|Bill, my experience clearly differs from yours, but I wouldn't dream of robbing you of the opportunity to refute the ideas. You may not convince them, but it's nice to see someone treating their ideas in a serious way.|
Steve, I sanction your post. I think we're in strong agreement. And in terms of psychologizing, I think there are real measurable signs that would support our position. Things like bringing up arguments against minarchy that apply equally to anarchy, which is a good indicator that they're not arguing for their proposed system, but against something else. Minarchists try to argue about things that are different between anarchy and minarchy, to show how anarchy is flawed in comparison. But if you don't bother even checking if your objection applies equally to your own position, I think it's good evidence that it isn't your reference point in arguing. Similarly, the premise that arguing against minarchy is the same as arguing for anarchy suggests that they're considering their system as the opposite of minarchy, instead of as a serious theoretical system. One requires details and explanations and comparisons, and the other is simply "not statism".
Jon, I agree with you that Rand never suggested the kind of structure we're talking about. Of course, Rand didn't talk about structure much at all, and it's not clear that we're saying anything different except how it's structured. How do you pay for the services, for instance? She said voluntary, and obviously having private police forces would allow it to be voluntary. Would these police be "a part of the government"? To a large extent that's purely semantic. You could say they are, as they enforce the laws and would have many requirements (just as today's police forces do). Or you could say they aren't because they're not payed for directly by the government. But without taxation, is this a meaningful objection? I doubt she would have argued that all funding most go through some central government agency, for instance.
I seem to disagree with your assessment of my views (I won't speak for Bill or John). Specifically, your phrase "just words on paper", or even "maintain a code of laws".
My view of a proper government doesn't start with a bunch of services I think would be useful or historical structures. I start by looking at human needs that arise within a society. Clearly it all stems from the fact that we have rights, and they need to be protected. But if that was all there was to it, there would be no need for a government per se. We might need guns to enforce our rights, or we might need to team up with some other people to oppose threats to our lives, but this doesn't need to involve the whole populace of a region. Any subset of people could combine forces to protect each other's rights. We could call those protection clubs, but they aren't really governments.
The need that involves the whole populace stems from the epistemological issue. In the course of protecting our rights, we need to use retaliatory force. But force in general is something that everyone needs to be concerned about. Initiations of force are not just bad for the specific victim, they're bad for everyone. So the entire populace has a stake in whether or not a particular use of force is an initiation or a retaliation. And since we are not omniscient, we need a process of discovery and judgment. Without this, our retaliations could be mistaken for initiations of force, and others might retaliate. We need the process in order to secure our right to defend our rights.
That judgment process can be split into two parts. The first is a mechanism to decide the standards for appropriate or inappropriate uses of force. The second is a mechanism to apply these standards to the specific scenario in a way that we can achieve general consent for the use of retaliatory force.
So my first objection is the phrasing "maintain a code of laws". That might be the first mechanism, but it's useless if the second mechanism doesn't exist or isn't used. So at a minimum, I would expand this list to the judicial process as well. Note still that the structure does not necessarily require a full time group of people who are paid through a central agency and are somehow running the show. It could easily be that the judicial process is something that anyone could implement as long as they follow clear rules and make sure their actions are transparent and legitimate.
With these mechanisms, people then have the ability to protect their rights without inviting attacks by other law-abiding citizens due to confusion.
What's left? What happens if nobody wants to protect my rights? Today, it could be argued (incorrectly) that the government must provide that service. But you can think of that as a welfare program. There's no reason why others should be forced to protect my rights, just as they are not forced to do anything else for me. If I can't trade for it, I have to do it myself.
What if some private police decide to ignore the law. Who's obligated to stop them? We'd certainly like it if somebody did, but it's difficult to argue why someone is obligated to risk their lives. More than likely, a large number of people would find a strong incentive not to let that happen, and would pay someone to stop them. It's not the guaranteed service we like to think that we can get by having a modern-day government, but someone would have to justify why a threat to our lives is an obligation on anyone else's.
What about military? Most of this doesn't apply directly, but I would follow a similar process. If our neighbor's military decided to start a war with Canada, we'd clearly have an issue with them as those aggressive Canadians would probably destroy us all. So for the same reasons force must be agreed upon through a process involving the whole populace (or representative, of course), military force would require similar processes. I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.