Over the last few months, there have been a number of articles on prominent libertarian websites criticizing the libertarian impulse towards agorism as a means to advance liberty.  Specifically, the critics used the vehicle of Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road prosecution to show the potential folly of approaching liberty activism in this way.

Back in February, prior to Ulbricht’s sentencing, Robert Wenzel wrote the following:

… if you want to advance liberty, it makes little sense to be operating a black market web site just as it makes little sense to be selling drugs from a street corner to advance liberty. And from a practical perspective, if the government snares you while running a black market site, you are going to pay dearly.

After Ulbricht’s unnecessarily cruel life sentence was handed down, Jeff Diest shared a similar thought:

Unfortunately the Silk Road prosecution will only strengthen dark connections in the public hive mind between internet markets, privacy, cryptocurrencies, and real (i.e. not victimless) criminality. That these connections are mostly unfounded misses the point: the conflation of voluntaryist agorism with libertarianism is not likely to push the public in our direction.

The Bionic Mosquito put it more bluntly:

No matter how much we might disagree, the state will not tolerate anonymous financial transactions (except cash, and only barely). Those who promoted the anonymity value of bitcoin and various “anonymous” marketplaces as advances toward freedom did no one a service.

While it is possible that the specific circumstances surrounding the Silk Road case could be damaging for the liberty movement – I would dispute that – make no mistake: none of these authors were being critical of this specific case only.  By making reference to Murray Rothbard’s strong criticism of agorism as means to advance liberty, they each made it clear that their ultimate concern was with agorism itself.

In an exchange with Samuel Konkin, Rothbard wrote:

Much as I love the market, I refuse to believe that when I engage in a regular market transaction (e.g., buying a sandwich) or a black-market activity (e.g., driving at 60 miles per hour) I advance one iota nearer the libertarian revolution. The black market is not going to be the path to liberty, and libertarian theoreticians and activists have no function in that market.

Of course, none of these critics is against advancing liberty.  So, how then is liberty best advanced, according to these critics?  Education – first, last, and always education.

Here is the problem that I have with this.  As all of the critics who referenced Rothbard admit, Rothbard’s remarks were made long before the interent became a reality.  In the world that Rothbard inhabited, agorism could only ever advance so far.  To reach a large portion of the population, politics was still the best vehicle – not as a means of attaining power, but as a means to spread the message of liberty.  Unfortunately for the people who were involved in the liberty movement at the time, despite being the best of all available options, it still wasn’t a very good option.  Libertarianism advanced at a snails pace for decades.

But with the introduction of the internet, the advancement of the liberty movement began to go exponential, leveling the information playing field in a way that can not be overstated.  The internet has been the great decentralizer, severely weakening institutional power and placing more control into the hands of ordinary people.  Is it possible that Rothbard might have re-thought his position on agorism in light of this paradigm shifting technology?

I agree with Rothbard that merely participating in a black market does little to advance liberty.  It’s an expression of one’s liberty, but it doesn’t do much to move the general public towards liberty.  But, what about ventures that are designed to further decentralize the world around us?  Like the internet, can’t these potential new ventures introduce the average person to what liberty means in practical terms?

For example, more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that government policing does not exist to protect the people as much as it exists to enforce the dictates of the political class – that government police are becoming an increasingly dangerous presence in the communities in which they “serve”.  However, as with most government failures, the average person’s response is to call for reform of the government version of this service.  There is no leap made in the mind of the average person to abolish government policing and to replace it with market alternatives.

But, what if a libertarian entrepreneur came up with a way to decentralize personal security in a way that the average person could experience for himself without having to subscribe to libertarian ideology first?  Wouldn’t this have an infinitely more powerful effect on advancing liberty than writing a blog about about why centralized policing is bad?

(For the record, this is a very real example, and a serious effort is underway to make this a reality.)

Unfortunately, for those who still cling to Rothbard’s quote from 1980, the situation has completely reversed.  Education will only take the liberty movement so far.  The vast majority of people are not interested in political ideology of any kind, much less the intense philosophical discussions of first principles and their application to our present day political system.  Furthermore, of the people who are interested in these discussions, a large percentage prefer theoretical socialism over theoretical anarchism.  In other words, there is a limit on how many people can be converted to libertarianism through education alone.

