I’ve noticed in recent years a strong bias in support of action over argument, with regard to building over persuading, with regard to practice over theory.
This really is laudable and understandable for all of us frustrated by statism and all its terrible offspring: war, poor money, division, along with economic, social, and cultural degradation. We understandably want out, and not one hundred years through now but within our lifetimes.
I saw a response to a tweet promoting this particular gathering to this effect: you have some great thinkers and advocates scheduled to speak, but what you really need is metropolitan planners! Or, we might believe, architects and engineers. This is actually a fair point! But I must confess to representing the particular theorists today, and Rothbardians in particular.
Within my defense, the theory underpinning any kind of new model for private governance or free cities is as important as the plans for a building. Carpenters have a saying, “ Measure two times and cut once. ” Another version of this is found in the Zen koan “ Slow down to speed up. ” Maybe this is a good time to rethink our approach to what personal governance could mean, and exactly how better to align this motion with current political, financial, and cultural realities. Remember, “ parallel” implies peaceful coexistence with existing politics structures. It is nonthreatening and voluntary.
To advertise the idea of private governance, we ought to understand it fully yourself. We should make sure our vision comports with human nature, which is another way of stating it aligns with the market place. As entrepreneurs, we should take the world as it is rather than the way you wish it were. Or else, we risk creating a product that nobody is buying.
And as a good aside, speaking of creating, take a look at not forget the earliest and most battling form of private governance is the family! Maybe the quickest way to build your own “ parallel structure” is to begin having kids. We heard a lot yesterday about residing as a digital nomad, seeking multiple passports, and seasteading, but we should not forget the whole point of building better governance structures is so people can live better. This involves new humans!
I also suggest an attract the better angels among the many nationalist and breakaway movements happening across the world. These are real, they will hunger for independence, and we should not ignore them. And lastly we should sell community: expending safe streets, nice recreational areas, good schools, and capable local services from skilled local providers. I mean the fundamental building blocks of a nice local community. A good place to raise a family, as the saying goes. The marketplace for start-up or private communities is not only expats or perpetual travelers or bitcoin aficionados, but also soccer mothers and religious people and retirees.
We can use the term “ private” in more than one sense: the first is personal, relating to private matters in our personal lives, matters which are not community. And we use it as a bright-line distinction between state plus civil society, between govt action and private action— though, as we’ve noticed, that distinction is increasingly blurred by what Robert Higgs calls “ participatory fascism. ” But when discussing personal cities or regions or even services or governance, we use “ private” like a synonym for “ commercial, ” like any private company. In this sense, we just mean “ not governmental. ” But beyond the possible models are wide open, so we should focus on customer sovereignty just as the seller associated with any new product should.
The marketplace— funds and entrepreneurship, as opposed to politics— is the way forward.
I. The Dystopian Vision
When we consider the marketplace for new parallel private buildings, we should take a moment to play devil’s advocate and consider the typical strawman arguments presented simply by people who reflexively abhor the notion of private government. They are the people who go on and upon about our “ holy democracy” but cannot conceive of the truly democratizing components of the marketplace, what Mises known as a “ daily plebiscite. ” It’s uncanny: people have no objection whatsoever in order to private governance when it comes to vast companies like Google or maybe the British National Trust (the biggest private landowner in the UK) or the ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Cathedral or the management of Actual Madrid football club. But recommend privatizing police or garbage pickup in their town associated with thirty thousand, and they overwhelmingly object. Why?
In large part, “ privatization” has become a boogieman for progressives, who else treat the concept as a menacing plot for big companies to run our lives. This is the mindset we must overcome.
In 1992, the sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson released a really enjoyable and innovative book titled Snow Crash , which essentially presents a cheeky anarcho-capitalist future— fully privatized, but very messy. The reader sensory faculties Stephenson is one of us, but additionally a bit of a provocateur and contrarian.
Snow Crash takes place within the old territory of California, over which both the US government and the state government lost manage following a terrible economic crisis (so, unlike our models, the brand new “ startup” territories were born of necessity, not really choice).
Authorities still controls minor aspects of this new world, but power is mostly now ceded to some complex patchwork of private sovereign agencies, franchises, and mercenaries— some of whom received their training from plus work for the now privatized CIA (after a combination with the Library of Congress).
Mafia gangs have achieved the standing of quasi-private governments, plus rule a network of semiautonomous corporate neighborhoods (“ burbclaves” ). These locations are linked by privatized roads and protected by de facto mercenaries. Main intersections in Los Angeles right now fall under the control of defense contractors and private security (following gunfire battles to find out who would win control of them).
So the brand new private territories were not given birth to without violence, and the outdated “ Won’t warlords dominate? ” critique of privatization is always lurking behind the storyplot. The protagonist, Hiro, is a delivery driver for Vergüenza Nostra Pizza, a bunch run by Uncle Enzo. But the warlords are at least efficient: when Hiro is definitely late with a delivery, this individual gets an ominous call from Don Enzo themselves implying that the next time this individual fails the thirty-minute guarantee will be the last time.
Only in the metaverse (a term credited in order to Stephenson) does Hiro convey more status, as a successful denizen of the upper echelons associated with society unavailable to him in the meat space associated with his real life delivering pizzas. But even here he could be no happier; in the digital world, every last space is commercialized, monetized, plus motivated only by rank status or money. It is a caricature of anarcho-capitalism which usually ignores the full spectrum associated with human experience beyond business. Stephenson’s metaverse is a hellscape, every human interaction can be mercenary and transactional and ugly. This is clearly not really the way to sell private governance!
