These Cages Are Only For Beasts

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The
DRO debate continues…

After
my first article "The
Stateless Society
" was published, I was asked to explain how
a society without government would deal with violent crime. Lew
was kind enough to publish my article on "Caging
the Beasts
" which provoked quite a flurry of positive and negative
(though never unkind!) responses and requests for clarifications,
which I will provide here.

To
summarize, "Caging the Beasts" described the measures that private
Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs) could take against
violent criminals — measures many readers found more soul-crushing
and repressive than life under the current government!

I
am always eager to improve arguments for freedom, and so heartily
thank those who took the time to write in — and will do my best
to clarify how life in a truly free society will not turn
into a repressive web of petty regulations run by fascistic and
heavily-armed insurance companies.

For
those new to the debate, DROs are private insurance companies whose
sole purpose is to mediate disputes between individuals. If you
and I sign a contract, we both agree beforehand to submit any disputes
we cannot resolve to the arbitration of a particular DRO. Furthermore,
we may choose to allow the DRO to take action if either of us fails
to abide by that decision, such as property seizure or financial
penalties.

So
far so good. However, a problem arises if I have no DRO contract,
and turn to a life of theft, murder and arson. How can that be dealt
with? In "Caging the Beasts," I suggested that DROs would simply
band together to deny goods, services and contracts to violent criminals.
DROs could also pay informants to track the whereabouts of such
predators, and would hound them out of a social and economic life
to whatever degree they could.

This
last point is where a good deal of my readers and I parted ways
— and I recognize that in my zeal to deal with criminals, I painted
a rather horrifying picture of DRO powers. DROs paying informants
and threatening to drop contract support from anyone who sheltered
or aided murderers — all this gave the impression that a stateless
society was one which replaced a single central state with a suffocating
net of tyrannical DROs.

Let
me try to make the case a little clearer. By describing how a stateless
society deals with murderers, I was describing an extreme situation,
not everyday economic and social relations. A doctor might say:
if a patient has an infected leg, and you have no antibiotics,
amputate the leg. This does not mean that he advocates cutting
off limbs in less serious circumstances! When I say that DROs will
track violent criminals and try to deny them goods and services,
I do not mean that DROs would be able to do this to just anyone.
First of all, customer choice would make this impossible. A store
owner can ban anyone he likes — but he cannot do so arbitrarily,
or he will go out of business. Similarly, if people see a DRO acting
unjustly or punitively, it will quickly find itself without customers.

The
most important thing to remember is that DRO contracts are perfectly
voluntary — and that hundreds of DROs will be constantly
clamoring for our business. If we are afraid that they will turn
into a myriad of quasi-police states, they have to address those
fears if they us as customers.

How
will they do that? Why, through contractual obligations, of course!
In order to sign us up, DROs will have to offer us instant contractual
release — and possible cash rewards — if they ever harass us or
treat us arbitrarily. As a matter of course, DRO contracts will
include a provision to submit any conflicts with customers to a
separate DRO of the customers' choosing. All of this is standard
fare in the reduction of contractual risk.

In
other words, every person who says, "DROs will turn into dangerous
fascistic organizations," represents a fantastic business opportunity
to anyone who can address that concern in a positive manner! If
you dislike the idea of DROs, just ask yourself: is there any
way that my concerns could be alleviated? Are there any contractual
provisions that might tempt me into a relationship with a DRO? If
so, the magic of the free market will drop them right in your lap!
Some DROs will pay you a million dollars if they treat you unjustly.
(And you can choose the DRO that makes that decision!) Other
DROs will band together and form a review board which regularly
searches their warehouses for black helicopters and robot armies.
Other DROs will fund "watchdog" organizations which regularly rate
DRO integrity.

If
none of the above appeals to you, then the DRO system is clearly
not for you — but then neither is the current State system, which
is already one-sided, repressive and dictatorial. And remember —
in a free society such as I describe, you can always choose to live
without a DRO, of course, or pay for its services as needed (as
I mention in "The Stateless Society") — as long as you don't start
stealing and killing.

For
those who still think DROs will become governments, I invite
you to take a look at a real-world example of a DRO (hint: it's
one of the world's largest "employers"). Currently, over 300,000
people rely on it for a significant portion of their income. Most
of what they sell is so inexpensive that lawsuits aren't cost-effective
— in other words, they operate in a stateless society. So how does
eBay resolve disputes? Simply through dialogue and the dissemination
of information (see http://pages.ebay.com/help/tp/unpaid-item-process.html).
If I don't pay for something I receive, I get a strike against me.
If I don't ship something that I was paid for, I get a strike. Everyone
I deal with can also rate my products, service and support. If I
get rated poorly, I have to sell my goods for less, since, everything
else being equal, people prefer dealing with a better-rated vendor
(or buyer). If enough people rate me poorly, I will be out of business,
because the risk of doing business with me becomes too great. There
are no police or courts involved here — thefts are simply dealt
with through communication and information sharing.

Thus
eBay is an example of the largest DRO around — are we really afraid
that it is going to turn into a quasi-government? Do any of us lie
awake wondering whether the eBay SWAT team is going to break down
our doors and drag us away to an offshore J2EE coding gulag?

Of
course any system can be abused — which is why governments are so
abhorrent — and so checks and balances are central to any proposed
form of social organization. That's the beauty of the DRO approach.
Those who dislike, mistrust or fear DROs don't have to have anything
to do with them, and can rely on handshakes, reputation and trust
— or start their own DRO. Those whose scope prohibits such approaches
— multi-million dollar contracts or long-term leases come to mind
— can turn to DROs. Those who are afraid of DROs becoming mini-States
can set up watchdog agencies and monitor them (paid for by others
who share such fears, perhaps).

In
short, either the majority of human beings can cooperate
for mutual advantage, or they can't. If they can, then the stateless
society will work — especially since millions of minds far better
than mine will be searching for the best solutions. If they can't,
then no society will ever work, and we are doomed to slavery and
savagery by nature.

Therefore,
I stand by my thesis in "Caging the Beasts" — if you mug, rape or
kill, I will support any social action that thwarts your capacity
to survive in society. I want to see you hounded into the wilderness,
refused hotel rooms and groceries — and I want your face plastered
everywhere, so that the innocent can stay safe by keeping you at
bay. I abhor the thug as much as I abhor the State — and it is because
such thugs exist that the State cannot be suffered to continue,
since the State always disarms honest citizens and encourages and
protects the thugs.

November
8, 2005

Stefan
Molyneux [send him mail]
has been an actor, comedian, gold-panner, graduate student, and
software entrepreneur. His first novel, Revolutions
was published in 2004, and he maintains a
blog
.

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