In a series of recent blog posts “Freedom Team of India” founder Mr Sanjeev Sabhlok has criticized libertarians of the anarchist variety on the issues like those of national defense. I usually don’t like to criticize the doers in the liberty movement, especially when India needs doers in large numbers, but I as a market anarchist cannot let such a criticism slide by without a proper response. So I will attempt to answer the criticisms with all due respect to Mr Sabhlok.
We start with the post on Rothbard: Rothbard’s foundational error about classical liberalism and his mistaken belief in anarchy (all quotes without source are from the article)
Mr Sabhlok wouldn’t be the first liberal to ignore Rothbard (or market anarchists in general) and he wouldn’t be the last. This is the usual mindset of a liberal when faced with their own logic taken to its natural conclusion. Ignore all our arguments as unsound as its a well known fact that “the government has to exist”. I applaud Mr Sabhlok for at least trying to study Rothbard, most liberals don’t even do that.
All social contracts are contracts of convenience. It is what those who want to be involved with the state tell themselves to justify their acts of violence. Just like how a holy book is a book of convenience for the priests of that religion to justify their actions. But whether a social contract is a contract of convenience or not is of no consequence as the majority of the population has never signed any and only an extreme minority of the population was even consulted to draft the terms of the contract. (No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority - Lysander Spooner )
Absolutely. Need for territory is a central argument of libertarianism - Property rights of each and every individual. The fact about human nature can be refuted but arguments can be made either way. If humans are peaceful creatures (at least majority of them) who tend to socialize then a utopian form of Anarchism is possible without a doubt. But if humans are indeed aggressive creatures then all the more reason why we cannot let an extremely small fraction of them hold on to powers that affect a large percentage of population. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Personally, I am not a utopian anarchist. I do not believe that human nature is inherently good or that only a minority of humans have a tendency to do evil. I believe that all humans (even myself) cannot be trusted with power. The extent to which power corrupts may vary from person to person but the result is the same - a ruler who does violent acts against his subjects and justifies to himself by saying “I did the right thing”.
I usually do not like preaching “markets” to Classical Liberals (who already accept free* market arguments, *conditions applied) but I think a note about markets is needed here. If humans are truly violent and aggressive, why is it that majority of them live peacefully today? The answer, of course, is that we are selfish creatures. Violence tends to invite violence - its in our best interest to not aggress against another human being, at least not when its costly to do so. This is the reason why humans have socially evolved the process of markets. Markets make it cheaper to obtain goods peacefully than to obtain goods via violence. Indeed, whenever market processes have been deconstructed, humans have fallen back to their violent means - a lot of times against the state (and the rich). Markets make us humane. Market Anarchism is the notion that market process should therefore be left free to evolve without rulers - no compromise.
Although not said properly, a case for collectivism can be made. No individual has the capability to match the might of a superpower nation. Market Anarchists do not reject that argument. However, this argument is an argument for collectivism, not the state. We do need collective strength to ward off an aggressive collective. This is how it has always been.
Perhaps the difference between persistent minarchists and anarchists is their difference in goals. It is usually alleged that Market Anarchists (and Anarchists in general) do not give a good answer to the question of national defense. To some degree this allegation is true but not because we avoid the question but because our concerns are different:
Which is probably the reason why many Minarchists will always be Minarchists (or classical liberals) - they view national defense not from the perspective of the individual but from the perspective of the nation (and its rulers) - One nation with the fascist slogan “Strength through Unity. Unity through Faith”, completely forgetting the democides.
However, a change of perspective is needed if one is to understand Market Anarchists. After all a perfect form of national defense is supposed to be all about protecting the individuals of the “nation” from “foreign” invasion and not the “plutocracy”.
Yet historically wars, defense and armies have always been about protecting the plutocracy. At least in India, a change in ruler rarely had an impact on our daily lives (except during the war period). Armies were therefore not present to protect us from other kings, they were present to protect the current king from other kings - a fact that can easily be seen as the victorious king almost never showed any special ill will towards his newly acquired subjects (at least no more ill will than usual).