Uber is a more powerful decentralizer than an essay criticizing taxi cab monopolies.  The liberty movement needs more Ubers.  I have no doubt that libertarian papers will continue to get written either way.

In the last week, I have a seen a number of people in the libertarian community refer to the need to promote alternatives to government police.  In a recent LRC article, Will Grigg wrote:

Why not abolish qualified immunity for all security personnel? Critics of that proposal might protest that this would undermine the state’s monopoly on the provision of “security” by requiring its employees to compete on equal terms with the private sector. Which is precisely the point.

This is a point that many libertarians understand all too well, but the general public seems completely oblivious.  Not long after the article was posted though, John Keller, in response to an airport lock down in Phoenix, blogged:

Once it was generally agreed that the TSA were doing nothing, I pondered how Disney would handle a situation like this, adding that it’s one of the safest places on Earth, and has surely dealt with bad people intent on harming others. One woman relayed a story of a foiled kidnapping, and a man remarked that he had never thought of that. I said I thought the airports should be sold to Disney or auctioned off, since private security would obviously handle this better. This crazed, libertarian, Hoppean remark was met with approval all around. I was so astounded, I wandered off and repeated this little experiment 3 or 4 more times with the same result. Almost everyone has been to Disney. One rarely feels unsafe or unwelcome and all without pawing security agents leering at you while boarding Space Mountain. There are probably 50 people repeating versions of this story all around Phoenix. Lesson Learned: No need to go on about libertarian theory or anarcho capitalism. People relate best to comparing concrete experiences such as the lousy one they are in with a pleasant memory. Side-note: this works well at the DMV, too.

While many of us in the liberty community could rattle off a number of theoretical ways that a private market in police services might manifest, the average person is completely uninterested (or completely horrified at the thought of possibly abolishing the government monopoly on policing), but as Keller points out, when given a concrete example of how private security actually works, many people quickly become more open to the idea.

To me, this is evidence that the clear mandate in the liberty community right now is to start building real liberty oriented services, products, etc. that the average person can use and appreciate today.  If we are waiting for “the revolution” for things to change, we will likely be waiting for a long time (and in vain).

To that end, I am launching the Weebultree web app today.  It’s probably better experienced than explained, but the quickest way that I could describe it is that it’s like Kickstarter for collaborations.  It is intended to be a playground for Voluntaryism, where people, money, and their common interests can mix to accomplish whatever inspires broad support.

More specifically, I’ve also started the very first group on Weebultree* whose primary purpose is to help develop and promote free market alternatives to government police.  As more and more people recoil from the growing militarization of the police, I believe that this group can be effective in growing an industry that badly needs to step up and put their government inferiors to shame.

If these ideas resonate with you, come check out the group* and share this post with others who are ready to start building the future.

* Note that this group is now private and requires an invitation to join.  If you would like an invitation, please contact me.

First, the Weebultree project that I discussed two weeks ago is nearly ready for public release.  Though I was hoping to have more to say about it today, that post will have to come later in the week.  If you’ve been looking forward to it, I apologize for the additional wait.

Second, though I am beyond excited about the project, I understand that not everyone is excited as I am.  This blog has always been a vehicle for sharing my opinion about liberty related matters of all kinds, and I plan to get back to that as soon as the project is officially up and running.  In fact, I likely won’t post much about the project for a while once it’s launched.  So, if you’ve been a fan of this blog (and couldn’t care less about the project), I will truly be back soon.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive along the way!

The era of big government is over.

It may not seem like it but big government’s prime years are very much in the rear view mirror.  The era when people believed that total control of society by government would bring about near utopia on earth are a distant memory.  Nowadays, even your typical “progressive” acknowledges that we need the free market to prosper.  Moreover, the average Joe takes it for granted that government solutions are bound to be inefficient, costly, and often ineffective – a “necessary evil” in certain cases, they suppose, but not a welcomed one.  Faith in big government is virtually dead, and more evidence that such faith is misplaced is revealed on a daily basis.

More generally speaking, big institutions of all kinds, public and private, are beginning to lose dominance within society, and peer to peer networks are starting to play a larger role.  The reason for this is fairly straightforward:

Universal peer to peer communication, via the Internet, has reduced the cost of collaboration to near zero. Formerly, the means of mass communication and sources of expert knowledge were centralized, expensive, and controlled by institutional interests.

