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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11602/foreign-aggression/

Foreign Aggression

February 4, 2010 by

Many people ask, “But how in the world could a laissez-faire society deal with aggression by foreign nations, since it would have no government to protect it?” Behind this question are two unrealized assumptions. FULL ARTICLE by Morris and Linda Tannehill

{ 12 comments }

Enjoy Every Sandwich February 4, 2010 at 10:04 am

A free-market defense system would also make it very difficult for an attacker to obtain a surrender. Just as a laissez-faire society would have no government to start a war, it would have no government to capitulate. The defenders would fight as long, and only as long, as they believed was in their self-interest. Even the insurance companies and defense agencies couldn’t negotiate a surrender, because their agreements could bind no one but the persons who actually signed them. It is interesting to speculate on what an aggressive foreign nation would do if confronted with such a situation.

It appears to me that Afghanistan represents such a situation. No aggressive foreign nations have solved this problem so far.

Nick Bradley February 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

I believe that insurance companies would provide for strategic national defense and deterrence. They would not sell “national defense” policies per se, but would preemptively act to reduce the risk of property loss.

I could foresee a situation wherein large insurance companies, often reinsurers, would regularly purchase information from private intelligence firms on potential threats.

If a foreign actor was deemed likely to conduct an attack on the host nation, the insurance company would probably take preemptive action. The most likely course of preemptive action would be assassination:

Insurance companies would put out a contract on foreign warmongers

DW February 4, 2010 at 11:45 am

I’m going to share this article with my friends. Well done Morris and Linda!

I really enjoyed your take on weapons of mass destruction. Yet I wonder. Given that there’s going to be a market for practically anything, how would the free-market act towards those who amass dangerous quantities of such weaponry?

It’s a difficult scenario, even though I feel that the free-market system would be superior. But I can come up with a good guess. Suppose scoundrel Joe somehow gets a hold of a mustard-gas bomb and his neighbors quickly find out because at this point in time Defense Insurance companies have already developed the necessary technology to detect mustard-gas from great distances. Instead of launching a “pre-emptive attack” (which we know would instigate further aggression), insurance companies could coordinate an effort to inform businesses and neighbors alike about the potential danger and to literally “boycott” Scoundrel Joe. Scoundrel Joe is thus given a peaceful yet stern choice; either give up his mustard-gas bomb or no longer be able to do business with most everyone else. It’d be like facing potential “sanctions”, except the sanctions would be directed at him and not his “government” as what tends to happen in our world today.

Should Scoundrel Joe threaten others with his mustard-gas bomb in order to sustain himself or grow his resources, the Defense Insurance companies would have little choice but to up the ante. They may not necessarily attack him, since such actions would probably excacerbate the situation, but possibly start off with warning demonstrations. In either case, Joe would be in the cross-hairs of such forces unless he changes his ways in the most peaceful fashion.

By this time, the DIs would have already made the proper precautions to protect and compensate their insurees for the setbacks of this scenario. They may even coordinate such services for the uninsured, not only for moral reasons but for practical ones; it would help attract more customers in the future.

MBrown February 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Read L. Neil Smith’s North American Confederacy series.

While North America has a government (which only meets if 90% of the population wants it to), ‘national defense’ is handled by local private militias, who finance their own weapons. Add to that, every man, woman and child are armed.

No nation-states ever invaded NA. In the equivalent of WWI, volunteers from NA did participate, which lead to most of the nation-states going away.

Guard February 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Great practical and sensible article. I think we need to go beyond the merely sensible though. Suppose Joe Scoundrel succeeds in manufacturing a cobalt fusion bomb capable of destroying the whole earth – and he’s nuts. Wouldn’t someone be justified in pre-emptive violence? Shouldn’t cobalt bombs be against the law and thus require a government to control their manufacture?
No. Because what I have just described is precisely the scenario in which the original man found himself. God puts a tree in the garden of Eden and says “don’t eat from it.” By the single act of eating, all humanity for all time died.
God did not put a barb wire fence around the tree, then outlaw wire cutters, then outlaw metals that could be made into wire cutters, etc. etc.
This is because freedom is a higher value than survival, a conclusion that, indeed, great men have come to in the past.

billwald February 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

People will tolerate taxation, a military draft, whatever, to a much greater extent – people are more willing to expand their definition of self interest – if the imposition is made by a group of their own kind of people. People resist the imposition even if it is in their own best interest if it is made by some other kind of people.

“Kind” can be one’s nationality, religion, race, political party, whatever. In the US both major parties are owned by the same international corporations. All a national election does is change the name of the tax collector which pleases the winning side and displeases the losing side.

Whittaker February 5, 2010 at 7:33 am

Excellent article. However, I take issue with the mention of “companies”, e.g.:

In a laissez-faire society, insurance companies should be even better based financially than they are in our governmentally crippled economy.

Actually, in a laissez-faire society, there would not BE any companies, at least not incorporated ones. “Companies” as we know them today are the product of an abstruse and byzantine body of law– the law of corporations– promulgated by, you guessed it, the government!

Also, when we speak of insurance companies, we take for granted the enforceability of long-term, contingent promises. This pre-supposes the existence of a government or other long-term institution to do the enforcing. I am not arguing for the existence of government here, but I do think anarchist philosophers need to realize that without one, we would either need to (a) find a way to make society work without relying on any long-term, contingent promises, or (b) provide for the existence of other institutions to enforce them.

Hoff February 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Well done Nick Bradley. I was going to make the same points. People would not buy a product called “defense from foreign invasion”, this would simply ensure their persons and property from aggression of any sort and the insurance companies would do the work to find out how much this would cost and transmit this to the consumer by way of a higher or lower premium.

Mark February 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

If a laissez-fair society is capable of defending itself against foreign aggression, why aren’t the greatest societies in the world laissez-fair? We know laissez-fair societies produce the greatest economic output. If they could defend themselves from states, one would have appeared at some point in history and become the greatest power on earth. I suggest that laissez-fair societies might be easy victims of divide and conquer, an issue not addressed in this essay, by state dominated societies and that’s why none exist.

ABR February 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Mark raises an interesting question. Hong Kong in its hey-day was close to laissez-faire, but it was backed by the UK and China.

Any small ‘nation’ is vulnerable to attack, whether it be Statist or anarchist.

If tomorrow the US were to become anarchist, would it succumb to attack? I doubt it.

Under anarchy, there likely wouldn’t be one giant military with a commander-in-chief. Instead, there might be an assortment of militia. But isn’t a market typically more efficient than monopoly? Why wouldn’t these militia co-ordinate a defence of the ‘nation’?

I think the bigger question is: how might a State evolve into anarchy?

Troy Doering February 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm

@ABR
that is a good question, my greatest fear is that America collapses into a failed state. not Anarchy, but just no functioning leadership, except which ever warlord can hold power. I don’t foresee this happening before 2050-2100. but it seems the way our country is heading. Corruption and Division hold too much power.
I am not blaming either Bush or Obama for this. Its just you can see it on the horizon.
And I hope I’m wrong.

mouser98 February 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

@mark – States exist as tools for the powerful to protect and exercise their power. look at the state throughout history, it always about power, never about what’s best for the little guy, this is true even for the US in 1776.

@abr – i don’t believe that no one attacked Hong Kong because it was under the protection of China or UK. No one attacks Singapore, or Lichtenstein, and they are sovereign. They could survive just as well as free societies. They don’t because those that seek power successfully fooled the little guy into supporting their power structures aka the state, (see above).

@ Troy – i think whatever happens happens by 2030. See the Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe (http://www.fourthturning.com/)

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