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Critique my "Walmart won't enslave us all" argument

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Wheylous Posted: Sun, Apr 22 2012 12:23 PM


I begin by drawing inspiration by a wonderful article by Robert Murphy: (read it first)
There he discusses some reasons for why a market anarchist society does not lose (ceteris paribus) to government and why doomsday scenarios are unlikely.
I have not read much on the topic of private defense (though I have read part of Chaos Theory), and I indeed hope to read much more in the future, including
The Private Production of Defense (Hoppe):
The Myth of National Defense (Hoppe):
and many others, yet I have thought about the subject and would like to present my ideas.
Drawing from the Murphy article (which, if you have not read, I highly recommend), we know that to make a fair judgment of anarcho-capitalism, voluntaryism, or market anarchy, we need to compare it to the state in ceteris paribus conditions. Hence, it is not useful to point out that ignorant savages living under anarchy would form a “worse” society than enlightened law-abiding citizens who live under limited government (Murphy’s idea).
Using this intuition, I wish to extend Murphy’s argument and provide undoubtedly concrete evidence for market anarchy (though I do believe Murphy’s logic is quite sound).
Again, I will be employing a technique that I have independently developed called “compare to the state” (though I am sure others have had this intuition before, including Stefan Molyneux). Here is the essence behind the idea:
When dealing with market scenarios we sometimes deal with probabilities. For example, “is it likely that X will be provided?” While economics can often give us laws, at times we are left, as non-economists yet as rigorous thinkers, to contemplate the “possibility” of X happening. Hence, we would like to find a way to determine (within reasonable bounds and supported by solid evidence) whether the market would act in a certain way. To do this, we must take into account the mentality of the public and its incentives. While we cannot do a controlled experiment to test the system, I contend that we can fruitfully compare scenarios in market anarchy to scenarios under the state to ascertain the behavior of the public. Furthermore, if the state either
1) Cannot solve a problem
2) Cannot explain how it solves a problem (emergent phenomena)
then the proponent of market anarchy need not either solve the problem or show how market anarchy solves the problem (as long as the solution has to do with the mindset of the public and not specific aspects of the state).
By using similar logic, Murphy explains that private tyranny is not more likely than public tyranny.
Let’s extend that.
A common objection to market anarchy is “what if an evil Walmart buys a large army and decides to enslave the public?”
At first, this question appears daunting. We have a scenario that appears possible under market anarchy, and one that furthermore would result in an unappealing destabilization of society. This is a legitimate concern that must be handled before accepting market anarchy.
There are other very valid responses to this question which I will not address here. Instead, I want to take the line of thought, extend it, and thereby show that markets solve at least as well as the state.
So now we have (as a given) that Walmart has hired some army and plans to enslave people. The army of Walmart is quite sizeable, because Walmart supposedly has a lot of money.
Yet apply the same reasoning to the state. Walmart, hitherto a non-evil company, takes all its money and decides hire an army to enslave us. What is the response to this? Surely we could not prevent this ahead of time, because Walmart gave us no indication that it would do this (otherwise, the free market has the same signals and could end our original dilemma anyway).
So the state is caught unaware. It must fight Walmart. It gets together money and raises an army. It defeats Walmart, and all is good. The question is, why was the state able to raise enough money? Remember that here we are comparing the free market to a working, transparent democratic system. As such, the state responds to the Walmart threat because of the concerns of its citizens. The citizens want protection, and because the state has a legal monopoly on creating armies, the state is the only “legal” way to fight Walmart with an army. Hence, we have seen that the government action of fighting Walmart is a result of constituent demand, not an inherently-deterministic government process. The large majority of the public wanted to stop Walmart.
Now that we have seen how the state works, take away the state. The desire of the public for peace still exists (remember, we need ceteris paribus), and the Walmart threat still exists. Since the public obviously has the money to stop Walmart (the state had to get the money from somewhere, didn’t it?) AND the public has the desire to stop Walmart, then the public will raise money to create a force that can stop Walmart. Walmart is hence defeated.
We see that both the “willing” and “able to pay” part of the demand curve are constant across both scenarios. Hence, you are able to have the same outcome.
In conclusion, for this first section, IF a state can solve the problem of evil companies, THEN, so can the free market.
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tunk replied on Sun, Apr 22 2012 2:41 PM

One quibble: 

the public obviously has the money to stop Walmart (the state had to get the money from somewhere, didn’t it?)

Eh, not necessarily. Only if the revenue was raised through taxes/sales of gov't bonds. Not if the debt is monetized. But then I suppose you would get into an ethical dilemma, over whether it's okay to commit one wrong (counterfeiting money, causing inflation and business cycle) to prevent another wrong (chance of evil Walmart take-over).

Also, something else that might present a problem in terms of co-ordination is that with the state, everyone about to be attacked by Walmart is already subscribed to the same defense agency, whereas on the market they wouldn't necessarily be.

Otherwise, nicely done. I also use this tactic. It seems to me that if you can show that your opponent's "objection" to the free market is really a Nirvana fallacy, i.e. a problem inherent in reality that no one has the power to solve including the government, then you win, at least in principle.

E.g. the welfare-statist obejction to voluntary charity - "but there's no guarantee" - reduces to this; there are no guarantees of anything in reality. People must vote for welfare, the welfare department could go bankrupt, etc.

Actually, a lot of objections to the market seem to be complaints not about the market as such but about the very existence of uncertainty or scarcity, which it's a total illusion to think the state can make go away.

For example, it's true that on the market, your access to resources is (barring charity) determined by how much money you are able and willing to give up. But this will never go away, even if you impose socialism on everyone tomorrow. Regardless of the economic system you live under, your access to just about anything is determined by what you are willing to give up, because all scarce resources have a cost in terms of forgone opportunities.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Apr 22 2012 3:23 PM

Good point on the debt monetization. The question then is how much of war debt is monetized.

But even then, we actually have zero good empirical data points, because we've never really had a defensive war. Why does this matter? Raising money for protection would be easier than raising money for aggression.

As to the "already subscribed to police under the state" argument, don't standing government armies themselves pose the same threat? We don't seem to have been enslaved yet (by the army).

I will try to find a better argument for the second one.

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wouldnt the walmart run out of money since the people wouldnt buy from a walmart that enslaved and killed others?

there could be a mass boycott of a evil corporative monopoly and it will fall very quickly if that oppresive monopoly oppressed the people to hte pt where the people boycotted the monopoly and killed it (rosa aprks/martin luther king buses).

this is an argument that i make sometimes when people tell me that under a free market system, oppresive monopolies arise and there needs to be government regulation, and as far as i know, microsoft hasnt killed my family yet.


“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

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Wheylous replied on Fri, May 4 2012 10:29 PM

microsoft hasnt killed my family yet.

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