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An Open Letter to the Peace Movement

An Open Letter to the Peace Movement | March 7, 2003

Dear Peace Activists:

All honour to you. In your opposition to the United States’ impending war on Iraq, you represent a welcome voice for sanity and civilisation, lifted up against the incessant baying of the dogs of war.

But I want to urge you to follow the logic of your position just a bit further.

Much has been said, and eloquently so, about the need, in dealings between nation and nation, to choose persuasion over violence whenever possible. Hear, hear!

But why this qualification: between nation and nation?

If persuasion is preferable to violence between nations, must it not also be preferable to violence within nations?

Suppose my neighbour runs a business out of his home, and I’d rather he didn’t. If I call the zoning board and ask them to shut his business down by force, am I acting like a peace activist? Or am I acting like George Bush?

Suppose I go to the polls and vote to maintain or increase income taxation, or gun control, or mandatory licensing, or compulsory education. Am I not calling upon the state to invade people’s lives and properties? To impose my will, by legalised force, on those who have done me no harm? To choose violence over persuasion? Am I acting like a peace activist, or am I acting like George Bush?

As Ludwig von Mises writes:

"It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom."


To the extent that government initiates force against its people – and every government qua government must do so, since a government that maintained neither coercive taxation nor a coercive territorial monopoly of authority would no longer be a government, but something a good deal more wholesome – every government is waging a war of aggression against its own people. A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.

It may be objected that in democratic countries, the government represents the will of the citizens; since the citizens are understood to consent to the government’s actions, those actions cannot count as “aggression” against the citizenry. Volenti non fit injuria.

The notion that voting counts in any meaningful sense as “consent” was subjected to devastating criticisms in the 19th century by the English classical liberal Herbert Spencer, in his essay The Right to Ignore the State, as well as by the American abolitionist Lysander Spooner, in his pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Both works are available online; those tempted to regard majority rule as a form of self-government are invited to consult them.

As peace activists, we understand that aggressive warfare between nations is neither moral nor practical. If violence is to be employed, it must be defensive in nature, and it must be the last resort, not the first. Why would this principle hold good at the international level, but fail at the intranational?

Fellow peace activists: I invite you to join me in the work of the Molinari Institute. The state is the cause and sustainer of war, because the state by its nature is warfare incarnate. Its imperialist aggression beyond its borders is simply an extension of its inherent modus operandi within its borders. There is a peaceful, consensual alternative: Market Anarchism. The object of the Molinari Institute is to see that alternative implemented.

If you love peace, work for anarchy.

Yours in liberty,

Roderick T. Long, President
Molinari Institute

Originally posted here on March 7th, 2003.


 

Monday's thought-provoking video: If You Were King
Tuesday's thought-provoking video: Government Explained
Wednesday's thought-provoking video: George Ought to Help
Thursday's thought-provoking article: An Open Letter to the Peace Movement
Friday's anarchist chess game: Tom Woods vs Walter Block

Comments


  • 19 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    Today is the 10th Anniversary of the day that Professor Roderick. T. Long wrote this wonderful blog post. Nearly everyone supports peace, but almost no one supports peace consistently.

  • 19 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    rtc3 provided a very clear argument in his last comment. I believe I can easily take his premises and explain why all governments that tax are unjust:

    "the fundamental purpose of government is to defend its citizens.

    every legitimate action of government must seek this goal."

    Let's say I'm a person living under the rule of this government. I would prefer to purchase the protection services of an alternative security provider (i.e. an organization that provides security, other than rtc3's government). Is it legitimate for rtc3's government to use force against me to make me pay it money? No, because it wouldn't be protecting me, but instead would be violate my right to choose which security provider's protection services I wished to purchase.

    "because the government cannot exclude any within the borders of the state from its services, eg a military, anyone who does not pay taxes is trying to be a free rider. this not only cheats everyone else out of some military protection per capita, as they are now paying for him as well, but also sets a dangerous example. if everyone were to try to be a free rider, the protection would disappear.

    "thus this man who does not pay taxes is actually posing a threat to all the other citizens, and the government is justified in using force in order to protect them."

    No, the man who does not pay taxes is not posing a threat to other citizens. The man is a peaceful person. The people who would attack these other citizens are the the people posing threats. Don't blame the victim.

    It's not the victim-citizen's fault that the government provides protection to everyone in a large geographic region. The victim-citizen has the right to be a free rider. If the government doesn't like the fact that he is a free rider it can stop providing the service.

    Regarding the "dangerous example," there are ways to provide security services only to specific individuals, thus solving the public good problem. So rtc3's claim that if the security firm known as the "government" did not aggress against peaceful people who did not wish to fund its activities then nobody would be protected is false. There are ways to finance protection services without threatening people to get them to pay for the services.

  • 23 months ago

    rtc3

    the fundamental purpose of government is to defend its citizens.

    every legitimate action of government must seek this goal.

    therefore, all legitimate actions of government are not aggressive but reactive to and defensive against threats to the citizens, eg crimes.

    (most of these governmental actions serve as deterents).

    because the government cannot exclude any within the borders of the state from its services, eg a military, anyone who does not pay taxes is trying to be a free rider. this not only cheats everyone else out of some military protection per capita, as they are now paying for him as well, but also sets a dangerous example. if everyone were to try to be a free rider, the protection would disappear.

    thus this man who does not pay taxes is actually posing a threat to all the other citizens, and the government is justified in using force in order to protect them.

  • 23 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    Berder, well I guess I have said everything I've wanted to say already too.

    Chaos Theory by Robert Murphy.

    Thanks for the discussion--I'm not sure if either of us changed any of our views, but we definitely both got some practice at typing (Always look on the bright side of life).

    Peace.

