Damocles on October 15, 2010, 11:53:54 am
I apologize in advance if I'm bringing up a subject that has been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere.  Given the in depth discussion of the mechanics of anarchic societies that I've seen on this board, I'm curious whether some people think that anarchies could function in areas of high population density.  I'm especially interested on thoughts regarding how such societies would overcome difficulties such as the free-rider problem, the tragedy of the commons, and the organization of (national?) defense.

J Thomas on October 15, 2010, 12:00:46 pm
I'm curious whether some people think that anarchies could function in areas of high population density. 

Nobody can really know that until they try.

One point is that the various problems you suggest don't have to be perfectly solved. They only have to be palliated to the point that people can keep living in cities. Government coercion doesn't solve all those problems perfectly either.

A second point is that if people do not find ways to live in high density without overt coercion, maybe it would be better not to live in high densities. We might spread out into larger areas that are not as densely populated. And that might be good for us for a variety of reasons.

Damocles on October 15, 2010, 12:18:58 pm
One point is that the various problems you suggest don't have to be perfectly solved. They only have to be palliated to the point that people can keep living in cities. Government coercion doesn't solve all those problems perfectly either.

No, but it solves some of them.  Without taxation, how are transportation networks built and maintained, or an energy grid developed, or other utilities that are vital to highly urbanized environments?

A nice thing about the future is that some of these problems might be solved through technology (e.g. distributed power production).  I'm just curious if anybody thinks this could work today.

J Thomas on October 15, 2010, 01:34:52 pm
One point is that the various problems you suggest don't have to be perfectly solved. They only have to be palliated to the point that people can keep living in cities. Government coercion doesn't solve all those problems perfectly either.

No, but it solves some of them.  Without taxation, how are transportation networks built and maintained, or an energy grid developed, or other utilities that are vital to highly urbanized environments?

A nice thing about the future is that some of these problems might be solved through technology (e.g. distributed power production).  I'm just curious if anybody thinks this could work today.

Our large cities developed over more than 100 years, usually through multiple technologies. NYC at one time was supplied with coal and hay etc over the Erie canal....

If an AnCap society is allowed 100+ years to build cities from scratch I don't expect any particular problems. People who want to bring in more warm bodies will find ways to provide the new city-dwellers with their necessities, or the new people won't come. Any place people find a breakthrough method, others will study what they did and try to adapt it. Finding ways to cooperate will only be one more constraint.

It might be a challenge to maintain legacy cities that were not at all designed with AnCap approaches in mind.

jamesd on October 15, 2010, 01:49:09 pm
I apologize in advance if I'm bringing up a subject that has been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere.  Given the in depth discussion of the mechanics of anarchic societies that I've seen on this board, I'm curious whether some people think that anarchies could function in areas of high population density.  I'm especially interested on thoughts regarding how such societies would overcome difficulties such as the free-rider problem,

Rides are not free.  Might require gold coins, or some more advanced form of money, perhaps representing promises to deliver future goods.

the tragedy of the commons
Privatize the commons.  First guy to put some chunk of the commons to a use worth defending, gets to defend it.

  and the organization of (national?) defense.

That is a somewhat controversial issue among anarchists:  Obvious, no nation state.  Defending the person, defending the family, defending the business, the answers to those are obvious.  Conquering a people that are in the habit of defending themselves is likely to be hard - observe that nation states find considerable difficulty fighting non national entities, so the usual answer is "No, the nation will not be defended.  Individual people and small groups will be defended"

Today we tend to equate nations with states, but states are not nations.  Jews are a nation, and have been for thousands of years.  Iraqis are not a nation, and never have been.  Kurds are a nation, but most Kurds do not live in Kurdistan.

Thus "National defense" is apt to look like race war or religious war.  Obviously, one hopes that anarchies will avoid such things.  However, non state wars between nations have been common over the last two thousand years.   They are what Jesus was referring to when he said "Nation will rise against Nation, and Kingdom shall rise against Kingdom, and bears shall shit in the woods" They are extremely nasty, but it turns out that a state is not at all necessary to fight such a war.  Just dehumanize the enemy, and away you go.  Indeed, perhaps the state is something of an encumbrance in fighting such wars.

SandySandfort on October 15, 2010, 01:55:19 pm
Without taxation, how are transportation networks built and maintained, or an energy grid developed, or other utilities that are vital to highly urbanized environments?

