Friday, August 29, 2008

The Myth of National Defense (Butler Shaffer)

Butler Shaffer destroys the myth that we need a state to defend us against foreign aggressors by pointing out that, among other things, we already are under the thumb of hostile powers:

When explaining the advantages of living in a society grounded in liberty and voluntary relationships – rather than the statist model of institutionalized violence – the question that invariably provides the final hurdle to overcome is that involving national defense. Intelligent minds can grasp how streets and highways, schools, fire protection, parks, and other traditional governmental functions can be performed in the marketplace. But as if out of fear of letting go of the statist model altogether, most will hang on to the question: how would a non-statist society protect people from invasion and occupation by a foreign state? In a stateless society, what would prevent our being taken over and tyrannized by outside forces? For many – even those who favor a minimal state – "national defense" is a necessity not to be entrusted to the unstructured nature of a society of free people.

My initial response to such hesitancy is to point out that a strong, national government makes us more vulnerable to attack and invasion. The state serves not as a shield that protects us, but a jugular vein that provides others with a central target to be subdued. If men and women have been foolish enough to identify themselves with a nation-state, such attachments make it easy for their governments to transfer their compliant herds to another power. Consider how easily Hitler and Stalin were able – in some cases within a matter of days – to subdue neighboring lands, acquiring in the processes of surrender people already well-trained in the duties of obedience.

Imagine, by contrast, the difficulties that would be faced by any political system intent on invading and subduing men and women already accustomed to liberty. If the Chinese government was intent on conquering a stateless America, how would it go about doing so?

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