Is the State Necessary for Defense?

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Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
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Is the State Necessary for Defense?

The Myth of National Defense  -- New book from the Mises Institute by Hans Hermann Hoppe

From the introduction:

"Even aside from day-to-day security risks, the reality of terrorism and its resulting mayhem has demonstrated the inability of government to provide adequate security against attacks on person and property. The lesson of September 11 is indisputable: government had not only failed to act as a guardian of security and protection but had actually been the primary agent in creating insecurity and exposure to risk, and, moreover, did not achieve secure justice once the crime had been committed.

"However, this was not the lesson that was drawn from the affair. Instead, the political elite successfully exploited public fears to vastly increase government spending, central credit inflation, bureaucratic management, citizen surveillance, regulation of transportation, and generally wage an all out attack on liberty and property.

"Meanwhile, US foreign policy pursued in the aftermath became more aggressively interventionist, violent, and threatening (the US refused even to rule out the employment of nuclear weapons against enemy regimes) than it had been before, thereby increasing the number of recruits into the ranks of people who are willing to use extreme violence as a means of retribution.

"In the same way that government intervention in times of peace can generate perverse consequences in markets that do not tend toward clearing, in times of war, military intervention can thus have the effect of harming the prospects for peace and security and bringing about a permanent state of violence and political control. Truly, the political affairs of our time cry out for a complete rethinking of the issues of defense and security and the respective roles of government, the market, and society in providing them."

Excerpt from review by David Gordon**:

Since the Industrial Revolution, wealth has become much more important in military conflict. This gives stateless groups a better chance of success than before, given the undoubted fact that the free market promotes economic growth more efficiently than a state-controlled society.

But what about the free-rider problem? Hummel maintains that it does not totally rule out collective action; it can be overcome if people have enough commitment to the rightness of their cause. Joseph Stromberg puts the matter well:

As for "free riders," the American Revolution tells the tale. Had we sorted all that out, we would never have fought. Hummel throws a great Rothbardian "So What?" at the problem. He notes that, without free-riding, civilization would not exist. (p. 237)

Bassani and Lottieri respond in a different way. They reject the conquest theory of the state, as well as other accounts that postulate for the state a vast antiquity. Quite the contrary, they contend that the state began only when the Middle Ages came to an end. Not until then did people suffer from that baleful development, a centralized authority holding a monopoly of force over a national territory.

Many libertarians have failed to grasp this point, they contend, because they have been too much influenced by Franz Oppenheimer and his followers. These writers contrast the economic means of gaining goods and services, which benefits everyone engaged in it, with the political means, in which some forcibly take goods from others.

The contrast is no doubt very useful, but Bassani and Lottieri find in it a source of error. The political means must not be equated with the state. To think otherwise makes every bandit a state. While the state may be a criminal gang, not every criminal gang is a state.

Once we grasp the modern origins of the state, is not our task of resistance to it made easier? No longer must we view the state as fixed and irremovable. If it did not always exist, then we have some hope of removing it.[2]

If history does not require us to accept the necessity of the state, what of political theory? Hobbes argued that without a state, individuals would find themselves in constant conflict. In order to avoid the "war of all against all," must not everyone surrender his arms to the sovereign, who will then protect us? Hans Hoppe finds this argument less than convincing:

[According to Hobbes,] in order to institute peaceful cooperation among themselves, two individuals, A and B, require a third independent party, S, as ultimate judge and peacemaker.… To be sure, S will make peace between A and B, but only so that he himself can rob both of them more profitably. Surely S is better protected, but the more he is protected, the less A and B are protected from attacks by S. (p. 336)

Hobbes fails to show that the sovereign improves on the state of nature.

Hoppe's excellent point strikes at the heart of the Hobbesian justification of the state, but the question raised earlier recurs. Even if the state acts as a predator, is it not needed for defense against other states?

Here we must turn to arguments from economic theory. It is often alleged that national defense is a "public good" that the market cannot supply in adequate quantity. Both Larry Sechrest and Walter Block dissent from this orthodoxy. Why should we think that defense is a single good that must be supplied on an equal basis to everyone resident in a nation? "It is neither impossible to exclude nonpayers nor is it true that bringing in an additional person under the safety umbrella costs no additional resources" (p. 323). With his customary imaginative flair, Block offers numerous ingenious examples to support his challenge to the standard view.[3]

If these authors are right, an anarcholibertarian society could provide for defense in an entirely adequate way. Joseph Stromberg strengthens the case with a vital point. It by no means follows that a free society must match the bloated expenditures of the Leviathan state in order to defend itself effectively.

