Market Anarchism, the Solution to the Dilemma of Taiwan Independence
by Bevin Chu
March 23, 2006
Market Anarchism in One Easy Lesson
In order to better understand how market anarchism would solve the dilemma of Taiwan independence, we need to first remind ourselves what market anarchism is.
Market anarchism, or anarcho-capitalism, is essentially classical liberalism, paleo-conservativism, and “minarchist” libertarianism taken to its logical and radical conclusion. One might say that classical liberalism, paleo-conservativism, and “minarchist” libertarianism go ninety percent of the way to total liberty. Market anarchism goes all the way.
As Wikipedia explains, anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy based on an uncompromising respect for individual sovereignty and an unyielding prohibition against the initiation of force. Anarcho-capitalists embrace laissez-faire capitalism and consider the state an illegitimate monopolist and systematic violator of individual rights. To anarcho-capitalists, a legitimate political system can emerge only from private property and voluntary contractual agreements between sovereign individuals.
Under anarcho-capitalism, all goods and services, even law enforcement, would be provided by the free market. Anarcho-capitalists believe in courts, military, and police forces only if they are established and funded on a purely voluntary basis. Coercion of any kind is unacceptable, and undermines the legitimacy of a political system from its very inception. According to Gustave de Molinari, the father of market anarchism, “Under a regime of liberty, the natural organization of the security industry would not be different from that of other industries.”
Private systems of justice and defense already exist. They emerge spontaneously wherever the market is free to compensate for the failure of the state: private arbitration, private security firms, neighborhood watch groups, and so on. These private courts and private police are often referred to as Private Defense Agencies, or PDAs. Anarcho-capitalists would replace the coercively established and coercively funded legal apparatus of the state with voluntarily established and voluntarily funded Private Defense Agencies that use physical force only in self-defense, and only against those who initiate it.
The Icelandic Commonwealth
Thomas Whiston is a free market economist with George Mason University. In his article, “Medieval Iceland and the Absence of Government,” Whiston provides us with insights into the truly remarkable Icelandic Commonwealth political system.
The Icelandic Commonwealth or Icelandic Free State, which flourished between 930 and 1262, offers modern libertarians a well-documented, real world example of how a market anarchist political system worked in the past, and how it can work again in the future, if only we can bring ourselves to “think outside the box,” if ony we can disabuse ourselves of Frances Fukuyama’s delusion that western liberal democracy is the final form of human government.
The Icelandic Commonwealth was a single, unified nation with a single, overarching constitution, but a multiplicity of “competing governments,” all of which had jurisdiction over the same territory.
Instead of public property, i.e., “government property,” the Icelandic Commonwealth had only private property. The entire island was privately owned by one private citizen or another.
As difficult as it may be for us to grasp, the Icelandic Commonwealth had no executive and no judiciary.
Instead of a judiciary, the Icelandic Commonwealth had private courts. Members of these private courts were chosen after a crime was committed. The defendant and plaintiff each had the right to pick half the arbitrators.
One of the few permanent officials was the “law speaker.” His duty was to memorize the laws, recite them back, and to provide advice on legislative matters.
Instead of a king, the Icelandic Commonwealth had a multitude of chieftans. These chieftans were not regional warlords. These chieftans were not local authorities. These chieftans were leaders of de facto central governments in competition with other chieftans’ central governments. Each chieftans’ jurisdiction was not a part of Iceland, but all of Iceland.
These chieftans were not conventional heads of government. After all, we are talking about anarchism, and anarchism means “no government.” These chieftans were heads of Private Defense Agencies.
These chieftans were not dukes, earls, and barons. They were not hereditary aristocrats. Their authority was not conferred upon them at birth by virtue of their ancestry. Their authority was provisional, conferred upon them by citizens who signed “law enforcement service contracts” with them. Their authority was subject to unilateral revocation any time by their clientele.
A citizen of the Icelandic Commonwealth unhappy with the service provided by one chieftan did not need to emigrate to a different jurisdiction in order to live under a different political authority. Like any customer of any service industry, he merely needed to take his business elsewhere, to another chieftan. If that chieftan disappointed him, he could reassign his contract for law enforcement services to yet another chieftan, ad infinitum.