Whether present day armies are any different is a matter of speculation. But simply accepting that the national army represents the best interests of people will amount to blind nationalism. After all, present day Indians would shudder to think that the armies of Ashoka, Akhbar or any other king of the pre-democracy India ever represented them. Armies that ravaged not only armies of other kings but Indian civilians and infrastructure as well. People have no problem calling them rouge armies - they are no longer blinded by the sort of nationalism that existed then, blind nationalism that made the people support their king for wars. Yet most arguments involving “support our troops” are just that - supporting our troops without question. In fact, I argue that when people say “support our troops” they unwittingly say “support our plutocrats”.
If I was arguing with someone from the west, I would point out the “war crimes” done by the American armies in the middle east or the “war crime” Putin is about to commit. But unfortunately this argument is with an Indian audience who are afraid of such armies and feel that we need a monopolized army to protect our borders. Which opens us to arguments like:
When we as Indians talk of national defense, we would never want such an army to represent us as is the US Army - changing regimes, invading homes and destroying property. We would never want the Indian Army to stoop so low.
Yet on closer inspection, the difference between Indian Army and the US Army is just that of scale and power. Our Army is just not that high in the pecking order. Russia invades Ukraine, it would be in our best interest to keep quiet. Had our army been that strong and had we been high up in the pecking order, we would most probably have our very own Indian Putin - waging wars for special interests rather than national defense. This fact can be verified by a quick look at history, armies that are the strongest have always been the first to be used for special interests - fear of these armies were probably used to justify support of all national monopolized armies.
I wonder if Mr Sabhlok would demand that we first capture the “Indian Putin” before preaching liberty.
Do you support the troops?
This, of course, insinuates that libertarian anarchists are ungrateful to the troops. But that is not the case. As I have said it before I am not a utopian anarchist, there is a need for societies to protect themselves. There is a need for some collectivism as no individual can stand up to an invading army. I accept the argument that soldiers have sacrificed their lives to protect us so that we can have a society.
I “support the troops”, but I do not support the following:
- Forcing them into wars that involve special interests.
- Forcing them to work for a single employer
Especially since that single employer is the state - a body that consists of the plundering class. And as it has been repeatedly pointed out - as long as we have a centralized body that claims monopoly over law and order we will always have special interests that can be acted upon using tax money, whether it is protecting certain businesses or protecting a currency. So saying that we will always need a state for defense is saying that we will always have to plunge our troops in special interest wars under the command of their only possible employer.
Classical Liberals (and Minarchists) do understand the slavery that comes with being forced to work for a single employer. Most of them are Liberals for this very reason - labor freedom. Yet when it comes to troops, they reverse their stand.
A better question would be: Does the members of parliament support the troops?
But what is the solution?
Market Anarchism is not a solution, its a process and to some its the end goal. Market Anarchism will not give any solution to your problems - it is not a committee. Questions like “How will a libertarian society handle X” are good from a utilitarian perspective and utilitarian arguments for market anarchism can be made. However something different drives the market anarchists, especially the Rothbardians:
It is our view that a flourishing libertarian movement, a lifelong dedication to liberty can only be grounded on a passion for justice.” - Murray Rothbard, Why be a libertarian
It is simply injustice to force conscription, force them into wars they don’t support and force them to work for a single employer.
However, utilitarian arguments can also be worked out. Some of the good arguments are present in papers listed at Mises Wiki - a discussion of which demands a separate article in itself. But none of these utilitarian arguments will ever convince a terrified individual and fear is the ultimate weapon of the state.
You are being Delusional
The task ahead for libertarians is a mammoth one, especially in India. Studying libertarian ethic helps you fix your screwed up moral compass. It helps you see the acceptance and even glorification of injustices around you. It helps you understand what a truly free society should look like; what a truly free market should work like. While an anarchist’s project is arduous and an uphill battle it is certainly not delusional.
I simply cannot accept a “working” Classical Liberal state as a proper picture of what a truly free society should look like. A free society is not one where the government still has monopoly over land and money. So Classical Liberals either lie about true freedom or are delusional themselves – there is no such thing as a free society under a state (especially a strong state). Either way, Classical liberalism is an argument that we must keep the worst perpetrators of humanity in power or they will retaliate.