last century was an exception). So what? Would you not condemn rape because generally, world-wide violence is trending downward? Would you not condemn murder? Regardless of such trends, it remains important to examine institutions, actions and consequences on their own merits.

        I have slowly and reluctantly concluded that government is not our defender from exploitation, but rather our greatest exploiter. For example, I am many times more likely to be killed by an agent of government security than by a terrorist.

  9. TedNo Gravatar says:

    This article is shit. It is poorly written, filled with easily refuted halsf arguments and you stole the graphic.

  10. AryanNo Gravatar says:

    While I broadly agree to the fact that even in judiciary and law and order government can get rid of a lot of fat, I am not sure how both these systems can work under free markets.

    “Free Markets lead to efficient use of resources” that is true only when we assume information symmetry and the fact that both parties are acting in self interest. It turns out that in most cases both of these assumption are widely true and that is why the economy works.

    When it comes to law and order for example. The case is opposite. It is not a transaction where both parties are willing, it is full of information asymmetry and it is not clear if the self interests of the people involved lead to a non-zero sum game. In such cases it is likely to lead to inefficient use of resources.

    Imagine a girl is raped. She moves to the private law enforcement agency. The private law enforcement agency finds out that the rapist is in his home. Now, how exactly is this agency supposed to violate the person’s right to property and break in into his house ? Also, why will the private agency do this for free ? If they are doing it for money why cant they simply hold an auction between offender and victim ?

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