wanted: more thoughtful anarchists…

In continuing the anarchist discussion from the other day, our resident anarchist, Keith, said:

Defense of person and property is a right held by individuals. Individuals have the right to act in such defense. Individuals can delegate their rights to others either through minimalist government (which we anarchists fear can never be held in check, reference the discussion about the Constitution which started this) or through hired help through private security.

Individuals don’t have the right to dictate to others what they put into their own bodies or any number of things that our government has claimed the power to do. Therefore, they cannot delegate such to the government to do on their behalf. If government derive their just powers from the rights of the governed, as was claimed in the Declaration of Independence, then the government can’t derive the power to control what people put into their own bodies.

Armies are a legitimate function of government, when used solely for defensive purposes. The concern of the founders of this country, the reason they only allowed for the army to be funded for two years at a time, is that standing armies are commonly used for offensive purposes and military adventurism.

Which leads me to a question: How can a minimalist government build the kind of defense that is necessary in today’s advanced technology, dangerous world?

Or, as John asks in the same discussion:

If you are responsible for your own safety, how do you protect yourself from those nations with large standing armies or nuclear weapons?… or even the terrorist with a suicide bomb? What about those in your nation who may find your ideals repugnant and dangerous?

There is nothing wrong with peace, love and understanding… except for those to whom such words have little or no meaning–except as they apply to anyone who believes, looks, or thinks as they do.

Anarchists (at least the one I know), paleocons, libertarians and Paulites all agree that the military should be for defensive purposes only. They are against both preemption and intervention. But they have no answer to known threats, like Iran, or potential threats, like nuclear-capable non-state actors.

How do you defend yourself against hugely dangerous weapons in the hands of people who hate you and everything you stand for? Do you wait for the bomb to go off in one of your cities and then act?

There is cold comfort in the idea that the Bush administration claimed there were WMD in Iraq and they were wrong (my belief) or lied (others’ belief). The fact that there was no active nuclear program in Iraq doesn’t negate the possibility of another bad actor having one and threatening other countries with them.

How do you defend against that with a purely defensive military?

Even in World War II, even pleasing Pat Buchanan by leaving out the European Theatre, what any reasonable person would label a purely defensive military would not have been sufficient to win the day. When you’re in a war, you have to go on offense. And where do you want all the death and destruction to take place? San Diego? or as far away as you can make it happen? our turf? or their turf? Purely defensive military units are not going to be able to carry the fight to where the other guy lives. Period.

Anarchists, I think you got some ‘splainin’ to do…


10 thoughts on “wanted: more thoughtful anarchists…”

  1. Ok. My name is Keith, not Ken. And, it looks like I’m the only one that seems to be answering here, but, here goes …

    It would be my contention (the basic outline of which I obtained elsewhere, I don’t remember from whom) that this country could never be invaded and conquered, other than by our own military, even without our military. We have two of the greatest defenses in the world, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

    Our population is so spread out and well armed that there could be no offensive force that could control this land of our’s. Sure, New York, DC and LA could probably be taken, but I would bet that the local gangs would slow that down considerably once they grouped together to defend their “turf” against outsiders.

    To use some numbers, it would be my contention that we could field 10% of our population as an effective fighting force. Sure, that might take 50% of the population under arms to reach an equivelent of 10% effective, but I would expect those numbers would be reached if an invasion attempt were to take place. That’s an effective force of 30 million defenders.

    It’s generally accepted that an offensive force of at least twice the defensive force is necessary to take and control an area. That would mean that the attackers would need to field 60 million under arms to control the country.

    There are only two ways to get troops to our shores. Ships and air. Ships are far too slow to bring that many troops in the narrow window necessary to be effective. Aircraft can’t hope to carry that number of troops. There is no way any enemy could bring enough troops to control the United States.

    That leaves us with destroying major portions of the country. Sure, with nuclear weapons that is likely possible. But, why would anyone want to do that? The only reasons would be fear or anger. And, the only reasons that any significant population outside our county would have to be afraid or angry with us is our actions within their countries, both economic and militarily.

    Our military’s interventionists actions actually do more to threaten our citizens than they serve to protect us. If we were to follow Jefferson’s principle of “free trade with all and entangling alliances with none” our population would be safer and far more prosperous than in our current actions.

    If you believe the above isn’t true then I’m sure you believe that we won in Vietnam, that we’re winning in Iraq and Afghanistan and that peace is possible in the Isreali/Palestinian conflict as long as Israel kills enough babies.

