RE: [lpsf-discuss] MORE ON MORE MORE ON Re: Greedy Geezers

Here's a good one recently posted on

Mike Denny

These Cages Are Only For Beasts
by Stefan Molyneux

The DRO debate continues...

After my first article "The Stateless Society" was published, I was
asked to explain how a society without government would deal with
violent crime. Lew was kind enough to publish my article on "Caging the
Beasts" which provoked quite a flurry of positive and negative (though
never unkind!) responses and requests for clarifications, which I will
provide here.

To summarize, "Caging the Beasts" described the measures that private
Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs) could take against violent
criminals - measures many readers found more soul-crushing and
repressive than life under the current government!

I am always eager to improve arguments for freedom, and so heartily
thank those who took the time to write in - and will do my best to
clarify how life in a truly free society will not turn into a repressive
web of petty regulations run by fascistic and heavily-armed insurance

For those new to the debate, DROs are private insurance companies whose
sole purpose is to mediate disputes between individuals. If you and I
sign a contract, we both agree beforehand to submit any disputes we
cannot resolve to the arbitration of a particular DRO. Furthermore, we
may choose to allow the DRO to take action if either of us fails to
abide by that decision, such as property seizure or financial penalties.

So far so good. However, a problem arises if I have no DRO contract, and
turn to a life of theft, murder and arson. How can that be dealt with?
In "Caging the Beasts," I suggested that DROs would simply band together
to deny goods, services and contracts to violent criminals. DROs could
also pay informants to track the whereabouts of such predators, and
would hound them out of a social and economic life to whatever degree
they could.

This last point is where a good deal of my readers and I parted ways -
and I recognize that in my zeal to deal with criminals, I painted a
rather horrifying picture of DRO powers. DROs paying informants and
threatening to drop contract support from anyone who sheltered or aided
murderers - all this gave the impression that a stateless society was
one which replaced a single central state with a suffocating net of
tyrannical DROs.

Let me try to make the case a little clearer. By describing how a
stateless society deals with murderers, I was describing an extreme
situation, not everyday economic and social relations. A doctor might
say: if a patient has an infected leg, and you have no antibiotics,
amputate the leg. This does not mean that he advocates cutting off limbs
in less serious circumstances! When I say that DROs will track violent
criminals and try to deny them goods and services, I do not mean that
DROs would be able to do this to just anyone. First of all, customer
choice would make this impossible. A store owner can ban anyone he likes
- but he cannot do so arbitrarily, or he will go out of business.
Similarly, if people see a DRO acting unjustly or punitively, it will
quickly find itself without customers.

The most important thing to remember is that DRO contracts are perfectly
voluntary - and that hundreds of DROs will be constantly clamoring for
our business. If we are afraid that they will turn into a myriad of
quasi-police states, they have to address those fears if they us as

How will they do that? Why, through contractual obligations, of course!
In order to sign us up, DROs will have to offer us instant contractual
release - and possible cash rewards - if they ever harass us or treat us
arbitrarily. As a matter of course, DRO contracts will include a
provision to submit any conflicts with customers to a separate DRO of
the customers' choosing. All of this is standard fare in the reduction
of contractual risk.

In other words, every person who says, "DROs will turn into dangerous
fascistic organizations," represents a fantastic business opportunity to
anyone who can address that concern in a positive manner! If you dislike
the idea of DROs, just ask yourself: is there any way that my concerns
could be alleviated? Are there any contractual provisions that might
tempt me into a relationship with a DRO? If so, the magic of the free
market will drop them right in your lap! Some DROs will pay you a
million dollars if they treat you unjustly. (And you can choose the DRO
that makes that decision!) Other DROs will band together and form a
review board which regularly searches their warehouses for black
helicopters and robot armies. Other DROs will fund "watchdog"
organizations which regularly rate DRO integrity.

If none of the above appeals to you, then the DRO system is clearly not
for you - but then neither is the current State system, which is already
one-sided, repressive and dictatorial. And remember - in a free society
such as I describe, you can always choose to live without a DRO, of
course, or pay for its services as needed (as I mention in "The
Stateless Society") - as long as you don't start stealing and killing.

For those who still think DROs will become governments, I invite you to
take a look at a real-world example of a DRO (hint: it's one of the
world's largest "employers"). Currently, over 300,000 people rely on it
for a significant portion of their income. Most of what they sell is so
inexpensive that lawsuits aren't cost-effective - in other words, they
operate in a stateless society. So how does eBay resolve disputes?
Simply through dialogue and the dissemination of information (see If I don't pay
for something I receive, I get a strike against me. If I don't ship
something that I was paid for, I get a strike. Everyone I deal with can
also rate my products, service and support. If I get rated poorly, I
have to sell my goods for less, since, everything else being equal,
people prefer dealing with a better-rated vendor (or buyer). If enough
people rate me poorly, I will be out of business, because the risk of
doing business with me becomes too great. There are no police or courts
involved here - thefts are simply dealt with through communication and
information sharing.

Thus eBay is an example of the largest DRO around - are we really afraid
that it is going to turn into a quasi-government? Do any of us lie awake
wondering whether the eBay SWAT team is going to break down our doors
and drag us away to an offshore J2EE coding gulag?

Of course any system can be abused - which is why governments are so
abhorrent - and so checks and balances are central to any proposed form
of social organization. That's the beauty of the DRO approach. Those who
dislike, mistrust or fear DROs don't have to have anything to do with
them, and can rely on handshakes, reputation and trust - or start their
own DRO. Those whose scope prohibits such approaches - multi-million
dollar contracts or long-term leases come to mind - can turn to DROs.
Those who are afraid of DROs becoming mini-States can set up watchdog
agencies and monitor them (paid for by others who share such fears,

In short, either the majority of human beings can cooperate for mutual
advantage, or they can't. If they can, then the stateless society will
work - especially since millions of minds far better than mine will be
searching for the best solutions. If they can't, then no society will
ever work, and we are doomed to slavery and savagery by nature.

Therefore, I stand by my thesis in "Caging the Beasts" - if you mug,
rape or kill, I will support any social action that thwarts your
capacity to survive in society. I want to see you hounded into the
wilderness, refused hotel rooms and groceries - and I want your face
plastered everywhere, so that the innocent can stay safe by keeping you
at bay. I abhor the thug as much as I abhor the State - and it is
because such thugs exist that the State cannot be suffered to continue,
since the State always disarms honest citizens and encourages and
protects the thugs.

November 8, 2005

Stefan Molyneux [send him mail] has been an actor, comedian,
gold-panner, graduate student, and software entrepreneur. His first
novel, Revolutions was published in 2004, and he maintains a blog.

Copyright (c) 2005