As a result, Pyramid Hierarchies [i.e. big institutions] are losing their power. Emergent Networks are rising to replace them. Mass communication and expert knowledge is becoming decentralized, cheap, and harder to monopolize. (emphasis in original)

As an institution grows so does the gap between it’s original goals and the personal goals of the people who work in it.  Self preservation becomes far more important that customer satisfaction, and in the case of government where there’s no negative sanction for poor “customer interaction”, bureaucrats have virtually no incentive to do much more than to keep their seats warm.  How the organization is structured, who gets the most power within that organization, etc. become more important than what the organization actually accomplishes.  Their very existence becomes an end unto itself.  As a result, far more often than not, big institutions, (e.g. big government and big corporations), regardless of how they begin, evolve into process oriented bureaucracies rather than results oriented organizations.

Due to this reality, it’s not that hard for peer networks to outperform these institutions on a regular basis.  For example, in several recent natural disasters, peer networks stepped up where government agencies and big charities failed.

What happens when federally-hired emergency workers can’t handle a federal emergency? FEMA staffers found out the answer firsthand this week when Occupy activists had to lend a hand.

Residents of the region were once again out of luck over the weekend, but activists aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement — specifically those assisting with relief efforts under the umbrella of Occupy Sandy — came to the rescue. It wasn’t the citizens of Staten Island or New Jersey that were lining up for aid, either — it was federal FEMA workers.

Not only was Occupy Sandy on the ground before anyone else, including FEMA, but they fulfilled more practical daily needs, (i.e. food, survival supplies, etc.), more consistently and more completely than any other relief organization.  And they continue to help the victims of that disaster to this day.  This was a spontaneous organization of Occupy Wall Street peers who were simply interested in meeting the needs of those affected by the historic storm.  It didn’t matter that they were poorly funded and loosely organized.  The professionals, (i.e. FEMA and the American Red Cross), were left in their dust as they got things done where it counted.

Of course, this is just a small example of a much larger trend.  From open source software to homeschooling cooperatives to crypto-currency to food bartering networks to crowd funded innovations, peer networks are spontaneously forming to accomplish the mutually agreed upon goals of a group of peers.  People are no longer just waiting around for some government agency or some other big institution to come to their rescue, they are taking matters into their own hands and getting things done.

That’s the good news.  The great news is that people have not yet fully realized the potential of these networks, but they are beginning to:

As Winter Storm “Leon” 2014 worsened Tuesday evening, a Marietta woman reached out over the social media vines to help stranded motorists, and enable others to help.  Nearly 50,000 people are following Michelle Sollicito’s “SnowedOutAtlanta” Facebook page.  And the social network Sollicito created, which got so big overnight that it had to be splintered into regional pages, is winning applauds from across metro Atlanta.

She has done more for our city than any official,” Scott Wise of Marietta said. (emphasis added)

Note that these are not philosophical anarchists in this example or the previous example.  The inclination to form mutually beneficial collaborations is not limited to full fledged anarcho-capitalists who understand that all of these things are simple expressions of the free market.  Yet, what we are witnessing is voluntaryism in action without the philosophical hurdles that tend to keep otherwise reasonable people from appreciating its benefits.  Also note that these collaborations occurred first, and then the tools to facilitate these collaborations were cobbled together from existing products and services.  Now, imagine what could be accomplished with a tool specifically designed to encourage and facilitate these peer to peer free market collaborations.

That tool – a new platform for forging powerful peer to peer collaborations – is the project that I have been working on for the last several months.  The impetus behind it is to encourage this larger trend of spontaneous acts of voluntaryism among those who may not have even heard of the term, and to help focus the energies of actual voluntaryist into collaborations that will actually move society towards the goal of non-aggression.  It’s a platform where people can form groups, discuss their ideas, set goals, create projects and individual tasks, and raise money as a group to complete those projects, and it will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the users evolve.