Think of it as switching your cable television, cellphone, or Internet service provider at will, whenever your current provider’s service fails to meet with your satisfaction.
This option of switching governments, or rather, “law enforcement service providers” at an individual citizen’s discretion without having to pull up roots and emigrate to a foreign country, was the key to making the system work. This option provided de facto political secession all the way down the level of the individual, and made the term “civil servant” a comforting reality instead of a cruel hoax.
Market Anarchism works, Naysayers are Wrong
Naysayers of market anarchism, including the late Ayn Rand, have trotted out a wide range of theoretical arguments purporting to prove that market anarchism can never work.
The only problem with the naysayers’ learned arguments is that market anarchy has worked. The market anarchist Icelandic Commonwealth worked for over three centuries. The constitutional republican United States worked for only two centuries. Did the United States work? If working for two centuries means that the United States worked, then working for three centuries means the Icelandic Commonwealth worked.
The United States worked as long as it remained a constitutional republic. Once it degenerated into a democracy, sometime during the Progressive Era and the New Deal, it stopped working. The Icelandic Commonwealth worked as long as it remained a market anarchy. Once it degenerated into a theocracy, sometime around 1200, it stopped working. The Icelandic Commonwealth worked longer than the United States. While the Icelandic Commonwealth worked, it worked even better than the United States.
Naysayers of market anarchism who claim to have proven that market anarchism can’t work remind me of the aeronautical engineers who proved that bumblebees can’t fly. The fact is bumblebees have flown. Bumblebees can fly. The fact is market anarchism has worked. Market anarchism can work.
The aeronautical engineers who “proved” that bumblebees can’t fly were merely being funny. Ayn Rand and her “intellectual heirs” were not.
The extraordinary history of the Icelandic Commonwealth demonstrates in actual practice and not mere theory that every function that the Conventional Wisdom insists must be provided coercively by a state monopoly can be provided voluntarily by private entrepreneurs, without violating the prohibition against the initiation of force.
Due to widespread semantic sloppiness, the neutral term “anarchy” has become conflated with the pejorative term “chaos.” But the term anarchy, properly understood, does not mean chaos. It means “no government.”
Does no government mean chaos? It does not. It just means an absence of government. An absence of government is fully compatible with social order. In fact, an absence of government is highly conducive to enhanced social order. As the Daoist sage Laozi wisely observed, “The people are difficult to govern because of the excessive agency of their superiors in governing them. It is through this that they are difficult to govern.”
The presumption that an absence of government equals chaos is a myth perpetuated by obdurate statists. Anarchy need not be a Hobbesian state of nature, with a war of all against all, but rather extended periods of peace and prosperity.
China’s Quasi-Anarchism, Proto-Anarchism
I propose a market anarchist solution to the perplexing problem of Taiwan independence, inspired by the medieval era Icelandic Commonwealth. No one has ever advanced such a proposal before. You read it here first.
A market anarchist solution for the problem of Taiwan independence would begin with the half-century old cross-Straits status quo.
What is the cross-Straits status quo?
The status quo in the Taiwan Straits is not Lee Teng-hui’s “Two States” or Chen Shui-bian’s “One Country each Side.” The status quo is not “One China, One Taiwan,” or even “Two Chinas.” The status quo in the Taiwan Straits is “One Country, Two Systems,” with the key proviso that the “One Country” is the neutral term “China,” rather than the loaded terms “Republic of China” or “People’s Republic of China”
The fact that the term One Country, Two Systems is disliked even by some Pan Blues does not alter the facts. Pan Blues who are allergic to the term One Country, Two Systems because it was formulated by the PRC rather than the ROC are free to substitute the terminology of the ’92 Consensus, “One China, Different Expressions.” It amounts to the same thing.
For those unfamiliar with the 1992 Consensus, it stipulates that “There is only one indivisible China. This China includes both Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Beijing will refer to this China as the People’s Republic of China. Taipei will refer to this China as the Republic of China. Chinese citizens ruled by the PRC government in Beijing will recognize it as China’s government. Chinese citizens ruled by the ROC government in Taipei will recognize it as China’s government.”
The political structure of the Icelandic Commonwealth was “One Country, Many Governments.” Each of these governments claimed sovereignty over all of Iceland, and exercised jurisdiction over all of Iceland.
The political structure of a China divided by the lingering Cold War “Mexican Stand-off,” is “One Country, Two Governments.” Each of these governments claims sovereignty over all of China, but exercises jurisdiction over only part of China.
China resembles medieval Iceland in that China has competing governments claiming sovereignty over all of China. China differs from medieval Iceland in that China’s competing governments are unable to exercise jurisdiction over all of China.
The obvious conclusion? In order to transform China into a modern version of the Icelandic Commonwealth, China’s competing governments must be allowed to exercise jurisdiction over all of China, in addition to claiming sovereignty over all of China.
The Market Anarchist Chinese Commonwealth
The newly reunified nation could be renamed the Chinese Commonwealth, the Chinese Free State, or just plain China. Just as we no longer need the terms West Germany and East Germany now that Germany has been reunified, so we would no longer need the names Nationalist China and Communist China, or Republic of China and People’s Republic of China once China is reunified.
The constitutions of the ROC government in Taipei and the PRC government in Beijing are “minarchist,” limited government constitutions, in principle if not necessarily in practice.
The Constitution of the newly reunified Chinese Commonwealth would be a market anarchist, no government/competing governments constitution.
Citizens of the Chinese Commonwealth would never pay another dime in taxes to any government, central, provincial, or local, because there would no longer be any government, central, provincial, or local. There would only be one unified nation consisting entirely of privately owned property, in which citizens would voluntarily contract with Private Defense Agencies for law enforcement services.
Taiwan independence advocates would relinquish all demands for political independence from the Chinese Commonwealth. They would cease and desist all attempts to undermine the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Chinese nation.
In return, the Constitution of the Chinese Commonwealth would authorize all political parties to reorganize themselves as Private Defense Agencies. The Taiwan based Democratic Progressive Party would be free to offer its law enforcement services anywhere in China, including the Chinese mainland. The mainland based Chinese Communist Party would be free to offer its law enforcement services anywhere in China, including Taiwan.
The right to establish Private Defense Agencies and to enter the law enforcement service industry would of course not be restricted to political parties. I mention political parties merely to illustrate one of many possibilities.
Anybody would be free to establish a Private Defense Agency and offer law enforcement services to the public. Entering the law enforcement service industry would be a purely economic decision.
Subscribing to any law enforcement service provider would also be a purely economic decision. Citizens would subscribe to those Private Defense Agencies that offered the most satisfactory service for the most reasonable rates.
The cross-Straits status quo, “One Country, Two Governments,” is already halfway to market anarchism. All that remains is to go the rest of the way. All that is necessary to transform today’s China into a modern version of the Icelandic Commonwealth is to take “One Country, Two Governments” to its logical and radical conclusion and create “One Country, Many Governments.”
Why Wait for Beijing? Let’s Roll!
Beijing won’t go for it, you say, therefore the market anarchization of China is a pipe dream?
When did Beijing’s unwillingness to do anything become a problem? The Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong rejected free market capitalism for the Chinese mainland, but the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo implemented free market capitalism on Taiwan anyway, and Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao on the Chinese mainland eventually followed suit. The CCP used to stand for the Chinese Communist Party. Now it stands for the Chinese Capitalist Party.
Besides, haven’t Taiwan independence Quislings and Taiwan independence fellow travelers alike been telling the world that “democratic and progressive” Taiwan has exterted enormous internal political pressure on Beijing via the power of example? Were these just empty boasts, or where they for real?
Taiwan independence Quislings have been chafing at the bit, eager to get the secessionist ball rolling. That being the case, why wait for Beijing? As Todd Beamer told fellow captives aboard UAL Flight 93; “Let’s roll!”
Why not liberate ourselves from our statist captors in Taipei and Washington first? Why wait for the Chinese mainland to make the first move? Why not recognize the right of sovereign individuals to secede from the Taiwanese kleptocracy and the American Leviathan first? Why not implement market anarchism in the “Free Region of China” and the “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” first? Why not show those uptight, repressive Commie bastards how “democratic and progressive” we are?
Beijing is unwilling to take the first step? No problem. We’ll go first. They can catch up later.
Unfortunately, as libertarians know only too well, even the moderate “minarchist” policy proposals advanced by the Libertarian Party of the United States are considered beyond the pale by the conservative Republicans, moderate centrists, and liberal Democrats who comprise the Great Silent Majority in the US and other “advanced democracies.” Never mind any political proposals containing the term “anarchist” in them!
During the bitter post 3/20 election protests in 2004, many Pan Blue protestors suggested that rather than suffer passively as Pan Green Quislings engaged in creeping secession from China, the Pan Blue democratic majority on Taiwan ought to seize the initiative and declare an independent loyalist Chinese republic in the northern half of the island, confirm Lien Chan as Pan Blue president, pay taxes to Pan Blue officials, and leave Taiwan independence Quislings in the south to starve themselves to death with their economically suicidal protectionist policies.
If Taiwan independence Quislings are serious about honoring the “Right to Self-Determination,” they can start by honoring the Pan Blue camp’s desire not to be ruled by a treasonous “Vichy China” led by corrupt Taiwan independence Quislings.
The Real Reason for Taiwan Independence
Taiwan independence Quislings claim that the reason they collaborate with rabid Sinophobes in the US and Japan to split Taiwan off from the rest of China, over the objections of a democratic majority of Chinese citizens on Taiwan, not to mention an even larger democratic majority on the Chinese mainland, is that they demand “Freedom and Democracy.” They say they can’t enjoy Freedom and Democracy as long as Taiwan remains a part of China.
If that’s their objection to remaining part of China and for demanding a government of their own, I have good news. Market anarchism can give them what they say they want, without absolutely no need to betray their country.
Notice I said, “what they say they want.” Allow me to make a prediction. Rather than welcome a peaceful alternative to bigoted, unsavory “Taiwanese, not Chinese” identity politics, and racially-motivated “Taiwanese, not Chinese” nation building, Taiwan independence Quislings will trot out a million reasons why they will not settle for anything less than a separate “Nation of Taiwan.” They will do so because the desire for Freedom and Democracy is not their real reason for demanding Taiwan independence.
When Japanophile Quisling Lee Teng-hui makes his case for an independent Taiwan, he tells western liberals that his demand is motivated by political idealism, not racial hatred. In other words, he lies. Lee knows what’s Politically Correct. Lee knows what will ingratiate himself with progressive “Make the world safe for democracy” Wilsonian internationalists. That’s why he dutifully recites the mantra they are waiting to hear: “We demand Freedom and Democracy.”
But what’s the real reason Taiwan independence Quislings demand Taiwan independence?
Back in the early 90s, a Japanese MP interviewed Lee Teng-hui. In “Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui’s Tears,” the MP told the Japan Daily Post:
“Lee Teng-hui received a Japanese education during [the] Japanese occupation. His older brother was a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army and died in action. The result is Lee Teng-hui is in his own heart and in his own eyes even more Japanese than the Japanese. His yearning and homesickness for Japan is intense.”
Lee Teng-hui knows he can’t tell western liberals the truth. He knows they would run from him faster than you can say “PW Botha” or “Pauline Hanson.” Lee Teng-hui, or should I say “Iwasato Masao,” knows he can’t tell sympathetic western liberals the real reason he is obsessed with separating Taiwan from the rest of China is that he despises China, hates the people of China, and considers them congenitally inferior to the people of Japan. He dreams of making his mark in Japanese history as the national hero who enabled Japan to annex Taiwan a second time.
Most Taiwan independence sympathizers have heard only the feel-good Freedom and Democracy catechisms regurgitated for their benefit by Cassidy and Associates, the Taiwan Lobby’s high-priced PR firm. They have never attended any of the Nuremberg Rallies held by the Pan Green parties on Taiwan and gotten an earful of the racist remarks Taiwan independence demagogues Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian make before wildly cheering Taiwan independence fundamentalists.
Little wonder the idealistic Sisy Chen, former DPP Public Relations Chief and one of the DPP’s shining stars, eventually parted company with the Taiwan independence movement and concluded that “The DPP is the KKK of Taiwan.”
The reality is Taiwan independence Quislings such as Lee Teng-hui, whom clueless Newsweek reporters canonized as “Mr. Democracy,” don’t give a damn whether people on Taiwan live under “Freedom and Democracy.” I’m not saying they resolutely oppose Freedom and Democracy. I’m saying Freedom and Democracy is not their highest priority. They recite the Freedom and Democracy mantra only because they know Taiwan independence fellow travelers like to hear it.
As their repressive and dictatorial behavior since “Son of Taiwan” Chen Shui-bian became the “Il Duce of Taiwan” reveals, they care only about indoctrinating Chinese people on Taiwan with their artificially fabricated, self-hating, “Taiwanese, not Chinese” race consciousness. They care only about founding a race-based “Nation of Taiwan” in which the three-fourths Hoklo majority of “zheng gang de tai wan ren” (genuine Taiwanese), rule the roost, and any minority unhappy about being forced to live under petty tribalist Hoklo Chauvinism can lump it.
Patriotic Chinese on Taiwan and China’s mainland face a challenge akin to the challenge faced by Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Rings in JRR Tolkien’s epic novel, “The Lord of the Rings.”
First, they must defend the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Chinese nation against coordinated “Divide and Conquer” tactics by Neo-imperialists from without and Quislings from within.
Second, they must accomplish this defense without sacrificing the individual liberty and individual sovereignty of 1.3 billion Chinese citizens. As James Madison warned, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” This is true even of an unprovoked, unavoidable war of self-defense.
Like Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Rings, modern Chinese have been reluctantly saddled with the One Ring [Democratic Universalism],
an instrument of absolute power that could allow Sauron, the dark Lord of Mordor [Dubya, the dark Lord of the New World Order],
and his accomplice Saruman [Junichiro Koizumi],
to rule Middle Earth [the Middle East / Central Asia / China, the Middle Kingdom] and enslave its peoples.
Like Frodo and the Fellowship, modern Chinese must take the One Ring [Democratic Universalism]
to Mount Doom, where it first was forged, and destroy it forever [refute and neutralize Democratic Universalism’s hypnotic and evil spell at its source],
all the while combatting internal dissension [Boromir, who represents exasperatingly naive democracy activists on the Chinese mainland, and Gollum, who represents vicious ethnic separatists on Taiwan]
and the corrupting influence of the One Ring itself [the seductive influence of political power which overwhelmed even the pure of heart Frodo Baggins]
with the knowledge that the course of future history [a peaceful 21st century globalized world] hangs in the balance.
Enter market anarchism. Market anarchism not only has the potential to resolve China’s most serious dilemma, it has the potential to resolve America’s dilemmas, the former Yugoslavia’s dilemmas, Iraq’s dilemmas, the world’s dilemmas.
A Dangerous Opportunity
The Chinese term for “crisis” is a compound noun combining the terms “danger” and “opportunity.” A crisis is a “dangerous opportunity.” A crisis is an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.
The danger in the cross-Straits crisis is all too obvious and all too possible. The obvious danger is that rabid Sinophobes in the US and Japan will eventually play the “Taiwan Card” as their pretext for a preventive war of aggression against China. The prospect of nuclear armageddon involving 1.3 billion Chinese and 290 million Americans, provoked by a 20% minority of Taiwan independence fundamentalists indoctrinated with an ersatz “Taiwanese national consciousness,” is too appalling to contemplate.
The opportunity in the cross-Straits crisis is not so obvious and not so possible. The not so obvious opportunity is that this crucible of conflict will provide an answer to a question that has bedeviled mankind since the beginning of time — how to reconcile the requirements of collective security with the requirements of individual liberty.
The challenge for libertarian anti-colonialists/anti-imperialists in every nation in an increasingly globalized world is to delink patriotism from statism.
Market anarchism does just that. Market anarchism successfully delinks benign patriotism from malignant statism. A successful market anarchist solution to the problem of a Divided China would offer patriots the world over a means of safeguarding their national sovereignty and territorial integrity against Neo-colonialist, Neo-imperialist “Divide and Conquer” tactics from without, without compromising the individual liberty and individual sovereignty of their fellow citizens within.