Birth of the Minarchist Syndicate
This is an article I'd written back in November, 2014 on my presently defunct website: The Freeman State. The site was originally a secessionist page, but I haven't been keeping up with it since Donald Trump got elected and renewed my faith in the American system. For now, I'm willing to give it another chance, but this may still become relevant again in the future, depending on how things go. Should the need arise, and should I ever decide to revive that endeavor, it'll have to be updated with things I've learned since then.
For now, I'm moving this article here for sake of easy reference and consolidation, but am otherwise keeping it in its original form. Only editing for format, not content.
Birth of the Minarchist Syndicate
In one of his YouTube videos, famed anarchist Larken Rose stated that he was at one time a minarchist, but has since abandoned that ideology. He also states that minarchists face an ideological dilemma in that they are very used to arguing against those of a more centralist mindset, but less so against anarchists. I often compare this to the atheist telling the theist, "If you can explain to me why you reject all other gods, you'll understand why I reject yours as well."
While I am inclined to agree with anarchists and atheists on many things, particularly when it comes to what "the establishment" has devolved into, I consider myself to be neither an anarchist nor an atheist. Maybe some day that will change. Who can say? But right now, I know that I am a deistic minarchist. A part of the reason for this stems from my feelings that minarchy is a practical necessity - rather than an ideological end - and that all anarchy will eventually cycle back around to form states again. After all, we formed them in the first place for a reason. Why wouldn't we form them again? The last time mankind lived in true anarchy was during the hunter-gatherer period; and though many day-to-day activities are anarchistic in nature, I feel that pragmatism dictates a select few areas where we will always need a government of some sort.
This essay is an attempt to highlight one of the ways in which that might be, particularly regarding the issue that most people relate with government: collective defense. ~ Marushia Dark
Supposing you have all the people in a small farming town living together. There are some local elders whom most of the town regards as being very wise and the ones people turn to in times of trouble, but for the most part people run their own lives and no one tells anyone what to do. A few of them have more than their neighbors, a few work harder than their neighbors, and a few are more respectable and more honorable than their neighbors; but all in all they generally work together and everyone enjoys a decent standard of living in relative peace.
One day, the town gets attacked by lawless bandits; and though they were able to muster a defense in the end to drive back the bandits, the town is still left in bad shape - like in Seven Samurai. The elders of the town decide there needs to be some sort of well-trained, well-organized standing defense force because the bandits could come again at any time and finish them off in their weakened condition. The people of the town have two options: hire outside help or do it themselves. Not wanting to be extorted by outsiders (whom they would have no defense against anymore than the bandits), they elect to do it themselves, capitalizing on the local pride that they're defending their own homes and families.
There is a question as to who will do this, however. Not everyone is equally willing or able to participate in the defense. The very old, the very young, and the infirm are all immediately precluded from service.
Of those that remain, some people volunteer, but others are busy providing useful trade skills that the town needs and can't afford to participate without significantly hurting the town in other ways. They pledge to volunteer to act as a militia in case of an attack, but they cannot really devote as much time to training and so will not be as good at fighting when the time comes.
Still others neither volunteer nor pledge despite not being too busy to help.
The people in trades that pledged to help out in case of emergency as a militia force could be useful; but otherwise, the watchers on the wall are going to be doing most of the work. What few forces they have, the town agrees, probably aren't enough, so they must come up with a plan to recruit others. The remainder could be chosen by lot, as seems most fair, or it could be chosen by available skill, as seems most logical. The former leaves the problem that some people will be called away who are better suited elsewhere, while the latter would make use of the "slackers" in town; but both forms really have a shared problem: use of force to compel performance.
The elders come up with a third option to induce people to join by hiring them. This will yield more voluntary enlistment, but is not ideal. There will still be slackers wasting their talents and their will still be people pulled off of more important jobs because they chase after compensation.
And then what about the people who volunteered without inducement of any kind, but simply joined to defend their homes and families out of moral obligation? Do they still get a share of the proceeds? If not, then this means there are people performing a service and not getting paid for it because it requires them to neglect other activities that could make them money. Without compensation for their services, they cannot buy anything and this creates a problem of how they are to sustain their livelihood. Some of them might begin to regret their decision and abandon defense in favor of looking out for themselves, especially when those less honorable among them are getting paid to do the same thing.
The town agrees that anyone who voluntarily performs such a service ought to be compensated. However, it also leaves the question of who will pay for their services. Here, there are again three options: impose a tax such that everyone pays into the system (either equally or by ability), rely on random funding (either by lot or voluntary donation), or establish a subscription-based form of payment.
Right away, the people see a problem with the tax method. For one thing, it requires the use of force to compel others to pay. If everyone is made to pay equally, this will be great for dealing with the slackers, but not so great for the workers who are already contributing in other ways. If people are made to pay according to their ability, this will be great for the poor who have little to begin with, but not so great for those who are better off, especially if they are recycling their resources back into the town. The ideal tax would be one that targets only slackers and hoarders, thereby encouraging them to be more naturally productive members of society, but these are a minority in the town already and enough revenue can't be raised from just them. It also says nothing of how one might judge when one is slacking or hoarding and when one is not. The definition will change over time with society.
