Anarchy Without Bombs

Cooperation Without Coercion

Defense Without Taxes

The whole concept of national defense disappears in an anarchist society: no nation, no nation to defend!  But I don’t want to be frivolous about it, so let’s assume that a form of collective defense is essential to protect a large free territory: just because there is no United States of America to defend doesn’t mean there is no America to defend.  Since anarchism precludes aggression, and taxes are obtained by aggression, we would seem to be coming up against a serious obstacle to protecting a free society from being conquered by an outside force that has no qualms about aggression.  But financing defense voluntarily is not nearly as hard as people think as long as three steps are followed:

(1) Define the problem correctly

A libertarian defense agency would consider the protection of the people in its jurisdiction to be its defense responsibility. That doesn’t require nearly as much money as being the world’s policeman. The US government spends nearly $1 trillion on “national defense” right now, while the second place country, China, spends less than $100 billion, with a population more than 4 times the US.

(2) Reduce the number of enemies

Probably 99% of those people who hate America enough to want to engage in violence against Americans are mad about the US government’s foreign policy (significantly less than 1% only hate us for our freedom). Are there SOME people who will want to engage in massive violence on American soil in the absence of an interventionist government? Maybe, but they will, by and large, be isolated madmen without the sympathy of any large group of foreigners, and as much a threat as common criminals.

We also reduce hatred with free trade: commerce makes two people benefit from each other’s existence (free travel and migration could help as well). In the final analysis, there is no reason for any large group of people to hate Americans who don’t intervene militarily and who exchange goods and services with them.

(3) Use a variety of voluntary methods of financing

It is quite unlikely that a purely defensive agency that covered the entire territory of America would require more than, say, $50 billion for the special forces and intelligence needed to deal with the relatively small number of threats, along with modest repairs, maintenance, and upgrading of military equipment. Although it is impossible to predict how a free society would finance the need, here are a few thoughts:

(a) Charity – Americans already give $300 billion a year to charities. With the enormous prosperity of a society free of regulation and taxes, it would be even more generous. Raising $50 billion from 300 million people for a service most of them believe is protecting their lives and liberty shouldn’t be very hard. Heck, people TIP close to $50 billion a year. Will there be free riders? Sure. There are free riders now.

(b) Advertising – “When you buy a Big Mac, you’re also helping protect America.” Businesses will pony up cash to sponsor activities seen by the public as defending the country.

(c) Insurance – People will insure their own life and property (rich people will pay more than poor people). Insurance companies want to minimize losses, and with sufficient numbers of policies at risk, will finance measures that reduce their risk. Multiple insurers will cooperate with each other to fund activities for mutual benefit. Social norms will ostracize those insurance companies that offer lower prices by not helping defend people.

(d) User fees – “National defense” and “defense from terrorism” are not generic services of one type: there are degrees. Businesses can pay for more security at their establishments. People can pay for background checks.

(e) Volunteers – Citizen militias, made up of retired military and others, can provide the reserves for local defense in the highly unlikely event that any large group is crazy enough to try to invade and rule. We can start challenging the Swiss dominance in the biathlon at the Olympics.

Every legitimate service that benefits large numbers of people can be financed voluntarily with a little imagination. The reason taxes are needed today is that nobody in their right mind would voluntarily finance most of what passes for government services.

On the broad issue of funding public goods without coercion, I strongly recommend Roderick Long’s Funding Public Goods: Six Solutions.


Written by Less

October 13, 2008 at 4:46 am

Posted in Collective defense

Tagged with ,

7 Responses

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  1. I think this is certainly an interesting approach and there are many government services and “entitlements” that this would work for, but I believe national defense is not one of them. There lies the risk that when you provide “dollars for defense” strategy of charity or private militias, one must take into account that drawing down offensive capabilities does not necessarily ensure loyalty to the Constitution and the American people through private militias. I offer three scenarios that would cause me to have great concern about the process of decentralized defense.

    1. To Whom Does the Militia Owe Allegiance and to Whom is the Militia Accountable to?
    If a private company forms a militia with the capability of our modern military, who is the militia answerable to? Is it answerable to the Governor of the State, the President, its Board of Directors and Shareholders? Are these militias uniformed members of the United States or do they belong to the state or region? Are they governed by the UCMJ, Geneva Convention and law of war? I think it unfathomable to have either 50 private state or say a dozen private regional militias with just as many legislative schemes to regulate them. Who trains the militias?