Of course, the tool will only be as good as the people who choose to use it.  To that end, I hope to start the first group on the platform with people who truly understand its power.  I have a very specific group that I would like to start (with an issue that is very much near and dear to my heart), but I am willing to entertain other possibilities from voluntaryists who are enthusiastic  about getting something accomplished for liberty.  Please send your thoughts and suggestions my way.  In the meantime, please share this post with those who are anxious to start working towards change, and watch this space in two weeks for more details on the launching of this new platform.

(For those who are wondering, this platform will not cost anything to join, and there are no recurring user fees.)

One of the most frustrating experiences I have as an anarchist is to have my beliefs completely misunderstood or misrepresented by otherwise reasonable people.  I have come to expect that using a loaded term like “anarcho-capitalist” will tend to set off would-be debaters – much like yelling, “Patriarchy!” in a theater crowded with third wave feminists – but even when I use innocuous sounding terms like, “voluntaryist“, people get far more hostile than I naturally anticipate.

Primarily, this hostility stems from people substituting what I am actually saying to them with their preconceived notions of what they think I mean.  For example, for many people the term “free market” is synonymous with “big business”, and the term “government” is synonymous with “democracy”.  So, when I say that I say that I am for free market solutions and against government solutions, what many people hear is that I am for putting big business in charge of society and suppressing democracy, (i.e. “the people’s voice”).  They don’t hear what I am actually saying – that I prefer to solve issues through peaceful cooperation between individuals rather than through government sanctioned aggression against peaceful but non-consenting individuals.

Arguing with such people is generally an exercise in futility, but it gets worse than that.  Beyond the small group of people who are at least willing to engage with me on the ideas of liberty, there is a vastly larger group of people who don’t want to discuss any of it at all.  The average Joe simply does not care about any of this stuff.  His highest philosophical aspirations is to decide which party best represents him.  To him, outside of that narrow consideration lay the path towards “extremism”.

Unfortunately, the reality that so few are interested in understanding and advocating for liberty leads some to the conclusion that the only way for society to move forward is for the enlightened few – the remnant, if you will – to eventually rise up violently to remove the parasitic class of overseers, (i.e. the State).  It’s a romantic notion – the idea of a final struggle between good and evil, where the good forces finally prevail – but it’s completely wrongheaded.  Ironically, even the people who are the strongest advocates of the free market often fall back on other means when it comes to trying to achieve the ultimate goal of a Stateless society.  As I have written previously:

… there’s also a practical problem beyond the philosophically confusing impetus behind an armed libertarian revolution.  The cold hard reality is that revolutions, by their very nature, are political exercises.  A successful revolution rests very much on winning the hearts and minds of those who are to be “revolutionized”, and if “the people” aren’t on your side before you start shooting, they are even less likely to be on your side after you turn their comfortable suburban neighborhoods into war zones.  So, before you begin stockpiling ammo, you might want to start going door to door campaigning to make sure that your neighbors are ready to rally to your cause once the bullets start flying.

So, do I believe that an anarchist society is a lost cause?  Absolutely not!  Again, as I have previously written:

… what the liberty movement needs right now are practical solutions that the average person can immediately use and understand.  We are living at a time when the technology is available for us to create a complete set of alternatives to what the State provides people now.  It’s up to us to build it, and to invite our neighbors and friends to join us in using it.  That’s something that we must do regardless of how the State eventually falls, so we might as well use it as our primary means for challenging the State.  In this way, the State will eventually seem like a useless dinosaur, and no one will have to fire a shot to destroy it.  It will simply fade away into history.

While there are lots of positive liberty minded business ventures on the rise, the liberty movement needs a whole lot more of them.  In particular, we need more businesses that don’t just excite other libertarians but appeal to the masses regardless of their political leanings.  We need more people participating in the alternatives to the State simply because it’s a better option for them.  So, for example, instead of endlessly debating with critics about how security could be provided without the State, we could simply point to a free market example and show how it is infinitely better than the State run version.  But, we need more of these examples.  (How priceless would it be to a free market alternative to government policing in Ferguson, Missouri right now?)

As an aside, I should note that while the preceding thoughts are compatible with agorism, I am advocating something somewhat distinct from agorism (as I understand it).  Agorism tends to focus on building up the black market to counter the State regulated market, which essentially requires participants to actively engage in illegal activity.  This is a barrier to entry for many who are not strong philosophical libertarians.  What I am suggesting, on the other hand, is to create opportunities that are as legal as possible but that also naturally undermine the State.  The goal is to have the average Joe using so many alternatives to what are otherwise considered State functions that he eventually begins to wonder for himself why we need a State at all.