Similarly, taxation by lot would hurt the working poor most of all - people who, despite being productive, are still unable to get what they need, and made less able by the imposition of a tax. The end result being that if there must ultimately be some form of taxation on their own people, the town will have to accept that some among them will always be unhappy about it and must weigh this unhappiness and loss of rights against those of the whole and decide at what point it is too oppressive.
The subscription method means that only those who voluntarily pay will be protected by the watchers. This requires no use of force to compel anyone, but also largely fails to resolve the overall issue, which is that the bandits are attacking the town as a whole, not just those who cannot afford to defend themselves. Those who cannot afford the service will be the most affected and left outside the purview of protection. The situation will reflect something akin to The Purge in which the wealthy are well-defended while the poor are left to fend themselves. The bandits, knowing there is risk in taking on the watchers, will instead elect to target the more helpless non-subscribers instead. They might still be armed, but they are easier prey and their survival is largely at the mercy of the empathy and compassion of either the wealthy or the watchers or both.
While some might be willing to accept the principle that only those who contribute to something should receive the fruits of that thing and that no one should be compelled to participate, it takes a very cold heart to throw otherwise good people to the wolves like that and one wonders whether the use of force to compel payment or to compel service would not have been a lesser evil. In leaving them to fend for themselves, this will inevitably create class warfare and enmity among the poor against the rich as a whole, regardless of whether individuals among either group contribute to society or not - such as what we see in the Occupy Movement. Assuming they survive, the poor and the slackers might be more inclined to join the bandits in order to obtain what they need to survive, seeing as they are not getting it from those closest to them. This creates a very serious long-term risk for the town as whole.
Voluntary donation requires no use of force, and would likely exist regardless of whether or not there was a tax imposed; but the logistics of this method would depend on the requirements of the watchers and the willingness of the rest of the people. There is a very big question of whether a purely voluntary method could fund such an operation. Being the least oppressive, the town decides to adopt this method for a while and see how it works.
Meanwhile, as this is going on, the labor of the watchers is pulled from the workforce and the town must hire other workers to make up the difference, or else they will lose resources not only to fund themselves, but to fund the watchers as well. There are two sources they can pull from: the pool of workers who are slacking, or from foreigners.
Compelling the slackers to work is little different than compelling them to defend the town or to pay taxes. It still requires the use of force, which some will find objectionable yet others might find imperative. If they are not receiving the benefits of protection, why should they be made to pay for it? Or if they are receiving the benefits of protection equally, why should they be allowed to have it for a different price than what their friends and family pay?
There is still the option of incentives; but with some money going towards the collective defense, many trade leaders will be forced to choose between paying their workers and paying their defenders.
Though technology is an option as well, we shall set aside the issue of technological displacement for now. For one thing, it requires our little town to be at peace and productivity long enough to develop such means, which cannot occur if they are constantly subjected to bandits all the time and devoting the bulk of their brains and muscles to rebuilding those basic things needed for survival. Therefore, they must look to the defenses first out of practical necessity before they can consider phasing them out completely.
Diplomacy, some will say, is another avenue. They might try to hire the bandits or otherwise reason with them. But there is nothing to suggest a still larger army of bandits is not waiting to replace them; and as mentioned before, it would be all too easy for the town to become extorted by outsiders. They would be no better off than they are now without a comprehensive plan, carefully selecting who they allow into their folds. At least if the watchers betray them, it will weigh more heavily on the consciences of the town's oppressors who will have to look their friends and family in the eye, versus some outsider with no love or loyalty towards them at all - who could kill them without shame, claiming it was out of necessity, rather than greed.
In order to accommodate for both increased wages and the funding of the watchers, the trade leaders decide to transfer the cost to the people that buy their goods and services in the form of increased prices. Immediately, this makes the people of the town unhappy since they are then forced to deal with the immediate affects of inflation. The money they make can no longer buy the same things it could before and so they must charge more for their services.
The elders of the town quickly realize this is a vicious cycle and so they urge the people to keep the cost of goods and services low for each other and instead raise them on people from other towns, while discouraging buying things from other towns that they could make themselves.
At first, this does not go so well. People from neighboring towns are unhappy about the increased costs and the loss of business. But a few of them are sympathetic to the plight of their neighbors after hearing about the bandits. Some volunteer resources directly, but most of them are content to accept a marginal increase in price out of compassion. Life soon returns to normal for our little town as they recover, and the next time the bandits attack, they are ready for them. There is still some loss, but not as bad as before. The organized and trained watchers have proven effective and the town is encouraged to keep them around. They're even willing to expand them a little bit so as to be even better. By reducing their losses, they find they have more resources available for trade and thus can expand further and raise more money to pay for better defenses.
