L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 212, February 24, 2003
SEND IN THE CLOWNS
Defending A Free Society
Exclusive to TLE
My essay entitled "Endgame" generated the most e-mail I've ever received on a single topic. I expected this, since I take the position that the United States' Middle Eastern problems are self-inflicted and would evaporate if the FedGov practiced a Constitutional foreign policy.
What I didn't expect was that with only a couple of exceptions, the mail was extremely supportive. Instead of ire, I was rewarded with near- universal agreement. Those holding disparate views were thoughtful, their objections summed-up by one particularly insightful reader:
"Would you not say that the state of nuclear proliferation in the world demands that we stay involved in global affairs -- at least to the extent that we can keep an eye on rogue nations such as North Korea? You may very well be right that our meddling in local affairs has incited hatred of us and that we should withdraw from the middle east, Europe, and Asia post-haste. If we do that, do we turn our backs on friendly countries who will eventually face a militarized China?"
I understand and to some extent share this concern. The American population is outnumbered by Chinese more than eight to one. Should an all-out war with China occur, common sense dictates that victory would simply be a matter of waiting us out.
The problem is that this relies on an inaccurate collectivist base assumption. Instead, consider this substitute:
A free society does not need a government-sponsored military in order to make it secure, nor to defend others from aggression.
To understand why this is true, one must first examine the nature of government warfare:
Governments hold wars for one reason: to acquire real estate (hardly surprising, given that homo sapiens is the most territorial animal on planet Earth).
When one government attacks another, what are its goals? First, there is the capture of existing government centers. If the invader can force a recognized government to capitulate, existing government resources can be used force its will on the local population. In the process of gaining control of government, the defender's ability to counter an attack must be impeded or destroyed.
Imagine for a moment a region the size of North America -- only absent any kind of government. Instead, postulate a free society in which individuals have substituted external government with self-government guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, which states:
"No human being has the right -- under ANY circumstances -- to initiate force against another human being, nor to advocate or delegate its initiation."
In a free society, much of what we presently think of as "crime" is blessedly absent. Instead, it is replaced by actions that initiate force and those that do not. Murder, rape, and theft initiate force. Gambling, drug ownership and usage, and prostitution do not.
In particular, weapons ownership does not initiate force. In a free society in which individuals self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, any man, woman, or responsible child may own revolvers, semi-auto pistols, machine pistols, full-auto rifles, jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, particle beam weapons, plasma weapons, nuclear missiles, earth-orbit spacecraft, space stations, interplanetary spaceships, and interstellar starships. Any limitations on ownership is imposed by the free market rather than government. In a free society, there is nothing to stop an individual them from parking his privately-owned jet fighter next to the family Cessna, or an aircraft carrier in a slip next to an ocean liner.
Before you become frightened by this notion, remember the lessons taught by Dr. John Lott in his seminal work on the subject, More Guns, Less Crime: weapons in private hands DECREASE the likelihood of initiated force. The reason for this is simple: force initiators don't want trouble. They want disarmed, easy victims ripe for the taking. Whenever there exists a high statistical likelihood that initiation of force will result in injury or death, force initiators universally choose to curb their behavior.
Those few individuals that can't restrain themselves will be dead in short order, eliminated by an intended victim.
Recall the goals of government warfare: control of existing government centers, inhibition of an enemy's ability to resist, and imposition of control over the native population.
In a free society, how will an invader take control of government centers that do not exist? If there is no President empowered to surrender control over individuals' lives, how will an invader conquer anything?
With no national capital that can capitulate for an entire region, what will be an invader's targets? Military bases, by which to eliminate troops and seize their materiel? Without government, there are no military bases and materiel is decentralized, in private hands.
A house-to-house search isn't feasible because the invaders can be set upon from all directions by individuals wielding uncataloged, unregistered deadly weapons. There is no telling what might be hidden behind any given door. Grenades? Rocket launchers? Coilguns tinkered together in the garage? Catalytic fusion-powered lasers or particle beam weapons? Tactical nuclear weapons?
