Is it possible to privatize police AND the justice system?

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    Hi all

    I had a discussion with a colleague about whether it was possible to privatize the police force and justice system and it was my decision that it wasn’t. I’m all for libertarian principles but I don’t see how it applies to the justice system. I think peoples basic nature will take over and you need a system in place that tries to be the most objective possible without any monetary incentive.

    He tried to apply basic libertarian principles that work for capitalism to this.

    His argument was that everyone would hire private police and they would protect a specific portion of land. When problems arose past the private police force they would go to private court system. He explains that both of these entities would remain in business since the people that pay their pay check keep them honest.

    My argument was that justice and cannot be monetarily incentivized and that morally and ethically righteous people needed to be voted in. I understand that perhaps the corrupt police and judges would go out of business but at what expense? Seems like it would be a never ending struggle fought by the richest

    A quick search brought this. The author bring up similar arguments against Rothbards anarcho capitalist views on a private police force and justice system. looking more into the minimalist state by Ayn Rand.

    Anyone have a opinion on this?


    The main issue I see is that you will always have people that will take advantage of that system and I full see a great portion of courts being supported by corporations or the wealthiest ( behind the scenes, that may be fair in business but not fair in law).

    I mean who decides on what court to go to in the first place? It seems that much injustice will be done before any court goes out of business and that it will happy more frequently.

    Another concern is the courts who will have the ability to sentence and execute also…

    I feel that voting in morally objective officials, who are not incentivized by money may the best option we have…


    I mean who decides on what court to go to in the first place?

    I’m probably not the best person to respond to this because I remain a “minarchist” myself, but there are various anarcho-cap responses to all of what you said.

    First, when you said “won’t the rich [and powerful] just have an advantage?” – they certainly do now, and nobody expects absolute utopia.

    Secondly, police and the courts might be two separate businesses (then they won’t be in collusion, necessarily at least).

    As for “who decides which to use?” the way I’ve always heard it described there would have to be mutual agreement between the parties (or their advocates), and that if this sounds “not plausible, or anyhow the guilty party just won’t agree to any and will string it out,” the people who have worked this out have proposed mechanisms to insure that won’t happen, and they point to historical examples of similar institutions that they say have worked in practice.

    But it’s probably best left to a full Anarcho-cap to explain their position. I know Robert “Bob” Murphy has given Mises lectures on this, one is here and another is here (note: they cover pretty much the same ground, having been given at two separate times to two different audiences; I mention this because you might only want to watch one, depending on how much time you have).


    Felt the need to add this:

    I feel that voting in morally objective officials, who are not incentivized by money [and power] may the best option we have…” (Emphasis added; “and power” added).

    Please let me know when you find some.

    I don’t really mean to be snide there or go all Diogenes on you; but the myth of impartial, scientific public-policy carried out by disinterested, objective officials is what early Progressives believed in (and some modern ones still claim to believe in, or, at least, peddle).

    But it’s like the old saw about making best way to make the most delicious rabbit soup, without having caught the rabbit.

    1) Find these persons.

    2) Find an electorate that will vote them into office (rather than voting for the ones that promise them the most boodle/make the most outlandish promises/offers of free lunch).


    Of course you can privatize the police and the justice system. All you have to do is sell the police and courts to somebody and there you go, that would be by definition privatization. How would you know a good court from a bad court? The same way as everything else, word of mouth. If someone was to be a bother and not abide by court rulings? Simply don’t do business with that person or company. Give it time and people will adapt to the circumstances.

    Remember that humans act and will attempt to better their situation. If someone or some thing tries to interfere with that they will change their plans.


    Tom Woods just recently posted videos of he and Dr. Casey on Libertarian Anarchy, the second one (“Ireland”) focuses this very subject (and isn’t limited to Ireland as an example of privatized justice).


    johnwires – “I feel that voting in morally objective officials, who are not incentivized by money may the best option we have…”

    Any system that relies upon only good and ethical people to be in power is not a good system.

    bryandunmire did a great job explaining some of the basics as to why it is possible to privatize police forces and the judicial system. I find it more likely that a police force or court that is privatized (meaning it relies upon voluntary contract to conduct any business) will be just than will a police force or court that is funded involuntarily (in other words, through taxation) and can coerce individuals to use their services and only their services. As was previously stated, if a police organization or private court is considered by one or some to have done corrupt work, word of mouth spreads and they will receive less business, giving an opening for other entrepreneurs to compete and other the kind of service that those people expect. And if a certain individual or company refuses to use any police or court except ones that others have heard or found to be corrupt, people will be less likely to do business with said indiviual or company. Thus, the market’s ability to root out corrupt businesses is self-reinforcing in this way.

    Example: if Court ABC has built a reputation for being corrupt, especially in favor of Corporation XYZ, not only will you be less likely to take your business to Court ABC (since you don’t trust their business practices), you will be less likely to do business with Corporation XYZ (since, if you have a dispute against them, they will only be willing to settle it in Court ABC). If Court ABC refuses to change its ways or has done too much damage to its reputation to be reconciled by the public, the receive less patronage, and their decreased demand allows their competitor, Court DEC, to capitalize and see an increase in demand for its services. Likewise, the reduced demand for the goods or services of Corporation XYZ allows for their competitor, Corporation UVW, to capitalize and see an increase in demand for their goods and services. Thus, it is in the best interest of private courts and police forces to not be corrupt and offer what consumers consider to be fair and just services and prices; likewise, it is in the best interest of private corporations to not patronize what their consumers consider to be corrupt private courts or police forces.


