There is a little known book out there called “The Enterprise of Law” by Bruce Benson. I was introduced to it by Richard Maybury, who highly recommended it in his books. That was about two years ago. I got the book from our local (public) library and enjoyed reading it. I thought, “oh, these are some interesting ideas on privatizing some government jobs.” Then more recently, I was reminded of the book and I realized it was a manifesto, of sorts, for anarchy. Since I’m swamped with reading, I don’t have time to reread the book, but I found my notes from it. Sadly, these notes were taken during a time when I was attempting to become ambidextrous, and so most of my notes have a slight resemblance to the writing of my three-year old sister. That makes it a little difficult to figure out, but I will try my best.
I see this book something like Bob Murphy’s “Chaos Theory” but on a much more thorough level. Most people won’t have the interest or patience to wade through Benson’s book, whereas Murphy was able to condense the common objections to anarchy and give a concise reply.
Benson notes near the beginning of his book that “alternatively [as opposed to a private and fully voluntary system], if a minority coercively imposes law from above, then the law will require much more force to maintain social order.” Some might argue that Benson is right, this system isn’t the best, but hey, it is best we have. Yet he points out, “The primary functions of governments are to act as a mechanism to take wealth from some and transfer it to others…” At the time, I breezed over the implications of what Benson says, but I realize now that the only alternative would be anarchy. He sounds almost like Rothbard. Very nice to see the connection between this book read a long time ago, and my more recent developments.
Many people trace the roots of our nation back to the Magna Carta, often cited as the forerunner of the United States Constitution. However, Benson challenges this assumption. He paints a different picture of the social structure of England at the time of the Magna Carta, (early 1200’s) and instead of simply dividing the society between the king (“bad”) and the commoners (“good”) he argues that before the king, there had been an upper strata of noblemen who ruled the commoners as an oligarchy. The king essentially took away their power, and the Magna Carta was not an effort to free the people, but to change their master, it was “an effort by the noblemen to regain their ‘rights’ and re-establish their feudal right to confiscate land, a right the kind had taken.”
Benson also distinguishes between political law and common (or customary) law, a concept I was familiar with from Richard Maybury’s books. A law prohibiting murder is based on common law or moral law. A law prohibiting a person from eating pizza on Mondays is not based on common law, but is purely political. There is nothing to back it up besides the force of the government. So Benson says, “… Customary law requires voluntary acceptance in recognition of reciprocal benefits, so it much less likely to be violated than enacted authoritarian [political] law.” If you violate the law against murder, there is nothing to stop someone from murdering you.
To be continued….