Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What do we do with "crazy" equilibria?: Anarcho-capitalism

Context here.

I don't know what we're supposed to do with it, except Bryan's point not to discount the probability of something happening.

Anarcho-capitalism is a "crazy" idea (in the way that Bryan is using the term). Totalitarianism, state socialism, theocracy, and monarchy are also "crazy" ideas (not everywhere, but I assume we're talking in the U.S.). Indeed, Bryan even points out that some of these are today considered "crazy" where they wouldn't be a thousand years ago (when democracy would be considered "crazy").

This is why I am struggling to see how this helps the case for anarcho-capitalism. If the message is only "don't count it out", then OK - message received and I agree. I don't count out a state socialist or a totalitarian future either (hoping that's not our future - but I could see it in 3013).

I guess I just don't see what overcoming the plausibility hurdle really does for anarcho-capitalists. The real problem is the advisability hurdle, right?

That said, I don't think this clearly does away with the plausibility hurdle (although it helps). Anarcho-capitalism has a problem offering an explanation for one thing that totalitarianism or monarchy or feudalism/warlordism don't have a problem with: it seems like it should be a highly unstable equilibria. Totalitarianism, monarchy, feudalism, state socialism, etc. are "crazy" equilibria but at least they should be somewhat stable in the short-term (if not the long-term).

It's hard to conceive of what would make anarcho-capitalism a stable equilibrium even if it were a plausible equilibrium (which I agree it is) and even if it were an advisable equilibrium (which I don't think it is).


  1. It's hard to conceive of what would make anarcho-capitalism a stable equilibrium even if it were a plausible equilibrium

    Bryan is saying it could be stable, given a certain set of public expectations. I don't understand your distinction between plausible and stable.

    1. Well Bryan is saying a couple things:

      1. That public expectations change over time and what is considered crazy today is not considered crazy tomorrow, and

      2. In the specific case of killings after an election the change in expectations itself makes each equilibrium stable.

      He has not provided a reason to think #2 would hold in the case of anarcho-capitalism and it seems to me there's good reason to think it might not. Anarcho-capitalism as a theory pulls itself up by its own bootstraps in a way that these others don't. It's not that you can't outline equilibrium conditions. Your book does that, for example. And those are fine equilibrium conditions. But I'm not sure what the stability conditions are and it seems like they're probably weak.

      Certainly you can't point to Bryan's stability conditions which are based on public expectations and claim them for anarcho-capitalism because his use of expectations doesn't apply to the anarcho-capitalist case.

      Which leads me to my point here. This kinda says to me it could happen but doesn't give me any particular confidence that it will.


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.