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Voluntaryism - Law Without Government

by Scott Swain 
"But... I thought we need a government to force some behaviors so the weak and poor are not trampled under the boots of those with more power?"

It is a legitimate concern to worry about people taking advantage of those with less power. This is the number one reason a growing number of people wish to phase out involuntary government (hereinafter "government") and replace it with voluntary governance.

First: Notice how right now, with government, people are being taken advantage of and it seems to be getting worse? I want to make clear that our current system has not prevented people from taking advantage of other people. Please at least acknowledge the current system has some pretty big problems. Can I assume you do not agree with the USA's war on terror and the war on drugs? Voluntaryists share the horror you feel and we see, for example, how unfair and destructive it is to enrich the military industrial complex while slaughtering humans in far away lands. Same goes with Big Pharma lobbying politicians to outlaw healthy alternatives while pushing out poisonous remedies and untruths. Please think about the shared values you have with us Voluntaryists; values for choice, fairness, peace, community, security, and consensus.

Let's talk about how we can have a system, without government (but with voluntary governance), where there is less opportunity for powerful people to dominate others because no one will have access to that monolithic system of force. [An example of what I'm talking about is big corporations controlling politicians. Look up regulatory capture if you haven't heard of it. It's a cornerstone of the fascism we see in the USA.]
Note, I said "less". While Voluntaryists would love to work toward a better world, we are not naive enough to believe it is possible to have a completely perfect world, and we are fine with that. So no, Utopia is not the goal; it's the direction. We don't want to deny people their mistakes and lessons. We want to remove as much incentive for- and doing of- intentional initiation of force as possible.

We can have a system where all rules are based on mutual consent, where people are free to choose to opt in or opt out of every service or plan, which includes: there are serious repercussions for anyone to use monopoly-like / government-like power against others. It also means there is No entity that has a legitimized use of force. Think about it. Our government has a monopoly on law-making, law-enforcement, national defense, currency, a near monopoly on education, and a growing monopoly on health care. What has this led to? Are we rich? Are we peaceful? Are we well educated?

"But if you get rid of government, then corporations and gangs would be free to start coercing people."

No. Voluntaryism is not pacifism. Remember: we are talking about a purely voluntary region where there is no legitimization of initiation of force. You know, like we were taught in kindergarten. That means the minute a person or firm initiates use of force, people are free to band together and stop it. More about that in the article here: In that article, I also discuss how a modern voluntary region can be safe from outside invaders. Voluntaryists really do share your concerns.

Also, please keep in mind "corporation" is a government protected entity and "no government" means firms no longer have the following government-sanctioned benefits:

(a) Limited liability. Where corporations are shielded by government to limit the responsibility they take for their actions.

(b) Regulatory capture. Where corporations write or influence regulation through lobbying, campaign contributions, and revolving doors for CEOs/gov officials to favor their company and make it hard for competitors and newcomers in the same industry.

(c) Favoritism via government granted contracts and laws.

(d) Government granted patents and copyrights.
(e) Protectionism via tariffs.

(f) Tax breaks.

(g) Bailouts.
Meaning: In a Voluntary society, companies can and will be held fully responsible to their customers by their customers as well as by the various watchdog groups that do and will exist.
Also, dispute resolution organizations (DROs) and private security organizations (PSOs) in a Stateless society will encounter a lot of skepticism and fear because people have experienced the Corporatism / Fascism we have now, having thrown off the shackles of a big, coercive central entity controlled by corporations. The smart DROs and PSOs will want to contractually reassure their customers by agreeing to be bound by large bonds to be forfeited if their Voluntaryist code of conduct is breached. Heck, their customers will demand this.

Plus, their competition will keep them on their toes: consider the many competing DROs and PSOs that will surely flourish in a market free of government "protection".

Finally, peaceful solutions are typically more cost effective than violent solutions. Also remember that cost is not limited to money; reputation matters, especially in this age of instantaneous and wide-spread communication. Which often brings up the following question:

"But if you have competing PSOs and the owner of one PSO secretly buys up a couple DROs and watchdog companies, what happens?" 

Every time the DRO pronounces an unfair judgement or otherwise does not serve their customers' best interest, people talk. Word spreads. Again, remember, in a modern Stateless society, reputation has much more currency than it does in a system where powerful corporations can rely on the State to help fight off their competition

"Free Market" doesn't just mean "free to make profits"; it means "free to make profits and losses". It means the customer truly is king and employees have more power.
"But without government, any oversight on an industry will suddenly vanish! [in spite of customers still demanding that oversight.]"
Companies will form to address that demand by supplying auditing services.
Without a state telling producers and consumers, "this food is safe," people will have to do the research themselves or contract out that task to others. Some will choose to take the risk themselves, perhaps in exchange for lower prices. Others will defer to auditors with strong reputations. Corruption in such an environment would cripple a business, as would practices like collusion.
A company choosing the less ethical route will have multiple class action lawsuits to contest when the malfeasance is discovered, everyone investing in them would be liable for damages, and so would the board for the ill done by the company. With so much risk, taking short term gains at the risk of long term survival is a bad business model, and one doomed to fail without the crafty company having a state to influence and manipulate.

Another popular question: "What about criminals? With no police, criminals will do as they please. You Voluntaryists assume people will behave like angels." 

We know humans are not angels. We assume all humans naturally want power and are corruptible, which is a big part of why we do not support handing people power-over-others in a non-consensual arrangement such as rulership. The short videos on the right side of this page answer the question in detail.

