In this essay, I will defend the thesis that the all affected principle can be realized through free market anarchy. I will do that in presupposing that rules-utilitarianism1 is a sound moral theory to justify a principle or an institutional arrangement (institutional patterns).
I will argue first against the formulation of the all affected principle by Archon Fung and show that this formulation leads to bad consequences in terms of well-being for the individuals2. Secondly, I will defend the all coerced principle formulated by Arash Abizadeh and show how a free market anarchy could embody this principle. Finally, I will show how potential problematic cases for my interpretation of the all coerced principle can be resolved (showed as non problematic in terms of affected interests).
1. The formulation of the all affected principle by Archon Fung.
Archon Fung considers first a broad formulation of the all affected principle that goes like this:
“Individuals should be able to influence decisions that affect their interests3.”
He then recalls an example4 raised by Robert Nozick that shows that this formulation is too broad as it can lead to undesirable consequences. Nozick gives the example of four men wishing to marry a woman. The choice of the woman will affect hugely the life of these men, but it seems obvious that nobody except her should have the right to choose who she will marry. This example shows that there is a sphere of every human being activities that could affect other people interests that seems nevertheless to have to be preserved from them. That is why Archon Fung proposes then a formulation of the all affected principle that is less broad:
“An individual should be able to influence an organization if and only if that organization makes decisions that regularly or deeply affect individual's important5.”
But this formulation by Fung leads to problematic and puzzling implications, as we are going to see now.
(1) The example of charity.
Fung gives himself an example of this sort with the example of an NGO that provides some help for the development of less developed countries6. He seems to think that the beneficiaries should be given a say about (be able to influence) the activity of the helping NGO as this activity affects a lot their lives. But I think that this is actually a very problematic conclusion. Suppose indeed that every association which decides to help a poor person could only do it if it accepts to take the decision of how helping the poor person with him. It could seem first to look like a good idea, but would it have good consequences? I think we can doubt it, because many people (not all, but probably many) agree to help other people only under certain conditions, and among them, the possibility of deciding how they will help a poor person. Alternatively said, many people accept to provide charity only if they have the liberty to decide how and the more you add conditions to the help the more you reduce the quantity of provided help7.
This formulation of the all affected principle would lead to a probable reduction of the quantity of charitable acts. The formulation of this principle leading to bad consequences seems then not to be a good formulation8. But let's explore a second example.
(2) The example of the supermarket and the old person.
Imagine a supermarket and an old person in a small town. The old person goes to this supermarket because it is located close to where she lives. If the supermarket moves to some other place she will have to go to the next neighborhood in order to do her shopping. Should we consider that the departure of the supermarket from her neighborhood would affect her interests deeply? Maybe walking to the next neighborhood will be so tiring that she will need to ask another member of her family to go to do the shopping for her. But maybe she does not have any member of her family still alive (maybe she never had children). She could have a car, but she could also have a medical prohibition to use a car (because of her old age). Maybe she will have to order food and to pay in order to have it brought to her, but maybe she's poor and so will have some difficulty to pay this kind of service. Here we can see how easy we are rapidly close to an uncertainty about how to apply this concept of being deeply or regularly affected by an organization.
Let's suppose that the interests of the old person are deeply affected by the location of the supermarket. Does it mean that she should have some sort of influence (say) on the location of the supermarket? If so, imagine how many people should have an influence on the location of a supermarket. But how many supermarkets would still decide to work under the application of this formulation of the all affected principle? It is not very implausible to suppose that most of them would just move to a place where they could work in an autonomous9 way. Indeed, if x has to take into account more co-decisions makers in its management of its production then it increases the costs of production (indeed at least it increases the time of production which increases the costs of production). If the democracy power or the political power constrains the supermarkets not to move, their costs of production will nevertheless increase resulting in less efficiency (productivity), less production, higher prices for customers and less jobs created. Thus if we find those kind of consequences only for the case of supermarkets, it is likely that we could expand these observations about most of the companies and producing organizations. So we can see that this formulation of the all affected principle would lead, again, to bad consequences, with at least a reduction of the offer of goods and services, less jobs and higher prices for customers. As in the last example, we can notice good intentions and unexpected bad consequences, but here concerning the society as a whole.
I think that these two examples show that the Fung formulation of the all affected principle is problematic and should be rejected. I will now consider the all coerced principle by Arash Abizadeh.