An invading force might attack financial centers, by which to leech resources from the economy, but there's a problem: if an invader captured Wall Street, how long before it is replaced by the Chicago Board of Trade? Without government interference, capture of a financial center becomes about as debilitating as if it were destroyed by natural disaster. The market will move its own center, the location governed by the market itself. While the loss of any given center would no doubt be temporarily disabling, in short order the market will adjust.
Besides, how would an invading force take and hold Wall Street? It would need to transport troops in sufficient numbers to destroy an entrenched, heavily-armed populace of MILLIONS. In a metropolitan area of several million armed men, women, and responsible children, how large an invading force would it take? Ten million troops? Fifty million?
Organized warfare is absolutely dependant on government in order to be viable. A conqueror needs its own government in order to raise an army and it needs an opposing government to conquer.
280 million free individuals who do not recognize the power of a central authority cannot be conquered. It's akin to a wolf attempting to subdue a horde of army ants.
Even today, it would be impossible to conquer my home state of South Dakota. Virtually every male over age 12 owns at least one handgun, a .22 caliber rifle, and a deer rifle. In fact, the average home arsenal is significantly better-stocked than this minimum.
The citizenry is simply too well-armed: you'd have to use widespread nuclear weapons, in the process destroying the valuable ranch and farmland you're attempting to acquire.
The reason South Dakota can't be conquered isn't because of National Guard armories or air bases -- though these would no doubt make enticing targets for an invader. It's because there's no way an invading force can destroy a decentralized, heavily-armed populace.
However, for the sake of argument, let's imagine that in a free society in which individuals self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, an enormous invading force from Canada was able to successfully take Fargo, North Dakota. A force of half a million or so suddenly air-dropped might be able to accomplish this -- for a while.
The Evil Canadian Empire would first fight heavily-armed North Dakotans who object to their invasion. Not long afterward, Empire forces would be set upon by private militias and driven back to the Great White North.
Private militias are the other half of how a free society defends itself, and how it polices the world of dictators and madmen.
Recall that in a free society in which individual self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, there is no taxation of any kind. Personal taxation alone presently steals from every individual approximately fifty percent of their income. In addition, taxation of every good and service at every possible point of production presently increases consumer prices by 800%.
Recall, too, that in a free society, development of all products -- weapons included -- is regulated by the free market instead of government edict. Where a present-day jet fighter is far beyond the ability of an individual or the average business to purchase, this will not be the case in a free society. With market forces driving it, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and missiles will acquire competitive prices. The twin factors of decreasing cost and increasing quality will forever chase each other.
No doubt there is some objection to this. Conventional wisdom holds that weapons are somehow divorced from market forces simply because they happen to be weapons. In reality, weapons are divorced from market forces because government interferes in the market to such a high degree. One need only look as far as Colonel Samuel Colt's Peacemaker, or John Moses Browning's Model 1911 pistol to prove it.
In a free society, you have:
What will be the cost of food and clothing in a free society? Essentially free. A brand new, state-of-the-art personal laser pistol? Perhaps a few days's income. A new speeder-car out of Star Wars? A couple weeks' income. A new 3000-square foot home? A few months' income.
Particularly expensive weapons (ships, personnel transports, etc) will be purchased by either the extremely wealthy, private volunteer militias, or security firms. The militias and security firms will compete in the marketplace for individuals' business, thereby introducing market forces into what is currently an incredibly wasteful, expensive government monopoly.
Impossible? It's not -- just examine the last remaining near-free-market in existence, the computing industry:
Half a century ago, a calculator of lesser capacity than today's five-dollar model filled a building -- and commanded an astronomical price tag. Computer scientists of 1953 would have killed for the computing capacity in a single handheld computer. They would have marvelled at the sheer raw computing power available in a modern game console. They'd have had a heart attack passing through a computer superstore.
