No Coercion

Stateless society debate conclusion

I'm getting back to this much later than I had planned, but for anyone still interested, here's the rest of the debate.

Five questions posed to the con side (the side arguing a state would not conquer a stateless society):

1. Given the importance of coordination and interoperability among military units (something even authoritarian state militaries have problems with), and assuming that an aggressive state would act fairly quickly to attack an anarchist territory to neutralize its state-destabilizing influence, how do you think such anarchists—with their distributed, independent defense forces—would provide adequate defense against the concentrated authoritarian state military who has the offensive initiative?

2. There is no basis for only considering potential aggressive states over the next decade. There is no specification in the original question regarding when an anarchist society would emerge or when foreign states would choose to act against it. How would your argument differ if the anarchist society emerged in a time when potential aggressor states were thriving? And even if the potential aggressor states were in financial crises, as you propose, wouldn’t this make them all the more interested in a quick strike against an anarchist region in order to acquire much needed resources, and wouldn’t the states use overwhelming force since they would likely have previously stockpiled a variety of weapons?

3. Don’t state militaries have a huge advantage in terms of the amount of collateral damage they’re willing to cause? They would be likely to use massively destructive weapons, destroying as much anarchist military capability as possible but without having to worry about what damage they might do to non-combatants and non-military infrastructure, whereas the anarchist defense companies would be forced to use extreme caution so as to minimize such collateral damage to their customers or potential customers.

4. How do you answer the fact that states can use the power of taxation to draw on vast resources to fund their attacks against anarchists who must rely on voluntary payments or donations? Related to this, wouldn’t anarchist defense firms be forced to buy weapons at prices that have been significantly bid up by tax-funded, cost-insensitive statist militaries?

5. Defense never wins. Unless the anarchists can invade and destroy the state that intends to destroy them, they cannot win. How is an anarchist society going to project force in an effective offensive to destroy the threat to its existence?

Con side's answers:

The first question is predicated on the classic misconception that an anarchist
defence is militia only armed with rifles and pick-up trucks. In a libertarian
poly-centric private defence context co-ordination, cross training, shared
supplies, weapons calibres and tactics would be normal. Like a fire fighting
company they would be equiped and trained before the fire starts, not building
defences on the run. Competing private security firms share intelligence,
overlap patrols, etc. Most training in the freemarket system would be provided
by the weapons suppliers; as is the case with many weapons systems today. The
Austrian school definition if a monopoly is barriers to market entry therefore
cooperation would be allowable. The state army faces the “calculation
problem” [prof. Murphy said it in class]. What makes them think that a a
“legal” monopoly is more efficient in the provision of services than a
competitive market?

A rich state, question 2, may use tariffs and trade embargoes in moral disputes
because it can, supposedly, afford them. It would also face a rich and well
resourced internal protest movement at home. The goal of a polycentric defence
entity would be to discourage both the rich and poor state from acting rashly
by making the cost of conquest clear, and far more than any perceived benefit
in looted resources, while limiting the damage to the libertarian defence
subscriber. The invading state would have to make very strong propaganda
efforts and if the libertarian society is economically prosperous, it would
have other states or countries as friends, and those socio-political conditions
might stop an invasion.

This goes to the challenge of the third question. While a state can and might
inflict massive damage on anarchist defence companies and their cities; that
would bring the condemnation of the world down upon them. As prof. Hoppe
explains, USA has the power –nuclear weapons- to blow up Afghanistan in one
minute, yet, America does not do it, because it is very difficult to sell that
idea to the people who pay the taxes. Good civil defence, decoy units and bases
and guerrilla tactics (but not terrorism) make bringing to bear overwhelming
force onto a target pointless. What you can't see you can't hit. States very
rarely turn to genocide. The need to protect the customers assets will result
in the companies taking the fight to the enemy bases and ships.

Question 4 is based on the assumption that an anarchist defence company will
want and buy the same weapons that states do. The Taliban has no such problem
and there are many alternative weapons for sale cheap. Many basic weapons are
expired patents, assuming we Honour foreign patents; the USA didn't early on.
Foreign donations may be another source of defence finance as it is with the
IRA, Alqaeda and the Israeli settlers. The state through taxes can support a
war for many many years.

