A challenge of achieving anarcho-capitalism is that we live in a society with so many people reliant on public infrastructure and institutions, from roads and utilities to schools and courts. There is also the crowding-out effect, how state provision of a service discourages competition from the private sector. Although we can easily argue and describe the superiority of private alternatives, in moral terms as well as in predicted results, getting from here to there, within a framework of a democracy, is a particularly hard nut to crack.
I’d like to suggest a thought experiment that illustrates one way in which a majoritarian democratic state could transition to a stateless anarcho-capitalist society, without major disruption.
The goal is to recognize reliance interests and give time for transitions, but also provide the certainty of a change, so entrepreneurs can make plans.
Let’s start with reformulating majoritarian democracy with three meta-rules (a.k.a. a constitution):
- A sufficient majority of eligible voters may make such laws as it sees fit.
- All laws will require reaffirmation, by a sufficient majority, every 10 years, or will be automatically voided.
- A sufficient majority is defined as at least 50% in year 1, but will increase by 1% every year until it reaches 100%.
So, under this system, in year 1, it will be pretty much as we have it today. If the majority wants a new law, it will be created. If the majority wants to repeat a law, it will be repealed.
In following years, it will be become increasingly difficult to pass new laws, or maintain old laws, if they have but narrow support. Only laws that have broader support will still exist.
The would-be laws that are not approved will force those minority interests to seek alternatives in the private sector. Say, for example, that a law is proposed to require licencing of hair braiders, but in year ten the needed 60% approval is not achieved. The 40% who supported this law would be encouraged, as an alternative, to set up a private certifying agency, to develop standards, test applicants, and licence use of its certification mark. It would follow the long-established model of other private-sector certification programs, like those used to certify Kosher food or Microsoft-Certified Developers.
Of course, those programs that only made sense based on rent-seeking behaviors, those that don’t serve any other purpose but to reduce competition, would likely fail in the private sector as well. This is a good thing. The first laws to die would naturally be those that benefit the few at the expense of the many.
At some point even more cherished programs will be be challenged. But this need not lead to an abrupt change. Let’s imagine that, absent any other proposal, in year 30, when 80% approval is required, funding of public schools fails its reaffirmation vote. Although hitting that “tipping point” has an abrupt effect, many would have anticipated its eventual arrival and would have had ample opportunity to plan for a transition. For example, in year 20, with the writing on the wall, a sufficient majority of 70% might support a 10-year transition from public schools to vouchers , starting by instituting school choice, auctioning off public school buildings, etc.
The inexorable gradual pressure of increasing levels of consent would focus government on its fundamental tasks, while relieving the private sector of crowding-out effects and allowing greater ability to plan and invest in private sector alternatives.
In year forty, with a 90% majority required to maintain laws, I suspect we have only a minimal, nightwatchman state, consisting of a defensive military, courts of justice and a few other things. It would be smaller government, but government would necessarily have very high approval ratings, around 90%, due to the high degree of consensus required to sustain it.