Can Anarcho-Capitalist Defense Forces Replace a Government Military?
The final vestige of someone clinging to government force is often the military. Especially when we’re dealing with folks who may have been more right leaning in their previous political life, the military holds a special place in the hearts of statists. We’ve all been raised our entire lives of course, to believe that the troops protect our freedom. These “heroes” put themselves in harms way to protect us from monsters all over the world, and we are taught that we owe everything to them for so doing.
Thus, it can be difficult for one to realize that militarism is not a heroic station for one to occupy. The fact of the matter is, it’s not even a job, it’s a welfare program for sociopaths. Very difficult to explain that to most people, and while anti-military memes are very popular in anarchist circles, we often find fury like no other from the general public for posting them.
It makes a certain amount of sense to have trouble seeing the military for what it is. None of us have ever seen market based protection services that could possibly do battle with modern military power. Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, missiles, atomic weapons, it hardly seems to make sense for a private entity to own such dangerous weapons. What economic benefit could possibly be gained in a market environment by spending that much money on things that have next to no practical purpose outside of aggression?
Yesterday I addressed crime in a free society, and I originally intended to include invasion by a foreign government in that article as a more thorough piece on defense in general. I decided to split the two subjects when I realized that article was getting rather long and could go on for an eternity. I would encourage you to read that piece first if you haven’t already done so, because understanding the basic structure of protection services as I envision them will go a long way in making sense of what follows here.
This is heavily influenced by Stefan Molyneux’s “Practical Anarchy“, and that book is also an excellent reference.
Where I differ from Molyneux here primarily is in how the State ceases to exist in a given geographic area. Molyneux envisions a multigenerational path to freedom where society basically just evolves away from violence. I do not think this is possible, I don’t even think it is desirable, and it certainly is not going to happen within my lifetime. I aim to see a free society before I die, so hoping against hope that future generations solve this problem, to me, seems dangerous and irresponsible. Those who are alive today, if they can see what is going on in the world, should be working towards bringing an end to this insanity, not leaving it for their children and grandchildren to worry about.
Evolving away from violence will not make for an efficient defense force. I firmly believe it is mankind’s aversion to violence that gives us statism, not his propensity for it. The loudest gun control advocates on Earth will call themselves pacifists, it matters not to them that someone else will go out and do violence on their behalf to confiscate the weapons. They are trying to do away with their own personal responsibility for violence in the world, and so they put that responsibility on the shoulders of the people they call government. Once someone can do away with their own personal responsibility for violence, and still have it carried out, it should come as no surprise to anybody that the worst people on Earth end up doing unspeakably horrific acts of violence on a daily basis.
If people were even only mentally prepared to cope with their own responsibility for violence in the world, there would be no government. They would not look at police and soldiers as heroes, because police and soldiers would be doing nothing extraordinary. “Oh, you shoot bad guys? Me too. Pay for your own drinks”. It is because most people are terrified of violence that they look at police and soldiers as heroes. They can’t imagine defending themselves, and so they look at the people who undertake this responsibility for them as god like. Level that playing field, and all will be right with the world.
It is important to understand this, because how a society defends itself depends entirely on how it comes to be in the first place. If a society simply shuns violence altogether and raises their children to see use of force as evil, if they are willing to tolerate violence being used against them by their own government without defending themselves, then they are terribly unlikely to violently resist a foreign invasion and occupation. In this, the statists would be correct that a free society would simply be overrun by a foreign government, and all their efforts would be for naught. On the other hand, if a people were educated to know that it is moral, and just, and practical to violently resist government force, foreign or domestic, then it would be pretty much impossible for any government to subjugate them.
The source of the quote is unconfirmed, but in pro gun circles you’ll often hear a quote attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto that goes “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” Whether he actually said this or not, it still makes a lot of sense. Foreign troops marching down a suburban street, in a heavily armed neighborhood where people were willing to shoot at foreign invaders, would essentially become a shooting gallery. Plenty of people will risk their lives, but almost nobody walks into certain death. Imagine rifles sticking out of every window on a street, and all of them opening fire, nobody, not even a soldier, will walk down that street, no matter what his orders were.
