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Article posted Mar 22 2011, 6:10 AM Category: Commentary Source: Jeffrey A. Tucker Print

The Real Meaning of "Defense"

by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The horror of Muammar Gaddafi's approach to keeping power in Libya boggles the mind and shocks the moral conscience. But how different is his approach from the way most all governments behave in the face of citizen revolt? There are differences among them with regard to how far they will go to force submission, but the methods and the rationale everywhere are the same in all times and places.

In 2006, Gaddafi told the students at Columbia University: "There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet." Five years later, the people themselves are revealed as his ultimate enemies, and for one reason: he wants to stay whereas they want him gone. Therefore he must stop at nothing. He must kill them: "We will come house by house, room by room. … It's over. The issue has been decided…. We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity."

To his mind, it's not complicated. This is how a peaceful protest against dictatorship became what is called a "civil war," which is really just a despot's war against freedom. People holding signs and vigils were forced into a defensive mode and are now full-time "rebels" against the regime, the entire country torn to pieces by one's man's stubbornness and megalomania. The state that had always promised to defend the people — that is why Gaddafi had rule with an iron hand — is now slaughtering them so that the state can live.

There is something to learn from this. The issue of who owns the guns, who or what possesses the military power, who or what is charged with "national defense," is not some abstract problem of economic or political theory. It is not an issue to be considered in the appendix of a public finance text or debated in the hallways of think tanks.

No, the issue of defense services might in fact be the central issue that determines whether or not a society is and can remain free. Without getting rid of the "defense" power of the state, any and every state, the people will always be subject to the discretionary will of those in power, and there is nothing apart from conscience, to stop any state in the world from becoming the killing field of Libya today.

But how many have actually realized this? Granting the monopoly power to the state for purposes of "defending" the people against some enemy (private crime, religious fanaticism, a foreign foe, or whatever) is something that elicits near-universal agreement on the Right and the Left. Those intellectuals in several centuries who have brought into question this fundamental power — not just how it is used but the existence of the power itself — can be counted on two hands and maybe even one.

Think back to 1970 when Murray Rothbard's wonderful book Power and Market first appeared on the scene. This book was to be a comprehensive critique of interventionism of all types. He classified interventions into types and demonstrated how every form of socialism, regulation, monetary manipulation, and tax distorts the market economy and fails to achieve its stated aims.

But the first-time reader is blown away by way the book begins. He begins with the biggest pill of all, the most controversial proposal ever: he urged a free market for defense services. In other words, he urged the busting up of the government cartel on these services and called for the free market to take over.

He might have picked a less controversial topic. After all, the Cold War was raging. Most Americans feared Russians on the other side of the world more than their own government. In those days, even to call for an end to far-flung foreign wars was to risk being labeled a subversive.

To suggest the end of national defense itself was unthinkable, a guarantee that the book would not only fail commercially but might even be banned in libraries. Reviewers were absolutely aghast. Even Rothbard's friends in the nascent free-market movement were rattled. Why can't Rothbard be more like Friedman and tackle subjects that don't incite such controversy? Why can't he be more sensitive to the entrenched biases of the reader?

Still, the fearless Rothbard understood that
Defense in the free society (including such defense services to person and property as police protection and judicial findings) would therefore have to be supplied by people or firms who (a) gained their revenue voluntarily rather than by coercion and (b) did not — as the State does — arrogate to themselves a compulsory monopoly of police or judicial protection. Only such libertarian provision of defense service would be consonant with a free market and a free society. Thus, defense firms would have to be as freely competitive and as noncoercive against noninvaders as are all other suppliers of goods and services on the free market. Defense services, like all other services, would be marketable and marketable only.
Anyone who reads that chapter at the outset of an exploration of what used to be called the liberal philosophy will have already faced the ultimate challenge. If you accept that the free market is a better tool of social management, are you willing to forgo "national defense"? If not, you must consider why you make an exception in this one area but not most other areas. If there is something about government that is uniquely suited to providing this most important function, can we really rule out the possibility government has competence in a full range of other areas too?

It is for this reason that Rothbard takes up the case first: to illustrate just how confident that libertarians can truly be on this question. But that is not the only reason that Rothbard puts the case front and center. He is also demonstrating his conviction that, in the end, this urgency to end the government's monopoly on this form of coercive power might be the number one priority, more important than privatizing schools, lowering taxes, or deregulating business. After all, it is the government's power of "defending the nation" that can ultimately make the difference between freedom and slavery (or death).

In any case, consider the reality of national defense and how it is used. These military states are invariably erected in the name of protecting the citizens. But how are they actually used? The case of Libya is an illustrative one. In the weeks following the peaceful protests that rose up against Gaddafi's rule, he began the slaughter. Planes and tanks from his own militia mowed down citizens who demanded his ouster. His planes machine-gunned mourners at funerals, people running for safety, or just anyone who happened to be standing around at the time. The hospitals ran out of beds and medicine. The number of dead is unknown but it is in the many thousands. Meanwhile, Gaddafi himself has said that he will stop at nothing to keep his power.

