Anarchy and Common Infrastructure   Leave a comment

I’ve said that I find parts of the anarcho-capitalist theory attractive, but as a practical person, I also find a lot of it unworkable. I think they have some good ideas that could be used as we move toward smaller government, but I do not think it is possible to have a completely stateless society. I think attempting to go that way would expose Americans to rule by those who do not respect in anyway individual rights or liberty. My anarchist friends would insist that it’s a false flag to say the Chinese would use this opportunity to put their boot upon our necks. My anarchist friends, while being very intelligent, are naive.

One area where my practical side asserts itself is the idea of market-provided roads. I think it’s probably histrionics to state that there’d be a turnstile at the bottom of your driveway that would admit you onto a road and that you’d have to pay at a turnstile at every corner. The doomsayers who advance that scenario are being silly, setting up a strawman to scare their opponents into conceding the argument.

Here in Alaska, we still have private roads that are part of subdivisions. Some have road commissioners within the Borough government, but many are informal arrangements. Someone has a plow truck and his/her neighbors chip in for gas for him/her to plow the road. When the road needs repair, one or more of the neighbors does it. If the repair is bigger than a chuckhole, they go around to the neighborhood and ask for donations. If someone won’t chip in for the regular maintenance of the road, the plow truck owner starts leaving big berms at the end of their driveway and they change their attitude.

I suspect that if the City of Fairbanks could no longer maintain the streets in my neighborhood, we the residents would figure out how to keep them open. We would do this for the simple reason that we need roads to get to and from our homes.

In microcosm, anarcho-capitalism would work. It’s in the larger community where we would start to have problems.

At some point, some business (probably a corporation) would declare ownership of the highway that connects my neighborhood and three others to the rest of the town. They would erect turnstiles at the intersection and require us to pay for access to the “toll road”. That sounds fine, except ….

Under a system of mutually agreed upon laws, toll roads are open to anyone who can pay. If you can’t … well, I guess you don’t need to travel. And that’s just one of the problems.

As I said, we have privately owned roads in some places in Alaska. Miner B takes ownership of the road (typically an upjumped RS2477 trail), takes care of the maintenance and decides who may and may not have access to the road. If he likes you, you can go to and from your mine and if he doesn’t …. Well, you were his competitor, so now you’re not. Even if you had the money to pay (and miners often do), he’s not interested in your money. He’s interested in ending you as a competitor. You can’t pay for access.

Imagine that system everywhere.

There’d be a lot of people not traveling, which means a lot of lost economic opportunity and very limited supply of goods. A handful of people could essentially control society by controlling access to the roads.

In the absence of a government, the anarchists say, we would all contract with one another, but that avoids the idea that a strongman or five wouldn’t create some local dictatorships to impose their own ideas on that territory.

Sure, you could fight that strongman … if you have enough bullets and guns … but that ends up devolving into tribal/clan warfare. It’s the Bloods and the Crips for all of us.

I use roads because they are the most visible of our common infrastructure and will likely be the first to be targeted by dictators bent on controlling society as they see fit.

Maybe I’m wrong. Anyone want to argue that this is unlikely to happen? Maybe there are forces I simply do not see that would moderate this. Maybe there are already examples of this working of which I am unaware.

Anyone?

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