Why have computers progressed so rapidly? Because government -- not understanding the power computers would put into individual hands -- didn't successfully regulate it until the late 1990s. The industry had nearly fifty years in which to operate in a near free market.
(Note that the present economic recession coincided with the government's first successful regulation of the last free-market industry. This is not coincidental.)
Imagine that weapons -- and every other industry -- were similarly unshackled!
Now imagine the into our free society in which individuals self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, the next Adolph Hitler comes along. He's bent on SOMEHOW conquering the world. Given that it's virtually impossible to conquer a free society, how will Adolph proceed with his dictatorial ambitions?
Through terrorism, naturally. He'll attempt to plant a few nukes in large cities, murdering innocents in enormous numbers, thereby frightening free individuals into capitulation.
Free individuals' response? First, private bounties. Remember, free individuals have double their income and one-eighth their expenses. This leaves a great deal of discretionary income to collect in bounties. The Free Individuals Against Adolph Hitler Society (FIAAHS) will be able to raise hundreds of millions -- perhaps even BILLIONS -- in gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. At some point, a bounty-hunter will present Adolph's head on a pike. Lacking any real moral scruples, it's extremely likely that Adolph's top aides will betray him for the fortune.
If bounties fail, there are always private militias. If the men and women of the North Sioux City Regional Militia, Ltd. discover that Adolph has plans to murder innocents with a nuclear bomb placed in mid-town Manhattan, there is no reason that they can't take up arms to oppose him. They may use their privately-owned and -maintained fighter jets to strafe his palace. They may invest in orbital weapons capable of very selectively frying him dead. They may even take the conflict to the dictator, flying their private troops to his country in private planes, ships, and spacecraft.
If they're running short on cash can solicit private donations to continue their efforts. Perhaps they'll attempt to bring Adolph's head on a pike "on spec" -- expending money and materiel in an effort to collect the FIAAHS's bounty. Imagine two or three private militias, each competing for the bounty.
Further, militias will be private organizations competing in the free market, not government monopolies spending a hundred dollars on a hammer. The cost of defense will be a tiny fraction of what is presently necessary.
This is only one possible scenario of how a free society protects itself. No doubt the unfettered creative power of 280 million individuals will devise more effective, cheaper solutions than I can imagine.
Conflict in a free society always devolves to conflict between individuals. Since the market and the Zero Aggression Principle governs the resolution of this conflict, it will never spread beyond that which the market can bear. Most individuals will elect to hire an adjudicator to resolve the problem. Others may elect to duel. No conflict will spread beyond a small area simply because there's no money in it.
Individual liberty coupled with the Zero Aggression Principle are far more profitable than subjugation and aggression. Even the limited freedom afforded United States citizens proves that individual liberty and the free market succeed spectacularly. When individuals are free to make their own choices and serve their own needs rather than the whims of some dictator or President, there is no limit to what human creativity and ambition can achieve.
What, then, is the only ongoing threat to a free society?
As is easily-observable, the success of freedom inspires envy among governments. No doubt a truly free society will inspire tremendous envy. Governments will wish to tap the resources of this success for its own ends.
It is therefore in a free society's interests to eliminate government on planet Earth, starting with the most dictatorial regime and ending with the most free democracy.
A free society is human achievement unchained. It is freedom -- and freedom alone -- that will ultimately rid the world of terrorists, dictators, and autocrats.
The American Experiment proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that "limited government" is as oxymoronic as "limited pregnancy." You can ignore it at first, but eventually it grows too large to deny. Government becomes the recalcitrant 30-year-old still living in his parents' basement. It leeches resources from everyone while returning nothing.
The American FedGov will soon fall, destroyed by the classic trio of rampant corruption, financial instability, and disenfranchisement of the population. For the sake of our security and that of our progeny, we must ensure that it is quickly replaced ...