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Editor’s note: This is part three of a three-part series.
In part one of our interview with Robert Wenzel, he explained what a private property society is, how Americans’ attitudes on the role of government changed, and how legal disputes would be handled in a PPS. In part two, Wenzel discussed national defense, nuclear fallout, and pushbacks to his radical idea. In this installment, Robert Wenzel explains PPS in a small town versus a large city, the differences between legendary economist Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism theory and PPS, and if a PPS could emerge anytime soon.
LN: Some skeptics may concede that a PPS could work in a small town. But do you think a PPS could succeed in a place like New York City or San Francisco?
RW: I don’t see any problem with it working anywhere. It’s a very, very simple concept. It’s basically: leave me alone on my property, I will leave you alone on your property. In order to ensure my property is left alone, I will hire a security firm that will protect my property. I would expect you would hire a security firm. Maybe you’ll hire the same one, maybe you’ll hire a different one, but there would be ways to solve most problems without any violence at all.
LN: The legendary economist Murray Rothbard was famous for his anarcho-capitalism advocacy. What are some of the key differences between the PPS and the Rothbardian AnCap?
RW: I’m very sympathetic to what Rothbard wrote. I think he’s a leader in this area and he really opened it up. I’m just sort of tweaking his concept a little here because he builds it on a natural rights perspective. I reject the idea of natural rights. I’m sort of in the Ludwig von Mises camp who believes when you start going down that natural rights road you get into a lot of trouble because you can have all kinds of people claiming all kinds of rights and it doesn’t stop. You’re still adding something on top of private property, which to me, I consider it government-lite if everyone has XYZ based on natural rights. Once you’ve got that going on, you’re really starting the basis for a government. And we know what governments do: they just grow and eventually become serious problems.
LN: You knew Rothbard, correct?
LN: Do you believe Rothbard would endorse the PPS?
RW: I don’t know. I would like to think he would. But I have no idea what he would think of it. He tended to be a logical thinker and encouraged independent thinking and advances, and I see this as an advance, so perhaps he would.
LN: In your first chapter, you concede that a civilized society without the government isn’t a view shared by most. You also later write that a full PPS will not emerge anytime soon. Is there a time when you do see a majority of the country supporting PPS? And what series of events could trigger the endorsement of PPS?
RW: It’s really hard to tell. One of the things about the Austrian School of Economics, which is sort of a subjective view looking at economics which also applies to society overall, is that it’s very difficult to predict exact developments in the future because you really have too many moving parts. So, it’s very difficult to determine how long it will take or if it will happen at all.
But the key, really, is that you have second-hand dealers – the term developed by [Friedrich] Hayek – where you have those people recognizing the value of PPS and they’re sort of, in a trickle-down fashion, getting it out to the masses.
Most of the views you have now, you have the SJW views out there, are really views that were developed by a group between WWI and WWII in Germany in the Frankfurt school and that’s what’s really impacting people now. They either partly developed it strategically on their own or it went viral on its own to another degree. That has taken over much thinking amongst the masses and most second-hand dealers are really influenced in that direction and are influencing the masses. It would have to take a change mostly in the thinking of the second-hand dealers, whether it’s in specific events that cause that to happen or very strong advances of ideas amongst the second-hand dealers. It’s hard to know.
LN: Sometimes conservatives are anti-government, sometimes conservatives are pro-government. William F. Buckley was a conservative who railed against the state. But in the 1990s, he wrote a book titled Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country where he proposes national service legislation summoning young Americans to public employment. With this in mind, do you think conservatives would be more sympathetic to the PPS plight than liberals?
RW: They might be. The big problem now is acceptance that you don’t need government and it really needs to stop. Private property society is where people set their own rules on their own property. I don’t think the right or the left are ready for that at the present time. I don’t really know what would trigger the left or the right to first to adopt this view, if either ever does.
Legendary economist Ludwig von Mises wrote that “government is essentially the negation of liberty.”
Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, no matter who is in charge in Washington, the government only gets bigger. The concentration of power expands, while the population’s liberty only erodes. Every four years, many Americans get their hopes up that a politician will finally shrink the state, slash spending, and take an ax to the tax code. When this doesn’t happen, disappointment begins, apathy commences, and cynicism amplifies.
The Founding Fathers had a grand vision of what a republican society would be: limited government, certain unalienable rights, and politicians who were held accountable. The U.S. is more than 200 years old now and the dreams of Thomas Jefferson and his ilk have faded. It is tragic to realize that this is the first generation that is actively fighting to remove their own rights that their forebears fought for.
Perhaps the experiment of government has failed. Maybe it is time to overhaul the system and try something entirely different – something that enhances freedom rather than quashes it. Is Robert Wenzel’s private property society theory the remedy to our thirst for liberty?
What are your thoughts on private property society theory? Let us know in the comments section!