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A-Team Stands for Anarcho-Capitalism

  • hannibal-enemy-of-the-state-shirt
July 17, 2006

Tags Media and CultureAustrian Economics OverviewPhilosophy and Methodology


"The A-team" supports the idea of natural law, rejects the nominalist tradition, rejects relativism both on ethical and epistemological grounds, supports entrepreneurship and free market, praises division of labor and monetary economy, builds its morality on the nonaggression axiom, rejects the necessity for economic regulation, undermines the government itself by demonstration of its failures, and shows how society is shaped by human action.

The "A" in the praised TV series probably stands for anarcho-capitalist.

  1. First of all, the A-team is an illegal, anti-government, underground organization of people who escaped from prison. They are outlaws, surely pay no taxes, and, in most episodes, the US army is chasing them. Are these guys a band of thugs? Not at all. They are portrayed as positive heroes and the government apparatus is portrayed as the institution that unjustly tries to imprison them.

  2. The A-team does not respect positive law, since this statist invention is responsible for their plight. However, the whole series is built on the idea that there are easily recognizable ethical values that cannot be questioned by any human being, even by the state itself. There is no moral relativism, or epistemological relativism, for we exactly know what is right and what is wrong, and our intellect grants us the ability to recognize it. No verdict, no bill, or no general's will can change that fact. Official institutions can only obscure the nature of things, and nobody has a power to change them. This clearly corresponds to the idea of natural law, so greatly expressed by Bastiat - positive law that denies natural law can have only one consequence: law perverted. Hence the A-team believes rightly that there are universal and never changing ethical values, which should be respected at any time by anyone.

  1. One of the most famous sentences from the theme is the reference to a "crime they didn't commit." During the Vietnam War these soldiers were ordered by their colonel to rob a bank. After they finished their job, they found out that their headquarters were destroyed. It was impossible for them to prove that they acted as the colonel told them to. The US government, then, decided to prosecute them for the crime. Here we have another great example how positive law perverts the natural law. When the individuals acting on their own do something wrong, it is considered a "crime". But if the government engages in such a behavior, then suddenly "crime" is out of a picture. One of the famous examples is of course taxation. The state takes over people's income without their consent, but if some private individual takes someone's money without consent, he is considered a "criminal". This is a classic example of verbal law production and a Hobbesian belief that will can change or create law.

  2. The whole philosophy of the A-team boils down to an axiom of non-aggression. They never initiate a conquest on someone else's property, no matter what profits that would create. They also never defend true aggressors. Instead the people against whom aggression was initiated always employ them. This feature is completely essential for them to take any challenge. In the episodes they engage in entrepreneurial analysis to find out what is happening, who is responsible for what, and how the aggression was started. Moreover, the A-team is of course acting with the consent of the persons who were attacked--unlike the state, which grants to itself a right to decide for somebody to defend him.

  3. Clearly the A-team is an example of an anarchistic creativity, but certainly of the capitalist version, not the leftist one. The crew's actions are based on the advanced division of labor - it concerns both the internal organization, and the external, since the A-team obviously uses the external market in order to achieve its results. The clients are mostly people who are not good in the production of security, but instead devote their time to producing something else. With earned income they hire people with comparative advantage, the A-team, to protect their rightful property and lives.

  4. The A-team is a type of anarchist, anti-leftist, organization that relies on economic calculation. In a sense the A-team is a beneficial, efficiently organized firm, which has prices for its inputs and outputs. Every production process requires money capital so the necessary factors of production are bought (guns, oil, people hired, and other resources). In order for the whole process to be profitable the A-team naturally prices their product: the production of security. So forget the idea that it has anything to do with leftist anarchism. This production of security is organized on a completely commercial basis. All economic goods are scarce, so one has to pay a price for them.

  5. The anarchism of the A-team is clearly an Austrian type, not the neoclassical. Of course goods produced by them are priced, as any other useful service. It does not mean that at any times in any place the A-team is acting like a neoclassical firm owner, searching only for the lowest inputs and the highest revenues. As is mostly the case with real capitalists, the A-team sometimes offers its services for a lower price or even on a charitable basis. Hence we see that the crew is a clear example of homo agens, choosing means and ends, not homo economicus, automatically responding to price spreads. In other words, although economic calculation is essential to their proper functioning, there are limits to that calculation. Certain things are valued without reference to market prices.

  6. A-team successes are amazing despite the fact that the government has outlawed them. Moreover, they are not only haunted by the official law, but what is even more inspiring, they are a completely unregulated organization. Think about it - they got no permission from the government to act, no government official is subjecting them to an official statist control, they have no accounting books and no lawyers, they do not have to explain themselves or report to any politician. They just do their job by producing and supplying the goods that are demanded by peaceful individuals. And guess what? Without the government regulation their achievements are unbelievable.

  7. The A-team proves also that the so called 'free rider', or maybe in their case 'positive external effects', is completely irrelevant for the production of security. Statist theory claims that the production of security should be supplied by compulsory monopolistic measures since all the people benefit from them but cannot be excluded if they decide not to pay. In the A-team there is no problem with that. Of course there are certain individuals who will benefit from their actions despite the fact that they won't pay a penny. Any security agency is doing a favor to a person respecting property rights even though not every single person of that kind pays that agency. This, however, does not change the fact that the A-team works properly on the voluntary basis and finds its customers without monopolized use of force. They can successfully find the clients without making their services compulsory.

  8. What follows from the above is a pro-market view of the private business and the government production of goods, for the only thing the latter achieves is a government failure. The A-team has to be hired because the government, despite levying taxes, is not able to help individuals defend themselves. Instead of efficiently chasing the criminals, government is more interested in chasing real entrepreneurs. Fortunately the A-team is able to make fools of them, notoriously escaping from their custody with never-ending smiles on their faces. The crew's chief is Hannibal Smith, great leader, brilliant planner, a natural elite, who constantly smokes his cigar, a symbol of his defiance against the socialist-puritan ethos of our time.

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