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Intro To Ancap - Private Law (Pt 1) The Case Against Monopoly

This is my first post in my attempt to summarize the concepts of Anarcho-Capitalism for the "common man", based on the Anarcho-Capitalism course I am taking with Robert Murphy at the Mises Academy.

I introduced the project here:


Hope you'll find it interesting, and feedback is appreciated.

In my observation, most people who describe themselves as “libertarian” – including myself up until fairly recently – are minarchists in that, while generally believing in the principles of libertarianism, they still see the existence of a minimal State as a necessary evil for the purposes of basic law enforcement. After all, how else would society take care of thieves, murderers, rapists, etc? “Every society needs rules”, the common objector might argue, “or else we’d have anarchy!” And that is the first myth we have to dispel in order to understand law in an anarcho-capitalist society. Anarchy means without rulers, but not without rules.

The real question we must then ask is: who defines the rules, and who enforces the rules?

In order to begin to understand how law would work in an anarcho-capitalist society we have to first determine the exact nature of the law. Law is distinct from morality in the sense that ,while there are certain things most of us find immoral such as say, cheating on one’s wife, this is not against the law. The purpose of law is not to impose personal morality on others. Law is also distinct from law enforcement, in that different firms would provide legal rulings and enforcement of legal rulings, as opposed to a governed society where one entity, “the government” , has a monopoly on both legal rulings as well as legal enforcement. And finally law is also distinct from legislation. There would be no politicians or government agencies arbitrarily deciding what is “legal” and “illegal”.

So how do we understand law if it is disconnected from personal morality, enforcement, and legislation? The answer is that all law is bound up in a single, underlying principle: property rights. This is the idea that everyone has sovereignty over their own property, and the law should protect or punish any infringements on the private property of another. Now there is much debate about how property rights would be defined in a free society, and it’s certainly a debate worth having. But for the purposes of this course and my summaries we are making the presumption that this theoretical anarcho-capitalist society has well-defined property rights.

An important point to note about law based on property rights in an anarcho-capitalist society is that, without a “State” to make arbitrary rules, far fewer acts would be considered to be in violation of law. In every case there would have to be a victim whose property rights have been violated making a complaint against the violator. There would be no more “State Of California vs. Joe Anarchist” type cases. No consensual acts between individuals would be considered a violation of anyone’s property rights. There would be no “War on Drugs”. There would be no undercover police officers dressed as trannies trying to ensnare desperate Johns looking to get their rocks off for a few bucks. This being the case, it is safe to say there would be far less “crime” in a Stateless society.

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An-Cap focuses on the wrong thing

"the fear people have regarding the responsibility of self-defense" (it doesn't make a good argument for it and in some lines of reasoning cannot defend it - see below) and does not meditate deeply enough on how assets are valued in said society.

Because An-Cap is loose in the public arena they've had to shoulder some obvious fear-based questions: #1 How do I recover assets or asset value from stolen goods, #2 How do I defend myself without x, y, or z, and #3 How do we deal with natural disasters.

I've found many other "concerns" (men don't have fear we have "c-o-n-c-e-r-n-s"), but the above will suffice as they present the biggest holes in An-Cap theory.

#1 Asset Recovery: According to MOST free-market theory the benefit of such a society is NON-intrusive gov't -- and with an-cap specifically this means freedom-in-anonymity (otherwise worded as voluntarism).

---An-Cap Fail (regarding voluntarism -AND- the ability recover assets

---->Answer: They can't. Voluntarism means just that, "I comply with what I'm willing to comply with;" so, how do you get someone into court to sue them, if they refuse to comply with your right-to-claim? If you can force them into court you will need kidnappers (force-agency -- otherwise known as gov't officers).

---->Yet another: They can't (recover assets). There are NO OFFICIAL gov't address databases -- otherwise there's no anonymity. Un-less you know otherwise you could not find a person if they didn't want you too. There are no title departments if you want anonymity.

You might say "well we don't want that level of anonymity" and I would simply argue "you and want army" -- if your group says yes and my group says no; then you will need a "vote" (which is force-to-comply) to squelch it -- once such a department of title, Licensure, etc is monopolized "who" controls it (the electorate - a gang of six?).

You might say "well if a person does not comply to render-seizure-kidnapping and asset theft (court decision they disagree with), then we'll settle for the ruination of their reputation in the community?"

I would say to this -- "who controls a persons reputation, the mob and gossip, or the individual" -- also, if he nabbed you for a large enough theft (yet to be proven) or ripped you off by some trick of contract then he'd just move -- start over else-where. If you have the power to take his image, his identity, and smear it (everywhere) then you do not have a free-society.

#2 Self-Defense: All the talk by An-Caps about asset recovery, theft of property recover, and some type of "private" (voluntary-society) court system to "enforce" it all just ignores the "spirit" of self-defense.

---My argument would be in an anonymous-society, an anonymous free-society, where free-markets abound all industries when a person is harmed, ripped off, or even murdered the "lesson" is on them (what not to do) and not a pursuit for "justice"

Meaning -- "oh did you hear, so-and-so got robbed" -- "how did it happen" -- "they by-passed his security" -- "how did they do that, I have the same system" -- "they circumvented the parambulator" -- "ohhhhh, well I'll have mine swapped out next week for the new T-Rex RS50 (or whatever)"

There would be no discussion of "revenge" just how to "prevent" -- Everything focuses on "prevention" not "revenge"

National Security over Stop-Evil in Foreign Lands Security

Self-Defense over Retaliatory After the Fact Revenge-Seeking

#3 An-Cap theory on how to do with Natural Disastors is ambiguous at best -- Usually they talk about Insurance Agencies that have no Gov't backing sooo they'll step up measures to "defend" type of arguments; but this is silly. Those companies would just go bankrupt every time, hahaha. Re-organize under a new title with a new home office, smile. In a free-society nothing to stop that.

