PostHeaderIcon Stateless National Defense

On a recent comment, Jim offered a link to David Friedman’s discussion of his “Hard Problem,” regarding national defense in a stateless society. It reminded me of Harry Browne’s elegant solution 45 years ago, in “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.” Longtime readers will recall that this is my favorite book, which I have reread at least once a year since 1979, just to keep me grounded. Anyone think they can refute Harry?:

National Defense

What about national defense? Isn’t the nation safe from foreign enemies only because of the government?

What is a nation? In common usage, a nation is considered to be a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a single government that isn’t a subdivision of a larger government. The government assumes responsibility for the defense of the geographical area and makes all decisions regarding armed conflict with outsiders.

If there were no government, there’d be no nation. And if there were no nation, there’d be nothing to defend.

If that sounds too simple, think about it. No aggressor conquers a nation by overcoming every single inhabitant and occupying every part of the geographical area. It would be far too expensive to do so.

Instead, the aggressor applies force against the country until the government of that nation surrenders. Then the aggressor takes over the existing governmental machinery to enforce the occupation. If no such machinery existed, how could it enforce the occupation?

Hitler couldn’t have conquered Europe without the help provided by the governments of the occupied nations. Would he have sent every one of his Nazis into Norway to police all the Norwegians? If he had, who would have been left at home to police the Germans?

That doesn’t mean that aggression would stop if there were no governments. But the aggression would be no more formidable than the examples of crime we’ve already covered.

Hydrogen bombs and other modern tools of war are effective only when they can be used to pressure governments. Enemy rulers have nothing to gain by destroying U.S. property and people — except as a means of pressuring the government to surrender. Otherwise, the more they destroy, the less value to them in conquering the nation.

If there were no federal government in the U.S., the Communists would have to conquer fifty different state governments — which would be far more difficult. But what if there were no state governments? Then they’d have to conquer every town separately.

But what if there were no town governments — no governments at all? Then they’d have to make over 200 million separate conquests — and use millions of their own policemen to set up new governments.

Obviously the answer to the threat of communism (or any other enemy) is not a stronger government to defend us but just the opposite. We’d be far safer if there were no government to conquer.

It’s surprising how many “national issues,” problems that “cry out” for government intervention, wouldn’t even exist if there were no governments.

The dictators of the world have always operated in countries where there was a strong respect for government. The prevailing European awe of the state has produced an endless number of tyrants, wars, and low standards of living.

And now that generations of Americans have been taught that governments are vital to their well-being, present-day Americans are afflicted with all the problems that invariably result from big government.

Such a trend has developed over many lifetimes; it won’t be reversed within ours. Governments grow naturally because individuals see them as ways of increasing their rewards at lower expense. It’s an over simplification to say that people want “something for nothing.” All people want to obtain as much as possible for as little effort as possible; that’s why labor-saving devices are valuable.

Unfortunately, however, government isn’t the labor-saving device it appears to be. It always gives back less than it takes. But because it does appear to be a giver of good things, its appeal is almost universal and there isn’t much likelihood that the trend will be reversed.

Browne, Harry. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (Kindle Locations 1640-1678). Kindle Edition.

Pretty simple logic, huh? â—„Daveâ–º

7 Responses to “Stateless National Defense”

  • jim says:

    I actually got my picture taken with Harry Browne in 2000, but have probably lost the picture.
    Maybe I should send a link to the AP essay to him, although I can imagine very prominent people like him would hesitate to discuss such a provocative idea in public.

    • We weren’t into pics at the time; but I too got to meet him at a “Patriot’s” gathering in Tulare, CA back in ’95. I am sure he would have found AP intriguing. Alas, it is too late; he died 12 years ago. 🙁 â—„Daveâ–º

  • I see one small flaw in the thinking here. Sure, a recalcitrant population is a pain to occupy. When you look back to times before global bureaucracy, the solution was simple. You kill the men, take the women, and enslave the children. Simpler yet, just gas them all and take the territory.

    A modern military with no qualms about civilian deaths would roll over a bunch of gun toting anarchists like they weren’t there; and I think that’s exactly what you would get if we were to just give up the levers of power.

    Look at Islamic State. They rose up overnight and started conquering a country, with no qualms about atrocities, and for nothing more than the promise of a cut of the spoils.

    • These are pretty rational arguments, Steel, and refreshingly unemotional. Allow me some time to cogitate on how best to try to counter them. 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

    • jim says:

      “A modern military with no qualms about civilian deaths would roll over a bunch of gun toting anarchists like they weren’t there; and I think that’s exactly what you would get if we were to just give up the levers of power.”

      This is an aspect of David Friedman’s “Hard Problem”, the idea that a region in anarchy (and by that I don’t mean, “chaos”) would be unstable against surrounding nations operating by today’s convention tax-driven system. Such an anarchic region simply wouldn’t be “stable”: It would either be conquered from outside, or it would built up some internal government structure in order to protect itself. Either way, “anarchy” seems to be unstable.
      My AP idea allows people to defend themselves, but to do so anonymously. Nobody knows who the real “enemies” are. An army (driven by taxes) could march in, but there would not need to be any immediate counter-attack. Money raised by AP would allow self-motivated people to individually attack the invading army.

      “Look at Islamic State. They rose up overnight”

      No, I don’t thing they “rose up overnight”! They arose as a force in an unstable region, recently roiled by the invasion of Iraq. Arms were everywhere, and Sunni/Shiite divisions were strong. Iran was involved, as well.

      ” and started conquering a country”

      They were certainly conquering a region, but not a country. They filled the vacuum of power that existed in 2011. It helped that Obama foolishly withdrew virtually all soldiers that year, 2011. Not that I favored the Iraq invasion originally; I didn’t, but Bush having made that mistake in 2003, he destabilized an area, so merely abandoning the field did not right that mistake.
      Further, Obama’s brain-dead “red line in the sand” in 2012, against the use of chemical weapons by Assad, led to disaster when he didn’t follow-up. It would have been better had he done nothing at all, rather than display his weakness…

      • You’ve filled in a lot of details that I left out because they complicated my point without changing it. Without an overwhelmingly peace loving populace, power vacuums will be quickly and ruthlessly filled, if not from within, then from without.

        It seems like in your AP system, the way to stay alive is to stay poor, boring, and somewhere remote. Not really the stuff of progress, if you’re into that kind of thing, which I am. I think all of these dystopian ideas would best be started on some asteroid colony where they won’t be burdened by neighboring civilization and can stand or fall on their own.

        • jim says:

          You simply don’t understand the underlying concept. First, read Friedman’s “Hard Problem”. Then read a couple parts of AP.

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