    With 4th generational warfare tactics, first commonly used by the American Indians (even after being devastated by European disease to 10% or less of their original population they did fairly well at holding their own), the American militias during the Revolutionary War, and later widely developed throughout the world, it will never again be possible to win a conventional war, to take land and hold it. The best we can hope for is to be safe and secure in our homes and not have the need to take up arms in defense of those homes.

    The American military, at least using the current worldwide strategies, does nothing to contribute to such safety.

    And, there are plenty thoughtful libertarians/anarchists out there. Most of them are probably more thoughtful than I am, they at least realized it’s futile to join in these discussions with warmongers while I am stupid enough to do so.


    (p.s. with our military already firmly in place throughout our country the one great threat is that someone will convince the majority of them to turn against the American people. That is a war that would truly destroy our country and the civilian population would have difficulty surviving. (note, I didn’t say winning, there would be no winning of such a confrontation.))

    DICTATOR’S NOTE: Sorry about the name mixup, Keith. I fixed it in the post. Thanks. chas


  2. I really dont want to take the time to type out all of my thoughts, as they can be explained more clearly by others. This Keith character is a scholar. I would argue that all of the OPs questions are excellent and should be addressed. The best method of doing so is do read Rothbard’s “For A New Liberty, The Libertarian Manifesto.” 90% of your objections will be awnsered there. It is a brilliant copendium of Anarcho-Capitalism, and without adding any unnessecary hyperbole, it WILL change your life and the way you view government.

    Oh, and it is free online! Read it anytime, you can think me later ;)



  3. What about nuclear weapons, Keith? Suitcase bombs? Missiles?

    What about hijackers? pirates?

    We’ve had actual, real international conspiracies by Islamist terrorists resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, both here and abroad. Are we supposed to let them happen and then react? Or are we to prevent them? And if we set out to prevent them, how do we set about it? Are we allowed to send out spies? Are we allowed to interdict them?

    Are we allowed to protect helpless nations in other parts of the world? or are we supposed to sit back and watch them attacked, conquered, destroyed?

    If we ever WERE an island, we are not now.


  4. Charles,

    Well, i like to think of myself as a radical minarchist, but that’s really not so true anymore. I constantly find myself defending anarchism, and it always seems to be the more moral position. For now, i am not an anarchist, but it would be fair to say that i have strong sympathy for the position. It was just over a year ago that i considered myself a run-of-the-mill liberal democrat who looked ot government as savior. I have come a long ways.

    Eventually, i will probably make the conversion, but not yet.



    1. Mike, after you are through slingshotting past the moon of anarchy, the momentum will carry you back to earth, where you will take up your new life as a solid conservative.

      And we will welcome you warmly.



  5. As for international relastons, your “what if” borders on the absurd, not because those are not threats now, but because in an anarchist society, they would not be. No one is going to waste time and resources combatting a non-existant threat. An aarchist america would pose a threat to literally no one. On the contrary, it would prove most appealing to those who wish to live peacably and prosper.

    I make no utopian assumptions about people. I realise that there are those who are violent by their nature, or wish to live by exploitation and coercion. What I do believe though, is that all incentive for outsiders to attack america would be gone if we lived in a state of market anarchy.

    History has shown us that societies without a government are hard, if not impossible, to conquer.


    p.s. All of this is again addressed in Rothbard’s book, and i wouldnt recomend it so frequently if it was not worth reading. ;)


    1. Mike, I read the chapter on International Relations.

      Frankly, I find it flying completely in the face of millennia of human history. You are quite right in observing “that there are those who are violent by their nature, or wish to live by exploitation and coercion,” but I think you are grasping delusions in your belief that not being a threat is somehow protection from mass evil or tech-savvy greed.


  6. Charles,

    Conservatism, in any sense, implies that there is some level of government. Some level of government, in any sense, means that it is morally acceptable to breach the non-aggression axiom and use force to deprive people of their money, property, and life even if they have not aggressed against anyone. This is, ethically, something i cannot accept. If your political philosophy is not grounded in ethics, then it is grounded in nothing.

    Now, if you accept that it is ok to inniate force against non-aggressors, and accept theft (taxation) as a nessecary part of any society, then we can get somewhere.

    And, when i call taxation theft, it may shock you. This is not hyperbole, nor the rantings of a deluded conspiacy-driven mind. This is recognising things as they really are. If taxation is siezing of money, and it is not volunatry, then it is theft.

    People often have a hard itme swallowing that argument, not because it is invalid, but because t runs against the grain of the status quo. It clashes with the normative notions of what is moral and what is not.



  7. I dont want to seem argumentative though, really. Minarchists, conservatives, libertarians, anyone who fights for less government and more freedom is clearly my ally, even if they do not carry it as far as i would.

    More Liberty is ALWAYS a good thing.


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