Regardless of where you are on the libertarian spectrum, libertarians understand that the state is a breeding ground for corruption and power consolidation.  Without the state, our world would certainly be different; the possibilities are unlimited.  But since the government intrudes itself into the market place and our daily lives, should we have some skepticism about the outcomes we see around us? If you are a free market enthusiast like me, you would understand that if the market was free to operate without any state intrusion, and if people had more freedom in their social lives, our world would be different to what it is today.  There is one development that is taking place in America that I think is a great example of this: the Keystone pipeline.

 

The Keystone pipeline is an oil pipeline that stretches thousand of miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Since 2008, there has been proposals to add an extension of the pipeline. This is part of the pipeline is more specifically known as the Keystone XL.  This massive pipeline is a major project that would need a lot of resources, land, and capital to complete this development.  I’ve seen some support from anarch0-capitialists for the Keystone pipeline.  But I think there is one question that free market anarchists should ask themselves: Could the Keystone pipeline happen in a stateless society where property rights are upheld and respected?

 

It seems logical to think that a pipeline as big as the Keystone XL could cause some problems for the private property owners that are adjacent to this pipeline.  In which case the question becomes: Will the land that is required to build such a colossal project like the Keystone XL be acquired justly? Theoretically, one could say that it is possible acquire such a vast amount of land; the oil company could possibly homestead some of the land, but even if that was the case, it is most likely that a fraction of the land would be unowned and available for homesteading.  So homesteading seems like an insufficient way of obtaining title of this gargantuan piece of property.

 

In the case that they’re other property owners surrounding the land where this pipeline would go, it is also very doubtful that you could get easements and voluntary arrangements regarding their land from all of these different property owners.  It seems likely that a possible dilemma could happen between the company who wishes to build the pipe line and the people who live in the area.  In conclusion, it seems that an oil company would have a rough time accounting for all of the costs of obtaining multiple pieces of property in a stateless society.

 

This brings me to another point: the cost of such a project would be dramatically higher in a stateless society.  In present day society, the state subsidizes many of the costs that would otherwise be internalize in a stateless society.  Take security for example.  Security is a huge cost that is currently subsidize by the state.  Today, the citizens are on the tab for the security for the Keystone pipeline, but in a stateless society, the company who would build the pipeline would be responsible for the whole entire cost.  Never mind the fact that you would actually have to purchase all the land instead of having the state expropriate the current land owners to obtain this land.  Only when the state grants itself privileges such as eminent domain can a piece of property of this size can be obtained.  Since the state doesn’t have a  presence, the company wouldn’t be able to socialize those costs onto everyone else.

 

The role of the state is extremely critical for this development. Without the state, it is safe to say that the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t happen.  The odds of acquiring all the land in a legitimate fashion are slim, and the costs of such a project would be way more overbearing on a company and more internalize than it currently would be.

 

I think it is safe to say that the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t happen in a stateless society — not unless the company decided to expropriate the land in a violent manner (which is what the state is for — even though in theory a private company could hire people to do the expropriation, but again, this becomes very costly in a stateless society).  It is vital to remember how much the state distorts the current society that we live in.  What might seem like market forces coordinating to the will of the consumer could be instead a distorted coordination that was influenced by the central planners of the state.  As libertarians, we must be consistent in our principles and philosophy so it is critical to investigate what we support.  We should have an unfavorable view of the Keystone pipeline because the roots of such a project are clearly grounded in statism.