To that end, I have been working on a project that attempts to bring a small taste of anarchy to the masses – a reintroduction to the free market without any preconceived notions or any other kind of philosophical baggage poisoning the experience.  I hope that it will be one of a thousand new reference points for bringing people towards liberty and away from the State.  I will have more to say about this project in two weeks, but in the meantime, if this approach to the liberty movement resonates with you, please share this essay with as many people as you think may also be interested.

I just wanted to let those of you who follow this blog know that I am going to be taking a break from writing new content for a little while.  I am working on a project that is taking up quite a bit of my spare time.  Hopefully, as I make progress, I’ll be able to starting blogging again.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this blog to this point.  I’ll be back!

Do you know how much money you spend on security?

If you’re like the average person, you have at least a rough idea of how much money you spend on food in a given month, and you likely know exactly what you pay to keep a roof over your head.  Yet, even though it is just as important as food and shelter, if not more, you are unlikely to have any idea how much money is spent on your personal protection.

The reason for this is simple.  Unlike the relatively free markets for food and shelter, the market for security has been socialized and therefore greatly hampered.  Because government is the dominant security provider, security costs are spread across the population but the benefits are aimed at no one in particular.

The results are very much like what happened when the Soviet Union socialized food and shelter.  Instead of the long bread lines like the Russians had to endure, in America, we have an overburdened court system where a “speedy trial” can take months, if not years, to schedule.  Instead of empty shelves, there’s a chronic lack of manpower that leaves crime victims waiting hours for help if they are able to get any help at all.  Instead of low quality goods, there is a pervasive injustice in the system that sends hardcore criminals back onto the streets to make room for those who are guilty of victimless crimes.

To put it another way, if the security that government provides to the average person is adequate, then why aren’t there very many government leaders willing to rely on it for their personal protection?  How many of them forgo personal body guards in favor of dialing 911 at the first sign of trouble?  How many politicians refuse personal security detail as an unnecessary luxury because the local police provide such outstanding personal protection?

No, what government actually provides is a false sense of security.  When you need them most, they are not there.  They are much more likely to show up in time to draw the chalk outline around your body than they are to actually protect you.

Real security is a personal issue not a public one, and it is best provided by people who have a vested interest in providing for your personal protection – not just a general sense of public safety.  It is a problem best solved a thousand different ways by private individuals cooperating with each to come up with unique and innovative solutions.

How much would it cost?  Again, do you know how much money is being spent on your security right now?  Is it possible that giving your money to government – an institution that spends the vast majority of your tax dollars on things that don’t benefit you – is not the best way to see that your security is provided in a cost effective manner?

The longer we leave our security in the hands of government, the less secure we will all be.  The separation of security and state is the beginning of real security and genuine liberty.

There seems to be a reoccurring theme among libertarian critics of late.  More often than not, if you read a recently penned critique of libertarians, it will contain some measure of mockery directed at “misguided libertarians” who think that they achieved their successes all by themselves.  After all, what soul in this country did not receive the benefits of an education, police protection, or, at the very least, public roads – all provided by other people, if not directly by the government?

In short, it’s the old Elizabeth Warren attack on the concept of individualism:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own – nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory – and hire someone to protect against this – because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

The implications are clear.  No man is an island.  We all owe our success to others whether we recognize this fact or not.  This observation is seen as clear rebuttal to any kind of appeal to individualism, and by extension, a rebuttal of libertarianism itself.

In other words, these critics mistake a radical form of rugged individualism for libertarianism.  While libertarian philosophy is certainly compatible with individuals who would choose to forgo community interdependence in favor of total self-reliance, that kind of individualism does not define what it means to be a libertarian.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Libertarians view peaceful cooperation with others as the very foundation of a moral and prosperous society, and we call that peaceful cooperation the free market.

