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by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

They want you to show them a real-world society without government.

You ensure they realise that just because anarchocapitalists oppose government providing, say, defence, it does not mean we oppose every other organisation providing it also. The ridiculousness of claiming otherwise can be made clear to your opponent by pointing out that they are opposed to government supplying food, yet no one accuses them of being opposed to the supply of food altogether.

They respond that defence is different to food; after all, food is not currently provided by government, so there’s a real-world example of that, and it is only because there is government that food can be provided by the market anyway.

You then point out that every area that government now controls has been, at one time or another, provided by the market.

You then give them examples. Good ones. And present them charmingly.

They’re not convinced, and their real question, as they now make clear, is whether law and order have ever been provided without government.

You then point out, say, Iceland and Somalia.

They say that Iceland was a long time ago and, well, in Iceland, and that Somalia is not exactly utopia. And, anyway, they’re not talking about Iceland or Somalia, but the Western world today.

You point out that each individual voluntary transaction is a testament to the workability of anarchocapitalism.

They say, what about a large-scale example?

You say, it is fine to extrapolate from the smaller examples to the larger, since large societies consist of the same people that smaller societies do.

They say, nice try, but what about a large-scale example?

You then point to shopping centres that provide their own security, roads and paths.

They point out that that is not so large-scale, and there is still a government overseeing the shopping centre.

You say that there is no government overseeing the people in government, so government itself is in a state of anarchy.

They point out that there is some international government organisation that oversees it.

You point out that no one is overseeing that, so that international government is itself in a state of anarchy.

They say you are just playing with words.

You say you’re not.

They say you are.

They repeat the call for an example of where anarchocapitalism is working in the Western world today.

You point out the manufacture of pencils and explain how the market operates in ways superior to government.

They says pencils aren’t used any more and that talking about pencils is almost as bad as talking about Iceland.

You say they don’t get it.

They say you don’t get it.

You say they don’t get it.

They yet again repeat the call for an example of where anarchocapitalism is working in the Western world today.

Reflecting on the way the argument has progressed, you see that a different strategy would be wise. You admire their strategy. You use their strategy against them.

You regret not doing this to begin with, but figure that they might have been genuinely interested or of an intellectual level to comprehend the power of your examples.

You ask whether they oppose theft and murder, and to show you a modern large-scale Western society where there is no theft and murder.

You then ask, that, since they do not know one, is it not impractical that they advocate a world without theft and murder, when no society ever has existed without them?

This will clinch the case. They cannot possibly wriggle out of this one. We have found the Holy Grail of anarchocapitalist advocates. The revolution is nigh.

So we see that the common request to be shown a society without government is not actually a request for historical examples, but an indirect way of saying that they object to anarchocapitalism because they think it is unlikely to happen.

The moral is, when we are asked this question, we need not bring historical knowledge into an argument, and doing so will often be disadvantageous.

Disadvantages of bringing historical knowledge into an argument include: it will tend to mean a listing of references which people can always say they don’t have time to read; and if they do have time to read, it usually only means enough time to nitpick, and find an alleged counterexample, and so it just increases the length of the argument, without bringing it any closer to a showdown.

To recap, next time someone asks for an example of anarchocapitalism in the modern Western world, try asking them in response, “You are impractical in opposing theft and murder, yet show me a modern Western society where theft and murder is absent? So, why is it okay for you to maintain that theft and murder is wrong, and not for me to maintain my impractical opinions?”

This article is indebted to Stephan Kinsella here and here. See also the section of the middle column of Economics.org.au titled, “BUT ANARCHISM WILL NEVER BE ACCEPTED!”

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
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  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  9. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
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  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
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  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
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  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
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  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
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  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
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  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
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  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
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  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
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  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
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