Some of the same people who tell you it would be immoral, or impossible to overthrow their own government, would be the first ones making pipe bombs in their garage to defend it once the marauders in their neighborhood were flying a different flag. Certainly, there isn’t much men with rifles and IED’s can do to defend against air strikes and atomic bombs, but I have yet to see a war in this world where the goal was extermination and the destruction of all resources. Generally, a foreign government invades a place to subjugate the people inside of it and install a puppet government that will extract from them the fruits of their labor for generations to come. This simply would not be possible if the people in that area were unwilling to tolerate it, and prepared to use violence to prevent it.
That being the case, it is pretty plain to see that if a people were ready, willing, and able to throw off their own government by force, a foreign invasion perpetrated upon the same people would be hopeless. The domestic government is dug in, it has the acceptance of the people, it disarms them, it extracts from them the fruits of their labor, it has the people convinced it is an integral part of their lives. As a result, this institution is far harder to do away with than any foreign invasion.
My proposal for doing away with it then, has been to convince a mere 5% of a population that it is moral and just and practical to use violence to defend against the domestic government. I have gone into more detail on it in another article, but the basic premise being that if the average cop writes 10 tickets a day, then when 5% of the population feels this way, a cop will run into one of these people at least every other day. This would make the price of being a police officer certain death. They literally would not survive one week at work, and everyone would know it. Once that was the case, the police would stop showing up for work, because they are coming to get a paycheck, not to die. Again, plenty of people are willing to risk their lives, but almost none are going to walk in front of a firing squad voluntarily.
Without police, the edicts of politicians become meaningless. Twenty armed men could walk into the halls of Congress, erect a gallows, and begin hanging representatives on live TV, if not for police. If that was the state of a society, then before we even begin organizing specialized protection agencies, I hardly think a foreign invasion would even be attempted, much less successful.
The Anarcho-Capitalist Society Begins to Form
As the flies’ eggs begin to hatch inside the bodies of the politicians, the dust begins to settle, and society gets back to life as usual, market forces begin to fill the demand for services once performed by government. As previously discussed, one of those services is protection and security once done rather poorly by police.
We can expect a fair amount of looting from police stations, military bases, and munitions depots to have been done during the transition. Naturally, the protection agencies will seek out these tools to provide a sense of security to their clients, and within a matter of days we could expect security forces to be in possession of real military hardware.
The police and soldiers who were not killed in the transition, they’ll naturally be looking for work. They haven’t been trained in much else, and so we can expect lines to form outside the offices of the protection agencies. There exists no shortage of trained combatants hoping for a chance to do the job, and many of them will be trained in the use of the weapons seized during the transition.
The arms dealers are still in business too, and in the absence of their biggest customer, the US Government, you can expect both that they will be hungry for business, and that they will be all too happy to manufacture weapons in a completely unregulated market. Whether it’s war machines for the protection agencies, or shoulder fired missiles for grandma, the weapons industry will thrive in a free society.
Under these conditions, we can easily see that the men and munitions required for defense are readily available. The question then becomes of their use and organization.
Among other things, what separates the protection agencies from government is competition. This is what anarchists like about it, and what scares the living hell out of statists, simultaneously. To those who love liberty, competition means being able to leave one company for another when you don’t like the way that company is treating its clientele. Statists instead envision warfare between the agencies, chaos, disorder, and mayhem.
A valid concern, as this sort of requires some savvy entrepreneurs to find themselves in control of the weapons. This brings us back to our pre-collapse propaganda efforts. If the anarchists of the society are convinced that use of force is just a terrible evil thing that no decent person should engage in, then they will not be in control of the military hardware post collapse. They will want nothing to do with it, and the people who take control of the weaponry will once again be power hungry sociopaths who will use the weapons for ill. If this happens, then again, the statists will have won the day, and all our efforts will be for naught.
