State vs. anarchy -- the false dichotomy
Let me begin with the definition of a state. What must an agent be able to do to qualify as a state? This agent must be able to insist that all conflicts among the inhabitants of a given territory be brought to him for ultimate decision-making or be subject to his final review. In particular, this agent must be able to insist that all conflicts involving himself be adjudicated by him or his agent. And implied in the power to exclude all others from acting as ultimate judge, as the second defining characteristic of a state, is the agent's power to tax: to unilaterally determine the price that justice seekers must pay for his services. [Source]I'm not trying to pick on anarchists like Hoppe here. Statist political scientists and politicians also oversimplify the world of politics and law with this false dichotomy. This usually takes the form of observing that modern governments have feature X, and by two invalid steps of logic (that X is necessary for government and that without such government there is only lawless anarchy) concluding that anyplace lacking feature X would be a lawless anarchy. "Anarchy" is thus used as a boogyman to justify all sorts of brutality, waste, and other wrongs perpetrated by modern governments.
Let's start here:
This agent must be able to insist that all conflicts among the inhabitants of a given territory be brought to him for ultimate decision-making or be subject to his final reviewThe United States federal government does not "insist that all conflicts among the inhabitants of a given territory be brought to [it] for ultimate decision-making", nor even that all disputes are "subject to [its] final review." Most disputes occur under State and local law, and the final arbiters of State law are State supreme courts. Only in the minority of cases where a dispute raises a question of federal law, or involves people from multiple states, do federal courts assert jurisdiction. Nor, of course, do States hold an all-encompassing monopoly of power -- many issues instead come under local or federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, federal, State, and local governments all have overlapping powers of taxation.
Now it might be argued that some provisions of federal law, for example in the Constitution, are so ambiguous as to effectively allow federal courts to assert jurisdiction whenever they strongly desire to do so. To the extent that there is merit in this argument, it only creates a conflict of interest because federal courts are able to judge the scope of their own power:
In particular, this agent must be able to insist that all conflicts involving himself be adjudicated by him or his agent.Hoppe indeed identifies a serious defect in modern constitutions -- they violate the ancient common law maxim that no one should be a judge in his own case. But this defect is readily cured without the kind of radical from-scratch destruction and reconstruction of law and politics that the term "anarchy" suggests. The reforms needed to cure this defect (described in more detail here) are (1) selecting judges by a method completely independent of the other political branches, so that in no real sense would judges and those in other branches that they judge be agents of the same entity, or one the agent of the other, and (2) by reform of jurisdiction, for example by changing who has jurisdiction over constitutional questions. If federal courts were not selected by Presidents and Senates whose power they then judge, and if federal courts reviewed disputes involving state constitutions, and a super-federal court reviewed disputes involving the federal Constitution, so that they did not have final say over the scope of their own power, conflicts of interest of the kind that Hoppe rightly criticizes in modern governments would no longer commonly arise.
What Hoppe is really arguing against can more accurately be called "sovereignty", the idea of one entity with a monopoly over all coercive powers in a territory, than "state" or "government." There are plenty of configurations of coercive power, in fact most such configurations over most of history, that do not involve this kind of sovereignty. In highlighting the problems of sovereignty I quite agree with him, but observe that the United States and many other historical and current polities are or were not "sovereign" in this sense, and many historical entities (such as the system of political property rights over most of English history) were not even close.
Those of us who would like to greatly reduce the brutal and wasteful powers of modern governments do ourselves a great disservice by adopting the statist term "anarchist." Anarchy is the boogyman of statists. A libertarian calling himself an "anarchist" is like an agnostic or atheist calling himself a "Satanist." Seek not for imaginary opposites, but for real alternatives.