Skip to main content.


Imagine two cities in which you might try to, among other aspects of living your life, start a small business out of your home selling trinkets to people, in order to supplement the income from your day job.

In the first, there may be gangs roving the streets who might decide to break into your house, steal everything in it, and maybe even try to rape or kill you. If they do, the police will not come, you will not be able to have the gang arrested, nor to have your case heard in the city's courts. If they get to be too much of a threat, you might have to buy some guns, train yourself and your family how to use them, install security around your house, make agreements with your neighbors that you will each protect each other from these gangs, and/or hire a private security company to help protect you.

In the second city, there are also gangs roving the streets who might decide to attack you as well. But when they attack you, they have devices that let them trivially get past your security and to render your guns ineffective, the neighbors are helpless to do anything, and it turns out they actually run the security company you hired. This gang, when they decide to attack, will not only take everything they can find in the house, but possibly the house itself, and everything you have in your bank account. Not only that, but once they've finished their initial attack, now that you are on their radar, they will come back over and over again, with you still utterly defenseless, and take everything you've managed to acquire since they cleaned you out the first time. But you probably haven't acquired anything, because they've also threatened your boss that they'll do the same to him if he keeps paying you, and likewise threatened every other boss of every other company the same way.

But, in this second city, there is a way to mitigate this risk as well. The gang comes around one day (before they've attacked anyone), and tells you (and all the neighbors) that they will not attack you if you do the following: give them a bunch of money right now; give them partial ownership of your business, including a cut of the profits, the right to examine the books, and the right to set the business's policies and procedures; promise that if you quit this business, you will ask them for permission before starting another one - and give them the same partial ownership of that one; give them a part of any other money you earn in the future for the rest of your life; make your bank account a joint account with them in case they decide they want the money in it anyway; pay them to "babysit" your kids for several hours a day until they are grown up; and agree that they can add more demands anytime they want. And even then, they may decide to attack you anyway, you'll never have any way to hold them to their promises.

Of course, you can always take your chances that they'll never pick you as one they'll attack. But if you refuse their deal, you'd best lay low and not do anything that will attract their attention. Things like starting a business or putting a lot of money in your bank account, or even just going outside at night, could be the thing that alerts them.

Which city is the most lawless? Which city would you prefer to take your chances living and doing business in?

Oh, I forgot to mention one aspect of the second city's gang that might make their life-long terrorizing of you and the neighborhood seem not all that bad. They come around to the neighborhood every so often with a questionnaire asking for your advice on how the gang should manage it's finances and other business, and on a selection of people being considered as the new gang leader. So, if you don't like what they are doing, it's really just your own fault.

Does this sound familiar? It should. The second "city" is the one you are living in right now. The first could be described by the term "anarchy" - the prefix "a" means "without", and the root, "archy", is from the Greek word for roving gangs who systematically terrorize people throughout their entire lives while telling them it's for their own good. It might seem risky, but compared to the alternative, you could probably manage to stay fairly safe.

Hat tip Balko via Coyote



Hear, hear!

Posted by Dave Zinn at Tuesday, February 05, 2008 11:18 AM

Add Comment

This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it