Anarcho-capitalism is a political ideology that falls under the category of libertarianism. I'll state now that I'm against this idea and I want to do my best to not build a straw man. I want to accurately describe the ideology, which I'm going to do now.
A libertarian society is one with a government that is in charge of protecting rights and that's the only role. The government does this is through a legislative branch, an executive branch, and judicial branch. This means laws that are designed to protect individual rights, police and military to protect these rights from violators, and a courts to prosecute those that violate rights. This society has retaliatory force (ie: the force used to protect rights) held in a monopoly by the government (aside from immediate self defense).
The anarcho-capitalist society is the same as the libertarian society, but the big difference is that the operations of government (police, courts, laws) become market players. Putting it simply, the monopoly on government is broken and consumers in society can choose these services from private businesses described as 'private defense forces', use arbitration in private courts and pay in (or participate) in some sort of larger threat (like war).
This form of 'anarchism' varies from the communist version of the same concept because this ideology is focused on property rights - something which doesn't exist in the communist version.
What separates a standard libertarian that believes in government and an anarcho-capitalist is the non-aggression principle (NAP) (also known as zero-aggression principle). The view is that an individual being denied the ability to fund their own government/police/etc is a violation of NAP. Simply put; a government monopoly is a violation of rights.
The Case Against
I'm going to argue from the perspective of rights. Since the anarcho-capitalist justifies their ideology on using rights and defending their use - I will argue from that perspective.
My case; anarcho-capitalism doesn't protect rights by design and therefore should be rejected by its followers.
This whole situation boils down to three things; rights, force and epistemic application of the two former.
Rights are actions that an individual can make unimpeded by other individuals, up to the point where it violates the rights of others [See further reading at the bottom for more detail]. The one thing to take away is that rights are not subjective. They're not vague. They're well defined. Yet, in a market place rights are not necessarily interpreted the same way. Do animals have rights equal to that of humans? Well, if you're willing to pay - yes. Is it a capital offense to draw a picture of the prophet Muhammad? Well, if you're willing to pay - yes.
We're left in a position of where do rights come from. Do rights come before the concept of politics? Obviously rights do, since rights were used to describe and build this anarcho-capitalist ideology, yet this ideal society leaves rights as subjective constructs to be purchased on whim from businesses offering services for a profit.
I'm left thinking, does one have the right to choose their rights or does one have the right to choose rights?
There is more to this discussion. Rights are the actions individuals can make, but there is also the framework for dealing with violators and ensuring justice is properly applied. When learning about anarcho-capitalism you'll hear the term 'private defense agency' or something along these lines. I find this word quite heavily marketed and used strategically. What we're talking about is agents of force. They can be massive businesses with thousands of employees or it could be a simple one man operation.
Consumers are paying for this force, but they're not paying for the force to be used on themselves. They're paying for force to be used on other people. They're going to use it on people they deem to be immoral or rights violators. A simple example of this is a dynamic between a PETA member and a farmer. A PETA member is going to purchase force from an agent that believes animals and humans have equal rights. And a farmer is going to purchase force from an agent that views animals as property. How does a dynamic like this work? Does the PETA agent
kidnap arrest the farmer and lock him up? Can the PETA member just save themselves money and kidnap arrest the farmer?
Private arbitration may be brought up at this point, but it's not really an applicable application - as both sides view of rights are going to violated. And there is a laundry list of other issues that this may apply. Just think abortion.
Since people are purchasing their own subjective rights, we have force used in subjective ways. How this is a defense of rights is beyond me.
It's also worth mentioning where does the right to choose force come from? Does one have the right to choose rights violating force?
Due Process (Epistemic)
Lastly, the process of dealing with issues, wronged parties, crime and investigation require due process for rights to be protected. If someone steals my property (let's say a pig from my farm), I lose. My agency can
kidnap arrest the PETA member that stole it, but their agent of force views animals as not property. So what happens? No answer.
Private arbitration requires parties to have a contract or understanding of terms. There are no terms between the two. We're left with no answer.
The market will figure it out is not an answer - it's too important for rights.
Crimes happen all the time, so what happens there? Someone is murdered on your lawn. It's your property and if you want to suspend people from coming on your property - you can. Does the property owners agent of force investigate? Or the victim's agent of force? Or the murderer's agent of force? No answer.
How is a case built? How is evidence seized? Who issues a warrant? What's the standard for a warrant? Who does the autopsy? Who owns the dead body? No answer.
The market will figure it out is not an answer - it's too important when we talk of rights.
Warrants are a real thing in a free society and how/when and to what standard is important. It grants the force and authority to enter someone's private property and seize assets. Crime scenes require property owners to temporarily lose their property rights over the scene while investigators work. Subpoenas require people to testify against their will.
Anarcho-capitalism is founded on the premise that choice in the marketplace for force is a right, like all others rights. My argument centered on this act of choosing force destroys all rights. The proper description for what is accomplished is nihilism. Rights become a meaningless concept of mere whim in the market place. Ethical force becomes another meaningless concept because all it turns into is what someone is willing to pay for - and really they don't have to pay - they can be an agent of force themselves.
The total lack of answers of how rights are protected is troubling, other than pay for a lot of fire power, which results in non-definitions, non-understanding and non-objective laws as the intended consequences. "The market will figure it out" is the end result to sum up the simple nihilism.
I'd also like to add for those anarcho-capitalists thinking; 'well all your objections happen in government right now, so what's the difference?" Exactly, what's the difference? Anarcho-capitalism, by design, doesn't fix the vary problems it's proponents complain about and only results in the choice of force on other people. For me, it's in no way a step up and results in far less rights for everyone.