DRO' Protection: An Example of How It Could Work


February 12, 2007

I'm a great fan of the podcasts produced by Stefan Molyneux, an anarcho-capitalist podcaster and writer based in Canada , who surely is one of the finest contemporary libertarian/market anarchist thinkers. By reading the title of this piece, you may be wondering what a "DRO" is. Well, the term is an acronym, meaning "Dispute Resolution Organisation." "DROs" are a concept formulated by Molyneux. Within a stateless society, such institutions would replace the fundamental functions of government. Though unlike government, they would voluntarily provide protection, and a choice of protection would exist, due to the nature of the free market and competition. Molyneux describes the operation of a DRO as thus:

"How can the free market deal with the problem of dispute resolution? Outside the realm of organized crime, very few people are comfortable with armed confrontations, and so generally prefer to delegate that task to others. Let's assume that people's need for such representatives produces Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs), which promise to resolve disputes on their behalf.

Thus, if Stan is hired by Bob, they both sign a document specifying which DRO they both accept as an authority in dispute resolution. If they disagree about something, and are unable to resolve it between themselves, they submit their case to the DRO, and agree to abide by that DRO's decision."

A DRO could offer all forms of protection, ranging from safeguarding one's home from burglary, to policing the neighbourhood, to protecting your city from foreign attack. Anyone and everyone would possess the right to found and establish a DRO if they chose. As always, the existence of competition would lower prices amongst DROs within a specific community. So, what would a DRO contract look like?

Seeking protection

Imagine Dave. Dave lives with his wife, Tanya. Dave lives in a reasonably affluent part of town and holds down a steady 9 to 5 job and generally enjoys life within an anarcho-capitalist society. He likes the fact that his money retains its purchasing power. He likes the fact that he pays no taxes. But most of all, he likes being able to freely choose with whom to associate. However, he and his family still require protection. "Libertopia," like any human society, is not a utopia and bad people still roam about.

Dave's friend Jack was burglarized recently. Nothing much was stolen, but Jack was annoyed at the fact that someone had violated his property. This occurrence made Dave feel weary. That night, he spoke with his wife Tanya, and they decided that the family would sign up with a DRO. Since Dave lived in a large city, he was able to select from a wide range of DROs. Some catered to religious people, or gays, or blacks, or women, or even to specific professions. Eventually he chose to do business with American Protection, a nationwide DRO that had a good reputation.

What would Dave's needs be? He has a house to maintain. American Protection informed Dave that they offer mortgages and home insurance. Dave and Tanya also wanted financial security if one of them became unemployed. American Protection offers unemployment insurance at a reasonable rate. In spite of Jack's burglary, Dave wanted to inquire about police protection. American Protection has a dedicated police department, which investigates crimes such as those. Dave also wanted to ensure his safety from foreign invaders. Supposedly, American Protection possesses a series of nuclear weapons silos. After hearing this, Dave believed American Protection had enough to offer protection to his family. He signed a protection package with American Protection that day.

Several months later, Dave's DRO was successfully protecting his family. He had changed jobs in that period, and received adequate unemployment insurance from American Protection. The neighbourhood also hadn't suffered from any burglaries. However, the protection would come into good usage eventually. Tanya, whilst backing out of the driveway, accidentally scratched a neighbour's car. The neighbour was understanding and he and Tanya decided to take the matter to a DRO for arbitration.

Tanya and the neighbour opted to be heard at Metropolis Corp., a local DRO specialising in disputes between individuals. Tanya and the neighbour were heard quickly and inexpensively, even though the court found that Tanya had to pay for repairs, which she didn't really mind. Metropolis Corp even possessed a hierarchy of courts within their system, meaning that clients held the right to appeal decisions to higher courts within the organisation.

The difference

Imagine if Dave and Tanya still lived under the dominion of the state. Could Dave choose which level of protection he required, and what protection suited his family's needs? Could he even choose protection based upon his own personal values? No, of course not. Governmental services are a "one size fits all" phenomenon. If Dave's family still lived under the state, then he'd be subject to police that care little about protecting people. Or a state interesting in making enemies abroad and making its citizens targets for foreign terrorists.

The difference here is that Dave is free to live his life in accordance with his own values, desires and needs. If we own ourselves, then ultimately only we can make accurate choices for ourselves. No person knows us better than we know ourselves, yet continually, government ignores such a base aspect of the human condition. This is one reason why government doesn't work. It fails to account for our individual needs, wants and inclinations, since it always offers services in a uniform fashion. In contrast, the free market is always attempting to respond to consumer demand and is eager to cater to niche demands. Businesses in the free market know that few would purchase their goods and services if they didn't conform to consumer needs or wants. Government is the ultimate enemy and nemesis of liberty. It is not our friend or our ally. As anarcho-capitalists, it should be our duty to oppose the state at every possible opportunity.

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Columns on STR: 26

Christopher Awuku lives in the UK and works in the voluntary/community sector.  He runs a market anarchist blog at http://chrislib.blogspot.com