    2. Rogue or Non-Cooperative Militias
    Scenario 1. Let’s for example use the State of California. California typically proves itself to be overwhelmingly liberal. Suppose the State of California forbids its militia from coming to the mutual defense of another regional or state militia instead concerned for saving its own resources for protecting its own borders. This was a serious problem during the revolution where militias were typically less disciplined, prone to desertion or colonies would quibble over ceding command or sending them for mutual aid to another colony or region.

    Scenario 2. California votes to defund or otherwise make the funding, training or equipping of a militia within its borders virtually impossible through regulations or legislation. In the instance that a foreign power or terrorist organization takes a foothold in California either overtly or covertly and either way the state government chooses to do nothing. The state has effectively seceded from the Union but because of territorial sovereignty issues other militias or the regular military may not enter its air, sea or land. Does the federal government now declare war on the State of California, what about the “occupying/liberating” power?

    Scenario 3. The California militia starts providing a protection racket for Mexican drug runners and outgun the rest of the competing private militias or armed citizens capable of offering service. Iraq is a perfect example, for a long period civilian contractors were better armed, better equipped and better paid then the US military. What happens when loyalty is available to the highest bidder?

    3. Inability to Intercede/Unprepared
    A private regional defense force may be fine to deal with insurrection or invasion but they certainly are not capable of offensive action. The United States at the beginning of WWI and WWII had for the most part remained isolationist preferring diplomatic solutions through the League of Nations. The US also pursued vigorous commerce with both axis and allied countries. Despite this, Hitler still invaded Poland and Japan still invaded Manchuria. Had the US, Britain and France pursued a strategy other than appeasement and had the military capability to come to Poland’s defense and crush German offensive capability, how many millions of lives would have be saved?

    The Libertarian approach assumes that people will take the moral high ground and that trade sanctions and embargoes will eventually correct a dictator. Castro (and his brother) are still in power in Cuba nor did sanctions stop Hussein from gassing Kurds. The assumption that business will comply and the Americans will battle with goods and services can influence a potentially hostile government but cannot dissuade a despot. For all Americans handwringing about human rights and civil rights and hypocritical indignation at China, we could voluntarily punish China for its abuses but we choose not too. This Libertarian approach would not allow the US to prevent or intervene in massive land wars or genocides as special forces alone could not sufficiently effect the outcome. If a retooled Russia were to seek to bring back the glory of the Soviet Union, would we stand by and accept the outcome and simply stop trading with the aggressor? I believe revocation of the War Powers act and strict enforcement of Constitutional requirements for warfare will accomplish much of which Libertarians hope to seek without destroying the benefits of a national military and defense capabilities it offers.

    Christopher Wiseman

    November 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

  2. @ Christopher

    Your thoughtful post deserves a comparable reply, but I have a deadline on an article right now. I’ll post up tomorrow. Naturally, anyone else who wants to add their thoughts on this subject is encouraged to do so.


    November 13, 2008 at 11:07 pm

  3. Hi Christopher,

    If I may off by recommending Hoppe’s free pdf book, “The Myth of National Defense.”

    To your points regarding rogue militias remember that militias are made up of the local population so if that group of people did not want to help a militia in CO that does not make them rogue. This makes militia accountable to itself.

    Also the market may provide an insurance model for the production of defense as well, which means firms would compete for defending regions much like home security or companies do that provide physical security for people and businesses today.

    Scenario 2 would be next to impossible if a given polity, city, etc was all private property. This group may be able to exist in the untamed lands where nobody else is perhaps but it would not be in their interest to go up against an armed population for no other reason than sport. The old west during the gold prospecting days had ways of dealing with this without government.

    There was no reason for the US to intervene in WWI or WWII. In fact many think that had we not entered WWI WWII would not have happened or at least the parties involved in WWI would have fought to a stand still and entered a treaty that nobody liked instead of the punitive Treaty of Versailles which could only have been carried forward by the US entry into the war which typed the war toward Britain and France.

    Carrying this further why would a given geographic area’s citizen in the post government America want to enter a war on some foreign territory? Look to the Swiss as an example of a small country that has not been directly attacked during both World Wars. It is true that they have favorable territory but they also know how to shoot a rifle although I do not agree with their forced draft of young men into the national service.

    For more check out the reason the NC Camp Butner rifle facility was established

    “Competitive shooting programs helps improve National Defense and Public Safety.”

