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Anarchocapitalist roads, drains, and real monopolies.

Ordinary law and order in anarcho capitalism is unlikely to be a big problem, one that ordinary people think about much or notice much, except in the sense of large gangs or external governments attempting to become governments.  All too often however, we will find someone saying “if only there was someone who had enough authority to make this road straight, wider, and free of charge”

If we look at the rise of kings, in the early stages of their rise one of the chief advantages of dangerously great and highly centralized authority was that the king would keep “the king’s road” open, enabling money and people to get where they wanted to go, by killing those who would set up barricades and shake down travellers. 

Unless people in an anarcho capitalist society are prepared to keep their own damn roads open, it is not going to work. 

Lots of roads are privately owned today.  The roads in a housing development are often owned by housing association, sometimes voluntary, sometimes compulsory.  In some rather small developments, the road is owned by the guy on the top of the hill, who passes around the hat as necessary, but everyone has the right to use the road to access the other properties.  In my case, I own one side of such a road, and the owner of another property owns the other side, but everyone has the right to use the road to access any one of five properties.  All five properties own an easement on both sides of the road. 

In an anarcho capitalist society, the small roads would all work like this, and the big roads would all be toll roads. 

There is a problem with toll roads, and with any long linear property.  In principle, the owner could make a profit by providing an obstacle rather than access, by charging people to cross his property.  This is obviously illegitimate.  He can reasonably charge for providing access, for allowing people to drive along his property, but not for allowing people to cross it, charge for providing access to other places, not for blocking access to other places.  For an anarcho capitalist society to work, people would need to demand a right of access, should be willing to pay for roads, but not pay for road blocks.  If people succeed in charging for blocking, rather than providing, access, then trade and commerce would be severely impaired, as it was during the middle ages. 

This, illegitimate toll collection, is the greatest problem parts of the world that do not have a central government, for example Somalia, and Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban.  For an anarchic society to succeed economically, most people must believe that they have a right to get to any place they have a right to be.  This is already a principle in English common law.  An easement over private property is always presumed to exist to allow people to get to any place they have a right to be, but for anarchy to work, this principle has to be in people's hearts.  In an economically successful anarchic society, if you do not want people barging over your property, you have to provide a way around it. 

Let us suppose for example someone owns a narrow strip of land running all the way across the country from east to west, perhaps originally acquired to build a road or some such.  Now if he makes it into a nice road, it is reasonable that he should be free to charge anyone who wishes to use that road to go from East to West.  But what of those who want to go from North to South? Should he be free to make his road into a wall, and charge those who wish to cross it? Obviously not.  But how, in an anarcho capitalist society will travellers stop him? 

Obviously in an anarchist society, no one except those affected are going to be concerned to stop him, so there has to be a norm, a widely accepted view, that it is in fact legitimate for people to be free to get from any place they have a right to be, to any other place they have a right to be, and not be stopped, and that if they are unreasonable and obstinately stopped, they can do what it takes to pass, meeting force to force – which implies that if a union, or anyone else, trys to blockade someone, that someone can start shooting.  This was in fact the norm, reasonably accepted behavior, in the early years of unionism in the United States, a fact that many people find horrifying, but which seems pretty reasonable to me.  The union would set up camp on the key road serving the employer’s facility, and sooner or later, the employer would have to start shooting. 

Critics of capitalism tend to see monopolies everywhere, even where no one else sees a monopoly, and fans of capitalism often do not see monopolies, even when one seemingly exists.  But there is a reason why a seeming monopoly is often not a real monopoly.  Suppose one large business smelts all the aluminum, as in fact right now it does.  Provided there is nothing that stops anyone else from smelting aluminum, what is the harm in that?  This would only be a problem if no one else could smelt aluminum.  So the aluminum monopoly may look like a monopoly, but really it is not, for it can only keep its “monopoly” by keeping prices low and quality high. 

Suppose on the other hand, one big landlord owned all the land, or owned land surrounding every person's land and claimed the right to prevent passage, and enforced his will.  Then that would indeed be a monopoly.  That big landlord would have the power of a socialist state, would in fact be a socialist state, and people would be right to rebel against that state, kill its rulers, and redistribute the state’s property to individuals. 

If a real monopoly, not what socialists call a monopoly, but a true monopoly occurs, then all the capitalist arguments against socialism and justifying violence against socialist measures apply to that monopoly, and if that monopoly dresses itself in the clothes of property rights and voluntary agreements, then all the socialist arguments against property rights and voluntary agreements apply to the property of that particular monopoly.  But when property rights are thus set aside, one always winds up killing people.  Before confronting such an alleged monopoly, one needs to ask: should we be killing people, or should we be seeking an alternate source of these goods?. 

In most cases, to ask the question is to answer it.  The so called monopoly is usually no monopoly at all – but with local roads, local drains, and the like, real monopolies really do abound.  How shall anarcho capitalists deal with this without neighbors killing each other too often?

The right to cut across other people's land if there is no reasonable way around has to be upheld, the right of innocent passage, placing an obligation on landowners to provide for travellers – the landowner has to provide a way around his property, if he is to be entitled to shoot people cutting across it. 

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