Samuel Edward Konkin III
That Bread Is Mine, Too
Okay, so the State was smashed yesterday morning. Now what?
Obviously, everybody will go his/her own way and make oodles of gold. Some of it will be spent on protection agents and arbitration. And we shall be ever-vigilant against the return of the State!
But what are we going to do if someone wants his money back?
Such a question is far from academic, for one’s view of justice seems to determine one’s revolutionary tactics. Robert LeFevre, the anarcho-pacifist, pursues a purely educational route because he has foresworn the use of defensive restitutive force. What else can he do? Murray Rothbard, enamored with “temporary” political expedients, pursues popular fronts with rightists, then leftists, then partyarchs. With his “double restitution” or “restitution plus punishment” theory, he finds himself allied with the Penal Institution crowd regardless of other alliances.
Ayn Rand seeks unlimited restitution, and since infinity can only be achieved mystically she must resurrect a government—and does. John Hospers once wrote an article for REASON criticizing all libertarian theories of justice and choosing the “lesser evil.” Needless to say, his strategy operates the same way. It’s called politics.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Anarcho-columnist assumes he has made his point. But he remains bewildered at the confusion. It seems to him that libertarian justice is blindingly obvious.
So before he troubles you with the obvious, let YFNA justify taking up your time once more. What if somebody wants her money back?
What if someone walks up to you and says, “David Rockefeller has taken a million dollars from me through the State’s intervention and I can prove it! What should I, the brand-new libertarian, do?”
What will be your answer? Will it be the same to an Indian seeking relief from centuries of white-eye long-knife rip-off? How about Mexican peasants and Bircher suburbanites?
OK, you are properly motivated. Let’s start out with that fine old libertarian mainstay, the a priori axiom. Remember that libertarians believe that everyone has an absolute right to life and property. Fine. Now Blue Meanie snatches your stereo system and a complete set of Beatles’ records. You discover Mr. M in rapture on his living room floor. You and your trusty protection agent have followed the sound of blaring speakers and you confront him. Old Blue calls his p.a. and it’s off to arbitration.
Here come the arbitrator! And he quickly ascertains B.M.’s guilt. To what are you entitled?
The answer, as I have said, is blindingly obvious. Your property! After all, isn’t that what you have the absolute right to? As a libertarian, how can you disagree? Of course, if you believe that it has become the thief’s property by his foul act (a la LeFevre) you would have given up and not wasted your time on restitution anyway. But otherwise, you are clearly entitled to that which was yours—which is yours, come hell, high water, or a plague of statists, if you are a hard-core, property-loving libertarian.
Now let’s spell it out. You are entitled to the stereo system and record collection. Anything else? Well, you’ve got to move it back, so Blue Meanie either hauls it back under the p.a.’s watchful eye or pays to have it done. What about the p.a. and Arbitrator Fineguy? Again, their fee should be paid by the miscreant who incurred the cost.
So you have your stereo system and records back, and a record was scratched! Blue pays for replacement at market value. It took a day to capture him. All right, charge him 1/365th of the market rate of interest (for you) that it would have cost to have borrowed the money to replace your machine and your collection.
Now mix in a highly competent Insurance and Protection Agency. Upon notification of the Violence Initiation against you, they verify it and promptly replace your loss. They then pursue and capture the villain, prove him guilty, and get their cost and the cost of your loss out of him. If he can’t pay—or won’t tell where his loot’s buried—there’s always the restitution work camps.
Smooth, efficient, moral—the mark of the free market.
But should more be extracted from the Blue Meanie? Punish him and teach the dastardly villain a lesson!
Well, no. First of all, full restitution (property replacement plus apprehension cost plus interest for time loss) of what’s yours is all you are entitled to. To get more is to take away from another. TANSTAAFL.
And if you use force, that’s theft. On your part. Hence, by a simple application of the fundamental libertarian axiom we have defined both the minimum you are entitled to—and the maximum as well. And lo and behold, they coincide. No broad area to approximate in, no confusion or fuzziness. A sharp, clear, unique answer. For you unregenerate neo-objectivists, A is A. You are entitled to that to which you are entitled. For anarcho-Austrians, it’s wonderfully praxeological. It’s true and it works.
Now what do we do with it?
Part 2, Applications of Libertarian Restitution Theory
In Part 1 of this article, Your Friendly Neighborhood Anarcho-columnist noted the inordinate difficulty that libertarian gurus have had in defining that which is due the victim of a crime. Without a simple and sure understanding of justice, one is lost in deciding complex questions like: “What are oppressed people due after a revolution?”
YFNA pointed out that the fundamental libertarian axiom leads immediately to the corollary that a person is entitled to the following: his lost property or equivalent market value, cost of apprehension of the Violence Initiator (VI) by his protection agent, and the market interest on the value lost for the time it was out of his hands. Full restitution, but no more. Any further imposition on the VI is violence initiated against his property.
One thing which confirms the propriety of this position is its market practicality. It is simple to define in any specific case what is due a victim by simply consulting the market.
Here’s another serendipity. The longer the VI eludes your trusty protection agent, the higher is the cost of apprehension, and the higher his restitution. But even if the Insurance and Protection Company does nothing until they are tipped off, he is still racking up interest for the involuntary loan. So he has a strong market incentive to turn himself in and cut his losses.
Furthermore, if the VI resists by naked violence an assault by p.a.’s (“You’ll never take me alive, marketeer!”), his restitution rises enormously. Now he owes restitution to injured p.a.’s as well.
Probably the stickiest question of justice a has to face is: What of death? Murder most foul, or even manslaughter. What value is a human life?
Well, another human life is all YFNA can come up with, being somewhat mortal himself. But, more importantly, why not let the victim decide it?
In your insurance policy, state what you want. The execution of your murderer because you believe in deterrence? OK. But what about the father who rather have the VI support his family? (This, by the way, is a basic position of many tribal codes of justice.) And what of the idealist who wants a foundation financed to continue the work he was living for?
After all, we believe in subjective value theory, don’t we? To be consistent, then, we must allow each potential victim (i.e., you) to decide his own value—or whatever lesser quantity he will be forced to settle for.
The answers to the questions YFNA posed at the beginning of this essay are now clear. When the State collapses, the Statists will be brought to justice by those sufficiently motivated to do so. Claims will be handled by the arbitration and protection agencies. They will be decided on the simple premise of libertarian justice: full restitution. The Higher Circles will have such an enormous debt that they will be stripped of their holdings, which will be sold for restitution. Then they will be confined to restitution work camps for the rest of their days, unless the market decides on an incentive system to increase their output by offering them eventual freedom. Lesser Statists will have less claims against them and lose less accordingly.
Pacifists naturally need enter no claim if they wish their oppressors to get off. Native inhabitants who can present a reasonable claim for land stolen from their ancestors can regain their property. Peasants who had their land confiscated by the State can regain it—a truly meaningful and just “land reform program.”
As usual, libertarianism has the answers for those who apply their God-given or Rand-inspired reason to the questions. And if they ask for their money back, they will get it to the penny—er, gold milligram, that is.
Everyone can get what’s coming to her—but only the libertarian way. If someone tries to sell you another way, look out for his free lunch and hold on to your wallet.
(Coming: The Coming Profit in the Libertarian Movement)