II. Rothbard’s Vision
What if the parallel communities we seek to construct already exist in some form and our task would be to identify and coalesce about those existing “ countries within nations”? Surely this would be a leap forward.
Natural communities exist all over the place; they may not be libertarian in view, but neither are many personal entities which don’t aggress against anyone. The idea is not only to start up such neighborhoods, but also to recognize them. Religious groups like the Amish and the Mennonites in America; ethnic, social, and linguistic identifications such as the Catalans in Spain or the Welsh in the United Kingdom; corporations; fraternal associations— even country clubs plus gated housing developments— all of the form natural communities which might well increasingly seek to unyoke from their centralized plus failing political rulers. They may be socialist or capitalist, correct wing or woke, provincial or cosmopolitan, provided they have got no desire or incentive to aggress against various other private communities.
To sell parallel structures, we should identify them in nascent form here and now.
Murray Rothbard’s article “ Nations simply by Consent , ” composed just before he died, in 1994, is an excellent guidepost right here:
The “ nation, ” of course , is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood complete well. Contemporary libertarians usually assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by nexus of market trade. They forget that everybody is necessarily born into a loved ones, a language, and a lifestyle.
Every person comes into the world into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with particular values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “ nation. ” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning community and land area.
Rothbard provides various key takeaways which can benefit the marketing of private governance:
- Nation is not state. Nation stands between individual and condition.
- Contractual permission and the right to exit distinguish truly private “ nations” from a government or state.
- A true “ free private city” does not originate with conquest or decades/centuries of disputed game titles, but rather with a fresh begin, clear title, and a win-win market approach to services plus membership (“ citizenship” ).
- Total privatization “ solves” nationality problems, even while several land areas remain in the governmental sphere .
- Decentralization and localism “ solve” problems associated with access for enclaves plus landlocked areas.
- Voting and citizenship are inferior to consent, contract, and ownership in a true private community.
Rothbard’s conception of a nation is very different than the “ state, ” even though we have been led to believe the two are synonymous. By identifying existing nations— organic rather than contrived, like so many national borders— we dramatically increase the market opportunities for selling private governance to disappointed constituencies.
III. Common Law: Simply no Vision Required!
While we determine existing nations and deliberate communities, we similarly can identify existing mechanisms designed for ordering, structuring, and enforcing contractual societies. We don’t necessarily need dramatic brand new constitutions or complex legal structures. Common law, advanced over centuries of tough human experience, provides a dependable model to navigate clashes and provide governance guardrails in the private parallel structure. We all don’t need a grand vision; we need the wisdom from the ages.
Furthermore, I think we should be very careful of imagining what we can design. This is not only the lesson of Hayek, but also the lesson of countless entrepreneurs searching for their way in the marketplace daily.
Remember, regulation is about conflict. It is regarding resolving, hopefully minimizing, assault and property disputes in society— which is precisely why national politics is self-defeating, even if you accept its premises. Private communities seek to promote human thriving in win-win ways, versus the zero-sum political outcomes and deeply harmful state legal systems. But we should remember that a key measure of whether the society is just and prospering is how it handles the inevitable conflicts and frictions that occur under any kind of system.
But we need the market for this! In Adam Smith’s time— despite the de jure authorities monopoly on courts— the Scottish or English peasant had more choice of law than we do these days! Parties could use local, manorial, county, ecclesiastical, merchant, chancery (equitable relief versus cash damages), and common regulation venues. Why do we now have fewer choices of regulation in the West today?
In For a Brand new Liberty , Rothbard highlights how the history of a changing and evolving law can be enormously useful to find just rules: “ Since we have a body of typical law principles to attract on, however , the task associated with reason in correcting and amending the common law would be far easier than trying to create a body of organized legal principles de novo out of the thin air. ”
Bruno Leoni, the particular midcentury Italian philosopher and legal theorist, makes the best case for how to have law without legislation— minus legislatures— in his 1961 classic Freedom as well as the Law .
In Anglo-Saxon typical law, “ law” did not mean what we think these days: endless enactments by a legislature or executive. “ Law” was not enacted but discovered or discovered; it was a body of customary rules that had, like different languages or fashions, grown up automatically and purely voluntarily among the people. These spontaneous guidelines constituted “ the law”; and it was the work associated with experts in the law to determine what the law was and exactly how the law would apply to the various cases in dispute that will perpetually arise.
A common law model of governance and dispute resolution resolves so many of the thorny questions of how to order a private modern society:
- Five-hundred-plus years of real-world “ models. ”
- Concepts are easier than details.
- Emphasis on finding of law mirrors the entrepreneurial market process, similar to the Kirznerian entrepreneurial discovery process.
- Selection of law is provided by the market.
- Adjudication of disputes by contract, recognized to both parties prior, reduces individuals disputes.
- Judge-made law reflects the most hyperlocal culture, lifestyle, geography, plus economy— and therefore fashions one of the most just results.
- Judge-made law is more temporary, individualized, flexible, and proportional.
In closing, let me recommend three additional texts to get us thinking within the right direction. First, Titus Gebel’s Free of charge Private Cities is quite literally the handbook for this burgeoning motion. Edward Stringham’s Private Governance is the single best book I’ve seen around the history and technical facets of creating economic and social order through private systems. Finally, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein’s wonderful The State in the Third Millennium provides an excellent and erudite argument for transforming declares into private service providers since the next stage in individual development.
A new and better world is achievable through the understanding of private governance, nations within nations, and common law mechanisms meant for dealing with human conflict. How we market and sell this world will be worth understanding, just as any entrepreneurial venture needs both the vision and the hard details.