2. The all coerced principle by Arash Abizadeh.
To avoid the problematic and undesirable consequences that we have seen in the former section, I think that we should consider now the all coerced principle10 of Arash Abizadeh that goes like this:
“Because coercion always invades autonomy, I take it that both liberalism and democratic theory share that coercive state practices – that is, practices that subject persons to coercion – must either be eliminated or received a justification consistent with the ideal of autonomy11.”
We can simplify this principle like this: If x is coerced by the state, then the coercion of the state should be eliminated or x should receive a justification respecting his autonomy. But what does Abizadeh mean by receiving a “justification consistent with the ideal of autonomy”? He clarified this position in drawing a link between “justification” and “rights to democratic participation12”. So we can now reformulate his principle like this: If x is coerced by the state, then the coercion of the state should be eliminated or x should receive rights to democratic participation to decide about this coercion of the state that subject him.
Abizadeh does not consider that with the all coerced principle he is proposing a formulation of the all affected principle. Indeed, he says that “I do not appeal to [the all affected principle], not because I reject it, but because I do not need it13.” However, one could argue that being coerced by the state is being affected by it. I then consider that the all coerced principle is a narrow formulation of the all affected principle that distinguish between being affected by state coercion or private actors. Why should one do such distinction? I think that's because state coercion on x has (quasi) necessarily bad consequences which is not the case of the influence of private actors on x14. I will come back to that point later (cf. 2.2) in this essay though.
The questions that arise with the all coerced principle formulated by Abizadeh are: (1) Should we rather eliminate state coercion or attribute rights to democratic participation to all coerced individuals? (2) Are there not other problematic elements than just state coercion that could affect individuals interests? I will now try to answer briefly to these two questions.
(1) Should we rather eliminate state coercion or attribute rights to democratic participation to all coerced individuals?
From a rules-utilitarian perspective, I would say that the elimination of state coercion is always better than political management, even democratic, of this coercion. This position is called free market anarchism15 and the criticism of political management public choice theroy. Free market anarchism philosophy defends a society where all the interactions between individuals are voluntary (non coerced) and peaceful (non coercive) since the suppression of state coercion entails necessarily the suppression of the state itself if one considers that a state is a monopoly on the legal use of coercion16. Demonstrating the value of this position would necessitate another (probably quite long) essay and that's why I won't argue more here in favor of this position. But if we suppose that free market anarchism is possible and desirable, then we can notice that it respects the all coerced principle formulated by Abizadeh. Let's now consider the second question that arises from the all coerced principle of Abizadeh.
(2) Are there not other problematic elements than just state coercion that could affect individuals interests?
Let's mention first that with the disappearance of state coercion we suppress many potential problematic cases like (non exhaustive list) borders, wars, conscription, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, military invasions and so on. But what about private entities? Could private entities affect negatively (in terms of well-being) other private entities in a free market anarchy (in a society without state coercion)? The answer is of course yes. As we have seen with the example of Nozick, a private actor can affect in a negative way another private actor (in his example the woman can refuse to marry x, making potentially x sad). There are other potential cases like this one: one could refuse to sell a product to y because he does not like y, one could boycott the production of z, one could refuse to hire w, and so on. But, in a free market anarchy, all private actors are affecting each other on an equal basis17 and have all ways of having an influence on other private actors' behaviors. A consumer can choose where he buys a product, a producer can decide to whom he will or not sell his production, an unhappy consumer of x can decide to boycott x or to incite other people not to buy from x, an unhappy producer about the buyer y can decide not to sell his production to y and can incite other producers to do the same, everybody can write anything about anybody, a big company can refuse to sell products to z but z can still buy products to a competitor making the big company lose money, and so on. As we can see through these simple examples, every private entity can have an influence on another private entity affecting it. So free market anarchy respects not only the all coerced principle by Abizadeh, but also a certain interpretation of the all affected principle by Fung. Indeed, in a free market anarchy individuals are able to influence organizations that make decisions that regularly or deeply affect their lives. But they can do that in avoiding the bad consequences observed in the first part of this essay.
Nevertheless, the authors who have written about the all affected principle have raised some potential problematic cases that could lead us to think that free market anarchy does not embody well the all affected principle. I will now try to show how free market anarchy can resolve these potential problematic cases and so still respect the all affected principle.