I could go on.....


Great writing Marc! You make complex issues easy to understand. Also, gives me a kick in the pants to continue to educate myself!

Why thanks!

I enjoy giving a good liberty pants-kickin' now and then!

Glad you think my wording is easy to understand, that's my goal here. I get worried that I'll lose the casual not quite libertarian yet reader sometimes.

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

Great post

Keep em' coming.

tasmlab's picture

Broken link?

Hi MarcMaddness,

I desperately want to get my head around this issue but the link to "continue reading" takes me to a malformed page with a few links but no article content. I've tried it in Safari and Firefox. Can you post the remainder here or somewhere else? Or paste into a private message for me?

I'm mostly interested in the cases of psychopathic murderers or somebody who rapes/kills a child (their own or someone else's).

Let's say if my neighbor murders his young daughter and I know, what is the likely course of events after this? After news gets out, he's going to lose his job and local store owners aren't going to sell to him and neighboring private security will probably be hasty to shoot if he comes near, and he's ushered out of society, but what else? Is there anything punitive and does he get locked up for the safety of others?

I'm pretty convinced of an cap, but I can't yet defend this point in a debate/discussion.

And I don't think we justify a whole system of war/welfare on these exceptions...

Currently consuming: Gatto: "Underground history of education..", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

Tough question

Your question gets into a point that has come up in my own discussions with friends, and one which I would love to see MarcMadness address (though this isn't strictly an AnCap topic, it's definitely relevant).

At what point, if at all, are you:

  1. Prohibited,
  2. Allowed, or
  3. Required

...to defend a 3rd party from aggression? A classic example is that I'm a bystander with a weapon, and I see a big burly dude attacking (or preparing to attack) a young girl who can clearly not defend herself. I didn't instigate it, I don't condone it, and I'd certainly defend myself if the same thing happened to me. But I'm there, and I noticed, and I'm even equipped to help stop the aggressor.

Am I wrong to do nothing? If not, why not? And if so, why? This scenario would probably provide helpful pointers for the psychopathic murderer scenario as well.

tasmlab's picture

How do we get them into the private courts w/o violence?

So after the neighbor x kills child or after burly man x is subdued (or not, he beats the girl), or let's say burly man x just assaults me, how do I convince him to choose a private court with myself to resolve the issues?

Does he just says "FU, make me." and goes on with his business?

At this point I guess I have to gang with my neighbors and his employer and the local economy and get everyone to agree "don't do business with this guy, he killed his child." or "he assaulted me"

Now locked out of an economic existence, X has to agree to go to a private court with me if I was assaulted. The contract punishment will be restitution and perhaps some nice counseling.

In the case of the child murderer, if he is forced out of economic life he may be 1) pushed out into the wastes where some Ted Nugent type gets a wind of what he did and shoots him, 2) he can move far away largely scott free, although grandly inconvenienced, or 3) submit himself voluntarily to some sort rehab charity prison where he signs a contract to be locked up for X number of years.

It's probably logical that monsters within a free society may be hunted down in the night. Having Rorschack do this dirty work sounds scary, but then there isn't a gazillion people in state prisons for smoking joints either.

I don't think I'm winning the cocktail party debate here with a statist :-)

Some of the reality is that these are messy topics even with the state. A man who murders his daughter today gets caught, is thrown in jail, and likely murdered very quickly by his violent inmates who can see his evil, or the state puts him down. I guess these make us feel like justice has been served and makes us safer.

Nuts, I should probably sign up for the Murphy class.

Currently consuming: Gatto: "Underground history of education..", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

I think right here

Is where we have to go back and distinguish between morality and law. In my opinion, it would be morally wrong for you not to intervene on behalf of the 3rd party, especially if as you said you were "well equipped to do so". However, if you choose not to act, you are not infringing on anyone's property rights. To say that you "have" to act on behalf of a 3rd party would be in itself an act of force.

In terms of law, I would say you would in no way be required.

But at the same time,you likely would be allowed and to and not prohibited from intervening. I would imagine that most courts that recognize property rights would recognize the burly aggressor as the one doing the violating, and if you are acting in defense of the property of another, it is likely most courts would find you innocent of any wrongdoing if the facts were on your side.

Remember , you would have to have someone filling a complaint against you and in this case I'd have to presume that would be the aggressor. So this man would have to make his case in court against you that while he was violating the property rights of another you intervened.

A private judicial firm would make a ruling on this, but there wouldn't be a "law" per se as in the sense of a legal code.

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*


I noticed the link is broken but retyped the pasted the URL and now it seems to work . Try again?

If not, here's the full link to copy and paste


That is definitely one of the harder points to address in AnCap, and while I don't get to it in this post I certainly will address it in a future post - thanks for reading!

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

Ha, it is indeed!

a Website! Hope you'll browse around, myself and a few friends set it up a few months ago in order to further advance the ideas of liberty.

Hope you'll browse around and check back regularly...we usually update daily during the week!

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

tasmlab's picture

That works

That link works and it even looks like a website. Thanks!!

I'll be interested in your thoughts. I may have to re-read the section in "For a new liberty" if it exists.

I don't think an cap vs. the state would result in any more or less incidents of these types of events, mostly trying to mull through the aftermath.

Currently consuming: Gatto: "Underground history of education..", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

Excellent material

Thanks for not only educating yourself on private law, but for sharing with the rest of us. Incredibly interesting stuff.