Thursday, December 07, 2006

Arguement Against Anarchy 3

People love to resort to this one if they find no other way to attack the idea that government is unnecessary.

"Without government, you'd just have big corporations hiring private armies and taking over."

I'll give you the long refutation first, and the short version second. Because I feel like torturing you with common sense.

First thing that you have to consider here is the motivation. In order for such a venture as the violent conquering of a territory to be done, there would have to be a percieved reward. Let's call it taxes. The violent megacorp, let's call it "Vichi Incorporated", would have to have a means of compelling the payment of taxes.

Door to door assessment and payment is out of the question. It's too impractical, opens the tax collectors up to too many ambushes, and if the private army is collecting the taxes, they're going to demand a big pay raise to do recurring systematic and predictable entry into everyone's business or home and steal the tribute. Vichi would not have the systematic, institutionalized, ritualized, or legitemized method which governments employ. Victims would not see these payments as "their fair share", but as theft, and respond appropriately (i.e. shoot the bastards). Vichi would have a very hard time collecting any taxes, and the taxes collected would likely not be enough to cover their costs.

The second thing to consider is the costs. War is not cheap. How much would a private army cost? Most people would not accept money to go get shot at, except "patriotic nationalists", and those wouldn't really exist in anarchy, since anarchy isn't national. A gang of mercenaries would be expensive. Aside from that, any mercenaries that wanted more than offered might, "just to teach Vichi a lesson", tell everyone else of Vichi's plan, so they can be ready for it. This will only amplify the costs in both lives and dollars for Vichi.

The third thing is resistance. There would certainly be resistance to this. Protection agencies, militias, your average everyday gun anarchy, where an SMG could be had for $80 and bombs made for whatever the explosive costs (it's extremely cheap), it's fully possible that the anarchist resistance would be as well armed as the private army, and have the defender's advantage. Vichi would obviously not have priorly claimed the territory involved and therefore gun control would be absolutely impossible.

Governments have an exceptional advantage in each of these. They do not have to conquer a territory, they already have some. They can collect taxes easily because dissent is scarce enough that the violaters can be systematically determined and imprisoned. They can get fighters for very cheap also, because part of the population would patriotically fight for their government without pay, and the rest of the population could be drafted. Resistance under government is difficult because of the general consensus that the government is good. Vichi would have to work from scratch.

Even considering the advantages which the government has, governments still default on their debts. I can assure you that a private army would stop fighting if they weren't getting paid anymore because the war expenses were greater than the tax income for Vichi. Vichi would run up a debt from the costs, what little tax income could be gathered would not go nearly as far as the total costs.

Vichi would have to play a very precarious balancing game as the fulcrum was shifted around underneath them. Suppose one soldier can keep 20 men under control (I'd guess higher, but consider the ease of resistance with explosives and guns being so easily attainable). Vichi would have to figure out how many people can be controlled per soldier, and extract at minimum, that soldier's annual pay from the 20 people. If we count men, women, and children in those 20, the median income in the US is $40k per year. Let's assume families of five, that means one soldier can control people who produce a total of $160k per year. Let's bump that up to $240k to consider the kids and the wives, who are less likely to be working or for as much income. At 10% tax, Vichi could pay each soldier $24k and break even if it had zero management overhead. Will mercenaries work for $24k per year? Some will. Others will want more. At 20%, Vichi increases the motivation for guerilla resistance. This will correspondingly increase the pay demands for the private army. If the mercs started demanding $36k per year, Vichi would be extracting $48k, and make a $12k profit per merc, with which to pay for any overhead. At 50% tax, resistance would be far more than proportional to the increase in taxes. Mercs would not survive very long and so only for massive pay would they continue fighting. Not only would Vichi have to balance the taxes with the mercenary's pay, but they'd also have to balance the population density. If 20 people moved from outside the area being controlled to one place where 20 other people were, but Vichi only put 1 mercenary there, the probability that the combative among those 40 will kill the mercenary is much higher. This is assuming a point of general obedience could even be reached.

Vichi had to get it's money from providing some kind of good or service on the market, after it attempted to rule everyone else, this good or service had to have a lot of infrastructure and capital invested which would have the floorplate fall out from under it. Vichi's invested time and energy in it's previous (and obviously successful) venture would all go to waste as people witnessed Vichi's actions and boycotted it.

The short version is, the government will protect you from the violent megacorp's private army...but who protects you against the government?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best counterargument here is that essentially, this has already happened — private interests have set themselves up as states and have compelled tribute all over the planet. This isn’t so much an argument against the advisability of anarchism as an observation about its fragility. I think maybe the best way to argue against the “but in an anarchy, the bad nasties will take over” is to respond “and then what would you advise people to do about it?” because that’s more-or-less the situation we’re in now

6:56 AM  
Blogger Zhwazi said...

What we have today is different. Big business did not begin coercion of government in the United States, for example. After kicking out the British, the American revolutionaries chose to set up another government. It was not a private interest which took violent control over a territory, it was public at the beginning. Private interests have influenced the government the American revolutionaries set up to the point that it could be considered a private interest or collection of them, but there is a lot of difference between private interests creating their own violent power structure, and private interests using an existing violent power structure for their own interests.

I wrote a post about the agorist method of dealing with the State, which would work against a similarly disposed company today. It's still a draft, I never finished it and put it up. I'll do that sometime in the next few days. Input is appreciated though.

8:20 PM  

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