Eventually, the bandits realize it is no longer worth the risk to keep attacking the town, so they opt instead to attack people along the trade routes instead - after all, that's where the goods are and there's no one around to defend them. The people of the town quickly realize their weak spot and decide to send a few of their watchers to guard their people as they move from town to town. This helps a little, but is ultimately not as effective as they would like. Small groups of bandits are deterred, but larger ones can still overpower them; and the people dare not risk sending too many watchers to protect the trade routes, lest they be defenseless at home. Yet at the same time, they know they must do something.
In the next town over, the people have been subjected to more frequent bandit attacks, so they decide to form a defense force of their own using a similar method. The people there have different customs and different sensibilities and tolerances, so their methods aren't exactly the same, but still fairly close.
Soon, several towns in the area have small defense forces, but none of them is particularly sustainable. This is because they are all employing the same method of charging only outsiders increased prices while reducing what they buy when they can make it themselves for the same or lower cost. Also, while each town sends out defenders to protect their own people, there is no one protecting the trade routes as a whole, so the bandits continue to pick them off.
At this rate, the towns will continue to degrade in a war of attrition. Without the ability to trade, they will be limited to what they themselves can produce, which will in turn hurt their ability to pay their watchers and they will be right back where they started.
The elders of a few of the towns come together to try and work out a solution. They recognize that each town has done a reasonably good job at protecting itself, but the trade routes between them are weak and defenseless. Since these routes affect the prosperity of all of them to greater or less extent, they agree that it only makes sense to defend them collectively, just as they had done within each of their own towns. The elders return to their respective peoples with this idea and some of the watchers agree to take part in defense of not only their own people, but those of other towns that might travel along the trade routes in their areas using the exact same methods they've chosen for themselves.
They expand this idea further still, extending the same offers of protection to people from other towns that are passing through.
But there is still a problem. Each town is funded separately and no two have the same sort of policies. A person from town A might ultimately wind up paying a different amount than a person from town B, even though they are getting the same protection. The same sort of internal problems each town faced in regards to what is fair now reveal themselves between towns, and for those who use the trade routes versus those who merely stay in their own town all the time.
It is generally agreed that only those who use the trade routes should have to pay for them, so tolls are proposed. Some routes are used more than others and some require more protection than others, so the rates of these tolls fluctuate over time. Some generate a surplus and that money is recycled into improving the route, making it safer and more desirable for people to travel on. Others, particularly the less attractive routes, remain as they are and do not improve all that much.
As for the differences between the towns themselves, the people are starting to become more accustomed to their neighbors and generally treat them as friends and family. They realize that this mutual protection has worked out well for them. Some of them agree to extend the same discount to people from neighboring towns as they do to people from their own towns. Eventually, these differences in cost level out to the point where they are more or less proportional to the amount of pains taken to go to the next town and pay for their protection rather than remain at home.
The market settles in on a "natural price" and people generally just contribute to their own local defenses, with the understanding that those same protections will be honored in other towns. And in some cases, people begin to see such minor differences as arbitrary and suggest that all people in all of these towns be treated as one group and follow a single plan for their collective defense, still allowing that plan to grow and change over time with fresh ideas. They contribute to the syndicate of towns knowing that anywhere they go, they'll receive the same protections. How they do this is the result of much debate and planning and bargaining between the people, but they ultimately agree to a uniform standard, whatever that might be.
Why wouldn't they? There is no reason for them to have a multiplicity of standards when one will suffice. The only difficulty is in getting everyone to agree that it's the best way possible. And if no one has a better idea, then that is the best possible way. It might not always be the best plan - someone might come up with something that is less costly and makes people freer, at which point that becomes the new best plan - but in that moment it's the best available plan. And why settle for a lesser plan when you can have the best available plan?
Now, rather than having to protect individual people, the watchers from each town only have to protect a certain area, be it their own town or the trade routes between them.
The people within each town formed syndicates, and the towns themselves formed what can arguably be called a minarchy - that is, some form of limited government extending to all people equally, according to certain established rules. These rules came about spontaneously and naturally, and if there was any force involved at any point - whether to compel payment for services or the services themselves - it was also spontaneous and natural and out of necessity. For those that might still express doubts about this, I ask you to consider what will happen over time when the prosperity of these people and these towns continues to grow. No doubt, their idea will spread to other towns that will want to join their syndicated minarchy, preferring it to self-determination and unease of mind in dealing with bandits and poverty - not by force, but by inducement. In time, they might grow powerful enough and prosperous enough to reform the bandits themselves and focus on larger threats instead.
This is the birth of government, and the towns will grow to form counties and nations and ultimately empires. This is the cycle of things, which we can glean from studying history. It is not inherently bad or unnatural. It is the by-product of the impetus to survive and grow; but what we must always be wary of is this: that the watchers on the wall do not think themselves as separate from the rest of us and turn on us. Indeed, the only difference between a castle and a prison is which way the guards are facing. In a castle, the king may rest easy knowing his guards stand atop the parapet looking outward, protecting him from any and all outside threats; in a prison, the prisoner is ever restless in his bondage, knowing that his captors have their eyes forever fixed upon him and do not protect him, but rather control him and make him their slave.
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