Luckily, the transition we’re envisioning here is one where my theory prevails, and a large enough minority of people have taken personal responsibility for their role in violence. The same people who brought about the collapse will seek out the weapons and try to form a sustainable business with them.
Engaging needlessly in warfare is not a sustainable business model. Those weapons are expensive, and the best way for a business to make use of them is to let them gather dust and be seen as a deterrent. A protection agency is infinitely better off competing for business by lowering prices and providing a superior level of service, than they are trying to put their competitor out of business by bombing his offices. Those bombs are assets. If he drops them on his competitor, the asset is destroyed and is costly to replace. It also provokes the competitor to fight back, which will cause more assets to be destroyed, more men to be lost, and while those two competitors are out killing each other, the next competitor who remained peaceful, can come in and offer both their clients cheaper services. This cuts into their revenue streams, and weapons are rather useless if you cannot feed the men who use them.
The State by comparison is incentivized to warfare. Warfare unites a nation behind its leaders. War propaganda becomes a political tool that helps keep incumbents in office. Warfare is an excuse to raise taxes, inflate currency, and run deficits, none of which are things a market entity seeks to engage in.
If Acme Protection and Contoso Security open offices in different parts of a given geographic area, they could compete just like any two restaurants, computer stores, or locksmiths. To assume that they would go to war with one another is to assume that chefs are poisoning food, Staples is hacking computers, and locksmiths are committing burglaries. It’s just plain nonsense. The way all businesses compete is through marketing, advertising, price, and service. There is no reason to expect private protection firms would behave any differently.
Though the two (realistically, many, but we’ll talk about two fictional ones for now to make this easier to follow) agencies compete for business within a given geographic area, this does not mean they cannot cooperate when the circumstances require it, such as in the case of an invading army. Verizon and AT&T compete, but sure enough, their customers can call one another without even thinking about who has what carrier. Internet service providers compete, but sure enough we can send email to anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of their ISP. Bank of America competes with TD Bank, but sure enough, we can both deposit each others checks. Companies in various fields of the construction industry, may find themselves bidding against each other on one contract, then on the next, find their employees performing different tasks on the same construction site.
Both entities benefit from their cooperation by being able to provide a higher level of service than entities that do not cooperate.
Let’s say you have a contract with Contoso Security, and you wish to travel to a place where Contoso has no offices. Traveling to a strange place with no protection could be dangerous, and so you would be more likely to do business with an entity that could provide you with protection while traveling. If Contoso doesn’t make contracts with other agencies in other parts of the world, then Acme would see this as an opportunity to provide a higher level of service than Contoso and gain a market advantage over them. The contract could be reciprocal, that the foreign agency grants protection to Acme and Contoso clients in exchange for Acme and Contoso protecting their clients while traveling in territories they had a presence in.
Thus there is no reason to believe they would not band together to protect all of their clients and interests in the event of a foreign military invasion.
New Hampshire has seceded from the United States, abolished its legislature, and is now known as Ancapistan. What’s left of the United States is none too happy about this. The president says that states have no right to secede, this was settled by the Civil War, and in any case, Ancapistan is in anarchy, and they need the government to help restore order. The president sends ambassadors to meet with representatives from Contoso and Acme, and demand their unconditional surrender.
After the meeting, executives and strategic advisers from both groups meet privately. They know that if the United States regains control of Ancapistan, that they will be put out of business, and most likely put on trial for treason. Their clients will be subjugated, and taxed, a violation of their contract. This is undesirable.
If they do not surrender, the United States military will invade Ancapistan, also undesirable, and likely to result in many deaths and vast destruction of wealth.
The first thing to take notice of here, is that the problem is still government. To say that we should continue to be subjugated, just because freedom implies a possibility of being subjugated some time in the future, is insanity. To have a government today, no government tomorrow, and a government again the day after, is infinitely preferable to having government all week long.
