Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Anarcho-Libertarian "Stretching"

Tim Swanson, writing at the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, announces with glee "An Anarchistic Oasis In The Middle Of The Desert." The "anarchistic oasis" is the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which, according to an article quoted by Swanson,
is a free trade area, an enclave with no taxes or customs duties and no restrictions on foreign ownership. That, in itself, is nothing special: Dubai has nearly a dozen [free trade areas] already. But what's unique about the . . . DIFC . . . is that Dubai's normal civil and commercial laws do not apply within.

Under a formal decree of the United Arab Emirates, and local laws signed by the late Ruler of Dubai, the two authorities that hold absolute power carved out an area from which they withdrew their own system of laws. The concept is breathtaking: here in DIFC, English common law reigns supreme - and under a British chief justice. Although there are some similarities to the Vatican, Hong Kong and even Gaza, it is thought to be the first time that any state has done this.
State sponsorship of English common law under a British chief justice is hardly the stuff of anarchy, or even of Hayekian spontaneous order. Welcome as the rule of common law may be (and I welcome it), the DFIC is not an instance of anarchy in action. State-imposed anarchy is an oxymoron. The DFIC is an instance of state-sponsored liberty, such as Americans enjoyed (more or less) from 1789 until about 1933 -- and moreso from 1865 until about 1933.