In many ways, libertarians believe in the significance of our interdependence with others more strongly than their critics do, as we generally recognize that the wealth of any given community is highly correlated to the degree to which that community has learned to divide up its labor across many hands.  As history has shown, instead of one man laboring all day, every day to provide for his own food, shelter, clothing, and protection, the free market, (through the miracle of the division of labor), allows the average individual today to provide for all of his basic needs plus have resources left over to enjoy material comforts and entertainment that was unavailable to royalty in centuries past – all in roughly forty hours of labor per week.  Libertarians celebrate this kind of community interdependence.

In sharp contrast, the critics cast their skeptical eyes on this free market cooperation among individuals and, instead, celebrate an impersonal institution, (i.e. government).  They celebrate the institution that weaves exploitation into its very framework.

The state’s natural tendency is to grow, spreading its influence into more and more sectors of society and its economy. As society becomes increasingly controlled, collusion between the political class and well-connected business leaders occurs with greater frequency and to a much higher degree.

Military adventurism that serves to keep profits flowing to defense contractors?  A growing police state at home that has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry?  A healthcare system where the biggest winners are not doctors or patients, but the insurance companies?  A financial industry that is not only deemed “too big to fail” but “too big to jail“?

Libertarians didn’t build that.  Government did.

All of the benefits that the critics of libertarian philosophy ascribe to government are best provided by the free market, where those who help the greatest number of people are naturally rewarded and “paying it forward”, (i.e. capital reinvestment), is an inherent part of the system.  The only thing that government adds to the equation is the unnecessary imposition of brute force.

In one of my recent videos, I explored the idea that democracy is a less than ideal way to organize a society.  (Using the metaphor of a restaurant to represent society, I showed what would happen if we used democratic means to decide what to eat.)  While I received a lot of positive feedback, I did get a number of critics who sought to defend democracy against my satirical assault.  One of the more persistent critics suggested that I was positively misguided in my preference for voluntary societies over democratic ones.

Any society including “anarcho-capitalism” (better named “propertarianism”) needs to be democratic to be legitimate. Every person needs to give their explicit consent to the structure/rules of the society. Also, all societies need to be democratic to function at all fairly. E.g. some people want to open a nightclub at a certain location but others don’t want the crowds and noise. How is this sort of dilemma sorted out without some kind of democratic process?  …  You need to set up a society in the first place. Who decides how this society is set up and how the rules are made?

The fundamental error with this statement stems from the premise in the final two sentences.  Societies aren’t “set up”.  They evolve organically over time.  Societies are a collection of the ever changing customs, view points, ideals, etc. of a given group of people.  Governments, on the other hand, can be set up, but they should not to be confused with the societies on which they impose themselves.  In fact, by their very nature, governments must stand in opposition to society as it attempts to impose new customs that do not organically originate from society itself.

So, for example, in some societies, it’s perfectly normal to expect late night festivities in a residential areas whereas in suburban America anything above whisper level outside one’s home after 9PM will result in a visit from the local police.  This is not so much a difference in rules as it is a difference in culture.  That, (i.e. culture), is ultimately what sets the basis for how neighborly disputes are resolved in any society, regardless of what mechanism is actually used to make the final decision.

Of course, I’m sure that the point of the critics nightclub scenario is to highlight the need for a final authority of some kind to make that decision.  In fact, he suggests that there really are only two options for resolving this dilemma:

Either everyone gets a say in the rules (democracy), or some self-appointed figures (dictators) decide.

As a voluntaryist, I reject both options since they both unnecessarily introduce the prospect of force, (i.e. violence), which virtually insures that somebody’s rights will be violated.  I have a third option: the two parties can work out their differences with each other.

In the best case scenario, the two sides can sit down together and work out an agreement.  Perhaps the nightclub can coexist with its neighbors if certain strict rules are observed, or perhaps the prospective nightclub builders might decide that they will find a different location for their nightclub after meeting with their unhappy potential neighbors.

In the worst case scenario, the two sides can use whatever non-coercive means at their disposal to get the other side to change their position.  The nightclub proprietors have every right to build a nightclub on property that they own, but the neighbors have every right to protest that nightclub on their own properties.  If the nightclub refuses to be a good neighbor, then they can not expect the other people who live in the neighborhood to be accommodating of them either.  In the end, the nightclub owners would likely find it very difficult to do business in a neighborhood that doesn’t want their presence.