The last question goes to a point that is dear to my heart. I, Wesley, believe
that they will be able to build and use intercontinental strike capability. It
wont be nuclear; there are newer technologies and it will be military assets
only. However Vietnam defeated the USA forces and won that war without
successfully striking any significant blow at the USA. It managed to generate a
massive (wrong headed) antiwar movement instead. There was some terrorism from
colleagues of Obama but that was not organised in Vietnam. If, or after,
defeating the invading army, the private companies would have to decide if it
is necessary to neutralize the invading army. They would know what to do.

Five questions for the pro side:

1.If a strong or populous state would be likely to see the free state as a
threat and invade. Why was the USA not over run in 1780, 1790 or 1812? The USA meets all of your criteria, it demonstrated that freedom was possible, it had
huge untapped resources, it was drawing capital, skilled manpower from Europe
and was threatening the monarchist status quo with its clearly successful
republicanism. Or as Hans-Hermann Hoppe notes on youtube Why don't the French conquer Monaco or the Italians conquer the Vatican city and the holy See?

2.If a free Market anarchist nonstate generates both a capital and a brain
drain from less free states wont that include the best and brightest military
minds? Just as Israel was able to recruit some of the best WW2 generals to
command its army and air-forces. Most were not practising Jews; one did not
know he was Jewish until after they recruited him. Some were gentiles.

3.Given that a libertarian society will respond with guerrilla war, covert
actions and civil disobedience. Given the number cases where such resistance
has succeeded and the limited number of cases where it failed. Isn't it more
likely that a libertarian society with its Polycentric defence structures will

4.The procase has made an argument in basic terms regarding power and
motivation but it has not looked at the Praxiolgical question of whether
leaders and lower ranking troops and government will fight in the states
interest or there own. If that is the same thing. Would they will delay action,
focus their effort on looting and not conquering the target or fanatically
charge the machine-guns until defeated? While rulers can start wars they rarely
control how it plays out.

5.With the availability of new media, cell phone cameras, youtube and things
like Facebook the balance of power is shifting away from central media
institutions that may back a states invasion of a libertarian territory to
other media. Is it not more likely that the opposition to a war or invasion
will rise rapidly to pressure the state into aborting the invasion or pulling
out before it secures anything it can call a victory?

Pro side's answers:

1a. Why was the US not overrun in 1780, 1790 or 1812?

The very question presupposes that the State must have a clear “victory date” to satisfy the “con” team. Such an interpretation is entirely false.

The State can wait. The United States had no capacity to conquer the British Empire at any time suggested by the question. As such, it was of little consequence to the British Empire to attempt such an expensive and difficult contest. So they did not. When they appear to have a momentary advantage (such as against Poland in 1939 by the Germans), they MAY choose to strike decisively.

It might have been more clear to ask why the English Banking Establishment did not bide its time to attempt to subvert and gain control of the monetary system of the United states by establishing, say, a central bank, like the Federal Reserve. But of course! They clearly did.

The history of the 20th century is replete with examples of the English Establishment’s using progressive mechanisms to subvert the institutions of the United States to serve the needs of the English Establishment. [See Quigley: The Anglo-American Establishment.]

Starting in 1917 (at the latest), the United States acted to save the British Empire in not one, but two catastrophic conflicts, in the end serving as the primary actor of the Anglo-American Establishment.

In short, the question is moot. The United States was successfully subverted.

1b. Why don’t the French conquer Monaco, or the Italians Vatican City and the Holy See?

This question ignores the obvious. Such forbearance is nothing other than the singular manifestation of the fact that the costs (mostly political) far outweigh the benefits of doing so.

2. Won’t the anarchist territory drain off the best and brightest military minds?

In a word, no.

For the sake of argument, even if it were able to manage this somehow, such would be no guarantee of victory. The arguably superior leadership of the Germans in the Second World War, with their superior (individually) tanks, airplanes, and rocket technology amounted to nothing other than complete military defeat of that nation.

3. Isn’t it more likely that a libertarian society with polycentric defense structures will stand?


The outcome of a conflict depends on the solutions found by each side to the political and logistical challenges of any conflict.

The aggressive state will calculate the costs, both political and economic, of any potential conflict. The state might prefer to avoid a direct conflict, and rather subvert the structures of the target society.

