by Ron Burkham
The area of private security1 is over and over again debated. Some people can’t wrap their head around the idea that you can pay for the police out of your pocket just as easily as you can pay for them out of your check. To me it is a no brainer, but for some people the idea is so foreign that they have tried to paint the concept as unworkable. I can understand the trepidation. When you by into the concept of the state as the great protector, it is hard to see how someone else could do it. After all, they have taught us since we were little bitty kids that the police are there to help you and to protect you from bad guys. Well, that could be true, but the state has had a monopoly on the use of force in the name of protection for a very long time and there are still bad guys. Anyway, that is outside the scope of what I want to write about. I am going to provide you MY ideas on how a private security, or private police force would work. Something to keep in mind is that this is ONLY MY ideas. In an AnCap society there is no reason to think this would be the only way a private security company would or could operate. This is just the way I envision they would work.
There are some common objections to the idea of a private security force that I want to touch on, even though they are outside the scope of this article. I think it is important to address them before I present my ideas.
1. There will be no law.
Who says? Polycentric law and common law are well covered else where. We are talking about voluntary groups. They exist everywhere and they have their own sets of rules. We have seen in history lots of groups co-exist peacefully with little or no laws regarding how they treat each other. In an AnCap society we already have two rules. The Non-Aggression Principle and Self-Ownership that includes your body and your property. Why would we not develop a system of dealing with people that don’t subscribe to those two things (at least those two things)?
2. There will be no authority to enforce law.
Of course there will be a system for dealing with infractions. The extent and results of dealing with those things probably can and will be a selling point in different private security forces. Private arbitration is the most popular method among AnCap’s, but it is in no way the ONLY way violators could be dealt with.
3. The private security forces will do battle.
Why? How can any rational person believe that there is enough “money” in it to wage a war against your consumer base or against potential business partners? A private security force that “kills” the offender isn’t going to attract much business. For one, you are putting your fate in their hands. They will more than likely be the arbitrators that you are taken before if you should violate someone else’s body or property. If their idea of solving the problem is to go to war with another agency, how long till that agency gets rid of you because it isn’t worth keeping you around? Do you really want to put your life in the hands of someone that may kill you off?
Another biggie for me on the question is restitution. If someone causes me to suffer a loss, I want to recover that loss. That isn’t possible against a corpse. I am going to go with the security that has the best record of recovering for their clients and getting fair treatment for their clients in cases.
4. No rules will ever be enforced.
This is lunacy to me. Even a cursory study of property law and how it evolved and developed under the market during the American Revolution and after should tell you that. The market not only comes up with the rules for dealing with each other, it develops the ways in which to enforce it with each other.
5. He with the most gold will rule.
I love this argument. On the face it seems to make a lot of sense, but when looked at realistically it just doesn’t cut the mustard. We have lots and lots and lots of rich people in the US. None of them are using their money to wage war on their neighbors, at least not with private armies. They make money, they run businesses. It is important to them to have a group of people to do business with. We already know that oppressive groups don’t get much production out of those it oppresses. Not having a state around isn’t going to make these guys want to become dictators over a voluntary society. Even if they did try it, what would they get out of it? Who would they rule? Why wouldn’t other groups rise up in defense against this outright violation of the NAP?
6. If you have rules, a group to enforce them and cooperation between the agencies, you have a government.
This is a decent argument to some extent. You do indeed end up with a group that acts very similar to everyone else in the group and works together for THEIR mutual benefit. The reason the argument fails is because they will still have to depend on their clientèle for funding. They aren’t going to be made of money. They won’t have the power to lay and collect taxes. The likelihood that they form a quasi-government is not very good, since they will depend on their clients for funding. They will, no doubt, form very good working relationships with each other, but the chances of becoming a government don’t look good to me. I wouldn’t participate in it.
My Thoughts on Private Security Forces
Ok, so I just touched on some quick objections, nothing too in depth. Roderick T. Long has already covered the same objections in greater detail before. That wasn’t the aim or scope of this article. Instead, I want to present ideas on how a private security firm would work.
The first thing I would do, if it hadn’t already been done, is work to build an association with a representative of other private security firms. The purpose would be to aid in providing an environment that would lend itself to private arbitration. More than likely all the private security firms in the area would enter into arbitration on cases together. That would be the best way to ensure that cases were handled in a similar way. Not only would the firms work to get the best for their clients, they would also work to make sure the judgments weren’t outlandish, which would also be in the interest of their clients. Huge payments would be bad for business, but at the same time if they didn’t provide for just compensation, they would loose clients. The argument to this is usually, “Well they will just decide on a common price for everything and it would always work to their advantage.” Well, we already know the market doesn’t work that way. Every grocery store in town sells milk. Some of them sell it for less than others. You can get internet access from any number of businesses, but the ones that provide the best support for the lowest price do better. Economic competition between the forces would work to the best interest of the clients.
Insurance and the Uninsured
One way of generating money would be for the private security firms to sell insurance to their customers. This is one of the things that gives people heart palpitations. They say, “What if someone can’t afford to pay a private firm, they would just be out of luck.” No they would not. An uninsured person would still be able to call any private force they wanted to and get service. The insurance would be to help defer the costs IF the insured ended up in arbitration. Just how automobile insurance works now. If you get in a wreck and it is your fault, your insurance negotiates a deal with the representatives of the other driver. It would work on the same concept. If you don’t have insurance now and you get in a wreck, you get sued and have to pay out of your pocket. But we are taking this to another level. Say your house gets broke into and you’re not a member of a private security network and you have no insurance. You could still call one of them and get help. Their motivation would be to collect from the person that is committing the offense. You would basically sign away any right to compensation, or at least a percentage of the compensation, to any judgment you were awarded against the offender.
People always say that there will be no motivation to investigate crimes when there is no one to pay or to call for help. Once again this is just an argument based on ignorance. Private security firms will indeed investigate crimes when they aren’t specifically hired to do so. They will probably be more motivated to solve them than the police are now. The sooner they can solve the case, the sooner they can get a judgment against the offender and get paid. Unlike the police forces today, the private security firms wouldn’t get paid until the case was solved and there was a judgment on the case. Now the argument becomes, “So what if the person that committed the crime has nothing?” In that case they would end up getting nothing from the offender. However, when time came around to let people know how well they solved hard cases, especially potential new clients, the rewards would probably be pretty good. The more heinous the crime, the more publicity it would receive. The better they do at resolving it, the better they will look to the general population. The better they look to the general population, the more customers they will end up with.
Have people never heard of the Neighborhood Watch Program? I have and I envision many private security firms being just that. These co-op programs would form the same associations as private security forces and with private security forces. They would be recognized in the same way as those firms. They would arbitrate the same way those firms do.
Private charities would pop up that paid for people that couldn’t afford to pay for themselves. They could help pay for arbitration or enter into arbitration on behalf of people.
I am going to give the same pat answer that we give all the time. If the free market can produce shoes, they can produce security. If they can’t do one, they can’t do the other. It is simple economics.