    The gist is that you can not occupy a territory of armed marksmen.




    November 14, 2008 at 5:45 am

  4. In regards to your statement on the Treaty of Versailles, I agree completely, that was the seed of WWII. However, I must agree to disagree on national defense. If you look back through History, you’ll find that the initial stages of major wars dealt significant blows to the US as we had a tradition of disbanding and drawing down forces at the cease of hostilities. The War of 1812, Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea all began with significant American defeats and loss of life because of lack of sufficient forces, training and equipment. I must again point to the possibility of a nuclear Iran or reinvigorated Russia that seeks to reassert itself over former Soviet satellites by coercion and invasion if necessary. A Libertarian position would preclude us from taking up arms except in the case of territorial invasion.

    Trade sanctions alone would not stop piracy of shipping in international lanes off of Somalia, Russian invasion in Eastern Europe, or Iranian invasion of Iraq or destruction of Israel or missile threats against Europe. Suppose we had gone cold turkey Libertarian before the Cuban missile crisis. There would be Soviet nuclear armed missiles based in Cuba and our Navy could not have intervened.

    I completely agree with the Second Amendment and feel that it at this point in our history the need for regulated militias and armed citizenry have more to do with protecting from our own tyrannical federal government rather than foreign invaders. With history as the teacher, the biggest hurdle to Nazi control of Germany was an armed citizenry. Once weapons became a privilege rather then a right, the German people had no significant ability to resist. There no way that a full scale invasion of the U.S. could take place without being proceeded by a nuclear strike destroying our infrastructure and command and control capabilities. And as much as I admire the Swiss model, had Germany invaded Switzerland instead of Eastern Europe, Switzerland would have no doubt fallen. It was however not in Germany’s interest to do so because they were able to conduct “legitimate” business with Switzerland because it remained neutral and could act as a middleman with sympathetic countries and businesses.

    Christopher Wiseman

    November 14, 2008 at 12:09 pm

  5. Christopher,

    Believe me when I say that I used to make the same points that you are making.

    As to your first points regarding how many lives we lost because of our being ill-prepared to enter those wars, we should think about the following questions perhaps?

    Should we have entered those wars in the first place? Americans did not want to enter either war. Popular consent had to be drummed up by propaganda from say the sinking of the Lusitania.

    What would a country look like that was always geared up to fight a war like WWII? My dad lived through the bombing of Peal Harbor and watch it happen. They experienced severe rationing of almost everything that was used on a daily basis from food, to fuel, building materials, etc.

    Christopher I am so glad you mentioned piracy! Hoppe’s book has several chapters that he wrote and other books from some notable authors but their is an entire chapter devoted to privateering and its usage and effectiveness over state navies. Privateering vessels were paid for by normal working class citizens looking for a return on investment. Usually people would invest in several ships in order to spread risk if one was lost. Fascinating to say the least.

    Get a hold of Hoppe’s book because honestly it was the red pill for me. I was a conservative, then a libertarian, then perhaps a min-anarchist before I read that book. He has the free pdf version or you can order the book itself.

    Also check as I believe there are some archives from Hoppe as well as a podcast interview of Hoppe.

    For an ongoing discussion on stateless societies in general and its forums are an interesting place to experience.

    Lastly I’m not so sure that Germany could have invaded Switzerland and held it without heavy losses. There is the roomer that the Swiss said that their riflemen would target the German officers to which the German officers found excuses to go elsewhere…




    November 14, 2008 at 1:11 pm

  6. Cory,

    I will make it a point to check out your referenced material. As a student of history, I certainly understand the piracy issue and point out that Letters of Marque are a Constitional provision! I would love to see them used more often, however I do like the fact that overwhelming naval superiority is far more effective then equally matched superiority. Somali pirates are one thing that could definately be outsourced to private companies, Russian nuclear subs is a different one. I certainly do appreciate your insights and while I’m not quite ready to break out of the matrix quite yet, I find it helpful to push the boundries and not rest on my assumptions.

    Christopher Wiseman

    November 14, 2008 at 4:00 pm

  7. @ Christopher

    Since national defense is a gigantic topic, I am trying to break up my discussion into manageable bites. This post only addressed the issue of financing without taxes, and wasn’t intended to do more than briefly guess at some of the changes in structure that might result. I’ll try not to duplicate thoughts by Cory that parallel my own thinking, but some is unavoidable.

