Libertarians propose dramatic cuts in government. Without government to penalize criminals, won't crime rage out of control? What controls can the Free Market apply to crime?
Our goal is not simply to eliminate "the government." Actually, Libertarians believe in MORE government than those who support "the government." We believe in replacing "the government" with "self government." We believe in
- replacing a nation of thieves and slaves ruled by a few in "the government"
- with a nation of producers and responsible Americans who govern themselves.
Self-Government Means More Government
Those who support increased power for the State and resist calls for anarcho-capitalism usually do so because they are concerned about the cultural effects of increasing numbers of people who do not understand the principles of liberty upon which America was founded, and who are easily manipulated by fascist or socialist demagogues.
Here's how self-government works to protect American values better than the federal government.
Let’s consider the question of immigration:
Rather than being met at the border by jack-booted gun-wielding federal immigration authorities, immigrants should be met at the borders by voluntary associations of friendly Americans who will offer American hospitality, job training, values education and other works of mercy which will help the immigrants carry on great American libertarian traditions.
Once settled in America, there are continuing opportunities for self-governing Americans to help new arrivals become great citizens:
Families: Children who are not victims of government schooling and who have been trained to appreciate America's libertarian values can pass these values on to their neighborhood playmates who come from foreign lands. American parents have always been careful to know who their children play with, and always make an effort to meet the parents of their children's playmates and invite them to learn more about our culture.
Employers should actively seek out new arrivals to America and hire them, showing them how American employers appreciate the loyalty, hard-work, creativity and dedication which characterize most immigrants, and how generous American employers are in the wages they pay and benefits they offer. Lunchtime Bible studies and employee training sessions can pass on America's cultural values.
Landlords should rent to immigrants and help them become self-governing tenants, thus passing on American respect for property. Weekend classes in property management, concern for the environment, and household budgeting can be required of tenants in rental agreements.
Merchants should seek out immigrants and deal fairly with them, explaining to them how American capitalism rewards both buyer and seller in a voluntary exchange, and how capitalism has made America a more prosperous nation than the nation from which the customer has emigrated.
Teachers should pass on American values to their students, even in classes that do not directly teach social and cultural subjects. Like the Apostles (Acts 5:29), teachers should defy court orders prohibiting a discussion of American values before and after school, and at lunch.
Media sources which propagate anti-American values should be boycotted. Americans should invite immigrants to join them in viewing movies, television, plays, concerts, and other events which transmit American values. Americans should invite immigrants to neighborhood reading circles in which great American books are read and discussed. Americans should host ESL classes (English as a Second Language) in their homes. Parents are qualified to teach their children English; immigrants often bring a child-like love of learning.
Immigrants who commit crimes should be responded to in the same way we respond to natural-born Americans who commit crimes.
It is only because Americans are no longer self-governing that they appeal to "the government" to use armed force against immigrants. This desire for increased government power is lazy, unAmerican, and anti-Christian.
Let’s run through this list again in consideration of other more serious forms of crime. These considerations apply to all forms of crime such as theft, or any form of property damage, as well as to other crimes which “Christian Reconstructionists” are quick to demand criminal (State) sanctions: homosexuality, adultery, or even idolatry. “Punishment” is their by-word.
Keep in mind that Biblical Law has no place for prisons, but demands restitution. The victim is to be made whole by the offender. How can the offender be pressured to make restitution if there is no “government” threatening him with prison or fines? (Not that this helps the victim in any way; indeed, victims are taxed to warehouse criminals.)
Families: The Founding Fathers agreed that religion and morality were chiefly responsible for creating a population that respected God’s Law. Schools continued this tradition. It is a grave error to believe that the State can keep crime rates low by outlawing the teaching of religion and morality in schools while appropriating billions of dollars to a growing “prison industry.”
Peer pressure is more potent an educator than teachers, at least in modern public schools. Children who are not victims of government schooling and who have been trained to appreciate America's libertarian values can pass these values on to their neighborhood playmates who come from non-Christian homes. American parents have always been careful to know who their children play with, and always make an effort to meet the parents of their children's playmates and invite them to learn more about God’s Law. Sometimes children have been known to have a dramatic impact on their parents. Christian families can teach Godly values to neighborhood children, who may have an effect on their parents.
If a parent finds out that a child has committed theft or property damage, that parent should require the child to make restitution. This applies to children of any age (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Adult children should be evicted, and ultimately disinherited. In too many cases, older children who commit crimes have parents who subsidize their criminal lives.
Churches should excommunicate those who are unrepentant. It should be socially unacceptable to not be a part of a Christian church or para-church organization. The sermon should be the dominant media event of our culture.
Employers should penalize employees who have committed crimes. Paychecks should be garnished to pay restitution to victims. Unrepentant employees should be fired. Recidivist criminals tend not to seek gainful employment, but before they become recidivists, the threat of unemployment is a strong incentive to avoid crime or undo the damage done by criminal acts. Lunchtime Bible studies and employee training sessions can pass on the values of Biblical Law.
Landlords should evict unrepentant criminals. Weekend classes in property management, concern for the environment, and household budgeting can be required of tenants in rental agreements. Such actions maximize respect for property and minimize crime.
Insurance Agencies will not insure property unless it is protected with a network of contracts that require restitution both on the part of the insured and those with whom the insured deals.
Merchants should not sell to those who have committed crimes and have not made restitution. Criminals should find it very hard to live in a Christian society until they repudiate a life of crime and commit to making amends for past acts of crime.
Teachers should pass on Biblical values to their students, even in classes that do not directly teach social and cultural subjects. Like the Apostles (Acts 5:29), teachers should defy court orders prohibiting a discussion of American values before and after school, and at lunch. Schools should evict students who do not make restitution.
Non-profit associations should pick up the hard cases from schools and other institutions. Intensive “brainwashing” may be necessary to fill the character void and reverse years of bad habits and unbiblical thinking.
Media sources which propagate anti-American values should be boycotted. Americans should invite the lost to join them in viewing movies, television, plays, concerts, and other events which transmit Biblical values. Americans should invite at-risk children and adults to neighborhood reading circles in which great American books are read and discussed. Media sources should adversely publicize those who do not respect life, liberty or property. The internet should have plenty of sites which catalog those who have been disinherited, evicted, boycotted, excommunicated, etc. Public shame is a strong source of social order. (Daniel B. Klein, Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good Conduct,
University of Michigan Press, 1997)
The strongest criticism of this proposal is likely to come not from Christians who oppose anarchism, but homosexuals who oppose Christian culture. When these “private,” non-political institutions are vigilant and Biblical, there is far less “liberty” for criminals than when the State is functioning “properly” but family, church, school, business, and voluntary associations are dormant. The forces of unrighteousness are far more likely to complain that people are trying to “impose their religion” on them than when these institutions are silent and hope a strong centralized State will speak out against evil. In short, a society is well-governed when “the government” no longer exists. This is not “utopian,” this is an ethical imperative.
Actually, as Bruce Benson has shown, private response to crime has historically been the norm:
The historical reality of crime policy is that public [state] provision of criminal justice is a recent social experiment that has not worked as predicted. The increasing role of private security that we see today is actually a return to historical practices rather than something new, although private sector institutions and technologies have changed dramatically as entrepreneurs have discovered new ways to deliver the desired protection. . . . One survey indicates that nearly half of all business security managers investigate and resolve employee thefts within the business organization without ever reporting the crime.
To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice, New York University Press, 1998
When all these social institutions are functioning properly, there is no need for the IRS, the INS, the DEA, or other fascist agencies.
History gives numerous examples of how theft, fraud, and other crimes can be dealt with in societies without socialism. Details here.