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Editor’s note: this is part one of a three-part series.
Could you envision a society without the government? Most people couldn’t imagine a country without a central planning body to build roads, aid the poor, educate children, or provide national defense. But that is exactly what author and publisher Robert Wenzel is proposing in his new book, Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person.
Known as someone “more radical than the Founding Fathers,” the San Francisco-based libertarian argues that the idea that government is an essential and necessary force is a myth. It is only because we have become accustomed to the state taking responsibility for a myriad of services, such as police, justice, and defense, that we concede it is a required evil. Wenzel contends that a private property society, or PPS, can offer all these services more efficiently and without mandates and coercion.
In an interview with Liberty Nation, Robert Wenzel, who is one of the nation’s preeminent libertarian thinkers, discusses PPS, what changed in America, how it would work, the comparisons between PPS and Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism theory, and a lot more.
Liberty Nation: For those unaware of the concept, how would you describe a private property society (PPS)?
Robert Wenzel: The idea behind a PPS is that there would be a society where people respect private property – all property – specifically land property would be most significant. The idea would be whoever controls the property sets the rules for that property. There are no overriding governments that set the rules.
LN: What compelled you to write this book? You’ve written a lot of blog posts about it. Is that what finally encouraged you to write the book so that you can have a clear outline of what PPS is?
RW: My original plan was to write a much longer book covering alternative views of how society should be formed. But you have so much turmoil in the country and the world right now, I felt it was important to get something out sort of in outline fashion as to my thinking on what a PPS would be like.
LN: Throughout the book, you allude to various parts of society that were once handled by the private sector, such as roads in the 18th century or aiding the poor during much of American history. Today, most Americans could never imagine those things being managed without the government. What events do you think changed the mindset of society?
RW: With most people, it’s just what they see in front of them. If it’s a case where the government is operating more of the roads, it’s very difficult for them to understand how it could be that roads could be handled in the private sector. I could remember back in the old days before there was a Federal Express and DHL and you talked about mail delivery that would not be delivered by the post office. People couldn’t conceive of that. They really thought you were crazy advocating a private postal service. But once Federal Express and DHL came around, people started to open up more and understand how the private sector could bring that type of service. So, the idea of introducing a little bit of history of private roads just shows people how in the past there was a situation and it’s not something that is completely out of the sky that has not occurred before. It just adds a little bit of context there.
LN: You warn about the dangers of central planners and “people butting into the affairs of others.” But what happens in a society without a central planning body should a property owner impact another property owner? For instance, if one person in a particular PPS emits air pollution that affects another individual in a different PPS. What would the legal recourse be?
RW: If we’re basically going to have a situation where we recognize private property as the fundamental way a society operates what would happen when you got somebody spewing any kind of pollutant on a property that wold be a violation of that person’s private property and it would be handled like any other infringement.
I see a situation where there would be a number of different private sector security firms and, for the most part, I would imagine most people would subscribe to the larger security firms so they would have protection in more areas and you would have almost the same thing as a court system now. If the polluter had a different security firm, the two security firms would sit down and determine where the violation occurred – if there was one – and how the punishment should be handed out for that.
LN: What if the air pollution occurs in two different private property societies. PPS A is getting all the pollution and PPS B is doing all the pollution, and both court systems have differing opinions as to what the punishment would be. How would that work out?
RW: The punishment would be determined in a PPS by the property owner. All that a security firm would do in that situation would represent the property owner against the violator and it would be the property owner to determine what the penalty should be. Of course, it would be dangerous for someone to pollute in a situation where a property owner demands a severe punishment. You just need to be aware of that and you won’t go polluting.
In the second part of this series, Robert Wenzel talks about some of the pushbacks to his book, how national defense would work, and what would occur in a nuclear fallout.