These sorts of questions are really old hat to those of us who have thought about market anarchy. They have even been addressed here, directly and indirectly. I, for one, am tired of revisiting these anarchy 101 topics. However, I don't want to leave you in the lurch. So here are two suggestions on how to find answers to these questions:

READ THE LITERATURE -- There are tons of books, article, websites and encyclopedia entries about various flavors of anarchy--including market anarchy--or anything you might want to know about the subject. Read and then come back with any questions or comments you still have.

DO IT YOURSELF -- Imagine that government disappears overnight. Without recreating government, what would you do to create transportation networks and other infrastructure without coercion? What could voluntarily be done to avoid the tragedy of the commons? (Hint: this last one is an market-anarchist no-brainer.) The point is, other people have done this exercise and come up with answers. So answers exist. If you cannot think of non-coercive solutions, it is not because you are stupid, or worse, because there are none. Rather, cultural brainwashing has made it difficult to think outside the statist box. No shame there. We were all immersed in it throughout our formative years. It is a wonder that any of escape it. So challenge your assumption, question authority and figure it out on your own.

quadibloc on October 15, 2010, 08:07:08 pm
I, for one, am tired of revisiting these anarchy 101 topics.
I can understand this. However, there's a reason that all this comes up again. Even people who have read some of the literature - such as that from Ayn Rand - may not be convinced that the alternatives there would really work in real life.

I would like to see our society move toward a greater degree of individual freedom. I don't think the people of the United States would feel themselves to be more free, however, if they were fighting a guerilla war against an invading Russian or Chinese army - instead of having such a threat kept well at bay by the ICBMs their taxes are paying for. (For that matter, they wouldn't even worry about the injustice of treating the people of Russia and China as part of a collective rather than as individuals, if threatening to do so would keep such a disaster from happening.)

Of course, it could be that the whole Cold War was just a masterful job of statist brainwashing. Few people, though, are naturally predisposed to even consider such an idea seriously.

SandySandfort on October 15, 2010, 10:39:39 pm
However, there's a reason that all this comes up again. Even people who have read some of the literature - such as that from Ayn Rand - may not be convinced that the alternatives there would really work in real life.

Rand was neither a libertarian or a market anarchist (or an anarchist of any sort). Now, if people read libertarian nor a market anarchist as I have suggestion, they will find explanations of why they have worked in the past and discussions of how they may work now and in the future. After that, if you're not convinced, so be it. Some people get it and some people don't.There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Hint: If you have a question about market anarchy or libertarianism be proactive and use Google to get answers before you come to the Forum. If your question is, for example, "how can a transportation network be created in an anarchist society?" try Googling:

     transportation network anarchy

Among the 97,000 hits you will find arguments pro and con that address the subject. There is no reason for me or other pro-freedom people on this Forum to spoon feed it to you.


NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on October 16, 2010, 03:44:52 pm
Now, if people read libertarian nor a market anarchist as I have suggestion, they will find explanations of why they have worked in the past and discussions of how they may work now and in the future.

Did you mean this to read something like:


Now, if people read libertarian nor a and/or market anarchist literature as I have suggestion, they will find explanations of why they have worked in the past and discussions of how they may work now and in the future.



terry_freeman on October 16, 2010, 08:02:48 pm
Anarchy already functions in urban societies; anarchy is what we do when people aren't being forced to do something else - which is 99% of what we do.

As for the free rider "problem", that has been discussed many times. It is far less of an issue than ivory towers make it out to be, for the simple reason that most people don't give a rat's posterior about "free riders."

Let me give an example. An ivory tower economist may reason thus: "I shall not arm myself, even though it would benefit me and the people I care about, since it would also benefit 'free riders.'"

An anarchist will reason "If I arm myself, then I and the people I care about are safer. If once in a while I have to defend your sorry ass too, that's just how the cookie crumbles, but it's not going to stop me from enjoying the benefits of self-defense."

Ivory Tower economists spent years writing about the "Prisoner's Dilemma", convincing themselves that there is no rational reason for people to cooperate. Finally, someone was bright enough to say "People actually do cooperate, why?" -- and discovered what are called social norms.

Ivory Tower economists theorize that, due to "free rider" effects, there will be underproduction of public goods. However, a lot of dumb people then imagine that everything is a public good - forgetting that "public goods" are quite narrowly defined.