3. The potential problematic cases.
In this final part of this essay, I will consider three potential problematic cases for my thesis, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and global warming, in the light of how they could potentially affect interests of the people living in a free market anarchy.
(1) The case of nuclear weapons.
It is obvious that the use of even the less dangerous nuclear weapon represents already a terrible threat that could affect the interests of thousands of innocent people. Murray Rothbard says on this subject: “Nuclear weapons, even "conventional" aerial bombs, cannot be used [only against aggressors]. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (...) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification18.” As with state coercion, we can then defend that nuclear weapons should be eliminated. Here there is of course a (rather practical) question about how to eliminate nuclear weapons. I think a better question would be: at what time? And my answer would be: when the last potential aggressive state will have disappeared, then there will be no more reason for not suppressing the nuclear weapons. As one can notice, this answer is also compatible with more moderate doctrines than libertarianism. But if there were still some nuclear weapons in a global free market anarchy, the security agencies19 should destroy them in order to preserve the interests of their customers.
(2) The case of nuclear energy20.
Contrary to nuclear weapons, nuclear plants have not been (as far as I know) conceived for a military purpose, nevertheless they represent also a potential risk. More precisely, nuclear plants represent a potential danger for (a) the direct neighborhood of the installations and (b) the rest of the global population (on the short and long run). If the case (a) could maybe be resolved through negotiations and indemnities between the exploiter of the nuclear plants and the direct neighborhood of the installations, the case (b) seems more problematic. Indeed, on the short run an accident could damage and injure the whole global population and on the long run the radioactive garbage represent a danger for future inhabitants. The risk for the rest of the global population to be affected implies then that the use of nuclear energy should be eliminated (like nuclear weapons or state coercion). This could be compatible with libertarianism through the use of non coercive methods (like for example the use of boycott or social pressure), but one could also think in a free market anarchy about a rational collective choice (motivated only by rational calculations) resulted from an additional process between customers of security agencies, security agencies, insurances of the customers and private trials that would impose a gradual cessation of the exploitation of nuclear energy in order to protect the interests of their customers. Indeed, no agent would have a rational interest to accept to endure such high risks like the ones that represent the use of nuclear energy.
(3) The case of global warming.
Global warming is affecting, and could affect even more, the whole global population. Like the previous cases it means that global warming has then to be eliminated. In the following lines I explore two possibilities of eliminating global warming in a free market anarchy.
(a) Potential of reduction of global warming through the elimination of the state.
The state participates in the development of global warming through (at least) three ways: subsidies for companies producing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, regulations in favor of these companies and recognition of illegitimate property titles21 (on lands or resources mostly) that belonged actually to others that do not have a formal legal proof of their legitimate property. The elimination of the state implies the elimination of these three actions of the state that lead the global warming.
But let's suppose now that the elimination of these actions does not stop global warming and that global warming would still be affecting the whole population. How can we resolve the problem without the state?
(b) Suppressing global warming through a network of private trials system and private security agencies.
One way of eliminating the global warming threat is to consider global warming as a process of aggression against individuals rights. Indeed, one should imagine that global warming is like somebody coming in your garden and destroying it. The only difference with the actual case of global warming is that your garden is a collective (and not individual) good and that you cannot perceive the destruction of it easily which means you need scientists to help you in order to preserve your goods. What could be here considered as a collective and global good is the natural protection against a too high level of solar emissions22. It is collective and global because it cannot by nature not be appropriated by any private entity. So anybody should have a right not to be affected by the consequences of global warming, because anybody should see his rights violated. Rights give the opportunity to anybody to go on a trial and attack the main polluters. As most of the individuals would do that as they become more and more affected by the increasing effects of global warming, most of the private trials would have to impose limits of polluting among the producers of each areas of the world with the cooperation of their spontaneous partners, the security agencies. And as it is likely that they get most of their customers coming to them to complain about the violation of their rights, trials and agencies would anticipate their request (which would lower the administrative costs of their activities). Is this network of trials and agencies regulating the pollution a re-foundation of a state? I don't think so as it is only the result of a rational and additional private process trying to provide what the market is asking for. Furthermore, this regulating global private network is only necessary as long as the global warming threat lasts. If it is expensive, it creates an incentive for producers and creators to propose and discover the tools for a transition to a sustainable mode of production. Here is the market solution to global warming.
