Anarchy Without Bombs

Cooperation Without Coercion

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

One of my favorite bloggers, economist Russ Roberts of Cafe Hayek, has offered a commentary on National Public Radio on the damage Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is doing to our economy by his frenetic attempts to help it.  Roberts’ commentary is linked from a post of his at and the transcript is well worth reading in its entirety.

My take: what is happening in the economic sphere right now gets to the heart of the case for anarchism.  It isn’t that a free society will solve every problem: it is that the use of aggression is so consistently harmful.  As I’ve suggested in other posts, it is government intervention that created the current crisis, not a free market, but even if you believed the latter, consider the chaos that is resulting from government attempts to address it.  The bailout threatens massive interventions of an uncertain nature.  Bear Stearns is bailed out.  Lehman Brothers is allowed to die.  AIG Insurance is bailed out.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are bailed out.  Maybe they’ll be killed, maybe not.  A massive bailout program is proposed for $700 billion, then it fails, then it is passed by making it worse (adding $150 billion of pork), and now the targets of the money keep changing, with lobbyists lining up and Paulson changing his mind constantly about what should be bought with his gigantic credit line drawn on the taxpayers.  And the auto companies are lined up for money.  And on and on.

Businesses and individuals are so uncertain that they are afraid to act and then have the rules of the game changed.  One of the reasons the Great Depression went on and on and on in the United States was that Hoover and then FDR kept coming up with gigantic programs and plans, and what is called “regime uncertainty” caused a paralysis of businesses waiting for a stable regulatory environment before making long-term commitments.

One argument used by Hoover and FDR then and by Bush and Obama now is that the government cannot just sit there doing nothing, even if it isn’t clear what should be done.  The government is like the doctors of old who had no idea why someone was ill, so they applied leeches and drained blood every day, making the patient worse and often killing them when their illness was otherwise non-fatal.

I can’t prove that the healing powers of the market will resolve the economic crisis, but neither can anyone prove that taking gigantic sums of money away from some people and handing it to others will do so.  So, as long as we aren’t sure:



Written by Less

November 15, 2008 at 2:14 am

Posted in Economic freedom

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Less, a socialist monopoly cannot protect a free market economy, but could a free market government do it? I believe our best hope of freedom is to transform our local governments (territorial monopolies of coercion) into free market governments. The easiest way (should I be honest and say “the least difficult way”?) would be to start at the local level, have local municipal taxes go directly to local political party organizations, and let people determine which party gets their taxes once a year. Government at every level is all about power, which comes from money, which comes from taxes. Redirect the place where the taxes go, turn it into a free market government, and watch freedom happen. I have more on this at my blog,

    From what I have read on your site here, we are very much on the same page. What do you think?


    November 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm

  2. Your blog posts are very well written, and do a good job of laying out the problem with governments that claim territorial monopolies. Part of being an anarchist is not arrogantly prescribing how the spontaneous order should operate: persuade people (with the help of government failures) to abandon aggression as a method of social organization, and then allow them to try different experiments. Yours is an interesting one, and I don’t want to try to pick on details that concern me. Your point about allowing secession is definitely a critical part of any practical discussion on how to move toward a society of mutual respect and away from one based on aggression to achieve social goals.

    As I said in my article, the difference between a libertarian minarchist and a libertarian anarchist is more a matter of prediction as to the arrangements that will result from an end to legitimization of aggression, and all predictions are wild guesses (as I keep telling my personal financial advisory clients who want to know when the stock market will turn up). A government that doesn’t use force against people who have not themselves used force is not a government, by the definition of most anarchists.

    We’ll talk much more on how free markets can take over “essential government services” over the next several months.


    November 16, 2008 at 12:45 am

  3. @Kritarchists – I agree completely with a total realignment of campaigning and elections. As Less is well aware, while I’m not ready to take the pill and break out of the Matrix quite yet, I’m all about pushing the walls. Free markets and free governments can only happen with a free market of political discourse and participation. Under a the current “two-party” and I use that term extremely loosely, that is not the case. While I truly admire efforts such as the Free State Project, far more needs to be done on a national basis.
    I would enjoy your comment on a proposal I have for campaign and election reform.

    Christopher Wiseman

    November 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: