By Arnold Kling
A comment on this post raises a valid issue. I was suggesting that I wanted a sort of anarcho-capitalism in which I can choose the government or governments I wish to operate under. The comment reads, in part
Multiple states serving multiple customers in a single territory (like BK or Mickey D’s) would be realistic if government were just about delivering services. But the concept of jurisdiction is a necessity to the existence of the state: the state is simply a group of people with an official monopoly on coercion within a certain boundary.
It seems that way now, but could it be different?
First of all, why do government boundaries have to be physical rather than logical? For example, the Internet protocols are set by committees of engineers. If you want to abide by them, fine. If you don’t, then I guess your computer won’t be connected properly to the Internet. But that’s a decision for you to make–it isn’t forced on you by where you live.
If you loosen the link between geography and jurisdiction, then that raises the issue of how to resolve jurisdictional disputes. Today, when two companies sign a deal, they will sometimes put in a provision that says that any disputes will be resolved in the courts of a particular state (typically, the state where one of the firms is headquartered).
Under the system that I envision (vaguely), you would need lots of these sorts of agreements, as well as common-law customs, for resolving jurisdictional disputes. So, if I say that my neighborhood is smoke-free and you say that you live under a jurisdiction where anyone may smoke as long as they are outdoors, then we need some way to resolve whether or not you can smoke on the local sidewalk. That case is probably pretty simple, but other cases easily could get more complicated.
I have suggested that we need an ultimate arbiter when all else fails. But I would like the arbiter to be just that–like a referee in basketball. Government as we experience it today is like a player-referee. Naturally, it is hard for other people to get a chance to play–it is hard to start charter schools that compete on a level playing field with government schools, it is had to break off from a large county or state to form a separate township, etc.