Quite often when discussing voluntaryism with people, I get this question: “So, are you saying that might makes right?” I get this question because these conversations typically boil down to conflict resolution. When two parties are in conflict over something, such as property rights, which cannot be resolved through any amount of arbitration (neither side needs to recognise an arbitrator’s decision, after all) the “winner” will be the one which can garner the most outside support. One party may have an insurance or security company who will drop them because they refuse to follow the arbitrator. Or one party’s security company may be so much larger than the other as to make enforcement against it too risky.
In essence, when an intractable conflict occurs, might will always be the final arbiter.
This frightens people, and understandably so. Most people have been taught that might doesn’t make right, that the little guy can still win against great odds, that society protects the interests of the weak. Unfortunately, none of this is actually true. In reality we’ve been indoctrinated with blinders to not see that the above scenario is exactly how it works today. Might is still the final arbiter. What makes it hard to see is that the “might” is all held by one company, the government.
There’s no more reason for a person to accept the ruling of a government court than there is for the person to accept the ruling of a private arbitrator. That is, except for the might wielded by the court’s enforcement arm, the police. In a voluntary society, just like in a government one, I protect my property exactly the same way: with the might of those who agree that my property should be protected. The market will do an excellent job of finding the balance between these conflicting centres of “might” because people will be able to move freely between them as their needs or circumstances change. Unlike the single centre of might we have today, which is controlled by a small group of people.
So, when asked this question I usually respond, “Not any more than you do.” As a further illustration I ask them to consider why it is that the current government is in charge. In the US, for example, why is it that the United States government runs the country and not the British? Or a Mexican or Spanish or Japanese or German, or especially Native American government? What allowed it to rise to dominance? The answer is simple, the United States government used its might to defeat all existing and potential competition for governing the country. Might has made right, for all intents and purposes.
Let me also add, that I don’t like the phrase “might makes right.” I prefer the phrase “might makes moot.” Not only is it a nice alliteration, but it also is more accurate. Might in no way makes someone right, but it does make it irrelevant who is. You may be right in crossing at a marked crosswalk, but the 10-tonne truck bearing down on you makes your “rightness” completely moot. The loser of a government court case may still be right, but it doesn’t much matter when the police come to take their property.
For better or worse, might will always be the final decision maker in conflicts. Acknowledging that fact is one of the first steps to accepting a voluntary mindset. Being afraid of it doesn’t make much sense when we live with the fact every day, no matter how well hidden by our training.