I have a running joke with a friend. We often cite the mantra “firm; yet flexible”.
It occurs to me that this could be the mantra of an anarcho-capitalist. How so? I might argue an anarcho-capitalist is the very definition of the “firm; yet flexible” mantra.
An anarcho-capitalist is undeniably firm. He strictly adheres to the two pillars of the philosophy of liberty – the non-aggression axiom and private property rights rooted in self ownership. These rules apply to all people in all places at all times. There are simply no exceptions. It does not matter if you are associated with others, wear nice uniforms or even gain popular support. The anarcho-capitalist stands firm against the initiation of violence (fraud, theft, rape, murder etc. – violations of property).
An anarcho-capitalist is the epitome of flexible. Adherence to the two pillars of the philosophy does not make one inflexible. The anarcho-capitalist holds that peaceful acts are not crimes – no matter how distasteful, outrageous, or destructive they may appear as there is no violation in property rights. Anarcho-capitalism holds that one has the right to engage in activities including drug dealing or use, prostitution (or facilitation), blackmail, speculation or other vilified or disfavored activities. That does not intend that the anarcho-capitalist supports engaging in such behaviors. And there is no contradiction in supporting a right while simultaneously advocating against exercising the right. (One is a legal matter – the other a moral matter.)
The only tool at the disposal of the state is force. The introduction of violence does not remedy the situation, but in fact makes it worse. Force does nothing to address the underlying demand for these goods and services. The state can only offer punishment for engaging in them. There is no doubt some deterrent effect from punishment.
On balance, criminalization of these behaviors has a multitude of negative effects. It provides the incentives for the creation of black markets. Black markets have limited competitors – only those willing to assume the risk of violence and police action – or the cost of police protection (bribes, payoffs or offering of information) will enter the market. This scenario has a variety of deleterious effects including reduced safety (communicable disease in the case of prostitution), higher costs, and reduction in the quality of products and services.
Criminalizing increases the impetus for violence – gangs (in lieu of using peaceful means for dispute resolution – impartial third party arbitrators) and violent resistence. Violence begets violence. Criminalization also creates a parasite industry of jailing non-violent “criminals”.
There are many societal ill effects as well. Futures are destroyed by convictions and imprisonment removing individuals from the possibility of learning and engaging in productive work. Jailing severely limits the possibility of the experience of satisfaction from a job well done. And the emotional damage and scars left on the families of the convicted weigh heavily on the innocent. These families are victims of illegitimate laws and as a consequence lose respect for legitimate laws.
As these acts are non-crimes, they therefore are not preventable or punishable by violence. To change one’s beliefs, behavior, ideas or position, he must be properly persuaded through education or example. The use of violence does not improve society. It simply makes it violent. The state reduces cooperation by introducing itself into peaceful, voluntary transactions.
Many anarcho-capitalists deplore these distasteful or unsavory activities. They insist, however, that the initiation of violence is improper on the grounds that it is a violation of the non-aggression axiom and that it does not provide the desired outcome while in fact making the state of affairs worse. The anarcho-capitalist is in fact “firm: yet flexible”.