The potential problematic cases that have highlighted many authors that wrote about the all affected principle find then an answer through free market anarchy. This shows that free market anarchy can realize the all affected principle.
To conclude, I will recall that my purpose in this essay was to show that free market anarchy can realize the all affected principle if one adopts a consistent and sound formulation of this principle. However, I am not saying that free market anarchy is the only way to realize the all affected principle. But I think that if one accepts my formulation of the all affected principle, then free market anarchy embodies the best this formulation. The next step of this reflection would be to evaluate the alternatives (the diverse democratic patterns and the authoritarian options) from a critical rules-utilitarian perspective and to compare it with the free market anarchist option.
1 The rules-utilitarianism version that I presuppose goes like this: the principle p is a sound principle if p maximizes the well-being of all individuals in its consequences.
2 For all the individuals composing (by addition) the society x.
3 FUNG Archon, “The principle of affected interests and inclusion in democratic governance” in ed. Jack Nagel and Rogers Smith. Representation: Elections and Beyond, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013, p. 246.
5 Ibidem, p. 247.
6 Ibidem, p. 250.
7 This seems to be a case of good intentions and unexpected bad consequences, the kind of process that Frédéric Bastiat used to denounce when talking about what one sees (intentions) and what one does not (unexpected bad consequences).
8 I am here mostly talking about bad consequences resulting from this formulation of the all affected principle for poor people. I consider indeed that poor people deserve a special attention as one could think that a good society can be judged on its ability to raise the level of living of all its members and of its poorest members in particular. However, my second example will deal with consequences for the society as a whole.
9 Actually, any customer has an influence on the acts of any producer, so we could distinguish between a spontaneous influence of x on any market and a constructed and artificial influence of x on some markets which is the kind of influence that Fung is defending. So when I talk about autonomy here I'm not at all implying that the supermarket can escape from the spontaneous influences of customers.
10 I have to say here that for reasons of simplicity I have chosen to name so the principle of Abizadeh even if he does not explicitly do it.
11 ABIZADEH Arash, “Democratic theory and border: no right to unilaterally control your own borders” in Political Theory, volume 36, number 1, Sage Publications, February 2008, p. 40.
12 Ibidem, p. 45.
14 I'm here saying quasi necessarily, because it could not be the case in a transitional time from a statist society to a non statist society. Redistribution through the state to the poor is indeed quite likely to be necessary during this transition.
15 Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), Lysander Spooner (1808-1887), Benjamin Tucker (1854-1908), Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912), Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), David Friedman (1945-), Walter Block (1941-), Pascal Salin (1939-), Bertrand Lemennicier (1943-), Pierre Lemieux (1947-), Roderick Long (1964-), Gary Chartier (1966-) and Kevin Carson (1963-) are some of the thinkers that have defended and developed theoretically this position.
16 I don't think that this definition is controversial. It seems compatible with the thoughts of diverse philosophers like John Rawls, Robert Nozick or Karl Marx.
17 As free market anarchy is supposed to be funded on equality of (negative) rights.
18 ROTHBARD Murray, The ethics of liberty, New York University Press, New York, 1982, p.190-191.
19 I'm here using the term used by Nozick to talk about private actors providing protection services on a free market of security services.
20 I'm only talking about the use of nuclear fission to produce energy and not about the use of nuclear fusion to produce energy, because I don't think we still know enough about the use of nuclear fusion to already establish any sound statement.
21 I'm talking here about legitimate property but it only presupposes that one considers as illegitimate the appropriation of lands or resources of poor and sub-developed people by big rich companies, which seems to me rather obvious and compatible with the different theories about a just appropriation (like the ones from Locke, Rothbard, Henry George, Carson, etc.).
22 I am not the first libertarian to talk about the possibility of a non statist collective good. See for example: LONG Roderick, A plea for public property, Center for a Stateless Society, [https://c4ss.org/content/14721], November 27th 2012.
- ABIZADEH Arash, “Democratic theory and border: no right to unilaterally control your own borders” in Political Theory, volume 36, number 1, Sage Publications, February 2008.
- FUNG Archon, “The principle of affected interests and inclusion in democratic governance” in ed. Jack Nagel and Rogers Smith. Representation: Elections and Beyond, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
- ROTHBARD Murray, The ethics of liberty, New York University Press, New York, 1982.