A Very Brief Note on Minarchism and Monopoly
By Tibor Machan - August 03, 2012

For a while an inordinately long essay has been posted all over disputing my views on government. The author is Nicholas Dykes. I wish to inject just one short comment in support of my position.

One charge made against it is that it advocates coercive monopoly, something that would be unjustified in a regime of liberty. But there can be monopolies that are not coercive and the kind I may be said to endorse are of that sort.

For example, monopoly in the use of retaliatory force is not the same as a legal or coercive monopoly in that use, yet Dykes persist in this equivocation. Also, one can have a monopoly that comes about naturally, because it is granted to by people – as, say, people effectively granted the Beatles a monopoly status in rock music or Fred Astair in dancing or IBM in computers and Microsoft and Apple in software (for some time) – without keeping anyone else out by force. Moreover, if people select a group of other people to protect them by way of a long term, binding contract [or compact], that's not to establish an objectionable, coercive monopoly, merely an exclusive but binding relationship. If you marry someone and promise, via contract, never to cheat on them, your refusal to fool around may make it appear that someone has a coercive monopoly on your spousal services but, in fact, it has come about voluntarily and so there can be no moral objection to the exclusivity of that relationship.

It is along such lines that Ayn Rand's notion of the monopoly of retaliatory force needs to be understood. And it is along lines of Randy Barnett's view of the US Constitution that her understanding of instituting government is best understood. Just as I may hire an exclusive body guard – write a long-term contract with him or her – and thus set up what appears to be an objectionable monopoly, so one may become a citizen under a government on a purely voluntary yet exclusive basis. Rand may have misunderstood what competition among governments amounts to, although I suspect what she really found unpalatable is that two governments could service the same citizenry, akin to having two airlines service one's single flight from LAX to JFK. It is not feasible.

I am surprised Dykes wasn't asked to address these kinds of objections anywhere in his paper.

Dykes's piece is so long that there is probably no way to do it justice with any kind of brief reply. It also ends on a dubious note, from a scholarly standpoint, when it suggests that those defending minarchism suffer some kind of emotional or psychological problems (like having an affinity for paternalism from their childhood). Such psychologizing is very bad form, in my view – how can one defend oneself against it when there is no proof or evidence for the thing other than its having been suggested by a nice person?

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