The Obviousness of Anarchy 

Many sincere limited government libertarians object to market anarchism because they’re unable to imagine how a free market could provide law, security, and defense.  But this isn’t just a theoretical claim by anarchists: it has already been achieved both in the past and the present:

Law – The commercial code of the United States and most other developed countries derives from the Law Merchant, a purely voluntary legal system set up in the Middle Ages by international merchants dealing in contracts their governments were unwilling or unable to enforce.  Virtually the entire body of law advocated by all libertarians, whether anarchist or minarchist, was present in the customary law and early common law systems of England and other countries, which originated and were operated without central planning.

Security – Professional police are a relatively recent invention in society, spend the majority of their time enforcing victimless crime laws or raising revenue for the government through traffic regulations that have never been shown to produce safer streets and highways, and are now outnumbered by a factor of 5 to 1 by private security personnel hired by businesses and homeowner groups who no longer see the point of relying on the police for protection.

Defense – Volunteer militias, essentially equivalent to National Guard troops but without the obligation to fly overseas, defended this country effectively for most of the history of the US.   To this day, the Swiss “military” consists almost entirely of the able-bodied male population of the country, learning basic techniques of local defense but not offense, and threatening no other country, allowing it to remain untouched by 2 world wars in their backyard and all terrorism.  Costa Rica has no military in a very dangerous neighborhood, and does just fine.  True, it is unlikely that a voluntary defense force will be able to maintain a worldwide empire: this is one “service” that an anarchist society probably couldn’t provide.

John Hasnas contributed an excellent essay entitled “The Obviousness of Anarchy” to a recent book, Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Party of a Free Country, edited by anarchist Roderick Long and minarchist Tibor Machan.  The book costs a pretty penny, but Hasnas’ article only costs a mouse click.

Anarchists take seriously all the concerns expressed by people who think it is impractical.  Hasnas’ article is not the last word on the subject, but is certainly a terrific first word.  Take a look.