The second thing is, I am a writer and a compute geek, not a military strategist. I read Art of War a long time ago, but frankly I don’t remember much of it. The reason I hire Acme or Contoso in a free society is so they can bring on professional military strategists who are prepared to deal with this crap.
Thirdly, a “minarchist” regime without a standing army would actually have a harder time fighting of the United States than Contoso and Acme would. Our private security agencies have weapons and men ready to fight, the citizenry is intolerant of government, and so they are infinitely better prepared than some do nothing regime that still takes 10% of your income.
In any case, Acme & Contoso decide not to surrender. They send Barack Obama an email, with a YouTube clip of George Bush saying “Bring em on” and prepare for battle. There is a battle, lots of people die, everything is bad. I don’t know exactly what it looks like, I don’t know who wins, and I don’t much care. Maybe Acme & Contoso are so good that they manage to stop the US from advancing. Maybe the US military wipes the floor with them in no time. Maybe there is no massing of forces along the borders, and there is a long drawn out insurgency instead.
The people of Ancapistan either have the wherewithal to expel a government or they don’t. If they didn’t have the wherewithal to do it, then this situation would never have to come to fruition in the first place. If some portion of the population is ready to fight the individual enforcers on the ground, the government cannot take hold in that place. The United States can fight a military force, drop bombs, shoot people, and do all the things governments do in warfare. But if they cannot gain the compliance of the people of Ancapistan, then this will all be a rather pointless waste of blood and treasure for them.
And it’s partly due to that fact, that;
The Invasion Would Probably Never Happen
As previously stated, Ancapistan threw off its government by killing its enforcers until they stopped showing up for work, and could no longer carry out their functions. Ancapistan did not vote out a government, they made the State an impossibility. No military invasion will make the State possible again after that, especially once Ancapistan has seen the benefits of freedom. If the people were willing to fight to obtain freedom, they are going to be more willing to fight to retain it, at least during the first generation or two.
Why Governments Invade
A government does not invade a place to exterminate the people and destroy the resources. They invade either for defensive purposes, or for the purpose of setting up a puppet government that will extract from the survivors their resources and the fruits of their labor for generations to come.
In the case of defensive purposes, there is nothing foreign governments have to fear from Ancapistan, save for the example we set for the rest of the world. We are a peaceful people who are only interested in trade and prosperity. Our weapons are for defensive purposes, we have no interest in fighting wars. If our defense agencies wanted to invade foreign lands, they would have to jack up our service costs, at which point we would just fire them and hire competing agencies that preferred to live in peace. This would put them out of business and prevent their aggressions.
In the case of setting up a puppet government, this is made possible by existing governments, especially ones that disarm their citizenry. If there is no government in Ancapistan, there is no motive to take over said government. There is no power or taxing structure to take advantage of. There is no capitol, or flag, to capture.
In the case of Ancapistan vs. The United States, the propaganda war would be key. The people of Ancapistan share a culture with Americans. In an age of live streaming video, twitter, and blogs, it would be very difficult to hide the horrors of war from the American people when the people being killed are neighbors and family members. Any attempt to portray Ancapistan as a violent horrible place in need of America’s assistance, would quickly be proven false by purely private media outlets with no government influence over them.
It is perfectly reasonable to expect Acme & Contoso would work to obtain nuclear weapons. This probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and there is plenty of room for debate as to whether a nuclear weapon could under any circumstances be used by a society valuing non-aggression. The fact of the matter is though, no nuclear power has ever been invaded in the history of mankind. If Contoso and Acme had nuclear weapons, it is unlikely they would ever have to fight a foreign military.
A free society is more than capable of defending itself. Weapons, men, and resources will be bountiful in a free market. The State is the primary limiter of economic output in society, and in its absence, there is next to nothing that cannot be accomplished. Anything the government can do, freedom can do better, including use of force. All that is required, is to free the minds of the people of the society, and once that happens, no army can stop them.
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