James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Running a Country Like a Business

Let's imagine an "anarcho-capitalist" society. Through fair and honest, though very shrewd business practices, I become owner of a land area of 3.8 million square miles, containing 310 million people.

As their landlord, I am expected to provide security, maintenance, and improvements. How would I do this?

I would charge rent to those who seek to acquire and use land. I would base the rent on what I think is a fair price. Perhaps the people in one area tell me they will handle their maintenance themselves, or would rather have a dirt road rather than have me come in, pave their road, and raise their rent. Perhaps other areas want me to provide many services, and I'd charge them accordingly.

Rents would be based on the desirability of the location and the services I provide.

But what if someone doesn't pay their rent?

That would probably depend on the context. If it's in a remote, undesirable location, I'd probably send a notice saying that if it isn't paid by a certain date, my promise of security is withdrawn, and then let the issue drop as benign neglect. In a more profitable location, with people bidding for it, I'd probably be more forceful kicking the previous renter out

But I would probably also go into another business, commercial law. I would do this for one important reason: my promise of security, maintenance, and improvements would be for land and rent-paying land users/title holders only. But there's an entirely separate class of people - the tenants of these title holders who haven't been paying me anything at all. Yes, their security is part of my promise to land title-holders; and they're using my roads and other public areas. But these individuals are not my direct customers. They're a huge market which could be incorporated into legal and judicial infrastructure I've already set up as part of my security responsibility.

But I would seek to include them by giving them a greater level of insurance and safety. This promise of safety would, in turn, improve the reputation of my land, making it even more desirable which in turn would allow me to raise rents.

Individuals have disputes with each other. They hurt each other through negligence, fraud, and simple mistakes. They can even inadvertently kill each other by in ways that I and my security service could not ordinarily control, such as the poisonous contamination of a product in commerce. And so I would set up adjudication services that would get to the truth of the matter where there is injury or conflict. It's already my responsibility to do this when, for instance, there is a multi-vehicle car crash on one of my roads. I would just extend this service when the conflict or injury is on private property.

This is how it would work:

I would require all sellers who wish to enroll to register with me and to send me a fee for each transaction. I would also require them to charge the customer the fee, that it is visible in the receipt of payment, and both buyer and seller are to have copies of the receipt. I would also make it clear that it is in the strong interest of both buyers and sellers to keep all receipts of all transactions. If you think the vegetable you purchased was tainted with salmonella, the receipt will empower you by proving where and when you purchased it.

By a) requiring that the customer pay the fee, and b) requiring the seller to send the fee on to me, both would be entitled to rights of an unbiased hearing in my adjudication services.

Over time, I would also acquire data on which kinds of sellable items seem to cause more problems and conflicts, and require higher fees for them. And perhaps I'd require certain safety standards and provide inspection services for those enrolled in my system.

But, I wouldn't require any of this. If sellers do not pay the fee, and boast to their customers that they can pay less, that's fine. They could choose a different insurance or adjudication service, or none at all. But neither buyer nor seller would have access to my adjudication service. If your child gets sick because you served him a tainted vegetable that you bought from a seller who was not enrolled in my fee/regulation/inspection system, the responsibility is on you alone. But if your neighbor's child gets sick from a tainted vegetable that was bought from a business enrolled in my system, with the receipt to prove it, I will do my best to find out what happened and provide compensatory justice.

The better I do my job, the more people will want to live on my property. And the beauty of this is, I will "govern" title-holders and individuals only with their own consent.

At the same time, it may seem to these title-holders and individuals that their consent is derived only because they have no other viable choice.

Even so, I would prefer our present government to align itself as closely as possible to this land-rent and legal-fee system. I'm thinking it's probably the most practical means to achieve a prosperous, peaceful, secure, and free country.

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