I assume that minimal states and anarchies can do without nuclear bombs, cruise missiles, stealth bombers, and expensive "systems" suited to world conquest or universal meddling. As for the "force structure" of mere defense, I believe we would see some rough combination of militias and "insurance companies" — perhaps not as mutually exclusive as we think — with resort to mass-based guerrilla war, however and by whomever organized, in extremis. (p. 237)

The argument for libertarian defense rests on two points. First, a libertarian society would have a much less ambitious agenda than states in the contemporary world. Murray Rothbard, with characteristic incisiveness, makes clear the drastic limits on the circumstances in which war is justified. Specifically, there is no universal mandate to impose a good society all over the world: nations must mind their own business.

An especially dangerous variant of the policy that Rothbard opposed wishes to spread democracy to all and sundry. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Gerard Radnitzky document to the hilt, this is a recipe for disaster. Democracies, swollen with self-righteousness, tend to wage unlimited wars that ignore humane restraints.

Guido Hülsmann carries the argument one step farther. Just as expansion of the state is a mortal sin even in pursuit of "good" foreign policy goals, so must one shun the use of state power to achieve domestic reform. He contends that 18th- and 19th-century classical liberalism failed because it resorted to force to impose the goals that its advocates found desirable. "Rather than curbing political power, they [classical liberals] merely shifted and centralized it" (p. 379). Instead, libertarians ought to rely on peaceful secession.

Second, as both Stromberg and Hülsmann emphasize, there is good reason to think that if a libertarian society found itself the victim of invasion, guerrilla warfare would prove a successful response. Stromberg concludes,

We start from the truism that defense has the advantage.… And once people are driven to guerrilla tactics defeating them raises the ratio of attackers to defenders to somewhere between 4-to-1 and 6-to-1, or higher. Successful "pacification" and occupation may require a 10-to-1 superiority. (pp. 235–36)[4]

**  David Gordon covers new books in economics, politics, philosophy, and law for The Mises Review, the quarterly review of literature in the social sciences, published since 1995 by the Mises Institute. He is author of The Essential Rothbard.

negator's picture
negator
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?

this is high on my "to read" list.  it seems that, after "what about roads?" the question of national defense is the most common roadblock thrown up when mentioning the "a" word. (anarchy)

 

two words: so malia

 

the time for anarchy is fast approaching.  for some lucky people, it's already here.

 

viva ancapistan!

Glaucus's picture
Glaucus
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?

No, the state is not necessary for defense or anything else:

http://libertarianpapers.org/articles/2009/lp-1-32.pdf

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DrKrbyLuv
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?

Our founding fathers were very clear about this, we must defend our nation against the government.  

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britinbe
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?
DrKrbyLuv wrote:

Our founding fathers were very clear about this, we must defend our nation against the government.  

Careful, you could be accused of insighting violence etc, but I understand what you mean.  If I as a Brit recall correctly, is the exact phrase to pretect the US from the forces of tyranny, both domestic and foreign.

Anarchy is a corrupted word, in actal fact, it is the ultimate in liberty, democracy and freedom to choice, however, it has become synominous with violence and hatred

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?
DrKrbyLuv wrote:

Our founding fathers were very clear about this, we must defend our nation against the government.  

Larry -

Stated differently, "The Second Amendment exists in the event our politicians forget or choose to ignore the others."

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Gungnir
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?

Agreed...

BTW On the "protecting the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic" most American civilians don't swear that oath. You WILL swear it if you naturalize or join the military. Just to clear a little something up...

 

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Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Re: Is the State Necessary for Defense?
Gungnir wrote:

Agreed...

BTW On the "protecting the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic" most American civilians don't swear that oath. You WILL swear it if you naturalize or join the military. Just to clear a little something up...

Hey Gungnir -

Good to see you drop in.  Been following the blog regularly.  Keep 'em coming.  Say hello to Plickety for me and Cat.

And you are correct - I swore that oath 6 times, one for each promotion over 24 years. 

And I explicitly understood the words every time...........like no one who never took the oath possibly could.

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