Our key insight is a pessimistic one: this is the sort of situation which, though individuals and markets don’t handle it well, isn’t actually handled well by governments either. The fundamental mistake of statist thinking is to juxtapose the tragically, inevitably flawed response of individuals and markets to large collective-action problems like this one against the hypothetical perfection of idealized government action, without coping with the reality that government action is also tragically and inevitably flawed. [...]In other words, don't take imperfect and possibly even very bad situations and make them even worse because you assume that individuals who act badly in the private sphere will suddenly become virtuous when they are part of the government.
The second level of error, once you get this far, is to require that the market action achieve a better outcome without including all the continuing, institutional costs of state action in the accounting. So, for example, other parts of the continuing costs of accepting state action to solve this individual toxic-exposure problem in the Deep Horizon aftermath is that Americans will be robbed every April 15th of five in twelve parts of their income (on average), and be randomly killed in no-knock drug raids. And it’s no use protesting that these abuses are separable from the “good” parts of government as long as you’re also insisting that the prospect of market failures is not separable from the good behavior of markets! [...]
Rational anarchists like myself know that stateless systems will have tragic failures too, but believe after analysis that they would have fewer and smaller ones.
If this seems doubtful to you, do not forget to include all the great genocides of the 20th century in the cost of statism.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
One of the repetitive debates throughout society is when to leave things to individual action and when to have government intervention. Eric Raymond points out that flawed and incomparable metrics are sometimes used to compare private and government action. In his post he focuses on an example of a "collective-action problem" which anti-statists often have to answer for.