Tuccille on Rothbard

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In a recent appearance on Reason TV, Jerome Tuccille reveals that his many years of hanging around libertarians have taught him nothing. He says that a Rothbardian society would be a “nightmare.” In it, he claims, every dispute would have to be adjudicated: if someone violated your rights, you would have to take him to court.

Of course this is nonsense. Private protection agencies would, as Rothbard envisions matters, prosecute most crimes, much as the state does now. If, e.g., someone robbed you, you would not have to undertake prosecution yourself. Because these agencies would be profit-seeking businesses, one might anticipate that they would be more efficient than the state in handling crimes. Tuccille’s nightmare of innumerable lawsuits exists only in his own imagination: why would there be more legal disputes in an anarcho-capitalist society than we have at present?

Not content with this confusion, Tuccille next claims that in Rothbard’s system, you would be helpless if Donald Trump violated your rights. He could spend millions of dollars defending himself: unless you could match this, you would be likely to lose any suit against him. Tuccille has once again neglected to compare Rothbard’s system with the present order. Why would civil suits against rich defendants be less likely to succeed than they do at present? Tuccille has not delimited a problem peculiar to anarcho-capitalism.

This does not,though, solve the problem. One suggestion, canvassed in the literature of which Tuccille is evidently ignorant, is that people could sell their rights to prosecute a claim to people anxious to win large sums of money against a wealthy defendant. Further, why would Trump spend millions of dollars unless a great deal of money was at stake in a lawsuit? If so, and there was a good legal case against him, would not lawyers be quite willing to try their hand?

Tuccille then tells us that Milton Friedman’s program is much more realistic than Rothbard’s or Ayn Rand’s. Why not reduce the size of government now, and lower taxes? We can have arguments about moving to anarchy later. Does he really think that Rothbard requires an immediate move to anarchy? Surely Rothbardians are capable of supporting “realistic” reforms as well as disciples of Friedman.

Other gems Tuccille gives us include a definition of libertarianism that doesn’t mention private property, though he does refer to free trade across borders. His remarks about Rand are best left to her supporters. Why Reason TV featured someone who does not begin to exist as a thinker is an interesting question. I do not think the answer is comic relief: that is more likely an unintended outcome rather than a planned result.

10:45 am on July 9, 2008