The Not So Wild, Wild West

The Not So Wild, Wild West, by Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill. An examination of property-rights and protection under voluntary organizations — such as private protection agencies, vigilantes, wagon trains, and early mining camps. Although the early West in North America was not completely anarchistic, government as a legitimate agency of coercion was absent for long enough to provide insights into the operation and viability of property rights in the absence of a formal state.

A longish and scholarly article. As reader Barry Corke comments:

Travelling enormous distances in wagons drawn by horses, mules or oxen, the people who pioneered the frontier of the American west moved far from the reach of government regulators and law enforcement agencies.

If one were to attempt such a journey today there is a good chance that the demands of modern day regulators seeking permits, licences and accreditations would prove as challenging to deal with as the plains, rivers and mountain passes faced by the early travellers.

So was it possible for the early communities of the American west to function without constant supervision by the regulating class?

As disturbing as it may be to those who believe that government should be the arbitrator of all problems, it seems that people are quite capable of establishing for themselves a situation where property rights are protected and civil order prevails.

As the American “Wild” West shows, when government is absent we do not necessarily get chaos or confusion, but voluntary organization.

hat-tip Barry Corke