Remember that the aggressor of any conflict has the initiative to choose the time, place and character of the conflict. It is under no compulsion to commit to conflict before it is ready.

Therefore, any military conflict between an anarchist society and an aggressive state will always be at a time when it is to the state's benefit, unless the anarchists are militarily aggressive.

The state will choose the ideal timing and location of any attack, and is unlikely to suffer the potential of an aggressive neighbor in an anarchist territory, and therefore is likely to be successful in aggression.

And why not settle (for the time being) on taking a fragment of the anarchist territory? With all assurances of "peace in our time," the state can come back for seconds at its discretion.

4. Will a statist army 'get the job done' and conquer effectively, or quickly devolve into looting?

There is no reason there cannot be a harmony of interests here: looting and destroying the property of an anarchist society would be in the best interest of both the members of the invading army, and the rulers of the state. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any reason to suspect any more looting and other breakdown of discipline among the statist forces than we typically witness in actual conflicts today.

5. Wouldn't public pressure by the aggressing state's subjects prevent the state from launching or fully prosecuting a war on an anarchist society?

It may depend on the nature of the anarchist society’s origin. If, on the one hand, the anarchist society is born suddenly as the result of a violent revolution or catastrophic collapse of the state formerly ruling that territory, then the answer is, no, public pressure at home will not stop the invading state. Remember that most of the aggressing state’s subjects will have been thoroughly brainwashed to believe that anarchy is chaotic and dangerous and a breeding ground for terrorists. This is particularly true in the case where the private defense firms are acting in a militarily aggressive manner. There will be more than enough public support for the statists to prosecute a war straight through to the bitter end.

Moreover, the rise of social media has been dramatic in its self-promotion, but not so much in achieving any tangible results. Note that for all its vaunted 'game-changing' ability, the 'twitter revolution' in Iran in 2009 ultimately fell on its face. Note also the anti-war movements in the US are largely weak and powerless, relying on slow-moving public perception and a vote every four years or so, to make changes. In Iraq the US has managed to install a puppet government, as well as maintain a large military presence, without too much political trouble; all that was needed was the declaration of a War on Terror, and the US government essentially enjoys the support of a sufficiently large proportion of the populace to conquer anyone that steps out of line.

Now, if, on the other hand, the anarchist society is the end result of a gradual withering away of the government in something like Konkin’s agorist revolution, then public pressure may well save the anarchists from destruction. In that scenario, people would have been able to see a healthy, peaceful, and non-threatening economy emerge and function for an extended period of time before an aggressive state comes to the decision to attack. It would, in fact, be like the above mentioned case of France attacking Monaco or Italy attacking Vatican City (or San Marino). There would be no chance of the aggressor state tricking its subjects into believing such a place was dangerous, and public pressure could certainly prevent a war or end it as soon as it begins.

Pro side closing statement:

To conclude our case that an anarchist society would be overrun by a centralized state, we’ll touch briefly on several points.

One important point is the observation that every piece of habitable land on the planet is ruled by one state or another, indicating that the state has, in fact, universally won the battle versus statelessness. There has not even been a temporary establishment of a self-described anarchist society aside from the Makhnovists in Ukraine at the end of the Russian Civil War and the anarchists in Spain during the 1930s, and those were both only quasi-anarchist and quickly stamped out by the state.

Another consideration is that the hypothetical anarchist society could not have come into existence with the snap of some magical fingers. It would either have to emerge gradually through some kind of peaceful transition or rather suddenly through some kind of violent action. Our experience shows us that the state won't tolerate even a tiny challenge to their authority, such as refusal to pay a ticket. They certainly won't let an incipient "non-state" come anywhere close to manifesting itself. The anarchists would have to stage a violent aggressive revolution to come into existence. As we’ve argued before, such violence (however necessary and defensive it may be) will enable foreign states to easily paint the free society as a danger and gain public backing for war.

It may also make sense to view any particular “state” as a territory specific private agency, with its military and police acting as interlocking private defense agencies (PDA’s) working to secure the ‘property rights’ of its clients (who happen to largely be the ruling oligarchy). As such, it will root out and extinguish any hint of emerging statelessness, which would be competition to the state’s monopoly. Such a view renders the “state v. anarchist non-state” more to be one of the emergence and domination of a monopolistic PDA.