Security is essentially self-defense, if we exclude weapons of mass destruction. It is not hard to defend oneself and the people one cares about. That's why about a hundred million Americans have armed themselves. The fact that the lazy git next door also benefits is not a deterrent; it does not convert this to a "public good" problem.

Education is emphatically NOT a "public good" - it fails the excludability test. Those who listen to lectures, take notes, do the exercises, and so forth benefit from the education; those who play hoops in the street do not. Spillover effects such as your benefit from research performed by educated people do not convert education into a public good.

Likewise with scientific research; it is not a public good; the primary benefits of scientific research accrue to those who do the research, fund the research, utilize the research, and profit from the research. As a side benefit, you obtain better goods and services - but if that were enough to convert it to a "public good", there would be no grounds to exclude anything from such an all-encompassing category.

If a politician - or one of his tame economists - tells you that the government should do something "because it is a public good," just remember rule #1:

Q: How do you tell if a politician is lying?

A: his lips are moving.

SandySandfort on October 16, 2010, 10:06:19 pm
Now, if people read libertarian nor a market anarchist as I have suggestion, they will find explanations of why they have worked in the past and discussions of how they may work now and in the future.

Did you mean this to read something like:


Now, if people read libertarian nor a and/or market anarchist literature as I have suggestion, they will find explanations of why they have worked in the past and discussions of how they may work now and in the future.


Yeah, something like that. This has been a wretched day.

dough560 on November 21, 2010, 11:46:42 pm
Look at our previous posts.  Your questions have been discussed, causing the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth.  Read:  L. Niel Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, etc....  Good Luck.

jamesd on November 22, 2010, 03:36:57 am
No, but it solves some of them.  Without taxation, how are transportation networks built and maintained, or an energy grid developed, or other utilities that are vital to highly urbanized environments?

By a similar argument, the internet could not exist except the government provides it - but for most people in most places, the government does not provide it.

I am part owner of a number of private roads.  I was working on one of them two days ago.    What is a shopping mall but privately owned pavements - and in some cases, for example Stanford shopping mall, privately owned pavements with privately owned roads.




terry_freeman on November 22, 2010, 07:00:02 am
Read Fred Foldvary's Public Goods, Private Communities.

As others have mentioned, shopping malls provide streets, lights, and other "public" goods. Disney World and Disney Land do the same on an even larger scale. There are cities where streets are owned by neighborhood associations. A lot of people think fire companies must be government entities. This would be news to a lot of Pennsylvanians, since many fire companies are small, local volunteer associations. Others think government must provide education; a gander at Andrew J Coulson, E. G. West, and James Tooley reveals that education can be and has been provided by the free market - indeed, governments have often tried to ban education. Nowadays they coopt and pervert education; genuinely free-market education is too dangerous to the interests of governments.

How could you be domesticated without government-inculcated fear of anarchy?

MacFall on November 22, 2010, 09:59:54 am
One simple idea is to have the owners of roadways confer with insurance companies to produce codes of conduct that would, to some extent, govern the properties lining the roadways. Since access to roads is a fairly inelastic good and those who cause trouble could justly be restricted from using them, those codes of conduct would serve as a sort of ground level for market-produced law, concentrating on maintaining the safety of people in those areas as it is in the interest of insurers (and in a non-socialized environment, roadway owners as well) to do. The owners of the properties themselves would, of course, be free to set their own rules for their own property so long as those rules did not conflict with those set by the roadway/insurer conferences.

Most of those agreements would produce only the most basic prohibitions against initiatory force, considering the fact that in the absence of compulsory (socialized) funding of law enforcement, the parties involved must be willing to pay the cost of enforcement (which depends upon the willingness of their customers to pay that cost, and on maintaining the goodwill of the public).

As for defense, my favorite answer to this can be found in the second part of Dr. Robert P. Murphy's Chaos Theory (here as a PDF, here as an mp3 audio book).

But both of these ideas are simply the imaginings of two people. The point of an anarchic society is to have many different systems, conceivably as many as there are people, which compete and coordinate as necessary to provide the type and quality of service that people demand.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2010, 10:04:41 am by MacFall »
Government is not, as is often believed, a "necessary evil". Rather, it is a plain evil of such power that it has been able to convince people of its necessity.