By Insula Qui
The good folks who create “This Week in Reaction” over at Social Matter seem to often propose a similar critique of a libertarian form of statecraft, namely, this is the punishment of defectors. This is somewhat addressed in Part XI of the “Libertarianism and Statecraft” series, however, I thought it deserved a more complete elaboration. Another well-placed criticism of libertarianism is the problem of subversion and espionage. I have developed a framework to solve this problem, but I have simply not gotten around to writing about it. Special shout-outs here to Nick B. Steves and Jay Dyer for inspiring the creation of this article and hopefully helping to form a solution for many problems within our current view of a libertarian framework.
First, as with most things libertarian statecraft, we need to turn towards Hans Hoppe and Spencer Heath. Although I had a poorly formed notion of a libertarian governance even before becoming acquainted with the work of these two men, their thought has been instrumental in creating a more cohesive framework. Another important figure that we need to mention whenever we talk about libertarian statecraft is the great proto-anarcho-capitalist Gustave de Molinari. He proposed that all security must be created to meet the demand for security and as such a market for security and authority would create what I call a “perfect confederation”, but he refers to as a “monarchy without monopoly and a republic without communism”.
Molinari states that people accept this natural form of authority for the sake of protecting their properties and their liberties. This means that whenever the authority is of subpar character, it can always be exchanged for a better authority which offers a better protection of property and liberty. Now that we have established this, we can turn towards Spencer Heath to further advance this basic notion into a theory of libertarian statecraft.
Not only should each of these authorities function on a market to protect liberty and security, they are not the same as any other company. This citadel provides a barrier which defends the market, which ultimately facilitates the creation of all spiritual values. However, defence should never infringe on the market and the market should never infringe on spiritual values. Thus we have created a trinity of citadel, market, and altar, the citadel sustaining the market and the market sustaining the altar. Furthermore, by placing the citadel into the market we can create a self-reinforcing system of protection and growth. In libertarian terms, protection agencies facilitate the market itself while only being possible on a market system.
And here we can finally use the last step created for us by the great Hans Hoppe to state that these defence organizations can also facilitate the exclusion of those who do not follow accepted social norms. This creates a means by which we can effectively bring norms out of a socialistic lack of ownership and effectively begin to privatize them. By this, we have reconstructed a government in perfectly libertarian terms and can use this structure of government to create a proper justification for the punishment of subversives and defectors, but to do so we have to establish a mechanism from the top down.
First, it’s important to note that those who subvert spiritual values must also subvert the market order and thus must aggress against defence. And if we include the privatized norms under those spiritual values, we find ourselves with a justifiable means by which we can properly consider punishing subversives. When the subversion of a social order defeats the effective purpose of having a market, we can default to the citadel to eliminate this subversive threat. Furthermore, a brutal regime of exclusion guarantees that those who subvert norms must be doing so of their own volition, as they were let into the society under the auspice that they would behave themselves according to general norms.
Some may claim here that the should be no punishment of subversives and they should be simply ignored until they self-deport or get removed from the society for violating the covenant. Neither of these are real punishments as they don’t impose a cost for corrupting a society. This means that the subversive will get to infiltrate the society, impose costs on the people in that society, violate norms, and be only met with exclusion. This may be acceptable in an urban environment, but is not functional in a smaller community.
For example, if a smut peddler appeared in a traditionalist society or a hellfire preacher in a progressive one, they would have violated the purpose of that society and caused harm to the norms in that society. It’s irrelevant if we agree with the goals of these people, but only that they went contradictory to the expected norms of conduct in the society that they willingly entered. Of course, I would personally prefer hellfire preaching over peddling smut, but my preferences are ultimately irrelevant to every community I am not a part of.
This means that the intruder has imposed a cost on filling the needs and wants of the people in a community. This means that they have effectively damaged the state of the community, especially if they have influenced the young and impressionable. However, it would not be justifiable to impose arbitrary costs on these people as they have not consented to any such costs, for the sake of justice, it is necessary to have a coherent and public law. For example, a giant sign that states that everyone caught preaching the gospel or spreading smut will be sentenced to two weeks of forced labour. Thus, by entering the community that has universally accepted these norms, they will have to face those repercussions for violating the norms.
Furthermore, this justifies an elevated degree of punishment for crimes thought particularly egregious that the non-aggression principle cannot in itself create the punishment for. For example, pedophiles, pimps, and drug dealers could be charged for crimes which would theoretically be victimless as the society in which they live considers those to be criminal acts. This can be taken even further to do away with the idea of proportional response. A community could decide that rapists deserve the death penalty, which is not proportional in the Rothbardian ethical framework.
And the important part here is that these social norms and the character of subversives must be determined by a community. It’s only justifiable to hang spies if those spies know that they will be hung if they willingly engage in such unscrupulous activity within a community that does not accept spying. This means that the ethical justification is inherent in property rights, exclusion, privatizing norms, and pre-emptive consent. And if any libertarian would dispute this, they must also dispute the ethical legitimacy of signs that simply read “intruders will be shot” and will end up arguing against the right to self-defence altogether.
And this is why the state punishing non-aggressive people remains wrong while it is a justifiable endeavour for communities formed out of volition. Non-aggression can only serve as a guideline when it does not conflict with the ultimate right to property. After all, property rights are the fundamental basis of libertarianism and the non-aggression principle is simply derived from the rights to property. Thus, we must conclude that the punishment of subversives cannot be an objectionable practice as long as it is agreed upon by the holders of property.
But here we broach the exceptionally charged topic of defectors, we are faced with two conflicts when it comes to this issue. First, all libertarians fundamentally fight for the right to defect from the state and to not be bound by the coercive force of the state. Furthermore, no libertarian can argue against the right for even a conscripted soldier to defect from the army for the sake of his self-preservation and escape from slavery. However, each community does not want defectors as that would reduce the influence of that community and each community would be suspect of any defector from another community.
But here we need to establish that such a thing as defecting would not be necessary in a libertarian social order. First, as long as a child lives under his parents, he is bound to the rules of that property and the question of defecting from a community is not brought up. If that child refuses to participate in that community after he has already grown up, he may walk away never having agreed to that community. This erases all concerns about the potential of unjust treatment of future generations.
Second, no sane person would join with a community from which there is no exit and no sane community would allow unlimited exit for everyone if they want to leave. First, the person must compensate the community for any services he might have gotten without paying for. A person must pay the bill to his utilities, even when they are provided by a community. Secondly, that person may be charged for the use of public services combined with a pre-established cost if he left before a certain time or without a certain notice. If each person just followed the pre-established rules to a community, there would be no troubles with defecting.
And a community might require that the person sells his property, finds an agency willing to sell the property, or a buyer wanting to buy the property. The buyer would ultimately still have to follow the law set by the community and agree to the rules that the property is bound by. But at some point, the costs to leaving simply outweigh the benefits of joining a community, at which point the community would experience a decrease in those willing to join it altogether. Communities are only sustainable if people are willing to join those communities.
And if the person had not run from his obligation and had parted on mutually agreeable terms, no other community would have problems with welcoming him. This is as with leaving jobs when employees leave on mutually agreeable terms with the owner or manager, they do not damage their future prospects. However, if they cause problems before leaving, they will have to face the repercussions for doing so. This means that every bad actor who cannot be trusted in a community will not find any high-value communities that are willing to take him in. This solves all problems that could be inherent with defection and subversion by simply introducing the logical conclusion of property rights into our framework.