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Bureaucracy Emerges

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In my job I tinker with anarcho-capitalism, the idea that without government, private firms would enforce contracts through arbitration and provide defense like insurance. In theory, it should reward good choices and punish bad ones, which will produce better decision makers in the populace. The internet is almost government-free: enforcing gaming laws is a losing battle, adult content is always available to minors at no cost, and for years it was a good case for anarcho-capitalism. I was an anarcho-capitalist for some time, but a recent site hack is making me rethink that.

Recently Network Solutions, where my website is hosted, was hacked. They pulled the regular heist: hack server, change all ftp passwords, edit pages with malicious code that takes viewers to a page where they’ll download something unpleasant, sit back and watch the stats to see how many people are upset. Hacks never bothered me. We’re hit every year or so. You clean the code, patch the hole, restore your backup (your fault if you don’t have one), and get on with life without hassle. People like me with a decent understanding of coding and how to prevent most attacks enjoy this self-reliance, which is about the closest thing to anarcho-capitalism we’ll see outside of living in space. Knowing I can take care of myself in this hostile world makes me feel warm inside.

But this time, even after I cleaned my site, the ordeal wasn’t over. Google scans pages for malicious code, and if they find any, they don’t index your site. Goodbye 80% of searches. If Google doesn’t index your site, Firefox also blocks your site.  Goodbye 40% of remaining visitors. Our stats dropped off the face of the planet and would stay that way until Google approved our site. Even with the code removed, Google claimed that our site had a security loophole, which could only be fixed through Network Solutions. I had to go through NetSol, wait for them to fix their server, then apply for Google to check my website again so that it could be re-indexed on Google and accessible to Firefox users. This could be prevented if I had my own standalone server, but only the big guys with IT teams can handle that. Little guys go through a provider like NetSol or Go Daddy.

Private enforcement by Google in an attempt to protect its customers is an-cap in a nutshell. David Friedman makes similar arguments, as does Hans Hermann Hoppe for private defense and crime insurance. But when private firms own a market-share of customers that it protects by preventing their access to a place of business, you’re basically talking about governance.

Not that it’s bad governance. Once the code and security loopholes were actually fixed, my site was up in a day. Try getting that kind of turnaround with a builder’s permit. The wonders of profit-based governance! If NetSol had dragged its feet, it may have taken a month, but NetSol is profit-based too, so they had an interest in fixing the problem. DMV it is not, but it is governance, which comes with bureaucracy and red tape, and that’s not an-cap as I understand it. That this private form of bureaucracy emerged from internet anarchy, festering with malevolent Ukrainians and Nigerians, isn’t a case that an-cap is bad, but that it leads to a sort of patchwork of efficient, private governance owned by share-holders and run by well-paid CEOs. I’d be ecstatic if America were run this way.

Written by xout

August 2, 2010 at 10:09 am