We have also shown the benefit is towards the state on an operational level. When an anarchist society first emerges, the state will already have a large tax base and a large military to match, and, efficiency notwithstanding, the state can afford a war of attrition--the rulers really do not care about the personnel or property destroyed. The state can choose the form and the timing of the war to suit itself and will do so to its advantage. So the state can win a war with an anarchist society if it so chooses.

Finally, we have shown that an aggressive state must invade if it can - the anarchist society is a clear and immediate Other to the state, and fundamentally threatens the identity and existence of the state. For every point the con side has raised (e.g. the attraction of foreign military personnel, the ability to arm cheaply, etc.), whether these points are valid or not is moot--the potential they have to be valid gives every state official (and also the state's sycophants) a strong, direct motivation to eliminate the anarchist society in any way they can, as quickly as possible.

One point we have not yet raised is the uncertainty faced by the anarchist society - while the con side has made a great deal out of the benefits of a polycentric defense system, the fact remains that all these 'centers of defense' all operate primarily from within a small given territory. In fact, all the benefits ascribed to polycentrism apply equally well to offense and defense, and this is exactly the situation faced by the anarchist society. We have shown that states can and must win a war against an anarchist territory, but any one state need not act alone – a coalition of states can easily be constructed, each state contributing to the combined effort in its own way with its own independent policies, centers, and strategies. Without knowing which direction the next offensive will come from, an anarchist society must surely, eventually, unfortunately, fall.

Con side closing statement:

Most of the argument the Pro-side presented refers only to "technical" stuff
(who has more money to keep a war going, who has better guns, who is better
trained to fight, etc.) Yet, very important praxeological and ideological
considerations are missing in their analysis.

Praxeology allows us to make clear and undeniable predictions about some social
phenomena. For example, minimum wages restrict the number of jobs that in any
other situation would exist. The opposite of this statement makes no economic
sense. Following the same idea, one understands that there is a praxeological
case for for Anarcho-Capitalism. A free market in the provision of legal and
protection services is the best scenario for consumers. Rothbard made this
praxeological case in his main works.

Yet, Praxeology is not the complete story. As Prof. Hoppe explains, praxeology
does not say anything about “specific” predictions. By Praxeology one knows
that the individual will use the first unit of a good to satisfy his most
highly ranked goal –Law of Mg Utility. What is the first unit of marginal
utility for invading a country and where does the marginal utility diminish to
a point where the invasion is called off or lost?

When talking about Anarcho-Capitalism, we should focus on ideological factors
more than psychological factors.

In Jewish and Muslim countries, people do not buy pork, and the market for pork
meat seems not to exist. But one understands that under other “ideological”
conditions a market for pork would "normally" work. Now, let us imagine that
instead of hating pork that society hates taxes and presidents. Only under
those ideological conditions Anarcho-Capitalism could properly work. Only in
those societies where people respect the libertarian axioms of non-aggression
and private property Anarcho-Capitalism is possible. And as long as the
ideology is strong, that society will exist that way. “Radical” Muslim
societies have existed for centuries, and at the beginning America had a strong
and radical libertarian ideology.

The main question in this debate should not be if anarchism can work or not,
the correct question must be: “under what ideological conditions, the
praxeological –anarchist- prediction would work?”

The Pro-side has not fully considered the ideological factors for an invasion.
The idea of conquering a place for its resources is now universally condemned.
Switching to new resources is the more modern solution. This shifts the balance
away from state aggression.

As Hoppe has also explained, the president’s power does not reside in brute
force, but instead on propaganda. The soldiers don’t kill people for fun or
for money, instead they think they are fighting a just war. there are
historical cases where big powers have not attack small independents states.
And as Prof. Hoppe has also explained, for many reasons guerrilla warfare is
the best way to fight an invasion.

We live in a world where communication is global. The battle for peoples hearts
and minds is global and the power of state propaganda is diminishing. In that
context the best defence for free society with private defence companies may
be a million web-cameras, civil disobedience and behaving honourably while
standing by the societies guiding freemarket principles.

So, that was my attempt at playing devil's advocate. I actually agree with the opposing side that the logic and evidence weighs heavily in favor of a stateless society surviving any attempts to conquer and "re-statize" it if it can come about in the first place. Let me know your thoughts!

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