Is Anarcho-Capitalism Incoherent?
As you might suspect, I don’t think so, but the philosopher Gregory Salmieri is decidedly of a different opinion, and in this week’s article, I’d like to examine some of his arguments on this topic in his thoughtful essay “Objectivism,” published in The Routledge Companion to Libertarianism (pp. 82–101).
Salmieri agrees with anarcho-capitalists that “organizing a society around the principle of individual rights requires ‘the barring of physical force from social relationships’ so that individuals may deal with one another ‘only by means of reason, by discussion, persuasion and voluntary uncoerced agreement’” (p. 93, quoting Ayn Rand).
The use or threat of force not only permits retaliatory force, but in his view demands it. But the use of retaliatory force itself raises a problem:
But even retaliatory uses of force often violate the rights of others. If someone is mistaken about whether a crime was committed against him or about who committed it, his attempts at retaliation may themselves be initiations of force. A retaliator who judges correctly that a certain person initiated force against her may nonetheless violate the rights of the person against whom she’s retaliating if she retaliates in a disproportionate manner (p. 93)
So far, so good, but Salmieri proceeds to a new point that strikes me as bizarre. He thinks that even if you correctly judge that someone has violated your rights and respond proportionately, you still violate everyone’s rights because of your unilateral use of force. He says,
Moreover, when one person unilaterally retaliates against another, it is not only the second person whose rights may be violated, for the retaliator is effectively threatening everyone else in the vicinity with like treatment if he comes to think they have wronged him…. However rational a unilateral retaliator may be in his judgment about the crime and the justice of the punishment, the action remains arbitrary from the perspective of his neighbors unless the case for the use of force has been proven to them (or to someone representing them) and unless they can be co
Article from Mises Wire