To him, it is a simple matter. Government rules. The people obey. Just because some sizable swath tries to overturn that system doesn't mean that the system must be upended. Isn't that the philosophy of all government in all times and all places? If it were not, the state would not need coercion, and it would not be a state. It would be a part of society, just another association the cumulates and represents the interests of a group, like the Rotary Club, chess club, or a house of worship. It is the power to legally beat, jail, and kill dissidents that makes the state what it is.

The guns and munitions that have long been accumulated under the claim that these were necessary to protect people — of course the people themselves were long ago disarmed by being denied the freedom to possess weapons of equal or greater power — every government will turn those very weapons on its people to slaughter them when they cease to obey.

Rothbard was right. This issue deserves to be made chapter one in a manual of how freedom is better for society than government rule.
__
Jeffrey Tucker is the editor of Mises.org and author of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail. See Jeffrey A. Tucker's article archives.





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Comments 1 - 10 of 10 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
Dave

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 6:17 AM

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the loop

looking at Gaddafi's finances (he is up there) and the rhetoric, he is in the club. people have been given 'the loop' on this as usual, all that cyclic logic that goes round faster and faster in ever decreasing loops until it all fails. those who fall into the loop talk the talk of the loop. this started by talking heads called gaddafi and cameron. i expect the loop is playing at the bbc as i write this. time to wake the dead, hi to the bunkem crew at the bbc!

i heard it is a stock expression, giving people the loop as in earlier days of control sciences computer programs were run on mag tape.

too big to fail was of course a lie as is being demonstrated now. politicians want to keep the 'ruling class' system (gravy train) running, want to convince us we need to be controlled (gravy train). it isn't true, politics starts with that lie and goes down fighting for that lie. that is the big loop.
Dave

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 6:34 AM

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did history just repeat?

i asked people on the street what they made of all this. one chap was a 'christian', he wasn't too pleased that gaddafi had raised the religious card. it is division, it helps in war games. these businesses known as organised religions have people fighting over official stories, behind that the business is collecting money and meantime crown forces are busy going for the minerals. however, and here is the catch, the public internet is up, the curtain that reveals it is a stage is there and it is open. perhaps you can even see the computers at work.

it is quite some theatre, you pay to watch, you have to pay and you can't turn the loop media off, it comes out of spectators' lips. all this while they are burning the money, the stage and the theatre.

'if this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?' said voltaire. any utopia is a prison. for the king game one needs money, if it is gold the poor will clip the coins to have more of their own while resisting the king. in comes paper money then paperless that the king is safe and everyone else is at risk.

loop logic is unneccessary, painful, for many it is fatal but the king game requires ignorance of almost everyone so here we are (again).
Dave

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 6:48 AM

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i watched frank zappa interviews on this site, he wasn't a believer or follower, he was definitely real and he called it:

when the lie's so big

They got lies so big
They don't make a noise
They tell 'em so well
Like a secret disease
That makes you go numb

With a big ol' lie
And a flag and a pie
And a mom and a bible
Most folks are just liable
To buy any line
Any place, any time

When the lie's so big
As in robertson's case,
(that sinister face
Behind all the jesus hurrah)

Could result in the end
To a worrisome trend
In which every american
Not 'born again'
Could be punished in cruel and unusual ways
By this treacherous cretin
Who tells everyone
That he's jesus' best friend

When the lie's so big
And the fog gets so thick
And the facts disappear
The republican trick
Can be played out again

People, please tell me when
We'll be rid of these men!

Just who do they really
Suppose that they are?
And how did they manage to travel as far
As they seem to have come?
Were we really that dumb?

People, wake up
Figure it out
Religious fanatics
Around and about
The court house, the state house,
The congress, the white house

Criminal saints
With a 'heavenly mission' --
A nation enraptured
By pure superstition

When the lie's so big
And the fog gets so thick
And the facts disappear
The republican trick
Can be played out again
People, please tell me when
We'll be rid of these men!
Dave

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 7:53 AM

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orchestrated global crisis = climate change

people like to be entertained, made to laugh, to cry, this can be politically contrived in the whole rollercoaster of a surrogate life. some people in the public eye tried to help, that won't stop happening and it will happen all the more that life is contested. i think it helps if we remember the actors of official history in the true history and those that were themselves and really cared.

included amongst people that did care that were forgotten if even noticed was frank zappa. he went head to head with the slavers, dismantled the rhetoric and most important of all wasn't infected himself. i saw some of what he did, the circumstances score 10 out of 10 in terms of being on the crown hit list. in my visits to atlanta the big buildings (big power big money) were few, the company in plain view and one of these was cancer research.

control uses division tactically, cell division one of the aims and achievements in controlling life. it would fit true history if this is how frank zappa lost his life (medically assisted death), like many others who had a public chair, told inconvenient truths and challenged harmful lies.

