Insurance for Police could Reduce Abuse

Much theorizing about the provision of non-state services considers the idea of insurance.

Insurance is there to minimize the risk of certain events, where the cost of the event is high and the likelihood low. We may be familiar with accident insurance, health insurance, or fire insurance. But what about national defense insurance or local security insurance?

The cool thing about insurance is that it incentivizes best practices. How so? Because bad practices can often be costly. For example, if you smoke, your health insurance premiums will increase – thus incentivizing the healthy practice of not smoking. In the case of local security insurance, then, having locks on your doors and a working burglar alarm may lower your premiums too.

Private police forces may also invest in insurance, to protect against damages in legal actions brought in response to police abuses.

In fact, this kind of insurance is already on the market for municipal police forces, and it is already operating to abate police abuse:

In Wisconsin . . . an insurer in 2002 recommended new training and supervision of SWAT teams in the Lake Winnebago area in the aftermath of two botched drug raids. In 2010, a police chief in Rutledge, Tennessee, was fired to appease the town’s liability insurer after assault allegations were leveled against him. In many other states, police forces have been asked to adopt new policies regarding body cameras, strip searches, and use of force.

. . .

Before the threat of losing their insurance materialized, the city [of Irwindale, California] had failed to invest in adequate training for police officers, citing budgetary concerns.

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NYT: Anarchists Fill Services Void Left by Faltering Greek Governance

These self-styled anarchists have organized to provide social support like food, medicine, housing. Importantly, among the beneficiaries of these services are refugees (e.g. from Syria). They have also created communities, complete with child education and weddings.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute comments:

There’s really nothing paradoxical about anarchists setting up institutions and communities outside the state to provide needed goods and services. . . . Anarchists who organize voluntarily to achieve common purposes are just living their philosophy.

 … Continue Reading

Education Alternatives as a Gateway to More Freedom

Most people don’t believe that governments must fully monopolize the provision of education, but they do believe government must ensure education is provided for through subsidies and regulations.

I couldn’t disagree more.  Government support for education actively undermines valuable learning and is the greatest threat to real education.  Just like government support for the arts is harmful to art, so too is government support for education harmful to education.  Education is too valuable to be tainted by the state.

In PTB spirit, this post is not about philosophical arguments on education and the state, nor is it about pragmatic policy prescriptions.  Looking to policy reform is the source of the problem, not the solution.  The solution is the creative construction of market alternatives.

This is a personal issue for me, as my own intellectual and career journey led me to the creation of an alternative to traditional higher education, which is the last stop on the government education conveyor belt.

There are two reasons I think market alternatives to bloated, bureaucratized colleges and universities are a powerful and important part of pressing the button.

First, they help individuals better achieve their goals, live free, and create value.  Like all voluntary transactions, they literally create more freedom and build civil society with every profitable exchange.  Anytime someone goes from a government supported service to a market alternative, it’s a win for freedom.

Second, they dismantle the linchpin of the Collective Interpretive Framework (CIF) for the state.  Governments don’t exist because people think they are good or efficient, they exist because people believe them necessary. … Continue Reading

There is Only One Way to Save Our City

MORPHEUS: Commander we need a presence inside the matrix to await contact from the Oracle.

LOCK: I don’t want to hear that s***. I don’t care about Oracles or prophecies or Messiahs. I care about one thing…stopping that army from destroying this city and to do that, I need soldiers to obey my orders.

MORPHEUS: With all due respect commander, there is only one way to save our city.

LOCK: How?


LOCK: G*dd*mmit Morpheus, not everyone believes what you believe.

MORPHEUS: My beliefs do not require them to.

The Matrix Reloaded

When free markets succeed, people bet against the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one situation worked out okay, but we can’t be absolutely certain that the free market will successfully handle every possible situation. So don’t jump to any optimistic conclusions.”

When government fails, people gamble on the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one incident turned out very poorly, but we can’t be absolutely certain that better politicians won’t come along and make everything better in the future. So don’t jump to any overly pessimistic conclusions.”

