What would anarcho-capitalism look like, if we had it? How would it work? How would we solve all the problems that government now solves for us? It is easy to see how the need met by such things as government postal delivery might be met. It is not so easy to see how defense would be handled, or how we would be protected against tyranny.
Many people love the original Constitutional United States government system because they believe it to be the best system mankind has discovered for protecting liberty. Often you'll see such good patriots attempting to educate today's public about the fact that the U.S. system is not a democracy; it is instead the superior system of a Republic. Of course, in practice our system has been attempting to devolve from republic to democracy, and from there to socialism (did you ever know a Communist nation that didn't like to refer to itself as "The People's Democratic Socialist Republic of [Region]?"). And personally I think the similarities between republic and democracy are greater than their differences. But I do agree that Republican government was a great protection for liberty, and a great check against tyranny.
History has produced a long list of such checks against tyranny:
- the rule of law
- Constitutional government
- law applying to the ruler as well as the ruled
- republicanism (not the political party, the form of government)
- separation of powers
- bills of rights
- checks and balances
In the end, though, none of these is sufficient to guarantee liberty is never violated. And in fact some of them don't work nearly as well as advertised. And unfortunately many of them get equated with "liberty." Right now we say we want to spread "democracy," and we act as if that means spreading "liberty." The very definition of democracy is actually incompatible with liberty.
Anarcho-capitalism surpasses them all. And what's more, anarcho-capitalism actually is liberty.
I think a Republic was a great advance and a great protection for liberty, but in the end I think it always devolves again into tyranny. I do not believe one government can check itself, even if you have separation of powers. I believe governments can only be checked by the people, or by other governments.
Being checked by the people has always been a part of government's existence, even under tyranny, even since the first raiders rode into a peaceful town and proclaimed themselves kings. The government takes a lot from its people, in the form of liberty and resources. It loudly gives a large portion back in the form of services. They give enough back to keep the people from revolting, and this keeps their power and income sources secure. It's a little more civilized under a Republic, thankfully.
This necessity that government be checked by the people is always the reason for the need for the rights granted by the US second amendment to be secure and absolute. I know a lot of people think the 2nd amendment is about hunting (I used to), or personal defense against local criminals (I used to think that, too), but the reason the founders talked about was the need to protect from the main criminals of history: government.
The second way of checking government is why a Republic is not the greatest hope for human government, and anarcho-capitalism is. Under such a system, every person would have the right to secede from their government, as well as the right to form new governments within the same territory. Noone would have the right to compel anyone to be a citizen of their government; government would be by true contract. If a government became tyrannical to its citizens, they could form a new one (or several) to protect themselves from its depradations. If a government acted tyrannical to those who were not its citizens, they could protect themselves by forming their own government. And this is pretty much exactly what the Declaration of Independence says, that government is an institution with the special purpose of securing rights, and that all people have the right to form such an institution as seems best to them (though I doubt Jefferson envisioned multiple such institutions in the same geographic region).
Noone has the right to do that which is wrong, not even governing officials, and in all history the biggest threat to man's rights has been the government; therefore the most pressing reason to form a government is to protect its citizens from another government. Under our present system government does much which is wrong. As it exists, taxation is simply legalized theft (indeed, the government is simply a group that has a monopoly on breaking laws such as this with impunity), and much of the rest of what governments do is simply legalized slavery. Under a system of anarcho-capitalism this could not be the case. A government's only citizens would be people who had explicitly agreed to its terms, which would include whatever fees the previous citizens or founders had deemed necessary. Governments could actually compete for citizens by trying to offer the best protection for the best price.
People who wanted to keep the existing institution, the United States federal government, could do so. They could support it with their taxes, pledge their allegiance to it and salute its flag, think of it as the greatest country on earth, and everything they want to do now. They just couldn't compel other people to do so, and they'd have to allow their children to make the decision for themselves when they grew up, and they certainly couldn't force everyone who lived in their land after they died to be bound to the same institution for hundreds of years or forever. They'd have to grant everyone else the right to be free.
I'm going to say something you might not have realized anarcho-capitalists believed: we do need government. At least, we need to have our rights protected, and we need to create institutions to do that for the common good. What we don't need is to take away the rights of other people in order to protect that for ourselves. Government as it exists today rests on the premise that you and I cannot protect ourselves unless we force other people to furnish the means and manpower to do it, and to surrender complete allegiance to our system and any decisions it makes as well. This is not true! It might provide some form of protection, but it is inferior to what could be developed in a world of true freedom, it weakens the foundations of society by making us interact together in forced ways rather than those we would naturally choose, and it damages our economy because of the damage to our freedom, resulting in decreased wealth and therefore decreased capacity for the very defense we were trying to achieve, as well as decreased capacity to enjoy the fruit of our labors.