i thank frank zappa, i think it likely that what lived in him lives in all of us. 2 + 2 = 4, he was someone who saw it and said so no matter that when he said so he was the only one saying so be it to the loop media or the US gov.
Dave

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 9:24 AM

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radar

with libya i remember 1984, the theatrics that surround diplomacy were thrust centre stage when we were told a female police officer was shot and killed with shots fired from the libyan embassy. thatcher's public response at the time was to help those accused of the murder back home. i say this 'we were told' and 'accused' not believing what we were told for a moment nor did it stand up to examination of the available evidence from the time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yvonne_Fletcher

the theatrics involving libya back in 1984 at St James Square were a complete reversal by mrs thatcher of what she claimed, it was a complete flip flop from the iranian embassy siege when it was clear the orders were take no prisoners as the sas were advertised as global political fixers. no liability contracts were drawn up, in earlier years i knew this as 'crown immunity'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Embassy_Siege

it is part of the control system, to be given status you are required to publicly accept blame for something. promotion follows though the media is presenting circumstances quite differently, as is their role.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103
TimAng

Posted: Mar 23 2011, 3:26 AM

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this was an incredibly good article
Dave

Posted: Mar 23 2011, 6:11 AM

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i see <The Real Meaning of "Defense"> is to remove division

i see contradictions with life in the article, it presents from what i see as an advertisement for what is currently being done. government is at the end of life, i see it as of survival necessity this reality is acknowledged.

<He is also demonstrating his conviction that, in the end, this urgency to end the government's monopoly on this form of coercive power might be the number one priority, more important than privatizing schools, lowering taxes, or deregulating business.>

i see this as playing with words. government is a de facto corporation supplying goods and services on a compulsory and monopoly basis. to privatise political functions is not an end to government. as for 'coercive', what a dissociative word. if i was going round murdering people globally on mass for a living is it a valid point to discuss who cheques should be made payable to?
Dave

Posted: Mar 24 2011, 5:52 AM

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ingsoc

the holding system deployed is 1984, this plan was given to public puppets around the world, big brother society; ingsoc. it is postured reality here in exeter. behind the curtain of the theatre which is collapsing and before the olympic restart. the selected presentation for 'behind the curtain' is one of a show of force. the cast for the final act being lots of actors in uniforms of programmed authority. this too is part of the illusionary world people have been worshiping and living, the huge lies.

university (control) sciences

what is called science is a native ability of humankind, having bumped into a wall 9 times before up pops conscience and we can think about the problem knowing its history. to comprehend the world or the part of it we are interested in we notice patterns, we find ways to rationalise things, to have a simple way of describing aspects of life. the resulting algorithmic redux is not life, it is just an attempt to explain it.

people are schooled in specific sciences, given status, programming and believe what they are taught as if it were life. there is a difference between reality and our description of it, but the simplification for comprehension becomes life to social engineers. this is implicit with ingsoc, life simplifies, reduced to that of a vegetable.

having audited some of what has been going on here in blighty, it is those blinkered heads schooled in thought who have been busy creating the manmade world which in terms becomes forever simpler. british compartmentalised heads writing the scripts for the EU, UK, US, UN etc, and so the program (unlife, unfreedom) advances.

no vegetable is safe

it is likely they have decided what the potato is, what it will become and for how long it will exist. food is rationalised to match the scientific program. computers controlling life, including remote control computers in human form. a polite term for this would be 'regression' but controls are already such that to hit the wall on the tenth time would be viewed as a system error. conscience and consciousness is lost, the ability to be free suppressed.

tavistock flaunt the word 'diversity' as a brand, 1984 style as the opposite of the truth they intend. diversity is that which they are actually wilfully destroying in a full spectrum war. this was marketed first as global warming as politics was polarised then as climate change.

it seems to me likely that nature will out all of us at some point but i see no reason why the journey between now and then should be one of misery, unhealth and a series of lies. life is a journey, government is a roadblock and it shouldn't be there. freedom is too much to ask for (governments are designed as police states) but not too much to have. it is a choice, it is the choice, it is who decides in part that defines freedom.

you are supposed to be afraid of freedom while you are taxed continuously even when you are asleep, assaulted continuously even when you are asleep, poisoned ocntinuously even when you are asleep. 24/7 wittingly or otherise universities around the globe research how to do you more harm. you are meant to be and remain afraid, ignorant and asleep.
Dave

Posted: Mar 24 2011, 6:33 AM

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i view the article as bunk, political blunk, what is supposed to look plausible when the logic contains blatant doublethink. such things destroy minds. programmed systems work to a script, books are flying out of universities, some of these are scripts to be acted out. this article fits that and it is the sort of political clap trap that would, for the sake of an example, pop out of some puffed product of princeton .
Dyslixic..err dislexern

Posted: Mar 25 2011, 11:21 AM

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8196 Quadhafi is an insider. I have a picture on the screen as I type shaking hands with Sarkozy. It is an easily recognizable and distinctive handshake. I wonder if Jess goodell will go to Libya.

http://www.rense.com/general93/bagger.htm
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