When it comes to free markets, people encourage relentless skepticism and unyielding caution. When it comes to politics, people encourage relentless faith and unyielding loyalty.

No matter how much good the free market produces, we’ll always need to see more evidence before we place faith in it. No matter how much evil or inefficiency is produced by politics, however, we’ll always find a way to keep placing more and more faith in it.… Continue Reading

The Online Video Market as Alternative to College

I’m a big fan of philosophy. I know a decent amount about it. How? I’ve listened to Arthur Holmes lecture for 81 hours on the history of philosophy. I’ve gone through John Searle’s 21-hour class on the philosophy of language. I’m currently listening to Daniel Bounevac’s still ongoing lectures on the analytic tradition. All on YouTube.

You probably know Kahn Academy, the free online education behemoth. You may have also heard of edX, which partners with leading universities to provide free online courses. These are part of a growing trend: they’re called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), and between the bunch of them, you have videos and courses on just about any topic you would study in college. Free.

What’s this got to do with Pressing the Button? While college is provided by as many “private” institutions as public, the industry can hardly be called private. Given the cost of university, state-funded financial aid is omnipresent. Any non-governmental institution that provides the same service for free is an important example of Pressing the Button.


A common conversation I have with folks who have not graduated college:

“Maybe I should go to college. But it’s so expensive. And the schedule is too much – you only get financial aid if you go full time.”

“Why don’t you just study using online videos? You avoid all those problems.”

“Huh? Yeah. I should go to college.”

When I press, the three main objections I hear are:


Videos aren’t enough.Continue Reading

What if a private fire protection agency refuses to service nonsubscribers?

Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel tells us of a fire protection agency that refused to service nonsubscribers, precisely because they were nonsubscribers. Even though the property was on fire, and even though the fire agency was there, ready and able to put out the fire, the agency was unwilling.

As it turns out, Sandel’s story is selectively edited. In the full story, both private and public fire agencies failed. So his story does not tell us whether public is preferable to private. But the core of his question remains: can we trust private agencies to service nonsubscribers in need? And if not, is the private provision of fire protection desirable?

First, watch Sandel’s tale (starting at 29:20), related to shocked students with mouths agape (transcript below):

It’s sometimes thought that collective goods like police protection and fire protection will inevitably create the problem of free riders unless they’re publicly provided.

But there are ways to prevent free riders. There are ways to restrict even seemingly collective goods like fire protection.

I read an article a while back about a private fire company, the Salem Fire Corporation, in Arkansas. You can sign up with the Salem Fire Corporation, pay a yearly subscription fee, and if your house catches on fire, they will come and put out the fire.

But they won’t put out everybody’s fire. They will only put it out if it’s a fire in the home of a subscriber or if it starts to spread and to threaten the home of a subscriber.

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From Rothbard to Landauer: The Practice of Anarchism

Gustav Landauer

In his essay Do You Hate the State?, anarcho-capitalist economist Murray Rothbard presents a distinction between “gradualist” libertarians, who merely want to reform the state, and “abolitionist” libertarians. Rothbard explains that:

while the abolitionist will accept a gradual step in the right direction if that is all that he can achieve, he always accepts it grudgingly, as merely a first step toward a goal which he always keeps blazingly clear. The abolitionist is a “button pusher” who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed. But the abolitionist also knows that alas, such a button does not exist, and that he will take a bit of the loaf if necessary — while always preferring the whole loaf if he can achieve it. … His button-pushing position stems from the abolitionist’s deep and abiding hatred of the State and its vast engine of crime and oppression. With such an integrated worldview, the radical libertarian could never dream of confronting either a magic button or any real-life problem with some arid cost-benefit calculation. He knows that the State must be diminished as fast and as completely as possible. Period.

Rothbard’s button provides a thought experiment to discern how radical one’s opposition to the state really is.

But what if we treat the button as more than a thought experiment? While it is true that we will never have a magic button to immediately abolish the state, this does not mean that our only pathways to end the state require gradual reforms or violent revolutions. … Continue Reading