  • 23 months ago

    Berder

    I already mentioned that private militaries are just as likely to tax the people (called a "protection racket" in the organized crime world).  Also, rape the people, steal other items from the people, and quarter themselves in the people's homes.  Read up on some African warlords.

    Also, I already mentioned the case of drug dealing gangs who claim turf for themselves on which they exercise monopolistic control, and engage in violence with other gangs to maintain their control.

    The two points you made were ones I had already addressed in my previous post.

    Let me further say, an army that is accountable to and funded by an established government is less likely to go rogue than a mercenary group with no revenue other than what it can get for itself.  The fact the government holds the purse strings gives it power over the military.  Thus, an army attached to a government is more like a trained attack dog than a wild hungry wolf.  The dog is still dangerous but it (probably) won't bite the hand that feeds it.  If the government, in addition, is a democracy, then the army has an incentive not to greatly harm the people.  A private mercenary group has no such incentive; if it can turn a profit by raiding towns in the area, no governing body will hold it accountable afterwards.

  • 23 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    Berder, the objections in your last comment are equally applicable (if not more applicable) to monopoly governments than to competing security firms in a market anarchist society.

    For example, you said, "Now given that armed militaries are the source of authority, what obliges such a military to abide by the decisions of a lawful court?  Nothing!"

    You could ask the same regarding a government's military.

    The difference between asking the question in the two cases is that in the government case people are forced to fund the government's military (hence the massive military budget and military industial complex) so there is even less accountability. Further, since governments have a territorial monopoly other security firms can't as easily intervene to protect people from a rogue government because that government has already established itself as having almost absolute power in the region it controls.

  • 23 months ago

    Berder

    You proposed private courts as a solution.  What would give a private court authority to prosecute someone for a crime they may have committed?  Assume that this crime is not the result of a contract violation where the contract might stipulate the punishment for violation, but is a crime such as theft, murder, or trespassing against a person with whom the criminal is not contractually engaged.

    The Only Possible source of authority for a private court in this situation would be the possession by the court of an armed military unit.  This military enforces the decisions of the court purely by force.

    Now given that armed militaries are the source of authority, what obliges such a military to abide by the decisions of a lawful court?  Nothing!  The military may do whatever its leaders command it to do, regardless of contract law or fairness, which would likely include such activities as levying taxes to support its troops, and executing opposition leaders.

    This does not need to be pure speculation.  To find what would happen, one need only look at current armed groups that operate outside the law.  For example, criminal gangs that deal drugs.  Such gangs typically demand a monopoly on dealing drugs over an area of "turf" and violently defend the area against incursion by other such gangs.  Free competition does not happen.  Such gangs kill those who are a threat to them, such as a former member who gave information to the police, or a police officer who refused to be bribed.

  • 23 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    Berder, you asked, "What would you do about crime in your ideal anarchic society?"

    A lot has been written on this question. Have you read anything on it at all yet? Have you made any attempts to look up answers to the question yourself? I hope you're not trying to learn just from me when there is such a wealth of information out there. The answers really aren't too tough to find. Read Chapter 29 of The Machinery of Freedom and/or watch The Machinery of Freedom: Illustrated Summary by anarcho-capitalist David Friedman. Read Chaos Theory by anarcho-capitalist economist Robert Murphy. Read Society Without a State by Murray Rothbard. Here is an "anarcho-capitalist reading list" by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. The "Alternative Approaches to Anarcho-capitalism" part of that reading list will direct you towards a variety of answers to your question.

    "You'd still have to punish people for crimes, for example cutting off the hand of a thief or imprisoning him, or tracking down a murderer and killing him."

    The focus would likely be on restituion of victims rather than punishment of aggressors, but otherwise yes, you're right. I suggest you read Private Creation and Enforcement of Law: A Historical Case to see how the incentives were structured in medieval Iceland to make it work.

    "What would ACTUALLY happen is private warlords would terrorize society regardless of justice, taking whatever they want and enforcing laws arbitrarily if at all.... In reality you would have lynch mobs and private warlords acting as judge, jury, and executioner without due process.  Many innocents would be killed."

    The people I listed above and the many other anarchist / private law theorists out there disagree. What do you think is wrong with their arguments that a stable, orderly, just society could exist without a state? For example, what do you think is wrong with the system David Friedman describes in The Machinery of Freedom or the system that Robert Murphy argues could realistically exist in Chaos Theory? Why do you believe that the system of private courts in Rothbard's Society Without a State would fail?

  • 23 months ago

    Berder

    What would you do about crime in your ideal anarchic society?  What would ACTUALLY happen is private warlords would terrorize society regardless of justice, taking whatever they want and enforcing laws arbitrarily if at all.  But let's indulge in your fantasy that contracts would be respected above all.  You'd still have to punish people for crimes, for example cutting off the hand of a thief or imprisoning him, or tracking down a murderer and killing him.  But who decides what the appropriate punishment is for each "Crime" and indeed who decides what is a crime or what isn't?  Is trespassing punishable by death, or is it sufficient to cut off the feet of a trespasser?  And who does the investigative work of finding out whether an individual is guilty?  In reality you would have lynch mobs and private warlords acting as judge, jury, and executioner without due process.  Many innocents would be killed.

  • 23 months ago

    drumdaddy

    Keep it real, brothers and sisters!

  • 23 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    Bosana, great wise words! ("It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.") I had never heard the quote before. Glad you liked the speech.

    c4wins, you're welcome!

  • 23 months ago

    c4wins

    I love this post. Thanks

  • 23 months ago

    Bosana

    It is nice to be important but more important is to be nice.This is very good speech.War in Iraq started not because Iraq was threat but because of getting rich and more important to gain control and power over sea.

  • 23 months ago

    PeaceRequiresAnarchy

    From the Molinari Institute's About Market Anarchism page:

    "Market Anarchism is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society."

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