More than occasionally, an objection is raised against anarcho-capitalism that goes something like this: Since the private courts, private security, etc. envisaged by anarcho-capitalists would employ coercion against people, then anarcho-capitalism would just be a different kind of State, but a State nonetheless.
At first blush, this may seem to be true, but upon the tiniest examination it falls apart. First, we must keep in mind the true scope of the non-aggression principle: it is far more circumscribed than opponents of anarcho-capitalism would have it. It states, briefly, an ethic of not initiating violence against another person or his property. If, however, some clown breaks into your house and steals your best pair of shoes, then, in the anarcho-capitalist system you can take him to court to mete out some kind of justice for this theft. The thief, in this case, is not a victim of coercion; he is an aggressor. (That being said, this doesn’t mean that I support much of what our modern criminal justice system does, even in cases of real crimes such as theft, as distinguished from the non-crimes dreamed up by positive law, such as the requirement to have your car inspected every year, or the ban on certain drugs deemed “illicit.”)
The system of private courts, etc, is far different than that which obtains under a State, however; for in a State, very often the violence is initiated by the government itself. The citizen has done nothing wrong, is just trying to live his life, make it through his day, feed his children and buy his wife something nice for her birthday. Then the tax man comes and says, “Give us half your money or else…” Let’s say he makes a mistake on his tax return. He could be fined, to say the very least. This is aggression; it is even violence, since taxes are collected, ultimately, at the point of a gun. Or there’s a lazy ass teenager sitting in his mother’s basement, smoking pot and playing video games, wasting his life and embarrassing everyone who loves him. Then one day a judge warehouses him for smoking the bud.
But what have these citizens done? They have neither inflicted violence on anyone, nor have they stolen from anyone. Why, then, should the law be concerned with them? Yet the State concerns itself with non-violent “criminals” all the time. Since these non-criminals have violated no one’s rights, but only the Utopian schemes of the authors of positive law, then they are the ones who are the victims of aggression when the State puts them in shackles.
Murray Rothbard cleared new land by combining the tradition of natural rights with the system of capitalism. For more on this subject, his book The Ethics of Liberty is strongly recommended. In this work he outlines how the anarcho-capitalist system will work, not through violence and coercion as the State operates, but through mutual exchange based on private property rights. The work of Rothbard needs to be advanced as much as possible, so that one day the inalienable rights of mankind will rule our law, not by force of positive diktat, but by the triumph of the non-aggression principle, enshrined as the starting point for the ethical system on which our society is based.