    1. Actually, voluntary financing of defense doesn’t mean the abandonment of the current hierarchy, and were the public instantly converted to the idea of ending compulsory taxation, I feel quite certain that the funding I described would initially go to the existing military personnel. Alternatives would have to persuade people of their loyalty and reliability to draw support, and they would probably be hiring the same people who now serve in the military. I see no reason that members of the military would have less love of country and desire to protect their neighbors just because the public would be funding them voluntarily: indeed, I think the incentives would be stronger.

    2. Scenario 1. We are talking about people becoming libertarians, not morons: nobody watches their neighbor’s house burning down without thinking it might be a good idea to help. Since the British ruled America, there were difficulties in achieving open cooperation then that don’t exist in the absence of a governing body that interferes. By the way, California liberals are willing to fight for freedom, and there are enough active and retired military and NRA members in our state to scare the hell out of any invader.

    Scenario 2. This isn’t a free society scenario. It is a problem that exists among states in the present world. A government using regulations to prevent defense would be practicing the legitimized aggression that we’re challenging.

    Scenario 3. Private companies dependent on voluntary support from the public can’t grow to the level of power of governments without legitimacy. Organized crime is a direct result of government prohibitions on voluntary choice: the gangsters in the alcohol trade virtually disappeared within months of the repeal of Prohibition 1, and the drug traffickers are gone after the repeal of Prohibition 2. As for civilian contractors in Iraq, I’ll never forgive conservatives for changing the meaning of the word “privatize.” The contractors in Iraq are funded by the government, not voluntary sector. It is not privatization for the government to use tax money to pay private businesses. It is only privatization when both buyer and seller participate voluntarily.

    3. Certainly, a voluntary system would not be amenable to aggressive intervention. That’s one of its strengths. American entry into WWI created Hitler. The country was NOT working through the League of Nations: it didn’t even join. Moreover, the US was financing the Allied side of the war and strangling Japan with an oil embargo before Pearl Harbor: it was hardly following a non-interventionist policy. Our entry into WWII did not save the Jews and pretty much just made Stalin the ruler of Eastern Europe instead of Hitler, and Mao the ruler of Asia instead of Tojo. And opened the door to the possibility of nuclear annihilation.

    But I want to go further: our system PREVENTED interceding in some important ways. The threat of fascism in the 1930s was not unknown, and some Americans tried to form the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight fascists in Europe, but the US government enforced neutrality rules that impeded the raising of funds, arms, and personnel. In a free society, those who see threats have the right to sound the alarm and try to organize action. I’m guessing many private Americans would choose to help Israel in the absence of US government monopolization of foreign policy (which also funds Israel’s enemies).

    As for lack of preparedness, I think a society of free people are unlike to take that freedom lightly, especially having lived through aggressive societies beforehand. But I also want to note Hummel’s Paradox of Military Preparedness. Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel has noted that societies with freer economies build more wealth, and that wealth supports the ability to fight wars and outlast opponents. Military spending saps wealth: societies that spend larger percentages on maintaining a large military structure grow more slowly, and end up being less wealthy. Hummel’s Paradox is, therefore, that military preparedness is best served by spending as little as possible on the military in the absence of war, so the lack of a standing army and general war preparations was one reason the US won every war through WWII, and the continuous standing army contributed to the losses in Korea and Vietnam. At least interesting to contemplate.

    Actually, Libertarians are free traders, and would likely have helped overthrow communism in Cuba by turning the people into capitalists. The embargo against Cuba is utterly absurd.

    This answer has gotten very long, and I’m afraid is moving away from the point. The blessings of a free society are enormous: the wealth of such a society much greater than what we have today. Given the enormous dangers of government, a system that could plausibly defend against invasion and takeover is all I think is needed to justify making every effort to move toward such a society. And as I said, there is no need to abandon any of the current structures unless and until alternatives have proven themselves to the public: what we can instantly do is end legitimized aggression through taxes, and a public that shared all your concerns would rush to keep financing those elements of the current structure they considered essential for the preservation of liberty. It is the offensive empire and not the defensive force that will disappear.

    Forgive the sound bite nature of some of these answers. We could easily write a book for each comment in this thread, and I take VERY seriously the challenges you’ve offered. I hope the conversation will continue. And I will be elaborating more over time: I just wanted to thoroughly address taxes before moving on to other elements of the problem.


    November 15, 2008 at 1:32 am

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