    Walter Block gets into some of this in the Q/A section of this playlist.

    There is an interesting aspect to questions like this. If we could say definitively how something would function in an entirely free market and we could say definitively that is would function better that way than the current system, then we could centrally plan it that way. But the entire argument against central planning is that central planners do not know what would work best. If a monopoly of coordinated police/court systems is what works best, then that is what would likely arise voluntarily in the market. If it is competing private courts and security firms that would function best, then that is what would likely arise in the market.

    We can philosophize about how it might function or other things that could be done (and that is a good thing to do), but we will never know all the ins and outs of how a completely private system would function until we allow the market to work out the details. But we can probably say this: If it requires force in order to fund a certain method of providing police and courts, then it is very unlikely that this is the system that is demanded by the market.


    ^ this. +1

    We can conjecture about what we think it likely, but it is precisely because the future is uncertain that we act purposely.


    As far as I remember it is more or less explained in this
    lecture of Hans-Hermann Hoppe


    Hi there, fellow students (and teachers). I’ve had a hypothetical situation pitched to me by a friend. It stemmed from an earlier discussion on the harmful effects of taxation on an economy; where I remarked that people would have to provide the services that government typically operates should taxation be abolished. The situation involves private property rights in a world absent government provided police and military forces, and goes as follows:

    1)Person 1 is a billionaire, and wishes to buy a house from Person 2 (of more modest means).
    2)Person 2 is aware of oil on their property, and quotes the price of the home to Person 1 as $10,000,000.
    3)Person 1 informs Person 2 that he is only willing to pay $100,000 for the home; the theoretical cost of hiring a private military force to evict the person forcibly from their land.
    4)Absent government-funded police/military/law enforcement, what recourse does Person 2 have?

    My friend wanted to use this scenario to try and get me to acknowledge that government funded police + law enforcement, etc would be necessary and therefore taxation could be considered legitimate on those grounds. Apologies for the long-winded post, but are there good resources (or do you all have any insights) to answer this friend of mine? Thanks in advance. =)


    Well, your friend is correct that under the present system of government-funded police/military/law enforcement, Person 1 (the billionaire) doesn’t have to go to the bother of having mercenaries available at his personal beck and call, because the State can just have Person 1’s land seized under Eminent Domain (see Kelo), and the State’s police + law enforcement + courts will enforce this redefinition of property rights (the State is always redefining property rights in favor of itself and it’s hangers-on). Indeed under present law as defined by the State, Person 1 may “own” the house but not the mineral rights under it anyhow, these get assigned by the State to Persons 2 of it’s choosing [this includes the State preventing Person 2, if Person 2 “owns” the mineral or other resource rights, from accessing them or selling access to them, because the State uses a corrupt version of “environmental” laws to prevent many people from accessing/selling/profiting from the resources they theoretically “own” but the state, with it’s police-law-forces-etc that your friend points to as “protecting” Person 2’s property, protects him from either using them himself or selling their use to another person. The point being: in more instances than most people are aware of, the State is not protecting Person 2’s property rights against the rich and influential, but rather allowing the fashionably rich & influential to control public policy in a way that deprives Person 2 of the property rights they are ostensibly “protecting.” Five will get you 10 that your friend approves of, or at least doesn’t object to, this seizure of Person 2’s property rights – under the grounds that, after all, “we” can’t just have everyone drilling oil on “their” land – after all, “they didn’t build that!” – “society” has claims too!]

    Ok, ok, I’ll stop being droll, but the Anarcho-Capitalist solution to this is that Person 2 pays “insurance” to a private protection agency, the size of which would probably be of a scale that it would have sufficient resources to back the legitimate claims of its members such that it would be easier/more efficient for Person 1 to simply negotiate in good faith with Person 2 after all.

    That is, these private protection firms would have police + law enforcement on the payroll of a power (if not size in number of personnel, because of being run more efficiently) to enforce the legitimate property rights of all their subscribers, to include Person 2.

    Anyhow, once again a true AnCap (I remain a minarchist, but I do strive to understand – and want to agree with – the AnCap position) could probably provide a better answer than I just did, but that’s the basic outline.


    @Chris Box

    Porphyrogenitus gave a pretty good explanation. As stated, the State can already use its large and powerful police and military to remove anyone it wants to from their property by using eminent domain, where the state, instead of the property owner, determines what price shall be paid for the property. So in the current situation, because property rights aren’t well defined not protected, one is already vulnerable to such a situation. The difference in a free society is that one would be fully within one’s rights to hire an insurance/private defense company to protect against such scenarios. Under the current system, such types of insurance/private defense companies would likely be harassed by the state. Further, because the state can expropriate wealth from the rest of the population, it has a significant advantage over competitors (it can raise as much money as it wants by taking it from others).

    Also, nothing stops a community from having a police force funded by voluntary contributions. That is, the city of Columbus may have a police force funded by everyone. The key difference between this and the situation today (under the state) is that any residents would be free to not fund it. And anyone not funding it would not necessarily be protected by the private police. This doesn’t mean the police wouldn’t protect them; it just means they wouldn’t be contractually obligated to.

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