"But... I thought we need a government to force some things so that the weak and poor are not trampled under the boots of those with power?"
Nope. That's a myth. Actually, we can have a system where people are free to opt in or opt out of every service or plan; zero coercion which includes: people can not use monopoly-like / government-like power against others without serious repercussions. It also means there is NO entity that has a legitimized use of force. Think about it. Our government has a monopoly on law, money, violence, a near monopoly on education, and a growing monopoly on health care. What has this led to? Are we rich? Are we peaceful? Are we well educated? And I'm not getting into (in this article) health care or the war on drugs.
"But if you get rid of government, then corporations and gangs would be free to start coercing people."
No. Voluntaryism is not pacifism. Remember: we are talking about a purely voluntary region where there is no legitimization of initiation of force. You know, like we were taught in kindergarten. That means the minute a person or firm initiates use of force, people are free to band together and stop it. More here on "warlords".
Also, "corporation" is a State protected entity and no State means firms no longer have the following State-sanctioned benefits:
(a) Limited liability; (b) Regulatory capture (where corporations write or influence regulation through bribery lobbying and revolving doors for CEOs/gov officials - to favor their company and make it hard for competitors/newcomers in the same industry); (c) Favoritism via State granted contracts and laws;
(d) Favoritism via State granted patents and copyrights; (e) Tax breaks; and (f) Bailouts.
Meaning companies can and will be held fully responsible to their customers by their customers as well as by the various watchdog groups that do and will exist. Also DROs and PSOs in a Stateless society will encounter a lot of skepticism and fear because people have thrown off the shackles of a big coercive central entity controlled by corporations. The smart DROs and PSOs will want to contractually reassure their customers by agreeing to be bound by large bonds to be forfeited if their Voluntaryist code of conduct is breached.
Plus, their competition will keep them on their toes: consider the many competing dispute resolution organizations (DROs) and private security organizations (PSOs) (see the 2nd video) that will surely flourish in a free market.
Finally, peaceful solutions are typically more cost effective than violent solutions. Also remember that cost is not limited to money; reputation matters, especially in this age of instantaneous and wide-spread communication. This often brings up the following question:
"But if you have competing PSOs but the owner of one PSO secretly buys up a couple DROs and watchdog companies, what happens?"
Every time the DRO pronounces an unfair judgement, people talk. Word spreads. Again, remember, in a State-less society, reputation has much more currency than it does in a system where powerful corporations can rely on the State to fight competition. "Free Market" doesn't just mean "free to make profits"; it means "free to make profits and losses". It means the customer truly is king.
Another popular question: "What about criminals? With no police, criminals will do as they please. Voluntaryism assumes people will behave like angels." The second video answers this question.
Since 1995 I've thought of myself as Libertarian. Then, near the end of 2011, coinciding with the death of my father and grandmother, I started listening to and having conversations with some highly intelligent Voluntaryists (re-branded Anarchists) who helped me see that:
(1) Voluntaryism is based on the NAP (Non Aggression Principle) so it's actually the farthest from being a violent system, given the core value is non-coercion; and
(2) There are many people out there with well-thought-out systems allowing for large populations to have no government, yet create voluntary associations of people who have a common goal. While I do not wish to side track you from watching the two videos below, here is one (also 18 minutes total) that shows a slightly different vision of "Anarchia", taking a more "zoomed out" view and probably answering a wider variety of questions about Anarchy/Voluntaryism in general.
The goal is for an emphasis on voluntary-only trade to lead away from war/theft and toward generosity coming from the heart. When you force a child to share their toys, what prices do you pay?
One of those systems I found in an 18 minute YouTube video that explains one way people can have security in a Voluntaryist system. The video is broken up into two pieces (see the two videos at the top/right of this page):
Part 1 - Principles (8 min):
Part 2 - Conflict Resolution in a Free Society (10 min):
Another solution for security in a voluntary society (13 min):
Devil's Advocate Question:
In the first video it is clear to me that on the three-person-island or even in a larger community no one will accept someone who tries to grab at monopolization of the law. If people understand the ideas involved it will be seen as unfair, and just like with other unfair practices, it will damage the reputation of the arbitrator, losing them business. But in reality I doubt it would be a sudden and easily noticed change that people will react to in a big way. If we had private security and justice firms I imagine they would grow to be large corporations in the same way that other corporations do, and may sometimes become monopolistic gradually. At that point where a security firm grows into a monopoly, how will the consumers take back their arbitration power? The security and justice companies would have the same resources that governments do today, wouldn't they? Except that in this case there would not be a set of rules in place to insure that there is at least some democratic input in decisions about arbitration and law.
Under an economically (rather than politically) based justice system people with huge amounts of economic resources at their disposal would be able to buy off security firms and get away with murder (as long as they could make it worth the cost to the company in lost reputation and lost customers). Arguably this is somewhat true under political systems like ours as well, but I would estimate to a much smaller extent.
Answer: In practice, the only monopolies that remain for very long times are the ones that are supported by the state. Natural monopolies don't remain monopolies very long since they succumb to competition. I suppose the exception would be if the company were able to adapt to new environments (eg Google (although not a monopoly) has been doing a good job of this even though it took them several attempts at Social).
Large security firms (insurance agencies in the video) are controlled by their clients. If a firm starts abusing its power, clients will stop supporting it.
Also, the creep you describe is why I think states will always tend to grow and erode our liberties.
I suppose, yes, in theory someone could pay enough to get away with murder. OTOH, they would be using their own money unlike, say, the military industrial complex. I would think, though, that if they had that much money, they might as well just raise their own military. Even then, if they abuse that power, their business (whatever that may be) would pay the consequences. In the end, force is a wealth destroying thing and the vast majority of people wouldn't use it. There are sociopaths, though, so really what you're asking is "What if a rich sociopath committed murder and gets away with it?" That would certainly be unfortunate. OTOH, look at what gains we would have despite that cost? And compare the costs we have today versus the gains.
There can be no such evidence supporting that natural monopolies would succumb to competition; that would be akin to finding a natural monopoly that hasn't succumb to competition. The most famous case, though, was of Standard Oil. Even at their peak, they maintained only 36% of the US market. And they were facing stiff competition abroad.
What monopolies have you seen that have lasted? What state boost did or do they receive?
Again, FB pretty much had a US monopoly on social network sites. Google is now gaining ground on that. And before Google, Yahoo, had a large chunk of the search market. What you cite about monopolies is theory, but it doesn't happen in practice. This is because once a company is too large, they start not wanting to compete with their money-maker so they don't enter into new areas. This was the worry about Netflix, but they made the tough choice of servicing both DVD and streaming. You'll notice the old guard hasn't embraced streaming as much.
Yes, Wal-Mart drives out small businesses. This is because: (a) Wal-Mart is more efficient at what they do and (b) Walmart is largely successful due to indirect government subsidies. The majority of Walmart employees are on some form of public assistance. This is effectively taxpayers subsidizing Walmart's workforce, which allows them to remain competitive in the labor market. Without the subsidies, they'd be forced to pay a competitive wage and they would dwindle to a more reasonable size.
The same happened with Blockbuster and Blockbuster lost lots of market share to Netflix. Going back to Wal-Mart, they support increases to minimum wage because it'll hurt their competition (small businesses) more. Costco, Target, KMart, etc are also more efficient than small businesses and they compete against Wal-Mart.