Again, this goes back to the culture of that particular neighborhood.  Is it downtown New York City, or is it a quiet neighborhood in the middle of the Bible belt?  In a voluntary society where cooperation is the basis of community living, cultural norms would play a key role in conflict resolution, and these cultural norms grow and change as society is continuously reshaped by new ideas and new information.

There’s also a fourth option for resolving this issue (and likely many more once we step outside of the authoritarian model for conflict resolution).  It’s possible that the people in a given community can get together and attach certain contractual restrictions to property that is bought and sold within that community.  For example, they might all agree to only sell their property to people who agree to keep the properties purely residential.  This would eliminate the possibility of a nightclub proprietor buying land in that neighborhood in the first place, insuring a quiet neighborhood in perpetuity.  In fact, we already see such arrangements in gated communities and homeowner’s associations all across suburban America.  People who live in homes outside of these enclaves understand that the makeup of their neighborhood can and will change over time since no one has the right to dictate that his neighborhood remain the same as it was when he bought his home.

Obviously, there’s no such thing as a perfect society, so there will always be conflict and an ever present need for positive social change.  But, governments, democratic or otherwise, add nothing to this process other than further conflict, force, and wholesale violations of the rights of individuals.  Conflict resolution is a personal matter not an issue of “public policy”.  The best people to decide on how to resolve a conflict are the people who are actually involved.


A lot of people believe that government exists to provide essential services for the people.  It doesn’t.  Government exists primarily to empower one group of people at the expense of another.  Despite all the pretty rhetoric and fancy justifications, government “services” really come down to just one thing. …

Uncle Sam walks up to Frank Liberty’s house and rings his doorbell.

Frank Liberty: Can I help you?

Uncle Sam: Yes you can.  You owe me $500.

Frank Liberty: What are you talking about?  I don’t owe you anything.  I don’t even know you.

Uncle Sam: Right.  Allow me to explain.  I am here to mow your lawn, but I need you to give me $500 dollars first.

Frank Liberty: $500 to mow my lawn!  Yeah, I don’t think so.

Uncle Sam: Now, hear this!  If you don’t give me my money right now, I am not going to mow your lawn!

Frank Liberty: OK. (slams the door)

Uncle Sam rings the doorbell again.

Frank Liberty: Yes?

Uncle Sam: Let’s be rational here.  You need your lawn cut, and I can cut your lawn.  Just pay me the money, and everyone wins.  What could be better?

Frank Liberty: Um, I don’t recall ever asking you to cut my lawn and certainly not at that price.  I’ll shop around or do it myself, thank you.  So …

Uncle Sam: Now, you hold on right there, young man.  You most certainly did ask me to cut your lawn.  I have a signed contract authorizing my work and your payment, so hand over my money!

Frank Liberty: What are you talking about?  I never signed anything.

Uncle Sam: Ha!  I’ve got the contract right here.

Uncle Sam shows Frank a contract signed by John Hancock.

Frank Liberty: That’s not my signature.  That’s not me.

Uncle Sam: Yes, but it was signed by John Hancock.

Frank Liberty: (staring blankly)

Uncle Sam: John Hancock!  Don’t you know who he is?

Frank Liberty: (staring blankly)

Uncle Sam: He’s a very, very important man, and he signed this contract on your behalf!

Frank Liberty: Right, so clearly it’s not me.

Uncle Sam: I don’t think you understand.  This contract says that I am to be paid whatever I charge for my services, and it’s signed!

Frank Liberty: First of all, that’s a really stupid contract.  It’s basically a blank check.  Who would sign something like that?  And, secondly, that contract has no bearings on this situation, because I didn’t sign it!  (slams the door)

Uncle Sam rings the doorbell again.

Frank Liberty: Go away!

Uncle Sam: Listen buddy, there’s nobody else who can cut your lawn.  I am the only lawn cutter in town.  So, just hand over the money and let us get on with this!

Frank Liberty: (slams the door)

Uncle Sam rings the doorbell again.

Uncle Sam: (holding a gun) Hand over my money.

Frank Liberty: (hands over the money)  You’re not going to cut my lawn, are you?

Uncle Sam: Nope!

If government provided services that people actually wanted, it wouldn’t have to force people to pay for them.  When the government stops threatening me with violence for refusing what they offer, I will start calling what they provide services.  Until, there’s a much more honest name for it: Theft!