Prior to 1995 I was as Statist as any of you here. I grew up dirt poor and even lived in two communes. My mother and I hitchhiked and lived with whoever would take us in. I have a first-hand understanding of hardship, lack of privilege, and responsibility. By 1995 I began to understand the social and economic ideas of Libertarians. Then, in 2011, coinciding with the death of my father and grandmother, I started listening to and having conversations with some highly intelligent Voluntaryists (re-branded Anarchists) who inspired me to open my mind and study both "Keynesian" and "Austrian School" economics. These "Voluntaryists" then helped me see that:

(1) Voluntaryism is based on the NAP (Non Aggression Principle) so its goal is actually the farthest from being a violent system, given the core value is non-coercion or "non initiation of force".

(2) Every Voluntaryist I know understands that if we want to build a free and peaceful society, the foundation is best created in a peaceful manner. We recognize that an abrupt and/or violent transition would harm too many people and set a tone of violence. Here is an article I wrote on how we can best get there from here:

(3) There are many people with well-thought-out scale-able systems allowing for large populations to have no government, yet create voluntary associations of people who have a common goal.

The goal is for an emphasis on voluntary-only trade to lead away from war/theft and toward generosity coming from the heart. When you force a child to share their toys rather than leading by example, what prices do we all pay? Do you want them to grow up sharing because they were bullied into it (how likely is that to happen?) OR do you want them to grow up sharing because they freely choose to?

Please open your mind to the possibilities I am offering. Far from being selfish, Voluntaryists want the same things you do; peace, health, safety, and prosperity for all. The power we want is "power-with" instead of the "power-over" that is causing so much poverty and violence in this world.

One of those systems I found in the two "Law Without Government" videos on the top right. They total up to about 18 minutes. They explain one way people can have security in a Voluntaryist system:
How do we deal with criminals in a free society? (23 min):

Law Without Government, Part 1 - Principles (8 min):

Part 2 - Conflict Resolution in a Free Society (10 min):
Another solution for security in a voluntary society (13 min):

Devil's Advocate Question:

In the "Law Without Government, Principles" video it is clear to me that on the three-person-island or even in a larger community no one will accept someone who tries to grab at monopolization of the law.  If people understand the ideas involved it will be seen as unfair, and just like with other unfair practices, it will damage the reputation of the arbitrator, losing them business. But in reality I doubt it would be a sudden and easily noticed change that people will react to in a big way.  If we had private security and justice firms I imagine they would grow to be large corporations in the same way that other corporations do, and may sometimes become monopolistic gradually. At that point where a security firm grows into a monopoly, how will the consumers take back their arbitration power? The security and justice companies would have the same resources that governments do today, wouldn't they?  Except that in this case there would not be a set of rules in place to insure that there is at least some democratic input in decisions about arbitration and law.

Under an economically (rather than politically) based justice system people with huge amounts of economic resources at their disposal would be able to buy off security firms and get away with murder (as long as they could make it worth the cost to the company in lost reputation and lost customers).  Arguably this is somewhat true under political systems like ours as well, but I would estimate to a much smaller extent.

Answer: In practice, the only monopolies that remain for very long are the ones that are supported by the state. Natural monopolies don't remain monopolies very long since they succumb to competition. I suppose the exception would be if the company were able to adapt to new environments, e.g. Google (although not a monopoly) has been doing a good job of this even taking into account their mis-steps.

Large security firms (insurance agencies in the video) are controlled by their clients. If a firm starts abusing its power, clients will stop supporting it.

Also, the creep you describe is why I think states will always tend to grow and erode our liberties.

I suppose, yes, in theory someone could pay enough to get away with murder. On the other hand, they would be using their own money unlike, say, how the military industrial complex works now. I would think, though, that if they had that much money, they might as well just raise their own military. Even then, if they abuse that power, their business (whatever that may be) would pay the consequences. In the end, force is a wealth destroying thing and the vast majority of people wouldn't use it. There are sociopaths, though, so really what you're asking is "What if a rich sociopath committed murder and gets away with it?" That would certainly be unfortunate. On the other hand, look at what gains we would have despite that cost? And compare the costs we have today versus the gains.

There can be no such evidence supporting that natural monopolies would succumb to competition; that would be akin to finding a natural monopoly that hasn't succumbed to competition. The most famous case, though, was of Standard Oil. Even at their peak, they maintained only 36% of the US market. And they were facing stiff competition abroad.

What monopolies have you seen that have lasted? What state boost did or do they receive?

Again, Facebook pretty much had a US monopoly on social network sites. Google is now gaining ground on that. And before Google, Yahoo had a large chunk of the search market. What you cite about monopolies is theory, but it doesn't happen in practice. This is because once a company is too large, they start not wanting to compete with their money-maker so they don't enter into new areas. This was the worry about Netflix, but they made the tough choice of servicing both DVD and streaming. You'll notice the old guard has been slow to embrace streaming.

Yes, Wal-Mart drives out small businesses. This is because: (a) Wal-Mart is more efficient at what they do and (b) Walmart is largely successful due to indirect government subsidies. The majority of Walmart employees are on some form of public assistance. This is effectively taxpayers subsidizing Walmart's workforce, which allows them to remain competitive in the labor market.  Without the subsidies, they'd be forced to pay a competitive wage and they would dwindle to a more reasonable size.
The same happened with Blockbuster, so Blockbuster lost market share to Netflix. Going back to Wal-Mart, they support increases to minimum wage because it'll hurt their competition (small businesses) more. Costco, Target, KMart, etc are also more efficient than small businesses and they compete against Wal-Mart.

 Contact Scott Swain for mediation and Emotional Intelligence Tools training for business, love, and parenting.