The Competitive Provision of Security

Wendy McElroy
The Daily Bell
Jan. 24, 2014

The discussion of how the free market would provide security from aggression by criminals or an invading group has deep and venerable roots.

The Belgian-born classical liberal, Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), respected the free market so deeply that colleagues called him "the law of supply and demand made into man." Although he was highly praised in his day, Molinari has fallen into comparative obscurity. His legacy should be retrieved because he raised a question that deserves serious consideration. Why is security a service that people believe is better provided by the state rather than by the free market?

His answer: Like every "good" necessary to man, security is best provided on a competitive basis with individuals possessing the authority to choose. In short, Molinari was a precursor to free-market anarchism. He is the first theorist to present a cohesive argument on how the free market could competitively provide defense, not merely for individuals but for areas occupied by many individuals. He proposed a free-market alternative to the service that is called "national defense." He did so in an article entitled "The Production of Security" and in his book entitled Conversations on Economic Laws and Defense of Property.

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