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David Friedman expects that in anarcho capitalist society, policing and defense will primarily be done by professionals, by rentacops and security men. We tend to perceive that in existing society, policing is primarily done by police.
But in practice, in the world around me today, in places where people rely primarily on police to protect them, they are not well protected. A place where someone can commit a crime, and no one except police will react, is a dangerous place. Similarly if someone shoplifts from Wallmart's, first Wallmart's staff bag him, then they call the police. The function of the police is not to catch the shoplifter, it is to make sure he gets out of the Wallmart's parking lot with all his extremities still attached.
Among societies which had law enforcement institutions approximating anarcho capitalism, the two societies that are best known to us were Saga Period Iceland and the Wild West. The Wild West was not in fact very wild, and Saga Period Iceland for the most part did not have sagas. They had considerably lower crime rates that their modern replacements. However they did allow a considerable amount of self help in dealing with offenders — many people would say an alarming amount of self help. In the Old West, this tolerance of people themselves taking care of offenses against them was informal and unofficial, so it is not altogether clear to what extent it happened and was accepted. In Iceland it was written down in formal law. For example if you caught and captured people committing arson against you or your neighbor, you could hang them on the spot without bothering with a trial, but you could not hang them later, nor go after them and hang them. In most sagas, people do in fact engage in do it yourself justice, illegally, but of course the events of sagas became sagas because they were unusual.
Should we rely overmuch on
permanent professional enforcers, we will suffer a risk
that they will force
us to rely on them. The rich but defenseless man who relies wholly on
others to defend him is an nuisance, in that he is apt
to attract bad people, and tempt those who defend him to bad conduct.
Much of the Australian outback suffers frequent and extremely severe bushfires. In much of the Australian outback, all landowners, or all sufficiently substantial landowners are expected to maintain some firefighting equipment, and when a bushfire threatens one, all are supposed to rush to his defense. If someone fails to maintain his share, he suffers social disapproval, and the risk that not all will rush to his defense. In an anarchist society, I would hope that we would in large part rely on something similar for defense against large threats, since a permanent caste of professionals to defend against large threats would be expensive, dangerous, and perhaps not very effective.
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